COVID-19 Vaccination Update (4/6/21)

Eligibility in the state for the COVID-19 vaccine is now open to all those age 16 and older. Please be aware that only the Pfizer vaccine is approved for those age 16 to 18 years old so be sure to check which vaccine brand is being given when making an appointment for someone in that age group. 

A rise in COVID-19 cases this spring underscores the importance of vaccinating as many adults as possible to curb the impact of the pandemic in our communities. We invite anyone interested in scheduling a vaccine to sign up or login to MyChart and complete our questionnaire. While the questionnaire does not guarantee an appointment, it does let us know of your interest in receiving it. If appointments open at any of our locations, you may be notified to schedule your vaccination. 

As we closely monitor the current COVID-19 situation, it’s important to note that all three vaccines appear to be effective against multiple strains of COVID-19, including the newer B.1.1.7 variant. The vaccine not only helps protect from infection, but vaccinated people who do become infected are far less likely to be seriously ill and require hospitalization. 

The latest statistics also highlight the importance of continuing to follow all CDC COVID-19 precautions including appropriate masking, maintaining physical distancing (at least 6 feet apart) and practicing excellent hand hygiene – all steps that can help prevent another surge as we head into the spring and summer. 

Here is an update on the number of doses each of our sites received this week and that location’s outreach:  

Don’t Settle for Hernia Pain

More common than you may think, every day, many Americans suffer from abdominal pain caused by a hernia. Fortunately, it’s not something to suffer through. St. Joe’s offers the latest hernia treatment with less pain, less scaring and faster recovery.

Curious if the discomfort you’ve been feeling may be a hernia? A hernia is a weakness or opening in the muscles of your abdominal wall. Sometimes this muscle weakness is present at birth, other times, it occurs later in life. Hernias are a common problem for men, women and children. Although they are often not life-threatening, hernias do not go away without treatment. Signs and symptoms of a hernia can include a bulge, discomfort, nausea or pain.

Common Causes of a Hernia

Hernias can be caused by a variety of factors. Sometimes they are congenital, due to a prior surgery or pregnancy.

Nancy Wright had a hernia form several years after kidney surgery. When she had bariatric surgery, Eric Davies, MD found that her bowels were wrapped about her colon causing a hernia. After she recovered from bariatric surgery, Nancy scheduled surgery to have her hernia fixed.

“I was pleased with my care before and after my surgery,” said Nancy. Dr. Davies performed the surgery robotically, leaving Nancy with small incisions and a shorter recovery time. “Now that my recovery time is over, I’m back to working out and living an active lifestyle,” said Nancy.

Types of Hernias

There are several types of hernias, but the most common are inguinal and ventral hernias. Inguinal hernias can be congenital or acquired. They occur when tissue pushes through a weak spot in the wall of your lower abdomen, inguinal canal or groin area. Inguinal hernias are more common in men.  A ventral hernia occurs when intestines bulge through an opening of the abdominal wall above the groin area. Many ventral hernias are incisional hernias because they form at the site of a past surgical incision.

Tips to Avoid Hernias

Although a hernia can be congenital or caused from a prior surgery, it can also be caused by any pressure in the abdomen.

Try to avoid the following to prevent a hernia:

1. Lifting heavy objects

2. Constipation or diarrhea

3. Persistent coughing or sneezing

4. Obesity

5. Poor nutrition

6. Smoking

Don’t settle for nausea, pain or discomfort in the groin. Request an appointment with a St. Joe’s hernia expert today.

Visit Your Gym or Health Club More Safely with These CDC Tips

Getting healthier, and staying that way, is important. The benefits of exercise to both our physical and mental health are proven and many. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you may have found ways to exercise safely outdoors.

If you’re like a lot of people, you might be ready and anxious to return to your local gym, wellness center or health club. If you choose to get your blood pumping in the gym, there are some precautions you can take to minimize the risks posed by COVID-19.

The main way COVID-19 infects people is through respiratory droplets carrying infectious virus. Research shows COVID-19 spreads at gyms and studios and in fitness classes. To work out more safely indoors and in public, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that you:

  • Stay at least 6 feet away from others.
  • Select a facility that requires all staff and attendees to wear a mask that always covers their mouth and nose.
  • Look for gyms, fitness centers, or studios that have high ceilings and use ventilation practices such as opening doors and windows and use portable air cleaners that have HEPA filters.
  • Wipe down frequently touched surfaces, such as machines and equipment, with disinfecting wipes before and after use.
  • Wash your hands before and after using equipment.
  • Go during off-peak times to avoid crowding and keep your workouts as brief as possible to avoid prolonged exposure.

You also should limit the indoor pursuit of high-intensity exercise such running, racquetball/squash, and spinning. You may want to avoid large group activities or training sessions as well. And, of course, stay home if you are showing any symptoms of COVID-19, you have tested positive for COVID-19 (or are waiting on test results), or if any of the people in your household or close contacts have tested positive for COVID-19 or are showing symptoms of COVID-19.

By following a few basic precautions, you can more safely accomplish your health and fitness goals for 2021 and beyond.

Safer Ways to Enjoy a Meal from Your Favorite Restaurant

Recently, many more states and cities have begun to allow indoor dining once again, albeit with restrictions such as capacity limits and table spacing requirements.

While this is certainly good news for the restaurant industry, including local business and workers, as well as customers looking to enjoy a meal at their favorite dining spot, it’s still important to be mindful of the risk posed by COVID-19, especially considering the spread of more contagious variants.

Going to restaurants and bars increases your risk of getting and spreading COVID-19 because: 

  • People from different households are gathering in the same space. 
  • Eating and drinking requires the removal of a mask. 
  • Poor indoor ventilation may cause the virus to accumulate in the air. 

Guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to emphasize the safest way to enjoy and support restaurants and bars is to take out food and eat it at home with people who live with you or ask to be seated outside if the weather allows.

However, if you do choose to dine inside, there are ways to reduce your risk of getting and spreading COVID-19. To promote a safer experience, you may want to: 

  • Check the restaurant’s or bar’s COVID-19 prevention practices before you go. Guidelines should require both staff and patrons to wear masks when not eating or drinking. 
  • Avoid busy times. It’s safest to visit when fewer people are there. 
  • Sit at tables spaced at least 6 feet apart from people you don’t live with. 
  • Minimize the time you spend in the restaurant or bar. The longer you stay, the more you increase your risk. 

Is it safe to travel yet?

It’s spring and summer is approaching. Many of us enjoy traveling and planning summer vacations. While this year is different from last – we know more about COVID-19, how to protect ourselves and the vaccine is becoming more available – it’s important to remember that traveling still increases your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19.

The Centers for Disease Control continues to recommend delaying travel and staying home to protect yourself and others from COVID-19, even if you are vaccinated. If you must travel, take these steps:

  • If you are eligible, get fully vaccinated for COVID-19. Wait two weeks after getting your second Pfizer or Moderna vaccine dose or first Johnson & Johnson dose. It takes time for your body to build protection after any vaccination.
  • Get tested one to three days before your travel. Keep your test results with you and do not travel if you have a positive COVID-19 test.
  • Check travel restrictions before you go. Follow all state and local recommendations or requirements before and after travel.
  • Wear a mask over your nose and mouth in public settings. Masks are required on planes and other forms of public transportation.
  • Avoid crowds and stay at least six feet away from anyone who did not travel with you.
  • Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer.
  • Bring extra masks and hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid contact with anyone who is sick
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Get tested three to five days after your trip and stay home and self-quarantine for a full seven days after travel, even if your test is negative. If you don’t get tested, stay home and self-quarantine for 10 days after travel.
  • Do not travel if you were exposed to COVID-19, you are sick or you tested positive for COVID-19.

Check the CDC Travel Planner before your trip to learn more about any COVID-19 restrictions and guidance at your destination if you are unable to delay travel. 

March 31 Vaccine Update: Southeast Michigan

A rise in COVID-19 cases this spring underscores the importance of vaccinating as many adults as possible to curb the impact of the pandemic in our communities. All adults age 50 and older are eligible, as well as those 16-49 with pre-existing conditions/disabilities, and starting April 5 anyone over 16 is able to receive the vaccine.

We invite anyone interested in scheduling a vaccine to sign up or login to MyChart and complete our questionnaire. While the questionnaire does not guarantee an appointment, it does let us know of your interest in receiving it. If appointments open at any of our locations, you may be notified to schedule your vaccination.

Here is an update on the number of doses each of our sites received this week and that location’s outreach: 

Women’s History Month: Highlighting Hospital-Based Farm Trailblazer Amanda Sweetman

You don’t have to be a member of a farming community to admire Amanda Sweetman.

Anyone associated with health care can appreciate her passion to join people on their path toward better health. In her work as the Regional Director of Farming and Healthy Lifestyles for Trinity Health Michigan, her vision and passion for creating a healthy community is making a difference for patients, colleagues and local farmers.

Sweetman started with St. Joe’s Ann Arbor in 2015 as the manager of the Farm at St. Joe’s. Established in 2010, the Farm was started as part of the vision of leaders to make healthy food more accessible. Sweetman’s willingness to take on challenges and grow in her role have benefitted not only the Farm at St. Joe’s but other locations across the state.

Sweetman has sowed the seeds of hospital-based farm programs at Mercy Health and St. Joe’s hospitals across the state. St. Joe’s Oakland established a farm on campus in 2019 (watch video). Mercy Health Muskegon has a farm on the Hackley campus, McLaughlin Grows, run by a local non-profit, Community enCompass. Sweetman sits on their steering committee. St. Joe’s Brighton has the Family Medicine Residency Garden. And she’s developing the Good Food Box to serve chronically-ill patients who are food insecure.

Through farming and community-based programming, ” we can take health care out of the hospital and put health into people’s hands,” said Sweetman.

A Pioneering Woman

Amanda Sweetman’s path has been far from traditional. She has worked as a scientist, farmer, educator and chef. Becoming the farm manager at the Farm at St. Joe’s was a dream come true. Her strengths and experiences, paired with leadership support and community investment, created astounding growth of programming and positive results.

In 2019, she transitioned to the newly created role of regional director of Farming and Healthy Lifestyles for Trinity Health Michigan.

“I have a pretty unique job. I’m probably the only person in the country with my job title working for a health system. It really highlights Trinity Health Michigan’s commitment to their mission to be a transforming healing presence.”

A highlight of her work is the community of women who surround the Farm. The majority of Sweetman’s team — which includes volunteers, interns and paid staff — are women. “So many of our partners are women, such as the Lifestyle Medicine team and our Community Health and Wellbeing leaders. I am inspired everyday by the skill and passion these women bring to the table.”

Teaching people — especially women — about the joys of farming and accomplishing hard physical tasks (even if you’re small statured), is part of what keeps Sweetman fulfilled. “The smile on someone’s face the first time they accomplish something they thought they couldn’t is priceless.”

Local Food Matters

“Food is really at the heart of who we are. When you eat well you feel well, and when you buy local you are getting a delicious, nutritious product that supports not only your own wellbeing but also that of the local environment and economy. Farmers are our neighbors and the stewards of our land. When we invest in them, they invest in us.”

Sweetman works hard to make it easy for people of all income levels to have access to this life-giving food. Of the many programs she runs, the collaborative Farm Share has become the star.

The Farm Share is St Joe’s version of a Community Supported Agriculture Program (CSA), in a standard setting would connect paying customers to one farm where they would become members for a growing season. Sweetman’s love for community and a desire to invest in the local food economy drove her to start a collaborative program with many farms contributing food and to offer a sliding scale membership to help people with financial need.

What began with two farms and 30 members in 2015, has blossomed into a program with 13 farms and 250 weekly members. The program generated $130,000 for local farms last year and gave 83 food insecure families free 36-week memberships.

The Farm Share is such a success that they are building a brick and mortar Food Hub where the program will continue to grow, educate and support its community.

Sweetman has also created the Produce to Patients program, which provides 14 clinics with free produce to distribute to patients. In 2019, 4,200 servings of produce were sent out through providers to patients in need. “What a powerful message to get a bag of freshly-picked food at your doctor appointment. The commitment of the providers to pick up and distribute the food makes me proud to be part of St. Joe’s where health really does come first,” remarks Sweetman.

The Good Food Box

Innovation is part of Sweetman’s soul. “In five years, we want our providers to be as comfortable prescribing food as they are prescribing medicine today,” she said.

Sweetman recently submitted a grant to the Michigan Health Endowment Fund to receive support for a clinically-integrated food program she calls the Good Food Box. Here is how it would work: If you have a chronic condition — such as unmanaged diabetes, and you are food insecure — your doctor can refer you to the Good Food Box and you will receive a delivery of healthy pantry staples and Michigan produce every other week for six to 12 months. St. Joe’s will also offer cooking classes.

“I’m hopeful that within the next five years all of the Trinity Health hospitals in Michigan will have the Good Food Box. You don’t need a farm onsite to make this happen. It is a matter of finding community partners — such as food hubs and food banks — and local farmers to collaborate for community health,” said Sweetman.

Sweetman says that, in many ways, we are what we eat. “I encourage people to get involved and to be curious about where their food comes from and how it can promote their health and that of their neighborhood and our planet.”

Join Amanda on the path to better health. Follow the Farm on social media, get your hands in the dirt, and get connected to local food.

The Farm at St. Joe’s in Ann Arbor

Brighton Family Medicine Residency Garden

The Farm at St. Joe’s Oakland

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COVID-19 Vaccination Update (3/24/21)

Eligibility in Michigan is now open to all adults 50 and older, in addition to all previously eligible groups. We are preparing to support the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ (MDHHS) decision to open eligibility for COVID-19 vaccination to all those 16 and older on April 5.

We have opened an eligibility questionnaire to determine interest in receiving the vaccine. Those interested should sign up or log in to their MyChart Patient Portal account. Once in MyChart, the questionnaire form is available to be completed. If vaccine appointments open at any of our locations, you may be notified either by email or text from MyChart to schedule an appointment at one of our hospital or physician office locations that has available vaccine. The link and instructions can be found on our webpage.

Please be aware that completing this survey does not guarantee a scheduled appointment, as appointments are based on vaccine availability. We ask for your continued patience. Vaccine supplies coming to Michigan over the next couple of weeks may be less than anticipated due to national production challenges.

A Little Encouragement Goes A Long Way

When Mary Clark had a stroke at age 72, her active and independent lifestyle experienced a big setback. The stroke – entirely unexpected with no warning signs – rendered Mary almost paralyzed on the left side of her body.

As she was recovering from the stroke at Michigan Medicine, Mary was offered an opportunity to be admitted to the Inpatient Rehabilitation program at St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea.

“My doctor told me that Michigan Medicine physicians oversee the Rehab program in Chelsea, and I would be cared for by a good team in a private room that was twice as large,” Mary Clark said. “While I was hesitant, I agreed to go wherever became available first.”

It’s an experience Mary doesn’t regret – and in fact – tells everyone how phenomenal it was.

“From the doctors to the cleaning people, I had the most memorable experience,” Mary said. “The nurses, aides and therapy staff saw me at my best and at my worst. Their smiles and encouragement, even at the most embarrassing times, helped me get through each day.”

During her stay at St. Joe’s Chelsea, Mary regularly saw her Michigan Medicine physician and worked closely with physical and occupational therapy to regain her strength, range of motion and ability to complete basic tasks. 

“The occupational therapists were so helpful in teaching me to relearn the tasks that I needed for independent living. They always encouraged me with their infectious smiles, which gave me hope.”

When it came to physical therapy, Mary was pushed to keep trying and never give up. She learned how to get up and down stairs with one railing, knowing she’d need to be able to do that to enter her home.

Mary is home now and living independently again. She is much stronger and can use her left side more than before.

“I still have some weakness and continue to do therapy at home, but I have the tools to be home and live safely on my own.”

When she looks back on her St. Joe’s Chelsea experience, Mary credits her recovery to one key factor:

“There is a common thread among St. Joe’s Chelsea employees – a thread of encouragement and hope. Recovering from stroke is a tough road but the encouragement and hope from every person I encountered made all the difference. Their confidence and reassurance gave me hope that I can and would get better. And sure enough, I’ve made tremendous improvement.”

To learn more about Inpatient Rehabilitation at St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea visit the website or call 734-936-7059.

Pat’s Back on Track, Running for Life

Pat Lencioni is an active guy. He moves more than the average person, running almost daily and Pat has completed 12 marathons. He golfs. Plus he’s active with his family and friends. When lower back pain that traveled into his left leg began in September 2018, Pat was at a standstill.

“I was in constant pain,” he said. “I could barely sit. My wife and I took a trip to visit my kids in college, which is nine hours away. I had to lay in the back seat like a dog because I couldn’t sit normally for more than 15 minutes.”

At work, Pat would stand in the back of the room during meetings. He tried everything – physical therapy, ibuprofen and pain injections. Nothing worked.

“I had a low quality of life,” Pat said. “I needed to do something to function, and I really wanted to run again.”

Pat made an appointment with Douglas Geiger, MD of St. Joe’s Medical Group, Michigan Brain and Spine. He had seen Dr. Geiger ten years earlier for a herniated disc. This time, the diagnosis was a little different.

“Pat needed a lumbar microdiscetomy to treat the severe pain and weakness he was experiencing,” Douglas Geiger, MD said. “This minimally invasive surgery relieved the pressure on a spinal nerve root that was causing the pain to shoot through his leg.”

Pat quickly scheduled his surgery at St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea with Dr. Geiger. The sooner he could return to his active lifestyle, the better.

That December, Pat arrived at St. Joe’s Chelsea for an early morning surgery. By the time he left, Pat was a different person.

“When I woke up from surgery a couple hours after it began, I was pain free,” Pat said. “I remember waking up and crying to my wife. I couldn’t believe the relief was instantaneous. The surgery couldn’t have gone any better. The experience was incredible all the way around – from the results to the people who cared for me. It was phenomenal.”

Pat’s procedure was minimally invasive and outpatient – he was released from the hospital hours after his surgery. He waited five weeks to start running to ensure everything was healed. But, he quickly put his back to the test. In mid-January, Pat decided to run the Boston Marathon that April. He had 12 weeks to get his body into marathon shape. Usually, runners train 16 to 18 weeks before a marathon.  

“I knew it was going to be tough,” Pat said. “But it was something I really needed to do for myself.”

Pat finished the Boston Marathon that year and he was pain-free. “I wasn’t as fast as the year before, but I did it. It was such a sense of accomplishment for me,” Pat said. 

Pat knows how fortunate he is – his wife was a constant support before and after surgery. And, in Dr. Geiger, Pat found a way to run again.

“I wouldn’t have been able to run, let alone run a marathon without Dr. Geiger and the surgery,” Pat said. “I’m back to normal – it’s almost like the back pain and surgery didn’t happen. I’m grateful.”

To learn more about the St. Joe’s Spine program or request an appointment, please visit our website.