Michael Omstead is known in the medical community as Santa. Each year, he dresses up and transforms into the jolly character to bring joy to the patients of local hospitals. This Christmas season, you won’t find Michael – aka Santa – roaming the halls of St. Joe’s Livingston and Brighton delivering holiday cheer. Instead, he’ll be recovering from a serious bout of COVID-19.
In November, when Santa is usually checking his naughty and nice list, Michael began to feel ill during this staycation with wife, Linda. Thinking it was just a cold, Michael powered through.
“Three days later, he woke up and said he felt awful,” Linda said. “It wasn’t just a mild fever and stuffy nose anymore. We went to his doctor’s office and his pulse oxygen was low. We were told to go right to the Emergency Room.”
Michael was admitted to St. Joe’s Livingston and remained on a high percent of oxygen for several days. He tested positive for COVID-19, and Linda’s diagnosis of the same followed soon behind. She quarantined at home at first but eventually joined Michael in the hospital.
Eight hours after Linda was admitted, doctors told her Michael was taking a turn for the worse and would be going on a ventilator. For days, his temperature fluctuated between 104 and 105 and his heart rate remained high.
“I thought I was going to lose him that week,” Linda said.
Eventually, 17 days later, after Linda had been discharged from the hospital, Michael was weaned from the ventilator.
“I was recovering at my daughter’s house when I received a video call from one of Michael’s doctors,” Linda said. “I knew that meant one of two things – it was the end or things we’re looking up. The doctor had a surprise. There was Michael; off the vent and awake.”
Michael and Linda credit St. Joe’s Livingston angels for saving their lives.
“It was the staff and prayers that got us through this,” Linda said. “The attention and quality of care we received was just incredible. I can’t say thank you enough.”
When Michael was discharged a few days later to a rehab facility, St. Joe’s Livingston staff surprised Michael and Linda by lining the halls to cheer them on.
“It was a complete surprise,” Linda said. “To see all of Michael’s caregivers and hospital friends from all departments there, I was at a loss for words.”
Michael, on the other hand, had a few words for everyone who cheered him on – “Santa will be back next year.”
Mix together peanut butter, maple syrup and vanilla extract.
Fold in almond flour, baking powder and salt.
Roll dough to form 1-inch balls and place two of them side by side on a parchment paper covered baking sheet.
Use a fork to gently press down on each ball to form a crisscross pattern with fork tines.
Bake cookies for 12 minutes or until golden brown.
Allow cookies to cool.
Optional: Drizzle with melted chocolate or add a dark chocolate kiss to the center of the cooled cookie. Sprinkle with sea salt. Can also make a peanut butter sandwich with your favorite filling (frozen yogurt, vegan ice cream, etc.).
When Robert Lane left his house for a run one summer evening in 2020, he had no idea that minutes later he’d be performing hands-only CPR on a stranger with sudden cardiac arrest.
While running on Green Street in Ann Arbor, Lane saw a car suddenly weave erratically and hop the curb. He circled back to see what was going on.
After speaking with another bystander who had called 9-1-1, Lane approached the car and found the driver slumped in his seat, eyes open, his hands curled up. The woman beside him in the vehicle was frantically speaking Mandarin.
“I thought, this man has either had had a stroke or a heart attack. Then I thought, oh boy, I’m going to need to do something.”
Physical distancing and masking are the norms during the pandemic, but there was no time to hesitate. The man was not breathing, non-responsive and beginning to change color. Lane later learned that the man was 67-year-old Shunbao Li.
“I pulled the driver out of the car after I put it in ‘park,’ and then began chest compressions,” Lane said. When the ambulance arrived a few minutes later, Lane shared what he had done with the medics and the police. Once rescue personnel took over, he continued his run.
Lane’s quick-thinking turned out to be one of a series of events that helped save Li’s life.
Off-Duty and On-Duty Saint Joseph Mercy Emergency Physicians
As Lane performed life-saving CPR, an off-duty Emergency physician arrived on the scene.
“I saw a guy doing bystander CPR — the first time I had seen that in the field,” said Keenan Bora, MD, Emergency physician at Saint Joseph Mercy. “I pulled up just as Huron Valley Ambulance did. The medics acted quickly but were having difficulty because the patient’s heart rhythm was very unusual.”
Familiar with advanced cardiac life support beyond CPR, Dr. Bora helped the medics return spontaneous circulation in Li’s body. Together they were able to restart Li’s heart.
Dr. Bora called Christopher Wilson, MD, assistant medical director of Emergency Medicine at St. Joe’s Mercy, to let him know a patient was en route to the St. Joe’s ER.
What had caused sudden cardiac arrest in this 67-year-old active man? Scans revealed it was a blockage in the artery known as “the widow maker” — a massive heart attack that occurs when the left anterior descending artery is totally or almost totally blocked.
After stabilizing the patient, Dr. Wilson and ER Senior Resident Jonathan Porath, MD, sent Li to the cardiac catheterization lab for an emergency stent. The care team also used therapeutic hypothermia (targeted temperature management) to help save Li’s brain function. St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor is one of only a few hospitals in the region with therapeutic hypothermia as part of its Advanced Cardiac Care.
Chain of Survival
Recovery was long and difficult for Li. He spent five weeks in the hospital, three of which in the intensive care unit on a ventilator. Li eventually recovered with no serious complications.
“The chain of survival was absolutely amazing,” said Joel Schoenhals, son-in-law of Shunbao Li and spokesperson for the family. “It was as if everyone was involved at just the right time so they could be of the most help.
“The miracle of this story is that if this had happened at our house, I doubt that my wife and I would have had the presence of mind to help my father-in-law the way that Robert (Lane) did. He even risked getting COVID-19.”
As more Americans quarantine from coronavirus, there’s a more urgent need to learn hand-only CPR as a life-saving technique.
Schoenhals said his father-in-law is still physically weak but has suffered no memory loss, no brain damage, no paralysis and no organ damage.
“Everyone helped us — from bystander Robert Lane, Dr. Bora and the medics at the scene, to Dr. Wilson, the many hospital specialists and nurses, the hospital social worker and Home Care for rehabilitation.
“They took care of our entire family. There aren’t enough words to express how we feel. We are so grateful.”
CPR and COVID-19
A few months after the heart attack, Mr. Li’s family hosted a small ceremony sponsored by SaveMiHeart, a nonprofit focused on CPR education and sponsored by the American Heart Association.
The event included Mr. and Mrs. Li; ER Drs. Bora, Wilson and Hsu; the medics, Robert Lane, and Theresa A. Shields RN, BSN, executive director of SaveMiHeart.
Antony Hsu, MD,an ER physician at St. Joe’s Mercy and a member of SaveMiHeart, presented a certificate of appreciation to Robert Lane for working to improve cardiac arrest survival. Dr. Hsu’s message about CPR and COVID-19 is important for every Michigander:
“COVID-19 has driven down the number of bystanders willing to perform hands-only CPR as well as the amount of time they are willing to administer CPR. At SaveMiHeart, we don’t believe in luck; we are trying to take the word ‘luck’ out of people’s perception about survival after CPR. CPR works for many patients — as we saw with Mr. Li. We are encouraging people to learn hands-only CPR throughout the state.”
The holiday season, with its tradition of bringing families and friends together, is fast approaching. However, as we plan for fall and winter holiday celebrations, how do we keep ourselves and our loved ones safe given the continuing COVID-19 pandemic? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers valuable holiday guidance to help you lower the risk of contracting and spreading the virus.
Celebrating virtually or only with members of your own household poses the lowest risk for spread. However, if you are organizing a larger, more traditional gathering, or planning to attend one, please be mindful of the higher risk of virus spread based on the type and size of the event, as well as strategies in place to help mitigate those risks.
Here are some things you should be aware of:
Community levels of COVID-19 – Higher levels of COVID-19 cases and community spread in the gathering location, as well as where attendees are coming from, increases the risk of infection and spread among attendees.
The location of the gathering – Indoor gatherings generally pose more risk than outdoor gatherings.
The duration of the gathering – Gatherings that last longer pose more risk than shorter gatherings.
The number of people at the gathering – Gatherings with more people pose more risk than gatherings with fewer people.
The locations attendees are traveling from – Gatherings with attendees who are traveling from different places pose a higher risk than gatherings with attendees who live in the same area.
The behaviors of attendees prior to and during the gathering – Gatherings with attendees who are not adhering to social distancing (staying at least 6 feet apart), mask wearing, hand washing, and other prevention behaviors pose more risk than gatherings with attendees who are engaging in these preventive behaviors.
Are you hosting a holiday gathering?
If you’re planning to host a holiday event, you should:
Remind guests to stay home if they are sick – Invited guests should stay home if they have been exposed to COVID-19 in the last 14 days or are showing symptoms.
Encourage social distancing – Host your gathering outdoors, when possible. If this is not feasible, make sure the room or space is well-ventilated. Arrange tables and chairs to allow for social distancing.
Wear masks – Wear masks properly when less than 6 feet apart from people or indoors. Consider providing masks for guests or asking them to bring their own.
Clean hands often – Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds when entering and exiting social gatherings. Make sure there is adequate soap or hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol available.
Limit the number of people handling or serving food – Encourage guests to bring their own food and drinks. If serving any food, consider identifying one person to serve all food so that multiple people are not handling the serving utensils.
Limit contact with commonly touched surfaces or shared items – Use touchless garbage cans and clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces and any shared items between use.
Are you going to an event?
If you are planning to attend a holiday gathering, you should:
Prepare before you go – Stay home if you are not feeling well, have been diagnosed, are awaiting test results or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19. Bring extra supplies (e.g., hand sanitizer, masks, etc.) to help you and others stay healthy.
Use social distancing and limit physical contact – Maintain a distance of at least 6 feet or more from people who don’t live in your household. Consider arriving early or at off-peak times to avoid crowding.
Wear masks – Doing so minimizes the risk of transmitting the virus.
Limit contact with commonly touched surfaces or shared items – Avoid any self-serve food or drink options and wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer immediately before eating food or after touching any common surfaces.
Are you planning to travel this holiday season?
Traveling increases the chance of getting and spreading COVID-19. Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others. If you decide to travel, following the basic measures of wearing a mask in public settings, avoiding close contact by staying at least 6 feet apart, washing your hands and avoiding touching your face will help keep you and those around you safer. Also consider whether COVID-19 is spreading at your destination. The more cases at your destination, the more likely you are to get infected during travel and spread the virus to others when you return.
You should also know whether your destination has requirements or restrictions for travelers. Some state, local, and territorial governments have requirements, such as requiring those who recently traveled to quarantine for up to 14 days. Check state, territorial,tribal and local public health websites for information before you travel. If you are traveling internationally, check the destination’s Office of Foreign Affairs or Ministry of Health or the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, Country Information page for details about entry requirements and restrictions for arriving travelers, such as mandatory testing or quarantine.
November is Men’s Health Awareness Month. While the life expectancy of a man has increased in modern times, the average life expectancy for men in the United States is almost five years less than women. Research shows men are 24 percent less likely than women to have visited a doctor within the past year. It’s time to man up and make men’s health a priority.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, lung cancer and heart disease are the leading causes of death for men. These conditions can see a reduced risk if men can adopt healthy eating habits and apply small lifestyle changes.
Eat a healthy diet. This includes a variety of fruits and vegetables, which have vitamins and minerals that help protect from chronic diseases. Limit foods high in calories, sugar, salt or fat.
Live an active lifestyle. Regular physical activity has many benefits including helping to control weight and reduce the risk for disease. It is also link with better mental health and mood.
Reduce stress. Over time, stress can take a toll on emotional and physical health. Find ways to relax and de-stress, such as exercise, meditation or massage.
Get a good night’s rest. Sleep is important for feeling and functioning.
See your doctor for regular check-ups and recommended screenings. Follow your doctor’s guidance on regular screenings for colon cancer, prostate cancer or lung cancer.
As we near the end of a year filled with unexpected challenges, the holiday season has arrived. For many, the holidays are typically a time of celebration and cheer, in large part because of the ability to spend time with those we love. Children especially embody the excitement of the season, often counting down the days to their favorite holiday. But, let’s face it, this year is different and they will feel it. We all do.
Fortunately, we as parents, guardians, and trusted adults, can help children navigate celebrating the holidays in midst of the pandemic. We can help them cope with the possibility of celebrating the holidays without important loved ones who live outside the home, as well as continued changes with schooling and routine.
How do we start? By listening.
“Listen to a child’s concerns and validate the feelings associated with them,” Elizabeth Block, MD, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea said. “Acknowledge that yes, this year is going to be different, and it’s okay to feel sad or disappointed. However, different does not have to mean ‘all bad.’ This is a great opportunity to promote resiliency in youth by teaching that it’s okay to acknowledge the loss of something, but also a chance to make the best of a tough situation.
Here’s some ideas for families to make this holiday season special:
Let each family member pick an activity that they enjoy for the holiday and everyone in the household participate
Emphasize that distance doesn’t need to stop us from showing other we care. Take time to create something special such as a homemade card or a video to send to loved ones you can’t gather with this year.
Find ways to show kindness to others – make cards for nursing home residents, support elderly neighbors with grocery shopping or snow shoveling, leave a note for a delivery driver or create messages for front-liner workers. Be creative!
Create an imaginary vacation where you provide special foods, virtual tours, books, arts and crafts that are representative of dream vacations.
Take decorating your home to a new extreme. Let your family make holiday decorations and help decide where they go. Create a holiday wonderland right inside your home.
Find the best holiday light decorations in your neighborhood and go for a tour. Bring along favorite snacks and play holiday music.
Finally, take care of YOURSELF. This has been a stressful year. Make time to relax, meditate, or go for a walk.
Even if you create new traditions and ways to enjoy the holidays, children may experience ongoing anxiety about the pandemic. Per the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, children who are preoccupied with questions or concerns about COVID-19 should be evaluated by a trained mental health professional. Signs that a child may need additional help include:
Difficulty with sleep or new changes to sleep patterns, like nightmares or frequent waking
Thoughts that are frightening or disruptive
Frequent talk or worries about illness or death
Reluctance to leave parents or go to school
If you have noticed such changes in your child, you can ask their doctor or school counselor to help arrange an appropriate referral.
Trinity Heath Michigan President and CEO Rob Casalou appeared on Rich Helppie’s Common Bridge podcast to discuss the recent surge in Coronavirus that is spreading across the country and how it is impacting the hospitals. They discuss the effectiveness of masks, social distancing, and how K-12 in person classrooms appear to not be a super spreader if normal precautions are taken.
Do you have consistent access to healthy, affordable food? If not, you may be food insecure. According to Health.gov’s‘s Healthy People 2020, food insecurity can increase the risk of obesity, chronic illnesses and mental health challenges.
Here at St. Joe’s, we are increasing the food security of our community through The Farm at St Joe’s, a working farm concept which started at St. Joe’s Ann Arbor and is now expanding across all of our hospitals. We grow food, provide hands-on education, and distribute fresh produce to our patients, visitors, staff and community. Here are some of the innovative ways we are helping our communities:
COVID-19 Food Assistance Program: In response to need due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Farm has started a collaborative food assistance program to serve homebound, food insecure patients and community members. Participants receive a bag of local produce and a bag of pantry staples delivered to their home for 6-12 weeks. We are grateful to our partners, Hope Clinic and Food Gatherers for making this program work. https://stjoesfarm.org/covid-food-assistance-program/
Subsidized Farm Share: Like a veggie subscription service, customers receive a box of local produce –a farm share–each week grown by 12 local farmers. Our subsidized program gives 36 weeks of free produce to food insecure families in our community. Not only do participants receive free, healthy food; they also try new foods, experiment with new recipes, and forge closer relationships with each other. This program is also an economic engine for our local food economy: in 2019, the program generated more than $100,000 of revenue for local farms. https://stjoesfarm.org/farmshare-plus/
Produce to Patients: The Farm donates the majority of the food it grows straight to our patients in need. Providers pick up boxes of produce each week and distribute it in their waiting rooms, in nutrition classes, and as patients are discharged from the hospital. The Farm donated enough food for 4,200 patients in 2019.
Market Connection: Qualifying families can get $100 in online store credit to use on the Ypsi Area Online Market to buy local fruits and vegetables and other staples. The Ypsi Area Online Market is a virtual farmers market where you can buy local produce. Curbside pickup of orders is available at each location for safer no/low contact. This program is possible through the generous support of the Children’s Foundation of Michigan and the operational support of Growing Hope. https://stjoesfarm.org/home/the-farm-at-st-joes-market-connection/
Our Care for the Common Good Campaign is working toward a future where everyone has access to healthy food. Please visit the campaign webpage to learn more, and sign our petition to let your elected officials know that you believe in a future where no one is food insecure.
Baby, it’s cold outside. The days are getting shorter and the holidays are looming larger… so is the lump in my throat.
The call came about 15 minutes ago. Four people at the assisted living facility where my 88-year-old Mom lives tested positive for COVID-19. They assure me my Mom is safe and well cared for— but it’s little comfort. She’s isolated. Alone in her room. And, once again, I can’t see her.
With the holidays just around the corner, I have to let go of any memories of family gatherings, holiday traditions, laughter filling the room. 2020 is not giving in. COVID-19 doesn’t care about the holidays. My Mom is in lockdown and my siblings are spread out all over the world unable to fly home. With the numbers rising, they’re not traveling to me and I’m certainly not traveling to them.
What a year. Confusion. Fear. Disappointment. Anxiety. Stress. Helplessness. Canceled weddings and graduations. People lost their jobs. Businesses have gone under. Nearly 300,000 people have died from COVID-19… and now is the time we’re supposed to deck the halls and get ready for the holidays?!! The words Bah Humbug come to mind.
I’ve never thought of myself as a Scrooge but this year the isolation and feelings of exclusion have been so acute. So, here’s my question: How do we get through the season? How do we turn so many negatives into a positive? How do we feel connected and hopeful when we’re so separated? How do we celebrate when all we want is to get through this year in one piece?
2020 requires a reboot of what the holidays are all about. We’ll just have to spin new, safer ways to connect with family and friends. And connection really is the most important part. So, here’s my plan. I call it the V-plan since everything starts with V. If you’re feeling anything like me, I hope it helps.
Value the Valuables:
The strategy I’m planning to use is the one that’s gotten me through every tough time I’ve ever experienced: Gratitude. I’m making a list and checking it twice. Loading it with all the things I’m grateful for. My health, my husband, my friends, my dogs, and the fact that I can still see my Mom through the window. The vaccine that’s coming. The sweet cashier at the grocery store. Zoom. Socially distanced walking with friends in the neighborhood. Whether we look for positives or negatives, we’ll find them. So, seek out and savor the positives, the silver linings and silver bells. Relish every card that comes your way, the sparkle of every beautiful decoration.
People all around us are hungrier, lonelier and needier than we’ve ever seen. What can we do to help? There’s no shortage of volunteer opportunities. And cheering up someone with a card, groceries or even just a call is a sure way to lift our spirits. I know I’m not the only one missing my family, so I plan to reach out to everyone I know who’s alone or lost their job or is struggling. This year, sending something tangible— flowers or food can really make a difference to someone who feels alone during the holidays. Plenty of websites can help set up a volunteer gig (VolunteerMatch.org or idealist.org).
Yes, I coined a new term. It’s virtual gifting. I’m sending gifts to friends and family with strict instructions to FaceTime me the moment it arrives so we can have a virtual holiday moment. It’s not ideal but it’s connection. I plan to record these moments to remember this crazy year. In an odd way, the pains of 2020 will no doubt make us appreciate so many things we’ve taken for granted most of our lives.
This holiday season, in addition to wearing my mask, washing my hands, and staying six feet apart, I’ll also focus on getting good sleep, eating well, exercising and laughing as much as possible. I can’t control the pandemic, or when I’ll be able to see my Mom, but I can focus on my health. And if you haven’t had your flu shot, go get it. It’s more important this year than ever. COVID-19 and the flu will be spreading at the same time. A recent study showed getting both COVID-19 and influenza B will leave you even sicker than COVID-19 alone. Don’t take chances. I just got my flu shot and I’m glad I did.
View to the Future:
The only way to survive this storm is to know the rainbow is coming. We just can’t make the mistake of comparing 2020 to last year or any other year in our lives. This will be a holiday season like no other that we will never forget even if we want to. And come New Year’s Eve, I plan to stay up through midnight and watch the ball drop in an empty Times Square. It’s not the new year I want to see, I just want to make sure 2020 is over.
P.S. Feel free to send a holiday greeting below. We could all use some cheerful thoughts. Happy holidays.
Dice garlic and let sit on your cutting board for a least ten minutes.
Slice broccoli florets into thin slices. Place on a cooking sheet spread out so they are able to roast evenly.
Top with red pepper flakes, garlic, and salt.
Roast for 5 minutes.
Remove and top with fresh lemon juice.
Broccoli, a cruciferous vegetable, is high in a special phytonutrient called sulforaphane which has been shown to be a strong aide to the body’s natural anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant pathways helping to prevent cancer and disease.