A Wish List for Dad

My Dad was always bigger than life. As a little girl I loved to put my little feet in his big shoes and walk around the house.   I remember running to the door when he came home from work so I could dance on his feet. Or how he would lift me high onto his shoulders to watch the Thanksgiving parade. How his smile could light up a room— and his never ending repertoire of jokes. I was Daddy’s little girl. It seemed whatever I wished for— no matter how outrageous— he would make it happen.

Like the Pillsbury doughboy, I used to poke my finger in his big belly and tease him about his extra weight. His response was always the same: “There’s more of me to love!”

This year for me is “Father-less Day.” My Dad passed away last year after a long and difficult battle with heart disease, diabetes and a whole host of other health issues. His struggles left him with only one foot of the two I used to dance on. He could only move one arm of the two that used to hold me on his shoulders. He spent his last months in a nursing home— a shadow of who he used to be. And the worst part is… it didn’t have to end like that.

Like so many men, when it came to living a healthy life, my Dad buried his head in the sand. Despite the severity of the disease, he was never proactive about his health. He never exercised. He didn’t watch his diet or his weight. If I could go back in time and give my Dad a new list of wishes— it would be so different. Here’s a good list to share with your Dad that I wish my Dad had followed before it was too late:

  • Get Moving: Staying active is so important if you want to maintain your overall health. Just going for a walk will improve your mood, muscle strength and promote a healthy weight.
  • Avoid White Foods and Trans Fats: Eat for health. Foods with white flour and white sugar and processed foods don’t have the vitamins, minerals or natural fiber your body needs. They drive up your blood sugar and lead to health struggles. Avoid the trans fats that raise your risk of heart disease. Stick with the healthful fats that protect your heart like olive oil and omega-3 oils you find in salmon and other cold-water fish. Eat nuts and avocados. Eat more fruit and vegetables.
  • Flex your Biceps: Make sure Dad is getting into the weight room. Lifting weights, even just once a week, can improve muscle strength.
  • Watch your Weight: Maintaining a healthy weight helps you reduce your risk of hypertension, heart disease, diabetes etc. etc. Yes, it may mean there will be less of you to love— but you may be lovable a whole lot longer.
  • Relax: Get more sleep. Read a book. Try learning how to meditate.   Stress is linked to so many diseases from heart disease to cancer. Learn to breathe. Try yoga. I wish my Dad had tried yoga even once.

I miss my dad so much and if I had the opportunity to go back in time, I would give him the above advice.  We may have been able to celebrate another Father’s Day this year.



Summer Runnin’ – “Join Me” for Good Causes

All you need is a pair of shoes to get active. There’s no shortage of opportunities, from walking events like Relay for Life in Arbor (June 19) to the quick-footed Ann Arbor Mile “Dart for Art” (July 13). Check out our 2015 Calendar for an event near you and join us! #SJJoinMe.

All You Need is Love

LilaLazarus_ColumnArtThe Beatles were on to something.  When it comes to protecting your heart, love may be your most potent protective covering.

If you want to reduce stress and anxiety, decrease your blood pressure and total cholesterol, you know the importance of good nutrition, exercise and not smoking.  But did you know the simple act of loving  along with some specific behaviors that go with it, can also empower your heart?  So if you really want to improve your next stress test… turn up your love meter.  Here’s how:

I Want to Hold Your Hand
Grab a hand.  If it’s peace and serenity you’re seeking, people think of yoga or meditation or maybe a hot bath.  Turns out, just holding hands can also have that calming effect.  A study published in the journal Psychological Science showed that a little pressure when holding hands, specifically  a squeeze between the thumb and forefinger, could calm pain and anxiety and promote a feeling of well-being.  The less stress you have, the less likely you are to have an increased heart rate and other factors that can lead to heart disease.

She Loves You
Fall in love!  Oh the wonders of a new relationship!  You know that magical feeling when your heart goes pitter patter.  Your brain is busy releasing a drug cocktail of hormones: Adrenaline, dopamine and norepinephrine. They all help to strengthen your heart beat and get your blood circulating more efficiently.   It’s a workout.  It’s similar to what happens when you jog around the block.   You even feel healthier.  But don’t get me wrong… you still need to exercise.

Love Me Do
Surround yourself with people you love and who love you. It’s a great way to keep your blood pressure down.  A study reported in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine suggested a loving relationships and healthy friendships may be the key to a healthy heart.

Hold Me Tight
Go give someone a squeeze!  I’m a real believer in hug therapy.    I don’t need a study to show it makes a person feel better though there are plenty of studies.  The act of hugging releases the “cuddle hormone” oxytocin.   We also immediately reduce the amount of cortisol, the stress hormone produced in our bodies.   In an experiment at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, people who didn’t have any contact with their partners developed a quickened heart rate of 10 beats per minute  compared to the five beats per minute among participants who were allowed to hug their partners

Bottom line: Love is all you need.  I’m off to hug and kiss and hold hands with my hubby.  It’s good for the heart.

A Matter of the Heart

Dorothea Ross 098

Dorothea was grateful to be celebrating another Thanksgiving with her family, but the day before the holiday she felt chest pain and pressure, which led her straight to the emergency room at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor. She was relieved to hear that her diagnosis was angina, but it revealed an underlying issue.

This wasn’t the first time Dorothea experienced heart problems. She has survived four heart attacks and two open heart bypass surgeries in her lifetime. 

The heart team at St. Joe knew that Dorothea needed an aortic valve replacement but another open heart surgery was too risky for a woman her age who had previous heart surgeries. “I just figured that I didn’t have much time left,” said Dorothea, “but Dr. Arthur Szyniszewski and Dr. Andrew Pruitt gave me another chance at life when they told me about a new procedure they were doing called TAVR.”

Traditional treatment for severe aortic stenosis – a narrowing of the valve that delivers blood to the heart—has been to open the chest, remove the faulty valve and replace it with a new one. For many years there was little that could be done to treat severe aortic stenosis if the patient was unable to undergo open heart surgery due to age and/or the severity of their condition.

But, in 2012, the heart team at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor began performing a new procedure – the transcatheter aortic valve replacement – or TAVR. Watch Video on how TAVR works.

Dorothea carefully weighed the risks and benefits and decided to go for it. “I’ve been blessed with a good life and if the doctors feel it will be successful, then I have no worries,” said Dorothea. “I come to St. Joe for all of my health care needs because of their good reputation and excellent care.”

Originally from Winnipeg, Canada, Dorothea has always been very active. She spends quality time with her good friends, is an avid euchre player and loves parties. She also enjoys spending time with her family and seeing her 14 grandchildren, 12 great grandchildren and five great-great grandchildren.

“Before TAVR I thought my days were numbered. Now, with each day that passes I’m not having any more angina attacks and I feel great. I enjoy my life and I’m happy for the opportunity to lengthen it.”


Exercising while sick: Listen to your body and rest!

There’s a common misconception that exercise can “run” a cold out of the body. While exercise can reduce the likelihood of illness, “germs are germs… they get to everyone,” Dr. Paul Schultz, family and medicine physician at St. Joseph Mercy Brighton, told Livingston Press & Argus writer Abby Welsh.   The best advice is to get lots of rest and drink fluids. He shares more advice in this article, “Exercising while sick may do more harm than good.”



Join Me on a Journey to Better Health

By Rob CasalouRob Casalou
Regional President and CEO, Saint Joseph Mercy Health System

The start of 2015 marks my first days on the job as regional president and CEO of Saint Joseph Mercy Health System. From my family to yours, I hope the New Year brings you much joy, good health and personal growth. As I begin this journey, my mind is filled with goals and resolutions!

I want to take this opportunity to introduce myself to those who may not know me, and share my vision for a healthier and more vibrant community.

Having worked with SJMHS colleagues and physicians across southeast Michigan over the past six years, I can honestly say the industry’s brightest and most dedicated people work here. Our hospitals are exceptional at treating complex medical conditions, ranking among the best in the country for clinical outcomes and patient safety. We also want to be the best in the country at reducing risk and improving health. Therein lies a great opportunity for us to change lives for the better.

As health care professionals, we know the statistics – obesity and diabetes rates on the rise, life expectancy lowering*. The best way to improve the health of our communities is from the inside out. I have a vision for a healthy and active workforce.

To further our message, Saint Joseph Mercy Health System is embarking on a “Journey to Better Health.” Please think about the goals you can make to improve your own health and become more involved in the communities we serve. With your support and engagement, this journey is going to be remarkable for us all.  I invite you to visit www.stjoeshealth.org/joinme to learn more.


Watch Video

We have a strong foundation with which to accelerate our efforts. Across SJMHS, there are farmers’ markets, 5Ks, bike rides, classes, wellness events, sports teams, walking groups, Weight Watchers at Work, HMR weight management programs and more. Our hospitals have been tobacco-free longer than any other hospital in the state.

We are leading the way in the communities we serve. Our partnership with Eastern Market in Detroit puts nutritional education and farm-grown produce on the tables of those who need it most. We’ve partnered with the Detroit Red Wings to identify healthier menu options for fans. We’re helping people improve their health through weight loss programs, smoking cessation, wellness events and health screenings. We help athletes rehabilitate from injuries and encourage families to get moving together.

I am honored to have this opportunity to work with all of you. We have much to do to build on our collective strengths of connected hospitals, outpatient centers, physician offices and programs for the poor and underserved. By our example, we will be a transforming healing presence in the lives of those we serve.

It starts with our own health. Take the journey in 2015. Join me.

In good health,

A special wish

By Rob Casalou
Team Joe’s Captain and President/CEO of St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor & Livingston

Although each day of the WAM is unique and special, Day 2 is both the longest riding day and the longest day in total from start to finish. We start the day with riding and we end it with the annual WAM awards event called the WAMMIES that we hold in the Dewitt High School auditorium.

By the end of the day, we were all physically and emotionally drained but left each of us with a feeling of being part of something bigger than any one person or team. It was a day that grounds us in why we are out here riding – for the kids. And although the last thing we want to think about is getting back on the bike for another 93 miles tomorrow, today’s experience will make that riding that much easier.

For most of the team, riding started at 6:30am. Rosalie, Alex and Ralph left at 6am because they needed to finish as early as possible because they have to leave WAM to go to a family wedding on Saturday night. Personally, I can’t imagine doing that but that just tells you how dedicated Rosalie and her family are because many would have just canceled out on WAM. We will miss them tomorrow for sure but know they will be in our thoughts.

As we cut through the Michigan countryside taking in the beauty of our state (along with several whiffs of road kill), we rolled through towns we had not heard of before but realized how lucky we are to live in Michigan. We learned more about wheat and corn from Bill Holmes than we needed to know but it did help the time pass by…. 🙂


Given today was 109 miles, we needed to pick up our pace and we lucked out in joining a group of riders and formed a large group (like a peleton if you are into the Tour de France) and we moved at a quick pace for the first three hours.

In fact, we arrived at our lunch stop at 9:30am. I’m not sure how you call that lunch but we were hungry so we ignored the time. I joked with my teammates that our WAM experience is good preparation for when we are in our 90s. When you think about it, on WAM we get up at 4:30am, we eat lunch at 10am and go to bed by 9pm. Sound familiar? 🙂

As we started our ride today, we were staring at a beautiful double rainbow with a large storm cell sending lightning bolts in the background. After admiring the rainbows, the cell moved in and we rode in a downpour for at least 2-3 miles. But, after the rain stopped, the wind helped dry us off and we had nothing but perfect weather the entire day. In fact, it got humid and hot and fluids were going fast. When we finished around 2:30pm, we realized that we did 109 miles in the same time it took us to do the 99 miles the day before – that would be because today was long but fewer hills (thank you God).

After we finished, it was time to get changed and back to the high school for dinner and the WAMMIES. This is a sprited awards show that always spotlights our wish kids. Tonight was no exception and we were treated with two wish kids acting as hosts of the show, 30 wish kids on stage with the stories of their Disney wishes. Then, at the end of the show, the Make-A-Wish staff arranged for a young man, Quinton, to received his Disney wish at the awards show. How cool.

Here is a cute shot of Quinton peeking out the window.

Team Joe’s was one of the top fundraising teams on the WAM. This year we beat our $50,000 team goal and now stand over $53,000 . Many of these dollars are from our St. Joe’s family and, for this, please accept a heartfelt thanks.


So, tomorrow is our last day. Our route is 93 miles and we intend to get out early so we can finish at the MIS Speedway by 2pm. We hear weather is coming into MIS so we wanted to beat the rain if possible. We will be on the road at 6:30am. Now to sleep….zzzzzzzz

Jodi snapped this one as our day ended reciting “Red sky at night, sailors delight.” Let’s hope that holds true for our last day.

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