Melanie Baldwin considers herself a “walking, talking research and development project 50 years in the making.” Born with a congenital heart defect – still the leading cause of death in children – Melanie says she is “a product of determination, good fortune, and amazing technology.”
“I was born with a hole in my heart and a defective aortic valve, and I have had five open heart surgeries through the years,” says Melanie. “I am currently on my fourth pacemaker.”
Melanie had two surgeries while she was still a young child then another when she turned 19 to replace a defective aortic valve with a mechanical one. The new valve was meant to last 15 years, but in exchange, she would have to take Coumadin to keep her blood thin. This arrangement worked well until she married and decided her life was not really complete without a child.
Almost 25 years ago, Melanie became pregnant, and after moving to San Diego, she went to check in with her new doctor. That doctor’s appointment turned into a month long hospital stay because she had developed a blood clot just outside of her heart; if it moved, both she and the baby were at risk of dying.
Although Melanie knew her pregnancy was considered high risk, she did not expect to be told that she would have to terminate her pregnancy in order to have surgery to remove the clot. While she was on complete bed rest, doctors spent a month trying to convince her that was the best option. She adamantly refused and insisted they do the surgery while she was pregnant, which they did, reluctantly. At 26 weeks pregnant, Melanie’s clot was removed and her mechanical valve was
replaced with a pig valve.
“Not only did I survive, so did my daughter,” says Melanie. “I gave birth to her in July 1990, and I have never regretted my decision. Cardiovascular disease is a family affair. It affects everyone you know and love.”
Melanie’s mom, Carol Payne, agrees. “Ours has been a normal life for the most part, interspersed with moments of horror, heart-wrenching sorrow, and desperation,” says Carol. “But there were also euphoric moments when Melanie’s amazing positive spirit and tenacity helped overcome what should have been life-ending events.”
Melanie suffered cardiac arrest in June 2013 and spent 10 days in the hospital. She walked out of the hospital, but the incident put her in line for an AICD (automatic implanted cardioverter-defibrillator) to replace her third pacemaker. An AICD differs from a pacemaker in that its defibrillator has the ability to shock the heart out of a life-threatening heart rhythm abnormality. “Luckily, Melanie was resuscitated by her husband when she had her cardiac arrest,” says Dhiraj Narula, M.D., FACC, a board certified cardiac electrophysiologist. “We changed her pacemaker to a pacemaker-AICD combination to protect her in the event she had another cardiac arrest.” The procedure was done at the end of August 2013, and she spent another five days at Dignity Health – St. Rose Dominican’s Siena Campus.
February is American Heart Month, a nationwide initiative to raise awareness in the effort to combat heart disease and educate communities on prevention and treatment options.
Melanie, her mom, and her daughter are sharing their stories at the American Heart Association’s Go Red Luncheon on Friday, Feb. 27. “Our family has obviously learned a lot about cardiovascular disease over the years,” says Melanie. “My mom is my hero. She’s been right beside me every step of the way, as has my daughter who has accompanied me through my cardiac ‘journey’ and is now a registered diagnostic cardiac sonographer.”
“You can’t control what challenges life throws your way, but you can control how you choose to deal with those challenges,” says the upbeat, ever joyful, Melanie.
A Mother’s View
“My daughter is the hero,” says Carol. “When Melanie was born, my doctor told me there was a problem, so I was amazed that there was nothing visibly wrong, and this has really been true all of her life. Melanie has never looked sick, and she has always had a happy, positive disposition.
When Melanie was 3 years old, we went to the hospital for her first surgery. It was supposed to be the only surgery she would need … the one that would fix whatever was wrong, but after the surgery, we learned that doctors had found other problems with her heart.”
At 7, while living in San Diego, further surgery was recommended to open Melanie’s aortic valve. “She was comforting me as she went into surgery,” says Carol, “telling me that she would be fine and I wasn’t to cry.” At 19, Melanie was told she needed further surgery, this time to replace the aortic valve. She was told the night before surgery that the surgeon would be using a mechanical valve, so she would need to take blood thinners, which meant having children was not an option. “We had always felt tremendous gratitude that technology and medicine could save Melanie’s life,” says Carol, “but now the quality of her life would change. She was devastated.”
Melanie later married, and Carol was not surprised when she decided to have a child against all odds. “She had survived a ruptured appendix and cardiac arrest shortly after her surgery at 19, so when she said she could handle pregnancy while taking blood thinners, I believed her. The result is our beautiful Kate.”
A Daughter’s Perspective
As an ultrasound technician, Kate Eggington works with people who have heart problems every day. “I chose this career partially because of my mother,” says Kate and Melanie, with friend Ronrico Hawkins, at the AHA’s annual Heart Walk in 2014. Kate. “But it wasn’t until I completed my schooling that I realized how serious her condition is. I almost wish I could go back to my days of ignorance because knowing the full depth and consequences of what she was born with is scary.”
Even knowing about her mother’s heart condition, it wasn’t until June 15, 2013, that Kate was forced to accept that “my mother wasn’t as invincible as she seemed and that I could lose her at any point without any notice.”
Kate’s parents were having a normal day at home. “Luckily, my stepfather happened to be home for one of the 10 weeks of the year he doesn’t travel,” she says. That afternoon, Kate’s mother’s heart stopped without any warning. She collapsed and went into cardiac arrest. For the next two days, she was put into a coma and therapeutic hypothermia was used (her body temperature was lowered) to slow her metabolism, decrease the amount of oxygen she needed, and prevent brain damage.
“None of us could function. I couldn’t eat, I could barely sleep, I was inconsolable,” says Kate. “During the times I could actually bring myself to sit by her bed, I couldn’t call her mom because the sound of my voice made her reach out, trying to pull at the IV and breathing tube she had in. On the third day, they slowly warmed her back up, and when they took her out of sedation and she spoke, my stepfather broke down. We hadn’t lost her. After 10 days in the hospital she finally came home to us.”
“Although that was the most terrifying experience of my life,” says Kate. “I now cherish my mother … every lunch with her, every hug, every time she says I love you.” Heart disease kills more women each year and is more deadly than all forms of cancer. Melanie is a true advocate for raising awareness of the threat of heart disease – she’s been actively involved with the American Heart Association for 15 years. Arm yourself with information. To learn the facts about heart disease and what you can do to prevent it, visit goredforwomen.org. For more information about cardiac services provided at St. Rose Dominican or to find a St. Rose cardiologist, visit strosehospitals.org/heart.
When Josh woke at his home in Henderson in the middle of the night unable to walk, paramedics rushed him to St. Rose Dominican’s Rose de Lima Campus. After spending two weeks in the hospital getting his health stabilized, the Inpatient Rehabilitation Facility (IRF) staff took over and helped Josh walk out the front doors.
Josh was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre (pronounced Gē-yän Bä Rā) Syndrome, a rare, serious autoimmune disorder that damages the nerves, causing muscle weakness and paralysis. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the syndrome affects one out of every 100,000 people.
“Doctors think I had a virus that locked on to my nerve endings,” says Josh. “So after fighting off the virus, my body thought the nerve endings were still part of it, and it just kept attacking.” With Josh bedridden, doctors turned to the hospital’s IRF and its new robotic technology for answers.
Fortunately for Josh, the IRF had recently received three new robotic rehabilitation therapy machines made by Hocoma® Products: the Erigo®, Lokomat Pro®, and Armeo®Power and Hand Therapy robot. According to Dr. Tony Chin, Medical Director of the IRF, the hospital is the first in the southwest United States to receive the equipment.
Erigo® - The Erigo® (shown right) is a robotic mobilization and electrical stimulation support system that helps patients stand again after long periods of lying down. Named Apollo Zen by the IRF (“Apollo” for god of the sky and “Zen” for health), it gradually moves the patient into an upright position, allowing them to gain the strength to stand. Robotic foot pedals help patients improve their blood circulation while doing passive, active or resisted exercise. The system also uses functional electrical stimulation to assist in muscle contraction, which speeds strengthening.
“The whole idea is to get the muscles to contract so we get blood flow back to the heart,” says Dr. Chin. “With good blood flow, the heart starts to pump, and we can slowly tilt the patient upright while maintaining their blood pressure. If they’re able to maintain blood pressure, they’re able to do therapy.”
A few days after Josh was admitted to Rose de Lima, the Erigo® arrived. He was the first patient to test out the new technology. “The Erigo® was amazing,” says Josh. “It got me moving again. I’ve been on my feet ever since.”
Lokomat Pro® – The IRF’s Lokomat Pro®, a customizable robotic gait training system that helps patients walk again, has been nicknamed “Optimus Yung” (Optimus, a robot character in the movie “Transformers” that helps humans, and Yung, the Chinese word for “courageous”). The name is fitting because it takes a lot of courage for a patient to get on the machine and try to walk again after a stroke or traumatic injury.
The machine (shown left) hoists patients upright using a harness that moves up and down and side to side to simulate the natural “bob” of a walking person. Robotic legs attach to the patient’s hips, knees, and ankles to guide them as they move forward on a treadmill, and a hip attachment feature allows natural hip movement. A video screen facing the patient offers games that encourage and provide instant feedback.
The Lokomat Pro® has both automatic and manual settings. New patients are typically placed on an automatic setting so they can experience concise and repetitive movements to form new muscle memory. The settings are gradually moved to manual as the patient improves. “The movement has to be precise and accurate,” says Dr. Chin. “If not, they will learn a bad pathway.”
After stabilizing his blood pressure using the Erigo®, Josh used the Lokomat Pro® to regain his ability to walk. “The machine got me started,” says Josh. “I went from not being able to walk to moving my legs to being able to hold my weight to walking all over again. Now, I feel like I can almost jump again.”
“It’s like the old expression, ‘You never forget how to ride a bike,’” says Josh. “Well, you never forget how to walk either.
Sometimes it just takes a while to get it down the way you did before, but the amazing staff here at the IRF helps you do it.”
giving lives back.
Armeo®Power – The Armeo®Power (shown right) is an upper body robot that helps patients regain the use of their arms. Dr. Chin says the machine focuses on repetition to increase strength and improve mobility of the shoulder, elbow, and wrist. Like the Lokomat Pro®, it uses video games to encourage patients and give them instant feedback.
“Our Armeo®Power is named Rosie Chern,” says Dr. Chin. “’Rosie’ after Rosie the Riveter (an American icon during World War II representing women who worked in factories), and Chern, the Chinese word for being successful.”
Former patient Lana Million experienced the machine’s success after suffering from a debilitating stroke in July 2014 that caused her entire left side to become numb. After spending two weeks recovering at St. Rose Dominican’s Siena Campus, Lana was transferred to the Rose de Lima IRF to rehabilitate using the Armeo®Power. “My fingers and arm would move, but I couldn’t control them,” Lana says. “The Armeo helped me learn how to squeeze things, and it gave me the whole range of movement back in my arm. I can’t imagine having better therapy.”
“Our emergency rooms save lives,” says Teressa Conley, President/CEO of the Rose de Lima Campus, “but life-saving
technology is just part of the picture. After trauma, accident, or stroke, it is only through rehabilitative services that patients really get their lives back. Regaining the ability to do something as simple as combing your hair or brushing your teeth or something incredibly difficult, such as learning to walk and be independent again, is truly life-saving.”
In the past, residents had to travel out of state for care beyond traditional therapy. Now that Rose de Lima has the Hocoma® technology, residents can recover in their own community.
The robotic technology offered at the IRF now allows patients to have the best of both worlds: the most current technology
and the support of friends and family. For Josh, staying close to home was important because it allowed him to visit with his two small children every other day. “If I was out of state, that wouldn’t have been an option,” Josh says. “It was hard not being able to hold my kids when they were sitting right next to me, but having them visit was motivation. It kept me pushing, and it kept me moving forward. I did it for them.”
At a recent unveiling of the new equipment, Conley agreed. “We are proud to be the leader in rehabilitative services for our region,” she says. “Residents of southern Nevada should not need to leave the community to get the best medical care available.” To learn more, visit StRoseHospitals.org/IRF.
At St. Rose Dominican, we strive to ensure that humankindness drives every interaction we have with the people we serve. During the week of January 26-30, St. Rose is encouraging employees to take part in The Great Kindness Challenge, which includes a suggested 50-item Acts of Kindness checklist to complete by January 30.
St. Rose is working in partnership with the Josh Stevens Foundation, a local nonprofit organization that helps schools, businesses, and youth organizations across the nation recognize and celebrate heartfelt acts of kindness. With their help, more than 100 Nevada schools are participating in this year’s Great Kindness Challenge. Participating schools are giving their students the 50-item checklist and encouraging them to complete that checklist by January 30. Students who complete the checklist will receive a gift from the Josh Stevens Foundation.
Globally, the Great Kindness Challenge is currently on target to have more than two million students enrolled for 2015, which will amount to 100 million acts of kindness in schools nationwide. In addition to serving as a presenting sponsor of the Great Kindness Challenge, many of Dignity Health’s more than 65,000 executives, employees, and physicians are taking the Great Kindness Challenge alongside the students, effectively “matching” their good deeds in hospital, clinic, and office settings.
“St. Rose is committed to practicing humankindness every day in our hospitals and care centers,” said Brian Brannman, senior vice president of operations for Dignity Health Nevada. “We are focused on putting policies in place that strengthen the human connection with our doctors, nurses, and caregivers so every guest feels welcome, safe, comfortable, listened to, and respected. Our mission calls us to collaborate with organizations that share the same goals and help spread the word about the power of kindness, especially within schools.”
For more information on The Great Kindness Challenge and Kids For Peace, go to http://www.greatkindnesschallenge.org. For more information on the Josh Stevens Foundation, please visit http://www.joshstevensfoundation.org.
Dignity Health-St. Rose Dominican Appoints Brian Brannman VP of Operations for Nevada and President/CEO of Siena Campus
We’re thrilled to announce that Brian G. Brannman was named vice president of the Dignity Health Nevada service area, as well as President and CEO of our Siena Campus last week. Our Nevada service area includes our three hospitals in Henderson and Las Vegas, four Dignity Health Medical Group primary- and specialty-care clinics, two surgical clinics in partnership with Stanford Hospital & Clinics, two ambulatory surgery centers, a home health and hospice program, two women’s centers and three outpatient imaging sites.
Brannman will report to Rod A. Davis, senior vice president of operations for Dignity Health Nevada, who immediately preceded Brannman as president and CEO of the Siena Campus. Brannman is the designated successor to Davis and is expected to be named to the role when Davis retires in late 2014.
His oversight will encompass Dignity Health’s multi-site, multi-area health care service offerings in Nevada, including acute-care hospital operations, physician relationships, ambulatory and outpatient service delivery systems and healthcare philanthropy. Dignity Health’s Nevada operations include more than 3,400 employees, 1,300 physicians and annual net revenues in excess of $800 million. Brannman’s focus will be on realizing high-quality, safe and cost-effective health care delivery.
“I am impressed with the diversity and complexity of Brannman’s past accomplishments, and his health-care management acumen,” Davis said. “Brian is known for combining a focus on top-notch performance with compassionate, patient-centered care. He is also regarded for his skills as a team builder with physicians, community leaders, employees and peers. I am extremely pleased to welcome a leader of Brannman’s caliber to Dignity Health.”
Brannman will join Dignity Health in January from University Medical Center of Southern Nevada. He has been UMC’s chief executive officer since July 2011, and led the recent creation of a designated hospital board in concert with the Clark County Commission. He previously served as UMC’s chief operating officer for three years, leading a turnaround effort after the departure of UMC’s former leadership team.
His extensive health-care leadership experience prior to UMC includes more than 30 years with the United States Navy, including serving as commander and CEO of Navy Medicine West. In this role, Brannman was charged by the Navy Surgeon General to create and direct the operations of ten naval hospitals and multiple outpatient clinics across the West Coast and Far East. Prior to this assignment, he served as CEO of Naval Medical Center in San Diego, Calif., the largest multispecialty academic medical center in the Department of Defense system, serving three million enrollees. Other assignments included serving as principal staff officer in Navy headquarters in Washington, D.C. for health care issues, and executive positions in naval hospitals in Japan, Haiti and the United States. A fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives, Brannman has a Master of Science degree from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., a Master of Arts in healthcare management from Webster College and a bachelor’s degree in healthcare administration from Southern Illinois University.
We’re thrilled to share that Dignity Health announced yesterday that nearly 10,500 CNA-represented nurses at the three St. Rose Dominican hospital campuses in Nevada and 27 Dignity Health facilities in California have ratified new four-year agreements.
“These agreements are good for our employees, our organization and the communities we serve,” said Darryl Robinson, executive vice president/chief human resources officer for Dignity Health. “The agreements honor our commitment to our employees while acknowledging the significant challenges Dignity Health and other providers are facing in the current, difficult economy. With these four-year agreements in place, Dignity Health and our nurses will continue to care for our patients with the humankindness that they deserve and expect from us.”
The four-year master contracts provide competitive wages over the life of the contract. The contracts also provide additional workplace injury insurance and an enhanced retiree health benefit.
Mobile application developed in collaboration with Chandler Regional Medical Center in Chandler, Arizona, to help parents track their baby’s progress
St. Rose Dominican Hospitals, a Dignity Health member, has unveiled its new Baby Growth Tracker mobile application. This app, which is available by a free download from the iTunes Store and Android Market, provides resources and support for new parents.
The concept for this app was created and initially submitted by Anna Wroble, R.N., a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) nurse at St. Rose Dominican Hospitals, in response to Dignity Health’s Greenlight Challenge, an annual challenge that harnesses the collective creativity and wisdom of 60,000 employees, volunteers, and physicians to solve crucial issues for the organization.
“We were one of three projects selected from hundreds of submissions to receive grant funding as part of the Greenlight Challenge,” said Rod Davis, president and CEO of St. Rose Dominican Hospitals and senior vice president of operations, Dignity Health Nevada. “We’re humbled to have been selected as part of this innovative effort, especially as we aim to learn how emerging mobile technologies can improve quality of care, lower costs and expand access to the communities we serve.”
Chandler Regional Medical Center in Arizona, a sister Dignity Health facility, partnered with St. Rose in an effort to launch this app in two distinct markets. Children’s Miracle Network also provided a grant to help with the development of the app.
“As a neonatal intensive care nurse, I find that parents are often traumatized when their babies are in the NICU. They don’t know what to expect and tell me they feel as though ‘they have no control’ when it comes to helping care for their tiny babies,” said Wroble. “Having four daughters, one of whom spent time in the NICU, I wanted to be able to tell parents what they can do rather than what they can’t – and that we are listening to their needs.”
The Growth Tracker app includes relevant information for mothers-to-be and allows parents to track their baby’s progress, including height, weight and head circumference, from their birth through the first year. The app also caters to parents who have a baby in the NICU, with educational information on gestational age beginning at 23 weeks, and it includes a video tour of the NICU to help familiarize parents with the specialized unit.
“The app will engage new mothers in monitoring their baby’s feedings, with features such as a time and date log to track breast and bottle feedings,” says Debbie Pavlica, director of the Maternal Child Center at St. Rose. “Educational materials and videos that range from what to expect as your baby develops, to the important role breastfeeding plays in your baby’s growth and development have also been incorporated.” The app also includes original videos about breastfeeding, hand expressing, and formula safety.
The app can be found on the iTunes and Android stores, by searching through a variety of key words, including “nicu growth” or “Dignity Health.” More information about the apps can be found at www.strosehopsitals.org/mcc.
On Friday, June 15, a Chinese delegation from the Ministry of Commerce for Medical and Healthcare Exports and Imports met with representatives from Union Village at Ravella at Lake Las Vegas to explore the concept of the Integrated Health Village and its applicability as a center of excellence in southern Nevada, and how the model could be replicated for the good of others. The delegation also visited and toured St. Rose Dominican Hospitals’ San Martín Campus.
The meeting featured a presentation on Union Village, including presentations on proton therapy, senior living services and Union Plaza, the project’s retail, restaurant, residential and entertainment center. Additionally, the delegation visted the Union Village site at the northeast corner of US 93/95 and Galleria Drive in Henderson, Nev.
Henderson Mayor Andy Hafen, Consul General of People’s Republic of China Zhansheng Gao, Nevada’s Director of Economic Development Steve Hill, Lieutenant Governor Brian Krolicki and several members from the Henderson City Council were in attendance. During their trip to the United States, the Chinese delegation is visiting Harvard and Yale University in addition to Union Village and St. Rose Dominican Hospitals.
Visitors in the delegation include Ming Xu, vice president of the China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Medicines & Health Products; Na Zhao, deputy director of the Ministry of Commerce of China; Pengfei Tu with the Ministry of Commerce of China; Gang Cao, director of the China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Medicines & Health Products; Beibei Zhang, deputy director of the China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Medicines & Health Products; Guofeng Wu, the executive assistant at Zhejiang Medicine. Co., Ltd; Qi Kang, general director of The United Laboratories International Holdings Limited; Qing Guo, legal advisor; Tengfei Gao, manager; Hao Xu, manager of Anhui Guangyintang Chinese Medicine Co. Ltd; Xinbin Shu, president of Shandong Mingyuan Import & Export Company, Ltd.; and Wenzhi Tian, CEO of Huabo Biopharm Company, Ltd.