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We’re celebrating our history by sharing 100 stories of care, compassion and commitment. Check back as more stories are added throughout the year.
For Chandra Boyer, her miracle is her daughter, Hannah. “She’s my miracle baby. Hannah is feisty. She loves lions. She wants to be a doctor. She is a natural caretaker. She is very, very active. She is a lot of fun!”
Two years ago, four-year-old Hannah, along with her mom, dad and brother, Asher, moved from Buffalo, NY to Memphis to receive leukemia treatment at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Following a relapse in December 2016, Hannah and Chandra returned to Memphis.
In addition to their care at St. Jude, the Boyers receive care from Methodist Hospice through the Quality of Life for All (QoLA) Kids Program. “We provide hospice, palliative, home care and perinatal hospice services for 100 chronically or terminally ill pediatric patients and their families each year,” explained Rachel Bolick, a social worker with QoLA Kids.
Through QoLA Kids, Hannah and her family receive consistent, compassionate support within their residence at the Target House from a multidisciplinary team of caregivers that includes physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, social workers, spiritual counselors and child life specialists.
When DeRhonda Hutcherson first noticed a lump on her chest, she put off taking action. Unfortunately, she was uninsured after her husband, Terry, lost his job following a loss of sight. She eventually confided in a coworker who connected her with Rafael Miranda, a navigator with Methodist Healthcare’s Congregational Health Network (CHN).
Rafael sensed the urgency, called to schedule a screening that day before Thanksgiving and told her she might not hear back immediately due to the holiday. “West Cancer Center called me 20 minutes later and said they had a cancellation, would I mind running over there,” DeRhonda said. “This has absolutely been miracle after miracle – the hand of God. I can’t help but say that.”
She had a mammogram and a biopsy and ultimately was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was scheduled for surgery on December 23, 2017, less than a month after she first talked to Rafael. “I appreciate everyone who is part of this program,” Said DeRhonda “They’ll never realize all the lives they are saving.” DeRhonda remains hopeful about her prognosis and grateful for all the help she’s received.
Some people discover their passion at an early age, others discover it much later in life. Sometimes it’s because they were looking, other times it’s fate. For Joanna Higdon, when and how were beside the point. When she discovered how much the idea of providing end-of-life care resonated with her, she was all in.
“She thought about the people who don’t have caregivers at the end of life. She put her heart and soul into it,” says her husband, Dennis Higdon. Therefore, it’s only fitting that the first family suite at the Methodist Hospice Residence will be named in memory of Joanna Higdon.
About three years ago, Joanna was diagnosed with stomach cancer. “She told us she was going to be fine,” Martha, a close friend, said. “But it turned out to be extensive.” JoAnna was very modest, but Martha thought it was right to name the suite in her honor. “She would have been humbled by it,” she says. “The way they built and designed it, and the way they operate it with such dignity and compassion, it’s just amazing. It’s a very special place.”
When Jack Morris accepted a lunch invitation from Gary Shorb, former CEO of Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, he didn’t know quite what to expect. During lunch, Shorb presented Jack with a big request. “He asked me if I’d be willing to make a pledge to give regularly over time,” Jack said. “He told me to take my time and get back with him. I looked at his numbers and thought about it for one day. I called him back and said, ‘Why don’t I just give you a donation of $100,000 right now?’”
Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare used Jack and his wife Jane’s generosity to strengthen and expand its hospice programs that go beyond traditional medical care – including initiatives like Camp Bravehearts,bereavement services, quarterly memorial services and caregiver training.
“We’re all going to die. Have you ever heard of a person who lived forever?” Jack remarked. It’s that simple wisdom, combined with the memories of his daughter-in-law and her struggle with brain cancer at home, which are behind his and Jane’s steadfast support of Methodist’s hospice efforts.
In January 1954, after leaving college and going to work, Dr. Richardson was preparing to move to Nashville to train as a diesel mechanic when he got sick. Infectious hepatitis left him bedridden for two months and resulted in him losing 40 pounds. “I thought I was going to die,” says Dr. Richardson. “And I said, ‘God, let me get well, and I’ll spend my career helping sick folks.’ And I got well.”
He never forgot his promise – good news for generations of medical students, countless patients and Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, where he worked for more than 20 years as a surgeon. Dr. Richardson even had his own operating room – Room 23. “When I came down here to Methodist, they said, ‘Man, we’d love to have you. Come on in. You can have Room 23.’ And for the next two decades, my crew rolled up to Room 23 and we did our business.”
Ed and Nancy Barnett have strong ties to the healthcare industry within the Memphis area. Nancy is a trained social worker, Ed’s mom was a nurse and Ed built his business, in part, by implementing employee benefits for Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare. But, none of those reasons are at the core of why they now support Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare. “We like to share our experience and resources with organizations that we believe in,” Ed said. “It’s not a hard decision. We like organizations that give back.”
Fortunately for Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, the Barnetts show immeasurable generosity. Ed’s a past board member of the Methodist Healthcare Foundation, where Nancy now serves. He helped start the annual Foundation golf tournament and together have made gifts to many Methodist projects. “Methodist cares about the whole person, and they care about the family,” said Nancy. “They care about everybody. In social work school, they always told us, ‘You have to look at the whole person.’ And that's what Methodist does. They just do some really cool stuff. It's amazing to me.”
Carrie Galphin’s first pregnancy seemed normal until she went into labor at 25 weeks. Her daughter, Millie, arrived on April 11, 2014 weighing just 1 pound and 14 ounces. Because she came so early, Millie was rushed to the NICU at Methodist Le Bonheur Germantown Hospital.
On day five of her life, things became more serious. At 10 p.m., Millie’s bowels ruptured, requiring immediate surgery. Carrie and her husband, Patrick, followed the Pedi-Flite ambulance from Methodist Le Bonheur Germantown Hospital to Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, where Millie underwent surgery.
At Le Bonheur, surgeons put a drain into Millie’s abdomen to remove fluid. When she was stable enough for a second surgery, part of her diseased intestines was removed. Surgeons left a hole in her abdomen for 12 weeks while she recovered and healed.
The healing process was long for Millie, but she finally went home on September 29, 2014 weighing 7 pounds and 7 ounces. Since then, the Galphins say life at home has been wonderful.
In October of 2010, cancer hit home for Jason and Caitlin Motte when Caitlin’s grandfather, Lynn H. Doyle, was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. He was referred to West Cancer Center, where a treatment plan made it possible for Lynn to watch Caitlin walk down the aisle that November. His attendance at the Motte’s wedding not only allowed the family to create memories that they will cherish for a lifetime, but it gave them an invaluable gift: more time.
The care Caitlin’s grandfather received inspired the Mottes to do more. In 2011, the Motte’s philanthropic vision became reality when they started the Jason Motte Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising funds to support all those affected by cancer. Jason, a pitcher in the major leagues, leveraged his baseball platform to raise awareness not only about this terrible disease, but about giving back.
Through numerous fundraising methods, including their annual signature event, Strike Out Cancer with Jason Motte, the Motte Foundation has raised over one million dollars for cancer research and patient care. When asked if they had ever imagined that the foundation would grow into the nationwide movement that it has, Caitlin’s response was simple: “Never.” “I play Major League Baseball,” said Jason. “But the impact being made through this foundation is significantly bigger than that.”
After battling and beating prostate cancer almost 10 years prior, a recurrence was the farthest thing from Danny Davidson’s mind. However, a trip to the Emergency Room led Danny’s physicians to question next steps. Ultimately, the decision was clear to his physicians: “Let’s get you to West Cancer Center.”
Follow-up scans indicated a spot located on the L4 vertebrae of Danny’s spine. With his cancer metastasized and standard therapy protocol no longer an option, Brad Somer, MD, Medical Oncologist at West Cancer Center and Danny’s physician, recommended a clinical trial opportunity.
Danny’s care team quickly determined that he was eligible for the trial, pushing through eligibility paperwork and details to get him started as soon as possible. Today, Danny is feeling great – and enjoying life with his wife and family. For him, enrolling in the study was accompanied by fear; but, more importantly, he was motivated to fight back with every resource and tool available to beat this disease.
In 2007, Sonya went in for a regular dental cleaning and noticed an abnormal white patch on the inside of her left cheek – an abnormality that a biopsy determined to be a common skin rash. However, seven years later, severe headaches led Sonya to return to her oral surgeon for a re-evaluation. She was immediately referred to West Cancer Center, where she was diagnosed with Stage 4 Squamous Cell Carcinoma.
Following much evaluation, discussion and collaboration, the West team prepared a treatment plan for tumor removal, chemotherapy and radiation. Despite the numerous and extensive therapies implemented to combat Sonya’s cancer, her battle against the disease raged on. In 2015, the cancer came back – this time in her thyroid. Sonya was given one year to live if she decided to forego any treatment. Therefore, she proceeded with a treatment plan that included additional chemotherapy coupled with an immunotherapy combination therapy clinical trial at West.
Sonya completed nine rounds of the clinical trial combination therapy, which slowly caused the loss of her hair but resulted in a successful response. “You have three choices in life: give up, give in, or give it all you’ve got,” said Sonya. “And I’m going to keep giving it all I’ve got.”
When Chris and Heather Lens learned their baby girl, Maddie, had Tuberous Sclerosis Complex (TSC), they were devastated.
The disease, which causes tumors to grow on a person’s organs, such as the heart, brain, lungs and skin, is rare, and it was something neither Chris nor Heather had heard of before. Nationally, approximately 50,000 people have been diagnosed with TSC– and only around 1 million people have been diagnosed globally.
In the fall of 2016, doctors determined that medications were no longer effective in controlling Maddie's seizures and that brain surgery was necessary. The Lens family was referred to Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital. Under the care of the hospital’s TSC specialists, Maddie underwent two brain surgeries in November 2016 to remove the tubers that caused her seizures.
It’s been more than a year and a half since her surgery – and her last seizure. “Sometimes it’s hard to believe we are living this life without seizures,” says Heather.
The Ayeni twins were born in Enugu State, Nigeria, on November 16,2015. The girls, who were diagnosed as conjoined in utero, shared a large intestine, two bladders and a pelvis. In early 2016, the Nigerian-based Linking Hands Foundation sought Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital’s help in separating the twins.
The surgery was Le Bonheur’s second separation of conjoined twins in the past five years. A team of specialists from the areas of anesthesia, child life, critical care, pediatric surgery, orthopedics, nursing, plastic surgery, radiology, rehabilitation therapy, social work, spiritual care and urology met weekly for four months prior to the surgery to plan for the separation. More than 20 physicians and surgeons were involved in the 18-hour separation – and another 100 nurses and other clinicians were involved in their care. Miracle and Testimony are now undergoing physical therapy and getting stronger every day!
In the first five years of his life, Juan Carlos Francisco-Pedro has spent most of his childhood as a patient at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital. On average, he spends 282 days a year at Le Bonheur.
Shortly after his birth, Juan’s mother, Maria Francisco, learned that her son had a gastrointestinal defect. The defect, called Hirschprung’s disease, is a condition that affects the nerve cells in Juan’s large intestine making it difficult for him to pass solid waste. When Juan is admitted to the hospital, he’s often treated for dehydration, severe stomach aches and fever.
Over the years, dozens of physicians and nurses have cared for Juan, seeing him through multiple surgeries, numerous hospital stays – which at times would last for weeks – and constant visits to the Emergency Department. Juan has found his second family in the staff at Le Bonheur. They are lifelong friendships – the kind he and his family can lean on when they need them most.
Terry and Mallory Himelrick, a mother and daughter duo, work side by side at Methodist North Hospital.
They have over two decades of nursing experience between them, and love the opportunity to work together. Terri’s dedication to her patients and career is what drove Mallory to become a nurse herself.
"I have it really, really good because I not only have her to look up to as a mother, but as a nurse as well," said Mallory.
In addition to their daily requirements at the hospital, Terri and Mallory devote their time to health fairs, community events and local churches.
"It's been a great thing to watch your child become an adult and then be able to move into a friendship mode. We have a lot of fun together," said Terri.
In 1899, Katie and Jack Sherard’s great-great-great grandfather, John Holmes Sherard, traveled to Memphis and helped plant the seeds for a hospital that people now call Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare.
To this day, their family connection to the system is undeniable. Multiple generations of Sherards have donated time and money to Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare and diligently served on its boards – resulting in a wing and the chapel being named after the family.
To honor the multiple family members who’ve given back over the years, seven members of their family have decided to renovate the Sherard Chapel as a gift to Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare.
“The chapel needs to be available for prayer and a quiet place to go,” said Jack Sherard. “A hospital is not necessarily a place you want to be, but if you have to be there, Methodist is the best place to be.”
At only 17 weeks pregnant, Courtney Smith’s doctor noticed something wasn’t right on her ultrasound. That “something” was a series of small signs that her baby’s brain and spine were not forming normally. A disease known as Spina Bifida.
After the initial shock of the diagnosis, Courtney and her husband, Webb Smith, decided to do as much research on the disease as possible. That’s when they found Dr. Frederick Boop. One of the world’s best neurosurgeons – who just happened to practice in their hometown at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital.
Over the past eight years, their son, Carter, has undergone 26 surgeries with Dr. Boop and a team of physicians at Le Bonheur. “Our son is a happy, energetic little boy because of the fantastic care we have received at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital,” said Courtney.
“I can’t imagine finding another team of doctors. I can find another good surgeon, but I can’t find somebody that feels like they’re part of our journey.”
September 2017 marked the one-year anniversary of the day Keith Pridgen donated 65 percent of his liver to his sister, Amy Thomason.
Amy was diagnosed with Autoimmune Hepatitis – a rare condition where your body attacks your liver. Her doctors didn’t feel she was healthy enough to receive a cadaver liver, so her brother decided to donate a portion of his own. “I couldn’t stand seeing her get worse. So, I volunteered to give her a portion of my liver as a living donor,” said Keith Pridgen.
At a celebration marking the one-year anniversary of the launch of the living donor liver transplant program at the Methodist University Hospital Transplant Institute, Amy and Keith shared their story and successful outcomes following both their surgeries.
“The importance of this program is undeniable to those who need a new liver. It can truly mean the difference between life and death,” said James Eason, M.D., Program Director.