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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.
On October 23, 2018, nurses in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) of the Women’s & Children’s Pavilion at Methodist Le Bonheur Germantown Hospital dressed their tiny patients in costumes to celebrate Halloween. These costumes included a monarch butterfly, pirate, scuba diver, avocado and a trio of sauce packets from Taco Bell.
The NICU nurses have been working on the 25 costumes for the past two months – painstakingly cutting, sewing and hot gluing tiny details. The costumes are made of light fabrics, such as tulle and felt that are draped over the babies so as to not interfere with the care or medical equipment.
“The amount of time (NICU nurses) spend loving on our babies speaks volumes,” said Ann Barron, patient care coordinator at Methodist Le Bonheur Germantown Hospital. “They all stayed late and came in early to make sure everything was perfect and that the families would love it.”
Kennedy Jae Bothwell is spending her first Halloween in the NICU after arriving six weeks premature. When she was born on October 16, she weighed only four pounds and five ounces.
“When we found out about the costumes, we thought it was so fun and one of the most cheerful little things you can do,” said Kennedy’s grandmother, Janna Dwiggins.
“They were all adorable, but we felt the monarch butterfly costume was fitting because that’s what she’s doing. She’s growing into a beautiful butterfly,” said Kennedy’s mother, Kaitlyn.
Animal therapy dogs are quite common, but what about a therapy llama? Pearl is a therapy llama who is a part of the Mid-South Therapy Dogs. She and her handler, Tori Howks, visited with patients and staff at Methodist Le Bonheur Germantown Hospital where Pearl brought a lot of smiles and happiness to everyone she met.
Greg McMillen had been a patient in the hospital for a couple of months with cardiac issues. So, he was happy to have the monotony of the day broken up by a special visit with Pearl.
“It makes my day a lot better,” McMillen said. “It’s good to be outside.”
“Studies show simply petting an animal lowers the level of cortisol, a stress hormone, so patients are less stressed,” explained Diane Ridgway, former president of Methodist Le Bonheur Germantown. “Studies also show dopamine, a blood chemical associated with happiness goes up.”
“It’s wonderful to see the rapport she has with everyone she meets and how she brings a smile to their faces and makes them happy,” said Howks.
In 2013, Emily Bragorgos became very ill. After visiting multiple doctors to figure out what was wrong, a trip to the Emergency Room finally confirmed that she had end-stage liver disease. As Emily’s condition continued to worsen, she was referred to Methodist University Hospital’s Transplant Institute for a liver transplant.
As soon as the Bragorgos’ arrived, the transplant team went into action to get her on the waiting list for a liver. Within just a few short months, a match was located and Emily received a liver transplant by Dr. James Eason.
Emily seemed to be recovering well at first. Then, she began to feel sick and returned to Methodist University Hospital where she was told she would have to have another liver transplant. Fortunately, the second liver transplant was a success.
Looking back on Emily’s challenging experience, the Bragorgos’ give credit to the entire Methodist University Hospital Transplant Institute for their exemplary care.
“From the ladies in the cafeteria who prayed with my husband, to the ladies who took care of me and helped me shower, to the doctors who were so steadfast in applying their knowledge – Methodist has a system that treats everybody so kindly. We were just treated gloriously,” said Emily.
In gratitude for all that they feel they’ve been given, Emily and Nick have chosen to give back to Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare in donations that benefit transplant patients and families. In addition, Nick serves on the Foundation’s Board of Directors.
Methodist South Hospital hosted a reception for Sarah Freeman to celebrate her 100th birthday and 36 years of service as a “pink lady.” Pink ladies are volunteers at Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare who assist with patient transportation, greeting visitors and running minor errands throughout the hospital.
Methodist administrators and Associates showed their appreciation for Ms. Freeman's work and her giving spirit which has touched the lives of many patients, physicians, leaders and colleagues over her last 36 years at Methodist. Ms. Freeman passed away on January 12, 2018 at age 104.
In 2012, Lupus attacked Ernestine Jones’ heart and kidneys which resulted in her having to go to dialysis three times a week. After going into cardiac arrest, Dr. Rajesh Kabra of Methodist University Hospital diagnosed Jones with ventricular fibrillation – a heart rhythm disorder which results in the heart beating so rapidly it stops circulating blood throughout the body.
She needed an implantable cardioverter defibrillator. However, her catheter for dialysis had clogged the vein that the leads from the defibrillator needed to gain access to her heart. “Typically, an ICD is implanted above the heart,” said Dr. Kabra. “In Ernestine’s case, the ICD couldn’t be planted above the heart, so I researched other options that might help.”
Dr. Kabra decided to collaborate with Dr. Eva Proctor, a cardiothoracic surgeon with The Cardiovascular Center, to find a solution. They decided the best course of action was for Dr. Kabra to place an ICD lead from the groin into the heart, while Dr. Proctor created a pocket under the skin of the abdomen to implant the ICD.
Dr. Proctor says the procedure Jones needed was rather rare, but it was a procedure Jones couldn’t live without. “It was very important for Ernestine to have the ICD because this device will provide some safety for her against premature death from ventricular arrhythmia.”
Ernestine says she feels one hundred percent better after the procedure.
For most of us, the chapel where Mary Hudspeth chose to be married may seem a little odd. But for Hudspeth and her fiancé, Terry Williams, the chapel inside the Methodist Hospice Residence was the perfect setting.
Mary is a Home Health Aid Supervisor for Methodist Hospice and has worked for Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare for the past 14 years. Her best friend Bonnie Thomas, who also worked at the Residence, passed away there. Bonnie also introduced Mary to her husband-to-be, so the location of the event was very sentimental to her.
“When I’m here at the Methodist Hospice Residence I feel close with Bonnie,” said Mary. “It just made sense to have our wedding in the chapel.”
Mary says she works with wonderful people. One of the chaplains, Claudia Forest, married the happy couple and her coworkers decorated the chapel with flowers. It’s because of Bonnie and Methodist Hospice, that Mary is starting a beautiful new life.
The maternity center at Methodist Olive Branch Hospital opened its doors at 7 a.m. on Monday, February 3, 2014. The first baby was born 56 hours and 45 minutes later – a healthy baby boy named Gage weighing in at 7 pounds 4 ounces.
“Helping to bring a new life into this world is an exciting and miraculous event,” said Rachel Laughlin, interim clinical director of women’s services. “We have an excellent team of doctors, nurses and support staff in place and are excited to offer maternity services to families living in Olive Branch and neighboring communities.”
“This is the realization of a dream,” said Dabney Hamner, Jr., M.D., the doctor who delivered Gage. “The residents should be very happy with the quality of care families receive at Methodist Olive Branch.”
Lindsey Henry was admitted to Methodist Le Bonheur Germantown Hospital just 19 weeks into her pregnancy. She had a genetically abnormal pregnancy known as a molar pregnancy, a rare complication that happens when tissue inside the uterus becomes a mass or tumor.
“I was scared,” said Lindsey. “It was very difficult to hear that so many things could go wrong. An amniocentesis test was performed that showed the baby was fine, so we decided we’d take a chance.”
To help ensure Lindsey would have as safe of a delivery as possible, Brittney Baird, a women’s health specialist with Methodist, was asked to form a multidisciplinary team to run through every possible scenario and develop an action plan.
At 39 weeks, and a total of 141 days in the hospital, Lindsey delivered a beautiful little girl, Eisley Grace.
“The nursing staff was excellent,” said Lindsey. “There’s no way I would have made it without them. They have become lifelong friends.”
When Alexis and Nikki Kelly's paternal grandmother passed away suddenly, the girls were understandably shocked and saddened. As six-year-olds, they didn't have a clear understanding of death, nor the words to express their sadness. Fortunately, their maternal grandmother knew of a special camp that would help them work through their grief.
Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare’s Camp BraveHearts is a family grief day camp designed to help children ages 6-16 cope with the death of a family member or friend. The camp is a safe place where trained professionals and volunteers explore issues related to grief with the children and their families.
During camp, the girls made memory boxes, shared stories and participated in a memorial service that honored their grandmother.
"At camp, we learned that even though Granny isn't here with us every day, her spirit is," says Alexis. Nikki shares that they used to watch for rainbows with Granny; now every time they see a rainbow, they know that's their Granny saying ‘hi’!
Reed Swanson saw a nephrologist for several years due to a disease that caused scarring on his kidney. Over the years, the health of his kidney progressively worsened and resulted in him needing dialysis. After a frank conversation with his doctor, Reed knew it was time to look for a donor.
Luckily, he didn’t have to look too far. His daughter, Sarah, happened to be a nearly perfect match. "You’re my daddy and we’re going to fix this," Sarah said when she learned her father needed a kidney.
In January 2012, Reed and Sarah underwent surgery – resulting in Reed gaining a healthy kidney and Sarah helping to save her father’s life.
The Methodist University Hospital Transplant Institute hosted a luncheon to honor living donors who donated a kidney to someone in need. Sarah and Reed both attended the special luncheon where each donor was given a medal to acknowledge their life-saving gift.
In April of 2008, David Myers woke up his wife at 2 a.m. by trying to rip the sink out of the wall because he couldn’t turn off the water. Knowing something was clearly wrong, David’s wife immediately took him to Mt. Carmel East Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
After four days in the ICU and another three days in a step-down unit, it was determined that he had Wilson’s Disease – an inherited disorder that causes too much copper to accumulate in the organs – which caused cirrhosis of his liver and resulted in him needing a transplant.
After being turned down as a candidate at several hospitals, David discovered Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare.
Shortly after arriving at Methodist, David had an arterial bleed and was immediately rushed to the Transplant ICU. Six days later, he was stable enough to be put on the transplant list and within 24 hours received the surgery that would save his life.
Grateful for the incredible care he received, James states, “The hospital staff, along with UT Health Science Center, deserve heartfelt thanks for saving lives and giving many, many patients, like myself a chance to have a quality of life never expected.”
Sonia Bryant was first diagnosed with breast cancer at just 27 years old. Twenty years later, her cancer returned – and quite aggressively. Sonia decided not to go through chemotherapy again, and instead chose to become a resident of Methodist Hospice.
“I found that Hospice was the best thing for me. They give me a better quality of life,” said Sonia. “I wasn’t ready to leave, I was ready to live.”
Sonia was excited and still full of life, laughter and love. “I love hospice,” she said, ‘I’m learning everything I need to know about it. I’ve learned that it’s not a death sentence. You’re taken care of. If you need hospice, they will be there to help you all the way through until you ‘graduate’.”
Surrounded by family and friends who loved her, Sonia quietly ‘graduated from hospice’ on July 5, 2017.
On December 25, 2017, Roger Louden received the best Christmas present he could ever imagine – his life. At 8:00 p.m. that evening, Roger was diagnosed at Methodist Olive Branch Hospital with a type-A aortic dissection. Following the diagnosis, he was immediately flown to Methodist University Hospital where he underwent a 12-hour open-heart aortic repair by Dr. Anthony Holden.
Prior to his surgery, at the age of 57, Roger had never spent a whole night – let alone nine days – in the hospital, so the entire experience was very surreal for him. Today, Roger gives “glory to God and his angels who work for Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare” and for the compassionate, expert care he received from the entire care team.
In pediatric epilepsy patients, access to powerful tools can result in powerful outcomes. That’s a lesson Audrey and Romain Ibled learned during their son’s, Stanislas, three weeks of treatment at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital.
Stan was only 10 months old when he experienced the first of what would become a series of mild seizures. After a multi-day study in Le Bonheur’s epilepsy monitoring unit and extensive testing, Stan’s doctors recommended an epilepsy gene panel – a test for more than 500 genes that are associated with seizures in young children. The results, their doctor warned, could take a month or more.
After only two weeks, the results came back for a gene that causes a specific type of epilepsy known as Pyridoxal 5’-phosphate-dependent epilepsy – or PLP. Unlike traditional seizure medicine, PLP must be treated with a vitamin cocktail taken four times a day. Within 48 hours of coming off the seizure medicine and being treated with the combination of vitamins, Stan was talking and eating.
“The next day, he started to pick up a toy, and was improving every day,” says Audrey. “Now he walks, when we thought he might never walk…he speaks…he’s our miracle baby,” said Aubrey.
Stan is now two years old and celebrated one year without seizures this summer. He’s beginning to speak in English and also French. “He is where a two-year-old should be, exploring, laughing, playing and interacting with kids the same age. No one can imagine that a year ago, Stan was fighting for his life,” Audrey says.
Like many teenage boys, Samuel Marshall was athletic, active and healthy. That’s why his mother, Auset, didn’t find herself overly concerned when Samuel began sniffling and sneezing. However, just a few days later, Samuel woke up to find the left side of his body immobile.
Auset immediately rushed Samuel to the nearest hospital, Methodist North, where everyone was shocked to learn he had suffered a stroke due to a blood clot on the right side of his brain. An IV medication was used to dissolve the blood clot, in hopes that it would help him regain mobility on the left side of this body.
Based on the Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare stroke program protocol and additional testing that raised concerns about Samuel’s heart, a special team was called to transport him to Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital. Samuel was immediately admitted into the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), where his parents learned he was suffering from dilated cardiomyopathy – a condition causing his heart to enlarge. The “cold” wasn’t really a cold at all. His heart wasn’t able to pump properly, which was causing fluid to be pushed out through his mouth and nose.
Over the next few weeks, Samuel’s condition continued to decline. Although it was a terrifying reality to face, it became apparent that the worst-case scenario was upon them – Samuel needed a heart transplant to save his life. Just four days later, the family received the call that would change his life forever – a donor heart was available.
On February 16, 2018, just nine days after suffering a stroke, Samuel received a new heart. And today, he’s training to run a 5K. Samuel’s progress has been truly amazing. Although he hasn’t fully recovered, he seemed like he was back to his normal self just a week after his transplant operation.
When Raechyl Moore took her son, Luke, to the pediatrician with symptoms of constipation and an ear infection, she thought the visit should be fairly routine. She wasn’t expecting Luke to be diagnosed with botulism – a life-threatening bacterial illness caused by a toxin that attacks the body’s nerves.
Within three days, Luke lost his ability to lift his head, swallow, sit up or crawl. As a neonatal intensive care nurse, Raechyl knew her son needed expert attention and fast. She brought him to Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, where she has worked for seven years. However, this time, she pulled into the parking lot as a mom and not as an Associate.
As soon as Raechyl and her husband, Keith, brought Luke in, the family was consulted by a team of specialists ranging from neurology to infectious disease. Early detection and treatment are critical for children with Botulism, which is why doctors at Le Bonheur flew in an antitoxin out of California — the only drug treatment available.
Thanks to the swift arrival of the antitoxin, Luke’s stay was reduced from an expected two to three months to just 16 days. “It makes me feel so good to know that the way we talk about patient experience here is real,” Raechyl said. “I couldn’t be more grateful. I know that what they did for my son, they do for all the kids in Memphis. It means the world to me.”
Mid-way through a routine ultrasound, Jasmine Christian’s doctor noticed several abnormalities with her daughter’s scans. Jasmine was immediately referred to Le Bonheur Children’s Fetal Center where her daughter, Jada, was diagnosed in utero at 22 weeks with heart block – a rhythm disorder – with congenital heart disease and heterotaxy syndrome. A disease where scientific literature says children like Jada don’t normally make it.
“I was afraid, devastated and heartbroken. I was told early on that the odds were definitely against us. I wondered how this would play out. Is it worth the risk, will she be in pain?”, said Jasmine.
For eight weeks, a multidisciplinary team at Le Bonheur’s Fetal Center– one of fewer than 30 centers in the country focused entirely on babies diagnosed in utero with a congenital anomaly – developed a plan for Jada. The team included maternal fetal medicine specialists, pediatric cardiologists, pediatric radiologists and pediatric cardiovascular surgeons.
When Jada was finally born full term on February 9th, 2017, she was immediately transferred to Le Bonheur’s Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit to be monitored and treated until she could get a new heart. On April 27th, Jasmine learned that her baby was going to get a transplant. The very next day, the surgical team performed a successful 10-hour operation on Jada.
Today, Jada is a happy and healthy one-year-old baby. “Jada loves playing with her big brothers, Cameron and Chandler. She enjoys taking baths and watching Strawberry Shortcake,” said Jasmine.
During a routine ultrasound visit, Lindsey Sater knew something wasn’t right when it doctors more than 30 minutes to review the images of her baby. It was then that she was told her son, Trennen, had holoprosencephaly - a disease where your brain doesn’t divide into two hemispheres - and that he may not make it past birth. Knowing the outcome, her doctor suggested the family terminate the pregnancy.
“It was never even an option. I couldn’t imagine living with myself,” Lindsey said.
Having recently moved to Bentonville, Ark. just the month before, Lindsey didn’t have any friends or extended family nearby. Fetal medicine specialists recommended that the family move to Little Rock, Ark., or Memphis, Tenn., to give her child the optimal shot at life. She chose Memphis.
The Saturday after Thanksgiving, Trennen arrived. When the doctor held Trennen up for Lindsey to see, she was floored by what she saw. “His face looked normal. I asked if he was going to live. They said ‘yes.’ Every prayer I ever prayed was answered,” Lindsey said.
Trennen ended up not have holoprosencephaly, but was diagnosed with spina bifida - a condition in which the spinal cord fails to develop properly. Now 3, Trennen has a team of people at Le Bonheur helping him thrive. He receives occupational, speech and physical therapy, early intervention and inclusion support, so he can attend school while Lindsey works.
“I’d be lost without Le Bonheur. I was so overwhelmed by his diagnosis. Le Bonheur Early Intervention and Development was my lifeline and my lighthouse as I learned to advocate for Trennen,” Lindsey said.
Ronnie Gordon, a basketball and football fanatic, is a power forward and shooting guard for his school’s basketball team and a cornerback for the football team. He dreams of playing football at the University of Mississippi and one day joining the NFL. However, Ronnie’s dreams came to a halt when he suffered a stroke at only 14 years old.
Ronnie started off the day with a dull headache that was persistent, but not severe enough to keep him from going to his local Boys & Girls Club to play basketball. Not long after he began playing, he started to lose feeling on his left side. A few minutes later, Ronnie collapsed on the edge of the court – he had suffered an acute stroke and had a blood clot in his brain.
Experts at the Pediatric Stroke Center at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital – formalized in 2015 to provide coordinated long-term care for children like Ronnie – diagnosed Ronnie’s condition and immediately gave him medicine via embolization to dissolve the clot. The center is the only facility in the region that offers children who’ve suffered a stroke a comprehensive program aimed at regaining strength and function.
The Pediatric Stroke Center is the reason today, nine months after his stroke, Ronnie can play sports again. He’s grateful to Le Bonheur for helping him return to life as a typical teenager – life as a power forward, shooting guard and cornerback. Life with a shot at being in the NFL one day.
At age 60, Mary McDonald – superintendent of the Memphis Catholic Schools – seemed to live a happy, healthy life. That’s why doctors were baffled when she had a stroke, as she wasn’t a typical candidate for one.
When they looked a little deeper, doctors found that Mary was born with a hole in her heart which needed to be repaired surgically. Her cardiologist didn’t have experience repairing the congenital heart defect typically found in children, so he recommended Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital Pediatric Cardiologist Rush Waller, MD.
Although Dr. Waller never performed a congenital heart procedure on an adult before, the surgery was successful and Mary made a full recovery. Not long after her surgery, Dr. Waller formalized the Adult Congenital Heart Disease (ACHD) Center – a partnership between Methodist University Hospital, the University of Tennessee Health Science Center and Le Bonheur – that ensures adults living with complex congenital heart disease receive lifelong care from a cardiologist who is specially trained to care for their unique issues.
“When I read that Dr. Waller is now working with adults, I thought to myself, ‘Thank God. Now all of us adults who have this issue have this same opportunity.’ I’ve always admired Dr. Waller,” Mary said.
Hannah Lawrence, 24, has struggled with uncontrolled seizures for the past decade, making day-to-day life, like driving, cutting hair in her family’s barber shop or going to the mall a challenge. Katie McCormick, 11, also knows how difficult life can be when a seizure suddenly strikes – at home, in the classroom or when she’s out with her family.
Hannah and Katie’s families, who both live in Brandon, Mississippi, have formed a special bond – a friendship that began when the families learned their daughters both suffer from epilepsy. Their bond grew stronger after Katie and Hannah both received life-changing treatment – the NeuroPace® RNS® therapy – which implants a device in their brains and is designed to reduce seizures. Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital is one of the few hospitals in the country that offers this life-changing care for epilepsy patients.
Their stories and struggles are very similar, and together they have created a lifelong friendship. In early May 2016, Hannah volunteered to cut Katie’s hair in preparation for her surgery. During their time together, Hannah offered words of encouragement.
“I told her everything is going to be fine and that I was a little girl when I went through this,” Hannah said. “I said to her, ‘You’re going to be better.’”
After more than 18 months with the RNS device, Hannah has become more independent which has allowed her to continue working with her dad at his shop. Katie’s seizures have also slowed because of the therapy she received at Le Bonheur, and she has become a more talkative and happy young girl.
Marva Johnson has spent every Saturday morning for the last eight years volunteering in the Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) unit – arriving in the pre-dawn hours to hold, feed, sing to and cuddle with the littlest patients. Like a physician, Marva makes her rounds at about 5:30, listening for the cry or coo of a baby in need.
“Often there is one that’s up and crying, that needs to be held, or needs to be fed,” says Marva. “I get gowned up, washed up, and go and get them.”
On top of her duties at Le Bonheur, Marva is the principal at Altruria Elementary School in Bartlett as well as an active member of the Highland Church of Christ. When asked if she has any children of her own, Marva always responds with “I have 825, and then 50,” referring to her 825 students and then the 50 babies that are in the NICU at any given time.
Marva’s love for the babies is so evident that her fellow church members, students and co-workers at Altruria Elementary have become a mighty force in supporting the hospital. From frequently treating the NICU nurses and staff to potluck lunches, to providing meals for families and staff at the hospital, she can always count on her support system to be there for her, the babies and the hospital.
Marva calls her volunteer work at Le Bonheur a blessing, but she is an equal blessing to Le Bonheur as both a volunteer and donor. She has even made Le Bonheur a beneficiary of part of her estate, creating a real legacy of love.
“This hospital is a part of my heart,” says Marva. “I’ve really been trying to think of what else can I do, even after I am gone … this is a way I can give a piece of myself.”
For some volunteers, the hours spent helping others can be more than rewarding – they can be life changing. Such is the case for Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital volunteer Ekaterina “Kate” Kumar, who has logged more than 100 hours in just one year.
Kate began volunteering at Le Bonheur in June 2016 and quickly realized her love of volunteering had turned into her life’s passion. In August 2016, the mother of two quit her job to pursue a career in nursing. “It was something I wanted to do before. [Years ago] I started taking pre-requisites, but then life happened, and I put my plans on hold. It’s something that kept nagging,” said Kate.
Each week during her volunteer shift, Kate spends time as a “baby hugger” – rocking, soothing and cuddling babies and toddlers whose parents are at work or simply need a break. “These babies, they’re the true fighters,” she said. “I’m here to love them and give them warmth. It never feels enough. And watching those nurses, you see the passion they have for what they do.”
Kumar is currently taking the pre-requisite classes required for a local accelerated nursing program and hopes to land a job as a pediatric nurse in the near future. She says she’s never felt more confident that she’s headed in the right direction.
Thomas Dillard was your typical student athlete who had a passion for all sports from a very early age. Thomas excelled at golf, soccer, football and basketball, but baseball was always his first love. He was such an excellent athlete that the University of Mississippi offered him a scholarship when he was only a freshman in high school. It was a dream come true for his family.
However, just three years before graduation, Thomas took a hard hit during a summer football scrimmage that threatened both his dreams and his life. Initially, Thomas thought he broke a rib but when he collapsed later, his dad, Tom, knew it was something worse.
“I could tell he was in a lot of pain. He has a high threshold for pain. He’s the toughest human I know. I knew it was more than a broken rib,” Tom said.
In under an hour, Thomas was in surgery and doctors discovered that he was bleeding internally. Thomas’ parents were told that their son might not make it through surgery, but fortunately, he did.
Three weeks later, Thomas’ mom was helping him out of bed when she discovered his sheets covered in blood – the wound from surgery had reopened. That’s when they called Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital. As soon as they arrived, they knew they had made the right decision.
Upon entering the hospital, Thomas had a room full of nurses and doctors waiting for him. For weeks, the team worked on helping Thomas recover and heal from such a severe injury. After about a month of treatment, Thomas was finally healthy enough to leave the hospital.
Because of the treatment at Le Bonheur, Thomas was able to get back on the field and fulfill his dreams of playing college sports completely recovered. “To see our son run out on the field after so much adversity the last few years…” Tom said. “It was a very proud moment.”
In 2011, five-year-old Hunter Miller began experiencing a debilitating headache at his home in Saltillo, Mississippi. With Hunter in such extreme pain, his mother was forced to take him to the nearest emergency room where they received horrifying news.
A CT scan revealed that Hunter had a Juvenile Pilocytic Astrocytoma tumor – an extremely rare tumor that affects only 14 out of one million children and causes headaches, nausea, vomiting, balance problems and vision abnormalities.
With limited time, Hunter’s family decided to schedule a Pedi-Flite to Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital where he underwent surgery just two days later. The family was initially told that they would have to prepare for a long road to recovery, but to their surprise, Hunter was back in school and fully functional just two weeks later.
Eight years later, Hunter has clean scans from both Le Bonheur and St. Jude’s Research Hospital and was selected as Le Bonheur’s 2018 Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals (CMNH) Champion.
Today, Hunter continues to give back by volunteering, attending fundraisers and being a friendly face to the younger kids at the hospital. Hunter’s advice to those coming into Le Bonheur is, “I would tell them to be brave, Le Bonheur is going to take great care of you.”
Sixty-one year old Pamala Scoggins was apprehensive. At 60, she battled and beat breast cancer. Now just one year later, doctors discovered tumors on her kidney. Luckily, Pamala’s physician sent her to Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, the only healthcare system in the Memphis area that offers contrast enhanced abdominal ultrasound. The procedure, which can determine if tumors are cancerous or benign, is performed at Methodist University Hospital.
This type of ultrasound is designed to work faster so physicians are able to treat patients more efficiently. With her breast cancer diagnosis, Pamala had to wait seven days to learn the results of her biopsy. This time, she was excited to learn she would immediately be able to get her results. Fortunately, Scoggins received good news. The tumors on her kidneys were not cancerous. And, Pamala says the procedure was extremely easy and pain free.
“Everyone was incredibly nice. They definitely make you feel secure and comfortable,”said Pamala. She added, “I was a giddy girl getting off the gurney.”
Kristi Lester is a sleep technician and manages the Methodist Sleep Disorder Center at Methodist University Hospital. Kristi is passionate about her field and knows the importance of centers that help those with sleep disorders. However, Kristi also recognizes the need for those who perform the work to be properly trained.
Historically, in the state of Tennessee, working as a sleep technician required no formal training, certifications or classes – besides on-the-job training. Kristi and seven of her colleagues fundamentally disagreed with this stance and demanded a change. In 2007, Kristi’s push to change led to the Polysomnography Practice Act being created. This new law requires sleep technicians to receive formal training and a license to practice. Kristi’s push was so influential that she was later appointed to serve on the State Polysomnography Professional Standards Committee.
Thanks to Kristi’s dedication to the field, sleep issues are now treated more frequently and treatments themselves are more advanced and better evolved. In addition, the Methodist Sleep Disorder Center has grown from a two-bed facility to a 16-bed facility which is open seven days a week for people of all ages.
Meet Mrs. Mattie McGough from Memphis, TN. Mattie, like Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, recently celebrated her centennial birthday. In fact, the team at Methodist North Hospital honored the occasion with some sweet treats to mark such a significant milestone. Along with the Methodist North caregivers, three generations of the McGough family filled the hospital room with conversation, laughter and love while Mattie recovered from pneumonia.
Mattie, who actually turned 101 in November 2017, has remained active all her life, happily eats a healthy diet and loves to be surrounded by family. She’s only been hospitalized one other time, when she was 94, for hip surgery.
“It’s heart-warming to see children take an active role in their parents’ care,” said supervising physician, Michael Agapos, M.D. He added, that “it’s especially beneficial for the grandchildren and great-grandchildren to see their parents in such a nurturing role.”
In February 2018, Gerry Sandlin was on a flight from Salt Lake City to Atlanta when he suffered a major stroke. Midflight, Gerry lost use of the right side of his body – his right arm and leg went limp and the right side of his face fell. He couldn't even keep his right eye open. Gerry’s condition prompted the flight crew to arrange for an emergency landing in what by then was the nearest city: Memphis.
Thanks to a partnership between Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare and the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis is home to one of the few mobile stroke units in the country. The mobile unit is about 72 minutes faster at treating a stroke victim than a traditional ambulance. All that time likely saved Gerry's life. "I call it a miraculous recovery because expect for my speech and hearing, and these two little fingers, I'm doing just great," Gerry exclaimed.
The event had such an impact on Gerry that he now plans to lobby more cities across the country to get their own units. "Spend the money on a mobile stroke unit where it can take care of the people," Gerry said. "I will go anywhere and talk and I don't like to talk. I'm a believer in it."
“If you ever need anything, don’t be shy,” Dennis Jones said to his pastor, Rick Kirchoff “Let me know how I can help.” From that first conversation, Rick says Dennis always made it clear he was here to help others. Yet Dennis did not share the depth of his personal struggle with depression with his most intimate partner — his wife, Debbie.
On December 28, 2009, Dennis took his own life. Debbie remembers, “It was a shock. I had no idea.” Debbie and her daughter, Cristin Santana, quickly realized, that “nothing good comes from keeping secrets.” They decided not to hide how Dennis died or how he battled depression. Instead, Debbie says, “I wanted to do something to turn this tragedy into something good.”
After much prayer and planning, Debbie donated $1 million to launch the Dennis H. Jones Living Well Network – with the sole purpose of helping those with depression, anxiety and alcohol abuse.
“I wish I had known enough to be able to help Dennis. With this program, we can plug a hole where we didn’t even know there was one,” she says. “Dennis was giving and caring. Now, he can continue to give and care through this work for years to come.”
A group of ten physical and occupational therapists from Methodist North Hospital recently traveled to Chile’s Puerto Montt Hospital to help train local kinesiologists and occupational therapists in shoulder rehabilitation.
The week-long trip, organized by fellow MLH Associate Luis Velasquez with the support of Nidia Diaz, kinesiologist coordinator for the Puerto Montt Hospital, included a two and a half hour course on shoulder rehabilitation, led by Krissi Moore from North’s PT department, and a full tour of Puerto Montt Hospital.
The MLH team spent time networking and collaborating with the Chilean therapists, discussing both treatment and delivery of care. Both groups instantly bonded over shared standards of teamwork, innovation and delivering the best care for patients.
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.