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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.
Atrial fibrillation, also known as AFib, is the most common heart rhythm disorder affecting 5 million Americans ‐ 2 to 5% of which live in the Mid‐South. Focused on the future of medicine, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare now offers the Watchman device ‐ a small implant that is placed in the heart to help reduce the risk of stroke in patients with AFib.
“Watchman is a huge breakthrough,” said Dr. Litzow, an electrophysiologist for Sutherland Cardiology Clinic, which is part of the Methodist family.
Barbara Dowell is a Memphian native who was diagnosed with AFib in 2011, and has been on a prescribed blood thinner ever since. In February 2018, Dowell was the first local patient to undergo this new surgical alternative at Methodist Le Bonheur Germantown Hospital, and is very happy to have received the implant.
“I decided to do whatever I could to improve my health,” said Dowell.
In August 2015, John Williams was faced with a potentially deadly ailment known as myelodysplastic syndrome – a group of bone marrow disorders that result in the body not producing enough healthy blood cells. It left the normally robust, retired construction worker lethargic and cold much of the time.
Without treatment, John had only months to live so he decided to undergo a bone‐marrow transplant at Methodist University Hospital's Blood and Marrow Transplant Program. Since launching the program, Medical Director, Yasser Khaled, MD has achieved survival rates in the top 10 percent of centers across the nation.
Although there was no full‐matching donor available, John’s eldest son was a half‐match. That meant he would need medication after the transplant to prevent his immune system from attacking the new stem cells. After a successful procedure, John has been disease‐free for three years and is among 16 patients who have undergone transplants involving donors who were half‐matches.
Founded in 1918 by Mississippi farmer John Sherard, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare was proud to celebrate its Centennial anniversary this year. And while the system doesn’t have records dating back to its inception, it has been a part of 150,000 births in the last 25 years alone.
This is why Baby Jack holds a special place in Methodist Le Bonheur Germantown Hospital’s heart. He was the hospital’s first newborn of the Centennial year – born at 1:04 AM on New Year’s Day and weighing in at 8 pounds 11 ounces.
In fact, all babies born on January 1, 2018 were given special Centennial onesies, and the very first Centennial babies born at each hospital were gifted special gift baskets.
In his forties, Jeff Seay wasn’t expecting to have a heart attack. But about two years ago, that’s exactly what happened. And for the better.
After gaining a few extra pounds, Jeff decided it was time to get rid of the weight and begin regularly exercising. It was during a routine workout when he suffered from a heart attack and collapsed. His wife, a registered nurse, immediately started CPR and called 911.
The ambulance came and took Jeff directly to the cardiac catheterization lab at Methodist North Hospital where he underwent a procedure to place a stent in his heart to open one of the main arteries.
Doctor’s found that Jeff’s proximal left anterior descending (LAD) artery, which supplies blood to the front of the left side of the heart, was 99% blocked. “If this artery isn’t quickly opened up to restore blood flow, it will cause a massive heart attack that often leads to sudden death,” said Claro Diaz, MD, a cardiologist with Sutherland Cardiology Clinic, which is part of Methodist Healthcare.
Jeff says having a heart attack and cardiac arrest have changed his life for the better. He now closely monitors his blood pressure and cholesterol, has a regular exercise routine and has made more time for his family.
“I feel great now,” says Seay. “100% better.”
Scott Moore, a Memphis native, plays principal trumpet for the Memphis Symphony Orchestra. When he was diagnosed with kidney disease in 2015, Scott didn’t turn to the blues – instead, he turned to humor to help him get through the long hours of dialysis.
He said, “If you can’t laugh, you give up.”
And, Moore had no plans to give up. He combined his new skills in Photoshop, a photo editing software, with his well‐known sense of humor. Moore took to social media to help educate friends and family about dialysis by implanting his dialysis machine and himself into various situations and places. Some scenarios include attending the royal wedding, flying a space fighter with Chewbacca in Star Wars and many, many more.
On July 10, 2018, three years after his diagnosis, Moore received the kidney he needed from his best friend, Dustin Lehmann, at Methodist University Hospital Transplant Institute.
“The staff was amazing,” said Moore. “They all did an incredible job. They saved my life.”
Weighing a mere 1 pound and 13 ounces at birth, Sebastian Mata Ortiz is now growing and thriving because of the care he received from the experts in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Methodist Le Bonheur Germantown Hospital.
Sebastian was born at just 25 weeks – 15 weeks too early. Coming into this world so early left Sebastian with few organs that were fully developed. The medical team had to support his lungs, liver, kidneys and skin, as they were paper thin and could not function on their own. Dr. Bruce Jenkins, Director of Neonatal Services for Methodist Le Bonheur Germantown Hospital, describes Sebastian as “little, but feisty.”
But to Sebastian’s mom, Alejandra Mata Ortiz, her little guy is not so little. He’s now grown to over five pounds. “It’s amazing. He’s so big,” said Alejandra.
In September 2017, Sebastian graduated from the NICU and was taken home to be with his mom, dad and big brother.
In an effort to achieve his Eagle Scout rank, Boy Scout Seth Warner raised $800 in donations for supplies to make five picnic tables at Methodist Le Bonheur Germantown Hospital. Seth’s mom, an employee at the hospital, knew it lacked outdoor seating for patients, their families and the staff and recommended the idea to Seth.
“We have a lot of nice weather, and I thought people who work and visit the hospital would enjoy having an opportunity to eat outside,” said Warner.
Methodist Le Bonheur Germantown Hospital is very grateful for the tables and decided to place them all around campus – giving patients, families and employees access to sunshine for quick breaks.
“We’re really excited to have the picnic tables Seth built,” said Laura Barden, community development director for Methodist Le Bonheur Germantown Hospital. “The picnic tables offer our families a quick getaway with a change of scenery and fresh air that can really help them when they are facing health issues with a loved one. It also gives our staff a relaxing lunch option where they can come back recharged and ready to continue our mission of providing outstanding patient‐ and family‐centered care.”
At just 8 months old, Hannah Grace Jones’ mother, Catrina, knew something wasn’t quite right when her little girl began experiencing episodes during which she would tighten into a fetal position and then stretch out as if she were in pain. Initially, doctors thought Hannah might be suffering from acid reflux or infantile spasms, but upon further testing, they found tumors on her brain consistent with Tuberous Sclerosis Complex (TSC) ‐ a disease in which no two cases are the same.
In 2012, Hannah went to her local pediatric neurologist in Louisiana expecting lab work to show she could start weaning off one of her seizure medications. When, instead, they came back abnormal and showed that her white blood cell counts were very low.
Later that day, Hannah caught a fever and was immediately rushed to the hospital where things quickly went from bad to worse. After multiple round of tests to try and figure out what was causing her deteriorating condition, doctors diagnosed Hannah with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) ‐ a type of cancer of the blood and bone marrow that affects white blood cells.
The next morning, Hannah and Catrina went by ambulance to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital where the doctors worked hand‐in‐hand with the TSC team at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital. They had never treated a child with both TSC and ALL, and both hospitals were dedicated to working together to achieve the best outcomes for such a unique situation.
“I could see God’s plan unfolding. I hate that cancer took us to Memphis, but it was God’s grace and will for us to go there and meet the team at Le Bonheur,” Catrina says through tears.
Now 16, Hannah still requires regular check‐ups at both St. Jude and Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital. For each visit, Catrina and Hannah have to travel five hours from their home in Louisiana and are so grateful for the incredible hospitality and services provided by the FedExFamilyHouse.
Wyatt Jones, 14, suffers from Tourette syndrome. Unfortunately, he spent most of his young adult life misdiagnosed. In 2015, his medication changed, and his family sought out a neurologist near their home in Illinois for testing. When they learned that the earliest appointment wasn’t for another six months, Wyatt’s aunt recommended they reach out to Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital.
While Mandi, Wyatt’s mom, knew none of their local hospitals could match the specialists and level of expertise at Le Bonheur, she was concerned about traveling the five hours from their home in Illinois for regular visits. Thankfully, a nurse mentioned FedExFamilyHouse, and soon Wyatt, Mandi and her mother, Betty, made their first trip to Memphis.
“The volunteers there are amazing, friendly, polite and knowledgeable. It doesn’t matter if we check in at 10 at night or 10 in the morning. Whatever we need, they’re there to help,” says Mandi.
Without Le Bonheur and the FedExFamilyHouse, Mandi doesn’t know if they could have found the care and treatment Wyatt needed. “I can’t even put into words what Le Bonheur has done for us. It’s a miracle,” said Mandi.
In November 2016, Christopher Monistere was diagnosed with a brain tumor and immediately rushed into emergency surgery in Louisiana. He had three more emergency surgeries before Christmas that year – all resulting in doctors believing his tumor could not be fully resected.
A couple of days after Christmas, Christopher’s dad, Michael, decided to go to church and pray for their situation. It was that very same night that he received a phone call from a total stranger, and within minutes was on the phone with Dr. Frederick Boop – the Director of Neurosurgery at Le
Bonheur Children’s Hospital.
Christopher’s parents believed he was at risk for another emergency surgery and decided it would be safer if he was close to Dr. Boop in Memphis. That very next day, Christopher and his parents drove nearly 400 miles from their home in Metairie, LA to meet with Dr. Boop. Just a week later, Christopher underwent surgery.
Christopher spent the next month in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Le Bonheur, where his parents never left his side. It was during a follow‐up visit that the Monisteres were able to stay at the FedExFamilyHouse and felt it was an absolute blessing.
“FedExFamilyHouse is a gift to families,” says Michael.
The Monistere family recently learned that Christopher’s tumor is completely gone. And even though he’ll still need regular scans and treatments, Christopher is doing great and the family is overjoyed that the tumor causing so much pain and suffering is no longer there.
Charles “Cam” McFadden was in preschool when his teacher noticed that he got physically ill over a particular smell that he detected in the same spot, every day. The only issue is that no one else, including the teacher, could smell it. Then, in kindergarten, the same issue resurfaced once again when Cam smelled something so strong he would feel sick to his stomach and vomit.
Multiple doctor visits confirmed that Cam had a perfectly healthy stomach. Although, with Cam still suffering from pain and nausea, Cam’s mother, Ashanti, and father, Brandon McFadden, decided they needed to take Cam to Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital – nearly 2 hours away from their home.
Before arriving for Cam’s first appointment at Le Bonheur, Ashanti was overwhelmed by trying to figure out how they could afford gas and a hotel stay, as she had just recently undergone surgery herself. Fortunately, FedExFamilyHouse was there to lift that burden.
At Le Bonheur, doctors performed an endoscopy procedure that required Cam to wear a monitor for 72 hours to see how his body reacted to things in the environment. The procedure found that at just six years old, Cam was lactose intolerant.
Every day, Ashanti is learning how to best care for Cam, but she is thankful to have the support of the experts at Le Bonheur and FedExFamilyHouse. From the kindness shown when Cam experienced difficulties with his IV before the endoscopy to the selfless volunteers at FedExFamilyHouse, who care for the entire family, Ashanti says, “I just know this is going to be OK.”
Brayden Haynes, born at just 26 weeks, suffered from intraventricular hemorrhages (IVH) in two areas of his brain. IVH is common in premature babies, as their blood vessels are not yet fully developed, and required Brayden to have surgery to drain the fluid. Doctors in his hometown of Tupelo, MS immediately sent him to Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital for treatment.
"It's very hard being in here and not being able to pick him up," says Kayla Haynes, mother of Brayden Brunson. “You see other mothers picking up their children, and you don't have that feeling. So, it's a lot of sleepless nights, a lot of crying, a lot of frustrations."
Like most moms, Kayla wasn't going to let Brayden out of her sight. However, she had a Caesarean section and was in a great deal of pain. In need of rest, Kayla’s social worker told her about FedExFamilyHouse – a home away from home for out‐of‐town families with children receiving treatment at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital.
"I'm so grateful that it's right across the street, because I wouldn't want to be any further away than across the road from my baby," says Kayla.
As a retired engineer turned marketer, Jim Clancy is a man that enjoys staying active. But after 92 years, his heart began to slow him down. He recalls, “As the valve was closing in, I saw that my quality of life was slipping. I experienced shortness of breath and couldn't walk very far. But, then I found out about the heart valve replacement and that was a revelation to me. I am so happy it was available, that I had it done, and I feel absolutely great.”
Although surgery can be a scary experience, Jim is forever thankful that the procedure was an option for him. “When I had the valve replacement, it was night and day. It opened up the entire situation for me.”
Jim credits the hardworking staff at Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare for giving him his life back. After a successful surgery and receiving clearance from his doctors, Jim now feels like a new man.
At only 39 years old, Tornika thought she was too young to have a stroke. Unfortunately, she was very wrong. While at work, Tornika suffered a stroke and had to be immediately transported to Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare where doctors successfully removed a clot in her brain.
“I was determined that this was not my last day,” Tornika said, recalling her life-saving procedure. Tornika spent half a day in the intensive care unit and two days on the neuro step-down floor. She was discharged just in time to spend Christmas with her family.
Tornika’s story is different than most because she wants to use her experience to help others. “The staff at Methodist is second to none,” she said. “I plan to be a nurse…because of how I was treated at the hospital.”
In 2012, Elaine’s sister was diagnosed with autoimmune hepatitis - a disease where your immune system attacks your liver and ultimately causes severe issues. In December 2015, Elaine fell ill and feared that she was headed for the same diagnosis and treatment plan. After a trip to Minor Med and a subsequent visit to the Emergency Department, Elaine was finally transferred to Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare.
Two weeks later, she received a life-saving liver transplant. “I went to another hospital first…they couldn’t help me. They sent me to Methodist,” Elaine recalled when describing her experience as nothing short of a miracle.
“I went straight to intensive care and was there for a very short time before I got my transplant.” As Elaine reflected on her time at Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, she noted: “I was cared for. Truly cared for…Nothing compares to it.”
When Jack realized he was having a stoke, he was completely surprised. He awoke in the middle of the night with a terrible headache, having lost feeling in half of his body. Jack’s wife found him and immediately called 911.
He was transported to Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare where he received treatment immediately. He could do nothing to help himself, but he knew he was in excellent care. “They were able to change everything to make it adjustable to me and what I needed,” Jack remarked, as he recalled the care he received.
After spending three weeks in rehabilitation, Jack was released. He still has some outstanding stroke-related issues, but he’s been able to live as normal of a life as possible after such a life-altering event.
He now spends much of his time with his children and grandchildren. “I don’t sweat the small stuff anymore,” Jack said.
Ray never thought that his AFib (atrial fibrillation) would put him at a higher risk for stroke. But, then, it happened.
While on a hunting trip, Ray noticed he could no longer move his hand. This is when he knew he was having a stroke and needed to get help immediately. Luckily, a bystander found Ray and called 911. The first responders knew just where to take him. As they transported him via helicopter, they said, “You have to go to the stroke unit at Methodist University Hospital.”
Time made all the difference in the world. Because Ray was found and taken to Methodist University Hospital for treatment so quickly, he was able to walk out the very next day.
Ray’s incredible story shows us the true power of uncommon care. “The passion and commitment they had to stroke care blew me away,” Ray said.
Few people can appreciate Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare’s expertise like Elisa Williams. Elisa has had cancer five times since the age of 16. Because of her cancer diagnoses, Elisa went through extensive radiation treatment, which doctors believe ultimately caused her heart condition.
Eventually, Elisa’s condition would require her to get a heart valve replacement. Fortunately, she was able to receive treatment at Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare. When asked about her experience, Elisa said “Mine was wonderful. Everybody was there when I needed them. They’d come in and check on me. I didn’t even have to call them. They came through. They were fantastic.”
Elisa’s treatment was effective and she was actually released the very next day. Elisa now has a wonderful outlook on life, stating “[My surgery] was at 53, but I still have the rest of my life to live.”
Carolyn remembers suffering from terrible headaches, but simply believed they were related to her pre-existing neurological condition. She was also dealing with an inordinate amount of stress due to her son’s hospitalization, and believed this to just be another factor.
What she didn’t know was that these severe headaches were signs of a stroke. Fortunately, Carolyn was transported to Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare where she received life-saving treatment.
“[They] treated me with respect and dignity," said Carolyn, reflecting on the care she received. This is something that is very important to her, as she is someone who is also dedicated to the care of others. “I have a very high regard and respect for the staff there.”
Carolyn’s care still continues today, but she is very thankful that she can carry on a normal, healthy life. “It’s an experience that I will never forget. I’m very thankful.”
James is a retired sheriff from Arlington who has long suffered from non-alcoholic cirrhosis as well as diabetes. Over the years, the combination of these ailments caused his health to deteriorate requiring him to receive two liver transplants as well as kidney transplant.
When he received his first liver transplant from another hospital, his body unfortunately rejected the organ. James then decided to go to Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, where he received a new liver and kidney, on Christmas Day 2017. “I was taken good care of, and they explained everything to me that was going to happen. I loved the transplant team, nurses and everybody there. It’s just a wonderful experience.”
Following his transplant and successful recovery, James has a wonderful outlook. “I appreciate life, and I want to be with my family for the rest of mine.”
In 2009, Michael decided to take control of his health after a truly life-changing series of events. While undergoing tests for gastric bypass surgery, Michael’s lab results indicated an issue with his kidneys. He was immediately placed on dialysis, postponing his gastric bypass procedure indefinitely.
After undergoing an initial surgery, Michael’s organs began to deteriorate which required him to be placed on a list for a kidney transplant.
Michael received his new kidney in May 2017. Even with the long wait and complex surgery, Michael was deeply encouraged. “Everyone had a wonderful attitude and kept me uplifted,” said Michael, when recalling his treatment. “I felt comfortable…everybody made me feel like I was the only patient in the hospital.”
Michael’s recovery has been very successful, resulting in him feeling significantly better since the transplant. He looks forward to spending more time with his children, stating “[Now] I get to see them grow up. That’s the part that I’m enjoying.”
Annabeth was diagnosed with Type-1 Diabetes when she was only nine years old. Her condition presented many difficulties, which became most prevalent in her 30s when her kidneys began to fail. Eventually, Annabeth was placed on the waiting list for organ donation in order to receive a life-saving treatment.
Annabeth received her kidney transplant in July 2017. At the time, her twin sons were just a year old. “The most important thing is [that the surgery] allowed me to be a mother to my kids,” said Annabeth when recalling her treatment which enabled her to hold her children – something she wasn’t physically able to do when she was very ill.
Annabeth is very grateful for the care she received from her Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare team. “The staff at Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, they were so great. They had a kind of compassion and honesty where you knew what was going to happen.”
Annabeth still lives in Memphis and enjoys activities such as running, hiking and volunteering at the Brooks Museum of Art.
The Methodist Le Bonheur Germantown Hospital Chapel was recently rededicated and named after Barbara Hamilton – a woman who played a key role in the creation of the chapel and currently holds the record for the longest-tenured volunteer.
Mrs. Hamilton is best known for her keen sense of humor, caring attitude and spirit of giving. She has been a dedicated volunteer at Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, having first volunteered in 1979 at Methodist University Hospital on the cancer floors. After construction of the Methodist Le Bonheur Germantown Hospital, Mrs. Hamilton began volunteering in the emergency room where she has continued to serve for several years.
Mrs. Hamilton is also known for living her Christian faith, and has significantly contributed to helping Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare advance its mission. Matthew 6:21 says, “For where your treasure is, your heart will also be,” and Rev. Rick Kirchoff, senior minister at Germantown United Methodist Church, believes Mrs. Hamilton has discovered this truth.
“She knows that inside her checkbook are all these little detachable ‘thank you’ notes that she can use to say thank you to God and, at the same time, bless others.”
On November 27, 2016, Jasmine Middlebrook woke up to her son, Colin, not breathing. In a state of panic, she immediately rushed him to the nearest hospital – Methodist Le Bonheur Germantown Hospital. After initial examinations of Colin, doctors informed Jasmine that he needed to be transferred to Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital due to his serious condition.
“My heart stopped,” said Jasmine.
The doctors at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital discovered that the viral infection his primary care doctor initially diagnosed prior to his arrival was pneumonia. After only a week at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, Colin was back to being a healthy and happy little boy.
“Every day I was there, the staff went above and beyond. The doctors and nurses kept us informed every hour, which really helped with my nerves. I am so thankful for the doctors and nurses at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital for saving my son’s life,” said Jasmine.
When Becca Bussey was just 20 weeks pregnant, she got into a head-on collision that resulted in a shattered ankle. After two ankle surgeries, lots of pain medication and a long recovery, she finally gave birth to a beautiful baby girl at Methodist Le Bonheur Germantown Hospital.
Unfortunately, Becca lost her job at another healthcare facility because of the strain her long hours onthe nursing floor would put on her still-healing ankle. It wasn’t until seven months and many job searches later that she happily accepted a position at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital Outpatient Center.
“I cried on the phone when Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare (MLH) recruiter, Carol Walker, gave me that blessed news! My career at MLH far exceeds anything I’ve ever done in nursing,” said Becca.
Becca has worked at the Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital Outpatient Clinic for over three years now and loves every second. “MLH gave me another chance at my dream. I thank God and MLH for my second shot at a professional life,” said Becca.
In 2002, within weeks of moving to Memphis to attend the Methodist School of Nursing, Shannon Hein-Wrenn was diagnosed with a relatively rare chest wall tumor. She initially walked into the Emergency Department at Methodist Le Bonheur Germantown Hospital thinking she had pneumonia but was immediately transferred to Methodist University Hospital for further tests.
At Methodist University Hospital, doctors diagnosed Shannon’s chest wall tumor and eventually moved her into surgery. Imaging taken prior to surgery had revealed no visible margin between the tumor and her heart, which meant her procedure would be incredibly high-risk. “My entire life changed in a matter of hours,” said Shannon.
As a result of her surgery and being uninsured, Shannon faced financial implications that would put her dreams of becoming a nurse on hold for the unforeseen future. She instead jumped at the chance to take a clerical position with a contract company in the Germantown Health Information Management (HIM) department in 2005. Shannon eventually graduated from the University of Tennessee’s HIM program in 2008 and went to work for Methodist’s Corporate HIM department directly. In 2013, she finally decided to go back and achieve her longtime dream of becoming a nurse, and at no other than “the place that saved my life,” said Shannon.
Today, Shannon is an Emergency Department nurse at Methodist North Hospital. “The care I provide today was influenced by my time as a patient at Methodist over 15 years ago. I know that our patients often get life-changing news and that some may be alone and scared as I was. It was the nurses and aides that held my hand, hugged me and kept me smiling, in lieu of most of my family who were hundreds of miles away. I’m honored to be in the position to do the same for others today.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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!
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.
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.