Greenebaum Cancer Center Patients and Staff Celebrate Together

Each year, the staff of the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center coordinates “A Cancer Center Christmas,” a buffet dinner and party for patients and families who must celebrate Christmas in the hospital.

 A deep bond develops among the cancer center “family,” as patients and the relatives and friends who support them make frequent trips for care during this crucial period in their lives. On the day after this year’s Christmas celebration, Peggy Torr, BSN, RN, OCN, a nurse who helped coordinate this year’s celebration, sent staff an email that perfectly illustrates the warm and loving atmosphere created by these nurses, patient care technicians, unit secretaries, physicians and other staff. 

Torr noted that much credit should go to her colleague, Anita Meddin, RN, who over the years helped organize the annual celebration and make it better each time. 

 

 

Nurses Run for their ‘Heart Kids’

By Jen Arrington, MS, RN, CPN, and Kristen Fantel, BSN, RN, CEN

On Oct. 12, 17 nurses and friends of the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) will be running in the Baltimore Running Festival to raise money for the UMMC Children’s Heart Program. When people ask us why we run, there’s one easy answer. We run for patients like Brandon Kerrigan and all of the heart kids that we care for everyday.

When Brandon celebrated his 15th birthday on Aug. 16, no one had any idea that two days later he would be fighting for his life. Brandon was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, and went into cardiac arrest while being flown from Easton to the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital. Once Brandon was stabilized, his family was told that he would need a heart transplant. Since his arrival to the PICU, Brandon has been determined to get strong while he waits for his heart. He charms the nurses and staff with his bright smile and Nerf guns, just trying to be a normal 15-year-old, while cooped up in the hospital. You can see how charming he is in this picture of us with him at the bottom of our team page.

Brandon is only one example of a patient we are running for. We care for many cardiac patients in collaboration with the Children’s Heart Program. This program provides comprehensive cardiac care for children with a wide range of conditions — from rhythm abnormalities to childhood hypertension, from heart murmurs to serious birth defects requiring complicated heart surgery. While we care for these complex patients, they quickly become a part of our unit – we offer an encouraging smile to their parents in the hallway, we say our silent prayers. And on good days – we dodge Nerf guns as we enter the patient’s room.

The strength and resilience of these children, who battle against all odds, is simply inspiring. As nurses, we are often left with the feeling of wanting to do more. We carefully assess these patients for any changes in condition, we give medications, we advocate for their every need, and we attempt to play and create normalcy whenever we can. But we want to do more.

This is why we decided to run as part of the Children’s Heart Team. We don’t have a miracle drug and we can’t take away the heartache in the eyes of the parents of these patients. But we can run.

As with all of the patients we care for, the teamwork involved in the care of these patients is also inspiring. The team includes Nurses, Doctors, Child Life Specialists, Respiratory Therapists, OR and Cath Lab Staff, Rehabilitation Services – and many, many other people who deserve to be celebrated.

This strong team work was the inspiration for our fundraising efforts. We created a T-shirt that recognizes this team effort, and we are selling the T-shirt around the hospital in order to raise money for the Children’s Heart Program.

In addition to the shirt, we are also hosting a fundraiser at a local restaurant. Join us on Wednesday, Oct. 2, at Blue Hill Tavern in Canton. The restaurant will be donating 20% of its proceeds from the day to our cause. Schedule a lunch with your co-workers, dinner with your family, or join the PICU nurses for Happy Hour – and help an important cause.

Want to join us in our effort to do more? Contact us! Maybe today we can give back a little bit of the inspiration that we have received from these amazing children.

To make a donation: http://www.ummsfoundation.org/picuheart

UMMS “Spring Into Good Health” Event Gets Shoppers Dancing in the Center Court at Mondawmin Mall

By Sharon Boston

UMMC Media Relations Manager

Each spring, the University of Medical System (UMMS) hosts “Spring Into Good Health,” a free event attended by hundreds of people who receive medical screenings (such as blood pressure and cholesterol), talk one-on-one with University of Maryland Medical System health professionals and pick up information on men’s and women’s health, child safety, nutrition and more.

This year, the UMMS Community Outreach and Advocacy Committee wanted to put a focus on fitness and hosted a dance party right in the middle of Mondawmin Mall!

Several guests commented that they didn’t realize that fitness could be so fun, and that they plan to try to exercise more and eat better, thanks to the information that they picked up at the UMMS event.

Take a look at the some of the line dancing that got people of all ages up and moving.

 “The dancing was really upbeat and lively, it really got people moving,” said Donna Jacobs, UMMS senior vice president for government relations. “Several people told us that they’d like to see even more fun physical activities next year.”

Five of the 12 hospitals in the University of Maryland Medical System took part in the event — the University of Maryland Medical Center, Maryland General Hospital, Kernan Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation Hospital, University Specialty Hospital and Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital. The event was also sponsored by Maryland Physicians Care, Total Health Care, Coppin State University School of Nursing and Radio One, Baltimore.

Brain Attack Team Marshals Forces to Save a Stroke Patient

Six weeks after suffering a stroke while driving on the Baltimore Beltway, Paul Sargent, 45, is back on his feet, speaking normally and continuing physical therapy. A sprinkler fitter with the United Association of Plumbers, Pipefitters and Steamfitters, Local 536, he often worked on ladders and aerials lifts that put him 100 feet in the air. While he has not yet regained enough balance to work atop a ladder, he is hopeful.

 “It’s amazing, considering what I was like that night, that I’ve been able to recover this much,” Sargent says, pictured here with his wife, Tammy Sargent, during a follow-up visit.

By Anne Haddad

During a heavy rainstorm the week between Christmas and New Year, Paul Sargent, 45, was driving his truck on the Baltimore Beltway. He exited onto I-795 toward his home inManchester. Within minutes, a convergence of difficulties forced him to pull over.

For one thing, he had been feeling increasingly sick for the last few miles. For another, the rain was coming down in sheets, making visibility difficult. His cell phone rang, and he could see the call was coming from his son, Curtis. But he was unable to coordinate his hands and fingers to answer the call.

Sargent didn’t realize it, but he was in the early stages of a stroke. He had been experiencing some occasional dizziness for about a month, but now it was disabling him. Somehow, he managed to dial the magic number – 911 – and talk with the dispatcher. Paramedics arrived and took him to a community hospital, where the emergency staff realized he was having a stroke.

Because the University of Maryland Medical Center is a designated primary stroke center, the community hospital called the Maryland ExpressCare offices to consult with physician specialists here — the Brain Attack Team.

As a primary stroke center, UMMC is equipped to deal with the most advanced treatments and the serious risks that are associated with those treatments. The conference call included Marcella Wozniak, MD, PhD, interim medical director of the team and associate professor of neurology, and John W. Cole, MD, MS, associate professor of neurology.

The Brain Attack Team arranged for the local hospital staff to begin the time-sensitive administration of the clot-busting tissue plasminogen activator (t-PA). While that drug, administered intravenously, made its way to the clot that was impeding blood flow in his brain, Sargent was on his way to UMMC via ground ambulance.

On the Neurocare Intensive Care Unit (NCICU), charge nurse John Pfeifer, RN, updated staff nurses who would be waiting to care for Sargent and accompany him to the MRI suite. Staff from Housekeeping Hospitality Services were making sure the room was cleaned and ready for the new patient, while nursing staff reviewed his case to be ready to care for him when he arrived.

Seconds after Sargent arrived, nurses and physicians moved him from the stretcher to his bed, while Ermias Aytenfisu, MD, a neurology fellow at UMMC, introduced himself to Sargent and began asking questions to assess his condition.

“What is your name?”

“How old are you?”

“What month is it?”

“Can you hold your right hand up like this while I count to 10?”

“Where am I touching you now?”

Sargent was able to answer most questions, but with enough impairment that an MRI would be needed to determine whether and where he had a clot impeding blood flow in his brain, and which path of treatment was most appropriate.

“We’re going to do an MRI, so we need to take your jewelry off,” Aytenfisu told him.

Another physician had been standing by since Sargent arrived: Joao Prola Netto, MD, a fellow in neuro-interventional radiology, was following Atyenfisu’s assessment to help determine not just whether they could get an image of the blood clot on the MRI, but whether they could use the latest interventional radiology techniques to remove it, should that become necessary. And when Cole became concerned that Sargent’s condition was becoming worse, he called for anesthesiologist Joshua M. Tobin, MD, assistant professor of anesthesiology, to come quickly to the MRI suite to secure Sargent’s airway with an endotracheal tube.

Nurse practitioner Karen L. Yarbrough, MS, ACNP, acute care nurse practitioner and programs director for the Maryland Stroke andBrainAttackCenter, was observing and making notes to determine whether Sargent qualified for inclusion in any clinical trials, should he choose to participate.

One of the reasons Sargent was transferred was that he received t-PA, the clot-busting drug that must be administered within three hours of the onset of stroke symptoms, or the treatment becomes too risky. Even when administered within that three-hour period, t-PA carries a risk of hemorrhage. But after three hours, the blocked blood vessel is weakened from lack of blood flow. A sudden return of blood flow could cause it to bleed. Because of this risk, the patient must be in a hospital with intensive care nurses and vascular surgeons when t-PA is administered, so they can manage any complications.

After his MRI, Sargent was taken back to the Neurocare Intensive Care Unit, where the nurses specialize in the vigilant care required during a stroke. In fact, several nurses from the NCICU accompanied him to the MRI to care for him before and after the imaging procedure. They included: Betsy Raine, BSN, RN; Olga Pranov, BSN, RN; Ann Adams, RN; and Naomi Crosen, RN.

Once Sargent was out of danger, UMMC rehabilitation staff – occupational, physical and speech therapists – began working with him.

“As soon as someone is stable medically, we want them to start rehab,” says Cole. “The sooner, and more consistent, the better the outcomes.”

After 10 days in the hospital, he was discharged to Kerman Hospital, a rehabilitation hospital that is part of the University of Maryland Medical System, for 14 days of intensive physical, occupational and speech therapy to regain his strength, balance, coordination and ability to speak and swallow. On Jan. 20, he went home with his wife, Tammy, and their son and daughter — Curtis, 19, and Heather, 17.

Today, Sargent continues to improve. His speech betrays none of the impairment of those first few days. He has returned for follow-up visits with the neurologists at UMMC, but has continued physical and occupational therapy closer to home in Carroll County. He has aced speech therapy: He talks animatedly and a mile a minute, just like before the stroke.

“I’m walking by myself, and I can make myself a grilled-cheese sandwich on the stove without burning myself, but I don’t think I can get back up on a ladder yet,” Sargent says.

Whether or not he can go back to his trade, installing fire sprinkler systems in such Baltimore landmarks as the Hippodrome Theatre and airplane hangars that required him to be 100 feet up in the air, he doesn’t know. But he does believe he’s lucky.

“It’s amazing, considering what I was like that night, that I’ve been able to recover this much,” Sargent says.

 

Colitis Patient is Able To Compete in More Than 20 Triathlons After Receiving Remicade Treatments at UMMC’s IBD Center

By Brendan Wills

I spent years “dealing with” my condition.  I saw specialists in other practices who prescribed different drugs to treat my colitis, but nothing worked.  I was getting sicker and had no energy for the things I enjoyed most — spending time with my family, traveling, and my real passion, competing in triathlons.  In February 2010, I decided I’d had enough and needed to see the best, once and for all.  After doing much research, I contacted Dr. Raymond Cross through the University of Maryland’s Web site, and made an appointment.

My experience with the University of Maryland’s Department of Gastroenterology was great from day one.  Dr. Cross took a complete history of my symptoms, treatments and medications, discussed my options, and came up with a game plan.  In the spring of 2010, after exploring several different medicines, Dr. Cross and I decided on Remicade.  I had my first infusion of Remicade, a drug most commonly used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, but which has shown success in treating patients with ulcerative colitis.  That first treatment changed my life, and I haven’t looked back since.

Almost immediately, I felt better than I had in years. I really couldn’t remember the last time I had felt this normal.  I have continued the treatment for almost two years, and can say without a doubt that I wouldn’t be able to do the things I do without Dr. Cross, his team, and their treatment plan.

Since receiving care from Dr. Cross and starting the Remicade, I have been able to train for and compete in more than 20 triathlons.  In November 2010, not even one year after starting my treatment with Dr. Cross, I completed my first Ironman triathlon.  The Ironman consists of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and a 26.2 mile marathon.  In the 14 hours it took me to complete that first race, I had a lot of time to think about where I was, compared to where I had been just one short year ago.  A year ago, I was miserable, sick, weak, and unsure of what the future held for me.  Fast-forward nine months, and here I was, having trained over 100 miles swimming, 3000-plus miles biking and 500-plus miles of running to compete in the biggest race of my life.

As my strength and energy have returned, I have been able to train harder and race with no limitations.  On October 29, 2011, I competed in the same Ironman race and finished in 11 hours, 12 minutes, which was over three hours faster than the year before.  Next year, my goal is to go even faster and finish in under 10 hours.

Today, it’s been almost two years since that first appointment with Dr. Cross.  Without the attention and dedication of Dr. Cross and his team, I have no doubt that I would not be able to train for and compete in the triathlons that I love so much. I finally have my life back, and I owe my health to Dr. Cross, his team, and the University of Maryland Department of Gastroenterology.

Snowpile: Santa Sets Up a Satellite Workshop at the UM Children’s Hospital

By Shannon Joslin, MS, CCLS

Child Life Manager
University of Maryland Children’s Hospital

Being in the hospital at any time is a challenge, but especially so for young patients during the holidays.  Children miss their family, friends and their traditional holiday activities.

Here at the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital (UMCH), it’s a little easier thanks to some generous people in the community — grateful families of current and former patients, companies, local businesses and other individuals who open their hearts and checkbooks to allow the Child Life Program to host the second annual Snowpile event for children and families in the hospital over the holidays.

The Child Life team sets up a toy workshop from Dec. 21 to Dec. 23 each year and invites parents of children who are in the hospital over the holiday to come shopping (for free) for their child.

In addition to the toys, every parent is able to “stuff a stocking” full of goodies for their child in the hospital as well as stockings for any siblings at home so they don’t feel left out while their brother or sister is hospitalized.

We have volunteer gift wrappers to help with wrapping the gifts and we have coffee, cookies and snacks for parents so they can take a moment for themselves in the midst of their child’s hospitalization.  Last year, we had Girl Scout cookies donated through a troop whose leader works at UMMC. This year, we got donated food and drinks from the Au Bon Pain restaurant in the hospital lobby and The Penn Restaurant nearby onPratt Street.

Parents either take their gifts with them if there’s a chance their child is being discharged before the 25th, or they leave them with our Child Life team for delivery on the 25th.  Parents who have participated have commented on how this was such a help, for two reasons — finances are usually tight and their time to go shopping is limited because they want to stay at the hospital with their child.

If you would like more information about the Child Life Program at UMCH or how to help support children and families in the hospital, please visit our Child Life Web site.

Blue Holiday Service Acknowledges Darkness While Seeking Growth and Hope

By Susan Roy, DMin, BCC
Pastoral Care Director

As hospital chaplains working with patients, families and our fellow staff members, we know that the stream of cheerful holiday messages and images might only make it harder for individuals experiencing grief or loss. Each year, we offer a series of services for people who seek a more reflective way of coping with the holidays.

I am just finishing the program for our Blue Holiday services later today (12:45 p.m.; 5 p.m.; and 6:15 p.m. to 8:15 p.m.) and hope that it will be meaningful for anyone who is feeling a bit blue this holiday season. Around the country, similar services might also be called a Longest Night service because it occurs on the winter solstice — Dec. 22, the day of the year that has the fewest hours of sunlight. Regardless of the name used, these programs acknowledge the darkness that may also be part of our holiday season.

Arranged in four parts, the service is reflective – not depressing – and moves from darkness to light while keeping a balance between the two. The four parts are loneliness, death, growth and hope. Each of the four parts includes lighting a candle, a reading, and a musical selection. During each of the four parts of the service, participants will be invited to come forward to place flowers in a wreath to represent those whom they remember.

For example: during the first music segment – about loneliness — I might place a flower for my frustration at work; during the second, I might place four flowers to remember three people who have died and a friend who is estranged from me; during the third, I might place a flower for the way I am growing in my faith; during the fourth, I might place two flowers, one for world peace and another for hope.

The service acknowledges the darkest night of the year and symbolically allows us to acknowledge the darker parts of the human condition and our own lives. In the midst of darkness, we still experience moments of light and hints of hope.

In addition to the spiritual help needed, here are some practical tips from two physicians at UMMC.

Mitral Valve Repair Lets Marathon Runner Boogie at Son’s Wedding

By Nick Papas

I had just completed the 2011 Pittsburgh Marathon. It was not my best time. There was no personal record that day. It was a day marked by a continued struggle with a chronic heel injury.  But there was something more serious brewing in my body that day. It was a particularly strong flare-up of my mitral valve pain. I was so familiar with the pain. It had been diagnosed and studied throughout my life. I had mitral valve prolapse. 

 So, I brushed off the chest pain as I slogged through the marathon and finished.

Then a couple hours later, as the marathon and half-marathon runners of our family celebrated with extended family and supportive friends, I shared my personal marathon experience with my soon-to-be daughter-in-law, Beth Ann. My tale included the throw-away detail about my old familiar chest pains. No big deal. Or so I thought.

 Beth Ann, a medical student, was not as flippant as I was about the little detail of chest pain.  She pulled out her stethoscope and diagnosed me on the spot as having mitral valve regurgitation. She strongly suggested that I see my PCP. I was stubborn and a bit incredulous. I didn’t rush.

 Eventually my heart acted up in such new and painful ways that I was compelled to go to my doctor. This set into motion the chain of events that lead me to Dr. James Gammie at UMMC.

An initial link in this chain was me doing my homework. I read the scientific papers. I consulted with knowledgeable, trusted people and friends.

 I had to make my decision: Was I, a man who loves to be active by running and biking, going to be happy taking drugs? Would I be satisfied watching my body get weaker and weaker while my heart became more and more sick?

 Ultimately, the decision was a no-brainer.

 I took action right away, partially because I concluded that it was the right thing to do and partially because my son’s wedding was just around the corner. I wanted to be healed enough to dance at my son’s wedding.

My surgery was performed at UMMC on September 6, 2011. Noah and Beth Ann were married October 8, 2011! I am happy to say I danced! I danced quite a bit! My wife, Patty (in the photo with me), and I had a great time.

 I am grateful not only to be alive but to be living. I am optimistic that with my newly repaired, healthy heart I will be able to enjoy the coming years with my family and to live these years actively. 

In the future, look for me in the 2012 Baltimore Half or Full Marathon. I’m the self-proclaimed, 52-year old, poster “child” of UMMC Mitral Valve Repairs!

 

 

Multiple Myeloma Patient Returns to Active Lifestyle and Raises Awareness for Cancer Research

By Bob Viti

Thurmont resident Bob Viti  is a husband, father, competitive triathlete, high school educator and soccer coach. Bob was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in August 2007, had a stem cell transplant in March 2008, and is now on maintenance therapy. He is in complete remission and back to the active lifestyle he enjoys. Bob and friends work to raise awareness for cancer research by Bob’s doctor, Ashraf Badros, MD, a member of the Hematologic Malignancies Program at the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center.

My survivor story started Aug. 6, 2007, when I was informed by my family physician I may have a blood-based cancer.

Prior to this, my symptoms began shortly after I took a fall while coaching soccer. Thinking I was just dealing with a sore back, five days later I completed an Olympic distance triathlon in Columbia, MD, and a half iron man triathlon (Eagleman) three weeks later in Cambridge, MD.  As the summer progressed the pain in my body continued to intensify to the point where I was sent for the blood work I learned of on Aug. 6.

On Aug. 7, 2007, a friend and I met an oncologist in Frederick, MD, who told us that with the data we had shared, he would bet his house that I had multiple myeloma, which has no cure.  On Aug. 14, 2007, my friend and I traveled to The University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center in Baltimore to meet with Dr. Ashraf Badros.

He confirmed my diagnosis and I decided to follow his treatment plan, which called for a combination of Dexamethasone and Revimid.  In October, we traveled to Boston to get a second opinion at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.  Having gathered data, opinion and hope from them, I decided to continue with the protocol that I had already started with Dr. Badros. By December 2007, my cancer numbers had dropped drastically to the point that I was very near, if not in, a complete remission.

With that, we started preparation for a stem cell bone marrow transplant, which I had on March 31, 2008. Thirteen days later, I was released to go home to continue my recovery and was given permission to attend the 2008 Columbia Triathlon as a spectator. I am happy to report that I was a participant in the 2009 and 2010 Columbia Triathlons.  I currently train between six to 13 hours per week, and have not done any events due to other demands., which include helping to care for my father who suffered a major subdural hematoma last August and grieving the accidental death of my oldest son.

Despite these adversities that my family and I are living through, we have been blessed with an incredible amount of love and support. We try our best to find the positives that are there if we look for them, and have learned first hand the healing power that comes from giving forward.

 

The Child Life Department Hosts a Back to School Carnival

By Megan Kikola, M.S., CCLS
Child Life Assistant

If you happened to take the rotunda elevators to the Children’s Hospital on Friday, August 12, you would have been greeted by a wonderland of music, characters, and bright colors. A world where the pediatric patients were not focused on pokes, IV pumps and tears; but on games, prizes and laughter.  This event was the “Back to School Carnival” hosted by the Child Life Department at the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital.

A primary goal of child life professionals is to normalize the hospital environment, while providing psychosocial support to patients and families. Most importantly, child life professionals promote self expression and play. Creating a world where kids can be kids is always a priority, which is how the carnival idea came to be.

The creative vision was that of Sandra Dean, one of the child life assistants. “It’s all for the kids,” Dean said of the event, “…anything to make their stay memorable.” Her imagination, coupled with the support of wonderful donors brought the carnival to life. Once the plan was in place, the child life team got to work creatively, rallied volunteers, and gained the support of the medical teams.

Some highlights of the event included a bounce house, water balloon pop, a DJ, snow cones, games and prizes. Book bags filled with school supplies were donated and distributed to patients. The happiness and excitement of the patients made all of the hard work worthwhile. When told the event was underway, a young patient stated “Yay! I’m so happy!” as she ran toward the festivities. A parent shared, “It was so fun, my kids could have stayed in the bounce house all day.”

The child life team is very grateful for the continued support of the hospital community and volunteers and looks forward to hosting more of these events.