Compassion and Healing

The Greenebaum Compassion Award goes this winter to Lisa Mayo, a discharge coordinator, and Michelle “Shelle” Besche, BSN, OCN, CCRP, a research nurse coordinator. Read about why they were chosen from among the staff of the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center — where everyone is known for compassionate care.

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. 



A Little Hero Recovers from Heart Surgery to Run Like Superman

Editor’s note:
For 2-year-old Thaddeous McKenzie, the Baltimore Running Festival was just a fun day when he got to run fast with a bunch of other kids. For his mother, Jennifer McAnany, and others who formed “Team Thaddeous,” it meant a lot more.  

By Jennifer McAnany

(as told to Amy Katz)

I felt my son grip my hand tightly as he wiggled in anticipation of the race. He was restless, but only because he was excited to run in the Kids Fun Run at the Baltimore Running Festival. I looked down at him, beaming with pride. I could think only about how truly blessed I am to have a healthy child who is living life to the fullest and being a normal 2-year-old.

When I was pregnant with my son Thaddeous, I wanted the best care possible for my baby. Because of complications, I was already considered a high-risk pregnancy, so I went to see Dr. Geoffrey Rosenthal at University of Maryland Medical Center. At 20 weeks, doctors found a heart defect and diagnosed Thaddeous with Tetralogy of Fallot. In this heart defect, it is difficult for the heart to pump oxygen properly, causing the child’s lips, tongue, and fingers to turn blue from lack of oxygen. The most common treatment for TOF is usually open heart surgery, and this surgery usually must occur within the first few months of life. It was scary for me because we wouldn’t even know how bad the defect was until he was born.

The day Thaddeous was born was very nerve-racking for me. He was born at UMMC – where they were prepared to perform open heart surgery on him immediately, if he needed it. As soon as he was born, the nurses came and assessed him. I was thrilled when I learned little Thaddeous was well enough to be able to go home from the hospital with me when I was released two days later. He was monitored every couple weeks and seemed to be doing okay.

About 11 weeks later, when we went in for a genetics appointment with Dr. Julie Kaplan at Upper Chesapeake Medical Center (part of the UM Medical System), she noticed that Thaddeous was looking a little blue, demonstrating one of his heart-defect symptoms. They had to immediately transport us from Upper Chesapeake hospital to the UM Medical Center in downtown Baltimore. It was a horrible weekend because his oxygen levels would drop every so often and he wasn’t scheduled to have open heart surgery until Monday morning. This is when we started calling him our little Superman because he pulled through his surgery and came out of it as our little hero.

Thaddeous McKenzie recovers after surgery. He's now a healthy 2-year-old.

Thaddeous McKenzie recovering after heart surgery at University of Maryland Children’s Hospital. 


The full-heart repair was a success and Thaddeous recovered fairly quickly. He was doing great. So when I heard about the Children’s Heart Program Running Team in the Baltimore Running Festival on Oct. 12, not only did I sign up to run – I signed up our little Superman. He even had his own bib number. And then several family members and friends signed up. As “Team Thaddeous,” we raised money for the program to be able to help other young patients and families.

Ready, Set, GO! The buzzer went off to signal the start.

Thaddeous ran as fast as he could, trying his hardest to keep up with the other kids and pulling me along with him. He was having a blast in his Superman shirt with his cape blowing in the wind, and I felt so glad he is still on the mend.

He will still have to have yearly check-ups for the rest of his life, but he is living life like a normal 2-year-old. He has his hiccups at times but what 2-year-old doesn’t? He walks, he plays, he kicks the ball and does everything he wants to do. The sky is the limit for him now.

As we crossed the finish line, still hand-in-hand, I once again realized how thankful I was.  He wouldn’t be able to be here running this race beside me for the Children’s Heart Program if it wasn’t for all of his doctors, nurses, and everyone who helped him get where he is today. I did the race for Thaddeous and to give back to the program that had helped us. It was like everything came full circle, and I can’t thank everyone at the University of Maryland Medical System enough.

Go to the Team Thaddeous page to see more photos of Thaddeous or to make a donation to sponsor his team’s fundraising effort.

Team Thaddeous

Team Thaddeous after running to raise money for the Children’s Heart Program and, below, with Dr. Rosenthal (third from left).


Group picture with Dr. Rosenthal


Recovering Cancer Patient Takes Control of Health and Weight

Verna Prehn, before and after

My Story of Getting Healthy

By Verna Prehn

Three years ago I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. At the time of my diagnosis, I was a very large woman (weighing more than 300 lbs) with a very high “at-rest” heart rate and (we would find out later) severely malnourished.

I went through tough but successful treatment, including two surgeries, chemotherapy, artificial feedings with a nasogastric tube, and blood transfusions, under the care of Dr. Sarah Temkin at the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center.

Chemo had many side effects, including bone pain, hair loss and weight loss (97 pounds), but it has successfully freed me from cancer for now, and Dr. Temkin keeps a close watch on my health, vigilant for a recurrence that would require additional treatment. Dr. Temkin told me that keeping the weight off that I had lost with chemotherapy treatments would be healthy for me and increase my survivorship.

After treatment was complete, I began to put on weight, but Dr. Temkin said not to worry too much because everyone puts on a bit of weight after they have completed treatment. But my little bit of weight became a lot more weight until I had put on all 97 pounds I had lost.

I went to Dr. Tais Baig in UM Family Medicine as my primary care physician to have her regulate medication for my high blood pressure and rapid heart rate. She ran tests and found that my blood glucose was high enough to suspect diabetes. Dr. Baig talked with me for a while, getting to know me and asked how she could best help me with my health.

I told her that I wanted to get the weight off because I wanted to increase my survivorship and I knew that being so heavy is a threat to my health. I told her that I didn’t know how to do it. I don’t know what good nutrition is, what’s good or bad to eat, and how to come up with a plan to lose weight. She told me about the University of Maryland Medical Weight Management Program through the Department of Family and Community Medicine. Dr. Baig helped me through getting an appointment to begin.

I met Dr. Verlyn Warrington at my first appointment. She explained the program, gave me lots of information and set me up for the group meetings with a licensed clinical social worker and behavior therapist. I was taking medication for high blood pressure and rapid heart rate, thyroid medication for an under active thyroid, an inhaler for asthma, and Dr. Warrington wanted to put me on medication for diabetes.

My first meeting with the support and accountability group was overwhelming. We talked about protein, protein, protein. We talked about portion size. We talked about eating several times a day and not skipping meals. Harriet told us that if we followed the plan we would lose 10 percent of our body weight in three months. It took me about a week-and-a-half before I gave the plan a try because I was afraid and overwhelmed. In three months, I did indeed lose 10 percent of my body weight. In fact, I lost 35 pounds that first three months.

Additionally, Dr. Warrington explained that I needed to increase my activity level. I had some restrictions on what I could do because of my knees and asthma. I began walking. I started walking around the perimeter of my neighborhood, which measures out to just over a mile. At first, I couldn’t walk and talk at the same time and I had to stop frequently to rest and catch my breath. As I have lost more weight and have increased my cardiovascular endurance, I have started exercising to on-line walking videos

I have learned so much from Harriet, Dr. Warrington, Dr. Vivienne Rose and the people in our support and accountability group. I know how to think and make good choices about eating. HALT is a good motto to follow because my emotions drive my eating habits. So I think: HALT – am I HUNGRY? Or am I ANGRY? or am I LONELY? or am I TIRED? Actually, I add an “S” to it (HALTS) – am I STRESSED?

I read the labels on food and check them for calories, fat and sugar content. I measure my food so that I keep healthy portion sizes. (Portion size was a huge surprise to me. I had an unrealistic concept of what an individual serving was and what was actually food for two or three people.)

I keep track of my food in a food journal through It also keeps track of my exercise and activity level. Dr. Warrington told me about this tool to use because I had gone about two months and had only lost one pound. Dr. Warrington and the food journal help me to realize that I was eating too few calories – I wasn’t eating enough food.

Dr. Vivienne Rose and Harriet Mandel present Mrs. Verna Prehn with a congratulatory plaque marking her 100 pound weight loss

Dr. Vivienne Rose and Harriet Mandel present Mrs. Verna Prehn with a congratulatory plaque marking her 100 pound weight loss


It has been 14 months since Dr. Warrington, Dr. Rose and Harriet helped me make a lifestyle change that is healthier for me and increases my rate of survivorship. At my last appointment and weigh-in, I had lost 100 pounds. It took 13 months. I am no longer on medication for my heart or blood pressure or thyroid. My blood glucose is no longer in the diabetic or pre-diabetic range. I have walked two 8k walks. I walk to videos or outdoors five times a week. I do strength training exercises with weights and bands. I am starting a faith and fitness class with a trainer and will begin a gym membership soon. I can walk my entire neighborhood in 20 minutes without stopping and while carrying on a conversation at the same time.

I still have a considerable amount of weight to lose to get to a healthy weight that I am comfortable with. I feel so much better already. I take the steps instead of the elevator and it doesn’t hurt my knees! I know so much more about what is a healthy food choice and portion size. The University of Maryland Medical Weight Management program, Dr. Warrington, Dr. Rose and Harriet have helped me claim a new healthier way of living.

Verna Prehn

Elkridge, Md.

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:

The ‘Seeker’ Gives Through a Living Kidney Donation

Matthew Taylor writes about “living an authentic life in a world of artifice” in his blog, “The Seeker.” This week, he posted a frank and engaging piece about donating one of his kidneys to his wife, who suffered from polycystic kidney disease.  Here’s an excerpt:

“After some soul searching, I decided to give her one of mine. It was not an easy decision to make since there were many factors to consider, but I am at peace with it now. In fact, I’ve come to appreciate some things about a kidney transplant that I never would have thought of before.”

Taylor, a writer who lives in Rockville, Md., gave the University of Maryland Medical Center, where his donation and his wife’s transplant were performed, permission to direct readers to his post,  “25 Ways to Appreciate a Kidney Transplant.”

The University of Maryland Medical Center is home to the second-largest kidney transplant program in the country. The surgeons involved in Taylor’s donation and his wife’s transplant were Michael Phelan, MD; David Leeser, MD; and Stephen Bartlett, MD.

Rules of Summer Weight Loss

By Jessica DeCostole
UMMC Dietetic Intern

Editor’s Note: A version of this article appeared in the 7/23/13 edition of  the Baltimore Sun’s health blog, Picture of Health. This post is reprinted with the permission of the Baltimore Sun.

Summer is the season for shedding layers and showing a little more skin. It’s also the time when many of us start to seek out quick weight loss strategies. Before you pick up that new diet book, read on for the dos and don’ts of summer weight loss.

Don’t skip breakfast
Seventy-eight percent of successful dieters eat breakfast, according to the National Weight Control Registry, a continuing study that follows 10,000 people who’ve lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for more than one year.

Not hungry in the morning? Start eating something small such as a banana or a piece of whole-grain toast with peanut butter. After a couple of days, you should wake up with an appetite. And know this: People who eat a higher-protein breakfast take in fewer calories throughout the day than those who eat a low-protein breakfast, according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Protein can include eggs, Canadian bacon, tofu, nuts, seeds and dairy.

Do snack throughout the day
It’s the portion size that matters, not necessarily how many times you eat each day that will determine the size of your waistline. If you just finished lunch an hour ago but aren’t satisfied, don’t deprive yourself. Grab a snack, but make sure it’s between 200 and 300 calories and has a balance of protein, fat and carbohydrates to keep you full. Some ideas: a handful of almonds or walnuts, an apple and a piece of low-fat string cheese, or some sliced peppers and yogurt.

Don’t skip entire food groups
Most diets that make big weight loss promises in a short period of time focus on cutting out food groups, such as carbohydrates. While this may give you the illusion that you are shedding weight quickly, it’s the least effective way to keep pounds off for the long term. Many dieters who avoid entire food groups tend to overindulge in these foods once the diet is over, regaining their previous weight and then some. Instead, focus on including more foods in your diet rather than less. Choose foods that include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, unsaturated fats and protein to ensure a healthy mix of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.

Do fill up on fiber
Recent research in the Journal of Nutrition suggests eating more fiber is a way to encourage weight loss. Over the course of the 2-year study, the researchers found that boosting fiber by 8 grams for every 1,000 calories resulted in about 4.5 pounds of weight lost. Why? Our bodies don’t absorb insoluble fiber so it can fill you up without adding calories. The recommended daily dose of fiber is 25 to 35 grams — most Americans get about half that. To add more fiber, choose whole grains such as amaranth and barley, add flax seeds or bran to your whole-grain cereal, and toss berries, nuts and beans in your salad.

Don’t turn to cleanses
While you might see short-term weight loss results from a cleanse diet (typically an extremely low-protein, low-fat, low-calorie, all-liquid diet), once you start eating solid food again, you’ll gain all the weight back. Plus, many health claims that cleanse companies make simply aren’t true. For example, your gut does not need a rest from eating solid food. A healthy liver and kidneys do a great job of removing toxins from your body, so a cleanse is generally unnecessary. Instead, try making fruit and veggie smoothies with almond milk and silken tofu for a post-workout snack.

Do choose solid foods over liquid calories
Consider this: A study at Perdue University looked at the effects of solid, semi-solid and liquid food on appetite. Participants consumed either a whole apple, applesauce or apple juice of equivalent caloric value. Researchers found that participants who had the beverage were ready for their next meal almost an hour earlier than those who ate the apple. Frequently drinking calorie-dense beverages could increase both your hunger and your calorie intake throughout the day. When thirsty, go for water first: add a squeeze of lemon or lime, try a sugar-free seltzer, or brewed unsweetened iced tea or iced coffee.

Don’t forget to hydrate
Studies from the Stanford Prevention Research Center suggest that water helps promote weight loss. Drinking at least four cups per day was linked to a 5-pound weight loss over the course of a year. Not sure if you are getting enough water? A good rule of thumb is that your urine should be very pale yellow or close to clear. When thinking about hydration, remember things that melt (ice cubes, frozen fruit bars, sorbet, Italian ices) all count toward your daily fluid intake. Broths, soups, stews, watermelon and other watery fruits, and vegetable juices also provide hydration and may help keep you full with fewer calories.

For more healthful eating and weight-loss tips, visit

UMMS “Spring Into a Healthy Summer” Event Serves Up a Dose of Wellness

By Kate Hancock , Public Affairs Intern, and Sharon Boston, Media Relations Manager, University of Maryland Medical System

Good staff pic newAs part of our commitment to giving back to our communities, the University of Maryland Medical System’s Community Benefits and Outreach Committee sprang into action with the “Spring Into a Healthy Summer” event June 14 in University Plaza Park, right across from the Medical Center.

Our dedicated health care providers started off the summer by providing hundreds of people with essential health information, free screenings and fun fitness activities.

Nearly 100 guests took advantage of free blood pressure and cholesterol checks, and many people expressed their excitement by playing with fitness equipment and sampling healthy foods at the Healthy Groove van.

Healthy Groove smaller

While some visitors were content to merely read about health and fitness, a few enthusiastic guests showed their newfound commitment to health with an invigorating line dance right in the middle of the park!

Blood pressure signing new

Magic 95.9 broadcast live from the event and radio personality Tim Watts interviewed UMMS health professionals on topics ranging from breast cancer to smoking cessation and childhood obesity

Thanks to this event, the UMMS team shared health and wellness information with hundreds of Marylanders who have a healthier start for summer 2013.

A Gift of Life and Friendship After a Family’s Loss

The weekly StoryCorps segment on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition is a highlight for the show’s listeners. Today’s StoryCorps interview was very special to staff at UMMC.

Rick Bounds received a lifesaving liver and kidney transplant here in 2007. Today, he’s a healthy triathlete with four competitions and a 100-mile bike ride to his name. And he serves as a member of the Medical Center’s Patient and Family Partnership Council.

Go to the NPR site to hear or read the conversation between Rick Bounds and Dorothy Biernack, whose husband, Marty, was the organ donor who made it possible for Rick to live. Rick and Dorothy get together several times a year to celebrate Marty’s lifesaving final gift.

Man Celebrates Six-Year Anniversary of Heart Transplant during April’s Donate Life Month

Bidwell photo3

When I first found out that I needed a heart transplant, I didn’t believe it. I was in denial since I was in such good shape all of my life. I hardly even got a cold. I couldn’t believe that my heart was giving out.

Ten years ago after years of being an avid runner, I was growing more and more tired. I went to my general doctor who did an EKG, and he found something abnormal. It was determined that the right electrical node in my heart was not firing correctly, so I had a pacemaker put in. I continued running for the next two years. Then the same problem occurred on the left side of my heart and another pacemaker was put in.

After four years and two pacemakers, my heart started to completely deteriorate. I had an interview with Dr. Erika Feller who determined that I was a transplant candidate. I was added to the transplant waiting list and admitted to UMMC. Throughout the week they had to run tests on me. While at the hospital, I went into cardiac arrest, and I was upgraded to a pump. A couple days later a match was found. I felt great and relieved; it was only five days between the cardiac arrest and the time I got my new heart.

I didn’t wake up initially after the transplant. The toxins in my blood were at such a high level that they brought me into exploratory surgery where they discovered that I also needed my gall bladder removed.

Recovery was pretty good for me. The doctors and staff at UMMC were great. They took good care of me and got me up and walking soon after the surgeries. Two weeks after the transplant I returned home and continued walking around my community. In less than three months after my transplant, I was able to return to work.

It has been six years since my transplant, and I’m able to run again. Every weekend I go walking with the guys in the neighborhood, about 4 to 5 miles. I am also very passionate about sailing. I sail a fair amount and send Dr. Feller a picture of me on my boat every April, which is the anniversary of my transplant.

I would highly recommend that people indicate they want to be organ donors on their driver’s license. Organs are greatly needed, and you may save someone’s life. You never know when tragedy may strike or when your health may deteriorate. But even with a sad tragedy, some good can come out of it. If it had not been for the generosity and foresight of my donor, I probably would not be here.