Haiti Journal: Creating ‘Many Ripples’

By Katie Koren

I am a physical therapist who recently traveled to Haiti with a medical team from Rush University Medical Center. Let me introduce you to several of the Haitians I met:

A 76-year-old woman with cardiac problems and stroke history hobbled for 30 minutes with a stick so she could be seen by our medical team. When she walked, her posture was so kyphotic that her back was almost at a 90-degree angle with her legs. I asked her multiple times during her physical therapy session if she needed a break, and her only answer was no. She desperately wanted to learn to walk again.

Jackie is a 24-year-old interpreter who lost both of his parents in the earthquake and therefore can no longer afford to go to a university. He is saving his money by translating so one day he can go back to school.

Madame La Fleur managed an orphanage that was destroyed after the earthquake. She was relocated to a refugee tent camp with almost 100,000 other people. Her husband took her only biological child and relocated to the United States. She hasn’t heard from him since he fled. She is now living with 30 malnourished children in a refugee tent camp called Jerusalem. Continue reading

Haiti Journal: Moved by ‘Graciousness’

The Rush medical team and hosts

Tom Wilson, assistant vice president, Research Affairs, and senior research administrator, chronicled his visit to Haiti with a medical team from Rush University Medical Center.

Day Seven: Today we traveled to a church in Delmas a few miles from our hostel (a trip of a few miles can take 45 minutes to an hour in Port-au-Prince). The medical ministry at this church is an established, well-managed organization headed by Dr. Jeff Bercy. A section church was already divided into five exam rooms, a triage area, waiting room and pharmacy. All patients were triaged prior to our arrival and waiting to be examined by a doctor.

The clinic had a number of volunteers who could supplement our translators and assist in many other ways. There also was a Haitian pediatrician who was very helpful in examining and diagnosing the many pediatric patients.

After we had seen all of the patients in the clinic that day, I distributed soccer balls and basketballs to the volunteers and children. We left the children with treats and we gave a dozen softballs and a basketball to our logistics coordinator that can be given to needy children when he returns home to the Dominican Republic. Continue reading

‘Golden Girls’ Give Back to Rush

Rush's Golden Girls (from left) include Rose Marie Monzo, Johanna Bongiorno, Marion Mitchell and Isabel Garcia.

Every Thursday, five retired women give back to Rush University Medical Center, proudly donning their pink volunteer coats and radiant smiles.

Individually they are Rose Marie Monzo, Johanna Bongiorno, Marion Mitchell, Isabel Garcia and Bernice Calvin. Together, they’re known as “the Golden Girls.”

Each of them joined Volunteer Services for a different reason -– one was a patient herself, one wanted to do something useful with her time, and another volunteer’s mother was a patient at Rush for more than three months.

But after volunteering here for a total of 38 years — that’s 7,300 hours — they have come to “truly understand how well the Rush community does at delivering health care and you become part of their mission,” Bongiorno says. Continue reading

‘You Are Not Forgotten’: Doctor Urges Pakistan Aid

Mariam Aziz, MD, with son Humza and husband Umer Ahmad

Mariam Aziz, MD, with son Humza and husband Umer Ahmad

By Mariam Aziz, MD

When I installed satellite TV with Pakistani channels for my Pakistani nanny, I never knew how much it would open my eyes to the realities of the worst natural disaster in recent times.

I thought it was fun to watch cooking shows, soap operas, news/politics and have a glimpse of the fast paced “pop culture” there; I had a new window into the lives of some Pakistanis. In August, the news broke about the massive flooding affecting 20 million people, and I watched image after image of women, children and older men wading through water to their necks, on lands where they previously sat and lived a simple life farming, raising their children and drinking tea.

I watched in horror as the flood waters washed away homes, livestock, crops and even families. My ears ached with the wails of mothers who had watched their children disappear, or were watching them now starve to death because of the lack of food. Had my life been just a little different, and my parents hadn’t immigrated to America, that could have been my little boy, Humza, hungry in those pictures; it could have been my mother, my grandmother with tears in her eyes. My heart twinges as I hug my child even closer these days.

But then I saw the spirit of human generosity and of hope. The helicopter pilots flying rescue missions and health care workers who spend their days treating the young, the frail, the elderly. People who have no possessions sharing whatever food is available to people who are suffering with them.

When the satellite was off, my eyes came upon the news here. The funds toward Pakistan have been tragically slow and desperately insufficient. The UN continues to beg for international aid, claiming that donor fatigue or fears of corruption have caused the world to hesitate, bringing fresh tears to my eyes. Continue reading

Donate Blood and Help a Child

By Malissa Lichtenwalter

Today, 34 children will be diagnosed with cancer. You can help one of our Rush University Medical Center pediatric patients by donating blood or platelets here at the Rush Blood Center.

Help patients like …

  • An adolescent female who received 19 units of blood to support the blood lost during her operation to remove a cancerous bone tumor from her pelvis
  • An elementary school-age boy who arrived in Rush’s emergency department with a fever, bruising and fatigue, who was diagnosed with leukemia and immediately began chemotherapy. During the first month of treatment, he received blood components 18 times.
  • A toddler who received blood and platelets a combined 74 times during the course of her nine-month battle with advanced neuroblastoma. She’s now cancer-free and thriving.

A blood transfusion or platelet transfusion, when necessary, can dramatically affect a child’s quality of life and ability to continue on schedule with life-saving treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.

You can help save a child’s life. Please donate today … for all the little reasons, and get your own Little Reasons t-shirt. For more information, please contact me at blood_donor@rush.edu or (312) 942-7824.

Malissa Lichtenwalter is an Apheresis blood donor recruiter with the Rush Blood Center.

Patient ‘Forever Grateful’ for Care at Rush

After Christine Skujins posted a review of her care at Rush University Medical Center on Yelp, we asked her to share her story on Rush InPerson.

By Christine Skujins

Being in the medical profession myself, as an occupational therapist, I self-diagnosed myself with bilateral cubital tunnel syndrome about one year ago. My family doctor said I was too young for this. I was 27.

Great, I thought, that’s never something you want to hear. I ignored the symptoms in my right arm, but couldn’t help but think that the left elbow needed to be fixed soon. The pinched nerve in my left elbow was causing me to wake up several times a night with shooting pain and numbness. I’d move sides and soon the right arm would act up.

I kept ignoring the issue and pretended I was “normal.” I modified my activities, as a good OT knew to do. I wore a few elbow splints, but let’s be honest, sleeping with elbow splints to straighten your elbows on both elbow joints is not good for quality of life. I felt pretty desperate, not knowing how this process would end.

I asked a therapist friend of mine who I should go to see to fix these issues. Without hesitation, he said “Dr.  (Mark) Cohen is one of the best.” I did my own research and realized he’s truly a brilliant surgeon. My first few visits were brief, as he kept telling me it was my decision, dependent on quality of life, as to when to schedule a surgery. A surgery …  hmmm.  I had rehabilitated several patients, as an OT, who had similar conditions. I was never on this side before and I didn’t like it. Continue reading

Coping With Cancer: Faithful Provider

By Margaret Nyman

October 31, 2009

Nate has always been a good provider. By that I mean every dollar he’s earned, he’s shared. He’s forfeited fancy cars, custom suits and exotic vacations to give to others. I’ve been blessed to be a stay-at-home mom since Nelson was born in 1973, which necessitated receiving money from Nate in the form of a household allowance each week. The amounts have varied over the years with family changes and inflation, but the system has worked well.

I’ve heard of husbands who’ve made their non-working wives plead and beg for each 10-dollar bill. “Why do you need it? What are you planning to buy? I don’t think you have to have any of that. You can wait.” Nate has been the opposite, giving and giving again.

When I’ve commented on his shirt pockets being ink stained, encouraging him to buy a few new shirts, he’s always turned it back on me saying, “You take the money. I’m sure you need something more than I need new shirts.”

Since he’s been sick, he hasn’t been able to follow our usual routine in money matters, although again and again during these last weeks he’s asked me, “Have you got enough money?”

Little by little Nate has lost track of where we stand on our bills, what the due dates are and how much is in which bank account. Even as he’s been losing interest in the things of this world, something deep inside of him still wants to take care of me.

Since he’s been sick, part of getting him ready for each day has been handing him a folded wad of bills to slip into his pocket. He’s never been a wallet man. Since several important things have ended up in the trash or even the toilet recently, I’ve “stacked” his wad of bills with singles, except for one twenty wrapped on the outside. While folded, it looks like quite a fortune.

Yesterday afternoon Nate motioned for me to come into a corner of his tiny room. He was trying to count out his bills, putting them into denominational categories, but of course there were no fives or tens. “I can’t figure this out,” he whispered, fumbling with the money. “I guess I can’t give you as much as I thought.” Continue reading

Coping With Cancer: Out of Sight

By Margaret Nyman

October 29, 2009

Last night had me battling worry over our immediate future. Each day seems to bring a new problem for which I don’t have an answer. For example, today Nate’s hand began having blips of weakness when it would go limp for an instant and then recoup. Because of this, he spilled (onto himself) one glass of water, a whole cup of coffee (lukewarm) and his dinner plate. Hospice is wonderful in their knowledge, experience and willingness to teach me what to do, and our kids are eager to help. But during the night, as I lie alone in bed, the heavy-handed truth is that I’m the one running the show. Although I didn’t want it this way, all the decisions have become mine.

In the daylight I don’t doubt God will point to answers for every new issue that arises and that this will continue unendingly. During the night, however, I worry, hanging onto this truth by my fingernails.

This afternoon I needed encouragement from God, because tears seemed to continually wiggle just behind my eyes. Walking Jack the four blocks to the beach would help, I was sure, since getting a look at that wide horizon and meandering along the wave line has always been calming. I checked to be sure the boys would watch over Nate, then leashed the dog and headed out.

All summer we’d walked to the beach in flip-flops, kicking them off at the base of a small dune on the way to the water. Today it was socks and shoes. I missed the feel of sand between my toes, and as I climbed the dune, I thought of my favorite sandals, a gift from a good friend. They came from J. Crew, a place I never shopped, and were navy blue with “straps” of white and blue seersucker. The part between the toes was hot pink, and they were oh-so-comfy.

In a lifetime of coming to this same beach, I’d never lost a sandal. But last summer I’d returned to the base of the dune one day, and my beloved J. Crew sandals had been missing. I looked everywhere that day, but they weren’t to be found. It was a disappointment, and I credited some creative middle school kid with tossing them into the woods or the nearby creek as a prank.

Today, as I battled worry about what was ahead, my eye caught something bright in the sand. It was a dot of pink, not a natural color at the beach. I bent over to get a better look and got a shock. Peeking out from under the sand was the between-the-toe piece of a flip-flop. Could it be? Continue reading