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  • Ernestine De La Rosa

    Ernestine De La Rosa

    A history of heart conditions and an open heart surgery at age 30 didn’t slow down Ernestine De La Rosa’s busy lifestyle.

    “I’m the kind of person who likes to keep busy, but I knew something was wrong,” says the retired Metropolitan Water Reclamation District worker. “I wasn’t sleeping at night. I could feel my heart pounding. I felt as though I was in heart failure. My legs were swollen and I had shortness of breath,” she says. “I just couldn’t believe what was happening to me.”

    De La Rosa’s cardiologist told her that one of the valves in her heart, the mitral valve, was closing up, a condition called mitral stenosis. She underwent surgical mitral valve repair some 30 years ago for treatment of the condition. However, the narrowing recurred over the years to the extent that it prevented the valve from working properly. That is why she wasn’t feeling well.

    She underwent a minimally invasive procedure to reopen the valve, but it failed and her cardiologist told De La Rosa she would need to undergo another major surgery to treat the valve. Instead, she called her son who lives in Portage and told him she wanted a second opinion from the cardiologist she saw when she lived in Indiana.

    “I was determined to get my heart valve fixed and I knew Dr. Suradi would do it right and without a major operation,” De La Rosa says. “I could feel the difference right away, as soon as I woke up. Before, I couldn’t even climb two steps before I was out of breath.”

    “We have the most advanced tools available to treat heart valve diseases,” says Cardiologist Hussam Suradi, MD, FACC, FSCAI. Suradi is first in the area to use a minimally invasive procedure called percutaneous mitral balloon valvuloplasty, to reopen a narrowed, mitral valve.

    “We are using balloon valvuloplasty which has excellent long-term results to help patients like Ernestine with mitral valve stenosis,” he says. “When we choose the best available technique to treat each individual patient and improve their quality of life, then we have done our job giving our patients the finest care possible.”

    For more information on the Structural Heart & Valve Center at St. Mary Medical Center and Community Hospital, visit

  • Tom Liubakka

    Tom Liubakka

    Fifty-seven year old Tom Liubakka of Crown Point had a stroke in August, 2015. He credits his recovery to the swift actions of St. Mary Medical Center’s stroke team and one therapist in particular.

    “I was sleeping and when I woke up in the morning, I realized that my right side was numb. So I waited for a few minutes and it remained numb and tingling so I went to stand up and I couldn’t walk on my right leg. I told my wife ‘there’s something wrong’ and she took me right to St. Mary Medical Center. She knew St. Mary’s is known for excellence in stroke care and treatment would be immediate – as soon as I arrived,” Liubakka says.

    “For two weeks, I recovered in rehabilitation at St. Mary Medical Center,” he says. “I am an artist and I am right handed. I could not use my right hand. I worked with Carmen VanKley, certified occupational therapy assistant, to not only regain use of my right hand, but learn to use my left hand so I could continue to draw through my recovery. Now I use my right hand and my left hand to draw.”

    “Recovering from a stroke can mean a long and challenging rehabilitation,” says April Schutter, RN, BSN, stroke coordinator at St. Mary Medical Center. “The stress associated with developing new skills, relearning previous skills and making lifelong adjustments can be very difficult for patients. Support from family and friends is vital to a successful recovery. That is why it is important to choose a rehabilitation center that is convenient and close to home.”

    For more information about how the hospitals of Community Healthcare System help people through stroke and recovery, click here.

  • Virgil Powell

    Virgil Powell

    Last October, 48 year-old Powell was downstairs playing with his grandkids and went to stand up and found that he couldn’t move his right arm or leg. So he slid back down onto the sofa. He called for help. His son carried him to the car and his wife drove him to the hospital.

    “I knew that an ambulance wouldn’t take me to St. Catherine Hospital because we live in unincorporated Calumet Township – too far away, but I knew I wanted to go there because my mother had been treated there for a stroke the year before and I knew the care would be excellent,” Powell says.

    By the time he got to the hospital he wasn’t able to move his right side at all.

    “That’s when I met Suzanna Gonzalez, stroke coordinator and several nurses and doctors and they made arrangements to give me tPA right away,” Powell says. “It was about 45 minutes from the time my wife and I left my house to the time I had the tPA shot.”

    “My doctors told me my stroke could have been a lot worse if I didn’t have the tPA,” he says. “If they didn’t give me the shot; I could have lost the use of my whole right side. I was in the hospital for seven days in both the ICU and IMCU. After a couple of days in ICU, I was moving around on my own.”

    For St. Catherine Hospital patient Virgil Powell, tPA made a difference.

    “The nurses and doctors at St. Catherine Hospital were excellent,” Powell says. “I’m back home playing with my grandkids again.”

    The hospitals of Community Healthcare System have received the American Heart and Stroke Association’s Stroke Silver Plus Quality Achievement and St. Catherine Hospital has been placed on the Target: Stroke Honor Roll, for improving stroke care. This means that consistently, at least 50 percent of St. Catherine Hospital’s eligible ischemic stroke patients (those with a blood clot) receive the clot busting drug called tissue plasminogen activator or tPA, within 60 minutes of arriving at the hospital (known as ‘door-to-needle’ time).

    Learn more about stroke care at the hospitals of Community Healthcare System, click here.

  • Liz Breslin

    Liz Breslin

    Highland resident Elizabeth Breslin woke up on the morning of April 7, 2016, and thought a balloon had popped in her eye. She tried to call out to her husband for help, but the words that came out didn’t make sense. She tried to get up, but couldn’t move her left side.

    Within minutes, she was transported by ambulance to the Community Hospital Emergency Department, had a preliminary assessment and eye exam in the ambulance, and once at the hospital, was heading for a CT scan.

    “The entire Stroke Care team was waiting for me – my neurologist was there, my team of nurses, the radiologist,” 62-year old Breslin says. “They saved my life because they knew everything to do. My stroke happened at about 6:10 am. I was at the hospital and received tPA by 6:50 am. By 11 am, my nurse Karen asked me to describe a series of pictures and I could answer her and began to move my fingers. I was admitted to Neuro IMCU for five days. Then I began rehab. I have no side effects now, none.”

    I will tell everybody I know, I just had a stroke and look at me,” she says. “I’m back to volunteer work for the Council for Community Events in Highland.”

    Liz was in the right place at the right time for her stroke care. For more information about how the hospitals of Community Healthcare System help people through stroke and recovery, click here.

  • Jeannine Wolfe

    Michigan City resident Jeannine Wolfe knew she had health issues. Her type-1 diabetes was out of control, she had hypertension, chronic headaches, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, fatty liver and foot pain caused by plantar fasciitis. And she was only 29 years old.

    “Back then, I saw more doctors than I can remember,” she says.

    Wolfe thought she was doing everything she could to improve her health. Like millions of Americans, Wolfe’s health issues were tied to her weight. At 240 pounds, she had a body mass index of 43, which placed her in the category of morbidly obese. And while she was seeing a variety of health professionals, none of them could effectively guide her through treating her obesity disease.

    Summing up the courage to take a new approach to treating her health issues, Wolfe decided to attend a free seminar presented by Bariatric Surgeon Paul Stanish, MD, and the Healthy 4 Life team, to explore which options might be available to her.

    “During this time, I got to know the entire staff at Healthy 4 Life and began to realize how incredible they are,” says Wolfe. “Not only did they provide endless encouragement and answers to all my questions; they made sure I was educated and ready, medically, mentally and emotionally to have long-term success with my weight and health issues.”

    Wolfe decided to have laparoscopic gastric bypass. And while she considered it to be the first step in her weight-loss journey, it was also the first step to her getting her life back medically.

    Now at the age of 31 and 90 pounds lighter, Wolfe has transitioned to a healthier, happier person. “I enjoy kick-boxing, rollerblading, swimming and even running,” she says.

    “From this point forward, I will never let weight compromise my health,” adds Wolfe. “I want to live my life to its fullest!”

    Find out more about weight loss and the Healthy 4 Life program at the hospitals of Community Healthcare System that helped Jeannine get back on track.

  • Harold Ward

    Harold Ward of Gary had never been a patient until suddenly last July, he found himself at St. Catherine Hospital’s Emergency Department, suffering from severe back pain that couldn’t be relieved with over-the-counter medications.

    “The pain was terrible,” recalls the 70-year old retiree. “It was on my left side and radiated from my lower back down my leg. They were still running some tests when my sister, who is a nurse practitioner in Dallas, Texas, called the hospital to speak with the healthcare team. That phone call saved my life.”

    Ward’s sister Tamara McCrary, NP, told Nurse Annette Henderson that Harold’s father and grandfather had both died of an abdominal aortic aneurysm rupture when they were in their early 70s. She told her, “I can’t afford to lose my brother; please check it out.”

    The healthcare team had been monitoring Ward, who told them that he didn’t have any major medical issues and didn’t drink, but was a smoker. However, with this new key piece of family history, they immediately sent him for a MRI and CT scan. The MRI revealed a mass in his stomach and the CT scan distinctly showed an aneurysm.

    Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA), also known as a triple-a, is a bulge in the aorta, the main artery that carries blood away from your heart. If the bulge - caused by a weakened vessel - ruptures, the results can be deadly.

    Cardiologist Pastor Llobet, MD, reassured Harold that he would be able to repair the life-threatening aneurysm. It took a team of cardiologists, anesthesiologists, nurses and surgical technicians a little more than nine hours to repair Ward’s aorta and send him on the road to recovery.

    “Luckily for Mr. Ward, we were able to do a minimally-invasive endograft repair in the cath lab, Llobet says. “Endovascular aneurysm repair (EVAR) is an alternative to open surgery for the treatment of AAAs.”

    “Dr. Llobet and his team did not let me down,” Ward says. “I’ve been blessed. It is a miracle. The care at St. Catherine Hospital is very good. You couldn’t find a better team of doctors, nurses, aids and caring people who go above and beyond the call of duty.”

    Find out more about advanced heart technology and Cardiovascular Care at the hospitals of Community Healthcare System.

  • Marianne Van Winkle

    A comment from a friend led Marianne Van Winkle to realize she could no longer ignore the pain in her knee. The 67-year old was walking with a limp and a friend asked about the cause.

    “My leg was becoming stiff from pain in my left knee, causing a limp to slowly develop over time,” she says.

    The pain also began to interfere with her passion – bowling.

    “After months of pain medication injections to my knee, I decided I needed to address the issue so I could get back to my game,” she says.

    Van Winkle sought help at The Joint Academy of St. Mary Medical Center, one of America’s Top 100 Orthopedic Surgery facilities, a Blue Distinction Center and recipient of the Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval. Orthopedic Surgeon Kenneth Ham, MD, performed Van Winkle’s total knee replacement.

    Van Winkle was home 24 hours after her surgery and soon back to her regular activities.

    “Two weeks after surgery, I was driving and walking around,” she says. “By week eight, I was back to bowling!”

    Van Winkle attributes her quick recovery to the preparation and care provided by The Joint Academy.

    “The pre-surgical group class put me at ease, preparing me for what to expect step-by-step throughout the entire process,” she says, sharing praise for the compassion and responsiveness of the hospital’s staff.

    “I can only say great things about my care at St. Mary Medical Center.”

    Get back to the activities you love to do again, like Marianne, with Orthopedic Surgery at the hospitals of Community Healthcare System.

  • Mike Toth

    Mike Toth’s lifelong love for tennis was his ticket to good health, or so it seemed. The active 55-year old Schererville resident also enjoyed weightlifting at the YMCA between matches until he noticed a consistent pain in his right shoulder.

    “You could hear it grinding and popping when I moved it in a circular motion,” says Toth. “As the pain got worse, I actually stopped playing tennis because I couldn’t serve.”

    Toth suffered from three years until a trusted friend persuaded him to see Orthopedic Surgeon Gregory McComis, MD. After an evaluation and MRI, McComis told Toth he had tears in the cartilage and tendons of his right shoulder resulting from years of physical activity. He needed surgery.

    McComis and his team performed Toth’s surgery, taking every measure to ensure the experience was as comfortable as possible.

    “Before surgery, the nurse injected a numbing agent into my neck for the pain,” explains Toth. “When I woke up, I received an ice pack and medications to take home.”

    Toth went home the same day.

    Toth is now back to his active lifestyle. He has eased back into weightlifting and plays tennis every chance he can get.

    “I would say I am 100 percent now,” says Toth. “Dr. McComis and his staff were phemonenal.”

    Get back on the court with the help of Orthopedic Care at the hospitals of Community Healthcare System.

  • Wyatt Titus

    Wyatt Titus

    Stress from my divorce, fear of losing my job and my house had built up inside and exploded in the form of a heart attack and triple bypass surgery in October of 2015. I was told that I died three times that day – once on the way and twice in the hospital. I woke up in the ICU at St. Catherine’s almost a week later.

    When I came to I kept telling the doctors and nurses, “Just let me die, please!” And they said, “NO! If you didn’t die on the table, you’re not dying now!”

    When I got home; there was no one there to take care of me. The only time I would see anybody is when my son came over at night to help me change my bandages. Nobody came by, nobody visited, nobody cared.

    I wondered, “what’s the use of living?” I dumped out all my pills and I thought I would make a little cocktail of pills to put me to sleep because by the time anyone would find me it could be two or three days. That’s all I kept thinking, until I thought about my grandkids. I thought my grandkids would think that I was a loser. That’s the only thing that stopped me from taking all that medication and killing myself that day.

    It was December 22, 2015 and I was in the middle of cardiac rehab and couldn’t stop crying. But, I realized that was in the right place at the right time…one step after another until I got where I was supposed to be. If it hadn’t been for my heart attack, St. Catherine Hospital surgery, all of my doctors and nurses, social workers, therapists, cardiac rehab staff; I wouldn’t be here today. I couldn’t have a better group of people helping me through it all.

    My cardiac rehab team and social worker asked if I would talk with Jake Messing, program director, Behavioral Health Services. I agreed and then enrolled in the Intensive Outpatient program at St. Catherine Hospital.

    “Depression not only affects the brain and behavior – it affects the entire body,” explained Messing. Depression has been linked with other health conditions such as heart disease. Dealing with more than one health issue at a time can be difficult, so proper treatment is important.

    “Feeling down once in a while is normal,” said Messing. “But some people, like Wyatt, feel a sadness that just won’t go away. Life seems hopeless. Feeling this way most of the day for two weeks or more is a sign of serious depression and we can help.”

    “I still think I’m going crazy sometimes, but I’m working at it. I see a therapist, I go to cardiac rehab and visit with my team at St. Catherine Hospital. We are like family. We console each other…try to help one another.”

    “It’s an ongoing battle. And I’m not going to stop fighting…it is something I won’t win overnight, but I want to stay alive and I will do everything possible to stay that way.”

    We care for the mind, body and spirit. The professionals at Behavioral Health Services of St. Catherine Hospital can help.

  • Nathan Splant

    When Nathan arrived 15 weeks prematurely on January 10, 2004, he weighed less than 2 pounds and was only 12-inches long. Now he is a healthy happy 12-year-old.

    “Our family couldn’t have done it without the dedication and compassion of all those involved with Nathan’s recovery at the NICU of Community Hospital,” explains Nathan’s mom, Kim Splant.

    “This is our way of giving back so others may benefit from our story,” she says.

    Annual donations from the Nathan C. Splant Foundation support an initiative of Community Hospital nurse educators to use HALO Sleeper Sacks in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) where Nathan was born. The sleeper sack, which is sent home with baby, helps to educate new parents about the safest way for their infant to sleep – always placing babies on their back, in a naked crib, all by themselves.

    Find out about other Ways to Give at the hospitals of Community Healthcare System.

Displaying 1-10 of 35 results