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  • mia palkovich cancer resource centre

    Mia Palkovich

    As a retired school teacher, Mia Pavkovich has lived by the notion that “the more we know, the more we understand and the better equipped we are to deal with issues in our lives.” After a diagnosis of breast cancer and subsequent lumpectomy and radiation therapy in March of 2014, she turned to and found a wealth of knowledge at the Cancer Resource Centre in Munster. Pavkovich, a Munster resident, says with the help of the Cancer Resource Centre she learned that everything was going to be okay and that she would survive and regain her strength. “Sessions on tai chi, chi gong, sound healing, programs, support groups and classes treat my body, my mind and my spirit,” Pavkovich says. “I can do a lot more now than I could three years ago when I was diagnosed with breast cancer.” “A weekly support group helped me realize that I would get better; that everything would be ok,” she says. “The library has clinical research and published studies and much of that information I have found to be more detailed than the intranet. You meet people going through the same experience at the same time. They understand and they care.” The Cancer Resource Centre is a support program of the Community Cancer Research Foundation and is open to everyone who needs help in coping with a cancer diagnosis. Visit cancerresourcecentre.com for more information.

  • tom rich hypertension fitness pointe

    Tom Rich

    A dinner date in April of 2014 was a turning point in Tom Rich’s life. “I had a sharp pain in my right shoulder,” says Rich who has a family history of heart disease. “The pain was so intense, I had to leave. By the time I got to the hospital, I couldn’t move my right arm or leg. Luckily, I was not having a heart attack or a stroke, but my blood pressure was sky high and out of control.” Cardiologist Shashidhar Divakaruni, MD, on staff at Community and St. Catherine hospitals, told the 63-year old Rich that about one in every three people develop hypertension and a lot of them don’t even know it. That is why hypertension is called the “silent killer.” He told Rich he needed to turn his life and his health around. Determined not to be another statistic, Rich signed up to be a member at Community Hospital Fitness Pointe®. The fitness center helps individuals achieve life-long health and fitness through innovative, quality programs, technologically advanced equipment and highly credentialed staff. Today, Rich remains committed to his new lifestyle. He goes to Fitness Pointe five days per week to walk, bike and use the StairMaster and walks outside one day per week. “People have to work together on a big lifestyle change such as this,” he says. “Dr. Divakaruni took very good care of me at the hospital. At Fitness Pointe I have made a lot of friends. I listen to the excellent staff, Nikki and Kathy. They help in any way that they can. At home, my friend Paulette helped by changing my whole diet around, cutting salt, fats and sugar. My blood pressure is back to normal. I have reduced the number of medications I take on a daily basis. I am thankful for my circle of support.” “My advice is don’t wait for hypertension to sneak up on you,” Rich says. “You need to watch what you eat and try to live a healthy life.” Community Hospital Fitness Pointe, located at 9950 Calumet Avenue in Munster, offers a variety of fitness programs and services guided by the expertise of our credentialed staff to support you from illness to wellness. Call 219-924-5348 or visit fitnesspointe.org.

  • Patient Joe Ubben pushes a medicine ball up the wall as his physical therapist, Brian Hoener, DPT, observes his progress.

    Joe Ubben

    As past president of the Valparaiso Family YMCA board of directors and a Y member, Joe Ubben has had many opportunities to keep physically fit and active. Believing in maintaining a healthy lifestyle through proper diet, exercise and stress management, he helped to initiate the creation of the Health Engagement Partnership, a collaborative program between the Y and St. Mary Medical Center. He didn’t know at the time that this important community partnership would have a lasting impact on his own health. “I had arthritis in my shoulder,” Ubben says. “It got to the point where I could barely lift my arm above my waist. I had to do something and am glad I did. I had a really great outcome.” Ubben underwent a shoulder reverse-replacement at St. Mary Medical Center with Community Care Network Orthopedic Surgeon Michael Knesek, MD. St. Mary Medical Center’s nurses, surgical team and support staff explained everything and put Ubben at ease. After surgery, he continued rehabilitation with outpatient physical therapy at the Valparaiso Family YMCA. Certified Physical Therapist Brian Hoener says that Ubben came to him as a physically active individual who was determined to regain his healthy habits and lifestyle. “Joe’s recovery was pretty phenomenal, in looking at his functional range of motion and what he is able to do,” Hoener says. “He has great stability at the shoulder and good strength.” Because of the type of procedure he had, Ubben says he did not experience much pain during his six-week physical therapy regimen. Hoener emphasized that the goal of physical therapy is to reduce and eliminate pain, not to cause it. Key to any successful physical therapy program however is the patient’s commitment to the program, he says. “Physical therapy is a total educational process,” he says. “Therapists are constantly trying to educate you on your posture, your positioning and goal so that like Joe, you can take control of your therapy and your recovery.” St. Mary Medical Center’s Physical Therapy Clinic at the Valparaiso Family YMCA, 1201 Cumberland Crossing, can help verify insurance coverage and referral requirements. For more information or to schedule an appointment call 219-286-3890.

  • Jo Toigo Tudor does Physical Therapy

    Jo Toigo-Tudor

    When Valparaiso resident Jo Toigo-Tudor broke her foot on a slippery wooden deck during a home-improvement project, she knew even before seeing a doctor that surgery was probably in her immediate future. But it was her experience undergoing physical therapy at St. Mary Medical Center’s clinic at the Valparaiso Family YMCA that allowed Tudor to regain her normal, active life. “I’m very happy” Toigo-Tudor says. “I have 95 percent of my range of motion back. I’m smiling now, and I’m on the upswing. Physical therapy got me to where I am today which I am very thankful for.” Toigo-Tudor was not smiling on that fall day when an errant step sent her to the hospital. “We were renovating our 100-year-old house,” she explains. “It had rained that morning, a very hard rain, but it was one of those funny days where the sun comes out afterward. I was taking a hand cart and going down the steps with a whole load of kitchen tiles, just four steps that I’ve gone down a hundred times, and the rain made my tennis shoe slide (awkwardly), and the weight pulled me down so that my shin looked like it was on top of where my foot was. I looked down and said, ‘My foot looks like a scarecrow foot!” An employee of St. Mary Medical Center in Hobart, Toigo-Tudor knew she had a team of experts-physicians and rehabilitation specialists–that she could rely on to help her get back on her feet again. Consultation with Community Care Network Podiatrist Jared Moon, DPM, confirmed what she already suspected: her injury would require major surgery. After a successful four-hour surgery Toigo-Tudor went home with her foot and ankle in a cast, but she discovered her journey had just begun. Once she recovered from surgery, it was time to begin physical therapy. Fortunately, St. Mary Medical Center and the Valparaiso Family YMCA had expanded their existing health and wellness partnership to include physical and aquatic therapy services at the Y’s facility, 1201 Cumberland Crossing Drive, close to her home. Physical therapists at the Y work to develop an individualized treatment plan to address specific functional needs with the goal of returning patients safely to their prior level of function. St. Mary Medical Center Outpatient Rehabilitation therapies including physical therapy and aquatic therapy can effectively integrate care for Joint Academy and Acute Rehabilitation Unit patients needing the next level of care after discharge from the hospital. St. Mary Medical Center’s Physical Therapy Clinic at the Valparaiso Family YMCA, 1201 Cumberland Crossing, can help verify insurance coverage and referral requirements. For more information, or to schedule an appointment, call 219-286-3890. Visit comhs.org/services/therapy-services/outpatient-therapy-services/physical-therapy for more information.

  • rose bailey micra

    Rose Bailey

    For years, Rose Bailey lived with a heart valve condition that made it difficult for her to move at a fast pace. As a result, she admits she has become a bit of a bookworm and prefers quieter activities like reading and completing puzzles. “I like to complete a lot of different word challenges and searches such as seek and find puzzle books and read,” Bailey says, who is now 72 years of age and living in Chicago. “I would be reading a book, but the next thing you know, I would fall asleep.” Bailey’s fatigue was related to her slow heart rate. Wanting to help find the best solution for Bailey’s heart, her relatives made an appointment with Cardiac Electrophysiologist Wassim Ballany, MD, on staff at Community Hospital, Munster. Slow heart rates due to electrical failure in the heart are treated with pacemakers. Ballany told Bailey she would be first in Northwest Indiana to get a very special pacemaker, one that requires no incision or skin pocket and has no lead. The device also is MRI safe. “I knew this tiny pacemaker was a big deal with all the attention I was getting before, during and after the procedure,” says Bailey. “Dr. Ballany was very good and explained everything and answered all my questions. All of my care was excellent.” The new FDA-approved Medtronic Micra™ leadless pacemaker is the world’s smallest pacemaker designed to treat Bailey’s condition, called bradycardia or slow heartbeat. Comparable to the size of a large everyday vitamin, the Micra Transcatheter Pacing System does not require a surgical incision or the creation of a pocket under the skin or the use of leads to deliver pacing therapy. Unlike many other pacemakers, the Micra is approved for safe use with MRI technology. For more information about the Micra Transcatheter Pacing System, visit comhs.org/heart.

  • Mary Ann Pietrzycki

    At age 76, Mary Ann Pietrzyck found that she was fighting numerous health battles including congestive heart failure, heart valve disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Several years ago, she underwent an open heart surgery to repair her damaged mitral valve. Following the surgery, she was found to have a ventricular septal defect (VSD) or hole between the bottom chambers of her heart, which occurred as a complication of the open heart procedure. “I had a difficult time breathing,” Pietrzyck says. “I was sick all the time, totally dependent on oxygen and hospitalized once or twice a month.” Pietrzyck’s daughter Kathleen wanted her mother to avoid a second open heart surgery. She researched VSD treatments online and came across a minimally invasive procedure that would close the hole. They discussed the idea with Pietrzyck’s cardiologist, who immediately reached out to Hussam Suradi, MD, medical director of the Structural Heart & Valve Center of Community Healthcare System. Suradi is board-certified and fellowship-trained in structural and congenital interventional cardiology and specializes in minimally invasive procedures such as VSD. “We knew repairing the hole would greatly improve Mary Ann’s quality of life, but she was far too weak for another open heart procedure, so a minimally invasive procedure would be ideal,” says Suradi. “Utilizing a transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) and a catheter threaded through the groin, we were able to deploy a device to close the hole. This procedure, called a percutaneous VSD closure, sealed the hole entirely.” After the one-hour procedure, Pietrzyck was discharged the following day and has not been hospitalized since. Her overall health has improved, she has more energy and is less dependent on oxygen. “It was the easiest hospital stay I’ve ever experienced,” she said. “Dr. Suradi was very open throughout the entire process and made me feel comfortable. I couldn’t have received better care from the entire healthcare team.” For more information about the advanced heart and valve interventions available at Community Healthcare System’s Structural Heart & Valve Center, visit comhs.org/heart.

  • William Fortenberry after-photo

    William Fortenberry

    Five years ago, Portage resident, William Fortenberry went through a life-changing experience. While at work, he started experiencing headaches that grew progressively worse over time. A visit to his doctor revealed some alarming news. Fortenberry’s blood pressure was through the roof and his blood glucose levels were dangerously high. In addition to his high blood pressure, Fortenberry was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, a condition he knew ran in his family. “I’ve pretty much had a 30-year struggle with trying to lose weight and staying healthy,” he says. “I took diet pills and exercised. Finally, I had maxed out on my blood pressure medications and I could no longer control my glucose levels,” he says. “I realized if I didn’t do something, I was going to die.” Despite his efforts, Fortenberry’s health issues increased. He was taking more than 20 pills daily, slept with a CPAP machine for apnea, and was giving himself insulin shots five times a day to control his diabetes. Fortenberry’s wife encouraged him to attend a free seminar to explore medical and surgical weight loss options offered through the Healthy 4 Life Advanced Weight Loss Center at Community Hospital and St. Mary Medical Center. There, he found a team that understood his complex health challenges and offered a new path toward resolving them. After some success in the medical weight loss program, Fortenberry decided to move forward with bariatric surgery to continue improving. For patients like Fortenberry, bariatric surgery not only helped him lose 160 pounds, it helped him save $6,000 to $7,000 a year on prescription medications. “A few years ago, I just accepted it as part of my life. It didn’t seem like there was light at the end of the tunnel,” he says. “While surgery was not a magic wand – it’s still hard work – I was able to take control of my life. I want to live.” Learn about our outstanding bariatric surgery quality and outcomes through our accreditation by the Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Accreditation Quality Improvement Program (MBSAQIP). Visit Healthy4LifeCenter.org. (https://www.comhs.org/services/bariatric-medicine)

  • Luis Romero

    Luis Romero

    Luis Romero’s steady diet of midnight shift work in a Northwest Indiana scrap mill and a rambunctious lifestyle as a teen took its toll on his health three winters ago and became his ultimate wake-up call. The warning bell sounded at 10 p.m. on a blustery February night. Romero had just driven away from his mom’s house in East Chicago. “My vision went in the left eye, so I decided to drive myself to the Emergency department at St. Catherine Hospital,” he recalls. “By the time I got there, everything turned completely white. I could barely see.” Romero shuffled toward the entrance and blacked out. Not only was he suffering from a stroke, but an aortic dissection, a life threatening tear in the wall of the major artery carrying blood out of the heart. His next memory is waking up four days later in the Intensive Care Unit. “I was lucky I woke up at all,” he recalls after later learning he had only a 30 percent chance of survival. Today he calls the action taken by the stroke team specialists the work of angels. “I can’t thank them often enough,” he adds. Chief Nursing Officer Paula Swenson says Romero was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. St. Catherine Hospital is a Cycle-Five Chest Pain Center and Primary Stroke Center. The hospital earned the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s Get With the Guidelines® Gold Plus Quality Achievement Award and Target: Stroke Honor Roll Elite Award in 2017 from the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association for its commitment to stroke care. Community Hospital and St. Mary Medical Center also have earned the Gold Seal of Approval™ from the Joint Commission as Primary Stroke Centers. When it comes to expert stroke intervention, the hospitals of Community Healthcare System offer timely scientific evidence based-care. Visit https://www.comhs.org/services/stroke-care.

  • Mona Young

    Mona Young

    Fifty-six-year-old Mona Young hasn’t let a history of heart problems dull her spirit. Born with a hole in her heart and undergoing an open-heart valve replacement surgery more than 14 years ago, Young has always kept a positive attitude, even after she received a diagnosis of congestive heart failure in 2016. “It was because of the congestive heart failure that my cardiologist, Kais Yehyawi, MD, discovered my pulmonic valve replacement was narrowed and leaking and needed to be replaced again,” she says. With Young’s delicate health, Yehyawi knew another open-heart valve replacement would put her at higher risk for complications. He referred her to Hussam Suradi, MD, an interventional cardiologist who specializes in minimally invasive valve replacements. “Our hospitals have advanced technologies that allow us to treat heart valve diseases through minimally invasive procedures right here in Northwest Indiana,” says Suradi. “Mona was a great candidate for a transcatheter pulmonary valve replacement (TPVR), which utilizes a catheter to place and secure a new valve in the heart.” Immediately following the surgery, Young’s breathing had improved and the swelling in her legs had decreased. She also had improved function on the right side of her heart. “I am so pleased and honored to have this great team of physicians on my side,” she says. “All of my health issues never phased them and as a result, I am feeling so much better.”

  • 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 https://www.comhs.org/services/heart-care/heart-and-valve-surgery.

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