When Norman Minihan, 88, arrived at the Bedford Intensive Care Unit in late March, his disease had progressed to a point where there was little doctors could do to help, except provide him with comfort and hospitality during his final days.
Suffering from an acute case of Emphysema, a form of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) in which the lungs becomes irreversibly damaged, causing an obstruction in air flow, Minihan was transferred to Grace Hospital, an acute care hospital specializing in providing care for patients with highly complex medical conditions.
“When we first arrived at Grace, it was like this hidden gem. It was on a different floor of the Bedford ICU, and it was just so private and quiet,” says Louise Sansom, Minihan’s daughter. “The staff was just incredible. On our second day there, they knew all of us by name – and there were a lot of us!”
As the disease continued to take a toll on his already frail lungs, Minihan’s family became worried they would have to move him to a hospice facility. To their relief, a doctor assured the family that Grace Hospital could care for all of Minihan’s medical needs without him ever having to move.
“Grace was like a one-stop shop for us. My dad never had to ask for anything – there was always someone nearby to help,” says Sansom. “We felt so much compassion from each and every staff member, from the people who brought his food, to his doctor. They were always checking on us and making sure we had everything we could possibly need.”
Even after Minihan passed away just two weeks later, Sansom says she recalls seeing some of the staff members crying behind the nurses’ station.
“After being in this field for years, people tend to grow cold and apathetic to death. But that wasn’t the case at Grace at all,” says Sansom. “It was obvious they really, truly cared for my dad.”
Having been deeply touched by the care Minihan received at Grace, his family decided to donate any memorial contributions to Grace Hospital, in lieu of flowers.
“I want others to know that Grace Hospital exists,” says Sansom. “Not having to move my dad around and having everything he’d need to ensure his comfort in his final days was truly a blessing. We’re so grateful.”
Hepatopulmonary Syndrome (HPS), which affects individuals with an existing liver disease, is an uncommon condition in which the lung’s blood vessels expand, making it difficult for the lungs to absorb enough oxygen. The only cure is to have a liver transplant.
“When I was diagnosed in May 2013, doctors told me I wasn’t going to live past Christmas,” says Brian Vitale, a recent liver transplant recipient. “By the time I received my new liver, I was in pretty bad shape. My lungs were severely damaged, and I couldn’t move.”
Following the operation, just two days before Christmas, Vitale was admitted to Grace Hospital, a long-term acute care hospital specializing in providing care for patients with highly complex medical conditions. Dependent on 15 liters of oxygen daily, his oxygen levels would drop by 30 percent just from sitting up in bed.
“It was going to be a slow recovery, and everyone knew it,” says Vitale. Utilizing an integrated treatment approach of critical care medicine, pulmonology, nursing, respiratory therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, clinical pharmacology, nutritionist and case managers, Grace Hospital’s interdisciplinary team of physicians and specialists helped Vitale regain his health and quality of life.
“Everyone was there because they wanted to see their patients have a successful outcome,” says Vitale. “Every day, they pushed me to get up and walk. They told me it’d be baby steps at first, but they had faith one day I’d be walking without oxygen. They never took ‘no’ for an answer.”
Now, just three and a half months after being discharged from Grace Hospital, Vitale is down to only 5 liters of oxygen per day while walking and only 1.5 liters of oxygen at rest. Over the next several months, he’s expected to no longer need breathing assistance. He attributes his success to the quality, hands-on care he received at Grace Hospital. “I needed a new liver to save my life, but I needed the right kind of care to make a full recovery and thrive,” says Vitale. “In the absence of Grace Hospital’s care, the new liver wouldn’t have mattered.”
My sister and her husband will be the ones to deliver our small token of appreciation to you and your colleagues, and although I won’t be joining them, I want you know how very grateful I am, how very grateful my entire family is, for your many kindnesses in my mother’s final days.
You should be extremely proud of the work you do and the difference that you are able to make in the lives of people who are genuinely in need. God has clearly blessed you as it is truly a gift to be called to do what you do!
My mom was everything you would expect a mother to be, she is selfless, kind, warm, genuine, generous, loving, nurturing and supportive. Her passing has left a void in my life, and the lives of all who loved her, that I know cannot be filled and yet I would not wish to have her back if it meant one more moment of suffering for her.
You see, she taught me how to be selfless too.
My mom taught me a lot of things, among them how to be strong and independent. She taught me to believe in myself. She taught me what it is to be a good parent, and if I am half the mother she was, my child will be very lucky!
How very lucky was I to have her?
Thank you for taking her part when she could no longer speak for herself. Thank you for supporting her decision when it would have been difficult for her to do alone. Thank you for propping up my family and helping us all to understand how difficult it was for her to be trapped in a body that no longer worked.
Know that your name came up often when we shared the details of her final hours with family and friend and I am sure it will come up in years to come when we think back to that time. I cannot imagine that I will ever forget you!
You obviously have a wonderful mother too, how else could you have become the caring, gentle and kind man you are today without her. Treasure her!
I feel blessed that to have met you. I feel blessed that my mother was lucky enough to become one of your patients. I hope now that God blesses you with a long and happy life and that there are many more mothers, fathers, cousins or friends, whether mine or someone else’s, who will benefit from your many kindnesses in years to come.
Thank you from the bottom of my heard from your professionalism and compassion.
SW – Respiratory
ZP – Nurse Manager
AF – STNA
AC – Secretary
NT – STNA
SM – RN/BSN
KO – RN
MB – RN
TJ – STNA
DH – Cleaner
BK – Occupational Therapist
I just wanted to take the time out to let you know how much time, patience, understanding, loyalty to their job. How much love they showed me. They truly nursed me back to good health. This is truly team work on this floor, not only me, they were concerned for but they took care of all the other patients. All it was a blessing for me to walk around, and watch their dedication to all of Grace Hospital. I salute your all, for your hard work.
From the bottom of my heart,
Guillain-Barre (pronounced Ghee-lan Bar-ray) Syndrome (GBS), a rare disorder in which the body's immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system afflicts only 15 people per million per year in the United States. And of those, only 3% may suffer a relapse of muscle weakness and tingling sensations many years after the initial attack.
"I was told the odds of aquiring GBS again are so small it would be like winning the lottery twice," says Richard Rossi, a dedicated lotto player and victim of the chronic form of GBS. "Some lottery!"
When Mr. Rossi entered Grace Hospital, a long-term acute care hospital which specializes in providing care for patients with highly complex medical conditions, he was battling pneumonia and infections and breathing with the assistance of a ventilator.
Grace Hospital's Interdisciplinary Team of physicians and specialists -- in the fields of neurology, critical care medicine, pulmonology, nursing, respiratory therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, clinical pharmacology, and social work -- combined their medical expertise to help Mr. Rossi fight his illness and regain his quality of life.
Through personal perseverance and excellent medical support, Mr. Rossi's condition dramatically improved. He was successfully discharged from Grace Hospital and has returned to his daily activities.
"I wanted to return to my family and continue doing what I enjoy," says Mr. Rossi. "Grace Hospital's integrated approach to my care - and continual communication with my family and me - helped me get where I am today."
Amazingly, his luck continues. He recently sunk a hole-in-one on the golf course. At least this time it is positive luck!
It is a hospital visit he remembers little about, but Daniel Podolny does know that when he left Metro Health Hospital, he was a very sick man and ventilator dependent. As Daniel’s wife, Virginia says, “He had a coronary artery bypass graph and during surgery his heart had to be shocked back into rhythm twice and his body shut down; his kidneys failed, dialysis was required and he was unconscious for four and a half weeks. At that time, I was told that he needed to be moved to a hospital that would be able to give him the care he needed.”
Grace Hospital at Fairview was Virginia’s first choice for her husband because, “It is such a bright, cheery looking place that to me if you are a patient and open your eyes and see you’re in this lovely looking room it does so much more for you to be able to get better. They are also expert at treating extremely sick patients and providing very personal care.” Dr Neal Chadwick, Medical Director of the LTACH, Grace Hospital Long-Term Acute Care Hospital, and a pulmonary specialist describes the difference between an LTACH and ICU as, “An ICU is like a sprint and the LTACH as a marathon. We tend to have a long term approach to patients whereas an ICU has a crisis approach.”
Ventilator weaning is a specialty of Grace Hospital, which employs a different approach, a TIPS protocol. As Chadwick explains, “This is short for Therapist Initiated Patient Specific and what it does is establish a set of parameters to use on these patients. It allows the therapist to wean the patient when we are not even present. They measure volumes, pressures and the way the patient is behaving on the ventilator and the therapist can change the ventilator to fit the patient’s needs. We tend to wean much more quickly than they do in the Intensive Care Unit, where the physician makes changes once a day, because here with the TIPS protocol, we can wean around the clock.” Although Virginia did not initially believe it would be 24 hour weaning, she learned it is. “They work with the patient 24 hours and sometimes they’d wean him down and then they’d see he was having a problem and they would work him back up again so he was not finding it as difficult to breathe. It is excellent care.” Daniel did not even know that he was breathing on his own. “When they shut the ventilator off, they never told me for hours and hours. After twelve hours of breathing on my own, they told me the ventilator was not assisting me. I didn’t even realize it, because they do it so gradually and around the clock.”
When Daniel no longer needed the specialized treatment that Grace Hospital provides, the transition to Fairview Hospital Rehabilitation Unit to continue with physical therapy and nutritional care was easy as Daniel says, “I just had to go down in an elevator to Fairview Hospital, where, over time, I learned to walk and eat. And although I was no longer at Grace Hospital some of the people who worked with me there came to visit.”
“Grace is unique,” according to Daniel, “they explain to the family and patient what is going on. They always come to chat, even when I couldn’t talk back. From the doctors, nurses, therapists, aides and even cleaning staff, everyone shows how much they feel for you by maintaining a positive, encouraging attitude. They sincerely care.”
Though he didn’t know he arrived at Grace Hospital due to the severity of his illness, now that Daniel is well on the road to recovery he wants to visit his caregivers there. “I want to show them what I’ve been able to accomplish through their unique approach. I am their success.”