Celebrating Our People – Meet Ellie

Ellie Cook

A Generation of Helping

As a second generation social worker, Ellie Cook said helping people during the hardest moments in their life brought her to CHI Saint Joseph Health.  

“My mom was a social worker for a while, before she had children and then she became a teacher,” Ellie said. “She would drive my sister and myself to houses where we’d take people clothes or food. That resonated with me.”

Ellie, who is a social worker for Saint Joseph East’s oncology resource center, facilitates support groups and provides help and resources for cancer patients and survivors. Since the COVID-19 pandemic started in March, Ellie said she and co-workers had to adapt to a new platform for their support group meetings.

“When COVID-19 hit, we went to Zoom meetings, which I was hesitant about doing, but it’s really taken off,” Ellie said. “We were meeting a couple of times a month, but now we meet weekly. It’s been really successful. The women really connect with each other.”

Ellie transitioned into her current position from a 30-year career at Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Hospital after a personal experience with cancer.

“About two years ago, my husband had a cancer scare,” Ellie said. “He went to the cancer center at [Saint Joseph Hospital]. There I reconnected with Martha Keys, my social worker friend from our days together at Cardinal Hill.”

After her experience, Ellie found the organization’s mission matched her newfound call to help those dealing with the hardships of cancer.

“[At CHI Saint Joseph Health,] I feel like I’m helping people, connecting them to resources,” Ellie said. “I can help patients pay their utility bills, assist with rent payments, assist with transportation or even wig resources. All those things touch people, and people are so appreciative of it.”

Throughout a long career helping people as a second-generation social worker, Ellie’s proudest moment came when her oldest daughter decided to become a social worker – a legacy established.

In the future, Ellie said she is looking forward to retiring with her husband to the Charleston, South Carolina area, where she wants to continue gardening and antiquing near the beachfront.

The Importance of the Flu Vaccine During the COVID-19 Pandemic

For much of 2020, the novel coronavirus has dominated news cycles around the world. While we must remain vigilant in our fight against this disease by taking necessary safety precautions, we cannot let our fear of COVID-19 deter us from protecting ourselves during the upcoming flu season.

While COVID and the flu share many similar symptoms, such as fever, chills, cough/congestion, and muscle and body aches, studies show that up to 20 percent of people who have COVID-19 also have influenza A and B and other respiratory viruses. You have an opportunity, however, to protect yourself against the flu through your annual flu shot. The flu vaccine also decreases your likelihood of contracting these viruses at the same time.

The flu remains one of the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The CDC estimates that more than 35 million people were sick with the flu during the 2018-2019 season, and more than 34,000 people died from the virus. These numbers illustrate the importance of everyone getting the flu vaccine, especially high-risk populations such as infants, elderly adults and those with underlying medical conditions or those with chronic illnesses.

While some may worry that getting the flu vaccine will actually give them the flu, that is a myth that circulates annually. You cannot get the flu from the flu vaccine. If a person does develop flu-like symptoms after getting a shot, it is likely their immune system reacting to the vaccine and causing mild symptoms, or something they caught before the immunity takes effect.

Getting a flu vaccine carries a much lower risk of harm than catching the actual virus. Annual vaccinations are recommended for anyone older than 6 months, including pregnant women, and should be administered any time between early fall (end of September) and the end of October, as it takes about two weeks for the immunity to form in your body, according to the CDC. But it is never too late to get the flu shot. Children who need two doses of the vaccine should start the process earlier because the doses need to be given four weeks apart.

With everything our communities are experiencing with COVID-19, it’s especially important to get a flu vaccine this year. By vaccinating against the flu, you are not only minimizing your risk of getting both coronavirus and the flu at the same time, but you are also protecting our more vulnerable populations and helping ensure that our health care systems have the ability and necessary resources to treat those with the two viruses.

Janey Phipps, APRN, FNP

Janey Phipps, APRN, FNP is with CHI Saint Joseph Medical Group – Primary Care in London.

Celebrating Our People – Meet Jerry

Jerry Hensley

Making a Change

One morning, Saint Joseph London food service worker Jerry Hensley woke up and decided to make a change in his life. Jerry says he was 273 pounds and miserable.

Since March 2019, Jerry is down about 60 pounds and strives for his goal weight of 190 pounds.

“I can’t pinpoint one certain thing that made me want to lose the weight, but I looked in the mirror and thought I’ve got to do something,” Jerry says. “My family was supportive. My kids helped me keep focus on losing weight and staying healthy and active for them.”

The challenge is portion control, as Jerry says he finds it difficult to maintain his diet when he goes on vacation or out to eat. A trick he uses to curb his appetite is drinking apple cider vinegar diluted in water three times a day.

“I was doing pretty good until COVID-19 hit,” Jerry says. “That put a little damper [on reaching my goal] because of not being able to work out like I was and eating later in the day because of my schedule changing.”

Despite the challenges he faces, Jerry says hearing how he’s an inspiration for co-workers to eat healthy and watching his children and grandchildren grow up is his motivation.

A Self-Taught Jack-of-All-Trades

Jerry attended culinary school with a dream to open his own restaurant, but his talents go beyond the kitchen.

He is a self-taught bass player and singer in his church choir. Jerry has been playing bass for 30 years and learning new songs despite not being able to read music.

“My dad has been a musician all my life,” Jerry says. “He started teaching me a few chords, and I learned how to play by watching. [When I learn a new song,] I just listen to the song and start to play with it. I listen for chord changes, then once I figure out the key, I can pretty much play the song.”

Jerry fiddles with other string instruments, including the double bass, mandolin and guitar. He also recorded an album of southern gospel covers with one original song in a sound booth he built in a closet at his home.

“I sold about 200 copies,” Jerry says. “It wasn’t really big.”

A version of this article originally appeared in the Summer 2020 edition of Spirit of Health. For more stories like this one, subscribe to Spirit of Health magazine today.

Targeting Tumors With a Painless, Convenient and Effective Treatment Option

Targeting Tumors With a Painless, Convenient and Effective Treatment Option

Ten to 30 percent of adults diagnosed with cancer will eventually develop spread of the cancer (metastases) to the brain.

Before the introduction of targeted therapies to treat metastatic tumors in the brain, whole brain radiation (WBR) was the only option for patients with multiple tumors, which often led to side effects including long-term memory issues. Now, patients are able to receive targeted radiation therapy called brain stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS). While this procedure used to require a specialized machine, treatments can now be quickly accomplished on a standard radiation machine, a linear accelerator (LINAC).  

LINAC-based SRS delivers high-dose radiation to the areas of the brain where cancer is present. This procedure works to achieve cancer control while saving normal brain tissue. It is even possible to treat multiple brain metastases simultaneously.

Although its name would suggest otherwise, LINAC-based SRS does not involve surgery. The goal of the high-dose focal radiation is to target specific areas in the brain and eliminate tumors without brain surgery.

The first step in LINAC-based SRS is evaluation of a computed tomography (CT) scan and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain by a radiation oncologist to determine the areas that need treatment. After this is complete, a tailored treatment plan is established for the patient. During this planning process, a custom mask is created to fit over the patient’s face.  This mask is used only during radiation delivery, to prevent involuntary head movements.

It takes approximately a week to complete design of a tailored treatment plan. The radiation treatment itself is painless and is delivered quickly, with a total time of about 30 minutes. During the treatment, a tumor is targeted with multiple radiation beams, converging from different angles. An entire course of SRS is typically one to five treatment sessions.

Not only is this an easier form of treatment for patients suffering from brain metastases, but LINAC-based SRS is also pain-free and convenient since it is conducted in an office setting instead of a hospital. LINAC-based SRS is a faster and more patient-friendly option compared to other SRS technologies.

CHI Saint Joseph Health provides compassionate care and support to adults with cancer, offering the latest technologies and treatment options, including LINAC-based SRS.

For more information about the CHI Saint Joseph Health – Cancer Care Center, call 859.313.HOPE.

Jackie Matar

Jacqueline Matar, MD, MBA

Dr. Matar is with CHI Saint Joseph Health – Cancer Care Center.

Parallel Passions

Parallel Passions

The senior physical therapist at Saint Joseph Hospital, Jennifer Curd, PT, has helped patients improve their strength, mobility, function and quality of life for 35 years. These days, she works mostly with patients who have chronic wounds or lymphedema, which is swelling in the arms or legs that can occur if the lymphatic system is damaged. Lymphedema is a common side effect of cancer treatment.

“I work with a lot of patients who’ve had cancer, and I become part of their support system,” Curd said. “It’s exciting to see progress, such as when a patient is able to wear shoes again after swelling in the feet improves.”

Curd is devoted to her patients — she’s even been known to sew custom compression garments for them at home. Earlier this year, her skill, compassion and selflessness earned her the 2019 Saint Joseph Hospital Employee of the Year award and 2019 CHI Saint Joseph Health Employee of the Year award.

“I was taken aback to win the award for all of CHI Saint Joseph Health,” Curd said. “Most CHI Saint Joseph Health employees give their best every day and put patients first, so to be picked out of so many others in the health system, I just couldn’t believe it.”

Hope on the Run

Curd stays busy when she’s not caring for patients. She’s active in her church, volunteers as a ticket taker or usher at the Lexington Opera House, and runs three to five miles every Monday night with a group of friends. She’s been a runner for decades, and she competes in about 10 races every year ranging from 5Ks to half marathons.

Curd was training to run the Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon this spring, but when it was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she made the best of the situation by deciding to run a virtual half-marathon. She maintains that positive, hopeful spirit whether she’s putting in miles or helping patients realize what’s possible.

“When I’m running, I’m always striving to get better and improve what God has given me,” Curd said. “It’s the same with physical therapy. I see little changes in me, so I know other people can make little changes, too.

“Physical therapists provide hope and a pathway to better quality of life. I believe people can always get better, physically or mentally.”

A version of this article originally appeared in the Summer 2020 edition of Spirit of Health. For more stories like this one, subscribe to Spirit of Health magazine today.

Hormone Help

Hormone Help

In the years before you have your last period, your body’s estrogen and progesterone levels fluctuate. This can cause the symptoms people associate with menopause, such as hot flashes and mood swings. In some cases, these symptoms go away after you have your last period. In others, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can help with symptom management.

“For women who experience hot flashes and night sweats, HRT can be a helpful treatment option,” said Caresse Wesley, DO, family medicine physician with CHI Saint Joseph Medical Group. “It can also help prevent bone loss and fractures, both of which become more of a risk during menopause.”

Some forms of HRT have a combination of estrogen and progesterone, while others have only estrogen. If you choose to take HRT, make sure to follow up with your provider every three to six months to check if it is still necessary.

Who Should Not Use HRT?

As with all medications, HRT is not without risks. If you have any of these health concerns, speak with your provider about other ways to treat your symptoms.

You should not use HRT if you:

  • Are pregnant or think you may be pregnant          
  • Have been diagnosed with certain types of cancer          
  • Have liver disease          
  • Have cardiovascular problems, including blood clots, heart attack or stroke

Ask your primary care provider (PCP) if hormone replacement therapy can help alleviate your symptoms. If you don’t have a PCP, visit www.CHISaintJosephHealth.org to find one who is right for you.

A version of this article originally appeared in the Summer 2020 edition of Spirit of Health. For more stories like this one, subscribe to Spirit of Health magazine today.

Giving and Receiving

Maggie Smith

The manager of oncology services at the CHI Saint Joseph HealthCancer Care Center, Maggie Smith, RN, has worked at the cancer center at Flaget Memorial Hospital since it opened in 2010. She started her career in emergency nursing before realizing she wanted a change.

“I was interested in cancer care, and as I started to learn more about it, I was drawn to the patient population,” Smith said. “I took my first job in oncology nursing in 2009. Patients with cancer are so appreciative of everything our team does for them, but my colleagues and I get back 10 times more than what we give. The life lessons we learn while caring for these patients and listening to their experiences make this field truly special.”

Smith put those lessons into practice less than two years after becoming an oncology nurse, when her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Suddenly, Smith found herself on the other side of the patient/provider relationship.

“My experience in oncology nursing helped me help my mom manage the side effects of treatment throughout her cancer journey,” Smith said. “She’s now a 10-year cancer survivor. That experience gave me a better understanding of what patients go through at home and how I could help them, and it made me appreciate our patients and nurses even more.”

Leading by Serving

Smith garners plenty of appreciation herself. Earlier this year, she received the 2019 Leader of the Year award for Flaget Memorial Hospital and the 2019 Leader of the Year award for CHI Saint Joseph Health.

“These awards are reflections of the amazing work of our physicians and staff,” Smith said. “I’m part of a team at work and home, and it includes my husband, who takes care of so many things so I can do my job. My role is to serve and support our staff so they can care for patients.”

A busy mother of two girls, Smith advocates for patients and staff even when she’s not at work by supporting the Flaget Memorial Hospital Foundation. She enjoys fundraising for the cancer care center’s ongoing expansion and the hospital’s patient and employee support funds.

“It’s so meaningful to care for my neighbors in the community where I was born and raised.”

A version of this article originally appeared in the Summer 2020 edition of Spirit of Health. For more stories like this one, subscribe to Spirit of Health magazine today.

Your Road Map for Primary Care

Your Road Map for Primary Care

Nancy V. Morris, MD, primary care provider and internal medicine physician at Saint Joseph London, helped us map out a successful primary care visit.

Pack Up

Before you leave for your appointment, make sure you have:

  • Your driver’s license or other photo ID
  • Your insurance card
  • A list of your current medications

“Some of my patients keep a notebook or a document on their computer with all of their medications, past surgeries and pertinent health problems they have,” Dr. Morris said. “For some patients, that can be a helpful way to have all of their health information in one convenient place.”

Out the Door

  • Arrive 10 to 15 minutes before your scheduled appointment time.
  • If you are going to be late, call the front office to alert them.

On the Road

During your primary care visit, your providers will:

  • Take your vitals (blood pressure, heart rate, weight)
  • Discuss any immediate health concerns
  • Talk about health maintenance issues and offer advice on how to live a healthy lifestyle
  • Make adjustments to your medication, if necessary

If needed, your provider might refer you to a specialist for further care. Most primary care visits take 15 to 45 minutes.

Ask for Directions

We recommend asking your provider these questions during every primary care visit:

  • Am I due for any preventive health screenings, lab work or vaccinations?
  • What is my blood pressure and body mass index? Are they at healthy levels, or do they need to improve?
  • What about other lab numbers, such as my a1C or cholesterol levels? Are they at healthy levels, or do they need improvement?
  • What are some steps I can take to lead a healthier lifestyle?

Make Every Visit Successful

“Be proactive about your health,” Dr. Morris said. “Take the recommendations your physician gives you, and ask questions if you don’t understand. That will help make each primary care visit successful.”

Visit our provider directory to find a primary care provider who is right for you.

A version of this article originally appeared in the Summer 2020 edition of Spirit of Health. For more stories like this one, subscribe to Spirit of Health magazine today.

Celebrating Our People – Meet Cleveland

With a career at CHI Saint Joseph Health that spans almost four decades, a few things remain consistent for Saint Joseph East respiratory supervisor Cleveland Smith: Living the values and the inclusive, team-oriented work environment.

Cleveland recently participated in Saint Joseph East’s A Prayer for Justice & White Coats for Black Lives event to honor the memory of those who have lost their lives to racial injustice. At a time when political and racial divisiveness is heightened by recent news, both locally and nationally, Cleveland says he sees how unity and teamwork have never been more important as he works with his managers, co-workers and other teams of caregivers across the hospital.

“It made a statement that we stand together as a tight-knit family of workers,” Cleveland says. “Each department works well together. I’ve experienced it as I’ve seen nursing units working with respiratory as we move through the different areas, along with working with laboratory and radiology.”

Cleveland gives credit to the values instilled by all members of the organization to his longevity with Saint Joseph Hospital, where he started in 1981 until he transferred to Saint Joseph East in 2000.

“I’ve enjoyed my 39 years here,” he says. “People are accepted for who they are and encouraged to be their best.”

Finding a Balance

Cleveland enjoys spending time with his wife of 41 years and their two daughters and three grandchildren. He actively participates in different ministries within his church, including choir and greeting members as they come in for Sunday service.  

In his free time, Cleveland finds solace on the quiet banks of a river or pay lake with a fishing pole in hand.

“I think fishing is a great time to meditate and collect your thoughts while you’re waiting for your next bite,” Cleveland said. “I’ve introduced my grandson to fishing and get to share some of that time with him now, but it’s challenging to have a small kid to, one, be still long enough to catch a fish, let alone resist the temptation to reel it in as soon as they toss it out.”

Finding Her Destiny

Debbie Gibbons, RN, CPLC

From the time she was a little girl, Debbie Gibbons, RN, CPLC, knew what she wanted to do professionally.

“My mom tells me that when I was 3 years old, I said that I would be a nurse,” said Gibbons, labor and delivery nurse and bereavement coordinator for women’s services at the Women’s Hospital at Saint Joseph East. “When I applied for colleges, I only looked at options with strong nursing programs. I honestly never considered doing anything else.”

After graduating from Roberts Wesleyan College in New York, Gibbons joined the U.S. Air Force and served as a nurse. While stationed in San Antonio, she met her husband and had three children before relocating to Lexington in 1998 and launching her career with Saint Joseph East.

Putting Families First

In addition to providing her labor and delivery nursing expertise to the hospital, Gibbons, who led a bereavement program while serving at a military hospital, felt moved to launch a bereavement program for women’s services at Saint Joseph East. These programs, which are offered at all CHI Saint Joseph Health facilities with maternity care, help families who have lost a baby during pregnancy or soon afterbirth.

Today, the bereavement program at Saint Joseph East offers prayer and burial services every other month at Calvary Cemetery and also includes emotional support for families.

“I feel like God moved me to this place for a reason,” Gibbons said. “I feel at home at a faith-based facility with a strong reverence for life.”

Along with offering guidance during challenging times, Gibbons also finds tremendous meaning in helping bring new babies into the world at the Women’s Hospital at Saint Joseph East.

“We are a big team that collaborates to provide the best care that we can,” Gibbons said. “Everyone brings a special gift to the table. Together, we work hard to make a difference in the lives of the families we serve in the good and bad times. It is especially rewarding to see a family come back and have a baby here after they have experienced a previous loss, reminding us that the care, love and respect we provided made them want to come back again.”

The Women’s Hospital at Saint Joseph East celebrated the 10th anniversary of its founding in March. To learn more about the facility, click here.

A version of this article originally appeared in the Summer 2020 edition of Spirit of Health. For more stories like this one, subscribe to Spirit of Health magazine today.