Celebrating Our People – Meet Sherrie

Sherrie Bonarigo, APRN

Meet Sherrie Bonarigo, an APRN at CHI Saint Joseph Health – Cancer Care in Lexington, whose drive for providing compassionate care led her to New York City to help during the peak of the global pandemic there.

When Care Becomes Personal

For Sherrie Bonarigo, cancer care is personal. After losing her mother to terminal pancreatic cancer, Sherrie says she has a deeper understanding of what her patients go through on a daily basis.

In fact, the compassion Sherrie feels for her patients, as she shares in their victories and their losses, drives her to be her best while serving as an advanced practice registered nurse for CHI Saint Joseph Health – Cancer Care.

“Seeing how my mom had cancer, [the care] that my family had is [the type of care] I want for every family,” Sherrie says. “I felt we were really well taken care of by the medical staff when my mom was sick, and I felt included in the decision-making process. Now that I’ve had a professional and personal experience [in oncology], it makes me a better-rounded person as I help my patients and be vested more in their care.”

A Calling to Serve in New York

Her call to help patients extended to her recent journey to New York City during the peak of the global pandemic there. With support from her work team and her family, Sherrie worked 21 consecutive 12-hour night shifts to treat and care for COVID-19 positive patients in a telemetry unit at Bellevue Hospital.

“It was a pretty amazing experience,” Sherrie says. “I met a lot of really cool providers from all over the country who were there for the same reason – they felt the call. About 70 % of the patients on my floor were COVID-19 positive, so I was worrying about my safety and worrying about protecting other patients.”

After returning home to quarantine, Sherrie is back to caring for her patients in cancer care. While some days don’t have a happy ending, Sherrie says the support from her team and family uplift her.

“Having a good team here is helpful,” Sherrie says. “We all want to see each other succeed, and we all want to see our patients succeed. We put forth our best efforts to do the best for our patients. And I’m lucky to have a good support team at home, especially when I bring [work] home, they understand.”

Colon Cancer Doesn’t Always Show Noticeable Symptoms; Screening Colonoscopies Help Catch Polyps Early

Colon Cancer Doesn't Always Show Noticeable Symptoms

When the governor issued an executive order in March to delay elective medical procedures, many people had to put their screening colonoscopies on hold. Now, as health care has reopened, it’s important to put your regular screenings back on the calendar.

Fears of exposure to the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 may be making some people hesitant to reschedule that important screening. But these screenings save lives. Colon cancer ranks third in the number of new cancer cases and second in the number of cancer deaths in Kentucky. 

Across the country, colon cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer-related deaths that affects both men and women. This type of cancer occurs when abnormal growths, called polyps, form in the colon or rectum. These polyps are often precancerous and can turn cancerous over time. Through colorectal cancer screenings, doctors can find and remove the growths before they turn cancerous.

Colon cancer screenings, which are recommended starting at age 45 or 50, are the most effective way to reduce your risk of colon cancer. A recent study by the American Cancer Society found an alarming growth in the number of colon cancer cases in adults under age 50 in the United States. In fact, we’re seeing more and more colon cancer cases with patients in their 20s and 30s.

Colon cancer screenings are especially important because the disease doesn’t always cause noticeable symptoms. When they do occur, symptoms may include blood in the stool after bowel movements, stomach aches or pains that don’t go away, unexplained weight loss and fatigue. If you’re experiencing any combination of these symptoms, schedule an appointment with your primary care physician and ask about colon cancer screenings.

People with a family history of colon cancer have a higher risk of developing colon cancer, as do individuals who don’t exercise regularly, have diets low in fruits and vegetables, and frequently use alcohol or tobacco. If you have any of these risk factors, tell your doctor and ask if they recommend a screening.

The most common screening tests administered to find precancerous polyps include stool screenings, flexible sigmoidoscopy and colonoscopy. These tests are quick and easy, and cause minimal to no pain. A stool screening allows doctors to detect any traces of blood or cancerous cells in the stool. Flexible sigmoidoscopies and colonoscopies both use a thin, flexible, lighted tube to check for polyps or cancer.

We have taken steps to help ensure the safest possible environment, including pre-procedure testing for COVID-19. Make an appointment with your doctor to schedule or reschedule your screening colonoscopy.

Dr. Matthew Miller

Matthew S. Miller, MD

Dr. Miller is with CHI Saint Joseph Medical Group – Gastroenterology.

Delivering Miracles

Dr. Hannah Hall

Hannah Hall, MD, FACOG, Medical Director of Women’s Services, chairperson of surgery and physician champion at Flaget Memorial Hospital, has felt called to serve others through the practice of medicine since childhood.

“I wanted to be a doctor for as long as I can remember, but I was not always sure what I wanted my specialty to be,” said Hannah Hall, MD, FACOG, of her lifelong dream to become a physician. “However, when I was 12, my little sister, Hallie, was born early at just 28 weeks, and I got to scrub in to the neonatal intensive care unit and see all of the care provided to her. That experience launched me on the path to becoming an OB-GYN.”

As a medical student at the University of Louisville, Dr. Hall had the opportunity to deliver and care for patients like her sister, which further nurtured her desire to focus on the health of babies.

“To contribute to saving their lives was an amazing experience,” Dr. Hall said. “And delivering a baby put a big smile on my face.”

Dr. Hall completed her residency in obstetrics and gynecology at St. Louis University School of Medicine, and met her husband, Seth, while living in the Gateway to the West. The pair later relocated to Dr. Hall’s native Kentucky, where they now raise their two daughters on a farm in Bardstown.

“I have loved Bardstown since we moved here,” Dr. Hall said. “I feel blessed to be able to provide care to the women in the community where I live and raise my family.”

An Array of Service

At Flaget Memorial Hospital, Dr. Hall wears many hats. Specifically, she serves as surgery chairperson, director of women’s services, and mentor and trainer for residents. Additionally, as physician champion, she ensures that the information technology and informatics needs of physicians in Bardstown are being met, helps with the transition to computerized order entry and assists with preparing for the transition to a full-scope electronic health record system. However, patient care remains her No. 1 passion.

“I love delivering babies, and I think every baby is a miracle,” Dr. Hall said. “I also love providing gynecology care to my patients. Being able to transform someone’s life by improving or resolving their gynecologic problems is incredibly rewarding.”

When she is not busy working, Dr. Hall enjoys spending time with family, taking care of the farm, hiking, horseback riding and swimming. She also likes to take to the dance floor for ballroom and swing dancing.

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

Back In Harmony

Mike Archer

A 47-year-old singer and guitarist based in Danville, Mike Archer keeps a busy schedule. He travels the country playing covers of hit songs at weddings, parties, festivals and other events. In January 2019, he started to notice something strange while performing.

“I’d hit a certain high note and feel pain in my lower abdomen,” Archer said. “A small bump developed below my bellybutton on the right side, and it got bigger as the year wore on.”

Archer ignored the symptoms for months, but they eventually became impossible to disregard. Research led him to conclude he had a hernia and would likely need surgery to repair it, so his manager scheduled an appointment with Daryl Nisbett, MD, general surgeon at CHI Saint Joseph Medical GroupSurgery in Lexington.

An Impressive Performance

Archer saw Dr. Nisbett on December 26, 2019. Dr. Nisbett quickly diagnosed the problem — an inguinal hernia, which occurs when part of an organ, fat or tissue pushes through a hole in the abdominal wall. As Archer suspected, he needed surgery, but he worried how the operation and recovery would affect his livelihood. Fortunately, Dr. Nisbett had a plan.

“Dr. Nisbett told me he could do the surgery just four days later, on Dec. 30,” Archer said. “That was very important to me. I needed to have the surgery and heal so I could get back to performing.”

Dr. Daryl Nisbett, MD and Mike Archer

Dr. Nisbett performed the surgery at Saint Joseph Hospital using the da Vinci Xi robotic surgery system.

“Working through three small incisions, I took down the lining of the abdominal wall, pulled the contents out of the hernia, placed mesh over the hole and secured it, and put the abdominal wall back in place,” Dr. Nisbett said. “Using the da Vinci allowed Archer to return to work faster.”

Archer didn’t miss any gigs, and when he got back on stage, he noticed an important difference.

“I used to cringe going into a high note because I knew the pain was coming,” he said. “Not anymore. The pain is gone, and that’s made my life a whole lot better.”

“I’d never had surgery before, so I was very nervous, but Dr. Nisbett’s bedside manner was wonderful. He explained what would happen and made me feel so comfortable, like I was talking with a buddy.”

If you need a general surgeon, visit CHISaintJosephHealth.org and select “Find a Provider”.

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

Living with Multiple Sclerosis

Living with Multiple Sclerosis

Harrodsburg resident Abigail Elvers does not let Multiple Sclerosis (MS) define her.

Abigail Elvers recalls the first time MS made its mysterious presence known. It was February 2003, and although Elvers felt like she needed to urinate, she was unable to go. Seeking answers, she went to a nearby hospital in Danville, Kentucky, where a urologist recommended the use of a catheter.

The next weekend, Elvers experienced unusual challenges again. Unable to feel her left leg, she woke her husband up in the middle of the night to drive her to the emergency room. Once she arrived, the medical team administered tests, including MRI and a spinal tap, which revealed that Elvers had MS.

“My first thought was that I was going to be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life,” Elvers said. “I had never known anybody with the disease.”

A Provider of Hope

Greg Anderson, MD, CPE, who is a neurologist and serves as medical director of quality and provider engagement and chairman of the board of directors of CHI Saint Joseph Medical Group, was working in Danville when Elvers presented with her symptoms and was the neurologist who diagnosed her with MS.

“Dr. Anderson made me not so afraid of the unknown,” Elvers said. “He told me, ‘We are going to get through this.’ I just felt safe.”

Dr. Anderson’s treatment plan for Elvers began with an injectable medication to treat her MS symptom relapses, which Elvers gave herself. Then, Elvers was given the opportunity to participate in a clinical trial that would eliminate injections from her life.

“Abigail wanted an aggressive therapy and the convenience of a once-a-year infusion,” Dr. Anderson said. “The clinical trial was a good choice for her. There are a variety of options now that are effective at reducing relapses and slowing disease progression, which is why I encourage patients to work with a neurologist they trust.”

Today, Elvers feels that her disease is under control and is grateful to receive care at CHI Saint Joseph Medical Group.

“Everyone is so kind and professional and makes me feel safe and comfortable,” Elvers said. “I am no longer afraid of the future.”

Strength in Partnerships

When it comes to multiple sclerosis, having multifaceted support structures in place is key. That is why CHI Saint Joseph Health has a variety of partnerships with specialists in our community, including occupational, physical and speech therapists to help address functional challenges and psychiatry professionals to help manage issues related to cognition and emotional wellness.

Click here to learn more about multiple sclerosis care at CHI Saint Joseph Health or call 859.296.1922.

Visit to the ER was a Lifesaver for Mount Sterling Man

Saint Joseph Mount Sterling

Mount Sterling native Omar Prewitt was hiking with his son at Pilot Knob when he was struck by chest pain that wouldn’t go away.

“Coming down, I started to get a little bit of discomfort in my chest,” he said. “I stopped off at a gas station to get a Tum because I thought that would knock it out. It didn’t take me long to realize the pain was consistent and wasn’t going away. I thought, possibly, I was having a heart attack.”

He knew he had to get to seek immediate care. Prewitt arrived at Saint Joseph Mount Sterling’s emergency room with signs of a heart attack. Staff immediately took him in, and within 10-15 minutes, the pain he felt in his chest began to subside.

“I could tell by the concern from everybody – I knew several of the people taking care of me – there was something wrong,” Prewitt said. “By then, they loaded me into a helicopter and took me to [Saint Joseph Hospital in] Lexington.”

Eighteen minutes later, Prewitt arrived at the Lexington hospital and was in a room with a full staff for a cardiac catheterization.

“Within half an hour, they knocked the clot out,” Prewitt said. “I felt like, at that time, I could walk on out and right back to work. They kept me [at Saint Joseph Hospital] for a few days to monitor me and run tests. I’ve been so fortunate that we had a good hospital to care for me.”

Within that network of care, Prewitt said he was most impressed with the seamless transition from the emergency care at Saint Joseph Mount Sterling to his procedure at Saint Joseph Hospital.

“The way [the staff] reacted when I went in, it was all very quick,” Prewitt said about his visit at the Saint Joseph Mount Sterling emergency room. “There was no hesitation; they were making decisions quickly. I knew a few people who were taking care of me. I could see the concern in their eyes. I knew I was having a heart attack, but I felt calm when I was there, during the helicopter ride and when I got to [Saint Joseph Hospital].”

Even during the novel coronavirus pandemic, Prewitt said he wasn’t worried about going to the emergency room because he knew he needed care.

“I’ve always heard if you’re having a heart attack to get to a hospital as quick as you can,” Prewitt said. “[At the time,] I had a grandchild on the way, and I needed to go to the ER and take care of it. I knew it could be a matter of seconds.”

London NICU Project Will Save Lives

Carly Grace and Anna Margaret Storm

Brandon and Jaclyn Storm’s pregnancy was deemed high risk early on, and the babies, Carly Grace and Anna Margaret, were expected to be premature. Jaclyn needed to stay near a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) or similar critical care facility. Otherwise, she and her babies could have died. When the twin girls were born prematurely on Sept. 10, 2005, the London couple’s joy was mixed with fear and exhaustion. They spent several months in Lexington so their babies could receive lifesaving care at a NICU, a 90-minute trip from their home.

Looking Back

Almost 14 years later, Brandon cries recalling the trauma his family endured. Carly was born weighing 1 pound, 10 ounces, and Anna was 3 pounds, 1 ounce. Brandon drove to Lexington every night after working eight to 10 hour days in London. He often had a friend or family member ride with him because it became too exhausting to drive safely.

The financial burden of finding a place to stay in Lexington was challenging, and eventually the family was placed in a home with a host. He said Carly would not have survived without the NICU, where she spent two months. The twins both had additional complications and needed specialized care.

“It was very touch and go for a while,” he said. “And the sad thing is, right next to us, a baby passed away. That makes it even more real.”

Establishing NICU Care in London

Staying close to home would have saved the family overwhelming stress and a lot of money. That’s why the Saint Joseph London Foundation is focused on fundraising for a Level II NICU at Saint Joseph London’s Birthing Center to help area families. It will be one of only two hospitals in southeastern Kentucky with both a birthing center and a NICU. This will allow the hospital to keep about 80% of the premature or at-risk babies in London for treatment.

Stories like the Storms’ are near to the hearts of the physicians and staff at Saint Joseph London, including President John C. Yanes, FACHE, CPPS. The hospital is the leading obstetrical provider in the area and delivers approximately 1,200 babies every year.

“Establishing a NICU at Saint Joseph London is an overarching priority as we remain unwavering in our commitment to improve timely access to vital medical care to the residents we serve in a six-county service area,” Yanes said. “The NICU will build on and expand existing inpatient services for some of the most medically vulnerable patients.”

The Birthing Center opened in 2010, and in 2017 the hospital delivered 1,203 babies. Of those, 86 infants required treatment in a NICU, and 69 of them could have been cared for in London if the NICU was available. The Saint Joseph London NICU will cost approximately $1.4 million.

You can support this important project by contacting the Saint Joseph London Foundation at foundation@sjhlex.org.

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

Healing from a Safe Distance

Dr. Thomas Coburn

Despite the obstacles the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic presented, Thomas Coburn, MD, family medicine physician and medical director of information technology for the ambulatory medical group, found a way to continue serving patients in Wilmore, Kentucky.

“I considered it a calling to go into medicine,” said Thomas Coburn, MD. “As an undergraduate at Duke University, I believed God was calling me to serve Him as a physician to those in great need in our inner cities. But while training at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine, I realized there was just as great a need in the rural areas of Kentucky, my home.”

Since graduating in 1995 and completing his residency through the University of Kentucky College Of Medicine in 1998, Dr. Coburn has become an integral member of the Wilmore community as both a physician and neighbor.

“Wilmore is an amazing place where people can walk down Main Street, grab a coffee at Solomon’s Porch and catch up with friends because we are all neighbors,” Dr. Coburn said. “It’s been very difficult to maintain that sense of community during the novel coronavirus outbreak. We recognize, as a medical facility, we have to be vigilant to provide care for our patients in a safe way.”

A New Approach

CHI Saint Joseph Medical Group primary and specialty care practices began offering virtual care visits for patients using Zoom, a HIPAA-compliant videoconference tool. As the medical director of information technology for the ambulatory medical group, Dr. Coburn worked to make virtual care available to all CHI Saint Joseph Medical Group physicians and advanced practice providers.

“Patients depend upon their physicians for health and assurance,” Dr. Coburn said. “A lot of our patients need to have a way to see us and talk to us about their health. And we want to be able to see our patients and talk to them about what they’re facing. There’s nothing that can replace the personal interaction of a handshake or being face to face, but using a virtual care platform is the next best thing. Patients really appreciate that we’re finding ways to meet with them during this time of crisis.”

Make the Most of Your Virtual Care Visit

  • Set up the Zoom app on your mobile device or laptop one hour prior to your visit.
  • Don’t share your Zoom Personal Meeting ID.
  • Plan your meeting in a secure and comfortable place — no distractions.
  • Be prepared — have your list of personal information, medicines and any reports ready to discuss.
  • Check your temperature, weight, pulse rate and blood pressure prior to your visit.

To schedule a virtual visit with a CHI Saint Joseph Health provider, call 844.611.6877.

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

Avoid Injuries During Fourth of July Celebrations

Avoid Injuries During Fourth of July Celebrations

For many, summer celebrations aren’t complete without fireworks. Whether you’ll be watching a show from afar or setting off fireworks yourself, it’s important to take steps to avoid injuries and make your festivities as safe as possible.

In 2017, eight people were killed and more than 12,000 were seriously injured in fireworks-related accidents, according to the National Safety Council. To avoid such injuries, consider taking the following precautions when setting off fireworks.

Proper Fireworks Safety

  • Children should never handle fireworks. Of those injured in 2017 by fireworks-related incidents, 50 percent involved children and young adults.
  • Although sparklers might seem less dangerous, they are the leading cause of fireworks-related injuries and can reach temperatures up to 1,800°F.
  • Avoid picking up fireworks after an event. They may still be ignited and could cause serious injuries.
  • Never hold fireworks or stand over them while igniting.
  • Wear eye protection if available.

What to Do If You Are Burned

If you are burned by fireworks, you should use a mild soap and lukewarm water to clean the affected area. Coat the wound with petroleum ointment and keep it covered.

When to Seek Medical Attention

According to The American Burn Association:

  • Seek medical care immediately if the wound is larger than the palm of your hand.
  • If the burn has not healed after seven days, it is urgent to consult a health care provider.
  • If a burn occurs to the face, groin, ears, feet or hands, it should be evaluated by a physician.
  • If you are experiencing signs of an infection, including increasing pain, fever or redness, seek medical attention. 
  • Third-degree burns are more serious than a blister, and typically become brown or black discoloration and require medical attention.

Anyone experiencing fireworks-related burns or injuries should call 911 or visit their nearest emergency or express care site.

Know the Signs of Skin Cancer and Take Steps to Prevent It

Woman in garden

Summer is here and many people will be getting outside to enjoy the warmth and sunshine. But it is important not only to take precautions against harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun, but also to recommit to taking care of already sun-damaged skin. Make sure you know the signs of skin cancer and take steps to prevent it.

About one in five people will be diagnosed with some type of skin cancer by age 70, making it the most common form of cancer found in the United States, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. It’s often caused by damage from the UV rays from the sun or those emitted by tanning beds.

Forms of skin cancer include basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma.

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer, occurring in the basal cells found in the bottom of the skin’s outermost layer. This cancer typically appears as a small, shiny bump on the face, scalp, ears, neck, shoulders and back. People with a fair complexion are at the highest risk for this type of skin cancer. This type of cancer has very little chance of spreading to other parts of the body.

Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common type of skin cancer, also appearing in the outermost layer of the skin but arising from squamous cells. This cancer also appears on exposed parts of the body and is often a patch that is red and scaly. Like basal cell carcinoma, this form of skin cancer rarely spreads to other parts of the body.

Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer, as it can spread rapidly to other organs in the body. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, more than 196,000 cases of melanoma will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2020. Melanoma develops from melanocytes, which are the pigment-producing cells in the upper layer of the skin. This often resembles a mole but can arise from them as well. Melanoma ranks fifth in the types of new cancers diagnosed in Kentucky, according to the American Cancer Society.

Warning signs of melanoma include asymmetrical lesions and uneven borders around the mole. If a mole is multi-colored and one-quarter of an inch in diameter, it should be examined by a physician. Also take note of any moles that appear to be changing over time; this could be a sign of melanoma.

With or without previous skin damage, you still have some control over your skin and its health. Protect your skin from the sun by using a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 daily. For those who are outside for large parts of the day, working or recreationally, however, an SPF of at least 30 is recommended. Wearing protective clothing when spending long hours in the sun is important. You should perform monthly skin self-examinations.

If you see a mole or any other skin discoloration that doesn’t look right, do not wait for your annual visit to talk to a physician. Catching skin cancers early on is the key to a successful treatment.

Michael Horn, MD

Michael E. Horn, MD

Dr. Horn is with CHI Saint Joseph Health – Hematology and Oncology.