Wheaton Franciscan – St. Joseph patient shown dignity and compassion
When Kathleen Ogrizovich went to the Emergency Department at Wheaton Franciscan - St. Joseph with pain from a bowel obstruction, she was quickly admitted to undergo surgery where she would soon learn that she also had stage four colon cancer. The 52-year-old began cancer treatment immediately under the care of Dr. Norwood Anderson.
Initially, Kathleen had medical insurance through her employer. Forced to retire due to her illness, she lost her insurance. “Everyone in Dr. Anderson’s office was so kind, generous and supportive,” said Kathleen. “My social worker, Claire Siebold, hooked me up with financial counselor Donna Semons who helped me to fill out the forms and apply for Community Care.” Kathleen was approved for Community Care to cover most of her costs.
“By the grace of God, Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare helped me get on a payment plan that is do-able and with the dignity and compassion that made me feel safe. The Community Care program has taken a huge weight off my shoulders,” said Kathleen.
Kathleen received the much needed assistance through the time of her death in May 2011.
Once healthy Pewaukee resident caught off guard with serious infection
Wheaton Franciscan – Elmbrook Memorial provided assistance
At 31, Brian Matthews was young and healthy and didn’t worry much about not having health insurance. Between being in and out of work in a tough economy and trying to get a small business off the ground, the Pewaukee resident says he just couldn’t afford it. But in May 2011, Brian admits he was caught off guard when he developed a serious infection in his lower right leg. It was swollen to twice its normal size when he finally sought medical treatment at the Wheaton Franciscan – Elmbrook Memorial Emergency Department in Brookfield.
Quickly diagnosed with cellulitis, Brian was hospitalized for nearly two weeks while he underwent antibiotic treatment and two separate surgeries. He was told the condition could have been deadly at that point.
“It’s enough to be stressing over your health, and then I was worrying about the financial part and what I’d face later. I knew right away this would be expensive,” Brian shared.
Fortunately, Brian was able to qualify for Wheaton’s Community Care program, which paid for 100% of his care. Cris Liebhauser is the Wheaton Franciscan Financial Counselor who assisted him with the application. She said, “When I walked into Brian’s room and saw how painful his leg looked, the first thing that came to mind was I have to help him.”
“I’m incredibly relieved and very grateful for the help. This was my first time ever needing to be in a hospital. In my case, the financial assistance really saved me. More than a month later, I’m still in outpatient treatment and I don’t know what I’d do without it.”
Wheaton Franciscan - Elmbrook Memorial patient gets back to work thanks to financial assistance
Thirty-one year old Steven Limberger had worked as a union carpenter since the age of 19. But with the economic downturn, he suddenly found himself out of a job and without health insurance.
Steven moved home to live with his parents and enrolled in college to pursue a degree in construction management. Shortly thereafter, he discovered a large mass near his groin. He went to the Emergency Department at Wheaton Franciscan – Elmbrook Memorial in Brookfield, WI where he was diagnosed with an inguinal hernia. An additional physical exam revealed Steven also had an umbilical hernia located near his belly button.
Suddenly, Steven was faced with the difficult decision of having surgery immediately or waiting until he could find a job with benefits. He knew it would be hard to continue to work in construction with two hernias. He elected to undergo surgery and worked with a Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare financial counselor to apply for Community Care.
His application was approved and days later he underwent the hour-long outpatient procedure. “I was really impressed by the care at Elmbrook Memorial,” Steven said. “From the nurses and doctors to the financial counselor, everyone was very helpful.”
Steven has since found a job and is working again in construction, made possible thanks to the care he received at Wheaton Franciscan – Elmbrook Memorial.
Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare - Franklin hospital helps patient get back on her feet
At the age of 45, Christine McDonald was working and living in Ireland with her husband when both of them decided it was time to make a change. He loved his native country; she longed to return to the United States.
After making the difficult decision to move back to Wisconsin alone, Christine was trying to get back on her feet when she started having health issues.
She was experiencing extreme abdominal pain, and she was downright scared.
“I called the emergency room in the middle of the night,” Christine recalled.
She went to Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare - St. Francis and was treated in the Emergency Department. That’s when doctors discovered a tumor on her uterus, which would require that she have a hysterectomy.
With no job and no insurance, Christine felt helpless. It was then that financial counselor May Yang assisted her and told her about Community Care, Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare’s program providing free or discounted care to those in need.
“I literally collapsed in her arms,” said Christine.
She quickly applied for Community Care and was approved. Dr. Daniel Gilman performed the surgery at Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare - Franklin. Afterward, Christine developed some complications and required regular follow-up care, but she had no means of transportation.
Another financial counselor, Linda Stevens, turned to the Foundation for St. Francis and Franklin for help. The Foundation provided cab vouchers so Christine could travel to her doctor appointments at the Franklin hospital.
“In this day and age, there aren’t enough resources to help people,” said Christine. “Yet to have Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare embrace me like it did is absolutely incredible.”
Cancer patient receives free care from Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare - St. Francis
When 57-year-old Anthony Wisniewski was admitted to Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare– St. Francis, both he and his longtime girlfriend Kathy thought it was for symptoms of a stroke.
Instead, Anthony quickly learned he was suffering from fourth stage brain, liver, and lung cancer. After an 11-day hospital stay at St. Francis, he began chemotherapy at Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare’s Reiman Center for Cancer Care in Franklin.
Anthony lacked the financial means to pay for this most recent hospital stay as well as cancer treatment. That’s when Donna Semons, a financial counselor with Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare, stepped in to help.
“Donna was exceptional to work with,” Kathy said. Donna encouraged Anthony to apply for Community Care, which provides free or discounted care to those in need.
Kathy said that not only was Donna wonderful, but so were the nurses and doctors that cared for Anthony during his stay at St. Francis and his treatments at the Reiman Center.
“We couldn’t have asked for anything better,” she said. “The teamwork between the doctors and nurses was amazing.”
While Anthony has since died, his girlfriend said he was able to spend his final months knowing he couldn’t have asked for better care from anyone or anywhere.
Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare - All Saints helps stroke patient return to health
Hipolito Valdivia-Ramirez had always been a healthy, working man. But that all changed on July 20, 2010, when he suffered a stroke.
Hipolito was driving home from Milwaukee when he began to feel ill and lost strength in his right hand and leg. Upon arriving home, he climbed into bed, thinking rest might help. Instead, Hipolito began to feel worse. His wife helped him up and he drove himself to the Emergency Department at Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare – All Saints in Racine where he was admitted for a stroke. He spent four days in the hospital.
Exactly two months later, Hipolito suffered a second stroke, one far worse than the first. This time, he was hospitalized for 23 days and received specialized care, including physical and speech therapy.
“The care I received was amazing, but there was always the worry of how I was going to pay for all of this,” Hipolito said. “It was very scary and troublesome.”
A financial counselor visited Hipolito during his stay at All Saints and helped him apply for Community Care, which provides free or discounted care to those in need.
Hipolito’s application was approved, and he was finally able to focus on what was most important – getting healthy again.
Man with diabetes touched by an angel
Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare’s Angel of Hope Clinic makes a difference
Diabetes is often a difficult and life-changing diagnosis to grasp and then manage. Sherman Williams recalls his own plight in coming to terms with and taking charge of this chronic illness.
“I was shocked. It was hard news to swallow,” Sherman recalls. “Back then, I was 230 pounds and I ran out of funds. A friend knew I was diabetic and recommended I come to Angel of Hope. Because of that, I’m here today.”
Wheaton Franciscan Medical Group’s Angel of Hope clinic is located on Milwaukee’s near south side within Hope House, a homeless shelter at 209 W. Orchard Street. The clinic provides hope to people who, like Sherman, would not have been able to afford needed health care. The clinic has bilingual staff dedicated to providing free-to-low cost care for the homeless, underserved and underinsured. Cost is based upon the person’s ability to pay.
When Sherman arrived at the clinic eight years ago, he was just released from incarceration, unemployed and recently started taking insulin to manage his diabetes.
“At the time, I wasn’t taking the best care of myself, and Angel of Hope changed that,” he said.
Sherman’s story isn’t uncommon. A majority of the patients requiring medical care at the clinic are diabetic, which can be a costly illness to manage. Fortunately, the clinic receives support from the Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare- St. Francis Foundation and Wheaton Franciscan Medical Group, as well as community funds to further its Mission in serving those who cannot afford health care on their own.
“I’m on seven pills a day, and it’s expensive if you don’t have insurance,” Sherman said.
Today, Sherman continues to receive care from this clinic, and has developed a strong relationship with the medical team. At age 53, he’s lost more than 30 pounds and has a renewed passion for life and taking control of his health.
“I’ve done my homework, and I’m alive today because of the help I’ve received at this clinic. The people here help me with what I need to do to manage this condition.”
Wheaton Franciscan – St. Joseph Women’s Outpatient Center makes all the difference for young mother
Lakisha Stinson knows all too well the devastating effects of premature birth. Her first child, Kelviana, was born at 26 weeks and weighed just 1 pound, 15 oz. Her preterm birth had caused numerous complications. She died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome at 8 months.
Several years later when she found herself pregnant again, Lakisha was scared. “I didn’t want to deal with what happened with my first baby,” she recalled.
Lakisha was referred to the Women’s Outpatient Center at Wheaton Franciscan - St. Joseph, which focuses on providing pre-natal and other gynecological services to underserved women regardless of ability to pay. There, she met Mary Mazul, a certified nurse wife, who worked with her throughout her pregnancy.
“The people at the Women’s Outpatient Center really helped,” said Lakisha, who is now the proud mother of a healthy baby girl named Rashyia. “Mary told me everything would be ok. I trusted her and believed her.”
Recognized nationally for its clinical excellence and compassionate care, the Women's Outpatient Center provides a wide range of services from general wellness checks and screenings to advanced treatments for a variety of conditions. It also provides the emotional support its clients need and offers incentives for women to make and keep medical appointments.
The Women’s Outpatient Center was able to provide many services to Lakisha. She was enrolled in the center’s Prenatal Care Program which provides education to expectant mothers. She also received help with smoking cessation, and therapy to help her deal with her depression. In addition, Lakisha took a car seat class offered by the center, which qualified her for a free car seat. And she received a free Pack ‘N Play portable crib through the Safe Sleep program at St. Joseph to ensure her child would have a safe place to sleep.
The Women’s Outpatient Center has helped hundreds of women like Lakisha as it works to stem the rate of infant mortality in the City of Milwaukee.
Wheaton Franciscan Center for Addiction Recovery helps mother overcome addictions
Sherrill Aukland is a vivacious, 58-year-old who lost years of her life to alcoholism and pain killer addiction. She did eventually recover – but only with the help of her five sons, the Wheaton Franciscan Center for Addiction Recovery, and Alcoholics Anonymous.
Sherry is an active, outgoing woman who abused pills and alcohol well before her divorce in 2003. Instead of making her feel better, she spiraled deeper into depression and guilt. After two years of this, she recognized her decline and tried for a year to recover.
“I felt spiritually bankrupt,” she said. “I was trying to get out of a bad situation but doing all the wrong things. I didn’t want to live, but I couldn’t ask for help because I didn’t want to realize I was addicted and alcoholic.”
One night, she had had enough. She gathered her five boys, ages 13, 16, 18, 22 and 26. She handed them the remainder of the pills, “admitted” the drinking problem they already knew about, and told them she needed help. They responded quickly and firmly.
They drove her immediately to her doctor, refusing to leave until he hospitalized her. After three days, the doctor discharged her. She moved to her mother’s basement apartment, where she de-toxed on her own for 10 days. Her boys searched on-line and found the Wheaton Franciscan Center for Addiction Recovery.
When Sherry was strong enough, one of her sons took her to the Center. She remembers that she was asked to list her goals. One was that she be rid of her addiction to pain killers. Still not willing to admit her alcoholism, the second was to be able to have a glass of wine with dinner.
Sherry went every day for a month to four hours of counseling with the Wheaton Franciscan outpatient program. In the meetings she learned about alcoholism and addiction, and what these diseases do to your mind, body and spirit. She received support, guidance, and resources, and found her spiritual core again.
Sherry and her boys also attended an educational evening meeting for families at the Center. The session allowed social support and networking, but also provided education for the boys, who learned of their increased risk for alcoholism and addiction.
Sherry took the recommendation of her Center counselor and began attending Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings. She got a sponsor right off the bat, worked the steps and did everything the program suggested.
Today, Sherry has a successful career as a landlord. She fills in at the Center for Addiction Recovery every couple of months to introduce new participants to the AA program. She continues to attend AA meetings and has been sober five years as of March 2010. Her sons – her reason for living and recovering – have told her how thankful they are to have found the Wheaton Franciscan Center for Addiction Recovery and Alcoholics Anonymous. Because now they have their mom back.
Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare Anemia Clinic fills unique niche
“I certainly wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them,” claims Dorothy Plautz, now 82 years old.
There was a point when Dorothy was quite sick. She was admitted to Wheaton Franciscan – Elmbrook Memorial with congestive heart failure and failing kidneys.
It turns out her iron levels were low from the chronic kidney disease to the point of putting her health in jeopardy and making it difficult to enjoy life because she had to be attached to an oxygen tank and tubing. Dorothy received blood transfusions and iron treatments in the hospital. Upon release, she was referred to Wheaton’s Anemia Management Clinic where many patients with chronic conditions are treated.
The health system has three hospital outpatient clinics located on the Wheaton Franciscan – Elmbrook Memorial and St. Joseph Campuses as well as at Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare – St. Francis. The clinics serve patients with B12 and iron deficiency as well as chronic anemia related to a number of disease states. These patients often experience loss of appetite, depression, fatigue, and shortness of breath.
The anemia management team consists of highly skilled nurses and pharmacists and is coordinated by a Nurse Practitioner at all sites.
“When we met Dorothy, she was on oxygen and was in poor condition,” shares Mary Sinnen, Director of Nephrology Services.
Because her levels were dangerously low, taking iron pills, which are hard to absorb, was not the best option and Dorothy started IV treatments.
“Everyone at the clinic was so great. I thought I’d need to be on oxygen the rest of my life, which was a grim thought. They really care about patients and worked to get to the bottom of my problems,” Dorothy says.
That was five years ago, and Dorothy is still undergoing treatments. At her monthly visits to the anemia clinic, her hemoglobin level is tested, and she gets medication to help her body produce red blood cells so that that her anemia remains in check and she is free to enjoy an active lifestyle.
Dorothy says it’s a miracle but she’s now living a relatively healthy life: “I really give them credit for saving my life. They’ve given me years of healthy living.”