Now she encourages others to have their annual exams
This article appeared in our Spring 2013 Update publication.
Radiologist Dr. Scott Smith performed Hilda’s biopsy and shared her diagnosis with her extended family.
Hilda Gray is a strong proponent of mammograms. The South Royalton resident has had one every year at her community hospital, Gifford Medical Center.
Last year was the first time this active grandmother got some unsettling news, however.
A small lesion in her left breast was found and merited further study. Gifford Patient Care Navigator Brittany Kelton scheduled all of Hilda’s follow-up care and was at her side during each appointment.
A diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound were performed and then an ultrasound-guided biopsy was done right in the Radiology Department.
At first, Hilda didn’t want the biopsy. “I wasn’t too thrilled about that,” she says. Her family, however, was insistent. “‘Momma, you’re going to have the biopsy and that is all there is to it,’” Hilda recalls one of her daughters saying.
On the day radiologist Dr. Scott Smith delivered the news that the small mass was indeed breast cancer, three of Hilda’s children and her husband, Robert Gray Sr., were at her side.
General surgeon Dr. Maury Smith removed Hilda’s cancer.
Dr. Smith “took the whole family in the office and explained to everybody. He didn’t try to hurry you out. He wanted to make sure all of our questions were answered,” Robert recalls.
A lumpectomy, surgery to remove the mass, was the next step. This time, Hilda was fearless. “If its something that’s got to be done, it’s got to be done,” she recalls saying at the time.
She also had every confidence in the general surgeon who would operate – Dr. Maury Smith. “To Dr. Smith, you are a person, not just a patient,” says Robert.
This time with Robert, all four of her children and their spouses with her, Hilda returned to Gifford last fall for surgery to remove the cancer. A follow-up mammogram earlier this year found no additional lesions, says a happy, cancer-free Hilda.
“I feel like the hospital did wonderful by me,” she says, encouraging others to have their annual mammograms.
“Just do it,” she says. “If I hadn’t gone, I would never have known it was there. I really think it’s something women should do every year.”
This article appeared in our Spring 2013 Update publication.
Dr. Richard Graham
For men and women who have exhausted all other options for the treatment of overactive bladder or urinary incontinence, Gifford’s Urology Department is offering a new alternative – Medtronic InterStim Therapy, or sacral nerve stimulation.
The therapy involves surgery to place a small, thin device that looks and works much like a pacemaker under the skin in the upper buttock. The device is connected to leads, or soft wires, that are placed near the sacral nerves, sending mild stimulation to the nerves.
“It’s stimulates the nerves that affect the bladder. It turns off the sensory input to some degree and increases motor function,” urologist Dr. Richard Graham explains.
“This is an option for the patient who has tried everything and nothing has worked,” he says.
For patients who have tried other options without success, one major plus of this procedure is that patients can try the device in advance of undergoing surgery.
Right in the office, at either Gifford’s Randolph urology practice or the Twin River Health Center in White River Junction, Dr. Graham or physician assistant Nancy Blessing can insert the leads under the skin near the tailbone and test for a reaction. Patients then go home with an external device for a few days to see if it helps.
Usually the goal is to decrease one’s number of trips to the bathroom by at least half, notes Vice President of Surgery Rebecca O’Berry. Ultimately, it’s up to the patient to decide if, based on the results, he or she wants to have the surgery.
People who are interested in learning more about this option or who have untreated incontinence or overactive bladder, should call Gifford’s urology team in Randolph at 728-2470 or White River Junction at 296-7370 to set up an appointment to discuss this and the many other treatment options available.
This article appeared in our Spring 2013 Update publication.
Bill Brainard of Bethel poses with his skidder. Thanks to interventional radiology at Gifford, he is back to logging.
A year ago Bill Brainard of Bethel was in so much back pain he visited his doctor, Milt Fowler at Gifford in Randolph, for help.
“I’ve got a high tolerance for pain, but the day I was at this office, it was so bad it would almost bring tears to your eyes,” says Bill, who worked in excavation and trucking. “It hurt like heck.”
Bill had an MRI to determine the cause of his back pain. The MRI revealed a cyst in the spinal canal, which was pushing on the nerve roots that serve the legs. Surgery was an option, but is fairly invasive. A non-surgical interventional radiology procedure at Gifford – a
percutaneous rupture of the synovial cyst – seemed like a better option.
Using CT image guidance, radiologist Dr. John McIntyre accessed the cyst through the facet joint – the joint causing the cyst – and injected sterile saline, causing the cyst to fill and burst. Bill was awake for the procedure, which he called fairly painless.
When the cyst ruptured, he felt immediate relief.
“I don’t think I was in there a total of two hours,” Bill recalls. “I went right back to doing everything. It was amazing.”
Bill, 69, is now retired from the excavation business, but keeps busy logging. A year later, he is still pain-free.
Angelina Jolie’s courageous decision to undergo a double mastectomy to reduce her risk of developing hereditary breast cancer has brought to light an important test done regularly, and promoted, at Gifford.
The reason behind Jolie’s decision was a positive BRCA test. BRCA is a test for hereditary breast and ovarian cancers. It is as pain-free as a test gets; all you have to do is spit in a test tube.
In more scientific terms, the test is of your saliva or, buccal DNA, and is done right in the doctor’s office to check for an inherited mutation or alteration in the BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 gene.
While hereditary breast and ovarian cancer account for only 5 percent of these cancers, knowing your BRCA status can help you and your family make informed decisions and choices.
A woman with BRCA 1 or 2 mutations has a markedly elevated risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer, including:
Up to a 50 percent risk of developing breast cancer by age 50 (compared to 2 percent in the general population)
Up to an 87 percent risk of developing breast cancer by age 70 (compared to 8 percent in the general population)
Up to a 64 percent risk of developing a second breast cancer
Up to a 44 percent chance of developing ovarian cancer by age 70 (compared to less than 1 percent in the general population)
Knowing whether you have this mutation will enable you to have increased surveillance and/or treatment, which can potentially save your life and help your family members make informed decisions. Management strategies may include earlier breast cancer screening with mammography or MRI, risk reducing surgery such as ovary removal after childbearing is completed, and chemoprevention, such as tamoxifen or birth control pills.
Red flags for hereditary breast and ovarian cancers, include:
Breast cancer before age 50
Ovarian cancer at any age
Male breast cancer at any age
Ashkenazi Jewish heritage
Relatives of a BRCA carrier
If you or a loved one falls into one of these categories, contact your primary care or gynecologist’s office to inquire about testing.
Dr. Ellamarie Russo-DeMara is a gynecologist at Gifford’s Bethel Health Center and Twin River Health Center in White River Junction. She provides BRCA advice and testing. She is also a breast cancer survivor.
Lois Flint and Dennis Boardman of Chelsea share a laugh with Gifford respiratory therapist Stephannie Welch.
This article appeared in our Spring 2013 Update publication.
When Lois Flint of Chelsea showed up for pulmonary rehabilitation at Gifford, who did she find one treadmill over? None other than her neighbor, Dennis Boardman. With Lois’ husband behind the wheel, the duo started commuting together for their thrice-weekly appointments, spending the winter working out and laughing hard at Gifford.
Pulmonary rehabilitation is medical therapy for chronic respiratory diseases, typically chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). While not curative, the 10-week program combines exercise and education to decrease symptoms and hospitalizations, increase exercise tolerance, and improve quality of life.
Dennis has COPD and had a cancerous kidney removed in October at Gifford. When he left the hospital, he was on oxygen. His primary care provider, Dr. Mark Seymour at the Bethel Health Center, suggested he try pulmonary rehabilitation.
He recently completed the program, off of oxygen.
The 62-year-old retired log truck driver credits the program with improving his stamina for walking, getting him off the oxygen and giving him “a lot of freedom to be able to do what I want to do.”
Lois had part of her right lung removed, also from cancer, three years ago. Since, the 74-year-old retired cook has struggled with her diminished lung capacity. Her primary care provider, physician assistant Starr Strong of the Chelsea Health Center, suggested the program.
Overseen by Gifford pulmonologist Dr. Marda Donner and a team of respiratory therapists and nurses who carefully monitor participants as they workout, the now four-year-old program can’t cure lung disease, but aims to help people feel better just the same.
Lois, for example, still has limited lung capacity, but she’s no longer letting it slow her down.
“It motivated me,” says Lois, who is now walking on the treadmill at home. “I think it’s great.”
Learn more about pulmonary rehabilitation by calling Gifford Cardiopulmonary Services at 728-2222 or asking your health care provider for a referral.
Gifford Administrator Joe Woodin wrote the following as an introduction to the 2012 Annual Report, segments of which we’ll be featuring on our blog:
It’s interesting to be working in an industry that continues to be under the microscope of the political process, with people wanting more control over the cost of health care. Frankly it can be a bit exhausting, but I can understand and agree with their concerns.
“What can we afford?” is becoming an uncomfortable theme both locally and nationally; although we can all relate to this in our daily lives when we go shopping for food or services. There are now so many involved in helping to “fix” the health care system that it becomes a daunting task just to stay focused on the basics: providing quality patient care with compassion and kindness.
This report highlights a few of our providers who have remained focused and undistracted by all of the changes in health care. As the years have ticked by, they have not lost their love of the profession, nor have they been dissuaded by all of the changes, paperwork, and new requirements. Their work has become a calling, and they have touched many of our lives when we have been in need of medical help.
The more we try to understand and solve the complicated aspects of health care, the more I am reminded that at the end of the day, there are still patients in beds or in clinic exam rooms awaiting care. They are usually anxious, at times scared or upset, and always hopeful that someone can give them answers and help them through the next step. Our role is to ensure that we have a provider willing to enter into patients’ lives, helping to answer questions and even hold their hand when the news is “not good”.
So regardless of where we end up with “health care reform”, hopefully Gifford will always be there with physicians and staff members who reflect the values of the professionals highlighted in this report. Many things will change moving forward, but unchanged will be our commitment to you and our communities.
Gifford is fortunate to have many long-time Medical Staff members. Some have worked in our community for 30 years or more. Most got their start as private practice physicians recruited to the area by the hospital and then became medical center employees.
Many came from outside the area. They could have chosen to work anywhere, but they chose to dedicate their careers and lives to the people of central Vermont and to bettering health care on a statewide level.
For patients, that means remarkable continuity of care, relationships embedded throughout generations, and access to some of the best and most experienced health care providers – anywhere.
With so much history and know-how behind them, we asked them to share some of their experiences with us. Our 2012 Annual Report is the result of their efforts to share what we’re calling brief “memoirs” or essays. Some talk about the amazing privilege of being entrusted with patients’ care and health. Others share stories of unique times with a patient.
We’ll begin featuring some of these memoirs as future blog posts. We hope you enjoy these reminiscences and are reminded, as we were, how very fortunate we are that these incredibly gifted individuals have given so much of themselves professionally, and personally, to our friends and neighbors.
As you’ll read, these long-time providers have also set the stage for our next generation of caregivers, who – like those who came before – are dedicating themselves to their communities and high-quality care for our region.
Class focuses on chronic disease self-management and peer support
RANDOLPH – A new Healthier Living Workshop series begins May 15 and continues Wednesdays through June 19 from 6-8:30 p.m. at the Chelsea Health Center.
Healthier Living Workshops are six-week classes for people with chronic conditions and their caregivers. They are offered for free – along with chronic pain workshops – throughout the year by Gifford as part of the Vermont Blueprint for Health.
The workshops are led by trained facilitators and are designed to help improve strength, flexibility and endurance. They also provide tips for managing medications, eating healthier and improving communications with family and friends.
The goal is to help people better manage their health conditions and deal with the frustration, fatigue and pain that can accompany a chronic disease.
Participants also benefit from meeting other people with chronic conditions, learning how they cope and enjoying the camaraderie of knowing that they are not alone in how they’re feeling, notes Gifford workshop coordinator Susan Delattre.
According to the Vermont Department of Health, past participants report increased energy, reduced stress, more self-confidence and fewer doctors’ visits as a result.
Gifford Healthier Living Workshop participants have called the series “very relaxed and you really felt free to express yourself” and said they most enjoyed “meeting people who understand what I am going through.”
To register or for more information, call Zach Bean at Gifford’s Blueprint office at the Kingwood Health Center at (802) 728-7100, ext. 6.
The workshop will take place at the Chelsea Health Center at 356 Route 110 in Chelsea.
RANDOLPH – Gifford Medical Center, in collaboration with the Vermont chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Clara Martin Center, is hosting a May 1 free educational program called “Living with Bipolar Disorder.”
The 5:30-7:30 p.m. event in Gifford’s Conference Center features a film by the same title with a discussion to follow. The 43-minute film features an introduction by actor Joe Pantoliano, a review of the illness by clinical expert Dr. Joe Calabrese of Case Medical Center in Cleveland and stories of people who have bipolar disorder or have been affected by it. Continue reading →
From left, Menig Extended Care Facility licensed nursing assistants Loretta Cushing and Darlene Doyle and licensed practical nurse Anne Murphy gather around nursing home resident Della Allen, 99, on Wednesday. The nursing home at Gifford Medical Center in Randolph was recognized among the nation’s 2013 Best Nursing Homes.
RANDOLPH – For a third consecutive year, the Menig Extended Care Facility at Gifford Medical Center has been named among the nation’s very best nursing homes by U.S. News & World Report.
Looking at Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services data regarding health inspection, level of nursing staffing and quality of care for nearly 16,000 nursing homes nationwide, U.S. News & World created and released a “2013 Best Nursing Homes” list on Tuesday. Menig, along with seven other Vermont nursing homes, made the list for its “five-star” (the maximum available) rating.
Menig was also recognized in 2011 and 2012 and was named among the top 39 nursing homes in the nation last year.
“I am so proud of the Menig staff. We work in a place that is clean, well maintained, has great food and a dedicated pool of volunteers who love the elderly. Varied activities keep the residents’ quality of life high. This teamwork and our nursing staff’s commitment to care are what make Menig such a high-quality home,” said Cindy Richardson, Menig director of nursing. “This honor is wonderful recognition of the work we do on behalf of our residents every day.”
The U.S. News list is created to help consumers find quality nursing home care. Homes are given between one and five stars in the rankings.
“Fewer than one out of every five nursing homes got an overall rating of five stars,” said Avery Comarow, U.S. News health rankings editor. “All seniors deserve the best nursing care available, and these are homes that merit their consideration by demonstrating such high quality.”
Menig is a 30-bed nursing home attached to Gifford Medical Center in Randolph. The medical center is currently amid the permitting process to move the nursing to Randolph Center where it would become the anchor of a senior living community. The new community would include independent and assisted living as well, helping to meet a significant community need for more senior care and living options. The move would also free up space at Gifford to create industry-standard single inpatient rooms (rather than shared two-person rooms) for patient safety and privacy.
Learn more about the nursing home rankings here. Also, you can learn more about Menig online at www.giffordmed.org.