WCH Patient Stories
Why I left a large system and CHOSE WCH for ALL my HEALTHCARE NEEDS
After her heart attack in 2017, Diana wasn’t taking any chances with her cardiovascular health. While traveling in May 2021, her Apple smartwatch notified her that she was showing signs of atrial fibrillation (AFib), or irregular heartbeat. Diana contacted her cardiologist in Cleveland as soon as she returned home to Medina, Ohio.
Unfortunately, the cardiologist was not available for an appointment for many weeks. At her daughter’s recommendation, Diana made an appointment at Wooster Heart Group at Wooster Community Hospital (WCH). Within just a few days, she was able to see Dr. Cyril Ofori and discuss her AFib concerns.
“He’s just wonderful,” Diana says.
Although no longer in AFib at the time of her appointment, Diana did go into AFib again the next day. Dr. Ofori met her at the WCH emergency room, where he was able to monitor her and determine the best course of action.
Diana has been particularly concerned about blockage around her heart. “I saw four cardiologists before coming to WCH, and [Dr. Ofori] was the only one that assured me that I would be okay,” Diana says. The other cardiologists knew about the blockage, but “they wouldn’t even address it,” she says.
Under Dr. Ofori’s care, Diana is currently on the appropriate medication for AFib, and is getting regular checkups. She has not had another episode of AFib since June 2021.
Thanks to her experience with Dr. Ofori and the WCH staff, Diana has moved all her healthcare, including her family doctor and gynecologist, to Bloomington Medical Services, an affiliate of Wooster Community Hospital Health System. Her previous family doctor with a large health system in Cleveland often did not have appointments available for up to six months.
Diana became concerned about her husband’s heart health when he was symptomatic and became winded walking up the stairs. She knew he needed a cardiologist appointment soon, and Dr. Ofori was quickly available. He performed a heart catheterization and confirmed the need for urgent bypass surgery. “I attribute
my husband’s improved quality of life to Dr. Ofori,” Diana says. “I just feel that if we hadn’t gone to him, my husband would possibly have had a heart attack.”
Navigating a larger health system can get overwhelming, which is not a problem at WCH. “It’s a hometown hospital,” Diana says. “I just feel more comfortable there.” Being able to see a physician promptly with a very competent office staff is so important.
In addition, “the staff has made the most impact on us. I don’t care who I talk to, everyone is so pleasant and nice,” she says. “[Dr. Ofori] and the staff at Wooster Heart Group and Wooster Community Hospital, you just can’t beat it.”
As Cathy Csanyi found herself “crawling” up thirteen stairs from the downstairs family room in her Jeromesville home, she realized something had to change. “I’m stubborn,” she said. “But my knee pain was affecting the quality of my life; I knew I had to
do something.” That “something” was a bilateral total knee replacement, performed by Dr. Joseph Borruso of Bloomington Orthopedic Specialists. After three weeks -- one week of waiting for the swelling to
heal and two weeks of intense in-home therapy -- Cathy walked into HealthPoint for rehab without assistance. She worked with Sean Hartzler during her recovery, whom she describes as “professional, friendly and phenomenal." In fact, Cathy said that everything was “great” about her experience with Wooster Community
Hospital (WCH) and HealthPoint. “Dr. Borruso and the entire staff at WCH were wonderful,” she says. “The quality of care was as good, if not better, then other facilities. I can’t say enough good about them. If your quality of life is suffering, don’t wait as long as I did to do something."
Sometimes healthcare providers need care themselves. That was the case for Bonnie Taylor, a nurse with Milltown Family Physicians. After Bonnie noticed a suspicious lump, her primary care provider Amy Jolliff, MD, of Milltown Family Physicians, ordered a mammogram and ultrasound. She then referred Bonnie to Anthony Calabretta, MD, of WCH Surgical Associates, for a biopsy that confirmed breast cancer. Bonnie considered cancer care at the Cleveland Clinic. Dr. Calabretta, however, recommended Joseph Prah, MD, an oncologist with Wooster Cancer Care at Wooster Community Hospital (WCH), close to Bonnie’s home.
“Dr. Prah introduced himself and said, ‘I’m from Ghana. If you don’t understand something I say, please ask me to repeat it,’” Bonnie says. “That set me so much at ease, that he wanted to make sure that I understood everything he was telling me."
“Dr. Prah got me on the right medications the first time,” Bonnie says. “After one treatment, [the tumor] was already noticeably shrunk. I can’t say enough about him. He saved my life."
WCH is affiliated with The James Cancer Network at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute. WCH Cancer Center provides high-quality cancer treatment and expertise to Wayne County, including an Infusion Center with 17 wellness suites, as well as imaging, surgical, and financial counseling services. “I have nothing but good things to say,” Bonnie says. “All the nurses and staff at the Cancer Center and in the Infusion Center, they have been fabulous.”
Years of construction work took their toll on John Thompson’s neck.
“I had horrible pain that went down my left shoulder every day,” Thompson recalled. “I tried physical therapy, but it didn’t help. I realized that I needed to see a specialist.”
A member of his church referred him to Dr. Marcus Newton, an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in spinal reconstructive surgery. Dr. Newton was new to the Wooster Community Hospital Health System, although he had performed more than 1,000 cervical (neck) fusions over more than 30 years.
An MRI determined that fusion was needed to eliminate Thompson’s constant pain. “Dr. Newton has a terrific sense of humor and really made me feel comfortable,” Thompson said. “He explained the procedure and answered all of my questions.” Three months later, Thompson said his pain is gone and he is 95-percent back to normal.
“You can’t even tell where my surgery was,” he said. “Everything played out just how Dr. Newton said it would.”
"Everything happened really quickly," says Thomas Lentz, a float nurse with Ohio's LifeCare Hospice. It started with a fever and extreme fatigue. “All I wanted to do was sleep.”
When Thomas experienced changes to his breathing, his spouse, Rolland, insisted on going to the WCH emergency department. Testing confirmed that he was positive for COVID-19.
The WCH emergency team quickly determined that Thomas had pneumonia. "Their response was great," says Thomas. He was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), where he spent 24 days, 16 of them on a ventilator, fighting for his life.
"I don't remember those days," he says. "I had these dreams of people coming in and out and checking on me. They tell me it was touch and go for a while."
"I woke up [after being on the ventilator], realized I was in the hospital, and wanted to get up and walk out! At first it wasn't sinking in how long I'd been there and how sick I was," says Thomas. His nurses patiently explained the situation to him.
An entire team had been working to save his life during his ICU stay. "Thomas’ recovery can be attributed to a specialized and cohesive team that included: physicians; nurses; patient care assistants; respiratory therapists; physical, occupational, and speech therapists; dietitians; case managers; social workers; pharmacists; chaplain; and Thomas’ family,” says Karen Steiner, Intensive Care Unit Director. “The team met each day to discuss Thomas’ progress, challenges and goals of care."
Part of the ICU protocol includes a detailed diary of a patient's journey. ICU nurse Danielle Knoble (Dani), implemented the daily diary concept at WCH to help keep patients and families updated on their condition and ongoing care. Even when Thomas could not communicate, the diary allowed staff to develop and nurture a personal connection with their patient. "Research has shown that ICU diaries reduce patients' post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression following discharge," says Steiner.
Even though there were visiting restrictions due to the pandemic, hospital staff were able to use technology to keep Thomas' family involved with his daily care. This included using an iPad for face-to-face interactions. Rolland was pleased with the staff daily reports and was able to keep the rest of Thomas’ family and friends up to date.
Thomas eventually was transferred from the ICU to the hospital's medical surgical unit for further recovery, says Stacey Beun, Director of Medical Surgery. "We were able to provide him with a large corner room with lots of windows for a change of scenery," she said.
Dr. Catherine Sementi, Physician Director of the Wooster Community Hospital Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit, cared for Thomas prior to his discharge. She was impressed with the ICU team's dedication and holistic approach. "At Wooster Community Hospital, patients are treated like people and not a diagnosis, and the staff work not only with the patient, but with the family," says Sementi.
"Our staff felt honored to be able to be a part of Thomas' recovery," said Beun.
That intersection of patient, hospital, family and community is crucial in challenging times. "The community has been very supportive of the hospital," says Dr. Sementi.
Thomas credits the quality care he received at the hospital, along with his loved ones’ prayers and support, for his recovery. "The caregivers and staff – everyone was great," he says, grateful to be back in the familiar comfort of his own home.
"The staff was overjoyed to be a part of Thomas’ care and recovery and to see him return home after such a long, critical illness," says Steiner.
Bob Grover likes to say he went from “working on soles to working on souls.” As a farrier turned pastor and hospice chaplain, it was the “soles” that finally did him in. Twenty-five years of squatting under horses and a bad auto accident 10 years ago had left his right hip in shambles. But after Dr. Joseph Borruso replaced his hip, Bob credits working as a horseshoer in adverse conditions for his high pain tolerance that aided his recovery. Life had come full circle and this side of surgery “is so much better,” says Bob.
Like many joint replacement candidates, Bob lived with pain and denial for several years before deciding on surgery. After years of working on hard surfaces, jogging for fitness and contending with the aftereffects of the accident, Bob found himself struggling to participate in “normal activities.” In January of 2019, while vacationing with the family, Bob realized he was spending as much time in his hotel room as he was with the family at Disney World because of the pain. It hurt to climb stairs. It was agonizing getting out of a chair after sitting for a while. He needed to lean on the shopping cart for support while at the grocery store. He couldn’t throw his leg over his bicycle anymore. Enough was enough. Bob contacted Dr. Borruso.
At first, Bob thought he was just dealing with lower leg pain. But after injections and physical therapy didn’t help, an x-ray showed the hip had deteriorated. “Wear and tear is the most common reason for hip replacements,” said Dr. Borruso. However, “inflammatory or traumatic conditions can contribute.”
Dr. Borruso operated on Bob and replaced his worn-out hip with a “ceramic component." The wear rate for this on the plastic polymer linear has been shown to be the lowest.
Bob had therapy at home for two weeks and then replaced the walker with a cane and continued his therapy at HealthPoint. Here he worked mainly with Brian Musselman, PTA. “We had a blast,” said Bob. “Brian made therapy fun. But I was tickled to deal with all of them.”
Bob took a liking to Dr. Borruso as well. “He was very accommodating and congenial and answered any questions I had. He explained everything and gave me my best-case and worst-case scenario.” Fortunately for Bob, because of his high pain tolerance and work ethic, he was best-case scenario.
In just over a month, he was given the “all clear” sign and had no limitations on his physical activity. “I really have to give Dr. Borruso kudos,” he says. “I experienced a great turnaround and recaptured normal life again.”
Dr. Borruso said Bob’s recovery and turnaround is typical for a hip replacement patient. “Weight bearing is started immediately, and patients start physical therapy the day of surgery. Normal activity can be expected after one has recovered. With the advancement of Robotic technology acquired by Wooster Community Hospital, implant positioning and leg length can be accurately reproduced for every patient’s individual needs.” Bob’s advice to anyone experiencing pain. “Get it looked at. Don’t prolong the agony by thinking it will get better on its own. Things are so much better this side of surgery.”
"I want people to know about this program," said Jodi. "Without it, I probably would've ended up in the hospital. Or worse. It's a lifesaver." The area resident openly and generously shared her personal journey in order to raise awareness of the difficulties and stigma faced by those experiencing mental illness; and to help spread the word about Wooster Community Hospital's Behavioral Health Outpatient programs.
"I have high blood pressure, so I take medication for that," she said. "If my brain doesn't make enough serotonin, there are medications for that too. Let's erase the stigma of mental illness."
Jodi came to the program with severe depression. "I was absolutely miserable," she shared. "My medications weren't working. I didn't want to hurt myself, yet I didn't care if I lived or died." She explained that the experience of mental illness goes well beyond the physical. "There are the things you keep inside that you think no one understands," said Jodi. "They understand it here [at WCH]."
She described the program as overflowing with kindness from the moment she arrived for her intake appointment. "I was scared, but they were so happy to see me and so kind. They talked with me and not at me. They emanated positivity and hope. I felt safe."
Being treated with respect made a big impact on Jodi. "I battle depression and anxiety," she said. "I wasn't ever judged for that or made to feel less than." She explained that the program teaches positive coping skills that continue to carry her through her days.
Treatment at the Behavioral Health Outpatient Program utilizes both group process and individual counseling. Clinical Manager, Stephanie Freeman, explained that the groups include a lot of experiential,
hands-on activities, called adventure therapy. "We have a lot of fun in therapy," said Freeman. "It is a unique aspect of our program." The groups offer participants an opportunity to practice new real life skills and coping mechanisms. Jodi was surprised and delighted by the playfulness of the groups and found it to be a productive and memorable way to discover and learn.
Much care also goes into discharge planning to insure a smooth transition back to work and family. "I was very nervous about returning to my job," said Jodi. "They helped me make a plan."
Statistics gathered by the program based on measurable diagnostic criteria consistently point to a high level of success. "You get individual counseling, group, psychiatry, nursing and family support under one roof," said Brandon Massullo, Director of the Behavioral Health Outpatient Programs.
For Jodi, her experiences with the WCH Behavioral Health Outpatient Program continue to be a big part of her life. "I carry my maintenance plan with me and refer to it when I'm having a bad day."
Additionally, the program brings the participants close in a way that often fosters lasting friendships. Jodi regularly meets some of her fellow group members for coffee. "It's so wonderful to have someone you can talk to who understands what you've been through."
Jodi hopes that sharing her experience may encourage others to seek help. "If just one person reads this and calls, it was worth it," she said. "I love this program. I was seeing only the negative instead of the positive. They helped me to change my mindset and turn that around. I can't stress enough to anyone out there–there is no need to suffer," said Jodi. "You can get help. You just need to be honest, open-minded and willing and this program works. I'm in such a good place now."
Anyone can schedule a no cost intake interview with the Wooster Community Hospital Behavioral Health Outpatient Program; referral from a physician is not necessary.
When Dr. Christopher Ranney tells his patients to start making healthier choices NOW and not wait for a crisis in their lives, he speaks from experience. The 47-year-old family physician experienced a heart attack while running last November. Now he emphasizes prevention managing diet, stress and medications in the hopes that others won’t have to go through what he did.
With a mixture of disbelief and calm acceptance, Dr. Ranney remembers every detail of the day he suffered his heart attack. He and his running partner were well into their 5 am seven-mile loop when Dr. Ranney noticed his throat was sore, the air seemed cold and there was a burning in his chest.
On their way back up Oak Hill Road, Dr. Ranney was out of energy and stopped running, something he had
never done before. While his running partner sprinted back to the car to come back to pick-up his friend. Dr. Ranney flagged down a “Good Samaritan” for a ride. Meanwhile his running partner sent a text to Dr. Ranney’s wife about his medical concerns. The result was an immediate trip to the Wooster Community Hospital ER.
At the time Dr. Ranney didn’t think his physical problems related to his heart. He had none of the usual symptoms like nausea, dizziness or shortness of breath.
Even though his initial vitals were normal, the doctors evaluating him wisely ran a second EKG, which showed he was having a heart attack. Within minutes he was in the cath lab where interventional cardiologist, Dr. Daniel Newton, implanted a stent in his main coronary artery.
“It was literally 45 minutes from stopping my run to being in the cath lab,” said Dr. Ranney.
“Having the ability to do emergent acute angioplasty here at Wooster Community Hospital markedly improves the chance of survival from a myocardial infarction and minimizes the irreversible damage that may occur from a heart attack,” said Dr. Newton. “Without this program here, patients would have to be emergently transported to Akron, Canton or downtown Cleveland, causing a delay with intercepting heart attacks and increasing the chance of death. By placing Dr. Ranney’s stent so quickly, he virtually had no damage to his heart.”
Dr. Ranney’s heart attack was somewhat of an anomaly. He didn’t have alarmingly high cholesterol, was a healthy eater, exercised and had no family history of heart disease.
Dr. Newton agrees that Dr. Ranney’s symptoms were not the norm. “What is vital is that Dr. Ranney identified
there was something wrong going on. He knew that heart attacks don’t always present in the traditional way
and he was wise to seek out medical attention as soon as possible. Around here we go by the motto ‘if in doubt, rule it out.’ Come to the emergency room as Dr. Ranney did and make sure everything is okay.”
Today, Dr. Ranney’s lifestyle reflects this scare. He’s on a diet of “twigs and berries,” he jokes, which he translates as “reducing the amount of sugar and refined carbohydrates and increasing the amount of Omega 3’s, whole grains and vegetables.”
Dr. Ranney also has a new appreciation for safety and disease prevention. He encourages his patients at Milltown Family Physicians to eat healthier, practice stress management and consider prevention medications. He acknowledges that “taking one medication to lower my cholesterol would have been better than having a heart attack and now being on five medications.” If you run, Dr. Ranney advises, “Run with a partner, carry identification and carry a phone,” something he did not have with him the morning of his heart attack.
He also has a new appreciation for health care as seen from the patient’s perspective. “I really appreciated the individual care I received,” he said. The cardiac rehab program at WCH transitioned him back to normal activity and exercise. “They tailored the program to fit my level of fitness.”
Gratitude is his new attitude. He and his wife, Christy, are so thankful for their “church family, coworkers,
neighbors, friends and Wooster community,” that supported them during this time. And they are thankful for each new day.
“Don’t wait for something bad to happen to your health in order to start making lifestyle changes. You are only given one body, so why not take care of it.” he says.
Colon cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosis in both men and women in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. More than 100,000 Americans may be diagnosed with the disease this year alone. The scariest fact, however, is that colon cancer usually has no early warnings.
“Colon cancer, in its early stages, when it’s most easily treated, is largely asymptomatic,” said Dr. Anthony Calabretta, of WCH Surgical Associates.
That was certainly true for Nashville, Ohio, resident Dan Burgett. When Dan underwent an emergency appendectomy last spring, Dr. Calabretta also suggested a routine colonoscopy. Dan credits this decision with saving his life, as the test revealed stage III colon cancer.
The findings began a treatment regimen that started with an IV infusion, 13 days of pills, one week off and then repeat - times four. One year later, a CT scan revealed
that Dan was cancer-free. This may make it sound easy, but Dan says there were many dark moments and low-energy days.
Dan credits his oncologist, Dr. Joseph Prah; Certified Nurse Practitioner Tyra Schlabach; his wife, Jenny, who was his rock; and Jesus, his Lord and Savior, for helping him through the experience.
“I never felt like a number at WCH and Wooster Cancer Care,” said Dan. “They were all so caring and thorough.” Jenny, an RN in Progressive Care, says she is grateful they could stay
local for treatment. This allowed her to keep working while also helping care for Dan.
Now that it’s over, Dan has some advice for everyone. “Even if you feel good, get a colonoscopy. It’s not a death sentence anymore if you catch it early. I never thought I would be
here telling this story.”
“If Dan’s cancer had gone undetected longer, it likely would have spread to the liver and decreased his likelihood of survival,” said Dr. Calabretta. “It is very important to start screening for colon cancer as soon as recommended.”
To schedule your screening colonoscopy call 330.202.5686.
Anxiety and depression - felt lonely until Jeanne found community through WCH’s Behavioral Health Services.
Jeanne (not pictured) had a wonderful life, with a loving husband, kids, and grandchildren. She was eager to help others, whatever they asked of her.
But under the surface, she was dealing with depression, anxiety, and unhealthy boundaries. She struggled to get up in the morning, and sometimes just sat in bed, staring at the walls.
“I spent probably a month crying almost every day,” she says.
Referred by her family doctor and encouraged by her husband, Jeanne started an Intensive Outpatient Program through the Behavioral Health Services at Wooster Community Hospital Health System.
“My first day, I was greeted by the receptionist with a big smile, and such warmth that I was drawn in,” Jeanne says.
Three days a week, Jeanne attended group sessions that allowed participants to “check in” with each other and share their insights. She also had individual therapy sessions each week and medication management through the department’s psychiatrist.
She struggled to open up to her group at first, but soon learned how much they all had in common. “It helps to share because people might throw their two cents in, they might give you a different perspective that you didn’t even think about.”
Over time, Jeanne learned to set healthy boundaries and take better care of herself. In group and individual sessions, she learned tools to manage her anxiety and “face things head-on.”
Jeanne cannot say enough good things about the WCH behavioral health staff. “They’re there to listen, they’re there to help, they’re there for everything,” she says. “They just changed my life.”
When making the personal decision to have reconstructive surgery after a breast cancer diagnosis, three patients explain why they chose Dr. James Slaby as their surgeon.
“I think every woman that has a breast cancer diagnosis should have an evaluation by a plastic surgeon to discuss her breast reconstruction options,” said Dr. James Slaby, plastic and reconstructive surgeon at Wooster Community Hospital (WCH) Health System. Dr. Slaby is known for his kind and caring manner with breast cancer patients who are seeking reconstruction.
“Plastic surgery is a visual specialty that combines surgical expertise with artistic excellence,” Dr. Slaby explained. “Because of my attention to detail, I am never satisfied and I always strive to be better as there is always room for improvement with both current techniques as well as with future breakthroughs in technique.”
Dr. Slaby is also meticulous in making clear that a patient’s first priority is to take care of the cancer. Next, he stresses that whether or not to have reconstructive surgery is a very personal decision.
“[Breast reconstruction] can help to soften the blow of the emotional trauma associated with a breast cancer diagnosis.” Whether or not to have the surgery is a decision involving many factors. “The important takeaway that I give patients,” said Dr. Slaby, “Is if you want breast reconstruction, you deserve it.”
Christine Schafrath is a patient of Dr. Slaby’s and has experienced firsthand his expertise and his personable bedside manner.
“He made me feel so at ease,” said Christine. “He’s an incredible doctor.” After four years and numerous surgeries, Christine definitely knows her reconstructive surgeon.
Christine’s journey with breast cancer began in 2013 with a lumpectomy and radiation. She had hoped it would end there. However, in 2016, she found herself facing a double mastectomy.
Several surgeries were required to complete the reconstruction. “Dr. Slaby did a great job through all the hard times,” said Christine. “He makes you feel like he has all the time in the world for you.”
Another of Dr. Slaby’s patients, Cyndy Maglio’s breast cancer story began in 2010. It started out in a familiar way – Cyndy was used to being sent for a recheck after her yearly mammogram. It was always nothing. This time? “I was told I needed to do a biopsy just to make sure,” she said.
The results came back and Cyndy was shocked at a diagnosis of invasive ductal carcinoma. “I went religiously to get checked because everyone in my family has had cancer.”
When Cyndy received her diagnosis, one of her sisters was being treated for non-Hodgkin lymphoma. She had already lost two sisters, her parents, and a grandparent to cancer.
“At this point in time, all I could think about was that my mom had died of breast cancer that had gone to the brain,” Cyndy explained. “Back then, there was no reconstruction and I had always told myself that if I ever had anything, I would do something about it.”
As soon as she discovered her cancer would require a mastectomy, Cyndy began to plan for reconstructive surgery. “I really wanted to stay here in the area, yet they insisted it would be good to get a second opinion.”
She traveled to Cleveland for the consult. “It felt very cold to me. It just didn’t feel comforting.”
In contrast, Cyndy described her first visit with Dr. Slaby. “I probably looked like a scared rabbit,” she laughed. “It was like they took my hand and guided me through the whole thing. Dr. Slaby was so calming. He told me what to expect. He described everything that would happen. If I didn’t understand, he explained it further.”
Another patient found comfort in the surgeon’s impromptu humor. When Melissa Wise found a lump in 2009, she was referred to Dr. Slaby for reconstruction. According to Melissa, Dr. Slaby has his own unique style of helping his patients relax. “He’ll make you laugh,” explained Melissa. “He has a nickname – the rapping doctor. He does whatever he can to put you at ease!”
Part of Dr. Slaby’s knack of putting patients at ease is the fact that he encourages patients to contact him with any and every question. “I will help them decipher the information that can sometimes feel like information overload,” he said.
Dr. Slaby is a shining example of the personal connection that is pervasive with the care
“When I woke up from my surgery,” Cyndy shared, “He was there. He treated me with such kindness and respect. He is one of those gems you find in the middle of a haystack – a kind, caring man.”
Melissa Wise has been appreciative of her entire WCH Health System experience. “Everybody has been so wonderful,” she said. “They are so kind. They helped get me back on my feet.”
With the help of rehab and regular doctor visits, David Fleming was able to vastly improve his lung function through WCH Pulmonary Services.
It turns out those commercials were right – when you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), it does “feel like an elephant is sitting on your chest,” said David Fleming, of Rittman. And David should know; he’s been fighting that diagnosis for the past seven years. With grit, determination and the help of some “fantastic Wooster Community Hospital (WCH) Health System doctors,” David has turned what was a “death sentence” into a story of hope.
David, who owned and operated Top Notch Painting for 25 years, first noticed symptoms of the disease in 2010. While he used to climb 40-foot ladders with ease, he began to feel “winded” when he got to the top, and it progressed to where he didn’t know if he had the energy to get back down.
“I’d have to sit under a tree for a while to recover,” he said.
Thinking it was a heart problem, David got checked out and was a bit surprised to get the COPD diagnosis. In the next few years, “it moved progressively and swiftly,” said David and by 2014 he was on oxygen full-time. His symptoms continued to worsen and he was assigned palliative and then hospice care.
In 2016, he ended up with pneumonia in the WCH emergency room, but strangely enough, this is where he ended up with hope. He met Dr. Bruce Arthur and Nurse Practitioner Christina Muller and they changed his life.
They worked with his medications and put him on a nutritional program so he gained weight, which allowed him to take part in the pulmonary rehabilitation program. In six months, his lung function had improved to where he qualified to be put on the waiting list for a double lung transplant.
“David listened to our advice and put forth 100 percent effort to control his own health,” said Christina. “He has been compliant with medications, communicated early when he noticed symptoms of respiratory illness, and committed to pulmonary rehab. His success is an inspiration to all, and the credit completely belongs to him.”
His last pulmonary function test (PFT) showed improvement “by leaps and bounds,” said Christina. “Our goal is typically to maintain lung function, but in this case he had seen several improvements. Back in 2015, David was using a wheelchair to get around; he didn’t have the breath to walk even short distances. He was debilitated. He now has improved his functioning to actually exercising above and beyond normal activities of daily living.”
Dr. Arthur is optimistic about David’s future as well. “When patients are actively participating in their own care, great things can happen.”
David was the perfect patient for pulmonary rehabilitation in that “he had a lot of self-determination and the desire to get better,” said Jim Freehahn, Clinical Manager of Cardiac-Pulmonary Rehabilitation. “Pulmonary Rehabilitation is a long-term commitment and you have to be dedicated and compliant with the program.”
The program is 60 minutes long, consisting of 30 minutes of aerobic exercise and 30 minutes of educational instruction three times a week.”
“The education was just as helpful as the exercises,” said David. “They taught me how to breathe, relaxation techniques, how to handle stress and gave me nutritional advice.”
“These rehabilitation programs don’t make a lot of money for the hospital but they’re crucial for a patient’s health,” said Jim. “I give the hospital administration a lot of credit for offering these services. It’s very unusual for a hospital of this size to offer all the programs we do.”
Since opening a practice at WCH a little more than three years ago, Pulmonary Medicine of Wooster has “tried to do things a little differently,” said Dr. Arthur. “We have 30-minute appointments to facilitate education of patients. We attempt to empower patients through education to take control of their health care. We don’t focus on the past, just actions that can improve health moving forward.”
“We’ve seen a lot of success stories like David’s,” said Jim, and “we’ve seen a lot of successful transplants. It’s a tough regimen and you have to be committed to following through. A transplant patient will do pulmonary rehabilitation before and after their surgical procedure, and it requires specific protection such as anti-rejection medications, but David’s determination and compliance make him an excellent candidate.”
David credits WCH for saving his life. “I never felt like my doctors saw it as just a job,” he said. “I went through most of their departments and I was never treated with anything but respect. Before I found WCH, I was going downhill fast. I thought I was dead. Now I have hope. I have the best doctors and health care I could ask for and I owe them everything.”
After a stroke and multiple surgeries, WCH’s Transitional Care Unit helped Bob Schmidt get the compassionate care and therapy he needed to get back to his daily life.
The body has an amazing ability to heal itself. The liver and intestinal linings regenerate and the skin replaces itself daily. Yet, with certain injuries, the body becomes its own worst enemy.
This was the case in Bob Schmidt’s life after he suffered a stroke at the age of 53 and found himself in a fight against his own body. Now, a “miraculous little pump” that drips Baclofen into his spinal cord is letting his muscles relax and work with, not against, his body.
Bob’s story began last March, when the Wooster native was living a very full life. He enjoyed his job as a salesman for Dex Media and participated in many hobbies, including biking, bowling and playing soccer, tennis and golf. When he wasn’t participating in sports himself, he could be found cheering for Ohio’s many sports teams, often courtside.
March of 2018 didn’t seem unusual except Bob had what he thought was a severe case of GERD. “It felt like really bad heartburn,” he said.
The next day, he collapsed at home. What Bob thought was heartburn turned out to be an aortic dissection, and he was airlifted to an out-of-town facility. As the helicopter blades whirled in his ears, he was unaware how his life was about to change, and had no idea that he wouldn’t set foot in his home again for eight months.
“Bob underwent a 9-hour surgery to repair the aorta,” said his wife, Brenda. He spent the next few days recovering in Cardiac ICU, closely monitored. Then, Bob suffered another blow.
“He stopped responding to us, and tests revealed he had suffered an ischemic stroke,” said Brenda.
His doctor recommended removing part of his skull to relieve pressure on the brain. Brenda and other close family members made the difficult decision to proceed, even though his chest cavity was still open and healing. “We really had no choice,” Brenda said.
The next month was a blur of surgeries, a temporary tracheotomy and respirator, and waiting for his body to stabilize. After a few months in an inpatient rehabilitation center, Bob was moved to the Transitional Care Unit at Wooster Community Hospital. Bob was never so glad to see Wooster.
“If I had known that Wooster Community Hospital offered some of the services that they do, I would have come back sooner,” he said. “They have been fantastic to work with. I would have loved to have been closer to home.”
Here, he had to relearn how to stand, walk and use his muscles. He also met physical therapist Kelly Yarman and Dr. Ayman Basali, a pain management specialist — two godsends who changed his life.
“A stroke can affect the brain and block messages between the brain and muscles, which hinders the recovery process,” says Dr. Basali. This was the case with Bob. His muscle spasticity caused muscle stiffness and tightness that interfered with his ability to walk.
“I had reached a plateau in PT and Kelli suggested I look at a Baclofen pump,” Bob said.
In November, Dr. Basali inserted the pump under Bob’s abdominal wall. The pump began dispensing small doses of Baclofen to a targeted site in Bob’s spinal cord.
“It’s an effective way to deliver the medication and can usually be given at lower doses than oral medication, which reduces side effects as well,” said Dr. Basali, currently the only doctor in the area who performs this procedure.
“Our goal was to get Bob off of oral meds to minimize side effects like drowsiness and fatigue,” Dr. Basali says. “Intrathecal therapy is permanent; however the pump will need to be changed every 5-7 years by a minor outpatient procedure.”
Bob was finally able to come home in late September. He remembers it felt “fantastic” to cross the threshold of his home after being away for so long. He is slowly feeling the Baclofen relaxing his muscles. Kurt Gerschutz, his WCH Home Health physical therapist, works with him three times a week for an hour and a half. Bob is still working on walking normally. In particular, he has to retrain his left foot not to cross in front of his right foot.
He is working with a speech and occupational therapist as well. While it’s all hard work, the “fantastic” staff at WCH and a “miracle” drug pump, gives Bob hope he will get his mobility and independence back. And he will never again take one day for granted.
This past Thanksgiving, Bob celebrated his 54th birthday. While the past year has been challenging, Bob says there is much to be thankful for. He is grateful for his wife, who has been a stalwart at his side fighting for him the whole way. Family and friends have offered prayers, visits, meals and fundraisers. Slowly but surely, Bob is making progress. “I’m alive, I’m progressing and I have hope,” he said.
Dr. Basali is pleased with Bob’s response to the treatment. “Intrathecal therapy can also be utilized for other medications for various conditions,” he said. “Wooster Community Hospital has always been supportive of new and advanced evidence based treatment modalities.”
Patients Terry Schenck and John Estill are thankful to have a Cardiac Device Clinic nearby, as WCH is the only facility in this area to offer such services.
The heart is an amazing organ. Every 60 seconds, it pumps about five quarts of blood through a system of vessels that if stretched out, would be over 60,000 miles long. It beats about 100,000 times a day and continues its stealthy but steady work day and night.
Aging or heart disease can damage your heart’s ability to regulate its pace. “A problem with the heart’s natural pacemaker or the wires carrying the impulses can cause a slow heart rate and can be a sign that your heart needs a little help,” said Sue Raber, RN, who has managed the Cardiac Device Clinic at the Wooster Heart Group since 2013. Sue is specialty trained in defibrillators and pacers and her expertise ensures that area residents no longer have to go out-of-the-area for pacemakers, implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) and follow-up care.
These implantable devices need follow-up care, said Sue. “One to two weeks after the device is implanted, patients need to return for an incision and device check and for follow-up instructions. Every three to six months after that, the devices need to be routinely checked so adjustments can be made, if necessary.
“We offer these services five days a week,” said Sue. “Patients have the choice to be seen personally or we can monitor their devices remotely using a box that transmits information from their pacemaker to a secure website through cellular towers or Wi-Fi. We check the devices to ensure proper function and to optimize for the patient’s needs.”
And Terry Schenck, of Wooster, is sure glad the Cardiac Device Clinic was there for him this past year. Without the pacemaker Dr. Cyril Ofori implanted into his chest last year, he’s pretty sure he wouldn’t have lived to see the new year.
Terry, age 67, who has a history of longevity in his family, noticed his heart rate kept going down during the fall and he was feeling dizzy. When his heart rate decreased to 30 beats per minute he called Dr. Paul Moodispaw’s office and they scheduled a visit. A few hours later they called him back. “We need to see you tomorrow,” he recalled them saying.
They scheduled surgery for a pacemaker to be implanted by Dr. Ofori. Terry had the surgery and went home the next day. “Terry was a good candidate for a pacemaker because pacemakers generally treat slow heart rates or uncontrolled heart rates,” said Dr. Ofori.
“Immediately I felt great,” Terry said. “It was just a 45-minute procedure under local anesthesia. I was awake and joking with the staff before and after the procedure.” Four days later, it was no laughing matter.
Terry and his wife were enjoying seafood at an area restaurant when he had an allergic reaction to the seafood. “I was shaking, started swelling up and had hives all over.” He went straight to the ER at WCH, where they diagnosed his allergic reaction and treated him. His blood pressure had dropped. “If I didn’t have the pacemaker in, I don’t think I would be alive today,” he said. “The pacemaker kept my heart rate up until I could recover.” He is very grateful to Dr. Moodispaw for recognizing his heart problem and getting him sorted out.
Today, Terry is back to feeling great and taking care of his 15-acre farm. Chopping wood, mowing, and acting as a handyman for a nearby veterinarian is his workout plan. “I don’t do treadmills,” he said. “I’ll never use one, but I do enjoy keeping in shape working on the farm. I hope to go through quite a few more (pacemaker) batteries.”
John Estill of Millersburg is another patient who is grateful for the acute heart care he was able to receive locally. The retired systems analyst felt great until he hit his 60s. “Then my health started going downhill,” he said. He was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2001 and shortness of breath followed. A longtime smoker, he gave up smoking and did fairly well until a heart catheterization in 2003 revealed stenosis in his heart passageways. He had quadruple bypass surgery in 2003 and continued to be monitored over the next few years by Dr. Ofori.
In 2015, Dr. Ofori, who noticed John’s “heart muscle was very weak after his heart attack and bypass surgery,” suggested it was time for an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD). Two bouts of pneumonia finally convinced John to get the implant. He had it implanted locally by Dr. Emile Daoud from The Ohio State University. Dr. Daoud is chief of electrophysiology at OSU and collaborates with the Wooster Heart Group physicians. He has been implanting defibrillators at WCH for more than seven years.
“Defibrillators can do all that pacemakers do and more, including shocking people out of life-threatening rhythms” said Dr. Ofori. “They serve as your personal CPR and are most helpful in people who have a weak heart muscle.”
“There is a sense of security in knowing it’s there,” John said. “I appreciate that Dr. Ofori is proactive and watching out for me. I have a great relationship with him. We’re on a professional but friendly basis, which I like.”
John’s advice to others today is “If you don’t smoke, don’t start and if you notice symptoms, get it checked out. Don’t think it will never happen to you. If it does, thank goodness care is close by.”
“Being able to treat acute heart problems locally prevents people from having to drive to Akron or Canton,” said Sue, who came to the clinic with more than 20 years of cardiac device experience. “We run a full-service pacemaker defibrillator clinic here and also collaborate with The Ohio State University.”
Currently, Sue is monitoring hundreds of heart patients and has seen the number of patients tick up considerably since 2013. “We are the only facility offering these services locally since the Cleveland Clinic stopped their service. Devices have become an important part of treatment of heart disease and they have improved the lives of hundreds of area residents.”
Dr. Oleghe not only treated Julia Blaker for an infected foot at the WCH Wound Center, but helped her improve her life in general.
Every once in a while in life one has an “epiphany” moment. It happened to Julia Blaker last fall in Dr. Efewongbe Oleghe’s office at the Wound Healing Center where she was being treated for an infected foot. While Dr. Oleghe gently removed the dead skin layers from her toes, she suggested that perhaps there could be a connection between her ailing foot, Julia’s diabetes and her overall health.
“Through her gentle questions and my answering honestly, I was slapped in the face with the fact that this could be where my problems stem from,” said Julia. “I just didn’t connect the two before.” What a difference that “connection” has made.
Julia’s story began in November 2017 when she and her husband, Larry, set out to visit her daughter and grandson in Connecticut. They spent much of their time together in the hotel pool. While her foot was “swollen and sore” when she got there, by the time they left for home it was unbearable. “I was curled up in the back seat sleeping most of the way home,” she recalls.
By the time she got to her previous physician, her vitals “were not good. My blood pressure was high and I was afraid I would lose some of my toes,” she said. Her doctor put her on strong antibiotics and sent her to the Wound Healing Center, where she met Dr. Oleghe.
As soon as she met Dr. Oleghe, she agreed with her husband that she was “in good hands.” Dr. Oleghe did a culture on the foot and diagnosed a fungal and bacterial infection, perhaps something Julia had picked up in the hotel pool. And that was when Dr. Oleghe suggested there may be a connection between Julia’s diabetes and her foot problems.
“She felt the diabetic medication I was on was not working well for me and said I should consider changing or adding another medication,” said Julia. Julia was eager to see what she could do with diet and exercise and while Dr. Oleghe had some concerns, “she was definitely my advocate to give it a try.” Julia’s husband was also a huge support.
Larry got her a Fitbit for Christmas and Julia started tracking what she ate, the steps she took and how much sleep she was getting. She aimed for 10,000 steps a day, 1,700 calories or less, and 7 hours of sleep. With a Fitbit, “there’s a new template when I wake up every morning,” said Julia. “If I didn’t have the greatest numbers yesterday, I have a new chance to achieve my goals today. Focusing on each day keeps this journey from being insurmountable or overwhelming.”
In less than a year, Julia lost 70 pounds and learned how to better control her blood sugar and blood pressure with food and exercise.
Today, her foot is back to normal and she feels better than she has in years. She and Larry are enjoying time with family and friends, gardening, working outside on the family farm in West Salem where they live, and traveling for work and pleasure.
She credits Dr. Oleghe for her amazing journey of discovery and recovery. “I know I wasn’t, but I felt like I was her only patient,” Julia said.
She remembers after her annual checkup in March, she got a personal call from Dr. Oleghe. “It turns out she was at a conference in Orlando and yet when she saw my numbers and how good they were, she was so excited for me that she just had to call and let me know. She tells me I’m her poster child patient.”
Julia appreciated Dr. Oleghe’s interest in her vitamins and supplements and other holistic remedies as well. “She would take the time to read each bottle and was very open to natural treatments.”
Julia can’t say enough good about Dr. Oleghe. She was so impressed with her that she took her on as her primary care physician. Yet Julia has learned the lessons of self-responsibility as well and has some “tips” for others struggling with health issues. “First, it is very important to find a doctor that you feel is your partner and advocate. Listen to their advice; then ask yourself the hard questions of what steps can I take to start improving my health?
“Dr. Oleghe helped me to see beyond my infection, to consider the big picture, the state of my overall health, and she gave me options. From there, it was my responsibility to decide what actions I would take. I’m here today to share it is never too late to take the first step to better health.”
A less-invasive wound vacuum procedure helped Gary Klepper avoid surgery for a deep wound in his calf.
Gary Klepper believes in angels, because he’s seen them at work in his life this past year. They took many forms: his wife who called 911, his neighbor who responded to his cries for help, a doctor who let him try and heal a gaping wound without additional surgery or skin grafts, and especially the “fantastic” home health staff who took his calls at all hours, day and night. And, true to their name, they made house calls!
Gary became acquainted with this doctor and home health staff after he suffered a life threatening injury last spring. He was in his barn attempting to pull apart two baskets when he lost his balance and fell against a shovel blade. The blade sliced his calf from top to bottom, leaving a cavernous wound and a layer of skin that was barely hanging on. As Gary watched the blood gushing out, he had two thoughts: “I knew I was going to bleed to death if I didn’t get help right away, and I was grateful for the medical alarm device that I had recently purchased that was in my pocket. I hadn’t used it yet and I was hoping it worked.”
The alert did its job and Gary’s wife called 911. A neighbor heard him call for help and came and wrapped a towel around his leg to stem the bleeding. Medics arrived within 10 minutes, recalls Gary. They whisked him away to the WCH emergency room where he required surgical intervention and received 48 stitches in his calf. After that, it was up to Gary to clean and dress the wound and watch for signs of infection.
Two days later, Gary said he “could smell the wound and the gauze felt wet to my touch and I knew it was infected.” Back in the emergency room, they removed his stitches, cleaned out the wound and made another game plan. Gary met with Dr. James Slaby, who specializes in wound healing and plastic / reconstructive surgery. Instead of pushing for another surgery and skin grafting, Dr. Slaby was open to trying a wound vacuum, or vac, procedure.
“I was thrilled when I heard this,” said Gary. “If I could avoid surgery, I wanted to give it a try. It saved me from another surgery, skin grafts, and losing my leg. I’m glad I went this route and I would highly recommend it to anybody.”
“A wound vac is about the size of a standard tissue box that is portable and battery operated,” said Connie Rebane, the director for the Hyperbaric Medicine & Wound Healing Center at WCH. It “provides negative pressure through suction to draw healthy cells to the surface. It supports healing by reducing swelling, removing excess fluid, reducing the wound size and helping the migration and formation of healthy cells and tissue. A wound vac is ideal for patients like Gary with large and/or deep wounds to expedite the granulation and closure of the wound.”
Gary also helped himself by being a “great patient,” Rebane said. “He followed the physician’s orders, maintained weekly wound care appointments and made lifestyle changes to reduce his risk of trauma wounds.”
The challenge was that the procedure required multiple visits to the wound center each week, but Gary had given up driving a few years back. That’s when the “angels” in WCH home health came on the scene.
The home health staff came out three times a week to check on him and change the dressings. Any time Gary had questions or concerns, they were there. “I remember calling them in the middle of the night with questions,” said Gary. “If we couldn’t get it figured out over the phone they’d say, ‘I will be right there.’ And they were — at any time of the day or night.
“They were never grouchy or irritated,” said Gary. “They were the greatest people and I started calling them my ‘angels.’ They were also so courteous and accommodating and would call ahead to schedule visits. They got me set up and ordered all my supplies. It looked like a pharmacy in my room.”
They were also quick to notice when something didn’t seem right. On one visit, his nurse had a feeling “there was just something wrong,” said Gary. He hadn’t been feeling all that great and it turns out he had a temperature and cellulitis and was back in the hospital for four days.
Home Health is available for those with “skilled nursing, physical therapy, occupational or speech needs,” said the director of Home Health Services, Alexsandra Davis. “In Gary’s case, he had a wound that was not healing and needed nursing to do teaching, dressing changes, and monitoring signs and symptoms of an infection.”
The affection Gary had for his caregiving staff went both ways, said Davis. “Gary was very engaged in his own care and followed instruction and recommendations from the physicians and home health nurses. Because of his engagement, he did have a great recovery. In as much as he appreciated the home health staff, we also appreciated his confidence in us.”
In addition to home health visits, Gary met with vascular surgeon Dr. Larry Stern and his staff weekly. Dr. Stern and his workforce were “always knowledgeable and pleasant,” said Gary.
His last home health “angel” visit was in September, and Gary is feeling pretty good right now. He is back to walking his corgi shepherd daily, enjoying his family, taking care of his two-acre property and feeding the birds. “I probably go through 400 to 500 pounds of bird seed a year,” he said.
But there are some things he doesn’t do. “I’m much more cautious now,” he says. He doesn’t use a chainsaw much anymore and he’s aware that a fall can happen “just that quick.” He’s grateful for God, his three sons and his wife, Marty. And in spite of the difficulties this past year, he’s glad he got to meet a “caring doctor and my home health angels,” he said. “I just adored them.”
Even minor illnesses can spread rapidly through a school, causing missed class and unhappy children. So when Lindsay Miller’s six-year-old son Jett came home with pink eye (or conjunctivitis), she knew she had to act quickly. Unfortunately, she could not get a doctor’s appointment until the following day, and Jett would have to miss school.
Unlike many kids, Jett did not want to miss school that week. It was May, and he was looking forward to a special Mother’s Day event that his class had been preparing. “When I told him he would be missing a day, he cried and cried,” Lindsay said.
A friend suggested WCH Health System’s telemedicine service, WCH TodayCare. So Lindsay downloaded the app, created a profile, and she and Jett met with a doctor on her phone.
The doctor confirmed pink eye after examining Jett through the phone’s camera. He ordered a prescription, which Lindsay was able to pick up that evening. Jett did not have to miss the Mother’s Day event, after all.
Lindsay said she would “definitely” use WCH TodayCare again. “It costs a lot less than going to the doctor’s office, paying the co-pay, and then, because we didn’t meet our deductible, we get another bill later.”
“I think once I downloaded the app and started talking to someone, start to finish it was about 10 minutes,” she said.