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Love + Medicine

Love + Medicine

Love + Medicine

We Practice Love + Medicine

Every day, throughout the many locations that make up Gundersen Health System, staff is helping to deliver really great medicine plus a little something extra—we call this Love + Medicine.

Share Your Love + Medicine Story

If you have an example of how you or someone at Gundersen has practiced Love + Medicine, click on the tab below to share your story. Read Love + Medicine stories submitted by Gundersen employees and patients.

Share Your Story

Every day, throughout the many locations that make up Gundersen Health System, staff is helping to deliver really great medicine plus a little something extra—we call this Love + Medicine.

"At Gundersen, it's not a job, it's people caring for people like family. It's the doctor who takes the time to talk to patients in a way they can understand. It's the nurse who knows just when to give a hug or smile. It's the pharmacist who assures the patient we can help her feel better. It's the tech who takes the time to ask about the patient's new grandbaby. And it's all the other Gundersen staff whose extraordinary work and caring often goes above and beyond. It's Love + Medicine.
-Gundersen employee, Renal Dialysis

If you have an example of how you or someone at Gundersen has practiced Love + Medicine, share your story below.

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More Love + Medicine Stories

Love + Medicine delivered in hot cocoa

This story comes from Erin Schmitt, recruiter, who passes along a heartwarming story she heard:

Last March I was representing Gundersen at a career fair in Iowa. Another exhibitor came over to our display and shared the following story about her family’s experience with Love + Medicine.

On Valentine’s Day, she lost her 27-year-old brother to brain cancer. He was cared for during the end of his life by nurses on the Medical and Oncology Unit at Gundersen.

She told us about how wonderfully compassionate his care was, especially from a nurse named Joe, also known as the “Marshmallow Man.” One of the patient’s sisters had asked for some hot chocolate with marshmallows while she sat with her brother during his last hours on earth. The warm drink was especially comforting to her during the dark time their family was experiencing. Joe brought her hot chocolate and contacted the kitchen when she asked for extra marshmallows.

The exhibitor also shared how the patient’s 4-year-old daughter kissed the fingerprint necklace that the staff made for her from her dad’s hands. She would say, “I am kissing my daddy.” The family also appreciated the Sesame Street book the staff gave to the patient’s wife to help her talk about death with their young children.

We must never take for granted the comforting acts that we can do for our patients and families. These loving acts are forever implanted into the memories of our patients and their families, even in the most devastating times. I felt so very proud to be representing Gundersen that day.

Love + Medicine set the stage for a 25-year career

This story comes from Marna Holley, manager, Corporate Communications, who shares how her career at Gundersen was shaped by a medical emergency:

I’ve worked at Gundersen Health System for 25 years. The day before my first day of work, my father had a massive heart attack— coded in CCU actually. Dr. Erik ended up doing his surgery and he lived many more years.

I spent the night with mom in the CCU waiting room (she slept on the couch, I slept on the floor) and I got up the next morning and started my new job. From the beginning I understood the mission of the organization, because I had just experienced it firsthand. I am so grateful for all of those amazing people who take great care of our patients and their families every day. It’s a privilege to be a part of it.

At Gundersen Love + Medicine is practiced by all

This story comes from Deb Holzer, a library specialist, who shares how some of the best “care” came from unexpected people:

In 2007, I was riding bikes and had a terrible accident. My left shoulder was totalled; I had seven broken ribs on my left side, front and back, and a pneumothorax. It was a life changing incident and took me a long time and a lot of therapy to get through.

Everyone that took care of me was wonderful, but you know who I still think of? The woman from Environmental Services who worked nights in Orthopaedics. She was awesome. Every night she worked, while she cleaned my room we had the best talks. She listened to me, held me one night when I could not stop crying and was just the best! She made me feel like she really cared and it mattered to her if I got better and if my pain was under control.

Nights were so hard for me. I was forced to lay on my right side for a very long time. I had a tube sticking out my back and all my injuries were on the left side. I got so uncomfortable. I could not move myself and had to put my light on every time I wanted to move even a little. There was an aide who would come in with an arm full of pillows and a big smile. He never once made me feel like I was a thorn in his side, and I know he was busy and I took up a lot of his time. He also has a big place in my heart for being so kind and gentle with me when I needed it the most.

I am proud to work at Gundersen Health System because of all the wonderful things we do, and the wonderful people who work here like these two.

It was Love + Medicine plus a little Johnny Cash

This story comes from a grateful mother, Kristen Small, who sings the praises of the pediatric sedation team that helped her little girl overcome her fears—with a little help from Johnny Cash:

I am a proud mother of a special little girl. I would like to share our amazing experience in pediatric sedation with my daughter Emerson who needed an MRI. In sharing our story, we also recognize the remarkable work the staff does on a daily basis. Ellen Johnson, RN; Joan Abraham, RN; and Richard Strauss, MD, were the sedation team along with child life specialist Jenny Noel. Ellen and Joan did a great job from start to finish. I later found out that Joan came in that day just to assist with Emerson’s case because she knew how nervous I was about sedating my baby.

As it turned out, my fears were for nothing—the whole experience went amazingly well. But there’s one moment in particular that stuck with my husband, Ty, and me. Jenny had an iPad to help distract Emerson and asked us what kind of music Emerson enjoyed. Without hesitation we both replied, “Johnny Cash.” So Jenny found the song, Burning Ring of Fire, by Johnny Cash on the iPad. As the song played for Emerson, Ty and I began to sing to her like we do at home to help calm her. Next thing we know, Joan and Ellen had joined in. Moments later we hear humming coming from the corner and to our surprise Dr. Strauss has joined in as well.

We all had a good laugh and the MRI went great! I could not have asked for a better team to care for our sweet baby girl! This experience was truly a Love + Medicine moment!

Love + Medicine and a virtual visit to Graceland

This story comes from Family Medicine physician Randi Berg, MD, who helped an elderly patient fulfill a dream to “visit” Graceland:

I had a patient at the nursing home who was obsessed with Elvis Presley—photos and memorabilia on the walls. She often talked about how she wanted to visit Graceland. I knew it was impossible with her frail health and advanced dementia. So, I ordered a pop-up book of Graceland. It had all kinds of little doors and sliding things that let you take a virtual tour of the mansion. You could open a little door and see his clothes hanging in the closet, open the refrigerator door and cupboard doors and so on.

The patient has passed away, but it was nice to know we were able to give her a taste of that experience. It was very sweet!

Love + Medicine and a little ingenuity go a long way

This story comes from Gabby Hansen, RN, risk management specialist:

I used to work on the Ortho/Neuro Unit as a CNA and then a nurse. I remember we had some really great days when new safety equipment came in.

Once a confused patient just wanted to get up and move around, but he was very weak and unsteady. We figured out a good compromise—we would get him set up in the walking chest vest that attached to our ceiling lift system. We pushed everything to the edges of the room. We sat the patient in his wheelchair (attached to the lift and supervised). He was able to push himself everywhere he wanted with his feet without having to be belted into the locked recliner or have alarms under him in his bed. He had freedom that we couldn’t safely provide him otherwise. He loved it.

It is days like that where none of the hustle and bustle around you really matters and you go home thinking you really made someone’s day!

40 winks were just the right Love + Medicine

This story comes from Alana Schoeffel, a patient service specialist who, with a little creative thinking, helped a patient make the most of a two-hour wait:

I work in Preadmission. One morning I had a patient stop at my desk to check in for her appointment. She mistakenly thought her appointment was at 11:15 a.m. when actually it was scheduled for 1:15 p.m. and we had no earlier openings. She told me how she had worked all night and hadn’t had any sleep. I asked her if she would like me to set up one of our rooms for her to rest in and then I would come and get her when it was time for her appointment. I took her to the room and explained how the recliner worked and turned off the lights.

When I woke her for her appointment a couple of hours later, she said that she felt so much better and was now awake enough for her appointment.

A flu shot is a positive experience when delivered with Love + Medicine

This story comes from Mai Yang, a medical assistant who understands the value of Love + Medicine delivered to a Hmong family

A few weeks ago during flu shot clinic, I witnessed a special moment. It was Friday afternoon and the flu shot clinic would be closing at 4 p.m. It was 3:55 p.m. when a Hmong family of six came in. A father had brought in his children—all under the age of 10—to get their flu vaccines. Two nurses and I went through the questions and gave the vaccines to each child.

Dad didn’t understand much English, just enough to get the kids checked in and answer the vaccine questions. After all the children got their flu vaccines, Dad asked if he could get his shot. He was not checked in, but instead of having Dad come back next week, our charge nurse Cathy said it would be fine and we would work it out.

This story touches my heart because my mom was a single mom who didn’t speak much English. I could imagine myself being one of those kids. I have five siblings and we came to the U.S. in 1995 not knowing any English or the culture. I am so proud of my coworkers. They could’ve easily been annoyed, ready to leave on a Friday at 4 p.m. Instead, they truly cared for the family, taking time to explain everything and comforting the children when it was their turn to get their flu shot.

I know it meant a lot to the family and it meant even more to me because it hit really close to home. I’m proud to work at Gundersen and it makes me even more proud that it was my coworkers who performed such an act of caring. Thank you Dawn, Mari and Cathleen!

A girl, a broken arm and the ‘royal’ treatment

This story comes from Melissa Schulze, a grateful mom who appreciated the Love + Medicine bestowed on her princess:

When my daughter, Adalyn, fell off the monkey bars at school and broke her wrist two weeks before our planned Disney vacation, I went into a panic. Was Adalyn going to be able to ride the rides? I wondered as I frantically searched the Disney website. Was she going to be able to swim at our hotel, which had three pools?

Thankfully Dr. Amanda Larson (orthopaedic surgeon) and Dave Blowers (chief orthopaedic technologist) had the answers. Adalyn was placed in a waterproof cast—specifically a princess pink cast with a yellow bracelet. So yes, she could go swimming. The staff applying the cast talked about it being a great place for princess signatures, turning this unexpected negative event into something positive.

We were able to go ahead with our trip as planned. Adalyn reserved a spot for Ariel the Little Mermaid to sign. It was the first thing she wanted to do. Adalyn got her Princess Ariel signature. She will also be able to cherish it forever as the staff graciously cut the signature out of the cast for her to keep. It now sits proudly in her bedroom next to a framed picture of Adalyn with Ariel signing her cast.

Thank you to the staff for making my princess’s dreams come true. Love + Medicine is truly magical!

Love + Medicine is caring for a patient right down to his toes

This story comes from Randi, Berg, MD, Harmony and Spring Grove clinics, and Gundersen Harmony Care Center:

I had an elderly patient who needed to have some Tubigrip elasticated tubular support bandage dispensed to help control swelling. They are a type of stockinette that we just cut off of a roll and then pull them up over the feet and lower legs. Except in his case he didn't like having the open toes.

So I drew around his feet to make a pattern and went down to the laundry room in the attached nursing home and got out the sewing machine. I quickly stitched up a custom-fitted pair of stockings. It took maybe 10 minutes, but I knew he wouldn’t be able to do this himself. I made him two more pairs at home with my home sewing machine. Every time I see him he still talks about those stockings I made for him even though he no longer needs to wear that style.

What a difference a doll makes

This story comes from a grateful patient Vicky Jessen, Partners/Volunteer Services:

A customer came into the Gift Shop inquiring about a baby doll we had on display in the Gift Shop window. There was a note with the doll explaining it was part of the "Baby Dolls for Restless Souls" program at Gundersen. The baby dolls, purchased by Gundersen Partners, the Health System Auxiliary, are used for restless patients or for those with dementia. The dolls have been shown to calm patients suffering with cognitive impairment or anxiety issues.

Kathy Koehne in Nursing came to us a few years ago asking if Partners would be willing to purchase the dolls which cost about $10 each. We were very happy to help out and it has been a success story ever since. We now supply boy and girl dolls, ethnic dolls and stuffed animals for each Nursing unit. We hear many happy stories because of these dolls.

The customer told me how a similar doll had been so helpful and comforting when her own father was in a nursing home. Smiling, she said the doll brought back so many memories.

The woman shared stories about her father and how he cared for his doll and called the doll by the names of her siblings, carried the doll everywhere and bonded with his "baby." She explained that when he passed away, the doll was placed in the casket with him. The doll meant that much.

She then handed me $10 and said she would like to make a donation toward the purchase of a doll to help others. We both came away feeling like we shared something special that morning.

Love + Medicine is a hug

This story comes from a grateful patient, Angie Mitchell:

I was able to hug someone without pain today. It's been so long since I've been able to do that I've forgotten what it was like.

Three years ago I was in an automobile accident. I was initially taken to a different hospital where they said, "You're fine, shake it off." But I wasn't fine. After the accident I continued to suffer with horrible neck and upper shoulder pain. I've tried four different providers and numerous appointments with no relief.

Today I was able to turn my head to the left without pain and without turning my body! I cried! I haven't been able to do this in three years! I couldn't have done this without my team of Gundersen providers including (Erin) Maslowski, MD, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation; physical therapists Jessica Rohde and Sheryl Helstad; and Kim Tate, APNP, Family Medicine at Gundersen Tomah Clinic!

Had they not taken me seriously I would still be in horrible pain and adjusting the way I do things to avoid pain. I truly believe in Love + Medicine and today it's shown through in everything they've done for me.

Love + Medicine is accommodating your patients

This story comes from a grateful daughter, Barb Hammes:

Monday, Oct. 10, at 4:30 p.m. my mother, Ruth Becker, had a followup appointment with Dr. (April) Farrell in Dermatology to remove a skin cancer lesion on her lower leg and to evaluate a lesion above her eye.

The day had been full with arrangements for transfer from independent to assisted living and financial planning with both my parents. They were tired. They are both 88 years old and my mother has Alzheimer's.
We arrived earlier than the appointment as we were in Onalaska already and were hopeful maybe she could get in a bit early. My mother was anxious about waiting and in her mind the doctor was late.

At 4:30 p.m., right on time, she was called into the exam room. Dr. Farrell was prepared to remove the leg lesion and to take a biopsy of the eyebrow lesion.

When I explained how difficult it was to get my mother here for her appointments, I asked, if under the circumstances, would Dr. Farrell consider also removing the eyebrow lesion now. She understood the request, and agreed it made sense for my mother at this time. The doctor smiled and took the time to excise the brow lesion as well. My mother tolerated both procedures well.

Dr. Farrell and her medical assistant couldn't have been more kind or professional. Although the team had to work longer that day, they accommodated my elderly mother and her family greatly! They never appeared in a rush to leave for home which would have been understandable. Instead they were very friendly, making us all feel we were what mattered.

Although we were warned that there may be scarring and bruising of the sites, today we are amazed at how well the wound has healed thanks to the expertise of Dr. Farrell and her team. We are fortunate to have care like this!

Love + Medicine is knowing what's important to your patients

This story comes from a grateful mom:

My daughter is 14 years old. A couple ofher baby teeth have not come out yet and she's got adult teeth growing on top of them and sticking out through her gums. This is slightly painful physically, but more importantly to a teenager, it makes her very self-conscious.

She's starting high school this fall, so we decided this summer would be a good time to get some braces to fix this issue. Gundersen Orthodontics is open in Onalaska only on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, as they work at other regional sites, too. After our consultation with Dr. (Michael) Barba, DDS, we were told my daughter couldn't get her braces on until mid-September because of the high volume of patients and limited appointments available in Onalaska.

In the waiting room, my daughter was very upset. She really wanted to have the braces on before school started. I mentioned this to the patient liaison, Pam, and asked to be put on a cancellation list.

A few days later, Pam called. After we left, the staff discussed how a number of kids were disappointed because they wanted to get their braces on before school started. So the team—including Dr. Barba, patient liaisons Pam Thompson and Michelle Hompertz, patient treatment coordinator Darlene Forsberg and Kari Larson, and dental assistant Ella Hoefler—agreed to open Onalaska Orthodontics for an extra day, on a Friday in July, just for these kids.

The Orthodontics staff did not have to open their clinic that extra day, especially on a Friday in summer, but they did! Thanks to their extra efforts, my daughter got her braces on—a real boost to her self-esteem! To me, this is Love + Medicine!

Delivering Love + Medicine...just like mom

This story comes from Amy Halvorson, health unit coordinator:

There was a patient on the Cardio-Pulmonary Unit who was turning 20 years old. He is a student, originally from Guatemala, who says his mother made him a banana cake every year for his birthday.

His nurse for the day, Katie Walters, RN, arranged to have a banana cake, decorated with soccer balls, made and delivered to the hospital. Katie wanted to brighten his day since his family lives many, many miles away. He was also a patient in isolation and anyone coming into his room was required to use a PAPR mask (powered air purifying respirator).

Katie arranged a time for members of his care team to go in, banana cake in hand, and sing "Happy Birthday" to this young man. I was truly touched.

This is a perfect example of Love + Medicine thanks to Katie, Melissa Baxter, RN; Chris Lowry, MD; Sylvia Firary, MD; and Ryan Vaca, MD.

Practicing Love + Medicine one child at a time

This story comes from a very creative child life specialist Rachael Kaiser, Outpatient Surgery Center:

We had a young patient arrive who was having a small surgical procedure. The surgeon had warned us that she was a screamer.

My child life student and I looked up the patient's chart to prepare. We discovered she was an 11-year-old on the autism spectrum and had worked with a child life specialist before. The notes stated that on the earlier occasion, mom had prepared the child by bringing a variety of arts and crafts. She seemed to like that.

So, we searched our cabinets for several craft items and had them ready in her room when she arrived. Instead of being overwhelmed by a new space, she made a beeline right for the craft supplies and started crafting. We made sure that everyone took the time to explain things slowly to her and wait for her questions. When it was time to ride on the bed to surgery, we gave her an iPad to play with. She watched it until she was asleep. Her surgeon stated, "Wow, I can't believe how calm she was. Every time I've seen her in clinic, she's screamed the whole time she was there!"

The time we spent researching her past experiences and being flexible in how we got her ready for surgery made a huge difference to her and her mom. That is why we do what we do as child life specialists—to make a positive difference in the lives of the kids and families we work with every day.

Going the distance to deliver Love + Medicine

This sweet story comes from Joseph Larkin, CNA, Medical Oncology:

I have come to know a patient well after she had multiple stays on the Medical Oncology unit. We were talking one day and the subject of donuts came up. I mentioned Bloedow's Bakery in Winona, Minn. She said she loved their donuts. So, I promised her that on my next day off I would drive to Winona and get her a Bloedow's donut.

Well in the course of her next three hospitalizations, she was discharged on my days off so I was never able to get her the donut I promised. But during her most recent stay, I was able to get to Winona, buy her a delicious cream-filled donut and fulfill the promise I made. She was so happy and I was equally happy to make her day. It most definitely made her time in the hospital a little sweeter.

For this department, showing Love + Medicine is no 'sweat'

This story comes from the staff of Exercise Physiology including Jacob Hawes, Shannon Riley, Joel Dubiel, Michelle Dunlap, Tiffany Green and Brant Stevermer:

Exercise Physiology provides a maintenance exercise program for those looking for medically supervised exercise. Many of these participants have been with the program for years. In Exercise Physiology we have a unique opportunity to share life, and live out Love + Medicine with our participants for months and, in many cases, years. In particular, we love celebrating birthdays. With every willing participant, they are given a happy birthday hat and the entire class sings and extends happy birthday wishes. Making each and every patient of ours feel loved and cared for, especially on their birthday, is our objective. It is who we are.

Caring is in the blood

This story comes from a very grateful patient, Cynthia S. Menard:

I met Lorinda (Goede-Lane, support staff technician, Family Medicine-Gundersen Tomah Clinic) about 2½ years ago. The doctor told me I needed to have blood work done. Of course my first response was not good. All my life I have avoided needles. My veins are very small, deep and rolling. It can be almost impossible to draw blood. I once had someone poke me 11 times! It was an awful experience.

The first time I met Lorinda, I was extremely anxious. I needed a blood test for some stomach problems. The room was spinning, I felt sick to my stomach and was sweating profusely. Much to my relief, it took Lorinda only about a minute before the blood stared to flow. The entire time she comforted me while she worked.

I was later sent elsewhere to see specialists and both times I needed additional blood work. I told them I would like to go to the Gundersen Tomah Clinic so Lorinda could do it, and she was there for me!

I found out I have a rare autoimmune disease, so now I have my blood drawn every week or two. Lorinda has been there for me whenever I need her. She has even come in on her day off if I need her to. She always takes the time to sit and ask how I'm doing. She really truly cares and has done an amazing job!

Bev (Shong, medical lab technician) from the Tomah clinic helps Lorinda when I come for a visit. She has the same caring personality and is always comforting, too. I discussed with Lorinda that it would be good to have a back-up person in case she wasn't available; my choice would be Bev. Thank you Lorinda and Bev!

It's the little things that matter most

This story is from a grateful mother, Laurie Zabel:

During my daughter's second hospital stay in three weeks, Anita (Bashaw), our environmental assistant, and another staff member who was being trained, stopped and asked if they could do a quick cleaning of the room.

Anita then asked if we were still here or if we had come back. I explained we were back. As the two of them were going about their duties, the new staff member moved the garbage can to its "proper" location. Anita told her, "Oh, we will leave that by the bed. She prefers to have it there."

The smile on my daughter's face, because she was acknowledged, was priceless. And, I was amazed! Anita had cleaned many, many rooms and she had spoken with even more people since we last saw her, yet she remembered my daughter's preferences.

I know the Love + Medicine stories that people share are usually about the "hands on" care givers here at Gundersen, but the unsung heroes also do so much to make the patients and families comfortable. I thanked Anita for remembering. For me, this is also what Love + Medicine is about—not just the doctors and nurses, but the whole package of everyone we meet here at Gundersen.

It's more than skin deep

This story of love, patience and understanding comes from a grateful mother:

My son was born with a large mole that bothered him so much that he wouldn't even swim without a shirt on. We had the mole examined yearly by his pediatrician and there was no concern that it was cancerous so we never pursued getting it removed.

When my son turned 10 years old, he decided he wanted to have the mole removed. My son was very nervous about the procedure. I wanted to support his decision because I knew he would benefit so much from it.

Working with his pediatrician, Dr. (Kelly) Howell, child life specialist Jennifer Noel, Dr. (Yongxue "David") Yao and medical assistant Melissa Miller, we were able to get the mole removed. Dr. Howell referred us to the child life specialist to help with our son's anxiety and they were able to give us great suggestions. Dr. Yao and Melissa were so patient and understanding even when things didn't go as easy as planned. They spent way more time than they had to with my son to help with his nervousness. They really went above and beyond.

My son is so happy to have gone through with this procedure, even if it was a little scary. It really took a team to get this done and we appreciate everyone's hard work and dedication to their patients.

You are my sunshine

This story was witnessed by Gina Hayes, RN, Labor & Delivery:

Working as a Labor & Delivery nurse is such a privilege. To be able to witness new life coming into the world almost every day is such an honor and one that I will never take for granted. One story that has stayed fresh in my memory was when I was caring for a patient who was pregnant with her first baby and she wanted a water birth. She and her husband didn't know if they were having a boy or a girl.

The woman was so stoic, calm and peaceful during her entire labor. She worked hard laboring in the tub and was so excited to meet this little person. The moment the baby was born was one that I will never forget. She pulled her son out of the water, disbelief in her eyes, put him on her chest and started singing, "You Are My Sunshine."

Time stood still in that room. Our scrub nurse, midwife and I just stopped and stared with tears welling up in our eyes as this patient took in the most precious moment of her life. That song has been near and dear to my family and this just adds to the beauty of that song.

Witnessing the love these parents have for their new son in that moment was beautiful. Pure Love + Medicine.

Pen pal patient

This heartwarming story comes from Lynda Privet, RN, Pediatric Endocrinology Clinic:

I care for an Amish boy who has Type 1 diabetes, and his family. We had an education session together, not long after I started in Pediatric Endocrinology. He usually has appointments every three months. I was hopeful that I could get his blood sugar records from him prior to our next appointment, so if there was a problem, we could address it.

Because the Amish family has limited access to a phone, I was afraid there wasn't going to be a way to get his blood sugar numbers between appointments. That's when I got an idea.

I asked him if he ever wrote letters. He smiled at me, and said, "Sometimes." His mom spoke up and said, "Certainly we do!" So I asked him to send me a letter in midmonth. Last fall, I received my first letter here at work from my new "pen pal." Enclosed was a description of his blood sugars, along with a nice entry from his mother, talking about his diabetes. I shared the boy's blood sugar numbers with his provider, who then made some adjustments. I got out my pen and pad of paper and wrote back with the provider's recommendations. And so it continued each month.

It was such a great feeling, knowing that we were helping this family manage their son's diabetes in a way that was respectful of their lifestyle. It may not be the way everyone else does it, but a comfort to them. Hopefully they felt like they didn't have to manage alone between appointments.

Before long, the letters not only included important details about their son's diabetes, but also details about their life on the farm, and wishes to me to be well and stay warm. It is definitely a different way of practicing healthcare, but it certainly is Love + Medicine.

Paying it forward

This story comes from: Jane Hanson, patient liaison in Imaging:

This morning as I was eating breakfast in the Cafeteria with a friend and fellow Gundersen employee, my heart was touched. My friend excused herself and walked up to the cashier. There was a large group in line—the family of a very ill patient. My friend proceeded to buy their breakfasts for them. Later, I complimented her on her generosity, and she said, "I have been where they are and I just wanted to let them know I care." It is so nice to work with such generous, caring people.

Down syndrome doesn't define our child

This story is from Kim Fredrick, a mother on the receiving end of Love + Medicine:

Eight years ago my third child, Matthew, was born with Down syndrome. This was an unexpected diagnosis for my husband and me. We were shocked and overwhelmed.

The doctors and nurses who cared for Matthew and me were incredibly kind and caring, seeming to go above and beyond their regular job duties to provide support to us. My primary doctor, Robyn Borge, MD, delivered the news in a compassionate manner and I did not detect any pity in her voice. A little over an hour after Matt was born (after 6 p.m.) Kerry Jedele, MD, from the Down Syndrome Clinic at Gundersen came to visit us.

Dr. Jedele was matter-of-fact when she told us about some of the challenges people with Down syndrome face, but she balanced this by explaining some of the strengths typically seen in people with Down syndrome. She made sure that we understood that Down syndrome is just one part of who Matt is; it does not need to define his existence.

Her words went something like this, "Matthew is the third child of Kim and Jeff. He is the younger brother to Rachel and Robbie. He will look a little like mom and a little like dad. He will enjoy playing with his siblings. He may like playing football. He might enjoy reading. He also happens to have Down syndrome."

Receiving the diagnosis in this way was incredibly comforting to me. Once we got to our room, it seemed like every nurse on the floor wanted to come in just to say "hi" and snuggle a little bit with Matthew. During the overnight, a very kind nurse stayed in the room with me for a little while, asking me how I was doing. These little extra touches gave my family comfort in a difficult time.

Not everyone is as fortunate as we were when we received the Down syndrome diagnosis. Some people are told only negative aspects about Down syndrome and are given an "I'm sorry" instead of "congratulations on the birth of your child." Gundersen provided us with just the right medical information and a large amount of compassion.

A song, a banner and a birthday

This story is from Alex Staffon, CNA, Surgical and Digestive Care Unit:

One of our patients had been on our unit for a longer-than-hoped-for period of time. She is one of those patients who is so grateful and sweet to all. Her birthday was inevitably going to be spent in the hospital, a fact that made everyone feel down. It fell on a Saturday and two of our floor's employees wanted to make it as special a day as possible.

Although they both had the weekend off, they came in with decorations for her room and a small gift for her to open. A few of us co-conspirators got the patient out of her room, taking her for a walk in the halls while the two ringleaders snuck in her room and hung "Happy Birthday" banners and streamers. When the patient got back to her room there was a group of about eight nurses and CNAs to sing to her. The patient was so surprised; her face lit up with joy. She was so happy and very grateful.

It is things and people like these that make Gundersen an amazing place to work! l

'A small gesture, but to me, it was huge'

A story from Amy Gerold:

I was at a difficult time in my life. I was 35 years old and facing a probable cancer diagnosis.

I was having a needle biopsy to confirm that it was cancer and to try and pinpoint exactly what kind it was. I was taken to a small room for the biopsy and no family members were able to come in with me. It was me, the doctor with his very large needle, and a nurse.

Just before the doctor was about to begin the procedure, the nurse asked if I would like her to hold my hand. That may sound like a strange question and maybe even like a small gesture, but to me, it was huge. It made me feel like I wasn't alone in all of this. It didn't matter that it was a stranger that was reaching out to me—it was human contact at a time when things were very scary. It was someone who showed they cared, not just about the diagnosis, but about the whole me. Holding my hand meant a lot to me then, and still does.

Heidi loved her work and it showed

From Darla and Bob Westedt, parents of Heidi Westedt:

Love + Medicine—without a doubt that's what our daughter, Heidi Westedt, received from Gundersen Health System. Had Heidi lived, she would have celebrated her 25th anniversary as an employee of Gundersen on May 29, 2015. Heidi died Jan. 10, 2015, due to complications following a bone marrow transplant a month earlier.

Heidi worked as a medical assistant at Gundersen. The last 15 years of her life she endured many hospitalizations and treatments for a blood disorder. She had to cut back to part time because of weekly infusions. Through all of this, her manager in Pediatrics and the staff in Human Resources worked with her to keep her employed.

We are so very grateful to Gundersen for the "Love + Medicine" shown to our Heidi. She was blessed by the many skilled providers who worked endlessly to figure out this difficult disease. Her coworkers covered many extra hours for her and she was so grateful for the many friendships with coworkers she had over the years.

Thank you, Gundersen, for showing our daughter compassion through her many trials. It wasn't just a job for Heidi. It was taking pride in where she worked and showing love to the patients she cared for over the years. We can't thank everyone by name as the list would go on and on. We can tell you how very much we appreciate all the people who came to her visitation and funeral service and helped at the "Hope for Heidi" benefit.

So you see, Love + Medicine is REAL at Gundersen, it's not just a slogan. May God bless each and every one of you as you continue to care for the many patients who count on you day after day.

Love and encouragement was the best medicine

From Jennifer Stuhr, RN, Inpatient Behavioral Health:

Our Behavioral Health staff was feeling sad for a young man that came to our unit on the day of his school graduation. He had no family present to support him or to celebrate this normally joyous occasion.

Our wonderful, compassionate chaplain Ann Tyndall decided we needed to celebrate and show him we were there for him. She bought a card and had the staff on the unit sign the card with words of encouragement for the future. Two cupcakes were ordered by Janice Lutz, RN, for a special treat.

All of the staff gathered around him and then presented the card and cupcakes. He looked shocked and when he opened the card and started reading, the look on his face was priceless. Tears streamed down his face and he was speechless. Finally, he looked at everyone present and said, "Thank you."

We all clapped and praised him for this momentous achievement. This was truly a Love + Medicine moment that touched all of our hearts.

Patient is saved a weekend of worry

From Tammy Dutton:

After having my second-ever mammogram, I was contacted for a follow-up visit because there was something out-of-the-ordinary on the image. I called Center for Women at 8 a.m. on a Thursday to schedule the follow-up. I was able to get in at 11 a.m. that same day for an ultrasound.

When I got to the appointment, mammography technologist Lori Costello must have seen my nervousness and gave me a hug. Andrew Meade, MD, performed an ultrasound and determined a biopsy was necessary. We decided to do the procedure immediately.

Lori was there with me through the entire process. She was compassionate and caring the entire time and made me feel safe and comfortable. Once the procedure was done, she took a mammogram and showed me exactly what the "tag" looked like that Dr. Meade had placed near the questionable spot. Before I left, she made sure I was OK and understood everything that had happened and would happen next. She also gave me another hug. I was (and still am) very grateful for those hugs.

I was told the results would be back within 48 hours, but because it was Thursday, this meant I may have to wait over the weekend until Monday. To my great relief, Dr. Meade contacted me Friday morning with news that the tumor was benign. In addition, I also received a call from my primary care provider Nancy Rowe, NP, on Friday afternoon. She just wanted to make sure I had received the results, because she didn't want me to worry all weekend. Even though the notes stated I had been contacted, she still took the time to make sure I had received the results. Thanks, Nancy!

Pediatrician grateful for Children's Miracle Network Hospitals

From pediatric hospitalist Mark Neumann, MD:

I recently attended the Gundersen Medical Foundation and Children's Miracle Network Hospitals®' Emerald Ball fundraiser and felt very grateful to our colleagues who work in the Foundation.

Many times we care providers encounter distressing life situations that our patients and their families are experiencing. It's distressing when we are not able to provide an extra gesture of compassion by offering a gift, but our professional relationships do not allow for this.

We are, however, able to make gifts to Children's Miracle Network Hospitals and know that those gifts are used for many instances of practical relief to distressed families. I am grateful to the Foundation for that. Thank you!

Staff 'showers' an appreciative patient with kindness

From Kay Jones, RN, clinic manager, Preadmission:

In my 26 years of nursing, I thought I had fielded most any patient request possible. One evening while doing a patient call in Preadmissions, I had an uncommon patient request from a patient who was coming in for surgery the next day.

Due to a joint infection and removal of that joint, the patient had become unable to bear weight to stand. She explained that since coming home from the rehab center, she had not had a thorough shower for more than two weeks. She simply asked to have access to an accessible shower before her surgery.

On any other day, I could have coordinated this effortlessly, however I was uncertain if I could arrange this because the hospital census was extremely high. In looking at the census report again, I noticed that the Rehab unit might be able to help. The staff on the Rehab unit was so friendly and accommodating for this patient and it felt so good to be able to arrange this as a team.

It makes me proud knowing that I work with other professionals who only want the best care for every patient that we see. Truly an wonderful example of Love + Medicine.

An amazing nurse inspires one woman to follow in her footsteps

From Kathryn Hauser:

I had an amazing experience when my daughter was born last March at Gundersen. When I was in Labor and Delivery and Postpartum all of the nurses were exceptional, but one in particular was amazing! Her name was Michelle Sulentic but they call her Missy.

By the time Missy started her shift I had been in labor for more than 24 hours. I was exhausted and didn't think I had anything left in me. Missy managed to make me laugh and keep my spirits up when I didn't think I could do it anymore. I definitely kept her on her toes with many questions and I know by the end I wasn't the most pleasant person because of the pain. But she never once made me feel like I was irritating or annoying her.

Missy made me laugh, showed compassion and treated me as if I was the only person that mattered. I don't know how to explain it, but she was so kind and friendly that it almost felt like I had known her for years when I had only met her that day.

Missy is truly an amazing nurse and because of her I am now enrolled in college at Winona State to become a nurse. I only hope that one day, I can be as amazing as Missy!

Gundersen pharmacy tech found the perfect prescription

From Rebecca Nindort:

We've been piloting a new program in the hospital called Meds to Bed or Concierge. One of our Pharmacy technicians, Mona Grandall, participates in that program. Her role is to meet with patients in the Hospital and give them information about the service.

While visiting with one patient, Mona and the patient discovered they both enjoy reading, but the patient had no books with her. The next day Mona came to work with three books from her home library she thought the patient might enjoy. I thought that was such a generous and thoughtful gesture.

Making a big impression on a little girl

This story was shared by Lori Van Lin, director of Volunteer Services about Linda Arentz, one of the many wonderful volunteers at Gundersen:

Clinic Information Desk volunteer Linda Arentz got to know a young girl, around 8 years old, who came in regularly on Tuesdays for appointments. The girl's appointments were going to change to days when Linda would not be on duty. So, the girl gave Linda a note and drawing to let her know how much she would miss seeing her!

he note says, "Dear Linda, I will miss you. When I grow up, I will be like you!"

This is a perfect example of the impact our volunteers have on our patients just by being themselves and caring!

PSS angel

The Patient Services Specialist (PSS) provides superior face-to-face customer service in greeting and assisting patients, family, visitors and internal customers. They perform an important role in facilitating the patient experience by promoting a patient and family centered atmosphere throughout the check in/out process.

A gentle word, a kind look, a good-natured smile can work wonders and accomplish miracles. These are not just words: They're the code PSS representatives live by.

The department shares this story of how PSS staff practice Love + Medicine:

Recently, a diabetic patient arrived at the Gundersen La Crosse Clinic for several medical appointments. It is important that patients—especially diabetic patients—have food available when they will have multiple appointments and will spend a great deal of time at our clinic.

But on this day, this patient didn't have a packed lunch and no money to purchase lunch from our Cafeteria. Assisting the patient was one of our PSS staff members (who wishes to remain anonymous) The PSS recognized the situation and took action.

The PSS presented the patient with the Cafeteria choices for the day and was prepared to purchase the patient something to eat. However, the patient felt the menu choices would all be too heavy.

So the PSS asked the patient if a turkey sandwich with mayonnaise, some cantaloupe and a bottle of water sounded better.

It sure did!

It was the lunch our PSS had packed and brought to work that day. Our staff member gave the patient that lunch.

'They made a very difficult day just a little bit easier'

From Michelle Thew, Gundersen St. Joseph's Hospital and Clinics Hillsboro:

I'm sharing this story, not only as a family member, but also as an employee. On April 13, my husband's uncle Joe was flown from Mauston to Gundersen after suffering cardiac arrest. I was the first family member to arrive in La Crosse, about 45 minutes after his arrival. The Emergency Services staff directed me straight to Critical Care.

A doctor met me and explained that Joe was in critical condition. He was a very sick man. Other family started to arrive, and around 4:30 p.m., we were able to see Joe. The prognosis was not good. While we waited, we were kept up to date and allowed to stay in the room with him.

More chairs were brought in as more family came. The nurses and doctors explained everything they were doing to keep him comfortable. A basket of coffee, juice, cookies and apples was brought in. Someone from Spiritual Care came to check on us.

By 10:30 p.m., the last of our family arrived from Minneapolis. A provider brought us together and explained everything, after which we met as a family and agreed to what Joe wanted. About 11:40 p.m., he was disconnected from the ventilator. At 11:59 p.m. a baby was born (we all cried tears of happiness when we heard the lullaby music). At 12:08 a.m., Joe passed away peacefully, with his family at his side.

He was given the utmost respect and care those few hours he was there. A perfect stranger, yet he was treated as though they knew him forever. We were all treated like family. I know this was everyone's "job," however, from start to finish—from the Emergency Services receptionist at 2 p.m., to the person in Security who helped us find our cars at 12:40 a.m. (which Valet Services had parked hours before) and everyone in between—it was all more than anyone of us ever expected.

Thank you all, for making that very difficult day just a little bit easier. Care, compassion and respect go a very long way. It will never be forgotten.