Grateful Patients

Your gift makes a difference in the lives of people in our community. Here are patient stories of how gifts to the Foundation have changed lives.

HSHS St. Joseph's Hospital Rehabilitation Services helps woman with daily struggles

Vickie Elstran will never forget the day her daughter's body was crushed by the force of a semi-trailer that barreled into a vehicle of which Leann Elstran was a passenger. Read the story.

Leann, then just 19, had a fun night planned in Minneapolis on April 26, 2009. But that was taken away in a flash when the vehicle she was riding in was struck by a semi-trailer, Vickie said. Leann's prognosis was grim, but with the help of many health care professionals, including those at HSHS St. Joseph's Hospital's Physical Therapy, she is walking and talking less than three years after the crash.

Vickie ElstranLong road to recovery
Ten minutes after the accident, Leann was laying on a gurney in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit at Hennepin County Medical Center. There was no normal brain wave activity. Leann had multiple fractures in her lower back and pelvis (including fractures at C1 and C2), a bruised lung, a bruised heart, and a lacerated liver. Turning her head to avoid impact during the crash, stretched and snapped neck ligaments.

After about a month in Hennepin County's facility, Leann was transferred to Bethesda Hospital in St. Paul, an acute long-term care facility. "She was in a coma for five and a half months. They called it at times a semi-comatose (state),"Vickie recalled. "I didn't know what she would be able to do."

Vickie, who lives in rural Boyd, was at her daughter's side day and night. It was easier for her to think about logistical things than to work through the emotions of nearly losing a child. "I spent my time making sure everybody else was doing their job,"she said. "I worked as a nurse's aide. I knew how things were supposed to get done. I was there to make sure it did get done. It was a rollercoaster of emotions. There were good days and bad days."

While at Bethesda Hospital, nearly six months after the crash, Leann came out of her coma. But doctors were unsure if she'd be able to walk or even talk again. That's where HSHS St. Joseph's Hospital came into play.

HSHS St. Joseph's therapy is key
Leann was transferred to Sacred Heart Hospital until December 1, 2009. She did home therapy through HSHS St. Joseph's Hospital (where therapists travel to the home and work with patients) until April 2010. Then it was time for Leann to work with physical, occupational, and speech therapists on the Hospital's campus. "When she came home from Sacred Heart in 2009 ... she could not lift her legs or hold her head up,"Vickie said. "We got a lift chair and stood her up. We didn't give her a choice, I guess."

"The therapists at HSHS St. Joseph's Hospital have been working with Leann for nearly 18 months and there is a marked improvement," Vickie said. "The Reformer, a new piece of equipment, is helping Leann with balance and core strengthening. Of course, she calls it the torture chamber."

Both women credit the wonderful equipment and dedication of the staff at HSHS St. Joseph's Hospital. "She went from a power chair to a manual chair,"Vickie said. "She's been walking, which she wasn't expected to do. The staff makes working hard fun for Leann. If it wasn't fun, she would be less apt to do the exercises. OT (Occupational Therapy) has got her almost back to full range. She's doing wonderful at HSHS St. Joe's!"

SPOTS Pediatric Therapy helps children, keeps family from feeling isolated

Initially Nadirah wasn't making any sounds. She understood words, but she was unable to reproduce the words. Stringing words together to form a sentence, even with three words, was difficult for her.
Read the story.

McKellen Johnson took his mother's cues. He opened his mouth when the food was near. It wasn't noticeable that the 8-month-old had once been diagnosed with Plagiocephaly - characterized by the flattening of one side of the skull.

Nadirah Johnson, almost three, had been playing with Transformers on the couch, but she didn't want to be left out. Nadirah walked over to McKellen's high chair and gave him some snacks under mother Lisa Johnson's guidance.

McKellen JohnsonThe early morning routine looks well-oiled and easy. Lisa, of Eau Claire, surely has everything under control, but only a therapist would realize that Lisa has been trained to get as many words out of Nadirah as possible.

Mary O'Connell, a pediatric speech-language pathologist, has been working with Nadirah and her parents since August 2010. Initially Nadirah wasn't making any sounds. She understood words, but she was unable to reproduce the words. Stringing words together to form a sentence, even with three words, was difficult for her.

Mary recognized Nadirah had motor planning problems. Nadirah had apraxia of speech - a disorder of the brain and nervous system in which a person is unable to perform tasks or movements when asked, even though the command is understood. To help her along, Mary and Lisa developed a picture exchange system. If Nadirah was not easily understood, the toddler could choose a picture of what she needed and show it to her mother. As soon as Nadirah began using more words, Lisa was instructed to decrease the use of pictures.

When Mary visits Nadirah once a week, her goal is to get the child to say as many words as possible and to coach parents on how to carry over those strategies into the family routines. In September, the focus for Nadirah was to use three-syllable words. Mary joins the family once per week to assess Nadirah's progress, model strategies for the family and together problem solve to help Nadirah be more successful. So, when Mary is not there, Nadirah's parents know exactly how to help her communicate.

Nadirah and McKellen are only two of Lisa and her husband Jeremy's four children. Older siblings Nevaeh, 6, and McKail, 4 1/2, have also had therapy services for their unique needs. Lisa said she's thankful that she found SPOTS.

Lisa said, "Mary's knowledge, help, and structure as a therapist with SPOTS House is invaluable."

When Lisa and Jeremy had McKail, they noticed issues right away. "We were so overwhelmed. We felt like we were going to be on a float in the ocean all by ourselves,"Lisa said. "The thought of having to do that alone was unbearable."

But when Lisa learned of the Birth to Three program and SPOTS Pediatric Therapy Services, and was assured that her family would have support, a calm came over her, she said. "It wasn't this strange thing anymore. It's so helpful. It's enjoyable."

An Imperfect Storm: December 20, 2010

It was late in the afternoon when the call came in. A terrible accident had occurred at a local manufacturing plant. Four critically injured patients needed immediate care and they would be coming to HSHS St. Joseph's Hospital. Read the story.

Construction was finally complete. The first phase of the renovation and expansion of the Emergency Services Area at HSHS St. Joseph's Hospital was finished in August of 2010 when the new entrance and lobby opened. Now phase two was complete. All four trauma rooms were operational, the x-ray equipment installed and the whole department opened for business. Christmas was right around the corner and a major snowstorm was raging outside.

It was late in the afternoon when the call came in. A terrible accident had occurred at a local manufacturing plant. Four critically injured patients needed immediate care and they would be coming to HSHS St. Joseph's Hospital.

The newly finished Emergency Services Area was about to be put to the test. With a level III trauma designation and state-of-the-art equipment and technology, Board Certified Emergency Care physicians and nurses (specifically trained in trauma care) sprang into action.

Four patients, fighting for their lives, were given the best care possible. Three of the four patients survived and were stabilized, two were later transported to area Hospitals for specialty care, and one remained at HSHS St. Joseph's Hospital to recover.

The events that unfolded that day were met with a level of expertise and planning that had been anticipated several years before. When the appeal for the expansion of the ER began, the Hospital knew an event like this would one day occur and we were going to be ready. Leaders had identified a community need and the community responded with donations - donations totaling more than $4 million. Yesterday, today, and on that snowy day in December, lives are saved from the projects we supported.

A Sunny Outcome: October 21, 2011

He is 23 years old. He is a cancer survivor. He lives three hours from HSHS St. Joseph's Hospital, and he needs our help. Read the story.

On a clear September day, a young man from northern Wisconsin came to our Center for Wound Care and Hyperbaric Medicine for hyperbaric treatments. He had a jaw that could no longer support his teeth. Having suffered the effects of extreme radiation on a tumor in his nasal cavity, the bones in his face and his jaw were disintegrating. All his teeth needed to be pulled but his jaw bone couldn't withstand the force of the extractions.

In great pain and with acute infection, his last hope was hyperbaric treatment at our Center. Unfortunately, he did not have the means for this treatment or his travels. When he presented his predicament to the staff at HSHS St. Joseph's Hospital's Center for Wound Care and Hyperbaric Medicine they responded with a plan for 30 days of treatment over the course of six weeks. It was determined that the Hospital's Community Care program would cover the costs for treatment.

A member of our Friends Board of Directors offered shelter and a local business owner provided assistance with food and gas. After four weeks and 20 treatments, the young man's teeth were removed. His jaw was strong enough now to sustain the surgery and with an additional 10 treatments after the extractions, his jaw and the surrounding tissue were healing nicely. In two months, he will receive a complete set of dental implants.

Last January 2011, when the case for support for hyperbaric medicine was presented to this community, this community responded with donations equaling $500,000. Once again, leaders at HSHS St. Joseph's Hospital identified a community need and our community responded with an outpouring of support. Another state-of-the art facility, built with care and compassion, is saving lives at HSHS St. Joseph's Hospital.

Please join us in support of our many life-saving projects and services.

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Friends of HSHS St. Joseph's Hospital is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3)organization under the Internal Revenue Service code. Please make gifts payable to Friends of HSHS St. Joseph's Hospital.


Commit to a gift of at least $100 a year on an ongoing basis and you will automatically become a member of the Friends of HSHS St. Joseph's Hospital Annual Giving Society.

Give a gift of $1,000 or more and receive regonition on the Wall of Honnor located in the main corridor leading to Emergency Services. The wall is dedicated to the memory and spirit of our Sisters.

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Give a gift of $5,000 or more an you automatically become a member of the Friends of HSHS St. Joseph's Hospital Legacy Giving Society. You can also become a member by including the Hospital in your estate plan through a bequest, life insurance policy, retirement plan, or charitable trust. Help us make a difference provide better healthcare in our community. Call (715) 717-7397 today to learn about giving options.

At the center of the Wall of Honor, The Good Samaritan Tree acknowledges benefactors who have given significant gift to ensure the future availability of healthcare services to our community.

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