Category Archives: Our Patients

Meet Casper’s newest citizen, baby Adelia

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Eric and Genneca Houser study their new daughter, Adelia, at Wyoming Medical Center on Thursday. Adelia was born at 8:49 a.m. Wednesday, making her the first baby born at WMC in 2014.
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Our New Year Baby, Adelia Houser, weighed 4 pounds, 13 ounces, and came exactly one week before her due date.

Welcome, Adelia Houser, to Casper, Wyoming and 2014.

Adelia, the daughter of Genneca and Eric Houser, was the first baby of the year born at Wyoming Medical Center. She came at 8:49 a.m. Wednesday, one week shy of her Jan. 9 due date. She weighed 4 pounds, 13.9 ounces.

Mom had contractions all day New Year’s Eve. They started getting worse about 1 a.m. New Year’s Day and she and dad, Eric Houser, arrived at the hospital about 4:30 a.m. At about 7:45 a.m., Adelia decided she wouldn’t budge, no matter how hard Mom pushed. There was no amniotic fluid and Adelia’s heart rate started dropping. Doctors decided they needed to deliver her by Caesarean section.

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Dr. Robert Benowicz, a pediatric hospitalist at Wyoming Medical Center, examines baby Adelia on Thursday.

Adelia is Genneca’s first baby. Like many new mothers, she worried this morning that she wasn’t producing enough milk and that Adelia wasn’t getting enough to eat.

That will come, pediatric hospitalist Dr. Robert Benowicz told her.  “She’s looking good, her vitals look good. She’s acting hungry, but babies do that.”

Adelia is the third child for dad Eric Houser who has an 8-year-old girl and a 4-year-old boy. The family will likely stay through tomorrow to make sure Adelia is eating and gaining weight and to give mother time to recover.

“I just know you’re adorable,” mother whispered to baby.  How does it feel to have Casper’s first baby born in 2014?

“I’m just happy to have a baby. I’m pretty stoked about that,” Genneca said. “One little miracle is enough. It was a labor of love.

Wyoming Medical Center welcomed three new babies on New Year’s Day, but Adelia was the first. Welcome little Adelia, and congratulations to Genneca and Eric!

The Birth Place welcomes five Christmas babies to Casper

Wyoming Medical Center welcomed five Christmas babies this year, and each got a crocheted cap donated to The Birth Place. Three modeled their caps for us this morning.

Grayson Gifford was born at 4:57 p.m. Dec. 25, 2013, to Iveeth and Matthew Grayson of Casper.
Grayson Gifford was born at 4:57 p.m. Dec. 25, 2013, to Iveeth and Matthew Grayson of Casper.
Elden Antonio Gomes was born at 6 p.m. Dec. 25, 2013, to Janelle Brode and Timothy Gomes of Casper. He was supposed to come on New Year's Eve, but when mom and dad came in for tests, doctors told them he was coming for Christmas.
Elden Antonio Gomes was born at 6 p.m. Dec. 25, 2013, to Janelle Brode and Timothy Gomes of Casper. He was supposed to come on New Year’s Eve, but when mom and dad came in for tests, doctors told them he was coming for Christmas.
Dominick Allen Reynolds was born to Anggie Young and Donald Reynolds at 11:56 a.m. Dec. 25, 2013.
Dominick Allen Reynolds was born to Anggie Young and Donald Reynolds at 11:56 a.m. Dec. 25, 2013.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

hatsIn November, an anonymous donor dropped off a whole pile of these adorable caps to The Birth Place. We still don’t know who, but are eternally grateful. We think our babies are too!

Read the full story here or click to see our Thanksgiving baby model her turkey cap.

 

Toys for Tots brings Christmas to WMC’s youngest patients

From the bottom of our hearts, we want to thank Toys for Tots Natrona County for bringing Christmas to a few children in the hospital today. Much to the delight of several of our youngest patients, seven Marines in their full dress blues arrived to distribute gifts this Christmas Eve.

“I have given out toys to those in need and I will tell you there is nothing that feels better than to help children during the holidays,” said Terry Probst, coordinator for Toys for Tots Natrona County and former Navy corpsman. “Every child deserves a Christmas. To me, it feels like Christmas on distribution day since we are giving, and isn’t that what this season is all about?”

Toys for Tots logoMajor Bill Hendricks of the U.S. Marine Corp Reserves started Toys for Tots in Los Angeles in 1947. He and others gave away more than 5,000 toys, Probst said. The Marine Core commandant was so impressed that he initiated it nationwide in 1948. Walt Disney Studios designed the logo – a three-car train.

Most of the time, they don’t have the opportunity to deliver gifts in person, but they arrived at Wyoming Medical Center in hopes of making the kids’ hospital stays a little more bearable.

We know they did just that.  Thank you. 

Toys for Tots’ support of our community’s children has been wide-reaching this holiday season, with gifts delivered to the Boys and Girls Club, Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Casper Housing Authority, Interfaith, Food for Thought and more.  To learn how to get involved, visit Natrona County’s Toys For Tots website

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Pvt. 1st Class Tyler Clark, GySgt. Clinton Rasmusson, GySgt. Lisa Rasmusson, Sgt. Courtney Capps, Lance Cpl. Ashton Buckingham, Sgt. Wesley Capps and Sgt. Chris Cloud arrived on Christmas Eve to deliver gifts on Wyoming Medical Center’s Pediatric unit on behalf of Toys for Tots Natrona County.
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Tasha M. Burchfield, 17, received books and other gifts from a Marine delivering on behalf of Toys for Tots Natrona County.
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GySgt. Lisa Rasmusson kneels down to offer gifts to Colleen Pulanco, a patient in Wyoming Medical Center’s Emergency department, on Christmas Eve.
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The Marines delivered gifts to several young patients receiving care in Wyoming Medical Center’s Pediatric unit on Christmas Eve.
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A Marine delivers gifts to Lily Crago, 9, of Kaycee.

Couple, married 36 years, renews vows at Wyoming Medical Center

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Bob and Marie Richter hold onto one another after renewing their vows on their 36th wedding anniversary Tuesday at Wyoming Medical Center in Casper. Bob has battled esophageal cancer since June, enduring two major surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation, and a tracheotomy, and will soon undergo another major surgery which will restore his ability to speak. ‘Stay close. Love them all you can,’ Marie says. ‘You don’t know when it will be last, and I’m not ready for last.’ (Casper Star-Tribune photo by Ryan Dorgan)

If you do nothing else today, take the time to read this story from Casper Star-Tribune reporter Patrick Simonaitis. “Through sickness and health” tells about Thermopolis couple Marie and Bob Richter who have been driving to Casper weekly since June in a fight against Bob’s esophageal cancer. Tuesday, the couple renewed their vows in Bob’s hospital room at Wyoming Medical Center.

“We’ve had a great 36 years. We’re going to have 36 more,” Richter told the Star-Tribune.

The Richters have stayed at the Masterson Place since the summer, driving home to Thermopolis on weekends. The Pulse first met Marie just before Thanksgiving when she attended a potluck for guests of Masterson Place — a home away from home for out-of-town patients of Wyoming Medical Center and Rocky Mountain Oncology.

“Each week, they give us the same room. It feels like we’ve come home whenever we get here,” Marie told us then.

Last week, though, Bob took  a turn for the worse. Doctors didn’t expect him to make it, but he hung on for another day and then another. Marie decided to surprise her husband with the renewal ceremony on Tuesday night, the couple’s 36th wedding anniversary, according to the Star-Tribune.

“I felt this was the best anniversary to repeat our vows because I didn’t know if I’d get to keep him or not,” Richter told the paper.

The whole story is worth a read, especially now with less than a week until Christmas.

For more

* Read the entire Star-Tribune article, “Through sickness and health: During a battle for life, a couple renews vows.”

* Read how the Masterson Place becomes a home away from home for many out-of-town patients in “The Turkey Chef: How cancer helped Casper man rediscover the joy of food.”  

About the Masterson Place

The Masterson Place serves thousands of patients every year. At a cost of $40 per night with both short- and long-term rooms, it is a comfortable refuge for those who need it most. Each room has a small eating area, microwave and refrigerator. Through contributions, the Wyoming Medical Center Foundation continues to make significant upgrades to the Masterson Place each year. For reservations or more information, contact the Masterson Place at (307) 237-5933 or visit our website.

To make a donation, contact the Wyoming Medical Center Foundation:

1233 E. Second St.
Casper, WY 82601
(307) 577-2973

Help us welcome our ‘Thanksgiving’ baby

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Our Thanksgiving baby, Parker Camp, was born at 6:57 a.m. Wednesday to Kristin and Dallas Camp.

Help us welcome Wyoming Medical Center’s Thanksgiving baby to Casper.

While a baby wasn’t born on Thanksgiving proper, Parker was born to Kristin and Dallas Camp at 6:57 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 27. She’s wearing her turkey baby cap donated to The Birth Place a couple of weeks ago.

We are still looking for whoever crocheted these caps. (Click here for the full story.) If you think you might know our anonymous donor, please let us know.

We hope to post photos of babies wearing their Christmas-themed caps, so stay tuned!

How a rare Evansville murder almost took – then saved – the chief’s life

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Evansville Police Chief Zachary Gentile poses at his desk recently. While investigating a rare Evansville homicide in July, he suffered a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm. He credits staff at Wyoming Medical Center for saving his life — and for catching the cancer he didn’t know he had. (Photo by Dan Cepeda Photography)

It’d been a long night and Zachary Gentile lay down almost as soon as he hit his front door.

A rare homicide had pulled Gentile and his Evansville officers out of bed just after midnight on July 25. A 21-year-old man allegedly shot another man in the parking lot of Taylor’s Sports Bar, and the officers worked the case for 12 straight hours. At noon, Gentile decided they needed a break, and he took his folks to lunch. His stomach started to hurt soon after arriving home.

“The pain was just astronomical. So, I went into the bathroom and I am sitting down and the pain got to the point where I could not breath, OK?” said Gentile, Evansville police chief. “I fell down, hit my head and cut my eye. My wife called the EMTs.”

Sometimes, Gentile jokes that he must have landed in the witness protection program to find himself in Evansville. He grew up in New York City, retired from Miami’s Metro Dade Police Department after 24 years, and came to Wyoming 15 years ago to take the chief job.

But he will tell anyone that asks that his care at Wyoming Medical Center rivals the care he would have gotten in cities 10 times the size of Casper.  The medical team here saved his life, he says, no two ways about it.

“I have run into a couple of nurses that were there. They are just amazed that I am actually back to work. They told me my condition is mostly discovered in an autopsy,” he said.

“So, yeah. I do feel thankful. It obviously was not my turn to go yet. I don’t know why I did not chip in, but here I am. And I am glad.”

***

Gentile bypassed the WMC emergency room for an immediate CT scan. His doctor and nurse noticed an 6-centimeter rupture in his aorta. Gentile didn’t have time to report back to the Emergency Room and wouldn’t survive an emergency flight.  Emergency staff called Dr. James Anderson who responded within five minutes to meet Gentile in surgery. Gentile’s aortic artery had ruptured, and he was bleeding into his abdomen.

A healthy aorta branches into smaller arteries, carrying blood to the kidneys, abdomen and legs.
A healthy aorta branches into smaller arteries, carrying blood to the kidneys, abdomen and legs.
An aneurysm forms when part of the aortic wall weakens and bulges out like a balloon. When an aneurysm ruptures, as in Zachary Gentile's case, it bleeds into the abdomen.
An aneurysm forms when part of the aortic wall weakens and bulges out like a balloon. When an aneurysm ruptures, as in Zachary Gentile’s case, it bleeds into the abdomen.
An arteriogram of a healthy aorta (left) compared to an aortic aneurysm.
An arteriogram of a healthy aorta (left) compared to an aortic aneurysm.

“ER staff caught it and recognized that it was life threatening. If they did not catch it, who knows what would have happened,” Gentile said.

The aorta is the body’s largest artery, about the circumference of a garden hose. It carries oxygenated blood directly from the heart to the kidneys, abdomen and the lower body. A healthy artery is smooth inside allowing easy flow of the blood.

For years and without him knowing it, the lining of Gentile’s aorta had been growing weaker – a condition that likely ran in his family. His aorta bulged outwards like a balloon, stretching the walls and weakening them further. His blood pressure dropped, but he displayed no outward symptoms. At 170 pounds, he could have stood to lose a few pounds, but which of us couldn’t?

Then his phone rang shortly after midnight on July 25. His blood pressure almost certainly rose as he and his officers investigated the shooting at Taylor’s Bar, putting more pressure on his weak aortal walls. By the time he lay down for his nap, the walls could no longer withstand the pressure. His aorta ruptured.

“Murder is not something that happens in Evansville very often. Chief does a good job and he takes his job very seriously. I’m sure his blood pressure was elevated,” Anderson said.

Within about 20 minutes of Gentile’s arrival at WMC, Anderson was in the operating room with his patient. Gentile had suffered a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm – a condition that is fatal if not immediately treated.

There are two ways to fix an aortic aneurysm, Anderson said. One is with a catheter inserted into two small incisions in the groin and threaded through the artery. Doctors place the graft inside the aneurysm using X-ray guidance. That wasn’t an option for Gentile.

“When the aneurysm is ruptured and the patient is bleeding to death, you don’t have time to get there with a catheter. You just open them up and put a clamp on the artery and sew the graft inside,” Anderson said.

The national survival rate for ruptured aortic aneurysms is about 50 percent, said Anderson who sees 8 to 10 such cases a year. When the patients get to the emergency room with a blood pressure, Wyoming Medical Center surgeons save about 95 percent of them.

That’s an advantage of having a community hospital with expertly trained specialists and subspecialists so close to where we live, Anderson said. In emergencies, patients recover more often when they are treated within a few minutes to a few hours following trauma. If patients must be transported to another hospital – especially in Wyoming where the next trauma center might be hours away and out of state – the delay in care increases the chances of death or a longer, more difficult recovery.

“There’s not many things we can’t take care of right here. Basically, we are so far from anywhere else that if we don’t take care of it here, they don’t do well,” Anderson said. “The hospital recognizes that if we make sure we provide the highest quality care that is available, people will come to see us. We as surgeons have committed to that.”

***

Gentile woke up the next day in the Intensive Care Unit. He considers himself lucky to be back at work, and knows how close he came to being Evansville’s second fatality that day.

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Zachary Gentile poses under the insignia of the Evansville Police Department. He is now back to work after doctors removed his kidney. (Photo by Dan Cepeda Photography)

He likes to tell people about the care he got at Wyoming Medical Center because he thinks it’s an asset the community is fortunate to have.

“I tell you what, those people in the Intensive Care Unit never left my side. I had one nurse assigned to me, and if I wanted something, they were there. I never had to use my call button because they were always there asking me if I was okay, checking on me, making sure I had my medications on time,” he said.

“I had to walk three to four times a day before they would let me go home. They were not pushy, but they let you know that, ‘Hey. You got to get your dead butt out of that bed and start walking, Jack, or you’re not going home.’ They treated me with respect and I appreciate that.

“As far as your cleaning folks, three to four times a day they were in there. The food was actually good. It really was. When you ordered it, it was up there and still hot.”

Gentile has since lost 35 pounds and makes sure he keeps his weight under 145. Because he’s had one aneurysm, he has a 10 to 15 percent chance of developing another. Doctors will monitor him at least annually for the rest of his life.

Getting to the hospital in time obviously saved Gentile’s life. It also probably caught his cancer and gave him more time with his three grandchildren.  In the process of all the tests, doctors spotted a mark on his left kidney. His doctor told him it was probably cancerous and the kidney should come out.  He recently underwent that procedure at Wyoming Medical Center.

“Well, you know, it is like the bad thing that happened to me was the ruptured aorta. But if I did not get it, I would have never known about this; so eventually, I would have died from it. One way or the other, bad things happened for good reasons.”

So what about that rare Evansville homicide, the stress of which likely started this medical odyssey? Did Gentile get his man?

“Of course we did,” Gentile said. “He goes to trial in December.”

Know your risk

Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm is often called a “silent” problem because it rarely causes symptoms. It’s often found by healthcare providers conducting other tests. The aneurysm could create a pulsatile abdominal mass – a pulsating in your stomach that you can feel, usually in people who are not overweight. Your doctor should be able to feel this and can easily diagnose the aneurysm with an ultrasound.

Anyone can develop this type of aneurysm, but certain factors increase the risk:

  • Having a family history
  • Smoking
  • Having high blood pressure
  • Having a blood vessel disease in another part of the body
  • Being over age 55 for men and 65 for women

Symptoms of a ruptured aneurysm

A ruptured Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm is a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment. Call 911 if you:

  • Have severe abdominal or back pain
  • Your blood pressure drops noticeably

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Dr. James Anderson is board certified in general surgery and vascular surgery. He has worked in Casper for 33 years, 25 of which he was the only board-certified vascular surgeon in Wyoming.

Medical School: University of Colorado School of Medicine, Denver
Internship: University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, General Surgery
Residency: University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, General Surgery

Practice: Wyoming Surgical Associates, PC

419 S. Washington St., Suite 200
Casper, WY 82601
(307) 577-4220

Members needed for our new Patient and Family Advisory Council

PFAC DD (1)Have you or a family member been a patient at Wyoming Medical Center within the last year? Are you interested in promoting patient-centered care at Casper’s community hospital?

We are now enlisting members for our new Patient and Family Advisory Council – a group of committed patients and family members, caregivers, healthcare providers and community members working to promote safe and comprehensive patient-and-family-centered care. Guided by our vision, mission and values, the council ensures our patients and families receive safe, quality, compassionate and supportive treatments at WMC.

The council will shape policies to provide better care and service, strengthen communication and promote collaboration among healthcare providers, patients and families. It will work with our leadership team to evaluate WMC programs and services and recommend improvements. The council will be a vital link between hospital staff and the community.

Council member criteria

To be a member of the Patient and Family Advisory Council, you must:

  • Have received care or have been a patient’s caretaker at WMC within the last year
  • Be able to keep personal information confidential
  • Be able to work collaboratively with council members whose background, experience and style may be different than your own
  • Be able to attend one meeting every month (10 meetings per year) with an attendance rate of at least 80 percent
  • Be prepared to make a two-year commitment

Become a member

The Patient and Family Advisory Council is now seeking members. If you are interested in serving, print and fill out this application and return to:

  • Kathy Swanson
  • Chief Experience Officer
  • 1233 E. Second St.
  • Casper, WY 82601

To learn more, read the council’s bylaws and information sheet or contact Kathy Swanson at (307) 577-2629 or kswanson@wyomingmedicalcenter.org.

Call of duty: WMC paramedic develops protocol for boy with rare disease

Roman LaDuke, 6, poses with the ambulance and fire crews who came to his Casper home Sept. 14. Roman has primary adrenal insufficiency and needs an immediate shot of Solu-Cortef -- a drug not carried on most ambulances around the country. His parents worked with WMC Paramedic Travis Lovelace, third from left, to get the drug approved for WMC ambulances.
Roman LaDuke, 6, poses with the ambulance and fire crews who came to his Casper home Sept. 14. Roman has primary adrenal insufficiency and needs an immediate shot of Solu-Cortef — a drug not carried on most ambulances around the country — if he goes into adrenal crisis. His parents worked with WMC Paramedic Travis Lovelace, third from left, to get the drug approved for WMC ambulances.

Roman LaDuke, 6, thinks it would be pretty nifty to ride up and down the street in an ambulance every day. He someday wants to work at Walmart so all those lined-up people will hand their money to him. Name a sport, and he likes to play it – wrestling, football, basketball, baseball, tennis and swimming.

One problem for this very typical, active boy: Sports could send his body into shock.  Roman, a first grader at University Park Elementary in Casper, has primary adrenal insufficiency, meaning his adrenal glands don’t produce cortisol – a hormone used to deal with stress. Dehydration, injury and other stressors could send him into shock. If that happens, Roman needs an immediate injection of Solu-Cortef.

The LaDukes -- Chad, Roman and Becky -- pose for a photo in their Casper home.
The LaDukes — Chad, Roman and Becky — pose for a photo in their Casper home.

His parents carry a syringe and a vile of the drug wherever they go. Roman’s school nurse knows how to administer the shot if needed. But, what would happen if the nurse was at another school? Or if Roman had an attack when his parents weren’t around?

“Roman is getting older now and he is more active, and he isn’t around us as much,” said Becky LaDuke, Roman’s mother. “We always assumed that if Roman wasn’t with us, that if an ambulance was called, they would be able to give the shot to him.”

Travis Roman drug
Giving Roman a life-saving dose of Solu-Cortef in cases of adrenal crisis is not like carrying an Epi-pen, the LaDukes say. They carrying this with them whenever they are with Roman, but worry about the times that they aren’t around now that he is growing older and more independent.
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Roman’s medical bracelet says he “needs a stress dose of cortisol.”

Just a month ago, that wasn’t case. The LaDukes were shocked to learn that Solu-Cortef is not on the National Registry Paramedic Drugs list, meaning few ambulances in the country carry it. If Roman went into adrenal crisis, he would have been transported to the emergency room before getting the potentially life-saving injection – a waste of valuable minutes.

“There is no safe time. He needs the shot right then and there,” said Chad LaDuke, Roman’s father.

The LaDukes contacted Wyoming Medical Center. Mark Meyer, then the ambulance manager, spent a few weeks to research whether carrying Solu-Cortef was even possible. Meyer then assigned Paramedic Travis Lovelace to develop a protocol. Lovelace took just three days to research primary adrenal insufficiency and Solu-Cortef, write the protocol, develop the medical sheet, get doctor approval, obtain appropriate licenses and train WMC staff to administer the shot and respond to adrenal crisis.

Just four states in the country have ambulance protocols for Solu-Cortef in place while a handful of others have programs pending, according to The Cares Foundation, a national group working to raise money and awareness of Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia. Colorado worked almost a year to get its program approved.  It took Wyoming Medical Center less than a month.

“It was amazing how fast they did it,” Becky said. “Travis went above and beyond what we could have ever hoped for.”

Lovelace has worked at Wyoming Medical Center about 5 ½ years (with a year off for school). His mother was an ICU nurse for 30 years and health care was a natural fit.

“Seeing how passionate she was really started me in that direction,” Lovelace said. “I think this is my niche – from just getting a blanket for someone in the ER to saving someone’s life. This is what I love to do.”

Lovelace didn’t stop with the drug protocol.

He went to the local dispatch to flag Roman’s address for his condition. He met with area fire departments – all Casper fire stations, and fire departments in Evansville, Mills and Natrona County – to tell them about Roman. If the boy had attack, those fire trucks might arrive first. And while firefighters can’t administer Solu-Cortef, they will know what to expect if Roman is in adrenal crisis.

Finally, Lovelace asked the LaDukes if ambulance and fire truck crews could visit Roman at his home. Lovelace recognized that stress is the trigger for an attack, and he wanted to show Roman what to expect if EMS vehicles ever respond to his house with lights and sirens blazing.

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EMS crews give neighborhood kids a tour of a Wyoming Medical Center ambulance, letting them try out the hydraulic guerney. When the crews came to show Roman LaDuke (shown at left) the ambulance and fire truck, the kids came running.

During the visit on Sept. 14, Roman held back at first. Then he opened up and no one could stop him, Lovelace said. About eight neighborhood children saw the vehicles and came over.

“They got to see my medicine bracelet and I sat criss-cross applesauce in the ambulance. It would be fun to ride it down the street every day,” Roman said.

Lovelace talked to Roman’s parents and grandmother, Susan Royston, a retired nurse, about Roman’s condition.

“Not very often do we get to go and just hang out and talk to the community,” Lovelace said. “Something like that did me, personally, a lot of good. And hopefully it will do Roman a lot of good.”

Roman was a healthy baby until he was 3 years old. He got sick with what his parents figured was the flu, but he then quit moving. His pediatrician, Dr. Robert Vigneri, told the LaDukes it was a case of dehydration and Roman perked up after his IVs. The same thing happened a few months later.

Dr. Vigneri ran more tests and couldn’t find a reason. He finally contacted the Denver Children’s Hospital which pointed him to primary adrenal insufficiency. He ran one more test to confirm the diagnosis, and Roman now controls the disease with cortisol pills three times a day.

“To look back on it, it really scares me. He was close to the D-word, you know what I mean?” Becky said. “I didn’t realize it back then. But now that I know, it is really scary how close he was.”

Roman will take the pills the rest of his life and will always need to carry Solu-Cortef. But the disease is manageable, and the LaDukes feel good knowing the drug is available if they are ever not around. They now want to work with the state EMS manager to see if they can install a statewide protocol. Wyoming has a lot of tourists, they say, and while adrenal gland diseases are rare, such a protocol could save lives.

Arrange an ambulance visit

Wyoming Medical Center crews will bring an ambulance to your daycare, preschool, elementary school or community group. To set up a visit, call the Community Development Office at 577-2388.

Cheryl’s angels

October is breast cancer awareness month. Have you scheduled your mammogram?

Cheryl Rintamaki's yearly mammogram didn't catch her cancer, but the information collected from 15 years of the screening helped doctors recognize the fast-growing mass for what it was.
Cheryl Rintamaki’s yearly mammogram didn’t catch her cancer, but the information collected from 15 years of the screening helped doctors recognize the fast-growing mass for what it was.

For 15 years, Cheryl Rintamaki of Casper never missed a mammogram. Her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at 62 and Rintamaki is an adamant supporter of the screening.

In 2004, she noticed bruising around her breast. Her doctor told her bruising was not a sign of breast cancer, and nothing showed up on her mammogram.

But the bruising didn’t fade. The second time she went to the doctor, he sent her to a specialist. A more sensitive CT scan showed a fast growing mass. Rintamaki underwent a double mastectomy followed by radiation and chemotherapy.

During her mastectomy, a  volunteer from Wyoming Medical Center Foundation’s Angel Cancer Care came into Rintamaki’s room. She was also a cancer survivor, the Angel told her. She explained what Rintamaki could expect and about the support the Angels were prepared to give. It was exactly what Rintamaki needed to hear.

“I didn’t know what to expect before that. I thought I was going to die, and I was not ready to,” Rintamaki said.

The Angels hosted cosmetic workshops and provided wigs. They cooked food and brought her treats. At Christmas, when Rintamaki was too exhausted to bake, Angels brought huge trays of cookies.

Rintamaki finished her treatment in 2005. She figured it was her turn and joined the Angels. She has been volunteering ever since.

Even though Rintamaki’s mammogram didn’t catch her cancer, she knew her body well enough to know that something wasn’t right. “We might know something is wrong, but we think if we ignore it, it will go away. It doesn’t always go away,” she said.

Listen to your body, she says. Ask your doctor when something doesn’t feel right.

And, get a mammogram every year.

About the angels

The Wyoming Medical Center Foundation’s Angels Cancer Care program serves hundreds of cancer patients every year, offering emotional support, financial assistance and more. It also offers free mammograms to women who can’t afford them.
 
To learn more or to make a donation, call (307) 577-4355 or visit our website.
 

Save the date

The WMC Foundation presents a new signature event this month. Gift of Health Gala, on Oct 12, will raise money for the McMurry West Tower, the Angels Cancer Care Program and Masterson Place. 

Concussion Monday: What I did right, what I did wrong when my son fell off the monkey bars

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Six-year-old Sammy before learning about the dangers of the monkey bars. (Unfortunately, this is still how he drinks out of most water fountains.)

Over the last five Mondays, we have posted concussion material geared toward athletes and anatomy as part of our participation in #ConcussionMonday on social media. This post is geared to parents. Specifically, how should parents and caregivers respond when they suspect concussion in children?

I’ll be the guinea pig for this post.

I recently recounted the story of my son’s concussion to Dr. Elizabeth Clark, a child and adult neurologist with Wyoming Medical Center and Wyoming Neurologic Associates. I then asked her what I did right and what I did wrong. Maybe you can learn from my mistakes.

The setup

My husband and I were at a much-deserved dinner with friends. (At least we thought it was much deserved.)  Sammy, then 6 years old, was at a neighbor’s house who happened to live next to a city park.

Two or three bites into dinner, our phones started ringing. Sammy had been crossing the monkey bars when he missed the last bar, our neighbor told us. Sammy fell and smacked his forehead against the top rung of the ladder leading onto the apparatus.

First off, Dr. Clark, what’s the word on monkey bars? Are they safe for young children, with or without supervision?

Dr. Clark: The American Academy of Pediatrics has no official opinion whether children should be allowed on the monkey bars and we tend to make our recommendations using the official guidelines.

So, basically, I ask parents to use their best judgments. If the child is small in comparison to the height of the monkey bars, it’s probably best for the child not to be on them. It is helpful to have a caregiver with them at all times, but even that won’t prevent all accidents.

To dial or not to dial

On the phone, my neighbor told me that Sammy was groggy and talking with slurred, confused speech. I told the neighbor we were on our way, and we left our forks on our plates. It took us between 10 to 15 minutes to drive across town.

So, was leaving dinner the right call, or should we have asked the babysitter to call 911 and planned to meet Sammy at the emergency room?

Dr. Clark: Anytime a child has a knock to the head and neurological symptoms such as slurred speech, grogginess, vomiting, confusion, it is best that the child be transported to the emergency room via ambulance. That way they can be evaluated and monitored and the ER doctors can tell parents what to look for.

Take two aspirin and call in the morning!

Looking back, I think I didn’t ask the sitter to call an ambulance because I figured there’s not a lot to be done for a concussion. I figured I’d take Sammy home, give him some Tylenol and an ice pack, and monitor him through the night.

But by the time we reached Sammy, he had vomited and was still lethargic. My husband and I decided to drive him to Wyoming Medical Center ourselves. We figured it would take less time than calling an ambulance.

Dr. Clark, can parents monitor children at home if they suspect concussion, or did we make the right call to drive Sammy to the ER?

Dr. Clark: Some parents who are in the medical profession who know what they are looking for may feel more comfortable keeping their child at home, however these people are few and far between. That’s why we say, “Go to the ER.”

The most serious outcome of concussion is bleeding in the head, but that is rare. Still, it’s deadly and should be checked by a professional. So taking Sammy to ER was appropriate.

However, ambulances are almost always quicker in emergency situations than driving a patient to the ER yourself.

The sheepish conclusion

Sammy
Sammy, 11, is now a healthy, sometimes happy, middle schooler. Lest you think his fashion sense is an unforeseen side effect of his bump on the head, he was clipping ties to his t-shirts long before falling from the monkey bars.

Sammy did indeed have a concussion. He repeatedly threw up the liquid ER staff needed him to keep down for his CT scan. When he did finally manage, doctors informed us he wasn’t bleeding. He’s now 11 and is a healthy, sometimes happy pre-teenager.  (God help me.)

All that’s left from his concussion experience is a reminder to stay within catching distance when small children are swinging like monkeys from bars, and a funny family story that involves, strangely enough, farm animals.

As Sammy lay in the ER bed – staring wide-eyed at the ceiling, both arms splayed outward as nurses hooked up IVs and took his vitals – a doctor asked me the standard questions about his medical history: Ever have this disease or that? Adverse reactions to any medication? Was he allergic to anything?

No, no and no.

Just then, Sammy sat straight up in his hospital bed: Mom! What did you just say?

I said you aren’t allergic to anything.

But I am allergic to something, Mom. I’m allergic to sheep.

And with that, Sammy fell instantly flat on his back.

The doctor looked at me with a raised eyebrow. I shook my head. Sammy’s only exposure to sheep had been at a petting zoo a few years earlier. The sheep sucked pellets from Sammy’s tiny hands and Sammy sucked sheep slobber from the same hands seconds later. He certainly wasn’t allergic to sheep that day. My husband and I still figure it was the concussion talking.

#ConcussionMonday is an initiative started by Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center to raise awareness about concussion and traumatic brain injury on social media. Hospitals and medical centers across the country use #ConcussionMonday on Twitter to link to education and reminders about concussion prevention.  Read our past posts below:

Week 5: What athletes should know

Week 4: How does a concussion happen?

Week 3: What parents should know 

Week 2: Neurologist Dr. David Wheeler talks symptoms and treatments

Week 1: A high school coach’s guide to recognizing concussions

Kristy verticleKristy Bleizeffer is a writer and public relations rep for Wyoming Medical Center and editor of The Pulse. Previously, she worked at Wyoming newspapers for 12 years, most recently as features editor of the Casper Star-Tribune. She enjoys working in her garden until July when she falls woefully behind and vows to do better next year. She is mother to a son and step-son. Tell her your health stories by emailing kbleizeffer@wyomingmedicalcenter.org or calling (307) 577-2556.