Things just work better through collaboration.  Health care is one of those things.  Kaiser Foundation columnist  Howard Gleckman who blogs at Caring for Our Parents recently posted on several examples from around the country of integrated care between acute care (hospital) and sub-acute care (rehabiliation centers/nursing homes).  Ecumen colleague Paul Libbon shares this story of the healing intersection between the two settings of care.  It recounts the journey of Ecumen trustee and customer Rev. Hank Noordzy, and his wife Nancy (both picture above), who also is an Ecumen customer at our Lakeshore community in Duluth.  A big part of changing aging in America will continue to be the increased integration between care settings . . . .

Hank Noordzy and his wife, Nancy, moved to Ecumen’s Lakeshore community on Lake Superior on June 1, 2010 after 34 years in their Duluth home.   Nancy’s severe Scoliosis had so dramatically affected her mobility that she was no longer able to step off a curb or navigate steps. She lost three inches in height, and when she sat down, her rib cage rested on her hips.

Nancy’s pain became unbearable, causing her constant discomfort to the point that she could only sleep in a reclining chair for the past 1-1/2 years.  She turned to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Mayo specialist told her the only option for her condition was a radical new surgery technique which involved two surgeries: the first was to remove the discs and insert plastic spacers, and two days later a second surgery to insert rods and screws and fuse the vertebra from L-9 to the base of the spine (10 vertebra).

On September 14 and 16, 2010, Nancy had the surgeries and on September 23rd returned to Lakeshore, this time to Lakeshore’s short-stay rehabilitation center to heal. On September 27th the keen eye of Jennifer Hernandez, a nurse at Lakeshore’s rehab center, noticed an infection in the stitches. Jennifer spoke directly to the surgeon at the Mayo Clinic and, after explaining what was happening, Nancy returned to Mayo. Following three more surgeries to clean out the infection (containing 6 different bacteria), Nancy returned to The Fountains on October 8th.

The next step on the journey was to start an extensive therapy program. The therapy plans for the next week were soon scrapped as Nancy quickly exceeded her goals. The therapists were amazed at Nancy’s progress.

“It had only been a very short time, about three weeks since surgery number 5, and already Nancy’s quality of life had dramatically improved,” said Hank.

Nancy has actually gained three inches in height, and her pain has dramatically decreased.  Nancy is living life much more on her terms.

How was this accomplished?

Nancy’s positive determination and faith combined with a collaborative effort that included doctors, nurses, nursing assistants, dieticians, physical and occupational therapists, social workers, housekeeping and others.

Congratulations to all.