Make-believe that comforts and cheers at Penn State Children’s Hospital

Three women dressed in princess costumes visit an 11-year-old boy at Penn State Children's Hospital. All four are laughing. The boy is lying in a hospital bed covered with a sports blanket.Three women dressed in princess costumes visit an 11-year-old boy at Penn State Children's Hospital. All four are laughing. The boy is lying in a hospital bed covered with a sports blanket.

From left, Molly Carney as Belle, Maddie Goss as Sleeping Beauty and Liz Profeta as Elsa share a laugh with 11-year-old Tymere Patterson of Harrisburg during the group’s visit to Penn State Children’s Hospital.

By Carolyn Kimmel

As the minutes ticked closer to his surgery, 11-year-old Tymere Patterson got more and more anxious—which made his parents more and more anxious—until suddenly Sleeping Beauty, Belle and Elsa swept into his room in all their princess glory.

“The timing was perfect,” said Tymere’s mother, Tara Patterson, who with husband Terry Patterson was trying to ease her son’s fear before surgery for an inguinal hernia at Penn State Children’s Hospital. “I don’t think it really hit him about what was going to happen until we were actually in that room, and then he was very nervous—until the princesses showed up.”

The distraction of their visit—even though they were princesses and not Superman—was enough to put a smile on Tymere’s face and help him forget about the butterflies in his stomach.

“They really lightened the mood for all of us,” his mother said. “As a parent, you never want to see your child in the hospital, much less upset about being there. After the princesses left, we were still laughing, and Tymere didn’t talk about being nervous anymore.”

The princesses were actually Penn State College of Medicine students who volunteer with BraveCubs, an organization that brings well-loved characters to life for young patients at the Children’s Hospital. The name honors the bravery of the pediatric patients and is also a nod to the Penn State Nittany Lion.

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August 14, 2018 at 12:21 pm Leave a comment

In their shoes: pediatric cancer survivors grown up and working “For the Kids”

A young man wearing a button-down shirt with a Hershey Medical Center logo leans over a patient bed and wipes the side rail with a cloth. He is wearing purple gloves. The bed has a Hershey Medical Center logo on the headboard.

Cole Horne, a former Four Diamonds child, cleans a patient bed at Hershey Medical Center.

By Carolyn Kimmel

Cole Horne knows that being diagnosed with Burkett’s Lymphoma at age 6 was a life-changing moment, but his memories are not of the large tumor that had to be removed or the five months of chemotherapy that followed; he remembers the fun.

Yes, the fun.

“When you are in Penn State Children’s Hospital, you don’t even feel like you’re in the hospital. There’s music therapy, pet therapy, bingo,” said Horne, now 20 and cancer-free for 13 years. “Then I began participating in THON when I was 7 until I was 13, and that took my mind off what was going on. Everyone is so happy, and they’re there celebrating you.”

Today this childhood cancer survivor is back at Penn State Health, this time as an employee, drawn back because of the excellent support he and his family received from the staff and Four Diamonds.

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August 7, 2018 at 10:00 am Leave a comment

Lorelei’s story: helping others is written on her heart

Thirteen-year-old Lorelei McIntyre-Brewer lies on the ground and smiles, surrounded by five heart-shaped pillows called Heart Hugs. The pillows have colorful hand prints or triangular patterns on them.

Lorelei McIntyre-Brewer is surrounded by her Heart Hug pillows that have been sent to more than 20,000 children around the world.

By Carolyn Kimmel

When Lorelei McIntyre-Brewer picks up a pen, her words—and her imagination—take her to places her heart never could.

“When I write, it’s just me and my adventures, and nothing can stop me,” said the 13-year-old Duncannon girl, who has already won three local writing competitions.

In reality, she knows hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a congenital heart defect, does stop her without warning. The three lifesaving open-heart surgeries she had by age 3 and 30 other procedures and hospital stays have a way of doing that, she admits.

“I don’t want people to see me just from one angle. I want them to see the real me, not just the girl with half a heart,” she said. “To me, my life is normal. People think it’s sad, but I have the best doctors and nurses in the world.”

Some of them are located right here, at Penn State Children’s Hospital, where Lorelei has been coming since she was born with the left side of her heart severely underdeveloped. Her rare heart condition was discovered at 21 weeks, after her twin brother, Rory, died in utero.

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July 31, 2018 at 2:30 pm Leave a comment

The power of positivity: new chair of Medicine plans to double department’s NIH funding and transform medical education

Dr. Thomas, chair of the Department of Medicine at Penn State College of Medicine and Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, is pictured in a head-and-shoulders professional photo in his lab, wearing a medical coat with his name and the medical center’s logo on it. He has dark hair and is wearing glasses.

Dr. Thomas Ma aims to improve faculty work satisfaction and build a stronger research program at Penn State College of Medicine.

By Lisa Maresca

When Dr. Thomas Ma first assumed the role of chair of the Department of Medicine at Penn State College of Medicine and Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, he wasted no time making changes.

“I’m here to break down barriers and open doors,” Ma said.

Ma left the sunshine of New Mexico for the snow of Pennsylvania in January to assume the post. He previously served as chief of the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at the University of New Mexico – Health Sciences Center (UNM-HSC) and executive director of the UNM-HSC’s Center for Digestive Disorders, Center for Digestive Diseases Research and Center for Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Ma was also director of the New Mexico Veterans Affairs Health Care System’s Center for Cellular and Molecular Biology. He succeeds Dr. Robert Aber, who led the department for 13 years before stepping down as chair in 2017.

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July 17, 2018 at 10:00 am Leave a comment

Everyday heroes

Margie Gantz, foreground, an advanced EMT with Penn State Health Life Lion EMS, and Life Lion paramedic Mike Pribila pull a gurney with a patient. Margie, a blonde woman with glasses, is wearing a white shirt with a Penn State Hershey Emergency Medicine badge on it. Mike is wearing blue sunglasses. The patient’s face is covered by a hooded jacket.

Margie Gantz, foreground, an advanced EMT with Penn State Health Life Lion EMS, and Life Lion paramedic Mike Pribila transport a patient to the Emergency Department at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

By Lisa Maresca

Not all heroes wear capes.

Some wear shirts, professional cargo pants, a utility belt and boots—the uniform of an emergency medicine technician (EMT).

It was a typical day in late February for Margie Gantz, an EMT with Life Lion EMS, when she came across an extraordinary scene.

Making her third trip to Lowe’s that day while working on a house flip, Gantz came across a man in the parking lot slumped over his steering wheel. Without hesitation, she took action.

Right time, right place.

Riding along with Life Lion EMS - Penn State Health

View photos of the Life Lion team in action on the Medical Center’s Flickr page.

“It was a terrible day, really cold conditions,” recalled Gantz. “I couldn’t see right away what happened. When I came upon him, I thought he had stopped to let pedestrians cross. It wasn’t until I went around him that I saw him slumped.”

Gantz banged on the window but got no response. She quickly directed another passerby to call 911. Together, she and another man broke the car window and were able to pull the man, who had gone into cardiac arrest and was not breathing or moving, onto the pavement to start CPR.

The CPR Gantz performed saved his life that day.

“I just did what I had to do.”

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July 10, 2018 at 10:25 am Leave a comment

College of Medicine students see medicine through global lens

Global Health Scholars Rolfy Perez, Olivia Munizza and Ivana Marji pose with staff at the Hospital Regional de Loreto in Peru during their fourth-year trip. The four-story yellow and white hospital is flanked by palm trees and shrubs.

From left, Rolfy Perez, Olivia Munizza and Ivana Marji join staff at the Hospital Regional de Loreto in Peru during their fourth-year trip.

By Carolyn Kimmel

As she reflects on the past four years at Penn State College of Medicine, Jordan Trubiano points to her participation in the Global Health Scholars Program as a definite asset to her medical training.

“I gained an understanding that there are different strengths and weaknesses in each country’s health system, which will give me a different perspective to offer to future training programs and hospitals where I will work,” said Trubiano, who will do her residency in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

In Ecuador, where she traveled twice—once after her first year of medical school and again last winter—maternal health care is free, and people marvel that health care in America is so expensive and doesn’t cover everyone, she said.

The Global Health Scholars Program appealed to her because it offered two chances to visit the same place. As a first-year student, she worked on nutritional lessons for elementary school students and, during her second trip, she completed medical rotations in reproductive and sexual health.

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June 26, 2018 at 10:00 am Leave a comment

After nearly 200 years of anesthesia practice, are patients waking up safer?

Anesthesiologist Dr. Berend Mets of the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center secures the endotracheal tube of a patient during an operation. He is wearing scrubs, a mask, a cap and a stethoscope. Above him are lights, a monitor and an IV stand. The patient is out of focus.

Dr. Berend Mets secures the endotracheal tube of a patient during an operation at Hershey Medical Center.

By Katherine Brind’Amour

That’s the question Dr. Berend Mets, chair of the Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center seeks to answer with his new book, “Waking Up Safer? An Anesthesiologist’s Record.

“The public has the misperception that anesthesia is just sleep, which we euphemistically call it to allay anxiety,” says Dr. Mets. “It’s not sleep—it’s a medically induced coma. The minute you’re under, your airway can collapse, and it’s our job to keep it open and continually provide oxygen to supply your brain. Anesthesiology doesn’t get the respect it deserves for its importance.”

The book weaves Mets’ personal anesthesiology stories—starting with his training in South Africa using rudimentary techniques, through his practice in England and New York to his current position in Pennsylvania—with the history of anesthesiology. From the field’s advent in 1846 to his own present-day practice at the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Mets explains what has contributed to making surgery safer with time.

“I wanted to tell stories about anesthesia and the people who led its quest for safety, using my career to illustrate the development of the specialty,” says Mets. “It started with literally just a finger on the pulse and a blood pressure cuff for me, and now 35 years later it’s similar to the cockpit of a Boeing 737. The transformation is astounding.”

Has this change been meaningful, though? Are patients waking up safer now than 60 years ago, when anesthesia outcomes were first truly measured?

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June 19, 2018 at 10:51 am Leave a comment

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