Trinitycare

Freddie’s Story

Freddie was 16 years old, and mostly thinking about what senior year in high school would be like with his friends. But his body felt a little off its game, so he went to his doctor, who suspected something was wrong. Freddie found out he had leukemia around the same time most of his peers were thinking about going to prom.

His diagnosis created limits for him, on the amount of life he could live and the man he could become. But in many other ways it opened things up for Freddie, and brought out the best in him. While his carefree high school days were over, he deepened relationships as his family and friends rallied to his side.

Freddie’s mom was in a panic over what could happen, and the chance she might lose the sweet boy she doted on. In many ways, the loving teenager became a caretaker of his mother – reassuring her that treatments would work and tests would improve.

When a TrinityKids Care team met Freddie, he needed help managing his pain – and some other symptoms, too. He seemed wise beyond his years – a side effect of dealing with a trauma so early in life. He proudly showed his TrinityKids caregivers a picture of his mom, and then triumphantly lifted the sleeve of his shirt to reveal the picture tattooed on his arm with the phrase Never Give Up underneath. His mom was his hero, and he had made sure she knew that he would never stop fighting.

His brother and sister had their own young children, and Freddie felt blessed to have a chance to be an uncle to them. He talked a lot about ideas for a legacy he could leave for them all. Over the weeks and months, Freddie found his way into the hearts of many caregivers, who adopted his resilient attitude in their own lives. As it turned out, that was Freddie’s legacy to everyone – a resolve to go further, and to never give up.


Trinitycare

Karina’s Story

Kids shouldn’t get cancer – it shouldn’t even be possible. Certainly, no child should ever develop a brain tumor that takes away their childhood. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened to Karina.

Karina’s life changed when she got her diagnosis at age 11. An aggressive brain tumor was the source of rampant headaches that left her crying in pain. The tumor was a thief. When it took Karina’s ability to walk, her friends started taking turns pushing her wheelchair. When it took her ability to be independent, her mom struggled to care for her as best she could. Karina’s mother, a single parent, has a disability that forces her to walk with crutches. She worries beyond measure about Karina and whether she’ll ever get to be a fully functional, healthy teenager.

Last summer Karina got to go to a summer camp for kids like her. There was a medical staff there that can handle anything, and the campers got a couple of glorious weeks away from home. No parents, no fussing. Karina looked forward to going back this summer for a repeat. But her last MRI before enrollment showed the cancer was growing again. She needed treatment, and it couldn’t wait.

With her mom more worried than before and a hot summer passing by out her bedroom window, Karina wonders what awaits her – what she is fighting for? To help Karina and her mom cope with these challenges, TrinityKids Care sends an art therapist to her home each week to do projects that help her express her feelings, which is a godsend. While Karina battles for her life and her independence, her caregivers at TrinityKids Care endeavor to support her physically, mentally and emotionally with hope for a better tomorrow.


Trinitycare

Kevin’s Story

Whenever people meet Kevin, they tend to say that he is so much more mature than they’d ever expect a 17-year-old to be, and he is. This is partly because he is so protective of his mom, his younger brother and younger sister. But one of the main sources of Kevin’s maturity is having spent almost all of his life with a fatal respiratory disease.

No one in Kevin’s condition gets to have a normal childhood. Kevin’s problems began right after he was born. He can’t remember ever taking an easy breath. And throughout his seventeen years, Kevin has had multiple stays in the hospital where he was closer to death than to life.

Despite these challenges, Kevin has been a rock for his family. His father was never a part of his life and his mom’s second husband – the father of his siblings – also left. Big brothers are supposed to watch out for their siblings and Kevin, whether he was in a hospital bed or with his nurses at home, is both the strong hand and encouraging voice his brother and sister need.

That is one of the reasons why the caregivers at TrinityKids Care are so proud to work with Kevin and help him live every day of his life to the fullest. Kevin’s breathing is assisted by a respirator, and he can no longer eat, instead receiving his nutrition through tubes. His body is worn out and fragile. His TrinityKids Care nurses make sure he has everything he needs, from pain treatments to medical device management. They make sure his health issues are monitored and treated with technical prowess and a gentle hand.

Kevin and his family are grateful to our caregivers for providing these services and helping their family stay strong.


Tarzana

A Crucial Diagnosis at Providence Tarzana

Long before she became a patient there, Linda Wolfson had a great familiarity with Providence Tarzana Medical Center. Her family has lived in and around Tarzana for over 40 years. Linda and her husband Mark have five daughters, and four of them were born at Providence Tarzana. When Mark’s father suffered a heart attack, the surgeons at Providence Tarzana performed a successful angioplasty that saved his life. Linda never suspected that she would need a similar level of care.

Linda’s journey began with a hysterectomy with a doctor in the West Valley. It seemed as though the procedure was quick and smooth, as planned. But throughout the week after the procedure Linda did not feel well. She was weak and sluggish. Her stomach bothered her. She had difficulty eating, and experienced pain throughout her body.

Seeking answers, Linda and Mark went to Providence Tarzana. As soon as they were admitted she met Dr. Chandra, who in her words “knew instantly what was wrong.” Testing quickly revealed what Dr. Chandra suspected, that the physician who performed Linda’s hysterectomy had accidentally nicked her bowel and ureter. As a result, waste products were leaking into other areas of her body and slowly poisoning her.

Surgical specialists at Providence Tarzana quickly operated on Linda to repair the initial damage, as a first measure in a carefully designed, multi-surgery process. The physicians also installed an ostomy bag and related equipment, and told Linda that she would need to use these products for several months in order to give her digestive system time to heal before the doctors performed their final surgery.

For the first several weeks after her initial surgery, Linda spent time recovering in Providence Tarzana’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Throughout this period and the subsequent phases of her journey with Providence Tarzana, Linda was blown away by the warmth, acumen and dedication of the hospital’s caregivers. “I was especially thankful to the nurses in the ICU, they were always there for us, every step of the way,” she said. “I can’t say enough good things about how much they helped me and my family during a very difficult time.”

After several more weeks healing at home, Linda had recuperated enough to return for the final stage of her treatment, a surgical procedure in which Providence Tarzana’s physicians removed the ostomy materials and essentially put her system back in order. The operation was a complete success and Linda was able to return home with a clean bill of health. Since then, Linda has happily enjoyed her life and her family without lingering health issues.

Linda and her husband Mark are deeply grateful to the caregivers of Providence Tarzana, and remain faithful supporters of the Medical Center to this day.


Tarzana

The True Impact of Compassion

Providence Tarzana Medical Center had long been the hospital of choice for Ira Handelman and his family. At one point, the caregivers at Tarzana had saved Ira’s life during a complicated medical challenge he faced. But when asked why he feels so strongly about the care provided at Providence Tarzana, Ira brings up an even more intimate topic: the story of his recently deceased wife.

Ira’s wife Alice suffered from multiple-sclerosis and liver disease. On New Year’s Eve, 2017, Alice had a stumble and broke her leg. Ira brought her to Providence Tarzana. X-rays showed that she would need surgery to repair her leg, but due to her other conditions and a low blood platelet count, her doctors were very careful about embarking on this procedure. They waited over a week to operate, just to make sure Alice was strong enough. Unfortunately, their concerns were warranted.

Mid-way through the surgery Alice crashed, and her physicians stopped the procedure. Alice was in critical condition for the following week. Ira vividly remembers the skill and dedication of Tarzana’s caregivers during that week. Though his wife’s health was very tenuous, “they kept her alive,” he said. “The level of sensitivity, care and compassion we received, from everyone, the nurses, the doctors, even the maintenance workers…it was above and beyond the level of anything I’d ever seen.”

After Alice recovered, the physician team at Providence Tarzana successfully completed her surgery, replacing much of her blood with new infusions in order to do so. In total, Alice spent 40 days in the hospital, and Ira says that by the end the hospital staff felt like family. “40 days in a place, where you have not one complaint, to me it’s unheard of,” he said.

Afterwards, Alice went to a rehab facility to try and rebuild her health. But with the multiple diseases she was experiencing, she struggled. With her blood count beginning to raise concerns, Alice returned to Providence Tarzana. While she was receiving care, nurses and doctors who had met Alice and Ira previously would stop by and visit in their spare time. They truly felt cared for every moment they spent in the hospital.

Meanwhile, her care team was doing everything medically possible to treat her condition. Unfortunately, Alice’s body had reached its limits, and she passed away peacefully in her room. “To the last moment she was alive,” Ira said, “we were blown away by the care she received.”

When friends and family reached out after her death to make donations in her honor, Ira was clear that the only organization his family was designating would be Providence Tarzana Medical Center.

“Words cannot express my gratitude for the way we were treated,” he said.


Tarzana

A Little Girl’s Life-Saving Stay in the PICU

When Ali North gave birth to her youngest child Haven, she was thrilled to be able to deliver her daughter at Providence Tarzana Medical Center. The hospital was just down the street from Ali’s home and possessed the world-class facilities, clinicians and credentials of her ideal medical home (including selection as one of the 100 best hospitals in the US by Healthgrades).

Haven’s delivery was happy and smooth, and when Ali took her daughter home she did not expect to be visiting Providence Tarzana in the near future. That changed about three months later, when Haven’s pediatrician diagnosed her with hypotonia (chronically low muscle tone). Ali started taking Haven to physical and occupational therapists, which helped, but unfortunately Haven remained vulnerable.

When Haven was nine months old, she developed an infection that brought Ali back to Providence Tarzana and its pediatric unit. The hospital’s physicians immediately diagnosed Haven with pneumonia and acute bronchiolitis. Ali was deeply impressed by both the compassion and talent of Providence Tarzana’s caregivers. As the mother of three young children in addition to Haven, Ali was also happy to learn that the medical center had a special partnership with Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA).

Specialists from CHLA actually work on-site in Providence Tarzana’s Pediatrics Department to ensure that its young patients have round-the-clock in-house physician coverage. With this devoted physician team on her side, Haven recovered smoothly from her infections and quickly went home with Ali.

Unfortunately, Haven remained susceptible to infection, and Ali twice found herself back at Providence Tarzana. The second time, Haven had developed a respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection, which had provoked a distressing set of symptoms. Haven was continually vomiting and experiencing severe dehydration. After stabilizing Haven, the hospital’s emergency physicians immediately transferred her to Tarzana’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) which, in Ali’s words, “ended up saving her life.”

The PICU’s physician specialists worked hard on a proper diagnosis for Haven, while a team of caregivers monitored her condition 24/7. Within 36 hours, the doctors ascertained that Haven’s lungs were too weak to clear out the mucus and related byproducts of her infections, which was in turn causing her aggravated symptoms.

Even after the physicians put Haven on oxygen support, her lungs collapsed at one point in the middle of the night. Ali was utterly terrified, but within moments an emergency physician team came running in to treat Haven. The team made a split-second decision to perform an emergency intubation, which was later shown to have unquestionably saved Haven’s life.

As soon as that was accomplished, the medical team informed Ali that they needed to put Haven into a medically induced coma for 48 hours, as part of a broader strategy to help her heal from her infections and regain capacity in her lungs. Ali was worried sick, but by this point she had developed confidence and trust in the PICU’s caregivers, and supported their call.

“The care went beyond just medical,” said Ali, describing her experience with the clinicians at Providence Tarzana. “I still get choked up thinking about how compassionate everyone was, the entire time we were there.” When friends and family suggested Ali consider transferring Haven to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, she said there was no need because CHLA’s doctors were already treating Haven, at Providence Tarzana.

While Haven was in the coma, the specialists from CHLA ran a gamut of tests on her (cardiac, neurological, genetic, swallow tests and more) to make sure there were no additional factors afflicting her. Ali remembers seeing the doctors stand before a large chart, checking off each test as it was done and diagramming all potential diagnoses to make sure they were giving exactly the right treatment for her daughter.

Over the course of the next week the caregivers successfully brought Haven out of the medically induced coma and, to everyone’s great relief, she began to heal and strengthen on her own. The PICU team had addressed all of her underlying health issues and were able to give her body the chance it needed to heal and regain its strength.

Haven’s doctors warned Ali that although she was out of immediate danger, the road ahead remained uncertain. The young baby was so weak that there was a significant chance she would not have the ability to walk or talk normally as she grew. Even as the PICU physicians prepared to release Haven to return home, they informed Ali that her daughter would need to remain quarantined at home to avoid any new infection. They also helped connect her with a variety of specialists to aid Haven in her recovery, including a skilled pediatrician, physical therapist and lung specialist.

This care plan proved to be as transformational as Haven’s stay in the PICU itself. Though she had to be quarantined for three months, Haven eventually recovered from her infection and rebuilt her muscle mass to a healthy level. By the time she entered toddlerhood, she was fully functional. Today she is a happy and healthy three-year-old girl who loves her mother, the Disney film Moana and her siblings, though not necessarily in that order.

As for Ali, she remains eternally grateful to the caregivers of Providence Tarzana, not only for saving her daughter but also for bolstering her at one of the lowest times in her life. “I was living in a nightmare,” she said, “but all of those caregivers went out of their way to make that environment as supportive and reassuring as possible. That really meant the world to me, and I’ll never forget it.”


Saint Joseph

An Epic Emergency Room Odyssey

This story is about a 24-year-old man named Antonio* who has already made two long journeys in his life – one from Mexico and one through our health care system. Of Antonio’s history we know very little. He was born with autism and, in 2016, he and his mother moved to Riverside County to be with her new husband and his family.

The move and other adjustments were difficult on Antonio and the rest of the family, so the parents decided to take everyone to Universal Studios to have some fun. At the park, Antonio got overstimulated by the environment and became aggressive. Unfortunately, the family couldn’t control him and the police were eventually called. Responding officers determined that he should be taken to the Emergency Room at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center.

Because Antonio’s health issue was behavioral, a series of safeguards to protect himself and those around him were put into place while his care team started looking for a placement for him. His mother and stepfather did not feel safe bringing him home. Complicating Antonio’s situation was his lack of insurance or any connections to local social service organizations. One after the other, placement was denied at contracted facilities that would typically have taken Antonio’s case. By day two of Antonio’s stay in the ER, the social work team had expanded their search and been rejected by four more facilities; a county alternative was also denied because none of Antonio’s conditions were medical.

After one week had elapsed and Antonio had essentially taken up residency in the ER, dozens of attempts had been made to place him with a care facility. At the few that would even consider it, there were no available beds.

Another week elapsed as this drama extended and Antonio’s residence in the ER continued. Facilities either declined to take him or conditioned his acceptance on a rare space becoming available.

In his third week at Providence Saint Joseph, the team took the more drastic step of reporting to Los Angeles County that they had an “abandoned vulnerable adult.” Although this declaration would normally prompt the county to respond, they actually determined that there was no immediate response needed because the patient was in the ER and deemed safe.

Antonio’s stepfather and mother visited briefly in the third week and said they were working on getting help for Antonio as well but were not sure when it would be possible. By now, even the Providence Government Affairs office had been asked to appeal to the LA County Board of Supervisors for assistance.

A fourth week had nearly elapsed with no movement until, at last, at the end of the week, Antonio was accepted at Olive View Medical Center.

His unheard of presence for a month in the relentless chaos of an urban ER both underscored the need for better mental health services in our region and highlighted the extraordinary lengths the caregivers go to on behalf of their patients. It is for people like Antonio and so many others vying for help in the complex system that our new Emergency Services Behavioral Health Unit was conceived. With help from our community, these vulnerable patients will receive a level of compassionate care that will alleviate so much suffering—and set a standard of which we can all be proud.

*Antonio is a pseudonym used to protect the patient’s privacy in accordance with hospital privacy policies.


Saint Joseph

Providence Shines on a Life Hanging in the Balance

It was still early in the morning when Bonnie Hill saw that husband Walter was calling from his cell phone. This was odd because Walter had gone to run at the track at Harvard Westlake High School, as he did most mornings, and he usually came right back.

When Bonnie answered the phone, a stranger answered. He asked, “Do you know Walter Hill?” Bonnie’s heart sank. She told the man that Walter was her husband. He said that Walter was at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center and Bonnie needed to get there, right away.

Walter and Bonnie had been married for 25 years and enjoyed an active lifestyle that included golfing and traveling together. Walter was an athlete who ran a six-minute mile when he was 40 years old. In all of his 73 years, he never had a serious medical issue or hospital stay. On this morning, however, that would change in an instant.

Walter was just a few minutes into his run at the track when he went into cardiac arrest and abruptly collapsed. He likely might have died then and there, but fortunately for Walter and his family, several blessings occurred that day.

The first was that, though the track was usually deserted when Walter arrived in the morning, a school official happened to be at the facility. This individual knew CPR and began performing it as soon as he found Walter and then called for an ambulance.

Paramedics Jose Perez and Steve Hopkins had to start Walter’s heart a second time while they were en route to the hospital. They were taking him to the facility they knew was best suited to care for such a severe cardiac case— Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center.

As soon as Walter arrived, an expert team of emergency clinicians and cardiology specialists worked to stabilize his condition. By the time Bonnie arrived and was greeted by the hospital’s chaplain, Walter’s physicians were already transitioning him into round-the-clock treatment in the hospital’s ICU.

Walter’s doctors informed Bonnie that, in order to treat the underlying conditions around his cardiac arrest and help his body heal, they were going to put him in a medically-induced state of hypothermia for 48 hours.

Bonnie went in to see Walter, who was still unconscious at the time, hooked up to a variety of medical equipment. She leaned over and whispered in his ear, “You need to stay here. It’s going to be okay.” At that instant, his eyes opened for a moment. Doctor Philip Schwarzman, who was with Bonnie at that moment, said “that’s what we want to see,” referring to a clear sign of Walter’s will to keep fighting.

Throughout their complicated journey, Bonnie was continually amazed by the skill, professionalism and personal warmth evinced by the caregivers at Providence Saint Joseph. “The care and attention we got from everyone at the hospital was just phenomenal,” she said. “The nurses would give me blankets, ask if I needed to rest…it was like family.”

As the team methodically brought Walter out of his medically-induced hypothermia, Bonnie wanted to put blankets on him. “I hated seeing him like that. I really wanted to just warm him up. But the nurses told me no, there’s an exact approach they had to gradually warm him up with. And they were right.”

After several days, Walter finally woke up. “I felt very peaceful upon waking but I didn’t recognize where I was. My first instinct was to ask for Bonnie and she was there. And I asked her where I was and she said ‘you’re in the hospital Walter, you’ve had a heart attack.’” Walter was stunned.

He had no memory of the heart attack or anything that happened afterwards. He had to learn the details from his family and his caregivers as he spent the next week steadily recuperating at Providence Saint Joseph, where he shared Bonnie’s enthusiasm over the quality of care he received.

“They did a phenomenal job,” he said. “These doctors and nurses didn’t just save my life, they treated me like I was genuinely their friend.”

Walter left Providence Saint Joseph with a clean bill of health and today he and Bonnie are back to enjoying their lives to the fullest, which includes spending time with their three daughters, dozen grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Though he regrets the trauma his family experienced as a result of his heart attack, Walter has reflected on the event and come to appreciate the positives that came out of it. For one thing, the many blessings and coincidences that helped him stay alive the day of his heart attack have resonated strongly and helped Walter connect more fully with his faith. “It has honestly been the most enlightening spiritual experience I have had,” he said.

Another great upside is that Walter and Bonnie have continued to receive care at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center and are grateful to have formed lasting relationships with the caregivers who saved his life. “We’ve really come to love the doctors and nurses here,” Bonnie said. “This is where we come now, and this is where our health is taken care of. We look forward to coming to Providence Saint Joseph.”


Saint Joseph

One Mother’s Journey to the Brink and Back Again

Carolina Eastwood had just entered her third trimester in December 2016 when she began experiencing flu-like symptoms. But she soon began to realize she did not have a simple virus. After driving herself to Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center, where her OB-GYN was based, Carolina collapsed on her way to the emergency room.

Providence Saint Joseph’s caregivers responded immediately with multiple interventions while running diagnostic tests that showed Carolina had fluid in her lungs, her heart was only working at 32% capacity and she was rapidly deteriorating into sepsis. Further tests revealed the source of this crisis—a particularly severe Staphylococcus Aureus bacterial infection.

A collaborative task force of physicians convened at Carolina’s bedside, including a neonatologist, a pulmonologist, a cardiologist, a hematologist, an obstetrician, a perinatal allergist and an infectious disease specialist. The doctors informed Carolina that her condition was critical. The fluid in her lungs and heart was building. She was increasingly at risk of septic shock and the risks to her daughter’s life were increasing in kind.

Her medical team unanimously believed that the best course of action was an emergency C-section to deliver Carolina’s baby. But, given the gravity of her condition, the doctors told Carolina that there was a chance that neither she nor her baby daughter would survive.

At 29 weeks, the baby was just barely old enough to be treated in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). At that point in gestation, infants are highly vulnerable. They only weigh a few pounds, are frequently subject to infection and cannot survive without highly-specialized, cutting-edge medical care. But Providence Saint Joseph has a Level III NICU that offers precisely that kind of exceptional, advanced treatment for the youngest and most critical cases of premature birth.

The physicians felt that caring for the baby in the NICU was better than leaving the baby in the womb; Carolina was at risk of sudden cardiac arrest that would end her baby’s life as well as her own. Delivering the baby would remove it from potential harm and then allow the medical team to aggressively treat Carolina’s underlying infection.

Carolina was planning to be a single mother. She knew how to take care of herself and manage her emotions. She quickly decided to trust her doctors and choose the C-section, followed by a medically-induced coma and powerful antibiotics to treat the infection.

Fortunately, the C-section was a complete success and Carolina’s daughter London was healthy and resting comfortably in the NICU a day later.

Carolina’s condition, however, was nowhere near as stable. Her body rejected the initial round of antibiotics. Whenever the medical team woke Carolina from her induced coma, she would begin to crash, her heart rate falling, her lungs deflating while the fluid inside of them remained.

Day by day, the medical team worked tirelessly to find the right combination of medications and therapies. When she finally came to, Carolina had no idea that nine days had passed, that she had missed Christmas, and that her daughter weighed 2 pounds, 15 ounces at birth. She desperately wanted to see her baby, but she had more recovery ahead of her. Carolina was unable to walk and could barely speak above a whisper. It was another several days before she could breathe on her own, after which she had to begin physical rehabilitation and lung therapy.

Finally, Carolina grew strong enough to shower and prepare herself to enter the Medical Center’s germ-free NICU. When she was wheeled into the unit, the staff welcomed Carolina warmly. They called her the “miracle mom,” and said they had been waiting for her. When Carolina held London for the first time, almost two weeks after her birth, the feelings she experienced were truly incredible. “It was a burst of love and protection, something I had never felt before,” she said.

After several more weeks of intensive, round-the-clock care to cure the bacterial infection and restore her health, Carolina was released from Providence Saint Joseph with no lingering complications. She still comes back daily to be with her daughter in the NICU. As soon as London attains the proper weight, she will also be released to join her mother and begin a happy, healthy life together.

At times Carolina still finds herself moved by the enormity of what happened to her (and what could have happened). “I would not be here today if it were not for these doctors and nurses,” she says.

The experience has inspired Carolina to volunteer at Providence Saint Joseph. She is particularly eager to work with expectant single mothers. “I think this happened to me for a reason, so that I can help other moms and women in need, and show them that they don’t have to do everything on their own,” says Carolina. “There are programs and amazing people at Saint Joseph’s that can help them be there for their children, even if they think they can’t.”

 


San Pedro

Treating Sepsis Before Time Runs Out

Weather in southern California rarely calls for even a light sweater. So last September when Manuel Linares, a 77-year-old retiree living in San Pedro, had chills so intense that he was shaking, his daughter, Marta Lopez, knew something was seriously wrong.

Marta recalls seeing her father, whom she describes as a devoted grandpa who regularly takes walks and plays ball with his five grandchildren, on the couch looking feverish, fatigued and pale.

“He was shaking he was so cold, even with blankets piled on him,” Marta remembers. “He also wasn’t eating, and he always eats, so that was unusual.”

Marta knew he needed immediate care, so she sprang into action. “I told him ‘You don’t look good. I’m taking you to the hospital.’” Manuel was too disoriented to walk, so Marta got help getting him to her car and then immediately drove to the emergency department at Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center in San Pedro.

Within minutes, Knef Lizaso, MD, Chair of the Emergency Department at Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center San Pedro, diagnosed Manuel with sepsis, a life-threatening condition in which the immune system wreaks havoc on the body in response to an infection.

Sepsis is a ticking time bomb. For every hour it goes undiagnosed, a patient’s risk of dying increases by 6% to 8%. Delays in diagnosing the condition can mean organ failure, tissue damage, and for many, death.

Sepsis has long plagued our health care system, both in terms of fatalities and costs. It is the leading cause of death in U.S. hospitals, killing more than 250,000 people every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

One of the reasons doctors say sepsis is so deadly is because it’s difficult to catch. While symptoms typically include chills, fever, confusion, rash and shaking, as Marta saw in her father, they’re oftentimes masked by other acute conditions like pain, headache and bleeding. Plus, there’s no single test a doctor can perform to identify whether a patient is septic.

“It’s a challenge to diagnose because unlike a heart attack or stroke, where you have specific tests available—for example EKGs and troponins for heart attacks or CT scans and MRIs for strokes—sepsis doesn’t have a specific test,” says Dr. Lizaso.

That means it’s largely up to doctors to piece together warning signs of sepsis from a patient’s lab results, medical history and physical exam. There were no clear-cut guidelines on how doctors should go about this until 2001, when researchers discovered the gold standard of sepsis treatment: a bundle of treatments that decreased sepsis mortality rates by 16% in 28 days.

Hospitals around the country, including Providence Little Company of Mary San Pedro, rushed to implement the bundle, which included guidelines on how and when to give treatments like antibiotics, IV fluids, oxygen, and medications that support blood pressure.

And for a while, mortality rates declined, and things were looking up.

In 2015, with sepsis still a major threat in almost every hospital across the United States, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) upped the ante, releasing a requirement that mandated parts of the gold standard bundle be implemented within a three- to six-hour window.

Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center San Pedro created a Sepsis Task force in October 2016, and Dr. Lizaso was nominated to lead the hospital-wide charge. He and his team got to work immediately in a new fight against sepsis, this time with an emphasis on its time sensitivity.

“We really wanted to get ahead of these CMS requirements,” says Dr. Lizaso. “We already had a lot of the procedures in place, it was just a matter of executing the sepsis bundle requirements in a timely matter.”

Their efforts reached every corner of the medical center. They coordinated with the pharmacy and laboratory to fast-track vital drugs and blood tests for patients suspected of having sepsis, and implemented education and feedback programs for doctors and nurses.

“These codes put everyone on notice that time is ticking,” Dr. Lizaso says. “You mainly hear about it in heart attack and strokes, but it’s really important for sepsis because it is such a time sensitive disease in terms of mortality.”

In a matter of months, their efforts transformed the medical center into the best hospital in the Southern California region in the fight against sepsis—a ranking it still holds today.

“We’re like a fine-tuned machine now,” says Dr. Lizaso. For the past few months, the hospital’s sepsis mortality ratio has been around 0.7. The regional average is above 1.0 – a rating considered not meeting the benchmarks.

Providence Little Company of Mary San Pedro has the lowest sepsis mortality rate among all the Providence hospitals in the Southern California Region, and is in the top 15% for lowest sepsis mortality rate across the vast Providence St. Joseph Health System, which spans seven states and includes 51 hospitals.

“We’re really proud of our efforts,” says Lizaso, who stresses it’s a team effort. “It’s just good medicine, and there’s evidence showing that this stuff works.”

Manuel, who arrived at the emergency room at the Hospital on September 30, 2017, reaped the rewards of this year-long campaign against sepsis.

When he arrived to the emergency department with an elevated heart rate, low blood pressure, and abdominal pain, Dr. Lizaso knew exactly what to look for, and after Manuel told him about his recent procedure, the doctor was sure his initial suspicions were correct.

“When he told me he had this new Foley catheter inserted just two weeks earlier, that clued me in right away,” says Dr. Lizaso. “It’s an easy route for bacteria to enter the bladder.”

Manuel was diagnosed with severe septic shock within minutes. From there, Dr. Lizaso activated the “Code Sepsis” protocol, and the team effort he championed for the past year ultimately saved Manuel’s life.

Manuel received antibiotics and IV fluids right away. When his blood pressure dropped and stayed down, Dr. Lizaso added a medication to raise it so his organs would get the blood flow they needed and wouldn’t fail. Dr. Lizaso also ordered a CT scan of Manuel’s abdomen and discovered a secondary site of infection—his gall bladder.

“Mr. Linares was really very sick. This is an instance where aggressive measures for treating sepsis were successful in preventing him from getting sicker and potentially dying,” says Dr. Lizaso.

After four days in the hospital, Marta knew her father was getting better when he started to eat again. Today he is home with his daughter and grandchildren and says he is feeling “wonderful.”

“I want to be healthy for my family,” he remarks. Manuel is happy to be alive, and credits Dr. Lizaso and his team for his excellent care.

“He was a great doctor. Everyone there is. I am grateful,” says Manuel. “I am very grateful.”

Marta echoes her father’s gratitude for the doctors at the hospital. “Dr. Lizaso was wonderful. He was very concerned about my dad getting better,” she says. “If someone asked me, I’d say that it is the best hospital in the South Bay region.”


San Pedro

The Rehabcentre at Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center San Pedro Gets People Walking

When Orfa Nitkiewicz, a 63-year-old designer and seamstress who lives in Hawthorne, saw a partially paralyzed man walking with the help of an exoskeleton walking device in a parade on television, she had no idea how important that image would be for her future.

Last October, Orfa went to work as usual in Costa Mesa. “I started feeling dizzy and nauseous throughout the day,” she remembers. “And in the afternoon, I told my manager I had to leave early because I didn’t feel well. I didn’t think anything of it. I didn’t know anything about stroke.” Orfa says other symptoms were developing—her shoe wouldn’t stay on, it was a little hard to move the steering wheel, and her face started getting numb—but she was able to drive home.

“In the driveway, I just sat for a moment and prayed,” says Orfa. “Then I banged on the front door, called my husband, and he called the ambulance.”

Orfa was lucky that she was taken to Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center Torrance, with its designation as a Primary Stroke Center. She learned she had had a stroke. After four days in the hospital, she was transferred to the Acute Rehabcentre at Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center San Pedro, where she spent a month on improving her functional mobility, activities of daily living and her speech. The Rehabcentre is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF). It ranked in the top 2% for patient outcomes in 2016. It offers an inpatient program with round-the-clock nursing supervision and intensive rehabilitation including physical, occupational and speech therapy. Once Orfa was ready to transition home, she went to the outpatient program.

While she was lucky she had no cognitive deficits from her stroke—“I remember everything,” she says—the right side of her face drooped and her right arm and leg were affected. She started rehab slowly and then came the exoskeleton.

“The Ekso GT robotic exoskeleton allows us to get a patient who is very weak to start putting weight on her legs and start walking again,” says Anh Long, MD, medical director of the acute rehabilitation program. “Research shows the more you use the weak limb, the faster you recover. We get patients on their feet as soon as possible while the neuroplasticity in the brain can help stimulate other parts of the brain to take over for injured areas.

“The exoskeleton is part of stroke therapy, along with parallel bars and other therapy modalities. It allows patients to be able to walk normally, without a limp,” says Dr. Long. Besides stroke rehab, the Ekso GT device is also instrumental in rehabilitation after partial spinal cord injury, brain injury and immobility due to other illnesses.

“For someone who hasn’t walked in a while, just being able to stand and look at people eye to eye is very important psychologically,” says Dr. Long. “They get really excited.”

From the start of rehab, Orfa was motivated to get better. “I had my family to think about,” she says. “My 12-year-old grandson, Clayton, said to me, ‘Grandma, don’t look at this as a sickness. Look at it as a long-term vacation without pay.’” And in that spirit, Orfa was willing to do anything to improve.

Her main physical therapist, Julia Mathews, says, “At the start of her outpatient physical therapy, Orfa was walking short distances on level ground and had gait impairments. She had to move her bedroom downstairs and couldn’t walk in the community or go to the grocery store.”

When her team of therapists brought up the idea of the exoskeleton, Orfa says she was leery at first. “Julia told me I had to sign a liability waiver, which was scary, but then I remembered seeing that man in the parade. I really trust her, so I said, ‘Okay.’”

When she started with the ekso (which it is fondly called), Orfa says she was nervous. But her leg was wiggly and she was determined to walk better. “Orfa is an ideal patient,” says Julia “She does all of her exercises here [at the rehab facility] and at home. And she is recovering with more normal movement. The quality of her walking is improving each week, she is using her affected side, and she is getting away from the compensations that she used to have to rely on.”

The device can be utilized both during inpatient rehab and, as in Orfa’s case, in outpatient physical therapy sessions. It is adjusted to custom fit each individual and operated by one of the four trained therapists at Providence Little Company of Mary San Pedro who have been certified for its use.

At first the robot can provide up to 100% of the power needed for standing and walking. During the course of several sessions, it is adjusted to put in less work as the patient learns to move on his or her own power. The device has proven to be a valuable tool in facilitating normal weight shifting and movement during the walking process. The device can also record the effort and quality of movement, giving the therapist valuable feedback on how to further tailor the walking program both in and out of the device.

Orfa, who can now negotiate stairs, walk in the community and complete tasks such as shopping for groceries, says, “I feel much more steady on my feet and my balance is improved. I am so grateful for all of the help I have gotten at Providence Little Company of Mary San Pedro. Everyone is so experienced and compassionate.”


Torrance

A Second Chance to Find His Heart

A little over a year ago, Arturo DiPietro thought he was in the best shape of his life. After all, he worked out every day, never ate junk food and didn’t have any known chronic health conditions. So he was caught completely by surprise when his heart stopped just three days before his 49th birthday.

In a break from his usual evening workout schedule, Arturo joined the high-intensity, interval training class at Body One Fitness in Redondo Beach on the morning of September 15, 2016. He had planned to catch an afternoon plane to Italy for a work trip and wanted to make sure to get his workout in before taking off.

Just minutes into the workout, Arturo felt his head spinning, as his trainer urged him to get to the weight rack to begin his snatches. That’s the last thing he remembers before waking up in a hospital bed at Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center Torrance, seeing his girlfriend’s face and learning that he’d had a quadruple bypass.

When Arturo collapsed that morning in the gym, he lost consciousness, wasn’t breathing and had no pulse. He was in full cardiac arrest, a condition where blood stops flowing and permanent damage to the brain or death can occur within four to six minutes.

Arturo is alive today because of the quick action and skill of a team of players, beginning with his trainer and classmates, paramedics and the medical team at Providence Little Company of Mary Torrance.

“I found my angels here in the City of Angels,” says Arturo, who immigrated to Los Angeles from Southern Italy in 2006. “Today I’m realizing how lucky I was.”

“Someone called 911,” says Helena Brioschi, Arturo’s girlfriend of six years, recalling what happened that morning. “The trainer and two students in the class started doing CPR. They were trained to do CPR, but that was the first time they’d done it.”

Paramedics arrived in five minutes to discover an arrhythmia in Arturo’s heart, called ventricular fibrillation. That’s when rapid, erratic electrical impulses cause the heart’s ventricles to quiver uselessly instead of pumping blood. It’s the most common cause of sudden cardiac arrest.

They delivered two shocks to his heart, but nothing happened. They attempted to restart the heart with medication. Still nothing. The fourth jolt finally shocked his heart out of fibrillation and brought Arturo back. Paramedics rushed him to the Emergency Department at the Hospital, where he was intubated and put on a ventilator. An EKG was done, and Nazanin Azadi, MD, an interventional cardiologist, went to Arturo’s bedside.

Dr. Azadi immediately rushed Arturo to the catheterization lab for a coronary angiogram, which is a special type of X-ray that looks for blockages in the arteries of the heart.

“We found that all his arteries were blocked—the widow maker artery was 100% closed—and the remainder of his arteries were 70% or greater blocked,” Dr. Azadi says, noting that surgery is recommended for patients with multiple blockages.

She inserted an intra-aortic balloon pump that inflated and deflated to help relieve Arturo’s heart from working so hard, as he was rushed into surgery. Within an hour of the angiogram, Li Poa, MD, chief of cardiac surgery and medical director of cardiovascular and thoracic surgery services at the Medical Center, began bypass surgery to restore blood flow to the blocked arteries, using an artery from Arturo’s chest and veins from his leg.

After getting the telephone call that no one wants to get that morning, Helena rushed to the hospital.

“I walked into the emergency room by mistake instead of going through the lobby. I saw him lying down and all these people talking quickly to each other about things I didn’t understand. Then I learned that he was going to need a quadruple bypass,” Helena recalls. “I was overwhelmed and scared that we were going to lose him. But once I talked to Dr. Poa, I felt that somehow things were going to be OK.”

“The most important thing about this kind of situation is time. There’s a certain period after which opening the arteries is futile. If the muscle doesn’t get blood flow, it starts to necrose [die],” Dr. Azadi says. “[In Arturo’s case,] the timing was so perfect, we were able to regain his muscle function. If we’d waited longer, his recovery would not have been so good.”

Helena recalls seeing Dr. Poa afterwards who told her: “You have no idea how extremely lucky Arturo was.”

Even though CPR was immediately started at the gym to get oxygen flowing, Dr. Poa feared there might be some neurological damage, as Arturo was a little slow when they tried to wake him after surgery and his memory suffered a bit. But Dr. Poa says, “He was completely recovered within a month.”

Arturo went home three days after entering the hospital. The next day he celebrated his 49th birthday with friends. He returned to work in two months and was back working out at the gym within a few weeks—taking it slow and keeping an eye on his maximum heartbeat.

“I don’t feel any kind of difference. I’m doing exactly what I was doing before the heart attack,” Arturo says. “I realize when I take a shower in the morning and I see my scars, but I haven’t changed much.”

Arturo and Helena lavish praise on Drs. Poa and Azadi, the night nurses, the day nurses, the respiratory therapists, the home health workers and everyone else they encountered at the Hospital. They describe the care as “phenomenal.”

“I would rate the care at the hospital at more than five stars,” Helena says. “Little Company of Mary was founded on compassion, and let me tell you, it really shows. Everyone who walked into that room was very compassionate—everybody was a rock star.”

“The public should be aware of the incredible care they provide,” Arturo says. “I’m really grateful.”

Arturo and Helena have made a couple of changes since September 2016.

“We have both become CPR certified,” Helena says. “If they didn’t have CPR at the gym, it would have been too late. Maybe we can do that for someone else and save a life.”

The couple also plans to get trained and give back to the community as volunteers at Providence Little Company of Mary.

 


Torrance

Providence Little Company of Mary OB-GYN Staff Deliver for the Kilmartins

There was nothing to signal that Caroline Kilmartin, a healthy 32-year-old mother to 2-year-old Calen, would have any problems with her second delivery. Twenty-eight weeks pregnant with another son, Caroline and her husband, Lorcan, were busy preparing and enjoying time with Calen before the new baby arrived. And that would be months down the road. Or at least that’s what they thought.

On the morning of September 10, though, Caroline woke with abdominal pain and nausea. “At first I thought it was something I ate, no big deal,” she explains. When the pain worsened, she phoned her doctor, who told her to go to the emergency room. By then, Caroline’s pain was so severe that Lorcan called an ambulance. The Kilmartins had planned to deliver at Cedars-Sinai, where Calen was born. Caroline pleaded with the ambulance driver to take her there.

“The paramedics told me they had to take me to the nearest hospital, which was Little Company of Mary,” says Caroline. “At first, I wanted to go to my hospital. Now, of course, I know that decision saved my life.”

Caroline was greeted at Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center Torrance by the Special Forces of labor and delivery – the laborists – a honed medical team expert at emergency and high-risk delivery. OB-GYN Fataneh Amidi, MD, was on the front lines that morning.

“By the time Caroline came in, she was barely responsive,” says Dr. Amidi. “She’d had a normal pregnancy and delivery with the first baby. This pregnancy had been going great and she was a healthy young woman.” Later Dr. Amidi would reflect that Caroline’s previous health status, in fact, essentially helped disguise the patient’s dire condition. “When you’re young and healthy, your body will compensate for what’s going on until it just can’t any longer.”

What was going on, though, remained a mystery. At first exam, nothing could account for what Dr. Amidi saw. “Here was this young mother who was pale and nearly unresponsive.” Caroline says the pain was so extreme that she couldn’t process it and she felt like she was in and out of consciousness. “We did an ultrasound and saw some fluid in the abdomen but nothing that would definitively tell us what was wrong with the patient,” says Dr. Amidi.

No surgeon wants to deliver a baby at 28 weeks, a full three months before the due date and perhaps before the baby’s organs are fully developed. But sometimes their hand is forced.

Dr. Amidi, using her vast clinical experience, made a life-saving judgment call. “The only thing I could conclude was that Caroline may be bleeding internally,” explains Dr. Amidi. “I made the decision to do surgery because I knew that if we didn’t act right then, both lives—the mother and the child’s—could be at risk.”

Indeed. Once surgery began, Dr. Amidi and her team—including nurses, an anesthesiologist, and a neonatologist—discovered a 10-centimeter uterine rupture, an extremely rare medical emergency where life or death can be chalked up to a matter of minutes. Dr. Amidi made the right call. Caroline had lost 4.7 liters of blood, almost her entire pre-pregnancy blood volume. (When pregnant, women have extra blood.) She would immediately require massive transfusions of blood and blood products.

“This is the kind of blood loss you see in something like a gunshot wound,” says OB-GYN Mimi Hong, MD, director of the laborists program at Providence Little Company of Mary Torrance. “When you’re young and healthy, your body compensates for blood loss. So Caroline’s blood pressure looked okay, her pulse looked okay. There weren’t any rapid signs of deterioration. The body just compensates until it’s devastating.”

Providence Little Company of Mary’s laborists, an around-the-clock team of obstetrician-gynecologists stationed in the hospital to exclusively treat women in labor and respond to obstetric emergencies, are well trained in even these rarest OB-GYN emergencies.

But there are emergencies and then there are emergencies. Dr. Amidi says that in 25 years of practice, Caroline’s situation was one of the most acute obstetric emergencies she’s handled.

“Thank goodness I was there in the hospital, ready to treat her. Thank goodness our whole staff is highly trained in these kinds of emergencies. Five minutes later and the outcome could’ve been totally different.”

Since its beginning in 2010, Dr. Hong says the laborist program at the Hospital has expertly dealt with a fair number of true emergencies like uterine ruptures and amniotic fluid embolisms, another potentially life-threatening labor complication. “We’ve been able to have great outcomes even with conditions that traditionally haven’t always ended that way,” says Dr. Hong. She adds that it’s common for people to believe these days that improvements in medical technology are what saves lives. But having dealt with her fair share of medical emergencies, Dr. Hong remains a fan of highly trained medical professionals. “There is quite simply nothing that beats having a team of well-trained and well-practiced OB-GYN experts here, always working and always prepared for even the rarest emergency. If you want to save lives, it’s essential.”

On September 10, it certainly made a difference. Lorcan says it was sheer terror, something he’ll never forget. He thought he’d lose his wife and unborn son. But Dr. Amidi delivered Cass Wilder Kilmartin by cesarean section at 9:30 a.m. The nurses, says Dr. Amidi, swore that protective angels must’ve paid them a visit that day. Cass, of course, was premature. He weighed a mere 2 pounds, 12 ounces and was admitted to the medical center’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Caroline, her life hanging in the balance, underwent a successful surgery to stop the bleeding and repair the uterine rupture.

“When I woke up, I assumed I’d lost the baby,” says Caroline. “I was shocked and had this moment of inexplicable relief when Lorcan told me that he’d survived. It’s nothing you can really explain.” Because she was so ill, Caroline didn’t get to see Cass until four days after he was born.

“Initially, this made me really sad. It was so unlike the first birth where my son was put on my chest immediately afterward. I guess since I was in great health I assumed I would have a normal delivery and was looking forward to holding the baby after birth. Pretty quick, though, I realized I had to be grateful that I was alive and my baby was alive. We made it and we’re okay,” says Caroline, who was released from the hospital five days later. She says that physically she’s recovered well and day by day she’s also recovering emotionally from the harrowing experience. “It takes a while to get over an experience where you nearly die and your unborn baby is in real jeopardy,” she says. But she’s doing well and so is baby Cass.

Caroline and Lorcan’s parents, from Toronto, have taken shifts here in Los Angeles. “One set of parents comes for two weeks and then the other set,” says Lorcan. They help the family care for Caden while Caroline makes multiple NICU visits daily to feed and care for the baby. Cass is now breastfeeding—a great sign that he’s progressing well. Lorcan also makes daily hospital visits, often leaving early from the office of the Brentwood investment firm where he works. His supervisor wouldn’t have it any other way. “My boss also had a baby at 28 weeks, which I suppose is a kind of an unusual coincidence. He’s been extremely helpful and always tells me ‘Leave early. Go to the hospital. See your son.’”

Cass has now more than doubled his birth weight, and the Kilmartins recently were able to take him home — a month ahead of schedule. Caroline and Lorcan say they attribute a large part of their happy ending to the amazing nurses, occupational/physical therapists, chaplain and doctors at the NICU. “Not only did they take great care of Cass in those two months, but they were very supportive to me and taught me a lot about caring for a premature baby,” says Caroline. “I was lucky and I gained so much from this frightening experience that I can’t look at it terrified anymore.” Nonetheless, the new mom is looking forward to fewer visits with doctors and more time adjusting to life as a family of four.


Holy Cross

A Mother and Son Are Blessed with Superlative Care

It was Thanksgiving week and a trip to the doctor was the last thing Amanda Rodriguez wanted. She was busy with studies, in the midst of her third year of a bachelor’s degree in nursing. She had three kids at home, all about to be on holiday. And she was happily pregnant with her fourth child, which had slowed her pace ever so slightly.

Though mild, the symptoms of what Amanda thought was a UTI compelled her to get things checked out. While this pregnancy had been smooth, Amanda had suffered five miscarriages in addition to delivering her three children. She did not want to take any chances with the health of the son growing inside her. That is why Amanda had sought out the caregivers at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center, which has an array of lauded OB-GYN physicians affiliated with its Labor and Delivery Department, as well as a Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). She felt Providence Holy Cross was the right hospital to oversee her pregnancy and deliver her child.

Amanda’s pregnancy was just shy of six months. When her physician at Providence Holy Cross suspected that there was more going on than just a simple UTI, Amanda started praying to God that she would not have another miscarriage. Further testing revealed that there were indeed irregularities with her pregnancy. Her clinicians were talking about having her remain under observation and on bed rest until her due date, which was more than three months away. But before any plan was formalized, Amanda’s condition changed.

Her caregivers started detecting small contractions, so small she could not even feel them. Before she knew it, Amanda was almost fully dilated. Her doctors told her that they had no choice but to deliver her son Andrew at age 24 weeks, near the earliest point at which a premature baby can be safely delivered. And because Andrew was coming feet first, the doctors would be delivering him by C-section.

As a dedicated nursing student, Amanda was deeply aware of the risks involved in such a delivery, but the strength and confidence of her doctors and nurses helped her remain calm. She said a final prayer as her caregivers wheeled her into the delivery room.

The delivery was a success, and Andrew was sent straight to the NICU. As soon as she stabilized, Amanda wanted to see him. She knew that the first 24 hours were critical for preemies as young as Andrew: if he did not have a stable heart rate, good respiration and strong brain activity, he likely would not survive.

The first time she saw him in the NICU, Andrew seemed to be covered with tubes and needles. Though his vital signs were good, Amanda could not handle the sight of so much technology keeping her son alive. She went back to her room crying.

Nonetheless, as soon as she was discharged, Amanda returned to the NICU and set up a daily routine of visits to Andrew that she religiously kept. While his condition was stable, there were challenges facing his healthy development, and Amanda wanted to be there for every step of the journey. “I told myself, I had to give positive energy towards him to help him grow,” she said.

Throughout this process, Amanda became close with the NICU’s nurse manager, Patty Moreno, and the other nurses and doctors in the unit. Patty made a point to routinely inform Amanda of Andrew’s progress. They were both gratified to see that he was a fighter. Andrew had a digestion problem in his first week, but managed to recover on his own with minimal intervention.

Further into his NICU stay, a more serious challenge arose. Andrew began struggling with his respiration, and his oxygen levels became perilously low. Amanda, who before this pregnancy had not been especially religious, went to Providence Holy Cross’s chapel and prayed, “Please God, do what you have to do so that my son survives.” Not long after, one of the NICU nurses ran to the chapel to let Amanda know that Andrew’s oxygen levels were back up: he was out of danger. Amanda was overwhelmed with gratitude.

As Andrew’s stay lengthened into the Christmas season, the doctors in the NICU were surprised to note that he opened his eyes much earlier than most preemies his age, and he was always smiling. Though her daily trips to Providence Holy Cross posed logistical challenges for her husband and three kids, they all believed that Amanda’s presence was helping Andrew through his many challenges.

Throughout, Andrew was too fragile for Amanda to hold, which was why Christmas that year was so special. Patty told Amanda to put on a gown, and brought Andrew for her to hold for the first time. At that point, Amanda knew he was going to be okay.

Andrew spent almost three months in the Providence Holy Cross NICU before he was healthy enough to go home. The doctors and nurses taught Amanda how to safely feed and care for Andrew throughout that time. Amanda credits Patty and the other NICU caregivers for being there for her mentally and emotionally during her intense journey.

Leaving Andrew in the hands of those caregivers was a big vote of trust for Amanda, and she is pleased to say that they earned that trust and then some. “They were amazing. I can’t thank that NICU enough for helping me have my baby. They performed a miracle for him,” she said.

Today, Andrew is an active and healthy toddler who brightens every day of his family members’ lives. “Pediatricians can’t believe he was a preemie,” says Amanda.

As for Amanda herself, her experience at Providence Holy Cross helped her find clarity on a major decision. After years of not knowing what to choose for her nursing study concentration, Amanda knew exactly what she wanted to focus on once Andrew had recovered. She plans to be a NICU nurse, and is charting a path towards the final stages of her studies accordingly.


Holy Cross

An Emergency Department Nurse Learns What It Is To Be a Patient

Amber Lockhart had happily worked for years as a nurse in Providence Holy Cross Medical Center’s Emergency Department. She had a friendly relationship with caregivers from the hospital’s other departments, but she did not work closely with them and did not expect to do so. That all changed during her pregnancy with her second child.

Thirty-two weeks into her pregnancy, Amber woke up in the middle of the night, in pain and bleeding. She went straight to Providence Holy Cross. Her colleagues swiftly diagnosed her with placenta abruption and the doctors told her that she would need to immediately undergo an emergency C-section.

As soon as she agreed, Amber’s colleagues rushed her to surgery and intubated her. The surgeons performed a swift and flawless C-section and by the time Amber woke up her son Levi had been transferred to Providence Holy Cross’s Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

“It was all new to me,” Amber said. “I was an ER nurse—I had no idea of the level of care that goes on in the NICU.”

When he first arrived in the NICU, Levi was so premature that he was not able to digest food. Amber remembers first seeing her son, tiny, hooked up to an IV and cocooned within a specialized incubator bed. She was not able to hold him. “It was incredibly hard…I couldn’t be a mother to my daughter at home and I also couldn’t give care to my newborn. Coming after the delivery, it was really emotional chaos.”

Amber said that in the following weeks, as she fought exhaustion and commuted from her home to Holy Cross each day, the NICU’s caregivers were instrumental in helping her cope. “They were amazing,” she said. Early on, when one of the NICU nurses noticed a slight abnormality in Levi’s abdominal development, the NICU doctors put him on antibiotics to prevent a potential infection of necrotizing enterocolitis (an infection of the intestinal walls common among preemies). Amber was terrified, but the NICU caregivers assured her that this was a precautionary measure and ultimately Levi never got sick.

As Levi grew, Amber was finally able to hold him, albeit cautiously. “I was afraid to change his diaper at first, he was still so small and fragile,” she said. But the NICU nurses patiently coached Amber on how to feed and care for Levi, even giving her advice on a healthy diet that would ensure he responded well to breast milk.

In the end, Levi left the NICU in perfect health. Today, he is a happy and rambunctious toddler who weighs only one pound less than his older sister. For all of this, Amber and her family remain incredibly grateful to her colleagues down the hall, in the Providence Holy Cross NICU.


San Pedro Torrance

Daily Rewards for an Enthusiastic Career Choice

Throughout her life, Vanessa Benitez gravitated toward career choices that would allow her to be of service to people.

After considering a number of options that she hoped would fulfill her needs, she discovered that nursing allowed her to find the perfect balance of critical thinking, lifelong learning and the ability to care for her community on a very personal level.

“As we learned about the different organ systems during nursing school, I became fascinated by the workings of the cardiovascular system; how the heart was the center of the body and life, and how it can succumb to disease and often be the cause of our demise,” says Vanessa. During her nursing rotations she thoroughly enjoyed her time in the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit. She was drawn to the intensity and challenge, and realized how she could apply her passion for learning about the heart to educating and caring for patients with heart disease.

Caring for individuals with heart disease has been a truly rewarding experience for Vanessa, one that she continues to learn from. She practiced for nearly 14 years as a Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit nurse before becoming the coordinator for the Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement program (TAVR). Vanessa coordinates care for particularly vulnerable patients who undergo a procedure that is not only life-saving, but can significantly improve their quality of life. As recently as a few years ago, these same patients were too sick or at too high-risk to undergo traditional open-heart surgery. Little Company of Mary’s leadership in this procedure is offering countless people new hope right here in the community.

Early on Vanessa realized that Providence Little Company of Mary is a very special place; a hospital that is truly driven by its mission and where every staff member stands behind the quality of their work. She feels truly honored to be a part of this hospital’s service to its community.

Reflecting on her time at our ministry, Vanessa treasures all of the experiences she has had with her patients and their loved ones. “I have met many patients, families and wonderful caretakers who have all contributed to my experiences over the years,” she recounts. “They have all in some way guided my practice and, happily, validated my decision to choose medicine.”