Stewart Subaru donates 80 blankets…

That warm feeling North Star Lodge is known for got a little warmer and cozier recently when Stewart Subaru, partnering with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, donated 80 blankets for cancer patients at North Star Lodge. The gift included notes of encouragement from Stewart Subaru customers, written when the promotion was displayed at the dealership.

Thank you, Stewart Subaru and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society!

Here they say, ‘Hey, can I help you out? You’re behind, I’m behind, let’s get caught up together.’

Ashley Cullison is a Michigan girl. Or she thought she was.

Ashley graduated from nursing school there and got her first job as an R.N. at a hospital in Grand Rapids. Ashley loves her family and her part of the country, but something was pulling at her. A yearning to see more.

“There’s so much more to this country that I had never seen,” she says, leaning in with enthusiasm. “For some reason I felt like the PNW was calling my name. So I looked into travel nursing. I liked the opportunities it presented so I talked to Travel Nurse Across America. I interviewed them: How are you going to help me? I mean, I was going to completely uproot my life.

“I decided to give it a shot.”

Her first call? Virginia Mason Memorial Hospital in fall 2016. Then it was Modesto, Calif., for three months. In April 2017 Ashley was back here. By this time “here” was really starting to feel like home. “I had really good connections at work and from church here,” Ashley says. Her contract was extended three times, but she finally had to leave or risk losing her traveler status. “I then went to Sacramento, but while I was there I decided I wanted to give Yakima more than chunks of my time.

On May 7, 2018, Ashley Cullison joined the team at Virginia Mason Memorial full time. Until she moves into her townhome, Ashley is staying with nurse Tiffini Gunkel, her husband Brad (a VMM network analyst) and their family. The Gunkels provided a home for Ashley last year, too.

“I feel very blessed,” she says. “While I was in Sacramento my grandfather passed away in Michigan. When that happened I had more co-workers from Memorial text or call me to see if I was OK then from anyplace else I worked.

“Coming back it’s been fun to explore the full spectrum of Memorial’s float pool. I think being a traveler made me well-suited for this.

“The day that I got here my relationship with management in the float pool has been great. I felt very welcomed. For Kim (Krapf) to extend the job offer to me, it means a lot that they thought of me what I thought of them.

“I worked both day and night shifts here as a traveler, and in so many departments. But no matter where I get sent here I feel like I have friends. I understand that nursing has stressful days anywhere. But the nursing culture here is so different than what I experience at the other places. Here they say, ‘Hey, can I help you out? You’re behind, I’m behind, let’s get caught up together.’

“I’ve wanted to be a nurse since I was 3 years old. Yakima sucked me in.”

“I’ve had one bad melanoma and three other lesser melanomas over the years,”

Sonny and Linda Salsbury are of a certain age. The age before anybody knew just how harmful the sun’s rays could be.

“We’re both from L.A.,” Sonny says. “We went to the beach constantly and covered ourselves with baby oil and got as dark as we could.

“And, you know what? When I told my dermatologist that he said that he did the same thing!”

If only we had known then what we know now.

“I’ve had one bad melanoma and three other lesser melanomas over the years,” says Sonny, who’s 80. “I’ve also had basal cell and squamous cell (carcinoma).”

After years of back-and-forth between Southern California and Yakima, Sonny, a youth minister, and Linda recently returned to Yakima for good. “We’re back here in our house, a big, old Victorian built in 1904, and it’s our favorite house of all the places we’ve ever lived.”

Sonny figures he has thousands of kids, two of their own and the rest from his years of ministering to young people, some of those years spent at Yakima’s First Presbyterian Church. “Some of my kids even showed up (from both Yakima and California) to help us settle back into our home!”

And he is grateful. Not just for the help settling in, but for the care he’s gotten from Dr. Naseer Ahmad and the staff at Virginia Mason Memorial’s North Star Lodge. “Doctors found a small spot on my liver in fall 2017, and now I get an infusion of Keytruda every three weeks. It’s been great: I’ve had no side effects. In fact I’m going down to Emerald Cove Day Camp in San Juan Capistrano this summer to be the camp granddaddy: lead singing, take the kids on hikes, tell them stories.”

Washington ranks among the top 10 states for the highest rates of new cases of melanoma of the skin. So, what would Sonny like all of his kids and the rest of us to know about the sun and its effects on skin?

“Wear that sunscreen,” he says. “Get out of the tanning beds. And if you’ve ever had skin cancer, don’t miss your checkups: Get your moles checked.”

And finally, he says quietly, “It’s more important to be alive and be the color God made you.”

 

Cured of Hep C

Angel Perez and Macayla Smith work out at the gym. They try to eat a low-carb diet. They have two cars, a nice apartment and enjoy spending their weekends with the kids.

Just another typical Yakima Valley family, right? Not even close.

“It’s so awesome getting up and not chasing the dragon,” says Angel.

The dragon was heroin.

“We were very active in the drug scene,” Angel says. “I was in gangs. I’ve been in prison twice. Macayla and I were on the streets; We were homeless. We used everything from heroin to methamphetamines to alcohol, but heroin was our drug of choice.”

That was almost three years ago, when the couple began their long journey to get off the streets and out of addiction.

“We’d hit rock bottom; I was done,” Angel says. “Ever since they took my little boy it kinda woke me up and opened my eyes. I told Macayla, ‘No, the streets ain’t nothing for us. Our son is our little angel, and we’re going to get him back.”

Angel and Macayla got themselves into out-patient treatment; they go to classes, see counselors. As Angel says, “Whatever it takes, we did it and we did it as a couple. We set some goals and . . .”

“We met them one by one,” says Macayla, finishing Angel’s sentence, holding his hand.

One of those goals included dealing with Hepatitis C. Angel long knew he had Hep C, but “I was kinda scared, and when you’re using you don’t care.”

His doctor referred him to Virginia Mason Memorial’s Liver Clinic, and now the couple can add being Hep C free to their list of accomplishments.

“In the beginning it was hard,” says Macayla of their transformation from homelessness and addiction to being the parents of three with playdates and jobs.

How did they do it? “Well, we fell in love, that’s for sure!” she says, laughing. “We’ve had each other’s backs ever since.”

“We go to Planet Fitness,” says Angel. “I go five days a week. It gets your body back. I feel so good to be getting my health back, you know what I mean? Now, instead of smoking, I get ready for the gym.

“We did an awesome thing. We showed them. We tell other people, you got this, you can do this, too. We got rid of our old friends, but whenever they see us they say ‘Good job!’ ”

Improving your relationship with food…

Are you struggling with healthy eating? Do you find that you are an emotional eater?

Virginia Mason Memorial will be offering a night with licensed expert on intuitive eating. You’ll learn ways to create a healthy relationship with food and with yourself.

Chelsea Buffum, MS, LMHC works with people who want to improve their relationship with food and their bodies.

Space is limited. Please call to register at 509-249-5317. Cost is $5.

May 22, 2018
6-8pm
Memorial’s Education Center, 2506 West Nob Hill Blvd.

“David knew something was horribly wrong. His daughter called 911”

David Jones is an area manager for Goodwill, and sometimes his job requires that he drive to Tacoma for meetings. One Sunday, about four years ago, he did just that, heading out from his home in Yakima early, so he could be ready to go early Monday morning.

On the drive west, however, David didn’t feel well. “I thought it was indigestion, heartburn. And I was a little nauseous,” he says.

But David, 59, had a job to do. He attended the meeting and drove himself back to Yakima afterward. By this time, though, David was quite ill. “When I got home I was vomiting. I was white as a sheet, and I was in a cold sweat.”

David knew something was horribly wrong. His daughter called 911, but she couldn’t get through. All the circuits from her cell network provider were busy. David and his daughter began to panic.  “We could have used my phone, but we weren’t thinking,” he says. “I drove myself in. I wouldn’t even let my daughter do it. But, I have to say, if you want service in the Emergency Department, go in there clutching your chest,” he says, finding a sliver of humor in the most frightening day of his life.

The result? Three days in the hospital. Two stents (installed by Dr. Thomas McLaughlin of the Yakima Heart Center). 99 percent blockage in the main artery. David had a heart attack.

“It really changes your life,” he says quietly over a cup of coffee. “Before this I used to think, how do I get more money in my 401K? How do I get a bigger boat? And afterward I thought, when was the last time I told my wife I love her?

“It changed my whole perspective.”

David’s two daughters and a Virginia Mason Memorial nurse, who was now off-duty, stayed with David until his wife, Lori, could get to the hospital.

“The key takeaway for me was life-changing,” he says.

David, a longtime heavy smoker, immediately quit cigarettes. It was also discovered that he was prediabetic. But, he said to himself, “that’s one pill I’m not going to take.” David and Lori, in support, started attending Virginia Mason Memorial’s year-long Diabetes Prevention Program. They learned how to calculate the fat grams, and to incorporate more fruit, vegetables and yogurt into their diet.

They got hooked on the program, and then became competitive in their quest for good health.

“We didn’t start exercising right away, but then we started going to the YMCA three or four times a week, working out on the treadmill, track and with weights. I lost 35 pounds, and my wife lost over 40!

“We swear by the Diabetes Prevention Program.

“What happened to me was a gift, because I had the classic widow-maker. If you’re anybody — man, woman — and you have symptoms, go to the Emergency Department.

“I had no pain in my arm, but it felt like a cramp in my chest. The doctor asked me when the pain started, and I told him, “About two weeks into Mariners season.” Then I was out, in full cardiac arrest. We joked that those would have been my final words.

“But that was four years ago.”

Nash stands 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighed 280 pounds. He knew he was overweight, but he still didn’t think he could have a heart attack.

Nash Mazza was used to working long days jam-packed with a hefty load of stress. But this one day, Feb. 26, 2016, (he’ll never forget it) Nash felt a sharp pain in his left arm. Tightness and pain in his chest. Nash, 41 years old, was having a heart attack.

“At my age, you don’t think about that,” he said.

Fortunately, as the director of environmental services for Virginia Mason Memorial hospital, he didn’t have far to go for help. Staff called a Code Blue and, using his office chair as an ambulance, wheeled him directly from his office into the Emergency Department.

Nash made it. However, doctors discovered he was suffering from severe blockage in his coronary arteries. On March 3 he had open-heart surgery, a quintuple bypass.

Nash got the message. “If I had this at home, I probably would have died,” he says.

Then he made a plan. Almost 12 months later he’d lost 70 pounds and became that guy who begins his days with an hour of cardio, heads to the gym after work and plans healthy menus for every meal.

Nash’s cardiologist, Dr. Dave Krueger of the Yakima Heart Center, is passionate about drilling home his message of a healthy lifestyle as the best way to ward off heart health issues. “I like preventing sudden death,” he says.

Major cardiovascular diseases – heart disease and stroke – are the leading cause of death in Yakima County and throughout the United States. High cholesterol, obesity and high blood pressure are the three leading factors.

“We exercise less than we think. We eat more than we think,” says Krueger. “But you really do need to change your life. That means 45 minutes of exercise every day, eating a healthy diet – and absolutely no smoking. I don’t care if you’re 18 or 80! If you exercise every day you’ll feel better, live longer and happier, and, you’ll be more aware of how you feel.”

Of the 1,000 people who die suddenly in America of cardiovascular disease each day, half had warning signs. Nash had a big one in autumn 2015. He went to get a new prescription for his glasses and the exam showed eye trauma. “Hardening of the arteries,” says Krueger. “The back of your eye has small arteries; you can actually see the hardening.”

Mazza knew he should go see his doctor. But he was busy. He had a staff of 90 and hardly enough time to eat. When he did, it was fast food and Coke Cola. He also knew about his family history: A grandmother and two uncles died of heart attacks. His birth mother has diabetes.

Nash stands 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighed 280 pounds. He knew he was overweight, but he still didn’t think he could have a heart attack. But the signs were there. The day before, Nash woke up with a heartburn kind of feeling. The day it happened, he felt “weird.”

But that’s all behind him now, and Nash’s cardiologist, Dr. Krueger, would like everyone to know that even with inherited traits for heart disease, “You can change your life. A healthy lifestyle is the best medicine.”

“We can talk while I ride the exercise bike,” he says into the phone. “I do at least 30 minutes a day.”

It just didn’t make sense to Roger Yockey. How could he be so overweight when the people that he and his wife were meeting on volunteer missions around the world had so very little?

“Marilyn and I have done a lot of volunteer work in Central America, Portugal, the Caribbean, and the United States. We usually work with children who may have been abandoned or have special needs that cannot be met by families because they are very poor,” says Roger.

“I have photographs next to where I eat and next to where I watch TV of a child who has this look on his face like ‘What am I going to eat? Where am I going to sleep? Where am I going to live?’ I tell myself, ‘Roger, why should you be overweight, grossly so, when so many people are starving, especially children?”

Roger’s a little bit out of breath right about now. “We can talk while I ride the exercise bike,” he says into the phone. “I do at least 30 minutes a day.”

Roger Yockey, and his wife, Marilyn, both 78, moved to Yakima from Seattle when they retired. They wanted to be closer to the grandkids. Roger was a journalist and a journalism teacher at Seattle University. He also worked in communications for labor unions and in community organizing. Roger also ran a micro loan program for women, people of color and displaced workers.

As the Yockeys grew older, their waistlines grew larger. Roger went to the doctor. “Thanks to a wonderful physician at Virginia Mason Memorial, Dr. Silvia Labes (a primary care provider at Memorial Cornerstone Medicine) she saw indications that I was pre-diabetic and recommended the program.”

Roger is referring to Memorial’s Diabetes Prevention Program, a year-long series that teaches participants how to incorporate a healthy diet and exercise into their lives. The result is . . . well, as Roger says, “when I first went in I was what they call ‘morbidly obese.’ I weighed in at 295 pounds and I’m 5-feet, 9- inches tall.

“But somewhere along the way through the program I was told not only was I not diabetic, I was not even pre-diabetic. I weigh now about what I did when I was married and in the Marine Corps Reserve, 192. I went from a size 52 waist to a 40.”

For Roger, having his wife as his partner in the program made all the difference. “The two important things for us: It really helps if you have a partner. Marilyn and I tracked what we ate with a focus on calories and fat. That’s our guide. And the group sessions, you’re talking to other people and they’re telling you what their experiences have been. And then you weigh in.

Marilyn, who’s lost about 65 pounds, walks at least 30 minutes a day, rides the bike for 30 and goes to aerobics class twice each week.

The Yockeys, who have shed about 168 pounds between them, are Diabetes Prevention Program graduates now. But they still show up to weigh in, because, like with everything, there are always challenges.  “Eating out is a problem,” says Roger. “Red Robin and Red Lobster are great for working with you on dietary restrictions. The wonderful thing about the Café at Virginia Mason Memorial is they list the calories in the entrees, and I think the food there is just delicious.”

Temptation is everywhere. But the Yockeys are knowledgeable and prepared. “I love coffee and a cookie with it,” says Roger. “So I pick out a cookie that’s pretty low in fat and calories, and I just eat one.

“Last July we went to Guatemala for a week, and we’re already investigating where we’re going this year. Thanks to Marilyn, a cane and God, I make it. I just wish I had done this years ago.”

“All of my doctors said I was overweight, but when I requested my medical records it said, “obese.

MaryKathleen Carpenter did not like going to the doctor. A lot. “All of my life I’ve hated going. My back and my knee go out occasionally, and I have a bad hip. But no matter what problem I had – my knee, whatever – the doctor would say it was because of my weight. They wouldn’t even consider anything else.”

MaryKathleen felt dismissed. And judged. But her health problems persisted, and her family convinced her to try again. “They said, if you don’t go to the doctor you won’t ever find out.”

So, reluctantly, she went. And, boy, was it an eye-opener. “All of my doctors said I was overweight, but when I requested my medical records it said, “obese.

“It said ‘obese.’ “

And that was it for MaryKathleen, 5-feet-11-inches tall and 278 pounds. One of her doctors had recommended Virginia Mason Memorial’s Diabetes Prevention Program, and she went.

“Everybody always said, ‘You’re big.’ That’s just how it was,” she says. “I was 5-11 in fourth grade.

“I’ve tried diets all my life. When I started the program I thought, ‘I don’t know if I can do this the rest of my life. Now I can’t see me not doing it. I promised myself when I started that I wasn’t going to make any changes to my eating habits that I did not want to.”

There’s a bag of broccoli on her desk and a phone in her hand; it’s open to the MyFitnessPal app. “Now I focus on looking at the nutrients I need: potassium, proteins, fiber, calcium and iron. That broccoli, it’s full of potassium and fiber.

“In the program, you need to increase activity by 50 minutes a week, and you’ve got to track fat and calories. I absolutely adore tracking: I did it for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day. I gives me the control I need.”

Also on New Year’s Eve, MaryKathleen, age 46, and her husband went out to welcome in 2018. MaryKathleen, 90 pounds lighter, wore her freshman high school homecoming dress, a form-fitting creamy white number with sequins.

MaryKathleen, however, does not adore physical fitness. That part she’s doing her way. “I don’t care how much you yell at me, I don’t care how much you tell me, I’m not joining a gym. What I do is walk during my breaks and at lunch. And I park in the farthest spot away in parking lots.”

As MaryKathleen closes out her year-long journey through Virginia Mason Memorial’s Diabetes Prevention Program she feels empowered and in charge. “The program gave me direction. It’s given me a method. And I’m not the only one. It gives you other people to share with.

“There aren’t a lot of things I take time away from my family to do for myself. This taught me that if I want to do something, I can do it. I now have the knowledge and power to make a knowing decision.”