How the Dewey Center helped Myriah heal her whole self

Myriah small

Myriah Mundt at the Lighthouse on Dewey, where she co-leads an Alcoholics Anonymous group.

In 2013, Myriah Mundt worked at a senior living community in Port Washington. She often had to lift patients and eventually injured her back. She was treated with a lot of physical therapy – and painkillers. In fact, this course of treatment, including consistent opioid treatment, lasted two years.

But that’s not all Myriah was facing.  “My then-fiancé was using drugs,” she said. “And he took all my painkillers.”

Still, Myriah needed a way to relieve her constant back pain. She was in a precarious position, both physically and emotionally. So, without her painkillers, she started using other drugs with him.

In 2015, she finally had a multi-level fusion performed on her back – something that should have alleviated her now two-year-old injury. Instead, the surgery required more painkillers, which exacerbated what had become the biggest problem of all: her addiction to opioids.

Help where you least expect it

During this time, Myriah had become adept at hiding her problem from others because she learned to hide herself. “I isolated myself completely,” she recalled. “I came out so rarely, no one would have believed that I was a user when they actually did see me.”

Thankfully, her parents put an end to all the hiding with a well-timed police wellness check. It resulted in the arrest that would change her life.

“I spent 14 days in the Ozaukee County Jail. I detoxed there, alone,” Myriah said. “It was truly terrible!”

That’s because the symptoms of opioid withdrawal are notoriously severe. “But I think I needed it to be terrible,” Myriah said. “I knew I needed that memory to help keep me straight,” she said.

To this day, Myriah stays in touch with the police officer who arrested her that fateful day. “He was so kind to me, and I’ll never forget it.”

The bravery of getting better

Now a healthy 30-year-old, Myriah can reflect and understand that she wasn’t in a good mindset, even when she first injured her back five years ago. She’d already been a heavy drinker for a long time and wasn’t prepared to recognize that her relationship was destructive – that she was becoming stuck in the middle between her partner and drug abuse. “I felt like I was locked in an emotional cage and I didn’t have a key,” she said.

But then Myriah found the key to it all: the Dewey Center at the Aurora Behavioral Health Campus. She spent 21 days in the Dewey Center’s partial hospitalization program, where she learned that her addiction is nothing to be ashamed of.

“All the caregivers at the Dewey Center treated me with kindness, respect and love,” Myriah said. “I learned that I could – that I should – be kind to myself, respect myself and love myself, no matter what.”

People suffering from substance abuse are just that: people. They’re anybody and everybody. They’re your attorney, your mechanic, your farmer. They’re your friend. They’re Myriah, a young woman who’s been to the bottom and come out on top to pay it forward.

Myriah’s story shows us that the road to healing may take us to places we don’t want to go. Painful places. Uncomfortable places. But they’re the places that get us where we need to go.

“I’ve been sober for 18 months. I want to tell my story,” Myriah insisted. “And I want people to know that I would not have made it this far without the Dewey Center.”

renew-restore-rebuild-210You can help expand addiction recovery services when you support the Foundation’s Renew, Restore, Rebuild campaign, a $1.5 million effort enhancing Aurora’s $35 million commitment to increasing capacity and treatment at the Aurora Behavioral Health Campus.  This means that when you participate in the campaign, you’re helping more people like Myriah recover and live well. To find how you can support this effort, visit

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Helping patients no matter the cost

As manager of behavioral health services at Aurora St. Luke’s South Shore (ASLSS), Norm Shanks, MSN, RN, is seeing an increased need for acute services. “We’re seeing patients who are more vulnerable than in the past, and in greater volumes,” he explained. “There is less capacity in the community at large.”

While the hospital’s Community Room, supported by 2016’s Generations of Pride event, can serve so many in the community and in the Intensive Outpatient Program, Shanks and his behavioral health unit has found itself again in need of more support to help the community live well.

New requirements mean new expenses

Patient safety is always a number one priority, Shanks said, and to this point the unit has been able to develop processes that work well with patients, caregivers and the site’s resources themselves.

“But now, we’re required to make renovations that further ensure patient safety by making areas ‘ligature-resistant,’” Shanks said. Entire patient care areas must now be completely renovated to remove ways for patients to hurt themselves with ties or bindings. This includes ceilings, doors, furniture and even the patient beds.

Better safety for better outcomes

“Our current beds are specifically designed to serve behavioral health patients,” Shanks shared. “That said, to be compliant with the new requirements, we need beds that are even more streamlined for patient safety. This will improve patient outcomes and experience.”

And it’s where you can help.


Generations of Pride, set this year for Friday, May 11 at Franklin’s beautiful Tuckaway Country Club, will again support ASLSS’s behavioral health services unit. Your attendance will help purchase the new patient beds – one of the largest expenses in the required renovations.


“We’re grateful to be chosen for a second time as the beneficiary of the Aurora Generations of Pride event,” said Shanks. “We are truly thankful for the ongoing support from donors, Aurora Health Care Foundation and our wonderful community.”

We’re can’t thank Norm Shanks and his team enough for the incredible care they provide to this especially sensitive and important population. We know you are, too!

To find out how you can support this key effort by attending or donating to Generations of Pride, visit, email or call 414-649-7563.

Posted in Aurora Behavioral Health Services, behavioral health, patient-centered care, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“I would do this 24 hours a day if I had the energy”: Why one volunteer dedicates so much to survivors of sexual abuse

“Domestic violence and trauma are issues I’m passionate about because my life has been impacted by it. I’ve been there – as a witness,” said Lynn Maglio, who has been volunteering with Aurora Healing and Advocacy Services since 2014.

When survivors need help, Lynn Maglio is often the one who answers the call.

In 1999, one of Lynn’s loved ones was brutally assaulted. But despite their close relationship, she wasn’t told about the attack for three and a half years.

“That pain and suffering was kept inside all that time. Then I spent years trying to get my loved one help without success.”

Finally, Lynn met a forensic nurse and a fierce advocate, who describes her work as being an “aspiring ally.” That nurse changed everything.

“She was able to get through the suffering of my loved one in a way no one had been able to do. She helped save my loved one’s life. Now my loved one is healing and in a healthy relationship – one that’s allowing them to move on with their life.”

Paying it forward

Now, Lynn spends as much time as possible helping other survivors. She’s often the person who answers the 24-hour hotline at Aurora Healing & Advocacy Services.

“Every call is different. Every assault is different. Whether they’re hurt physically or not, it doesn’t matter. The pain is very real,” explained Lynn. “I just go to that place of trying to listen with the deepest heart I possibly can. It takes a great deal of courage for someone to call here.”

She’s also served as an accompaniment advocate.

“When I’m on call, I’m available to sit in during police interviews and even exams if the person needs someone to comfort them.”

The power to help

Knowing she can be a powerful source of help is another reason Lynn volunteers as often as she does.

“It’s an unbelievable road survivors have to go down. It’s very difficult to know what to do and how to get help. I can provide that information to survivors. I can help.”

And she gets a lot in return.

“When you hear survivors’ stories and hear what they say and the depth of their pain – their liberation is incredible. I would do this 24 hours a day if I had enough energy. And the people that do this work for a living, they care so deeply. You have to know where to go for real help, and that’s what this hotline does.”

How you can help

Aurora Health Care’s abuse response services are provided free of charge to survivors. These programs rely on the generosity of donors like you. To support survivors of domestic and sexual violence, CLICK HERE.

And if you or someone you know has survived abuse and needs immediate care, a referral for counseling, advocacy or more, please call 414-219-5555. You can also CLICK HERE to learn more about Aurora’s Abuse Response programs, all over our system.

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Empowering counselors to empower people

If you’re reading this, then you’re among the many people who care deeply for those in need. You may even be someone who works or volunteers at an organization dedicated to helping others.

But then, who helps the helpers? Especially those who work with children, adults or families whose lives are full of challenges and setbacks?

Members of FTTI

Milwaukee Mental Health Consultants, part of the AFS Family Therapy Training Institute, collaborate with community partners on many levels.

Milwaukee Mental Health Consultants (MMHC), part of the Family Institute of Aurora Family Service, does two things to help those working with vulnerable families. First, they collaborate with staffs at community-based organizations (CBOs) throughout Milwaukee to find the best practices for their particular mission. But second, they help staff find the best practices to take care of themselves so they can complete that mission.

“It’s more than ‘train the trainer’, so to speak” said Kevin O’ Brien, who oversees Milwaukee Mental Health Consultants. “For staff to effectively help people with multiple challenges, they need to honor their own needs and capacities.”

How MMHC partnered with the Social Development Commission


The Social Development Commission (SDC) provides trauma-informed care and services to help break the poor intergenerational outcomes of some of the most highly stressed families in the city. It’s hard work. And it’s compounded by the fact that some of the caregivers face many of the same stressors as the clients they serve.

This means it can be challenging for staff to keep a good distance when they can relate so closely to their clients. They could empathize. But this can be a barrier to effective treatment.

“We learned how to use empathy vs. sympathy when dealing with clients,” said Willie Mae Brown*, an SDC supervisor, says that the perspective provided by Milwaukee Mental Health Consultants was a terrific help for her and her clients. “We felt that it was so powerful that we had our executive staff watch MMHC’s video.”

Using experience for good

When staff at CBOs have a safe place to discuss the challenges they face that may be similar to those of the families they serve, they are able to use those experiences for the good of the clients.

“What helped was when our MMHC trainer used personal experiences with us to explain the different techniques that were discussed during the sessions,” Brown explained. “One of the techniques they taught us to use with clients was the ‘Miracle Question’: What would an Ideal tomorrow look like?”

With that vision of the best possible future established thanks to MMHC, CBO staff and their clients work together to find the most realistic way to find that ideal tomorrow.

In the end, MMHC was able to empower SDC’s clients by empowering the staff.

“We learned that the youth and families are experts in their own lives if given the appropriate tools and techniques,” Brown said. “We found the MMHC coaching sessions afterward to be beneficial – and a bonus. We’re hoping the training continues.”

To find out how you can help support Milwaukee Mental Health Consultants support others like them, email or call 414-219-4740.

*Names have been changed for privacy.

Posted in Aurora Family Service, behavioral health, community, Our Community Commitment, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Mystery solved: What experts at Aurora St. Luke’s did for Meghan’s family that no other hospital could

“I was trying out for a dance team in high school and I collapsed on the floor,” shared Meghan Zierk. Because of her family history, Meghan knew immediately the likely culprit.

“My mother died when she was 43, my great-grandfather was 41, my grandmother was 43 and my uncle died when he was just 22,” she explained.

Meghan said her grandparents actually called it “the dropsies”. Family members would literally drop and die. The culprit was heart disease. But she would eventually learn, thanks to the expertise at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center, that they had a very rare genetic disease called LAMP2 variant cardiomyopathy. And it was being passed on from generation to generation.

Meghan, with her brother, David

Her mother, Vera, was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in the 1980s. Vera was eventually referred to Aurora St. Luke’s in the 1990s when she went into cardiac arrest. Vera had a heart transplant in 1997, and although the disease would eventually take her mother at a young age, Meghan knows the cardiac care at Aurora St. Luke’s has kept her and her brother, David, alive.

“Once my brother started having so many problems, Dr. Tajik requested genetic testing. And that is when we were finally able to link everything together and discover it was LAMP2 variant cardiomyopathy,” she explained.

Meghan is referring to A. Jamil Tajik, MD, President Emeritus, Aurora Cardiovascular Services at Aurora St. Luke’s. She says it is Dr. Tajik’s expertise and willingness to go the extra mile for his patients that helped her and her brother put the puzzle pieces together and take control of their lives.

“It helps having a clear path to make future decisions. Now we know what we’re up against, and we have absolutely trusted them with our lives,” she shared.

Keeping their hearts in Aurora St. Luke’s hands

Meghan has had numerous heart procedures, including a transplant. Her brother has needed two heart transplants. Because of the complexity of their disease, they have seen numerous Aurora St. Luke’s caregivers over the years, from Dr. Tajik, who helped discover the genetic variant, to Francis Downey, MD, Director of Mechanical Circulatory Support and Cardiac Transplantation who was also her transplant surgeon, and more.

“At Aurora, our team is appreciative of the generosity and thoughtfulness of donor families who have made the gift of life at a very difficult time,” explained Dr. Downey. “Our transplant team’s commitment is to individualize treatments based on patients and their families.  It’s appropriate care at the appropriate time for the appropriate patient.”

Meghan and her brother remain in the ongoing care of St. Luke’s transplant team. She says every person has treated her family with compassionate care.

“I say this all the time, they are our superheroes. They have saved our lives. And I know it’s their job, but not everyone does it as well as they do,” she said.

Meghan donated these medals from recent racing events to her transplant team at Aurora St. Luke’s. She credits their care for making it possible for her to participate.

Meghan has gone from being out of breath due to a short walk, to completing a full marathon in 2017. She says the team at Aurora St. Luke’s made that possible, so she donated her race medals to the transplant clinic so they can be on display as a gift of gratitude.

“What Aurora St. Luke’s does is they support you. And they have supported me and my family through so much. I’m so thankful,” she shared.

How you can help

Your support of Aurora’s Advanced Heart Failure program will help ensure that patients like Meghan continue to receive world-class cardiac care at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center. Donor dollars can help arm caregivers with the latest training and educational opportunities, and will also support Aurora’s annual Celebration of Life transplant survivors event. To learn how you can make a gift, contact Michelle Schuerman at


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“I knew it was the right thing to do”: How one nurse made it her mission to help survivors of assault

Deanna Grundl is the SANE/Forensic Nursing Coordinator for Aurora Medical Centers in Manitowoc, Sheboygan and Hartford.

Deanna Grundl didn’t set out to become a forensic nurse. But now, she couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

“I really have an amazing job. I’m so privileged to be able to help these patients,” she shared.

Ten years ago, she was a new nurse, and her supervisor asked her to go to a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) training class. To Deanna, who was working two jobs and raising five children, it sounded like a vacation.

“But no one explained what it would be like, what the workload would be, and at the end of the first day, I really didn’t think this was the path for me,” Deanna admitted. “But by day two, I knew I had to do it. Our instructor was so inspiring and so passionate about it; I knew it was the right thing to do.”

Today, Deanna is the SANE/Forensic Nursing Coordinator for Aurora Medical Centers in Manitowoc, Sheboygan and Hartford.

“This is one of the few roles where I get to be with the patient for as long as they need me,” Deanna explained. “Patients drive what happens; they make the decisions. We don’t do a thing unless they want us to – they get to say, ‘No.’ And that makes a difference. We give them control after a situation where they had none.”

She’s also a dedicated proponent for Aurora Health Care’s Abuse Response programs.
“I’m very fortunate to have great leaders at my locations and across Aurora,” she said. “These programs don’t make any money. It’s always a loss, yet they know how essential it is to have these services and help these patients. They’re always very supportive, and they want to help in any way they can.”

Difficult, but rewarding work

Sexual assault is a complex crime, and it results in trauma that requires highly specialized patient care. Nurses who deal with this level of trauma must compassionately perform a thorough medical forensic examination of the victim while also collecting evidence.

“When I started doing this, I very quickly gained a greater sense of empathy and compassion. I can’t imagine talking to a stranger about something so awful. But they trust us, and they know we’re doing the right thing for them.”

More services are needed

Deanna believes every hospital should have a forensic nursing program to help survivors of sexual and domestic violence.

“If people don’t start somewhere with a healing process, they won’t move forward. I see patients who were assaulted years ago, and we’re able to connect them with resources, including long-term counseling provided by Aurora Healing & Advocacy Services. People think that after a while it will get better, but it won’t – unless they get help.”

Trauma can even impact a person’s long-term health.

“We see patients with chronic pain, abdominal pain, headaches, things that result from trauma. If we don’t manage trauma, things will get worse.”

If you have been assaulted, find someone you trust, someone who will be supportive and won’t blame you.

“Even if the assault was 10 years ago, it should be addressed. It’s not an easy road – but when a survivor does the work, their lives will be significantly better.

How you can help

Forensic nursing programs rely on the support of generous donors like you. You can help survivors of sexual and domestic violence by clicking here.

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JOIN US for Standing with Survivors during Sexual Assault Awareness Month

This April, let’s come together to tell survivors of abuse and sexual assault: WE STAND WITH THEM!

This issue matters to Aurora Health Care. Did you know that more than 2,000 people who experienced abuse and sexual assault were cared for at an Aurora Health Care facility in 2017? There are forensic nurses available at nine different Aurora Medical Centers to treat women, men and children coping with recent trauma.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and there are so many ways you can support survivors and enhance these services near you through our Standing with Survivors campaign. ALL of your donations will go directly to enhancing Aurora’s specialized programs that help survivors to heal and thrive.

Here are FIVE EASY WAYS you can get involved:

  • Support Denim Day: Denim Day, on Wednesday April 25, is an international day of awareness for sexual assault survivors and a day to bring attention to “victim blaming” in our culture. CLICK HERE to learn how you can join people all over the world in this effort!
  • Start your own fundraiser: You can get your community and workplace involved to support survivors for Denim Day or at any time during the month of April with our Standing with Survivors campaign. Reach out to Caroline Beckom at to get our toolkit and get started.
  • Buy a slice of pizza, play bingo and more! There are many local businesses who are donating a portion of their proceeds to our Standing with Survivors campaign in April. CLICK HERE to see a listing of community fundraising events that make it super easy for you to get involved!
  • Do you know someone who is a survivor of abuse or sexual assault? You can make a gift to enhance Aurora’s Abuse Response programs in her or his name as a tribute! We can even share your thoughtfulness with the person you honor. CLICK HERE to make a gift!
  • Merchandise that supports the cause: We have Standing with Survivors gear that will help you make a personal statement with a fashion statement. CLICK HERE to buy online.

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