Aurora caregivers running to support palliative care

These Aurora caregivers are so passionate about helping others, they are literally running a marathon for their patients! Not only are they making this huge commitment, they’re making it easy for you to support them, too.

According to the team’s fundraising page, “To play our part outside of our hospitals and clinics, we want to raise awareness and dollars to support our palliative care program. We are running in the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon on October 2, 2016. We encourage you to make a donation in honor of a family, friend or neighbor who has needed such care, or make one in our honor to help us get to the finish line!”


Pictured from left to right: Cara Herdrich, Krin Kramer, Mimi Kokoska, Trishya Brown and Kim Stapelfeldt.

Palliative care is specialized medical care for those with very serious, even life-threatening illness. Because patients and families living with serious illness face so many challenges, palliative care is most effective when provided by multidisciplinary teams.

“Palliative Care can be provided as an outpatient, inpatient or in the home, across a continuum from acute and chronic illness to end of life, all the while optimizing quality of life, comfort and preserving dignity. Aurora has such wonderful caregivers in Palliative Care,” explains Mimi Kokoska, MD, Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of Hospital Based Specialties.

And you can support five of them this weekend! If you would like to make a gift, click here .

To learn more about palliative care, click here .

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You can help provide exceptional end-of-life care at the Walk for Aurora Zilber Family Hospice

It doesn’t matter how long – or how briefly – hospice care lasts. The care provided at the end stage of one’s life is some of the most important care ever received.

That’s because hospice care is the health care we truly remember.


Pictured, left to right, is Allison’s grandfather Gilbert Selin, Grandmother Jean Selin and mother Judy Klein.

Allison Klein can attest to this. In 2006, Her grandfather, Gilbert Selin, was admitted to Aurora Zilber Family Hospice for just a short time: one day. But the impact of Gilbert’s exceptional care has been long-lasting.

“I remember the caregivers. Almost instantly, the caregivers made my grandpa feel comfortable and made the family feel comforted,” Allison recalls. “They did a wonderful job of gathering family members as we arrived, and preparing us for our next step through his room’s doors.”

It was the first time Allison had experienced a loved one’s passing in a health care setting. But the Aurora Zilber Family Hospice caregivers were there to ensure that Allison and her family could experience the joy of her grandfather’s life, as well as peace in his passing.

“They gave us all the time we needed to say our goodbyes, and they were patient,” she says. “And they offered hugs when they felt one of us needed one. They made us feel at peace.”
zilberwalklogo-300We want to thank Allison for sharing her grandfather’s story. You can help ensure that other families experience the same great care when you participate in the 2nd Annual Walk for Aurora Zilber Family Hospice on Sunday, Oct. 2. CLICK HERE to sign your team up, sponsor another participant, or simply donate to this important cause.

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You can help provide end-of-life comfort and care for patients at Aurora West Allis

This year’s Evening of Promise event will raise funds to create a dedicated space and homelike atmosphere of comfort and peace for patients who are experiencing end-of-life care at Aurora West Allis Medical Center.

(L-R) Jeanne and Kat are compassionate caregivers who want to provide the best care possible for their patients. They say end-of-life care requires a unique kind of approach.

(L-R) Jeanne and Kat are compassionate caregivers at Aurora West Allis. They say end-of-life care requires a unique kind of approach.

Jeanne Conner is the Patient Care Manager at Aurora West Allis, she says it was nurses at the hospital who expressed a need to do more for their patients, “They are working with families during this transitional time and they’re hearing from patients and their families about a desire for a more comfortable area. We have such compassionate nurses and they want to provide the very best care possible.”

With a desire to do more, the hospital began an inpatient hospice program several years ago. A review committee worked with caregivers through Aurora at Home and other hospice providers to determine how to improve the end-of-life experience for patients and their families.

“Sometimes a patient has limited options when it comes to hospice. Ideally they would be at home or transfer to a nursing home or hospice facility, but that’s not always realistic. That transfer can be very difficult and unsafe for some patients, so we want to give them a comfortable option right here at the hospital,” explains Katalin Skelton, clinical nurse specialist.

Caregivers are working with an interior designer to come up with ways to make a designated space more comfortable for patients and their loved ones. They are looking at things like window coverings, specialized lighting, amenities for visiting family members, etc., that will give the room a more homelike setting and not seem like a sterile hospital environment. But this isn’t just about interior design, it’s also about the care provided.

eop-cropped“Many nurses already have specialized training and we have resources available here that other facilities don’t have like a fantastic palliative care team and geriatricians who will help provide the absolute best care possible,” shares Katalin.

Please join us in support of this effort by attending this year’s Evening of Promise event on Wednesday, October 5. To purchase a ticket or to make a gift go to

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Beating a Silent Killer: Gina’s story

What would you do if you heard the words “you have cancer?” 

Gina Zarletti of Racine  is one of the faces of Aurora Health Care’s Cancer Knows No Borders campaign. She shared her cancer journey in the August 7 edition of the Racine Journal Times. Here’s an excerpt of that article.

Ovarian cancer is about as insidious as a disease gets.

There’s no practical, effective screening for it. There are few early warning signals for it. It’s the eighth most reported cancer among women, but ranks fifth on the mortality list.

It’s the deadliest gynecological cancer.

It’s called the silent killer.

Gina Zarletti, of Racine, wants to raise awareness about ovarian cancer.

Gina Zarletti, of Racine, wants to raise awareness about ovarian cancer.

Racine resident Gina Zarletti wants to turn up the volume on the disease, which strikes about 20,000 women a year.

“We need to have more attention on ovarian cancer,” Zarletti said. “I think we need more talk and more education about how we can learn to listen to our bodies and talk with our physicians.

“The more women who can hear more about ovarian cancer, the better,” she added. “We need to have more conversation.”

Zarletti certainly can speak to the aggressive nature of the cancer. She was diagnosed with it in October 2014, after experiencing severe cramping at a family wedding. She underwent an eight-hour operation, then endured a year-long recovery before being declared cancer free.

Listening to your body

In this video, Zarletti explains her battle with cancer and how determination and love from family and friends got her through it. “Perseverance will get you through,” she said in the video.

That’s exactly what Zarletti has used since October 2014, when she had to leave a family wedding before the wedding party was even introduced because of severe cramping.

“At first, I thought it was maybe food poisoning, but the pains were very sharp and continuous, and I knew something just wasn’t right,” she said. “I always believed you have to listen to your body. And my body was now telling me something was wrong.”

Zarletti found out she had stage IIIC ovarian cancer. “It was everywhere,” she said. Two days later she underwent an eight-hour operation to remove a tumor in her abdominal area.

She spent several days in the hospital, then endured 18 weeks and six rounds of chemotherapy. She was declared cancer free in June 2015.

But during her struggle with ovarian cancer, Zarletti discovered she carried a gene making her susceptible to breast cancer. Taking no chances, she had a double mastectomy last summer.

Today, much of Zarletti’s color, energy and hair have returned. She’s preparing to return to work, she will split time as a counselor between Fratt and Fine Arts schools. She also recently moved from her condo to a new house near Wind Point — her first residence with a yard, she said.

“When you go through something like this, it’s day to day. You put everything else aside,” Zarletti said. “You are focusing almost all the time on getting well and recuperating.

“Now I have a sense of peace and serenity in my life,” she said. “I’m more relaxed. I’m taking in life and enjoying it.”


To learn more about Aurora Health Care’s Cancer Knows No Borders campaign, or to make a gift, CLICK HERE.


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‘Life changing’: Team Phoenix athlete describes impact of group’s research

We recently spoke to some athletes from Team Phoenix, which trains breast cancer survivors to complete a triathlon. Mary Weiland, who participated in the team’s most recent event on July 31, gave us her thoughts about the training and the team in her own words.

Tell us about your breast cancer journey.

I was diagnosed six years ago in June. On a routine mammogram I had a lumpectomy and radiation.  I’ve been on medication since, and I’m doing well.

How did you hear about Team Phoenix?

The first time I heard about the program was last year November – I was a part of the Aurora Living Well Beyond Cancer program. Then I received an email about the program, and got started on the 14-week training program in April.

Did you ever think you’d be training for a triathlon?

TP swimming

“It has really made a big difference in my life,” Mary says. “They touch on nutrition, exercise and even mental health. Being involved with Team Phoenix helps so much.”

Never, ever, ever! I was a walker pretty much all my life.  That’s what I considered as exercise.  Then about a year ago, Aurora offered a Couch-to-5k program.  So I looked at that as something to bump up my walking.  It was a way to walk more – and meet other people.  I never thought I would be 57 years old and running.  I ran my first 5k last November, and I’ve done few since then.

When Team Phoenix came about, I was really questioning if I could do the swimming. When I was a kid I often swam, but I never did it competitively.  That was intimidating.

When I went to the informational meeting, everyone was made to feel comfortable. They told everyone if you want to make this commitment, we guarantee we are going to get you to complete a triathlon.  For example, there were people in the program who had pretty much done no kind of physical activity.  They had been pretty sedentary. And they finished the triathlon!

After the program, I went from being very scared about competitive swimming to absolutely loving it.

You’ve told us how Team Phoenix has helped your emotional well-being. What about your physical health?

I feel stronger now then every before after going through the program. I have more energy now than I can even remember.  I use to come home and make dinner, fit in a couple of things, and then it would be time for bed.  I exercised if I had time for it.  Now I still do that, but I make sure I fit in some type of exercising like bike riding or swimming.  It will be a part of what I do – before I have time for other things.  I didn’t always have the energy to do it, but now the energy is there.  I have the urge to just do it!

What sort of impact has Team Phoenix had on your life?

It has had a positive, life-changing impact on me. Exercise is now something that I will do.  It is better to be active, and fight off anything that could cause cancer.  All of the people, such as Dr. Tjoe and all of the coaches, have such a passion for this.

Team Phoenix is a great program. I feel like it’s going to be a part of my life for as long as I live.

If you could describe Team Phoenix in just a few words, what would they be?

That’s tough! Team Phoenix is just so… amazing. But if I had to choose a few words, I’d say life changing, motivational, inspirational. There are so many words that can describe it. It has been a blessing.  I am very thankful that I had the opportunity to be a part of it.

All this month, the Cousins #Combo4ACure Campaign will give you an opportunity to support cancer research conducted by groups like Team Phoenix. All you have to do is buy a Cousins Combo meal, and a portion of the proceeds will help the Vince Lombardi Cancer Foundation in its efforts to beat cancer. Stop by a Wisconsin-based Cousins restaurant and pick up a combo today!

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Combos For A Cure: Enjoy a Cousins Sub and Help Tackle Cancer

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You can support the fight against cancer every time you head to lunch this September.

Cousins Subs and the Vince Lombardi Cancer Foundation (VLCF) officially launched their second annual Combos For A Cure campaign, with a commitment of raising a total gift of $50,000 to strengthen local cancer research and programs offered through Aurora Health Care.

The campaign was formally kicked off with an August 31 cancer survivor celebration held at Aurora Sinai Medical Center, followed with a tour of Aurora Research Institute’s Discovery Laboratory. Guests learned from Aurora scientists about real cancer research happening in Wisconsin. A second campaign launch and survivor celebration was also held the same day at Aurora BayCare Medical Center.

“In 2016, nearly 11,600 people in communities across Wisconsin will lose their fight with cancer, and with the help of the Vince Lombardi Cancer Foundation we can have a positive impact on that number,” said Justin McCoy, Vice President of Marketing at Cousins Subs.

And you can be a part of this effort!  Just purchase a combo meal from September 1st – 30th at any Wisconsin-based Cousins Subs and a portion of each meal sold will go to the Vince Lombardi Cancer Foundation. The VLCF is a strong supporter of local cancer research and ongoing cancer care programs offered through Aurora Health Care— which is where one out of four people diagnosed with cancer in Wisconsin choose to go for their care.

For more information on the Combos For A Cure campaign, to order your meal online or to make a donation in support of the campaign, click here .  For more information about the Vince Lombardi Cancer Foundation, click here.

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When Minutes Matter Campaign Saves Plymouth Man

On a cold, snowy evening this past February, local veterinarian Deb Schneider attended the Sheboygan Dog Training Club Awards Banquet at the Town & Country.  It included a lovely dinner with awards to follow. Then, out of the blue, someone shouted out: “Is Jean here?” Deb realized that someone was calling for EMS educator Jean Zemke, who’d recently conducted CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) training at the dog club.


Deb Schneider pictured with Jean Zemke at the Live Well Ozaukee event on August 19, 2016

Deb knew someone was in trouble.

Thanks to Jean’s training, made possible by the Aurora Health Care Foundation’s When Minutes Matter campaign, Deb was able to help fellow attendee and club member Gary Otte, who fell over and stopped breathing. Gary’s wife, Ruth, commented that it all seemed to go by in seconds. But much more time passed while Deb helped Gary regain consciousness.  It took 15 minutes for emergency repsonders to arrive.

Emergencies happen everywhere

When you imagine having a medical emergency, you expect to have help at your door step in a matter of minutes.  Unfortunately, that’s not the case for everyone.  That’s why Aurora Health Care Foundation launched When Minutes Matter, a $650,000 campaign that aims to improve the infrastructure and emergency medical training in order to empower more people in the community with lifesaving tools, when minutes — even seconds – count.

The When Minutes Matter campaign is dedicated to educating as many people as possible with critical lifesaving skills. Deb, Ruth and Gary are thankful for the campaign and the training it provides. Quite simply, if Deb hadn’t received CPR training, the awards banquet could have ended very differently.

“You never know when something like this might happen in your life, whether you’re at dog club, grocery store, restaurant, work, church…” Deb said. “Life is full of things that you’re not expecting. It may be up to you take action. And you can save a life.” That is why When Minutes Matter, matters.

If you would like to learn more about the When Minutes Matter campaign or would like to make a gift, please click here.


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