Happy Mother’s Day from Aurora Family Service!

AFS Mother's Day

Celebrating empowered moms and their precious little ones is what the FEP Mother’s Day event is all about.

“Moms don’t often have someone to pamper and take care of them,” said Bonnie Van Den Heuvel, supervisor of Aurora Family Service’s Family Enrichment Program (FEP), which helps new moms build a better environment for themselves and their little ones. “Our Mother’s Day event gives us a chance to give our clients a little break, so they can relax a little bit.”

Helping moms all year ’round

We introduced you to the Family Enrichment Program this past February, when we shared Alisha’s story. With an understanding that social determinants have an enormous effect on outcomes for mom and baby, the FEP program helped Alisha make positive changes in her relationships, health and support network so she could give her new baby, Charlie, the best start possible.

“Like Alisha, we teach moms that they can choose to make different, healthier choices,” Bonnie said. “They do great things once they feel empowered!”

Celebrating achievement

The FEP Mother’s Day event offers clients some well-deserved respite and recognition, with a delicious lunch, plus flowers, a gift, a Mother’s Day card, a poem and invitation to an upcoming group exploring the benefits of self-care – a key way to ensure that moms can take great care of their kids.

“Our clients can face some barriers that cause stress,” Bonnie said. “Self-care helps moms stay focused.”

This year’s event had more families attend than any other time in its 15-year history. And the program’s growth and impact truly excited Bonnie and the FEP team members.

“We’re grateful so many of our clients joined us. We really love celebrating their accomplishments,” Bonnie said. “Mother’s Day at Aurora Family Service is one of the best times of the year!”

To find out more about Aurora Family Service’s Family Enrichment Program, and how you can help moms and kids all year ’round, email cynthia.hosale@aurora.org or call 414-219-4740.

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Donors to Hope Shining Blue raise more than $193,000 to enhance care for survivors of assault

Because of your generosity, more than $193,000 was raised at the 5th annual Hope Shining Blue event on Wednesday, April 25 to enhance care through Aurora Healing & Advocacy Services! CLICK HERE to see more exciting photos from the event.

Thanks to you, more women, men and children will get the compassionate, specialized care they need to heal from traumatic sexualt assault or domestic abuse. And as you heard at the event, a portion of your gifts will be used to publicize the Aurora Healing Center 24-hour hotline number throughout the community and via digital media. The goal is to reach the people who need these services the most, so they know that help is available and they are not alone.

Thanks to all who attended or made a gift to support this critical care in our community. If you’re interested in joining our Aurora Healing & Advocacy Services Giving Circle, or learning more about how your gifts are impacting survivors, contact Cindy Hosale at Cynthia.Hosale@aurora.org.

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When our community and our world needed help in 2017, Aurora team members answered the call!

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Team members in Kenosha held a pumpkin carving and decorating contest to raise funds for their favorite charities.

In 2017, Aurora team members broke the fundraising record of the Partnership Campaign once again! The Partnership Campaign is Aurora’s way of making it easy for team members to give to their favorite charities. Last year, they gave over $4.1 million overall, with over $2.1 million earmarked toward Aurora Health Care funds. Not only did fundraising totals go up, so did participation across the system. Team members also got creative in how they raised funds. Some dressed up like rock stars, put colleagues in “jail”, had cookie contests, decorated pumpkins and more.

Here’s a look at how they participated, by patient service area:

  • Aurora at Home- 55%
  • Behavioral Health- 42%
  • Burlington & Walworth- 49%
  • Greater Milwaukee North, Sheboygan, Calumet- 27%
  • Greater Milwaukee South- 27%
  • Green Bay, Manitowoc & Marinette- 19%
  • Oshkosh & Fond du Lac- 20%
  • Racine, Kenosha and Northern Illinois- 46%
  • Waukesha & Jefferson- 41%

Aurora team members donate generously to Family to Family Thanksgiving and also join dozens of other volunteers to help pack and distribute the groceries to families in need.

Most Popular Aurora Funds:

  1. Aurora Family Services’ Family to Family Thanksgiving
  2. Aurora Abuse Response Funds
  3. Aurora at Home Greatest Needs Fund

Aurora Family Services’ Family to Family Thanksgiving is always one of the top funds supported by Aurora team members. Their gifts helped provide a warm meal so that nearly 3,100 Milwaukee families could enjoy Thanksgiving dinner at home, together.

Not only do our team members support this cause, they often volunteer their time to help pack the groceries and distribute them to local families in need.

Most Popular Community Funds:

Alex helped care for Oogy while she was volunteering at HAWS.

  1. American Red Cross National Disaster Relief
  2. Make-A-Wish Foundation
  3. Humane Animal Welfare Society (HAWS)

Alex Urbas is a Business System Analyst with Aurora Health Care, based in Milwaukee. She loves animals and gives through the Partnership Campaign with HAWS as her sole charitable partner. She saw firsthand how HAWS and other local animal rescues were also impacted by last year’s hurricanes.

“HAWS took in over 50 shelter dogs from hurricane Harvey and many more affected by Irma,” Alex shared. “Many of these animals came in ill, with kennel cough and other treatable ailments. Space at the shelter is limited, so foster families were stretched to the max. And, of course, our newest residents arrived hungry. All of these needs add up to big costs.”

The dogs who were displaced by the hurricane were kept at shelters like HAWS until they could be eventually reunited with their families again. Alex and other foster families stepped up to help care for the original pets being kept at HAWS, to make room for the temporary residents.

“Now that rebuilding is underway, people are able to reclaim their beloved fur kids, which is a desperately needed source of comfort and stability during an otherwise traumatic time,” Alex shared.

We are incredibly grateful for the generosity of our Aurora team members. They make a difference every single day in the lives of our patients and they give back so much to their communities!

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Aurora team members, on a mission to provide care where it’s needed most

(L-R) Cindy Hoyt-Harvey, RN, and Shelley Waters, MD, allergist-immunologist, both from Aurora Medical Center in Summit, are pictured with two caregivers from other health systems, in Puerto Rico. They were part of a team of doctors and nurses who traveled to the island to provide much needed care after Hurricanes Irma and Maria last year.

When Puerto Rico was devastated last year by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, five Aurora team members took their medical expertise and giant hearts to the island to help. They worked with the group “One Human Family Coalition” to open a free clinic and care for residents who had been left with no electricity, access to care and in many cases, no place to call home.

“A majority of the physicians had left the island and they were really lacking specialty care,” explained Cindy Hoyt-Harvey, RN, the director of cardiac services at Aurora Medical Center in Summit.

Cindy joined other Aurora team members based at Aurora Summit; Robert Panther, MD, a cardiologist, Megan Reid, NP, and Shelley Waters, MD, an allergist-immunologist; along with Doreen Plautz, RN, a cardiac nurse at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center

The group saw patients with medical issues ranging from upper respiratory infections to diabetes, hypertension, allergies and much more. The Aurora team members slept on cots and had no access to hot water. Despite the difficult conditions, Cindy and the team were incredibly grateful to be of service.

“It was a very humbling experience,” Cindy shared. “We could give away most of our belongings and we would still have more than many of them had. A third of the homes were destroyed.”

“We saw many patients with less than optimally controlled diabetes and hypertension,” said Dr. Waters. “As an allergist, I saw several patients with food allergies, asthma and allergic rhinitis.”

Not only did Cindy volunteer her time and expertise, she’s one of the many Aurora team members who also contributed financially to American Red Cross Disaster Relief, making it the number one community fund of the 2017 Partnership Campaign.

Cindy said the generosity of her Aurora family doesn’t surprise her one bit, “I’m really proud of that. That’s why we’re in the health care field. We want to increase the quality of life for other people and make a difference.”

We are truly proud of our Aurora team members who provide compassionate care and expertise to their patients every single day, and also work tirelessly to make their community and their world a better place. THANK YOU!

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Chris’s story: Fighting adversity with a generous, strong HEART

Chris and his brother, Nick

Chris and Nick Fare have always shared a special bond.  Growing up with muscular dystrophy (MD), they experienced challenges together that most brothers don’t have to go through.  Challenges that Chris said only made them tougher and brought them closer.

When Chris was six and Nick was nine, they were diagnosed with limb-girdle muscular dystrophy.  A disease that is progressive and affects mostly the hip, shoulder and back muscles. Nick’s disease advanced faster, making his mobility more limited.

“Seeing what my brother had to go through first, and how well he handled it, had a profound impact on how I wanted to live with MD,” Chris shared.

Growing up with a disability and watching his brother progress gave Chris a sense of compassion and need to help others.  Because Nick was weaker, Chris often felt he had to be the protector.  A role most younger brothers don’t have to play.

In 2009, they launched a clothing brand to help raise awareness and give back to people with disabilities. Only weeks after they started the company, their father, Randy, had a stroke. He faced a long recovery, but is doing much better and like his sons, has fought through a lot of adversity.

“Once the business really started going, we made donations to the Muscular Dystrophy Association and we bought an iPad for a young girl we knew who had cerebral palsy,” Chris explained. “The iPad helped give her a voice so she could talk to family on the phone.”

Heart issues diagnosed at Aurora St. Luke’s

Chris has had heart issues related to his condition since the age of 19, but doctors at other hospital systems couldn’t figure out the exact problem. In 2009, he was referred to Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center where tests revealed he had an enlarged heart and would need a transplant.  While he waited for the right donor, his heart continued to wear out. So in 2015, doctors installed a left ventricular assist device, or LVAD. It’s a pump that was implanted inside his chest to essentially help his weakened heart to pump blood.

“You have this drive line that goes in through your stomach, and in order to power that, you have a controller and batteries,” Chris explained. He described the “wearable” they give patients to hold all the equipment in place as “clearly created by someone who doesn’t have an LVAD. It was uncomfortable and unsafe.”

So Chris, with his entrepreneurial spirit and passion to help others, went to see a seamstress for help designing a better vest. That very day, however, he had an experience that would only punctuate his frustration.

“I got my drive line cord stuck on a door knob. It pulled me to the floor and I thought it ripped out of my heart. I thought I was going to die,” he confessed. Fortunately for Chris, the cord stayed in place and it further motivated him to keep working on a vest replacement.

New heart, same passion to help others 

Chris, his sister, Amy, mother, Dorothy (seated), and father, Randy

In March of 2016, the day finally arrived. Chris’s transplant team at Aurora St. Luke’s had found a heart and Chris had a heart transplant. At that very same time, Chris’s older sister, Amy, was often at Aurora St. Luke’s receiving chemotherapy treatment for cancer. While he was recovering from his transplant, Chris would actually travel across the hospital, in his gown, to support her.

“After all the health issues and everything my family has been through, we just learn to keep pushing through it and focus on the positive,” he shared. “I don’t really get scared about things I can’t control. My brother never did either.”

Today, at the age of 36, Chris often uses a wheelchair to get around but is still quite mobile and his new heart is serving him well. Unfortunately, Chris and his family lost Nick in 2013, when Nick was just 34 years old.

“His heart just got to the point where it couldn’t sustain anymore and he had heart failure,” Chris shared.

It’s hard to describe a loss so deep. Chris’s relationship with Nick made him a better brother, a better human being. Even though he no longer has the LVAD, Chris is still working on perfecting the vest so it can be used by other patients who need it.  He promises he won’t stop working to make life better for people with disabilities– people like himself– people like Nick.

“I think about my brother every day. We started this whole process together and I just want to keep his legacy going,” Chris shared. “I want to make him proud.”

Your support of the cardiology programs and services at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center means people like Chris have been able to get the critical care and expertise they needed to LIVE WELL. Doctors at Aurora St. Luke’s helped Chris and his family in ways that other hospitalS couldn’t. Not only did it save Chris’s life, but it means people like Chris are able to stay strong and give back to other people, too. If you’re interested in learning how you  can support cardiology care at Aurora St. Luke’s, contact Michelle Weber at michelle.weber@aurora.org, or CLICK HERE to make a gift.

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From the International Space Station to Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center: Amazing innovation in neurosciences!

This Friday evening, May 4, we will be celebrating Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center with the first-annual Legacy of Excellence event. The event will highlight precision medicine at Aurora St. Luke’s and its impact on cardiovascular care, neurosciences and cancer care. Precision medicine is a medical model that proposes the customization of healthcare, with medical decisions, treatments, practices, or products being tailored to the individual patient.

Amin Kassam , MD, vice president of neurosciences

Amin Kassam, MD, is a neurosurgeon at Aurora St. Luke’s and vice president of neurosciences for Aurora Health Care. Dr. Kassam said we’re in a remarkable moment where we have the opportunity to really make a difference for each individual patient. He credits what he calls “tech-enabled care.”

“We were first in the world to use a 3D mapping system that takes the entire human head and maps it out with all of its fibers and nerves,” Dr. Kassam explains. “We have a neuro radiologist design a specific ‘flight plan’ for us to use and then create a target. All of that information is then transferred into a robot.”

That robot contains the same technology originally used to create Canadarm2 on the International Space Station. It has been adapted to healthcare and is now benefiting patients with brain cancer and spine diseases. Aurora St. Luke’s was the first hospital in the country to use this technology. Once the robot receives the mapping information, Aurora’s neurosurgeons act as the pilots who execute the plan.

What’s even more incredible is that in about 74 percent of cases, the patient, whose brain is being operated on, is awake and talking during the entire procedure.

“They’re often talking with us or on the phone with their loved one. We’re testing their memory,” Dr. Kassam explains. “We check their responses with psychometric testing in the operating room. It’s very validating for us.”

Dr. Kassam and team in the operating room at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center.

Dr. Kassam said the majority of their patients are able to go home the very next day, all because of this very individualized platform. He adds that much of the advancements and innovation that has been made possible is because of generous donors who are passionate about advancing care.

“Now we have a variety of sources that help fund this kind of disruptive change,” Dr. Kassam shared. “It comes from patients; it comes from philanthropy and various institutions. Investment at Aurora is used very carefully. It allows us to deliver the best care possible today, while we’re defining the care for tomorrow.”

Legacy of Excellence is sold out, but you can still support these programs and enhance individualized precision medicine at Aurora St. Luke’s. CLICK HERE to make a gift or learn more.

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Supporters of A Cause to Celebrate event raise more than $65,000 to treat addiction

We are so grateful to supporters of the second annual A Cause to Celebrate event in Green Bay! Thanks to their generosity, more than $65,000 was raised to support Aurora Health Care’s Greater Green Bay Well Community Fund. This fund supports the community health needs identified through the Brown County community health needs assessment.

For 2018, Aurora Health Care and Aurora BayCare Medical Center are addressing the unhealthy drug and alcohol use in Brown County. In doing so, we are:

  • designating our experts to serve on Healthy Brown County 2020’s alcohol and drug use action group;
  • developing a Suboxone clinic with Brown County to assist in addressing opioid drug addiction and increasing access to treatment; and
  • providing financial support to the Jackie Nitschke Center and raising awareness around AODA issues in the Greater Green Bay area.

Thank you for being a part of this year’s A Cause to Celebrate. It is truly a community effort, and we are grateful to have you on our team. Your support will make a difference for so many of our neighbors, friends and loved ones.

CLICK HERE to see more photos from the event.


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