Voices of the Aurora VNA
Voices of our patients
I was 8 years old in 1930 when I was afflicted with polio. After 3 weeks in leg casts, I went home from the hospital in a wheelchair. It was September, and the doctors told my mother to have an early Christmas because I wouldn't live to see the next one. Well, I'm 84 years old now and I remember the care I received from my visiting nurse like it was yesterday. Miss Blair was so kind and encouraging. She came by street car 3 times a week to help my mother get me in a warm bath with Epsom salts to exercise my legs. She taught me how to use my arms so that in the future I could learn how to swim. She gave my mother hope. Her visits went on for 8 or 9 months, and I kept getting stronger. Miss Blair never gave up on me, and I will never ever forget her.
DorisAnn Fueger still resides in her own home in the Milwaukee area. In honor of the VNA's 100th anniversary, she recently donated a handmade doll that Miss Blair gave her over 76 years ago. The doll is displayed in a case at the VNA's corporate office.
My dad had a stroke in 1981 and began receiving nursing care and therapy from the VNA. As a young occupational therapist at the time, I was so impressed with their work with him that when an occupational therapy job became available, I applied with the VNA. Until then, I had only worked in nursing homes, so changing to home care was a real eye opener it is the best place to be for rehab! You work with patients in their own environment and know exactly how they have to function, getting out of bed, getting dressed, making dinner. My dad was a VNA client until he died in 2003. Over the years, he saw a lot of my colleagues and he really benefited from them.
Carol Hoppe, Otr, is now in her 20th year as a staff occupational therapist for the VNA.
My daughter was just a baby when she developed a serious infection in her knee joint and had to be hospitalized. After a long week, the doctors told us we could bring Danielle home if we were willing to give her 6 weeks of intravenous antibiotics. Of course we jumped at the chance and the hospital connected us with the VNA of Sheboygan. It was 1987 and our nurse was Ann Strakulski, an angel for us and for our little girl.
She taught us what to do and encouraged us to call day or night if we had any problems. Well, our daughter's veins were so tiny and fragile that we had to call Ann many times sometimes in the middle of the night to restart the IV. She was always kind, so supportive and comforting.
Danielle is 20 years old now and in college. Despite her rough start, she ended up having a completely healthy childhood. She was so young at the time she couldn't possibly remember Ann. But a mother never forgets.
Patti Christel-Diener still resides in Sheboygan. Her daughter Danielle is a junior at UW-Stevens Point. Ann Strakulski, RN moved to Milwaukee in 1997 and currently works for the Aurora VNA as a home care coordinator at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin.
Voices of our staff and volunteers
When I first started here 10 years ago, we didn't go much further north than Sheboygan or Manitowoc. But as Aurora has expanded, so has the Aurora VNA. Automation and technology have really helped link us all together. Today we all document the same and follow the same policies and procedures consistently. It's definitely been an evolution we've gotten bigger, yet we've found a way to all work seamlessly together.
Lin Zuchowski has served as the director of rehabilitation services for the Aurora VNA of Wisconsin since 1996.
The initiation of our Synagis vaccination program in 2000 is a great example of how we are making a big difference in the lives of our patients in this case, our youngest and most vulnerable pediatric patients. This drug is designed to minimize or prevent hospitalization due to a common and extremely contagious respiratory condition called RSV. Those who were born prematurely or have certain chronic health problems are at high risk for developing severe complications. By giving the vaccination series at home, we minimize their exposure and boost their ability to fight it. The shots can be lifesaving! Since the inception of our program 6 years ago, we've seen just under 6,000 children, most of whom were under the age of 3.
Mindy Justad, RN joined the Aurora VNA in 1995 and currently serves as pharmacy nursing supervisor.
I've wanted to be in hospice care for as long as I can remember. I used to work as an aide in a nursing home, taking my coffee breaks to sit with the residents who were dying because I didn't want them to die alone. After 19 years, I returned to nursing school to achieve my goal.
Through our hospice program, people live their final days where they most want to be at home, and in most cases, with loved ones. It takes a real team effort to make that happen. Nurses, home health aides, social workers, chaplains, office staff, bereavement coordinators, volunteers and quality analysis supervisors. We all work together to give patients and families the support they need, not just before and at the time of death, but for some time after.
It's comforting for patients to know that when they're gone, we'll be looking out for their family.
Betty Iselin, RN began her hospice career in 1995 with Lakeland Hospice, which affiliated with the Aurora VNA the next year. She currently serves as a home hospice case manager/staff nurse with the VNA's Lake Geneva branch.
When I first came to the VNA, we had four secretaries taking care of all the nurses' clerical needs. We spent a lot of time answering phones, taking messages and typing, lots of typing! Our nurses used to call us from pay phones or their patient's home 3 times a day to have us read them their stack of messages. They updated their patients' charts in longhand. Now all our nurses have cell phones, pagers, voice mail and email. They carry a laptop computer instead of a briefcase full of patients' medical records. I just can't imagine any of our jobs without all the technology.
Diane Dermody joined the VNA in 1981 as a secretary in the private duty nursing division and currently serves as an administrative assistant associate in the rehabilitation department. She recently celebrated her 25th anniversary with the VNA.
I loved being a home health aide! I loved the patients, the flexibility, the people I worked with. The VNA did a lot for Jessie Saffold. Because of that job, I am a stronger person, a more caring person. It made me feel not sympathy, but empathy. I remember one lady with Alzheimer's Disease. When I fed her, I would gently encourage her to "Eat, chew..." One day her husband looked at me and said, "No, no, no, you have to say "Mangiare, mangiare!" That's Italian for "eat." It may have seemed a little funny coming from me I'm obviously not Italian but it worked for that patient. You do what needs to be done, and people respond. I learned and grew with the job, and I never had a patient I couldn't adapt to.
Jessie Saffold joined the VNA as a housekeeper in 1978. She retired in 2003 as a senior home health aide.
One of the things I'm most proud of is the initiation of a tradition for board members to call and personally thank all first time donors to the VNA, no matter what their level of contribution. It gives us a chance to get out of the board room mentality and to hear firsthand how people's lives are truly touched by our services.
Many of our donors tell us how an Aurora VNA nurse cared for their loved one, and helped them get through a difficult time. Health care today is such a balance between high tech and high touch. That's what the VNA does so well.
Roberta Filicky-Peneski's 1st connection with the VNA was in the 1980s when her PR and marketing firm helped establish a foundation to support the Sheboygan VNA. She later joined the board, and her association continued through many affiliations and changes. She is currently serving her 3rd year as chair of the board of the Aurora VNA of Wisconsin.
In my 27 years with the VNA, I've visited many patients in Milwaukee's inner city and have learned something about racism and the difference we can make as health care providers. Early on in my career, I had a patient whose legs were both amputated after being crushed by a train. I worked with 'Pops' a long time, and every milestone he made was memorable, the first time he stood on artificial legs, his first steps with a walker, then walking down the front steps of his porch, and finally, around the block with him.
The amazement of his neighbors and all the kids who came out to watch is something I will never forget. I was the only white person around, but when you're really helping someone, people stop looking at color.
Rose Gregorcich, PT has been a staff physical therapist with the VNA since 1979.
The VNA of Sheboygan was an independent agency for all of its 50 year history, so the initiation of talks in 1992 to affiliate with a larger organization was not without controversy. Nevertheless, we all knew it was the right thing to do. Our affiliation with the Milwaukee VNA and Aurora Health Care was a positive move from the beginning. It strengthened our long-term viability and our position in the home health care market. When the final papers were signed, I felt like we had accomplished so much and that it was a good time for me to retire.
Rachel Jackson joined the VNA of Sheboygan in 1988 as director of nursing and was promoted to executive director in 1990. She retired in 1993 and currently lives in New Glarus.
We initiated our public immunization clinics because we just knew it was a good idea. The better and easier the access, the more people we'd be able to immunize, and the more lives we'd be able to save. In our first year, we gave 7,939 shots. The very next year, Medicare started reimbursing for them when they were given in public sites, and we jumped to 28,954 shots! Even more amazing, in 2005, Shoo the Flu & Pneumonia Too! provided over 100,000 immunizations!
Lisa Taylor, RN, BSN joined the VNA in 1994 as manager of our newly acquired pediatric home health program. She currently serves as clinical coordinator for Shoo the Flu & Pneumonia Too!
Steve and Janice Olsen
We realize that what we get out of this is deeper than words, deeper than emotions and sentiments. It goes to our very souls. It is something that gets planted there and grows as we journey with these beautiful people. It can't be described or explained, it must be experienced. The joy, the blessings, and the memories that we get as volunteers are priceless. You couldn't pay us enough to do what we do.
Steven and Janice Olsen have served as volunteers for Aurora VNA hospice care since 2004. They were the recipients of the Volunteer of the Year award at the VNA's 2005 Annual Celebration.