April is Donate Life Month

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Donate Life Month

Did you know that anyone, regardless of their age, can be an organ or tissue donor? That is right! We can all be life savers at any age. Our medical condition at the time of our death determines what organs and tissues can be donated. We can also become a living donor.

Did you know…

  • Every 10 minutes someone is added to the national transplant waiting list and on average 22 people die every day while waiting for a transplant.
  • One donor can save and heal as many as 60 lives through organ, eye and tissue donation. More than 90% of the patients waiting for a transplant can be helped by a living donor.
  • Organs and tissues that can be transplanted include heart and heart valves, lung, kidney, pancreas, liver, intestines, corneas, skin, tendons and bone.
  • 64% of all adults in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota are registered donors.

** Statistical information courtesy of LifeSource

All major religions approve of organ/tissue donation and consider it to be an act of charity. Pope Francis has been quoted as stating that donation is “a testimony of love of our neighbor”. The gift of life is the most precious gift we can give.

You too can register to become a donor at www.life-source.org and your decision to be a donor should be noted on your driver’s license. It is also important to discuss your decision to donate with your family. That knowledge will be a gift to them.

Celebrate Life Flag Raising Event
Come and join us as we celebrate life on April 8 at 9 a.m. We will hear from a local resident who received a heart transplant as a teenager and from the mother of a teen who was a recent donor. Their stories of love promise to be most inspiring. Our Donate Life flag will be raised that day and will be flown for the remainder of April as we recognize Donate Life month.

The flag raising ceremony will be held on Friday, April 8 at 9 a.m. All donor families, transplant recipients, friends and the public are invited to gather outside the Emergency Room entrance of Tri-County Health Care, near the flag pole. A press release about this event can be found on the Tri-County Health Care website at http://www.tchc.org/media.

About the Author:
Lois Miller graduated with a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the College of St. Benedict in 1976 and since then has worked as a Registered Nurse (RN) at Tri-County Health Care. Since 1992, Lois has worked with the organ/tissue donation program and has worked with patients as they have waited for and received transplants. Lois has a close friend who is currently in need of a kidney transplant. Lois is pictured here with her dog Yoku, a Westie Terrier Mix.

Is Walking Good for You?

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Is walking good for you? This question seems so simple, yet you may be wondering why I am asking a question that appears to have an obvious answer.

Obesity is soaring in this country and around the world. Generally speaking, we are eating unhealthy food and we are exercising less.  In this country the Internet is king! Television comes in a close second and for kids, the Sony Play station or XBOX occupies the central part of their attention.  But as electronic entertainment occupies more and more of our free time and our jobs become less physical, obesity and all the resulting devastating health issues are destroying our bodies.

You may be asking by now – who cares if people are fat and isn’t it okay to be overweight? No matter how much we pretend obesity is “okay” in today’s world, the reality is that the health of our bodies is negatively impacted by the extra weight. Obesity increases the likelihood we will need major joint replacement surgery, it increases the risks of minor surgery and it increases their chances of having colon cancer and/or breast cancer – not to mention issues with high blood pressure, arthritis, diabetes, hypercholesterolemia and vascular disease, heart disease, stroke, depression and immobility.

Are you rolling your eyes yet or saying to yourself, “obesity can’t be ALL that bad”. If so, you would be seriously wrong.  Hundreds of research papers studying thousands upon thousands of people have proven with GREAT statistical power that obesity negatively impacts ALL of these health factors.

Well, so what? Obesity may be a bad thing, but WHAT can we do about it? Our jobs are mostly desk jobs. Kids love to play video games. Hardly any of us work on a farm anymore doing the hard physical labor our grandparents did each day.  Kids don’t run around at gym class any more. What can be done to reduce obesity in this country and improve each of our health?

Senior Chinese Couple Walking In Park

In 2013, the Asian Journal of Sports Medicine published a study that included 355 people who walked about 10,000 steps a day. These researchers clearly documented a five point drop in the systolic blood pressure in the hypertensive patients.

How about in young people? Can something as BORING as walking help them? A study of 100 healthy young volunteers was published in the journal of Applied Physiology and Nutritional Metabolism. They monitored their activity with pedometers. But, instead of encouraging them to walk more, they RESTRICTED their walking to less than 5,000 steps per day and measured their body’s response to this inactivity. How did their body react? They were able to prove a worsening tendency towards diabetes, a higher percentage of fat in the body and worsening blood cholesterol levels.

Do you want more proof that walking is good for you? In 2012, the American College of Sports Medicine published a paper documenting improved BMI, adiposity index AND lower risk of Type 2 Diabetes with 30 minutes of physical activity five days a week.  They also showed it does NOT have to be 30 minutes of heart pounding, sweat-rolling-of- your-face, short-of-breath-so-bad-you-can’t-talk exercise!  No, just doing the 30 minutes a day of walking will give you these health benefits. No medication necessary! No side effects! No insurance co-pay for your anti-hypertensive medication! You just have to walk!

But Dr. Kloss, you ask, do I really have to walk five miles or 10,000 steps a day? Well, if you want to get the maximum benefit, yes. However, it has also been studied that ANYTHING you do to increase your physical activity during the day will help your health.  For instance, if you buy a pedometer and record your steps each day and find you are walking about 5000 steps each day with NORMAL activity, that’s a great base line! Now, take that information and walk a little more each day.

iStock_000035490740_LargeFor example, instead of parking right up front in a parking lot, park in the back corner and walk to the entrance of the store. You will increase you daily step count up to 6,000 steps each day. Gradually, you will increase your step count and your activity. Everything you do to increase your activity and step count will help improve your weight, your blood pressure and your cardiovascular health.  So don’t be put off by the idea of 10,000 steps – any progress is good progress!

Now many articles and research papers have studied walking and health.  How many steps are necessary to be healthy? (Answer: More than 7,500 steps.) Do post-menopausal woman benefit from walking? (Answer: Yes, menopausal woman DO benefit from walking at least 8000 steps a day.)  Are there other health benefits from walking other than just reducing obesity?  (Answer: YES, walking helps reduce your blood pressure, elevate your mood and reduce your risk of diabetes and of needing insulin injections).


Suggestions I have to help you keep your fitness goals:

  • Keep a journal of your walking.
  • Write down your goals.
  • Buy a pedometer and use it to help document your success.
  • When the weather is bad (bad weather here in Wadena?) don’t forget the indoor track at the WDC high school and the Maslowski Wellness Center.

REMEMBER, you have to walk for 30 minutes AND you have to stick with it! You can’t quit after just four weeks!  Like anything in our lives worth achieving, it is worth working for! So on some days you won’t feel like walking. You won’t feel like getting off the sofa … BUT JUST DO IT! (Thanks to NIKE for their slogan). You will reap the health benefits if you stick with it!

Just walk! It’s cheap. It’s easy. And it works!!!


David Kloss-3About the Author:

Dr. Kloss is a board certified general surgeon at Tri-County Health Care. In his free time, Dr. Kloss is an avid marathon runner. His race resume includes the Marine Corp Marathon in Washington D.C., as well as, marathons in Dublin, Ireland; Paris, France; and Pittsburgh Marathon. He has also ran the Twin Cities Marathon for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and the best marathon of all – the New York City marathon for the American Cancer Society. Dr. Kloss has also earned Ironman status having completed the Madison, Wisconsin Ironman race in 2014. All this running helps Dr. Kloss control his weight so he can eat cookies WHENEVER he wants.

His advice to others who want to be healthy:
  • Slow and steady improvement will get you were you want to go.
  • Watch what you eat.
  • Stay active
  • Get to bed earlier
  • Don’t drink too much alcohol. 
Dr. Kloss started out as a self-proclaimed “skinny computer nerd” who stands firmly by his statement, “IF I CAN DO IT, YOU CAN DO IT!”. 






Concussions: An Athletic Trainer’s Perspective

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Concussions, type it into Google© and you will end up with 14,500,000 results and all those articles can leave you with your head spinning in hundreds of different directions. Many of us hear about concussions daily and probably see something about them on the national news almost every night. If you have a child who plays sports you may be wondering if you should continue to let them play. I’m here to tell you that yes concussions can be scary, but that doesn’t mean we should wrap our children in bubble wrap and sit them on the couch.

So, what exactly is a concussion? A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury. It occurs when direct and indirect forces are applied to the skull that result in the brain either rapidly accelerating or decelerating. This causes impairment of the brains functions.

The symptoms of a concussion can vary and all of them do not need to be present for you to be diagnosed with a concussion. Symptoms include a loss of consciousness, headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, poor balance, sensitivity to light, ringing in ears and sensitivity to noise, blurred vision, poor concentration, memory problems, drowsiness, fatigue, sadness, depression, irritability and neck pain.

A word of caution here: NO concussion is the same. If someone you know gets a concussion, don’t diagnosis yourself with their symptoms. People will react differently to them and there’s no set timeline saying how long a concussion will last.

One of the biggest things I think people forget is that concussions don’t just happen in sports. They can happen doing almost anything. Yes, anything! Sure, they are more likely in sports; however, you could be walking out to get your mail and get a concussion because you slipped on the ice and hit your head. You could be heading out to do your favorite winter activity like ice fishing and get a concussion because you slipped and bumped your head on the ground. Anyone can get a concussion.

So what do we do about concussions? In the sports medicine world, if we suspect a concussion in an athlete we remove them from the game and do a sideline assessment. This consists of rating symptoms on a scale of 0 to 6, immediate memory questions, concentration exercises, an eye/pupil exam and motor and balance exercises. We also check to ensure that all cranial nerves are functioning during this time. Once an athlete is diagnosed with a concussion they can’t return to play until they are symptom free and they have completed the “Return to Play” protocol. The “Return to Play” protocol lasts four days with each day consisting of the athlete gradually getting a little more into practice. The student athlete must remain symptom free through this protocol and if they don’t, then they go back and start over once symptom free again.

It is hard for anyone to completely prevent a concussion, but there are things we can do. We can make sure football and hockey players have up-to-date helmets and that our athletes/children are learning proper hitting and tackling techniques. We can educate coaches, parents and athletes about concussions, their symptoms and the importance of early diagnosis. If a concussion goes undiagnosed or an athlete returns to play before it is resolved it can have long-term effects, including post-concussion syndrome or second impact syndrome. Individuals with post-concussion syndrome can have concussion symptoms that persist for more than three months. Second impact syndrome is when a patient receives a second concussion before the first one is resolved.

Yes, concussions can be scary. That is why parents and coaches need to be aware of concussions, what the symptoms are, understand they can happen to anyone and know if you suspect a concussion to make sure the individual sees a health care professional as soon as possible. Early diagnosis will help the student athlete get back to the sport they love and help an adult get back to their daily activities sooner.

Bubble wrap not necessary.


About the author:

4x5 Maninga Sarah
Sarah Maninga has been the Athletic Trainer at Tri-County Health Care since January 2015. Her services are contracted with the Wadena Deer Creek and Sebeka schools. When she is not busy at the schools, she enjoys spending time with her husband on their small farm near Menahga and doing anything that involves the outdoors.



Paramedic Battles Cancer with Determination and Grace

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On the front lines of medicine, Sharon Heinen has served as a Tri-County Health Care paramedic for nearly 20 years. In 2012, Sharon began her own personal fight for her life.

By Sharon Heinen, Tri-County Health Care Paramedic

Sharon Heinen Relay for Life

Brenda Windels (left) stands beside Sharon Heinen (right) at the annual Wadena County Relay for Life event at Sunnybrook Park.

Cancer, an illness I had hoped I would never have to deal with. I had seen cancer take my brother’s life … his struggles, his strength. My personal journey started at Mayo Clinic in Rochester. I had gone to find out if there was a treatment for Lymphedema, and then I was told I may have breast cancer.

It was here that the journey to fight for my life began.

The next day was filled with more tests – including another MRI which discovered cancer in not just one breast, but both. I couldn’t believe this was happening. In my head questions were spinning – “How is this possible? How am I going to get through this?” Thankfully my best friend, my mother, was with me. She continually reassured me that we would get through this. She reminded me that this would not be just my battle, but that I had an army of friends who would be there to support me.

The next step was biopsies of both breasts, and the thought of ‘I just cannot believe this is happening, why me? Why is God allowing this to happen? My mother lost a son, and now may lose a daughter to cancer … why are you doing this to my parents God?’

The results of the biopsies came back positive, and I needed to return to Mayo for a class about breast reconstruction. I did not want reconstruction – let’s just get this poison out of me, now. Surgery was scheduled for the following Monday at 6 a.m. That Sunday night I drove down to Mayo Clinic with my parents and youngest sister. Sleepless nights filled with prayers, tears and fear. The time arrived for surgery and I was prepped, hugged by my parents and sister and through the surgical doors I went. I woke up in recovery late in the afternoon with three drainage tubes and bottles secured to my chest; the IV which had been started in my left hand was now in my foot. And, the nurses were great about making sure the pain was under control. Finally, at 7 p.m. that night I was brought to my room where my family was waiting. The surgeon arrived later to tell me that the cancer on the right side did not affect my lymph nodes; unfortunately, the left side of the sentinel lymph nodes was involved, as well as 36 other lymph nodes. More tears, My God, how am I going to get through this?

The next morning after breakfast, the IV was removed and my mother was taught how to drain the bottles and keep the area clean. Once the discharge was less than five cc’s, the tubes could be removed – which could take up to a month and so I prepared for the ride back to Richmond as I would now be living with my parents for the rest of my journey. Initially, my first few weeks were confined to a recliner with walks around the house every so often to prevent blood clots. Pain was minimal, and now I was feeling like a burden needing to have my mother take care of me.

On the bright side, I received hundreds of cards, plants and care packages from friends, strangers, co-workers and firefighters I trained with. It was unbelievable to receive so many cards every day. To this day, I have a large tote filled with cards that I still have and pull out to read on my tough days.

About a month later, the discharge is finally under five cc’s and the tubes can come out. The local clinic and hospital refused to take the tubes out, so I called Tri-County Health Care’s Emergency Room and asked the ER nurse if they would remove the tubes if I were to Sharon Heinen hugging at benefitgo there. The ride to Wadena would take 90 minutes versus the ride to Rochester which would take closer to three hours. Thankfully, Tri-County staff did not let me down. My mother drove me to Wadena, and what an awesome experience I had. When I arrived, I walked into the lobby and some of my co-workers were there to greet me with gentle hugs and positive energy. For the first time I felt like, yes, I can get through this. The tubes were finally removed and so I went out for dinner with many of my friends joining us there. I realized just how many people were there to help me get through this.

The next step was chemotherapy. Every other Monday, starting in June, one of my family members would drive me from Richmond to Mayo Clinic where I would sit in a recliner for about six hours as the poison was pumped into my body in the hopes the cancer cells would be destroyed. The side effects were numerous and I was given medication that would help with the pain, as well as the nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. I was fortunate that between treatments I was usually only really ill for about two days.

The second week of treatments, as I was showering, my hair fell out in clumps. I do not have words for how I felt. My mother came into the bathroom to check on me to find me sitting there with my hair in my hands. Again, she held me telling me that it would be okay – even though at the time I felt like  a freak, some kind of monster. And, so she shaved off the rest of my hair. What an awful day.

After six treatments (so 12 weeks), chemo was finally over. And now I needed to give my body a chance to recover. So, for the next month I would spend time between my parents’ house and my home in Wadena.

I will never forget walking into Tri-County and Dr. Steve Davis coming down the hallway, giving me a hug. Again, the tears flowed. I felt like a freak, with no hair, and Dr. Davis made me feel beautiful.

Sharon Heinen smiling at benefit

Sharon visits with guests at a benefit organized in her honor.

During this time a benefit was also held in September in St. Ann’s. People from Richmond rented a bus and drove up here. People from all over the area attended. And, again the fears flowed. But, this time not because of pain and embarrassment, but because of all the love I felt.

The last part of my journey started that October with 36 radiation treatments. The treatments were every day, except Saturday or Sunday. The radiation made me very tired, weak and most days were spent on the recliner sleeping. As the treatments continued, the burns from the radiation were becoming more tender and the redness was getting worse. I asked my doctor in charge of radiation about giving me something for pain, or something to put on the burns that were now becoming very uncomfortable. Without success, I was back to Tri-County as I did not know what to do. Thankfully, Dr. Shaneen was able to see me and scheduled me with Rose Lorentz. They were my heroes who finally gave me something for the pain and a cream to put on the burns. In early November, I finally finished my last treatment.

December 26, 2012 … nine months after the cancer was discovered, I finally returned to work for a few hours at a time to build my bSharon Heinen at benefitody strength back up, and also just to get back into the swing of working on an ambulance again. I received so much support from Administration telling me I will have a job when this was all over and my manager Allen, again reassuring me that they will work with me at my pace. My co-workers were there to support me as I would get frustrated when it seemed like I would never get back to working a shift as I would sometimes become so exhausted that I had to take naps. Finally, in January I was able to take over my shifts.

This journey lasted about 10 months. When I went to Rochester the first time, the farmers were in the fields working the soil getting ready to plant their corn and oats. I had seen young calves running around, enjoying the warmth that spring was bringing. The next time I drove to Wadena to work, the fields were harvested, the little calves were now young stock. And, when I thought about it, I realized that I had lost 9-10 months of my life fighting this battle called cancer.

But, with the bad, came a lot of good as I realized how lucky I am to have so many people who also walked this journey with me. And, to all of you, I say “Thank you!”

Sharon large group Relay for Life

The Tri-County Health Care Relay for Life team is a snapshot example of the many people who rallied with Sharon in her fight against breast cancer.


About the Author: 

Sharon Heinen

Sharon Heinen, a valued Tri-County Health Care Paramedic since 1996.

Sharon was born in 1963 at St. Cloud Hospital, is the oldest of five children born to Eugene and Bernice and was raised on a dairy farm between Richmond and Cold Spring, MN. Sharon came to Wadena in 1995 to attend Wadena Technical college to be a Paramedic. She graduated in 1996 and was hired in November of 1996 at TCHC as a Paramedic. Sharon lives in Wadena with her cats, Blue and Bandit. She also teaches Confirmation Class at St. John’s in Bluffton and is a Communion Minister there as well. Sharon still continues to spend as much time as possible at the farm raising sheep, which she has been doing since 1990. In her free time, Sharon enjoys fishing, riding four-wheeler and spending time with family. 

Sharon Heinen EMS class

Sharon Heinen, Tri-County Paramedic, teaches kids basic safety skills at an annual Babysitting Clinic


My Trip to Haiti

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Guest Author: Sarah Riedel

For several years, a group from my church has taken mission trips to Haiti. I had thought about going, but the timing didn’t seem to be right until 2014. As a Tri-County Health Care nurse for 21 years, when I learned the group was taking their first-ever medical mission trip, I wanted to go.

Haiti file reduced

A team picture! The group was joined by a village child and John, their indispensable translator.

In December last year, I joined a group from Blowers Chapel, my church, called the 7:10 Foundation (www.710Foundation.org) on a trip to Haiti. The people who accompanied me on the trip were Jeremiah and Tanja Dwire (7:10 foundation directors), Jan Blickenstaff LPN, Donna Gustafson CNA, Kendall Koch CNA, Jessanne Johnson, Louisa Schmidt, Zoe Olson, and Emily Ziegler. Here is a story about our trip.


While we were on the ground in Haiti, we went to orphanages, schools and a remote hospital – and were my eyes ever opened! I didn’t know people lived like that. They lived in stick and mud huts, sometimes eight and 10 people in the same hut. The mission that we stayed at had solar powered lights and running water, albeit COLD water only. Our “home” for the week was very nice compared to the homes of the villages around us.


Sarah and her team saw kids in the mobile clinic near the school and just down the path from the mission.

We were encouraged to bring all of our own supplies in a carry-on and a purse, and to fill two large suitcases with 50 pounds of supplies. Mine were filled with medical supplies. Once I had my bags packed, people still wanted to give more money!


It was important for me to pay my own way on the trip, but I took donations for the medical supplies and medications that I took along. Tri-County Health Care donated medical supplies. My family, friends, coworkers and neighbors raised $700 to be put towards antibiotics to take along with. We took 3,650 antibiotic tablets of varying dosages, and boy did we put them to good use! Any medical supplies and medications that I had left at the end of the trip, we donated to the clinic at the mission. Www.childrenslifeline.com.

In the two days before I left, family and friends gave $450 more. I couldn’t possibly fit anything more in my suitcases, so I thought the best way to use this money would be to buy livestock for the people in Haiti.

Photo with goats

These are the widows who were gifted with livestock bought by Sarah’s family and friends. One widow was unable to come so she sent her son.

Goats are a very common around the village. I decided to buy goats and give them to widows, especially widows with children. I gave the money to the Haitian mission director, and he sent someone to the market to buy my goats. If I had bought them myself, the price would have doubled because I was “blanc” (“white” people mean money in Haiti). The person who bought my goats was able to procure nine goats!

It took a few days to be able to disperse my goats to the families who were to get them, so I became a goat farmer for three days! We tied them up to trees at the mission. I fed and watered them twice a day, then moved them a couple times so they could forage for more food.


Sarah uses the otoscope she bought just before leaving the United States.

Before I left, my brother gave me $25 to buy supplies. One item I bought with this money was an otoscope to look in ears. I didn’t know at the time how indispensable this tool would be to me in Haiti. A rough guess, I looked in more than 300 pairs of ears with that tool and diagnosed 40 or 50 Haitians with ear infections, then gave them antibiotics out of our stash.

We also visited two orphanages when we were there. The first orphanage we visited had deplorable conditions and starving children. The second orphanage was run a little better, we could tell the kids were fed, loved and taught. I was glad we went to the second orphanage last, so I didn’t have the burning image of the “bad” orphanage left in my mind.

listening to heartIn Haiti, American nurses work like doctors. I saw patients at the clinic, made the diagnosis and prescribed medications. All of these things were a little out of my comfort zone, but I did them because there was such great need and no one else to do them. The clinic could not do x-rays, and was very limited on lab work they could do. Even if we had wanted lab work done, the patients could not afford it, so diagnosis was basically made on symptoms, which is very different from the way we do things in the United States!

One little girl who touched my heart when I was there was Lilo. She had a severe burn on her upper leg from hot cooking oil. We treated her burn every day that we were there. I still think of her and wonder how she is doing.

I’m very glad I went on a medical mission trip to Haiti. The friends we made and the experiences there will be with me for a lifetime. I plan to go back again someday, so if anyone is interested in going along with, please let me know!



Yannik, a nurse for Real Hope in Haiti, poses in a picture with Kendall and Sarah.

About the author:
sarah bio photo

Sarah Riedel, RN, is a nurse at Tri-County Health Care in Wadena. She has worked at Tri-County for 21 years. She lives north of Bluffton with her husband, Nathan, and their three children.


Bracing for an Amygdala Hijack – Using Humor to Destress This Holiday Season

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I’m no physician, and I don’t pretend to play one on tv, but like millions of Americans, that doesn’t stop me from periodically, (albeit often foolishly) self-diagnosing myself with popular ailments that I read on the Internet. Yesterday was no exception. Yesterday morning, while preparing to write this blog, I diagnosed myself with Amygdala Hijack Syndrome (or AHS as I like to call it, because all cool ailments and medical terms need an acronym).

Girls with crazy hairThe day started as most chaotic school mornings do – wake up snuggled children who no more want to get out of a warm bed then I want to clean the bathroom, locate socks (thankfully matching is no prerequisite these days), brush hair, make their school lunches, ask my pint-sized mini adults to move faster and kindly remind them that this is the same routine that we have adopted since the beginning of school in September. Dare I say it was a pretty normal morning?

As we are getting our coats, hats, boots and mittens on, I am gently reminded that we STILL need to finish putting the ornaments on the tree, fix the lights so that we can illuminate the room in festive colors and put up some Christmas decorations. By the way, it is only 10 days until Christmas. I assured them that we would get to it, preferably before Christmas break.

After I drop them off at the elementary school doors, I think about their innocence and the magic that comes with the Christmas season … and their questions. Almost immediately, my thinking is countered with adult thoughts of crowded stores, abundant food and reconnecting with cherished family and friends. I was also painfully aware of house guests, cooking, cleaning and shopping. Throw in some charity, add the pressure of another New Year … and well, the stress was kicking in.

And, it was in this moment that the hijack began. My thoughts drifted from child-like innocence to cynicism and anxiety. The amygdala, the part of the brain that handles emotions, had decided that this moment, on Colfax Avenue in my little blue four-door Chevy Cruz that it should have an immediate and unproportioned response to Christmas decorating and embracing the season.

I began to shut-down. I thought about my plan of not getting out of bed Christmas morning until it’s time for a Totino’s pizza, or I have to pee – whichever comes first. I envision my cozy pajamas, my comfy camouflaged pillow and the tv remote control that will remain within an arm’s reach. I mentally rehearse my proposed tv schedule – alternating between self-inflecting myself with a Hallmark’s Christmas Movie marathon and mind-numbing episodes of NCIS LA reruns. I am ready to feel sorry for myself all day long!

And, why shouldn’t I? In that moment, I believed that I was entitled to
IMG_0248being crabby, isolated, angry and defeated. I am a single, divorced mom who lost not only her oldest daughter, but also her dad just three years ago to cancer and, despite working full-time, feels the financial pressure of adult obligations coupled with shopping for Santa. Life wasn’t fair or jolly and it certainly didn’t look like visions of sugar plums dancing in my head.

My amygdala was in full force. And, why not, I was feeding it everything it needed to thrive. I was feeding it pity, disappointment, misfortune and shame. The hijack was inevitable and for a brief moment in time I felt destined to be its star student!

By nature, I am a ridiculously optimistic, competitive person. I think my momma embedded emotional logic and ruthless optimism in me when I was a wee little ankle biter. And it was this emotional foundation that was bound and determined to defend against the amygdala hijack and bring back the lost smiles and sense of hope.

As I explored the Internet in search of that magic formula, I stumbled across the definition of hijack. And, while there are multiple definitions, there was one that caught my attention … “to take something without permission.”

That led me to wonder, have I given myself permission to think like this? Have I told myself that because of the circumstances of recent years that I am entitled to this negative and self-defeating attitude? Have I subconsciously, or maybe consciously, given my amygdala permission to overreact?

Have I trained my head to protect my heart from significant emotional Maddy and Janethreats? Have I hijacked my optimism to protect myself from the pain of precious memories, and at the same time prevented myself from making new ones?

And, that’s when I heard her. Pamela. My mentor. I heard her Missourian drawl in my head reminding me … “don’t let your stinkin’ thinkin’ steal your joy.” I could hear her saying “Get up, become your best, enjoy the ride and help others do the same.”

It was like an mp3 file on steroids. Pamela’s messages, along with words of wisdom from some of my favorite women – Brene Brown, Karen Salmanson and Lady Gaga – they were all echoing in my head.

I heard Brene’s wisdom, “Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are.” That’s right, I AM a beautiful single mom with two fabulous daughters on earth and one amazing child in heaven. I don’t need to embrace the stereotype that because I am grieving means I need to be robbed of joy. I have permission to embrace the season and be joyful, in spite of my circumstances.

Katierae excited

I heard Karen’s wisdom, “If you can drive yourself crazy, you can drive yourself happy.” That’s right, I can CHOOSE to be happy. I can CHOOSE to believe in the magic and the hope of the season.

It was a temporary bumpy ride redirecting my amygdala, but as Pamela reminds me, I AM an overcomer. So, from one overcomer to another … Abandon the expectations. Abandon the stinkin’ thinkin’. Embrace Who You Are. Drive Yourself Happy. And the next time you are feeling yourself struggling with the glitz and glamour of the holidays and losing your ability to respond with humor and grace, channel your inner Lady Gaga and remind yourself “We were all born to be superstars!”

About the writer:
Jil and her girlsJil Fiemeyer is a Wadena native and Communications Specialist on the marketing team at Tri-County Health Care. She is the mother of three beautiful girls and enjoys each and every day of being their mom. Since her daughter’s Leukemia diagnosis and her death, Jil has learned first-hand the effects of grief and how it manifests around the ones you love. As her way to heal, Jil enjoys writing and has recently started talking to groups about grief, grief recovery and living your best life despite all the struggles that life has to offer.


Why one might choose to be a physician assistant rather than a medical doctor.

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By: Lorinda Zigan PA-C

I chose to write about this topic because there seems to be a misconception as to why people choose the physician assistant (PA) profession. It’s not uncommon for practicing PA’s to hear comments like these:

  • “When are you planning to go back to medical school?”
  • “You’re pretty smart for someone who couldn’t get into medical school.”
  • “Wouldn’t you rather be a real doctor?”


To apply for PA school, you have to complete to same required courses as medical school, plus a statistics course and a few additional higher level biology courses. You also are required to have 1000-3000 hours of direct patient care obtained by working as a nurse, nursing assistant, paramedic, hospital orderly, etc. Both PA and medical school require completion of entrance exams with the medical school exam (MCAT) being the most challenging. An average GPA of 3.5 or higher is recommended for both programs. Based on 2011 data, there were 3.5 applications per seat in PA school versus 2.2 applications per seat in medical school. Either way, both fields are highly competitive and it is a great achievement to get accepted into medical school or PA school.

Even though many physician assistants are trained alongside medical students and residents, the final career outcome is often very different. The decision to apply to PA school usually comes down to the time spent in school, financial burden and type of lifestyle you desire. Many people who apply to PA school work in the medical field prior so they have a good understanding of the commitment and stress involved with being a medical doctor. Working as a physician assistant can be stressful too, but you always have your supervising physician to give you their insight or to back you up when you are dealing with a difficult situation.


Lorinda Zigan, PA, sees patients at the Tri-County Health Care Verndale Clinic.

As a physician assistant you always work with a supervising physician. This means you give up some of your autonomy, but you are not a perpetual student having to come out of the room to review every case with your supervising physician. I think this can confuse patients because they may think we are still in medical school (or going there) since we are supervised. In the primary care setting, I have a lot of autonomy allowing me to create my own practice. My supervising physicians usually read a handful of my charts weekly. Often, they provide great feedback and sometimes comment they have learned something from me related to my previous experience.

Lorinda and daughter cropped

Lorinda enjoys spending time outside with her family.

So am I going back to medical school? The answer is no. I received my master’s degree in physician assistant studies from the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine in 2003. If I were to go back to medical school, I would have to re-take many of the same classes and re-do many of the same rotations. There is some talk about the development of programs to bridge PAs to medical doctors but I think that is far off and likely not for me. Of course, who knows what the future holds.

About the Author:

Lorinda Zigan lives in Browerville with her husband Scott and three children – Faith (11), Owen (9) and Skylar (2). They moved back to their home town a year and half ago and enjoy being around family and friends. They also have a Chihuahua named Foxie and a cat named Brawny who are both part of the family. The kids like to consider their free range chickens as part of the family too. Currently, Lorinda and Scott are busy juggling their oldest two children’s hockey schedule, all while chasing a feisty two-year old.

Living With Diabetes

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Living with diabetes can be scary. Depending on insulin to save your life can be scary. And, switching from daily insulin injections to managing your disease with an insulin pump can be scary. The fear can be a big hurdle for many – both physically and emotionally. And, for Ron Grewe, of Bertha, he was no exception. In fact, one could argue that Ron’s hurdle was larger than most because not only was he living with Diabetes, he had also lost the use of his left arm five years earlier to a stroke.

Ron’s journey with Diabetes began more than 15 years ago. It started with a blood sugar level of 640, just 10 units shy of the point at which organs start shutting down. Prior to his diagnosis, Ron was unaware that Diabetes ran in the family. The oldest of 10 kids, Ron quickly learned that he wasn’t alone in this journey. Although no one had previously talked to him about their chronic disease, after he learned of his Diabetes, he also learned that both his parents and all of his siblings were diagnosed with the same fate.

When Dr. Pate first detected that Ron had Diabetes, he started Ron on a prescription of pills and sent him to Diabetes Educators Pam Doebelling and Sue Sigurdson. Because medications are only effective for a given amount of time, Ron got to a point in his life where he needed to make a choice about what to do next. And, approximately six years ago Ron choose insulin shots, a common decision and one that many people living with diabetes choose.

Recently, Ron was faced with another decision – continue insulin shots or try something else. With the help of Miranda Weaklend, Tri-County Health Care’s newest Diabetes Educator, Ron was introduced to the Insulin Pump. Rather than spikes and jolt of all the insulin units at one time like you get with the shots, an insulin pump gives a steady flow to your body, working much more like a working pancreas. The pump would allow Ron to correct his insulin with precision.iStock_000002701372_Large

Initially, because Ron doesn’t like change, he said “No.” Through education and conversations with Miranda, Ron learned that pumps can be pretty amazing things and can help lead to lower A1Cs and fewer low blood sugar events. Saying yes, was a courageous new step for Ron in his diabetes management.

And, while learning the infusion pump is scary and frustrating for most newly diagnosed patients, Ron was justifiably frustrated learning a task that generally needs two hands. “I could see the wheels spinning in his head as he was trying to figure out how to adapt what needed to be done and how he could do it with the use of just his right arm,” said Miranda.

Change is scary when you don’t know what is involved, admitted Ron. Yet, if you have a good educator that can show you how it works and you can call when needed, the easier it is, he said.

Paper bag with the word diabetes filled with healthy foods

A healthy lifestyle is an important part of diabetes management.

Ron was quick to add that the infusion pump is only as good as the user. If you aren’t honest or accurate with your carb counting, you don’t consistently check your blood sugar and you don’t do all the regular stuff involved with diabetes management, you won’t get accurate results. An insulin pump is no magic solution, they do exactly what you tell them to do with the information you input. Since having the pump, Ron has not had an incident of high blood sugar. And, he can feel a difference, physically. He is not so groggy, he has more energy and according to his wife he is even bossier.

With the infusion pump, Ron doesn’t have the safety net of that long last lasting insulin in his system, but like many things in life it’s a compromise. With the insulin pump, Ron receives smaller doses of rapid acting insulin every few minutes. It responds more like a non-diabetic pancreas, giving Ron more control and flexibility.

Learning to live with Diabetes – to check blood sugar, to count carbs, to choose healthy food options – these are permanent life changes, and they are tough. And, having a machine as your constant companion can honestly get annoying. Yet, according to Ron, all of those moments pale in comparison to how hard work, the support of his wife and the dedication of Miranda, his diabetes educator, and the rest of his medical team keep him alive and well.

Want more information?
For more information about Diabetes Education at Tri-County Health Care, contact Miranda Weaklend, Registered Dietitian and Diabetes Educator at 218-631-7471 or via e-mail at miranda.weaklend@tchc.org.

Support Group Information:
Tri-County Health Care offers a support group for people living with Diabetes. Anyone with an interest in understanding more about Diabetes is invited to attend. The Diabetes Support Group meets the second Monday of each month at 3:30 p.m. at Tri-County Health Care’s Wadena campus. Please visit the front desk for meeting location. Click here for more information: http://bit.ly/21C40Xb

About the author:
Ron Grewe has lived in Bertha, Minnesota most of his life. He graduated from Bertha High School and worked at the Creamery in Eagle Bend until it closed. He then moved to the Twin Cities area where he lived for four years before returning home and buying a farm. He and his wife, Karen, have been married for 52 years.


Finding the Right Obstetrics Provider to Deliver Our Baby

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By: Lonna Dille, Licensed Social Worker – Medical Social Services

Finding a medical provider was never really a difficult task, but I found that choosing an OB provider was daunting! I had previously been receiving care at another facility, but when I started working at Tri-County Health Care in September, 2014, I knew I wanted to receive my OB care at Tri-County. The nurses and doctors here made that decision very easy for me! Yet, after working with all the wonderful doctors, how on earth do I decide on just one?! I knew all of the providers had great qualities, but I had to decide who was the best match for me, my personality, my family and whose style I thought would best motivate and encourage me. I knew I needed someone down-to-earth, kind, but who was also going to be straightforward. I chose Laura DuChene, MD.

My husband and I were very excited to start a family, but it was a roller coaster of emotions because we miscarried our first child. Even though we were very excited to try again I was nervous about the possibility of miscarrying again. However, when we found out we were expecting we were ecstatic!! We told our families at Christmas (a memory I very much cherish) and asked them to support us in our new adventure, but also asked that they not share the news until we were “safe to tell”. We did this knowing that if we were to miscarry again, we would have the support of our families rather than feel isolated and alone. We didn’t tell our friends, extended relatives, etc. until I was about 17 weeks along in my pregnancy.

I will admit that my anxieties about miscarriage got the best of me. Poor Dr. DuChene! I am certain my questions and concerns were incessant, but she didn’t mind once. When I was working one day, I actually fainted on the inpatient floor and the nurses brought me to her and she made room in her schedule immediately for me. I could’ve seen another medical provider in the emergency department but she made it a priority to see me! Another thing I loved about Dr. Duchene was her advice. It wasn’t just clinical advice, it was things like letting me know that Target had great maternity clothes and the comfiest maternity jeans! She is a mother of three, so she shared some great tips with me! She was also amazing through labor. I had no idea what I was doing (like any first time mom). Of course I got advice from friends and family who tried to explain what labor was going to be like, but its pretty hard to remember in the craziness! Her instruction was always helpful and well-articulated. She was so encouraging, and I remember she called me a “champ” during labor and I just remember thinking yes, I CAN DO THIS!

Baby Dille with hat from DuChene

Easton shows off his fire department hat knit specially for him by Dr. DuChene.

My husband and I are both firefighters and EMT’s for our local fire department, in Motley. He tried to come to as many appointments as he was able. The couple of times that he came with she made sure to include him in the appointment. In our conversations we spoke of our work with the fire department. We didn’t know the gender of the baby, but we had a firefighter onesie to take our baby home from the hospital. The day after I delivered Easton, Dr. DuChene came to do her rounding and she hand delivered us a FD (fire department) hat that she had personally knit for him. My husband and I were so touched! Not only did she take the time to knit our precious baby a hat, but she remembered that we were fire fighters and that we had decorated his nursery in a fire department theme!

Once we were home, the home visit from the TCHC nurse was a godsend! She was so helpful and supportive! Seriously, the nursing staff at TCHC is so caring and compassionate. They went above and beyond to care for Easton, my husband and I!

At the end of the day you need to be happy with the provider you choose. We have great providers to choose from at Tri-County Health Care, as I and many other will vouch for! My husband and I did not care what gender our baby would be, we just prayed that we had a healthy, full term baby. When Dr. DuChene delivered us a healthy, baby boy, it was the biggest blessing to us! We are so in love with our precious baby boy, and we are so thankful for the amazing we care we received from Dr. Duchene and the nursing staff at Tri-County.

About the Author:IMG_0400_zpsy9lgpmx2
Lonna Dille has been a Medical Social Worker at TCHC since September 2014, providing services to inpatient, clinic, and the emergency department at
Tri-County Health Care. Lonna and her husband Nick have been married four years and now have their son Easton, who is over three months old. Lonna enjoys hunting and fishing with her husband and family, good coffee and shopping. Her new favorite down time is cuddling with her son and husband while watching a good movie. 


Life with Diabetes

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By: Jenny Steinkopf, RN, TCHC Care Coordinator

National Diabetes Month is observed every November to draw attention to diabetes and its effects on millions of Americans. Diabetes is one of the leading causes of disability and death in the United States. It can cause blindness, nerve damage, kidney disease and other health problems if it’s not controlled. One in 11 Americans have diabetes — that’s more than 29 million people. Another 86 million adults in the United States are at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Rocking my insulin pump while paddle boarding.

Rocking my insulin pump while paddle boarding.

Encouraging, right? There are a lot of “bad” things about diabetes, but today, I want to share a “good” thing related to diabetes. In fact, it’s perhaps one of the best I have experienced in my life. You see, I am one of those statistics. I am the one in eleven. I have a high risk for blindness, nerve damage, kidney disease and all sorts of other problems. I have diabetes.

I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was nine years old. No, my parents didn’t feed me too much sugar. I didn’t eat too much candy (although I probably ate my fair share…). I was an active kid. There was nothing I or my parents could have done to prevent it. But it happened, and it changed our world. The Tri-County Health Care team had their work cut out for them, but Dr. Lamberty, Jackie Vandermay, Lynae Maki and Sue Sigardson (physician, nurse, diabetes educator and dietitian at the time) were our saving grace as they taught my parents, siblings and I about diabetes and how to manage it.

Counting grapes, weighing meat, giving myself shots, measuring cereal, poking my finger with a needle and seeing the doctor frequently became all too familiar the summer before I started fourth grade. The next summer, my parents suggested I go to Camp Needlepoint, a camp they had heard about for kids with diabetes.

My cabin when I was a camper-I'm in the bottom, right hand corner in the tealish colored shirt.

My cabin when I was a camper-I’m in the bottom, right hand corner in the tealish colored shirt.

Camp Needlepoint was like heaven on earth for a kid with diabetes. It wasn’t just kids with diabetes, but many staff members had diabetes as well, including the counselors, doctors and nurses. I not only had peers with diabetes, but saw people older than me living with this crazy disease. One of my favorite parts about camp was the morning routine, which included breakfast followed by flag pole announcements. These weren’t just any announcements. They were very important ones, such as a counselor proudly announcing, “Jessica in Cabin 5 gave herself her own shot for the very first time this morning!” and everyone would yell, clap and cheer as if the Twins had just won the World Series.

The American Diabetes Association website states, “The purpose of Camp Needlepoint is to provide a fun and safe camping experience for children living with diabetes. We want to give kids the opportunity to meet other kids just like them as well as help them gain confidence and independence in managing their diabetes.” Camp Needlepoint does this like nobody else can. It was a place where it wasn’t abnormal to poke my finger to check a blood sugar, count my carbohydrates and take a shot before lunch because everyone at Camp Needlepoint did that! Activities, meals and snacks weren’t changed because a “diabetic kid” was there. I didn’t feel alone because everyone there knew what I dealt with on a daily basis. The week started out with a bunch of strangers and within a week, I had found a new family I didn’t know I needed. I was a “Trailblazer”, which included all kinds of fun and adventures. We played games, did arts and crafts, went hiking, swimming, kayaking, horseback riding and all sorts of “normal” kid stuff. We even did an overnight camping trip as a cabin that included sleeping in a tent on the beach along the St. Croix River.


Me as a counselor, top left

I returned to Camp Needlepoint as a CIT (Counselor in Training) and Counselor when I was in high school. There I had the privilege of encouraging young girls in their independence and confidence in managing their diabetes. Camp Needlepoint creates a comradery that friends, family and health care providers simply cannot provide.

Living with diabetes is not always fun and there are some “bad” things associated with it, but much of life is all in our attitude and perspective. I’m so thankful I had the opportunity to go to Camp Needlepoint to help me see some good come from what often seems like a bad thing. To celebrate National Diabetes Month, tell someone about Camp Needlepoint! You never know when there might be a nine year old girl with diabetes looking for a place to feel like a “normal” kid.

To learn more about Camp Needlepoint click here…

To learn more about Tri-County Health Care’s free, monthly diabetes support group click here

Breast Health Navigator Eases Patient’s Concerns

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By: Shannon Brauch, RN, Women’s Health Coordinator

It wasn’t that long ago that patients with questions or concerns related to their breast health would rely heavily on their family and their own research to compliment what their doctor was telling them about an abnormal mammogram or other breast concerns.

When faced with a possible breast cancer diagnosis, women’s heads fill immediately with questions and concerns or frightful statistics they find when surfing the web. I have witnessed women whose minds were going 100 miles per hour. It’s these women who have found it nice to have someone else “be in charge” and guide them through this overwhelming process.


My role as a breast navigator is to try to pave the path for a woman who have breast health concerns. I help with referrals and scheduling appointments. I also work with our medical team to try to help women understand what their diagnosis really means. And, despite the fact that one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during her lifetime, there is some good news—98% of women will survive if their breast cancer is found early. More woman are getting regular mammograms, cancer is being detected earlier and breast navigation is gaining in popularity because it fills so many gaps in the current American health care system.

The original concept of patient navigation was pioneered in 1990 by Harold P. Freeman, MD, a surgical oncologist at Harlem Hospital, for the purpose of eliminating barriers to timely cancer screening, diagnosis, treatment and supportive care. Since Dr. Freeman’s groundbreaking work in Harlem, the concept of navigation or advocacy has grown far beyond cancer and now covers almost anything being done to help patients and families find their way through the maze of our health care system.

The role of the Breast Health Navigator has evolved to meet the changing demands of breast health care. The complexity of breast health treatment and the growing demand for out-patient services requires a trained nurse case manager with the ability to increase patient outcomes and patient satisfaction while containing costs. The Breast Health Navigator serves as a consistent coordinator throughout the continuum of care assessing the physical, educational, psychological and social needs of the patient. And, if the patient is diagnosed with breast cancer, I work seamlessly with our surgical team and I am always available as a resource to the oncology team when needed.

As a Breast Navigator at Tri-County Health Care, I feel privileged to be able to support and guide our patients, and their loved ones, through their journey. The support and guidance starts with our initial conversation and continues we me as the point of contact each step of the journey. I like to think of myself as a proactive patient representative who provides support, education and guidance through complex health care issues and treatment as they relate to breast health, and sometimes the diagnosis of breast cancer. I like to think of myself as a communication link between the patient and other care providers.

During our first conversation, I like to share with my patients that I value open communication and reassure them that I will be with them through every step of the journey. It’s important that my patients know that I will visit with them, occasionally on the phone and sometimes in person, before, during or after appointments, testing and surgery.

breast cancer awareness

Breast health concerns are a priority for women and at Tri-County Health Care we value the experience of our patients and believes it’s important to develop individualized treatment plans for our patients. This individualized approach assures that patients receive timely, quality care and I work diligently to remove barriers that stand between the patient and effective, comprehensive care. Part advocate, part teacher, part problem solver, part advisor, part friend, the nurse navigator provides one-on-one emotional support and services to help ease the burden for breast health patients and their loved ones.

As their trusted breast navigator, I believe it is important to be intricately involved with all areas of care related to my patient’s health. I work closely with our Tri-County Health Care surgeons, Dr. VanBruggen and Dr. Kloss and their nurses to schedule consultations, biopsies and follow-up appointments. When it’s the wish of the patients, I will go with the patient to their breast biopsy and offer support as needed.

The benefit of working with a nurse navigator is that there is never any pressure or rush put on the patients during their visits and if they forget to ask a question during the appointment, they can always call the breast navigator later when they think of it.

As a registered nurse, I am qualified and honored to provide not only information that helps patients navigate through their journey, from diagnosis to recovery and beyond, I also provide emotional support. By helping women through this process, I believe we provide hope.

If you or someone you know would like more information about the breast navigation program at Tri-County Health Car or about breast cancer screenings, diagnosis, treatment or follow-up care, please call me at 218-632-8182 or 218-639-4517.

Shannon, Brian and their beautiful three children.

Shannon, Brian and their beautiful three children.

About the Author:

Shannon is a lifetime resident of Wadena. Her husband Brian and her have three beautiful children Mason 9, McKenna 6 and Aubrey 3. They’ll be welcoming their fourth child in December. Shannon is currently the Women’s Health Coordinator and Breast Navigator at Tri-County Health Care. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends and doing anything outdoors.

Little Warriors…Big Fight

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By: Jil Fiemeyer

I still see them in my dreams at night. The countless bald-headed children smiling and laughing as they ride down the oncology hallway of Children’s Hospital in their wheelchair. The little girl wearing her pajamas, wig and sunglasses as she takes her remote control rat for a walk and giggling when she scared a nurse. The countless kids who walked confidently down the hallway to look at the Minneapolis skyline from the big window on the 7th floor, even if it meant they had to pull the IV pole that was attached to a port in their chest.

Jane getting out of her room and scaring the nurses (who were such great sports!) with her new remote-controlled Rat she named “Ross”.

Jane getting out of her room and scaring the nurses (who were such great sports!) with her new remote-controlled Rat she named “Ross”.

These are kids who day in and day out embraced their journey to fight the cancer bully with the courage and tenacity that would put professional football players to shame.

These same kids are the ones getting injected with poison in hopes that the chemo saves their life. They lose their hair, their innocence and some even lose their lives. These little warriors, these ankle biters, these teenagers… they all have one thing in common. They are fighting a big fight – the fight against PEDIATRIC CANCER – and I’m happy to say it’s a fight that most of them win.

And while the statistics have improved, sometimes even a 90% success rate is not enough. I’m a mom whose daughter was unfortunately in the 10 percent. My daughter, Jane, was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia at the age of seven – when she was a second-grader at Wadena-Deer Creek Elementary School. What appeared to at first be symptoms of an ear infection or maybe even Lyme Disease, within weeks was confirmed as that dreaded “C” word, CANCER. On September 6, 2012, Jane earned her ANGEL’s wings just 13 months after her diagnosis, just weeks before her ninth birthday.

Jane shortly after her diagnosis, before she lost her hair.

Jane shortly after her diagnosis, before she lost her hair.

What I learned in the last three years and probably the biggest surprise to me is that Jane’s medical journey is not that rare. Each year, the parents of approximately 16,000 American kids will hear the words “your child has cancer.” Globally there are more than 250,000 children diagnosed with cancer each year. Jane had Leukemia, possibly one of the most familiar types of cancer, but there are other types of cancers that affect children every year. Generally speaking, there are three categories of children’s cancer:

  • Leukemia: is a cancer of the blood. Leukemia cells are sick immune blood cells that do not work properly and crowd out healthy blood cells. Leukemia’s are the most common childhood cancer. Types of Leukemia include Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) and Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML).
  • Lymphoma – Cancer of the immune system: The sick cells do not work properly to protect the body and they crowd out healthy cells of the immune system. Types of Lymphomas include Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.
  • Solid Tumors (Sarcomas) – Cancer of the Bone, Organs or Tissues: A solid tumor is a lump of sick cells stuck together. Tumors can develop in many parts of the body including the brain, kidneys, liver and bones. These sick cells crowd out healthy cells and keep them from doing their job. Types of solid tumor cancers include Neuroblastoma, Ewing Sarcoma and Wilms Tumors.

Across all ages, ethnic groups and socio-economics, pediatric cancer remains the number one cause of death by disease in children in America. Despite major advances – from an overall survival rate of 10 percent just fifty years ago to nearly 90 percent today – for many rare cancers, the survival rate is much lower. Furthermore, the number of diagnosed cases annually has not declined in nearly 20 years.

Jane waiting patiently for her transport nurse to escort her radiology for yet another scan.

Jane waiting patiently for her transport nurse to escort her radiology for yet another scan.

Some facts about childhood cancer…

  • Every day, 43 children are diagnosed with cancer.
  • More than 40,000 children are in cancer treatment each year.
  • The average age of children diagnosed is six.
  • One out of eight children with cancer, like Jane, will not survive.
  • 60% of children who survive cancer suffer late-effects, such as infertility, heart failure and secondary cancers.
  • There are approximately 375,000 adult survivors of children’s cancer in the United States.
  • In the last 20 years only three cancer medications have been specifically developed for children.

While doctors and researchers have made strides in the battle against so many other types of cancer, the lack of funding and awareness for our children has led to an insignificant improvement in survival rates for pediatric cancer over the past decade. According to St. Baldrick’s Organization, more children are lost to cancer in the United States than any other disease – in fact, more than many other childhood diseases combined.

So how does childhood cancer become a priority cause in this country? The journey begins with each of us. We need your help to raise more funds and more awareness.

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month symbolized by the color gold. It is a month to go GOLD and show your support for kids battling cancer around the world and for those who lost their battle.

Here is how you can help (Pick just one, or try them all):

  • Paint your fingernails gold or wear a gold ribbon in your hair.
  • Wear a gold ribbon pinned to your shirt and tell people why.
  • Change your social media profile photo for the entire month of September to a gold ribbon badge. Customize your own profile photo with a gold ribbon by clicking here. It’s quick, easy and free.
  • Use the hashtag #gogold when you post to social media about Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
  • Watch The Truth 365 documentary about childhood cancer. 
  • Hang gold lights in your home or business throughout the month September in honor of Childhood Cancer Month.
  • Paint a gold ribbon on your car window along with “Childhood Cancer Awareness Month”.
  • Watch Our Kids Are Worth “More Than 4”
  • Take the Whipping Childhood Cancer Challenge and challenge your friends.
  • Send a donation to CureSearch to help fund more research for childhood cancer treatments.
  • Donate blood products and get on the national bone marrow registry.
Jane and her sisters liked to play games when they came to visit her in the hospital.

Jane and her sisters liked to play games when they came to visit her in the hospital.

Support local organizations

  • Participate in the local Princess Warrior 5K Run, Walk, Roll, Stroll or Crawl. This 5K was created in honor of my daughter, Jane Fiemeyer, who died from cancer just weeks before her ninth birthday. It was her request before she died that she wanted to have a race – a race that would hopefully in one way or another help her dream for finding a cure for cancer become reality. JaneFiemeyerPrincessWarrior.com
  • Join the “Kayleen Larson Toy Drive” and drop toys off at Coborn’s in Sartell, Minnesota. These toys are given to Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis in honor of Kayleen who be forever 9 years old. Please join us in honoring her last wish.
  • Support “A Measure of Healing Hearts for Childhood Cancer” a non-profit organization that was created in honor of twins Gage and Jace, from Deer Creek, Minnesota, who battled the Neuroblastoma Cancer bully as infants and won!

My hope is that each of you will #GoGold during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Together, we can make significant progress toward ending children’s cancer.

Because children are more precious than gold.

About the writer: Jil Fiemeyer is a Wadena native and a Communications Specialist on the marketing team at Tri-County Health Care. She is the mother of three beautiful girls and enjoys each and every day of being their mom. Since her daughter’s Leukemia diagnosis and her death, Jil has learned first-hand the effects of grief and how it manifests around the ones you love. As her way to heal, Jil enjoys writing and has recently started talking to groups about grief, grief recovery and living your best life despite all the struggles that life has to offer.


*Tri-County Health Care hosts a “Parents Who Have Lost a Child” support group to help those in the area affected by the loss of a child. They meet the second Monday of the month from 5:30 – 7 p.m. in the Wesley Conference Room at Tri-County Health Care. Click here to learn more…

How I found my dream profession through the Summer Internship Program…

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By: Taylor Shamp

I believe I was in the 6th grade when I was first brought into see a physical therapist at Tri-County Health Care. It was those few weeks into my recovery when my gut told me “this is what you want to do with your life.”

Taylor playing High School Volleyball.

Taylor playing High School Volleyball for Bertha-Hewitt.

I am an up and coming senior at Bertha-Hewitt High School and daughter of not only one, but two Tri-County Health Care employees! My dad, Adam, works with the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) crew and my mom, Medley, with the Care Coordination team. I am also a three sport athlete, captain of the basketball team, recently elected as Bertha-Hewitt’s Student Council President and lastly, I aspire to be a Tri-County Health Care Employee.

I am fortunate to be one of the few seniors who already have a career path chosen, or so I thought. Have you ever made a decision or a goal for far off into the future? But, then maybe as the future becomes closer and closer to reality you’re not so sure anymore? And, you have to ask yourself “Is this really what I want or is this what I’ve been telling myself for the last five years?” You see, I made the decision to be a Physical Therapist so long ago that I wasn’t sure if I had just overlooked everything else because “my mind was made up”. This is exactly when I found the High School Summer Internship program at Tri-County.

2015 HS Summer Interns (Taylor is center, front row)

2015 HS Summer Interns (Taylor is center, front row)

The Summer Internship program is a two-month shadowing position where I was able to observe each of 13 different medical positions over the course of seven weeks. It was a blast! I got to see everything from stitches in a rural clinic to chemotherapy treatments on the main campus in Wadena. Then, the day came where I got to shadow the Rehab Department staff. I liked it so much they let me come back… TWICE! They had so much for me to learn and gave the best advice. This internship put my mind at ease and validated that yes; I indeed want to be a Physical Therapist.

I believe it was through these last seven weeks that I realized I wear a lot of different hats. I wear the hat of a daughter, a teammate, a captain, a leader and one day I plan to wear the hat of Taylor Shamp, Physical Therapist; where I can serve our community wearing the hat of a Tri-County Health Care Employee.

Taylor with her parents, and brother Cody

Taylor with her parents, and brother Cody.