A sparkling smile, bubbly personality and glitzy garments distinguish Carolyn Gregg of Lake City, Ia. She wears her love for life and people on her sleeve – most likely trimmed in glitzy rhinestones. She’s the kind of gal that’s hard to get down. “I love to help others feel better about them selves,” exclaims Gregg, who retired as a Director for Mary Kay Cosmetics after 27 years with the company. “I had the opportunity to meet the Mary Kay on several occasions in her home,” smiles Gregg. Her other passion is her family: husband Gary, and her sons; Jeff and his wife Luann, and Jerry and his wife Rayett, as well as their five grandchildren.
In her 72 years, there have been times when even the most dazzling dress, paired with the perfect shade of lipstick, couldn’t mask her health ailments. “I’ve overcome many health issues and I always rallied back to good health,” notes Gregg. In January of this year, the Wall Lake native’s health took a turn for the worse. “I’ve dealt with diverticulitis for many years, but I’ve managed the condition and live a normal life,” says Gregg. Diverticulitis is when small pouches of diverticula, which can form in the lining of your digestive system, become inflamed or infected. This causes severe abdominal pain, fever, nausea and noticeable bowel changes. According to Harvard Medical School, about one-third of all Americans will develop the condition by age 60, and two-thirds will have it by age 85. When Carolyn experienced severe pain, she visited her primary care provider Nancy Flink, a certified physician assistant with McCrary Rost Clinic in Lake City. “Nancy ordered lab work, and a Computed Tomography or CT scan performed at SMCH. The tests showed I had an infection brewing. I was admitted to SMCH to start a strong antibiotic given through an IV to fight the infected diverticula and the abscess attached to my bladder,” recounts Gregg.
She was relieved to know her pain was caused by a familiar condition and not something new, however, fighting the infection took her on an unanticipated journey. “We tried several different antibiotics and nothing worked as well as we had hoped for. I was discouraged and felt hopeless,” says Gregg. At SMCH, the entire team of care professionals is dedicated to each patient’s well being and health care experience. “The nurses and aides knew I was experiencing some depression over my on-going illness and they went the extra mile to cheer me up,” exclaims Gregg. The SMCH nursing staff, familiar with Gregg’s love of “bling,” made her a special hospital gown decorated with rhinestones and donned her with a tiara to be queen for a day at SMCH. “This fun-loving gesture lifted my spirits beyond measure!”
The next move was surgery to get Carolyn back to good health. “Dr. Marc Miller performed surgery to remove 12 inches of my colon. He surgically created an ileostomy which is an opening into the small intestine through the abdomen and therefore a pouch was put in place to collect the stool” states Gregg. After recovering from the major surgery, Carolyn was ready for the second surgery to complete the process of her bowel reversal. This step allowed Carolyn to end the use of a colostomy bag to collect her bowel movements. “I give a lot of credit to the SMCH Homecare Department for my care and the next seven weeks of healing following the first surgery. The nurses and aides were extremely caring and knowledgeable through that recovery times at home. They treated me like a family member. Tests were taken and I had healed well enough to do the second surgery, the bowel reversal.”
On March 27th, Carolyn was admitted to SMCH for her second surgery. “I’m grateful for the skill and expertise Dr. Miller brings to SMCH. This allowed me to have the surgery done in my community where family and friends are close by,” remarks Gregg. After a successful surgery, she spent two weeks recovering at SMCH. “I look back at my hospitalization in Lake City and realize all of the small things that made a big difference, an oversized shower chair, made-to-order meals, and the pampering added value to my stay. SMCH is on the cutting edge of excellence in patient care! I really felt spoiled,” exclaims Gregg.
Besides a glitzy hospital gown, and extraordinary hospitality, Gregg believes the communication at SMCH between all parties involved in her care made her lengthy hospitalization a great experience. “When the nurses changed shifts, they handed over my care from one nurse to the next at my bed side. This kept me informed of my care and I could be part of the conversations between nurses about my care. I felt valued and my anxiety was reduced.”
During her hospitalization and up until the day she was discharged, on April 15th, she marveled at the communication process used at SMCH. In addition to the care provided by the SMCH Nursing Services department, Gregg worked with the Transition Coaches. The coaches, Registered Nurses Brooke Minnehan and Zacharina Winker, focus on improving the wellness of patients by providing education and coordination of care.
The coaches’ overall goal is to help patients return to good health and keep them healthy. This is accomplished through a process focused on communication. “The team effort, which works across the health care system, ensures patients receive the right care at the right time. A transition coach assists patients in managing their health care and act on the patient’s behalf. The goal is to enhance the quality of care patients receive by helping them find their way through a complex health care system,” notes Kari Jones, Director of Nursing.
Gregg concurs with the advantage of having the Transition Coach Service. “At the onset of my hospitalization, I was immediately connected with Brooke and Zacharina. They helped with questions I had to answer when I was admitted and not feeling well which made the admitting process so simple. Every time my doctors came to my room, they were with them. I felt well informed with the transition coaches helping to explain everything and answer any questions,” states Gregg. The communication continued when Gregg was discharged. “They followed me through my care, the communication was superb, and reduced my anxiety. It was the utmost comfort to me and my family. When Gary was there, they would check with him and follow up answering any questions he had about my health. The coaches are an invaluable asset, you never feel alone,” remarks Gregg.
Gregg continues to grow stronger each day and is now able to look forward to activities she has enjoyed for many years. “I feel blessed to have the experience I did. For the first time in three years, we are traveling again!” beams Gregg. She’s also taking steps to get back into her volunteer role at SMCH in the hospital gift shop overseeing her favorite section of the shop – the bling jewelry!