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News from St. Vincent Charity – March 2017

St. Vincent Charity Medical Center receives grant for Resilient Youth Project

With 82 percent of children in Central neighborhood living in poverty and only 32 percent of residents graduating high school, Central’s youth fight barriers every day that impact their ability toward a better future. They’re vulnerable to challenges with employment, safety, neglect, health, and self-esteem, placing them at risk for a sustainable life. But with these challenges comes hope.

St. Vincent Charity Medical Center has received a $200,000 grant from the William J. and Dorothy K. O’Neill Foundation to support a new community outreach program—the Resilient Youth Project.

Aimed at helping adolescents in Central neighborhood, the program will enroll youth ages 13-15 years in work and activities designed to teach both life and job skills, as well as promote educational and community impact. Working with the Central Recreation Center and St. Philip’s Christian Church, the program’s Outreach Specialist will develop adult-supervised projects that promote job readiness and self-sufficiency. Students will also participate in monthly field trips to explore future job opportunities and mentorship/leadership programs. 

“I’ve worked with the kids in the Central neighborhood for many years and the Resilient Youth Project is going to be extremely beneficial to those who participate,” said Bill Myers, Manager of Cleveland’s Central Recreation Center. “The activities and opportunities they are going to be involved with are going to help them prepare for high school and beyond.”

With an estimated 40 percent of health outcomes determined by social and economic factors and the overarching goal of the program to improve community health, the Resilient Youth Project will help accomplish this by: 

  • Providing a safe location for youth to engage in constructive activities with like-minded peers
  • Access to supportive adult relationships to establish consistent, positive role models
  • Provide stipend income to promote the dignity and value of work, increase job-readiness and teach financial literacy
  • Engage families in intentional activities focused on strengthening relationships

“For many years, St. Vincent’s Outreach Department has worked with the Central Recreation Center and other neighborhood organizations that are committed to strengthening the bonds of the families of the Central neighborhood,” said David F. Perse, MD, president and CEO. “We are excited to further develop that relationship and create a lasting impact on the children in our neighborhood through the Resilient Youth Project.”

One family’s pain inspires a message of hope

“You are beautiful people. You are good people. As a family member, we can’t trust you. We don’t like the choices you are making, but we will always love you.”

Bob and Jeannie Brandt lovingly share this message with Rosary Hall detox patients as they desperately attempt to escape the powerful grip of opioid and heroin addiction. It’s the message that Bob and Jeannie wished they had known to deliver—or wish someone else could have delivered—to their grandson, Robby, during his four-year struggle to overcome addiction.

Tragically, Robby lost his battle five years ago at the age of 20, just days before he was to fulfill his long-held dream of serving in our nation’s military.

“When Robby—and our entire family—battled this disease, we didn’t know much about opioid or heroin addiction,” said Bob. “It wasn’t something people talked about. We didn’t know anyone else who had been through this tragedy, so we did not know where to turn or what to say to help.”

The Brandt family, in fact, did not even tell friends and family how Robby died out of fear of their reaction. How do you tell someone that your grandson died from a heroin overdose? With so little known about opioid addiction, there was a feeling that was not something that happened to good kids like Robby. It was not until six months after his death that the Brandts were sent a message from Robby to share his story as a way to help others suffering from the disease of opioid addiction.

In going through his room, Robby’s parents, Rob and Carla Brandt, came across their son’s plans to launch a foundation to help others. Robby wanted to protect other kids, and other families, from his suffering. It was then that the Brandt family formed the nonprofit Robby’s Voice to keep his spirit and dreams alive. The Brandt family has spoken to more than 80,000 students, parents, teachers, counselors, physicians, and law enforcement officers to raise awareness of the growing opioid epidemic, which last year claimed the lives of more than 600 in Northeast Ohio.

Their work through Robby’s Voice led Bob and Jeannie to Rosary Hall as volunteers twice a month to share their story with those in the beginning stages of their recovery. Their honesty about the pain they felt as grandparents—their daily challenges and range of emotions from love to anger to distrust—is intended to protect these young men and women from their family tragedy.

“When Bob and Jeannie come, they are the voices of the parents and grandparents who have tried over and over again to talk to these men and women about how their addiction is affecting others,” says Orlando Howard, Manager of Outpatient Treatment Services for Rosary Hall. “When they are in the throes of their illness and not focusing, these patients don’t have a chance to settle down to really listen to their own parents. In telling their story, Bob and Jeannie give patients the opportunity to see the pain in their eyes and to realize this is a family disease.”

As difficult as it is, Bob and Jeannie describe the harrowing day Robby went missing and was then, later, found dead by police from an overdose. Their story serves as a wake-up call to patients that their choices rip through the fabric of the entire family.  As a grandmother, Jeannie typically makes a point of sitting next to a young woman in the group, holding her hand as she tells her story, hoping to connect. Hoping to save one life.  Jeannie not only speaks from her heart, but from Robby’s, as she talks about the challenges for family members living with an addict.

“As a family member, we get furious. You become thieves. You lie to us,” Jeannie said. “We understand that there is a demon inside of you that has changed you totally. We want to take on your disease, but this is your battle.”

Most of all, the Brandts just want these patients to know that no matter what they have done, no matter the mistakes they have made, they are loved.

Bob and Jeannie encourage them to use the resources available as they struggle through recovery—to call a friend, to go to a meeting, to fight the opioid demon because their “life is worth it. Don’t give up, because we don’t give up on you.”

As lifelong Catholics, the Brandts also turn to their faith to handle their personal pain and to help those in recovery.  For every patient they meet, the Brandts provide two patron saint medals—one of St. Jude, to provide the strength and courage to handle the bumps in the road of recovery and, second, St. Anthony, to help those feeling lost and alone to find the person they once were.

“Prayer is to help you get through the rough spots,” Jeannie says. “Don’t be afraid to pray. Right now, you might not think you are deserving of prayer, but I pray for every person that walks through the doors of Rosary Hall.”

This year, on the day of the five-year anniversary of Robby’s death, the Brandts’ gift had an immediate, emotional impact on “Dan,” a Rosary Hall patient.

The week before entering the hospital, Dan walked the streets, knowing he needed help, but also looking to score the drugs his brain was telling him he needed. As he looked down, Dan saw something shiny on the sidewalk, bent down and picked it up.  It was a St. Anthony medal. Hearing the Brandts talk about prayers to St. Anthony, Dan knew it was a sign from God that he found that medal on the sidewalk that day. He believes that God intervened, leading him to St. Vincent and to the Brandts, so that he could find the person in himself he had lost to his addiction.

Those are the moments that make the difference for Bob and Jeannie. It is difficult to re-live their pain as they tell their story of the grandson they lost. It is agonizing to remember the isolation they felt as they struggled through an epidemic that, at the time, no one really knew existed.  However, each time they talk to a patient like Dan or receive a letter that says, “your story saved my life,” they know they are celebrating Robby’s life and giving him a voice to help save one person—and one family—from tragedy.

If you or a loved one are in need of help for addiction, call 216-363-2580. To learn more about addiction, watch The Addicted Brain educational video at:


St. Vincent Charity’s surgeon becomes first in the world to perform new robotic surgery

The Spine and Orthopedic Institute at St. Vincent Charity Medical Center prides itself on having a deep bench of entrepreneurial physicians who are constantly exploring ways to improve life for patients.

Some of the newer advances are designed to provide patients with improved long-term results and fewer complications. Ultimately, the name of the game is better care whether it’s surgical or non-surgical.

Dr. Bernard Stulberg recently became the first orthopedic surgeon in the world to use the newly released TSolution One only active robotic system to perform a successful total hip replacement surgery. This technology enables a surgeon-controlled robot to cut the bone to precise shape and position and is expected to increase the accuracy of hip implant placement and improve long-term outcomes for patients.

“This is a game changer for orthopedic surgery,” Dr. Stulberg says. “Advancing and combining previous surgical technologies with improved imaging capability allows surgeons to develop a patient-specific and unique surgical plan prior to surgery. The plan is then executed with the level of precision that only robotics can offer. That means more accurate placement, less post-surgical pain and fewer problems, such as hip displacement, after surgery.”

While robotic technology has existed for some time to assist with orthopedic surgery, the Solution is the only one in place in which the robot prepares the cavity for surgery.  

With it, Dr. Stulberg says, he is able to create a cavity the exact size, with symmetrical, smooth edges, to accommodate the implant. “This precise fit creates less opportunity for movement of the implant in the bone, assuring a more predictable attachment,” he says. “The positioning accuracy enhances the ultimate stability and loads on the implant to allow for increased longevity of the device.”

With repetitive dislocation of a hip implant as the leading cause for the need for hip revision surgery, this revolutionary technology is expected to reduce the chances for implant failure and reduce post-surgical pain. St. Vincent is the only hospital in the Midwest currently certified to use this modern system, and has recently been approved as a site for a clinical trial for use of the robot in total knee replacement.

In addition to Dr. Stulberg, Dr. Audley Mackel and Dr. Lou Keppler are also trained on the system.

Those who suffer chronic back pain now have a non-invasive outpatient option known as COOLIEF Cooled Radiofrequency System. Recognizing that many patients, even though they may be in extreme, chronic back pain, often refuse surgery because of the risks and extended recovery periods, St. Vincent is employing this system to bring patients relief without the complications of major surgery.

With just a small incision, physicians target and burn the nerves causing a patient’s neck and back pain. Studies have shown the treatment provides patients with up to 24 months of pain relief and improved physical function without the months of rehab, risk of infection and hospitalization associated with surgery.

In less than six months, St. Vincent Sports Medicine Specialist Dr. George Friedhoff has performed nearly 100 ablations after receiving specialized training on the equipment. 

“We have had tremendous success with this technology. With surgery, there are three options—a patient can get better, not get any better, or, sometimes, a patient can get worse. But, you don’t know which of those outcomes you will have until after surgery. With the COOLIEF, I know right away if the patient will respond to the procedure without any of the adverse outcomes of surgery.”

Prior to surgery, Dr. Friedhoff said he is able to perform a dry, test run with Lidocaine. If the patient feels relief from that, then he knows he or she is a candidate for a successful COOLIEF ablation. 

While traditional radiofrequency ablation has been used for some time to heat and destroy nervous tissue causing back pain, the advanced COOLIEF system provides greater and longer relief for patients. The new technique uses cooled water to slow the heating process, thereby allowing the heat to penetrate a larger area of the offending nerve. This allows St. Vincent surgeons to create a larger lesion at the pain site, leading to more effective and longer last results.

“The majority of patients are completely pain free as soon as they get up from the table. I had one patient who was actually able to chop a pile of wood shortly after his procedure—something he could have never done before,” Dr. Friedhoff said. “One of the most significant benefits of the COOLIEF is our patients’ ability to stop taking narcotic pain medicines. With the opioid epidemic we are facing in our community today, we, as caregivers, are searching for less-invasive treatments that don’t rely on medication.” 


Rosary Hall offers free educational seminars on addiction

Does a loved one use heroin, pain pills, marijuana, alcohol or other drugs? Do you need support as you help your loved one through recovery?
You are not alone and there is hope. Addiction is a brain disease that can be treated.
If you or a loved one are concerned, attend one of our FREE educational sessions, held the second and fourth Saturday of each month. Our educational sessions will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Rosary Hall, located on the second floor of the West Administration Building on the St. Vincent Charity campus.
Registration is required. Please call Joyce Pleasant at 216-363-2609 or 216-363-2580 ext. 4 to register. You can also email Complimentary parking is available. Lunch is NOT included, but is available in the hospital cafeteria.

Join us in our 150th year of service as we launch a more than $125 million vision over the next decade for an integrated medical campus in downtown Cleveland. With $34 million committed, we begin with Phase II, a four-year $50 million plan to support critical improvements. Learn more

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