St. Joe’s Hypertension Clinical Research Study is Looking for Patients

OAKLAND – St. Joe’s Oakland has launched a clinical research study that evaluates the potential benefits of an investigational device-based intervention (Symplicity Spyral™) for high blood pressure. This investigational procedure targets the nerves around the kidney arteries and is being investigated for its potential to improve the control of blood pressure.

Patients may be eligible for this study if they:

  • Are between 20 and 80 years old
  • Have controlled or moderately controlled blood pressure and take up to three anti-hypertensive drugs
  • Are willing to complete required testing and follow up visits through 36 months

Interested patients should call the St. Joe’s clinical research hotline at 248-858-6962 to find out if they are eligible to participate in the study.

For more details about the device used in this clinical investigation, call Susan Oblak, RN, BSN Research Coordinator at 248-858-6962.

FEMA and FCC Plan Nationwide Emergency Alert Test

In coordination with the Federal Communications Commission, FEMA will conduct a nationwide test to assess the capabilities of the Emergency Alert System and Wireless Emergency Alert at 2:20 p.m. ET on Aug. 11 with a backup date of Aug. 25.

This is the sixth national Emergency Alert System test and the second national Wireless Emergency Alert test. This time, however, the wireless portion of the test will be directed only to those cellphones where the subscriber has opted-in to receive emergency alert test messages. The test will assess the operational readiness of the infrastructure for distribution of a national message and determine whether technological improvements are needed.

Both portions of this nationwide test will be sent through FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System, the nation’s modern alert and warning infrastructure that automatically authenticates alerts. The test is intended to ensure public safety officials have the methods and systems that will deliver urgent alerts and warnings to the public in times of an emergency or disaster.

Cell towers will broadcast the wireless test for approximately 30 minutes. During this time, cell phones that have opted-in to receive Wireless Emergency Alert test messages, are switched on, within range of an active cell tower and configured to receive emergency alert test messages should receive that message. Phones should receive the message once, reading, “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.” Phones set to Spanish will receive a translated message. Wireless Emergency Alerts are accompanied by a unique tone and vibration. The national test will use the same special tone and vibration.

The Emergency Alert System test is made available to Emergency Alert System participants (i.e., radio and television broadcasters, cable systems, satellite radio and television providers, and wireline video providers) and is scheduled to last approximately one minute. The test message will be similar to regular monthly test messages with which the public is familiar.

SMML’s 5 East Honored with TEAM Award

LIVONIA – Colleagues on 5 East at St. Mary Mercy Livonia have faced enormous challenges in the past year, and have met those challenges with grace and strength. In 2020, 5 East was designated as a COVID-19 unit. The team had to quickly adjust to a high-acuity patient population while managing a new and unknown disease. For their hard work and commitment to excellent patient care, they were honored with the T.E.A.M. Award.

The 5 East team was nominated by a fellow colleague, who shared, “For over a year now, the 5 East team has worked diligently to care for the hundreds of very sick COVID patients of all ages that have been admitted to the unit. This team of professionals have worked through very scary, dangerous, tiresome, and trying times… Despite all the challenges that the 5 East staff has faced, they continue to provide outstanding care to each and every patient. They work very hard to ensure that every patient is safe, comfortable, and well cared for.”

Congratulations to our 5 East colleagues, and thank you for your incredible work to care for patients during this pandemic.

ED Observation to Open at St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea

This week, St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea will open a three-bed observation unit near the Emergency Department and Radiology. The unit will be staffed by ED physicians, nurses and techs, and be for patients who require less than 23-hours of care.

Each day, the hospital admits approximately 11 patients under observation status. These patients have historically utilized beds in Atrium or Courtyard East units. As hospital volume continues to increase, the ED Observation Unit enhances capacity and opens Atrium and Courtyard beds to inpatients and extended-recovery surgery patients.

“Many of our observation patients require very short stays while they receive IV antibiotics from animal bites or cellulitis,” said Donna Seeley, RN, Director, Emergency, Business Health and Trauma Services. “We also have patients who come in with chest pain, have an initial negative lab but we keep for observation and additional testing. In these situations, an observation unit is ideal. The patient will continue to receive care and close monitoring, near the ED in case a need arises, and once testing or medications are administered, will be able to go home safely.”

Patients being treated in the ED Observation Unit will remain observation status unless their condition worsens and requires admission. Throughout their stay in the Observation Unit, the patient’s vitals and information will be tracked and monitored by both the care team assigned to the unit and on the ED’s tracking board.

The development of the Observation Unit has been a close collaboration between physicians and staff of the ED, Radiology, Dietary, Clinical Engineering, TIS and Housekeeping among other departments.

“This has been a true team effort,” Seeley said. “We are excited to get the unit up and running and be able to improve our overall patient flow within the hospital.”

Here It Comes Again

By Jennifer Hill Buehrer LMSW

Have I talked about grief?  In 16 months of writing this column, I know I’ve brought it up, probably over and over again (I tend not to go back and read my old articles).  But I don’t think it’s possible to acknowledge it too many times, or in too many ways.  And it keeps changing, doesn’t it?  Grief is a normal part of life, but geez… over the past year and a half it seems there is no end to it.  It definitely doesn’t feel normal.  We have grieved for patients, and family members, and spending time with loved ones, and going out to dinner or concerts, and seeing each other’s faces, and hugging people, and just general normalcy.  And now it seems we’re facing grief over the loss of skilled, admired colleagues who were burned out by this pandemic and so many things arising from it that they’ve chosen to move on.

How does any one person cope with so many layers of loss and grief?  And how does an entire community, and even an entire country cope with it?  I can’t even wrap my head around how far it extends beyond that, so I’m going to stop there.  But we certainly know it’s the same everywhere else.  We are all such different people with different experiences and perspectives, that there is no one way to manage these feelings.  The important thing I guess is that we do – that we find some way to process the grief we’re feeling so that it doesn’t consume us.  Because I’m here to tell you that it will otherwise.  I know I’ve mentioned before the multiple losses I’ve suffered in my life… it feels sometimes like it’s disproportionate for someone my age.  But I’m certainly not the only one with such an experience.  And any of us who has lived through loss over and over again can attest to how easy it can be to get lost in it.

Some of us use our experience of loss to direct our career choices.  Once we’ve dealt with our own grief (a critical step), that experience can go a long way to equipping us to help others through it.  And it makes us better at doing so.  You’ll find a lot of people in my line of work – palliative care – have just that kind of story.  Some people use grief experiences to guide changes in other parts of their lives, whether it be relationships, choice of where to live, deciding to travel or do adventurous things they might have been afraid to try before, etc.  Sometimes a big loss, like someone really close to you, can change you fundamentally as a person.  Maybe you’ve felt that.  I think a combination of losses – one after another after another, like we’ve felt over the past year and a half – can do the same thing.  In my last article I mused about the ways in which this pandemic has changed many of us.  Grief is one of the things that can bring that on.  And we’re just surrounded by it lately.

Don’t be afraid of your grief.  Don’t run away from it, or try to pretend it isn’t there, or tell yourself it isn’t that bad.  None of those approaches works; it just delays recovery and/or makes the load heavier.  I have always found, through the series of losses in my life, that sharing the grief eases the burden of it.  When I am with people who feel what I feel and have lost what I have lost, it makes me feel better.  We need each other at this crucial time.  And watching others cope with that grief, and come out of it, helps convince you that you can do the same.  And I promise you can.

St. Joe’s Oakland Meds-To-Go Outpatient Pharmacy Program

OAKLAND – St. Joseph Mercy Oakland’s outpatient pharmacy provides a discharge service for our patients featuring bedside delivery of prescription medications. Pharmacy technicians are stationed with mobile workstations throughout the hospital to assist with discharge prescriptions, resolve prescription issues, resolve cost issues, and expedite the delivery process. 

This service was developed to increase patient adherence and satisfaction, and to eliminate the top three barriers for patients with prescriptions: 1) Lack of transportation 2) Financial concerns 3) Wait times at the pharmacy. Please take time to meet the Meds-To-Go Technician working in your area.

Meds-to-Go Technicians – Voalte Phone Extension Number

Melissa Atkinson – 72730
Barb Harrington – 43964
Jennifer Lehti – 43332
Monica Liabenow – 43801
Jennifer Little – 43338
Pamela Morrison – 43600
Tiffany Painter – 87989
Bindhu Varghese – 72445

Is That Really You?

By Jennifer Hill Buehrer LMSW

Having lunch with a few colleagues today, someone made the statement, “it’s getting difficult to remember what a lot of things were like before COVID.”  I agreed.  And I realize that this statement not only applies to the tables and the food stations in the cafeteria, or the hallways that used to be filled with people all the time, or the committee and team meetings that had us all gathered around large tables, sometimes with meals provided… it applies to us.  It’s true.  Sometimes it’s difficult to remember what WE were like before COVID… what I was like.  It’s not like I’m suggesting that the pandemic has changed my personality.  I am who I am.  But I do feel like I’m changed.  And I’m guessing I’m not the only one.

In the months and years to come, I think it will become evident to most of us that the pandemic and everything that comes with it has changed each of us in some way(s) – some big, some small.  There is some degree of trauma involved in this kind of experience, and especially for people working in health care.  Experiencing trauma will generally result in change of some kind.  The weird thing for me is recognizing that I feel changed by the experience, but I can’t exactly define how.  That’s what I think is going to reveal itself over time.  I’m someone who tries to live in the moment, and focus on the day in front of me, rather than think much about the future or the past.  And I like this about myself.  I don’t see that changing; in fact, I’m hopeful that more people can come out of this experience with that kind of approach to life.  Because you aren’t guaranteed anything beyond today, and thinking too much about the past isn’t fruitful because it can’t be changed.

I’ve heard some people talk about their appreciation for things changing – down time with loved ones, their homes (after being stuck in them for so long), the ability to gather with friends, and certainly health.  I think there is also a lot of reevaluating going on.  Is your current job fulfilling enough?  Or your current partner relationship?  Do you feel good about your physical condition, or the time you have to devote to hobbies and activities you love?  Do you put enough energy into friendships and relationships with loved ones?  Do you attend to your spiritual life enough for it to be a positive thing for you?  Recognizing that life can be so fragile and sometimes shorter than expected, have you done the things you wanted to do?  Are you where you want to be?

It seems like the years ahead could be a boon for the therapy industry!  There is a lot to unpack for a lot of people coming out of the past year and a half.  And we have to acknowledge that this could also not be over.  Summer was a little bit of a break for us last year, and much more of one this year, but it’s hard to know now what the fall and winter will bring us.  I guess I think it’s important for us to attend to all these questions and life reviews now, even knowing that it’s going to be a journey with a lot of twists and turns, hills and valleys, and it could go on for a while. It’s all about intention.  I intend to be intentional… and I’d love for you to join me. I can’t promise that it will be easy, or free of pain.  Growth often involves pain.  But healing does too… pain, scars… but scars are cool.  And they make you so much more interesting.

COVID-19 Vaccines Protective Against Delta Variant

You’ve likely seen the latest news about the COVID-19 variant quickly becoming the prominent strain in the U.S. It is spreading rapidly and is now responsible for over 51% of new U.S. cases, up from 30% two weeks ago.

The COVID-19 delta variant is found to be about 60% more transmissible than original COVID-19 strain. The latest CDC data shows that due to the COVID-19 delta variant new cases over the last week have increased 9.1% around the country. As of June 30, on average, one COVID-19 related death is still occurring every seven minutes in the U.S. The best measure of protection we have against all variants is the COVID-19 vaccine.

Those fully vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine have 88% protection against symptomatic COVID-19 and 95% protection against hospitalization and death from the Delta variant. Moderna by initial reports seems equally protective against the delta variant. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine appears 66% protective against the delta variant.

Millions of people have received COVID-19 vaccines under the most intense safety monitoring of any vaccine in U.S. history. Serious adverse events after vaccination are rare.

Trinity Health Requires COVID-19 Vaccine for All Colleagues

Our Core Value of Safety means we do everything we can to protect people. That’s why effective July 8, Trinity Health will require all colleagues, clinical staff, contractors and those conducting business in our facilities be vaccinated against COVID-19. See the announcement for additional information.  

Action Needed 

Submit documentation of your COVID-19 vaccine through the methods outlined below. The process is different for SJMHS colleagues and providers, IHA colleagues and providers, and affiliated providers. Colleagues who are not able to be vaccinated for strongly held religious beliefs or rare medical reasons will be required to apply for an exemption.  

Colleagues who do not fulfill the requirement to be vaccinated by the dates outlined and do not have an approved exemption will be subject to termination of their employment and/or loss of their privileges.   

How to Submit Documentation

SJMHS and Mercy Health Colleagues: Submit a copy of your vaccination card or other document your provider gave you as proof you received the vaccine within the HR4U colleague portal at You can access HR4U on a computer or smartphone browser.

IHA Colleagues and Providers: IHA colleagues and providers are not part of the HR4U portal. Instead, they should use the Vaccine Documentation portal on IHA’s Intranet (SharePoint) page. All questions may be directed to HR Business Partners.

Affiliated Providers: Affiliated providers should work directly with their respective Medical Staff Offices to submit documentation of their vaccine.

Key Dates

July 8, 2021COVID-19 Vaccine Requirement effective for all Trinity Health colleagues, clinical staff and business partnersNew Hires, Colleagues, Leaders, Medical Staff, Business Partners
August 6, 2021Deadline for management to submit exemption request via HR4U colleague portal; IHA to use Vaccine Documentation portal on IHA’s Intranet (SharePoint) pageColleagues with a Workday management level of manager, director, vice president or senior officer
August 20, 2021Deadline for colleagues to submit exemption request via HR4U colleague portal; IHA to use Vaccine Documentation portal on IHA’s Intranet (SharePoint) pageColleagues with a Workday management level of supervisor, coordinator, or any other role
August 24, 2021Last day for management to receive last dose of vaccine and submit documentation to HR4U; IHA to use Vaccine Documentation portal on IHA’s Intranet (SharePoint) pageColleagues with a Workday management level of manager, director, vice president or senior officer
September 21, 2021Last day for colleagues to receive last dose of vaccine and submit documentation to HR4U; IHA to use Vaccine Documentation portal on IHA’s Intranet (SharePoint) page  Colleagues with a Workday management level of supervisor, coordinator, or all other positions

We know you may still have questions about the vaccine. More resources are available below, including a recording from the July 13 town hall. We will hold another town hall in August. Thank you for your continued work to make Trinity Health a trusted health care partner for the communities we serve.

More Information  

Hospitalized for 208 Days, Local COVID-19 Survivor Returns Home

LIVONIA – After 208 days in the hospital, Terry DiLaura was recently discharged from St. Mary Mercy Livonia.  It’s been a long, difficult journey for Terry, who, prior to his COVID-19 diagnosis in December 2020, had never been seriously sick or hospitalized in his life.  His seven month journey took him to many area hospitals and rehab facilities, and along the way he experienced many health setbacks.  Eventually, he ended up at St. Mary Mercy, a hospital he says was “by far the best I had been to.”

When he was diagnosed with COVID-19 in December, it developed into a very serious illness.  He was put on a ventilator and his prognosis was not good.  Physcians at another area hospital told him that “he wasn’t expected to walk or talk ever again.”

From the beginning Terry’s wife Mary never gave up hope.  She was his strongest advocate.  According to Terry, Mary provided a mix of love and a “a good ol’ fashion cracking of the whip” to make sure he was doing everything he had to do to get better.

There were many difficult nights along the way.  Due to visitor restrictions, Mary couldn’t see her husband for 72 days.  During that time she would park in the parking lot of the hospital, so that she could be close to him, and she would Zoom him from her car.

Had it not been for Mary and all of Terry’s nurses and doctors at St. Mary Mercy, he very well might not be alive today.

On Thursday, July 1, Terry was discharged home from St. Mary Mercy Livonia to the applause of his team of caregivers, all of whom came together to organize his sendoff.

Looking forward, Terry is working as hard to improve his walking and stability so that he can return to work at General Motors.

“I’m working as hard as I can to be the best I can be so that I can go back to work,” he said.  “I want to go back to work where I can retire on my own terms.  I want to walk back in there on my own two legs.”

With enormous gratitude and humility, Terry went on to say, “I have a new lease on life and I don’t intend to take anything for granted anymore.”

The entire team at St. Mary Mercy Livonia wishes Terry well on his journey.  We all continue to pray for him, and cheer on his recovery.