A Heart for Giving | Putting Equipment into New Hands, Across the World

It's Altru - Published on October 26, 2016

Give, Donate, Charity“When asked to do something, sometimes it’s best to say ‘yes’ and figure out how you’re going to do it later,” smiles Jenny Senti, RN, clinical nurse specialist. That is exactly what Jenny did when she was asked to mentor a master of public health student desiring a practicum in obstetrics at Altru Health System.

Jenny said ‘yes’ and was fortunate enough to meet Dede Hesse from Ghana, a sub region of West Africa. Dede had a deep desire to learn, and she planned to take her new skills and knowledge across the world, back home to Ghana.

Dede was fortunate enough to meet Duane Sauer, customer support analyst at Altru. The two literally crossed paths one day—in the hallway at Altru, while Duane was working on equipment in a closet. A brief conversation, coupled with Dede’s interest in the equipment, led to her describing the medical school and health facility her parents were working tirelessly to open in Ghana. Duane, having previous experience with donating computers and medical equipment internationally, quickly began asking questions. His heart for this sort of work kicked into motion.

Turning a Dream into Reality
Dede’s mother, a physician, and her father, a pastor, dreamed of opening this medical facility in Ghana. Planning had already begun, and a donation of medical equipment and computers would help bring the Hesse family’s dream to life.

Jenny and Professor Hesse

Dede’s mother, Professor Hesse, visited Altru Health System in 2015. While she was here, other medical equipment that Altru was no longer utilizing was earmarked for donation to Ghana.

Clyde Strand, manager of biomed electronics, helped to prepare an isolette, fetal monitors, balloon pumps and other medical equipment that would have otherwise been recycled. Duane and other members of his team worked to restore over 100 computers and prepare them with necessary cords, keyboards, monitors, networking equipment and printers.

The donation, which would have all been recycled material and no longer served a purpose here, now would have a new life and serve people across the globe.

It Takes a Team
When the time came to assemble and pack all the equipment, even more departments and people at Altru got involved.

Ann Pederson in Altru’s Medical Library collected four large boxes of books donated by physicians and nurse practitioners. Employees volunteered time to package all contents and helped load the long-awaited truck that took the donation to be shipped to Ghana.

Altru employees

“It’s just something we do,” shares Duane. He finds comfort knowing that equipment that had expired here, or we had outgrown, would continue its life and help further the medical field, instead of being deposited into the recycle bin.


“I am so proud of this organization,” reflects Jenny. “We are taking care of people, all over the world.”

The medical school in Ghana was accredited before the shipment arrived, and the donated supplies are now in use.

5 Ways Being a CNA Could Help Your Future Nursing Career

It's Altru - Published on September 30, 2016

kesha-5Certified nursing assistants (CNAs) are an important part of the healthcare team. These hard-working professionals provide much of the one-on-one attention patients require. Under the direction of a registered nurse (RN), CNAs deliver hands-on nursing care that includes bathing, dressing, feeding, as well as taking vital signs and other measurements at regular intervals.

If your goal is to become a nurse, starting out as a CNA is a great opportunity to explore the nursing field. You’ll get the chance to work alongside LPNs and RNs in a variety of healthcare settings, earning invaluable experience and skills along the way. In fact, easing into the occupation offers several important benefits. Let’s take a look.

Get Paid While You Train
Let’s face it—college tuition rates are skyrocketing, and nursing school won’t be getting cheaper anytime soon. If you don’t want to graduate with a mountain of student debt, earning your CNA certification is an excellent opportunity to make some money while you gain valuable on-the-job experience. You may even find an employer willing to pay for your CNA training.

Dip a Toe Without Diving In
This is the most obvious benefit of the ladder approach. You get to see what the nursing field is really like without immediately committing your life to it. Few other careers have such an opportunity to work in the field, side-by-side with the professionals you aspire to become. In many ways, it’s a lot like a grownup version of a paid internship, only much more rewarding. Plus, you can experience different healthcare settings to see which fits your style best: hospital, clinic, hospice, etc.

Confirm Your Passion
Nursing is more of a passion than a career. You’re called to the work because you have a desire to help others. On any given day, the sick, injured or elderly will be relying on you to care for their physical (and emotional) needs. One of the greatest benefits of working as a CNA before moving on to nursing school is that you get the chance to affirm in your heart that you have what it takes to deal with those demanding situations.

Boost Your Chances of Getting Into School
Along with rising tuition costs, nursing school is becoming more and more competitive every year. Why? Because it’s a quickly growing job market with plenty of demand all over the country. Look on any job posting site and you’ll find hospitals, clinics and senior care facilities looking for CNAs, LPNs and RNs. Having your CNA credential and on-the-job experience will set your nursing school application apart from those that are fresh out of high school.

Boost Your Chances of Getting a Nursing Job
This is what it’s all about, right? Getting that dream nursing job at the location of your choosing. Just because there are plenty of openings doesn’t mean every employer is desperate to hire just anyone. If you want the highest-paying nursing job with the best hours, the best boss and the best benefits, you’ll need an impressive resume. Working as a CNA proves many things to a future employer: you have hands-on experience, you’ll be able to jump in on day one, you’ve likely shown you can perform under pressure, and you’ve worked your way up, which shows your longevity and commitment to your chosen career.

Few careers offer such opportunities for on-the-job experience and training as the nursing field. With the ability to find free training and paid experience, you can explore nursing as a potential career without investing in four years of nursing school. If you see yourself in scrubs one day with RN next to your name, consider starting out as a CNA to see what the healthcare industry is all about.

Do you have a passion for caring for people? Do what you love. Make a difference. Join our team of over 4,000 health professionals and support staff committed to caring for the region for more than 100 years.

Treating Patients Like Family | Billy Haug, MD

Faces of Altru - Published on September 1, 2016

BikingDr. Billy Haug’s warm personality and genuine caring spirit makes him a favorite around Altru Health System. His patients say his vested interest in their health and well-being, beyond their time at the clinic, is what sets him apart. We’ve heard from many of Dr. Haug’s patients recently on the care they’ve received, and all gave glowing reviews. So, we sat down with Dr. Haug to get to know him a little more and understand what drives him to treat each patient as though they were family.

Q: What is the focus of your work at Altru Advanced Orthopedics?
A. My practice focuses on medical orthopedic care, such as injury management, ultrasound guided injections, concussion management and promoting healthy lifestyle choices. I enjoy caring for those of all ages, from infants with hip dysplasia to folks in their nineties with arthritis.

Q: What have you done outside of the clinic in your field?
A. Earlier in my career I was a team physician for the USA Cross-Country Ski Team and Nordic Combined Team (which involves ski-jumping as well as cross-country skiing). I traveled with them to Norway and Finland. I also worked with the United States Anti-Doping Association at the World Junior Hockey Championship. Three years ago I was appointed to the North Dakota State Board of Medicine which meets three times a year in Bismarck.

Q: What is your approach to care?
A. I strive to be present for my patients — to really listen to them and understand their concerns. It is imperative to respect their wishes and to include them in the plan of care to reach their goals. My staff and I focus on treating everyone the way we would like our family members to be treated.

Q: What motivates you to do what you do?
A. Knowing my patients trust me with their care, and to care for their family, is humbling and rewarding. It motivates me to come to work every day with a smile knowing I can share a part of their lives. That trust is so special, and it is a bond I take seriously.


Q: Why did you choose to become a physician?
A. Growing up in Grafton, N.D., I had physicians who made a difference not only in my life, but in the community as a whole. One physician made a house call to see me on a cold winter’s day, and I have always remembered that. I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives the way they did in mine.

Q: What do you do for fun?
A. My wife and I enjoy spending a lot of time with our children. We do outdoor activities and take them to live theater and musicals as much as we can. I also enjoy spending time in northeastern Minnesota paddling my kayak, taking part in bicycle endurance races and playing the guitar.


Q: What do you do outside of your role at Altru?
A. For the last five years I have volunteered to read weekly at my children’s elementary school in “Book Buddies.” It is a wonderful way to start a day! I am also involved with Special Olympics, volunteering at the annual soccer and bocce ball tournament and at local events. My son has Trisomy 21 (Down Syndrome), and he is excited now that he is old enough to participate in Special Olympics! Additionally, I am the medical director for the Wild Hog Marathon in Grand Forks. It's a historic event this year as it’s the first full distance running marathon in Grand Forks!

Q: Where would you like to travel?
A. When I traveled with the USA Ski Team, I befriended a physician and a few coaches from Russia. Hearing their stories gave me some serious perspective. It is a place I've since wanted to visit and hopefully reestablish those friendships. I’d also love to take my children to England and expose them to where the famous British romantic poets lived. My daughter would especially love to see the new "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child" theater production in London.

Q: What would you like to be if you weren’t a physician?
A. The scientist in me would have loved to be a university professor, studying the ecology of the rain forests in South America. The humanitarian in me would love to be a writer, using verse to share the human experience. Don’t look for my work in libraries or bookstores anytime soon, but maybe someday I’ll make an attempt!

Healthcare’s Secret Heroes (It’s Not Who You Might Think)

It's Altru - Published on August 26, 2016

Doctor's hand in blue surgical glove showing thumbs up signFew people look forward to going to the hospital. However, even though no one wants to go to the hospital, the reality is that’s where miracles happen and lives are saved… and, more often than not, a place where your experience is far more positive than your expectations (or fears).

A patient’s experience during a hospital stay is largely defined by his or her doctors and nurses, or so it may seem. The RNs and M.D.s are, in fact, only the most visible members of a much larger team of caregivers. While those in scrubs and lab coats get most of the credit, your experience as a patient depends upon the entire team (and starts before you even arrive at the hospital).

The truth is patient care starts with the basics, namely cleanliness. The entire hospital, from entryways to elevators to patient rooms, must be clean and free of any contaminants that might put the public or the patients in jeopardy. Doctors and nurses can’t do their job unless they’re working in a safe, clean environment. They can’t save lives without help from another hard-working team.

diane-esThe Hospital’s (Secret) Superheroes
The housekeeping staff are the hospital heroes who are responsible for many aspects of a patient’s experience and are an important part of the team, working behind the scenes. From cleaning and sanitizing waiting rooms to easing a patient’s mind with a friendly conversation while cleaning their room, housekeeping is what can make or break a hospital’s reputation.

Beyond reputation, the housekeeping team also plays a major role in the life-saving work that goes on within a hospital. Unlike the hospitality industry, whose reputation also relies heavily on housekeeping, cleanliness at the hospital is of life or death importance. You go to the hospital to get well. The housekeeping team ensures the tools, equipment, and spaces the doctors and nurses use are disinfected and sanitized, preventing infection or other complications that might keep you checked-in longer than you wish.

MarioThe Role of Housekeeping in a Hospital
In simple terms, a housekeeping team takes care to make the hospital environment—including everything from the entryway, stairwells, hallways and patient rooms—feel as clean, comfortable and safe as possible.

At hospitals with positive reputations for overall patient satisfaction, housekeeping staff are often empowered to take ownership over the patient experience. Though the job description might include things like changing linens and cleaning bathrooms, housekeeping staff often go above and beyond by “doing the little things” that  greatly enhance a patient’s experience.

For example, while mopping a patient’s floor, a member of the housekeeping staff may notice a patient is missing a pillow and offer to bring them a new one. He might also notice in another patient’s room that the air temperature seems a bit cold and makes a call to the maintenance team to check out the heating system. These details add up over the course of a patient’s stay, giving the housekeeping team a big role in the end-to-end healthcare experience.


Great patient care starts with great housekeeping. This is no secret inside hospital walls, but the team responsible for the basic safety of each patient rarely gets the recognition it deserves from outside observers. Still, there’s something fitting about that lack of public recognition, as no one in the healthcare industry is there for their own ego. No, they are there because they want to use their talents to serve others. A hospital’s housekeeping staff lives out that mission of improving health, enriching life every single day to the great benefit of the patients in their care.

Do you have a passion for caring for people? Do what you love. Make a difference. Join our team of over 4,000 health professionals and support staff committed to caring for the region for more than 100 years.

One Last Dance | Fulfilling Marvin's Final Wish through Altru's Hospice

Altru Moments - Published on August 24, 2016

Dancing with DaughterAfter arriving home from their daughter Tanisha’s fourth grade graduation, Olisa and Marvin Charboneau were visiting about how great the day was. Marvin stated this would be the last graduation or event he would attend. Most fathers dream of one day walking their daughter down the aisle and dancing together during the father-daughter dance to celebrate her wedding day. For Marvin Charboneau this dream would not come true.

Marvin was diagnosed with end stage renal failure or kidney failure in 2006. For the past nine years, Marvin received hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis at home. In August of 2015, Marvin decided on his own to stop dialysis and enjoy his remaining time with his wife, children, family and friends.

On December 27, 2015, Marvin was admitted to Altru’s Hospice of Devils Lake. Marvin enjoyed all of the nurses, the social worker and the aides who provided care to him for the past seven months.

During one of the visits, Stephanie, Altru’s Hospice social worker, was visiting with Marvin’s wife Olisa, and she shared this would be Marvin's last graduation and he would not get to dance with his daughter at her wedding. Stephanie knew of a special program through Altru’s Hospice, the Sentimental Journey program, which provides patients and their family one last special wish to experience. Sentimental Journey is made possible through generous donors.

On June 17, 2016, Marvin’s wish came true; he was going to be able to have one last dance with his daughter.

Marvin Dancing

The DJ was booked, the food was ordered, guests and family were invited and the hall was decorated in purple, yellow and white, for his favorite football team, The Minnesota Vikings.

Vikings Jersey

Marvin loved everything about the evening, and he cried when he got home. He was touched that someone would hold a dance in his honor so he could have a special, final dance with his daughter.

Marvin passed away July 4, 2016, at the age of 41 years old.

He was married to his childhood sweetheart Olisa for nearly 20 years. He was the father of three children: Brendon Belgarde Jr., Womdee Belgarde and Tanisha Grace Charboneau.

Marvin and Family

About Altru’s Hospice
Hospice is a special kind of care for patients and families facing a life-limiting illness. At the center of hospice is the belief that each of us has the right to die pain-free and with dignity, and that our families will receive the necessary support to allow us to do so.

At Altru’s Hospice, comfort care is the hallmark of our program. Because we are your hometown hospice, we can identify community resources which may be of help during this time. Altru’s Hospice has locations in Grand Forks, Cavalier, Devils Lake, Grafton, Park River and McVille, North Dakota, and Warren, Minnesota.

Larissa KadlecLarissa Kadlec, community relations coordinator with Altru’s Home Health and Hospice, has been with Altru for 10 years. She oversees, plans and implements public relations and marketing activities to support home health and hospice. Larissa enjoys spending time at the lake with her family and dog in the summer and attending UND hockey games in the winter.

Fishtail Braids, Painted Nails & Countless S’mores | How Three Young Men Went the Extra Mile for Camp Good Mourning

It's Altru - Published on August 24, 2016

Jess Gowan, a Camp Good Mourning volunteer and instructor at the University of North Dakota, wrote this open letter to the parents of Deane B., Wade and Wyatt, volunteers at the 2016 Camp Good Mourning.

CGM Volunteers

Coming from a family of sports fanatics, my son had barely entered the world when my husband and I began fielding the big question, “What sports will your son play?”

As entertaining as it is to debate this topic, it is the least of my concerns as a new mother. Instead, I lie awake holding our sleeping child at night and ask myself, 'How do we raise a young man who is selfless? How do we teach chivalry? How can we show him the value of honest, hard work?'

After spending the weekend volunteering with your sons, I realized I should ask you these parenting questions, because clearly you know the answers.

I met your sons through my work for Altru Health System. I was tasked with coordinating volunteers for  Altru’s Hospice Camp Good Mourning, an annual grief camp for children and teens. Each year, as soon as our application opens, females immediately sign up to volunteer. However, males are not as quick to apply. A month before the event, I posted on social media a desperate cry for male volunteers. Thankfully, many men, including your sons, responded to this plea.

Two weeks before camp, your 20-year-old sons received an email stating they were not assigned to be counselors. Instead, they would be helping with arts and crafts.

Although this was not what your sons signed up for, I never received a message saying any of them wanted to back out. I never heard an excuse or complaint, even though they would be giving up an entire summer weekend to lead kids in painting and making tie-dye projects. Instead, they showed up to camp ready to take on the challenge.

Embracing Their Role and Going the Extra Mile
These three men impressed me and the entire staff from the moment camp began. They didn’t just go through the motions; they went the extra mile and completely embraced their role as arts and crafts counselors, with humility and responsibility.

When they got to camp, these men learned they were in charge of teaching campers how to make jewelry from t-shirts. Deane, Wade, and Wyatt took notes as they received a crash course on jewelry-making. They borrowed a fellow volunteer’s phone to look on Pinterest and learn different ways to create bracelets and necklaces. They even researched how to make fishtail braids as a technique to show campers. With hardly any advance notice, they did everything in their power to be the best shirt-jewelry designers in the state of North Dakota.

Jess and her sonThroughout the weekend, Deane, Wade, and Wyatt were selfless and empathic. In between activities, they could have taken naps or sat in the lounge. Instead, they walked around camp asking staff members what they could do to be helpful. They moved tables, cleaned up paint, took inventory of craft supplies, and helped campers make more than 100 s’mores. They swept floors without being asked, and they did every task with enthusiasm. When young campers set up a nail polish station, they agreed to be their customers even though that meant they would go through the entire weekend with colored nails.

Deane, Wade, and Wyatt did everything with passion and purpose. I hope to have them back at camp so they can be role models to fellow volunteers. It was a privilege to volunteer with them at camp, and it would be an honor to work with them in the years to come.

As a mom, I can see how hard it is to raise good kids. It gives me hope to see what a great job you did as parents and, as my own son grows, I hope to instill similar virtues.

Jess GowanJess Gowan is a Camp Good Mourning volunteer and instructor in the Communications department at the University of North Dakota. After completing her undergraduate degree in Ohio and her master's degree in Illinois, she backpacked through Europe to explore different cultures first-hand. Jess is a wife and mother who enjoys running, organizing and technology.

Shalee Shares What It’s Really Like to Lose a Sibling

It's Altru - Published on August 1, 2016

Mike & I“It was the worst news of my life,” shares Shalee. “We were all in complete shock. I remember not being able to sleep, not being able to eat, and not feeling like I could go on.”

When Shalee (Bullinger) Lorenz was just 14 years old, she lost her one and only brother, Mike, to suicide. The days and weeks that passed were a blur. Shalee shares, “I know I couldn’t have gotten through any of this without my amazing parents and my family and friends.”

“The week that Mike passed away feels like a blur but there were also a lot of memories that I will cherish forever that happened that week. Tons of family and friends gathered all week long at my aunt’s house leading up the funeral. We had bonfires, played all his favorite CDs, had a balloon release and people gathered in front of our house for a memorial.”

Sibling Support
Losing a sibling at any age, but especially as a child, can be very confusing. Shalee explains, “Since everyone grieves differently, it was hard to figure out what I needed to do to get through the tough days.”

“Something that is hard for me to this day is seeing siblings argue or fight. I would give anything to get my brother back and have those sibling moments. I think about Mike every time I see it happen.”

Shalee offers this advice to parents who are helping their children grieve the loss of a sibling: “Just be there for your kids and work with them to figure out how they need to grieve. Every person grieves differently. My parents tried hard to help me get through losing my brother. Be willing to go through ups and downs until you find what works.”

Frequent Memories
Shalee remembers her brother often. “I still think about Mike every day,” she explains. “The day my son was born was a hard day. I know my brother was watching down on me and my son, because he helped make sure the most beautiful baby boy was safe after a kind of chaotic labor and birth. I named my son Corbin Michael, in honor of my brother. I know he is one proud uncle!”


“I didn’t want people to forget him and stop talking about him. Still today, 13 years later, I absolutely love when people bring up stories about him, or even when I see his friends and we talk about Mike. I absolutely love it because I know he is still with everyone and know that he has not been forgotten.”


Every fifteen minutes someone ends their own life. Suicide affects families, friends and neighbors. More importantly, suicide is 100 percent preventable. By bringing suicide prevention awareness to Grand Forks and our communities, we can provide help and support for those who have considered suicide as well as their loved ones. Learn more about TEARS (Together we Educate About the Realities of Suicide) >> 

5 Habits of Highly Effective Nurses

It's Altru - Published on July 29, 2016

You probably won’t find “healthy role model” in any nursing job description, but patients—consciously or subconsciously—do look up to their nurses as role models of healthy behavior.

Nursing is an incredibly rewarding career, and it’s also physically, emotionally and mentally demanding. To provide the best care for their patients, nurses must also attend to their own health and well-being; walk the walk, as the saying goes. One of the best ways to lead a healthy life is to simply make a habit of it. Here are five healthy habits all nurses should add to their daily routine.

1. Never skip breakfast.
Everyone knows breakfast is the most important meal of the day. So why do so many people still skip it? Well, life has a way of getting busy, and the nursing profession can put added stress on your schedule. Even if you think those extra 20 minutes of sleep are worth it, make a habit of never skipping out on a healthy breakfast.

Nurse Sitting

2. Make exercise a priority.
Exercise may be the last thing you want to add into your already busy day. However, research shows that regular exercise—even 30 minutes of walking a day during your lunch break—can improve everything from sleep quality to mental outlook. Combined with a healthy diet, it’s the best way to keep your immune system in top shape (an important benefit for healthcare workers).

3. Avoid junk food.
Speaking of a healthy diet, make a habit out of packing healthy snacks to bring to work. Bringing your own healthy meals and snacks shows your dedication to a healthy lifestyle, and it also fuels your body with the proper nutrition to make it through the day at your best.

4. Schedule regular checkups with your doctor.
Nurses, like any professional, must avoid the trap of overconfidence. If you truly want to be a role model for your patients, stick to your own advice and schedule regular exams with your healthcare provider.

Nurses Talking

5. Find a workplace confidant.
It is important to find someone with whom you work that you trust. Some days will be more challenging than others. Having a friend at work can help you de-stress right in the moment and help you adjust your focus back to all the positive benefits of the job. You can also incorporate practices like meditation and mindfulness into your daily routine.

The rewards of nursing can be so great that it’s sometimes easy to overlook your own needs. When that happens, stress can build up and weigh you down, but it can be largely avoided with a few lifestyle changes. Try adding these five easy habits to your daily routine. They’ll help you stay healthy, and they’ll turn you into a shining example for all of your patients.

Do you have a passion for caring for people? Do what you love. Make a difference. Join our team of over 4,000 health professionals and support staff committed to caring for the region for more than 100 years.

Kids, Cars and Summer Heat

Modern Mom - Published on June 30, 2016

CarseatAs the thermometer reaches temperatures that make us swelter in the sun, we need to be extra vigilant about kids and the toll that heat takes on their bodies.

Heatstroke is the medical term used to describe when the body’s temperature becomes excessively hot. Simply put, hyperthermia occurs when a body produces or absorbs more heat than it gives off.

Young children are particularly at risk for heatstroke, as their bodies heat up three to five times faster than an adult’s. When a child’s internal temperature reaches 104 degrees, major organs begin to shut down. When their temperature reaches 107 degrees, the child can die.

Kids in Cars
Heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle-related deaths for children under the age of 14. Since 1998, more than 660 children across the United States have died in cars from heatstroke.

How does it happen?

  • More than half of these deaths occur when a driver forgets that the child is in the car. Experts will tell you this can happen to anybody. Our busy lifestyles create enough stress to trigger “mental lapses” that cause your brain to go on autopilot. The lapses can affect something as simple as misplacing your keys or something as crucial as forgetting a baby. Read about one mother's real story.

  • Almost 30 percent of the time, children get into a car on their own. They find a way into the car, but sometimes, they can’t find a way out.

  • The third scenario is when someone intentionally leaves a child alone in a car. A parent might be running an errand and think, “The baby just fell asleep. I’ll just be gone for a second.” But seconds turn into minutes, and before you know it, the temperature inside of the car has reached lethal levels.

The temperature inside a car can rise 20 degrees in 10 minutes and upwards of 40-50 degrees in the span of an hour or two. It can be a relatively mild day outside and yet, there can be life threatening temperatures inside a vehicle. “Cracking the window” makes very little difference on the internal temperature in the vehicle. What can you do?

Remember to ACT.

  • Avoid heatstroke-related injury and death by never leaving your child alone in a car, not even for a minute. Make sure to keep your car locked when you’re not in it so kids don’t get in on their own. Keep keys out of children’s reach.

  • Create reminders by putting something in the back of your car next to your child, such as a briefcase, your purse or your left shoe that is needed at your final destination. This is especially important if you’re not following your normal routine. For a free vinyl cling window reminder, contact Safe Kids Grand Forks.

  • Take action. If you see a child alone in a car, call 911 immediately if the parent or caregiver cannot be located. Emergency personnel want you to call. They are trained to respond to these situations. One call could save a life.

We want to hear from you! Safe Kids Grand Forks has more information on heat stroke, including window clings to remind you to look inside and outside your car. You can visit us at www.safekidsgf.com and like us on Facebook. 

Carma HansonCarma Hanson has been a nurse at Altru Health System for over 25 years and now serves as the Coordinator of Safe Kids Grand Forks. Carma enjoys traveling to warm places with her husband and kids and spending time at their lake place. Taking pictures and engaging in community organizations also holds a special place in her heart. 

Safe Kids Grand Forks is an injury prevention coalition who has as their mission to prevent unintentional injuries and death to children under age 19. Safe Kids Grand Forks has Altru Health System as their lead agency, and they serve upper northeast North Dakota and northwest Minnesota. To contact Carma or Safe Kids Grand Forks, send an email to safekids@altru.org

Life after Cardiomyopathy | David’s Altru Moment

Altru Moments - Published on June 23, 2016

David KaulDavid Kaul worked in maintenance management and as a plant engineer for years before starting his own construction and remodeling business. For a few decades, David suffered from pain in his neck and exhaustion, never knowing why, and continued to work through the pain to make a living. In 2013, David retired and began a new life, dedicating time and energy to serving others, volunteering and spending time with his grandchildren whenever possible.

One evening in March 2016, David was preparing the Lenten evening meal at the church he attends in Hallock. He was walking down the hallway in the church and collapsed without warning. The local ambulance transported him to Kittson Memorial Healthcare Center in Hallock, and from there he was taken to Altru Health System. Upon arrival, he was unconscious, recalling nothing happening to him. His heart ejection factor was in the 20s, and his blood pressure was initially low and then sky-rocketed to dangerous levels. David spent five days in the care of Altru’s Heart and Vascular team.

A Big Heart
After a thorough evaluation, Dr. Aboufakher reached a diagnosis: dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition where the heart muscle is abnormal and the heart is enlarged. Dr. Aboufakher, a cardiologist at Altru Health System, worked diligently to find the correct medications to stabilize David’s blood pressure, and to get his heart back to normal size.

“The nursing staff that included Sadie, Megan, Crystal, Laura, Tika, Cindi, Estelle and others helped me understand, ‘I’m worth it,’ and assisted with every struggle I had along the way to recovery,” explains David. “They were all friendly and courteous—every visit, every time.”

Since David’s extended stay at Altru to fix what he calls his “body’s flat tire,” he has been seeing Dr. Janet Lee, neurosurgery, to further understand the existing pain in his neck. The pain is a result of cervical stenosis, and solutions for relief are in process. David is thankful for Dr. Lee and her caring demeanor, ability to explain everything thoroughly, and the options for treatment for a condition he has lived with for decades.

“Altru is a special place,” says David. “It has taken me being sick to realize that. I guess it’s been the blessing of being sick.”

Every Day is a Gift
David’s experience with cardiomyopathy is a reminder to be aware of your heart health and get regular cardiac care if conditions exist and persist. “Life isn’t about me,” says David, “It’s about being a servant, volunteering and giving back.”

As David continues to recover from his extended stay he is getting back to planting flowers, mowing lawns, helping with the GIVE (God Is Victorious in Everything) program that serves a free meal each month in seven different locations in Kittson County, assisting at his church and attending his grandchildren’s events. And, living each day as if it is a gift.

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Enrich  |  Altru Moments  |  Faces of Altru  |  It’s Altru  |  Modern Mom