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.

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 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

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.

Living Life to the Fullest | La Royce’s Altru Advanced Orthopedics Story

Altru Moments - Published on June 10, 2016

karateWhen asked what she’s looking forward to in the future, La Royce Bathelor states confidently she hopes to have the strength in her senior years as the karate sensei’s she looks up to. One is 90 and still trains two hours a day, even after a knee replacement. One is 66 and recently beat throat cancer, a feat he chalks up to the physical and mental toughness he gained through karate.

“In karate, it’s necessary to lose yourself in it. Your mind is quieted, your body is completely engaged,” shared La Royce. “It’s extremely physically demanding. If you look into calories burned, it’s one of the top activities. It also provides an excellent recipe for vitality. In the years I’ve been doing karate, I have strength and mental focus like I’ve never had before. It allows me to approach situations that may cause panic with a level head and even hand.”

La Royce has a vibrant approach to life. Beyond being a black belt in karate, she teaches at UND and recently earned her PhD. She runs the karate dōjō in Grand Forks. She has two sons. She is busy. She is active. She is not willing to simply survive; she lives life to the fullest.

graduationOver the past 30+ years, La Royce’s knee got in the way of her life. In high school, she hurt it during cross country and was told that she couldn’t run anymore. At the time, the doctors didn’t offer an alternative. She quit running and did activities that didn’t bother her knee so much. But, the nagging pain and fear of further injury remained. When she found karate in her 30s, the pain seemed to go away. Something about the practice of karate, possibly a combination of the mental strength and muscles built through the activity, made the pain move to the background of La Royce’s life. Then, three years ago, she landed funny after a jump, and the pain was back. She tried braces and basic care, but it wasn’t doing the trick. So, she made an appointment with Dr. William Haug Jr. at Altru Advanced Orthopedics.

“Dr. Haug did the full range of tests on my knee, including an MRI,” shared  La Royce. “Afterward, he explained all of the things that were wrong with my knee – two tears in my meniscus, causing my knee to catch and click, bone spurs that were essentially chewing away at meniscus and a cyst that had formed to try to protect my knee from all of the damage. I had no clue it was that bad.”

They tried injections and draining of the knee for a short time, but shortly after Dr. Haug told La Royce this wasn’t going to cut it – she needed to have her knee fixed, and soon.

“I told him I did not have time for surgery,” shared La Royce. “I was preparing for nationals and my third degree black belt; surgery didn’t fit in my plan. So, he sat me down and we worked out a plan together. One that would allow me to accomplish the tasks I had before me, without causing further damage, then scheduling surgery so that my knee could be properly repaired. Dr. Haug worked out a timeline that would fit my life. That meant a great deal to me.”

In January of 2016, La Royce underwent surgery. Her knee was repaired, and she started the healing process.

“With every step, there was a detailed plan,” shared La Royce. “From surgery to recovery and rehab, I was given tons of information and a time table of the process. I was provided exercises and resources to help me recover my way. I don’t take medication, so my caregivers recommended alternative ways to manage my pain. To my surprise, the pain was minimal. Now, five months later, I am essentially back to full activity. I biked to work today – 7 miles. I feel great about that.”

See La Royce and other real patients of Altru Advanced Orthopedics loving the way they move.

Always Lending a Helping Hand | Brad Meland, MD

Faces of Altru - Published on June 1, 2016

Dr. Brad MelandBrad Meland, MD, a hand surgeon with Altru Advanced Orthopedics, has worked with Altru for the past seven years. He’s helped many patients get back to the lives they enjoy through his love for surgery and his passion for helping people improve their well-being. We sat down with Dr. Meland to get to know him a little better and understand his approach to medicine.

Q. What is your specific area of interest in your field? Do you have any procedures that you focus on or conditions you treat most often?
A. Though I have practiced both hand surgery and plastic surgery, I am currently solely focused on hand surgeries, including surgery for arthritis, hand traumas, tumor removal, nerve surgery and beyond. I see many patients with carpal tunnel and offer treatment with endoscopic surgery.

Q. Outside of the operating room, what are some of your professional achievements?
A. I am a member of ten different scientific societies. I am the past president of the American Association of Hand Surgery, and was previously the chief of hand and upper extremity surgery at Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona. In my 16 years with Mayo Clinic, I spent quite a bit of time teaching. I gave lectures and taught courses throughout the world. I have also published 75 articles and 11 chapters for medical books.

Q. Did you enjoy your time teaching and lecturing? Is that something that you are passionate about?
A. I did enjoy it, and continue to be interested in teaching. In fact, if I was not a surgeon, I would like to be a teacher or a coach.

Q. What is your personal philosophy of medicine?
A. I strongly believe that the patient comes first. I make it a priority to be honest with my patients and explain their options and what’s going to happen during surgery. I do all that I can to improve my patients’ well-being and help them to be productive in their lives.

Q. What motivates or inspires you to do what you do?
A. Simply put—I love surgery and the practice of medicine.

Q. What do you like to do in your free time?
A. I enjoy being at the lake and taking part in water sports like sailing and fishing. I also enjoy golf, traveling and being involved with my church.

Q. If you could travel anywhere, where would you go, and why?
A. China. I have always wanted to walk the Great Wall.

Q. Where are you from, and where have you lived?
A. I was born nearby in Northwood and went to school at UND, so I am a proud North Dakota native. Medical training brought me to Michigan and Florida, and I lived in Rochester, Minnesota, and Scottsdale, Arizona, during my time with the Mayo Clinic. I was happy to return to North Dakota in 2009 when I started working for Altru.

Hear what one of Dr. Meland's patients, Justin Kiesow, had to say about the care he received:

See also:

Celebrating 35 Years of Advanced Orthopedic Care – Robert Johnson, MD

Faces of Altru - Published on April 1, 2016

Dr. Johnson - Retirement CakeDr. Robert Johnson has been an orthopedic surgeon for the past 34+ years. A few months before his 35th anniversary in the field this June, he’ll be hanging up his white coat. Dr. Johnson retires this spring. Before he leaves Altru Advanced Orthopedics and the profession he’s dedicated his life to since 1981, we asked him a few questions about his career, the things he’ll miss and the things he’s looking forward to in retirement.

Q: What is your specific area of focus in your field?
A: I am a general orthopedic surgeon, so I’ve done a wide variety of procedures and treatments for patients over the years. I’d say that I’ve enjoyed hip and knee replacements the most.

Q: Have you worked for many health systems over the past 34 years?
A: I’ve practiced in Grand Forks for my entire career. I started at the Orthopaedic Clinic in June of 1981 and spent 14 years there. Then, I joined the Grand Forks Clinic, which merged with United Hospital to become Altru Health System and have been here ever since.

Q: In reflecting on your career, what stands out as a highlight?
A: I’d say a personal and professional highlight was when my son, Alan, joined the physician team at Altru. Having him follow in my footsteps to pursue a career in medicine (he is an ENT physician) and join the team at Altru was very special for me.  

Drs. Robert and Alan Johnson

Q: What will you miss most about your career at Altru after you retire?
A: I’ll miss my patients and my team. It’s somewhat unusual, but I’ve had the same team working with me for most of my career. Liz Brekke, my nurse, has been with me through my entire career. Bill Janzen was with me for 30 years until he retired, then Suzie Benjamin replaced him and has been with me for the past several years. It’s pretty amazing to be able to work with the same great people for so long.

There are many long-time patients that I’ll miss seeing regularly. I have treated them for years as well as their children.

Q: What are you looking forward to in retirement?
A: I have a number of interests. I enjoy working with computers and might take some courses at UND in computer programming. I’d also like to get back into flying, which is something I’ve done before but haven’t had much time for in the past years. And of course, I look forward to more time with family. My grandkids are here in town, and I will be able to spend more time with them.

Q: Flying and computer programming – that’s impressive. Do you have any other hobbies?
A: My wife and I will be restoring our cabin, which combines a few of my hobbies. I enjoy woodworking, as well as electrical and plumbing work. I look forward to using those skills to work on our cabin. I also enjoy being active and spend a lot of time at Choice Health & Fitness. I am a strong supporter of Choice and the impact that it has on our community.

Q: If you find time to travel in retirement, where would you like to go?
A: It would be fun to travel to Norway. My wife and I are both Norwegian and have family there. I’d also like to see Alaska and possibly tour the National Parks.

Q: What message would you like to send to the patients you’ve cared for over the years?
A: I’d like to thank my patients for their trust and confidence in me. It makes my day when patients do well and can return to doing what they like to do.

A Mother’s (and Doctor’s) Perspective: 6 Things You Might Not Realize about HPV Vaccine

Modern Mom - Published on March 30, 2016

HPV - Young GirlYou can’t protect your kids from everything, but you can protect them from HPV-related cancers. I've known families that have lost loved ones from cervical cancer and cancers of the mouth and throat. I'm delighted there's a way that we can protect our sons and daughters from these horrible diseases. My son was immunized as soon as he could be, because I know it's safe and effective.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common virus passed from person to person through sexual contact. It can be spread even without intercourse. Here are 6 things you may not realize about HPV vaccine.

1. HPV is so common that nearly all sexually active men and women get it at some point in their lives. More than 40 types of HPV exist that can infect the genital area, mouth and throat. Some cause health problems, including genital warts and cancers. HPV can affect both men and women.

2. Age 11 or 12 is the best time to vaccinate boys and girls against HPV. The HPV vaccine is recommended for boys and girls at age 11 or 12, so they are protected before ever being exposed to the virus. HPV vaccine produces a higher immune response in preteens than in older adolescents. 

3. Catch-up vaccines are recommended for males and females through age 26. So, if you did not get vaccinated when you were younger, do it before you turn 27. HPV vaccines are given in three injections over six months, but being late for the second or third dose does not mean starting the series over.

HPV vaccine timeline - for web

4. In the U.S., one person is diagnosed with HPV-related cancer every 20 minutes. HPV can cause cervical and other cancers including cancer of the vulva, vagina, penis or anus. It can also cause cancer in the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils.HPV - Young Girl Standing

5. HPV vaccine is safe and effective.
The vaccine has been studied in thousands of men and women around the world. In the four years after the vaccine was first recommended in 2006, the amount of HPV infections in teen girls decreased by 56 percent in the U.S. The HPV vaccine offered through Altru is 99 percent effective. Nearly 86 million doses of HPV vaccine were given in the U.S. from June 2006 through September 2015, and there have been no serious safety concerns.

6. Giving your child the vaccine does not give them permission to have sex. In fact, the opposite is often true: When parents and doctors talk to kids about sex and values, they actually increase the odds that the child will delay sexual relations. Think of the HPV vaccine as an opportunity to start or continue the conversation on this sensitive topic. 

Talk to your child's primary care provider today about vaccinating your child against HPV any time after age 11. To learn more, visit


Joanne Gaul, MD, a family medicine physicianGaul, Joanne caring for patients of all ages, enjoys encouraging and watching patients make changes in their lives that add up to better health. In Dr. Gaul’s personal quest for a healthy lifestyle, she runs half marathons, triathlons and countless shorter races. She also enjoys reading, knitting, quilting, playing flute and cooking. She serves on the Community Violence Intervention Center board and has performed with the city band and symphony.

Top Baby Names at Altru in 2015

Modern Mom - Published on December 23, 2015

Baby sticking out tongueFrom January through November 2015, Altru’s Family Birthing Center delivered 1,617 sweet bundles of joy. Here are the top 10 most popular baby names for boys and girls at Altru Health System in 2015.


  1. Alexander
    (Greek for “defender of men.” Ranks #8 in U.S.)

  1. Liam
    (Shortened version of William. Means “strong-willed warrior and protector.” Ranks #2 in U.S.)

  1. Elijah
    (Hebrew for "Yahweh is God." Ranks #11 in U.S.)

  1. Hudson
    (Originally a last name meaning "son of Hudde," a medieval first name and a nickname for both Hugh and Richard. Ranks #80 in U.S.)

  1. Mason
    (Traditionally used in the Middle Ages by stoneworkers. Ranks #3 in U.S.)

  1. Owen
    (A traditional Welsh name meaning "young warrior" or "noble." Ranks #36 in U.S.)

  1. William
    (Means “strong-willed warrior.” Ranks #5 in U.S.)

  1. Easton
    (Scottish origin, means “from East town.” Ranks #83 in U.S.)

  1. Isaac
    (Means “he who laughs.” Ranks #31 in U.S.)

  1. James
    (A classic boys' name derived from the Hebrew name Jacob. Means “one who follows.” Ranks #9 in U.S.)


  1. Ava
    (Means “bird.” Ranks #5 in U.S.)

  1. Avery
    (Means “wise.” Ranks #13 in U.S.)

  1. Harper
    (Originally a last name meaning someone who plays the harp. Ranks #11 in U.S.)

  1. Addison
    (Originally a last name derived from the name Adam. Ranks #24 in U.S.)

  1. Aubrey
    (From the Germanic name Alberic, king of the elves in German mythology. Ranks #20 in U.S.)

  1. Emma
    (Means “whole.” Ranks #1 in U.S.)

  1. Olivia
    (A feminine form of Oliver, meaning "olive tree." Ranks #2 in U.S.)

  1. Paisley
    (Related to a Scottish town, a richly patterned Indian fabric and a popular country singer named Brad. Ranks #53 in U.S.)

  1. Amelia
    (Means “industrious” and “striving.” Ranks #14 in U.S.)

  1. Aria
    (Italian for “air.” Ranks #31 in U.S.)

Altru's Family Birthing Center is honored to be a part of your birthing experience. Learn more about our highly qualified physicians and nursing staff >>

Michelle Stadstad Honors Son's Memory with Midlife Career Change

Faces of Altru - Published on December 22, 2015

Michelle BlogEight years ago, at age 46, Michelle Stadstad left a decades-long career behind, gave up a job she loved and said goodbye to coworkers who had come to feel like family. She knew in her heart it was the right change at the right time. Learn what drove Michelle to become a nurse >>

Returning Patients to the Game of Life – Jeremy Gardner, MD

Faces of Altru - Published on December 10, 2015

700x700_Dr GardnerAs a kid, Dr. Jeremy Gardner of Altru Advanced Orthopedics dreamt of being a football coach. Today, he helps patients return to the game of life after injury.

“I’m most motivated by watching patients improve. I love seeing them be able to return to work or other activities that they were unable to do before.”

Dr. Gardner’s areas of interest include disorders of the shoulder, knee and hip. He performs hip and knee replacements, as well as shoulder and knee arthroscopy.

“My personal approach to care is to work with the patient,” he explains. “I strive to be sure that my patients are fully informed of their available options. In general, I focus on starting with the least invasive treatments and progressing toward surgery only when needed.”

In his free time, Dr. Gardner enjoys fishing, golfing, going to the lake and traveling. He and his wife have also been involved with the CVIC fundraising program for a new women and children’s shelter in Grand Forks.

“The children in these situations are often quite vulnerable. So, we want to provide them an opportunity to escape to a safe place.”

Dr. Jeremy Gardner – a true Face of Altru.

Faces of Altru profiles Altru Health System physicians and staff who live the organization’s mission at work and beyond the walls of Altru; they set the standards for Improving Health, Enriching Life.

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