Heartwarming Tales from Denver Health
Michael Gold, Star of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas at the Buell Theatre, A Christmas Miracle
The story of how Michael Gold became the star of Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” at the Buell Theatre in Denver is one of magic and Christmas miracles.
The past year has been a year of change for Michael. When he lost his 10-year-old golden retriever, Sadie, this summer he made a promise to her that he would get into the best shape of his life. And, with diet and exercise, the actor/artist lost 18 pounds by walking on a treadmill for 40 minutes every morning, taking evening walks and eating a nutritious diet.
“As an actor and dancer, I have always taken care of myself because you never know what role might come along,” explains Michael. “But I knew I could do better and at 57-years-old, I was truly in the best shape of my life.”
He also decided to reduce the stress in his life and in early fall left the visual arts job he had with a corporate company. He wanted to get back to acting and creative arts, and the corporate pressure was creating lots of stress and keeping him from what he loved.
“Shortly after I left that job, the auditions for ‘White Christmas’ opened,” says Michael. “On Halloween, I was at the first rehearsal as the understudy for Bob, the Bing Crosby character.” Michael was doing everything he loved, singing, dancing, acting, and reconnecting with friends at the Denver Center.
While at rehearsal about a month later, Nov. 30, Michael started sweating much more than normal while rehearsing one of the numbers. “I was feeling funny and knew something wasn’t right, so I asked if I could sit down for a few minutes,” says Michael. “I started to feel better, but as soon as I began moving again, it was worse. I called my life partner, Christine Miller, who is a nurse. She said she’d come get me and take me to the hospital, but when traffic slowed her down, she told me to call 911.”
When paramedics arrived at the theatre and checked Michael’s heart rhythm, it was clear Michael was having a heart attack and he needed to be taken to the closest hospital immediately. They took him to Denver Health.
“I couldn’t believe this was happening since I was in such good health,” says Michael. “It was upsetting and scary, but everyone took great care of me. Dr. Joel Garcia was in the cath lab, and he was wonderful. He talked to me through the whole procedure.”
Michael suffered what many call the “widow maker.” A blocked artery prevents blood from getting to the heart and often results in death. Due to Michael’s otherwise good health and getting to the cath lab right away so the blockage could be removed, he has had a quick and full recovery.
“The care given to me and my loved ones while I was at Denver Health was amazing,” explains Michael. “The cath lab staff was wonderful. An EMT, Joe Fishborne, knew Christine and found her in the lobby for me. I really appreciated that they also made a special point to comfort her. The nurses in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit, Angela, Helena and Jace, were incredible with me and my loved ones, too. All my cardiac care was coordinated by Cardiologist Edward Havranek, MD, and his magnificent team.”
Michael also raves about Terry Wilcox, a nurse practitioner at Denver Health. She and Christine know each other, and Terry provided comfort to both Michael and Christine.
“Terry was there for us when we needed her. She was the nurse educator for me, and she did an unbelievable job,” says Michael. “She even called me at home the following weekend to see how I was doing. She herself was sick, but was thinking about me. That meant a lot to us.”
Michael arrived at Denver Health on a Friday and the following Monday he went home. On Wednesday he and Christine went for a half-hour walk. He also received a call from the “White Christmas” stage manager asking Michael if he’d watch the Wednesday evening show, explaining they might need his help over the weekend.
“I knew the lead actor was struggling with his voice, and while Christine and I sat watching the show that Wednesday, it was clear he was really working hard during the first act. I was concerned when he didn’t come out to sing the last number before intermission,” says Michael.
It was then he received a text from the stage manager asking him to meet backstage at intermission.
“I said yes as soon as I saw him,” laughs Michael. “He really wanted to find out how I was feeling only five days after a heart attack. But with the lead character struggling with his voice, we both agreed that I could go on for the second act.”
A quick make-up job and an announcement over the PA system that Michael would be the lead for the second act and Michael was up singing Christmas songs.
“The next morning I went to my primary care physician to get clearance for what I had done,” jokes Michael. “My physician cleared me for performing, and I did six more complete shows that week before the lead was ready to return.
“I am so grateful to everyone who helped me. And, this whole social media thing is amazing. I had friends from college reaching out to see how I was doing. There is a reason for me to be here. I’m very much an artist personality and can get emotional. I tell friends that I’ve always been a Hallmark card, but now I’m a box of Hallmark cards.”
One Year After Impaling Her Head on a Snow Gun in Steamboat Springs, Laken Wilson’s Family Celebrates Life
Former Miss Delta State University Laken Wilson and her family are celebrating life and how far they’ve come since New Year’s Day 2012. Laken was in Steamboat Springs skiing with her friend's family, when she slipped on some ice and fell, hitting her head on a snow making gun. She was airlifted to Denver Health where she underwent several hours of surgery to remove bone fragments from the left side of her brain and stop her brain from bleeding. After 22 days in the hospital, including a week in ICU and four weeks of inpatient pediatric therapy, she returned home to Mississippi.
Months of physical, occupational and speech therapy are paying off as Laken’s life assumes its new normal. Laken served at Delta State University this summer as an Orientation Leader and was able to walk across the stage to pass her Miss DSU Crown to the next recipient.
Read more: The Bolivar Commercial - Former Miss DSU fights like an OKRAView More: Laken Wilson Photo Slideshow
Laken and her family shared the year’s progress as she healed with her doctors at Denver Health. Read their story below, in the words of Laken’s mom, and remember to hold your children close and count your blessings.
I wanted to share something with you that Laken told me on Saturday - I think it will make you feel good. Laken is a student at a small university in the Mississippi Delta called Delta State University. Right before Christmas last year she was selected to be an orientation leader for the summer of 2012. This was one of the things that worried her most when she realized she would not be able to go back to school for the spring semester after her brain surgery. Of course, at that point we were just hoping she would get to go back to school ever.
Well, being a small school, when she came back to Mississippi the advisor called and said she would still like for Laken to participate as much as she was able to even though she was not in school that semester. Laken did participate, and it was some of the best therapy she had. It kept her somewhat active even when she still couldn't get around too well, and by the summer she was able to do most anything she needed to do, and she was able to share her story with the new students coming in and let them know how supportive Delta State had been when she was hurt.
Well, it is time for them to choose orientation leaders again, and Praise the Lord, Laken was able to apply again. They go before a selection committee where they are asked a lot of questions to determine who is best suited to be a leader. Laken was asked who, other than her parents or grandparents, she would say was her hero. She said she thought for a little while, and when she answered she told them her hero would have to be her surgeon. She said you had the skill to save her life and to be a busy, successful surgeon, and to also take care of seven children at home.
We watched the video on the Denver Health Facebook page where you were talking about your children having whooping cough. We are praying that all is well for your family now. I watched with tears streaming and sent it to Laken. She was very touched, and my mom said, "I love that lady. I wanted to reach right through that screen and hug her." We are well aware that it is because of the skill of you and your surgical team, some excellent doctors and nurses, and the grace of God that Laken is still with us today and has experienced a near complete recovery. Anyway, I thought you would like to know that you are a hero.
Thank you so much for your interest in Laken and her case. We are so grateful for the work of you and your staff. When Dr. Bell called that night, our response was “do what you have to do”, and thankfully you did. The wisdom and skill of your surgical team and the prayers of many, many people are no doubt the reason Laken is still with us today. She is a walking miracle.
While she is still not 100%, we are so grateful that she has come as far as she has in such a short time. We are still praying that with time she will continue to improve and get back the fine motor skills in her right hand that she still struggles with and that her speech will continue to improve.
I have attached a few photos for you to show her progress. Laken was the reigning Miss Delta State University at the time of her accident. The first photo is a photo taken at a Christmas Parade a couple of weeks prior to her accident. There is the only photo I took while she was in SICU. We did not want to do anything that upset her in the least and made those monitors go crazy. I snuck this one while she was sleeping to send to family back home because they were anxious not being able to see her.
There is one from the pediatric floor and one on the rehab floor at Denver Health. We returned home in time for her to pass on her crown to the new Miss DSU in February. This was a very emotional time. Laken was able to walk across the stage with assistance, but she could not wear her crown due to her scars and she could not speak to give her farewell speech. In March she was able to put on real clothes and makeup for the first time since Jan. 1. For Laken this was a big day. There is a picture of her in June 2012. She was happy to be a little more independent again. The doctor had cleared her to drive and she was getting to take a few short trips on her own.
The last photo was taken in August on the day she moved into her dorm room. She is happy to be back on campus and Delta State has been very supportive of her situation and any special needs she may encounter and we are only 20 minutes if she needs us. On the night of January 1, 2012 we were 20 hours away. Only time will tell how well she will be able to proceed with her education, but she is determined to be well and not to be seen as handicapped. She will keep pushing. We praise the Lord every day for placing her in very capable hand and for the progress she has made. Our experience at Denver Health was a very good one considering the circumstances. Everyone there was so very nice to us and attentive to our situation. They were aware that we were a long way from home and took very good care of us. Thank you.
Mitch and Mechelle Wilson
Trust. That is what guided these three moms when they chose Denver Health as the hospital to deliver their babies last year. They knew exactly what they were getting into because all three are also OB/GYN physicians at Denver Health.
“I delivered both of my babies here,” said Mona Krull, MD, (pictured center) mother of Deven (2) and Amara (1). “I knew I would receive excellent care, I would have the privacy I wanted, and,” she adds on a lighter note, “ I feel that DH has the best looking labor and delivery floor anywhere in Denver.”
Camille Hoffman, MD, (pictured left) a maternal-fetal medicine specialist (high-risk OB) at Denver Health, is well aware of the importance of expert care since she works with high risk pregnancy patients and also researches the impact that stress during pregnancy can have on the baby. She delivered Wesley (2) and Anna Caroline (4 months) at Denver Health. “This is the safest place to have a baby anywhere in Denver,” she explains. Thank goodness, since Wesley came prematurely and spent 10 days in the Denver Health Newborn Intensive Care Unit. He received wonderful care and is a healthy 2-year-old.
Doctor Hoffman adds, “the atmosphere at Denver Health is special. People care about each other and the patients, and that comes through in every way.”
Sara Mazzoni, MD, (pictured right) also an OB/GYN at Denver Health, delivered Alexander (6 months) at Denver Health and echoes the sentiment shared by her co-workers. “We all love what we do here. Our patients are special to us. We embrace the opportunity we have to train new physicians in this specialty, and we enjoy the people we work with in our department. We are a family at work and at home.”
It’s the Dog’s Day in December
Animals have a unique way of making us feel better. Meet Kaylee, a new graduate into the Pet Therapy Program at Denver Health. After completing four weeks of intensive training at the Department of Corrections canine training program in Canon City, Kaylee and her handler/mom Julie Weaver (who works in Trauma Services) received the Canine Good Citizen Certification & Therapy Dog Certification. Kaylee and her owner, Julie, will be working with patients at Denver Health and seniors at The Village at Lowry.
Julie is thrilled to be involved in Denver Health’s Pet Therapy Program. She had started the process with her previous dog, Shelby, who then was diagnosed with cancer and couldn’t participate in the program. She knew she wanted to have a therapy dog because she’s seen the difference they make with patients. When Kaylee came into her life, a significant amount of time was spent training to get all the required certifications.
Kaylee made her hospital debut with Santa, the Denver Bronco Cheerleaders and the Coca Cola Bear this weekend at Denver Health’s annual SnowBall Holiday Party for Denver Health pediatric patients.
A Seemingly Innocent Rocking Horse, a Broken Elbow and a Happy Memory
When rambunctious 5-year-old Jack Dondelinger took his rocking horse for a rough ride, he found himself spending the first weekend in December at Denver Health waiting for surgery to repair a severely broken elbow. His dad, Josh, shares his story of how a simple gesture, that of giving a scared little boy the penguin pillow pet he was hoping Santa would bring, could alleviate a child’s fear and keep the holiday magic alive. Read this note from Josh Dondelinger, Jack’s dad, and remember it’s the little things that sometimes make the biggest impact.
"I am father of 4 beautiful children, the most rambunctious of them being my youngest Jack. Knowing it was only a matter of time, when I got the call at work telling me that he had broken his arm I didn't completely freak out. I say completely because as a dad it still hard to feel so helpless.
From the beginning of our ordeal the staff at DH made my lil guy feel as good as possible. Soon after getting a room a nice lady brought him a stuffed moose named "Tommy", and a wonderful split page book that was the source of many laughs in the hours to come. When the dreaded S word was mentioned I was stunned! With kids ranging from 5 to 18, I had never dealt with surgery. Needless to say I was surprised and confused, but from the very beginning every single person in this difficult process was amazing. From the most personable surgeon I could hope for to the angels that others call nurses. The women that cared for my son before and after surgery treated him as if he was their own! One nurse said with such sincere conviction that he was the cutest boy she'd ever seen. This same angel, trying to comfort a very confused Jack, brought him the one toy he wanted more than any other for Christmas; a Pillow Pet that was donated by the Starlight Foundation (one I will soon be more involved with). In fact it was the Penguin, the very one I had in my Amazon cart ready to be shipped. She explained that Santa sent it early since he was being so brave. Tell me that's not Holiday magic!
The next thing I know there are nurses from other departments coming to see my brave little boy. One brought another stuffed friend. They were all so sweet and doting. These wonderful people made a very scared little boy, and his dad, feel very at ease and comforted knowing he was in good hands. I cannot thank each and every one of them enough, you should be quite proud. But I know you will continue to do your job, quietly, without spotlights or fanfare. Just know that one family holds you all in a special place in our hearts this Holiday season and always."
The Gift of Sight from Denver Health
About three years ago David Moneypenny noticed that his eyesight was changing. The now 52-year-old was experiencing such extreme double vision that he decided he shouldn’t even drive anymore.
“I was worried I would hit someone,” he explains. “I was seeing two of everything in the distance. If I really focused hard, I could tell which was real, but my sight was bad.”
He lives with his 32-year-old daughter who is a teacher at East High School and who he raised as a single parent. He has a disability and can’t work regularly. As a result of his work situation, he doesn’t have medical coverage or steady work. With his eyesight continuing to deteriorate, he knew he had to do something and saved $600 from an odd job so he could have his eyes checked
“I went to an optometrist I’d used about 10 years prior to that first visit,” David says. “He did a quick exam and prescribed some glasses. I gave it a few days, but my vision just kept getting worse.”
David went to the optometrist three times and within two weeks he had three different prescriptions that didn’t work, and he had spent the money he had saved.
“I volunteer at beer festivals as a supervisor of set-up and tear-down,” David says. “As a supervisor, I have to be able to read instructions, and that was becoming a problem. I thought I was going to be blind in my right eye. I joked about becoming a pirate, but I was scared.”
David told an acquaintance, an ophthalmologist, about his concerns, and the physician agreed to do a more thorough exam. The diagnosis was choroiditis, an inflammation of a layer of the retina of his right eye. Treatment would require special medication or retinal surgery, so the ophthalmologist sent him to Hugo Quiroz-Mercado, MD, an ophthalmologist at Denver Health who specializes retinal diseases and retina surgery.
Although David had no ability to pay for the care, Dr. Quiroz-Mercado and the eye clinic staff gave David some of the best eye care available. Initially, Avastin was injected into David’s retina to reduce inflammation, but his sight did not improve. After two injections and no improvement, Dr. Quiroz-Mercado decided to perform surgery to remove the inflamed layer of tissue. The day after surgery in December of 2011, David’s sight was already improving. His sight was 20/70, and by September of 2012, it was 20/20.
“I still notice some differences when I look at objects, but now I can see again,” David says. “I realize how easy it is to take something like being able to see for granted. I’m grateful that the people at Denver Health could help me because no other place would even consider doing this for me.”