When faced with an unimaginable experience, like child abuse or sexual assault one Siouxland organization is there to help.
"The Child Advocacy Center was a blessing for us at a time when it was devastating."
The MercyOne Child Advocacy Center helps children and often their families as well, providing counseling, therapy, medical assistance and much more all without ever sending out a bill.
"We do operate at a deficit and so we do seek grant funding and private donations in order to make up that shortfall."
Lea Greathouse, Vice President of Mission, Marketing and Foundation with MercyOne Siouxland says the CAC uses 100% of their funding to help provide the needed therapy and resources for children, which was a blessing for the Swinton family.
"From the minute we came here for our first forensic interview until the day she graduated from her trauma therapy, it was a safe place for our whole family not just for our daughter," the Swinton's said.
Their young daughter had been abused by someone outside of their family and they were sent to the CAC for help and support.
"And just helping us walk through this. This process. That's what it is," the Swinton's said. "For us. It was a process. It wasn't something that happened and was done the next day."
Because of the funding and donations, the Child Advocacy Center receives, the Swintons were able to focus on their daughter and her needs.
"We didn't have to stress about it bill later on and have that financial burden," Daniel Swinton said. "It is life-saving in a way that it just we were able to focus on our daughter moving forward and not how do we pay for it?"
"No one should be financially burdened when they're facing this unimaginable challenge in their life," Greathouse said, "and with this resource in our community, no one receives an out-of-pocket bill."
The MercyOne Child Advocacy Center team is always working tirelessly to ensure kids receive the help they need in a safe and comforting environment.
"I think the biggest impact really is giving children one place, one safe place to come and tell their story and to start on their journey of healing," Greathouse said as she and her team showed me around the center. None of the rooms felt like a medical office, instead, they felt more like a place children could be comfortable, and heal.
"This place is wonderful," said Kira Swinton, "If giving is something that you want to do, I strongly recommend giving to the CAC no family budgets for something like this."
Tuesday is Giving Tuesday, a day to give back to organizations in your community. If you would like to learn more about the MercyOne Child Advocacy Center and donate to their cause, you can visit their website here.
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The holiday season can be a great time with family and friends, but for others, this time of year can bring some mental health challenges.
"It's important to pay attention to how you're feeling." Janene Gorsett and Marie Sitz are with Trivium Life Services and are helping clients navigate the mental health challenges that can arise around the holidays.
"For somebody with a lot of anxiety," said Gorsett, "going to large family gatherings can be very terrifying for them."
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the topic of mental health into the spotlight, helping people see it's okay to set boundaries for themselves.
"This is a time for you to start becoming selfish," Sitz said about putting yourself first, "Be selfish in a positive way, but being selfish."
Putting your own needs and mental wellbeing first is important and it's okay to compromise, like joining that big family dinner by video call instead of in person.
"COVID has shown us a huge way to use technology with our family with our friends," Sitz said. "Some not even being able to see your family for months on end other than through through through a phone screen or a computer screen. So if you are feeling that guilt, talk about maybe ways that you can join in on the group gathering without actually being present."
If you are attending a large gathering or somewhere where your anxiety or even addiction is present, find a friend or relative you can trust and lean on if needed.
"I talk to (my clients) about having a buddy system," Gorsett said. "So if they're going to a family event and the family has wine or they have whatever alcohol available, talking to somebody else in the family that doesn't drink and is willing to be a good buddy to them."
It's also important to have a safe space, like a bedroom, to go to if you need a moment to yourself, and it's okay to be open and honest with your loved ones, as long as you feel comfortable doing so.
"Talk to them about where's the safe place for you? If you're going to your parents' house, do you have your own bedroom there? Or can you go to your parents' bedroom and just sit and kind of take a few deep breaths," Gorsett said, "do a little meditation if you need to, and just kind of get away from the crowd."
Sitz agreed, "utilized those coping skills that you may have learned when you were a child, the deep breathing, the grounding techniques, even just tapping yourself on your thighs with your fingers."
And if you have to back out of going to that party or need to leave early, remember the most important thing to do is what is best for you.
"It's okay to feel the guilt. But also remember that it's for yourself and to set those boundaries of who you are as a person." If you or someone you know is struggling and need help, there are many steps you can take, including seeking professional help locally, like with Trivium Life Services.
You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK or the Mental Health Referral Helpline at 1-877-SAMHSA7.
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It's something you do tens of thousands of times each day without a second thought, but for some taking a breath can be a challenge.
"I got down pretty bad before, after I came down with COPD before I finally started exercising and everything. Just couldn’t hardly get around to take care of myself."
John Gibson was diagnosed with COPD, or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, several years ago. COPD is a group of lung diseases that block airflow and make breathing difficult for more than 16 million Americans.
"COPD is the third leading cause of death in the United States and it's going up," said Registered Nurse Ruth Anne McKeever with MercyOne Siouxland Medical Center. Heart diseases first, cancer second and those things are going down and COPD is usually preventative."
McKeever works in the MercyOne Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehab Center, where Gibson attends class a few times a week for the last few years. Tuesdays and Thursdays are Pulmonary Rehab, with patients who primarily have COPD.
"It makes a big difference," Gibson said, "I'm a firm believer of getting exercise. It’s proved to me that it works."
The rehab center looks like a gym or fitness center, with treadmills, bikes, weight machines and other exercise equipment. Each patient receives a workout routine tailored to their needs and abilities, to help them strengthen their muscles, including their diaphragm. But many, like Gibson, find other benefits, too, not just treatment for COPD.
"There's a lot of advantages too as far as my arthritis," Gibson said. "I’ve got arthritis real bad and just being able to keep my range of motion to where I can move around okay."
The team of dedicated medical professionals at the rehab center helps those diagnosed with COPD through all stages of their disease, from education about their diagnosis to the exercise regimen, and how they can monitor triggers in their everyday lives.
"We teach them ways to make their life easier," said McKeever. "If you've got to carry laundry up and downstairs, how can we make this easier for you? What steps can you take to make your environment easier and more friendly for you?"
For John, he's experienced the benefits of the cardiac and pulmonary rehab center firsthand, especially when he tested positive for COVID-19.
"When I did catch the COVID-19," he said, "I think I was a better shape physically to be able to fend it off and then we have colds and the flu, whatever comes along. It’s keeping you're body healthy and your immune system."
While the workouts and the machines can seem intimidating, the MercyOne team helps each person develop a workout that is right for their abilities.
"We're going to start really slow. We're going to start super slow and will build up as you tolerate," McKeever said of helping their patients find what machine or workout is best for them during each session. "We're going to listen to you. And if you aren’t tolerating something, just communicate, we'll try something else."
John says he plans to continue attending class twice a week for as long as he can. "Just because you're getting old I don't want to sit around and watch TV all the time. Getting out and doing different things and it’s just enjoyable."
Because if it wasn't for the MercyOne Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehab team, "you know, I don't know where I'd be if I wouldn't be doing the exercise. Probably be in a nursing home and I’m not ready to go there yet."
November is COPD Awareness Month and if you would like to learn more about the MercyOne Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehab Center, you can learn more and contact MercyOne here.
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School districts across the nation are facing a shortage of substitute teachers and the Sioux City Community School District is looking to hire an outside company to help fill that need.
The district, speaking Friday on the need for both substitute teachers and para-professionals, says they are at a critical point.
"This has risen to the level of what I would call a crisis," said Superintendent, Dr. Paul Gausman. The district was only filling about half of their open classrooms at the height of COVID-19, and while the numbers have risen, "we're back in the 70 to 80% range and our fill rate, but that's just not good enough," Gausman said.
After exhausting many efforts to bring substitutes into the district directly, they are now looking at hiring an outside company, ESS based in Tennessee, to help.
"ESS is a very experienced company. They've been in place for 20 plus years," said Human Resources Director, D.r. Jen Gomez. "They are partnering with districts across the country and have shown to improve the fill rates in those school districts."
If approved by the school board during Monday night's meeting, ESS would begin promoting in Siouxland, looking for local people to help fill the gaps in the classrooms, dedicating a group of people to just finding those substitutes and getting them certified and trained.
"They are going to be able to dedicate the time and the attention that's needed to address the substitute coverage," Dr. Gomez said.
A big question for taxpayers is what will the district, if approved by the School Board, pay ESS to provide this service?
"I know there were some concerns about the cost of this company and essentially they are paid on the fill rate," Dr. Gomez said. "As far as filling the positions, that's how they're paid. And so they're essentially we're not spending more than what we normally would be spending on substitutes."
The district currently has about 270 substitute teachers but says they really need at least 500 to fill the need. Currently, when the district can't find a substitute to fill an absent teacher's place, other teachers and staff will step in and help cover, but that is not only overworking Sioux City staff but the students are impacted, too.
"We need help our teachers," Gomez said. "They're working extra. There are teachers that are working during their plan time to cover classes and they're working together."
The school board has also been meeting with ESS representatives ahead of their vote on Monday night, getting any questions they need answered before they vote. One concern was ending the relationship with ESS should the company not meet expectations. School Board President, Perla Alarcon-Flory says they will be able to stop service with ESS at any time if they feel the need to, without penalty. Another big factor was hiring local.
"What we were concerned about is the local people and we're going to be hiring local people," Alarcon-Flory said. "They are not one that is coming from other places just to fill in this position."
You don't need an education degree to be a substitute. They welcome people from all backgrounds with the proper certification.
"There are people out there that might be accountants or engineers or you know other professions," Alarcon-FLory said. "Maybe they have the skills, abilities and knowledge to get a substitute license and come and teach."
The bottom line is, Sioux City's school district, like many across the nation, is in desperate need of substitutes, not only for the kids but for the educators who are working tirelessly for the students.
"They're working as a team and they're supporting one another," Dr. Gomez said, praising the district's educators and staff, "but they're getting tired and we need to really help them out."
"You have to realize that for most teachers, being a teacher is not a profession or is not what they do," said Alarcon-Flory, "it is part of their identity, it is who they are."
The school board will vote Monday night on whether to hire ESS to provide substitute teachers. ESS educators will have benefits, like insurance and competitive pay.
The Sioux City School Board meets Monday night at the district's office building on 4th Street next to the Sioux City Public Museum at 6 p.m.
If you are interested in becoming a substitute teacher, you can visit the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners website here.
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When it comes to matters of the heart, finding the right treatment or surgical fix is imperative to getting a person back on their feet.
MercyOne Siouxland Medical Center is one of the top cardiac centers in the region and Siouxland News got the chance to see a new technique for an open heart valve replacement and meet a patient who went through the TAVR procedure herself.
Ellen and Ed Schwarten are world travelers. Residents of Emerson, Nebraska, the couple has been on adventures around the globe.
"We just enjoy life," Ellen said during a recent doctor's appointment, "and now I've been given some more time by having this procedure and I'm really happy about it."
For the last several years, Ellen's doctors have been monitoring an issue with her heart. She was diagnosed with aortic stenosis or a tightening or restricted opening of the aortic valve in the heart and when it came time for Ellen to have that valve surgically repaired, it was suggested the TAVR, or transcatheter aortic valve replacement procedure, was right for her.
"It's a percutaneous technique where we place the aortic valve by inserting plastic tubes into the groin arteries, and basically a new valve is mounted onto a balloon," said cardiothoracic specialist Dr. Glynne Edwards with MercyOne. "And it's basically a fancy procedure for stenting the old valve and deploying a new valve immediately. That's immediately functional right at the time of the procedure."
This procedure is relatively new, created in the last decade and is an alternative to an open-heart procedure. MercyOne Siouxland Medical Center has been performing this technique for about 18 months.
"It's the alternative to the standard, or what used to be considered standard of care, for aortic valve replacement," Dr. Edwards said, "which was surgical aortic valve replacement where the surgeon does what is called sternotomy, which is an incision usually in the middle of the chest or sometimes along the side of the chest wall.
TAVR is done while the patient is awake and recovery time is much shorter.
"Your patients are usually minimally sedated and if they are intubated or put to sleep, they are extubated right after the procedure," Dr. Edwards said. "So it's generally a much shorter length of stay and greater patient comfort, recovery sooner. Patients can return to their you know usual activities in a much shorter timeframe."
When Siouxland News met Ellen and Ed, Ellen was one week post-TAVR procedure.
"But I was awake during the whole thing. I was not put out, and it's better if you can do that and I did that. I heard him talk and everything," Ellen said thinking back on her procedure a week earlier.
The TAVR procedure is quick, taking around 60 to 90 minutes and patients like Ellen are home in a day or so. A much better alternative to the long stay and recovery that comes after an open-heart procedure.
"If you look at the number of open-heart procedures or valve replacements being done nationally. 10 years ago, 80 to 90% of open-heart valve procedures were done surgically," Dr. Edwards said. "In 2020, that's about 50% being done surgically and the other 50% being done by this transcatheter technique called TAVR."
Just one week after her valve replacement, Ellen was doing great. She showed me the four electrodes she had to wear 24/7 for 30 days to monitor her heart and any cardio events she has during her recovery.
Doctors at MercyOne have been doing the TAVR procedure for about 18 months and with patients like Ellen, see just how significant an impact this less-invasive procedure can have on someone's life.
"I would think that if nothing was done that my life would be shortened," she said. "I think I got a few more years. I'm 87 and so I'm thrilled living that long."
As with any medical procedure, the TAVR procedure may not be right for everyone. Doctors recommend you talk with your own physician before having any procedures done.
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Web articles from my time at Siouxland News.