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There likely won’t be any hospital buildings or programs named for John Desmarais – he wanted it that way.
But that doesn’t mean the man who quietly guided Commonwealth Health Corp. and its affiliates, including The Medical Center, won’t have a long-lasting legacy on the medical industry here.
The Medical Center probably wouldn’t be where it is today without his guidance. When Desmarais started here in 1975, it was still a hospital on the hill called the Bowling Green-Warren County Community Hospital. The hospital moved from the hill in 1980 to where it is now and became known as The Medical Center.
Commonwealth Health was formed in 1984 to oversee the hospital’s operation, as well as other ancillary organizations. Commonwealth Health actually has Medical Center campuses in Scottsville and Franklin, is part owner in UrgentCare and is about to acquire Western Kentucky Diagnostic Imaging.
While Desmarais retired in 2010 as president and CEO, some recalled his contributions.
Anna Sue Heller recently wrote a letter to the editor about how Desmarais inspired her father through his grand vision.
“He wanted to elevate health care for Bowling Green, Warren County and surrounding areas. The man was not satisfied with just an adequate hospital, but saw a need for a medical center for the future,” Heller wrote. “Having a vision and making it happen are two different things, but John Desmarais made it happen and he let others in the community share the vision.”
Bowling Green physician Herbert N. Harkleroad recalled his time with Desmarais.
He was a remarkable man with great intellect and business astuteness, Harkleroad wrote.
Even those who took issue at times with Desmarais still admire the contributions he made to the organization, Harkleroad said.
Friend Jim Johnson attended Desmarais’ funeral and said he was struck by Desmarais’ devout faith.
Johnson said there were likely many people who knew little about Desmarais’ accomplishments and he liked it that way.
But his passing is one that should not go without comment.
After years of entertaining potential buyers, Western Kentucky Diagnostic Imaging owners have reached an agreement with The Medical Center for the clinic’s sale.
“The medical environment has some uncertainties now ... and that affected our decision to approach several different buyers,” partner physician Rodney Veitschegger said. “After a lengthy process, we narrowed down the field ... and The Medical Center was the winner.”
Veitschegger said he and his partner, physician Sean Willgruber, aren’t part of the deal. But the office’s 37 employees will be able to apply for jobs with Commonwealth Health Corp., The Medical Center’s parent company.
“I don’t know if they will be doing the exact same jobs, but they will most likely need all of the employees to continue operating the services here,” Veitschegger said.
Employees were informed of the sale in meetings Friday.
Veitschegger said he’s aware that rumors of the impending sale had been flying for months. “But we had to keep this thing under wraps while all the details were worked out because nothing is really final until it’s signed,” he said.
The details included having the physician-owned practice apply with the state for a certificate of need to become a licensed medical facility. That licensure was required before it could be acquired by a hospital.
Willgruber said it’s not the first time that the facility has been in talks for a potential sale. But for whatever reasons, earlier efforts dating back to 2001 weren’t finalized.
Clerk Allison Thomas, who has been in the office for two years, said she thinks the move to CHC will be a good thing for her. Thomas said she’s not sure if she will be doing the same job or not.
“They said they would let us know,” she said.
Eddie Scott, director of radiological services at The Medical Center, said the operation of WKDI will pretty much remain the same, with the exception of the physicians.
“Our goal is to employ all of their staff members and maintain status quo as far as operations,” Scott said. “We don’t anticipate any shuffling of staff. They have done a good job at operating this facility, and we want them to continue doing so in this acquisition.”
The Medical Center’s radiological group – Imaging Consultants of Kentucky, directed by physician Jeffrey Brannick – will have one physician in the facility during all operating hours.
Willgruber said he thinks the acquisition will be good for both the community and The Medical Center.
Western Kentucky Diagnostic Imaging performs about 38,000 diagnostic imaging procedures a year, Willgruber said. Those services include high field MRI, open MRI, digital mammography, stereotactic breast biopsy, ultrasound, bone density evaluation, fluoroscopy, CT scan, nuclear medicine and X-ray services.
A comprehensive number of services will be maintained, Scott said.
“The Medical Center had been looking to enhance our outpatient imaging services, so when the owners (of WKDI) approached us several months ago, we began the negotiations,” he said.
The terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Details of any cost changes for patients are still to be worked out, Scott said.
“This is still in its early stages,” he said.
The transfer of ownership is scheduled to take place Oct. 1. Veitschegger said WKDI first opened its doors in March 1996, after more than a year of planning.
“So it’s really hard to let go of something that has been your baby for that long,” he said.
Veitschegger and Willgruber will continue the relationship they have had for several years with Graves-Gilbert Clinic.
“We are already down there pretty regularly,” Willgruber said.
No longer owning a facility will free Veitschegger and Willgruber from some of their administrative duties.
“We will be able to focus more (on patients),” Willgruber said.
To Mandy Emedi and Patty Thurman, The Medical Center’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit staff is like family.
When Emedi’s twin daughters, Anna and Brooklyn, were born about six weeks early, she found the NICU staff “amazing.”
“You give birth to babies and envision yourself two or three days later going home. That was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, leave without my babies,” she said. “The NICU took such good care of not just the girls, but of us as a family. They really made us feel a part of the babies’ care.”
NICU Parent Encouragement and Support Group coordinator Patty Thurman remembers when her twin daughters, Grace Ann and Addyson, were in the NICU.
“They were born at 32 weeks. Grace Ann was my most sick child. She was on ventilators and had bowel and intestinal problems. They had to watch her real close,” she said. “Most parents don’t know they’re going to the NICU. You don’t put that on your birth plan. There’s a flood of emotion.
“While you’re in the NICU, you get to know the nurses. They talk on your level,” she continued. “You get on a personal level with them. It makes you feel better about the situation your child will be in.”
Both women will attend the fifth NICU Reunion, which gives parents and former patients the opportunity to reunite with physicians, nurses staff members and other parents who were involved with their child’s hospital stay.
The free reunion, which will feature food, games and fun, will be from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 9 at The Medical Center Auditorium. Registration is preferred, but not required. Parents of former NICU patients can submit photos by Wednesday for a slideshow. For more information, call 796-2144 or email email@example.com.
George Miller, a registered nurse in the NICU and nursery, said this year’s reunion theme is “Under the Sea.”
“We’ve had a barnyard and beach theme for the kids who come back and visit. It makes it fun for them,” he said. “It’s fun for the kids, parents and nurses. There are a lot of smiles.”
The reunion has drawn about 300 people over the past couple of years, nearly maxing out the capacity of the facility, Miller said.
“We’ve frequently got twins who are born premature and stay with us for a while,” he said. “The longer they stay the more they get to know the staff.”
“We had the same nurses for several days at a time, so you really get to know them,” she said. “I would wake up and call in the middle of the night – about 4 a.m. – and never would the nurses would be bothered by it.”
Emedi said she sometimes runs into nurses outside of the hospital who still ask about her daughters, who are now nearly 4 years old.
“This is our fourth reunion. At the first reunion we were so proud we had gotten a good start with them. They showed us how to feed them, how to bathe them,” she said. “It was a good learning process since I’d never really been around babies. I know people who say they can’t wait to get back to the reunion.”
Thurman’s babies are now 4 years old and “doing well with no issues or problems at all,” she said.
“The nurses get so excited to see your child again because they took care of this child when they were sick. To me, being a NICU nurse is an incredible job. They do miracles,” she said. “When they see a happy child and happy parents, they feel good. You can’t praise them enough. You don’t just come back the first year. You come back year after year.”
Miller said the people who work with the babies enjoy the reunions as much as the parents.
“We put a lot of passion in our work. It’s quite the payoff to see them a couple years later and see they’re doing so well,” he said. “It’s a thrill to know you played a little part in their success.”
Chaplain James Britt has devoted a large part of his life to serving the Lord. In that time, he has served Him and those he has touched with great respect and dedication.
Britt is well known in our community. When he’s not spending time with his beloved family, writing passionate letters to this newspaper or walking his dog around town, he can be found volunteering as a hospital chaplain at The Medical Center.
Britt, who was a pastor before serving as a hospital chaplain, began consoling patients in 1978 when he worked as a full-time chaplain at the former city-county hospital.
He has given so much to the hospital in his visits to patients over three decades. We believe because of his devotion to those patients and The Medical Center that the prayer room at the hospital’s Hospitality House, which will be called Chaplain James Britt Prayer Room, was a very fitting recognition.
On Monday, Britt believed he was going to the Hospitality House to see a patient, but instead walked into a large crowd assembled to honor him and to witness the dedication of the room.
Britt’s daughter and son-in-law, Beth and David Bradford, and a friend, Coverall Biggers, donated a total of $100,000 to Hospitality House and requested that the prayer room be named for Britt.
Britt was very humbled by the honor and was brought to tears by the event.
Britt, during his time at The Medical Center, has encountered his share of tough situations where he is with patients in their final days or hours, and he has seen the sudden death of children. But good has come out of those very difficult experiences. Britt has formed many meaningful relationships and friendships through his work.
Bradford said, “It’s just in honor of a giant among men – one of the greatest men I know. It’s just ... a very appropriate place for his name to last forever.”
These are words well spoken.
Britt’s acts are selfless. We could think of no one more deserving to have been honored in this manner.
Do you wait eagerly for county fair season so that you can indulge in funnel cakes? That sweet treat will add 750 calories and 44 grams of fat to your thighs.
Maybe you think a corn dog sounds better. You’ll have to walk four miles to make sure it doesn’t expand your waistline.
Does the thought of a smoked turkey leg make your mouth water? Surely that has to be healthy – it’s turkey and it’s smoked. It’s worth it if you’re willing to pay the price of devouring 1,150 calories and 54 grams of fat. You’ll have to walk 11 miles to make up the balance.
The county fair may be a great place to enjoy wild rides, but it isn’t a place to go wild for the food, said Linda Howsen, registered dietitian with The Medical Center Medical Nutrition Therapy Program, who researched statistics for popular foods at county fairs.
“A splurge once a year at the county fair is OK. Make sure it’s a one-time splurge,” she said. “The problem is if it becomes once a week or once a day. We have to watch that because we tend to become a society of splurges.”
Part of the reason people tend to indulge more at fairs is because of mindless eating, Howsen said.
“It’s like watching TV and other activities and not focusing on the food,” she said. “It’s the lights, music, rides, talking – you tend to lose track of what you’re eating, and that’s a danger.”
Overeating isn’t the only hazard. Fair foods can be hard on the teeth. Dr. Devin Hall of Chandler Park Dentistry said that a variety of foods, particularly carbohydrate-laden ones, can cause tooth decay.
“When it comes to teeth and oral health, foods that you find at the fair are probably not going to do anything worse than typical food. A green bean can have a bit of sugar in it. If we eat that in the wrong way, that could hurt as much as bowls of M&Ms,” he said.
“I’m not one to tell people not to enjoy that type of thing,” he added. “The frequency gets us, but not the treat every now and then.”
Good oral hygiene is always important to keep the mouth in a healthy state, Hall said.
“After we enjoy them, there’s nothing wrong with getting a good toothbrush and floss to clean them up after that,” he said.
One of the better food choices may be a surprise since it’s sweet. Cotton candy has 170 calories and no fat, Howsen said.
“You have to walk for one mile to burn it off,” she said. “It’s a good option.”
Other healthier options include corn on the cob on a stick, fruit, a small ice cream cone, a pickle, a caramel apple, a small bag of popcorn with no added butter or a snow cone, Howsen said.
“It’s always about the portions. Smaller portions equal lower in calories,” she said.
When considering what to eat, check out the food choices, Howsen said.
“You don’t want to fill up on the high-calorie things before you check out the lower calorie choices. Think about three things you’re going to choose,” she said. “Don’t graze and have a little bit at this stand and a little bit at that stand.”
In fact, those considerations can be made before leaving home.
“Eat or drink something before you go to the fair. If you’re hungry before you walk in, you may choose high calorie foods,” Howsen said.
Seek out grilled food instead of fried food, Howsen said.
“When you look for grilled meat, look for one that’s not ground – pork chop (instead of) hamburger,” she said.
Walk as much as possible to help burn off the calories, and make sure to drink a lot of water, Howsen said.
“You need water so you will be hydrated because you’re going to be hot,” she said. “Take a water bottle and fill it at the water fountain.”
Stands featuring local foods may help with finding healthier options, Howsen said.
“Maybe a farmer has set up a stand with fresh apples and peaches or corn on the cob on a stick,” she said. “Eat it with less butter and a little salt or no butter.”
Sharing splurges will make all the difference, Howsen said.
“It’ll save each of you 400 calories with a funnel cake,” she said.
Most of all, remember that your body is not a trash can.
“It’s OK to throw food in a trash can. You don’t have to eat all of it,” she said. “It’s not going to hurt the trash can, but it can hurt you.”
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