Path out of pain: Boone Hospital team helps Tebbetts woman escape severe knee arthritis

January 21, 2015

This article appeared in our fall 2014 issue of My Boone Health magazine. The next issue will be out very soon — subscribe to have it sent to your home.

By Jacob Luecke

From her home in Tebbetts, Mo., Belinda Heimericks can look down upon the Missouri River bottoms and the Katy Trail.

For years, she loved spending hours biking and walking along the trail, enjoying the views of farmland and majestic bluffs. But in recent years, those trips became fewer and fewer.

For the past decade, Belinda, 63, has suffered from arthritis in both of her knees. About three years ago, the pain became severe, requiring her to take pain medication just to make it through each day.

In addition to limiting her time on the Katy Trail, Belinda’s increasing pain was starting to take the fun out of life—making it difficult to enjoy a 2013 trip to the St. Louis Zoo with six of her eight grandkids.

“Anytime I had an outing, I would have to plan out how long I was going to be walking and make sure that I could take my pain medication throughout the day,” she says. “If I didn’t do that, I wouldn’t be able to make it through the day.”

Belinda 1


Looking for help, Belinda turned to Columbia Orthopaedic Group, the physician practice affiliated with Boone Hospital Center’s orthopedic program.

At first, Belinda and her doctor tried using injections to stop the pain, but those did not provide lasting relief. Then, orthopedic surgery specialist Ben Holt, MD, decided that performing replacement surgery was the best path forward. He recommended doing both knees at once.

“What I ask people is, ‘Which knee bothers you more?’ And if they can’t tell me which knee bothers them more, then generally those patients do better having both knees done at the same time,” Dr. Holt says. “Doing them both at once means they avoid having to face the risks of surgery twice and having to do rehab twice. This way, they can get it all over with at the same time.”

While replacement surgery was a big step, Belinda says she trusted Dr. Holt and the Columbia Orthopaedic Group, noting that the practice had helped her family members in the past.

“I had heard excellent things about them and my experience with Columbia Orthopaedics has always been very positive,” she says. “Our family has always had excellent outcomes.”

As a nurse who works in a management role with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, Belinda says she was also aware of Boone Hospital’s reputation for outstanding nursing care. The hospital’s Magnet designation made her feel comfortable she would be in good hands as she recovered from surgery.

“With my nursing background, I pay attention to the reputation of the nursing care provided at the different hospitals,” she says. “I knew that Boone Hospital Center was a Magnet hospital, which for me is very important because I know that signals that the nursing care is going to be excellent.”

Belinda’s surgery took place on Dec. 6, 2013. While the procedure is called “replacement” surgery, Dr. Holt says that term often leads to confusion. Rather than removing and replacing a patient’s knees, the surgery actually involves resurfacing the knees.

Belinda’s surgery took just over two hours. During that time, Dr. Holt cut away a small amount of bone on both of her knees, enabling him to install a new metal surface. He then placed a plastic insert to pad where the two metal surfaces would come together in the knee.

“A lot of times people have a real misconception about what we do,” Dr. Holt says. “Really I think the better term would be total knee resurfacing, because that’s really what we are doing.”

The surgery went smoothly.

After the procedure, as Belinda recovered at Boone Hospital, she says her nurses lived up to their strong reputation.

“They were just outstanding,” she says. “I think what struck me about it was how they anticipated my needs. I didn’t have to tell them I was experiencing pain, they were there and saying, ‘It’s time. We think you need more pain medication so that we can stay ahead of the pain.’ They were anticipating what my needs were and that made it much more tolerable.”

On the fourth day after the surgery, she was able to return home, where she underwent a month of in-home therapy before doing one additional month of outpatient therapy.

Belinda 2As she recovered, her world began to open up again.

Just four months after the surgery, she attended a soccer class with her four-year-old grandson. She was far from a bystander.

“I was out in that class with him and I was able to kick the soccer ball and dribble it down the field,” Belinda says. “Before the surgery, I would have been sitting on the sidelines watching everyone else. That’s how quickly it all came back”

This summer, Belinda went on an out-of-state work trip where her hotel was five blocks from her meetings. Yet each day, she skipped the shuttle and walked instead—enjoying the opportunity to sightsee.

“I had no knee pain and I didn’t have to take any medications,” she says. “I was able to walk as far as I wanted.”

This contrasted greatly with a similar trip in 2013, when Belinda needed assistance just to get around the airport.

Dr. Holt says such strong results are common with knee replacement patients.

“It’s usually a dramatic improvement,” Dr. Holt says. “Not every knee replacement patient is totally pain free all the time. But usually in comparison it’s a dramatic improvement from what they had before.”

With Belinda’s great outcome—she says she feels no pain except for some occasional, normal stiffness—Belinda is not shy about endorsing the service she received at Boone Hospital.

“I just can’t speak highly enough about the nursing care, the care provided by the physical therapists and the medical staff at Boone Hospital Center,” she says. “My husband and I have decided if we need to be hospitalized anywhere in central Missouri, it needs to be at Boone Hospital.”

Belinda also had high praise for Dr. Holt, whom she says has a wonderful bedside manner and a great sense of humor.

“He is an excellent practitioner, he’s very personable,” she says. “I highly recommend him. The first thing I say to anyone is if they have any kind of knee or hip problems, I say you need to schedule an appointment with Dr. Holt. He is fantastic.”


When should you see an orthopedic specialist for knee pain?

As people get older, it’s common to feel aches and pains every now and then. But if the pain is persistent, Dr. Holt says there is a wide variety of techniques that a specialist can use to help relieve the pain—with replacement surgery being one of the later options.

“The normal knee really shouldn’t hurt,” Dr. Holt says. “It’s one thing to have an ache or pain here and there, but if you are having discomfort several days of the week—week after week—there is something going on that probably needs to be addressed. If it’s ignored, it may just continue to get worse.”

Cancer Screening Saves a Life in an Unexpected Way

November 25, 2014

This story appears in the Fall 2014 edition of My Boone Health magazine. Click here to request a free subscription.

by Jacob Luecke

There were plenty of good reasons for Steve Downes to get a lung cancer screening at Boone Hospital Center this spring.

For starters, Steve, 54, was a smoker for most of his life before quitting a couple of years ago. His decades of smoking put him at risk for cancer.

Another good reason to get screened was that the procedure would cost him nothing. The Stewart Cancer Center lung screening had been paid for by donations to the Boone Hospital Foundation.

Steve could have also felt compelled to get screened due to his longstanding friendship with Norm and Virginia Stewart—the leading local voices in the fight against cancer through their charitable work and as the namesakes of the Stewart Cancer Center.

But for Steve, one other reason trumped all the rest.

“I did it to make my wife happy,” he says.

Steve Downes

Steve Downes

Steve is the kind of guy who avoids medical care if possible. In fact, prior to his screening, he hadn’t seen a doctor for 10 years. He figured if he felt good, why bother?

So it took some convincing by his wife, Janice Downes, to get Steve to agree to the screening. Janice even called Boone Hospital herself to make Steve’s appointment. Then she called again when he missed that first appointment.

After all, why not get screened when the technology at Boone Hospital can detect cancer early on, when it is tiny?

But Steve’s screening ended up detecting something big—and it wasn’t cancer.


“Walking time bomb

As the nurse navigator at the Stewart Cancer Center, Mung Chin helps guide people through the complexities of a cancer treatment plan.

She’s also the person who calls patients with the results of their lung cancer screenings.

On the morning of May 14, Mung was reviewing Steve’s report before calling him. The report came back clear for cancer. However, Maxwell Lazinger, MD, the radiologist who read the scan, noted that Steve did have an abdominal aortic aneurysm.

When Mung called Steve, she gave him the good news about cancer, but also shared the aneurysm finding. She said she would send him information about how to get that checked out.

But after the call, Mung decided to go a step further. She was concerned the aneurysm might be serious.

“Although I am not a vascular nurse, from my experience working with Oncology patients—some could be really sick when they come to the hospital—I learned to be more cautious when it comes to a medical condition,” Mung said. “As a health care provider, one cannot simply assume that the person understands the severity of the problem and will take care of it as recommended. What’s more, it seemed that an aneurysm this size warranted some immediate attention.”

So she researched abdominal aortic aneurysms. She then reached out to Angelee Geisler, a nurse practitioner who works closely with Boone Hospital cardiac surgeon Joss Fernandez, MD, of Missouri Heart Center.

They decided Steve’s problem might need immediate attention. Angelee offered to have Steve see Dr. Fernandez the next day.

So Mung called Steve once more, discussed the potential severity of the aneurysm and offered the appointment with Dr. Fernandez.

The urgency caught Steve off guard.

“It was kind of scary,” he says. “I’ve been healthy all my life. I’ve broken bones through sports and stuff, but I’ve never had any kind of issues at all, ever. It was a shock.”

However, Steve knew that aneurysms could be serious. His father, Ed Downes, twice had surgeries to fix aneurysms. His grandfather had died from an aneurysm.

“All of the sudden, I was a walking time bomb,” he says.


Collaborative effort

The next day, Steve was back at Boone Hospital where he had a CT scan, this time focusing on his abdomen. The scan determined his aneurysm measured 6.4 centimeters.

Left alone, an aneurysm that size has a 14 percent chance of rupturing per year, Dr. Fernandez said. If a rupture occurred, Steve would likely die.

Dr. Fernandez wanted to act quickly, scheduling a surgery for the following week.

Steve also consulted his friend, cardiologist William Woods, MD, who agreed with the assessment and advised that Dr. Fernandez was the best surgeon for the job.

A week later, Steve was back for the surgery. During the procedure, Dr. Fernandez placed a stent to reline Steve’s aorta, keeping blood from entering the aneurysm.

The surgery went smoothly.

“His prognosis is excellent,” Dr. Fernandez said. “I get great satisfaction from turning a life-threatening, scary situation into a friendly and comforting experience.”

As he recovered at Boone Hospital, Steve was very pleased with the care he received.

“Everything was as peaceful and as calm as it could be throughout the procedure,” he says. “Everybody in the hospital was great.”

He was also impressed by Dr. Fernandez.

“Not having a lot of experience with doctors as a patient, I was extremely happy,” Steve says. “He was a nice guy, straightforward, told me exactly what was what.”

Steve’s experience also stands as an example of how the collaborative environment between disciplines at Boone Hospital leads to quick, life-saving treatment.

“At other medical centers I have worked at, getting another specialist to see your patient requires setting up an appointment through their staff and sending medical records, which leads to delays,” Dr. Fernandez said. “The coordination between disciplines at Boone is as simple as a cell phone call direct to the doctor or nurse coordinator.”

So while Steve’s lung cancer screening didn’t find cancer, it still saved a life.

“If it wouldn’t have been for that lung screening, I would have never found the aneurysm,” Steve said. “I probably wouldn’t be here.”

In his job, Steve Downes inspects roofs, estimates damage and sells repair work.

Not long after the surgery to repair his aneurysm, he found himself inspecting Norm Stewart’s roof.

“I got to thank him for basically saving my life,” Steve says.


Boone Hospital Foundation

The lung cancer screening that detected Steve’s aneurysm was funded by donations to the Stewart Cancer Center—named for Norm and Virginia Stewart—through the Boone Hospital Foundation. The service to the Stewart Cancer Center is just one aspect of the foundation’s many roles inside Boone Hospital, where it works to enhance the care and create a more comfortable healing environment for patients.

To learn more about the foundation’s work or to make a donation, visit

A WWII Vet Wins Another Battle

November 11, 2014

story and photo by David Hoffmaster

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2014 edition of My Boone Health magazine.

As a Marine in the Pacific theater, Fred Oerly had survived World War II. He had volunteered to serve as a forward observer for naval gunfire on hostile islands like Guadalcanal, Bougainville and Okinawa, and received both a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.

Fred Oerly, center, with daughters Diane Oerly, left, and Donovan Davis, right.

Fred Oerly, center, with daughters Diane Oerly, left, and Donovan Davis, right.

But, on a Sunday morning in February 2014, Fred thought he might be in for his last battle.

Fred had been living by himself since his wife passed away. He continued to live in the Boonville home he had built with her 63 years ago. At 91, he led an active life, exercising three times a week and driving himself to Hartmann Village, a local assisted-living facility, for lunch. His daughter-in-law Karen had purchased meal tickets for him there, and Fred greatly enjoyed the camaraderie and socialization whenever he visited.

Fred had been selected for a Boonville Honor Flight to visit the World War II monument in Washington, D.C. A proud supporter of the program, Fred, who is a prolific and talented woodcarver, hand-carved more than a hundred cardinals over a period of two years and presented them to the volunteers who ran the Boonville Honor Flight program.

Fred was also working on his second book, sharing his experiences during World War II. His first book, Some Mighty Good Years: 1925–1937, written when he was 86, was a memoir of his childhood spent in the small river town of Overton, Mo., where Fred’s father ran the local grocery store until it closed during the Great Depression.

And then, on that February Sunday morning, Fred threw up bright red blood. His first action was to call his daughter, Dianne Oerly. She quickly picked him up and brought him to Boone Hospital Center’s Emergency Department. An initial endoscopy was unable to locate the source of the bleeding, but an x-ray and CT scan revealed a large mass in his right lung. Fred was admitted.

Fred’s doctor, Wade Schondelemeyer, MD, soon arrived, in the company of Eric Thompson, MD, a cardiothoracic surgeon.

Dr. Thompson told Fred there was a favorable chance that his surgery would be successful.

“Then let’s go!” Fred responded. He and Dianne made some calls to other family members. Another daughter, Donovan Davis, made urgent plans to travel from her home in Florida to be at her father’s side in Missouri.

The surgery to remove the mass from Fred’s lung concluded at midnight and was successful. The entire mass had been removed; no follow-up radiation or chemotherapy would be needed. The next day, Fred felt pretty good.

“The service was amazing,” Dianne says. “My father was diagnosed and cured in one day.”

Dr. Thompson attributes Fred’s recovery to his positive attitude.

Prior to his surgery, Fred told the surgeon about his experience in Bougainville during the war. As a young Marine, he had been convinced that he would die during the intense combat on the island. His survival changed his outlook on life.

“I’ve seen this in some patients who’ve faced death before,” Dr. Thompson says. “They lose their fear of dying.”

Fred remained upbeat about retaining his independent lifestyle, as well. Boone Hospital occupational therapy assistant, Cayla Viers, advised him on how he could make his home safer, and the family arranged for visits from Boone Hospital Home Care.

After a week in the hospital, Fred went home with Dianne and Donavan.

“Boone Hospital is where I wanted to be,” he says.

“Amazing attitudes and compassion”: A father’s gratitude

May 16, 2014

By Daniel and Amy Neale

Daniel, of Columbia, shared his story using our online submission form. Click here to share your story.

Our son Cooper was born at Boone Family Birthplace at 37 weeks on April 22, 2014 by emergency C-section and was in the ICN until the following Saturday, April 26.

Amy Neale with son Cooper

Amy Neale with son Cooper

First off, we would like to tell you how much we enjoyed the staff and what a great job they did. Dr. Merrihew showed a great level of care and went above and beyond to keep us posted throughout the first night and following days. She was great at explaining our son’s level of care and steps involved. She showed great dedication to the care of the patients, families and the ICN.

Two of your staff members stood out above the rest: Emily Kvitle was great with our son and very knowledgeable as well as able to answer any question we had clear and thoroughly. She showed a great compassion for the children and was on top of their care. Molly Jaecques really left a lasting impression with us – she was absolutely amazing. My wife had a placental abruption while Molly was her nurse. When Molly discovered this, she was perfectly calm and handled the situation with total confidence. Her actions and level head kept my wife calm during what could have been a very upsetting situation. She showed amazing skills and knowledge while keeping a smile and pleasant atmosphere. We cannot say enough great things about Molly.

These two are great assets to the family birthplace, and while their skill set may be replaceable, their amazing attitudes and compassion for the care they give is not. Please recognize and pass along our greatest and most sincere gratitude to these two outstanding individuals.

Superb Service from Portal to Post…A Boone Experience

January 23, 2014

from Gary D. Smith as told by his partner, Randall F. Kilgore

Gary D. Smith, of Columbia, shared this story from the eyes of his loved one using the online submission form. Click here to share your story.

On January 6, 2014, my life partner entered Boone Hospital Center to undergo a radical prostatectomy. The day before, one of the coldest days in the New Year, church had been cancelled, and his plans for announcing the impending operation squashed, he settled in at home for the long wait to Monday’s appointment. You see, January 5 was his 61st anniversary of birth, and he was greeting the birthday with joy and a sense of celebration for life and the promise of cure that would come from the delivery of his Stage I prostate cancer.

Dr. Michael Cupp and Gary D. Smith

Dr. Michael Cupp and Gary D. Smith

Gary D. Smith is the Director of Music and Fine Arts at Unity of Columbia. It is there he also uses that “right brain” mentality to oversee the administrative matters of the congregation. His perfect world of “right brain – left brain” was to be temporarily stalled while the New Year brought about the election to have his cancer removed. Gary was to have announced that Sunday morning at the conclusion of the Unity service that he was to be entering Boone Hospital Center for surgery and would be absent from the office and greater community of faith for a brief time. The “winter weather vortex,” as it was being called, hit and hit hard. Monday seemed like a faraway day to come as we waited through the day and witnessed the many cancellations scroll across the screen of our television.

Monday morning arrived early for us, and we departed home for the inevitable event to come. From the moment we arrived at the surgery center, we knew we had come to a safe place. Smiles that early morning were in abundance, and it seemed as if everyone was waiting just for us on our arrival. I anxiously looked around the large, spacious surgery waiting area and saw the looks of many persons just like me awaiting uncertain news, a lengthy hospital stay, perhaps, or worries of weather wrinkling every part of their faces.

Our wait was not long, and Gary was called to the pre-op area where the capable hands of the surgical team met him with warmth and kind, gentle regards. I was called to the area soon enough, and with such respect and hospitality, it gave me a sense of calm and assurance that all was in order. You see, I serve at Truman VA Medical Center as the compliance and business integrity officer, and oversee the integrated ethics program for that health care organization. Needless to say, with my health care experience and professional background, I am generally on high alert to observe processes and listen thoughtfully to the words shared with the patient and their family during such times pre- and post surgery. It was clearly a seamless process. To a person, I could find no one who crossed boundaries inappropriately.

Gary was taken to surgery and thus began my wait. I was called to the telephone numerous times by the circulating nurse, who provided me up-to-date reports of the proceedings of surgery, and the stages at which the surgeon was doing his tender work. There were no complications, and her assuring voice gave me peace of mind and clarity for what was occurring down hidden halls and behind closed doors in exceptionally clean spaces.

When all was done, I was once again greeted with an invitation to “come on back” and meet with the surgeon and receive his report. I give you Michael R. Cupp, M.D., Urologist! We had first met Dr. Cupp in the Summer of 2013 when problems seemed to persist with Gary’s prostate. Enlarged beyond normal margins, it became apparent that something more was happening and focused attention needed to be given. Dr. Cupp, who I had known through my own associations with his practice, but professionally from years of working in the health care community for which Columbia is known. His excellent reputation proceeded him, and I felt good about each and every discussion we had with him regarding options for treatment.

The post-surgery meeting was no different than all of the other appointments we had together attended. You see, Gary and I have been committed life partners for 33-plus years, and such medical decisions are not made independently. Dr. Cupp treated us with the same respect and due diligence any couple would expect when making such important decisions. He came to me and explained the surgery again, what was encountered, why there a prolonged period in the OR and what then to expect after Gary was released from the recovery area to his room. It was, again, the hallmark of the Boone Experience that became very personal and real in the privacy of the consultation room.

Admitted to the South Tower 5th floor, Gary was awake and asking for me before I realized he was out of recovery. A small “glitch” happened in the surgery waiting area while I waited, and the paging system failed to notify me that I “come on back” to see Gary. Apologies were in abundance from several persons, and a flurry of calls to get me to South Tower was suddenly in play when it was fully realized what happened. I made it to the floor and entered the room where, already, Volunteers had delivered the “post” of the day! He had only been admitted early that morning, and there were Boone Hospital Center “e-Cards” to greet him!

The care for the next 48 hours was exceptional, thorough, and clearly another example of the seamless processes of bedside care. Gary is not an “easy patient”, although delightful and charming he can be, his underlying medical problems are centered around Type I diabetes mellitus. On paper, Gary doesn’t look like a diabetic. His excellent, well-managed day-to-day self-care is clearly not the expected norm for someone who has been diabetic as long as he has. It always surprises and astonishes well-schooled, educated health care professionals and providers that he understands often more about his diabetes treatment than what the textbooks say.

2014.1 Gary

Gary at Dr. Cupp’s office for a follow-up visit.

Day of discharge came one day earlier than anticipated. With excellent incision care, pain management and giving the patient reins to manage their diabetes, Dr. Cupp gave his order and once again we were making our way from the post to the portal from which we arrived. The attitude of customer service, hospitality and “come on back” spirit leaves little wonder that, at the end of the day, you know you will be coming back.

A cold, wintry “vortex” on Gary’s 61st birthday provided the perfect platform for a surgery well-planned, in the warmth and comfort of a sunny and bright spot along the eastern edge of Broadway where that place we call Boone rests high overlooking the community below.

Thank you, Boone Hospital Center! Thank you for being that “come on back” sort of place. From portal to post and home again, our Boone experience was exceptional.

“Thanks for the great care”

January 10, 2014

By Jean Ann Sidwell

Jean, of Kirksville, shared this story the online submission form. Click here to share your story.

I would just like to thank Dr. Fairlamb for his good care and his nurse Karen.

IMG_1857We were out of town and my chest tightness became worse. I called and they were there to help me right then. I had to have two stents and was taken care of by the nicest nurse, Jennifer.

Then the four floor nurses were great. We talked and laughed and were there for me at all times. Great hospital stay. Thanks for the great care.

Greeted with thoughtfulness, genuine concern and caring

December 10, 2013


By Charles Crandall

Charles, of Ashland, shared this story via email. Click here to share your story.

On Dec. 9, 2013, I presented at the Radiology Department for a CT scan at 9 a.m. Upon my arrival, I was greeted by the most friendly, and caring person that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in recent memory, with respect to my last several doctor’s appointments and evaluations.

11170_044After introducing herself, it was obvious that she could tell that I was apprehensive of the pending CT scans.

Rather than being indifferent or too busy, she quietly asked me to come closer to her. She had such a warm presence about her that I did, without thought. She then asked me if I was all right. I told her that I was a little nervous, which wasn’t exactly true, as I was more than a little nervous. She then put her hand my shoulder and said, “You’re going to be okay.”

That one gesture, a simple, caring touch, had the most calming effect, and I believed her. For the next two hours, she periodically looked over to me and asked if I was okay and offered a smile each time.

I have no words to express my most sincere gratitude for her thoughtfulness and genuine concern and caring. While I did not get her name, I won’t soon forget her.

While I’m at it I would also like to commend the CT tech that took my history and prepped me for the exam (IV contrast). He was also very nice.

Overall, my entire experience at Radiology was positive, but she really made a difference.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 98 other followers

%d bloggers like this: