By Jennifer Miller
On the feast day of St. Luke the physician, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades blessed the Paqui and Brian Kelly Comprehensive Breast Center and the St. Joseph Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly Center, both part of the St. Joseph Health System. They promise to provide patients with the highest level of service in keeping with the rich tradition of Catholic health care.
The CBC, as it’s known, is a state-of-the-art facility that provides the latest technology for early detection of breast cancer in a calming, care-filled space. Located at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center, Mishawaka, it also offers support resources throughout the medical journey as well as space for survivors to meet and heal.
During the CBC blessing, Al Gutierrez, CEO emeritus of Saint Joseph Health System, as well as Paqui and Brian Kelly, spoke of their joy that the center was officially open and was receiving Bishop’s blessing. Next, Father Henry Byekwaso, chaplain of St. Joseph Regional Medical Center, read one of the healing miracles of Jesus from the Gospel of Matthew. Bishop Rhoades shared how Jesus’ ministry was essentially where Catholic health care first began. He encouraged the medical professionals gathered there to continue to perceive the patient as a whole person, body and soul.
With holy water and aspergillum in hand, Bishop Rhoades sprinkled and blessed all who were present, including a generous amount on Head Notre Dame Football Coach Brian Kelly, who chuckled. He then processed, sprinkling holy water, through the rooms of the CBC.
From state-of-the-art 3-D mammography and hydromassage to molecular breast imaging and bone density testing, the Kelly CBC offers a comfortable and relaxing space during what can be a stressful and tense time. The new 10,000 square-foot facility was created in part by a generous donation from the Kelly Cares Foundation, begun by two-time breast cancer survivor Paqui and her husband. Paqui stressed that early detection was critical with the type of breast cancer she had, and explained that even now she has a mammogram or MRI every six months. Ninety-five percent of breast cancers can be caught with early detection, which is why this is a cause supported by the Kelly Cares Foundation.
“No one wants [cancer] in their house. No one signs up to be on that team,” Paqui passionately stated. “We need to stay ahead of it. Denial doesn’t work.”
She credits God for her healing, and said “faith has gotten me where I am today.” Raised in a family of faith, she was confirmed with name of St. Francis of Assisi. Paqui added that her daily prayer life is of gratitude. “My prayers are of thanks. … I get to see my family every day.”
She also explained how “talking and sharing about it is part of my healing.” She was a mother with three young children when she was first diagnosed, and she soon realized she was on this track for a reason. Paqui speaks as a survivor in a real and genuinely caring manner toward other women in need.
“I was blessed with a support system; financially, with insurance, and with my family,” she said. But she realizes that this is not always the case, which is why the care of the whole person is vital at the Kelly Comprehensive Breast Center. “The staff here is very in tune with patient’s needs.” Paqui is grateful for the “auxiliary angels” or people who care and help in the everyday, small ways, such as sitting and being present with patients as they receive chemo treatment.
Her hope now is for continuing successful research. “I would love that (we) eradicate this one!” she said. Paqui encourages women to receive regular mammograms as well as donate healthy breast cells for research.
The bishop later visited and blessed the new St. Joseph Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly Center, called PACE, located about four minutes away from the Kelly Comprehensive Breast Center, on Day Road in Granger. The PACE Center opened in September with four participants, and is an initiative of Trinity Health. This is the 13th program of its kind, now found in nine states. They are also referred to as “Living Independently For Elders,” or LIFE, Centers.
Participants generally come two or three days per week to receive rehabilitation services, see their primary care providers, share meals, socialize and take part in activities. Upon enrollment, participants must agree to receive all services and medications through the PACE provider network. The program offers essentially that which, traditionally, a family would have taken care of in the American society of generations past.
At PACE, an interdisciplinary team of professionals work together to daily assess and care for the individual participant. The IDT includes the primary care providers or doctors, nurses, homecare aides, nutrition specialists, social service providers, transportation guides and essentially everyone who interacts with the patient on a regular basis. They create a specialized life plan of care that is regularly updated.
The main goal is to keep the participant at home or in the community for as long as possible. The IDT also can recommend nonmedical services such as a ramp or handle that should be built in the participant’s home. The PACE program receives funding primarily from Medicare and Medicaid, although private pay is possible as well.
Bishop Rhoades met with Norma, Shirley, Helen and Joe, the first four participants of the PACE program. Al Gutierrez, as his final act as CEO of St. Joseph Health System before retirement, also spoke. Kelly Hopkins, president and CEO of Trinity Health, offered remarks explaining the PACE system. Stacey Newton, St. Joseph PACE executive director, next introduced and thanked the entire staff of the PACE Center, from the transportation driver to the nutrition specialist and highlighted their team approach to helping each individual participant.
After a reading from the book of Isaiah, Bishop Rhoades reminded the staff of the first tenet of Catholic social teaching: the inherent dignity of each human person. When they serve each patient, they serve the face of Jesus Christ, he said. Then he blessed all present and walked room to room in the renovated space and blessed each office, desk, meeting room and kitchen with holy water. This act sanctified the secular space, reminding all of God’s power and healing.
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