In Her Own Words: A Kidney Donor’s Experience Inspires Her to Work for Mercy Health

Nicole Smith with her Mercy Health Kidney Transplant water bottle
Nicole Smith with her Mercy Health Kidney Transplant water bottle

Story told by Colleague Nicole Smith

Mercy Health came into my life when my brother-in-law, Richard Major, had advanced kidney disease and needed dialysis. Because I’m the “medical-minded one in the family,” I attended education classes and physician appointments with Richard at Mercy Health.

That’s when I immediately recognized what sets Mercy Health apart: How we were treated by staff was a completely different experience from what I have observed and experienced in my life with other health care providers.

The people at Mercy Health show great care and compassion for their patients and for what they are going through.

During Richard’s journey of waiting for a kidney transplant through the Mercy Health Kidney Transplant Center, I learned how many people were waiting for a kidney and how long they had to wait—and that is what made me consider becoming a living kidney donor. It was the staggering statistics that prompted me to get tested to see if I qualified to be a donor.

[“The average wait time for a deceased kidney donor in Michigan is five to seven years, according to the National Kidney Foundation,” reports Kelly Summers, BSN, manager of Mercy Health Kidney Transplant Center. “About 60% of kidney transplants at Mercy Health Kidney Transplant Center come from deceased donors. When we look at the numbers for the need for transplants, it’s a staggering epidemic. The number of people in the country waiting for a transplant could entirely fill the Big House at the University of Michigan. Although 33,000 transplants were performed across the country in 2016 — a record year — it barely touches the amount being added to the transplant list that year.”]

It turned out that I was not only qualified, but I had the same blood type as Richard: AB+. I was able to be his living kidney donor!

Nicole with her brother-in-law, Richard Major, the kidney recipient
Nicole with her brother-in-law, Richard Major, the recipient of her kidney.

Before my surgery was scheduled, I learned about an opening at Mercy Health in Human Resources (HR) that was perfect for me. I remember thinking: How cool would it be to donate my kidney through Mercy Health and then become part of their HR team and be able to share my story! As it turned out, the Friday before my surgery, I had an interview at Mercy Health.

I was calm before my surgery on Monday, June 19, 2017, but my husband and one of my sons became anxious when I checked in at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s on the day of the transplant. Naturally, once I saw their anxiety, I began to become anxious, too.

Joel Green, MD, my surgeon, is phenomenal. When he entered the room he could see the worry on our faces, and he stopped and said, “I need to pray. Can we pray?” I said, “Absolutely.”

We formed a circle, and he prayed specifically to calm my son. He prayed that God would guide his hands, and he also prayed for me and for my brother-in-law. Dr. Green’s kind, heartfelt prayer calmed us all down, and I was ready for surgery.

#955 Kidney pillow 1
Nicole’s kidney pillow

The week after I was in the hospital recovering, I received a call from an HR leader, and we spoke for about an hour. I already felt like I was part of the team. I went through a formal interview process three weeks after my release from the hospital and was hired as Senior Organizational Development Consultant shortly thereafter.

During my interview, I shared how proud I am to have been part of my brother-in-law’s journey. To be able to see his health improve in just one day—after getting my kidney—means so much to me.

I have also shared with my HR team about my experience with the level of care, compassion and service that I received as a patient at Mercy Health.

The care at Mercy Health isn’t the norm—and I can say that because I’ve seen firsthand other family member’s experiences with other health care systems. I can compare Mercy Health to them, and Mercy Health, in my mind, comes out on top.

Since donating my kidney, I am more aware of being healthy, but I have no lingering concerns. My family is more accepting of my decision to be a living kidney donor because they see how healthy Richard is and that I am healthy too. I take my family to heart and would have done the same for any of them. They understand that donating my kidney was God’s plan for me.

I encourage all of my family and friends to spread the word about the need for kidney donors—living or deceased. You never know who can be a donor; I am a perfect example. I am happy to say that these days my family members have the donor symbol on their driver’s licenses, as do I.

Mercy Health is participating in a challenge to register people for the Organ Donor Registry, from October 2-November 10, 2017.

To sign up, please visit: Read more about the challenge here>>

Nicole Smith at Mercy HealthMy previous job was with another health care system. I can honestly say that I am overwhelmed by the caring and compassion Mercy Health shows not only to patients, but also to colleagues. As an example, I received welcome messages in my work email before I even arrived. The HR team I work with is a wonderful group of caring people who “walk, talk and actually live their truth.”

Being a patient and colleague as a member of Mercy Health’s HR team, I can testify that the important work that goes on behind the scenes truly trickles down to the patients. It makes a positive difference in their lives, which is what our work is all about.



Mercy Health Leaders, Urban League of West Michigan Engage in Implicit Bias Awareness Training

Joe Jones

At the Mercy Health Regional Leadership Summit on September 19, 2017, more than 400 Mercy Health leaders participated in an informative discussion about implicit bias – defined as the process of associating stereotypes and attitudes toward categories of people without conscious awareness.

Led by Joe Jones, president and CEO of Urban League of West Michigan (ULWM), along with Lisa Knight, director, Center for Health, Wellness and Youth at ULWM, and Will Osmun, VP and chief strategy officer at ULWM, leaders went through an exercise to understand implicit bias.

This exercise helped us to:

  • Identify our biases
  • Expand our circle of human concern
  • Seek ways to own, address and counteract on our own biases, not only in the workplace, but in our communities and with the patients we serve

Mercy Health leaders engaged in thoughtful discussion and look forward to further work in this area, as we continue to grow as the most compassionate, personalized, accessible health system in West Michigan.


Lisa Knight



Will Osmun

Gift of Life Organ Donor Registry Challenge Fall 2017

The chart above shows on the blue line the exponential growth of need for any type of transplant in the United States from 1993 through 2016. The gold line indicates the number of actual transplants occurring during the same time period, and the yellow indicates deceased donors and green indicates living donors.


Mercy Health is stepping up to a challenge by Gift of Life Michigan to see which hospital can add the most names to the Organ Donor Registry this fall.

The competition kicks off on Monday, October 2, and ends at midnight on Nov. 10. To sign up and credit Mercy Health, please visit:

“The average wait time for a kidney in Michigan is five to seven years, according to the National Kidney Foundation,” said Kelly Summers, BSN, manager of Mercy Health Kidney Transplant Center. “About 60% of kidney transplants at Mercy Health Kidney Transplant Center come from deceased donors. When we look at the numbers for the need for transplants, it’s a staggering epidemic. The number of people in the country waiting for a transplant could entirely fill the Big House at the University of Michigan. Although 33,000 transplants were performed across the country in 2016 — a record year — it barely touches those who are being added to the transplant list that year.”

Gift of Life Michigan appreciates the efforts of the hospitals.

“Our hospital partners know better than most that with more than 3,300 critically ill patients waiting in Michigan for transplants, the need for more registered donors is crucial,” said Dorrie Dils, CEO for Gift of Life Michigan, the state’s organ and tissue recovery program. “We welcome their participation in this competition and can’t wait to see what they can do to lend more hope for those who wait.”

To date, 60 percent of adults in Michigan have joined the Michigan Organ Donor Registry and have the red heart emblem on their state ID or driver’s license.

Members of Mercy Health Saint Mary’s Leadership pose with and without their licenses that bear the red heart, indicating they are registered organ donors.

“We can’t thank our hospital enough for taking part in this new challenge,” Dils said. “I’m looking forward to the trophy ceremony so we can all celebrate what this will mean for so many.”

Mercy Health Saint Mary’s won the hospital-based challenge in 2012, securing 960 donors for the Organ Donor Registry that year.

To sign up and credit Mercy Health, please visit:

August 2017 Mercy Health Muskegon DAISY Award Winner Sarah Johnson

DAISY Award, Johnson, August 2017The August 2017 DAISY Award winner is Sarah Johnson, BSN, RN from North 2 at the Mercy Health Hackley Campus.  Sarah was nominated by her Clinical Manager, Lindy, and peers Breena and Martha from the OB unit.

“Sarah has voluntarily taken an active role in improving and maintaining the perinatal loss services for the OB unit.  She has reached out to and facilitated the acquiring of the Brianna Lee Foundation Bears so that no mom leaves our facility with empty arms.  She maintains the supplies, paperwork and support needs for this service.  She also goes down to the ER to support their staff in providing care to the mothers experiencing a loss there.”

Sarah was honored with a surprise celebration on her unit with her leaders and peers in attendance. To nominate a well deserving nurse, please complete the nomination form located on the Mercy Health Muskegon Intranet. 


Bishop David Walkowiak Celebrates Last Mass at Mercy Health Mercy Campus Chapel

Father Bart (left) and Bishop Walkowiak celebrate the last mass in Mercy Campus chapel
Father Bart (left) and Bishop Walkowiak celebrate the last mass in Mercy Campus chapel

Most Reverand David Walkowiak, bishop of the Diocese of Grand Rapids, visited Mercy Health Mercy Campus on Friday, September 22 to celebrate the last mass in the current chapel, and to bless the new (temporary) chapel, located across from Conference Rooms A-C. During the service, colleague volunteers sang celebratory hymns as Father Bart and Bishop Walkowiak offered communion and reminisced about the chapel’s history and the healing presence it has provided to so many throughout the years.

Following a traditional Catholic Mass, Mercy Health Muskegon President Gary Allore carried the commemorative cross down to the new chapel location, where a blessing was offered by Bishop Walkowiak.

Guests enjoyed a fellowship luncheon, hosted by Mission Services Director Jennifer Haworth. Haworth announced that a contest to name the new chapel will take place now until October 10, and colleagues and the public are invited to vote on their favorite name for the new, permanent chapel by visiting this survey.

Better the Second Time Around: Patient’s Road to Recovery After Joint Replacement

Mhairi Blacklock, Mercy Health joint replacement patient
Mhairi Blacklock, Mercy Health joint replacement patient

Better the Second Time Around: Patient’s Road to Recovery After Joint Replacement

Joint replacement patient Mhairi Blacklock, 76, has had both of her knees replaced at Mercy Health – one was done four years ago, and the other – six weeks ago. The retired physical therapist and Scotland native, could not believe how fast her recovery was this second time around. “The whole thing has been a big success. We have excellent surgeons here in Muskegon at Mercy,” explained Mhairi of her experience with Mercy Health.

Her surgeon, Jeffrey Recknagel, MD, worked with Mhairi on various treatment methods throughout the year such as lubrication injections – but when springtime came around, they realized that surgery was necessary. After meeting with Dr. Recknagel and his team, she went through a preoperative program which she referred to as “Joint Camp.”

Pre-Op Is Key

Joint Camp is a training session where patients view a video and receive information on what to expect before, during and after joint replacement surgery. It is important to designate a friend or family member who will act as a coach while the patient goes through the joint replacement process, beginning with the training session and continuing through recovery once back at home. Luckily, Mhairi’s husband, Peter, felt prepared to care for her after attending the program, and they both attribute Joint Camp, in part, to her speedy recovery. In addition to Joint Camp, Mhairi maintained her healthy lifestyle prior to her operation. “I was active up until the day. Even the day of surgery I walked two miles.”

Day of Surgery

On the day of surgery, Dr. Recknagel and his team greeted Mhairi, explained the timeline for the day, and what she could expect. “They answered all of my questions. Dr Recknagel and all of the nurses were great, just great. I was treated with so much care and respect during every interaction,” said Mhairi.

“Dr. Recknagel thought he was going to go in and do it a certain way, and when he got in and saw it was going to give him a bit of a challenge, he knew he’d have to do things a little differently. But, obviously he had that expertise, skill and experience to take care of me the best way possible. I really attribute my recovery to his expertise.”

Mhairi was most impressed by the way the Mercy Health colleagues attended to the little details on a daily basis for her – whether it was making sure her room and linens were clean and sanitized, or the fact that the staff changed and updated the in-room status board every day, or just going above and beyond in helping her feel more comfortable during her stay, “The little things bad or good,” she said, “are often what you remember.”

After surgery, Mhairi stayed at Mercy Health Mercy Campus for two days. “I enjoyed my time in the hospital. You’re looked after, you’re even brought a menu ahead of the meal allowing you to choose, which is nice.”

Mhairi participated as part of the 3P team to help create and design the new medical center in Muskegon from the patient’s perspective. She and her husband had met many Mercy Health colleagues through their philanthropic efforts,(they had been involved with Mercy Health’s Comprehensive Breast Center being a breast cancer survivor herself). “I’m most excited about the private rooms, big windows, the natural healing light to come in at the new medical center. ”

Physical Therapy – Full-Time Job 

Mhairi was up and moving around as soon as she returned home. Being a former physical therapist, the main component she had to remember was that “rehab is hard work and it is up to the patient to do all the work their physical therapist tells them to do…and looking at their daily exercise program as a full-time job for the first four to six weeks is critical.”

Mhairi jumped right in working with her physical therapist, and made sure to choose one that was certified in manual therapy (spending at least 45 mins “hands on” at every visit). In addition, she was able to rent an ice compression machine through her insurance which treated her swelling. Mhairi also noted that her pain level was never “more than a 4/10,” and only took extra strength acetaminophen on occasion for pain.

Mhairi ends with this bit of advice: “Really, what it comes down to is the expertise of the surgeon, and the dedication to physical therapy afterward.”

For more information on total knee replacement in Muskegon, visit Mercy Health Orthopedic Medicine.

It’s All In the Family: Drs. Manohar Join Mercy Health Physician Partners Cardiovascular

Prerana Manohar, MD,  FACC, RPVI, and Vinayak Manohar, MD, FACC, RPVI share more than just family roots…they also now share an office. Both have recently joined Mercy Health Physician Partners (MHPP) Cardiovascular and are excited about the mission and vision of our organization.

“I am looking forward to being part of a team at Mercy Health whose focus, dedication and passion is

Prerana Manohar, MD, FACC, RPVI
Prerana Manohar, MD, FACC, RPVI

caring for the patient,” said Dr. Prerana Manohar. She is the first female cardiologist at MHPP Cardiovascular, where she specializes in women and heart disease. “I chose this specialty because I love helping people live a stronger, healthier life –  and the heart is at the core of that.”

Dr. Manohar attended University of Michigan Medical School and went on to complete her internal medicine residency and fellowship in cardiology at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. Her experience and interest lies in preventative cardiology. “My philosophy of care is to always listen to the patient. No one knows the patient better than him or herself.”

Her brother, Dr. Vinayak Manohar is an interventional cardiologist at MHPP Cardiovascular. “I am committed to providing personable and compassionate care to my patients which leads to optimal therapy,” said Dr. Manohar in regards to his philosophy of care. “I work with them to customize a treatment plan that is specific to their needs with the end goal of eliminating their cardiac risks and symptoms.”

Dr. Manohar completed his internal medicine residency at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN and is fellowship trained in cardiology and interventional cardiology from William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, MI. He has experience and an interest in interventional cardiology, peripheral arterial intervention, peripheral venous disease and therapeutic procedures, pulmonary hypertension and autonomic dysfunction.

Vinayak Manohar, MD, FACC, RPVI
Vinayak Manohar, MD, FACC, RPVI

When asked about Mercy Health’s culture he explained,  “I am most appreciative of the collaborative culture that Mercy values. My colleagues from all specialties are all kind and genial which encourages multidisciplinary discussion about our patients which ultimately leads to better care and outcomes. I am proud to be part of a community with such values.”

Both physicians enjoy reading in their spare time – Prerana about breakthroughs in in preventative cardiology, while Vinayak is a history buff – searching for old books in used bookstores whenever he gets the chance. When they gather together as a family, dinners consist of organically grown food from Prerana’ s garden which she uses in experimental recipes.

Please join us in welcoming them to the Mercy Health Cardiovascular team!

Free Medicare 2018 Seminars Open to Public

Dan Sherman
Dan Sherman, MA, LPC

Let’s take a quiz:

Do you fully understand the concepts of Medicare, such as

  • “deductible,”
  • “max out of pocket”
  • and “co-pay,” and
  • how they affect the financial well-being of people enrolled in Medicare?

If not, you’re not alone. A recent study found that 75% of Medicare beneficiaries have little understanding of their enrollment options!

To help people better understand Medicare, Mercy Health Lacks Cancer Center is offering two free seminars that will provide in-depth information about Medicare 2018. Dan Sherman, MA, LPC, will be leading presentations on Medicare, Medigap, Medicare Part D, and Medicare Advantage Plans to help those interested understand their options for 2018 coverage.

The free seminars are:

  • Tuesday, October 17, and
  • Friday, November 3, both from 10 a.m.-noon.

The sessions are open to the public, and will be held at the Pine Rest Postma Center, 300 68th St., SE, Grand Rapids.

Registration is required, through one of the following ways: or call 616.685.1869.

Mercy Health Lacks Cancer Center Patient Featured in “Crowns of Courage” Project

Studio616Photo-- Lisa Fredricks
Lisa Fredricks, ovarian cancer survivor and patient at Lacks Cancer Center, proudly displays her crown of courage through a special art exhibit. Photo used with permission.

Bravery comes in many forms, and one unique display is that of Mercy Health Lacks Cancer patient Lisa Fredricks, who was diagnosed with Stage 3 ovarian cancer in March 2017. “Cancer turned my life around 100%.”

Fredricks was approached to participate in Crowns of Courage as one of 22 women featured through this project, all of whom have been battling cancer. According to the Crowns of Courage website, ” Each of the ladies had shown amazing COURAGE to share their stories with us, as well as become vulnerable in front of a camera revealing their heads (some for the very first time.)” The group uses henna tattoos to create the imagery.

The piece is on display for ArtPrize Nine at the DeVos Place.

“I’m humbled by all the people in our life that helped us get through the last six months,” says Fredricks of her cancer journey. “Our friends and family stepped right up and offered a hand with everything. At Mercy Health Lacks Cancer Center, Dr. Brader, Michelle, and Rhonda were a constant source of answering questions and being reassuring. Everyone from the Cancer and Hematology Center of West Michigan was absolutely amazing; they showed such care and concern, going above and beyond simply treating a patient.”

To view the video, visit

Mercy Health Muskegon HIV Programs Honored at State of Michigan Annual HIV and STD Conference

Mercy Health McClees Team
Mercy Health McClees Team

Mercy Health McClees Clinic and Mercy Health Prevention Practices staff were honored in August 2017 at the State of Michigan Annual HIV and STD Conference. Both programs are located at the Mercy Health Hackley Campus. Together these programs serve Muskegon and 13 surrounding counties.

McClees Clinic provides HIV treatment, case management, support services, housing assistance and tobacco reduction services to people living with HIV (PLWH). Prevention Practices provides free HIV screening and education to the general public, as well as staff training for local agencies.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Division of HIV and STD Programs, recognized Mercy Health McClees Clinic and Mercy Health Prevention Practices staff for their proficiency in data collection and program reporting, as well as their exemplary quality management and improvement activities. Their award was for the Best Submitted Quarterly Progress Report.

These behind-the-scenes activities translate directly into quality patient care and retention rates. 100% of people who test positive through Mercy Health Prevention Practices are linked to medical care and support services, and 95% of clients are actively engaged in medical care and consistently take their medications.

The goal of Mercy Health’s HIV programing is to reduce the instances of HIV in our community. We do this by working together to identify PLWH who are not in care and engaging them in medical care by providing comprehensive support services and case management.

For more information about Mercy Health McClees Clinic or Mercy Health Prevention Practices programing, education services or referral information please call the following numbers:

  • Mercy Health McClees Clinic (Treatment and Support): 231.727.4432
  • Mercy Health Prevention Practices (HIV Screening and community/agency education): 231.728.1842