Living Life Without Limits

Jill Veen and Jen Moses

No longer held back by their weight, two strangers become friends through shared experiences and healthier lifestyle choices.

If you would have told Jill Veen and Jen Moses nine months ago that they could complete a wheeled luge course, hike for miles in the woods, or successfully paddle board through Muskegon Lake, neither of them would have believed you. But earlier this month, the pair did all of those things and more through a special event at DUNEiversity in North Muskegon, hosted by Mercy Health bariatric surgeon, Brian Gluck, DO. The gathering included a slew of physical activities and offered patients the opportunity to make memories, tackle challenges together and celebrate their success throughout their weight loss journeys.

“We offer events like DUNEiversity because we want to help expose patients to new experiences that they might not have been familiar with before,” said Gluck. “It’s all about showing them exciting activities that help them live their lives without limits after weight loss.”

Veen and Moses made it a goal to attempt the wheeled luge, which is notably the most intimidating activity at DUNEiversity. “This is something we would’ve never ever, ever done at our heavier weights,” said Moses. “We’re challenging ourselves to do things here that we haven’t tried before.”

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In just nine months, the two women have lost a combined 200 pounds through diet, exercise and eventually bariatric surgery. “I never actually wanted to have weight loss surgery, but I went to one of Dr. Gluck’s seminars at Life Without Limits just to get more information,” said Veen. “His team was amazing and I ended up spending over six months consulting with them and my insurance provider to get things in order.”

There are many factors patients need to consider beforehand. For example, Veen stepped up her exercise regimen and healthy eating plan well before her surgery took place and even ended up losing weight prior to her procedure. “Surgery is a tool and our patients work very hard to achieve their goals,” added Gluck. “Jen and Jill are two of the hardest working patients I know.”

Both Veen an Moses came to the decision to undergo weight loss surgery after becoming extremely unsatisfied with life. Unable to participate in many activities, feeling tired and sluggish – as well as having to take numerous medications – the women describe the turning points that ultimately changed their lives. “For the last couple of years before bariatric surgery, I didn’t do much besides work,” said Veen. “I made plans with friends and canceled all of the time. I didn’t want to go out and socialize because my weight was holding me back.”

“My turning point actually happened years ago when I lost my dad,” recalls Moses. “I was completely frustrated with life, and all I wanted to do was sleep. My life was very mundane and I spent most of my time inside of my house. Life was passing me by. I refused to accept that as my fate.”

Weight loss surgery is designed to assist patients in developing a healthier lifestyle. The surgery alone will not help someone lose weight and keep it off – the patient has to commit to significantly changing eating and exercise habits. “Initially, my primary care physician recommended weight loss meds, but those weren’t covered under my insurance plan,” said Moses. “I actually ran into a nurse colleague who had bariatric surgery and was doing very well. She suggested Dr. Gluck’s seminar – and immediately following, I knew it would be the right decision for me.”

The surgeries for both patients went according to plan and turned out better than they ever could have expected.  “Mercy Health colleagues along with Dr. Gluck and his staff were all amazing – very friendly and helpful,” said Veen.

“Mercy Health made this experience so much better than anything I would have imagined,” added Moses. “Everything was smooth from registration, to pre-op, all throughout my overnight stay. Nurses were so friendly and helpful. I’m so glad I made the decision to have surgery with Dr. Gluck at Mercy Health.”

Something that has kept both women on track to maintain their weight loss is the continuous care and check-ins offered through Dr. Gluck’s team at Life Without Limits. Veen and Moses actually met for the first time there during the post-op support group.

“We always sat in the front row next to each other and started talking more and more about our experiences,” recalls Veen. ” We constantly bounce ideas off of each other because we’ve gone through the same things. I’m so happy to call Jen a friend.” Moses agreed and said, “Yes – I’m so lucky that we became friends through our experience at our support group. Most people think we’ve been friends forever because of how connected we are. That is due to the fabulous support Dr. Gluck’s team offers.”

As far as Dr. Gluck is concerned, there are so many upsides to seeing his patients make the decision to continue their weight loss journey through bariatric surgery. Witnessing them experience new things that show his patients there is no limit to what they can achieve is what it’s really all about. “We all go into medicine to make a difference, there’s no better reward professionally than to see my patients go through this.”

What’s new for Veen and Moses since the surgery? Veen mows her own lawn, enjoys doing yard work, has given up her soda addiction, is off of her cholesterol medication and is constantly on the go. “I walk all of the time – everywhere – especially with my dogs, ” said Veen. “I take vitamins and barely stop to rest. I’m at the gym five to six days a week and am loving life.”

Moses shouts, “We’re now reaching higher than what we think our limits are. It’s ‘Life Without Limits’ and we don’t have those limits anymore!”

Wondering if weight loss surgery is right for you? Consider attending a seminar or call:

Muskegon and the Lakeshore: 231-714-6595 Greater Grand Rapids: 616-217-4188

Visit for additional information and downloadable guides.


NICU Reunion Celebrates Our Littlest Superheroes

Previously the smallest patients at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s, graduates of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) made a big splash on Tuesday, August 21. Over 400 babies, children and parents gathered for a celebration and reunion at the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum.

“We had a super hero theme this year, which I believe depicts the characteristics of our grads,” said Lynne Horodyski, registered nurse, NICU. “Some of them started out very small, as little as one pound, or very sick. They are now growing and thriving.”

Often having arrived into this world too soon or with complications, these NICU grads and their parents are proud to show off how far they’ve come since their time at Mercy Health. It is also an opportunity for colleagues to see just how much these former patients have grown and developed, in large part due to the remarkable care they were given while in the hospital. Mercy Health colleagues in attendance included NICU staff, providers, respiratory therapists, pediatricians and members of the senior leadership team.

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“This is our favorite time of the year,” said Jane Topping, manager of Clinical Services, NICU. “We get to see how well our patients and their families are doing years after they leave our unit. We are truly privileged to be a part of their lives!”

The event this year was made special with Forever Memories photographing the reunion and running a photo booth. Families were provided with a free 4×6 photo to commemorate the night. Each grad also received a goodie bag with a superhero-themed children’s book, a T-shirt and a toy. In addition, parents of former NICU patients found ways to give back. The Sunday Dinner Group, whose membership includes a NICU parent, sponsored the event. Running for Covers, a group founded by a NICU mother to raise funds for Mercy Health Saint Mary’s NICU, presented a check for $2,000.

Thank you to the NICU staff for hosting this event for the patients and their families!

Listen to Your Body

A stroke patient urges others to pay attention to their symptoms.

John Roberts

The night his “speech was a mess,” John Roberts, a disk jockey with a 27-year career in radio, ignored his symptoms.

“I went to the store to buy cigarettes, and I couldn’t talk. I was so confused,” he recalled.

Rather than call 9-1-1, Roberts went to bed while he was having a stroke.

For years, Roberts, 53, didn’t have a family doctor and ignored his health. “I knew I had high blood pressure, and I was a closet smoker. I didn’t want a doctor telling me I should quit. I thought, ‘I’m invincible; nothing can hurt me.‘”


The next day, he showed up at a company event, and Rose Dunlap, director of operations for the radio station, was among the first to see the change in Roberts.

“We’re a radio family,” she said. “John has been with us for 11 years. We knew something was wrong. John’s speech slurred and his face was kind of droopy.”

Along with others, Dunlap urged Roberts to get to the hospital right away. A coworker, who had been a respiratory therapist, told Roberts that he was probably having a stroke.

Becky Toney and John Roberts at the radio station

After initial treatment in the Emergency Department for an ischemic stroke*, Roberts was admitted to  Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Mercy Health, where he remained for four days. That’s where he met Becky Toney, Neuroscience Nurse Navigator/Stroke Coordinator.

“In the United States, 800,000 people have strokes every year. Common risk factors for stroke include high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking and high cholesterol. Unfortunately, having a stroke is a risk factor for having another stroke,” said Toney.




The acronym to remember for signs of a stroke is B-E  F-A-S-T. The letters stand for:

Balance issue

Eye (vision) changes

Facial drooping

Arm/leg numbness or tingling

Slurred speech

Time — get emergency help immediately

“It’s crucial to get to the hospital if you are having signs of a stroke because 1.9 million neurons die every minute. One hour of ischemia ages your brain 3.6 years,” Toney said.

During the four days Roberts was in the hospital, he quit smoking. “I knew I didn’t have a choice. I’ve quit before, but this time they said if I kept smoking, I would die. I needed to stop.”

In the ICU, he kept trying to say that he was fine, “but I knew I wasn’t. And all l could think was, ‘My career is over.’ I thought my identity was going to be gone.”

Depressed and concerned about his future, Roberts was surprised by the hospital environment. “I was encouraged by the staff the whole time I was there. I’m not good at being patient, but they helped me to understand that the brain needed to heal and to give it time.”

Follow-up care after a stroke is essential. “Getting speech, occupational and physical therapy is important too,” said Toney. “John took his therapy seriously.”

“They were right,” Roberts chimed in. “The brain is an amazing thing. Every day, things started coming back.” At just six weeks following his stroke he declared, “My speech is just about 100 percent back, and now I can wink my left eye!”

Attending a stroke support group also helped Roberts adjust to the changes in his life.

“I’m not a support group guy, but I went because I needed to hear what I heard there. The stroke support group was very encouraging because I got meet to all sorts of people who had been through the same thing I had been,” he shared.

Rather than being anxious about going to the doctor, now Roberts looks forward to his follow-up visits, where he can track his progress.

“I had a major incident happen to my body,” he said. “I don’t have a cast or a cane, so many people don’t know I had a stroke. Every day I’m getting stronger. My advice to others is to listen to your body.”

*Ischemic strokes block the blood vessels in the brain.

Mercy Health Stroke Support Group ∙ Muskegon

Date: Second Tuesday of every month
Time: 4:30–6 p.m.

Mercy Campus
1500 E. Sherman Blvd.
Parking is free. Please call 231.672.6501 for more information.

Learn more about the Stroke Support in Muskegon 

Mercy Health Stroke Support Group ∙ Grand Rapids

Date: Fourth Monday of every month
Time: 2–3:30 p.m.

Mercy Health Hauenstein Neuroscience Center
220 Cherry Street SE
Conference Room H1

Parking is free. Please call 616.685.5144 for more information.

1,000+ Kids Get Backpacks at Back-to-School Bash

Record-breaking Attendance at Annual Event, Hosted by Heartside Health Center Staff

In its fourth year, the annual Back-to-School Bash, hosted by Mercy Health Heartside Health Center, saw a record-breaking turnout of children for backpacks and other school-related giveaways on Saturday, August 18, 2018.

“Each year, the event builds upon itself, meeting the needs of our young patients and our local community as they return back to school,” said Rochelle Sather, practice leader for Heartside Health Center. “So many returning families hugged and thanked me for our team putting on this event; they look forward to it every year.”

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Citing the need for basic school supplies as well as linking people to community resources, Sather and her team would like to thank the Grand Rapids Public Schools and Kent County Health Department for their participation, as well as the tireless volunteers who came out to support this event.

“We make it fun and educational for the attendees, with fire trucks, local law enforcement, face painting, and this year, we even added bounce houses,” said Sather.

Thanks to the support of the Saint Mary’s Foundation, Mercy Health Heartside Health Center, which is a Family Medicine practice, can provide these backpacks and other school supplies at no cost to children who attend the event.

Despite the record attendance, more backpacks were purchased before the event to ensure that no child left empty-handed.

In order to immediately use any remaining backpacks not selected during the event, Heartside Health Center has teamed up with the GREAT Program in Muskegon. On August 21, 2018, the Muskegon Police Department came to Heartside to pick up nearly 200 backpacks to be used for this school year.

Led by a Muskegon Police Department School Resource Officer, the Gang Resistance Education And Training (GREAT) program supports nearly 300 fifth graders. Students learn a wide range of skills from anger management to making good choices. At the end of the year, all participants perform a community service project in the city. Find more info at

To find out more on how you can support Mercy Health Heartside Health Center and other Mercy Health community efforts, please click here>>

Life-saving Measures Extend Beyond People at Mercy Health

Mercy Health Security Department Rescues and Adopts Abandoned Dog From Hospital Ramp

“She and I seemed to have an instant connection,” said Eric Shields of his rescued and newly adopted dog, Luna, who was found abandoned, dehydrated and filthy in a car on the premises of Mercy Health Saint Mary’s Campus earlier in 2018.

On the night of Luna’s rescue, Mercy Health Security Department received a report of a possible abandoned vehicle in a parking ramp. The colleague said he believed the vehicle had been there for two days.

“When I peered into the vehicle, my heart dropped because I saw this fluffball of a pup in the very back of the vehicle, not moving,” said Security Corporal Kristin Tyburski, who was first on the scene with Security Officer Alex Wilkening.

Without food or water, the puppy was covered in car oil, transmission fluid, urine and excrement.

Security called Grand Rapids Police Department (GRPD) to assist in getting the puppy out of the vehicle.

“She was just the happiest pup to be out and able to stretch. The SUV was cramped and looked as though someone was living out of it,” said Tyburski.

A security parking ticket was left on the vehicle with a GRPD report number, asking the owner to contact Mercy Health Security or GRPD.

Once the puppy was removed from the vehicle, Security at Mercy Health took possession of her. The Security officers took the dog down to the maintenance garage, and with the help of Nick Ferris and Jim Larkin from Ferris Construction, cleaned her up in the shower.

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“She was dehydrated and a bit underweight,” said Tybinski. Throughout the night, Security officers took turns watching and caring for her until the end of their shift.

“We gave her some food and water,” said Corporal Eric Shields. “When we checked the ramp again a few hours after we rescued Luna, the vehicle that the puppy was in had left. Nobody called either the Grand Rapids Police Department or Security to locate the puppy.”

Now abandoned, what does a hospital do with a dog?

“She was running all over our office, playing and showing affection,” said Shields. Luna even took a nap on the dash of the Security vehicle during Shields’ shift. “The dog and I seemed to have an instant connection that led to me wanting to take her home and care for her.”

Now with a new home and owner, Luna has a happy outlook on life, enjoying playing with Shields and his cats.

But some aspects of this adoption have been difficult for Luna’s new owner. “There are a lot of challenges in training her due to abuse she may have suffered,” said Shields. “But Luna is very kind-hearted and playful at home.”

Interested in learning  more about careers at Mercy Health?






Longtime Lakeshore Hospital President Retiring

Jay Bryan, president of Mercy Health Lakeshore Campus, will retire on September 30, 2018. Jay has been with Mercy Health since 1997 and is a trusted and proven leader who will be greatly missed by patients and colleagues alike. Over the course of Jay’s tenure, he has been recognized for his financial acumen, servant leadership style and amazing ability to collaborate.

Jay’s many accomplishments include: creating financial stability in the northern market, focusing on exceptional clinical quality, building and leading dynamic teams and working through three successful mergers. Anyone who knows Jay can appreciate his capacity to listen, evaluate and take time to consider all angles before making decisions. When working with colleagues, Jay has a keen ability to really “see” the other person, their views, their values and respect their input. He’s been able to create an environment where others feel open to express their points of view.

Over time and with the addition of services, the completion of the building project, the streamlining and emphasis on quality of care and patient satisfaction, the Lakeshore Campus achieved a remarkable turnaround under Jay’s leadership. The health care services in the northern market are sought after, and local patients – as well as summer tourists, repeatedly praise the facility and the exceptional and personal care they receive.

“Lakeshore Hospital is a special place because of the loving, giving and caring family of staff and the community,” said Bryan. “Our colleagues go the extra mile to provide quality care and our clients reward us with their loyalty and appreciation of services rendered. It has been an honor to lead and become part of this family.”

Jay has plans to begin his retirement by giving back through various mission trips to health care clinics that serve the world’s most vulnerable populations. Additionally, Jay and his wife, Susan, are excited to enjoy their “little slice of heaven” in Hart, Michigan, where they have three horses, plenty of land, fences and gardens to tend to. They’re also looking forward to spending more time with family and traveling down south to Florida for the winter.

Congratulations, Jay!




Bug Bytes: Zoo and Fair Safety Tips

While the end of summer is getting close, there are still a few fairs or zoos that your family may be visiting. It is wise to follow a few important safety tips when traveling to such places.

When traveling to fairs or zoos, where food and animals are present, hand hygiene is of vital importance. Many bacteria and viruses are present at these destinations, such as E. coli, Salmonella, Cryptosporidium, Campylobacter, Swine flu and even Avian flu. Read More

One of the common sources of these organisms is animal fur. It is common for the fur, hair, skin or saliva to become contaminated with fecal organisms. Transmission of these organisms may occur if people pet, touch or are licked by the animals at the fair.

Touching surfaces that animals or manure may contact, such as walls, floors, bedding or pen dividers also represent a source of infection to humans.

Hand-to-mouth activities, such as eating, drinking, smoking, and use of pacifiers and sippy cups increase the risk of infection.

Some people are more at risk of falling ill from these microorganisms — children 5 years and younger, people older than 60 and the immunocompromised.

It is also important to note that fairs and zoos are a location where swine or avian flus can be passed from animal to human. This transmission can happen for the same reason: poor hand-hygiene and touching your mucous membranes after touching an infected animal.

Enjoy the fair or zoo, but remember: It is always a safe practice to wash your hands!


Annual Nana’s Run Generously Benefits the ALS Program at Mercy Health Hauenstein Neurosciences

Mercy Health Hauenstein Neurosciences team with Cassandra DeVos Thorndill, and members of Saint Mary’s Foundation during a check presentation on August 13, 2018.

Celebrating its fifth year in 2018, Nana’s Run 5K annually raises hundreds of thousands of dollars and helps spread awareness about Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) or known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, a neurodegenerative disease that progressively destroys the motor neurons throughout a person’s body. This year was no different, with Nana’s Run 5K donating money to support the Mercy Health Hauenstein Neurosciences ALS Program, with one of its co-chairs dropping off a generous donation on Monday, August 13, 2018.

Mercy Health serves as West Michigan’s only nationally certified ALS program.

“Nana’s Run has really made a huge impact in our community with the ALS population,” said Keri Kujala, director of Corporate and Donor Relations at the Saint Mary’s Foundation. “It has really allowed us to enhance patient amenities and the programs and support groups for our West Michigan community. We are so blessed by this gift, which will help us provide the best care for our patients who have this disease.”

A special thanks to Nana’s Run 5k Co-Chairs, Cassandra DeVos Thorndill and Sydney DeVos Reames for hosting this outstanding community event, held in honor of their grandmother, “Nana,” Char VanderLaan, who passed from ALS in 2014.

Read Scott Bylsma’s amazing story about his journey with ALS.

Please save the date for Saturday, May 4, 2019, and visit for more details.

Joel Phillips, DO, with Cassandra DeVos Thorndill and Melanie Taylor, MD.

For more information on the ALS program at Mercy Health, please click here>>


Mercy Health Saint Mary’s to host various events in honor of anniversary milestone

President Bill Manns

Mercy Health Saint Mary’s announces the hospital’s 125th anniversary on Aug. 18th, 2018. The hospital is marking its monumental milestone throughout the year, with numerous colleague and community events scheduled from mid-August through December.

“It is with great pride that our local hospital – a pioneer in the health care industry – celebrates this significant occasion in the community,” said Bill Manns, president of Mercy Health Saint Mary’s. “What began as a small, faith-enriched facility more than a century ago has grown exponentially while maintaining expert doctors and staff committed to providing, accessible and personal care to our patients. We look forward to continued progression and innovation as health care continues to evolve.”

Originally established as Saint Mary’s Hospital by the Sisters of Mercy in 1893, the original 15-bed facility was housed in the former McNamara home on South Lafayette Avenue in Grand Rapids. Five years later, hospital officials opened the Saint Mary’s Hospital Training School for Nurses and built a three-story addition, doubling the number of beds to 30. In 1911, Saint Mary’s constructed a new 75-bed hospital at the corner of Cherry Street and Lafayette Avenue – where  Mercy Health Lacks Cancer Center now stands. Over the next 60 years, Saint Mary’s Hospital underwent myriad expansions, bringing the total number of beds to 370 by the late 1970s.

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Now located at 200 Jefferson Ave. SE in Grand Rapids, Saint Mary’s joined Mercy Health in 2011, bringing greater access of services and personalized care to the West Michigan region. Mercy Health Saint Mary’s is the heart of the most comprehensive health system in the region, connecting patient-focused care with exemplary doctors and health care experts.

Mercy Health Saint Mary’s has established many achievements throughout the past 125 years, including:

  • 1973 – The first and only Kidney Transplant Program in Grand Rapids for adult patients — a historic program that is still one of the largest and most successful community hospital-based kidney transplant programs in the country
  • 1990 – McAuley Infectious Disease Program for HIV/AIDS: Saint Mary’s was the first West Michigan hospital to create this program.
  • 2005 – Mercy Health Lacks Cancer Center: West Michigan’s only comprehensive cancer hospital, it earned its LEED certification a year later, becoming the second U.S. hospital ever to receive the award.
  • 1988-2000 – Six Community Health Centers: Bringing superior health care to underserved members of the community, including Heartside Health Center (1988), Clinica Santa Maria Health Center (1990) and Browning Claytor Health Center (2000)
  • 1997, 2005 – Exclusive joint partnerships with Mary Free Bed for rehabilitation services and Van Andel Research Institute for Parkinson’s Center research, respectively
  • 1999 – Mercy Health Wege Institute for Mind, Body and Spirit: One of the largest and most experienced integrative health programs in the United States, partnering progressive complementary therapies with mainstream medical services and practitioners
  • 2009 – Hauenstein Neuroscience Center: The region’s first multidisciplinary, comprehensive clinic to provide unparalleled treatment for Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), Muscular Dystrophy, Muscular Sclerosis, Palliative Care, Stroke and other neurological disorders

“When you look at what Mercy Health Saint Mary’s has accomplished in 125 years, it’s astounding. As the first hospital in Grand Rapids to provide several breakthrough programs and services, it has built a rich history in the local and regional health care arenas,” said Julie Ridenour, Mercy Health Saint Mary’s Board of Trustees chairwoman. “We are excited to celebrate the health care path we’ve paved over the past 125 years and look forward to leading the industry for centuries to come.”

To honor its history and legacy in the Grand Rapids community and celebrate its significant milestone, Mercy Health Saint Mary’s will host a variety of events throughout the year:

  • Aug. 17: Colleague and volunteer kick-off celebration
  • Aug. 18: Gifts for babies born at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s on its 125th anniversary
  • Sept. 7: Prayer Service of Gratitude at The Cathedral of Saint Andrew
  • Oct 15: Community Anniversary Luncheon at DeVos Place, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., with special guest Earvin “Magic” Johnson (tickets available soon)
  • Nov. 9: Mercy Health Saint Mary’s 125th Anniversary Gala


July 2018 DAISY Award Recipient at Mercy Health Muskegon

The July 2018 Mercy Health Muskegon DAISY Award winner is Elise Pavlige, RN, from the Intensive Care Unit on the Mercy Campus.  Elise was nominated by one of her colleagues on the unit.

“Elise is the kind of nurse you imagine when you think of what a nurse should be.  She has such a big heart.  She truly cares for her patients and treats them as if they are family. 

“In June 2018, Elise was taking care of a patient that was admitted into the ICU on her birthday.  Elise had her room decorated while she was out for a CT scan.  Not only did she decorate the room, but she went to the gift shop to buy her patient balloons and a teddy bear!  I am nominating Elise because this act of kindness is not isolated.  She does this sort of thing routinely!”

Elise was honored with a surprise celebration on the unit before her leaders, peers, and members of the Professional Nursing Practice Council.

Congratulations, Elise!