Kidney Transplant Recipient Becomes Mom for First Time; Thanks Kidney Transplant Team for New Life for Herself and Son

Baby Michael Frias. Photo credit, Nichole Miller Photography.

Every baby is special and a miracle. Newborn Michael Frias, born in January 2019, takes it to another level: three years before he was born, his father donated his kidney to his mother, making his life possible not once, but twice over.

“When we were first dating in 2014, I told my now-husband Mike, ‘I likely won’t ever be well enough to ever have kids, because of my kidneys,'” said Natalie Russo, 36, who suffers from focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS), caused by a strep throat infection during her childhood.

Within weeks of beginning to date Frias, Russo’s health began to fail, and a transplant was becoming desperately needed. After opting to be tested to see if he was a viable donor, remarkably Frias was a match. He donated one of his kidneys to Russo on March 21, 2016.

Three months after her kidney transplant, Russo and Frias were married. Two years later, with the clinical okay from the Mercy Health Kidney Transplant Center, the couple decided to have a baby.

Knowing she was going to have a high-risk pregnancy, Russo said that Kidney Transplant team was very hopeful and encouraging about her becoming a mother, but realistic.

“Kidneys fail for no reason, so I had to be closely monitored by both the Kidney Transplant team and my high-risk obstetrician,” said Russo.

In early January 2019 at about 35 weeks along, a routine test showed that Russo’s creatinine levels were abnormally high. According to the National Kidney Foundation, creatinine is a waste product that comes from the normal wear and tear on muscles of the body. Everyone has creatinine in their bloodstream, but with Russo’s level being abnormally high, it meant she had to be admitted to the hospital for closer observation.

Mom Natalie with her baby Michael. Photo credit, Nichole Miller Photography.

“Unfortunately, my creatinine level went up again at the hospital, so they needed to perform a C-section and deliver Michael,” said Russo.

Born at 35 weeks and five days old, Michael weighed 6 pounds, one ounce, and measured 18 inches long: “He is perfect and healthy,” said Russo, who couldn’t imagine a better life since her transplant, who has since returned to work as General Manager of Title Boxing Club.

Russo is ready for anything else life may have to offer her and her growing family. “The Kidney Transplant team also said that as long as I stay healthy, there is no reason I couldn’t try to have another baby when the time comes.”











Entire family. Photo credit, Nichole Miller Photography.



DAISY Award Recipient Raf Ohli Will “Hold Special Place in Hearts” of Patient Family

Raf Ohli, Hauenstein 2 nurse, was honored with the DAISY Award for February 2019 at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s.

Congratulations to Rafael Ohli, BSN, who works on Hauenstein 2 as an ICU nurse, for receiving the DAISY Award for Mercy Health Saint Mary’s in February 2019. The skill and compassionate care Ohli demonstrates to our patients, their families and our staff make him an outstanding role model. The Work Environment Council (of nurses) selected Rafael to receive the February DAISY Award.

Below is an excerpt of the nomination form:

“I had the unfortunate experience of being on the other side of the bed on my own unit recently. My father experienced a stroke that left him debilitated, along with other co-morbidities.

“As every nurse dreads, I had to make the decision of placing him under comfort care. It was extremely difficult for my brother and me to watch our father slowly passing away. Most of the time, I couldn’t bear to even be at the hospital because I was so broken-hearted.

“It was no coincidence that Raf was assigned to my dad the first couple of nights we had transitioned to comfort care; it was by the grace of God. There couldn’t have been a more perfect time or perfect person to assume the care of my Dad.

“My brother was especially struggling emotionally with the transition to comfort care. Raf took the time to notice and understand my brother’s anxieties related to our decision and the days to come. Raf had a one-on-one conversation with my brother, in which he shared his own personal experience. He related to, listened to and validated my brother’s anxieties. I cannot begin to explain the relief in anxieties for all of us that followed Raf’s compassionate conversation.

CNO Liz Murphy surprises Nurse Raf Ohli as the February 2019 DAISY Award recipient.

“Raf took care of my dad as if he were his own, and as if his time were not actually running out.  Raf spent a lot of time bathing, shaving and comforting my dad as he would have wanted. It was after this that we felt my dad had been the most comfortable he had been in a long time. It was then that we accepted and felt at peace with the situation we were faced with.

“We could never express enough gratitude to Raf for the unconditional kind and compassionate care he provided my dad and my family. It was obvious that he wanted to, not because he had to. He will always hold a special place in our hearts.”

Thank you, Raf, for providing excellent, compassionate nursing care to those entrusted to us!

Awareness is Key to Addressing Substance Use Disorder

The numbers are sobering.

In its 2018 Annual Surveillance Report of Drug-Related Risks and Outcomes — United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that, in 2016, an estimated 48.5 million persons in the U.S., or 18 percent of persons aged 12 years and older, reported use of illicit drugs or misuse of prescription drugs in the past year. This estimate includes use of marijuana, cocaine (including crack), heroin, hallucinogens, inhalants, and methamphetamines, and the misuse of prescription drugs. During that same year, a total of 63,632 persons died from drug overdoses. This number has nearly doubled in a decade.

Substance use disorders (SUDs) occur when the recurrent use of alcohol and/or drugs causes clinically significant impairment, including health problems, disability, and failure to meet major responsibilities at work, school or home. Addiction is a complex disease, and quitting usually takes more than good intentions or a strong will. Drugs change the brain in ways that make quitting hard, even for those who want to.

Awareness about the scope of SUD and the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual toll it takes is one component, along with prevention and treatment to improve the lives of affected individuals.

There is good news regarding prevention. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)-funded research has shown that prevention programs involving families, schools, communities, and the media are effective for preventing or reducing drug use and addiction.

Treatment for SUDs generally isn’t a cure. However, addiction is treatable and can be successfully managed. According to NIDA, treatment should be ongoing and should be adjusted based on how the patient responds. Treatment plans need to be reviewed often and modified to fit the patient’s changing needs.

If you or a loved one is struggling with the misuse of drugs or alcohol, don’t hesitate to reach out. Help is available. Contact your PCP who can help coordinate your care and refer you to a specialist, if needed. If you don’t have a PCP, just visit your insurance carrier’s website, look for the “find a doctor” area and follow the instructions.

Mercy Health is committed to providing resources that promote well-being though body, mind and spirit and is dedicated to helping you live a healthy life.

Find a Mercy Health provider

Mercy Health Saint Mary’s Announces New Director of Mission Integration

Scott Opperman

As director of Mission Integration, Scott Opperman will have a dual reporting relationship to Mercy Health Saint Mary’s Interim President David Baumgartner and Michael Sanderl, Chief Mission Officer for Mercy Health and Saint Joseph Mercy Health System. He will serve as a member of the Saint Mary’s Senior Leadership Team, where he will provide strategic and operational leadership and integrate our Mission, Values and Catholic Identity into our strategic plan and operations.

Opperman will also serve as a member of the Michigan Mission Council, a newly created council of all Mission Integration leaders across the state that ensures our regional ministries are aligned with all areas of Mission Integration. We warmly welcome Scott Opperman to Mercy Health.

Celebrating Doctors’ Day, March 31, 2019: A Reflection

By Rev. Kathy Schell, M.Div., BCC Mission Leader, Saint Joseph Mercy Chelsea

“So what keeps you coming back every day to work as a doctor?” I asked. With a perfectly straight face, he replied, “Hey, it’s all about the EMR! I love it!” When we finally ceased laughing, he added, “Seriously, it’s about the people.”

I suspect that “it’s the people” observation would resonate for nearly all of our physicians in Mercy Health/Saint Joseph Mercy Health System.

I’ll allow a few physician comments to speak for themselves:


  • “I like to see people get better day to day, and know I’ve had a hand in that.”
  • “It’s stressful, but fulfilling. At the end of the day, I usually know I’ve done well.”
  • “My patients receive the best possible care with this system.”
  • “It’s the challenge of managing illness, seeing people at their sickest, then seeing them improve.”
  • “I have fun! I love the people I work with.”
  • “The whole team works well together.”
  • “High quality care,” “communication,” “sense of community,” “relationships,” “colleagues,” are consistent themes with our docs. They are people also (surprise!), and they care deeply about their colleagues and their patients, professionally and personally.

Witness this simple, profound sentence at the end of an expiration note in the chart of a patient who had been placed on comfort care: “May this soul rest in eternal peace.”

Frederick Buechner wrote: “The place God calls us to is the place where our deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

Many physicians view their work as a calling, even if they wouldn’t necessarily use that vocational language. And since we are only human, there are days when we struggle to meet the world’s infinite deep hunger with “deep gladness.” Being a physician—a healer—is by no means easy, and that is a huge understatement.

On Doctors’ Day, we thank you for your knowledge and skill, but also for your perseverance, dedication and compassion. Our healing ministry could not happen without you.

Read “A Blessing for Physicians” provided by the Catholic Health Association.

Mercy Health Colleague Celebrates 1,000th Delivery

Nurse Connie Hill with Mom and Baby!

On Friday, March 15, 2019 Connie Hill, RN, celebrated the delivery of her 1,000th baby at the Birth Center at Mercy Health Hackley (N2 Labor & Delivery)!

To make this milestone even more exciting, it was also Connie’s birthday.

Hill has worked in Labor & Delivery for more than eight years and has counted every delivery since the beginning.

Hill averages 125 births/per year with her roles, including being the mother’s labor nurse or the baby’s delivery nurse for vaginal and cesarean deliveries. Congratulations, Connie Hill!

Remarkable Milestone: 51 Years Working at Mercy Health

Nancy Bogue, PBX operator for Mercy Health Muskegon, celebrates 51 years of service. Bogue and many other Mercy Health colleagues with milestone anniversaries will be honored at a special event on March 28, 2019.

If you have called into the main phone line at Mercy Health Muskegon at any time during the past 51 years, you likely are familiar with the soothing voice of Nancy Bogue, PBX operator, Mercy Health.

Bogue and her fellow PBX (public broadcast exchange) operators answer the call for Mercy Health Muskegon 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The operators serve as Directory Assistance for physician offices throughout all of Muskegon and the lakeshore and assign primary care providers to patients who are admitted to the hospital without one. They can also page a provider or connect people with their loved ones in the hospital. Sometimes the first encounter a guest or patient will have with Mercy Health is with the PBX operators over the phone. In any given day, they can answer anywhere from 800-900 phone calls, with Mondays being their busiest days.

Starting out just one day a week on the switchboard at the General Campus in 1968, Bogue enjoyed working at Mercy Health and was able to secure an additional two days a week working for the hospital. Later, she began working full time, and during the years has worked at several different campuses.

“It’s the people who keep me coming back,” said Bogue. “We have such a great team here.”

Bogue worked for 30 years at the General Campus before applying for a job at the Mercy Campus 21 years ago.

“Over the years I worked at General, I would see three generations of families come in,” said Bogue, when the switchboard operators worked at the front desk as well, greeting patients and visitors.

Bogue has seen much change during her tenure, including the introduction of computers to the switchboard more than 25 years ago and using caller ID. The past few years have brought forth IntelliWeb, an internal system which “lets any colleague alpha page a provider from their desktop,” said Bogue.

Emergency codes and protocol have changed a lot, too, according to Bogue. “We used to have two codes, now we are up to 18 different codes that we can page overhead in case of emergency.”

As of March 2019, Bogue and the other the PBX operators work at Hackley Campus. With the building of the new Medical Center, the PBX operators will be returning to Mercy Campus, where Bogue had worked for 13 years before she transferred to the Hackley Campus for the past eight years.

“I have no plans to retire yet,” Bogue said, with a smile on her face.

PBX Operators Kim Henderson and Nancy Bogue with Paula Schmuck, supervisor, shared a day in their life at the switchboard.

Congratulations to Bogue and the many other Mercy Health Muskegon colleagues who will be celebrating milestone anniversaries of their employment at Mercy Health on Thursday, March 28, 2019.

DAISY Award Recipient, Danielle Villa, RN

Danielle Villa, RN

The most recent Mercy Health Muskegon DAISY Award recipient is Danielle Villa, RN, from the Medical/Surgical Floor, 4 East on the Mercy Campus. Danielle was nominated by one of her fellow nursing colleagues.

During a follow-up patient discharge phone call, the patient stated the following about her care:

“During her hospital stay, she wasn’t feeling well and her blood pressure was elevated. She felt scared and alone. After her shift ended, Danielle stayed with the patient and held her hand. The patient said that Danielle told her she wouldn’t leave until she felt better. Danielle sat and talked with the patient until her blood pressure was in normal range and the patient felt better. The patient said Danielle was wonderful and that she was very thankful that she cared enough to stay with her even though she was done working. She even gave me a hug when she left. “

Danielle was honored with a surprise celebration on the unit in front of her leaders and fellow colleagues.

Mercy Health Muskegon 2019 Student Heart Screenings Serve Hundreds of Students During Four Free Events

On March 13, 100 students participated in Mercy Health Muskegon’s Student Heart Screenings.

Heart screenings are a simple, quick method that may identify heart conditions that could increase a child’s risk of complications during physical activity and/or athletic competition.

Each screening consists of a blood pressure check, health questionnaire, 12-lead EKG, physician exam, and if needed, an echocardiogram.



  • Students came from local area schools and from as far away as Saugatuck
  • 19 ‘quick look’ echocardiograms were performed
  • 2 students were identified to have Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) syndrome

More students are invited to be screened later this year: July 10, August 7 and August 28. Register online

Honoring Our Own Trailblazer, Sister Myra Bergman, During Women’s History Month

Sister Myra Bergman, RSM, transitions into a new role, consulting the entire Michigan region on Mission Integration.

Inspired and encouraged by other strong women throughout her life, Sister Myra Bergman, RSM, accepted the new statewide role as Mission Integration Consultant for Mercy Health and Saint Joseph Mercy Health System in early 2019.

“My life and career reflect what women have always done; identifying needs and serving those needs to the best of our ability,” said Sister Myra, who was called to serve as a Sister of Mercy in high school, where she saw the joy that the Sisters of Mercy had each day in everything they did.

This new role builds on the 35 years that Sister Myra has ably served the Trinity Health hospitals in West Michigan, but surprisingly, Sister Myra didn’t always feel called to serve in hospitals or health care.

“I had worked in adult and education formation for eight years before Sister Concilia Moran, the first vice president for Mission for Mercy Health Services (now Trinity Health) in the 1980s asked what I thought about health care,” recalled Sister Myra. “I didn’t know much about it, and it wasn’t necessarily in my comfort zone, but Sr. Concilia was not someone you could say no to.”

Like her Sister of Mercy predecessors who had boldly founded hospitals and schools where needs were great, Sister Concilia was a visionary, “realizing change was quickly coming and knowing that we as Sisters needed to still play a vital role in Catholic health care.”

During the 1980s, Catholic hospitals began to hire lay people as their CEOs, as the sisters who had led their hospitals chose ministry opportunities outside of institutional health care. “In 1984, I was the first vice president of Mission Integration hired for Saint Mary’s Hospital, now known as Mercy Health Saint Mary’s.”

Sister Myra’s timing couldn’t have been better. Within a matter of 18 months, the President and CEO of Saint Mary’s Sister Margaret Straney chose to continue her ministry in New York. This left Sister Myra as the only Sister to serve on the leadership team.

“It continues to be our role today as sisters to guide and lead others and remind them why we are here, and to keep everyone grounded in our mission,” said Sister Myra. She focused on the Grand Rapids area until 2010, when she began keeping all of Mercy Health West Michigan grounded as Regional Vice President of Mission Integration. Some of her many duties included serving as Mission Integration Consultant for the Senior Leadership teams, facilitating Mission Discernment processes, and leading and consulting hospital leadership for the integration of Catholic identity, Trinity Mission and Core Values.

“Sometimes things come full circle,” said Sister Myra. Having begun her career in education and faith formation, a particular source of joy for Sister Myra has been her recent work to facilitate a hands-on educational program with deacons.

Held each summer, this program provides deacons and seminarians from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids and other dioceses the opportunity to learn more about the health care ministry and to minister to Mercy Health patients and colleagues. Sister Myra will gladly continue this work in her new role, as providing educational opportunities to others is important to her.

Through her membership in the Sisters of Mercy, Sister Myra was able to earn not only a bachelor’s degree, but also two master’s degrees and a study abroad experience for master’s-level courses, all of which has enriched her life and her ability to serve others.

“Transition, don’t retire,” Sister Myra would advise others. “Whether you are a layperson or have been called to the religious life, everyone still has much wisdom and knowledge to provide. You don’t have to do the same thing you have been doing, but think about if you can serve on a board or a committee, or volunteer. And think about how you can keep contributing in your later years,” she challenged anyone who has advanced knowledge in any field.

We thank Sister Myra for her example and inspiration to serve others while remaining faithful to our mission and values.