Message from the President

Putting Our Heads Together

by Loren Hamel, MD - President, Spectrum Health Lakeland | Apr 15, 2019

I’m sure you’ve heard this phrase before: let’s put our heads together. It’s a way of saying that when people work together, they make a better team than if they worked alone. It’s true in health care too. That’s why our integration with Spectrum Health is so mission-critical in providing excellent care to our friends and neighbors. But today I want to share with you about a new partnership that is also proving this saying to be true.

When the Zak family of St. Joseph learned that their newborn Evelyn was showing indications of Down syndrome, mom Carrie got to work learning about the condition and the medical care that her daughter would need. So, at just two weeks old, baby Evelyn began physical therapy at Lakeland Rehabilitation to work on improving motor skills and growth delays often linked to her diagnosis.

Unrelated to her condition, Evelyn also developed a tight muscle on the right side of her neck and began lying on the left side of her head more often, which made a flat spot. If left untreated, it could have led to jaw alignment issues, developmental delays, and hearing and vision issues. To avoid these problems, Evelyn was referred to orthotist and prosthetist Pete Kapelke from Mary Free Bed in Grand Rapids, an acute care rehabilitation hospital for children and adults who have experienced things like stroke, cancer, or brain injury.

Through a new partnership between Lakeland and Mary Free Bed, Pete also sees patients locally at Lakeland Rehabilitation. At her six-month checkup, Evelyn’s condition had become severe enough that Pete suggested cranial helmet therapy to gently correct the shape of the skull over time. Due to the new partnership, Evelyn was fitted for a helmet in the same building as her therapy care. Her helmet was available within two weeks and placed in time for her next major growth spurt which decreased the amount of time she needed to wear it.

Over the next several weeks, Pete and the care team from Mary Free Bed were there every step of the way at Lakeland to evaluate Evelyn’s progress and answer all the questions of Evelyn’s parents. And since the beginning of the cranial therapy, the Zak family has noticed drastic improvements.

Evelyn’s parents call her their unicorn baby. Their magical gift. And thanks to new collaborations like our partnership with Mary Free Bed to provide services locally, we can help patients like baby Evelyn receive the best possible care right here in southwest Michigan. Her story is just one example of how when we team up and put our heads together, everybody wins.

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