Meeting notes for January 17, 2018

Joanie Knoertzer graced Rotarians and guests alike with another beautiful piano prelude. Next came the ringing of the bell, with everybody standing to join President John in singing a fervent “God Bless America.” Rosemarie Rowney then came to the podium and delivered one of the best ever Inspirations. “My Inspiration, appropriately enough, is about children,” she began. She shared a quote from a dedicated nurse, named Kiley, who summarized perfectly her profession: “To nurse children is to repair tomorrow.” A room bursting with like-minded Rotarians and friends responded to Rosemarie’s message with passionate applause.

All of a sudden, Don Devine catapulted to the front of the room. He introduced Joanie warmly, then led us in singing Harry Von Tilzer’s 1905 classic, “Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie.” “It’s a beautiful old song,” Don mused. He then introduced one of the true standards of RCAA – “The Whiffenpoof Song.” Don explained to his fascinated audience that the song actually derived from a Kipling poem, “Gentlemen-Rankers.” First published in 1892, the poem is an early indictment of the realities of war as seen through the eyes of self-exiled “black sheep” of prominent families. Far from home and witnesses to horrors, they have become drink-medicated “lambs who’ve lost our way.” By 1902 the poem had been converted to song by Yalie Meade Minnigerode, complete with new lyrics. It has been sung at the conclusion of every Whiffenpoof Society concert ever since. Bravo, Don and Joanie. Or, should I say, “Baa! Baa! Baa!”

President John opened the meeting with very sad news: “It is with great sorrow that I inform you of the passing of Collyer and Annie Smith’s son, Cam. A memorial service will take place Saturday, February 3, at First Presbyterian.”

Guests were introduced next: Karen Wasco, a speech and language pathologist, by Joanne Pierson; Andrew DaBella by Rosemarie Rowney; Dean Rennicke, Concordia University Vice President, by Laura Thomas; Rachel Lipson by her father, Eric Lipson: prospective Rotarian Vee Austin; and a real treat – Kathy Wall and Tyler Driscoll, of “Wine, Women & Song,” introduced by Shelley MacMillan. Kathy and Tyler then performed a winsome, perfectly acted number from the upcoming show (January 26).

Mott Children’s Hospital a Lifesaver

Dr. Michael Quasney, Mott Children’s Hospital

Eric Lipson stepped to the mic to introduce our speaker, Dr. Michael Quasney, Director of Pediatric Critical Care, Mott Children’s Hospital. To put it simply, you had to be there for Eric’s introduction – really, an adjunct to Dr. Quasney’s presentation. Eric’s words were highly personal, for, as he admitted, “Dr. Quasney and his team saved my daughter, Rebecca.” Stricken with a powerful sepsis that began in her throat then coursed through her whole body, Rebecca was at many points during her weeks-long ordeal, “near or at the point of death,” Eric asserted. He went on: “Nurses are among my favorite people…At one point 15 people were on her in the ICU. Fourteen were women.” Eric was amazed. “The motto of Mott’s is ‘Patient and Family-Centered Care.’ And they live it. [Dr. Quasney’s] team is rated 5-Stars for treating sepsis,” he observed. “The science behind this is absolutely incredible.”

At one point Eric was informed that Rebecca’s chances of survival were about 20%. “But they never gave up.” This was underscored by Eric’s description of when Rebecca had to go on a ventilator: “They didn’t just put her on a ventilator. They got an oscillating ventilator. At one point five nurses were working on her, hand-ventilating her, all night long!”

Particularly frustrating was the cycle of seeming recovery and regression. Fortunately, the medical team recommended review of Rebecca’s case by Dr. Odatola – ‘Dr. O’ – as a last resort. Clearly regarded by his colleagues with a sense of awe, Dr. O suggested a different approach: “Your daughter might be helped with nitric oxide.” As Eric noted, “We then watched her numbers climb. His brilliance, along with his team, saved my daughter.” In concluding his remarkable and moving narrative, Eric declared with palpable emotion: “Today she’s functioning 110%. He saved my family. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s my pleasure to introduce Dr. Michael Quasney.”

So extensive was the applause it sounded like the perpetual hum of a cicada attack. Our speaker could only say upon gaining the podium: “If I’m smart, I won’t say anything.” Then, looking about the room, he noted, “I do recognize some of you, as colleagues and from the Hospital.” He immediately reiterated the overall mission of Mott Pediatric Critical Care – “’Patient and Family-Centered Care,’ I’d like to talk about small changes that improve outcomes. One thing [that’s critical] is we need more nurses. Our initial concern is to support organs while the body heals.” This, clearly, was the approach taken in treating Eric’s daughter. Dr. Quasney then made the case for his unit’s concentration on healing children, which echoed Rosemarie’s Inspration: “We’ve all heard about car accidents or a fire where a child has been injured. Rebecca had 60-70 years left of a good life….” His message, and it was a tough one for his audience, centered on the importance of preserving the life of the young, as opposed to those much older “who have lived a life.” Indeed, this emphasis was a bit unsettling for some as it revealed perhaps a bias against the elderly; a kind of resource rationing that, according to some physicians, is necessary if health costs are to become supportable. Dr. Quasney detected the resistance, and went on in another direction. “Sometimes I come to the unit and I see something I’ve never seen before,” he asserted by way of saying that every day at Mott’s pediatric ICU is a learning experience. His listeners were fascinated by his photos and descriptions of some of the lifesaving equipment. “We’re able to oxygenate blood outside [the body], and put it back in. This is the epitome of our health care.” Used primarily for treatment of sepsis, the treatment is called ECMO evaluation, and UM Mott is one of only three hospitals in Michigan that possess the capability. It was almost scary to see swathes of Michigan on the screen without this premier treatment. As Dr. Quasney remarked on the UP, “It’s a beautiful place to live or visit. Just don’t get sick there.” An increasingly important remedy for this disparity is “telemedicine – let me use my eyes [in Ann Arbor] to assist with a diagnosis or recommend treatment anywhere.”

Again, perhaps the most important aspect of care in Dr. Quesney’s pediatric unit is the philosophy. He showed a chart in the shape of a triangle, with Clinical Care at top being fed by three streams at the base: Education, Research, and Quality & Safety. There are major challenges, to be sure, such as inadequate funding for nurses and for some equipment, in addition to the persistent problems associated with “muscular deconditioning,” a result of long-term ECMO treatment. “Rebecca was in ICU for so long…but we attended to this by early muscular conditioning.”

Crashing applause erupted through the Anderson Room as Dr. Quasney received the thanks of President John, who then reminded the crowd of JET – Join leaders, Exchange ideas, Take action.

Everybody departed pleased with the wonderful program, and with the deepest thoughts and good wishes to our friends, Collyer and Annie Smith.


Weekly Meeting Statistics

A total of 99 Rotarians were on hand to hear Dr. Quasney. We had eight guests but no Visiting Rotarians. In advance of the lunch, three members of the Rotary Youth Exchange Committee. Early in the day, ten members of the Board of Directors gathered in their monthly meeting. From Sunday through Tuesday, Vice-President Greg Stejskal, accompanied by John White, attended the Rotary Large Club Conference in Little Rock. On January 19, thirteen Rotarians and eight others met at Glacier Hills for the regular third Friday meeting.

Makeup Cards for Roving Rotarians

  • Greg Stejskal (Little Rock on January 16)