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World Class Care, Close to Home

After weeks of unexplained numbness spreading through her body, a frightened Kara McKenna was admitted to Lakewood Hospital’s NeuroIntegrated Care Unit last February.

Kara & KC McKenna

The young, healthy mother of two, along with her husband, KC, knew something was extremely wrong and braced for a life-altering diagnosis asshe underwent testing to rule out multiple sclerosis, ALS, brain and spinal tumors.

Lakewood Hospital’s neurology team analyzed spinal fluid to reveal that Kara had contracted Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS); a serious and rare disorder where a person’s own immune system damages their nerve cells, causing muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis.

Kara, 34, luckily had a mild case but one that still required 18 days in the hospital including a week of focused physical and occupational therapy. After her release, she also completed several weeks of outpatient therapy at the hospital. “Along the way, all of my caregivers were amazing. I can’t say enough positive things about everyone that I interacted with during my stay,” says Kara, who now only reports slight lingering numbness in her fingertips.

Looking back on their unexpected medical emergency, the McKenna family says the one constant, calming factor during this tumultuous time was being able to receive the best medical care and have complete access to the expertise, caregivers and knowledge resources of Cleveland Clinic, right in their own community and in a place they felt comfortable.

“Our whole life centers around Lakewood so it meant a lot that I was able to receive my medical treatment close to home and in an environment that offered a small hospital feel despite being part of a much larger institution,” says Kara.

The McKenna’s young sons - Henry, 4, and Roger, 2, both born at Lakewood Hospital - attend Lakewood Child Care Center, which is located on the hospital campus. So on days she was able, the nurses would make accommodations to transport her to the hospital atrium by wheelchair and KC would bring the boys over for a short visit.The McKenna’s note that being at a trusted place of familiarity helped make a difficult situation “as convenient and positive as it could have been.”

“I felt like every treatment was tailored to and for me. My physical and occupational therapists took the time to figure out my daily routines and understand the challenges I would face once I got home,” Kara says, adding that at the time their youngest son still wanted to be carried everywhere.

The couple remains deeply grateful for each and every kindness they received during Kara’s stay, especially from the professional medical staff, thoughtful employees in housekeeping and dietetics department, and those who worked proactively behind the scenes to receive insurance approvals and qualify Kara for the inpatient rehab unit. Much of this care was enhanced through generous contributions made to the Lakewood Hospital Foundation, many by grateful patients such as Kara who recognize how instrumental the hospital’s programs and services were to her recovery.

A Different Kind of Therapy

An elderly woman's grasp of reality had slipped. She became agitated and cried out. Staff members were unable to calm her. The woman wasgiven a stuffed dog. She clutched the animal instinctively, and immediately became calm and relaxed.

Stuffed Therapy

You won't read about stuffed or doll therapy in any medical journal. But the nurses and aides on Lakewood Hospital’s Senior Behavioral Health unit liberally apply the unique treatment with their elderly patients, many who suffer from mental deterioration or loneliness.

This medication for the soul is dispensed freely thanks to funding from Lakewood Hospital Foundation. Through a grant made possible from the annual Ambulance Chase, soft and cuddly stuffed animals, as well as life-like baby dolls have been purchased for the unit. After other methods have failed to cheer up or calm a patient, staff members reach for a stuffed critter or doll.

''Many of our patients suffer from Alzheimer's and senility,'' says Jane Burandt, Senior Behavioral Health Program Manager. ''They go back to their own childhood where they think that this is their first baby doll or a pet, and they light up. These may be just toys to us, but to many of our patients they are true companions.”

Several studies have shown that interactions with a stuffed animal or baby doll increase happiness and provide a calming effect, and have even helped reduce medication use. They’re also a great way to allow patients, who often have to rely on everyone else for care, the perceived ability to once again care for something on their own. The dolls and animals are always offered to patients in such a manner that does not diminish the dignity of a grown adult.

''We had a patient who was overly active so we gave him a baby doll.'' Burandt says. ''He picked it up and just kept looking at it. Pretty soon he was kissing and cradling it. He calmed down. When you see something like that, you get a lump in your throat. We've all been touched watching the reactions of our patients.''

When patients are discharged from the unit, their pet or baby doll usually goes with them. And some of the stuffed friends have even comeback as their owner returns for extra care.

Lakewood Hospital’s Senior Behavioral Health unit offers integrated, comprehensive behavioral health services to patients ages 55 and older.

Our team of trained professionals is dedicated to improving and maintaining the behavioral health and well-being of patients in the communities we serve. 

For more information, contact Jane Burandt at or 216.227.2463.

Alzheimer’s Research Worth Watching

An estimated 5.2 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease.

NeuroAD Chair

Lakewood Hospital’s Center for Brain Health is currently one of seven sites in the United States and Israel participating in a clinical trial for patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. The non-invasive therapeutic process is as simple as sitting in a chair – actually, a state-of-the-art chair that simultaneously applies cognitive training and transcranial magnetic stimulation to targeted areas of the brain affected by the disease.

“Interim findings have been remarkable,” says Lakewood Hospital Research Coordinator Christine Whitman. “The NeuroAD medical devise system has not only stopped patients from deteriorating, it is actually improving patients’ cognitive performance better than we see with some medications.

Tests have shown significant improvement to patients’ cognitive functions. Daily activities, such as taking care of themselves, speaking, and even recognizing their loved ones have improved dramatically.

Every 67 seconds, someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s disease.

Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Though there are drugs that can relieve some of the symptoms, the benefit usually diminishes within six to nine months of treatment. NeuroAD, which can be used in conjunction with these therapies, has a demonstrated impact as well as long-term results.

This far exceeds what is currently available with medications alone,” added Whitman. “New ideas and advancements for treatment which show such promise are very rare, so we are very optimistic.”

Alzheimer's disease is the most expensive condition in the nation. In 2014, the direct costs to American society of caring for those with Alzheimer's will total an estimated $214 billion.

Lakewood Hospital’s involvement in the NeuroAD trial was made possible through a portion of the $1 million gift from The Harold C. Schott Foundation that was used to establish an endowment in support of the expansion and integration of the hospital’s neurological and geriatric services.

For more information, please call Lakewood Hospital’s Center for Brain Health at 216.227.2438.