Tag Archives: Norwalk Hospital

Norwalk Hospital Seeks Memories, Memorabilia

No one alive today remembers a time without Norwalk Hospital.

Founded 125 years ago, it’s been an integral part of the birth, life and death of countless area residents.

Norwalk Hospital then …

Now — in honor of its quasquicentennial — the hospital hopes people remember what it’s meant to them.

They invite community members, staff and retirees to share memories and photos of Norwalk Hospital over the years. They’ll be displayed on its website, and posted on social media. Click here to complete the form.

They’re also gathering historical items — memorabilia, photos, newspaper clippings, etc. — for display in the hospital archives. Email maura.romaine@wchn.org for more information.

Be creative! Though I’m sure they’re not looking for your old hospital bracelet.

Or your tonsils or appendix.

… and now.

Whittingham Cancer Center: Care With A Hometown Heart

Tony Menchaca’s 2006 colonoscopy was clean. With no family history of colon cancer, he was happy to wait 10 years for his next one.

But when he saw blood in his stool in 2013, he had another procedure. Diagnosed with Stage 3 cancer, a foot of his colon was removed at Norwalk Hospital.

The disease had spread to his lymph nodes. He faced 6 months of chemotherapy.

Tony Menchaca

Tony — a Westporter since 1990, whose 3 boys earned fame as Staples High School wrestlers — had a choice. He could undergo chemo at world renowned Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York, or at the much smaller Whittingham Cancer Center at Norwalk Hospital.

His surgeon, Dr. James McClane, described the value of a local center. It was important, he said, to think about ease of access, and the personalization of a smaller facility.

Tony chose Whittingham. Four years later — and cancer-free — he is very pleased with his experience.

“I got super treatment,” Tony says. “The level of expertise is comparable to New York. And the amount of caring was phenomenal.”

(Whittingham Cancer Center recently affiliated with Memorial Sloan Kettering. MSK medical and radiation oncologists are now onsite at Norwalk Hospital.)

Over 6 months, Tony underwent 12 rounds of chemo. He’d go in on Monday, for 3 hours of infusion. On Wednesday, he returned to have his pump disconnected. The next day, he went back for a booster shot.

Tony drove himself to his appointments. He did not want his wife Sara or his kids hanging around the infusion suite.

However, the setup encourages loved ones or friends to be there during treatment. “If you want people around, it’s great,” he notes.

Whittingham Cancer Center

Tony’s oncologist, Dr. Richard Frank, was very accessible. “I always saw him,” Tony says. “He’s a great guy, and like most of the doctors there, he’s local.”

So local, in fact, that he plays sax in the popular doctor-dominated rock band DNR.

“I may not have had that level of exposure to a physician in a larger cancer center,” Tony says.

But, Tony says, the heart of Whittingham is its chemo suite infusion nurses. They’re the ones he spent most of his time with. He can’t say enough about their expertise and concern.

The real eye-opener, though, was “the value of a local cancer center. If he spent 6 months commuting to chemo, Tony believes his recovery would have been far harder.

Even before his diagnosis, Tony had ridden in the CT Challenge, a bike ride fundraiser for cancer survivors. He’s now done it 7 times.

His other major effort is Whittingham’s 3K walk and 5K run. It’s doubly special this year: the 15th annual event for the cancer center falls on the 125th anniversary of Norwalk Hospital.

It’s Saturday, May 5 at Calf Pasture Beach. That’s just a couple of miles from his Westport home, so of course Tony will be there.

It’s not like he has to go all the way to New York for exercise.

Or excellent, life-saving cancer care.

(For more information on the Whittingham Cancer Center Walk & Sally’s Run, click here.)

Westporters Lead Norwalk Hospital Board

When Amy Schafrann recruited Mark Gudis for the Norwalk Hospital board of directors, it seemed like a good fit.

The senior investment professional had spent much of his career examining healthcare companies. His wife MaryGrace was already on the hospital’s foundation board.

He found the work fascinating. “The landscape is changing so rapidly,” he says. “But people will always get sick. Working on the board is all about seeing what we can do to make things better for everyone.”

Then Gudis himself got sick.

A health scare in early 2013 caused him to reflect on what was most important in his life.

Mark Gudis

“It was humbling and scary,” he says. “But it made me a better person. I’m more focused now on doing things that benefit others.”

Which is why Gudis has just been named chairman of the Norwalk Hospital Association board of directors. And Schafrann — who recruited him years ago — is the new vice chair. Both are longtime Westporters.

Gudis has 4 goals for the hospital. He wants to engage all 1,400 employees, making sure they’re growing in their jobs and satisfied with their work; ensure that the hospital’s 425 physicians get whatever they need to serve patients; continue to enhance and innovate the hospital’s work in the community, and make continuous improvement in safety and security.

For 125 years, Norwalk Hospital has been a part of the local community. But it’s also moved forward, extending its reach and resources.

In October, the hospital partnered with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. That means accelerated access to the latest treatments — and Sloan Kettering’s renowned physicians — right here at home.

The hospital is also allied with Connecticut Children’s Medical Center — which means improved inpatient medical care for kids.

And Norwalk Hospital is collaborating with Northwell Health, the large New York provider, to share best practices and provide better buying power.

“So a community hospital can have all the resources of a large metropolitan hospital,” Gudis explains.

Last year, Norwalk Hospital did 10,000 surgeries, and treated 50,000 emergency room patients.

“We’ve done a good job,” Gudis notes. “The Norwalk Hospital of 10 years ago is not the Norwalk Hospital of today — or tomorrow. It’s very exciting.”

He looks forward to working with Schafrann. The 1972 graduate of Staples High School — who spent 20 years as a Yankelovich managing partner, and now runs a college consulting firm — says that for many years she took the hospital for granted.

Twenty-eight years ago, she went into labor at 26 weeks. Her daughter Sara was born — weighing just 1.5 pounds.

“It was a very scary time,” Schafrann says. She and her husband Richard grew to appreciate the neonatal intensive care unit.

After 3 months of “incredible care,” Sara went home. She weighed 5 pounds.

Her story ends happily. A few months ago, several doctors and nurses attended Sara’s wedding. She earns her doctorate in clinical and social psychology this May, and will work with children with learning disabilities and special needs.

Amy Schafrann

“We wanted to give back to the hospital that gave us our wonderful daughter,” Schafrann says. At first, she and her husband made financial donations to the unit.

Several years ago, she was asked to join the Foundation board. Now she’s vice chair of the full board.

Schafrann is proud of the Circle of Caring/Grateful Patients program she founded. It encourages notes of appreciation to doctors, nurses, aides, meal deliverers, technicians — anyone who made a paitent’s stay easier or better.

While co-chair of the Whittingham Cancer Center Walk/Run — with fellow Westporter Tammy Zelkowitz — Schafrann recruited local students to form teams. She’ll continue to search for ways to keep teenagers involved in the hospital.

Her goal on the board is “to help deliver high-quality care. With all the financial pressures, many local hospitals have disappeared. Through our network, with economies of scale and thanks to our donors, we’ll continue to provide advanced emergency care, state-of-the-art cancer treatment, and community health and wellness.”

Remembering Howard Dickstein

The men and women who grew up in the 1920s and ’30s — and who served their country in so many ways — have been called the Greatest Generation.

The nickname fits in Westport too. Arriving here in postwar droves, those young parents served their new hometown with the same vigor. They imparted important values to their kids (and their kids’ friends). They volunteered wherever and however they could. The roots they planted then still help bear fruit today.

Westport lost another member of that Greatest Generation last week. Howard Dickstein died at home, a month shy of his 90th birthday.

You may not have known his name. But he was one of those men and women who made Westport the kind of town it is.

An honors graduate of New York’s DeWitt Clinton High School (at age 16), he supported himself through NYU’s journalism school by working at an ad agency, and as a stringer for the Herald Tribune.

After serving in the Navy during World War II, he completed his NYU degree on the GI Bill.

Dickstein spent most of his career in advertising, eventually running his own agency. He returned to journalism after retirement, as a proofreader and columnist (“Hawkeye”)/sportswriter for the Minuteman. He particularly enjoyed covering the Staples High School soccer team, long after his sons Peter and Steve starred for the Wreckers.

Howard Dickstein

Dickstein’s passions ranged far and wide. During the civil rights era he co-sponsored The Forum, which brought speakers like Floyd McKissick and Norman Thomas to Westport.

He promoted dialogue between Westport and Bridgeport, and designed pamphlets for fair housing.

He was a 2-term president of the Southern Connecticut Ethical Society, a volunteer in the Norwalk Hospital emergency room, a meal server at the Senior Center, and a longtime Little League umpire.

Fascinated by the OJ Simpson trial, he enrolled at Norwalk Community College to study criminal justice. As part of his studies, he accompanied local police on ride-alongs.

He and Kate — his wife of 64 years — were original members of The Turkeys. For 30 years, the group met in members’ homes, read plays and shared food and laughs.

He was a talented and tireless handyman. He spent years constructing a massive stone wall at his Park Lane home.

Dickstein adored the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team, and was chronically disappointed by the New York Mets.

Of all his accomplishments though, he was most proud of his family. He is survived by his wife Kate; sons Peter (Lisa) of San Francisco and Stephen (Natalie) of Delray Beach, Florida, and daughter Jane (Gordon) of Mill Valley California; 5 grandchildren; his sister Geraldine, and nieces, nephews and cousins.

Special gratitude goes to his dedicated caregivers, Stacy Meikle and Jennifer  Wilson.

At his request, a memorial service will be private. Contributions in Howard Dickstein’s name made be made to Visiting Nurse & Hospice of Fairfield County, PO Box 489, Wilton, CT 06897.

Westport Y: Suddenly $40 Million Richer

A capital campaign for a new Westport Weston YMCA  fell short of its goal earlier this decade. So the Mahackeno facility — called the Bedford Family Center — was broken into 2 phases.

Phase I opened last fall, with an airy fitness center, gleaming new pool, well-lit exercise rooms, nice new gym and a much-needed child’s play space. The site was purchased decades ago — with the generous help of Frederick T. Bedford, Ruth’s father.

The new YMCA -- known as the Bedford Family Center -- at Mahackeno.

The new YMCA — known as the Bedford Family Center — at Mahackeno.

But the new Y lacks other amenities, like childcare, gymnastics and racquetball. And the locker rooms are badly cramped. Y officials promised they’d be added some vague time later, during Phase II.

Phase II suddenly seems a lot closer to reality.

The Y announced today that it has received $40 million from the estate of Ruth Bedford. The last surviving granddaughter of Edward T. Bedford — a director of Standard Oil and founder of the Westport Y, among many other philanthropic projects — died last June, at 99.

Norwalk Hospital logoYet this is not Ruth Bedford’s only astonishing gift. She also left $40 million to Norwalk Hospital. She loved that institution too — and volunteered there, logging almost 17,000 hours in the gift shop, over 5 decades. (A previous gift from E.T. Bedford, decades ago, enabled the hospital to double its patient capacity.)

But wait! There’s more! Another $40 million bequest — believed to be the largest ever to an all-girls’ school — went to Foxcroft, a tiny private girls school in Virginia that was Bedford’s alma mater.

The Y’s plans for the fallen-from-the-sky money are not yet set.

Officials say they will use it for “current and future capital development needs” — perhaps including new locker rooms? — and “to endow programs for wellness and youth in a way that honors the tradition of the Bedford family legacy.”

For nearly a century, that legacy has enriched Westport. It continues to do so, even after death.

Life At The Y

Last Friday was a typical summer day at the Y.  Swimmers swam; cyclists cycled; basketball players basketballed.

Suddenly, around noon, a player in one of those pickup hoops games dropped to the floor.

He was in full cardiac arrest.

A fellow player — the guest of a member, who is a nurse — began chest compressions.  Others ran for help.

Michael Friedman

Michael Friedman — a health and wellness specialist in the fitness center — was standing in the doorway.  Like every Y staffer — from the CEO on down — he’s been trained and regularly re-certified in both CPR and AED (automated external defibrillator) use.

Michael grabbed the nearest AED unit — there are 3; this one was by the membership desk — and ran to the gym.

Ignoring a large head gash — sustained when the man collapsed — Michael checked for vital signs.  All were negative.  There was no pulse.

He attached the AED.  It recommended a shock.  He followed the prompts, and administered one.  Immediately, cardiac rhythm was restored.

“That’s a blessing,” Michael says.  “The best blood pump in the world is your own heart.  He wasn’t without a pulse for very long.”

Michael secured the man’s airway.  Then he and membership coordinator Steve Forlano attended to his  head wound.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Y staff followed the exact protocol they train for.  The membership desk called 911.  Someone waited outside to escort emergency personnel through the maze of hallways to the gym.

When firefighters, police and EMTs arrived, they took over.  Soon, the man was on his way to Norwalk Hospital.

The next day, his fianceé called the Y to thank everyone.  He could have died, she said.  Instead he had an angioplasty (and 17 stitches in his head), and will be fine.

He’ll be released from the hospital tomorrow.

Michael has a special background.  He spent 20 years with Weston’s fire department and EMTs.  But, he insists, “anyone in the building would have done what I did.

“It was a real team effort.  There were so many people involved.  I still don’t know all their names.

“There was an awesome continuum of care,” he adds. “From the minute he hit the floor to the end result, he had excellent care.

AEDs -- with clear instructions on how to use them -- save lives.

“AEDs were in place.  We were trained to use them.  Westport EMTs are some of the best in the country, so the pre-hospital help was fantastic.  And then Norwalk Hospital followed up with more great care.”

Michael concludes:  “I feel proud of the Y, and the team effort that took place.  I’m just glad I could take the training we’re all given, and apply it when it was needed.”

Michael had the weekend off.  He returns to the Y this week.

Soon, he’ll move to part-time status.  He’s headed to Norwalk Community College, taking courses in physical therapy.

He could probably skip the first-aid portion of the curriculum.

Then again, Michael Friedman never would.