Skip to main content

Penny George Institute for Health and Healing

Skip section navigation

Patient stories

Our patients and their stories

These stories paint a picture of how we help individuals achieve a higher state of health and well-being and how we empower them to heal.

candle

Healing through the power of integrative therapies, forgiveness

Michael, a 62-year-old resident of a St. Paul suburb, suffered from severe lightheadedness for nearly two years before he was referred to Courtney Jordan Baechler, MD, cardiologist and vice president of the Penny George Institute for Healing and Healing.


Jennine Speier, MD

Jennine Speier, MD, found the resources she needed to lose weight and increase strength at LiveWell Fitness Center

Jennine Speier started with a Pilates Reformer workout and soon noticed a difference in how she felt. She joined the Take Action Weight Management Program and learned about mindful eating, savoring food, paying attention to hunger signals and the importance of portion control.

Rachel Russ

Rachel Russ turned to the Penny George Institute for guidance on nutrition, exercise and staying strong after cancer treatments

Rachel Russ, a mother of four and an Anoka resident, was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2010. Following her successful chemotherapy and radiation therapy treatments, she met with the Penny George Institute's integrative health nurse practitioner to review her concerns and to discuss after-care treatments, nutrition and healing.

Cheryl Salter

Cheryl Salter found her way to healing through Penny George Institute services

After a routine surgery in March 2003, Cheryl Salter knew something was seriously wrong. Her instincts were right: she had suffered an accidental bowel perforation during the surgery. During a long recovery, she found her way to the Penny George Institute, and that made all the difference in her healing.

Sue Gregerson

The Take Action Weight Management Program offered Sue Gregerson tools for success

A diagnosis of early breast cancer became a strong motivator for Sue Gregerson to lose weight and live a healthier lifestyle. Fortunately, she found all the tools she needed through the Take Action Weight Management Program.

Anna Linck with Wendy Farrar, NCTMB

Anna Linck credits a heart transplant and holistic healing with her survival

Anna Linck credits the power of modern medicine with the life-saving heart transplant she received. She credits the power of integrative care offered by the Penny George Institute with helping her hang on during a 10-week hospital stay leading up to her transplant.

Linda Shay

Integrative care made all of the difference: Linda Shay

As a 20-year Allina Health employee, Linda Shay saw firsthand the positive impact of the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing. What she didn't realize, was exactly how instrumental its integrative care and services would be in her own life.

Healing through the power of integrative therapies, forgiveness

Michael, a 62-year-old resident of a St. Paul suburb, suffered from severe lightheadedness for nearly two years before he was referred to Courtney Jordan Baechler, MD, cardiologist and vice president of the Penny George Institute for Healing and Healing.

The power of forgiveness

Forgiving doesn't mean stating there wasn't wrongdoing. Instead, forgiving is letting go of the negativity that continues to ruminate within us and can lead to physical consequences.

According to Baecher, forgiveness is a powerful healing tool and has been shown to

  • foster healthier relationships
  • increase spiritual and psychological well-being
  • decrease anxiety and stress
  • lower blood pressure
  • improve depression
  • lower the risk of alcohol and substance abuse.

"There was no apparent external cause for the lightheadedness," said Michael. "My primary care physician gave me every test they could think of to rule out other conditions, and then I tried to let it go and ignore it until it escalated into a scary situation."

After seeing a neurologist and completing a three-month therapy program for dizziness and imbalance issues, Michael was tested for cardiac issues at United Heart & Vascular Clinic and then referred to Baechler for a preventive cardiology consultation.

"Dr. Baechler reviewed my entire lifestyle, from nutrition, exercise, to daily habits," said Michael. "I also shared with her that I had participated in a forgiveness workshop, which I found to be a healing experience, and was under significant stress. Although the forgiveness workshop gave me relief from long-term issues I had with my father, I was dealing with a knot in my gut and a sense of fear, stress and anxiety that would not go away."

According to Baechler, what Michael experienced with his symptoms is common. "The mind, body and spirit work together to affect our health," she said. "Science has proven that certain emotions can change the neurotransmitters our brain produces to influence which hormones and chemicals our body produces. It's amazing to see how anger, frustration, resentment and regret can lead to disease."

In Michael's case, there were physical symptoms manifesting from stressors in his life. "We see this so often in health care. People often suffer from physical symptoms for years before they seek professional help and relief," explained Baechler. "As a cardiologist, I have seen numerous patients who manifest their frustrations at home or work as chest pain. In Michael's case, we needed to first rule out any cardiac concerns, then work to address the symptoms affecting his quality of life."

Baechler referred Michael to Mark Roa, MA, LP, for biofeedback and Robert Decker, LAc, RPh, for acupuncture. "I had always been aware of the benefits of mediation, but when I saw the way my body reacted during deep relaxation in a biofeedback session, it was a real eye opener," said Michael.

"I feel strongly that this is the right path for me to heal and I am finally getting to the root of my symptoms. I feel very well cared for at the Penny George Institute and appreciate that my treatment is multi-faceted."

Source: Healing Journal, Summer 2013
Reviewed by: Courtney Jordan Baechler, MD
First Published: 06/01/2013
Last Reviewed: 06/01/2013

Physician heal thyself: Jennine Speier, MD

Jennine Speier, MD

Jennine Speier, MD, worked out on the Pilates Reformer with guidance from her LiveWell Fitness Center trainer, Gail Ericson.

A winter of record-breaking snow made Jennine Speier, MD, a physiatrist with Sister Kenny Rehabilitation Associates, realize how far she had come. The 63-year-old discovered she could shovel thigh-high snow off her deck and toss it over ever-higher banks without any back pain.

"That was great evidence of what core muscle strength can do for you," she said.

After years of trying to stick with a regular exercise program and lose weight, Speier found the resources she needed to be successful at Abbott Northwestern Hospital's LiveWell Fitness Center.

LiveWell Fitness Center has a full complement of services that help people make lifestyle changes leading to better health: nutrition counseling, weight-loss programs, metabolism testing, body composition analysis, personal training, and also specialized services for people recovering from an injury or living with a chronic condition.

Speier has lost both inches and pounds, feels stronger and has more energy. "I'm probably in better shape now than I was 15 years ago," she said.

What was different this time around? "One difference is that LiveWell has exercise physiologists who could adapt exercises to my situation," said Speier, who has a history of shoulder and ankle problems.

She started with a Pilates Reformer workout and soon noticed a difference in how she felt. "That was magical to me," she said.

That encouraged her to move on to aerobic workouts and other exercises. Speier also joined LiveWell's Take Action Program for Weight Management and learned about mindful eating, savoring food, paying attention to hunger signals and the importance of portion control.

"Now I'm eating more healthful foods without feeling deprived," she said.

Most important, the LiveWell staff focuses on habit change. "They help you find your individual path to success," said Speier.


Source: Healthy Communities Magazine, Fall 2011 edition
Reviewed by: Jennine Speier, MD
First Published: 10/01/2011
Last Reviewed: 10/01/2011

Penny George Institute in Fridley: Rachel Russ

For Rachel Russ, the Penny George Institute in Fridley offers enhanced care, expert advice close to home

Rachel Russ and son

Rachel Russ, a mother of four and an Anoka resident, was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2010. In the past year, she has successfully gone through chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Following her treatments, she sought out expert advice to ensure that any vitamins or supplements she was taking wouldn't interfere with or make her medications less effective.

She met with the Penny George Institute's integrative health nurse practitioner to review her concerns and to discuss after-care treatments, nutrition and healing.

"I wanted to live life to the fullest following my treatments and in order to do so, I wanted guidance on nutrition, exercise and staying as strong as possible," explained Russ.

Russ also took a course on food as medicine taught by nutritionist and certified yoga instructor, Maureen Doran, RD, LD.

"It was very helpful," said Russ. "She taught us how to use food as medicine for my after-care and I learned a great deal about which foods are the best to eat following chemotherapy and radiation treatments. One food is not a magic pill, but she helped put the importance of nutrition into proper perspective."

At the Virginia Piper Cancer Institute at Unity, Russ attends a breast cancer support group. "We laugh at things beyond our control and then we sometimes cry when we need to get our frustrations out," said Russ. "The group is incredibly welcoming."

Russ also meets with Marc Arndt, MA, exercise physiologist and certified American College of Sports Medicine personal trainer, once a week to help gain strength and mobility following her treatments.

"I tell people that these services were built just for me," added Russ. "I feel very blessed to have this type of care close to home and in our community."


Source: Healing Journal, Winter 2012
Reviewed by: Maureen Doran, RD, LD; Marc Arndt, MA
First Published: 01/01/2012
Last Reviewed: 01/01/2012

Journey to wholeness and empowerment: Cheryl Salter

Cheryl Salter's journey to healing began when she became her own health care advocate

Cheryl Salter

After a routine surgery in March 2003, Cheryl Salter knew something was seriously wrong.

Far from a normal recovery, Salter experienced severe pain, a 104-degree fever and sepsis—a potentially life-threatening condition in which the immune system responds to an infection. Her instincts were accurate: she had suffered an accidental bowel perforation during the surgery.

After a long series of surgeries to try to correct the situation, Salter found her way to Abbott Northwestern where she underwent a corrective surgery. There, two surgeons simultaneously operated on her. The reconstruction was as successful as possible, but the nerve pain and feelings of illness from the original perforation still lingered.

A nurse for 36 years, Salter was no stranger to health care. "After my first surgery, I knew I was really sick and my intent was to get healthy and stay healthy," said Salter. "When one of the surgeons at Abbott Northwestern who operated to repair my abdomen suggested that I seek integrative care from the Penny George Institute, I didn't hesitate."

When she made her first appointment at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing Outpatient Clinic, Salter was anxious, tearful and discouraged.

"When I walked in the door, I was immediately cared for at all levels," explained Salter.

As part of her care plan, she saw Mark Roa, MA, LPsych, for biofeedback, and Robert Decker, RPh, Lac, for acupuncture. Through biofeedback, she learned to take greater responsibility for her mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health.

After feeling medically traumatized, Salter initially hesitated to experience acupuncture, but eventually found it to be healing and empowering. "The professionals were understanding and worked with me beautifully to empower my healing and helped me to be in charge of my health," said Salter.

Through individual appointments with a certified yoga therapist, Salter also learned to use yoga as a way to support her healing process.

"Megan Hatch, my yoga therapist, recorded a tape for me to do yoga at home," said Salter. "Through integrative care, I quit being the victim and learned that I was a strong, powerful person."

She also benefitted from appointments with one of the Penny George Institute's nutritionists and an integrative medicine physician. "The team at the Penny George Institute works so well together, I didn't have to repeat my traumatic story each time I had a visit," said Salter.

In November 2008, Salter was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer and underwent treatment at Abbott Northwestern's Piper Breast Center.

"Before my surgery, I sought out the services of the Penny George Institute including guided imagery, healing touch and acupuncture. Integrative therapies also helped me deal with the side effects of radiation following the surgery," said Salter.

Although she still suffers from pain, Salter has learned to address that crippling fear of pain and tensing that often leads to more pain.

"It's difficult to heal your body if you don’t heal completely in the mind, body and spirit," said Salter. "I learned that for me, the key to healing is learning the balance between allowing yourself to feel what you are feeling—the grief, fear, anger, hope—and finding the gift and lesson in each illness or surgery."

Professionally, Salter has found that her journey of healing has helped her be present for the patients and families she cares for as a registered nurse at Children's Hospitals and Clinics. In addition, she recently completed her certification as a healing touch practitioner.

"This has been a wonderful journey," said Salter. "I know what it feels like to be terribly ill and in persistent pain. The rest of my life will be dedicated to helping others who are sick, scared and in need of healing."


Source: Healing Journal, Summer 2011
Reviewed by: Lori Knutson, RN, BSN, HNB-BC
First Published: 06/24/2011
Last Reviewed: 06/24/2011

Integrative care made all the difference: Linda Shay

Linda Shay

Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner Bobbee Vang, LAc, MaOM, BS, and Linda Shay

As a 20-year Allina Health employee, Linda Shay saw firsthand the positive impact of the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing after it was founded in 2003 at Abbott Northwestern Hospital.

What she didn't realize, was exactly how instrumental its integrative care and services would be in her own life.

In 2008, Shay was going through a difficult time following the death of a good family friend. "I wasn't handling the stress very well," she explained.

Following serious bouts of anxiety and a visit to the Emergency Department, Shay reached a critical point where she needed help managing her stress and improving her overall health.

"A good friend suggested that I take the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction class at the Penny George Institute," said Shay. "It was the beginning point of a road to healing myself, not only my body, but my mind and heart as well."

In the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction classes, Shay was introduced to integrative health and its many tools including meditation, the concepts of being present and yoga. She learned about healing tools including acupuncture, nutrition, massage therapy and biofeedback.

"I wanted to learn even more about how to make my body healthy," said Shay. So, she enrolled in the Take Action Program for Weight Management at Abbott Northwestern's LiveWell Fitness Center.

For the first time, Shay began to exercise and saw a dramatic improvement in her health. She started a running program and completed her first 5K race. An injury in October 2010 set her back when she fell while running. Eventually,she had back surgery and used the integrative tools to reduce stress and promote healing.

"The surgery was a success, and I regained the control I had lost in my left foot," said Shay.

In September 2011, Shay had an emergency surgery to remove her gall bladder. Again, she used the integrative tools to heal and to learn how to help her body adjust.

Just five months later, in February 2012, Shay had the shock of her life when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

"I had a four centimeter tumor," explained Shay. "After all that I had been through over the past two years, I was stunned that I had to go through a major, life-changing medical diagnosis and treatment. I was angry, frightened and experienced every emotion there is to feel."

She and Dave Shay, her husband of 30 years, listened carefully to the treatment options and put together a plan, which included a lumpectomy followed by chemotherapy and radiation.

"Immediately I began to use my integrative health tools once again for overall stress management," said Shay. "I used healing touch in the preoperative area before surgery to reduce my stress and anxiety. I knew if I was to get through the next six months of treatment it would be because I had the tools to cope."

"When my mind would get too cluttered and stressed, I would use my meditation and breathing techniques to remain present," said Shay. "I continually listened to my body to determine what I needed. I say with conviction that the integrative tools I had and used buoyed me through this experience.

I am confident that the integrative health techniques, combined with contemporary medicine, made the world of difference as to how I tolerated the cancer treatments."

Today, Shay is back working in her role within Allina Health's clinical decision support team. She continues to receive acupuncture treatments at the Penny George Institute's Outpatient Clinic to help with stress reduction and some lingering side effects from her cancer treatments.

"I feel so grateful and fortunate to have these integrative health tools available and to make sure all of me was being treated—my heart, mind and my body," said Shay. "Integrative health and the pioneer work of the Penny George Institute made a world of difference for me. My wish is that this type of care would be available for everyone."


Source: Healing Journal, Winter 2013
Reviewed by: Bobbee Vang, LAc, MaOM, BS
First Published: 01/30/2013
Last Reviewed: 01/30/2013