NorthShore’s quarterly Connections magazine shares stories of real people in our community who have benefited from the superior clinical care, exceptional patient experiences and innovative research at NorthShore.

Did you know that charitable donations to NorthShore help power all of this, while also assisting our underserved neighbors?

Learn here about how philanthropy has impacted care for the patients you read about in Connections.


Fall 2020

Combating COVID-19 Across Our Communities

Generously funded by private donations to NorthShore Foundation’s COVID-19 Response Fund, nearly 1,500 COVID-19 Care Kits have been mailed directly to patients who tested positive for the disease and recovered at home. Donors are directly impacting the lives of patients like Paulita Rivera. 

When Paulita Rivera tested positive for COVID-19 at a NorthShore Immediate Care Center last May, her family was understandably worried. At age 85 and at high risk, the Elmhurst great-grandmother was fortunate to have relatively mild symptoms including a cough and fever. She did not have to be hospitalized and was sent home to recover under the watchful eye of her daughter Carmen Cuomo.

“We were planning to buy a pulse oximeter to monitor Mom’s oxygen levels,” recalled Cuomo. “But before we could get one, a care package from NorthShore arrived at our door. I was so surprised; I couldn’t believe it! Inside was everything we needed, including the pulse ox.”

Fulfilling an Urgent Need

COVID-19 Care Kits are mailed directly to patients who test positive for the disease and are able to recover at home. Each kit includes 10 surgical masks, hand sanitizer, safety guidelines in five languages and the pulse oximeter—a noninvasive finger sensor to monitor a patient’s oxygen levels.

“Paulita was at especially high risk for complications because of her age, so it was important for her to have a pulse ox,” explained NorthShore Primary Care Physician John Lin, MD, who made a follow-up call to Rivera after her diagnosis. Dr. Lin is part of a voluntary labor pool of physicians who proactively monitor patients diagnosed with COVID-19 through regular phone calls every one to three days to check on symptoms, including critically important oxygen levels.

We're out of the woods and so grateful...they're truly our angels here on earth. 

Carmen Cuomo
Daughter of Recovered COVID-19 Patient

Community-Connected Care

The Care Kits are just one example of how NorthShore was prepared for the viral threat, focused on keeping patients and the larger community safe and healthy. “Our clinical leaders had a comprehensive plan in place beginning in late February to guide patients with suspected COVID-19 to specific hospitals and Immediate Care Centers, including a drive-through testing site,” added Dr. Lin. “It set the precedent to keep us in front of the pandemic.”

Additionally, NorthShore provided vital information and the latest health guidance across dozens of communities working through strong partnerships with local governments, schools, churches and synagogues. A telephone hotline was established to screen patients for testing to help mitigate community spread, and field inquiries from concerned residents.

Thankfully, after two weeks, Rivera fully recovered from the virus’s grip. “We’re out of the woods and so grateful for the extra care from the doctors and nurses at NorthShore,” said Cuomo. “They’re truly our angels here on earth!”


Donate to the COVID-19 Care Kit Challenge today.


Determined Not to Miss a Beat

Philanthropic support from our donors is helping to differentiate cardiac care at NorthShore. As the first health system in Illinois to offer the latest iteration of the MitraClip device, cardiologists can take on more complex cases like that of JoLynn Pelham.

At home in Clinton, Iowa, JoLynn Pelham’s recovery from a heart attack was not going well. The 73-year-old grandmother felt weak, and she was severely short of breath. And all of this was happening at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I couldn’t even walk from the living room to the kitchen,” Pelham recalled. “After passing out twice, I knew something was terribly wrong.”

The Valve Repair Experts

Her hometown cardiologist diagnosed Pelham with mitral regurgitation, a dangerous form of heart disease caused when the mitral valve does not close properly while the heart pumps out blood. Familiar with pioneering treatment options at NorthShore University HealthSystem (NorthShore) Cardiovascular Institute, her doctor recommended that Pelham and her husband Steve consult with renowned Interventional Cardiologist Mark Ricciardi, MD.

Even in the face of COVID-19, time was running out. So the couple traveled to NorthShore for an advanced treatment option called MitraClip that helps the valve close more completely, restoring normal blood flow.

“We decided to treat quickly because JoLynn was likely to end up in the hospital with heart failure, intubated and in a much worse state,” noted Dr. Ricciardi. “Her husband thought he was going to lose her, and I agreed.”

Since the surgery, it's been just wonderful. I can't say enough nice things. Dr. Ricciardi's expertise saved by life.

JoLynn Pelham
NorthShore Cardiovascular Institute Patient

Differentiating Cardiac Care

“It (the MitraClip G4) is a quantum leap forward in technology,” added Dr. Ricciardi, “allowing us to take on more complex cases such as JoLynn’s.”

Unlike its predecessors, the MitraClip G4 comes in different sizes, giving surgeons more flexibility. Following the minimally invasive procedure, Pelham improved immediately. “I kid you not,” she exclaimed, “I woke up and could breathe again!” Released the very next day, she was up and around two days later, doing housework and cooking for her family. Pelham also is back to work full-time as a bookkeeper at the family’s auto repair business.

“Since the surgery, it’s been just wonderful,” Pelham said. “I can’t say enough nice things. Dr. Ricciardi’s expertise saved my life!”


For more information on supporting cardiovascular initiatives and the Cardiovascular Institute at NorthShore, please contact Walt Cody at 224.364.7204. 


COVID-19 Patient Shares Story of Survival

More than 3,000 donors responded to the call for help in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. $3 million was raised to buy personal protective equipment, upgrade patient care spaces and distribute free COVID-19 Care Kits. Some patients like John Troy and others were so appreciative of the care they received that they made a donation to NorthShore Foundation’s COVID-19 Relief Fund to support ongoing care and research.

While NorthShore COVID-19 patient John Troy was never close to death, he shared other patient's sense of isolation. Troy spent 12 days in Evanston Hospital after contracting the virus on a business trip to New York in early March. He, too, is grateful for the compassionate attention of his team of caregivers.

“I felt lucky to have a milder case—but as you watched the news, it was hard not to get more concerned,” Troy recalled. “But I always had confidence I was getting great care!”

The 71-year-old grandfather from Skokie never needed oxygen but suffered severe chills and dizziness—and months later, he has still not regained his sense of smell or taste. “I was probably sicker than I allowed myself to think,” Troy said. “It was a harrowing experience and one I wouldn’t wish on anybody. I’m just glad I came out of it on the other side.”

NorthShore Hospitalist Akbar Ali, MD, was among the clinicians treating Troy at the front lines of COVID-19 care, traveling between Evanston and Glenbrook Hospitals.

“At the beginning of the pandemic, there was so much we didn’t know, and I feared for my patients like John,” noted Dr. Ali. “But NorthShore’s leadership has been impressive. We’ve stayed ahead of challenges and minimized our exposure as much as possible. Our nurses are amazing, absolutely the best. In my book of heroes, it’s their brave faces I see.”

I feel lucky to have a milder case-but as you watched the news, it was hard not to get more concerned. But I always had confidence I was getting great care! 

John Troy
Recovered COVID-19 Patient and Donor

Paying it Forward

Troy was so appreciative of the care he received, he made a donation to NorthShore Foundation’s COVID-19 Relief Fund to support ongoing care and research.

“These grateful patients are a testament to the way everybody came together to do what was necessary to provide the absolute best care,” said Neil Freedman, MD, Division Head of Pulmonary, Critical Care, Allergy and Immunology, and one of the lead physicians on NorthShore’s COVID-19 response. “We’re well prepared, and we’ll be ready whenever the next wave comes.”

Dr. Freedman and others stress that all of us can do our part, too, by following the latest safety protocols and especially by wearing a face covering when out in public.


To support the ongoing efforts against COVID-19, donate to the COVID-19 Response Fund.


Reining in Your Cancer Risk

Critical donor support is helping NorthShore in the pioneering field of personalized medicine. NorthShore's Mark R. Neaman Center for Personalized Medicine's unique approach to care help patients diagnosed with Lynch syndrome, like Elyse Azriel. Using the information in Azriel’s DNA, the healthcare team is able to leverage her inherited risks and be in a better position to help her with appropriate screening measures to identify a risk before it actually manifests itself.

A suggestion by Azriel’s primary care physician, NorthShore Internal Medicine’s Mary Shapiro, MD, turned into life-changing—and potentially life-saving—advice for the 27-year old

“Dr. Shapiro recommended that I consider genetic testing to determine my own cancer risk,” recalled Azriel. “At first I told her ‘no,’ since I had done one of those home DNA test kits that didn’t reveal any genetic mutations.” But after Dr. Shapiro insisted that NorthShore’s comprehensive panel of tests would provide a far more complete set of results, Azriel agreed.

Knowledge is Power

It was a smart decision, as DNA testing found Azriel carries a genetic variant for Lynch syndrome, an inherited predisposition for developing several types of cancer, including colorectal, ovarian, uterine—even skin and brain cancer.

“Technology has improved over the last decade to the point where we can analyze genes in greater numbers,” explained Senior Genetic Counselor Anna Newlin, who has been working with Azriel to maintain good health.

I thought to myself, 'I'm only 27. Why do I have to see all these doctors?' Then, as I learned more about Lynch syndrome, I realized that all the tests are designed to prevent cancer.

Elyse Azriel
Mark R. Neaman Center for Personalized Medicine Patient

Collaborative Team Philosophy

Under the Neaman Center’s unique approach, female patients with Lynch syndrome who have never developed cancer are surrounded by a team of expert specialists. This includes gastroenterologists, gynecologic oncologists and dermatologists who can provide specialized screenings.

“Having Lynch syndrome doesn’t mean that cancer is inevitable,” noted Gastroenterologist Omar Khan, MD. “Through aggressive screening and prevention, we can keep people like Elyse out of harm’s way.” Azriel has regular visits with Dr. Khan and Medical Oncologist Allison DePersia, MD. Both specialists hold academic appointments at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine.

Not only has genetic testing become more sophisticated, but NorthShore also is making it more readily available on the front end of care. “Through the Neaman Center, we’re able to use genetic data from the get-go to develop the right strategies to predict and treat disease,” added Dr. Khan. “Testing at the primary care level impacts patients at increased risk because we can actually prevent their cancers from ever having a chance to develop.”

A certified rehabilitation counselor and therapist, Azriel is grateful for the experience she had at the Neaman Center not just in managing her own health, but for the impact and peace of mind it brought to other family members. “Once I was tested, my mother and brother tested negative for Lynch syndrome, but my dad tested positive,” said Azriel. “Now, he’s following the same preventive measures as me to stay healthy.”


For more information on supporting the Mark R. Neaman Center for Personalized Medicine, contact Molly Neuleib at 224.364.7218.


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