2016: Inspiring life stories

Many times, Carle providers meet people on the worst day of their lives. Doctors and nurses get to help people get past those days so they can live longer. From a single mother battling cancer, to a child’s bike accident that turned into a major emergency, to surviving a heart attack, we’re honored by those who’ve shared their journey.

Ashley’s story: In the fight of her life

2017 will mark Ashley Jensen-Barret’s fourth year battling stage-four breast cancer that has spread to her bones, liver and brain. The single mother relies on her doctors to keep her healthy so she has as much time as possible with her 4-year-old daughter.

After receiving initial treatment at a Chicago hospital, Jensen-Barret moved back to her central Illinois hometown of Mahomet to live closer to her parents. 

“I reached out to Carle Cancer Center to explore options for receiving chemotherapy there as opposed to traveling to Chicago every week,” Jensen-Barret said.

“I quickly saw Carle had my best interests at heart.”

Since her story published, Ashley enjoyed a trip to Florida and Jamaica. And she and her daughter had a beautiful Christmas.

Ashley said, “My big gift to her was a custom-made dollhouse. I wanted her to have one similar to the one I loved as a child. She was absolutely elated and adores it as much as I hoped she would.”

Ashley also has hope the cancer treatments are working. She added, “I had brain radiation in November and the follow-up shows my brain is clear! We celebrate that good news, but will continue to watch it closely.”

Retired officer rehabs his way back from ‘widow maker’

When one survives a heart attack called a “widow maker,” it is a time to celebrate.

Doctors from Carle’s Chest Pain Center are standing by 24/7/365, ready to help people experiencing chest pain, test for heart attack and give the patient the best chance at recovery.

Just like Randy Mendenhall of Neoga.

In late July, doctors at a Mattoon hospital flew Mendenhall to Carle Foundation Hospital for life-saving treatment after diagnosing him with a blockage in a major artery.

"I was in the operating room 10 minutes after the chopper touched down on Carle's helipad,” Mendenhall said.

Doctors put in two stents, and Mendenhall is here today.

Mendenhall is rehabbing at Carle Heart and Vascular Institute in Mattoon-Charleston. He’s enjoying spending time with his first great-grandchild, restoring antique tractors, serving as commander of Neoga American Legion Post 458 and driving the local school bus.

Fast action by many saves child’s life

Carle’s Level I Trauma Center treats life-threatening injuries every day, including small bumps that turn out to be more than bumps.

Jessica Duhoski’s parents, Cisco and Louise Torres of Watseka, faced that nightmare in June. Jessica crashed her bike and hit her head. It looked like Jessica would be OK, but Cisco and Louise knew something was seriously wrong when she had trouble walking.

Cisco and Louise rushed their daughter to a local hospital where doctors stabilized her. A chopper then flew her to Carle for emergency treatment to stop a subdural hematoma—a brain bleed.  Neurosurgeons at Carle stopped the bleeding, and Jessica recovered from the close call.

After rehab, Louise reports Jessica is "back to normal," enjoying seventh-grade and loves art.

Her parents are grateful they have their daughter with them, and they want their fellow parents to remember one thing—get your child to the emergency room if something doesn’t seem right after an accident.

Cisco added, “If you hesitate, it’s too late.”



Giving thanks for every heart beat

When it is time for heart surgery, it is important to have an experienced surgeon who can handle any surprises or emergencies.

For Linda Haile, recently retired Carle Nurse Practitioner, Falak Shah, MD, was that surgeon.

Haile suffered a heart attack, and while Dr. Shah was placing stents, her heart stopped. Dr. Shah continued the surgery and directed the operating team to perform CPR and other life-saving measures.

“I still get an adrenaline rush thinking about it,” Dr. Shah said.

Haile pulled through, began cardiac rehab and celebrated the holidays with family and friends.

"Every day I get up, and I thank God. I don't take life for granted," she said.