Aurora Health Alliance

Stories of Excellent Care in Aurora

Gold Star Stories

Gold Star Stories tell the tales of individuals and teams in healthcare that have gone above and beyond in their service to people in Aurora.

Gold Star Stories

Our healthcare system is complex.  Sometimes navigating—or trying to navigate—this system can be frustrating and overwhelming. But often, things go right! AHA wants to recognize and celebrate the health providers, facilities, groups, and volunteers in Aurora who provide “stellar” service. If you have an Aurora Gold Star Story to share, please let us know.

Kudos to STRIDE Community Health Centers for “walking their talk”! STRIDE’s stated mission is “to partner with the community to provide excellent, culturally-sensitive health services to meet the needs of each individual”. In my experience, STRIDE is living its values of Integrity, Compassion, Accountability, Respect and Excellence.

I have worked sheltering people experiencing homelessness on severe weather nights for over 10 years and this year, during the COVID pandemic the non-profit I volunteer with provided continuous shelter in motels for families with children, disabled adults and people with pets/while a sister organization provided vouchers for single adults. The challenges for the people sheltered, motels, and community partners has been all but overwhelming as we worked to keep all involved safe and healthy during shelter in place orders and what I call “COVID confinement”.

We could not have done this without the active help of Stride Community Health Centers. On severe weather days between October 2020 and April 2021, Stride remained on call – a Stride mobile van came to the sites where we were handing out motel vouchers and screened/tested every individual who was seeking a voucher for COVID -19, before they met with volunteers. With Stride’s expertise we kept people experiencing homelessness, volunteers and motel staff COVID free throughout the season.

Above and beyond their normal activities, on several occasions when we had reason to believe a sheltered individual had tested positive or showed possible COVID symptoms, Stride sent a staff person to our motels and retested the individual, prepared to offer whatever follow-up medical services/resources that might be needed. I particularly thank Allison Draayer who would respond to phone calls after normal business hours and staff who would provide services where the people were (at the motels) and when the testing was needed. In my experience, Stride Community Health Centers are true community partners. What they did was not easy but it was essential to the health and safety of all involved. When we asked, Stride was there for us saying “this meets our mission/we will assist/we will be there”.

With Heartfelt thanks – Bonnie DeHart (and the literally hundreds of families and individuals experiencing homelessness that Stride served this year.)

On August 11 at 730pm I injured my arm while chopping some tree branches that had been downed in my front yard by a windstorm in Aurora. My forearm was bleeding and had swollen to the size of a small apple. I considered going to the Emergency Room, but remembered we have a relationship with Dispatch Health, and have always supported them. I called Dispatch Health at 8pm. Could they come over and take a look? By 845PM a Dispatch Health car arrived with a Nurse Practitioner and a Medical ​Technician. They immediately took my vitals, examined my arm, confirmed I had a contusion, but not a serious one, and nothing else was damaged. The Nurse Practitioner prescribed some anti-bacterial ointment which I was able to pick up the next day. Having Dispatch Health available that evening to take care of my injury and reassure me, saved a costly and unnecessary trip to the Emergency Room (as it turns out). I’m very grateful that we have Dispatch Health in our Aurora community.

And by the way, I now know that Dispatch Health teams are prepared to quickly diagnose and treat flu, as well as COVID-19. A great service to keep us out of the public.

–Rich McLean

Last week, our colleagues at the Spring Institute contacted us about a client who lives in Aurora, and due to a mix up in SNAP benefits during the federal shutdown, was out of food. Due to health issues, she really needed healthy options and fresh food and vegetables. Our Board member, Rich McLean referred her to a few resources in Aurora, including Aurora Interfaith. When he asked a few days later if the client had gotten the help she needed, they responded that the staff at Interfaith had been incredibly helpful and even made a special trip to the store to purchase yogurt for their client. Thank you to everyone at Aurora Interfaith for being such a wonderful resource for Aurora.

Sara Maru, Health Coverage Guide, Aurora Coverage Assistance Network (ACAN)
My client is a 50 year old woman who is a refugee and has been in the US less than 5 years, so is not eligible for Medicaid. She lives with her husband and 13 year-old grandson; both adults were working. I helped her obtain a Kaiser insurance policy. She needed thyroid surgery and to be safe after surgery needed to be isolated from others. The family lived in a very small apartment where isolation would have been impossible, so she called me again to find out what they could do. I helped them contact the hospital to ask if the woman could remain in the hospital an extra 24 hours due to the risk of complications should she return home immediately. Because of the insurance coverage, she was allowed to stay longer in the hospital, with 70% of the cost covered by insurance. Surgery was successful and this client has returned to good health.

Ivan Sosa, Health Access Program Manager, Aurora Community Connection
Alexis was diagnosed with chronic renal disease 3 years ago and started dialysis, 3 times a week, in addition to taking 5 pills a day. During this time Alexis was uninsured, and owed thousands of dollars by the time he met with me. I was able to get Alexis enrolled in a Kaiser plan. Discovering that the average wait time to get a transplant was 5-7 years, I suggested to Alexis that his family and friends get tested to see if any of them were a match. His sister was a match and I was able to enroll her in a Kaiser plan as well. The transplant surgery took place 5 months after she was enrolled.
Now Alexis takes 175 pills a week, but says he would much rather take pills than have dialysis. I helped him apply for financial assistance for the $30k he owed and we were able to lower that debt to $500. Now Alexis lives a healthy life, has a full time job, and plays in a soccer league.

Nohemi Burciaga, Family Program Coordinator, Aurora Community Connection
Roberto visited our center in January of 2017, seeking information on how to access health insurance. He was at the time covered through Medicare due to a disability because of kidney failure. Roberto needs a kidney transplant in order to live beyond the two years doctors have given him. Medicare is currently covering most of his medical expenses, but does not cover the full cost of a kidney transplant. During the enrollment process, we learned Roberto qualified for the Medicaid Buy-in program. He is now able to supplement the percentage to his treatments and kidney transplant. Today, he is optimistically starting the legal process to bring his brother from Guatemala to begin the treatment for the kidney transplant.

Javier Garcia, Health Program Assistant, Aurora Community Connection
Dolores, a 70 year old woman from Yucatan Mexico, receives retirement funds from Mexico. She came to the US with her children to a sponsor, and does not qualify for Old Age Pension (OAP). She has not worked in the United States but does file income tax returns because she does have an income. Dolores began experiencing chest pains, but because she had no health insurance she did not seek medical help, until she worried that the pains were serious so she began paying out of pocket for medical care. Someone gave Dolores information about Enroll America, so she made an appointment. When Dolores arrived at the Aurora Community Connection office, she was struggling to receive needed care and confused about the entire health care/insurance process. I helped her purchase an excellent policy, and she followed up with a doctor who determined she needed open heart surgery. The cost out of pocket would not exceed $2500. Dolores and her family could not believe that she would only have to pay $2,500 for a $150,000 surgery! Surgery was successful and Dolores and her family are again enjoying a happy and healthy life.

Kuang Oo, Community Navigator, Asian Pacific Development Center
A 26-year-old refugee, who recently became a US citizen, had been experiencing severe pain in his back and legs for 2 years. The pain reached a point where he couldn’t stand for more than 5 minutes, so he couldn’t continue working. This escalated until he finally called an ambulance to take him to the emergency room, was admitted to the hospital, and spent 2 nights there. He later received a bill for approximately $10,000 dollars. He came to Asian Pacific Center for help. I worked with the hospital and through Colorado Indigent Care Program (CICP) and other negotiations got the bill reduced to $800.00. I also connected this young man to a Kaiser insurance plan through Connect 4 Health. He is insured, able to afford needed medication, and back at work.

My mother, Doris Rempp, asked me to help her write a Gold Star Story to recognize the excellent care she received at The Medical Center of Aurora’s Cardiac Cath Lab. –Denise Denton

My Heart is in Good Hands, Doris Rempp

It started with a song! The delightful woman, Sonia Sanchez Registrar – Main Admissions, who checked me in, couldn’t have been nicer.  And she spoke Spanish, so not only was I able to practice a little, but we ended up singing an old children’s song together – “los pollitos dicen, pio pio pio, cuando tienen hambre; cuando tiened frio.”

From the moment you enter TMCA’s Cardiac Cath Lab, you are treated like an honored guest. Twice in the past month, I’ve visited the Cath Lab for cardioversion procedures. This is where they try to shock your heart back into regular rhythm; mine seems to be beating to a different drummer lately. Marc Dorsey and Shannon Tyson, who got me settled in, couldn’t have been nicer or more thorough. Of course, they made sure all the forms and paperwork were in order, but they also took time to help me feel more comfortable and confident. Marc even let me touch his chin dimple for good luck, when I asked.

Thanks to the lovely twilight sleep, I can’t offer any details of the care I got during the procedure, but based on what I experienced from TMCA staff before the procedure – and based on the fact that I’m writing this, it all went well.

And the caring and attentiveness doesn’t stop when the procedure is done. I was visited by Christina Chaney, the Nurse Leader who checked on me afterwards to ask how it all went. And even David Rogers, Dir. Cath Lab came by to say hello and ask how I was. (I was taken with his piercing blue eyes though, that I don’t think I was very eloquent. I hope he thought it was just the anesthesia.)

So, I can’t say enough good things about the care and hospitality of the staff at The Medical Center of Aurora. I know my heart is in good hands there.

I would like to nominate Dr. Cara Wylie, DPM, for the AHA Gold Star Award for “stellar” service. Dr. Wylie is a podiatrist at the University of Colorado Hospital and Clinical Instructor for the University of Colorado School of Medicine, Department of Surgery at the Anschutz Medical Campus.

My story is about finding care for my son, and being so moved by the experience that I felt compelled to write. By way of background, my son has struggled with ingrown toenails for years and has had multiple temporary procedures to provide relief until his feet stop growing. These are painful procedures and the results only last a few months. In the past, we had this work done in east Denver where his pediatrician is located. Now a teenager, his feet seem to have stopped growing at size 13 so we were seeking a permanent solution. I was looking for a new podiatrist for this more serious procedure.

Two things brought us to needing a new provider. First, the former podiatrist treated his feet several times, took my insurance card and accepted the co-payment each time. Several months later the office called to say that actually they were not an “in-network” provider for our health insurance plan and I would have to pay the uninsured rate—I owed them for work already provided amounting to more than $500! I was upset that they had not realized this issue sooner, but indeed work had been done and I had to pay. I needed a podiatrist within our insurance network. Secondly, as there are risks with any procedure I was hoping to find someone at the CU School of Medicine; I believe their providers are the best in their fields and would minimize the risk of rare bad outcomes like permanent neuropathic pain and even amputation! I found Cara Wylie, DPM at UC Hospital and she far exceeded our expectations.

As we entered the orthopedics waiting area at the UCHospital outpatient pavilion I became uneasy about my choice of this new provider—we saw many people coming and going including nurses, technicians, and doctors, and many patients who were struggling to move. I became anxious that we would be lost in the shuffle, anxious that my son’s health needs would be treated as unimportant compared to the more serious illnesses around us, and anxious that this big healthcare environment would be difficult to navigate and manage. I am sharing this story because this healthcare experience was one of the best I have ever experienced.

The UCH employees who greeted us were pleasant and helpful, quick and clear both before and after the procedure. Dr. Wylie was gentle, careful, detailed and knowledgeable. When we saw her first for consultation and then for the procedure she reviewed all possible risks and benefits in detail that I had never heard before. She explained the actions she would take to minimize the risks and wrote everything down for me. It is a painful procedure and my son marveled at how much better she was in explaining and treating him as compared to past experiences. I watched her work expertly and was amazed at her care for big and little things. She gave us materials we needed for aftercare and even her personal cell phone number with instructions to call with any questions. She made the next appointment right there in the room. Wow, this was professional and personal. My son’s toes are healing well and look great. I was thrilled, and immediately resolved to share this Gold Star story. I give Dr. Cara Wylie and the care team at UCH Orthopedics “five stars” for the care we received, thank you!

An Aurora family is thankful for the work of Aurora Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and University of Colorado Health (UCHealth) who saved their loved one’s life.

Leon came home from work on July 21 and was relaxing in front of the TV while his wife, Sue, puttered in the garden. She was delighted to see her green beans were sprouting and came in to tell Leon the good news. She noticed something was wrong though. The right side of his face was drooping, he began to gag, and couldn’t talk. Sue, a nurse, immediately recognized the signs of a stroke, and called 911. The Aurora EMS team arrived within 10 minutes, accompanied by the UCHealth Mobile Stroke Treatment Unit (MSTU).

EMS personnel immediately carried Leon to the Mobile Stroke Treatment Unit where technicians performed a CAT scan that detected a condition requiring clot busting medication, which they administered within minutes right in front of the home. At the same time, data was sent to neurologists at University of Colorado Hospital. On the way to the hospital, Sue talked with the neurology team through video. The team explained that based on the data they were receiving, Leon needed immediate surgery to have the clot removed. Sue gave permission as the Unit was rolling to the ER and, upon arrival, Leon was immediately transferred into surgery.

Today, Leon is going through speech and physical therapy but he is able to walk and eat on his own. Sue knows that had the 911 system/Aurora EMS and the Mobile Stroke Treatment Unit not worked so well together, she would have lost her husband.

Several miracles occurred that day. The garden had green beans (or Sue would not have found her husband in time); Sue recognized the stroke and called 911; 911 immediately dispatched EMS on a probable stroke call; and at the same time, dispatched the UCHealth Mobile Stroke Treatment Unit. Both EMS and the MSTU arrived within 10 minutes. The stroke was diagnosed, medication administered on site, neurologists informed, and consent given for surgery while the MSTU was traveling to the hospital. Thanks to that communication and coordination, Leon was in surgery to remove the clot causing the stroke within 45 minutes of the 911 call.

Gold stars go to Sue, for recognizing her husband’s stroke; to the Aurora 911/EMS System; to UCHealth for its investment in the Mobile Stroke Treatment Unit; and for the synchronized communication between EMS and the University of Colorado Hospital. Had any of those stars been left out, an Aurora family could have lost a husband and father.

To learn the F.A.S.T. system for recognizing and responding to a stroke:

To learn more about the UCHealth Mobile Stroke Unit:

AHA would like to acknowledge “stellar” service provided by The Medical Center of Aurora (TMCA), Aurora’s Vision Care Specialists, DispatchHealth, and Metro Community Provider Network (now STRIDE).

In early May, 2016, Mary, a single mom in Aurora, walked into the emergency room at The Medical Center of Aurora. Her vision was blurry, her eyes were very sore and she was extremely anxious. Mary had visited another emergency room twice in the prior week, and been diagnosed and given treatment for pink eye, but her condition was only getting worse.

It was compounded by her worry that she was going blind and wouldn’t be able to care for her son. In desperation, she called a friend from her church for advice and support. Knowing she had no transportation, her friend called DispatchHealth to see if they could come to her apartment to check her out. After listening to Mary’s symptoms and condition (and that she had no medical home), DispatchHealth advised that while they could send someone out right away, they would probably not have the appropriate ophthalmic equipment in their vehicle to adequately assess her problem. They suggested she avoid the delay of a house call, and go immediately to an ED. Her friend took Mary to the emergency room at TMCA.

Physician Assistant Skyla Bosco saw her in a timely manner. The advice from DispatchHealth had been spot on and Ms. Bosco was able to run tests to determine that Mary had a serious abrasion on her right cornea. She prescribed medication and advised Mary to see an eye doctor ASAP. When Mary said she had no eye doctor, Ms. Bosco said TMCA would try to find a specialist to take her. Ms. Bosco also noticed the anxiety Mary was going through and assured and comforted her that this was a condition that could be treated and that she wasn’t going to go blind.

The next morning, a patient service representative from Vision Care Specialists in Aurora called Mary to tell her she could be seen that afternoon. Dr. Susan Stewart at Vision Care Specialists examined Mary’s eyes, fitted her with a medicated contact for the cornea abrasion, and scheduled two follow-up appointments to check her progress. A few days later, Mary’s eyes were healing nicely and by the final checkup the next week, her eyes showed no more impacts from the abrasion or pink eye.

AHA would like to award the providers involved in this case with AHA Gold Stars. First, a Gold Star goes to TMCA for its stellar ED care, and for arranging the follow-up specialist care. We’d also like to thank Vision Care Specialists for treating Mary. We’d especially like to thank practitioner Skyla Bosco of the TMCA ED and Dr. Susan Stewart of Vision Care Specialists for their expert and sensitive care for Mary. Both Ms. Bosco and Dr. Stewart recognized not only the physical problem but also the anxiety Mary was feeling after a week of a painful and deteriorating eye condition. They both took the initiative to reassure and comfort her that her condition was treatable. A Gold Star also goes to DispatchHealth for its professionalism in handling Mary’s situation when called, and then MCPN (STRIDE), which afterward took Mary, who had no medical home, into its integrated, wrap-around health care program, Bridges to Care.