Simple Steps to Avoid Accidental Falls

September is Fall Prevention Month in Wisconsin. Falls threaten the independence and health of more than 100 older adults in Wisconsin every day. At Ministry Door County Medical Center, we have taken many steps to prevent falls for our patients, and we are proud to report that we’ve reduced accidental falls substantially at the hospital. But that’s not enough – we want to see the accidental fall rate in Door County homes decrease, too.

caregiverA majority of people admitted to the hospital are admitted because they have fallen. Many who are admitted to nursing homes have fallen in the past 30 days and one in ten of these individuals stay in the nursing home long-term. Even more frightening, an individual is more likely to die from a fall than a motor vehicle accident.

Here are some simple steps anyone can take to prevent falls and remain healthy, active members of our community.

  • Begin a regular exercise program that include strength and balance training. Ask your doctor or health care worker about the best exercises for you.
  • Have your medications checked by a professional. Some medicines, or combinations of medicines, can make you drowsy or light-headed, which can lead to a fall.
  • Have your vision checked by an eye doctor. Poor vision can increase your chances of falling.
  • Do a home safety check. Remove things you can trip over including small throw rugs, use non-slip mats in the bathtub or shower, improve the lighting in your home, and wear supportive shoes that with non-slip soles.

A little bit of prevention can go a long way in keeping older adults safe and active in our community. On behalf of Ministry, we wish everyone a safe September!

-Ellen Knipfer, Nurse Practitioner



A Sense of Responsibility: Becky Sickels-Wahlers Serves Orphanage in the Congo

Even as a child, Becky Sickels-Wahlers felt the desire to go to Africa to help others. “It was something I wanted to do from a very young age,” she says. “But then life happened, and I put it on the back burner for a long time.” Instead, Becky got busy raising a family and working as a registered nurse in Ministry Door County Medical Center’s Birthing Center, and later as a lactation consultant and obstetrical nurse in Ministry’s Women’s Center.

Then her mission called. “A new pastor came to our family’s church in Algoma, Lakeside Community Church, and he had connections with a grassroots movement that includes an orphanage in the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” she says. “As soon as I began to hear the story of this amazing place, the fire in me that I had stomped out was rekindled. I knew this was the right time to go.”

The orphanage, called Congo for Christ Center (CCC), also includes a church and a recently constructed school. The facility is located outside the city of Uvira, where local residents live in a subsistence economy and many orphaned children struggle to survive due to recent civil war and continued government corruption. The founder of the school, Pastor Rukukuye Jeremiah, established the orphanage in 2011, which now serves 57 children who live at the compound, located on a mountainside above the city.

Becky Sickels-Wahlers provides medical screening for a child, assisted by her daughter

Becky Sickels-Wahlers provides medical screening for a child, assisted by her daughter

Becky was granted a leave from Ministry, and in June she traveled to the Congo with her 17-year-old daughter Kaitlyn and a small group of teachers, health care workers and volunteers to spend 10 days at the orphanage. “As an RN, I was able to help provide basic health care to the children,” she says, “but there is no doctor.” Ministry Door County Medical Center donated medical supplies and multivitamins for children and staff, but Becky’s eyes were opened when she realized the facility lacked a safe and sanitary way to store the supplies. “There’s just one storage building, and it’s for everything – food, supplies and clothing. The children and ‘mamas’ (the term for the women who cook and care for the children) prayed that my husband would be able to return with me next time to build shelving.”


Becky with two young girls at the CCC orphanage.

Prayer infuses life at CCC. “Through daily worship, there is so much prayer and singing. There are three choirs, and they all sing at each service. Sometimes the teachers have to stop them or they would keep singing for hours!” Becky says that she has never felt closer to God than when she was at CCC.

During her stay, the newly constructed Mango Tree School was dedicated with great fanfare. The school serves the children at the orphanage as well as neighboring families, as local public schools are often corrupt and ineffectual. In true Congolese fashion, there were government officials, plenty of singing and speeches, and the ritual slaughtering of a cow that was cooked and shared as a meal with all of the attendees. Local families, who have endured exile, war and death, were overjoyed to have an educational opportunity for their children, and parents praised the school for its accomplishments.

Becky taught English and puberty class while visiting CCC, and she would notice groups of 12 and 13 year olds practicing what they learned with each other in the schoolyard. “How often do you see kids doing that?” she asks. “You can look at the people of CCC and truly say that they are among the poorest in the world,” says Becky. “But what I saw is that these children are incredibly goal-oriented and motivated to succeed and they can teach us that life isn’t about money or things.”

As Becky processes her experience, she knows that her trip to the Congo was not a “get it out of your system” experience. In speaking to community groups about the needs of the CCC, she shares the stories of the children who touched her. “I personally feel a sense of responsibility for the future of the CCC and specifically for the children there.” She hopes to continue to involve her church in the work of CCC, as well as support from Ministry.

Becky’s daughter Kaitlyn was also deeply affected by the trip. “She is headed to college next year, and is already looking into global health and nutritional studies programs,” says Becky.


Becky’s daughter Kaitlyn visits with a young child, with the CCC soccer field in the background.

“Becky embodies the spirit of Ministry,” says Ann Bretl, Becky’s colleague and supervisor in the Women’s Center at Ministry’s Sturgeon Bay clinic. “She understands that in caring for those who are the neediest, we are doing the most important work of all.”

As for Becky, she is changed, and grateful. “We were thanked, continually, for our work. But really, we were the ones who gained so much in forming these relationships that are given from God.”

To learn more about the CCC orphanage and school, visit and search “Mango Tree School.”


Why Immunize? A Conversation with Dr. Megan Neuman

August is National Immunization Awareness Month, a reminder of the key role that childhood immunizations play in lifelong health. Megan Neuman, a pediatrician at Ministry’s Children’s Center offers her insights on the question “Why immunize?”

Why is it important to immunize children?

The basic premise of immunizing is that it sets up a person’s immune system to be able to fight disease. Immunizations are one of the most effective ways to prevent disease and maintain health. Simply put, there are certain illnesses out there that are really serious, but that are preventable: pertussis (whooping cough), polio and meningitis for example. Some of these diseases don’t have any cure, so prevention is key. Immunizing against these illnesses is an extremely low-risk procedure that yields really effective results.

Dr. Megan Neuman

Dr. Megan Neuman

Public Health used to perform immunizations for all kids. Do children need to see a provider at a clinic to receive immunizations?

Local families who take part in BadgerCare or are uninsured are still eligible to receive immunizations at Public Health. Families with private insurance need to see their providers, and here at Ministry we provide immunizations at any visit. Of course, August is a good time to be reminded to keep shots up to date, as many students will require proof of immunization at the beginning of the school year.

Young children need a series of immunizations to prevent disease. What about older kids?

Middle and high school kids are required to have the Tdap vaccine that prevents diseases including pertussis (whooping cough) and tetanus. Door County has actually seen some outbreaks of pertussis in the last few years, so it’s just as important as ever to be immunized. But there are also some highly effective vaccines that we recommend at this age, including HPV and meningococcal vaccine.

Public Health will be providing some school-based immunization clinics at some middle/high schools, but we urge parents to check with their providers and make sure their children’s immunizations are up to date.

Some parents have reservations about immunization. What should they do?

The best thing parents can do is to have a conversation with their child’s provider. There is so much information out there, and not all of it is reliable. It’s a big deal to make health care decisions for a child. Most concerns that parents have are not borne out in the research, and I reassure parents on a daily basis that vaccines are enormously safe. For example, some people are concerned about the ingredient thimerosal, which has actually been completely phased out of pediatric vaccines in the last 10 years. There’s a stringent testing and approval process and extremely high standards for vaccines, and any risk is far outweighed by the benefits. The bottom line is, we don’t want to leave any child susceptible to a disease that’s preventable.

To make an appointment with a pediatrician at Ministry North Shore Medical Clinic’s Children’s Center, call 920.746.3666.


Cultural Health is Good for Your Health

At Ministry Door County Medical Center, we believe that art, music and theater are good for your health. That’s why Ministry is a primary supporter of a wide variety of arts organizations in Door and Kewaunee counties, from professional theater to classical music to arts programs for children.

“Ministry’s support has been a lifeline for us,” says Bob Boles, Co-Artistic Director of Third Avenue Playhouse in Sturgeon Bay. “By underwriting the past two summer seasons, they have helped us bring live theater to our growing audience, and we’ve also partnered with Ministry to present community events in support of other charities. There aren’t many organizations that reach out to the arts community like Ministry does. They’re really extraordinary.”

Brian Kelsey, Managing Director of Peninsula Players Theatre, agrees. “By supporting The Play’s The Thing, our winter playreading project, and sponsoring our first show of the season, The Tin Woman, Ministry has really embraced our mission.” Ministry’s sponsorship of the World Premiere of The Tin Woman was especially meaningful, as the play, centered on the story of an organ donor and recipient, dealt with themes of trauma, loss and redemption. “By supporting the arts, Ministry not only helps our organization, but also affects people. They recognize the power of the arts to help and to heal.”

A scene from The Tin Woman at Penisula Players Theatre

A scene from The Tin Woman at Penisula Players Theatre

In addition to sponsoring organizations including American Folklore Theater, Door County Plein Air Festival, and Birch Creek Music Performance Center, Ministry is the primary sponsor of the Peg Egan Concert Series in Egg Harbor and presents its own free “Music in the Garden” concert series on the Ministry campus in July.

Audience members enjoy at free concert at Ministry's green space

Audience members enjoy at free concert at Ministry’s green space

Ministry also brings the arts to children throughout Door and Kewaunee counties. Since 2007, Ministry’s “Art for Health” programs have served hundreds of children through after school programs and summer camps, immersing kids in visual and performing arts and building confidence and community. A similar program for older adults operates at the Door County Senior Center.

Kids enjoyed a free arts camp courtesy of Ministry at Southern Door School

Kids enjoyed a free arts camp courtesy of Ministry at Southern Door School

“We know that enjoying the arts benefits the mind, body and spirit,” says Kevin Grohskopf, Chief Business Development Officer at Ministry. “That’s why Ministry has made it a priority to support Door County’s vibrant arts community and create many opportunities for residents and visitors to enjoy music, theater and the visual arts.”


Massage Services Good for Body, Mind and Spirit

For Julie Evans, Licensed Massage Therapist at Ministry Door County Medical Center’s Rehab Services, seeing the change in her clients is the most fulfilling part of her work. “I can see it in people’s faces,” she says. “It’s so rewarding to help take away the pain and make people feel good.”

Evans, who has seven years’ experience as a massage therapist, recently joined the Ministry Rehab team and specializes in deep tissue massage, traditional Swedish massage and a Hawaiian style of massage called Lomilomi.  She and five other massage therapists provide a wide range of massage styles at three locations: Rehab Services in Sturgeon Bay, the Women’s Center at Ministry Door County Medical Center, and at Ministry’s Algoma Rehab location. Massage therapy staff also provide services in partnership with the Northern Door YMCA in Fish Creek.

Julie Evans, LMT

Julie Evans, LMT

“We provide a valuable service to the community in offering affordable professional massage,” says Deb Whitelaw-Gorski, director of Rehab Services. “Massage has many benefits, including decreasing stress, potentially boosting the immune system and improving overall health and wellness.” Evans also cites massage’s impact on mental health. “We live such chaotic lives,” she says. “Massage offers people time to relax and have time for themselves.”

Ministry is also bringing massage services to the community through local employers. Hatco Corporation recently brought in a team of massage therapists to provide 10-minute chair massages to more than 200 of their employees. “Offering this service to our team is a great way to allow our employees the opportunity to relax as reward for their constant dedication and hard work,” says Jackie Bongle, Human Resources Manager at Hatco.

As for Julie Evans, she is thrilled with her new position. “Because our services are so affordable, we are able to reach out to a wider variety of potential clients. I also really enjoy my regular clients, because I get to see that change and progress.”

In addition to the varieties of massage mentioned above, options include hot/cold stone, sports, cupping and pre-natal massage.  To make an appointment, call Rehab Services at 920-746-0410.


Back On the Dance Floor: Terry Lowrey and Orthopedic Care

It’s hard to keep a good man down. So when Terry Lowrey of Sturgeon Bay finally decided to have hip replacement surgery at Ministry Door County Medical Center last year, he wanted the quickest recovery possible.  Lowrey, a fit 68-year-old had chronic pain that was keeping him from enjoying his favorite pastimes: golf, hiking and spending time with his young grandchildren. Terry and his wife Margaret are active members of the community, but when his thrice-weekly golf outings began to be painful, and hiking in Potawatomi Park was out of the question, he knew it was time to act. “I had successful cancer surgery at Ministry in 2006,” he explains, “and the care was outstanding, so I knew I wanted to go to Ministry.”  After meeting with Dr. Dan Tomascezski, Terry and Margaret attended “boot camp,” an in-depth educational session that teaches joint replacement candidates everything they need to know. “The meeting was so informative,” says Terry. “It showed me everything from what to expect in surgery, to the community resources out there to help, to the pre-op exercises I needed to do to prepare myself.”

Terry and Margaret Lowrey at home

Terry and Margaret Lowrey at home

Terry loves joking around, but when it came to his health, he took his job seriously. “I did everything Dr. Dan told me to do, and it worked.” Terry’s successful surgery was followed up with occupational and physical therapy while he was still in the hospital. “They get you up and moving right away,” he says, “and that helps so much.” After just two nights as an inpatient, Terry was home and receiving services at Ministry’s Rehab Clinic in Sturgeon Bay. “Carl, my therapist, was just fantastic. He pushed me to get through the difficult time, and made sure I was progressing as I wanted to.” Two weeks after surgery, Terry was released from therapy, though he continued his exercises at home. “He barely had those compression socks off, and he was back on the golf course,” says Margaret. Now, Terry is as active as ever, back on the links, hiking with friends, and has even taken up a new sport at the Y – pickleball. “He’s become quite the dashing pickleball player,” says Margaret with a smile.  And he’s back to keeping up with his two grandchildren who live in Sturgeon Bay. “We took them to see Thomas the Train at the Railroad Museum in Green Bay last week,” he says. “That’s a workout!”

Staying active is no longer difficult for Terry

Staying active is no longer difficult for Terry

For Margaret, caring for her husband was much easier as all of his care was local. “There’s just no need to travel when everything we need is at our doorstep,” she says. “From doctors’ visits, to surgery to rehab, it’s all right here.” Terry is glad he didn’t wait any longer for his surgery. “Dr. Dan got me back to the point where I’m ready for Dancing with the Stars,” he laughs. But Margaret wants to keep up with him, so Terry will have the chance to nurse his wife when she undergoes knee surgery with Dr. Tomascezski in October. “Because of the quality care we’ve had at Ministry, we just keep going back,” she says.


Life Direct: Freedom, Safety and Peace of Mind

For Sturgeon Bay resident Tom Kruek, Ministry’s Life Direct personal emergency system means fewer worries, and a more fulfilling life. “Having Life Direct means I don’t have to live with fear of falling. I’m able to live without anxiety, knowing that I can get help at the push of a button,” he says.

The Life Direct system has helped hundreds of Door County residents remain independent in their own homes. If a client needs help, a push of a button activates a connection with a care center that alerts family or emergency services. “Life Direct is really a way to give people more freedom in their lives,” says Sandy Sievert, director of the Life Direct program. “If you want to go into your garden, or walk out to get the mail, you can be confident about it,” she explains. “It also gives the client and their family a great deal of peace of mind, especially for families who might not live close to their loved ones.”Screen Shot 2014-06-19 at 1.47.22 PM

The alert button is not just for people prone to falling. “The emergency can be anything,” says Sievert. “An allergic reaction, discomfort or even an intruder. The bottom line is, if something happens to a loved one and they are wearing their Life Direct device, they will get the care they need.”

Life Direct serves 300 people from Washington Island to Kewaunee County, and Sievert receives new calls every day. It’s a job she loves, and she’s been at it for 17 years. Unlike most personal response systems, Life Direct includes a personal visit from the director – Sievert herself. “I make the sure the system is properly set up and test it thoroughly,” says Sievert. “I love this job. People I visit want to offer me a cup of coffee and share their stories with me. It’s wonderful.”

The Life Direct personal assistance system is available from Ministry Door County Medical Center by calling 920.746.3578 or emailing The service costs $35 per month, and financial assistance is available.


Running Green for Crossroads Celebrates Five Years

On Saturday, June 21, Running Green for Crossroads will mark its fifth year of offering a sustainable trail run/walk for people of all ages. Ministry Door County Medical Center is the presenting sponsor of the event, and the run fits perfectly with their mission of creating a healthier community. “Ministry has been involved since the beginning,” says race director Gretchen Schmelzer, “helping us in lots of ways, including having trainers on site during the race and purchasing bigger items like the timing chip system.”

Ministry's Dr. Dan Tomascezski keeps up with his son at last year's run

Ministry’s Dr. Dan Tomascezski keeps up with his son at last year’s run

While Door County’s calendar is full of running events, Running Green for Crossroads has the distinction of being the only trail run in the county. Race director Schmelzer is also one of the event’s founders. “A few years ago, I was off doing a trail run at another location in Wisconsin, and I thought to myself ‘We could do this at Crossroads.’”

The event attracts a diverse crowd, and race organizers are hoping for 500 participants this year.  There’s a 2k fun run/walk, and 5k and 10k runs with chip timing.  “We get everyone at this event from seasoned runners from across the state, to kids, to seniors.  We even have moms and dads pushing strollers,”says Schmelzer. “Ministry is proud to have been part of this race from the beginning,” says Deb Whitelaw-Gorski, a Ministry employee and member of the planning committee. “As leaders of wellness in Door County, Ministry encourages people to be active, and we love partnering with organizations such as Crossroads.”

Running Green is a family affair

Running Green is a family affair

The “green” component of the event is important to race planners and participants. Runners and walkers receive t-shirts made in the USA from 100% recycled fabric, as well as an energy efficient light bulb and a reusable market bag. Post event refreshments are donated by local businesses, and include vanilla ice cream, cherries, and granola, all locally grown or produced within 30 miles.  The event uses a minimum of biodegradable paper goods, and food waste is composted on site. And forget plastic trinkets as race mementos – instead, every runner receives an evergreen tree for planting, donated by Evergreen Nursery.  “That’s pretty unique,” Schmelzer says.

All proceeds from the run benefit the general fund of Crossroads at Big Creek, a 125- acre environmental preserve, located in Sturgeon Bay, right off Hwy 42/57 across from the YMCA.  It encompasses hardwood forest, pine forest, swampland, meadows, and creeks, and is well known to the schoolchildren of Sturgeon Bay, who use it an extension of their campuses for field trips and science activities. “We hear from a lot of people that they didn’t even know Crossroads was here,” says Whitelaw-Gorski. “Running Green is a great opportunity for us to enlighten the county about what we’ve got.”

Registration is open for Running Green For Crossroads, and volunteers are needed.  Visit for more information and to register online.


Ministry’s Music in the Garden Concert Series in July

Ministry Door County Medical Center is pleased to announce its free concert series Music in the Garden, beginning Tuesday, July 8. Tuesday evening concerts take place at 7 p.m. in a relaxed atmosphere in the hospital’s Green Place on 16th Place, right next to The Community’s Garden. Featured acts for July include: Swedish alt-americana band Baskery; esteemed singer-songwriters Willy Porter and Dorothy Scott; Milwaukee legend Paul Cebar and Motown/Rhythm and Blues rockers WIFEE and the HUZzBand.

“Music contributes to people’s emotional, physical and spiritual well-being,” says Kevin Grohskopf of Ministry. “We’re so pleased to be able to offer our community the opportunity to enjoy music in a beautiful outdoor setting.”

Concertgoers are encouraged to bring a picnic dinner, and chairs or blankets. Ministry’s Food for Health gardening and cooking classes, which require advanced registration,  will take place directly before the concerts. Click here for more information on Food For Health.

Screen Shot 2014-06-09 at 10.31.02 AM





Asparagus, New Food For Health Classes on the Menu at The Community’s Garden

With Door County’s long winter finally behind us, the asparagus is ready for harvesting at The Community’s Garden in Sturgeon Bay. The garden, now in its fifth growing season, gives residents a place to plant and harvest local food, as well as support, camaraderie, and educational opportunities.

The asparagus was planted three years ago as a partnership between UW Extension, Ministry Door County Medical Center and Door County Human Services. “The Community’s Garden is open not just to individuals, but also to community groups,” says Jenny Spude, founding member of the garden and president of its board of directors. “We worked with the Developmental Disability Team to help their clients learn more about where their food comes from, and to gain practical skills and job experience.”

Joe and John Flesia with their harvest

Joe and John Flesia with their harvest

The group successfully planted 250 asparagus crowns. “We had several people who took a great deal of interest in the project,” adds Spude. “This year, we had a big enough harvest to provide a good amount of asparagus to the cafeteria at Ministry.” The same individuals who planted the crowns were invited back to participate in the harvest, and they were proud to deliver their bounty to Ministry’s chefs.  “These taste good!” said Joe Flesia as he sampled the freshly picked asparagus.

The Community Garden’s partnership with the Human Services/Developmental Disability team highlights its goals of improving food security in the community, and providing opportunities for individual and group development. “It’s very fulfilling to see a project like this come to fruition. At the garden, we truly reap what we sow,” says Spude.

This summer Ministry will present Food For Health, a free program open to all adults who want to learn how to plant, grow and even cook fresh vegetables. Topics include weed prevention, controlling pests, saving seeds for next year, and preserving the bounty of the garden. Although the class is designed for adults, children are welcome and will have the opportunity to participate in children’s activities at the garden during class time. Food For Health workshops will be held Tuesdays at 5 pm, beginning July 7. Participants are invited to bring a picnic dinner and stay to enjoy Ministry’s Concerts in the Garden at 7 pm. To register call (920) 746-5994 or email