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Blood buddies forever 


Donor continues bloodline after bone marrow donation

Rebecca Meeker

Rebecca Meeker

DS, MICH. (October 3, 2016) – Sixteen years ago, Rebecca Meeker received a phone call that would change her life forever. “I was working on a wedding cake and then I got this phone call. I found out I was a potential match for a patient who needed a bone marrow transplant,” said Meeker of Saginaw.

Rebecca signed up to join the National Marrow Donor Program’s Be The Match Registry eight years earlier after watching a local news story about a young girl in need of a bone marrow transplant. Although she was notified months later that she was a potential match for a young patient, she was not the best match.

“I was really disappointed because I wanted to help that child,” she said.

But the call in September 2000 would give her an opportunity to help another patient. After a series of blood testing, she was found to be the best match for a young woman in need of a bone marrow transplant. The following December, Rebecca underwent a bone marrow extraction procedure for the transplant. Her life would never be the same.
“I was so happy to help and I had a quick recovery,” said Meeker.

It wouldn’t be the last time she was called on. Five months later, Rebecca was asked to donate peripheral blood stem cells for the same patient, a procedure similar to a blood donation.
“Of course I had to help, I wasn’t going to leave her hanging. I just thought, ‘tell me what I have do,’” she said.

A year after the bone marrow donation in December 2001, Rebecca had the opportunity to talk with the patient, learn her name (Amy), and discovered they shared the same heritage. She didn’t know the phone call would be her last conversation with Amy. Amy died a month later from health complications.

“She liked music and we shared the same German/Swiss background,” Rebecca said. “She was a part of me. She was my blood buddy. I was totally devastated when I got the call from Amy’s grandmother that she passed away. She was cancer free.”

Rebecca had the honor of traveling to Missouri to attend Amy’s funeral for a final farewell and meet her family. Amy was buried wearing a best friend necklace engraved with “Blood Buddy” on the back—a gift from Rebecca. Rebecca wears the other half as a reminder of Amy’s life and their blood connection.

The experience solidified the importance of blood donation and continues to motivate Rebecca to donate blood regularly. As a 15-gallon blood donor, she has donated every blood component with Michigan Blood.

“If I was called to go through the process again to help someone else, I would do it again,” she says. “I think of Amy often when I donate blood. After everything, I still wanted to keep up with giving blood. What is it costing me when I can help someone else? I’d hope someone would do the same for me and my family if we were in need.”

Joining Be the Match

Those between the ages of 18-44 who are interested in joining the Be The Match Registry can visit https://join.bethematch.org/MichiganBlood to join online and a swab kit will be mailed to their home. For questions about joining the registry, individuals can contact Caitlin Regan at (616) 233-8609 or by email at cregan@miblood.org.
Donating Blood 

Any healthy person 17 or older (or 16 with parental consent) who weighs at least 110 pounds may be eligible to donate, although females age 18 and under must weigh 120 pounds or more. Blood donors should bring photo ID. Walk-ins are welcome, but appointments are preferred. Donors can schedule an appointment by calling 1-866-MIBLOOD or by visiting www.miblood.org.

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Never accept pain as a natural part of aging or illness 

September is National Pain Awareness Month. Palliative care treatment can help alleviate symptoms for those dealing with physical, emotional and spiritual discomfort.  

September is National Pain Awareness Month. Palliative care treatment can help alleviate symptoms for those dealing with physical, emotional and spiritual discomfort.

from Hospice of Michigan

Contrary to what many may believe, pain does not have to be part of a loved one’s natural aging process or chronic illness, and no one should experience pain at the end of life. September’s designation as National Pain Awareness Month is an opportunity for caregivers to better understand, and help alleviate, their loved one’s physical, emotional and spiritual discomfort.

Palliative care offers comfort and improved quality of life to patients and families by identifying and managing pain and other distressing symptoms such as nausea, and shortness of breath. It differs from hospice care in that palliative care can be provided at the same time as curative treatment and is appropriate for people of any age with uncontrolled pain or symptoms, at any stage of an illness.

Uncontrolled pain can lead to needless suffering, poor sleep, urinary retention, limited mobility or breathing, fear or anxiety. Individuals experiencing pain may say they are fine when they are not since pain awareness varies across cultures, genders and beliefs. Some people are very vocal about their pain and desire pain relief. Others think they need to be tough and refuse to acknowledge their pain. Some people believe pain is a way to atone for sins or is part of the aging process.  Many believe that they will become ‘addicted’ to pain pills, or fear being overmedicated.

“Physical pain can be made worse by emotional or spiritual pain, and that distress can make it more difficult to achieve comfort,” said Michael Paletta MD, FAAHPM, Hospice of Michigan vice president, medical affairs and chief medical officer. “Patients and caregivers alike often fail to recognize emotional and spiritual pain. Overlooking or ignoring signs of such distress does nothing to improve quality of life or patient care. Those experiencing chronic pain should always seek help, while others should be vigilant for signs of physical, emotional and spiritual pain within their loved ones.”

Everyone’s experience with pain is different. There is no test or X-ray to measure pain. For those who find it difficult to vocalize or admit their pain, family and friends can look for such signs as grimacing, restlessness, irritability, mood swings, wringing of hands, teeth grinding, moaning, sleep disturbance, poor concentration or decreased activity. Keeping track of a loved one’s pain occurrences, the level and type of pain and when medication was taken, can help clinicians prescribe the proper course of palliative care treatment.

And, while it can be difficult for family and friends to see a loved one in pain, they often suffer, too. Pain may cause a strain on the relationship, frustrations and/or anger. Caregivers often have the added daily stress of increased responsibility for maintaining the home on top of caregiving responsibilities. They may also have to endure emotional outbursts from the patient in pain. Family life may become constricted; communication, activities and interactions amongst family and friends may center on pain. The family’s social life may suffer and individuals may become progressively isolated from friends and the community.

Pain not only takes a physical toll on a patient, but an emotional and spiritual toll as well. Hospice of Michigan spiritual care coordinators and social workers relieve emotional and spiritual distress by identifying concerns, offering expert advice, a listening ear, and meeting patient and family member goals.

When traditional pain relief methods are not enough, enjoying music and art, a relaxing massage and the companionship of a pet can help a loved one maximize comfort and quality of life. Introducing music, art, massage and pet interactions alongside medical interventions and counseling provides patients with a holistic plan of care. Such “life’s pleasures” help patients control symptoms, manage stress and relieve anxiety.

Hospice of Michigan clinicians educate patients and families on the many types of pain management, always mindful of a patient’s wishes and beliefs in developing a course of treatment.

September’s designation as National Pain Awareness Month is a great reminder for everyone who deals with pain – patients, caregivers and clinicians – that pain should never be tolerated. The care teams at Hospice of Michigan are dedicated to identifying and relieving pain of all types – physical, emotional and spiritual.


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Smart nutrition tips for healthy families


(StatePoint) Nutrition is important for everyone, but especially for children, as it is directly linked to all aspects of their growth and development.

Childhood obesity affects one in six children and adolescents in the United States. Though associated with elevated risks of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, bone and joint problems, and sleep apnea, among other health problems, childhood obesity can usually be prevented.

“Families should focus on the importance of healthful eating and active lifestyles,” says Kristi King, registered dietitian nutritionist and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokesperson. “Parents can inspire kids to eat healthfully by getting them involved in shopping and preparing your family’s meals.”

Before You Head to the Store

Create a shopping list together, so kids feel like they are part of the decision making process.

“Include food items from each of the ‘MyPlate’ food groups from the USDA, which include fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy,” says King.

Before you head out the door, grab your reusable shopping bag to reduce waste. Wash your bag regularly to prevent the spread of harmful bacteria.

At the Store

Once you get to the store, shop together and encourage children to pick a few new foods they would like to try.

“Talk about foods’ colors, shapes, flavors and textures as you shop,” says King. “And take time to read the food labels. This not only helps kids understand nutrition concepts, but also gives them a chance to practice reading skills.”

Back at Home

When you return home, involve children in putting groceries away — especially foods that require refrigeration or freezing. Refrigerate perishable food items promptly and properly. “Explain to your kids the importance of refrigerating perishable foods within two hours,” King says. “And remember, the clock starts when you pull an item from the refrigerated case at the store, so head straight home after your shopping trip if you have perishables in the car.”

For more healthful eating tips, recipes, videos and more, visit KidsEatRight.org.

As role models, parents and caregivers play a vital role in children’s nutrition — teaching children about healthful foods and making sure kids get enough physical activity each day. “Consult a registered dietitian nutritionist in your area to ensure your family is getting all of the necessary nutrients,” says King.

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Stay cool pool without chlorine 


Saltwater pool is a healthy alternative

(BPT) – As summer temperatures rise, backyard and neighborhood pools become more attractive for old and young alike. The one thing most folks don’t like, however, is the smell of the chlorine or how it burns your eyes or feels on your skin once you get out of the water. The chlorine is there to help keep the water clean and clear, and most pools require a lot of regular maintenance to maintain the proper levels.

Saltwater pools, however, offer a better way to enjoy a dip without the smell or feeling of chlorine. They work by converting salt to chlorine using an electrolytic converter. This produces the same type of bacteria-killing chlorine found in a traditional pool, but in a radically different fashion.

How saltwater pools work

Instead of dumping a bunch of chemical chlorine all at one time and letting it dissipate until more is needed, a saltwater pool adds chlorine to the water at a constant rate. This displaces the bad smell and burning irritation we normally associate with chlorine, while maintaining the right amount at all times.

As the water exits the converter and enters the pool, the sanitizing chlorine eventually reverts back to salt, and the process repeats itself, conserving salt and keeping sanitizer levels balanced. However new salt does need to be added occasionally as salt levels can drop due to splash-out, rain, and filter back-washing. Pool owners still should test weekly for pH and chlorine, and monthly for other water balance factors.

Lower maintenance, less expensive

The other good news for home owners and pool managers is that saltwater pools require far less maintenance than traditional pools and are much less expensive to maintain as pool salt is far cheaper than traditional chlorine. This is a big reason why so many hotels and water parks in the United States have already made the switch. The initial construction and installation of an electrolytic converter is very small and easily made up in maintenance savings. Even converting an existing chlorine pool to saltwater can pay off quickly.

The technology for a saltwater pool was first developed in Australia in the 1960s, and today, more than 80 percent of all pools Down Under use this system. In the United States, saltwater pools first began to see use in the 1980s and have grown exponentially in popularity. According to data published in Pool & Spa News, today there are more than 1.4 million saltwater pools in operation nationwide and an estimated 75 percent of all new in-ground pools are salt water, compared with only 15 percent in 2002.

Some may be concerned about the effect of salt on pool equipment, construction materials, decks and surrounding structures. However, the actual amount of salt used is very low, less than .01 as salty as sea water. You may be able to barely taste the salt in the pool, but much less so than you can taste and feel the chlorine in a standard pool. When pools are properly constructed and normal maintenance is followed, saltwater has no effect on pool finishes, equipment and decks.

To learn more about saltwater pools and other uses for salt, visit saltinstitute.org.

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Eight human cases of Influenza A H3N2 variant confirmed in Michigan 


LANSING, Mich. – The Michigan Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture and Rural Development today announced that there have been eight human cases of influenza A variant viruses reported in Michigan. They have tested positive for influenza A H3N2 variant (H3N2v) and one person has been hospitalized and since released. All of the confirmed cases had exposure to swine at county fairs in Muskegon, Cass, and Ingham counties during July and August where sick pigs had also been identified.

MDHHS and MDARD are working closely with local health departments, the healthcare community, and fairs to protect swine exhibitors and the public and identify any additional cases.

Fair exhibitors and animal caretakers should be following proper biosecurity processes such as regular hand-washing with soap and water, disinfecting wash areas at least once each day and making sure it has time to dry thoroughly after being disinfected. Additionally, weight scales and sorting boards should also be disinfected. Use a 10 percent bleach/water mixture in combination with a detergent (dish or laundry soap) to increase effectiveness.

In 2012, there were six H3N2v cases in Michigan and in 2013 two cases were confirmed. Human infection is thought to happen when an infected pig coughs or sneezes and droplets with influenza virus land in someone’s nose or mouth, or are inhaled. There also is some evidence that the virus might spread by someone touching something that has virus on it and then touching their mouth or nose.

Symptoms of H3N2v infection in people are usually mild and similar to those of seasonal flu viruses, but as with seasonal flu, complications can lead to hospitalization and death. Symptoms include fever and respiratory symptoms, such as cough and runny nose, as well as body aches, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Some populations are at higher risk of developing complications if they get influenza, including children younger than five years of age, people 65 years of age and older, pregnant women, and people with certain long-term health conditions like asthma, diabetes, heart disease, weakened immune systems, and neurological or neurodevelopmental conditions.

The incubation period (the time it takes from exposure to illness) for this influenza is typically similar to seasonal influenza at about two days, but may be up to 10 days. Currently, there is no vaccine for H3N2v and the seasonal flu vaccine will not protect against H3N2v. Antiviral drugs are effective in treating H3N2v virus infections. Early treatment works best and may be especially important for people with a high-risk condition.

Below are some steps that you can take to protect yourself and prevent the spread of any illness:

• Anyone who is at high risk of serious flu complications and planning to attend a fair should avoid pigs and swine barns.

• Do not eat or drink in livestock barns or show rings

• Don’t take toys, pacifiers, cups, baby bottles, strollers, or similar items into pig areas.

• Avoid contact with pigs if you have flu-like symptoms. Wait seven days after your illness started or until you have been without fever for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications, whichever is longer.

• Avoid close contact with sick people.

• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

• Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.

• If you are sick, stay home from work or school until your illness is over.

While it does not protect against H3N2v, MDHHS recommends annual season influenza vaccination for everyone six months of age and older to reduce the risk of infection from other influenza viruses.

For more information about H3N2v, visit www.cdc.gov/flu/swineflu/h3n2v-basics.htm.

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Blood donors help save lives of baby girl’s parents


When they needed it most, blood transfusions were readily available

N-Blood-donors-Grace-Brunett-Family-OutdoorsGrace Brunett is not only a regular blood donor, but helps host a blood drive in her hometown. And as if that weren’t enough, this tireless cheerleader works for Michigan Blood as a phlebotomist.

Grace can trace her commitment to her days as a student at Cedar Springs High School, where she learned in anatomy class the power of O-negative blood—her type and a universal option for anyone in need.

Just nine percent of the Michigan population has O-negative blood, which puts Grace in a class by herself. But her story is even more compelling since the day nearly six years ago when, while pregnant with her firstborn, she developed chorioamnioitis.

She eventually underwent an emergency Caesarian section. During her ordeal, which lasted nearly five hours and included an emergency hysterectomy at the age of 21, she required a blood transfusion.

“I almost died,” she says, noting that she was conscious during the entire trying episode. What she took away from that traumatic experience, however, were two rewards: One, a daughter Charlotte, now going on six years old. And two, a personal story to share about the importance of stepping up to donate blood and blood products.

Grace actually began donating blood as a student at Cedar Springs, where, coincidentally, she met Cory Brown, the father of their child. “I was a sophomore and he was a senior,” she relates. Both were members at the time of Business Professionals of America, which was sponsoring a blood drive at the high school.

Little did they know then that not only would Grace lean on blood donors for her own vital needs, but that Cory, too, would come to require multiple transfusions. “He was in a car accident before we had Charlotte, back in 2007, and then in 2011, he was hit by a drunk driver,” says Grace. In both instances, her common-law husband needed donor blood.

Today, the happy trio makes its home in Cedar Springs, where Charlotte – described by mom as being “bubbly, fun and smart” — is a whiz at jigsaw puzzles and is set to start kindergarten this comi.ng fall. Grace is diligent about giving blood for obvious personal reasons, and also because it’s just the right thing to do. She enjoys tracking her progress, pint by pint, acknowledging that she just passed the 6-gallon mark this past March.

It’s fun for her to travel back in her mind to those days in anatomy class, when the instructor mapped out how “With O-negative blood, you can basically save anybody,” she says. “It’s kind of awesome, that the whole world is basically eligible for my blood, and so that has spurred me to action.”

“It’s one hour out of one day just every two months of your life,” says Grace. “You can be selfless in that single hour and make a huge difference.”

Michigan Blood is the sole provider of blood and blood products for more than 60 hospitals in Michigan, including Spectrum Health, Metro Health, and Mercy Health St. Mary’s. Donations given outside of Michigan Blood do not have direct local impact. Donating blood with Michigan Blood helps save the lives of patients in Michigan hospitals. Any healthy person 17 or older (or 16 with parental consent) who weighs at least 110 pounds may be eligible to donate. Blood donors should bring photo ID. We are currently in urgent need of O-Negative blood donations.

The next blood donor drive in Cedar Springs will be on August 23, at Cedar Springs United Methodist Church, Gym, 140 S Main St., Cedar Springs, 12:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. For more locations, visit www.miblood.org.

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Racing to bed for better performance


World-class triathletes incorporate sleep in daily training regime

Stockwell with her Purple Star and her Sleep Number bed.

Stockwell with her Purple Star and her Sleep Number bed.

(NAPS)—Swim…bike…run… sleep? Yes, that’s right. World-class triathletes Gwen Jorgensen and Melissa Stockwell say that sleep is as important as their training and nutrition routines.

Jorgensen and Stockwell represent the U.S. while competing against the world’s best athletes. Both agree that sleep is integral to their athletic performance and rely on Sleep Number® beds to ensure individualized comfort.

They’ve had very busy competitive seasons and both athletes will represent the United States at the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio this summer. Jorgensen, a two-time world champion, has secured multiple World Triathlon Series wins, while Stockwell is a U.S. veteran, mom, Paralympian and three-time world champion. Given the pressure and the travel, you’d think they may want to skimp on sleep to get the most out of every training opportunity…but you’d be wrong.

Jorgensen training for her 2016 race season.

Jorgensen training for her 2016 race season.

The latest sleep science is clear: sleep optimizes performance. A study by Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Laboratory, published in SLEEP, showed that Stanford University basketball players were able to improve performance by increasing the amount of sleep they got each night. After an initial two- to four-week period of normal sleep, players were asked to increase sleep to 10 hours each night for five to seven weeks. The additional sleep resulted in faster timed sprints, improved shooting accuracy and decreased reaction times. With the additional sleep, subjects reported improved physical and mental well-being during practices and games.

“Sleep is often overlooked in training. I take my sleep very seriously when I’m preparing for a triathlon, it’s another discipline of my training,” said Jorgensen. In addition to prioritizing eight hours of shut-eye at night, Jorgensen schedules naps into her triathlon training plan to ensure her body is recovering properly. “I nap 30 minutes or less, six times a week,” she explained.

Jorgensen also loves the biometric sleep data provided by SleepIQ® technology, which is integrated into her Sleep Number bed. “I am so intrigued that my bed can track my sleep; not only do I know my biometrics—like heart rate and breathing rate—it also offers tips to help me sleep better; like a personal sleep coach!” she said. “Knowing how I slept helps me listen to my body and adjust when I need to rest or push myself in training.”

Stockwell also relies on her bed to deliver the sleep she needs in order to maximize her performance in the water, on the bike and on the road. “Our Sleep Number bed lets my husband and I individualize our comfort—to set separate Sleep Number settings. It has been wonderful to adjust the comfort of my bed as my training intensifies, and we can both sleep comfortably,” said Stockwell.

As these athletes gear up for this summer’s Olympic and Paralympic Games, they rest assured knowing that their individualized, comfortable sleep is contributing to their training routine.

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West Nile Virus found in mosquitoes in Kent County 


The Kent County Health Department (KCHD) Environmental Health division found the first positive specimens of West Nile virus this summer in the mosquito population. The infected mosquitoes were discovered in zip code 49506, which includes parts of southeast Grand Rapids and East Grand Rapids. This is not a human case; no human cases have been reported to KCHD.

This year in June, KCHD started capturing and testing mosquitoes in ten traps strategically placed throughout the County. These devices called “Gravid traps” collect mosquitoes that are then tested for the virus. The surveillance is possible thanks to a grant from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Kent County has received the State grant three years in a row. This surveillance allows the County to alert residents to step up prevention measures.

“Finding West Nile virus in one zip code does not mean that it is confined to that area,” says Adam London, Administrative Health Officer with KCHD. “The virus will likely be present in other neighboring zip codes to some degree, and the risk remains until at least the first frost of the season. We want people to be aware that they can greatly reduce their own risks by taking some simple precautions.”

The City of Grand Rapids said that it is beginning aggressive treatment to reduce the possibility of a widespread West Nile outbreak. Monday the City began treating identified areas with larvicide pellets into catch basins and areas of pooled still water.

Prevention is critical in the fight against West Nile, an illness that can be deadly in some people, especially those with weakened immune systems and the elderly. KCHD recommends wearing a mosquito repellant that contains 10-35 percent DEET, wearing light colored clothing and staying indoors during dusk. You can help stop mosquitoes from breeding by removing any standing water in your yard and keeping lawns and shrubs cut. Following these tips can be helpful in fighting other mosquito-borne illnesses as well.


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Critical blood shortage: Red Cross urges blood and platelet donors to give now 


LANSING, Mich.—While thousands of people from across the country responded to the emergency request for blood and platelet donations issued by the American Red Cross in early July, a critical blood shortage remains. The Red Cross urges eligible donors to give now to help ensure blood is available throughout the rest of the summer to meet patient needs.

At times, blood and platelets are being distributed to hospitals faster than donations are coming in, which impacts the ability to rebuild the blood supply. Right now, the Red Cross has less than a five-day blood supply on hand. The Red Cross strives to have a five-day supply at all times to meet the needs of patients every day and be prepared for emergencies that may require significant volumes of donated blood products.

“The Red Cross continues to have an emergency need for blood and platelet donors to give now and help save patient lives,” said Todd Kulman, External Communications Manager of the Great Lakes Blood Services Region. “We are grateful for those who have already stepped up this summer to give and want to remind those who are eligible that hospital patients are still counting on them to roll up a sleeve.”

Every two seconds

In the U.S., every two seconds someone like Ray Poulin needs blood or platelets. Poulin’s liver and kidneys failed following a serious blood infection. The situation became urgent when his liver hemorrhaged. He was given a 10 percent chance of survival. After receiving 77 units of blood, Poulin defied the odds.

“There was a lot that went into saving my life, but if the blood wasn’t available when I needed it, I wouldn’t be here today,” said Poulin.

Blood and platelets are needed for many different reasons. Accident and burn victims, heart surgery patients, organ transplant patients, and those receiving treatment for leukemia, cancer or sickle cell disease may all need blood.

All blood types urgently needed

Donors of all blood types are urgently needed to help restock the shelves. The Red Cross is thanking those who come in to donate blood or platelets between July 25 and Aug. 31 by emailing them a $5 Amazon.com gift card claim code.

To schedule an appointment to donate, use the free Blood donor app (redcross.org/bloodapp), visit redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). Donation appointments and completion of an online health history questionnaire (redcrossblood.org/rapidpass) are encouraged to help reduce wait times.

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Loss of spouse event


Registration is now open for a free Loss of a Spouse event, presented by Hospice of Michigan, for anyone experiencing the loss of a spouse or life partner in the Grand Rapids area. The event will be held 2-3:30 p.m. on Aug. 9 at the Hospice of Michigan office located at 989 Spaulding SE, Ada. Guest speaker Ron Gries will share excerpts from his book Through Death to Life and lead a discussion. By sharing the challenges of his journey of grief, Gries offers hope and encouragement to others.

All members of the community are welcome to attend the Loss of a Spouse event free of charge, regardless of whether their loved one received services through Hospice of Michigan. To register, contact Sue Glover at 616.356.5255. For information on the event and other services Hospice of Michigan offers to the community, visit http://www.hom.org/for-patients-and-loved-ones/grief-support-groups.

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