Woven together through care

Each of us has a story. Whether it be the mundane: routine ultrasounds and lab work; a decades-long relationship with a trusted doctor; a yearly checkup. Or the emotional: meeting a new baby for the very first time; our connection to a nurse who supported us in our darkest hour; a tragedy averted.

While University of Michigan Health-Sparrow’s community investment plan is nominally about infrastructure and technology, we know it’s really about care. The care UM Health-Sparrow provides to our community. The care we provide to our loved ones. The care to ensure every person in Mid-Michigan has the very best opportunity to thrive.

We invite you to write this story with us.

Jordan's Story

jordan in wheelchair

Jordan Munsters is always on the go. He’s an avid motorcycle racer, runner and dirt biker, Jordan is always on the go, and even opened a go-karting track in Okemos. But in May 2020, that all changed when he was left badly injured and immobilized from a dirt biking accident.

Jordan was rushed to E.W. Sparrow Hospital, now University of Michigan Health-Sparrow Lansing, where X-rays found that his hip socket had shattered. Through an intense 11-hour surgery, Michael Tucker, D.O., was able to reattach Jordan’s hip — but it looked like he would be lucky to ever walk again, let alone run.

For Jordan and his team at UM Health-Sparrow, however, luck alone wouldn’t cut it. “The doctors said it was the worst hip injury they’d ever seen, but they never gave up hope,” Jordan said.

jordan x-ray

A week into his recovery, Jordan attempted to walk around the first floor of the hospital. When he was moved to Mary Free Bed at UM Health-Sparrow for inpatient rehabilitation, Jordan continued to work on regaining mobility of several paralyzed muscles in his legs and overcoming extreme nerve damage with the help of UM Health-Sparrow Physician Assistant Jason Maxa.

“Jason played a huge role in helping me get back on my feet not just physically, but also mentally,” Jordan recalled. “He pushed me to overcome my extreme nerve pain, and got me to the point where I was able to take no pain medications just seven months after the injury.”

jordan wth walker

Despite all odds, eight months after the accident, Jordan was able to walk again. A year after the fateful day, he was able to ride his motorcycle. And a year and a half after the crash, he was even able to complete a 15-mile Tough Mudder run and obstacle course.

“At UM Health-Sparrow, they looked at me directly and saw me for who I was, not as another number,” Jordan said. “They never gave up. I’d be dead in a field if it wasn’t for them.”

Lisa's Story
patient and supporter

Lisa Hildorf headshot

Born at E.W. Sparrow Hospital, now University of Michigan Health-Sparrow Lansing, under extraordinary circumstances, Lisa Hildorf has a lifelong connection to the health system.

“I’m an adopted child, so there really wasn’t a record of my birth. But my notes from my parents’ diaries tell me that I was born at UM Health-Sparrow,” Lisa shared. “Immediately after my birth-mother had me, UM Health-Sparrow played a critical role in connecting me to my family at the last minute. Decades ago, they made the calls that would change the path of my entire future. It’s a unique little element about a place I’m still connected to today.”

Lisa in New York City

Fate led Lisa back to UM Health-Sparrow later in life, when she became involved with UM Health-Sparrow Foundation as part of Women Working Wonders (W3). Over a 27-year involvement, she became UM Health-Sparrow Foundation Board Chair for 2021-22. Lisa recalled that, for her, one of the Foundation’s greatest accomplishments was helping make the Herbert-Herman Cancer Center a reality.

Then, just a month after the Herbert-Herman Cancer Center opened to the public in 2017, Lisa was diagnosed with cancer herself.

Lisa on the golf course

“At the time, I never dreamed I’d be one of the first patients at the cancer center,” Lisa recalled. “When I was told cancer had been detected in the lymph nodes in my neck, I was in disbelief. But I was so fortunate that I found a team of people at UM Health-Sparrow who could not have done more to support my cancer journey.” Lisa said that, with UM Health-Sparrow on her side, she knew all of her questions would be answered, and that she would have a team of experts in her corner.

From her first days of life to overcoming cancer, UM Health-Sparrow has always been a central part of Lisa’s journey. “I was born at UM Health-Sparrow. My youngest child was born at UM Health-Sparrow. I'm a cancer survivor because of UM Health-Sparrow,” Lisa said. “I've seen the capabilities of a strong leadership team that's in place here. So I will always help in any way that I can.”

John's Story

John speaking at a Sparrow podium For community members like John Pirich, University of Michigan Health-Sparrow is a family affair. His children were born here. His grandchildren were born here. And, throughout his life, he’s had the experience of being a UM Health-Sparrow patient himself. It’s this strong, intergenerational connection that inspires John to give back.

John currently serves as Campaign Chair for UM Health-Sparrow’s community investment plan. He’s also Board Chair for UM Health-Sparrow Health System, Emeritus Chair for the UM Health-Sparrow Foundation and — on top of it all — a UM Health-Sparrow volunteer. But why UM Health-Sparrow, and why now?

For John, it’s about UM Health-Sparrow’s strong presence in the Mid-Michigan community, but also the community UM Health-Sparrow has created in itself: a collection of individuals working to support one another, regardless of the circumstances.

Portrait of John and his wife

“As a patient and volunteer, I've seen an exceptional level of care, dedication and commitment from UM Health-Sparrow’s team members,” John said. “We have the most wonderful nurses and incredible doctors — but our broader, overall staff is also something to behold. People smile and love what they're doing here because, at the end of the day, they’re making peoples’ lives better. They’re making UM Health-Sparrow a home.”

Through his work on the board, John wants to ensure that every person’s experience at UM Health-Sparrow is better than their last. “UM Health-Sparrow touches lives throughout the community on a daily basis,” he said. “Whether it's delivering a baby, responding to a heart attack, performing surgery or whatever it might be, UM Health-Sparrow’s level of care is personal. It’s about people, not numbers.”

John and group at a ribbon cutting event

Seeing his family rely on UM Health-Sparrow over the years and being a patient himself, John understands the value of having an adept health system close to home. For him, one of the most notable parts of the community investment plan is improvement to community hospitals, making care more accessible to those at all corners of Mid-Michigan.

“Being home is the best part of a patient’s experience. There’s nothing better than getting back to a familiar place with your family,” John said. “I’ve seen UM Health-Sparrow go above and beyond to serve outlying communities, and to serve as a home away from home. UM Health-Sparrow is home: for patients, for team members, for the community.”

Tom and Tammy’s Story
patients and supporters

Tom Dickinson at groundbreaking ceremony Tom and Tammy Dickinson have a unique understanding of community loyalty. Whether it’s the Ionia community, the University of Michigan Health-Sparrow community, or the strong overlap between the two, the pair deeply value close-knit, personalized experiences. In turn, they give back to help these communities thrive.

The Dickinsons have a lifelong history in Ionia County. In that time, they’ve seen their community grow and change – and they’ve also seen a significant need for quality health care in the area. In addition to UM Health-Sparrow Ionia Hospital, this need will be further fulfilled by UM Health-Sparrow Rehabilitation Center Ionia, a new, expanded facility that will provide exceptional care tailored to all ages, from pediatrics to senior adults, close to home.

“I’ve always lived in Ionia County, and it’s a very rural setting,” Tom said. “If you talk to people who live here, they’ll say that having access to health care, let alone physical therapy, is a serious problem. There is also a significant amount of older people who don’t have transportation to travel for care. That’s why this facility will be a real asset, for Ionia and its surrounding communities.”

This understanding comes from personal experience. When Tammy was a patient at UM Health-Sparrow Ionia Hospital, people-centric care made all the difference. “I had both of my hips replaced at UM Health-Sparrow Ionia Hospital, and went there several times for physical therapy,” she recalled. “I felt like my therapist really listened to me, and paid attention to me. So much so that, when I was doing hip rehabilitation and something didn’t feel right, my physical therapist looked into it. That’s how I found out I had had a small stroke, which required additional care. While she was working on my hip, she was actually paying attention to me, as a person.”

Tom’s connection to UM Health-Sparrow includes decades of experience on the UM Health-Sparrow Ionia Hospital Board of Directors, first from 1989 to 2007, and again from 2019 to today. “In 1989, I first joined the board for Ionia County Memorial Hospital, which eventually became UM Health-Sparrow Ionia Hospital,” he recalled. “My goal then was to have a hospital in Ionia by 2010. We got UM Health-Sparrow to open UM Health-Sparrow Ionia Hospital in 2007.”

Tom and Tammy Dickinson at Spartan Stadium

Reflecting on his tenure on the board, Tom recalled several significant milestones: the transfer of the hospital's ownership to a nonprofit corporation, the creation of the Ionia County Health System and the hospital's election to become a Critical Access Hospital under federal standards, to name a few.

The Dickinsons’ dedication to community service extends beyond their board involvement, as they have created a new endowment fund to support efforts at UM Health-Sparrow Ionia Hospital as part of their estate planning. “I’m a big endowment fund advocate,” Tom said. “I’m also an Ionia County person. It’s my happy place. In doing this, we are uplifting both communities.”

Tammy echoed this sentiment. “We have a lot of family that live here in Ionia: children, grandchildren and the many people we have gotten to know here over a lifetime,” she said. “It’s amazing how many people will benefit from this support, and from this new facility.”

Looking back on their experience with UM Health-Sparrow, the main factor that stands out for the Dickinsons is the strong local connection. “I often meet people from a nearby community who have received services at UM Health-Sparrow Ionia Hospital and have fallen in love with our hospital and our team members,” he said. “Sometimes they initially come to our hospital for just one service, realize they love the people and service and remain patients for a lifetime. UM Health-Sparrow Ionia Hospital is blessed to have some of the most caring individuals I know — these team members live right here in our community, and will go the extra mile to provide the best possible care. The impact of UM Health-Sparrow Rehabilitation Center Ionia will be immeasurable. This is a real game changer.”

Tom Dickinson at groundbreaking ceremony Tom and Tammy Dickinson at Spartan Stadium

Ann’s Story
patient and supporter

Ann kneeling with her dog with a corn field background Growing up on a centennial farm in Ann Arbor as the oldest daughter among nine, Ann Garvey gained a firm understanding of the power of helping others early-on. “I’ve always believed that you give back to the community you live in,” Ann said. “We’re in this together. My dad taught me that.”

A resident of Charlotte for the last 40 years, Ann has deep roots in her local community, particularly with University of Michigan Health-Sparrow Eaton. In 2012, her long-time UM Health-Sparrow dermatologist looked at a spot on her back and was alarmed. Two days later, she got a phone call. “When they told me to bring a friend for a follow-up meeting, I knew it would be bad news,” Ann said. The spot turned out to be melanoma that had started spreading, meaning she needed to have surgery to have it removed as soon as possible.

Farm tractor pulling a trailer

After surgery, Ann’s doctors watched the melanoma for four years. “Over time, I got to know all of my UM Health-Sparrow team members on a personal level,” she said. In October 2016, Ann felt a lymph node that seemed to have changed. “I could tell something was different, but nobody could find anything wrong. My doctor sent me to University of Michigan Health in Ann Arbor for further investigation,” Ann recalled. There, doctors identified cancerous nodules in her right lung. It was melanoma that had metastasized. “I’ll never forget what the doctor told me at that moment,” Ann recalled. “He said, ‘If this were five years ago, this would’ve been a death sentence.’” Luckily, UM Health had the new technology and skills needed to do a biopsy in Ann’s lung and begin addressing the problem, immediately.

Aerial view of a farm house and out buildings

Ann was able to start a trial drug for immunotherapy. She traveled 144 miles round trip each week to receive this treatment in Ann Arbor, with added dates for bloodwork. “I’d drive to Ann Arbor, get my immunotherapy, spend the night and get bloodwork the next day. It was a tiring process,” Ann said.

Thankfully, the treatment paid off — less than a year later, there were no identifiable nodules in Ann’s lung. “With the right care across both Sparrow and UM Health, this situation went from a death sentence to the best Christmas present ever,” Ann said. As of 2023, Ann is celebrating seven years cancer-free.

Considering her experiences as a Charlotte resident and cancer survivor, UM Health-Sparrow Eaton’s new infusion center is especially personal to Ann. “As one of the people who made the drive to UM Health weekly for treatment, I know just how critical this new center is,” Ann explains. “Even more important than cutting down travel time, though, is the power of being able to receive health care locally. This new infusion center will reduce stress in already stressful situations, for both patients and their family members. Being able to have conversations with team members who live right in your own community will be so relieving for everyone who has to go through this.”

Ann has also seen the strength of Sparrow and UM Health working together firsthand. “When you look at other locations that don’t have as much access to health care, I feel immense gratitude for what Sparrow and UM Health are doing with this partnership,” she said. “Sparrow is exceptional — but consider how much more of an impact they will have with even greater collaboration with UM Health. Over the years, I’ve relied on care from both of them. Together, they’ll be able to help so many more people who need it.”

Today, Ann reflects on UM Health-Sparrow being there for many monumental moments throughout her life, beyond the cancer care. “All four of my grandsons were born at UM Health-Sparrow. I had two back surgeries at UM Health-Sparrow. Both of my parents passed away peacefully with care from UM Health-Sparrow. Whatever it was, UM Health-Sparrow truly always was there.”

John’s Story
patient and supporter

John Loose

John Loose’s University of Michigan Health-Sparrow story began on July 10, 1980, with the birth of his second son, Chris. After a difficult delivery, Chris was born with Respiratory Distress Syndrome and spent the first month of his life in UM Health-Sparrow’s Regional Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (RNICU).

As his wife, Fran, recovered from delivery, John was led into a consultation room where a doctor waited to explain his son’s condition. “Most of what he said is lost to me now, but I distinctly remember being told not to expect him to walk. Not to expect him to talk,” John recalled. John Loose

After a month of life-saving intensive care at UM Health-Sparrow, John and Fran were able to take their fragile newborn home — but not without worries about the journey ahead. Chris’ youth involved special diets, special camps and lots of time in UM Health-Sparrow medical specialist’s offices. But that’s not where his story ends. Chris grew up to become a successful business owner, and now lives in Boston with his wife and children. “Not a bad outcome given that first night’s prognosis,” John shared. “It’s incredible how far we’ve come with the right care.”

Fast forward 40 years. John and Fran were looking for a local philanthropic project to get involved with when Fran learned that UM Health-Sparrow’s RNICU, the very same unit in which their son had received life-saving care, was looking for support to provide a new transport incubator. Interested in the project, John and Fran reached out to the UM Health-Sparrow Foundation, which arranged a tour of the unit.

John Loose

“All the old feelings came flooding back on that tour,” John recalled. “We saw all the young families and their tiny babies facing the same uncertainties we had faced decades earlier.” Moved by memories of the care their son had received, John and Fran felt compelled to get involved in UM Health-Sparrow’s capital campaign as lead donors. “Supporting the campaign was an easy and natural step for us to take. It’s been a privilege to help preserve and enhance UM Health-Sparrow services available to the Lansing community and beyond.”

John’s philosophy toward philanthropy is that everyone has something to give. “To me, our responsibility as community members is to do everything we can to give back,” he said. “That doesn't mean everybody can support at the highest levels, but everybody has something to offer — whether it's time, treasure or talent. There are a lot of needs in our community, and providing quality health care is at the top of the list. That’s why I give.”

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