Irene Dunne Guild Supports Women’s Health
By LAUREL BUSBY
Every year, the Irene Dunne Guild, which includes 51 Palisadian members, strives to support St. John’s Health Center Foundation.
“They’ve been one of our strongest support organizations for fundraising,” said St. John’s CEO Marcel Loh at Think Pink, the organization’s annual women’s health luncheon, last year. “We couldn’t do it without them.”
This year, Think Pink will be on May 8, and the fundraising event includes a luncheon with keynote speaker Dr. Verna Porter, who directs St. John’s programs for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. The event will also feature break-out sessions on breast health, the urinary tract, cannabis remedies, and preventing aging around the eyes.
Over 32 years, Think Pink and other guild efforts, including a patron fundraising drive that raised more than $91,000 last year, have brought a variety of gifts to the hospital. For example, in 2017, the 123 members funded an Argon Beam Coagulator, which improves the quality of gynecologic cancer surgeries. In addition, a special monitor was purchased for the emergency room to allow vital signs to be gathered in seconds.
In 2016, the guild funded a natural birthing suite, a vasculature viewing system, and a transfer device, which is a mechanical lift, stand and transfer aid to help caregivers.
But equipment is only part of what the organization provides. In 2017, the emergency lounge was refurbished to increase its comfort for caregivers, while caregivers also received a peace program that offered exercise, nutrition and yoga. In addition, both caregivers and oncology patients benefited from the arrival of a beauty bus, which provided them with monthly beauty treatments.
In fact, throughout its history, the guild has had an impact in dozens of areas for the hospital, ranging from the gift shop, which was launched with its $500,000 grant, to the emergency department, which received $1 million in technology enhancements.
In addition, the organization’s members also give their time. The Angels of the ER assist in the emergency room, while the Share and Care Closet provides gently used clothing for patients who need it. Members volunteer in the gift shop, work to co-host the Caritas Gala, a black-tie fundraiser, and maintain both a media and toy library for patients and loved ones.
In addition, the annual Think Pink for Women’s Wellness event, which always occurs around Mother’s Day, brought together about 290 women last year and a couple of men to shop, socialize and consider various women’s health issues.
A boutique attracts the shoppers with a range of items, including jewelry, clothing and accessories, while the lunch provides a time to connect and socialize. In addition, several speakers present a range of topics—four in workshops and a fifth at the luncheon.
Last May, the workshops ranged from stroke symptom awareness to intimate women’s health issues. The main speaker, Catherine Grace O’Connell, shared her story, which began two years ago when she was hospitalized and in dire health due to severe complications from Lyme Disease. O’Connell showed a video of herself in the hospital wracked with seizures and looking like a ghost compared to her current healthy persona.
She shared the profound effect on her health that came from altering her thinking, which had been self-destructive beginning during her childhood, when she dealt with sexual abuse.
“I wasn’t afraid of dying; I was afraid of living,” she told the audience. At her lowest point, her daughter asked her a simple question that began her path to healing. She said, “Mom, what would you do if you were well?”
O’Connell told her daughter that she would travel the world, and that moment began her changing beliefs.
“Can simply thinking in terms of wellness affect our ability to heal?,” she asked. “It didn’t matter that I couldn’t actually travel. I believed that I could.”
She didn’t instantly transform to wellness, but she worked with a therapist on the self-destructive way she talked to herself. She trained herself to look in the mirror and say loving, positive things. She learned humans typically have 80,000 thoughts per day, and “our thoughts can sprout beautiful blossoms or they can kill the tree … The power of our thoughts cannot be overestimated.”
Two years later, O’Connell had become a model, a fashion blogger and a talk radio host. In addition, she started the Fierce 50 Revolution to inspire other women over 50 to live their passions. She has not only found career success, but the lyme disease has faded so it’s no longer impacting her daily life.
“What changed?,” she said. “Belief. That’s it.”