This week’s CHEER Champion of the Week is Bertha (“Bertie”) Brown (Northern Arapaho/Northern Cheyenne), part-time co-facilitator at the Dragonfly Project and Indigenous Researcher with the CWard Evaluation/Assessment Team. In the past, Bertie also worked for CHEER as the Onsite Consultant for the Northern Cheyenne Community Health Assessment (CHA). Bertie was nominated for the incredible work she is doing to promote healing and wellness on the Northern Cheyenne Nation and for her valuable contributions to the Northern Cheyenne CHA.
The Northern Cheyenne CHA, coordinated by CHEER alongside the Northern Cheyenne Nation, is a comprehensive summary of health priorities, data, and resources in the Northern Cheyenne Nation. It was completed in August of 2018, and is available by contacting the office of the Northern Cheyenne Tribal Board of Health. Bertie’s main role with the Northern Cheyenne CHA was to assess and invite leaders from relevant community organizations and programs to participate in the CHA.
The Dragonfly Project is a Generation-Indigenous (Gen-I) Methamphetamine/Suicide Prevention Initiative (MSPI) funded by the Indian Health Service (IHS) at the Northern Cheyenne Nation. CHEER provides technical assistance for every MSPI program in the Billings Area alongside IHS under a contract with the Rocky Mountain Tribal Epidemiology Center. Gen-I programs differ from other MSPI programs in that they are focused on youth.
“This is a twist,” Bertie unassumingly begins with a chuckle. “How we work at the Dragonfly Project is that we are going back to the original, traditional method of relating to our community members by making that human connection.”
Bertie goes on to eloquently explain that while other programs might use a more westernized approach of set office hours, she and co-facilitator Janelle Timber-Jones “meet people where they’re at” by modeling their approach after their ancestors who would visit at all times at relatives’ homes. Bertie and Janelle try to revive that “human connection” by visiting community members in their homes, calling them on the phone, or talking to them in the post office or store.
“It still works,” Bertie says. “People are happy that you pay them a visit. They are happy to hear from you face to face.”
With that human connection as their foundation, Bertie and Janelle meet with people individually; talk to groups; provide coping skills; and collaborate with different organizations on the Reservation. For example, they regularly speak with groups at 15-day recovery programs about addiction, coping skills for grief, and other topics. Many community members also view them as a suicide intervention program, and Bertie and Janelle triage those calls.
Bertie is currently completing the Historical Trauma Master Course through the Freedom Lodge in Rapid City, South Dakota. The course looks at the historical traumas experienced by Native Americans through genocide, the boarding school era, and physical/mental/emotional abuses, specifically sexual abuse.
“Our ancestors were forced to attend boarding schools and this is where the inter-generational traumas were passed down,” explains Bertie, who has learned two methods to heal their trauma. One methods is “somatic archeology,” the practice of “excavating memories in the body so that our bodies can heal themselves,” says Bertie.
Once Bertie completes the course, she will be able to go on to complete a train-the-trainer to train others in historical trauma healing.
“Working with grief is my favorite area if there is such a thing,” Bertie says with an ironic laugh that signals resiliency. “It’s my favorite trauma to work with as I, myself, have been hit with numerous family losses at various ages. Helping people to recover from grief is a strength I have; it is very comfortable for me to help others in that way. I still love it, I’m still a student.”
Congratulations, Bertie, and best wishes with your important and inspiring work!
Congratulations to CHAMPS hospital Merit Health Woman’s Hospital in Flowood, Mississippi, for becoming Baby-Friendly designated on September 28, 2018! Merit Health Woman’s is part of Community Health Systems’ Merit Health hospital system (MHHS). MHHS has 8 birthing facilities, which are all a part of CHAMPS and have been supporting each other on the Baby-Friendly pathway. Merit Health Woman’s is the first MHHS hospital to become Baby-Friendly, and CHAMPS is confident the others will soon follow! Merit Health Woman’s has approximately 940 births per year and a Level 3 NICU.
“We are very proud and honored to be a Baby-Friendly-designated birthing facility!” says Rene Simpson, BSN, IBCLC, Lactation Coordinator and CHAMPS Team Leader at Merit Health Woman’s. “On September 28, 2018, we received a very exciting phone call. The words, ‘Congratulations on achieving Baby-Friendly designation,” were met with cheers and tears by team members anxiously listening to results of our on-site survey.”
Merit Health Woman’s Baby-Friendly journey began in January 2016, soon after they joined CHAMPS. Like every hospital on the Baby-Friendly pathway, the changes Merit Health Woman’s had to undergo were not minor, and the road was not always smooth. As a new IBCLC and CHAMPS Team Leader, Rene says she was “initially overwhelmed by the magnitude of the initiative.” However, they steadily moved forward, thanks to some key elements of success, including Rene’s leadership, an active Baby-Friendly taskforce, and the amazing support of Merit Health Woman’s CEO, Sherry Pitts, RN, MHA. Sherry not only supported Merit Health Woman’s Baby-Friendly journey, she coordinated MHHS’ entire effort for all 8 of their birthing facilities to become Baby-Friendly!
Sherry will continue to support the remaining 7 MHHS hospitals on their Baby-Friendly journeys. She will continue to lead monthly conference calls for each hospital to report their progress and encourage each other. Rene will also offer more specific consultative services as needed to assist the other MHHS hospitals in meeting their goals. MHHS recently offered to make promotional videos for each of their hospital’s maternity units. Click here to view Merit Health Woman’s beautiful video on the excellent level of maternity care they provide!
Why is becoming Baby-Friendly worth all the hard work?
Rene shares: “For me as a lactation consultant, the best part of this initiative is the level of education our moms and staff receive. Our staff now feels empowered to assist a mom with breastfeeding, pumping and safe formula feeding. This is definitely a WIN for our moms and babies!”
Well done, Merit Health Woman’s! We are very proud of you!
Shellie Evans, AA, BS, CLC, is the WIC Breastfeeding Program Region 3 Coordinator, the Lead Facilitator for Circle of Moms Baby Café Cluster, and Secretary for the Mississippi Breastfeeding Coalition. She was nominated as CHEER Champion of the Week for her outstanding work to promote breastfeeding and for her collaboration with several CHAMPS hospitals!
“My passion given to me by the Lord is to help moms enjoy the gift and blessing of breastfeeding,” says Shellie. “I love to see moms who were either totally for breastfeeding or on the fence breastfeed to their goal and beyond! I enjoy seeing staff with a passion to help others who need a little and sometimes a lot of encouragement. I have always loved to help others, but now I am able to bridge community gaps.”
Shellie, who has worked for WIC for 10.5 years, currently supervises 9 WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselors. She supports her staff to provide direct care to patients; produces inventory reports; ensures staff have the equipment they need; and budgets the resources for her area. Shellie also does outreach with clinics, hospitals, organizations, and individuals in Southwest and Southeast Mississippi, to collaborate and convey the message that, in Shellie’s words, “we are a community-wide team reaching the same goals regarding breastfeeding.” Lastly, Shellie is glad to still provide direct care to patients from time to time.
As part of her work with WIC, Shellie works with several CHAMPS hospitals. She communicates with King’s Daughters Medical Center (KDMC) weekly and sometimes daily to help meet their shared patients’ needs and to “tag” patients who are being discharged in order to ensure their postpartum care. Shellie participated in CHAMPS site visits and a mock assessment at KDMC, where her contributions were useful and appreciated. She also collaborates with Southwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center, Merit Health Natchez, and University of Mississippi Medical Center, to serve patients together and to offer and share educational opportunities.
Shellie is Lead Facilitator at Circle of Moms Baby Café, Mississippi’s first cluster Café, a Baby Café linked administratively and sharing staff between more than one location. Circle of Moms meets at KDMC, the Lincoln County Public Library in Brookhaven, and St. Andrew’s Senior Center in McComb.
Shellie shares: “What I enjoy about my work at the Baby Café is seeing the moms and babies in their journey from pregnancy to nursing. I enjoy hearing their stories of struggle or celebration and how far they have come—sometimes from 2ndbaby no breastfeeding to 3rd baby still nursing at age 3! I love to get the baby ‘loving’ each week and the relationships formed with each mom. Hearing these moms help, encourage and empower each other definitely makes it all worth it.”
In her spare time, Shellie volunteers as the Mississippi Breastfeeding Coalition Secretary, a role she has held for 2 years, and as a Youth Leader at her church.
Congratulations, Shellie, and thank you for all that you do!
Congratulations to Briana Williams on the birth of her second daughter, Scarlett, and on her perseverance in pumping and breastfeeding despite a difficult birth and hospital experience! Despite early problems, Briana overcame all odds to feed Scarlett exclusive breast milk. Briana and her husband, Byron, have been guest speakers at our Mississippi CHAMPS conferences, and Byron was CHEER Champion of the Week for his wonderful participation on the popular “Dads of Breastfed Babies” panel at our September 2017 Mississippi CHAMPS conference.
“I was planning on having a natural birth. I had my birth plan. She came early at 34 weeks,” Briana shared with CHAMPS. “For two days I was having pain and diarrhea, but didn’t think anything was wrong. I went to the hospital and was having contractions.”
Quickly after arriving to the hospital, Briana was told she would need an emergency C-section. It turns out she had had a placental abruption, a very serious condition where the placenta separates from the inner wall of the uterus before birth. It can deprive the baby of oxygen and nutrients, and cause severe pain and vaginal bleeding for the mother. Unfortunately, after the cesarean, Briana, Byron, and Scarlett experienced a long period of separation. Byron was only allowed to see his daughter through the nursery window, and Briana did not hold her baby until she was 3 days old. Sadly, this experience was similar to their first daughter, Violet’s, birth—a C-section followed by a long separation from baby.
“I didn’t like it at all. I was really upset and really wanted her to come home,” Briana said.
After 3 days, the nurses finally brought the baby into Briana’s room every 3 or 4 hours just for her feeding time. Briana always tried to get her to latch, but she did not latch in the hospital. So Briana pumped and fed the baby her milk in a bottle.
Chelesa Presley, CLC, Lactation Consultant for Tougaloo College/Delta Healthpartners Healthy Start, had been Briana’s breastfeeding lifeline after Violet’s birth. Briana phoned Chelesa before going to the hospital for Scarlett’s birth, and Chelesa visited her there to help with pumping and feeding.
When Briana and Scarlett first came home from the hospital, Scarlett started to latch on and feed at the breast. Chelesa helped Briana with the transition from pumping to breastfeeding, and for a while, Briana pumped to give her daughter a full supply of milk. Mother and baby have been home for about 4 months now, and Briana reports that she is no longer pumping and that breastfeeding is “going great.” Violet, almost 3, is doing well and is good with her baby sister. Once again, the family has a fresh start.
CHAMPS endorses and supports hospitals to follow the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding, which are the pillars of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative. One requirement is that infants room-in with their parents. Following the Ten Steps helps to guard against the kind of separation this family sadly experienced with the birth of both their children.
Best wishes, Briana! CHAMPS applauds your determination to breastfeed despite the challenges you faced!
CHEER Champion of the week
Each week, we will recognize a CHEER Champion for all the work they have done for CHEER (Center for Health Equity, Education, and Research)/CHAMPS (Communities and Hospitals Advancing Maternity Practices).