Lighted Christmas Trees Adorn Hospital Grounds

UPMC Northwest is a little brighter this holiday season because of the generosity of a local couple.  A quartet of 20-foot-high, lighted Christmas trees have been erected on the hospital grounds.  The towering trees were funded by a donation to the non-profit Northwest Hospital Foundation.

“The donors wish to remain anonymous, but they are longtime supporters of our Foundation,” said Theresa Edder, executive director of the Foundation.  “Their gift also includes the addition of two 10-foot trees for next year.”

The trees were placed in atypical settings rather than in common areas, such as the entranceway to the hospital.  That was a deliberate choice, said Edder.

“Two are in the front, but another is near the emergency room and the fourth is near the Transitional Care Unit,” she said.  “In each case, they can easily be seen by visitors, staff and patients.”

The intent for the tree setup was provided by Brian Durniok, hospital president.  “We had a simple Christmas tree in the courtyard and he said he wanted more than that,” said Edder.  “So he approached the Foundation and we found donors who were right on board with that.”

The effort was prompted by what Edder described “unusual times.”  “Due to the unusual circumstances of this holiday season, there will be an unprecedented number of patients who will be alone this year due to COVID restrictions and countless healthcare heroes working long hours away from their families,” she said.   Those concerns prompted the tall lighted trees to be placed in areas that have high visibility for staff and patients.

“Brian asked for that specifically because of patients who don’t have visitors and staff that is working so hard in this pandemic,” said Edder. “It lets people look out the hospital windows, see the trees and take a breath.”

The distinctive trees will remain in place through the holidays.

Franklin VFW Lends a Hand to Hospital Foundation

Franklin VFW Post #1835 recently provided a gift to the Northwest Hospital Foundation to improve the quality of life for disabled patients.


“Sometimes it’s not simply a question of what’s for dinner. It’s how dinner will be eaten,” said Theresa Edder, Executive Director of the non-profit foundation that supports the UPMC Northwest Hospital.


“People with eating disabilities caused by stroke, Parkinson’s disease, or other disabling changes can now take advantage of adaptive feeding equipment at UPMC Northwest Hospital, which can be a key component of an effective nutrition plan.”


Working with Matthew Gaertner, Commander of the Franklin VFW Post, the Foundation received a $1,000 donation to purchase adaptive feeding equipment that helps Northwest Hospital patients achieve an improved quality of life. UPMC Northwest has had up to four patients a week benefiting from these tools.


“Things we might take for granted, as simple as food staying on a spoon. These utensils make a difference. They assist where hands might have limited grip or mobility,” said Connie McIntyre, UPMC Northwest Hospital Food Service Manager. “Our occupational and physical therapy staff are thrilled with the new adaptive eating equipment.”


Adaptive feeding equipment comes in various forms to serve different needs. The modified cups, dishes, and utensils come in bright colors to make food more visible and appealing, help to stimulate the appetite, improve food intake, and promote dining independence and dignity.


“If a patient’s hand will not bend, the utensil can be adjusted to fit their grip. These tools can help improve the nutritional status of patients with feeding disabilities. They improve overall health and can shorten the length of stay,” said McIntyre.


“The Franklin VFW has a long history of supporting the hospital.  It’s through generous donations like this that make a big difference for the patients and their quality of living,” said Edder.  “Gifts like this underscore how vital our donors are to our success.”




Virtual Program for Cancer Patients’ Self-Confidence

A program called “Look Good Feel Better” (LGFB), which is designed to help cancer patients improve their self-confidence by regaining control of their appearance, is underway through the Northwest Hospital Foundation.  Pandemic-related directives have changed the way the program is being offered.  It was previously held at UPMC Northwest, but is now conducted live online.

The makeovers include complimentary makeup and tips from volunteer beauty experts on skin, hair, accessories and other fashion options.  “Hairstyles and cosmetics are more than superficial concerns for women battling a life-threatening disease,” said Theresa Edder, executive director of the foundation that sponsors the program.  “Maintaining a positive self-image can have a beneficial impact on a patient’s recovery, especially for at-risk women during the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Shirl Baughman, BSN RN and nurse navigator at UPMC Northwest said, “COVID has brought changes to the LGFB program, some of them positive.  Participants and volunteers have adapted to virtual classes.”  Until the hospital allows for in-person classes again, the LGFB program will continue to hold live virtual classes.  “These classes offer the opportunity for at-risk women to attend safely from home,” Baughman said.

LGFB workshops are free for all women undergoing cancer treatment.  Registered attendees receive makeup and skin care kits by mail or in person from Baughman prior to their scheduled online class.  “Most kits are mailed to participants.  If a patient is currently receiving treatment, I can deliver a kit in-person.  That way, they do not have to wait and can take a class offered sooner,” said Baughman.

To register for a free online workshop, individuals may visit  Additional information is available by contacting Baughman at 676-7746.

Funded by Northwest Hospital Foundation, the program is offered through a collaboration of the Look Good Feel Better Foundation and the Professional Beauty Association.

Dignity Health Cancer Institute is a member of the Look Good Feel Better Alliance.



New Hospital Transportation Driving Away Kids’ Fears

Dr. Bawab and Evan Ward


UPMC Northwest Hospital is putting some of its smallest patients in the driver’s seat. Pediatric patients can now drive themselves to the operating room in miniature battery-powered cars. Most kids are stressed when it comes to operations and procedures, so the operating room staff came up with an innovative way to help calm their fears.

Patients are riding to the operating room in style thanks to an anonymous donation to the Northwest Hospital Foundation. Kids ranging from ages 2 to 10 can choose from a Jeep or Mercedes-Benz convertible. The cars light up, and they can play music with Bluetooth technology. The vehicles can be operated by the kids or by a nurse or doctor with a remote controller.

Since the cars were put in use almost a month ago, the driving experience is already working its magic. Children such as Evan Ward, son of Michael and Amanda Ward of Franklin, PA, are feeling less anxious about their upcoming procedures.

“Evan had a wonderful surgical experience at UPMC Northwest. The staff was diligent and very attentive to him when he arrived. Once he was settled in, the time quickly passed as he was given the opportunity to drive the new electric cars that they are utilizing for their pediatric patients. Instead of being apprehensive about the unfamiliar environment he was in, he was calm, laughing, and he enjoyed driving around the hallway where everyone greeted him. We are so thankful that Evan will remember his surgery day as a positive and fun experience,” said the Wards.

The program makes the staff and surgeon’s jobs easier, too. It puts their minds at ease to know the kids are happier, relaxed and having fun.

According to Dr. Ibrahim Bawab, Head of Otorhinolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at UPMC Northwest: “Surgery day can be stressful for almost everyone and especially for kids. As a surgeon who also manages the pediatric population, I’ve witnessed the anxiety and agitation firsthand, mostly when the kids are being separated from their parents and wheeled to the operating room.

“Luckily, now with the new cars at UPMC Northwest, the kids can be more at ease, they can ride the miniature cars, and head toward the operating room in style. This will certainly help decrease anxiety and create an overall environment of fun and playfulness,” said Dr. Bawab.


Workshops for All Women Undergoing Treatment for Cancer

Every woman with cancer deserves to look good and feel beautiful.

We are sponsoring a FREE program just for them!

Call (814) 676-7746 to register or for more information.

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