Christmas Magic is in the Air at UPMC Northwest

The holiday season is going to be just a little bit brighter this year — perhaps a lot brighter, actually — at UPMC Northwest, thanks to the glow of 24 donated red and green LED Christmas trees.

Each tree is placed in a special location for optimum viewing to help brighten Christmas for patients, staff, and visitors. Beginning in 2020, the first trees appeared –  a gift from a local couple who wishes to remain anonymous. Each year since, the couple has donated additional trees.

“These spectacular trees are beautiful and are greatly appreciated by our patients, visitors, and staff.  I have heard from staff and patients that the presence of the trees are providing them with peace and comfort during the holiday season.  On behalf of the employees and medical staff of UPMC Northwest, I would like to thank the Northwest Hospital Foundation and the donors who have made our campus so festive and special.”

 – Brian Durniok, President, UPMC Northwest

A drone video on the Northwest Hospital Foundation website proves Christmas magic is in the air. The brilliance of the 20-foot-tall trees, each topped with a blazing star, is captured in the short video.

To learn about giving opportunities, contact Theresa Edder, Northwest Hospital Foundation Executive Director.

Northwest Hospital Foundation Renovates Hospital Courtyard

The waiting room, by the very virtue of the name, has a negative connotation for many of us.  At UPMC Northwest, the courtyard is an alternative, offering a functional design with space for privacy and exposure to the outdoors.

For the healthcare professional feeling burned-out, and outdoor break can help mitigate emotional exhaustion and increase positive health benefits.

For 20 years, the courtyard area just off the cafeteria at UPMC Northwest has been an outdoor escape for visitors and healthcare professionals.   With lead gifts from the Dr. and Mrs. Arthur William Phillips Charitable Trust, the Elisabeth S. Black Charitable Trust, and the UPMC Health Plan, the renovated courtyard officially opened on July 28.

“There are so many new features in the courtyard. Everywhere you look, there is something special,” said Theresa Edder, executive director of the Northwest Hospital Foundation.

“Important to the healing process, the gentle sounds of waterfalls and outdoor lights create a welcoming environment during the warmer months,” Edder said. “Patients, visitors, and staff alike enjoy this area to grab lunch, reflect, read, visit, or just enjoy a little quiet time,” she said.   With new lighting and additional seating, the space is open around the clock for everyone to enjoy.

Twenty years of overgrown trees and landscaping coupled with deteriorating walkways and a leaking pond were the driving force behind the renovation.

“Without a doubt, this project has generated the most positive feedback from staff and visitors of any project throughout my tenure at UPMC Northwest.  At a time when staff were physically and mentally fatigued from the challenges of the pandemic, this beautiful space has provided comfort and peace to all that use it.  We truly appreciate this wonderful gift to our organization.” – Brian Durniok, President UPMC Northwest

Dick and Tish Way of Franklin donated the original courtyard setting, located just outside the hospital cafeteria. The original plaque from the Ways in the new courtyard reminds those who enter:

“In honor of the hospital staff and administration, and for the enjoyment of all who enter.  It is our hope that you will find peace in your day here in this garden.”

In 2002, Dick Way submitted the plans for the courtyard that, with his company GrowWay Inc., he completed with a pond, waterfall, and landscaping.

Kathy Way recalls how her father designed every area of the original courtyard, from the waterfall to the small pond and the surrounding flower beds.

“My dad had a giving heart, and so did my mom. My mom was a retired nurse. They just cared. They wanted to give back to the community, to the new facility, and to the people that took care of others. They gave with their heart, their time, and just shared with others,” Kathy Way said.

As long as he was able, Dick Way continued to check on the courtyard to ensure the plants were watered and cared for. Tish Way died in 2021.

The space might look different now, but the purpose remains the same.

See time-lapse video of courtyard construction at

A Stroke Can Happen at Any Age: Lyvia’s Story

Adjusting to life with a newborn typically entails parents welcoming their new family member while also trying to get enough sleep, managing late-night feedings, and often balancing working full-time.

That is what life was like when Leigh-Anne and Matthew Williams brought home their fifth child, Lyvia. Thirteen days later, during a late-night nursing, Leigh-Anne realized something was wrong. A small twitch in her daughter’s tiny right foot raised concerns. So slight, the twitch could have gone unnoticed or thought to be a newborn’s startle reflex. As it progressed to her daughter’s right hand during her next feeding, Leigh-Anne, a physician’s assistant, knew she needed to seek medical help and quickly.

Lyvia had suffered a pediatric stroke, a rare condition that affects 1 in 4,000 children in the United States each year that caused damage to an area of the brain resulting in right-sided seizure activity. Lyvia has a disorder that caused a clot in her brain. Strokes occur when blood supply to the brain is compromised, either through a blood clot in one of the brain’s arteries or when a cerebral blood vessel bursts. Most strokes occur in patients older than 65. However, in rare cases, children and infants can also experience stroke.

“Everyone involved responded in a timely fashion. They also helped try to keep me calm throughout all of it,” Leigh-Anne said. “It is important for medical staff to keep an open mind when it comes to the age range for stroke symptoms. It could easily have been incorrectly diagnosed as something else.”

Without such quick responses and treatment from medical staff and her parents, Lyvia could have had lasting effects. Today, she has no residual signs from her stroke. Leigh-Anne is crediting the efforts of all the medical staff at UPMC Northwest, STAT MedEvac, and UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh for everyone’s hard work, responsiveness, and timely treatment with a successful outcome of her young daughter’s treatment – from the lab staff, the doctors, the pediatric nurses, and everyone involved.

“I will never not worry. As parents, we are always on high alert. Part of that is that we make sure to educate all those around us. A stroke symptom can be as simple as staring off into space. Educating people about the signs and symptoms eases some of my anxiety.”

Now 22 months old, Lyvia is in daycare, medication-free, and continuing to reach all the milestones of any busy toddler. Her parents are enjoying their healthy daughter but remain on constant alert, sharing their story and helping others to be aware of the signs and symptoms of strokes.

May is National Stroke Month. Prompt diagnosis and treatment can minimize the risk of lasting problems, and early rehabilitation can help maximize recovery. The Northwest Hospital Foundation has been sponsoring Stroke Awareness education and activities at UPMC Northwest for more than 10 years. Learn more from the UPMC Northwest Stroke Program:

Hospital Foundation Delivers Smiles


UPMC Northwest patient Gloria Hoover, of Franklin, receives flowers from Theresa Edder, executive director of the Northwest Hospital Foundation on Easter Sunday.  Hoover was one of many patients to whom the Foundation delivered flowers to help make their holiday brighter.  The Foundation works to secure and allocate resources for funding projects exclusively in support of UPMC Northwest.

A Step-By-Step Approach to Recovery

Sometimes the best way to say thank you is with a small gesture.

For Jim Oliphant and his wife Barbara, of Kennerdell, PA, their thank-you gesture was delivered to the staff at the UPMC Cardiac Rehabilitation Department in the form of a homemade pumpkin roll. That is just how we do things, Jim says.

Jim credits the new exercise equipment he used – and his tenacious cardiac rehab team – for his recovery from his second heart attack in April at age 72.

A NuStep TR4 Seated Stepper, a key piece of equipment in Jim’s recovery, was made possible by a generous donation from the Northwest Hospital Foundation. Jim liked the machine, which replaced a 30-year-old stationary bicycle, not only because it helped his overall recovery; it also was not hard on his knees.

“They took excellent care of me. I credit my results to their persistence and them knowing the right equipment for me to use,“ said Oliphant. “I am a person that likes to push myself. They say slow, and I go faster. They allowed me to safely push myself. The NuStep was smooth on my knees.”

The NuStep TR4 Seated Stepper simulates the motion of walking, delivering a low-impact, total-body workout. The cardiac rehab staff uses the equipment for patients with diagnoses such as heart attack, bypass surgery, angioplasty, stents, heart valve repair or replacement, congestive heart failure, heart/lung transplant, or stable angina. The NuStep is one of several improvements to the department made possible by the Foundation.

“The NuStep has been invaluable to our patients as it’s easily tolerated by patients of all abilities. It has been used by one of our youngest patients who was 19 years old, as well as by patients well into their 80s and all ages in between. We have patients who have knee, back, hip, or balance issues who do not tolerate any of the other equipment we have but can exercise for 30 minutes on the NuStep. We really appreciate the Foundation supporting our program and benefitting our patients,” said Pam Steiner, Senior Professional RN, Cardiac Rehab.

Jim’s scheduled 12 weeks of cardiac rehab stretched over more than five months, due in part to two delays. When Jim first started cardiac rehab the staff noted he was having arrhythmias (or irregular heart rhythms). They alerted his cardiologist, and his rehab was put on hold while he had additional testing and interventions. He then had his therapy delayed for eight weeks while he recovered from COVID.

“I had to stop the cardiac rehab after they did the second procedure and while I had COVID. After all that, I went back to use the equipment and I was right where I had left off. I had not lost any of my progress. The staff and the equipment were amazing,”

Jim’s last cardiac rehab session was the day before Thanksgiving, so he and Barbara will enjoy the holidays full of family trips and celebrations.

For information about the Northwest Hospital Foundation and how you can help support the cardiac rehab program, please email Theresa Edder, executive director, at or call 814-676-7145.

Retired Doctor Remains Focused on Foundation’s Mission

40 years ago, Dr. James E. Knarr had a vision. He left behind city life to begin his oral and maxillofacial surgery practice in Franklin, PA. He arrived with not just his medical credentials, but his passion to help others and the ideas needed to make a difference. One idea so big that it resulted in the inception of Northwest Hospital Foundation.

In the 1980s, hospital foundations were exclusively created to support larger hospitals such as The Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and The Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, according to Dr. Knarr. A visionary, he knew that the creation of the Northwest Hospital Foundation would mean better patient care, improved programs and technology, and staff education opportunities.

“It doesn’t matter what type of foundation; the goal is really the same: To provide support for services and mostly monetary support to the organization,” Knarr said. “Our Foundation helps provide funding for services and equipment that would likely not be possible without the additional support, such as indigent care and education for staff.”

According to Dr. Knarr, the Foundation continues to fund programs and activities that go above and beyond what an established healthcare system would be expected to provide. This has a positive effect on the hospital’s ability to provide great care and has a direct and lasting impact on the health of our local communities.

“Support of Northwest Hospital Foundation permits donors to witness the benefits their support provides locally,” Knarr said.

Dr. Knarr remains a man of great energy who continues to actively give back as a donor and a volunteer. And even though he is approaching 80, he is just as enthusiastic as he was 40 years ago.

Ashley Sheffer, Growing With Her Community

Ashley Sheffer might be a young professional, but she is a seasoned veteran when it comes to making a difference in Venango County.

Ashley, one of the younger members of the Northwest Hospital Foundation Corporation Board, started making an impact on her community as an intern at the Venango Area Chamber of Commerce. Today, as the part-time “Be Here” program manager for the Chamber, she continues those efforts. The “Be Here” initiative works to demonstrate the opportunities to live, work, and play in the Venango Area, while tackling challenges that might exist.

That initiative goes hand-in-hand with her more recent endeavor, opening Core Goods in 2018. A small business in Oil City, Core Goods provides quality products to support family farms, the environment, and the local economy. They sell a variety of items, including bulk foods, local produce, kombucha on tap, and grab-and-go meals.

“We strive to offer items from as local as possible, to support our neighbors and our economy. With both Be Here and Core Goods, we focus on creating an environment where people feel like part of a community and can work toward a healthy lifestyle, both mentally and physically. Supporting healthcare in our local community also helps make services accessible to our rural area. “

Ashley’s work at the Chamber was her first connection to the Foundation. Because of the Foundation’s outreach to young professionals and community leaders, she joined as a member of the foundation corporation board.

“I met Theresa Edder, Foundation Executive Director, through my work with the Chamber. I later received a letter asking for my support. I was impressed because of the commitment of the Foundation not only to the hospital but to the community at large. This commitment continues to create ways for us all to stay connected.”

Last August, when her mother-in-law was diagnosed with leukemia, her involvement became more personal.

“After seeing her receive such great care, that experience made me want to support the Foundation. While my mother-in-law must travel to Pittsburgh occasionally, she is able to do a lot of her treatment at UPMC Northwest, about 10 minutes from our house. This means she spends less time traveling and has more time resting at home. “

Ashley appreciates that the Foundation seeks the support of donors and professionals of all levels.

“As a young professional, I appreciate that the Foundation reached out to me for support, and that they recognize different perspectives that can be provided by different levels of professionals and involvement. And so, when the letter asking for financial support was sent to me, I saw it as another great way to be more involved.

“It important to support healthcare in our community because of the impact it has on the overall quality of life. When people feel good, our community is a more positive place to be.”

New Equipment Treats Patients With Chronic Pain

Barry and Lynn Cressman

A grant to purchase a hightech medical apparatus has given relief to a local man whose mobility has been limited.  The Northwest Hospital Foundation, a nonprofit charitable organization that supports UPMC Northwest, provided a $22,900 grant to buy a Boston Scientific Cosman G-4 Radiofrequency Generator. It is used as a tool for radio frequency ablation (RFA) procedures.

Barry Cressman, of Titusville, suffering from chronic back and knee pain, was steered to the new technology used by Dr. Kyle Shilk at UPMC Northwest. He asked the physician to perform radiofrequency ablation on his right knee.  The procedure completely relieved the pain, allowing Cressman to resume a normal, busy, pain-free life, including a much anticipated return to the golf course. “He can now enjoy playing with his grandchildren, navigating steps and stairs, and planning trips for both business and pleasure with his life no longer restricted by chronic back and knee pain,” said Theresa Edder, executive director of the foundation.

Edder said the the procedure uses an electrical current produced by a radio wave to heat a small area of nerve tissue. That decreases pain signals from a specific location. It helps patients with chronic lower back and neck pain, and pain related to the degeneration of joints from arthritis. The pain relief can last from six to 12 months or, for some patients, years.

“More than 70% of patients treated with it experience pain relief, an important measure for UPMC Northwest, which last year recorded a 136 percent increase in patients seeking pain relief,” said the foundation director. “Most important, it can be used for chronic pain that does not respond to other treatments, such as medication and routine physical therapy.”

The new technology has allowed Shilk to enhance his integrative pain management model, which includes specialties such as advanced physical therapy, chiropractic and acupuncture treatments, dietary regimens and psychological counseling. “Pain is not just about nerves or receptors — pain is emotional, physical, mental and social, all at once,” he said. “I want to take a ‘whole person’ approach to patients, and team approach with physicians in the community.”

Cressman wants others who are seeking pain relief to inquire about the new treatment. “I am so grateful that UPMC Northwest now has this equipment. It has made all the difference for me. As of now, I have had no reoccurrence.” said Cressman. “I want to share my experience to help others that might need pain relief, as well as let the Foundation know their money was well invested.





Champion Supporters, Champion Donors

When it comes to supporting the Northwest Hospital Foundation, it is a slam dunk for The Honorable H. William (Bill) White and former Pennsylvania State Senator Mary Jo White of Oil City, PA.

Married for 55 years the two share a love for college basketball and are supporters of the Northwest Hospital Foundation – two interests that met midcourt during a NCAA basketball tournament.

While Mary Jo was being treated at UPMC Northwest, she planned to make the best of a hospital stay watching the NCAA championship tournament. But an unreliable television set in her room made that difficult. After discharge, she and her husband contacted Theresa Edder, Northwest Hospital Foundation Executive Director, to ask about donating new televisions for every room.

When they learned the TVs were already being replaced, they still wanted to help the Foundation. So their donation was used to fund telemedicine technology enhancements. With their generosity, the use of telemedicine at UPMC Northwest helps bridge the gaps of time and distance for patients who need a critical-care specialist but might not be able to leave their beds in the UPMC Northwest Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

“Telemedicine allowed for easier and better communications. This enables specialists from other hospitals to communicate with UPMC Northwest for improved patient care,” said Bill.

Mary Jo’s connection to UPMC Northwest goes beyond being a patient. She also has served on the Northwest Corporation Hospital Board. Their son, David White, currently is on the Foundation’s Board of Directors.

According to Mary Jo, it is essential that the Foundation have funds to meet urgent needs and secure opportunities for local patients in crisis situations. That is why the Whites have also supported the Northwest Hospital Foundation Patient Hardship Fund, which helps to better meet the needs of vulnerable community members and assist them in regaining their health.

“There are things you sometimes don’t think about that the patients might need. Someone in a house fire may have had their clothes cut off when being treated. Volunteers purchase items to ensure they have warm and comfortable clothes to wear home,” said Mary Jo.

According to the Whites, there are many ways to give support, you just need to ask. “Theresa Edder is excellent at letting you know what’s needed, large and small, and how to facilitate it.”

Rebekah Deal, Steps Up Her Support

Rebekah Deal is not just quick on her feet. She’s quick to help those grieving, quick to embrace her community, and quick to support the efforts of the Northwest Hospital Foundation.

She is literally running the streets of Oil City to connect with and inspire others as a member of the local running group, Moving with Purpose. This is a group comprised of 30 to 40 members who run the city streets each weekday. She tops the weekend off with anywhere from a 10- to 20-mile run. And she goes the extra mile for Northwest Hospital Foundation’s Doves of Peace program.

Rebekah and her husband Matthew Deal own the Morrison Funeral Home. “We deal with families facing or planning for the end of lifetime, as well as the process of helping them grieve. The Foundation serves as a great tool for helping people with all these types of processes.”

The diagnosis and death of her mother two years ago was Rebekah’s first experience of the efforts of the Northwest Foundation.

“They reach out to people going through the toughest of times. I experienced this when my mother was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer with only a few months to live. I was able to be with her during her last few months. I got involved with the Foundation’s Doves of Peace program when she passed. “

The UPMC Northwest Doves of Peace tree is a visual reminder of loved ones lost. Personalized dove ornaments are on display on a 12-foot tree in the main lobby of UPMC Northwest for patients and families to visit throughout the holiday season.

She also joined the Northwest Hospital Foundation Corporation Board last year to further her support efforts. She is the president of the Oil City Rotary Club; she’s a member of ZONTA, an organization that expands opportunities for women and girls through education programs and service projects, and also serves as the vice-chair of the Executive Board of the Oil City YMCA.

Rebekah sees each of her community roles as a bridge to building an overall stronger community support effort.

“Being on the board, I have had the pleasure of working with so many amazing people. It is exciting to be involved – exciting to see all these people with such a heart for our community.”

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