February 2022 Newsletter


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Abby: IN THE FACE OF A STORM, RESILIENCE Emotional pain from the past can splash into life and relationships without warning. To brace those waves, the Fermenich family tunes into faith, humor and the tools they learned from Amberwing – Center for Youth & Family Well-Being.

Read the full story and hear from Abby

Kale: IN THE TIME OF UPHEAVAL, SUPPORT When your world is changing fast, both inside and around you, it helps to have the right people and skills to lean on. Kale Pierson and his family found that at just the right time.

Read the full story and hear from Kale’s mom, Marianne

Wayne: IN THE MIDST OF A PANDEMIC, HEALING COVID-19 knocked Wayne down, hard and fast. Over the next 3 months, he slowly got back up with the steady help of a dedicated team of rehabilitation specialists who were learning, like the rest of the world, how to adjust during a pandemic.

Read the full story and hear from Wayne

Kevin: IN THE JOURNEY OF LIFE, GRACE Kristin Chederquist embraced some of the biggest challenges with bold love. In the last days of her life, Solvay Hospice House offered Kristin and her family space to experience dignity, comfort and peace.

Read the full story and hear from Kevin

You know that show, Whose Line is it Anyway? The one where the points don’t matter? Well, Solvay Hospice House is a little like that show. The points don’t matter a single wit. Whether you’re gay or straight, Muslim or Pagan, rich or poor, you are treated with respect. You are provided the very best end-of-life care and you receive the dignity you deserve. Staff might say, “There’s no special effort for one over another.” That’s because everyone at Solvay is special. Everyone has what they need, and everyone receives special care.

When a patient arrives at Solvay, one of the very first questions they’re asked is, “What do you need?” Specific practices and beliefs, such as dietary or modesty rules for example, vary among individuals and communities, so with information in hand, staff go about wholeheartedly embracing those needs and requests.

They may arrange communion, purchase special foods or, in the instance of one recent patient, turn the bed and rug toward Mecca. There’s a certain excitement for staff in learning new ways and assuring that every single patient gets exactly what they want at the end of life, even if its unfamiliar to them. It doesn’t matter. They go out of their way to make each patient comfortable. “You are who you are,” said Solvay’s nurse manager Kevin Rodlund. “And that’s even more important at the end of life.”

Rodlund has the joy of carefully seeking out and providing for patient needs. One patient needed tea lights for a purification ritual. He helped a family move a loved one’s coffin into a Prius (versus the usual hearse), in preparation for a green burial. And the secular design of Solvay’s rooms and spiritual center created the perfect setting for a compassionate visit from three orange-robed Buddhists.

Buddhism is, in fact, a great example of the philosophies Solvay staff must consider. Since Buddhists believe death is the beginning of the new (reincarnated) life, rituals at the deathbed promote a favorable rebirth.

Family and friends may repeat chants to calm the patient’s mind. The patient may want shrines, pictures, prayer beads or other objects of devotion brought to their room, and if possible, a Buddhist monk or nun should be present. Buddhists may also refuse pain medication in order to remain “mindful.”

While Solvay staff will always educate patients and families about pain medication and how it can promote a calm mental state, their wishes will be respected. “To us, these are little things we can take care of to help put our patients in a better place. Especially during COVID when visitors were restricted, we thought a lot about how we could make things work and we took extra time to carefully listen to each family member. That’s what makes things work,” said Rodlund. He added that sometimes at Solvay, families get what they never knew they needed or wanted. Sometimes they have conversations about what’s really important. Often, they have healing time. “We recently had a patient who was extremely well-known for his work,” said Rodlund. “Other patients aren’t as well-known, but we care for you regardless of what you did before you came here,” he added. Families may experience angst, anger, tears. They may have money or no money. It just doesn’t matter. The Miller-Dwan Foundation always likes to remind people, that no matter what hospital system you come from, you’re welcome at Solvay. “Your physician and home care provider are welcome to visit, and you can hire private pay companies to sit with you during your end-of-life journey,” said Miller-Dwan Foundation President Traci Marciniak. “Solvay is a community hospice house. Where you come from doesn’t matter, as long as you feel you’re getting everything you and your loved ones need.”

Have you ever felt dizzy, unsteady, maybe even nauseated for seemingly no reason? It happened to a friend of mine. She was in a minor car accident that, at least for her well-being, proved to be anything but minor.

On a trip back from the Minneapolis one day, Katie’s car was side swiped. It needed repair, but it was drivable, and Katie felt fine. Until a week later when she got out of bed. The room was spinning. Katie thought she had the flu. But it happened again the next day. And the next. A visit to her primary care physician sent her to the Dizziness and Balance Center at Polinsky Medical Rehabilitation Center where she was diagnosed with Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo or BPPV.

BPPV is fairly common affecting 107 out of 100,000 at some point in their lifetime. It’s especially risky for older people who may already be unsteady. Thankfully, the cause can often be determined by a specially trained physical therapist and a set of VisualEyes binocular goggles—goggles that have been purchased by the Miller-Dwan Foundation.

VisualEyes are used during assessment to view and video-record a patient’s eye movements while the physical therapist runs the patient through a set of head movements. Once a cause is determined, treatment can begin.

In Katie’s case, the tiny crystals we all have in our ears, had loosened, possibly during the car accident and were floating around in the fluid-filled semicircular canals of her inner ear. Her physical therapist taught her to perform several simple and slow head movements to help move the particles that were causing the dizziness. Before long, she was good as new.

Proper assessment of dizziness and balance problems is critical to assuring patients receive proper care. And thanks to Miller-Dwan Foundation’s funding of the new VisualEye, 10-20 patients per week feel a whole lot better.


Established in 1973 through a gift from the estate of Mary C. Dwan, Miller-Dwan Foundation has invested more than 50 million dollars to improve the health of people throughout Northeastern Minnesota and Northwestern Wisconsin.

Originally a support organization of the historical Miller-Dwan Medical Center (now part of Essentia Health), Miller-Dwan Foundation became an independent 501(c)(3) public charity in 2001. The Foundation continues to be responsible for the fundraising and funding of Polinsky Medical Rehabilitation Center and the specialty care areas the former Miller-Dwan Medical Center was known for, including:

  • Burn Treatment
  • Inpatient and Outpatient
  • Physical Rehabilitation
  • Child, Adolescent, Adult Mental Health
  • Radiation Oncology
  • Surgical Services

In addition to supporting these services on the Essentia Health campus, the Miller-Dwan Foundation works to create innovative solutions that fill healthcare gaps. For example:

  • Solvay Hospice House
  • Amberwing – Center for Youth & Family Well-Being
  • Caring Ways Cancer Resource Center

Each of these healthcare facilities is owned by Miller-Dwan Foundation. Fundraising and charitable support for these facilities and programs is the responsibility of Miller-Dwan Foundation.

The Miller-Dwan Foundation is committed to ensuring the most advanced health care is available to residents of our region, allowing them to receive the best possible care close to home.

For more information, visit our website at mdfoundation.org, call us at 218.786.5829, or email us at giving@mdfoundation.org.