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Russell Milligan
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rmilligan2@presencehealth.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Nurse, Doctor at Presence Saints Mary and Elizabeth Medical Center Volunteer with Honor Flight Chicago

Chicago, Ill. – August 2, 2013 – Kiersten Solis, BSN, woke up at 3 a.m., got dressed and headed to Midway Airport for a trip she will never forget. The Presence Saints Mary and Elizabeth Medical Center (PSMEMC) Emergency Department (ED) nurse educator and charge nurse returned home the next morning at 3 a.m. – totally exhausted but energized by the rewarding experience.

PSMEMC Emergency physician Leigh (Chip) Halpern, MD, was inspired and moved by the all-day trip to Washington, D.C. and looks forward to being on the medical team again.

On June 12, Solis and Dr. Halpern volunteered for the first time to provide medical support on a trip sponsored by Honor Flight Chicago. The organization honors and thanks veterans, mostly from World War II (WWII), by flying them at no charge to Washington, D.C. to visit the memorials honoring their service to our country. Volunteer nurses, doctors and other volunteers make the trips possible.

“It was amazing,” said Solis, who served as guardian for two vets on the plane and one active 95-year-old on the bus. “The goal was to keep everyone safe – there were some minor things during the trip and the health care team did plenty of bandaging.”

There were 87 WWII vets on the trip – including one female nurse. Each vet could bring along a family member or friend. Three physicians and seven nurses made up the medical team. In all, there were about 200 individuals in their group.

The vets and medical team volunteers met at 4:30 a.m. at Midway Airport and then boarded the flight to the nation’s capital. By bus, the group then visited memorials including Lincoln, Korean and Viet Nam in 90-degree heat. The group also toured the National Air and Space Museum.

“A lot of the guys flew on these planes and had great stories to share. It was very interesting, very cool,” said Solis, who joined PSMEMC in 2008. Her grandfather, now deceased, had been a WWII vet, but never talked about the war to her.

“It was a fantastic experience – incredibly moving and very inspirational to accompany these vets to Washington, D.C.,” said Dr. Halpern, who was recruited last minute to help. “It was really emotional. These vets were real troupers, despite travel delays on the way home.”

The past two years, Dr. Halpern has volunteered on medical trips to Haiti and enjoyed the work so he is eager to help out again. Dr. Halpern and Solis had been motivated to chaperone after hearing a colleague, Peggy SanFilippo, RN, ED, EMS educator, talking about the flights.

After a long day, the flight home was delayed two hours and didn’t leave until 9:30 p.m. They arrived at Midway about midnight. One especially moving experience was “mail call” during the trip home. Family, guardians and friends prepared letters to the vets in advance and they were delivered during the flight.

Solis thought with the late arrival there wasn’t going to be a large crowd to welcome the vets, but they were greeted by about 600 people – including family members and friends, girl and boy scouts, students from area schools, the Chicago Fire Department and others.

“The vets felt special and were touched by the welcome home,” Solis said.

It was an amazing day for the vets and medical volunteers. In fact, Dr. Halpern and Solis cannot wait to sign up again.

To learn more, volunteer or see photos, visit www.honorflightchicago.org.  

Kiersten Solis, BSN, Emergency Department (ED) nurse educator and charge nurse, Presence Saints Mary and Elizabeth Medical Center (PSMEMC) in Chicago with PSMEMC Emergency physician Leigh (Chip) Halpern, MD, at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. The two volunteered to provide medical support to vets on a recent Washington, D.C. trip sponsored by Honor Flight Chicago.

About Presence Saints Mary and Elizabeth Medical Center
Presence Saints Mary and Elizabeth Medical Center (PSMEMC) is a premier medical center on Chicago's near northwest side and includes the Saint Mary Campus, 2233 W. Division St., and Saint Elizabeth Campus, 1431 N. Claremont Ave. The Saint Mary Campus is certified as a Primary Stroke Center and accredited as a Chest Pain Center. The hospital specializes in cardiac care, digestive diseases, emergency services, neuroscience services, obstetrics, primary care, behavioral health and wound healing. PSMEMC ranks No. 18 in the 2013-14 U.S. News & World Report's "Best Hospitals" in the Chicago metro area. Visit our website at smemc.reshealth.org

About Provena Health – Resurrection Health Care, Now Joined as Presence Health
PSMEMC is part of Presence Health, the largest Catholic health system based in Illinois, created in November 2011 through the merger of Provena Health and Resurrection Health Care. With over 150 sites of care, including 12 hospitals, Presence Health has 22,000 employees, 4,000 medical professionals and a revenue base of nearly $3 billion. Visit presencehealth.org to learn more.

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