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Her journey to IU Health spans more than 800 miles, 48 surgeries

IU Health University Hospital

Her journey to IU Health spans more than 800 miles, 48 surgeries

She traveled from her home in Louisiana to Indiana, where Dora Carroll said she met a team of caregivers who have turned her life around.

By IU Health Senior Journalist, T.J. Banes,

As she glues colorful strips of tissue paper onto a mask, Dora Carroll shares her journey to improved health. She came to IU Health University Hospital more than two months ago from her home in Bridge City, La., located on the west bank of the Mississippi River.

After 48 surgeries at another hospital, she was referred to IU Health’s Dr. Richard Mangus who specializes in liver, intestine, and multi-organ transplants. She had waited several months for insurance approval and she endured pain for three years – stemming from a gunshot wound on April 14, 2018.

At IU Health, Dr. Mangus performed a reconstructive surgery on March 26, 2021. Since then, Carroll has focused on holistic healing in hopes of returning home this summer. During that time, she takes part in art and music therapy.

“She’s come so far from the first session. When I first met her she was in bed and the next week she was sitting up and now she’s walking,” said art therapist Linda Adeniyi.

A comprehensive program – CompleteLife - at IU Health University Hospital provides art, music, and massage therapy to patients to help in the healing of mind, body and spirit. Yoga therapy is also offered.

One of Carroll’s first art projects was coloring a “Strength Garden” where she added names to the flowers representing her support system. Among those names was her husband, Bobby Carroll. On June 19th they will celebrate 35 years of marriage.

As she works on her project, she talks about the first time they met. She was working at a Dairy Queen and was engaged to someone else. Their first date was to Six Flags Over Texas. They were living in Fort Worth at the time. Other names on the flowers represent her children. Together they have five children, and 12 grandchildren.

When Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana in 2005, causing widespread destruction, Carroll and her husband traveled across country to help New Orleans rebuild. They worked for a moving company at the time, fell in love with the area and never left. They now call Bridge City home – about 10 miles from New Orleans.

“I thought that decorating this mask would help her if she feels homesick,” said Adeniyi. Carroll’s favorite color is pink but she said she loves all the colors of New Orleans’ famed Mardi Gras carnival. She also enjoys taking in the celebrations in smaller Louisiana communities, such as Bridge City’s annual “Gumbo Festival.”

When she is back home, she spends time with her grandchildren at local parks and playing board games. When she came to IU Health she brought along a case filled with art supplies.

“I had no idea they offered this. It’s been a great stress relief,” said Carroll. A colorful handcrafted cross mobile hangs from her hospital room window. She also decorated a “worry box.” The box is empty.

“There’s nothing in there because I’ve learned there’s really nothing worth worrying about. If it’s meant to be it will be,” said Carroll.

She says her therapy has helped with that. She is thankful for her Nurse Practitioners Lindy Meiser and Tim McAfee for introducing her to art and music therapy.

When she first met CompleteLife Music Therapist Adam Perry, she sang while he played the guitar. Other times, she just sat and listened.

“When I have bad feelings, I like to listen to Christian music. It helps take away those bad thoughts and feelings, Carroll said. With the help of Perry, she has been writing lyrics to a song she titled: “Thank God for the Strength to Live.”

Pulling out a notebook she reads the first verse: “Thank God for strength to live, patience to go on, for bringing me to meet these doctors and nurses, and everyone who has helped save my life.”

It’s been a long road to IU Health. Carroll’s husband drove her to Indianapolis – a trip that took them about 16 hours. He helped her get settled and then returned for a visit a few weeks later.

She hopes to be back home in July for a family reunion that has been delayed for three years in anticipation of her full recovery.

“It’s hard being so far from family and home but I am so thankful to Dr. Mangus and the rest of the team,” said Carroll. “They all really care about the person as an individual. My only regret is I wish I could have gotten here sooner.”

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