Mariah Buckman

After suffering serious injuries in a car accident, Mariah Buckman came to ACHM for wound care and healing.

Mariah Buckman’s car accident changed her life. While driving one day, Mariah overcorrected and was ejected from her vehicle. A healthy 29-year-old at the time of the accident, Mariah suffered serious injuries. These included a splenic laceration, fractures of her wrist, face, and spine, and a degloving injury to her left leg. “It was just so weird,” Mariah reflected. “I just remember looking down at my wrist and seeing my arm broken in so many places.”

Initially, Mariah admitted to Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital. She then transferred to St. Vincent in Billings. Mariah required complete removal of her spleen and multiple surgeries to fix all her broken bones. She also had to undergo multiple leg surgeries and a skin graft.

The damage to Mariah’s leg was significant. “When I was laying in the field, they told me that I needed to have a tourniquet placed because I was losing too much blood. The EMT told me that it was going to hurt when he put it on me. But I don’t remember ever feeling him put it on. I was just in so much shock.”

Mariah was uncertain how she could return home with her wounds and manage the broken bones that prevented her from walking. An unstable pelvis fracture required her to be on bed rest for many weeks. Hope came in the form of a liaison from Advanced Care Hospital of Montana. The liaison visited Mariah at St. Vincent and conveyed she could transfer to ACHM for wound care and to begin her healing process. Mariah cried tears of joy at the news. “I am just so happy that I got accepted as a patient,” she said.

Mariah discharged from ACHM after some initial recovery and wound care teaching. “I just want everyone to know how thankful I am to have been here,” she shared. We at ACHM are also thankful Mariah was able to receive the world-class care that we give at ACHM!

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Michael Kuckkahn

Complications from Cowden syndrome led Michael Kuckkhan to Advanced Care Hospital of Montana where he found support both medically and emotionally.

Michael Kuckkahn lives with a condition known as Cowden syndrome. The condition causes a person to develop non-cancerous growths throughout the body. These most often occur in the mouth and intestines.

As a result of the ulcers in his mouth, Michael struggled to eat or drink anything. He had undergone multiple abdominal surgeries and lived with pain each day. Then, he sustained right-sided heart failure, which resulted in respiratory failure. Requiring a ventilator to breathe, Michael had a tracheostomy tube placed. He also needed a PEG tube for nutrition.

Cowden syndrome had Michael fighting for his life.

Michael’s doctors at Benefis Hospital in Great Falls, MT recognized he may never liberate from the ventilator. They recommended a transfer to Advanced Care Hospital of Montana. ACHM offers a respiratory failure program certified by The Joint Commission. The program is regarded as the leader in ventilator weaning. Michael and his family agreed that ACHM offered him the best possible outcome. Once medically stable, Michael transferred via air flight to ACHM.

ACHM’s certified respiratory failure program offered Michael the best chance at weaning off a ventilator and regaining his independence.

Upon arrival at ACHM, the clinical staff determined Michael’s new baseline. The recovery process began immediately. Driven by love for his two young children, Michael made an incredible recovery.

“I just want to do more for my two-year-old and three-year-old,” Michael said.

The support of Michael’s mother, father, three brothers, and a sister played a key role in his recovery. One of his first memories after waking from a coma was his mother encouraging him. “She told me to get up, fight, and show them what I can do.”

Michael has a lot of fight in him, and a lot of fight ahead of him.

“When I woke, my wife left me,” Michael shared. On top of fighting for his life, Michael now faced a battle for custody of his children.

Michael found support–medically and emotionally–in the staff at ACHM. “The staff there has changed my life for the better,” he said. “They have helped encourage me and helped me with kind words. They prayed for me and watched over me.” He hopes to inspire others with his story.

Michael hopes to inspire others by sharing his story.

“My ultimate goal is to help others get back up again and help them realize what they can do. I did it and so can they. I want to show people how weak I am, how strong God is in me, and the amazing people around me. It’s what I want my kids to learn, and anyone who I run into. Everything is possible with hope, belief, and determination.”

One person Michael wanted to specifically recognize was Holly Adams. “She’s been someone ACHM can be very proud of. She has helped me so very much! There are no better than Holly and her staff. They have been my heroes!”

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Advanced Care Hospital of Montana Named 2018 Recipient of “Chairman’s Award”

Jake Socha, Division President and Chris Bergh, SVP of Operations, present the Fuller Cup to Judi Powers, CEO and Mia Gravgaard, DMBD

Advanced Care Hospital of Montana has been presented with the Fuller Cup as the 2018 winner of the “Chairman’s Award.” The Fuller Cup is presented annually to the top performing hospital in the Ernest Health system.

“Accepting anything less than a relentless pursuit of high-quality patient care in a cost-responsible way is not an option at ACHM,” said Judi Powers, Chief Executive Officer of Advanced Care Hospital of Montana. “We are privileged to be able to care for the sickest of the sick patients in our communities while breathing life into our guiding principles.”

“Success is achieved through each and every team members’ dedication and daily interactions with our referring hospitals, physicians, and the patients,” Powers added. “We consider ourselves honored to be recognized by our system for standing out as exemplary amongst what could be considered the top post-acute care hospitals in the country. Thank you!”

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Advanced Care Hospital of Montana Honored with “LTACH Quality Award”

Judi Powers, CEO and Mia Gravgaard, DMBD, accept the LTACH Quality Award from Jake Socha, Division President and Chris Bergh, SVP of Operations

Advanced Care Hospital of Montana has been announced as the 2018 winner of the “LTACH Quality Award.” The award is presented annually to the top performing long-term acute care hospital (LTACH) in the Ernest Health system.

“On behalf of the entire team at Advanced Care Hospital of Montana, we are honored to accept the LTACH Quality Award,” said Judi Powers, Chief Executive Officer of Advanced Care Hospital of Montana.

“Keeping the focus on the care for our very ill patients is our highest priority,” added Powers.  “We are thrilled that our outcomes and quality reflect the job that our distinguished team does each and every day!”

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Tracy Brophy

Tracy Brophy is an independent 45-year-old woman, who worked at a local truck stop. When she was involved in a motor vehicle accident, Tracy’s life changed in an instant. Turning her vehicle around on the interstate, another vehicle struck Tracy’s from behind at 50 miles per hour. She was wearing her seatbelt and had to be extracted from her vehicle. Tracy initially complained of neck and back pain, for which she was placed in spinal precautions immediately. She did not lose consciousness.

Diagnostics revealed dislocation of Tracy’s C5 – C6, as well as T8 – T9 vertebral fractures, left rib fractures, a pneumothorax, and a splenic laceration. A CAT scan of Tracy’s head revealed no brain injury. Though she did not need surgery, Tracy did require a ventilator and eventually a tracheostomy.

When Tracy admitted to Advanced Care Hospital of Montana, she was off the ventilator, but still required oxygen. She could not tolerate a speaking valve to the tracheostomy, but could communicate by mouthing words and writing. A tube in her nose provided nutrition to Tracy’s stomach. She required maximum assistance for bed mobility. Therapy worked with Tracy on putting on and taking off her back brace, as well as increasing her mobility.

At the time of discharge, Tracy was at minimum assistance with bed mobility and contact guard assistance for sit-to-stand transfers. She could walk 275 feet with a front-wheeled walker. Tracy could tolerate the Nu-Step and other therapeutic exercises to improve her endurance and strength. Speech therapy assessed Tracy’s swallowing and was able to initiate oral intake six days after admission. Tracy’s tracheostomy was taken out and she could eat a regular diet with thin liquids.

Tracy discharged to an inpatient rehabilitation facility. There, she would receive a more focused, higher frequency of therapies to further advance her independence. Tracy’s ultimate goal is to be safe and independent in her own environment.

While at the time of writing, Tracy was not yet able to return to work, she is hopeful that will change after her next appointment. We wish Tracy the very best in her continued return to independence!

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What to Pack for a Hospital Stay

Whether you are a patient preparing for an inpatient hospital stay, or someone who’s loved one unexpectedly finds themselves in a hospital, having the right things for a hospital stay is important. Packing the right items will help make your stay less stressful and allow you to focus on your recovery.

Below you’ll find a summary of suggested items to pack for a hospital stay.


  • 5-6 outfits of loose fitting pants and tops
  • Undergarments
  • Sweater or jacket
  • Supportive pair of athletic shoes with non-skid soles
  • Night clothes (gown, robe, pajamas)


  • Soap, if you prefer a certain brand
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash & dentures
  • Comb, brush, shaving supplies & cosmetics
  • Deodorant, lotion, perfume, & aftershave


  • Insurance cards & medical information
  • Eyeglasses & hearing aids
  • Incontinence pads (if needed)
  • Pillow, blanket
  • Family pictures
  • Laundry basket or bag

Click here to download a printable version of this checklist

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Understanding Influenza: 5 Facts to Know this Flu Season

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the 2017-2018 flu season was one of the worst. Understanding Influenza – how it’s spread, how to prevent it, and the symptoms of the flu – can help keep you, and your community healthy this winter. Below are five flu facts to know as we enter flu season.

Can a flu shot give me the flu?

The Influenza vaccine is safe and cannot give you the Flu. It takes 2 weeks to build up your immunity, so you can contract the flu before developing the antibodies.

How is the flu spread?

Influenza is a contagious respiratory virus that spreads when you are exposed to an infected person that coughs or sneezes. It can also be spread by touching your nose, mouth or eyes after touching a surface with the virus on it.

How can I prevent the flu?

There are several things you can do to keep yourself flu-free! The most important step you can take is to get a flu vaccine each year. You can also help prevent getting the flu by frequently using hand sanitizer or washing your hands. Try to avoid touching your nose, mouth or eyes. Avoid spreading the flu by covering your coughs/sneezes and by staying home if you are sick. Additionally, be sure to keep surfaces in your home clean.

What are the symptoms of the flu?

Symptoms usually start 1-4 days after exposure and usually come on suddenly. You are most contagious in the first 3-4 days after the illness starts. However, you can infect others before you are symptomatic and up to a week after becoming sick.

Flu symptoms can range from mild to severe. They can include fever, headache, fatigue, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, sore throat, cough and chills. Seek medical care for any worsening symptoms.

What is the treatment for the flu?

Rest, pain relievers and extra fluids will help to lessen your symptoms. While antibiotics are not effective for the flu, there are prescription antiviral medications that can help to lessen the symptoms and shorten the duration. But, they must be started within 48 hours after onset.

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Resources for Caregivers

There are only four kinds of people in the world. Those who have been caregivers. Those who are currently caregivers. Those who will be caregivers, and those who will need a caregiver.” – Rosalyn Carter

Caregivers often hide in plain sight. They make up a substantial portion of the United States population. In the US alone, there are over 40 million unpaid caregivers for adults over the age of 65. We tend not to realize the strain put on an individual who cares for a loved one. Instead, we see only the selflessness with which they provide care. Unfortunately, there’s often more going on than we recognize.

Caring for a loved one can be overwhelming, particularly when providing care for a spouse. It’s important to understand and utilize the resources available to you as a caregiver. Here are some great resources for caregivers:

VA Caregiver Support

If you provide care for a veteran, the Veterans Administration has a number of resources available to you. Services offered include mentoring, diagnosis-specific tips and guidance. Additionally, help is available to care for your loved one so that you have time to care for yourself. Many of these services are provided at no cost.

Diagnosis-specific Support Networks

Many organizations offer online support networks for patients and caregivers, focused on specific diagnoses. These support networks typically have segments dedicated to the unique needs of caregivers. Some of the organizations offering these support networks include:

Local Support Groups

Hospitals often host support groups on a variety of topics. Some are diagnosis-specific. Others focus directly on caregivers. It can be quite helpful to connect with individuals who have had similar experiences to yours. Contact your local hospital to find out what support groups they host and when they meet.

An empty lantern provides no light. Self-care is the fuel that allows your light to shine brightly.” – Unknown

As a caregiver, it’s important not to neglect yourself. The resources above offer support so that you can care for yourself, too. Additionally, you may speak with your healthcare provider for more resources. Remember, taking good care of yourself is part of providing care to another!

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How to Spot a Stroke

Every 40 seconds, someone in the United States suffers a stroke. Every four minutes, someone dies.

Stroke is the fifth-leading cause of death in the United States, responsible for about one out of every 20 deaths.

As many as 80% of strokes may be preventable. But if someone is suffering a stroke, one of the most important factors is time. Knowing the signs of stroke, and what to do in that situation, could save a person’s life.

All you need to remember is F-A-S-T.

F: Face Drooping

Look at the person’s face. Does one side droop? Do they feel numbness on one side of their face?
Action item: Ask the person to smile. Is their smile lopsided or uneven?

A: Arm Weakness

Does the person feel numbness or weakness in one arm?
Action item: Ask the person to raise both arms above their head. Are they able to lift both arms? Does one arm drift downward?

S: Speech Difficulty

Is the person making sense when they speak? Are their words slurred?
Action item: Ask the person to say a simple sentence, like “The sky is blue.” Can you understand what they say?

T: Time to Call 9-1-1

If any of these symptoms are present, call 9-1-1 immediately. Tell the operator you think someone is having a stroke. Do this even if these symptoms disappear. Time is critical, so it is important to get them to the hospital right away. Be sure to note the time when the symptoms appeared.
Action item: Call 9-1-1!

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Physical Therapy and Respiratory Failure

Physical therapy can play an important role in many patients’ recoveries. And this holds true for patients who are on ventilators as well.

Studies have shown that early movement in patients on ventilators – like sitting, standing, and even walking – can provide better recoveries.

Physical therapists can help patients on ventilators begin moving as soon as possible. This may include progressing from arm movements to sitting on the edge of the bed to even walking down the hall. This is all while the patient is still on a ventilator.

If it doesn’t sound like an easy feat, it’s because it’s not. It requires determination from the patient. Often, it also requires the help of several healthcare professionals to ensure the patient’s safety.

But, it’s worth it.

Every step the patient takes – literally and figuratively – provides for a better chance of recovery.

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