The Latest News


S. Burchard Avenue Closed Monday

June 18, 2021 – The City of Freeport will close Burchard Avenue from La Cresta Drive to the FHN Family Healthcare Center - Burchard Hills in Freeport from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, June 21. Access to the FHN Burchard Hills location will be available via W. South Street from the east.

All departments at the FHN Family Healthcare Center “ Burchard Hills in Freeport will be open as usual.

Lee Sesslar, MD Joins FHN Ob/Gyn Team

May 11, 2021 – Board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist Lee Sesslar, MD, FACOG has joined the FHN Women's Healthcare team.

Dr. Sesslar earned her medical degree from the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Rockford and served her Ob/Gyn residency at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill. She has been caring for women in the Rockford area since 2003.

She is welcoming new patients at FHN Specialty Care - Harlem Avenue in Freeport. To make an appointment with Dr. Sesslar, call 815-599-7750.

Dr. Sesslar holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in biology from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. She has served as a clinical instructor at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Rockford. As part of a mission trip to Tegucigalpa, Honduras, she provided gynecologic care and performed major gynecologic surgeries in remote villages.

Dr. Sesslar is a Fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and a member of the Illinois State Medical Society and the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society.

For more information on Dr. Sesslar and the Ob/Gyn services offered at FHN, visit www.fhn.org.

FHN Experts Urge Caution - and Vaccination - as Area ‘Opens Up'

May 10, 2021 – FHN President and CEO Mark Gridley, MBA, FACHE and FHN Family Counseling Center Senior Clinical Case Manager Wendy McGath, BA, MHP, FRD talk about the area's vaccination progress and “opening up” safely in the latest FHN COVID-19 update video.

About 27 percent of the general population has been vaccinated against COVID-19, Gridley said, referencing Stephenson County Health Department statistics. More than 70 percent of the age 65 and older population has received their vaccinations, and anyone age 18 and up can now easily get an appointment to get vaccinated.

“Anyone can schedule an appointment for their COVID-19 vaccination at www.fhn.org,” Gridley said. “All available FHN appointments are listed on the appointment request page, and there are plenty of open spots, so we encourage everyone to sign up and get their shot.”

Along with getting vaccinated, Gridley and McGath both urge people to be careful and keep following pandemic safety protocols, even as restaurants and businesses across northwest Illinois open up.

“It might be difficult for people to keep staying home, now that COVID-19 numbers are down and vaccinations are available,” McGath said. “But we're asking that people stay cautious and keep following the COVID-19 hygiene protocols just a little while longer, until we're all sure it's safe.”

McGath said that people who have been vaccinated can feel safe gathering, without wearing masks, in small groups with other people who have received the vaccine. Everyone, regardless of their vaccination status, should continue to follow the CDC guidelines - wear a mask when you're out in public, keep 6 feet away from others, and maintain good hand hygiene by washing and sanitizing hands often.

“We're all still in this together,” McGath said. “We all still need to protect the people who are most vulnerable for just a little while longer.”

The current FHN COVID-19 update video, as well as all previous pandemic-related videos, can be viewed at www.fhn.org/coronavirus.

FHN, Area Schools Observing National Prevention Week May 9-15

May 4, 2021 – The Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is celebrating the 10th anniversary of National Prevention Week (NPW) May 9-15, 2021. NPW was started by SAMHSA to bring substance misuse awareness and prevention messages to communities through local activities, events, and programs.

Through the support of the Substance Use Prevention Services grant funded by the Illinois Department of Human Services, FHN has partnered with the Galena High School Key Club and the Highland Community College Servant Leadership group to plan and implement activities at their schools in Jo Daviess and Stephenson County throughout the week.

Forrestville Valley, Lena-Winslow, and Galena high schools are planning to do sidewalk chalk drawings and positive messages. Orangeville High School will be distributing nicotine-free and mental health awareness pledge cards to its students. Galena High School will be handing out daily giveaways to students with messages that support the school's theme for the week, “Pirates Be Healthy in Mind and Body,” and have daily awareness themes from NPW.

The Highland Community College Servant Leadership group's regional project this year is focused on mental health awareness. Students from Aquin High School designed t-shirts that the Servant Leadership group will be wearing Friday, May 14 to bring awareness to mental health issues and suicide prevention.

Several other activities, such as daily dress-up days, student-designed posters, and guest speakers also are being planned at local schools.

NPW encourages local groups to spread alcohol and drug misuse awareness and promote prevention efforts in their communities. The FHN Prevention Team would like to recognize and thank the Galena Key Club and the Highland Community College Servant Leadership group for their support in planning and implementing these activities at their schools.

Visit www.fhn.org/SUP for information and downloadable materials for National Prevention Week or for additional resources regarding Youth Mental Health and Prevention.

FHN Instituting New Patient Picture Initiative

April 30, 2021 – Keeping patients' identity and health information safe and private is a priority for FHN. This May, FHN is implementing a Patient Picture Initiative to help protect patients' identity.

Beginning May 3, members of FHN's Patient Service Team will take a photo of each patient as they arrive at FHN clinic locations. Other opportunities to take a photo will be pursued in the hospital setting, but the process will not interfere with urgent care. Patients will know when their photo is being taken: They will be asked to stand still and look at the camera and remove their facemask, if comfortably able to do so.

Patients' photos will be safely stored in their electronic health record and will be used to verify their identity at each visit. This extra step helps FHN to prevent privacy violations, billing errors, insurance fraud, identity theft, and errors in care. FHN will routinely update photos of patients under the age of 18 to reflect their current age and development.

Alternative identification measures can be taken for patients who wish to not have photos taken of themselves or their minor children.

For more information on FHN, visit www.fhn.org.

FHN Experts: COVID-19 Timeline is Up to You

April 29, 2021 – FHN President and CEO Mark Gridley, MBA, FACHE, reports that FHN's COVID-19 vaccination clinics are running smoothly, but hitting a goal of “opening up” by July 4 is up to members of the community.

“It depends on how well we all stick to the mitigation efforts,” Gridley said. “Please continue to wear your mask, maintain social distance and avoid crowds, and wash or sanitize your hands frequently. If you aren't vaccinated, please consider getting your COVID-19 vaccination.”

FHN COO/CNO Kathryn Martinez, MSN, RN, FACHE, also serves as FHN's incident commander during the COVID-19 pandemic. She's in charge of coordinating FHN's mitigation and vaccination efforts, and says that FHN opened up self scheduling for vaccination appointments for the sake of convenience.

“Self-scheduling is more efficient and lets people sign up for a time that's right for them,” Martinez said. “It's easy to sign up online at fhn.org, and we are urging anyone over the age of 18 to go online and make an appointment.”

The amount of vaccine available still varies day-to-day, but she says that FHN's vaccination clinic site at 1763 S. Dirck Drive in Freeport generally administers at least 120 vaccinations a day, Monday through Friday.

If a day's appointments aren't filled, FHN shares that information and welcomes walk-in appointments with notifications on the organizations' Facebook page (facebook.com/FHNhealth) and with a sign outside the Dirck Drive building.

The latest FHN COVID-19 update video, is available at www.fhn.org/coronavirus.

FHN Hosts COVID-19 Vaccination Self-Scheduling

April 20, 2021 – Ten FHN COVID-19 vaccination clinics in Freeport through April and May are currently open for scheduling at www.fhn.org/vaccinationsignup.

All currently available appointments are posted on FHN's self-scheduling site above, and any adult may claim an appointment time online.

Appointments are booked in pairs to ensure that everyone receives the correct second dose of vaccine at the correct time.

FHN is discontinuing use of its COVID-19 vaccine waiting list as of Friday, April 23. Persons currently on the list are encouraged to book a convenient appointment online.

Complete information about each vaccination clinic is available on the registration page. For more information on COVID-19, visit www.fhn.org/coronavirus.

FHN Transitioning from Waiting List to Self-Registration for COVID-19 Vaccination Events Appointments Available Starting this Saturday

April 14, 2021 – As more and more people in the community are vaccinated, a majority of calls FHN team members place to people on its waiting list to schedule appointments go unanswered or the appointments are unneeded due to people being vaccinated elsewhere, needing to postpone their appointment, or for other reasons. Making hundreds of calls is not only time-consuming, but also slows down the process of getting to people who are waiting to be vaccinated. Therefore, FHN is transitioning to a self-scheduling process for vaccination appointments.

The first self-scheduling COVID-19 vaccination event is Saturday, April 17, for which anyone over the age of 18 may directly register themselves for an appointment slot. The vaccine at this event will be Moderna, a two-dose vaccine which has only received emergency use authorization in people over 18, so participants must be available for a second shot in 28 days. (Future events that utilize the Pfizer vaccine will be open for anyone over 16 as it has received emergency use authorization for those 16 and 17 as well as older individuals; this will be noted in the registration for those events.) As always, there is a defined supply of vaccine and the number of appointments available is based on that quantity. The same will be true of similar events in the future.

“If you are currently on the FHN waiting list and have not yet been called for an appointment, please feel free to register yourself for this event at www.fhn.org/vaccination," said FHN Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Kathy Martinez, MSN, RN, FACHE. “We will announce future vaccination events on our website (www.fhn.org), our Facebook page, and through traditional media when possible.”

“We want to be sure that we are vaccinating all eligible people as quickly as possible while providing flexibility for appointments,” Martinez said. “We will continue to call names on the waiting list through Friday, April 23, but we also encourage everyone to keep checking back and self-schedule an appointment as soon as they can.”

FHN Experts Talk About Healthy Diet, Exercise in Time of COVID-19

April 9, 2021 – FHN President and CEO Mark Gridley, MBA, FACHE talks with a panel of FHN experts about improving one's health as the area welcomes spring weather in the latest FHN COVID-19 update video.

Despite an uptick in COVID-19 activity in the area, Gridley reports that FHN's vaccination efforts are going well. “The process is very efficient, and our vaccine supply is becoming more consistent,” Gridley said. “And as of now, anyone over the age of 16 is encouraged to get on our vaccine waiting list at www.fhn.org.”

FHN Family Medicine physician Danny Isawi, MD encourages people to work toward a healthier lifestyle, as the long-term effects of not eating well and being sedentary include diabetes, high blood pressure, and even heart disease.

“Being outdoors is one of the safest places you can be, in terms of the spread of the virus, and being outside has a great impact on your mood and energy levels, as well,” Dr. Isawi said. “Choose activities you enjoy, and find small areas in your diet to improve, like cutting out junk food. I also highly recommend that everyone get vaccinated against COVID-19, continue wearing a mask, and stay optimistic “ together, we can have an excellent 2021.”

Increasing one's activity level comes down to including intentional movement in day-to-day life, said FHN Athletic Trainer Jennifer Thompson, ATC, LAT. “You don't need a gym membership, and you don't have to run a 5K every weekend. Just increase your movement “ do some exercise during TV commercials, take time to stretch between meetings, move around while food is warming up in the microwave.”

Take it slow at first, she cautions: “We let our cars warm up on a cold winter day, and we owe our bodies the same thing. You may feel like you don't have the time to do ‘enough' exercise, but remember, the ultimate goal is to just get moving. Something is better than nothing.”

Thompson shares her favorite advice for people looking to increase their activity. “Six words: Make it fun. Keep it fun. If you enjoy doing it, you'll keep doing it.”

FHN/Aramark Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist Ryan Kerr, MS, RDN, LDN refers to the USDA's MyPlate as a great example of a well-balanced meal. “Aim for half of your plate to be fruits and vegetables, a quarter whole grains, and a quarter lean protein,” Kerr said. “Add low-fat dairy, and you have a healthy plate.”

He shares some ideas for increasing one's intake of fruits and vegetables, including using a new fruit or vegetable in multiple meals each week, buying produce from local farmers' markets, trying different cuisines, and shopping around the perimeter of the grocery.

Make sure healthy snacks are available, by having fruits and vegetables prepped and ready. “My favorite snacks are pistachios and grapes, and in the summer, you can pop the grapes in the freezer so they're like a Popsicle.”

View the full video online at www.fhn.org/coronavirus. Past update videos and COVID-19 related information can be found there, as well.

FHN Community Garden Spaces Available for 2021

April 6, 2021 – After a long winter -and the stress of trying to stay healthy through a pandemic - it's important to get outside and active for your health. This spring and summer, families are invited to get out in the garden for some exercise, fresh air and - eventually -healthy, fresh produce this year by taking part in FHN's Community Garden!

Spaces are available in FHN's Community Garden for this growing season. The raised garden beds, 4 x 8 feet, are $25 each. The Community Garden is located behind the FHN Family Healthcare Center - Burchard Hills, 1010 W. Fairway Drive in Freeport. Applications for the 2021 growing season are due by Friday, May 28, and planting can begin as soon as the beds are prepared.

Community partners in the FHN Community Garden project include Sparrow Lawn; Anne's Garden Center and Landscape Supply; Hasken Construction LLC; Fischer Excavating; Hunter Haven Farms; the City of Freeport; and the University of Illinois Extension.

For more information and to download an application, visit www.fhn.org/communitygarden or call toll-free 1-877-6000-FHN (1-877-600-0346) ext. 901.

FHN Experts: Don't Wait to Get on the Vaccine Waiting List

April 2, 2021 – FHN President and CEO Mark Gridley, MBA, FACHE and Clinical Nurse Leader Tracy Love, MSN, RN, CNL share details about getting on the FHN COVID-19 vaccination list - and other lists in the area - in the latest FHN COVID-19 update video.

The list, Love said, is open to anyone ages 16 and up, and there's no reason to wait to put your name on the list. “We're currently vaccinating people on our list who are 65 and over and those in Phases 1A and 1B Plus, and when we get through all of those vaccinations, we'll start calling the rest of the people on the list,” she said.

Because names are being added to the list all the time and FHN's supply of vaccine varies, there is no place to look up where you are on the list, Love said. “Rest assured, we will call you when vaccine is available for you,” Love said.

To make sure you get your call, she said, “Please make sure you answer any 599 calls. That is the number we will be dialing from. If it's a spam call, you can always hang up, but if it's us, we need to get hold of you!”

She reminds people to remember to bring a photo ID and arrive to the clinic location (1763 S. Dirck Drive in Freeport) about 5 minutes early. Those arriving earlier for their appointments may be asked to wait in their car.

“FHN team members have been working hard to speed up the vaccination process,” Gridley said. “We can administer a vaccine about every minute, so our speed now really depends on the space and the supply of vaccine available.”

Gridley said that FHN gets a weekly allocation of doses from area health departments, and the amount varies each week. “We and many other groups are advocating and asking (state and local governments) for more vaccine, but there is a lot of competition.”

The process is working well, Gridley said, noting that FHN has been able to use all of the vaccine the organization has received. “We don't want to waste vaccine, and so far, we haven't wasted any.”

This week's update video, as well as further information about COVID-19 and vaccinations, is available at www.fhn.org/coronavirus.

FHN Orangeville Primary Care Integrated into FHN Family Healthcare Centers in Freeport and Lena

March 26, 2021 – FHN has announced expanded office availability as well as access to additional healthcare services such as physical therapy, onsite digital imaging, and multiple care specialties at its Family Healthcare Centers at Burchard Hills in Freeport and in Lena, IL.

According to FHN President and CEO Mark Gridley, “We are working to maximize healthcare offerings throughout the entire region and with the closure of the FHN Family Healthcare Center - Orangeville, we are pleased to offer more services and accessibility for these families through Dr. Jeffrey Schleich, the previous primary care provider for Orangeville, at his office in Freeport at the Family Healthcare Center - Burchard Hills and at the FHN Family Healthcare Center - Lena later this year as he becomes the primary care provider there when Dr. Shokry Tawfik retires after 36 years with FHN serving patients throughout northwest Illinois. We are grateful that over the past several years when The FHN Family Healthcare Center - Orangeville has operated on a very limited basis, our patients there have been very accommodating and have readily adapted to a short drive to visit Dr. Schleich and other FHN providers at nearby locations.”

The FHN Family Healthcare Center - Orangeville, which will be closed effective immediately, opened in 1995. For more information about FHN locations and services, visit www.fhn.org.

FHN Update on COVID-19 Vaccinations

March 25, 2021 – As more vaccine becomes available throughout the country, case numbers nationally have come down or leveled off since a peak late in 2020 and residents in FHN's northwest Illinois service area are getting vaccinated against COVID-19 in ever-increasing numbers. Most vaccinations here so far have been done with two-dose vaccines that require a second shot, 21 days after the first one for the Pfizer vaccine and 28 days after the first one for the Moderna vaccine. The one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine is just beginning to be distributed and used here.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have treated over 380 COVID-19 patients at FHN Memorial Hospital,” said Mark Gridley, FHN President and CEO. “In addition, we've tested almost 19,000 people for the virus, opened our Acute Respiratory Clinic to serve both COVID-19 patients and those with other respiratory conditions, and administered 6,183 doses of vaccine. Our staff are currently vaccinating individuals three days every week at our dedicated COVID-19 vaccination location at 1763 S. Dirck Dr. in Freeport, as well as hundreds more at community events throughout Northwest Illinois.”

Since the beginning of vaccine distribution, only county health departments have been able to order vaccine for use by healthcare organizations and a different process entirely is in place for vaccines administered by retail pharmacies. According to FHN Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer/Chief Nursing Officer Kathy Martinez, “FHN has worked closely with the Stephenson County Health Department (SCHD) to ensure that we can maximize vaccination efforts for our area. For example, on March 2 we jointly announced consolidation of the online appointment request process for COVID-19 vaccinations. At that time, FHN took over management of the online registration list for Stephenson County, as well as making it available for other counties we serve. Since almost all vaccinations are currently being done by appointment only, we also are responsible for making a majority of calls to people on the list to set up their appointments - we average 150-200 calls per day. We are also vaccinating an average of 300-500 people per week using vaccine requested by the SCHD for our use.”

At the time of the list consolidation, Stephenson County Health Administrator Craig Beintema said, “We are glad to turn over the process of maintaining and implementing the process for the vaccination waiting list to FHN. As the availability of vaccines expands and ever more people need to be scheduled, our limited staff will be fully engaged in requesting the vaccine from the Illinois Department of Public Health and distributing it for use throughout the County, as well as participating in many upcoming vaccination events. This will allow us to concentrate on those important tasks.”

Please note that figures in this release may not directly match statistics for Stephenson County available through the Illinois Department of Public Health. Since FHN serves multiple counties in northwest Illinois this represents more patients than the numbers for Stephenson County available through the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Those in northwest Illinois wishing to be added to the FHN list for vaccination appointments may do so at www.fhn.org/vaccination-waitlist.asp.

FHN Get Fit Challenge Goes Virtual for 2021

March 24, 2021 – The weather is getting warm, and nearly everyone is itching to get outside and get moving! This year's FHN Get Fit 2021 program is pandemic-safe, and heavy on tips, videos, and recipes to help participants work toward a healthy, fit spring and summer “ and beyond!

Get Fit 2021 is a FREE 12-week, all-online, individual program this year. It's not yet safe to gather people together for pre-event screenings as has been done in past years, so the team competition has been put aside for this year and the focus is on helping participants work toward their personal best. GetFit 2021 runs from March 24 through June 5 and people can join at any time during the program.

Participants will still be able to earn and keep track of exercising, eating fruits and veggies, and getting enough water via recommended online wellness trackers, and FHN's special Get Fit 2021 site will include videos from FHN physical therapists, dietitians, and other experts to help everyone learn fun new exercises, recipes and more. There may even be a few fun surprises in store!

Sign-up for FHN's Get Fit 2021 opens March 24 at www.fhn.org/getfit.