Medicine infused with faith
Sometimes, a door must close so God can open a different one.
While Nicole Havrilla, the founder and president of WholeLife Authentic Care, was searching for property on which to build a medical clinic, she found a building that she thought would work. Her mood fell when the deal collapsed. Then it happened a second time. And one more time after that.
Then, the realtor presented Havrilla and two donors a 17,000-square-foot former church. It was much too big — three times the planned size for the medical office. After initially dismissing the property, they decided to stop, pray, and see what God wanted them to do. Apparently, He wanted them to think bigger.
WholeLife Authentic Care became a reality on paper on Sept. 23, 2014 — the feast day of St. Padre Pio — when legal forms were filed in Austin. Five years later, it’s a brick-and-mortar reality. On November 5, the clinic’s doors will open for the first time.
One could say that WholeLife Authentic Care will specialize in opening doors that have been closed.
Breaking new ground
For women suffering from infertility, PMS, menstrual cramps, ovarian cysts, and a host of other gynecological problems, the standard of medical care often masks the symptoms with birth control pills, shots, or other medications. Doctors recommend in vitro fertilization to infertile couples.
A sliver of gynecologists offers an alternative. NaProTECHNOLOGY (Natural Procreative Technology) analyzes a woman’s hormones to find the reason for her symptoms, then finds a surgical or medical solution that cooperates with her reproductive system, rather than controlling it. How tiny is this sliver? Only 28 gynecological surgeons in the U.S. have completed the fellowship at the St. Paul VI Institute in Omaha, Nebraska to learn these techniques.
Nicole Havrilla, a parishioner at St. Patrick Cathedral, was one of those patients seeking a natural, Church-approved solution to the endometriosis, cysts, and low progesterone that prevented her from carrying a baby to term. She and her husband traveled to Omaha to be treated by a physician trained in NaProTECHNOLOGY.
Now the mother of three, Havrilla’s experience fueled her five-year quest to bring access to NaPro to Metroplex women.
Molla Family Center
The medical clinic, located at 1000 Bonnie Brae Ave. just a few minutes northeast of downtown Fort Worth, will launch in phases. First, a few exam rooms, a waiting area, and a small business office will open.
High on the priority list is an authentic Catholic chapel, according to Havrilla. Patients will have a quiet place to reflect and pray about medical news — positive or negative.
As more patient space is ready, a physical therapist with a concentration in pelvic health will move into the facility. Havrilla has earmarked rooms for other healthcare professionals, such as counselors or a lactation consultant, as well as rooms for classes and meetings.
The center bears the name of St. Gianna Molla, the patron saint of mothers, physicians, and unborn children. An Italian pediatrician and mother, the saint died in 1962 after delivering her fourth child, whom doctors advised her to abort due to a tumor in the mother’s uterus.
Havrilla hopes dedicating the building to St. Gianna Molla will attract Catholic patients without deterring non-Catholics. In her years as a certified Creighton model practitioner, Havrilla has met many non-Catholic women who prefer to manage their fertility naturally and eschew artificial hormones.
Havrilla pointed out WholeLife Authentic Care is “not a Catholic thing at all. Women will be shown such care and grace…. We will be able to minister to them. It’s medicine with this underpinning of pro-life, this underpinning of faith.”
Catholics, however, will feel especially at home. Patient exam rooms will feature the stained-glass windows of the former church.
A great gift
Holly Shepherd and her husband were infertile for seven years. Multiple visits to three or four different gynecologists yielded no diagnosis, much less a solution. Physicians said their infertility was unexplained and encouraged them to try IVF.
Shepherd, a nurse, was knowledgeable about health matters and comfortable with advocating for her health. “Not being able to find out what was wrong was frustrating,” she recalled.
The Catholic couple pursued growing their family through adoption to no avail.
She was “at her lowest point” when she heard about NaPro. She and her husband drove the two-and-a-half hours from their home in Milwaukee to Green Bay to see Dr. Melissa Weidert, who completed a fellowship in medical and surgical NaPro at the St. Paul VI Institute.
According to Shepherd, Dr. Weidert was “incredible. She spent two hours with me and asked me a ton of questions to find out what was wrong.” The bloating, abdominal pain, and fatigue that other physicians had “glossed over” indicated Shepherd suffered from endometriosis.
Dr. Weidert performed laparoscopic surgery, and she corrected Shepherd’s progesterone, estrogen, and thyroid hormone levels. Almost immediately, Shepherd said she “felt better, healthy.” And within four months, she was pregnant.
Dr. Weidert has moved to Fort Worth to practice at WholeLife Authentic Care. Shepherd, who is expecting her second child, said, “Fort Worth is getting a great gift with Dr. Weidert.”
Not just for infertility
A graduate of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine, Dr. Weidert chose the narrow path in her training as an obstetrician/gynecologist. In medical school and residency, her faith-forward approach to her career meant that she didn’t prescribe artificial birth control or perform sterilizations.
Dr. Weidert said her NaPro training is the “ultimate toolbox” and yields success rates two to three times higher than IVF. In addition to the lifelong benefit of healing the underlying condition, she cites the moral value of medical care that follows God’s natural plan.
She reflected, “We know that God created us as human beings. The way that we treat our body, is that respectful of how God created the vessel?”
Also, Dr. Weidert is a “safe option” for teenagers, according to Havrilla, because she will not espouse anything that goes against Church teaching. Furthermore, Havrilla was moved by the compassion Dr. Weidert exhibits for women who are hurt physically, spiritually, or mentally by abortion, IVF, or other practices.
Jessica Rodriguez, RN, the clinic’s practice manager, encourages women with gynecologic concerns to resolve them before they struggle with infertility. Her symptoms began at age 14 with painful periods, and they were not resolved until she began seeing a NaPro practitioner in Austin after she and her husband wrestled with infertility.
The “restorative medicine” not only resolved her difficult periods, but she and her husband are parents of three. She said, “It gets women to a better state of health.”
Whole Family Care
Havrilla and co-founder Mandy Cox decided on the name WholeLife Authentic Care during a cut-and-paste session over coffee.
They began with “whole” to represent care for women during their whole lifetime, as well as care for the whole family.
Family medicine physician Dr. Sally Kurz will treat the whole family at WholeLife Authentic Care, from newborns to the elderly.
The Texas native attended UT Southwestern Medical School in Dallas, where she studied the usual anatomy, pharmacology, pathology — plus the pro-life teachings of the Catholic Church.
In the secular environment of medical school, she explained, “Catholics were considered quite odd. I needed to defend the Church; I needed to defend life.”
A parishioner at Holy Redeemer in Aledo, Dr. Kurz completed the Creighton Medical Consultant training program through the St. Paul VI Institute. She considers faith-based physicians under-represented in the medical field.
As the clinic neared completion, Havrilla and practice manager Rodriguez began a waiting list of prospective patients. More than 600 women have called or completed the notification on their website, WholeLifeAC.com.
The long journey from idea to existence has been “totally God,” said Havrilla. “It’s fun to see the Holy Spirit moments” as obstacles disappear, or the right person emerges to assist with the next step of development.
“It’s designed by God,” Havrilla reflected, “This will change the face of healthcare for women in this community.”