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Cancer Support Group

by Terri Coolong, CSG leader

March 4- A cancer diagnosis can be a very lonely and isolating experience, especially if the patient doesn’t already have familiarity with cancer. This isolation can lead to distress, fear, and feelings of abnormality. Numerous studies show that attending a support group can help alleviate these feelings. Research has further shown that giving cancer patients information in a support group setting can help reduce tension, anxiety, fatigue, and may lower the risk of depression.

People give numerous reasons for not attending cancer support groups: they may not feel well enough to attend, they may feel that they have good support at home, they may feel uncomfortable opening up about their feelings, or they may be avoiding contact with cancer. Although these are all valid reasons, research shows that patients who attend support groups generally have a greatly improved quality of life and tolerate treatment better than those who try to go it alone. Research has shown that people with cancer are better able to deal with their disease when supported by others in similar situations.

A 1989 study by Dr. David Spiegel linked attendance at support groups with an overall increased length of survival. Although this study was flawed, more recent studies show that patients are more likely to attend their appointments and take prescribed medications if they are actively involved in a supportive group. According to CURE magazine, patients with support can tolerate more chemotherapy over time, compared with patients who lack support, and are 60% less likely to drop out of their chemotherapy regimens.

So what can you expect from a cancer support group? Most attendees say that they look for encouragement, inspiration, optimism, hope for improved survival and quality of life, advice, and relief from depression, fear, and anger. Participants say that they get a sense of belonging from the group, and a feeling that they are not alone. Group members are tolerant of emotions, without requiring an explanation or offering solutions. They also are more open to discussions of cancer and death than family members might be. A strong level of humor is usually present, which is effective in coping with adversity.

Benefits of participating in support groups may include:
- Gaining a sense of empowerment and control
- Feeling less lonely, isolated or judged
- Improving your coping skills
- Talking openly and honestly about your feelings
- Reducing anxiety, distress, and depression
- Understanding your situation better
- Getting practical advice or information about treatment options
- Comparing notes about resources, such as doctors and alternative options

A cancer diagnosis is not only about how long you live, but also how well you live. And the research is clear: support groups can improve your quality of life and help you to live better. The PVH Cancer Support Group meets the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of the month from 6:00-7:15pm in Conference Room B. Meetings this month are March 11 and 25. For more information, leave a message on the hotline at 794-7149.

Diabetes support group

March 4 - St. Joseph Diabetes and Nutrition Center sponsors a free diabetes support group for diabetics and their family members 1-2 p.m. the first Wednesdays of March, April, May, September, October and November, at Willette Conference Center, Building 1, St. Joseph Healthcare Park, 900 Broadway, Bangor. Group members share tips on diabetes management, and the discussion is led by a diabetes specialist. St. Joseph Healthcare’s Diabetes and Nutrition Center at 907-1836.

Choking Hazards in Children

by Christopher Grindle, MD, reprinted from the American Academy of Otolaryngology

Feb. 25— Choking is a leading cause of unintentional injury and death in children; especially those under three years of age. In 2001, 17,500 children under 14 were treated in emergency departments for choking. According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology, choking is the fourth leading cause of death in children behind motor vehicle injuries, drowning and fires. Hazards come in the form of small household items, button batteries, and even food. In fact 60 percent of the episodes were caused by food items according to reports from the International Journal of Pediatric Otolaryngology.

Often, the risk of choking is either overlooked or underappreciated and therefore not avoided. In light of this, the following are some suggestions to reduce the risk of choking.
· Recognize the problem. The foods that pose the highest risk of a choking hazard according to the American Academy of Pediatrics are:
Nuts Seeds Raw Carrots
Hot Dogs Whole Grapes Popcorn
Meat and Cheese Chunks Hard Candy Fruit Chunks
Peanut Butter Chunks Chewing Gum
· Do not feed children younger than four years old round firm food, unless it is chopped completely. Pieces should be no larger than ½ inch (1.27cm). Hot dogs should be cut lengthwise as well as widthwise.
· Do not give peanuts to children younger than seven years old.
· Chewing gum is inappropriate for young children.
· Actively supervise your children while eating. Do not let children run and play while eating.
· Teach your children to chew and swallow food before talking and playing.

Since 1980, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has mandated that all toys that fit within a small parts test cylinder (diameter 1 ¼ inch) must be labeled for children over three years as a choking hazard. It is important to read and pay attention to manufacturers warnings. If you are not certain about a toy, you can purchase a small parts test cylinder, or easier, you can use a toilet paper roll (diameter 1 ¾ inch). If the toy passes easily through the roll, it may pose a choking risk.
· Common household items that pose a choking risk are:
Balloons Marbles Small Balls
Coins Toys with Small Parts Pen or Marker Caps or Medicine Syringes
· Toys that can fit entirely into your child’s mouth.
· Balloons remain a hazard for children up to eight years of age.

Of particular concern, are small button-type batteries. These are becoming more commonly found, even in greeting cards. They are a problem not only because of their size and shape, but also because of the energy that they discharge when contacting inner body parts. This can lead to damage (erosion or perforation) within two hours of ingestion.

From 1997–2010, an estimated 40,400 children 13 or younger were treated in hospital emergency departments for battery-related injuries. There was a 2.5-fold increase in these cases, from 1,900 in 1998 to 4,800 in 2010. From 1995-2010, there were 14 battery-related deaths, all involving children age four years or less. The risks of battery ingestion are significant and require prompt attention and management.   


In summary: Avoidance is the best way to prevent childhood choking.
· Learn CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation or basic life support).
· Insist that children eat while sitting down.
· Be aware of older children’s actions – many choking incidents occur because the older sibling unknowingly gave the dangerous food or item to the younger sibling.
· Follow age recommendations on packages.
· Check under furniture and between cushions for small parts that may cause choking.
· Do not let infants and young children play with coins.

Only through a concerted and collaborative effort between parents, teachers and healthcare providers can there be a reduction in choking related injuries and deaths.

At Penobscot Valley Hospital, Brian Miller, MD is an otolaryngologist who sees ENT (Ear, Nose & Throat) patients in the Specialty Clinic located at 252 Enfield Road in the PVH Medical Arts Building. “With some concerted effort, we all can play an important role in reducing childhood choking hazards,” states Dr. Miller. Parents and caregivers wishing to learn child and infant First Aid & CPR techniques should attend the hospital’s two-night course for just $50 on March 4 & 6 from 5-8pm. Call 794-7101 and register today as space is limited.

A child can suffer from dangerous chemical burns in as little as two hours if a button battery is ingested. Keep these and other small hazards away from children. http://www.cpsc.gov//PageFiles/115601/buttonbattery.pdf 

 

New moms survey

Area healthcare providers are hoping to learn more about your opinions on obstetric (OB) care in northern Maine. If you live in Penobscot County and have given birth at a hospital within the last five years, please share your opinion. A short, five minute survey is available at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/OBServices, on our Facebook page, or for a paper copy, please call 794-7324. Your confidential responses will help shape the future for obstetrics in our community.

Hospitalists are here when you need them

Feb. 11— Over the last seven months, the team of Hospitalists at Penobscot Valley Hospital have been settling into their new positions and making a positive impact. Doctors Agarwal, Javed, Junaidi and Roa started as Hospitalists on July 1, 2013 and have been delivering excellent patient care for the inpatients who spend the night at the hospital.
The Hospitalists are providers who specialize in caring for patients during their stay in the hospital. They are the physicians who organize the patient’s care between departments and serve as the point of contact for other doctors and nurses, including the patient’s primary care physician (PCP). A good part of their job involves communications and coordination of care.
“Communication with other physicians has enabled us to better understand a patient’s health status and allows us to provide individualized care,” states Hospitalist Devesh Agarwal, MD.

The Hospitalists enjoy collaborating with families on patient care to ensure the best possible outcome for their loved ones. In a recent survey, one patient noted, “[My] daughter was very pleased with communication with doctors and able to contact them.”

Another patient commented in the survey, “All staff [are] very intelligent and kind - made me feel like I would be better soon. [I] would tell others how super the hospital is, we are fortunate to have this wonderful facility.”

Since the Hospitalists now cover the service 24/7 in-house, they are able to meet with families after regular business hours. This is much more convenient for many working families who may have missed rounding during the day. If you have a loved one in the hospital, simply ask your nurse any time you would like to meet with the Hospitalist.

Evening coverage by a doctor also means that the hospital is able to care for more critical cases. In the past, very sick patients sometimes were transferred to other facilities that could monitor their care more closely over night. Now patients can remain at PVH for their recovery, minimizing unnecessary and uncomfortable transportation requirements.

To expand and enhance the services provided to our community, the Hospitalists have each joined committees within the hospital. They are involved in quality assurance, medical records and utilization, inpatient care, computerized physician order entry, and maternal fetal medicine. Their commitment to quality care is evident not only in their work with patients, but in their desire to accomplish new goals within the facility.

Dr. Agarwal adds, “I’ve enjoyed my time serving on the Computerized Physician Order Entry Committee and Maternal Fetal Medicine Committee. Our work identifies process improvements to ultimately enhance patient safety and care.”

The next time you—or someone you know—is admitted to PVH, rest assured that our team of Hospitalists has the qualifications and tools to render excellent care during your hospital stay. They will work together to coordinate patient care while reducing the length of stay in the hospital and keeping treatment costs to a minimum. 

Hospitalist Babar Junaidi, MD and Unit Coordinator Lynn Welch review a chart at Station 1 in Penobscot Valley Hospital to help coordinate care with a patient’s primary care physician. (Photo courtesy of Penobscot Valley Hospital)

Wear Red on February 7

by Brittany Libbey, Hospital Intern

Feb. 4 — Although heart disease is the #1 killer among women in America, most women are unaware of the risks and don’t recognize the symptoms of cardiovascular stress. February 7 isNational Wear Red Day ®, a day that brings attention to a silent killer. This year marks the 11th year of bringing awareness to the fight against heart disease in women. Join the Penobscot Valley Hospitalstaff and others around the nation in supporting heart disease awareness by wearing red on Friday, February 7.

Be a part of the fight,
· Wear red on Friday, February 7
· Share that heart disease affects more women than men
· Learn the facts about heart disease along with risk factors
· Eat a heart-healthy diet and get physically active

Do you know what causes heart disease in women? What about the survival rate? The fact is: Heart disease is the number one killer of women, causing one in three deaths each year. That’s approximately one woman every minute!

The statistics are shocking and that is why PVH has joined the fight to raise awareness for heart disease. Posters have been created for entrances of the building including the downtown locations of Rehab and Billing. Heart healthy flyers with tips for food substitutes are also being distributed throughout the hospital and on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/pvhme. Awareness is key; join PVH and show your support locally.

Lori Mosca, author of a women’s heart disease awareness study from 2012 says, “Habits established in younger women can have lifelong rewards. We need to speak to the new generation and help them understand that living heart healthy is going to help them feel better, not just help them live longer. So often the message is focused on how many women are dying from heart disease, but we need to be talking about how women are going to live and live healthier.”

Young women are more likely to report not discussing heart disease with their doctor. Women in their 20's should:
· Check family history
· Avoid smoking
· Avoid alcohol or drink moderately
· Choose birth control wisely
All women should be sure to learn the facts, eat heart healthy foods, stay physically active, and be aware of stress.

If you or someone you know is experiencing signs of heart attack or stroke call 9-1-1 immediately. These signs may or may not include chest discomfort, discomfort in other areas of the upper body, shortness of breath, facial drooping, arm weakness, speech difficulty, or sudden loss of responsiveness. It is extremely important to take immediate action for treatment.
Let's ‘Go Red’ to raise awareness and beat this silent killer. For more information about National Wear Red Day, visit www.goredforwomen.org

The flu is now widespread in Maine

January 14 - The Maine CDC has reported there is widespread influenza activity across the state. The flu vaccine is still available and is strongly encouraged to protect those people at risk of severe disease.

Influenza can be a serious disease that may lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death; anyone can get sick from the flu. Signs of the flu can include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, feeling weak or more tired than usual, headache, chills, body aches and less commonly vomiting and diarrhea.

Although most people can stay home to recover without seeing a healthcare provider, it is possible for healthy people to develop severe illness from the flu. Anyone with the flu should seek medical attention if you’re experiencing:

- difficulty breathing or shortness or breath

- pain or pressure in the chest or stomach,

- sudden dizziness,

- confusion,

- serious or constant vomiting,

- flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough.

For a child with the flu, seek medical attention with signs that include:

- rapid breathing or troubled breathing,

- bluish or gray color skin,

- not drinking enough fluids,

- serious or constant vomiting,

- not waking up or not interacting,

- being so irritable that the child does not want to be held,

- flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever or worse cough.

Antiviral drugs can be used to make the illness milder and shorten the time you are sick. It is very important that antiviral drugs be used early on to treat people who are sick with the flu or have a greater chance of complications either because of age, or high risk medical conditions.

The Maine Center Disease Control and Prevention recommends:

· Washing your hands

• Make sure you wash your hands often with soap and warm water for 15-20 seconds, especially after touching a sick person or handling their tissues or laundry. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol based hand rub.

· Covering your cough

• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or your arm when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

· Staying home when you are sick

• The flu virus can “live” on some surfaces for up to 24 hours. Cleaning products that contain chlorine, hydrogen peroxide, detergents (soap), iodophors (iodine-based antiseptics), and alcohols can help to kill the flu virus.

• People can spread influenza before they realize they are sick. They may be able to infect others from 1 day before symptoms appear and up to 5-7 days after symptoms begin. Children may be able to spread the flu even longer.

· Getting Vaccinated

• Call your physician or local pharmacy. Recommended by the CDC, everyone 6 months of age or older should receive the vaccination. Those people at risk of serious flu complications include young children, pregnant women and those with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes, or heart and lung disease, and people 65 years and older.

Penobscot Valley Hospital prepares for the flu season by vaccinating their employees. The influenza immunization rate of PVH employees this year is 96%, well above the national average of 66.9% as reported by the CDC for 2011-2012. During flu season, unvaccinated employees wear a mask when within six feet of a patient. Other preventative steps are taken to minimize the spread of influenza such as educational posters on hand hygiene and cough etiquette. Staff also implement additional cleaning rounds in the public areas and restrooms and ensure proper stock of supplies and medications. PVH does request patients coming into the hospital with a fever and cough wear a mask to help contain the virus; masks are available at each entrance and registration desk. Here’s hoping you stay safe from the flu this season!

New norovirus spreading

There's a new norovirus spreading around the country. CLICK HERE to read more about it.

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