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Greenville Health System (GHS) has been advancing health care for generations. The stories below provide an inside look into GHS and how we’re transforming health care for the benefit of the people and communities we serve.
Greenville Health System (GHS) has been advancing health care for generations. The stories below provide an inside look into GHS and how we’re transforming health care for the benefit of the people and communities we serve.
We tend to shield our children from pain and death, so when disease or death comes we tend to keep the details from children. Since disability and death are part of life, I encourage children to be part of the caregiving team. Even young children can bring a glass of water or a smile. Although adults may worry about kid’s inappropriate questions, a child’s questions may actually help us to face difficult topics. Children provide physical contact, playfulness, hugs and in-the-moment-ness in a way we adults can’t.
Not only do our loved ones appreciate children, but children grow from the experience of being a caregiver. Children who live with someone with a handicap tend to be more patient, kind, supportive, accepting of differences and empathetic. They grow into adults who have more insights into coping with challenges and are more likely to stand up for those who are different. We shouldn’t shield children from the illness or the chance to grow into a more compassionate individual.
Summer means that kids are home, so let the children help set up a TV, bring food, listen, share stories, color, play with toys, cuddle, bring messages, pick up things, assist with Skype or other technologies that help our loved ones connect, teach games (including video games) and help with personal care. Kids also offer chances for an outing such as a zoo or playground. Being outdoors and with children tends to brighten moods.
Senior citizens often may wish to share their history with the younger generation. Give the child a set of questions to ask like those in Telling My Life’s Story by Marty Hogan. Kids who can’t imagine what life was like before computers and cell phones often get caught up in stories of the past. Older kids easily use technology that allows them to record the answers and even make an edited video or book. Both will feel proud after completing such a shared product for the family.
If you’re having trouble motivating a pre-teen, consider paying them a token “salary” to be a caregiver. If you do let an older child do some of the caregiving, be sure to test their ability while you are present before leaving them “in charge.” Children’s involvement helps elders have a sense of contributing and being responsible in a way they often can’t feel with their adult children who are caregivers. Be sure to be available to answer children’s questions honestly as they learn about the disease or death.
Want your children to do some caregiving but don’t have older relatives? Consider taking the children to a nursing home or seniors’ group. Simple activities like coloring together are good ways to pair seniors and preschoolers. Older kids can help with programs and meals. Staff at assisted-living facilities are usually appreciative of children volunteering with their parents.
Most of us can remember an elder who taught us something life changing. Encourage the children in your life to have those experiences with your loved ones this summer.
Summer means vacations, swimming, fireworks and just plain fun. Unfortunately, some of the summer activities can be a potentially hazardous to your ears and hearing. Taking just a few simple precautions can make your summer fun just as enjoyable but with less risk.
Common causes of hearing loss are loud noises. Exposure to loud damaging noise can result in damage to the ear and hearing. Examples of summer sounds that may cause hearing damage include lawn mowers, power tools, fireworks, motorcycles and concerts. The world has become a very noisy place and hearing loss due to noise exposure is increasing at a rapid pace. One of the first symptoms of damaging noise exposure is tinnitus or ringing in the ears. When the sun is too bright sunglasses are worn. When the noise is too loud, hearing protection should be used.
The only defense against damaging noise is to wear hearing protection. Earplugs or ear muffs reduce some of the noise and do provide some relief. Adults should lead by example by wearing and demonstrating use of hearing protection to their children. Ear plugs and muffs are available at most sporting goods stores.
Swimming increases the risk for swimmer’s ear and more serious infections. Moisture that remains in the ear canal provides bacteria and other organisms an opportunity to grow. Normally the ear canal produces earwax which repels the water out of the ear. However, some people try to clean their ear and either pack the wax into the ear canal or they remove all the wax which is just as bad. Q-Tips, paper clips or car keys should never be used to clean the ear canal. The ear will clean itself if left alone. Ear canals have been producing earwax for thousands of years as a preventative against ear infections.
Ears also need protection from ultraviolet rays produced by the sun. Do not forget to apply sunscreen with at least 30 SPF, especially if not wearing a full brimmed hat. Read the application instructions and reapply as needed. This will help prevent irritation, sunburn and skin cancer. The top of the ear is the most common location for skin cancer.
Summer time is a time for fun, not a time to visit the emergency room. A few simple precautions will help make your summer enjoyable.
If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with cancer, the topic of radiation will likely come up during the course of treatment. As a radiation oncologist who is responsible for delivering this form of treatment, it’s important to me that patients have the facts before they begin treatment.
Let’s start with the basics. What is stereotactic radiation therapy? Stereotactic radiation therapy uses small, focused radiation beams to treat a well-defined tumor with high doses of radiation. It can be performed in a single treatment or a small number of treatments, depending on the tumor and its location within the body. Stereotactic treatment requires an extreme level of accuracy and precision. It also requires expertise and equipment capable of achieving that level of precision.
It is important to note that stereotactic radiation therapy is a technique of delivering radiation to the tumor – it is not a machine or piece of equipment. It can be performed on a machine that only does stereotactic treatment or on a machine appropriately designed to also treat cancer in a more conventional manner. So, what does this mean? Let me offer an analogy. If you need to fly from Greenville/Spartanburg to Chicago, do you look for an airline that has a plane designed to fly just between these two cities? Or does an airline that has a plane that flies between these two cities but also makes trips to New York and Miami work just as well? The two planes essentially do the same thing – one just goes to other cities when it’s not being used to fly between here and Chicago.
There is a lot of information out there right now about the machines used to deliver stereotactic radiation therapy. The CyberKnife is one example, and in the plane analogy I used above, it would be like the plane that flies only between two cities. At GHS, we use Novalis or Varian TrueBeam. Both of these machines offer us the ability to deliver stereotactic radiation therapy with the same level of precision as the CyberKnife, but we can also use the machines to treat cancers that are not conducive to stereotactic treatment.
In the end, all three of these machines (CyberKnife, Novalis and Varian TruBeam) offer the same service, just as the two planes in my analogy both got you from here to Chicago. They just do it differently. But different doesn’t necessarily make the treatment better or worse. Imaging and tumor tracking techniques may vary, but they all must be able to treat a well-defined tumor with high doses of radiation. In the Upstate, we are fortunate that most hospitals have the ability to deliver stereotactic radiation therapy no matter what machine they use. What’s most important, though, is the quality of care you receive and the skills of your healthcare team.
If you have questions about stereotactic radiation therapy or the machines used to administer treatment, talk to your doctor or a radiation oncologist.
It’s hard not to think about the dads and dads-to-be when you work in a fertility center and Father’s Day rolls around.
The men usually don’t get a lot of attention in the reproductive endocrinology office, but when they do, it is often unwanted or embarrassing.
“What was my count? Do my numbers look good? Is that enough?”
Infertility affects at least 15% of couples attempting to get pregnant. While up to 40% of the time a male factor is involved, most often the wife is the more public face of couples trying to conceive. Usually, she is the one to take medications, to undergo procedures, and she is the one to have a positive or negative pregnancy test. She is the one who has talked about it with her friends and family, and when conception is successful, she will be the one who is quite obviously pregnant. But gentlemen, it can’t be done without you!
“Can you give us a specimen while you are here in the office? No, well that’s OK. We will schedule your test for later. We have private collection rooms, and we know that men are very visual so we have some provocative visual aids to make it easier. And just remember, no sex for three days before your appointment.”
Sometimes, when couples come to see us for help with getting pregnant their sense of humor about the subject is long gone. We understand that. Often, both the husband and the wife are filled with doubts and fears, concerned that they may be the reason why she is not getting pregnant. Sometimes they may even feel guilty for hoping that it is their partner’s problem, getting them off the hook.
“Do you have any trouble getting or maintaining an erection?” “How often are you having sexual relations?”
Most men don’t want to go to the doctor, period, no less an office where people are going to ask them about life in their bedroom. But when infertility is the issue, both husband and wife (“The Team”) are now our patients, each deserving equal time and attention.
“We want you to spend time together tomorrow night and the next night.”
See, it is not all bad or embarrassing! Sometimes it can be fun to get doctor’s orders. We recognize that the schedule may seem too regimented, but we do try to encourage the idea that trying to make a baby, even with the help of a fertility specialist, can still be fun or romantic. Sometimes we have to remind couples that their first job is to just take care of each other.
So, as Father’s Day approaches, let’s give a shout out to all those men who hung in there through the embarrassment and awkward moments to help their wives conceive. If you’re contemplating or are in the midst of treatment, we want you to know that we understand that you probably didn’t think you were ever going to be asked this stuff, or asked to do these tests, and we will make it as comfortable as possible. We hope, that in the end, the last thing you remember about coming to our practice is when we tell you, “You did it, you are going to be a dad!”
A simple question about firearms could save your child’s life.
In America, one out of three homes with children has a gun, and nearly 1.7 million children live in a home with a loaded unlocked gun. Every year, thousands of kids are killed and injured as a result.
The ASK (Asking Saves Kids) Campaign encourages parents to ASK if there is an unlocked gun in the homes where their children play. This year, ASK Day, will take place on Sunday, June 21, the first day of summer, a time of year when children are likely to spend significant time at friends’ homes.
Some parents are uncomfortable asking other parents or family members this type of question. Think about it this way, you ask questions about everything from adult supervision to allergies when your child is visiting a friend’s house. Why should this be any different – especially given that a mishandled gun could easily take your child’s life or the life of another person in that household?
Need more help? Why not say, “I recently read where one in three homes with children has a gun. The article encouraged parents to ask about whether or not there are unlocked and loaded guns in the houses of my child’s friends. If you don’t mind me asking, will there be any there when the children are playing?”
Simple. Easy. But powerful.
Clarify that the gun is unloaded and locked away, not just hidden. Kids are curious and, if they find guns, they are likely going to play with them. If the parent becomes angry, you can offer to have the kids play at your house where you have more control over the environment.
The ASK Campaign was launched more than a decade ago by mother Jodi Sandoval after her 14-year-old son Noah was accidentally shot and killed by a close friend at a sleepover. The loaded handgun had been hidden behind a television in a bedroom. Before ‘firing’ the gun in play, his friend had carefully removed the magazine — but didn’t realize that a round had remained in the chamber. Noah died from a single 45-caliber bullet wound to the chest.
As the mother of a 4-year-old and someone who sees up close how destructive unintentional injuries are, let me challenge everyone to make the ASK a part of your everyday conversations with other parents. Encourage other parents to start asking as well. There’s nothing more powerful than passionate moms and dads standing up for something important and doing something to protect their children.
Take the challenge, Upstate. Start ASKing!
To learn more about the ASK Campaign visit www.askingsaveskids.org.
It’s Men’s Health Month! That also means that it’s summertime.
During the summer every man wants to feel confident at the pool, beach or lake. It’s important to understand that when it comes to losing “belly” fat, there is no magic formula. In order to lean out the most natural and healthy way possible, time and effort must be spent in both the kitchen and the gym.
I’m about to tell you guys a big secret about what you shouldn’t eat. OK, here it is—don’t eat junk!
Seriously though, we all are aware that eating junk is bad, but for some reason that doesn’t keep us from eating badly throughout the week. Take this unbelievably simple tip and actually use it! For just one month, try to stay away from processed foods, sweets and unhealthy drinks (sodas, unnatural fruit juices and alcohol). Yes, that means no beer, guys! That’s not to say that you can never have a delicious cold beverage again, but just try and do without for a few weeks and see how your body changes—you won’t be disappointed.
It’s so easy to get caught up in a complicated diet, but if you just stay away from junk foods, then you are bound to see changes in your physique. Just keep it simple!
The next step to getting the “beach body” that every guy wants (whether or not he says it) is working out the right way. Contrary to popular belief, one cannot just walk into the gym five times a week and receive a six pack by osmosis. Go to the gym with a conscious effort to work hard and efficiently for the one hour that you are there. It literally takes one hour a day of work, so use that hour efficiently.
One common problem that I see in the gym all the time is when people try to “pinpoint” their fat loss. For example, if you are trying to see your abs for the first time, then don’t go to the gym and do an hour of abs exercises! Everybody has abdominal muscles; it’s just a matter of getting rid of some of the “cushion” that’s hiding them.
Now, the million dollar question is, “what exercises should I be doing to get rid of that cushion?” It’s fairly common knowledge that aerobic exercises such as running are good for losing fat. Running, walking, biking and swimming are all good examples of exercises that we should be doing for fat loss.
Did you also know that squats are one of the best exercises to gain a six pack? Your legs contain the largest muscles in your body, so doing leg exercises (squats, lunges, deadlifts, etc.) is going to burn an extremely large number of calories. Burning calories through leg exercises can and will help you lose fat around your stomach
So, to recap, there is no magic diet or exercise to a good physique. Keep it simple in the kitchen and keep it simple in the gym. Don’t eat or drink junk and have a plan to work efficiently when you go to the gym.
Friday, May 22 is Don’t Fry Day. Like Skin Cancer Awareness Month, which is observed during the entire month of May, its purpose is to generate awareness of skin cancer and the importance of early detection and sun safety.
The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 70,000 new melanomas will be diagnosed in 2015 and almost 10,000 people will die from the disease. While this is less than 2% of skin cancer cases, melanoma will cause the majority of skin cancer-related deaths and is one of the most common cancers in young adults, especially young women. It’s important to remember, though, that most cases of melanoma are caught early, and when treated at early stages, are curable with relatively minor surgery.
What is melanoma?
Melanoma is a cancer that develops from the pigment-producing cells in the skin and other organs (melanocytes). It can lead to serious illness and even death because melanoma has the potential to spread (or metastasize) to other parts of the body. Fortunately, most melanomas arise on the skin where they are easier to see, so patients are often the first to identify their own melanomas.
While most people have at least a few moles (“nevi”), the vast majority of moles present on most of our bodies do not pose any threat of being or becoming melanoma. In fact, melanoma may not occur in a pre-existing mole. Rather, it may appear on previously normal skin. So, what does that mean? Regularly examining your skin from head to toe, including the “hidden places,” is the only way to be sure that your moles are not changing and that there are no new or suspicious moles. Your doctor is your partner in this endeavor, but he or she cannot possibly replace the importance of self-skin examinations.
What should you be looking for?
There are warning signs, commonly known as the “ABCDE’s,” that make a mole more likely to be one that you should be concerned about:
What raises your risk for melanoma?
A person’s risk for developing melanoma is increased by any of the following:
What can you do to lower your risk for melanoma and skin cancer?
Skin cancer prevention and early detection is an important aspect of ensuring the health and vitality of your skin throughout your life. So, on Don’t Fry Day and every day going forward, be sure to slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher, slap on a wide-brimmed hat and wrap on sunglasses.
Sadly, Memorial Day kicks off what’s known as the “100 Deadly Days of Summer.” There are even more cars traveling on our roadways during the summer and unfortunately, even more distracted drivers. The National Safety Council states that for the past six years, the Memorial Day holiday weekend has averaged 11.5% more traffic fatalities than similar non-holiday periods. This is most likely due to increased travel over the holiday.
Teens are especially at risk during the 100 Deadly Days of Summer. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for American teens, and the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day is the absolute deadliest for teenage drivers. Among the top factors thought to lead to teen driving fatalities are driver inexperience, driving at night, distractions in the vehicle such as cell phones and friends, driving at high speeds, not wearing a seat belt and alcohol use. Compared to older drivers, teenage drivers are more likely to engage in distracting behaviors behind the wheel and they are more likely to find these distracting behaviors acceptable. Driving inexperience, coupled with distractions can greatly increase the risk of a deadly car crash.
From Memorial Day to Labor Day in 2012, nearly 1,000 people were killed in automobile crashes involving teen drivers and more than 550 of those killed were teenagers, according to The National Safety Council. One of the biggest reasons for the summer risk increase is that teens might be driving more frequently with more of their friends. According to The National Safety Council, passengers increase the risk of a teen driver having a fatal crash by at least 44%.
The Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy estimates that by the year 2020, traffic injuries will likely be the third leading cause of death and disability worldwide. Distracted driving most certainly does not help. It is a public health problem that affects everyone. The National Safety Council estimates that cell phone-related crashes have increased for the third consecutive year and now account for 27 percent of all crashes.
So before we all get behind the wheel, we need to put our phones away. These tragedies are completely preventable. Distracted drivers are frustrating at their best and deadly at their worst.
From a cultural stand point, a “Do as I Say, Not as I Do” attitude tends to persist among American motorists, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Many of us admit to engaging in the same dangerous behaviors that we criticize as being “unacceptable.” A random sample was taken of 3,896 U.S. residents of driving age (16 and up). Participants were asked questions about threats on the highway, acceptability of behaviors, support for safety legislation, and frequency of engaging in risky driving behaviors. With regards to texting and driving: 80.7% say it is a very serious threat to safety, and 82.9% say it is completely unacceptable; however, more than a third (34.7%) have read a text or email while driving in the past 30 days and more than a quarter (26.6%) has typed one.
Distracted driving is more than just texting. A recent study by the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center tracked 52 high-school-age drivers in North Carolina who agreed to have cameras installed in their cars. It appeared that loud conversations and horseplay between passengers were even more likely than technology to result in a dangerous incident involving a teenage driver.
Keep in mind that the average text takes our eyes of the road for approximately 5 seconds. But, passengers can be a distraction the entire time a teen is driving. We may need to think very carefully about the situations in which we allow our teens in particular to carry passengers. Currently, 43 states restrict newly licensed drivers from having more than one passenger in their vehicle.
For all ages, aggressive driving also tends to be a factor in more than half of all traffic fatalities. Aggressive driving practices include: speeding, racing, tailgating, and failing to observe signs and regulations. And, despite a strong public awareness and understanding of the dangers of aggressive driving, many people are willing to excuse aggressive driving behaviors. According to The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, many admit to engaging in the same dangerous behaviors that they criticize as being “unacceptable”. Of those polled, 45.2% say speeding (10+ mph) on residential streets is a very serious threat, 63% say it is completely unacceptable, but nearly half (46.8%) admit to having done it in the past month.
Here’s another sad fact, South Carolina is now ranked worst in the nation for traffic deaths related to drunk driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. South Carolina rose to number one due to 44% of all state traffic deaths being caused by drunk driving. The national average is 31%.
To help ensure a safe summer, it is recommended that drivers exercise safe driving practices:
*Refrain from all cell phone use behind the wheel.
*Make sure all children are in age-appropriate safety seats. Safe Kids Upstate offers free car seat inspections. Go to www.safekidsupstate.org to schedule an appointment or call (864) 454-1108 for assistance. All children 12 and under should always be secured in the back seat.
*Drive defensively and exercise caution, especially during inclement weather.
*Avoid driving while drowsy.
*Do not drive after drinking. Drunk driving deaths tend to spike during the holidays. If you plan to drink, designate a “non-drinking” driver to drive. Keep in mind that even moderate consumption of alcohol impairs reaction time and driving judgment.
*Buckle up for every trip and buckle up every single time. The National Safety Council estimates that 149 people may survive the Memorial Day holiday weekend because they will be wearing safety belts, and another 107 lives could be saved if all people wore safety belts.
At times, sleeping well can become a challenge, especially for cancer survivors. Some people complain of not being able to fall asleep, while others report waking up during the night unable to return to sleep. The “4-7-8” breathing exercise, also called the relaxing breath, aids in achieving a relaxed and clear state of mind. Stress and anxiety cause adrenaline to course through your blood vessels, your heart to beat at a rapid rate, and your breath to become quick and shallow. Allowing your heart rate to slow down, this breathing technique helps improve sleep by reducing anxiety and stress.
How it works. Simply breathe in through your nose for four seconds, hold your breath for seven seconds, and exhale through your mouth for eight seconds. The studied combination of numbers has a chemical-like effect on your brain, slowing your heart rate. In the beginning you may feel desperate to take another breath or speed up counting. However, if you stick to the numbers and don’t take any breaks, you can literally feel the heart rate slow down, your mind get quieter and your body relax. A calm feeling washes over you like a soothing, relaxing drug.
People who are stressed or anxious are chronically under-breathing, shortly and shallowly, sometimes even unconsciously holding their breath. By extending your inhale to a count of four, you allow yourself to take in more oxygen. The seven-second breath hold allows the oxygen to fully enter your bloodstream. The slow, steady eight-second exhale helps carbon dioxide release from your lungs. The “4-7-8” technique slows your heart rate and increases the oxygen in your bloodstream. It may even make you feel slightly lightheaded, which contributes to the mild sedative-like effect. It will immediately relax your heart, mind and your overall nervous system because you are controlling your breath instead of continuing to breathe short, shallow gasps of air.
How it can work for you. Practicing this technique can provide clinical benefit to you and improve sleep. Not only is it free, it avoids the side effects of sleeping pills. It also works in a number of different situations. In addition to using it to fall asleep, you can use the relaxing breath if you wake up in the middle of the night and have difficulty falling back asleep. You can also use it to relax even when sleep is not the goal. If you are angry or anxious about something and want to calm down, this technique will surely ease your mind.
Mindful breathing practices have been a part of yoga and Eastern wellness modalities for centuries. The most well-known champion of the “4-7-8” breathing technique in the U.S. is Dr. Andrew Weill. Dr. Weill popularized the “4-7-8” technique among integrative medicine practitioners, yogis and those in search of stress reduction and relaxation. We have had great success with the “4-7-8” breathing technique at the GHS Center for Integrative Oncology and Survivorship (CIOS). If you would like to learn more about mindful breathing to sleep, call CIOS at (864) 455-1346.
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