Tag Archives: care

Winter Ready

December 1, 2013 by

It would be nice to be able to call in to work every time we had a little bit of snow, but that just isn’t realistic. We have to get out there and brave the snow and ice in the winter months. Still, there are a few things you can check to make your winter driving safer:

Wiper blades – Your wipers should clear the dirty slush that continually flies onto your windshield without leaving a smeary mess. If not, they need to be replaced. Keep in mind that it’s recommended to replace wiper blades annually. Always having enough windshield wiper fluid is important, too, particularly fluid that withstands freezing temperatures.

Battery – If your battery is more than three years old, it’s a good idea to have a certified battery shop or mechanic test the battery. You don’t want to be stranded due to battery issues that could have been avoided.

Tires – Monitor your tire pressure and tread frequently throughout the winter. Your tire pressure may have dropped along with the temperatures. For every ten degrees the temperature drops, tires average a loss of one pound per square inch. Your tires should also have adequate tread on them. Having them checked out by a professional before a big snow is a good idea. Always have a spare tire and jack with you as well.

Belts and Hoses – Have a professional check them to make sure there are no leaks, bulges, or fraying. The cold weather will only exacerbate these issues, making the hoses and belts more brittle.

Radiator – Make sure that your radiator is filled with the proper water/anti-freeze mixture that is recommended by your vehicle manufacturer.

Gas tank – Always keep a quarter to a half-gallon of gas in the tank at all times to prevent moisture buildup in the tank.

It’s also a good idea to have a winter weather kit in your vehicle. To make an emergency kit, include a blanket, boots and gloves, an extra set of warm clothes, food and water, an ice scraper, a small shovel, a flashlight, windshield washer fluid, flares, jumper cables, a first aid kit, and an abrasive material to help if you get stuck (such as sand or kitty litter).

Skin Repair After Sun Damage

July 22, 2013 by

The damage is done. You have been told for years to wear a hat and sunscreen (minimum SPF 30) and to stay out of direct sunlight between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. But, again, the sun wrapped you up in its relaxing warmth, and now you’re burnt to a crisp.

You can almost feel the crows feet forming around your eyes and the deep creases folding into your forehead. Is there anything you can do to lessen the damage? Justin G. Madson, M.D., Ph.D., dermatologist at Midwest Dermatology Clinic, P.C., gives practical advice on remedies for both serious and mild sunburns.

If you have a serious sunburn, you need to see your doctor immediately. “Signs of serious sunburn are blistering, a rash, excessive itching immediately following sun exposure, fever, or an infection that results from scratching or an open blister,” says Dr. Madson.

“Excessive pain is also a sign that it is time to see a doctor, especially if it cannot be controlled by over-the-counter pain relievers. Your dermatologist can prescribe treatments for these symptoms, including prescription cortisone creams, antihistamines, and pain relievers.”

For milder burns, try a couple home remedies. “Sooth the area with a cold, wet cloth for 10-15 minutes. This takes the heat out of the skin,” says Dr. Madson. A cool bath and moisturizing lotion can also be helpful. However, “avoid lotions that contain petrolatum [i.e. Vaseline], as these ointments form a barrier that traps the heat within the sunburned skin.

“Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can help with moderate pain,” says Dr. Madson. After trying some of these immediate remedies, it is a good idea to let your skin heal on its own. “Leave blisters alone. They are nature’s Band-Aids and protect newly healing skin from dirt and bacteria on the surface of the skin. The outer layers of your skin are there to protect what is underneath. Allow nature to shed the skin when it is no longer needed.”

If you are on vacation and cannot avoid the sun, “apply sunscreen SPF 30+ liberally to all areas of the skin and wear long-sleeve, sun-protective clothing. The sun’s damaging rays can penetrate clothing, so it’s necessary to double your efforts,” says Dr. Madson. “Make sure the fabric is a little loose. Tight fabric stretches, letting in more light. And try to plan vacation activities outside during morning, late afternoon, and evening hours when the harmful rays are not as strong.

“There is a long list of skin conditions caused by long-term sun exposure, the most serious of which is skin cancer. It’s a serious, invasive cancer that spreads to vital organs in the body if not diagnosed and treated early. And sun exposure, especially sunburn, is the leading cause,” says Dr. Madson.

Next time you cozy into the lawn chair on a sunny summer afternoon, remember this statistic from Dr. Madson: “Studies show that your risk of developing melanoma doubles after five sunburns in your lifetime. That’s why sun protection is so important.”

Surprising Fact: “We get more sun damage through the car window than previously thought. A new study found that 53 percent of skin cancers occur on the left side of the body as opposed to the middle or right side. That is attributed to the many miles we put behind the wheel and the increased sun exposure. Whether the window is rolled down or up, you are at risk—windshield glass only protects us from UVB rays. We get a steady dose of UVA while driving (or as a passenger). Reflective factors, such as snow or water, also increase dangers of ultraviolet light,” says Dr. Madson.

What to Do When Your Vehicle Overheats

The summer heat not only affects us, it also affects our vehicles. Our vehicles are much more likely to overheat during the hot summer months.

It is important to do what you can to prevent your vehicle from overheating in the first place. Making sure to use the proper coolant for your vehicle is extremely important. Not all coolants are safe for all vehicles. Also, making sure that there is enough coolant in your system before driving is going to save you from a possible overheating scenario. If you notice that your vehicle is overheating—steam coming out of the hood and/or your temperature gauge going past the halfway mark and into the red zone—turn off your air conditioning and turn on your heat to full blast. Doing this will transfer some of the heat away from the engine to the inside of the vehicle.

Pull over, especially if there’s not a service station nearby, and turn the engine off. Pop the hood, but let it cool down before completely opening it. NEVER open the radiator cap while the vehicle is still hot; this is very dangerous. The radiator cap should be cool to the touch before opening. Look in the coolant reservoir to see if there is coolant in there. It is always a good idea to carry a bottle of coolant with you. In a pinch, you can use water.

If you have antifreeze with you, fill your reservoir with the coolant once your vehicle has cooled down. Your vehicle manufacturer should have stipulations on which types of antifreeze to use. Some are premixed; others need to be mixed with a 50/50 combo of coolant and water. If your radiator is not properly holding the fluid, there could be a leak somewhere, and it’s important to get it checked immediately.

If the vehicle does not seem to be cooling down, and there is not a service station nearby, it may be necessary to call roadside assistance for a tow.

Roadside Emergency Services

June 20, 2013 by

It’s July, and summertime is in full effect. This also means plenty of family road trips, most of which go off without a major hitch. However, if something does go wrong with your vehicle, it can make for a giant headache. Not to worry though, there are emergency roadside services out there that can help.

It may be well worth it to buy emergency roadside coverage in the event that you do have car trouble. Some of the services that these companies provide are:

  • Battery boosts
  • Battery replacement
  • Fuel delivery
  • Tire service
  • Towing
  • Lock-out services

The issues listed above can happen to anyone, yet are always unexpected. Prepare for the unexpected and make sure to either purchase an emergency roadside service or, at the very least, have the phone number of one such service. We are fortunate that these services are available to us, and one just might come in handy when that giant headache shows up!

Young and Surviving Cancer

May 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

It was just eight weeks after Amberly Wagner-Connolly had given birth to twins when she received the devastating news that she had breast cancer. She was just 29.

“I knew that life as I knew it would never be the same,” she recalls. “I was so shocked. Why me? Why would I have these beautiful kids and then so soon after find this out?”

As it turns out, the experience has come to be one of the most positive things that has happened in Wagner-Connolly’s life. It also became the springboard that put her goals in motion.

“It has helped guide me in my life and my career,” she says. “It opened my eyes to how much worse things could be and inspired me to do more with my life. Through cancer, I realized that I wanted to go into public health where I can help others. I know I am a better mom, friend, teacher, nurse, wife—everything. All of my roles have been affected in a positive way because of [cancer].”

On March 1, Wagner-Connolly celebrated her four-year anniversary of being a cancer survivor, and while she has managed to make it a positive in her life, she acknowledges that it was also one of the most difficult and trying times in her life.

“It has helped guide me in my life and my career. It opened my eyes to how much worse things could be and inspired me to do more with my life.” – Amberly Wagner-Connolly, survivor

The number of young adults who are diagnosed with cancer is very low, usually less than 5 percent, depending on the cancer, says Margaret Block, M.D., a medical oncologist at Nebraska Cancer Specialists. But for those who do receive the disturbing news, it can be a very emotional and stressful journey.

Like many young cancer patients, Wagner-Connolly experienced the challenges and emotional turmoil common among people her age. She struggled with the shock of being diagnosed at such an early age; she feared not being around to see her children grow up; and she grew weary from juggling two tiny twins and a four-year-old daughter when she could barely take care of herself.

Her family and friends and people she didn’t even know became her biggest supporters. Her husband worked nights and was able to help as much as he could during the day. Her mother and mother-in-law also provided help when they could and were there for emergencies.

Her co-workers at The Nebraska Medical Center held a fundraiser for her. Several friends of her sister who work at Lincoln Financial Group also organized a fundraiser/auction and raised more than $6,000 to help her with her medical bills.

This touched Wagner-Connolly greatly and was a turning point that helped her keep fighting. “It made me see the good in the world,” she says. “When complete strangers reached out to help me, I became determined that I had to do something with my life to make an impact like they had for me.”

“The number of young adults who are diagnosed with cancer is very low, usually less than 5 percent, depending on the cancer.” – Margaret Block, M.D., medical oncologist with Nebraska Cancer Specialists

Determined to not let her surgery and chemotherapy treatment slow her down, Wagner-Connolly was able to continue her master’s studies, finishing on her target date. She also kept a challenging work schedule as a nurse at The Nebraska Medical Center.

Being able to maintain some control over other parts of her life was important to her mental well-being. There were days during her six-month chemotherapy regimen when she felt as if she couldn’t go on. “I just had to take it day by day,” she recalls. “I did a lot of reality checks.”

Having goals—such as seeing her children grow up, completing her master’s degree, and wanting to live to make a difference in the world—fueled her will to keep fighting.

“Amberly did an amazing job,” says Peggy Jarrell, LCSW, OSW-C, a licensed clinical social worker and a certified oncology social worker at Nebraska Methodist Hospital, who worked with her during her treatment. “Motherhood can be stressful enough…put cancer on top of that, and you have a lot to deal with. [She] was able to maintain her own and still stay active in the outside world.”

Jarrell says it’s very important for cancer patients to establish a good support network of people and friends who can help them through this period. She also recommends having a designated support person who can accompany them at appointments and act as their second set of ears. Many hospitals now provide nurse navigators to help patients “navigate” the health care system.

Stacy Patzloff, RN, BSN, a certified oncology nurse navigator at Alegent Creighton Health, says nurse navigators work closely with the patient and the cancer support team to make sure everything is coordinated. They’re there to attend appointments with them and to act as a support person who is available 24/7.

“Motherhood can be stressful enough…put cancer on top of that, and you have a lot to deal with.” – Peggy Jarrell, licensed clinical social worker and certified oncology social worker with Nebraska Methodist Hospital

Support is key, agrees Dr. Block, whether it’s family, friends, a support group, or seeking the help of a psychologist or psychiatrist. Exercise can also be a good thing and may help you get through chemotherapy with less fatigue, she notes.

Other tips that may help young patients get through treatment and recovery include:

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help from others.
  • Take time for yourself if you’re having a bad day.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Seek the nutrition advice of dietitians on staff at the hospital where you are receiving treatment.
  • Take care of your physical well-being. Programs like Alegent Creighton Health’s Image Recovery program provide cancer patients with wigs and helps them deal with hair, nail, and skin problems that are unique to cancer patients.

Today, Wagner-Connolly is very active in a number of projects to help other young victims of cancer. She started the group Survivors Raising Kids for young parents who need help with childcare during treatment and recovery. She is on the board of Camp Kesem for kids who have had a parent with cancer. She is also a nursing instructor at Clarkson College where she teaches public health and is pursuing a doctorate in global health.

“I know how lucky I am,” she says. “I want to make a difference in this world. No one should have to face cancer and certainly not a young mom.”

And for those who do, Wagner-Connolly is committed to easing that journey.

Preparing for Road Trips

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Road trips can be a lot of fun, but they can also turn into a nightmare if you aren’t prepared. There are a few items that should be checked before you set out for your destination to ensure that your vehicle is as ready for the drive as you are.

  • Make sure to check all fluids—antifreeze, power steering, brake, transmission, and windshield wiper.
  • If you aren’t current with your oil changes, get it changed before leaving.
  • Inspect your hoses and belts for wear and tear. If something looks askew, take it to a trusted mechanic and have them take a look.
  • Check all tires, including the spare, to make sure that they’re in good shape and that the tire pressure is correct.
  • Be certain you have a jack and lug wrench in case you need to change a tire.
  • Check your battery to make sure there are no corrosions, cracks, or leaks.

I recommend doing all of these things a week in advance in case there are any problems. This should give you adequate time to take care of any repairs. There are also some items that are important to have along with you in case you do have car issues.

  • Gas can. Don’t wait until the tank is too low to fill up. On a road trip, it can be hard to know how far the next gas station will be.
  • Water. Make sure to have plenty of bottled water; the summer heat can be extremely dehydrating.
  • Phone charger. This should be used your entire trip to ensure your cell phone has a full charge.
  • Shade. Bring window shades, towels, and hats.
  • Sunscreen and sunglasses. Just because you’re in the car doesn’t mean your skin and eyes can’t get sun-damaged.
  • Flashlight. Nothing is worse than being stranded in the dark.
  • Maps. We often use phones or the GPS on our vehicles, but having an actual map is necessary in case our electronics fail.
  • Walking shoes. Make sure you have shoes that are comfortable for walking in case you have to “hoof it.”

Be sure to prepare for your road trip and carry along a few extras just in case. With these few tips, you should be well on your way to a fun, safe trip.

Cultivating Your Vegetable Garden

Sustainable vegetable gardens are a great way to encourage organic living. When beginning yours, plan for year-round growth. Keep a gardening log to record tips and tricks you’ve picked up along the way; it can help you determine what may or may not work for next year. It’s also a good idea to educate yourself at your local nursery or farmers market about proper care and growing techniques.

Thanks to Mother Nature, almost every vegetable has at least one companion plant that helps protect it from pests and insects. For example, marigolds repel beetles, nematodes, and rabbits. Dill and parsley attract “garden heroes,” like spiders and ladybugs, that love to eat garden pests. And while most people know that herbs, such as basil and chives, make great additions to your fresh dishes, others such as yarrow and lavender protect plants from moths.

Here are more tips for maintaining your vegetable garden in the summer months:

JUNE

All warm-season plants should be in your garden now. Remember to water weekly and pull weeds when they sprout. According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac (almanac.com), “By keeping your plants well-watered and fertilized, they will quickly fill in spaces instead of weeds.” Start seedlings for broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage now so they’ll be ready for fall. Use nine-cell containers that can be watered from the bottom. Then, transplant to bigger containers 1-2 weeks later, or when sprouts begin to appear.

JULY

If you have summer squash in your garden, harvest when they grow to eight inches. Fertilize tomatoes and peppers lightly, and water the garden in the morning or later in the afternoon to prevent evaporation. Also, make sure to stake the taller plants to encourage growth and protect them from falling over during any summer storms. You can now begin sowing all your seeds for your fall garden: beets, carrots, collards, kale, radish, snap beans, turnips, and winter squash.

AUGUST

Continue to harvest your fruits and veggies every few days—this will promote production well into fall. This is a good time to begin canning. In fact, can everything you can! Let your tomatoes ripen on the vine. If any green tomatoes fall, store them in a paper bag with an apple to help them ripen. Keep planning for your fall garden and watch for pests and diseases. And don’t forget to share your harvest with friends, family, and neighbors! Backyard parties under summer skies are always better with fresh vegetables on the grill anyway.

Hearing Impairment

April 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The laughter of little children, family chatter at the dinner table, a favorite song on the radio, or even the breeze rustling through the trees…All of these are sounds that we often take for granted. But for those who are struggling with hearing loss, even these simple occurrences take on new importance and are missed more than ever before.

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (asha.org), “Thirty percent of adults 65-74 years old, and 47 percent of adults 75 years old or older have a hearing loss.” While that statistic can seem discouraging, the bright side is that, with today’s treatments and advances in technology, there is no real reason that hearing loss is a permanent condition.

Britt A. Thedinger, M.D., of Ear Specialists of Omaha, says that there are several types of hearing loss, and they are not limited to seniors. Some causes of diminished hearing may be overexposure to noise, the result of illness or disease, such as diabetes, or even fluid in the ear canal.

“Most people just think, ‘Oh, I have hearing loss. I’m going to go down and get a hearing aid.’ Well, some hearing losses I see are corrected by a surgery,” says Dr. Thedinger.

As a certified audiologist with ENT Specialists, Ken Stallons, MS, FAAA, says that there are a variety of treatments for hearing loss, depending on the cause. “There are times when we still put tubes in adult’s ears to correct the problem.” Surgical patches for the eardrum and prosthetic devices to replace broken bones of the middle ear are also options that may best suit the type of hearing loss.

Ken Stallons, MS, FAAA, with ENT Specialists

But often, the cause of hearing loss in seniors is just a natural consequence of aging. “Presbycusis is the medical term for hearing loss as one gets older,” Dr. Thedinger explains. He says that while hearing loss may not be an automatic result of aging, “the majority of people, as they mature and get older, will have some degree of hearing loss. But then again, it’s an aging phenomena and genetics that cause progressive hearing loss…kind of like vision change.”

Trish Morrow, Au.D. of Central Plains Ear, Nose, and Throat, and Audiology Center, adds that while presbycusis occurs naturally, “the severity of it varies from person to person.” It tends to run in families, she has observed.

“There are certain hearing losses that are surgically treatable,” says Dr. Morrow. “But when it’s hearing loss due to aging, that’s not really something that we can treat, other than with hearing aids.” However, people should not be discouraged, as each of the specialists have stressed the great advances that have been made in hearing aids in the last few years.

Not only are hearing aids much smaller and more discreet than in the past, but Stallons adds, “They just sound better…cleaner…in noisy environments and situations.” He goes on to say that in the past year, he has been able to help patients address even the mildest of hearing losses when, in the past, the outcome would not have been as desirable. “[The result] would have been an over-amplification and [the patient] wouldn’t have liked how it sounded. But now [the hearing aids] provide such a clean sound that you can start very early with the products.”

“Improving [your] hearing improves your social outlook, and your psychological well-being. [In addition to] processing sounds, hearing stimulates your brain, keeps it active, and keeps those cells in your brain working.” – Britt Thedinger, M.D., with Ear Specialists of Omaha

Each of the specialists recommends not waiting until there is significant hearing loss to seek help, but to consult your doctor or audiologist as soon as you notice a difference in your hearing. “You’ll do much better with hearing aids if you don’t go a long time without having normal auditory stimulation,” adds Dr. Morrow. “But even if they do wait until it’s severe, they can most definitely be helped.”

Cochlear implants are noted as the “last resort,” says Stallons, “when traditional hearing aids have failed to produce the kind of results we’re trying to achieve, or they are not an option.” The implants, which provide electrical stimulation to the auditory nerve, are placed in the inner ear during an outpatient surgery.

“Actually, the criteria for cochlear implants is becoming much more lenient,” says Dr. Morrow. “It used to be that you practically couldn’t understand anything, even with the best hearing aids on. [Now] people are doing so well with cochlear implants that they’ve loosened up the criteria to become a candidate for one.”

Dr. Morrow adds that the implants are so advanced that they are actually now able to save some residual hearing in patients, whereas in the past, “[patients were] totally reliant on the cochlear implants.”20130311_bs_8707_Web

Dr. Thedinger explains that hearing loss can impact other aspects of a person’s life, such as their overall social and psychological wellness, as well as their health in general. “If you’re not treating your hearing loss, you tend to be more reclusive,” he shares. “So improving [your] hearing improves your social outlook, and your psychological well-being. [In addition to] processing sounds, hearing stimulates your brain, keeps it active, and keeps those cells in your brain working.”

Husband and wife Doug and Pat Durbin of Omaha each have two hearing aids and say that the little devices have changed their lives.

Pat shares a story that is undoubtedly a familiar one among seniors experiencing hearing loss. After repeatedly asking her grandchildren to repeat themselves during conversations, Pat says, “Finally, two of them were brave enough to say, ‘Grandma, we’re not going to repeat it anymore.’” She continues: “I thought it was a nice way to say, ‘Grandma, do something about your hearing.’ So, I did.”

Pat wears a hearing aid that also works as a mini-microphone. With a separate transmitter that can be placed in different locations, the sound becomes clearer. “One of the problems [of traditional hearing aids] is peripheral noise…you can’t zero in on the [speaker].” But her new hearing aid allows her to enjoy dinner conversations with friends, as well as attend large speaking engagements. “I just love it. It’s made a world of difference.”

While Pat’s hearing loss involves diminished clarity, Doug’s is diminished volume. Six years ago, he started wearing a hearing aid. “When [the doctor] did an audiogram, one ear was more deficient than the other, so I only wore one hearing aid. I was reluctant to put both in my ears,” he admits. When his audiologist told him that by only using one aid, he was doing more harm than good, he reconsidered. Eighteen months ago, he started wearing the second aid. “The nice thing is, it turns up the sound just a little bit and then clarifies the language as well. It makes a lot of difference.”

Spring Cleaning

March 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

It’s that time of year again. Spring cleaning not only applies to our homes but to our vehicles as well. After the long winter, it’s time to give your vehicle some TLC. After all, the best way to avoid having to spend a lot of money on your vehicle is by doing regular upkeep.

All of the sand, salt, and other chemicals that are thrown on the streets during the winter can really wreak havoc on your vehicle. To begin with, an extremely good wash is in order. This doesn’t just mean rolling through a carwash on your way home from work. That will not get the areas that are in desperate need of cleaning.

It’s extremely important to clean underneath your vehicle as well. That’s where the majority of all of the gunk is hanging out. Also, the wheel wells need to really be cleaned and scrubbed. This is a prime spot for rust to start. Open your doors and make sure that you clean the door jambs, where the hinges are, and the bottom of the interior door. This is another place that salt and chemicals hang out and can begin to create rust issues. Anything that can be done to prevent the beginning of rust needs to be done. Once it starts, there aren’t a lot of great options.

After giving your vehicle a good wash, paying close attention to all the “hot spots,” you should be in good shape to begin the spring. My last advice is that if you notice your vehicle driving a little funny, pulling one way or another, you may need an alignment. The potholes can create this issue very easily, and it’s better to get it taken care of right away than to drive around with your alignment off. One result of driving with your alignment off—it can wear your tires unevenly, possibly causing you to need new tires.

In Case of An Accident…

January 25, 2013 by

Skidding, sliding, and slipping are all common this time of year. Unfortunately, that can be followed by a bump or even a crash! Auto accidents are a pain for everyone, but knowing what to do in an accident can ease some of the stress.

The first thing to do is report the accident to the police. If there are no injuries, go ahead and begin to exchange information with the other driver. Make sure to get their personal information, along with the type of vehicle, and all insurance information. The next thing to do is to determine if your vehicle is drivable. If not, the police can call a tow truck, and you should have your vehicle towed to the shop of your choice.

After the police have finished at the accident scene, if the vehicle is drivable, you will want to call the insurance company of the driver at fault. Depending upon the insurance company, they may want you to go to their “drive thru” claim place, or they may make arrangements to come to your vehicle to do an estimate. Another option is that they may want you to take it to a body shop for an estimate. The most important thing to know now is that you are the vehicle owner and no one can tell you where to have your vehicle repaired. There is no law that requires you to have your vehicle repaired where your insurance company recommends. It is always your choice.

When determining where you have your repairs done, there are some things that you may want to take into consideration. What type of warranty does the shop offer? (Whether or not your insurance has a warranty, it is the shop that is ultimately responsible for the repairs.) Also, do the technicians at the shop receive ongoing training? Is the shop involved nationally, keeping up with all the newest procedures and technologies? The best thing to do before you are involved in an accident is to do your research and know where you will take your vehicle if the unexpected happens. Making a snap decision doesn’t always lead to the best decision.