Tag Archives: risk

Don’t Be Bored, Get Board

January 6, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Every Friday night, Mickey Williams hosts a weekly ritual—board game night.

The 32-year-old Williams is a board game enthusiast. He resides just south of Omaha’s Little Italy neighborhood. Downtown buildings and lights are visible from the front porch of his nearly 100-year-old house. During his Friday board game nights, Williams opens his home to friends and strangers alike.

The weekly gaming tradition has been ongoing for about five years. Some nights draw 15 or more players. “It is not uncommon that we get 10 at once,” he says while arranging one of the night’s more popular attractions, Ticket to Ride, a train-themed game.

To accommodate an irregular guest list with visitors arriving at unpredictable hours, Williams makes full use of his home’s ample gaming space. In his living room, there are three dining tables. In the basement, an open ping-pong table is available for more expansive games. Other spaces, such as a gossip bench, are set up for chess and other small games.

boardgamenight2The walls and ceiling are decorated by players with graffiti and artwork, which Williams welcomes in the yet-to-be remodeled portions of his home. The wall art includes full-color drawings of anime characters, unicorns, miscellaneous doodles, and a mural of a T-Rex on the dining room ceiling. Quotes are scribbled in unexpected places.

Amber Ostergaard, a two-year regular of the board game night, painted the dinosaur on the ceiling. She says many guests have left their marks; it’s all part of the atmosphere.

Living room cabinets and the old home’s built-in shelves store a treasure trove of 127 board games “including expansion sets,” says Williams, who also invites guests to bring their own games.

The event is low-key, but Williams enforces basic rules to ensure the satisfaction of his players and the continuity of the event. He offers these rules as a guide to others who are interested in hosting their own game night event: “Playing games is required,” Williams says. “Every attendee must play a minimum of one board game every time they attend or be forever banned from future attendance.” This is the most common rule broken and enforced at game night, though Williams also will eject visitors who are excessively drunk or making other
players uncomfortable.

Williams says that many board gamers are “not adept at dealing with difficult social situations,” and that “creating a comfortable environment gets these people out to play.” Williams does not tolerate any form of harassment at game night. He tries to apply the rules “as evenly and non-sexistly as possible,” and he says, “there have been females that have been ejected for their behavior as well [as male players].”

Ostergaard says the event is “inclusive to both genders,” and male and female players seem fairly evenly represented on Fridays. However, Williams does not allow children due to the presence of alcohol.

Another crucial and inflexible rule of Williams’ board game night is that it happens every Friday. No matter what. If the event were inconsistent, Ostergaard says people would lose track of it.

“You don’t have to worry about, ‘Did I miss it, or did I not miss it?’ You don’t have to search for it in your events on Facebook. It’s just every Friday,” Ostergaard says. Williams adds that having a closed Facebook group for the event does help with reminders. “We try to take a picture of each game,” he says, laughing. “We try to post the ‘who won’ and whatnot, but we’re really bad at that.”

Because Williams facilitates game night, he doesn’t have time to be a typical host. “I’m trying to make the games happen,” he says, between his efforts at teaching rules to newcomers and clarifying disputes between veteran board gamers.

For anyone interested in hosting their own game-night event, Williams recommends simple games such as Ticket to Ride.

“You can have five adults who have not played games since they were children sit down with the rule book and learn to play [Ticket to Ride] in 20 minutes,” Williams says, noting there is less than one page of rules. Settlers of Catan is another popular game with a variety of expansion sets, perfect as groups become more advanced and parties gain more participants. Meanwhile, the game Carcassonne is also a Friday night favorite.

More complicated games such as Risk, Axis and Allies, and Diplomacy have their places at game night for his regular crowd, Williams says. Conversely, simpler games—such as Sushi Go and The Resistance—are great due to their brevity and relative ease.

Williams says the key to keeping everything moving with so many guests is to “concentrate on having multiple games of multiple lengths and multiple difficulties going on simultaneously.”

If someone were to show up in the middle of an ongoing game, the house is set up to accommodate late arrivals. They could play a quick two-player game such as Blokus or Connect Four, he explains, “then we can figure out who is staying, who is leaving, and what game we’re all going to play next.”

Everyone gets in a game. Actually, they have to. Otherwise they are forever banished.

Shingles

June 20, 2013 by

Most of us weathered childhood chickenpox years ago with no worse than some intense itching and a few missed days of school. But for approximately one out of three people who’ve had chickenpox—99 percent of us, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—that’s not the end of it. A painful viral infection called shingles can show up years later.

“It’s pretty common. About 30 percent of Americans will get shingles at some time in their lifetime; it turns out to be one million cases a year,” says Dr. Michael Walts, a family medicine physician with Alegent Creighton Health. “Usually shingles only occurs once. In most cases, it’s self-limiting; it goes away, and you don’t have any further problems.”

Shingles is so common because it’s caused by the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox, he explains.

“Although the [chickenpox] rash goes away, the virus doesn’t. It crawls into your spinal column, where it goes to sleep, maybe forever,” Walts says. “But maybe, for most reasons we don’t know, the virus wakes up and will crawl down one nerve of the spinal cord and into the skin. Wherever that nerve is going to, that’s where the shingles rash will show up.”

And unlike chickenpox, this rash is more than just annoying.

“The most significant risk factor for the development of shingles is age. The reason we think that’s the case is that the immune system, like everything else as we get older, just doesn’t work as well.” – Michael Walts, M.D., family medicine physician with Alegent Creighton Health

“You’ll have pain first, and then all of a sudden the rash appears…It can be excruciatingly painful,” Walts says. And for some, the pain is long-lasting, even permanent.

“One of the most significant complications of shingles, a small percentage of time, is that even after the rash goes away, the pain doesn’t,” Walts explains. “The condition is called postherpetic neuralgia, or PHN.”

Shingles is more common after age 60, Walts says. “The most significant risk factor for the development of shingles is age. The reason we think that’s the case is that the immune system, like everything else as we get older, just doesn’t work as well. And the older you are when you get shingles—if you do—the more likely you are to get postherpetic neuralgia.”

It’s even possible that people who’ve been immunized against chickenpox can still get shingles later, he says, and it also strikes people who believe they’ve never had the chickenpox.

“People will say ‘I got shingles, but I never had chickenpox as a kid,’ and my response to that is, ‘Yeah, you did. You just didn’t know it,’” Walts says. “Maybe you had a bump or two that nobody ever even noticed, or maybe you had a rash that somebody said was contact dermatitis, because there’s no way you can get shingles unless that virus is living in your spinal cord.”

It’s not all bad news. A single-dose vaccine called Zostavax may prevent shingles altogether or prevent a recurrence. And if a person suspects shingles, especially when a rash appears on only one side of the body, he or she can still see their physician for treatment.

“(Anti-viral) medication does help. It does speed up the resolution of the pain and the rash, so go to your doctor and make sure it’s shingles,” Walts says. “We’re not sure about this, but one of the theories is that maybe treatment will not only decrease the amount of time you’re symptomatic, but it might decrease your risk for that postherpetic neuralgia. That’s all the more reason to get treatment, because, boy, anything you can do to prevent that side effect—even though it’s not common—you ought to try.”

Surviving Heart Disease

January 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

As a young woman of just 38 years old, Dionne Whitfield didn’t fit the typical description of a heart disease patient. But there she was, standing in front of the cardiologist, still tired and breathless after undergoing a treadmill test, trying to grasp the news that she had three major blockages.

She didn’t hear much after that. All she could think about was that she didn’t want to become a mere statistic. That she still wanted to have a family and live to see her potential children grow up. What was going to happen to her, she thought.

One week later, in August of 2012, Whitfield was back in the hospital undergoing triple bypass surgery. Today, Whitfield is doing great, and with age on her side, she is determined to take control of her health and her life again.

Looking back, she knows now that her unhealthy lifestyle habits were bound to catch up with her eventually. At 352 pounds, she ate whatever she wanted, often grabbing fast food along the way. She rarely exercised, and she had settled for the fact that she was overweight and nothing was going to change that. She was also African-American, a population that tends to have greater prevalence of risk factors for heart disease than Caucasian women.

“This has been a big eye-opening experience for me, and I don’t want to go back.” – Dionne Whitfield, heart disease patient

Whitfield’s attitude about her weight and health has done an about-face since then. Her attitude actually started to change with several warning signs shortly before the news of her blockages. In early January of last year, she learned that she was borderline diabetic. Concerned, Whitfield began attending group exercise classes and the pounds began to fall off. Motivated by her success, she began to make exercise a priority.

Then came her second warning. In July, she started becoming so short of breath that she could barely make the short walk from her office to the car. When things didn’t get better, she consulted with her doctor, who referred her to cardiologist Edmund Fiksinkski, M.D., at Nebraska Methodist Hospital, who performed the cardiac testing in which the blockages were found.

Whitfield’s surgery was performed by John Batter, M.D., cardiothoracic surgeon at Nebraska Methodist Hospital. After surgery, she underwent six weeks of supervised cardiac rehabilitation. Whitfield exercises on her own now but is still considered in a recovery phase for the next year and follows a moderate exercise program while her arteries heal.

“Dionne has done great,” says Susana Harrington, a nurse practitioner at Nebraska Methodist Hospital, who worked with Dionne throughout her recovery. “She really owned it and became more determined than ever to lead a healthy lifestyle.”

“This has been a big eye-opening experience for me, and I don’t want to go back,” says Whitfield. She continues to work out regularly, watches what she eats, and even reads labels now before putting food in her grocery basket.

She has also lost more than 72 pounds and is determined to double that. “I feel so much better now,” says Whitfield. “I’m not breathless now, and exercising is getting easier.”

 “She really owned it and became more determined than ever to lead a healthy lifestyle.” – Susana Harrington, nurse practitioner at Nebraska Methodist Hospital

What women need to learn from this is that the development of cardiovascular disease is a lifelong process and that prevention is a lifelong effort, says Amy Arouni, M.D., cardiologist at Alegent Creighton Health. Controlling your risk factors very early in life can help prevent the development of heart disease later. This includes quitting smoking if you smoke, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, eating a diet low in saturated fats with lots of fruits and vegetables, and watching your blood pressure and cholesterol. In fact, women can lower their heart disease risk by as much as 82 percent just by leading a healthy lifestyle, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Prevention is important because heart disease is the No. 1 killer of all women, claiming the lives of approximately a half million women each year.

The main difference between men and women is that women are more likely to develop heart disease in their 60s and 70s, about 10 years later in life than men.

That’s because after menopause, risk factors tend to rise in women, especially blood pressure and cholesterol levels and rates of obesity, says Eugenia Raichlin, M.D., cardiologist at The Nebraska Medical Center. Other risk factors such as smoking, diabetes, and family history also raise a woman’s risk.

“The longer you wait, the greater the potential to suffer significant damage to the heart.” – Amy Arouni, M.D., cardiologist at Alegent Creighton Health

The consequences of heart disease also tend to be more severe in women. For instance, “a greater number of women die of sudden cardiac death before their arrival at a hospital (52 percent) compared to 42 percent of men,” says Dr. Raichlin. “Women often require more hospitalizations compared to men, have lower ratings of general well-being, and limitations in their abilities to perform activities of daily living. As a result, heart disease in women presents a unique and difficult challenge for physicians.”

In addition to prevention, women should also be aware of the symptoms of heart disease and the subtle changes in their bodies, says Dr. Arouni. “Unlike men, women’s symptoms tend to be more vague and atypical and may include mild neck, shoulder, upper back, or abdominal discomfort; shortness of breath; nausea or vomiting; sweating; lightheadedness or dizziness; extreme fatigue and/or a jaw ache that travels down the neck,” she says. “Because the symptoms tend to be vague, oftentimes, women will stay at home and ride it out.”

This is one of the key areas where women go wrong. “Getting help quickly is critical,” says Dr. Arouni. “The longer you wait, the greater the potential to suffer significant damage to the heart.”

While the development of heart disease in a woman’s 30s is less common, it does happen, especially when other risk factors are involved such as family history, obesity, or diabetes.

Whitfield feels fortunate that she and her doctors took her symptoms seriously and that she sought help early on. Now, she hopes she can help other women avoid the same fate by taking control of their health at a young age. “I feel very grateful to my family and friends and to the doctors and nurses that helped me get through this,” she says. “When you’re young, you don’t think anything can happen to you, but now I know differently. I don’t take my health for granted anymore.”