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Overcoming your fear of donating blood 

"I have never been a fan of needles, which is why it took me so long to become a donor. Even though I was scared, I gave it a chance because my son received blood when he needed it. It's worth a little discomfort to give back and help those in need." Sommer Deering, blood donor and mother to son who is a blood recipient

“I have never been a fan of needles, which is why it took me so long to become a donor. Even though I was scared, I gave it a chance because my son received blood when he needed it. It’s worth a little discomfort to give back and help those in need.”
Sommer Deering, blood donor and mother to son who is a blood recipient

Sommer Deering faces her fear for the sake of her son

From Michigan Blood

When Traverse City residents Sommer and Mike Deering met at the county fair as teenagers, they hit it off right away and bonded over their hobby of raising pigs. They had no idea that their summer meeting would change the course of their lives forever. They fell in love, have been married for 15 years and have two sons.

When their youngest son, Cam, was an infant, he became very sick. The family brought him to Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids. Baby Cam was diagnosed with Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis (LCH), which is a disorder that causes an overproduction of cells that can form tumors or damage organs. During his week in the hospital, he needed a blood transfusion to survive.

“It was a super scary time for my husband and me,” says Sommer. “But having blood available when we needed it most was very comforting.”

Cam and his family made numerous trips to the hospital for more treatments. Sommer and Mike continued to notice several bags of blood hanging from the IV stands of other sick children.

“It really made me think about how giving blood could be such an incredible help to these little ones going through such tough times,” adds Sommer. “I wanted to start donating blood after witnessing this. I wasn’t sure when I would make that commitment because I am scared of needles and blood—but I knew I wanted to someday.”

Beginning last year, Sommer decided to make good on her promise to donate blood in honor of her son. She was afraid, but gave it a chance because she was so grateful for the donors who saved her son’s life through blood donations.

“Even though I am scared, I get through the process by not looking at the needle or the blood, and then I am just fine! I keep going back—it’s worth a little discomfort in order to give back and help those in need. It makes me happy,” exclaims Sommer.

Michigan Blood thanks the Deering family for their dedication to the mission of saving lives through blood donation, and joins them in their challenge to others to overcome their fear of donating by giving it a chance. What better way to ease someone else’s pain than by facing your fears and donating to help save a life?

Michigan Blood is the sole provider of blood and blood products for more than 60 hospitals in Michigan, including Spectrum Health, Metro Health, and Mercy Health Saint Mary’s. Donations given outside of Michigan Blood do not have direct local impact. Donating blood with Michigan Blood helps save the lives of patients in Michigan hospitals. Any healthy person 17 or older (or 16 with parental consent) who weighs at least 110 pounds may be eligible to donate. Blood donors should bring photo ID. There is an urgent need for O-Negative blood donors. Donors with type O-Negative blood, or new donors who do not yet know their blood type, are encouraged to visit their local blood donation center. For additional information on donating blood, and to make an appointment, visit www.miblood.org.

Grand Rapids Donor Center is at 1036 Fuller Ave NE, Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, noon to 7 p.m.; Tuesdays and Fridays, 8 a.m. to  3:30 p.m.; and Saturdays 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The next blood drive at the Cedar Springs United Methodist Church will be Tuesday, April 19, from noon to 7 p.m..

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Spring chicks may carry salmonella

HEA-Spring-chicks_FCOfficials at the Michigan departments of Agriculture and Rural Development and Health and Human Services are warning parents about the potential for baby poultry to carry Salmonella; a common bacteria found in the droppings of poultry which can cause illness in people.

“Washing your hands before and after handling chicks and other poultry is not only important for your bird’s health, it protects both you and your family from the risk of Salmonella,” said MDARD State Veterinarian Dr. James Averill. “Even birds appearing healthy can carry bacteria which can make people sick.”

“People enjoy raising baby chicks and having fresh eggs from their own birds,” said Eden Wells, MDHHS Chief Medical Executive. “Though keeping chickens can be fun and educational, poultry owners should be aware that chickens and other birds can carry germs and other viruses that can impact human health.”

Salmonella can cause diarrhea, vomiting, fever and/or abdominal cramps lasting four to seven days or more.

People should always assume baby chicks carry Salmonella and should follow these recommendations to protect themselves and others:

Children younger than five-years-of-age, older adults or people with weak immune systems should not handle or touch chicks, ducklings or other poultry because they are more likely to become severely ill.

Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after touching the birds or anything in their environment. Adults should supervise hand washing for young children.

Use hand sanitizer until you can wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.

Always keep poultry away from areas where food or drink is prepared, served or stored, such as kitchens or outdoor patios.

Do not kiss the chicks.

Do not touch your mouth, smoke, eat, or drink after handling poultry.

Frequently clean all equipment such as cages, feed, water containers and other materials associated with raising or caring for poultry.

For more information, visit: http://www.cdc.gov/features/salmonellababybirds/

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Health Department cautions travelers about Zika virus


Spring break is the time of the year when many in West Michigan choose to travel and make memories with their friends, families, or loved ones. Unfortunately, this year, many of the foreign destinations favored by sun seekers are also those areas that are affected by the Zika virus. Because of the potential link between Zika and birth defects, the Kent County Health Department is urging pregnant women in any trimester to reconsider travel to those areas. Anyone travelling to an affected area is urged to take precautions against mosquito bites.

N-Health-dept-Zika-americas_02-29-2016The Zika virus is spread primarily by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. The disease has not been found in mosquitoes in the United States, but has been found in Puerto Rico, Mexico and much of Central and South America. (SEE MAP). The most common symptoms of Zika are mild and may include a fever, rash, joint pain and red itchy eyes. These symptoms usually last just a few days. The virus can also be spread sexually from infected men. Most people who get the virus will never experience any symptoms. Currently, no vaccine or cure exists for the Zika virus.

“For people who are travelling in those areas, avoiding mosquito bites is the best prevention against this virus,” said Adam London, Administrative Health Officer with the Kent County Health Department. “We encourage women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant to consider postponing their trips out of an abundance of caution. Anyone who has travelled to one of these areas and experiences symptoms either while on the trip or within about a week of being home should contact their doctor.”

The CDC recommends using mosquito repellants that contain DEET or other EPA approved repellants. Use only as directed and reapply often. Dress in long, loose and light colored clothes while outside, especially during the day. The mosquito that spreads Zika is an aggressive day biter. Travelers going to an affected area can further protect themselves by choosing lodging with air conditioning or screens to keep mosquitoes out and by staying indoors during daylight hours.

More Information about Zika is available by going to https://accesskent.com/Health/CommDisease/zika.htm

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Six things that raise your blood pressure

Read about things that raise your blood pressure at www.heart.org/ bpraisers.

Read about things that raise your blood pressure at www.heart.org/bpraisers.

(NAPS)—Keeping blood pressure under control can mean adding things to your life, such as exercise, that help lower it. But you may not realize that it also means avoiding things that raise it.

If you or someone you care about is among the one in three U.S. adults—about 80 million people—with high blood pressure, you need to be aware of these six things that can raise blood pressure and thwart your efforts to keep it in a healthy range.

1. Salt. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends people aim to eat no more than 1,500 mg of sodium per day. That level is associated with lower blood pressure, which reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke. Because the average American’s sodium intake is so excessive, even cutting back to no more than 2,400 mg a day can improve blood pressure and heart health.

2. Decongestants. People with high blood pressure should be aware that the use of decongestants may raise blood pressure. Many over-the-counter (OTC) cold and flu preparations contain decongestants. Always read the labels on all OTC medications. Look for warnings to those with high blood pressure and to those who take blood pressure medications.

3. Alcohol. Drinking too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure. Your doctor may advise you to reduce the amount of alcohol you drink. If cutting back on alcohol is hard for you to do on your own, ask your health care provider about getting help. The AHA recommends that if you drink, limit it to no more than two drinks per day for men and no more than one drink per day for women.

4. Hot Tubs & Saunas. People with high blood pressure should not move back and forth between cold water and hot tubs or saunas. This could cause an increase in blood pressure.

5. Weight Gain. Maintaining a healthy weight has many health benefits. People who are slowly gaining weight can either gradually increase the level of physical activity (toward the equivalent of 300 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity) or reduce caloric intake, or both, until their weight is stable. If you are overweight, losing as little as five to 10 pounds may help lower your blood pressure.

6. Sitting. New research shows that just a few minutes of light activity for people who sit most of the day can lower blood pressure in those with type 2 diabetes. Taking three-minute walk breaks during an eight-hour day was linked to a 10-point drop in systolic blood pressure.

For more information about blood pressure management, visit the American Heart Association at www.heart.org/hbp. Bayer’s Consumer Health Division, maker of Coricidin® HBP, is a sponsor of the American Heart Association’s High Blood Pressure website.

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Urgency or Emergency?

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

How to pick where to go for medical attention

Family Features 

When unexpected health mishaps arise, many people’s first reaction is to head to an emergency room. But when those illnesses and injuries aren’t true emergencies, not knowing the best option for care can end up costing both time and money.

So how can you know where to go when medical attention is needed?

Urgency or emergency?

Urgent care centers provide a way to keep up with patients’ daily healthcare needs, serving as a vital link between the emergency room and primary care physicians.

“Urgent care is growing across the country because it provides patients with an alternative to the emergency room, which can be too costly and time-consuming for situations like common illnesses and minor injuries,” said Dr. Robert Kimball, president of the board of directors, Urgent Care Association of America (UCAOA). “While ERs are best equipped to handle life-threatening illnesses and injuries, it’s important that patients are aware that there are more affordable options available for less serious situations.”

Due to shorter wait times – 90 percent of urgent care centers offer a wait time of 30 minutes or less, according to the 2015 UCAOA Benchmarking Survey – and much lower prices, urgent care centers are a more convenient and affordable option than, but not a substitute for, an emergency room.

When care is needed for true emergency situations, such as heart attacks, strokes, major bleeding or severe burns, it’s vital to go to an emergency room immediately, as urgent care centers are not equipped or designed to treat life- or limb-threatening conditions.

Dollars and sense

When patients visit an emergency room for a non-emergency, they risk incurring a substantial financial loss. Emergency rooms are more expensive, charging an average of $1,300 for treatment of non-life-threatening situations, while urgent care centers charge an average of just $150, according to a Medical Expenditure Panel Survey.

Plus, 27 percent of all emergency room visits could take place at an urgent care center, which would save American consumers approximately $4.4 billion annually, according to “Health Affairs.” Additionally, many insurance plans feature lower co-pays for urgent care services than treatment in an emergency room.

Understanding the options

“With a growing variety of facilities available, patients need to take care to understand their options,” Kimball said. “The rise of free-standing emergency rooms is especially concerning because they look like urgent care centers. While they may seem convenient at the time, the emergency room prices can cause sticker shock for patients who aren’t aware of the distinction.”

Free-standing emergency rooms are not physically connected to a hospital and are located in areas similar to urgent care centers, so it can be easy to confuse the two. A free-standing emergency room will offer emergency care – and charge emergency room prices. Patients should be sure to confirm the type of facility they’re visiting, as treatment at a free-standing ER may cost thousands of dollars more than an urgent care center.

To find a conveniently located urgent care center near you, visit whereisurgentcare.com.

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Family Conflict at End-of-Life


From Hospice of Michigan

When a family’s loved one is near the end of life, it can force everyone to endure financial and emotional strain, creating the perfect environment for new conflicts to arise and old ones to resurface.

Ramona Hancock, a Hospice of Michigan social worker, explains that the stress of losing a loved one, coupled with family disagreements, caregiver demands, financial struggles, cultural beliefs or the fear of death, can ignite a fuse.

As a social worker, one of Hancock’s many roles is often to help patients and their families resolve conflicts.

“In hospice, a social worker is the go-to person for anything not related to symptom management,” Hancock says. “That often means performing the role of a counselor to patients and their caregivers, although given the time frame, solving conflict at end-of-life is a lot more like crisis management than long-term counseling. Our goal is to help both the patient and the caregiver find peace and allow the patient to die comfortably.””

Hancock explains that conflict during a patient’s final days can make the dying process more challenging. And unresolved issues typically lead to a more difficult grieving process for family members. These are just some of the reasons it’s important to solve family conflict before death.

“One of the most common conflicts I see is when the family and patient are in a different place,” Hancock notes. “The patient has decided to forego medical treatment and has accepted life is nearing the end but the family isn’t ready. Another common conflict that arises is when the patient’s primary caregiver feels burned out or taken advantage of. The caregiver may direct anger at other family members who haven’t ‘stepped up.’ Sometimes the frustration is directed at the patient and, in these cases, anger is typically accompanied by guilt.”

Hancock says that regardless of what is causing the conflict, the first step in solving it is typically to listen to the patient and the family.

“While every situation is different, when I recognize conflict affecting a family, the first thing I usually do is talk to the patient and the family,” she explains. “I offer support, but let them determine what that support is. Often, people just want to talk. I try to remind the patient and family members to recognize and consider what the other person is feeling. That simple step often goes a long way in bringing the family together. When recognition and consideration of feelings aren’t enough, we can arrange a family meeting, which might even involve the nurse and social worker.

“At the end of the day, we try to remind the patient and family members the end-of-life transition is a meaningful time. It’s important for the family to be on the same page so the focus can be placed on spending quality time together in the time that’s left.”

Hancock explains that while HOM does everything in its power to bring a patient peace as the final days draw near, unfortunately, some conflicts are deeply rooted and too complicated to resolve.

“We walk into a small window of our patients lives. It’s important to recognize that there may have been a long history before we stepped in and events will continue to unfold after we’re gone,” Hancock adds. “While we do all we can to help the patient and family find peace, we must recognize that there are some things we just can’t fix. In these situations we focus on listening to our patients and helping them find acceptance.”

March is National Social Workers Month, and the theme this year is “Forging Solutions out of Challenges.”Hospice of Michigan would like to thank and acknowledge the important role that social workers play in hospice and palliative care. For more information on Hospice of Michigan and its services contact 888-247-5701 or visit www.hom.org. For more information on Social Workers Month and the value social workers provide in healthcare, visit www.socialworkers.org.

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Fundraiser to benefit Brison Ricker


WERQ dance fitness workout March 11

Join us for a dance fitness party to raise funds that will go towards Brison Ricker’s medical care. Brison Ricker is a 15-year-old Cedar Springs student who was diagnosed in January with inoperable brain cancer.

What better way to raise funds than to come together for a 90-minute dance fitness party? Sweat to some of your favorite songs for a good cause. Let’s do what we can to help kick cancer’s butt!

No experience necessary—anyone can do it! Just throw on your fitness gear, bring a water bottle, a sweat towel, and your favorite dancing/workout friends!

The fundraiser will be Friday March 11, 6-7:30 p.m. at Red Hawk Elementary. The cost is $10.  It will last 90 minutes, with multiple WERQ Instructors, and fun routines to your favorite radio hits!

Just DO IT!

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MDHHS reports first pediatric flu death of season; Urges individuals to get vaccinated

From the MDHHS

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services confirmed this week that the first influenza-associated pediatric death of the 2015-2016 flu season has been reported in Michigan. This is an unfortunate reminder of how serious influenza can be, and MDHHS is reminding residents that it is not too late to get vaccinated for flu this season.

The reported death was a school-aged child from the Southeast region of Michigan. Although this flu season has been relatively mild in Michigan so far, flu viruses are circulating in the community and can cause serious illness, hospitalization, and death. MDHHS strongly recommends that everyone aged 6 months and older get a seasonal flu vaccine.

Nearly three quarters of the positive influenza specimens confirmed by MDHHS Bureau of Laboratories this flu season have been the 2009 H1N1 virus. This virus can cause severe flu infections in children and in young- and middle-aged adults. The 2015-2016 flu vaccines are a very good match to the flu viruses that are circulating nationally. Flu vaccine is the best way to prevent getting the flu and can also reduce the severity of flu illness.

Although flu vaccine is recommended for everyone aged 6 months and older, vaccine is especially important for persons at increased risk for complications from flu, including children, adults aged 65 years and older, persons of any age with underlying medical conditions, and pregnant women. Children less than 6 months of age are too young to be vaccinated and need to be protected by vaccination of their close contacts, including parents, siblings, grandparents, child care workers, and healthcare personnel.

We need to do everything we can to prevent pediatric deaths from influenza, and flu is a vaccine-preventable disease,” said Dr. Eden Wells, Chief Medical Executive for the MDHHS. “Vaccine is the best way to protect against getting the flu, and there is still time to get vaccinated this flu season.”

In the 2014-2015 flu season, only 44 percent of Michigan residents were vaccinated against flu, putting Michigan in 40th place in the country. MDHHS urges residents to make sure they protect themselves and their families against getting flu this season.

There is still plenty of flu vaccine available. To find flu vaccine near you, call your healthcare provider, local health department, or check the Health Map Vaccine Finder at http://flushot.healthmap.org. For more information about the flu, visit www.michigan.gov/flu.

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Group knits red hats for babies born in Greenville

The Stitchers & More group and some of the hats they’ve made.

The Stitchers & More group and some of the hats they’ve made.

February is American Heart Month and a fellowship group with the informal name of Stitchers & More is celebrating. They are raising awareness of heart disease by knitting red hats for all babies born in February at United Hospital in Greenville.

The Stitchers & More group began twenty years ago as a group of women who gather once a month for fellowship while crocheting, stitching, scrapbooking, and sewing. The group ranges in age from early twenties, up to their oldest member who is turning ninety this year. When asking the group what inspired them to participate in this project, the name Kaylee is spoken in unison.

This project is dedicated to a two year old from Woodlawn Christian Reformed Church who underwent successful open heart surgery,” explained member Mary Brasser.

Heart disease remains the number one killer of Americans and congential heart defects are the most common type of birth defect in the country. Congenital heart disease is a problem with the heart’s structure and function that is present at birth. Some defects will heal on their own, over time, while others will need to be treated. Some are treated with medications and others with surgery.

We work closely with the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital Pediatric Cardiology Program when we identify an infant in need. All of our infants are screened for congenital heart disease and we also carefully monitor the cardiac health of women with congenital heart defects who are pregnant or want to become pregnant,” said Dr. Jonathan Windeler, Chief of Pediatrics at Spectrum Health United Hospital.

We are so thankful to the Stitchers & More group for their kindness and generosity. It is our hope that this information will raise awareness of heart disease and will inspire others to participate in similar activies,” said Shelly Westbrook, Foundation Director at Spectrum Health United and Kelsey Hospitals.

For more information about the congenital heart disease, go to http://www.spectrumhealth.org/congenital-heart-disease

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The H Word: When is it time to call hospice?

When is it time to call hospice? While the H word scares people, Hospice of Michigan says that making the call early can enhance quality of life at the end of life.

When is it time to call hospice? While the H word scares people, Hospice of Michigan says that making the call early can enhance quality of life at the end of life.

Jane is suffering from cancer. It started in her liver and has now spread to her lungs and embedded in her bones. The chemo and radiation are not helping. But her doctor is yet to bring up hospice, the H word so many don’t want to hear.

Americans are a death-denying culture,” explains Dr. Michael Paletta, chief medical officer at Hospice of Michigan and hospice physician for 20 years. “Sometimes we don’t want to accept our own mortality. Often, patients wait until a doctor mentions end-of-life before they will even begin to wrap their minds around it. But, if patients don’t ask, doctors may continue to search out treatment options, even if a cure is unlikely.”

Paletta explains that doctors don’t always offer hospice as an option because they don’t want to deny patients a ray of hope. “Doctors take the decline and death of patients very personally,” Paletta said. They don’t want to be responsible for denying a patient the opportunity to recover, and they want to know they have done everything possible to cure their patients of illness.”

In modern medicine, it’s unusual for a doctor to feel there is nothing else to offer. There is always one more experimental drug or treatment to try; the question is what benefit will the treatment offer the patient and at what cost.

While a doctor may not want to deny hope, Paletta says it can be just as harmful to foster a patient’s unrealistic vision of recovery.

Hope comes in many shapes and forms,” Paletta said. “Instead of hoping for a cure that doesn’t exist, patients can hope to manage their pain and symptoms and improve their quality of life. This isn’t giving up hope; this is hoping for something that can actually happen and devoting energy to something that has proven to be valuable.”

Continue to pray for a miracle, but put things in place that will help you and your family. Perhaps the miracle provided is a controlled, dignified and peaceful ending of a celebrated life.

But when is the right time to consider hospice for you or your loved one?

If treatments are not going well, and if the treatment path the doctor initially laid out doesn’t seem to be working, it might be the right time to ask your doctor what’s next and when you should consider hospice,” Paletta explained. “If your doctor says it’s too soon to discuss hospice, try to get a better understanding of what the road ahead looks like in terms of treatment options. Ask when it will be appropriate to consider hospice and request specifics. This will help you gain a better understanding of the path you’re on and if you and your doctor have the same goals.”

If you aren’t satisfied with the plan your doctor has in place, seek a second option. I’m always surprised to hear that people don’t consult with another doctor. They seem to think this will offend the physician, but it’s usually welcomed. Good doctors realize that most of the time their recommendations are reinforced and a second option can actually enhance the faith and trust their patients have in them.”

Paletta notes that considering hospice isn’t a decision, it’s understanding your options. “Hospice is a choice that patients and families can make, but no one should ever be forced to make that decision,” Paletta said. “If you decide you’re not ready for hospice and you want to continue to seek out treatments, you can wait. And then it’s an informed waiting that has a specific end point rather than delaying or avoiding the decision.”

Paletta suggests that those suffering from a severe or terminal illness should contact hospice sooner rather than later, even if they aren’t necessarily ready to begin hospice care.

It’s always better for patients to reach out to a hospice organization early, rather than in a time of crisis. This gives them the time and ability to gather information about the services offered, choose the hospice organization that suits them best and make an informed decision. Hospice can even help with things like advanced directives and selecting a patient advocate.”

And perhaps most importantly, by looking into hospice options early in your illness, you’ve put yourself in a position where you can make the decision that’s right for you and take that pressure off your family.

For more information on Hospice of Michigan and the services it provides, contact 888.247.5701 or visit www.hom.org.

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