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Community Garden Tool Drive

Schools, churches, neighborhoods, community groups and other nonprofits are capitalizing on the excitement around sustainable food systems by connecting people with where their food comes from and promoting environmentally friendly living through community gardens.

However, one of the biggest hurdles community gardeners face is funding for all the supplies needed to maintain the gardens. Many of us have old shovels and tools tucked in the corners of our garages. Why not donate those unused tools for others in our community growing local foods?

Triangle area residents who dig gardening and giving are invited to donate spare gardening tools for Advocates for Health in Action’s (AHA) Garden Tool Drive.

Garden Tool Drive Locations

Sat., March 5 at AHA’s Dig In at Marbles Kids Museum in Raleigh, 8:30 am-12 pm;

Tues., March 15 at the Alexander Family YMCA at 1603 Hillsborough St. in Raleigh in the WakeMed Rehabilitation office, 11 am-1 pm;

Mon., March 21 outside the main entrance of WakeMed Cary Hospital, 1900 Kildaire Farm Rd. in Cary, 11 am-1 pm.

Wheel barrows, hoes, shovels, pick axes and other useful gardening tools are in great demand at many area community gardens. AHA will arrange for any donated tools to go to gardens in need.

AHA expects over 235 beginner and veteran gardeners at Dig In on Saturday; registration is now closed for this community garden summit, but gardening resources, presentations and handouts will be posted on the AHA web site,, after the event.

Laura Aiken is a community health specialist with WakeMed Health & Hospital and is the director of Advocates for Health in Action.


Are Video Games and Computers Causing Injuries?

Since 80 percent of kids ages 8 through 18 today regularly use computers, I thought it might be helpful to expand on last Friday’s post and provide a few additional resources to help encourage healthy computing and offer resources for individuals who have already been impacted by monitor misery.

Video Games
The American Society of Hand Therapists issued a national alert regarding the potential for musculoskeletal injuries or disorders in people who use video games.  Here’s what parents can do to help prevent repetitive motion injuries:

• Read the warnings that come with your child’s video games.
• Monitor you child’s usage on video games and computers.
• Make sure he stops and takes a break every 20 to 30 minutes.
• Encourage your child to go outside and engage in a physical activity.
• Don’t let him sit too close to the video game/monitor and make sure he doesn’t hunch over or tense up his muscles.

Help your child avoid stresses and injuries by working their muscles in a relaxed and efficient manner.

• Provide support for your child’s back, especially the lower back.  A supportive chair is ideal, but a pillow or rolled up towel will suffice.  A pillow behind a small child’s back can also help to shorten a seat depth that is too long.
• Show your child the proper arm position when using the keyboard or mouse, which is slightly greater than a 90-degree angle.  Your child should not be reaching up and/or forward, as it places a lot of tension on muscles.  Consider an adjustable keyboard tray.  Child-sized keyboards and various designs are available.
• Adjust the chair so your child is looking straight at the monitor, not tilting her head back or twisting to get a good view.  Make sure her feet are supported, with the knees at the same level or slightly lower than the hips.  If a footrest is not available, use phone books or a box.
• Provide built-in adjustability as your child grows or if your family shares a computer.  You can purchase adjustable keyboard trays in height and tilt, adjustable chairs, and an adjustable height monitor.  These will allow each family member to customize the station for comfort and safety.
• Place a light source to the side, preferably at a 90-degree angle.
• Most importantly, you can lead by example.  These same guidelines should apply to mom and dad.

For step-by-step information on how to properly set up a computer workstation visit the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Health & Safety Administration’s web site.

Think your child has a gaming related injury?

If so, remember that WakeMed Rehab is available to assist at multiple outpatient locations throughout the Triangle, including your local YMCA. Physical Therapy evaluations and treatments are available with a physician referral and free physical therapy screenings are available for YMCA members. For information or to schedule a screening, call 350-3800.


Spring Fever

Spring is quickly approaching and the doldrums of winter are ending as the days are getting noticeably longer. Adults and children alike are getting excited to go outside and be more physically active, especially on the occasional 70 or 80 degree sunny day.  This shorts and t-shirts weather builds excitement that can sometimes be interpreted (or misinterpreted) as Spring Fever. 

Spring Fever is not a virus and it is not contagious, although it might be catchable.  Spring Fever is simply the desire to be outside and be physically active. 

My advice to parents, no matter the weather, is to balance the need to get homework done and the need for physical activity.  Dress children appropriately and send them out to play.  Bundle them up on cold days, shed some layers on warmer afternoons, and take advantage of this new-found energy to run away the winter blues.  Limiting screen time in front a TV, computer or video game is important too.  In fact, this is all generally good advice for kids and parents alike.

Melissa Johnson, PhD, is a pediatric psychologist with WakeMed’s Pediatric Development Team.


Watch Your Posture

For those of you who missed it Monday, WakeMed Physical Therapist Amy Howes provided tips in a News & Observer article about how parents can encourage healthy computing.  Here’s what she said:

Watch Your Posture

Sitting up straight can do a lot to prevent posture problems or pain in the back and neck, said Amy Howes, a physical therapist for WakeMed, who works in a clinic in the Kerr Family YMCA. She offered these tips for parents and kids.

Find a chair that supports your lower back. Your feet should be on the floor and should be in line with your knees. If your child’s feet do not reach the floor, use a footrest or other booster.

Use a desk. Do not use a computer or laptop sitting on the couch. “That sort of makes you want to slouch and bend over, and that’s not always best,” she said. “Plus, if you’re sitting on a couch, you’re much more likely to not be doing your work and to get distracted.”

Keep your ears in line with your shoulders and your shoulders in line with your hips. In other words – sit up straight!

If you find that you have soreness or pain in your back or neck, try these three simple stretching exercises.

1. Sit up straight, put your arms at your sides and try to squeeze your shoulder blades together. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds, relax and then repeat.

2. Tilt your ear toward your shoulder to stretch your neck, hold for 5 to 10 seconds, then look straight ahead and then repeat for the other shoulder.

3. Bring your shoulders up toward your ears like you are shrugging, hold for a few seconds and then relax.

Read the article and learn more about computer user ergonomics and eye health here.


Peripheral vascular screening anyone?

Everyone is screened for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, some cancers and obesity each year during your physical with your primary care physician. 

Have you ever wondered why you are not screened for peripheral artery disease, carotid artery disease, or an aortic aneurysm?  The answer is likely that you are not in the risk group and you do not have symptoms.

On this blog over the next couple of weeks, I will share with you the risk factors for each of these diseases, so you better understand if you are at risk and if you are a good candidate for screening. 

For starters lets talk about peripheral artery disease. It is important to be aware of peripheral artery disease because it is a significant marker for premature death, so identifying issues early is important. 

If you answer yes to most of these, then it would be a good idea to speak with your physician about peripheral artery disease screening.

Are you obese?
Do you exercise less than three times per week?
Do you have heart disease?
Do you eat a poor diet?
Do you consume an excessive amount of alcohol?
Do you smoke?
Do you have high cholesterol?
Do you have high blood pressure?
Are you a diabetic?

The primary benefit of peripheral artery disease identification is to reduce the risk of heart, stroke, limb loss and even death. The good news is that if it is identified early, you receive treatment, and aggressively modify the amount of exercise you get, improve your diet, etc., peripheral artery disease is quite treatable in most cases. 

Note too that you, as a patient, may need to ask additional questions to your caregiver because most physicians and nurses are not great at following through to follow up on potential peripheral artery disease. And if you have leg pain, make sure the doctor nurse examines your feet and legs because peripheral artery disease is easily and often overlooked.

Matt Hook is an interventional cardiologist with Wake Heart & Vascular Associates, with an office located in the WakeMed Heart Center.


WakeMed Milk Bank Donations Down, Need Up – Mirrors National Trend

WakeMed Mothers’ Milk Bank, one of nine, not-for-profit human milk banks in the United States, continues to experience increased demand and significantly reduced donations as indicated in last month’s blog

The lack of donations and increased need is not isolated to North Carolina. Human milk banks across the country are experiencing a similar trend, leading the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA) to distribute the following press release.

Non-Profit Human Milk Banks Submit Urgent Call for Donations

Nationwide supply is inadequate to meet demand for premature and ill infants in need

The Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA) is asking healthy lactating mothers to consider donating to a milk bank so that fragile babies will be fed this life-giving and sustaining nutrition.

HMBANA announced that the non-profit milk banks in North America have reached critically low levels of screened donor human milk for fragile babies in relation to demand.

Neonatologists who care for the tiniest and most fragile patients use DHM because it provides immunologic and growth factors as well as optimal nutrition. “For these babies, it is truly life-saving. In many cases, the mother does not have a full supply of her own milk, and in some cases mothers cannot provide any milk to their fragile babies,” states Kathleen Marinelli MD, IBCLC, FABM, neonatologist at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, where human milk (mothers’ own and donor milk) is standard of care for premature babies.

 HMBANA asks every healthy lactating mom to consider donating milk for a fragile infant by contacting the milk bank closest to them.

Click here to learn more about donation to WakeMed Mothers’ Milk Bank.

Sue Evans is a lactation specialist and director of the WakeMed Mothers’ Milk Bank.


Wake County EMS Medical Director: What to do During a Heart Attack and Why

Every day Wake County EMS responds to 225 calls per day, seeing everything from nose bleeds to heart attacks.  For the most part heart attacks are the most critical calls EMS responds to each day.  There is a lot of misunderstanding when it comes to heart attacks.  Many people believe a heart attack is what you see in the movies.  Crushing pain, clutched chest and a fall to the ground.

Yes, that is one kind of heart attack, but the reality is most heart attacks are not the Hollywood movie version.  Due to this misperception, there is a chance you may wait too long at home to call 911, and in the meantime your heart will stop.

You or your family members are more likely to experience “atypical” symptoms of a heart attack, including shortness of breath, dizziness/weakness/syncope (passing out), abdominal pain or actual cardiac arrest.  If this happens take these steps immediately:

1. Call 911 preferably from a landline if available.  Landlines automatically show your physical address.  If you use a cell phone, please be prepared to provide your address to the emergency medical dispatcher twice for verification.

There are many reasons to call 911 as soon as you have any of the symptoms.  First, we can walk you through what to do at a time when you will likely not remember the contents of this blog.

Second, we have 12-lead EKGs on every single ambulance, and each ambulance is a roving hot spot.  This means EKG tests can be sent directly to the emergency department, cardiologist, and my cell phone for immediate review.  The ability to do and read this test while the patient is in their home or on the way to the hospital means we start the evaluation and treatment to get you into the cardiac cath lab faster to reopen the vessels that supply the heart muscle.

Thirdly, we can restart your heart if it stops. 

Finally, the greyhound reason; we can drive you and ensure that you are taken to a hospital that is prepared to deliver the care that you need.

2. Gather your medications so EMS can take them to the hospital.  If you have a list instead of the actual medication packages, make sure to include dosages.

3. Turn your house lights on, unlock the door and, if possible, post a person at the top of the driveway to direct emergency response personnel.

4. Chew and swallow 4 uncoated baby aspirin or 1 adult aspirin (unless you are allergic to aspirin) – aspirin will help keep your platelets from sticking together and that is what you want if you are having a heart attack

This week some of our advanced practice paramedics and myself partnered with WakeMed cardiologists to train more than 500 individuals in our community how to do CPR.  This CPR training will benefit members of our community that have the Hollywood version of a heart attack – where the heart actually stops.

Research gathered right here in our community has proven a quadruple rate of survival if CPR compressions are started within the first 8 to 10 minutes after the person collapses.  Breaths are no longer a required component of CPR because most patients that are going to survive have enough oxygen to survive the first 8 to 10 minutes, so we focus on continuous compressions. 

We have also begun controlling ventilations. EMS now administers the number of breaths a patient needs depending on their current condition – not to what their normal respiration rates are. EMS also administers cold IV fluid to cool you down to protect your brain.  Put all these elements together and we have quadrupled heart attack survival rates and quadrupled the number of heart attack victims that survive neurologically intact.

We are working toward becoming a heart safe community.  Do your part.  Learn CPR. Purchase a CPR Anytime Kit for Family and Friends by clicking here.  Your family and your community will thank you.

Dr. Brent Myers is medical director of Wake County EMS and is an Emergency Physician practicing at WakeMed.


That Sneaky Acetaminophen

I picked up some interesting knowledge the other day from Lynn Eschenbacher, PharmD, and Meghan Palmer, who both work in the WakeMed Pharmacy.  Maybe you know this, but I certainly didn’t.  Acetaminophen is in a lot of other drugs other than just Tylenol products and their generic equivalents (which I usually buy because they are cheaper than Tylenol).

It’s widely known that taking too much acetaminophen can cause liver failure, particularly if you drink alcohol routinely or if you have liver disease.  Lynn and Meghan told me that the FDA advises all individuals who use acetaminophen to take no more than 4,000 mg per day.  That may seem like a lot, but you may unknowingly be taking more than you think, particularly if you are one of the many unfortunate Americans who suffer from chronic pain.  Acetaminophen is an ingredient in the following over-the-counter and prescription medications:

  • All Tylenol products (ex. Tylenol PM, Tylenol Cold & Flu)
  • Excedrin
  • NyQuil
  • Alka-Seltzer
  • Vicodin
  • Percocet
  • Ultracet

According to Lynn and Meghan, the most common dosage of acetaminophen is 325 mg, but Tylenol Extra Strength contains 500 mg, and Vicodin ES can contain up to 750 mg.  Now, say you have been taking acetaminophen, but it’s not getting rid of your headache or whatever pain you have – even when you take more than the recommended dosage.  You forget to mention to the doctor that you’re taking acetaminophen, and your doctor prescribes a medication like Vicodin ES that also contains it.  Sounds like a recipe for an unhappy liver, doesn’t it?

The FDA, hospitals like WakeMed and physicians are well aware of the dangers associated with taking too much acetaminophen, and they have mandates and protocols in place to help people and patients understand them, too.  Here are some of the FDA’s mandates:

  • All prescription products that contain acetaminophen have warning labels affixed to them.
  • Prescription and over-the-counter acetaminophen products carry warning labels about alcohol use and liver toxicity.
  • Now, all prescription pain medications can contain no more than 325 mg of acetaminophen.

At WakeMed, the Pharmacy, Patient Safety team and Emergency Department physicians and staff have made educating patients about acetaminophen usage a priority.  Probably because they see what a few months on high doses of it can do, like put you on the emergency liver transplant list.

I think I’ll try to be more careful about reading the ingredients that are in the medications I take.  My liver has treated me well, and I would like to keep it.

Becky Scolio is a public relations specialist with WakeMed Health & Hospitals.


Dig In! to Gardening This Year

Chickens, bees, and cucumbers

In a box, in the ground, or in a jar

At home, at a school, or in your community

With a little time, a little space, dirt and some water you too can have a thriving garden of your own.

Advocates for Health in Action is hosting its second annual Dig In! on Saturday, March 5, featuring local experts on starting and maintaining a community backyard or community garden.

Presentations will include:

Education booths will include:

Growing Mushrooms
Water Wise: Rain Barrels & Rainwater Harvesting
Backyard Chickens
The Buzz on Beekeeping
Ask the Master Gardener
Savor the Harvest: Canning, Freezing & Dehydrating
Eating Local: The 10% Campaign
Container Gardening: Inspiration and How-to

Register by clicking here.

Dig In! is brought to you by Advocates for Health in Action and sponsors WakeMed Health & Hospitals, Marbles Kids Museum and Market Restaurant.


Feel the Beat: Community CPR Training

Did you know that in 2010 the American Heart Association changed the CPR guidelines, recommending a focus on 100 compressions per minute?

During this American Heart Month, WakeMed Heart & Vascular is bring CPR training to your community.  You knowing CPR could prove to be very important for your friends and family at anytime.  Sign up for a class today

If you are not available to attend a class this week, make a point to order a CPR Anytime Kit from the American Heart Association web site.  This video is a also good refesher for those who have been previously trained in CPR.