Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Organ Donation: Turning a Tragedy into Triumph

     Dealing with end-of- life circumstances can be difficult and painful for all parties involved. The unfortunate and sometimes untimely loss of a loved one is devastating to families. It is, however, important to discuss how the family, and the recently departed, can be sure that a part of them lives on after their passing, and give the gift of life to another human being.
     April is National Donate Life Month. This month-long campaign Instituted in 2003 by Donate Life America, a nonprofit group of local and national organizations that has the goal of educating the public about organ, eye, and tissue donation, and to advise them about the process to register as an organ donor.

     Meritus Medical Center works directly with The Living Legacy Foundation of Maryland, a nonprofit organization that helps to facilitate the donation process of organs in several counties in Maryland, including Washington County.

An Organ Recipients’ Story
     Mike Butler, of Hagerstown, Md., was a kidney and pancreas recipient in March of 1995. He said that life prior to receiving his transplant was not easy.

     “Dialysis was not good to me,” he said. “I cramped up from head to toe in the first 10 minutes of a three and a half hour treatment.
     Butler also said that he was on Insulin and took more than 25 pills a day. Now, he takes six pills a day.

     He said that receiving the organs from his donor, Kelly, has changed his life, and improved his health.
     “I feel great! I am a firm believer that faith, diet, exercise, listening to your body, and health care team has got me through so much,” he said.

     Butler went on to say that he carries Kelly’s spirit in everything that he does, and that if he were to die tomorrow, he would have no regrets, just a smile on his face and a grateful heart.
     For people who are hesitant about becoming organ donors, Butler says that a donation could have a significant impact on numerous lives.
     “Even if you couldn’t be an organ donor, you could be a prime candidate to be a tissue donor,” he said. “You can’t take your organs to heaven, leave them for someone who needs them.”
     He also has advice for people who are waiting for an organ donation.

     “Do all that you can to keep yourself as strong and as healthy as you can to make it to the transplant,” he said. “Take your meds, eat right and listen to your doctor. Most of all, Stay positive.”
Dispelling Organ Donation Myths
     If I agree to donate my organs, emergency medical services and hospital personnel won’t work to save my life? This is not true. Emergency services and hospital personnel make every effort possible to give you, the patient, the highest level of care possible. They will exhaust all resources available to save your life.

     People Under the age of 18 can’t make the decision to donate organs. It is true that legally, a minor under the age of 18 cannot make this decision on their own, but a parent or guardian can make the decision on behalf of the donor. The reality is that children and teenagers are also on the waiting list for organ donation. They may be able to benefit from organs that come from younger people.
     I am not in the best of health, and my organs are not viable. This is not the case for every person. Certain organs may be able to be transplanted while other organs, skin, or tissue cannot be transplanted. Medical professionals can determine what is and is not viable at the time of death.

     People who Donate Organs cannot have an open-casket funeral. Organ donation does not interfere with having an open-casket funeral. The donor is clothed during the funeral, and funeral homes make every effort possible to be sure that the donor looks as presentable as possible.
     I can’t donate organs because I am too old. Again, this is not true. Being an older citizen does not automatically exclude you from having viable organs that can be transplanted into another individual. Medical personnel, at the time of death, can make the decision on which organs can be used and which organs cannot.

How to Register for Organ Donation
     As of April 01, 2014, more than 2.5 million people in Maryland registered for organ donation. Registration is not complicated. Donate for Life recommends that organ donors do the following to make their organ donation wishes known:

  1. Register online at
    • Click on the Register Online button and follow the steps
    • You can also check or change your status.
  2. Register through the MVA (Motor Vehicle Administration). This can be completed in person or online.
  3. Lastly, make your wishes known to friends, family members, and your next of kin. Having this documented in writing, in the form of a living will, can help your family when they are making end-of-life decisions.
There is no question that losing a loved-one is a crushing blow to the family and friends that are left behind. Furthermore, it is a part of the human experience that everyone must deal with at some point, but by becoming an organ, eye, or tissue donor, the dearly departed can live on by giving the gift of life to others, and turning a tragic situation for one person into a triumphant victory for another..

By Mark H. Russ



Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Child Abuse: Education, Prevention, and Assistance

     April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Declared a month to educate the public about child abuse and prevention by President Ronald Reagan in 1983, the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect, worked at the federal level, to inform the American public through radio, print, television PSAs, bumper stickers and posters, about a very serious and troubling issue.

     Over the years, this program has grown to include various sponsored activities on a state, county and individual organization level throughout the United States.   

     In the 2014 proclamation for National Child Abuse Prevention Month, President Obama said, “We all have a role to play in preventing child abuse and neglect and in helping young victims recover. From parents and guardians to educators and community leaders, each of us can help carve out safe places for young people to build their confidence and pursue their dreams.”

     On April 8, 2014, nurses, doctors, and volunteers planted more than 1500 pinwheels on the grounds of Meritus Medical Center. These pinwheels represent reported cases of children who were abused and neglected in Washington County, Maryland.

     Andrea Blythe, RN, a forensic nurse in the emergency department at Meritus Health, and coordinator of the Interpersonal Abuse and Violence Program, stresses the importance of bringing attention to child abuse.

     "Each pinwheel we plant is one case of child abuse in our county, that’s 1520 times that a child was neglected or abused that we know about,” Blythe said. “The more we talk about it, the more we shed a light on the issue, the more people will feel empowered and expected to intervene,” she said.

Children and Abuse
     According to the Centers for Disease Control, child maltreatment is defined as, “all types of abuse and neglect of a child under the age of 18 by a parent, caregiver or another person in a custodial role.” A child can be abused physically, sexually, emotionally or by being neglected. While all children are at risk for abuse, children under the age of four and children with special needs are often at the highest risk for abuse.

     As a forensic nurse, Blythe, and other nurses and doctors on her team, perform exams on adults and pediatric victims of abuse that come to the emergency department at Meritus Health. In addition to examinations, Meritus Health also provides counseling support through referrals to the emergency social work team at the emergency department.

     Blythe stresses that the support that Meritus Health offers victims and families goes beyond the emergency department, and includes community referrals for any medical follow-up treatment that may be needed.

     “We work to ensure that all of the patient’s questions and needs are addressed prior to discharge, and that they have a safe place to go.” Blythe said. This is accomplished by working with community programs such as CASA (Citizens Assisting and Sheltering the Abused).

Perpetrators and Abuse
     There are several factors that contribute to child abuse.  The CDC says that these can include a history of abuse in the family, a constant rotation of caregivers in and out of the home, substance and/ or mental health issues experienced by a care giver or parent, parenting stress and limited financial resources.

     According to a 2013 report from the CDC that provided child abuse statistics from 2011, 80 percent of children are abused by their parents and only 2.9 percent of abusers were people that the children did not know.

Child Abuse Statistics
     Below, are some statistics provided by the CDC that help to outline the impact that Child abuse has on society across the spectrum.

  •  In 2011, child protective services (CPS), received approximately 3.7 million referrals for child abuse and neglect.
  • The lifetime economic cost of handling child abuse and neglect cases in the United States totals approximately $124 billion.
  • In 2011, approximately 1,750 children died as a result of child abuse.
  • Non- CPS studies indicate that approximately 1 in 7 children in the U.S. experience some form of child abuse in their lifetime.

Community Resources and Help
     While child abuse is a challenging topic to tackle, it must be handled directly, and with care to ensure the protection of children. Blythe echoes that sentiment, “We have to move away from a culture of silence towards a culture of protection,” she said.

     Below, are some resources that victims of abuse and families can utilize for assistance in the community.

Citizens Assisting and Sheltering the Abused-(CASA)
Provides shelter for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.  (301)-739-8975

Washington County Department of Social Services
Provides both child and adult protective services. Can assist with providing referrals to other community agencies, and financial assistance to those who qualify for services. Also handles investigations of suspected abuse (240)-313-2100 /24-hour hotline (240)-420-2222

Safe Place- Washington County Child Advocacy Center
Provides victims of sexual abuse and care takers with counseling services, interviews and medical treatment. (240)-420-4308

By Mark H. Russ

Monday, March 31, 2014

A Celebration of Doctors

     March 30 is National Doctor’s Day! Declared a national holiday by President George H. W. Bush in 1991, the goal of Doctor’s Day is to honor physicians for their compassion, hard work, and their leadership in the prevention and treatment of illness and injury.

     In the proclamation for Doctor’s Day, President Bush said, “More than the application of science and technology, medicine is a special calling, and those who have chosen this vocation in order to serve their fellow man understand the tremendous responsibility that it entails.”

     The proclamation highlighted the contributions of physicians such as Dr. Charles Drew, a pioneer in the field of blood transfusion, and Dr. Jonas Salk, who was essential in the development of the polio vaccine, but also sought to recognize the countless doctors who provide care to members of their communities throughout the United States.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Getting Enough Sleep Shouldn’t be a Dream

     Sleep is one thing that most Americans feel that they don’t get enough of. With work, school, children, and a never ending to-do list, it’s no wonder that most people feel as if getting consistent, proper rest is an aspirational goal, but certainly not a realistic one.

With the end of daylight savings time, and the loss of an hour of much-needed sleep, many adults who already feel sleep deprived have a harder time adjusting.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Selecting Vegetables and Fruit with Chef Joe

Did you know that March is National Nutrition Month? Sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the goal of this month-long campaign is to educate consumers on the importance of nutrition and making informed food choices daily.

Eating healthy doesn’t have to be a chore.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Using Medical Oncology to Treat Cancer

Receiving a cancer diagnosis is frightening and many patients often wonder “what should I do next?” With so many treatment options available, it can be difficult to determine what route a patient should take.

“A cancer diagnosis, for most people, can still feel like a crippling blow, there is no question about that,” said Dr. Michael McCormack, a medical oncologist at Meritus Cancer Specialists. “It is important for patients to know that they do have options.”

Monday, March 3, 2014

Coping with Stress

Dr. Ajay Bhandari
Stress, no matter what stage a person is in life, is something universal that everyone must deal with. While small amounts of stress can be beneficial and give some people that extra boost to get in gear, large amounts of stress over an extended period of time, can lead to long-term psychological, emotional, and biological health problems. According to the American Psychological Association, stress is defined as “any uncomfortable emotional experience accompanied by bio-chemical, physiological, and behavioral changes."

Symptoms of stress include: