Health

A ribbon cutting kicks off last year's event. Photo by Alex Petroski

Spring has sprung and that means it’s time for the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce’s annual Health & Wellness Fest. Celebrating its ninth year, the event returns to the Earl L. Vandermeulen High School, 350 Old Post Road, Port Jefferson on Saturday, April 28 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.  

Sample healthy snacks at the event.
Photo by Alex Petroski

Visitors to the free event will enjoy healthy food samples at a food court sponsored by St. Charles Hospital. Their new executive chef Thomas Mulzoff along with dietitians, nutritionists and staff will be on hand to assist hungry attendees and answer questions about healthy eating and diet. A nutritional menu will be offered with a variety of breakfast and lunch items including delicious multigrain breakfast parfaits, strawberry oat bars, tacos two ways (turkey carnitas and freekeh), white bean guacamole and chocolate hummus.So bring you appetite and enjoy great tasting food that is healthy for you!

The selection of health professionals and organizations is extensive, and information will be given out about supporting healthy lifestyles. Members of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office will be on hand to speak about their sponsored Yellow Dot Program, a free service designed to help first responders provide life-saving medical attention during that first “golden hour” after a crash or other emergency. A yellow dot in the driver’s-side rear window of your vehicle will alert first responders that vital medical information is stored in the glove compartment. In addition there will be representatives from alternative residential communities, health practitioners and low-cost health insurance plans and programs.   

There will be lots of free giveaways at the event.
Photo by Alex Petroski

Attendees also will have the benefit of many free giveaways and screenings that are so important for good health including blood pressure, body mass index (BMI) screening, glucose, lung cancer, colorectal cancer, otoscopy for cerumen (earwax), hearing, cholesterol, balance and fall prevention and posture.

If this was not enough, there will be many activities to engage in! If you like yoga why not join yoga master Diane McDonald, a life transition coach and yoga teacher, in a short mini-yoga class that will introduce you to the therapeutic benefits of physical, mental and spiritual practices.

How about visiting with licensed, registered and board-certified art therapists? Art therapy allows older adults to be creative and allows them to be reached in a way that promotes a unique form of mental health treatment. And let’s not forget man’s best friend. Learn about healthy food for your pets including Natural Hounds, which offers human-grade wet food, preportioned, nourishing dog treats tailored to your dog’s individual needs.   

New this year

Stop by the Port Jefferson Free Library table for some fun! Photo by Alex Petroski

What’s friendly, furry and can be in the room with grieving families? A trained service dog that specializes in grief therapy. Owned by Peter Moloney of Moloney Funeral Homes, Koda, a 2½-year-old black Lab Weimaraner mix, comes to the funeral home where people pet him and he shows affection to those who want it. He is the first grief therapy dog on Long Island. Come meet Koda at the Health & Wellness Fest.

A special tai chi demonstration will take place at 11:30 a.m., performed by the Authentic Shaolin Kung Fu School of Holtsville. See how these internal Chinese martial arts can be practiced for both their defense training and their health benefits through the forces of yin and yang. After the demonstration attendees will be asked to join in! 

Other activities will include pilates demonstrations by Port Jefferson Pilates located in Port Jefferson Village. Pilates is a physical fitness system developed in the early 20th century and has shown that regular sessions can help muscle conditioning in healthy adults, when compared to doing no exercise.

Don’t forget to stop by the Port Jefferson Free Library table for free giveaways, puzzle solving, coloring for all ages and brain games! Solve a riddle and win a puzzle, while supplies last. Island Christian Church members will have face painting and balloon time with additional children’s activities as well.

Family Fun Run

The Health & Wellness Fest has partnered with the Royal Educational Foundation of Port Jefferson, which will be celebrating its fifth annual Power of One Family Fun Run on April 28 as well. 

The event is designed to encourage physical activity and is intended to celebrate the positive influence we can have on one another within our families and community. Whether you wish to walk or run, the 2-mile course is open to all ages.

Christian Neubert, a Port Jefferson Schools music teacher, volunteer fireman and Port Jefferson Library trustee will be honored with the Power of One Award for his significant positive impact on the village and school community. The proceeds of this fundraiser will be used to enhance the quality of education in the Port Jefferson School District. 

The run begins at 8 a.m. at the Port Jefferson Village Center, at 101A East Broadway, continues through the streets of Port Jefferson Village, and ends at the high school where runners are welcome to visit the health fest. 

You may register by downloading the registration form at www.pjref.com (click on the Power of One Fun Run tab). You may also register the day of the run between 7:30 and 8 a.m. at the Village Center. Advanced registrants need to check in no later than 8:15 a.m.  

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The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce’s 9th annual Health & Wellness Fest has something for the entire family. Mark your calendar now. When you finish attending the fest, visit the downtown business community for its first Port Jefferson Sidewalk Sale Days event from 1 to 5 p.m. Shop at over 20 different retailers throughout the heart of the village. If you are lucky you might win one of the two door prizes that will be raffled off at the fest, each having $250 worth of gift certificates to our local merchants in support of the Port Jefferson Retailers Association. 

For more information, please visit www.portjeffhealth.com.

Pedometers can be the first step to helping those with mild COPD. Stock photo
Lifestyle changes can reduce COPD exacerbations

By David Dunaief, M.D.

Dr. David Dunaief

COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is the third leading cause of mortality in the United States (1), although it’s not highlighted much in the layman’s press.

COPD is an umbrella term that includes emphysema, chronic bronchitis of more than three months for two consecutive years and/or chronic obstructive asthma. It is an obstructive lung disease that limits airflow. The three most common symptoms of the disease involve shortness of breath, especially on exertion, production of sputum and cough. This disease affects 6.7 percent of the U.S. population (2).

It tends to be progressive, meaning more frequent and severe exacerbations over time. Since it is a devastating and debilitating chronic disease with no cure, anything that can identify and prevent COPD exacerbations, as well as comorbidities (associated diseases), is critically important.

What are the traditional ways to reduce the risk of and treat COPD exacerbations? The most important step is to stop smoking, since 80 percent of COPD is related to smoking. Supplemental oxygen therapy and medications, such as corticosteroids, bronchodilators (beta-adrenergic agonists and anticholinergics) and antibiotics help to alleviate symptoms (3).

One of the underlying components of COPD may be chronic inflammation (4). Therefore, reducing inflammation may help to stem COPD exacerbations. There are several inflammatory biomarkers that could potentially help predict exacerbations and mortality associated with this disease, such as interleukin-6 (IL-6), C-reactive protein (CRP), leukocyte (white blood cell) count and fibrinogen (a clotting factor of the blood).

How do we reduce inflammation, which may contribute to exacerbations of this disease? Some drugs, such as statins, work partially by reducing inflammation. They may have a role in COPD. Lifestyle changes that include a high-nutrient, anti-inflammatory diet and exercise may also be beneficial. Let’s look at the evidence.

Biomarkers for inflammation

In a recent population-based study with over 60,000 participants, results show that as three biomarkers (CRP, leukocyte count and fibrinogen) were elevated, the risk of COPD exacerbation increased in a linear manner (5). In other words, the risk of frequent exacerbation increased 20, 70 and 270 percent within the first year as the number of elevated biomarkers increased from one to three, compared to patients who did not have biomarker elevations.

As time progressed beyond the first year of follow-up, risk exacerbation continued to stay high. Patients with all three biomarkers elevated for longer periods had a 150 percent increased risk of frequent exacerbations. These predictions were applicable to patients with stable and with mild COPD.

In an observational study, results showed that when the biomarker IL-6 was elevated at the start of the trial in stable COPD patients, the risk of mortality increased almost 2.7-fold (6). Also, after three years, IL-6 increased significantly. Elevated IL-6 was associated with a worsening of six-minute walking distance, a parameter tied to poor physical performance in COPD patients. However, unlike the previous study, CRP did not show correlation with increased COPD exacerbation risk. This was a small trial, only involving 53 patients. Therefore, the results are preliminary.

These biomarker trials are exciting for their potential to shape treatments based on level of exacerbation risk and mortality, creating more individualized therapies. Their results need to be confirmed in a randomized controlled trial (RCT). Many of these biomarkers mentioned in the two trials are identifiable with simple blood tests at major labs.

Statin effect

Statins have been maligned for their side effects, but their efficacy has been their strong suit. An observational trial showed that statins led to at least a 30 percent reduction in the risk of COPD exacerbations, with the effect based on a dose-dependent curve (7). In other words, as the dose increased, so did the benefit.

Interestingly, even those who had taken the statin previously saw a significant reduction in COPD exacerbation risk. The duration of statin use was not important; a short use of statins, whether presently or previously, had substantial benefit. 

However, the greatest benefit was seen in those who had been on a medium to high dose or were on the drug currently. The researchers believe that the mechanism of action for statins in this setting has to do with their anti-inflammatory and immune-modulating effects. This was a retrospective (backward-looking) study with over 14,000 participants. We will need a prospective (forward-looking) study and an RCT to confirm the results.

Exercise

Pedometers can be the first step to helping those with mild COPD. Stock photo

Exercise is beneficial for almost every circumstance, and COPD is no exception. But did you know that a pedometer might improve results? In a three-month study, those with mild COPD were much more successful at achieving exercise goals and reducing exacerbations and symptoms when they used pedometers, compared to the group given advice alone (8). Pedometers gave patients objective feedback on their level of physical activity, which helped motivate them to achieve the goal of walking 9,000 steps daily. This is a relatively easy way to achieve exercise goals and reduce the risk of COPD exacerbations.

When exercising, we are told to vary our exercise routines on a regular basis. One study demonstrates that this may be especially important for COPD patients (9). Results show that nonlinear periodization exercise (NLPE) training is better than traditional routines of endurance and resistance training in severe COPD patients. The goal of NLPE is to alter the time spent working out, the number of sets, the number of repetitions and the intensity of the workout on a regular basis.

This study was randomized, involved 110 patients and was three months in duration. Significantly more severe COPD patients achieved their exercise goals using NLPE rather than the traditional approach. The group that used NLPE also had an improved quality of life response. The researchers believe that compliance with an NLPE-type program is mostly likely going to be greater because patients seem to enjoy it more.

Chronic inflammation may play a central role in COPD exacerbation. Nonspecific inflammatory biomarkers are potentially valuable for providing a more personalized approach to therapy. Drugs that can control inflammation, such as statins, show promise. But don’t forget the importance of lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking and committing to an exercise regimen that is varied and/or involves the use of a pedometer. And potentially a high-nutrient, anti-inflammatory diet will also contribute positively to reducing the frequency and severity of COPD exacerbations.

References:

(1) Natl Vital Stat Rep. 2011 Dec.;59(10):1-126. (2) cdc.gov. (3) N Engl J Med. 2002;346:988-994. (4) www.goldcopd.org. (5) JAMA. 2013;309:2353-2361. (6) Respiratory Research. 2013;14:24. (7) Am J Med. 2013 Jul;126:598-606. (8) ATS 2013 International Conference: Abstract A1360. (9) Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2013; online Feb. 28.

Dr. Dunaief is a speaker, author and local lifestyle medicine physician focusing on the integration of medicine, nutrition, fitness and stress management. For further information, visit www.medicalcompassmd.com or consult your personal physician.

A NEW YOU: RSVP Suffolk will host a free Better Choices, Better Health workshop on Mondays, May 7, 14, 21 and June 4, 11 and 18 at the Rose Caraccapa Senior Center, 739 Route 25A, Mt. Sinai from 1 to 3 p.m. This six-week led program will help you self-manage your chronic illness and live a healthier life. The course will address healthy eating, the importance of exercise and relaxation and stress reduction. Highly recommended for people who need to make healthy lifestyle changes before elective surgery.  Please register at the Center or call (631) 476-6431.

In addition to bananas, plenty of other foods are high in potassium. Above are just a few examples. Stock photo
Most Americans don’t consume enough potassium

By David Dunaief M.D.

Dr. David Dunaief

One of the most popular food additives is also one of the most dangerous: salt. We need salt, but not in excess. On the other hand, potassium is beneficial in our diet. However, we have the opposite problem with potassium: It is under-consumed.

More than 90 percent of people consume far too much sodium, with salt being the primary culprit (1). Sodium is found in foods that don’t even taste salty. Bread and rolls are the primary offenders, since we eat so much of them. Other foods with substantial amounts of sodium are cold cuts and cured meats, cheeses, pizza (which has both bread and cheese), fresh and processed poultry, soups, meat dishes, pastas and snack foods. Foods that are processed and those prepared by restaurants are where most of our consumption occurs (2).

By contrast, only about 2 percent of people get enough potassium from their diets (3). According to one study, we would need to consume about eight sweet potatoes or 10 bananas each day to reach appropriate levels. Why is it important to reduce sodium and increase potassium? A high sodium-to-potassium ratio increases the risk of cardiovascular disease by 46 percent, according to the study, which looked at more than 12,000 Americans over almost 15 years (4). In addition, both may have significant impacts on blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.

To improve our overall health, we need to tip the sodium-to-potassium scales, consuming less sodium and more potassium. Let’s look at the evidence.

Reduced sodium

There are two studies that illustrate the benefits of reducing sodium in high blood pressure and normotensive (normal blood pressure) patients, ultimately preventing cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke.

The first study used the prestigious Cochrane review to demonstrate that blood pressure is reduced by a significant mean of −4.18 mm Hg systolic (top number) and −2.06 mm Hg diastolic (bottom number) involving both normotensive and hypertensive participants (5). When looking solely at hypertensive patients, the reduction was even greater, with a systolic blood pressure reduction of −5.39 mm Hg and a diastolic blood pressure reduction of −2.82 mm Hg.

This was a meta-analysis (a group of studies) that evaluated data from randomized clinical trials, the gold standard of studies. There were 34 trials reviewed with more than 3,200 participants. Salt was reduced from 9 to 12 grams per day to 5 to 6 grams per day. These levels were determined using 24-hour urine tests. The researchers believe there is a direct linear effect with salt reduction. In other words, the more we reduce the salt intake, the greater the effect of reducing blood pressure. The authors concluded that these effects on blood pressure will most likely result in a decrease in cardiovascular disease.

In the second study, a meta-analysis of 42 clinical trials, there was a similarly significant reduction in both systolic and diastolic blood pressures (6). This meta-analysis included adults and children. Both demographics saw a reduction in blood pressure, though the effect, not surprisingly, was greater in adults. Interestingly, an increase in sodium caused a 24 percent increased risk of stroke incidence but, more importantly, a 63 percent increased risk of stroke mortality. The risk of mortality from heart disease was increased as well, by 32 percent.

In an epidemiology modeling study, the researchers projected that either a gradual or instantaneous reduction in sodium would save lives (7). For instance, a modest 40 percent reduction over 10 years in sodium consumed could prevent 280,000 premature deaths. These are only projections, but in combination with the above studies may be telling. The bottom line is: decrease sodium intake by almost half and increase potassium intake from foods.

Potassium’s positive effects

When we think of blood pressure, sodium comes to mind, but not enough attention is given to potassium. The typical American diet doesn’t contain enough of this mineral.

In a meta-analysis involving 32 studies, results showed that as the amount of potassium was increased, systolic blood pressure decreased significantly (8). When foods containing 3.5 to 4.7 grams of potassium were consumed, there was an impressive −7.16 mm Hg reduction in systolic blood pressure with high blood pressure patients. Anything more than this amount of potassium did not have any additional benefit. Increased potassium intake also reduced the risk of stroke by 24 percent. This effect was important. If this does not sound like a large reduction, consider that, by comparison, aspirin has been shown to reduce the risk of stroke by 20 percent.

The reduction in blood pressure was greater with increased potassium consumption than with sodium restriction, although there was no head-to-head comparison done. The good news is that potassium is easily attainable in the diet. Foods that are potassium rich include bananas, sweet potatoes, almonds, raisins and green leafy vegetables such as Swiss chard.

Lowering sodium intake may have far-reaching benefits, and it is certainly achievable. We need to reduce our intake and give ourselves a brief period to adapt — it takes about six weeks to retrain our taste buds, once we reduce our sodium intake. We can also improve our odds by increasing our dietary potassium intake, which also has a substantial beneficial effect, striking a better sodium-to-potassium balance.

References:

(1) Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Sep;96(3):647-657. (2) www.cdc.gov. (3) Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Sep;96(3):647-657. (4) Arch Intern Med. 2011;171(13):1183-1191. (5) BMJ. 2013 Apr 3;346:f1325. (6) BMJ. 2013 Apr 3;346:f1326. (7) Hypertension. 2013; 61: 564-570. (8) BMJ. 2013; 346:f1378.

Dr. Dunaief is a speaker, author and local lifestyle medicine physician focusing on the integration of medicine, nutrition, fitness and stress management. For further information, visit www.medicalcompassmd.com or consult your personal physician.

Concentrate on lifestyle modifications like going for walks if you want to see potentially disease-modifying effects. Stock photo
Diet and exercise changes may slow progression

By David Dunaief, M.D.

Not surprisingly, osteoarthritis is widespread. The more common joints affected are the knees, hips and hands. There are three types of treatment for this disease: surgery, involving joint replacements of the hips or knees; medications; and nonpharmacologic approaches. The most commonly used first-line medications are acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen. Unfortunately, medications mostly treat the symptoms of pain and inflammation.

However, the primary objectives in treating osteoarthritis should also include improving quality of life, slowing progression of the disease process and reducing its disabling effects (1).

Dairy and milk

When we think of dairy, specifically milk, there are two distinct camps: One believes in the benefits, and the other thinks it may contribute to the disease. In this case they both may be at least partly correct. In the Osteoarthritis Initiative study, an observational study of over 2,100 patients, results showed that low-fat (1 percent) and nonfat milk may slow the progression of osteoarthritis (2). The researchers looked specifically at joint space narrowing that occurs in those with affected knee joints. Radiographic imaging changes were used at baseline and then to follow the patients for up to 12 to 48 months for changes. Compared to those who did not drink milk, patients who did saw significantly less narrowing of knee joint space.

Was it a dose-dependent response? Not necessarily. Specifically, those who drank less than three glasses/week and those who drank four to six glasses/week both saw slower progression of joint space narrowing of 0.09 mm. Seven to 10 glasses/week resulted in a 0.12 mm preservation. However, those who drank more than 10 glasses/week saw less beneficial effect, 0.06 mm preservation compared to those who did not drink milk. Interestingly, there was no benefit seen in men or with the consumption of cheese or yogurt.

However, there are significant flaws with this study. First, the patients were only asked about their dietary intake of milk at baseline; therefore their consumption could have changed during the study. Second, there was a recall bias; patients were asked to recall their weekly milk consumption for the previous 12 months before the study began. I don’t know about you, but I can’t recall my intake of specific foods for the last week, let alone for the past year. Third, there could have been confounding factors, such as orange consumption.

Oddly, this was not a dose-response curve, since the most milk consumption had less beneficial effect than lower amounts. Also, why were these effects only seen in women? Finally, researchers could not explain why low-fat or nonfat milk had this potential benefit, but cheese was detrimental and yogurt did not show benefit. We are left with more questions than answers.

Would I recommend consuming low-fat or nonfat milk? Not necessarily, but I may not dissuade osteoarthritis patients from drinking it. There are very few approaches that slow the progression of joint space narrowing.

Vitamin D

Over the last five years or so, the medical community has gone from believing that vitamin D was potentially the solution to many diseases to wondering whether, in some cases, low levels were indicative of disease, but repletion was not a change-maker. Well, in a randomized controlled trial (RCT), the gold standard of studies, vitamin D had no beneficial symptom relief nor any disease-modifying effects (3). This two-year study of almost 150 men and women raised blood levels of vitamin D on average to 36 ng/ml, which is considered respectable. Researchers used MRI and X-rays to track their results.

Glucosamine

There is raging debate about whether glucosamine is an effective treatment for osteoarthritis. In the latest installment, there was an RCT, the results of which showed that glucosamine hydrochloride was not effective in treating osteoarthritis (4). In the trial, 201 patients with either mild or moderate knee pain drank diet lemonade with or without 1,500 mg of glucosamine hydrochloride.

There was no difference in cartilage changes in the knee nor in pain relief in those in the placebo or treatment groups over a six-month duration. Bone marrow lesions also did not improve with the glucosamine group. The researchers used 3T MRI scans (an advanced radiologic imaging technique) to follow the patients’ disease progression. This does not mean that glucosamine does not work for some patients. Different formulations, such as glucosamine sulfate, were not used in this study.

Weight

This could not be an article on osteoarthritis if I did not talk about weight. Do you remember analogies from the SATs? Well here is one for you: Weight loss, weight loss, weight loss is to osteoarthritis as location, location, location is to real estate. In a study involving 112 obese patients, there was not only a reduction of knee symptoms in those who lost weight, but there was also disease modification, with reduction in the loss of cartilage volume around the medial tibia (5).

On the other hand, those who gained weight saw the inverse effect. A reduction of tibial cartilage is potentially associated with the need for knee replacement. The relationship was almost one to one; for every 1 percent of weight lost, there was a 1.2 mm³ preservation of medial tibial cartilage volume, while the exact opposite was true with weight gain.

Exercise and diet

In a study, diet and exercise trumped the effects of diet or exercise alone (6). Patients with osteoarthritis of the knee who lost at least 10 percent of their body weight experienced significant improvements in function and a 50 percent reduction in pain, as well as reduction in inflammation, compared to those who lost 5 to 10 percent and those who lost less than 5 percent. This study was a well-designed, randomized controlled single-blinded study with a duration of 18 months.

Researchers used a biomarker — IL6 — to measure inflammation. The diet and exercise group and the diet-only group lost significantly more weight than the exercise-only group, 23.3 and 19.6 pounds versus 4 pounds. The diet portion consisted of a meal replacement shake for breakfast and lunch and then a vegetable-rich, low-fat dinner. Low-calorie meals replaced the shakes after six months. The exercise regimen included one hour of a combination of weight training and walking with alacrity three times per week.

Therefore, concentrate on lifestyle modifications if you want to see potentially disease-modifying effects. These include both exercise and diet. In terms of low-fat or nonfat milk, while the study had numerous flaws, if you drink milk, you might continue for the sake of osteoarthritis, but stay on the low end of consumption. And remember, the best potential effects shown are with weight loss and with a vegetable-rich diet.

References:

(1) uptodate.com. (2) Arthritis Care Res online. 2014 April 6. (3) JAMA. 2013;309:155-162. (4) Arthritis Rheum online. 2014 March 10. (5) Ann Rheum Dis online. 2014 Feb. 11. (6) JAMA. 2013;310:1263-1273.

Dr. Dunaief is a speaker, author and local lifestyle medicine physician focusing on the integration of medicine, nutrition, fitness and stress management. For further information, visit www.medicalcompassmd.com or consult your personal physician.

Robert Verbeck donates platelets to Stony Brook University Hospital almost once a month. Photo from Cassandra Huneke

Because so many are in need of life-saving blood cells, a local teacher is doing all he can to help a hospital’s supply match its demand.

Almost once a month for the past few years, Miller Avenue Elementary School fifth-grade teacher Robert Verbeck has traveled to Stony Brook University Hospital to donate his platelets. Last Thursday marked his 114th time.

Though not quite squeamish, Verbeck said he feels almost wrong for talking about it, saying he doesn’t see much nobility in sacrificing a small amount of time to help save lives.

“It might feel self-aggrandizing if I say I’m out there saving people’s lives every couple of weeks, but people can die when they don’t have enough platelets.”

— Robert Verbeck

“I almost feel guilty, though at the same time, you know you’re saving somebody’s life,”the Shoreham-Wading River school district teacher said. “It might feel self-aggrandizing if I say I’m out there saving people’s lives every couple of weeks, but people can die when they don’t have enough platelets.”

Verbeck’s stepfather and retired NYPD officer John Eaton had also been a prolific platelet donor before he passed away in May 2008. Eaton donated approximately 24 times a year, close to the maximum a person can donate in 12 months, according to Verbeck.

“He just wanted to help people — that’s why he became a cop in the first place,” Verbeck said. “He just kind of kept donating. In a weird way, I don’t want to say it’s addictive, but you get a really good feeling from doing it. You keep coming back.”

Platelets, tiny cells in the blood that form clots and stop bleeding, are essential to surviving and fighting cancer, chronic diseases and traumatic injuries. Every 30 seconds a patient is in need of platelets and more than 1 million platelet transfusions are given to patients each year in the U.S. Once a donation is given, the platelets must be used within five days.

“Stony Brook University Hospital never has enough donated platelets to satisfy our demand, therefore, we have to purchase the from other larger blood products facilities,”  said Linda Pugliese, a blood bank recruiter at Stony Brook. She said most of the hospital’s platelets are purchased from Red Cross. Over 10 years, Eaton donated more than 100 times, according to Pugliese.

“I understand people have their lives, they have their problems and not everyone can sacrifice their time, but If everybody donated a few times a year, we wouldn’t be so tight.”

— Dennis Galanakis

“Without them we couldn’t function,” said Dr. Dennis Galanakis, director of transfusion medicine at Stony Brook Hospital. “The problem with platelets is they have to be stored in a special way. They have to have all the tests that are required for safety. They only have a five-day shelf life, and it takes two days to do all the tests, so in practice, the shelf life is about three days.”

Verbeck was an efficient blood donator before he heard about platelets, and while at first he said he was skeptical, that changed when a friend of his was diagnosed with cancer.

“I started doing it, and just like my dad, I felt it was a good thing to do,” he said. “I was doing it five or six times a year. After my dad died, it was a loss, and not just my personal loss, but it was a loss with their supply — it was one less person donating. So that gave me the impetus.”

The entire platelet donation process takes about two hours. Machines take half cup of blood through one vein and processes it to remove platelets before returning the blood through another vein.

April is National Donate Life Month, so to join Verbeck in his quest to feed the blood banks, potential givers can call Stony Brook Hospital at 631-444-3662 or find out more online at stonybrookmedecine.edu and to schedule an appointment.

“Only a small number of people donate at any given time,” Galanakis said. “I understand people have their lives, they have their problems and not everyone can sacrifice their time, but If everybody donated a few times a year, we wouldn’t be so tight.”

Attention all veterans and their caregivers:
Operation-Initiative Foundation will present a Holistic Healing Workshop for Veterans with PTSD and Mild Traumatic Brain Injury at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, 716 Route 25A, Rocky Point on Saturday, April 14 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. This event will feature speakers that will address the advances made in their respective disciplines and in Complementary and Alternative Medicine that are at the forefront in treating veterans who have been diagnosed as having PTSD. Additional discussion will focus on supportive needs of their family caregivers. All veterans and caregivers should bring a copy of their DD 214. All information is kept completely confidential. Seating is limited and lunch will be provided. To reserve your spot, call 631-744-9355.
The mission of the Operation-Initiative Foundation is to bring awareness, information and support to veterans and their caregivers who are suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress.

On Tuesday, April 10, Harbor Country Day School will host a community forum, titled “Addictive Behaviors in Adolescents and Adults: Warning Signs, Risky Behaviors and Helpful Resources.” The forum will feature mental health, medical, and social services experts, who will lead attendees in a candid discussion about various forms of addiction, including technology and video game addiction, social media dependence, alcohol and other substance abuse, vaping and “gateway drugs,” and opioid addiction.

WHAT:   “Addictive Behaviors in Adolescents and Adults: Warning Signs, Risky Behaviors and Helpful Resources”

Panelists will include:

  • Kym Laube, Executive Director of Human Understanding and Growth Services, Inc. (HUGS)
  • Linda Ventura, Founder of Thomas’ Hope Foundation
  • Noam Fast, M.D., Medical Director of the Mather Hospital Chemical Dependency Clinic
  • Jason Bleecher, Licensed Master Social Worker & Substance Abuse Therapist
  • Carissa Millet, Licensed Clinical Social Worker

WHEN:      Tuesday, April 10, 7:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m.

WHERE:     Harbor Country Day School

17 Three Sisters Road

St. James, NY 11780

HOW:   Free tickets are available at https://hcds.eventbrite.com or by calling (631) 584-5555

WHY:   As today’s adolescents and their parents and caregivers face growing societal and personal challenges, addictive behaviors are appearing in many new forms and to extreme degrees. The forum will provide an opportunity for a candid discussion about the prevalence of these addictions, warning signs to be aware of, and solutions and community resources for those in need.

 

About Harbor Country Day School

Founded in 1958 by conscientious parents, Harbor Country Day School is an independent, co-educational day school for children from preschool through eighth grade in St. James. Emphasizing a whole-child approach to education, Harbor offers a rigorous curriculum enhanced by signature programs in STEAM, global languages, math, and language arts, with a strong emphasis on character development. The school’s mission to “cherish childhood, cultivate wonder, and inspire confident learners and leaders” underscores every student’s experience and ensures that all of its graduates are prepared to lead fulfilling lives filled with wonder, confidence, and many successes. Harbor Country Day School’s summer camp program, Camp Harbor, is among the leading summer camp programs on Long Island.

Harbor Country Day School is chartered by the New York State Board of Regents and is accredited by and a member of the New York State Association of Independent Schools (NYSAIS).  It is a non-sectarian, nonprofit organization under section 501(c) (3) of the IRS Code governed by a self-perpetuating board of trustees.  For more information, visit www.hcdsny.org.

The Ammerman campus of Suffolk County Community College, 533 College Road, Selden will hold its 30th annual Health Fair in the Babylon Student Center on Wednesday, April 4, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Visit the many SCCC resource tables including Nursing, Paramedic/EMT and Dietetic Technician, along with more than 30 vendors offering free healthy snacks, raffles, giveaways, Reiki, massages, health screenings including: carbon monoxide, body fat to muscle ratio, cholesterol, blood pressure and STD and HIV testing, and much more. Open to the public. Free admission. Questions? Call 451-4047.

Berlinda crawling before Dr. Wesley Carrion performed surgery on her two clubbed feet at Stony Brook University Hospital. Photo from Steve Kramer

A teen born with two clubbed feet is closer to her dream of walking on her own thanks to the efforts of Long Islanders and Stony Brook University Hospital.

When Steve Kramer, a retired Brookhaven National Laboratory accelerator physicist, traveled to Haiti last year through Life & Hope Haiti, a nonprofit founded by Haitian-American Lucia Anglade, he never knew what a profound impact his trip would have on one student’s life. It was while working at the Eben-Ezer School, built by Anglade in Milot, Haiti, he met 16-year-old Berlinda, who would crawl to get from one spot to another.

Berlinda with Steve Kramer, behind wheelchair, Lucia Anglade, left, and Dr. Wesley Carrion, after her surgery. Photo from Steve Kramer

Moved by her struggles, Kramer reached out to Dr. Wesley Carrion at Stony Brook University School of Medicine’s Department of Orthopaedics about performing surgery to fix Berlinda’s feet. Kramer sent the doctor copies of her X-rays, and Carrion told him he felt he could treat her and rotate the feet. He agreed to do it free of charge, donating his time and equipment.

“We looked at her and felt she had a fairly good chance of standing,” Carrion said.

After Carrion performed surgery on Berlinda in November, fixators — external frames that are attached by pins drilled into leg bones -— were used to rotate her feet to stretch the tendons. After the fixators were in place, Berlinda received outpatient services from the hospital, and she stayed at Anglade’s home on Long Island, according to Kramer.

The fixators were removed March 9 and Berlinda was put in leg casts until March 19. She has been working with physical therapists at the hospital, and while she can stand with braces with help, she has a long way to go before she can stand on her own.

“She was crawling around her village. She was unable to stand, so when we got her up with physical therapy, those were literally her first steps.”

— Dr. Wesley Carrion

Kramer said she has to build up strength, and she feels a lot of pain when she moves her left knee as it is locking up after not being used for months. However, he said she was pleased to be out of the fixators, which caused her pain at times.

Carrion said fixators can be painful, and when Berlinda’s wheelchair would hit bumps, the pain would increase.

“It’s tough when you got these fixator frames on that look like giant tinker toys that you attach to the limbs,” Carrion said. “They’re things that hurt. They’re things that are uncomfortable.”

Carrion said it’s difficult to determine if Berlinda will stand without braces. She had polio and did not receive proper treatment, and also has spina bifida. Carrion said despite a hole in her spinal column, it hasn’t presented any problems.

“If we can get her walking with braces, that’s a huge win,” Carrion said. “She was basically crawling around her village. She was unable to stand, so when we got her up with physical therapy, those were literally her first steps.”

Kramer said the hope is for Berlinda to stay until she completes physical therapy, which will take a few months, since she will receive better treatment in Stony Brook than in Haiti. To help with Berlinda’s airfare and outpatient expenses, Kramer set up a GoFundMe page.

Berlinda and the temporary casts she wore before getting leg braces. Photo from Steve Kramer

He said with money from that account, he can buy physical therapy equipment, like parallel bars so she can practice standing and walking outside of physical therapy treatments.

Kramer said during Berlinda’s stay in New York, it was the first time she saw snow, and he showed her how to make a snowball.

“She knew what to do with it,” Kramer said. “She wanted to throw it at me, and she did.”

Kramer said Berlinda, who will turn 17 April 13, loves learning, and despite attending school for only one year, easily solved basic arithmetic problems when he first met her.

“She never lost that bright smile and willingness to work with whatever she had,” Kramer said, adding that sometimes those with handicaps in her village are shunned and even her siblings have bullied her.

When Kramer first approached Carrion, the doctor informed him that he would also need to get the hospital to donate some of the costs for the November surgery. It was then Kramer reached out to Department of Medicine’s Dr. L. Reuven Pasternak, who serves as vice president for health systems and chief executive officer of Stony Brook University Hospital. Pasternak said requests like Kramer’s to waive charges are not unusual from doctors and members of the community.

“She never lost that bright smile and willingness to work with whatever she had.”

— Steve Kramer

“We do this from time to time, and the way it usually occurs is that a physician encounters somebody, oftentimes overseas, and in the course of doing a medical mission or in their travels,” Pasternak said. “And it’s somebody who has a correctable medical condition that will make a huge impact on their lives.”

While Pasternak was out of town during the surgery and hasn’t met Berlinda yet, he said Kramer and Carrion have kept him informed about her recovery and follow-up treatment.

“It’s a testimony to cooperation and collaboration because it required a lot of people to step up and say that this is important to do and basically volunteer to do it,” he said.

For more information about fundraising efforts to help Berilnda, visit www.gofundme.com/berlindasmiracle. To find out more about Life & Hope Haiti or to get involved, visit www.lifeandhopehaiti.org.

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