All posts by Angelo Antoline

6 Things to Expect When Your Loved One is in Critical Care

It’s difficult to imagine a loved one being ill or injured enough to require critical care. But being prepared for what to expect can help you manage the situation.
Here are 6 important things to know:

  1. You have an experienced team on your side. The hospital staff that’s caring for your loved one is highly trained and prepared to treat the sickest – and most medically complex – patients. From the physicians and nurses to the respiratory therapists and dietitians – they all are specially trained to care for your loved one.
  2. The tubes and equipment in a critical care unit can be intimidating. But, they all have a role and purpose in providing your loved one with the intensive healthcare that he or she needs. The healthcare team will be able to explain the role of any equipment to help you better understand what it happening.
  3. Information overload can – and most likely will – occur. Everything will be new to you from the equipment and noises to the procedures and health professionals. Take a deep breath. Once you get your bearings, think of how you can best keep track of information. Write in a notebook. Keep notes on your phone. Jot down items like key information, questions you want to ask, purpose of treatments, and names of hospital personnel.
  4. Expect peaks and valleys. Critical care can be a bumpy ride. Some days will be better than others. As much as possible, try to be patient and keep perspective.
  5. Talk to your loved one. Communicating with your loved one is important for not only him or her, but for your entire family. Often patients can hear while in critical care. Speak calmly and clearly, and make short, positive statements. Hold your loved ones hand or touch them gently if a member of the healthcare team says it’s OK.
  6. Take care of yourself. It may be a long road to your loved one’s recovery, so be sure to take time to do things like sleep, eat, and shower. Don’t be afraid to leave the room for a bit. The healthcare team will be there 24/7 to provide care.
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Don’t Let Distractions Wreck Your Summer Vacation

Distracted driving is a growing – and dangerous – recurring event in the United States. Any activity from talking on a cell phone, looking at a GPS system, to eating or drinking while driving is a distraction and can endanger the driver, passengers, and bystanders. Probably the most alarming distraction of all is text messaging because it requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention from the driver. Five seconds is the average time someone’s eyes are off the road while texting. When traveling at 55 mph, that’s enough time to cover the length of a football field blindfolded.

In 2013, around 424,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes that involved a distracted driver, with more than 3,100 people being killed. A study through the National Institutes of Health found that drivers eat, reach for the phone, text, or otherwise take their eyes off the road about 10 percent of the time. “As a physician, I’ve seen the effects of distracted driving first-hand, including several orthopedic, spinal cord, and traumatic brain injuries,” says Dr. Ike Osuji, Medical Director of Mesquite Specialty Hospital, stating that more than half of traumatic brain injuries are caused by automobile accidents.

“A brain injury occurs when there is a blow or jolt to the head.” In a vehicle accident, this can occur when an airbag deploys or a person hits the windshield or steering wheel. All brain injuries are serious and can affect a person’s cognitive or physical abilities. They also can result in behavioral or emotional impairments as well.” A person who suffers a significant brain injury most likely will require critical care as well as rehabilitation to relearn basic skills, such as walking, talking or eating. “Our goal in helping these types of patients is to address the acute medical issues and improve an individual’s abilities to perform daily activities,” Osuji says, “It can be a long process that requires the specialized skills of a multidisciplinary medical team. And, while I’m glad that I’m part of a team at MSH that can help in the long-term recovery of these types of patients, I would rather see these types of injuries being prevented.” “It’s time to stop the epidemic of distracted driving,” Dr. Osuji says, “the simplest and most effective way to do this is to turn off your cell phone when you turn on the car ignition. Pay attention to the road instead. Let’s all be responsible drivers, and let’s save lives together.”

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Having a Heart-to-Heart with your Doctor

When it comes to matters of the heart, the silent treatment is never an effective cure. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, with more than 600,000 people dying from it every year. “Heart disease can refer to many types of conditions, but the most common is coronary artery disease, which can lead to a heart attack,” says Dr. Ike Osuji, Medical Director of Mesquite Specialty Hospital. “Anyone can develop heart disease. This happens when a substance called plaque builds up in your arteries, which then narrow over time and limit the blood flow to your heart.” Behaviors such as smoking, unhealthy eating and not getting enough exercise all are factors that contribute to a person’s risk of heart disease. High cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes also are risk factors.

“To be heart-healthy, it’s important that you talk openly and frankly with your doctor about preventing or treating these medical conditions,” Osuji says. “I know that speaking up may be difficult for some patients, but I can’t stress enough that miscommunication – or no communication – between you and your physician can hurt your health. Many people may not feel comfortable asking questions of their physician for a variety of reasons, be it embarrassment, nervousness, lack of knowledge or because their physician may appear to be rushed for time or uses a lot of technical language that’s hard to understand.

“I think I can talk for the majority of my colleagues when I say that as physicians, we strive to create environments that our patients feel comfortable in,” Osuji says. “We appreciate when issues are discussed and we can work together as a team with our patients. The more we can understand about our patients, the more we can help them reach optimal health.”

Dr. Osuji says when it comes to heart health, open communication is key. Taking part in decisions about your treatment, following the treatment plan that you and your doctor agree on, watching for problems, and becoming actively involved in solving them can reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. “It’s not just about listening to what you’re told, it’s about asking the right questions and raising appropriate concerns so we can get the best results together,” Osuji says. “When a patient engages with their physician and obtains quality information about prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and recovery, it helps ensure safety, prevent errors, and improve health.” Dr. Osuji, offers the following tips in talking to your physician:

  • Ask questions, especially to ensure that you’re following your doctor’s advice and taking your medication correctly. If you don’t understand something, keep asking until you do.
  • Before you come to your medical visit, write down questions or concerns. This way, you will remember the most important items that you need to discuss.
  • Also, write down the answers. You may receive a lot of information that could be hard to remember. Take a pad of paper and pen and write down your physician’s answers so you’ll be able to review them when you get home.
  • Ask your physician about the best way to contact him or her if you have an urgent question after the visit.
  • Become an informed consumer. Do a bit of research on your own through reliable sources that your doctor will respect when forming your questions. For heart health and stroke information, consider the Heart Association’s website, or a government site such as National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • If you’re still afraid to speak up, take a spouse or loved one with you who can help you ask your questions. Often times, asking questions can be a major change for someone who isn’t used to raising concerns, so don’t be afraid to take along support if you need it.
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Personal Commitments Improve Patient Care

Carla Bledsole, DON for Mesquite Specialty Hospital, recalls many long nights studying as a nursing student. “When I selected nursing as my major, I knew the classwork would be intense,” she says. “But it didn’t intimidate me. I was entering a field where people’s lives literally depended on me, and that’s a sobering responsibility. I knew it was my job to learn as much as I could to help my future patients. The more I could learn, the better nurse I’d be.”

After 11 years in the profession, Carla still feels the same way. Like many of her colleagues, Carla values the importance of staying abreast of the latest medical developments, techniques, and treatments in her field through professional continuing education. “I have to keep up with the latest medical treatments and techniques so I can assist my nurses in providing the best care possible to the patients we care for,” she says. “I’m committed to lifelong learning in my field – both what’s mandatorily required, and what I can add to it voluntarily.” In addition to the continuing education Carla participates to maintain her state nursing license. “Continuing education among our healthcare team – through specialized classes or certifications – is highly encouraged and supported at the hospital because it’s essential in providing high quality care to our patients,” says Dr. Ike Osuji Medical Director. “As a physician, therapist, nurse or other healthcare professional, we all need to stay abreast of latest medical developments for our patients’ sakes. We’re responsible and accountable for their recoveries and healing, and we take that responsibility extremely seriously. By continuing to grow and specialize in our knowledge, we can provide the latest care with confidence so our patients get the best results.”

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