Making Heart Health a Year-Round Priority

By: Hope Gamper, Editorial Intern

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February and American Heart Month are ending, but just because March is around the corner doesn’t mean you should stop thinking about keeping your heart in tip-top shape.

The American Heart Association (AHA), whose mission is to fight cardiovascular diseases and stroke, and the UM Heart Center offer a series of lifestyle recommendations for optimizing your heart health all year round.

Move More

Working out regularly is one of the best things you can do for your heart. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity at least 5 times a week (if you can’t do 30 minutes at a time, you can add up 10-minute sessions throughout the day).

Also try working in exercise to your normal routine:

  • Instead of driving to the store, walk or bike.
  • Park in a spot farther from your destination.
  • Keep dumbbells near the remote so you can stay active while watching TV.

Skip the Snacks

What you eat is just as important as what you do. Swapping out foods heavy with added sodium and fat for nutrient-rich foods can help you manage your weight, cholesterol and blood pressure. Here is a list of foods to fix and foods to nix.

Fix more foods high in vitamins, minerals and fiber, including:

  • Fruits and veggies
  • Whole grains – brown rice, quinoa, barley and buckwheat
  • Low-fat dairy products
  • Protein sources – poultry, fish and nuts

Nix processed foods and those that tend to be high in sodium and fat, including:

  • Sugary foods and beverages
  • Red meat
  • Deep fried foods or foods cooked in butter

Avoid Tobacco

Tobacco and other ingredients common in cigarettes frequently contribute to heart disease. Even secondhand smoke kills nearly 70,000 people each year.

The good news is that when you quit smoking you see short term benefits right away, and it only takes about 5 to 15 years to reduce stroke risk to that similar of a nonsmoker. There is still time to reverse the damage caused by tobacco and ensure that your heart keeps pumping for many years to come.

Click here for a list of Smoking Cessation Classes in your area.

 

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Heart disease accounts for 1 in 4 deaths each year, making these types of incremental changes vital to reducing your risk of heart related illness and keeping your heart well for all of life’s challenges, in February or any other month.

Thanking Donors with All of Our Heart

By: Hope Gamper, Editorial Intern

Most people know February 14th as Valentine’s Day,  but February 14th also shares the honor of being National Donor Day. National Donor Day honors donors of organs, tissues, marrow, platelets and blood. This Valentine’s Day, consider giving the gift of life to someone in need and celebrate the amazing generosity of former donors.

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A Great Need for Organ Donors

Every 10 minutes, someone is added to the waiting list for an organ. While UMMC offers multiple listing, potentially allowing a patient to receive an organ sooner, the need for donors is still great.

As the demand for organs rises, so does the need for organ donors. There are two types of organ donors: deceased donors and living donors, and both play an important role in healing someone in need.

A donation from a deceased individual can save as many as 8 lives and the process is facilitated by the Living Legacy Foundation. Deceased donors can provide tissues, corneas and organs such as the kidneys, pancreas, liver, lungs, heart and intestines. Donations are only considered after all life-saving efforts have been exhausted. To prepare for this type of donation, update your driver’s license donor status through the MVA.

The living organ donation process allows living individuals the ability to donate whole kidneys or parts of the liver, pancreas, lungs and intestines. Most of these organs either regenerate on their own or can function without a small portion. Receiving a transplant from a living donor is often an alternative to waiting on the national transplant waiting list. Learn more about living donation for a loved one.

Where Donations Go

Transplant surgeons at UMMC perform a total of more than 420 transplants, but there are currently more than 123,000 people in need of lifesaving transplants. You may direct a donation to a specific individual or your donation may go to the next eligible person on the waiting list. Patients who receive your donation will be matched based on an array of factors including blood type and severity of illness.

To those in need, donating an organ is an indescribable gift.  Successful UMMC transplant recipients for heart, kidney, lungliver and other conditions, have gone on to live joyfully once again.

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To the Heart of the Matter – Ways You Can Help

  • Consider giving the gift of life this Donor Day. Learn more about providing a living donation for a loved one from the UMMC Transplant Center.
  • Become an organ donor by opting in the next time you renew your driver’s license or filling out the online registry form here: https://register.donatelifemaryland.org/
  • Sign up with the Red Cross for a UMMC blood drive to donate blood or platelets.

And most importantly, thank an organ donor and their heroic and truly altruistic gift that has given thousands of people a second chance at life.

Shock Trauma Survivor Stresses Need for Blood Donations, Holds Blood Drive

The last thing Katie Pohler remembers from June 28 is pedaling her bike down Route 450 South in the bike lane, heading to the Waterfront in Annapolis with her boyfriend. But then, it all goes black.

Katie and her boyfriend, Todd Green, were both hit from behind by an impaired driver, and had to be flown to the R Adams Crowley Shock Trauma Center.

While Todd was released that night, Katie spent nearly three weeks in Shock Trauma, undergoing multiple surgeries and recovering from her extensive list of injures. She broke her left leg and arm, and her right hand, collarbone and shoulder, and her trachea was crushed, among other injuries.

During her stay in Shock Trauma, Katie, 23, received multiple blood transfusions while fighting for her life, which is why her friends and family have decided to organize a blood drive in her honor.

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“Having had a transfusion, I understand the importance of donating blood to save lives. I am going to give blood any chance I get,” Katie says.

Coming up with the idea for the drive was Katie’s neighbor and family friend, Candy McCann Fontz. Fontz, who has hosted blood drives before, felt this was a perfect way to support the family during such a trying time and help others.

“I know the power of what my donation does because I have seen it,” Fontz says of why blood drives are so important.

When Fontz brought the idea up to Katie and her family, it was unanimous that this was a perfect way to honor Katie’s recovery.

“I feel wonderful about doing this blood drive because I want to give back. Everybody helped Katie and so I want to be able to help others.” Donna Pohler, Katie’s mother, says.

The blood drive will be held from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Nov. 15 at the Glen Burnie Improvement Association, located at 19 S. Crain Highway, Glen Burnie. To schedule an appointment, head to www.redcrossblood.org and enter sponsor code GBIA.

“It’s about giving back and educating people on why it is important to donate,” Donna says.

According to the American Red Cross, every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood and more than 41,000 blood donations are required every day. The need for blood can be for emergency cases or for patients with conditions that require multiple transfusions, such as cancer patients going through chemotherapy or patients diagnosed with sickle cell disease.

Katie is currently going to physical therapy three times a week, and getting stronger every day. Her recovery process will be a long road, and some injuries will have more lasting effects than others.

“I just had vocal cord surgery and my voice is a lot different from what it used to be, but I am just thankful to have a voice at all,” Katie says.

Katie’s stay at Shock Trauma saved her life, and she says she is grateful to all the doctors and nurses who helped aid in her recovery, and to those who have taken the time to donate blood.

“I just can’t stress it enough how important it is to give blood,” Katie says. “You never expect that one day you are going to be in that situation where you need it.”

For more information on the blood drive, head online to the event’s Facebook page set up or call the Red Cross directly at 1-800-733-2767 to set up an appointment.

Art Exhibit Showcases Talent of UMMC Staff

In 2013, the University of Maryland Medical Center’s C2X Healing Arts Team and the National Arts Program co-sponsored the hospital’s first employee art exhibition. In response to the overwhelmingly positive feedback, this year’s exhibit will remain open two weeks longer than the 2013 exhibition, giving patients, visitors and employees alike extra time to view these one-of-a-kind pieces. The art will remain mounted in the Weinberg Atrium through Nov. 5.

This year’s exhibition features 192 pieces of artwork by UMMC staff and their families, a significant increase in participants from the previous year. Hospital staff from nearly every service area contributed projects, including submissions from 34 artists who contributed to last year’s display.

 

The artists submitted a wide selection of works, including paintings, photography, crafts, sketches, mixed media and various forms of sculpture. A notable number of submissions carry a distinctive Baltimore theme. “These artists have immeasurable talent, and we are fortunate to showcase their work in our hallways,” said Rachel Hercenberg, supervisor of oncology operations for the Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center.

Baltimore artists Cinder Hypki, Will Williams and Robert McClintock returned from the previous year to judge the competition and presented awards to the winning artists at a ceremony on October 2. Hypki, a community artist and faculty member in the MFA Program in Community Arts at MICA, explores art and ritual as a means of overcoming loss or pain. She has assisted the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center in the cultivation of healing art for over five years. Williams is a MICA graduate with a background in fine arts, illustration and portrait painting. His award-winning work is featured in Massachusetts and Maryland galleries. McClintock is a self-taught visionary and combines photography and digital painting into iconic representations of Baltimore. He is a three-time finalist at MacWorld’s annual juried digital art competition.

The judges distributed $2,400 in National Arts Program awards to 21 winning artists from five categories: Youth, Teen, Adult Amateur, Adult Intermediate and Adult Professional. McClintock also presented a special Best in Show award to a 7-year-old recipient. Black-and-white photography and modern paintings featured prominently among the wining pieces. After the closing of the exhibit in November, the People’s Choice Award will be presented to the artist with the most votes from exhibition guests. UMMC employees and visitors can vote by placing their ballot in the box on the exhibit’s glass display case.

The award ceremony featured a guitar prelude by Matt Peroutka, a member of UMMC’s Integrative Care Team and C2X Healing Arts Team. Following the awards, guests enjoyed refreshments – hors d’oeuvres and piano-shaped cookies – while Baltimore jazz pianist Lieutenant Israel Cross gave the 100th performance on the hospital’s piano.

The C2X Healing Arts Team, led by Hercenberg, is composed of hospital employees who are dedicated to using art for healing and wholeness. Kerry Sobol, MBA, RN, director of patient experience and the Commitment to Excellence program for UMMC, and Marianne Rowan Braun, director and vice president of the Commitment to Excellence program and patient experience, oversee and mentor the group. The C2X Healing Arts Team sponsors the yearly Healing Arts Exhibit and coordinates musical performances in the Healing Garden.

The 2014 Healing Arts Exhibit award winners are:

Best in Show

  • Isabel Mena, 7 (Daughter of Christine Mena, RN, Nurse ROP Coordinator, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit): “Scary”

Youth (12 and Under)

  • First place: Ethan Luu, 9 (Son of Rosanna Dinh, RN, Nurse Medication Diversion Specialist, Pharmacy): “Happy Koi”
  • Second Place: Anna Eyler, 7 (Daughter of Kristin Eyler, MPT, Senior Physical Therapist, Rehabilitation Services): “Fireworks over the city”
  • Third Place: Braydon Barski, 9 (Son of Sharon Barski, AS, Student Nurse, Pediatric Hematology and Oncology): “Super Heroes”
  • Honorable Mention: Lara Therese Eugenio, 12 (Daughter of Lovella Eugenio, BSN, CNOR, Senior Clinical Nurse I, General Operating Room): “My Dog”

Teen (13-18)

  • First place: Taylor Motley, 18 (Daughter of Jennifer Motley, BSN, PCCN, Senior Clinical Nurse II, Multi Trauma Intermediate Care Unit): “Hay Stacks”
  • Second Place: Christopher Fieden, 17 (Son of Mary Fieden, RN, Clinical Nurse II, Bone Marrow Transplant Unit): “Easy Rider”
  • Third Place: Grant Zopp, 15 (Son of Joan Zopp, OTR/L, Advanced Occupational Therapist, Psychiatric Occupational Therapy, 12 West and Harbor City Unlimited): “Self Portrait”
  • Honorable Mention: Leena Singh, 13 (Daughter of Ila Mulasi, MD, Assistant Clinical Professor, Family and Community Medicine): “Teapot”

Adult Amateur

  • First place: Laura White (RN, OCN, Senior Clinical Nurse I, Stoler Pavilion, Marlene & Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center): “Chincoteague Wild”
  • Second Place: Sarah Connolly (Daughter of Mary Ellen Connolly, NP, Nurse Practitioner, Pediatrics): “Untitled”
  • Third Place: Yoav Bachrach (Husband of Christine Bachrach, MS, CHC-F, Chief Compliance Officer, Corporate Compliance): “Cedar Bowl – Imperfection Makes Beauty”
  • Honorable Mention: Matthew Smith (MLIS, Assistant Director of Prospect Research & Management, University of Maryland Medical System Foundation): “Jordanian Sunrise”

Adult Intermediate

  • First place: Adrian Rugas (Husband of Marianne Rugas, RN, Clinical Nurse II, Cardiac Surgery Stepdown ): “Gilded”
  • Second Place: Stephanie Heydt (MT (ASCP), Medical Laboratory Scientist, Blood Bank): “Sulking”
  • Third Place: Rupal Mehta (MD, Assistant Professor, Department of Pathology): “Man with Stool”
  • Honorable Mention: Nadia Gavrilova (MD, Resident, Family Medicine): “The Healing Garden: Orchids. Life finds a way to thrive”

Adult Professional

  • First Place: Deborah Kommalan (Mother of Martha Hoffman, RN, BSN, CNOR, Senior Clinical Nurse I, Perioperative Services ): “Make Lemonade”
  • Second Place: Linda Praley (Creative Director, Communications and Public Affairs): “Untitled 1”
  • Third Place: Annemarie DiCamillo (Daughter of Jennifer DiCamillo, Critical Care Pediatric Transport Clinical Nurse II, Maryland ExpressCare): “Tough Faith”
  • Honorable Mention: Karen Trimble (Wife of Kimball Cutler, LCSW-C, Program Coordinator, Program of Assertive Community Treatment ): “English Sky”

Compassion and Healing

The Greenebaum Compassion Award goes this winter to Lisa Mayo, a discharge coordinator, and Michelle “Shelle” Besche, BSN, OCN, CCRP, a research nurse coordinator. Read about why they were chosen from among the staff of the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center — where everyone is known for compassionate care.

Greenebaum Cancer Center Patients and Staff Celebrate Together

Each year, the staff of the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center coordinates “A Cancer Center Christmas,” a buffet dinner and party for patients and families who must celebrate Christmas in the hospital.

 A deep bond develops among the cancer center “family,” as patients and the relatives and friends who support them make frequent trips for care during this crucial period in their lives. On the day after this year’s Christmas celebration, Peggy Torr, BSN, RN, OCN, a nurse who helped coordinate this year’s celebration, sent staff an email that perfectly illustrates the warm and loving atmosphere created by these nurses, patient care technicians, unit secretaries, physicians and other staff. 

Torr noted that much credit should go to her colleague, Anita Meddin, RN, who over the years helped organize the annual celebration and make it better each time. 

 

 

A Little Hero Recovers from Heart Surgery to Run Like Superman


Editor’s note:
For 2-year-old Thaddeous McKenzie, the Baltimore Running Festival was just a fun day when he got to run fast with a bunch of other kids. For his mother, Jennifer McAnany, and others who formed “Team Thaddeous,” it meant a lot more.  

By Jennifer McAnany

(as told to Amy Katz)

I felt my son grip my hand tightly as he wiggled in anticipation of the race. He was restless, but only because he was excited to run in the Kids Fun Run at the Baltimore Running Festival. I looked down at him, beaming with pride. I could think only about how truly blessed I am to have a healthy child who is living life to the fullest and being a normal 2-year-old.

When I was pregnant with my son Thaddeous, I wanted the best care possible for my baby. Because of complications, I was already considered a high-risk pregnancy, so I went to see Dr. Geoffrey Rosenthal at University of Maryland Medical Center. At 20 weeks, doctors found a heart defect and diagnosed Thaddeous with Tetralogy of Fallot. In this heart defect, it is difficult for the heart to pump oxygen properly, causing the child’s lips, tongue, and fingers to turn blue from lack of oxygen. The most common treatment for TOF is usually open heart surgery, and this surgery usually must occur within the first few months of life. It was scary for me because we wouldn’t even know how bad the defect was until he was born.

The day Thaddeous was born was very nerve-racking for me. He was born at UMMC – where they were prepared to perform open heart surgery on him immediately, if he needed it. As soon as he was born, the nurses came and assessed him. I was thrilled when I learned little Thaddeous was well enough to be able to go home from the hospital with me when I was released two days later. He was monitored every couple weeks and seemed to be doing okay.

About 11 weeks later, when we went in for a genetics appointment with Dr. Julie Kaplan at Upper Chesapeake Medical Center (part of the UM Medical System), she noticed that Thaddeous was looking a little blue, demonstrating one of his heart-defect symptoms. They had to immediately transport us from Upper Chesapeake hospital to the UM Medical Center in downtown Baltimore. It was a horrible weekend because his oxygen levels would drop every so often and he wasn’t scheduled to have open heart surgery until Monday morning. This is when we started calling him our little Superman because he pulled through his surgery and came out of it as our little hero.

Thaddeous McKenzie recovers after surgery. He's now a healthy 2-year-old.

Thaddeous McKenzie recovering after heart surgery at University of Maryland Children’s Hospital. 

 

The full-heart repair was a success and Thaddeous recovered fairly quickly. He was doing great. So when I heard about the Children’s Heart Program Running Team in the Baltimore Running Festival on Oct. 12, not only did I sign up to run – I signed up our little Superman. He even had his own bib number. And then several family members and friends signed up. As “Team Thaddeous,” we raised money for the program to be able to help other young patients and families.

Ready, Set, GO! The buzzer went off to signal the start.

Thaddeous ran as fast as he could, trying his hardest to keep up with the other kids and pulling me along with him. He was having a blast in his Superman shirt with his cape blowing in the wind, and I felt so glad he is still on the mend.

He will still have to have yearly check-ups for the rest of his life, but he is living life like a normal 2-year-old. He has his hiccups at times but what 2-year-old doesn’t? He walks, he plays, he kicks the ball and does everything he wants to do. The sky is the limit for him now.

As we crossed the finish line, still hand-in-hand, I once again realized how thankful I was.  He wouldn’t be able to be here running this race beside me for the Children’s Heart Program if it wasn’t for all of his doctors, nurses, and everyone who helped him get where he is today. I did the race for Thaddeous and to give back to the program that had helped us. It was like everything came full circle, and I can’t thank everyone at the University of Maryland Medical System enough.

Go to the Team Thaddeous page to see more photos of Thaddeous or to make a donation to sponsor his team’s fundraising effort.

Team Thaddeous

Team Thaddeous after running to raise money for the Children’s Heart Program and, below, with Dr. Rosenthal (third from left).

 

Group picture with Dr. Rosenthal

 

Recovering Cancer Patient Takes Control of Health and Weight

Verna Prehn, before and after

My Story of Getting Healthy

By Verna Prehn

Three years ago I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. At the time of my diagnosis, I was a very large woman (weighing more than 300 lbs) with a very high “at-rest” heart rate and (we would find out later) severely malnourished.

I went through tough but successful treatment, including two surgeries, chemotherapy, artificial feedings with a nasogastric tube, and blood transfusions, under the care of Dr. Sarah Temkin at the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center.

Chemo had many side effects, including bone pain, hair loss and weight loss (97 pounds), but it has successfully freed me from cancer for now, and Dr. Temkin keeps a close watch on my health, vigilant for a recurrence that would require additional treatment. Dr. Temkin told me that keeping the weight off that I had lost with chemotherapy treatments would be healthy for me and increase my survivorship.

After treatment was complete, I began to put on weight, but Dr. Temkin said not to worry too much because everyone puts on a bit of weight after they have completed treatment. But my little bit of weight became a lot more weight until I had put on all 97 pounds I had lost.

I went to Dr. Tais Baig in UM Family Medicine as my primary care physician to have her regulate medication for my high blood pressure and rapid heart rate. She ran tests and found that my blood glucose was high enough to suspect diabetes. Dr. Baig talked with me for a while, getting to know me and asked how she could best help me with my health.

I told her that I wanted to get the weight off because I wanted to increase my survivorship and I knew that being so heavy is a threat to my health. I told her that I didn’t know how to do it. I don’t know what good nutrition is, what’s good or bad to eat, and how to come up with a plan to lose weight. She told me about the University of Maryland Medical Weight Management Program through the Department of Family and Community Medicine. Dr. Baig helped me through getting an appointment to begin.

I met Dr. Verlyn Warrington at my first appointment. She explained the program, gave me lots of information and set me up for the group meetings with a licensed clinical social worker and behavior therapist. I was taking medication for high blood pressure and rapid heart rate, thyroid medication for an under active thyroid, an inhaler for asthma, and Dr. Warrington wanted to put me on medication for diabetes.

My first meeting with the support and accountability group was overwhelming. We talked about protein, protein, protein. We talked about portion size. We talked about eating several times a day and not skipping meals. Harriet told us that if we followed the plan we would lose 10 percent of our body weight in three months. It took me about a week-and-a-half before I gave the plan a try because I was afraid and overwhelmed. In three months, I did indeed lose 10 percent of my body weight. In fact, I lost 35 pounds that first three months.

Additionally, Dr. Warrington explained that I needed to increase my activity level. I had some restrictions on what I could do because of my knees and asthma. I began walking. I started walking around the perimeter of my neighborhood, which measures out to just over a mile. At first, I couldn’t walk and talk at the same time and I had to stop frequently to rest and catch my breath. As I have lost more weight and have increased my cardiovascular endurance, I have started exercising to on-line walking videos

I have learned so much from Harriet, Dr. Warrington, Dr. Vivienne Rose and the people in our support and accountability group. I know how to think and make good choices about eating. HALT is a good motto to follow because my emotions drive my eating habits. So I think: HALT – am I HUNGRY? Or am I ANGRY? or am I LONELY? or am I TIRED? Actually, I add an “S” to it (HALTS) – am I STRESSED?

I read the labels on food and check them for calories, fat and sugar content. I measure my food so that I keep healthy portion sizes. (Portion size was a huge surprise to me. I had an unrealistic concept of what an individual serving was and what was actually food for two or three people.)

I keep track of my food in a food journal through MyFitnessPal.com. It also keeps track of my exercise and activity level. Dr. Warrington told me about this tool to use because I had gone about two months and had only lost one pound. Dr. Warrington and the food journal help me to realize that I was eating too few calories – I wasn’t eating enough food.

Dr. Vivienne Rose and Harriet Mandel present Mrs. Verna Prehn with a congratulatory plaque marking her 100 pound weight loss

Dr. Vivienne Rose and Harriet Mandel present Mrs. Verna Prehn with a congratulatory plaque marking her 100 pound weight loss

 

It has been 14 months since Dr. Warrington, Dr. Rose and Harriet helped me make a lifestyle change that is healthier for me and increases my rate of survivorship. At my last appointment and weigh-in, I had lost 100 pounds. It took 13 months. I am no longer on medication for my heart or blood pressure or thyroid. My blood glucose is no longer in the diabetic or pre-diabetic range. I have walked two 8k walks. I walk to videos or outdoors five times a week. I do strength training exercises with weights and bands. I am starting a faith and fitness class with a trainer and will begin a gym membership soon. I can walk my entire neighborhood in 20 minutes without stopping and while carrying on a conversation at the same time.

I still have a considerable amount of weight to lose to get to a healthy weight that I am comfortable with. I feel so much better already. I take the steps instead of the elevator and it doesn’t hurt my knees! I know so much more about what is a healthy food choice and portion size. The University of Maryland Medical Weight Management program, Dr. Warrington, Dr. Rose and Harriet have helped me claim a new healthier way of living.

Verna Prehn

Elkridge, Md.

Nurses Run for their ‘Heart Kids’

By Jen Arrington, MS, RN, CPN, and Kristen Fantel, BSN, RN, CEN

On Oct. 12, 17 nurses and friends of the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) will be running in the Baltimore Running Festival to raise money for the UMMC Children’s Heart Program. When people ask us why we run, there’s one easy answer. We run for patients like Brandon Kerrigan and all of the heart kids that we care for everyday.

When Brandon celebrated his 15th birthday on Aug. 16, no one had any idea that two days later he would be fighting for his life. Brandon was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, and went into cardiac arrest while being flown from Easton to the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital. Once Brandon was stabilized, his family was told that he would need a heart transplant. Since his arrival to the PICU, Brandon has been determined to get strong while he waits for his heart. He charms the nurses and staff with his bright smile and Nerf guns, just trying to be a normal 15-year-old, while cooped up in the hospital. You can see how charming he is in this picture of us with him at the bottom of our team page.

Brandon is only one example of a patient we are running for. We care for many cardiac patients in collaboration with the Children’s Heart Program. This program provides comprehensive cardiac care for children with a wide range of conditions — from rhythm abnormalities to childhood hypertension, from heart murmurs to serious birth defects requiring complicated heart surgery. While we care for these complex patients, they quickly become a part of our unit – we offer an encouraging smile to their parents in the hallway, we say our silent prayers. And on good days – we dodge Nerf guns as we enter the patient’s room.

The strength and resilience of these children, who battle against all odds, is simply inspiring. As nurses, we are often left with the feeling of wanting to do more. We carefully assess these patients for any changes in condition, we give medications, we advocate for their every need, and we attempt to play and create normalcy whenever we can. But we want to do more.

This is why we decided to run as part of the Children’s Heart Team. We don’t have a miracle drug and we can’t take away the heartache in the eyes of the parents of these patients. But we can run.

As with all of the patients we care for, the teamwork involved in the care of these patients is also inspiring. The team includes Nurses, Doctors, Child Life Specialists, Respiratory Therapists, OR and Cath Lab Staff, Rehabilitation Services – and many, many other people who deserve to be celebrated.

This strong team work was the inspiration for our fundraising efforts. We created a T-shirt that recognizes this team effort, and we are selling the T-shirt around the hospital in order to raise money for the Children’s Heart Program.

In addition to the shirt, we are also hosting a fundraiser at a local restaurant. Join us on Wednesday, Oct. 2, at Blue Hill Tavern in Canton. The restaurant will be donating 20% of its proceeds from the day to our cause. Schedule a lunch with your co-workers, dinner with your family, or join the PICU nurses for Happy Hour – and help an important cause.

Want to join us in our effort to do more? Contact us! Maybe today we can give back a little bit of the inspiration that we have received from these amazing children.

To make a donation: http://www.ummsfoundation.org/picuheart

The ‘Seeker’ Gives Through a Living Kidney Donation

Matthew Taylor writes about “living an authentic life in a world of artifice” in his blog, “The Seeker.” This week, he posted a frank and engaging piece about donating one of his kidneys to his wife, who suffered from polycystic kidney disease.  Here’s an excerpt:

“After some soul searching, I decided to give her one of mine. It was not an easy decision to make since there were many factors to consider, but I am at peace with it now. In fact, I’ve come to appreciate some things about a kidney transplant that I never would have thought of before.”

Taylor, a writer who lives in Rockville, Md., gave the University of Maryland Medical Center, where his donation and his wife’s transplant were performed, permission to direct readers to his post,  “25 Ways to Appreciate a Kidney Transplant.”

The University of Maryland Medical Center is home to the second-largest kidney transplant program in the country. The surgeons involved in Taylor’s donation and his wife’s transplant were Michael Phelan, MD; David Leeser, MD; and Stephen Bartlett, MD.