The man who could bring you back from the dead

Tim Adams The Observer,

sam parnia Sam Parnia MD has a highly sought after medical speciality: resurrection. His patients can be dead for several hours before they are restored to their former selves, with decades of life ahead of them.

Parnia is head of intensive care at the Stony Brook University Hospital in New York. If you’d had a cardiac arrest at Parnia’s hospital last year and undergone resuscitation, you would have had a 33% chance of being brought back from death. In an average American hospital, that figure would have fallen to 16% and (though the data is patchy) roughly the same, or less, if your heart were to have stopped beating in a British hospital.

By a conservative extrapolation, Parnia believes the relatively cheap and straightforward methods he uses to restore vital processes could save up to 40,000 American lives a year and maybe 10,000 British ones. Not surprisingly Parnia, who was trained in the UK and moved to the US in 2005, is frustrated that the medical establishment seems slow and reluctant to listen to these figures. He has written a book in the hope of spreading the word.

The Lazarus Effect is nothing short of an attempt to recast our understanding of death, based on Parnia’s intimate knowledge of the newly porous nature of the previously “undiscovered country from which no traveller returns”. His work in resuscitation has led him logically to wider questions of what constitutes being and not being. In particular, he asks what exactly happens, if you are lying dead before resuscitation, to your individual self and all its attendant character and memories – your “soul”, as he is not shy to call it – before it is eventually restored to you a few hours later?

When I meet Parnia, he is not long off the plane from New York after a night flight with his wife and baby daughter, and the particular revival he is craving is the miracle of strong coffee. He is both forthright and softly spoken, full of careful zeal for his findings. As I sit across the table from him, he can make even the most extraordinary claim seem calmly rational. “It is my belief,” he says, “that anyone who dies of a cause that is reversible should not really die any more. That is: every heart attack victim should no longer die. I have to be careful when I state that because people will say, ‘My husband has died recently and you are saying that need not have happened’. But the fact is heart attacks themselves are quite easily managed. If you can manage the process of death properly then you go in, take out the clot, put a stent in, the heart will function in most cases. And the same with infections, pneumonia or whatever. People who don’t respond to antibiotics in time, we could keep them there for a while longer [after they had died] until they did respond.”

Parnia’s belief is backed up by his experience at the margin of life and death in intensive care units for the past two decades – he did his training at Guy’s and St Thomas’ in London – and particularly in the past five years or so when most of the advances in resuscitation have occurred. Those advances – most notably the drastic cooling of the corpse to slow neuronal deterioration and the monitoring and maintenance of oxygen levels to the brain – have not yet become accepted possibilities in the medical profession. Parnia is on a mission to change that.

The one thing that is certain about all of our lives, he says, is that we will all eventually experience a cardiac arrest. All our hearts will stop beating. What happens in the minutes and hours after that will potentially be the most significant moments of our biography. At present, the likelihood is, however, that in those crucial moments we will find ourselves in the medical environment of the 1960s or 1970s.

The kind of CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) that we are familiar with from medical dramas – the frenzied pumping of the chest – remains rooted, Parnia claims, in its serendipitous discovery in 1960. It remains a haphazard kind of procedure, often performed more in hope than anticipation. Partly, this is a question of personnel. Parnia is quietly maddened by the worldwide hospital habit, in the event of death, to send the most junior of doctors along “to have a go at CPR”. It is as if hospital staff have given up before they have started.

“Most doctors will do CPR for 20 minutes and then stop,” he says. “The decision to stop is completely arbitrary but it is based on an instinct that after that time brain damage is very likely and you don’t want to bring people back into a persistent vegetative state. But if you understand all the things that are going on in the brain in those minutes – as we now can – then you can minimise that possibility. There are numerous studies that show that if you implement all the various resuscitation steps together you not only get a doubling of your survival rates but the people who come back are not brain damaged.”

In Parnia’s ideal world, the way that people are resuscitated would first take in the knowledge that machines are much better at CPR than doctors. After that, he suggests, the next step is “to understand that you need to elevate the level of care”. The first thing is to cool down the body to best preserve the brain cells, which are by then in the process of apoptosis, or suicide.

At the same time, it is necessary to keep up the level of oxygen in the blood. In Japan, this is already standard practice in emergency rooms. Using a technique called an ECMO, the blood of the deceased is siphoned out of the body, put through a membrane oxygenator and pumped round again. This buys the time needed to fix the underlying problem that caused the person to die in the first place. If the level of oxygen to the brain falls below 45% of normal the heart will not restart, Parnia’s research shows. Anything above that and there is a good chance.

Potentially, by this means, dead time can be extended to hours and there are still positive outcomes. “The longest I know of is a Japanese girl I mention in the book,” Parnia says. “She had been dead for more than three hours. And she was resuscitated for six hours. Afterwards, she returned to life perfectly fine and has, I have been told, recently had a baby.”

It was a truncated version of this process, at the London Chest Hospital, that allowed the Bolton footballer Fabrice Muamba to be restored to life after he collapsed on the pitch at White Hart Lane last year. Parnia watched the events unfold on TV and subsequently kept on reading that Muamba had been, for up to an hour, “dead” – but always in quotation marks. He laughs. “Journalists have invented a new term, ‘clinically dead’. I don’t know what that term means. But the fact is Muamba was dead. And it was not by a miracle he was brought back to life, it was by science.”

One of the stranger things you realise in reading Parnia’s book is the idea that we might be in thrall to historical perceptions of life and death and that these ultimate constants have lately become vaguer than most of us would allow. The other strand of Parnia’s research, in which he leads a team at Southampton University, is into what most people tend to call “near-death experiences” and what he calls “actual death experiences”. Parnia has talked to many people about what they recall experiencing while they were dead in his intensive care unit. About half claim to have clear recollections, many of which involve looking down on the surgical team at work on their body or the familiar image of a bright threshold or tunnel of light into which they were being drawn. Parnia has been collecting detailed accounts of these experiences for four years. I ask what conclusions he has drawn.

He suggests he is agnostic about the source of these subjective memories, as he is about questions of mind and matter. “When I first got interested in these mind/body questions, I was astonished to find that no one had even begun to put forward a theory about exactly how neurons in the brain can generate thoughts,” he says. “We always assume that all scientists believe the brain produces the mind, but in fact there are plenty who are not certain of that. Even prominent neuroscientists, such as Sir John Eccles, a Nobel prizewinner, believe that we are never going to understand mind through neuronal activity. All I can say is what I have observed from my work. It seems that when consciousness shuts down in death, psyche, or soul – by which I don’t mean ghosts, I mean your individual self – persists for a least those hours before you are resuscitated. From which we might justifiably begin to conclude that the brain is acting as an intermediary to manifest your idea of soul or self but it may not be the source or originator of it… I think that the evidence is beginning to suggest that we should keep open our minds to the possibility that memory, while obviously a scientific entity of some kind – I’m not saying it is magic or anything like that – is not neuronal.”

Does he have a religious faith?

“No,” he says, “and I don’t have any religious way into this. But what I do know is that every area of inquiry that used to be tackled by religion or philosophy is now tackled and explained by science. One of the last things to be looked at in this way is the question of what happens when we die. This science of resuscitation allows us to look at that for the first time.”

While those more esoteric studies go on, Parnia wants to ensure that more and more people are successfully returned from death to tell whatever tales they can. “I still have colleagues in ICU who say, ‘I don’t know why we are doing all this stuff’,” he says. “Not long ago, I went for a job interview in New York at a teaching hospital and I was told if a patient comes in and has a cardiac arrest and they end up in the cardiac care unit they will be cooled, but if they end up in the intensive care unit the doctor in charge doesn’t believe in it. He thinks it blocks his beds so he won’t do it. I don’t see this as negligence exactly because there is, as yet, no authority telling us this is the standard we should use. But surely there should be.” All of this, I say, must have had a powerful bearing on Parnia’s own sense of mortality. Is he comforted or made paranoid by his work?

He suggests that the experience of talking to people who have returned from dying serves only to enhance his curiosity about the process they have undergone, and which he has sometimes helped to reverse. Other than that, he says: “In ICU, I see people dying every day and each time it happens a part of you thinks, one day this will be me. There will be people huddling round my bed deciding whether or not to resuscitate and I know one thing for sure: I don’t want it just down to pot luck whether I end up brain damaged or even alive.”

Graphic by Pete Guest.
Graphic by Pete Guest.

During cardiac arrest, blood cannot carry oxygen to the brain, causing brain cells to decay irreparably, making recovery uncertain. CPR, in which circulation is manually stimulated to delay brain damage, has long been considered the last chance for patients. With ECMO, however, those same patients can be brought back from the brink and kept alive while doctors work towards diagnosis and treatment, making CPR seem primitive by comparison. This hi-tech method of resuscitation is known as ECPR and could mark a revolution in medical practice if adopted by hospitals worldwide.

An extracorporeal membrane oxygenation machine (ECMO) is an advanced life-support apparatus. Two catheter needles are inserted, one into a major vein and one into a major artery, allowing a synthetic pump to begin drawing blood out of the body, circulating it through the apparatus, before returning it to the bloodstream. The blood passes through a membrane oxygenator, in which oxygen is introduced and carbon dioxide removed, much like the exchange of gases that takes place in the lungs. Some ECMO machines also include a heat exchanger, which can cool or warm the blood according to the patient’s condition.

A dedicated team is required to place a patient on ECMO but, once that patient is stabilised, the machine can be supervised by specially trained nurses and can maintain stability for sustained periods. This allows the patient to live without a functioning cardiopulmonary system for days or even weeks, giving diseased organs a valuable holiday in which to recover.

Until recently, it has been used largely for severe lung failure in babies. In the UK, it is principally thought of as an intensive care treatment used in the ward, but more and more US hospitals are adding ECPR to their emergency treatment options. In an emergency, when a patient has shown no return of spontaneous circulation after conventional CPR, a doctor would decide whether the patient merits being attached to an ECMO machine, which must be carried out in a matter of minutes. Emergency ECMO is therefore administered as a last resort to patients who stand a good chance of full recovery.

In these conditions, it can be very effective and patients who have been medically dead for hours have been resuscitated successfully through ECMO, which can restart the heartbeat through steady pressure and blood flow. Even after full cardiac arrest, in situations where cell decay and brain damage have been avoided, ECMO has proved a lifesaver. There are four ECMO centres in the UK. Europe’s largest centre and the only one in the UK that treats adults is the Glenfield hospital in Leicester.

Thanks to the efforts of 3 local Lions Clubs, deaf 11-month-old will receive new hearing aids

Written by Amy Bowen

Thanks to the efforts of 3 local Lions Clubs, deaf 11-month-old will receive new hearing aidsAbigail Voight snuggles with her grandpa. She laughs with her dad and cries when her mom leaves the room.

But the 11-month-old is overcoming what could have been a major setback. Voight was born with a severe hearing loss, and needs to use hearing aids.

Her parents, Stacy and Jeremy Voight, are extremely grateful for some much-needed help they got recently from three Lions Clubs. The St. Cloud, Metro and Southside Lions worked together to give $3,000 toward the purchase of Abigail’s hearing aids.

“I can’t even express how grateful we are and how amazing they are,” said Stacy Voight of St. Cloud. “We’re definitely going to pay it forward.”

They were given a check this week toward the new devices. The aids will cost $3,600 at Minnesota Lions Children’s Hearing and Ear, Nose, Throat Clinic at University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital. Abigail receives her care at the Minneapolis clinic.

Abigail was born April 13, 2012, at St. Cloud Hospital. Her hearing loss was discovered shortly after birth. Her parents had no idea that she was deaf.

The family’s medical insurance doesn’t cover hearing aids, Stacy Voight said. Abigail needed hearing aids soon after birth to help her development. She would have not have been able to talk without them.

The cost of the hearing aids would have wiped out the Voights. One doctor’s office even handed the family a bank loan application.

“It’s seen as cosmetic (by insurance companies),” Stacy Voight said. “It’s a luxury to hear. They can get by with sign language.”

Stacy Voight heard about the Lions’ mission of helping with hearing and sight issues. She wrote an email, which found its way to Bob Seitz, hearing chairman of the St. Cloud Lions.

That club annually helps about five people with hearing aids and 20 with glasses. Seitz contacted the two other St. Cloud clubs about contributing.

Donation requests are granted based on financial hardships, Seitz said. The Voight family needed the hearing aids right away, while keeping up with other bills. The additional expense would have been difficult to absorb. Representatives from the three clubs met Abigail and her family. The little girl is currently wearing hearing aids on loan from the Minnesota Lions Hearing Aid Loaner Program.

The club members were taken with Abigail’s dimples and cheerful personality.

“She stole my heart,” Seitz said. “I’m just so happy. This makes me feel good. Our work pays off.”

The hearing aids should last three years. The Voights can now save to cover the upcoming cost. They are also investigating cochlear implants, surgical devices that help the deaf hear.

“We are giving her the opportunity to function as you and I,” Stacy Voight said. “She would be back years (in development) if she didn’t have the hearing aids.”

Congress Budgets $10M for Eye-Injury Research| by Bryant Jordan

Congress Budgets $10M for Eye-Injury ResearchCongress will boost funding for research and treatment of battlefield eye injuries to $10 million for the remainder of 2013.

Tom Zampieri, head of the Blind Veterans Association, has pushed for increased funding since 2009, but has been frustrated by Congress and the Pentagon, which he said have consistently put a low priority on eye blast injuries even though these vastly outnumber other types of trauma.

Congress previously has appropriated up to $4 million.

About 15 percent of injuries from battlefield trauma are to the eyes, according to Defense Department statistics. Throughout the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, this has resulted in more than 197,000 ambulatory patients and more than 4,000 hospitalizations.

In addition, about 75 percent of troops who suffer traumatic brain injury also suffer some visual dysfunction, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The Vision Center of Excellence has been struggling for funding and even a place from which to permanently operate since it was created in 2008.

It originally was to be funded at more than $6 million, but that was ultimately reduced to $3 million. The center was relegated to borrowed offices in Falls Church, Va., until finally moving into Walter Reed National Military Medical Center at the end of 2011.

Since then – until the recent boost to $10 million – the vision center has received no more than $4 million for its work and research. Of course, the additional funding will not be spared from the sequestration process.

“The … $10 million will help, but even that is being cut by sequestration by 8 percent, to $9.2 million,” Zampieri said. “So it is vital we get the $10 million [sought] for FY 2014,” Zampieri said.

The Blinded Veterans Association, now backed by 10 other veterans groups, wants to see the vision research program funded to $10 million in 2014. That funding, the groups said in a jointly signed letter with the other veterans groups, would help ensure the individual and institutional commitment necessary for projects to prevent blindness and possibly restore the vision of those who have already lost it through injury or an impairment related to TBI.

“Whether a soldier is engaged directly in combat conditions or in activities that support the military, vision is the most critical of the five senses for optimal performance, accounting for 70 percent of our total sensory awareness,” the group stated.

The Vision Center of Excellence is also charged with creating an eye-injury registry for tracking the wounds and treatments sustained by servicemembers from the battlefield on through the care by VA providers or others charged with follow-on care.

The registry, which is still under development, would enable a doctor treating the soldier or veteran to immediately review every action or treatment already taken. The registry would also include servicemembers and veterans whose vision loss is related to traumatic brain injury, rather than direct eye injury.

Rep. Harry E. Mitchell, D-Calif., cited the importance of the registry when discussing the case of a Kentucky National Guardsman partially blinded by combat in Iraq who ultimately lost all his vision. Had the record of his treatment all been in one place, doctors would have been better and more quickly treat him once back in the U.S.

The delay caused the soldier to lose all his vision after an infection, Mitchell said in 2009 during a hearing of the House Veterans Affairs Committee on Oversight.

The iPhone is the most revolutionary thing to happen to the blind for the last ten years

by Austin Seraphin

Austin SeraphinLast Wednesday, my life changed forever. I got an iPhone. I consider it the greatest thing to happen to the blind for a very long time, possibly ever. It offers unparalleled access to properly made applications, and changed my life in twenty-four hours. The iPhone only has one thing holding it back: iTunes. Nevertheless, I have fallen in love.

When I first heard that Apple would release a touchpad cell phone with VoiceOver, the screen reading software used by Macs, I scoffed. The blind have gotten so used to lofty promises of a dream platform, only to receive some slapped together set of software with a minimally functional screen reader running on overpriced hardware which can’t take a beating. I figured that Apple just wanted to get some good PR – after all, how could a blind person even use a touchpad? I laughed at the trendies, both sighted and blind, buying iPhones and enthusing about them. That changed when another blind friend with similar opinions also founded in long years of experience bought one, and just went nuts about how much she loved it, especially the touchpad interface. I could hardly believe it, and figured that I should reevaluate things.

I went to the AT&T store with my Mom. It
felt like coming full circle, since we went to an Apple store many years ago to get my Apple II/E. To my delight, the salesman knew about VoiceOver and how to activate it, though didn’t know about how to use it. Fortunately, I read up on it before I went. Tap an item to hear it, double tap to activate it, swipe three fingers to scroll. You can also split-tap, where you hold down one location and tap another. This makes for more rapid entry once you understand it. It also has a rotor which you activate by turning your fingers like a dial. You can also double triple-finger tap to toggle speech, and a triple triple-finger tap turns on the awesome screen curtain, which disables the screen and camera.

Many reviews and people said to spend at least a half hour to an hour before passing judgment on using a touchpad interface with speech. I anticipated a weird and slightly arduous journey, especially when it came to using the keyboard. To my great surprise, I picked it up immediately. Within 30 seconds, I checked the weather. Next, I read some stock prices. Amazingly, it even renders stock charts, something the blind have never had access to. Sold.

We went up front to make the necessary arrangements. I had to purchase a data plan. Luckily, I got the $30/unlimited plan, which ended on the seventh. After a little work, we had things settled. I continued to excitedly ask questions, as did my Mom. “Can he get text messages on this?” she asked. “Well, yes, but it doesn’t read the message.” the salesman said. Mom’s hopes sunk, but mine didn’t, since I understood the software enough. “Well, let’s see, try it.” I suggested. She pulled out her phone, and sent me a text message. Within seconds, my phone alerted me, and said her name. I simply swiped my finger and it read her message: Hi Austin. She almost cried. “Leave it to Apple.” I said. “This feels almost as amazing as when we went to the Apple store the first time, except maybe more so, because we know what this can do.” True – in the eighties, computers seemed like more of a curiosity. I remember my parents checking stock quotes and getting messages for their business over the Apple
II/E, now we can do it with an Apple device that fits in our pocket.

I have seen a lot of technology for the blind, and I can safely say that the iPhone represents the most revolutionary thing to happen to the blind for at least the last ten years. Fifteen or twenty years brings us back to the Braille ‘n Speak, which I loved in the same way, so have a hard time choosing the greater. In my more excitable moments, I consider the iPhone as the greatest thing to have ever happened to the blind, and it may prove so. Time will tell. The touchpad offers the familiar next/previous motion which the blind need, since speech offers one-dimensional output. Adding the ability to touch anywhere on the screen and hear it adds a whole other dimension, literally. For the first time, the blind can actually get spacial information about something. In the store, Mom could say “Try that button” and I could. Blind people know what I mean. How many times has a sighted person said “I see an icon at the top of the screen?” Now, that actually Means something. I want to find a way to
browse the web with a touchpad on my computer. It truly represents the wave of the future.

Applications have the same issues with accessibility as with any graphical environment. Apple has done a good thing by making guidelines available for app developers, which I passionately urge them to follow. Any blind computer user has run up against these problems in Windows, Mac, or in Gnome. These include unlabeled buttons and fields, unreachable controls except through annoying means, or in extreme cases complete inaccessibility. The Accessible Apps page can help, as can AppleVis.. Properly coded apps offer stunning access unlike anything the blind have ever experienced. As I said, I want to use touch gestures on my Linux machines now!

That brings me to the only proverbial worm in the golden Apple: iTunes. I understand the power of market forces, but to see such a beautiful piece of hardware chained to such an awful and inaccessible piece of software bothers me to no end. Apple has done an amazing thing making the iPhone accessible, but iTunes remains virtually unusable to the blind. Of course, blind Mac users have little problem with it, but they make up a very small portion of the blind community. A blind Windows user with a strong will can do it, but they won’t enjoy it. Those of us blind Linux users get left in the dark on two counts, since no Linux users can access iTunes, except through WINE, or through a virtual machine.

>Apple has a right to tout its efforts in accessibility. Still, they must realize that they cannot make a completely true claim as long as people have to use iTunes for everything. As a Linux user I expected as much, and I can overcome those challenges, but the challenges of blindness remain. I know blind people who have not purchased an iPhone because they do not want to battle iTunes. When dealing with a permanent health issue, you cannot just wish it away or just hope things will improve while doing nothing. I have a feeling Steve Jobs would understand.

Apple has always had a special place in my heart, since I started on an Apple II/E. That machine had two programming languages, BASIC and Assembler, built into its ROM, and its schematics on the inside. Its nonrestrictive environment inspired innovations that lasted a decade. I reluctantly went to the PC platform when it became dominant. I used DOS to its extreme, hated Windows, and comfortably settled in Linux land. We have all come a long way since two hackers began selling blue boxes out of their garage. It therefore seemed especially ironic to me to see the “Red Box Pro” app removed from the app store.

Despite having to overcome the limitations of iTunes, I still love the iPhone. I continue to feel amazed at the iPhone’s capabilities. I can get email, Twitter mentions, and direct messages any time. I can listen to Good Vibes Radio anywhere on Earth! I can read Liberty Pulse on the toilet. The WebMD app would have come in handy for my burn. I could go on and on, about how the iPhone with VoiceOver provides a streamlined accessible interface to things which seem annoying at best over the web in a standard browser. Listening to Coast to Coast AM comes to mind.

The other night, however, a very amazing thing happened. I downloaded an app called Color Identifier. It uses the iPhone’s camera, and speaks names of colors. It must use a table, because each color has an identifier made up of 6 hexadecimal digits. This puts the total at 16777216 colors, and I believe it. Some of them have very surreal names, such as Atomic Orange, Cosmic, Hippie Green, Opium, and Black-White. These names in combination with what feels like a rise in serotonin levels makes for a very psychedelic experience.

I have never experienced this before in my life. I can see some light and color, but just in blurs, and objects don’t really have a color, just light sources. When I first tried it at three o’clock in the morning, I couldn’t figure out why it just reported black. After realizing that the screen curtain also disables the camera, I turned it off, but it still have very dark colors. Then I remembered that you actually need light to see, and it probably couldn’t see much at night. I thought about light sources, and my interview I did for Get Lamp. First, I saw one of my beautiful salt lamps in its various shades of orange, another with its pink and rose colors, and the third kind in glowing pink and red.. I felt stunned.

The next day, I went outside. I looked at the sky. I heard colors such as “Horizon,” “Outer Space,” and many shades of blue and gray. I used color cues to find my pumpkin plants, by looking for the green among the brown and stone. I spent ten minutes looking at my pumpkin plants, with their leaves of green and lemon-ginger. I then roamed my yard, and saw a blue flower. I then found the brown shed, and returned to the gray house. My mind felt blown. I watched the sun set, listening to the colors change as the sky darkened. The next night, I had a conversation with Mom about how the sky looked bluer tonight. Since I can see some light and color, I think hearing the color names can help nudge my perception, and enhance my visual experience. Amazing!

I love my iPhone. It changed my universe as soon as it entered it. However, as any Discordian knows, every golden Apple has a golden worm at its center.

Tie the knot for BLISS

by Kim Hone-McMahan, MCT News Service

tie the knot for blissMANY folks are skipping marriage these days, but a new study shows that happily married couples consider themselves healthier than their unmarried peers.

A University of Missouri assistant professor found that, in all stages of marriage, positive or negative relationships affect a person’s perception of his or her health. So spouses should note that the way they treat each other, and how happy they are in their marriage, affect both partners’ health. In other words, cool it with the unnecessary arguments.

“Engaging with your spouse is not going to cure cancer, but building stronger relationships can improve both people’s spirits and well-being and lower their stress,” Christine Proulx, who analysed data from more than 700 married folks, said in a news release.

So, is the study accurate? “I know from experience that being in an unhappy marriage can be very unhealthy physically and mentally for a person. I was in an unhappy marriage for 19 years and paid the price for it with my health,” offered Suzanne Cordner of Uniontown, Ohio, who is now remarried. “The stress I was under created havoc in my body. It weakened my immune system, leading to many illnesses, and I still, to this day 14 years later, have medical issues that I need to see a doctor every week for.”

Lynn Ruediger of Richfield, Ohio, agrees that a bad marriage is certainly terrible on a person’s health — physical and mental.

“Negativity can be so destructive on a human being that having an unhappy partnership should be assessed and possibly ended,” said Ruediger, who has been married for 46 years. “I feel there are times when married people who still enjoy their lives together are happier and healthier. Often, a loving spouse is the reason you take better care of your health. You socialise often with like-minded people, and you generally feel cared for.”

Proulx suggested health professionals consider a patient’s personal relationship when designing a treatment plan.

“I suspect we’d have higher rates of adherence if medical professionals placed more of an emphasis on incorporating families and spouses in patients’ care,” she said.

But Dave Egan, of Stow, Ohio, who has been married for 38 years, said that while mental and physical health can be attributed to a happy marriage, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the happily married are more fit than their unmarried counterparts.

“To personalise it, I have a happy marriage and satisfy the requirement of being mentally and physically healthy. However, could I be just as healthy if I were single? There is no way to test that unless I were to get a divorce, allowing for a comparison,” noted Egan, adding he’s not interested in trying that out.

But what about a person whose spouse has died? Does the happiness from a good marriage linger enough in the heart to keep the person healthy?

Becky Costello of Akron, Ohio, has been widowed for two years. She and Tim were married 36 years. It wasn’t a perfect marriage, she noted, but Tim was perfect for her. And their marriage was happy.

“During my period of acute grief, I was not as robustly healthy as I had been prior to Tim’s death. I lost interest in food (Tim was a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, and a talented chef) and I had difficulty maintaining a healthy diet and meal schedule, and as a result I lost weight,” she said. “My sleep habits were also affected; four or five hours of sleep each night constituted a new good night’s sleep.”

Mentally, the bereaved Costello lost her ability to feel joy, hope and other emotions. “But I know the happiness from loving Tim and being his wife was still in my heart even during the time of acute grief. And as I worked through the acute grief, I began to reconnect to those feelings, including the happiness and love from our marriage, which remain with me to this day.”

Guide to happiness

Kathaleen Stevenson, a counselor with Kessler Psychological Services in Hartville, Ohio, notes that whether single or married, those who are the happiest:

Don’t keep grudges. They forgive easily and wisely, keeping healthy relationships by being active participants in creating positive interactions.

Have a sense of purpose for their lives, engaging outside of their relationships to contribute to the greater good, thus enriching their relationships and personal joy.

Asbestos and Mesothelioma Awareness


mesothelioma-diagramAsbestos is a natural mineral used in many products since the 1920’s. Asbestos was a very popular material due to its great qualities such as its, high resistance to heat, flexibility, and it was cheaper than its counterparts. Being exposed to asbestos should not be taken lightly as it is the leading cause of mesothelioma cancer.

Signs and symptoms of mesothelioma generally appear 20-50 years after you were exposed.  The tiny asbestos fibers can be inhaled and lodged in your lungs where they will lay dormant for many years and then begin to cause irritation.  Signs of mesothelioma are similar to pneumonia or the flu; coughing, shortness of breath, chest pains, and suppressed appetite.  Mesothelioma can be treated by surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation; however there is currently no cure. Early detection though is essential as it can vastly improve your survival rate.



Asbestos Exposure to Veterans

Asbestos was used widely in almost every branch of the military throughout the 19th century.  Navy veterans or shipyard workers in this era are most at risk because warships were covered in this fireproofing insulation.  Shipyard workers were helping transport large amounts of asbestos on and off ships regularly.  Ship repairmen were in constant contact with asbestos working in the boiler rooms.  Veterans should get regular chest x-rays as a health precaution.

Asbestos on Construction Sites

The use of asbestos was fitted in nearly every home built before 1978; asbestos was still used in construction after this date, but in smaller quantities. Generally, asbestos does not cause health problems unless its fibers are released into the air, so many homes built before the ’80s still contain asbestos.  Evidence has proven that inhaling small asbestos fibers can lead to a variety of health issues.  Products that contain asbestos are not easy to identify on sight, so it is important for construction they cannot be determined by sight alone.  Asbestos can be found in;

  • Drywall
  • Insulation
  • Water pipes
  • Roofing and floor tiles

Maintaining your Health

If you worked in a profession that used asbestos containing products it is in your best interest to inform your physician.  If you were exposed to large amounts of asbestos they may recommend regular chest x-rays, as you will not have signs or symptoms until it is too late and has already developed.  For more information on mesothelioma and asbestos visit

If you have been exposed to asbestos and have any questions, we have patient advocates available for you or loved ones 24/7 at 1-800-815-7924.  Visit our page on Facebook and Google+ for the latest updates on mesothelioma and asbestos.

Lions Clubs share vision to save children’s sight

Written by John English

lions_screenThe Highland Village, Flower Mound and Lewisville Lions Clubs are teaming up to secure new optical screening equipment to reduce the prevalence of visual impairment in children.

Dianne Ashmore of the Highland Village Lions Club said the device the organizations are looking to purchase is far more sophisticated then what they are currently using.

“We will be purchasing a SPOT Vision Screening by PediaVision,” Ashmore said. “It will allow us to screen in color rather than black and white. The screening readouts provided give more in-depth results due to the SPOT’s ability to discern differences between the pupil and the surrounding iris in very dark brown eyes and black eyes usually found in the Hispanic and Asian cultures.”

Ashmore said the black and white equipment that the organizations currently use for screenings has more difficulty discerning those differences.

“In addition, the SPOT can screen for more vision issues. The child’s results are sent home for the parent. If the child needs further eye exams, we are providing more complete info for the optometrists or ophthalmologist.”

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, vision disability is the single most prevalent disabling condition among children.

Statistics from American Optometric Association indicate that 25 percent of school aged children, 70 percent of children diagnosed with a learning disability, and 80 percent of juvenile delinquents have vision issues.

The Lions clubs currently staff screenings for young people for free, and Ashmore said getting this equipment is important for her because she has personally been affected by the problem.

“With a daughter that was diagnosed before she was two years old with Amblyopia (commonly known as “lazy eye”), I know what a difference it made for her to receive vision correction early in her life,” Ashmore said. “I want that chance for all the children in our community.”

The Lions Clubs have raised approximately $1,000 to date with the help of donations from individuals and businesses like PointBank, and the purchase price of the equipment is $11,000.

The goal is to reach this amount in four to six months.

Tom Hayford of the Lewisville Lions Club has been the driving force in getting this project underway and said the SPOT vision screening equipment is really extraordinary.

“Besides checking for strength and shape of the eye, the SPOT vision system checks for five major vision weaknesses including whether the eyes are working together,” Hayford said. “If a weakness is discovered in the preschool years, there are ways that optical professionals can take corrective action to improve the child’s vision.”

Lions Club eye programs help needy see a better future

AUBURN CA – For nearly 100 years, the Lions Clubs International has worked on projects designed to prevent blindness, restore eyesight and improve eyecare for hundreds of millions of people worldwide.

Closer to home, its program for helping needy people in obtaining prescription eyeglasses plays a low-key role in helping give many the gift of better sight during tough economic times for some.

Individual clubs have their own programs and some are seeing an increase in need as jobless numbers have swelled while other clubs are not.

The Auburn 49er Lions club averaged 18 referrals a year in 2009 and 2010 but that increased to 25 in 2011, said eyeglasses coordinator Kelly Post. This month, there have been seven calls for glasses.

Post said that a number of reasons could be responsible for the increase. Until two years ago, Medi-Cal’s welfare medical program paid for eye exams and glasses. Now it pays for just the eye exams, she said.

Some of the calls could be attributed to an increase in word of mouth among people needing eyeglass assistance. Others are coming because of referrals from groups assisting the poor like Hope, Help and Healing and The Gathering Inn, Post said.

“More people are homeless, more are out of a job,” Post said. “And there are more parolees.”

At the Loomis Lions Club, Vision Assistance Chair


No spike in Loomis

Jack Morris said the group has handled four aid requests since July, with one of the callers finding another way to replace their broken frames.

In Auburn, the Host Lions group had fielded six requests since the end of December – which is depleting the limited amount of referrals that the Lions can send to an optometrist, said eyeglass chairman Dennis Lloyd. The group has the ability to handle about 20 referrals a year, he said.

Dr. Mark Starr, county Health & Human Services deputy director, said Placer has not had an eyeglass program for the needy but will steer them in the direction of the Lions on an informal basis. The county will provide emergency medical eyecare but doesn’t provide eyeware, Starr said.

Lloyd said the number of requests seemed to be linked to an increase in referrals from the county.

“We can handle a limited number of people but we’re not part of the welfare system,” Lloyd said.

Morris said that many Loomis Club members felt a worsening economy and lack of jobs would result in a substantial increase in requests for vision assistance. But there has been no spike in requests. The Loomis Lions normally handle three or four a year, he said.

One of the recent requests had been forwarded by another Lions Club and another by a welfare-related organization, Morris said.

Morris said that different communities have different rates of awareness on the Lions vision program and that could have something to do with a lack of increased demand.

“I think there are many needy persons but I’m thinking they have other ways – paying for them themselves or with insurance, for instance,” Morris said.

He added that the granting of funds for an exam and new glasses – which averaged $190 last year – is not automatic. The club needs to confirm the person’s identification and then move forward on an eye exam. If the optometrist says glasses are required, Morris can authorize the purchase.

“After that, there are no further requirements – they don’t need to come and talk to the club,” Morris said. “But most of them find a way to send us a card.”

The Lions have gained worldwide recognition for their work to improve sight and prevent blindness. That work includes recycling eyeglasses, supporting Lions Eye Banks that provide eye tissue for sight-saving surgeries, and screening the vision of hundreds of thousands of people every year.

The effort goes back to 1925, when Helen Keller called on the Lions organization to become “knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness.”

“It’s a very rewarding thing and we Lions are proud of it,” Morris said.

Lions clubs represented at annual Lions Vision Research Foundation banquet

Lions clubs represented at annual Lions Vision Research Foundation banquetThirty Lions clubs and one Lioness Club from Western Maryland – Carroll, Frederick, Washington, Alleghany and Garrett counties – were represented at the annual Lions Vision Research Foundation banquet Nov. 5 at New Midway Volunteer Fire Company.

More than $19,000 was donated by the clubs present to support the foundation’s work.

The Deer Park Lions Club donated $500 and the South Carroll Lioness-Lions Club donated $150.

To learn more about the Lions Vision Research Foundation, call Bob Bullock at 410-848-7748.

Blindness Awareness Month and World Sight Day, is Today Oct. 13

world-sight-dayThe Little Rock Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of children who are blind or visually impaired initiated a bill into law establishing October as “Blindness Awareness Month.” Last year, Mayor Barnett proclaimed October as Blindness Awareness Month. Studies indicate that over 14,000 persons in Collier County live with blindness or significant vision loss. Although blindness and vision loss largely affects senior citizen; accident, disease, genetics and other causes can cause vision loss to persons of whatever age.

Those persons living with blindness or vision loss and their caregivers residing in Collier County and the City of Naples may now receive education, assistive technology, mobility and adaptive independent living training and a myriad of other support services locally from the only full service center in Collier County; namely –Lighthouse of Collier.

World Sight Day (WSD) is an international day of awareness, held annually on the second Thursday of October to focus attention on the global issue of avoidable blindness and visual impairment. World Sight Day is a day of awareness and urges the local community to observe personal eye health care and that the services of Lighthouse of Collier be made known for the assistance of the blind, vision impaired and their caregivers within Collier County and the City of Naples.

The mission of the Lighthouse of Collier is to promote the development, implementation and on-going evaluation of programs and services which foster independence and enhance the quality of life for the blind, visually impaired and their caregivers. To learn more about the Lighthouse of Collier please visit or call 239-430-EYE4 (3934).