Friday, September 28, 2007

Going to Patient School

…Sometimes HA gets freaked out about the health care system and says, “Why don’t I just go to med school?”

…But now she has a better idea. The University of Connecticut is offering the nation’s first “Patient School.”

…Empowering health care consumers. Imagine…If we could just not get our fannies kicked all the time it would help!

…The classes at being offered at the med school in Farmington, CT, Wednesdays from 6:30 to 8:45 pm.

…This will help us become more successful patients. (Hey, make it a webinar or something—we all need it!)

…Webinar...ha, ha, the internet is so funny.

…After graduating from Patient School, people will be able to identify their rights and responsibilities, maximize doctor visits and hospitalizations, and use reliable outside info to their own advantage.

…Some topics: When the Patient is Your Parent or Child—Your Role as Patient Advocate.

…Managing Stress to Get the Most Out of Your Healthcare is another. Yes, when it’s the healthcare stressing you, you have a problem!

…Answers to Questions You Weren’t Asked, but Should Have Been. This is a way to record the info for each type of physician visit…HA recently tried a letter about what had happened to her—and a new doctor read it and agreed to talk with her.

…Understanding Test Results is another session. So many people don’t even chase their results—they figure they would learn if the results were bad. Don’t count on it! One study showed that 40% of docs don’t even report bad results. Results can go astray, too. You need to ask!

…Patient School costs $59.

...Saving your life? Priceless.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Food helps healing

…Laura Landro (WSJ, Sept 19, 2007) writes about how some hospital food is putting Jell-O out of business.

…Recently, at Kaiser Permanente’s South Sacramento Medical Center, a delighted sick person lunched on hot squash soup, tuna on pita, and whole wheat crackers.

…Hospitals are trying to buy fresh produce nearby now and serve patients on demand, like room service in a hotel.

…Almond chicken with pomegranate sauce was one entrĂ©e mentioned, or oven roasted potatoes tossed with herbs and olive oil.

…Even patients on restricted diets can savor gourmet flavors. The chefs even duke it out Iron Chef style to see who can make the most edible foods out of the least objectionable ingredients..

…Although some still offer comfort foods like meat loaf, the definition of what gives comfort is changing, claimed one expert. Today’s patient may want to cozy up to portabello mushrooms and asiago cheese (meat loaf, please).

…Yes, there is a Natl Society for Healthcare Food Service Management. It reports that room service will soon be in almost half of their member hospitals.

…In today’s environment, patients often go home as soon as they can eat. So this is less of an issue.

…And some patients complain about the use of garlic and herbs.

…HA remembers being in two hospitals on a liquid diet—grape juice, rootbeer popsicles, and black coffee. Better than nothing, her previous allowed diet.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Big favor? Don't get shot up with weird stuff

…Natasha Singer (NYT, Sept 2007) talks about the latest get-thin-quick scheme, lipodissolve.

….This actually started in St Louis, not some celebrity-infested coastal city.

…This amounts to sticking long needles pretty far in the cottage-cheesy areas and injecting a drug that supposedly breaks down cells in the fatty layer.

…Then where do they go? That is the problem. The FDA has not approved this.

…But that isn’t stopping the good matrons of the Midwest—they can’t wait to get this.
You know those fig. commercials—fig. does this!

…The board of medicine in Kansas tried to ban the drug after complaints, but a judge stayed the order.

…The docs argue that each drug in the compound is approved and it’s OK to smash them together.

…Cosmetic medicine is frighteningly unregulated, one doc said.

…But, don’t forget, each body part requires $2,000 in treatments. “Fig”ure that!

…One doctor was considering offering it, had himself injected (gosh, HA wishes more would road-test these treatments) and half an hour later, saw his flank turn black and feel like it had been stung by 50 bees, according to this account.

…Another male doc in the group also tried it and looked six months pregnant.

…Come on, readers, when a drug is supposed to go body-wide, what do they do? They inject it!


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Keep your thumbs on that wheel

…HA doesn’t drive, but she does ride and prefers to stay alive. You drivers putting on makeup, changing your pants, swatting the kids, and yakking on the horn were bad enough—but now you are thumb-typing!

…Ninety-percent of Americans think texting should be outlawed behind the wheel—but 57% say they do it! They already outlawed it in AZ—but people are writing in to the paper saying, try and catch us!

…Or maybe they texted in.

…OK, so you’re fabulous at it—but what about the other guy? Inattention times two—HA doesn’t love the math there.

…80% of crashes involve inattention. Talking on the phone triples the risk of a crash.

…Concentrating on the conversation is a form of tunnel vision, according to one expert.

…Texting is worse! You have to look away from the road while your giant, spatulate thumbs mash around.

…Yeah, it’s mostly the young stuff doing this. Kids are specifically outlawed from phoning and texting in CA.

…Some people believe in the “one glance” rule. If you can look away for a glance only, it’s OK to do it.

…Truck running a red!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Stop--don't take that pill...yet

…In the Sept 18th NYT, Jane E. Brody talks about polypharmacy, the dangerous cocktails of medicines many of us—not to mention our elderly relatives—are pounding in everyday.

…HA will not repeat the story, we have all heard it. One doctor gives you this, another one says try that, and pretty soon you are tossing down half a pharmacy, plus some self-selected herbs, old wives stuff, and offbeat remedies.

…Hey, it came from a doc or an old married woman, right?

…If you want to savor the whole catastrophe…go to:

…The problem is, each drug does not go over to its intended destination and deal with the problem at hand. They all bounce off each other. A stomach irritant can open a little bleed, a blood thinner than turns it into a gusher, and so on.

…As people age, their bodies change. They cannot process the drugs as completely or as intended, excess does not get excreted, or responses to the drugs get exaggerated.

…We all know by now to carry a list of our drugs or take the bottles in a bag when we go to the doctor. We follow dosing instructions. But we can still run into problems.

…If you take prescription drugs, you may want to participate in a new service of recording your drugs and reporting problems. It’s called iGuard (

…On October 4, at 2 pm, two doctors will assess the risks of your drugs via LIVE email. You ask, they answer.

…At that time, you will go to:

…Drugs can be great, people, lifesaving, life changing. But the life changing part should be in a good way. All drugs have side effects. It’s the healthy side effects we want to harness, and the others we want to avoid by being smart.

….We need to think for ourselves and ask questions. Sometimes the first question is,
“What is this for?”

…HA’s mother takes five prescriptions. The other day, the pharmacist questioned one and for all her big talk about watching this and knowing it all, HA blurted, “Is that her shoulder stuff?”

Friday, September 21, 2007

Cozy little surgery centers safer

…The first ambulatory surgery center HA used was in a downtown office building in Washington DC. There was a doorman to help shaky patients to the car, but otherwise, it was pretty much a business site.

…Four out of every five operations nowadays are same-day, and 20% of those are done in surgery centers, not hospitals.

…They are patient-friendly, cost-effective, and most importantly (to HA), not filled with people hocking up germs.

…Mikhail Zalmanov, MD, is director of anesthesia at Gramercy Surgery in NY.

…These places are regulated and safe, he points out. Not all doctor’s offices, for instance, are so closely scrutinized. If Medicare patients go there, the places are also certified by the Feds.

…Zalmanov points out some other advantages. One is that you are less likely to have your operation start late or be bumped. These places don’t do emergencies that can throw off the timing.

…Often they are focused on one or just a few conditions, with the people being better trained in the specialized techniques and equipment more up to date. Where HA went for two of her four eye operations, only peepers were being operated.

…The atmosphere is often more congenial and relaxing. The physical plants are usually smaller than a hospital—the surgeon cannot wander off, Zalmanov says, and slows things down.

…HA can vouch for the informality. At her favorite ambulatory surgery place you don’t even have to get undressed for eye surgery. They put little covers on your shoes and it’s like going to the dentist.

…Sort of.

…Only there are still a lot of scary people there in blue outfits, a bunch of needles, hushed voices, and worried faces.

…The good part? You get up and leave and don’t hang around for the Jell-O.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

No more white coats?

…Clare Murphy of the BBC says that in Britain, anyhow, the doctor’s white coat has been banned by some parts of the National Health Service.

…It was introduced to prevent infection, but soon became a psychological device to denote a doctor’s status as separate and presumably superior to the patient.

…The white, once denoting cleanliness, was actually impractical what with…er, spills.

…Many people began to think it was spreading germs.

…Some British doctors said hospitals used to have laundries and they could get clean coats more easily than now.

…The NHS considered it not only unsanitary but creating a barrier between doc and patient.

…Psychiatrists even gave it a bad name with their “men in white coats” deal.

…Also pharmacists and phlebotomists and others in the medical setting began donning the white.

..The darn things are also hot and bang around the legs in an emergency.

….HA is trying to remember—one of her eye docs wears a white coat, the other doesn’t.

…What about those scrubs printed with teddy bears and balloons? Is anyone else not amused?

…HA always suspected docs wore this stuff to protect their good clothes from yucky stuff.

...How about it, readers? Do these things make you obey your doctor's orders?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Back tattoos and epidurals

…As Roseanne Roseannadanna used to say, “It’s always somethin’.”

…Rachel Zimmerman, writing in the WSJ, Sept 18, 2007, says some anesthesiologists are leery of jabbing through tattoos to put in epidurals during delivery.

…According to a 2006 study, a quarter of Americans between 18 and 54 are inked. Nearly 20% of the women have tatts on their lower back.

…In 2002, apparently, two Canadian anesthesiologists questioned whether sticking through the tattooed area could be risky. They thought maybe the needle could pull some dyed skin into the area outside the spinal column, injuring the nerves there.

…They looked at three women but did not have sufficient evidence to determine the safety. Nonetheless, preggos panicked. Pregnancy Magazine picked it up, the websites hummed.

…Some inks contain metals and could react during an MRI, according to other reports. And of course, unclean tattooing equipment can spread hep and other diseases.

…A prestigious doc at Brigham & Womens, a prestigious hospital in Boston, said that if the tattoo was healed, the ink would be inert.

…Just to be on the safe side, some docs now avoid stabbing through the tattoo.

…If HA knew of someone tattooed with a tempest in a teapot, she could end this story with a flourish!

…No such luck.

…Though she will say when she had one of her units reinked once, she waited until after she weaned her daughter.

...To be on the safe side, you know.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

New meaning to hot lunch

…Writing in the East Valley Tribune (Sept 17, 2007), Andrea Falkenhagen comes up with a new one on HA.

…Apparently school kids are Hooked on Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. Think those powdery cheese puff covered with chilie powder.

…They make everything the kids touch red.

…They get the powder in their eyes.

…They fight over them!

…They bring in Costco-size bags.

...Kiddie krack!

…These pesky Cheetos are banned in California and Texas.

…One school had ordered new books and sure enough, the greasy red fingerprints appeared.

…One teacher had the kids look at their red hands and imagine how that looked inside their body.

…If HA were young, she would think: “Pretty darn good!”

…Is this weird? She now wants to try these.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Morning quickies

…Breakfast eaters are smarter, quicker, and have better hair, blah blah. It is considered a good idea to fuel up with something in the morning.

…Writing in the Arizona Republic (Sept 12, 2007), Karen Fernau has some ideas for fast breakfasts.

…Granola or breakfast bars are OK, though nutritionists warn that they are full of fat and sugar. Look for whole grains and 5 grams of fiber. Make sure they have some protein, too. (And watch that styrofoam.)

…Fruit is quick—God packaged it for ya.

…Like those eggs? Scramble two and wrap in a tortilla.

…Lose the milk and put cereal in a bag to nibble in the car.

…Airpopped popcorn is also good. Throw in some cheese chunks.

…Cut-up fruit in fruit yogurt is a decent meal. Even veggies in fruit yogurt. Who’s to know?

…Cheese and whole wheat crackers?

…Ham sandwich? PB&J? Why are they for lunch only? People who eat two tablespoons of peanut butter a day may have more stable blood sugar.

…HA won’t even tell you what her breakfasts are like. Sometimes (hint) they involve braunschweiger and always they involve a snooty 26-lb yellow cat with bright blue eyes who sits right on the table.

…Be like that! Who invited you over anyhow?

Friday, September 14, 2007

Symbols for food labels

…Uh-oh, the FDA is mulling again.

…This time, instead of warning that medicines will give you a heart attack “so be mindful,” they are contemplating a foray into post-illiterate America and may propose symbols to be placed on food packages.

….Supposedly, these “logos” are for harried shoppers so they can buy healthier stuff. Be real. They are for people who can’t read and for the chart-averse.

…Such logos are already in use in Britain, Sweden and other places. Hey, people can read there—so maybe that’s not the reason.

…Here, though, companies sort of devise their own symbols, which has led to a confusing patchwork.

…PepsiCo uses a “Smart Spot” (that green thing) on Diet Pepsi, baked chips, and other products. Another chain, Hannaford, rates foods on a zero to three-star system.

…In Britain, they use the traffic lights—red, green, and yellow--to show whether a food item is low, medium, or high in fat, sugar, and salt.

…Who knows what we will get. HA knows the guy who designed the Universal Product Label—that yellow, black and white thing that’s on everything. That took tons of meetings.

…How about a celeb system? Bob’s Big Boy on fatty, sugary stuff and Nicole Ritchie on low-cal. Or how about Mr Yuk? He could get a second job on some foods.

…What do you think, guys?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Tell Momma the babysitter's prepared

…Writing in the Arizona Republic (Sept 12, 2007), Kerry Fehr-Snyder talks about adventures in babysitting.

…Ah, babysitting. HA was a demon babysitter. She had biz cards and everything and this was back when dinos roamed.

…First, parents, it’s not enough to leap out the door giggling gleefully and yelling, “Try to keep the little beggars alive. Bye!”

…You might even inquire if your babysitter has taken a course in the finer points. Such courses are given everywhere.

…In one, the nurses (it’s at a hospital), tell the kids they are now responsible for someone’s life. That ought to calm ‘em down and make them throw away the boyfriend’s number.

…The Phoenix police have some other tips. They caution babysitters to find out how many kids will be there, their ages, bedtimes, foods, medicines, etc. to see if this job seems appropriate for them.

…Babysitters should never allow anyone into the house unless the parents said it was OK ahead of time.

…Never tell callers you are the babysitter and no one else is there. Just say the parents will call back.

…Do not go outside to investigate noises or commotion. Turn on the outside lights and call the police.

…Make sure the address of the house is posted by the phone. And the cell phone number of the parents.

…Make sure you have a ride home. Dad may not be fit to drive you.

…Have all special instructions in writing.

…Find out where the fire extinguishers are and the first aid kit.

…Be sure all doors and windows are locked.

…Be sure you know how to play with kids—they like to play! Toddlers like to bang things, jump, draw and color. Older kids like to read. Be patient. Never leave the kids alone. Play with them!

…HA’s ex- used to tell the sitter: “If it’s a breathing or bleeding emergency, don’t call us, call 911.”

…HA’s worst moment came when the employer’s collie threw up all over the house. She called her own mother and her mother told her to deal with it.

…HA earned her money that night.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Crush on caffeine

…Julie Deardorff, writing in the Chicago Tribune, says caffeinated doughnuts and sunflower seeds are coming soon.

…Even now, you can drink caffeine with alcohol…Are we up? Down? How about both?

…Rocket Chocolate contains the same caff as four cans of Coke—all in one little candy.

…If you prefer to get your highs knowledgeably at least, how do you do it? The FDA requires labeling of caffeine—but not the amount.

…Pregnant women, kids—how much are they downing?

…The other day, HA’s kid handed her a Pepsi Max. HA said, “Max what?” She looked on the bottle—caff was not listed.

..."Caffeine," enthused her unusually zippy kid.

…Some coffee yogurts have as much caff as a Coke. Others have zero.

…Caffeine is not totally harmless. It can cause the shakes and insomnia. In Canada, the govt says to limit daily intake to 3 8-oz cups of java or the equivalent.

…Guess HA should stop calling it the staff of life and fount of all goodness, huh?

...Huh? Huh? Answer! What do you think?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Whoa, babies, watch those microchips

…HA finally got a new dog and the vet wanted to microchip him. It was spendy, so HA declined.

…The FDA-approved microchips for people (containing their medical records or more likely—HA is cynical—whereabouts for the feds) with the knowledge that there are studies going back into the ‘90s showing that chip implants “induced” malignant tumors in rats and mice.

…One investigator said the transponders in the chips caused the tumors.

…The Associated Press had some leading cancer docs go over the data and they said, well, animal tests aren’t like humans, but still…very interesting.

…They would not allow family members to get chipped, these investigators said.

…About 2,000 of these things—called radio-frequency identification, or RFID, chips-- have been put in people worldwide.

…The manufacturer, VeriChip Corp, thinks 45 million Americans could use one for their medical records. These have also been proposed to track wandering Alzheimer's patients.

...The company points out that no pets have developed tumors.

…One little tiny thing: Health and Human Services secretary Tommy Thompson left office shortly after the approval of the chips—and became a board member of VeriChip six months later.

…He claims he had nothing to do with FDA approval of the chips.

…The American Medical Association also endorsed their benefits for humans, but now says it didn’t know about the 10 years of cancer research on them before approving their use.

...HA is just sayin’. Chipping people is creepy anyway. This is not happening to her dog or her family.

…Maybe Tommy Thompson should get one.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Are you a prepared patient?

…The Health Behavior News Service puts out a periodical online called The Prepared Patient (

…In the Sept issue, an associate dean at the University of Calif Irvine School of Med, says we can set ourselves up for a performance fiasco at the doctor’s office.

…To see if they could improve on our patienthood, researchers took 20 minutes in the waiting room to walk patients through their records and sharpen up their questions.

…They call it coached care. They advise patients to think of three things they want out of the encounter.

…The idea is that the patient buys into the treatment more if he or she helped lay it out.

…But an assistant prof at Michigan State School of Med says this may cause patients to have higher expectations of the visit with the doctor, but not have the skills to make it happen.

…She has worked on helping patients communicate in general with their doctors. But the key is for signals the patient sends to tell the doctor this is a patient who wants information and wants to be involved and respected.

…Many of the Medicaid patients being coached did not send those signals. They had to learn to tell their stories better…the bio, the psych, and the social aspects.

…This is not only the pain or symptom, but the stress level of life at the moment, what is going on, and how the patient feels. (HA wonders if this doesn’t make it easier for the doc to write you off to stress. Just asking.)

…Some doctors complain about patients who want to go on and on, but one researcher said this is the exception—most patients sit there like wallpaper, she said.

…When you leave, have a list of warning signs to look for and a list of to-do’s.

…Also suggested: Try to get a backdoor way to reach the doctor in an emergency. Find out how long you should wait for a response.

…HA wishes she had coaching like this every time she goes to the doc. Someone to help her think it through before the time blurs past and it’s all over and she is basically back where she started.

…Any tips, readers?

Friday, September 07, 2007

Financial worries can hurt physically

…In a poll about a year ago, half of all Americans said they worried about debt.

…With the housing mess, this may be higher.

….The average household has 10 credit cards…and the average interest is 19%.

…HA is about to hurl just reading this!

…All this worry can make migraines worse. Squirts of the fat-making hormone cortisol can cause or worsen heart disease, high blood pressure, and even some forms of cancer.

…Not sleeping, pounding in the ice cream, eeek! All this from freakin’ credit cards?

…Credit counselors say they get referrals from company Employee Assistant Programs. Debt-ridden workers are moody, angry and unproductive.

…You can rein in spending. Many people, counselors say, don’t even know what they spend. You can ask how much gas cost last time and they get the Duh Face.

…Look at all your bills, check your credit. You may not even know you are being overwithheld and giving Uncle a free loan.

…You may need a wealth plan, not just a debt plan. Save even a little at first.

…The conventional wisdom is to pay the highest interest card first. But if you want to kick one out the door, pay the lowest balance card first.

…HA likes the online savings places like Until she found out how to transfer the money back to checking, she was doing great on that one!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Bring in the herbs

…Doesn’t seem like it here in “Lil Bit of Hades,” with our record 32 days over 110 degrees, but winter is coming.

…Better Homes and Gardens advises you to bring your herbs indoors and enjoy freshness year-round.

…Annuals like basil will continue growing inside—perennials can even be returned to outside in spring.

…Select a container large enough to contain the root ball. Partially fill the pot with potting soil, set the root area on top and fill in with more potting soil.

…Water throughly when transplanted. Think of the plant as having undergone a stressful medical procedure—it needs soaking and comforting.

…Leave the pots outside in a shaded area to give the herbs time to regroup.

…When you get ready to bring pots indoors, check for insects. Water thoroughly while outside, wash off the leaves. Blast water onto the leaves to dislodge hitchhikers.

….Your herbs may be disgruntled to be inside and drop some leaves. Put them on a windowsill with at least six hours of sun daily. Pinch them back to make them grow more vigorously.

…The parts you pinch off? Delish in a salad or on chicken.

…With rosemary, don’t overwater. Mist frequently. Otherwise the red spider mites will find your yummy plant and as The Greaseman used to say, you will be hatin’ life.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Finetuning nutrients to what ails ya

…Do you ever have those days? Those days when you want to eat a doughnut instead of a pile of green compost? HA is having one. She scarfed Boston Market at her mother’s 90th birthday and was sick the rest of the day. (Sorry, Boston Market, but she was, though it might have been the scarfing aspect rather than the creamed spinach and too-too barbequey tasting chicken.)

…But she disgresses.

..Some in this world, even today, believe in targeting your meals and snacks to the body part currently in need of a vitamin or kind word.

…Our pal Connie Midey, writing in the AZ Republic, July 10, 2007, tells us how to get a glow of well-being.

…Dietitian Elizabeth Somer, author of 10 Habits That Mess Up a Woman’s Diet, says looking fat isn’t the only way to tell you’re offtrack—cracked nails, wrinkles, straw-like hair and crankiness are also signs.

…Ratty hair may be calling for iron and folic acid, meaning eat dark green leafy veggies. Extra lean meat or chicken are also good for iron, protein, and B vits.

…Peridontal disease may call for three glasses a day of skim or soy milk. Orange juice fortified with calcium is also good.

…Wrinkling saggy skin? Fruit and veggies! Two at every meal and one as a snack. The phytochemicals protect skins cells and collagen underneath from free radicals generated by the sun.

…Age-related vision loss. Bingo! HA’s favorite. Cataracts and macular degeneration could mean you are low in Vitamin C and lutein, a phytochemical found in dark greens. Pound in the spinach salads, brussels sprouts, cabbage and citrus.

…Lutein acts as a blue filter in the eye, lowering the risk of macular degeneration. The macula is the center of your retina—you don’t want it degenerating. HA can attest that they stick needles in your eye for that.

…It’s not what she has, but she has heard about it in many a doctor’s waiting room.

…Where no doughnuts were served, incidentally, although once the wait was so long they offered peanut butter crackers.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Ewww, gluten

…Jennifer Romolini, writing in the NYT, talks about the exotic quest gluten-allergic people have to find foods that don’t wreak havoc on their innards.

…Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. It keeps bread and cake from crumbling.

…But gluten can also cause life-long digestic problems for people with Celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder affecting one in every 100 Americans.

…Apparently, a restaurant in Greenwich Village started offering a gluten-free pizza and was swamped with business. Visitors come straight from the airport and stack up their suitcases so they can eat.

…Outback Steakhouse and P.F. Chang’s also offer gluten-free items. You can find a listing at

...There ere also are gluten-free blogs, such as

…Gluten is sneaky. It’s not just in bread, but also soy sauce, brewer’s yeast, bourbon, vinegars, salard dressings, processed cheeses, and some spices.

…Eating out can be a pain for those who are allergic to gluten or suffer from Celiac’s. In some restaurants, the only safe food is a Coke.

…One waiter in a gluten-free place said his customers were super picky! “It was stressful,” he moans.

…The customers in these places also let down their hair and talk between tables about their symptoms and other places to get safe food.

…Non-celiacs can feel a little left out, what with their irritating ability to eat a dinner roll.

…For more info and tons of foods (along with the book in the pix), go to