Author Archives: Nathan Sheon, Intern, Real World Health Care

A Tale of Two Liver Transplants: Altruistic Compassion for a Compassionate Altruist

Editor’s Note: Real World Healthcare will be taking a brief hiatus during the month of August. During this time, we’d like to share with you some of the compelling stories we’ve published about patients facing both medical and financial hardships.

 

“Talk about your life changing in an instant,” Helen said, remembering her first diagnosis of acute liver failure. The doctor told her family there was nothing more to be done, and she was given two weeks to live.

Helen Bozzo

Helen Bozzo

Helen Bozzo had spent most of her time being a mother. Her husband, a farmer, worked long hours in the fields in their rural California farm, and early on in their marriage the couple decided that she would stay home to care for their three children. She was the “homeroom mother,” volunteering in classes and with the school’s administration, PTA and athletics department. Helen’s passion was helping others, and not just in the school.

Eventually moving into the town, Helen enjoyed taking others into her home – her children’s friends, her son’s comrades from the Marine Corps – she always had a full house and enjoyed taking these friends in like her family.

“I enjoyed cooking for everyone, reading, knitting and gardening,” she said. “Still things I enjoy doing today, but loving and helping people is my number one pleasure in life.”

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A Note from Our Sponsor: Are you, or is someone you love, an MS patient on Medicare in Need of Financial Assistance? Click here to visit the HealthWell Foundation’s eligibility page.

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Helen had returned from what she remembers as a great family vacation to Disneyland when she began to get ill quickly. Her doctor had her admitted to her local hospital where, after receiving tests and specialists’ opinions, she was given that shocking diagnosis.

But her family could not accept that. They sought a second opinion, and got Helen an appointment at a local cancer center. Here she was evaluated and admitted to the hospital, where she spent a month undergoing “every test known to man” and waiting desperately for an answer. All that was clear was that her liver and now her kidneys were failing. She was placed on dialysis.

“I was going downhill fast,” Helen recalls.

After much deliberation, Helen’s doctors decided to put her on the transplant list. Eight days later, on April 29, 2007, a suitable liver was available and she had the transplant. Her health began to improve immediately.

More than a third of people on the transplant list die each year waiting for an organ, according to Helen. She would later come to realize just how lucky she was, saying, “The odds of finding a match in such an acute critical case as mine are astronomical,” she said. “The doctors told me later that I was within hours of death.”

For the time being, Helen was in the clear. She had great insurance and her payment plan kept her bills covered. Though she was in debt, she was able to keep her medications coming. Considering how hard her recovery was, that was a very good thing. It took Helen a year to be able to walk again, but she eventually made a full recovery.

For the next four years, things went well for Helen. She became active again, and that meant re-embracing her spirit of altruism. She became active in the organ donor/recipient community, particularly in a liver transplant support group in which she helps others through the process of getting a transplant. She became a California Donate Life Ambassador, speaking at various organizations about the importance of becoming an organ donor. What energy Helen had, she gave to others.

Shortly before her third walk with the American Liver Foundation’s “Walk for Life,” Helen decided she had to see her doctor. She had started feeling tired after a recent road trip with a friend, and now she was feeling worse. To her dismay, the doctor’s test showed some major problems. After ten days of testing in the hospital, her liver was failing again. She was placed on the “Status 1” list in five states, the top of the transplant list.

“It was life or certain death,” Helen said.

Three days later, on September 26, 2011, Helen had her second liver transplant.

Along with this transplant, however, came three expensive new medications that her insurance would not cover. Charging thousands of dollars to her credit card every month, Helen was becoming massively over-extended. She called every agency she could, but no one could help her until she found the HealthWell Foundation. HealthWell is a nationwide non-profit providing financial assistance to insured patients who are still struggling to afford the medications they need (and sponsor of this blog). Helen qualified for a grant that helped cover her copays for her medications.

Now, Helen and her husband are back on their feet. As always, Helen turned her attention to paying it forward to others as soon as she could, donating to the HealthWell Foundation, continuing to support transplant recipients and raising over $25,000 in her walks for research and awareness of liver disease and failure. She spends time with her ever-growing family and her husband, with whom she just celebrated 40 years of marriage. When she’s not helping others or enjoying the love of her family, she still likes to knit, garden and cook, and hopes to see all 50 states one day.

“We are so very thankful to the HealthWell Foundation,” Helen said. “I know of families in our transplant support group that have lost their homes because they were in the same situation we were in. Thankfully we found the HealthWell Foundation in time. The home we had worked so hard for, we were able to keep. The peace of mind in knowing that every month when I went to the pharmacy I would have the money to pay for my medications meant everything to our family. The stress was gone and I could focus on my recovery in peace.”

We at RealWorldHealthCare are thrilled to see patients like Helen in such good places, doing such wonderful things. Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

A Tale of Two Liver Transplants: Altruistic Compassion for a Compassionate Altruist

“Talk about your life changing in an instant,” Helen said, remembering her first diagnosis of acute liver failure. The doctor told her family there was nothing more to be done, and she was given two weeks to live.

Helen Bozzo

Helen Bozzo

Helen Bozzo had spent most of her time being a mother. Her husband, a farmer, worked long hours in the fields in their rural California farm, and early on in their marriage the couple decided that she would stay home to care for their three children. She was the “homeroom mother,” volunteering in classes and with the school’s administration, PTA and athletics department. Helen’s passion was helping others, and not just in the school.

Eventually moving into the town, Helen enjoyed taking others into her home – her children’s friends, her son’s comrades from the Marine Corps – she always had a full house and enjoyed taking these friends in like her family.

“I enjoyed cooking for everyone, reading, knitting and gardening,” she said. “Still things I enjoy doing today, but loving and helping people is my number one pleasure in life.”

Helen had returned from what she remembers as a great family vacation to Disneyland when she began to get ill quickly. Her doctor had her admitted to her local hospital where, after receiving tests and specialists’ opinions, she was given that shocking diagnosis.

But her family could not accept that. They sought a second opinion, and got Helen an appointment at a local cancer center. Here she was evaluated and admitted to the hospital, where she spent a month undergoing “every test known to man” and waiting desperately for an answer. All that was clear was that her liver and now her kidneys were failing. She was placed on dialysis.

“I was going downhill fast,” Helen recalls.

After much deliberation, Helen’s doctors decided to put her on the transplant list. Eight days later, on April 29, 2007, a suitable liver was available and she had the transplant. Her health began to improve immediately.

More than a third of people on the transplant list die each year waiting for an organ, according to Helen. She would later come to realize just how lucky she was, saying, “The odds of finding a match in such an acute critical case as mine are astronomical,” she said. “The doctors told me later that I was within hours of death.”

For the time being, Helen was in the clear. She had great insurance and her payment plan kept her bills covered. Though she was in debt, she was able to keep her medications coming. Considering how hard her recovery was, that was a very good thing. It took Helen a year to be able to walk again, but she eventually made a full recovery.

For the next four years, things went well for Helen. She became active again, and that meant re-embracing her spirit of altruism. She became active in the organ donor/recipient community, particularly in a liver transplant support group in which she helps others through the process of getting a transplant. She became a California Donate Life Ambassador, speaking at various organizations about the importance of becoming an organ donor. What energy Helen had, she gave to others.

Shortly before her third walk with the American Liver Foundation’s “Walk for Life,” Helen decided she had to see her doctor. She had started feeling tired after a recent road trip with a friend, and now she was feeling worse. To her dismay, the doctor’s test showed some major problems. After ten days of testing in the hospital, her liver was failing again. She was placed on the “Status 1” list in five states, the top of the transplant list.

“It was life or certain death,” Helen said.

Three days later, on September 26, 2011, Helen had her second liver transplant.

Along with this transplant, however, came three expensive new medications that her insurance would not cover. Charging thousands of dollars to her credit card every month, Helen was becoming massively over-extended. She called every agency she could, but no one could help her until she found the HealthWell Foundation. HealthWell is a nationwide non-profit providing financial assistance to insured patients who are still struggling to afford the medications they need (and sponsor of this blog). Helen qualified for a grant that helped cover her copays for her medications.

Now, Helen and her husband are back on their feet. As always, Helen turned her attention to paying it forward to others as soon as she could, donating to the HealthWell Foundation, continuing to support transplant recipients and raising over $25,000 in her walks for research and awareness of liver disease and failure. She spends time with her ever-growing family and her husband, with whom she just celebrated 40 years of marriage. When she’s not helping others or enjoying the love of her family, she still likes to knit, garden and cook, and hopes to see all 50 states one day.

“We are so very thankful to the HealthWell Foundation,” Helen said. “I know of families in our transplant support group that have lost their homes because they were in the same situation we were in. Thankfully we found the HealthWell Foundation in time. The home we had worked so hard for, we were able to keep. The peace of mind in knowing that every month when I went to the pharmacy I would have the money to pay for my medications meant everything to our family. The stress was gone and I could focus on my recovery in peace.”

We at RealWorldHealthCare are thrilled to see patients like Helen in such good places, doing such wonderful things. Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

Categories: Cost-Savings, General

Patient of the Month: The Most Beautiful Sunrise – One Grandmother’s Story of Survival

Lois and her husband

Lois and her husband

Working 10 hour shifts as a registered nurse in North Liberty, Iowa, Lois Ludvigson did not think much about feeling tired. All of that changed one December morning in 1998, which Lois remembers had – as she put it – the most beautiful sunrise.

The rest of the day was different, however. She had just had her yearly physical, and the results of her bloodwork had come in. When Lois’ doctor put her arm around her and led her into a room, empty except for her husband, she knew this was not about a hospital patient. Lois remembers how it felt hearing her doctor explain to her the different treatment options.

“You’ve just got to go with the shock,” Lois remembers, “It’s so unreal.”

Lois’ doctors – her coworkers and friends – had already planned her appointments out for her, starting with her bone biopsy. On New Year’s Eve, it was confirmed: she had chronic myeloid leukemia.

Lois decided that an interferon treatment would be the best option for her. This type of treatment, which according to Lois is rarely used today, involves the injection of a family of substances used by the immune system to fight diseases. The injections – which Lois gave herself – were affective at slowing the growth and division of leukemia cells, but had significant side-effects for her. After building up a tolerance to the drug, she started displaying flu- and lupus-like symptoms. After having a seizure, her doctor directed her to stop using the drug immediately. At her doctor’s behest, Lois sought out various clinical trials in hopes of finding a new treatment for her condition. Upon calling Stanford University, researchers said they wanted to see her in-person.

Having flown to California for testing, Lois was put on the experimental drug the next day. She continued to send Stanford blood every month and visit Stanford every three months. After the drug got approval and went on the market, took part in a further study there to help with their research in any way she could, which included sending blood to them every three months.

Now that the drug was on the market, though, Lois knew she would have to start paying for it herself. Her insurance covered the interferon treatments, but the new drug was very expensive. So expensive, in fact, that Lois told her husband she simply could not be treated. This was not an option, he replied, and after finding out about the HealthWell Foundation, Lois received a grant that covered the cost of the drug she needed to survive.

“I felt humble, and I still do. I think about the grant and what we would have done without it,” Lois said. “My heart goes out to people who don’t know about it, who are struggling, and I just feel humble.”

Since starting the treatment in September of 2000, Lois’ numbers have been stable. Though her condition still affects her, Lois says she’s come to terms with it.

“You have your little nuisances, not feeling well, feeling fatigue. But, you learn to live with them,” she said. “You learn to ask, ‘Is this worth feeling tired afterwards?’ and if I say yes, I’ll do it. That’s my choice, and I might have to rest the next week after. You learn to live your life differently, but it’s still a full life.”

Nowadays, aside from taking care of her health, Lois sews quilts with a group from her church, all of which are donated to children in hospitals.

“I feel so blessed that I can give back in this way,” Lois said. “Aside from enjoying my children, my grandchildren, my family, that’s my purpose.”

Has leukemia affected your life? How so? Let us know in the comment section.

New App Makes Diabetes Care Delivery a Whole New Ballgame

A father brings his son to a baseball game. The day is nice, the weather is good, but there’s one problem: the boy has Type 1 diabetes, and they forgot his test strips. Do they leave the game for home or a pharmacy? Do they wing it, risking the boy’s health and trying to manage his blood sugar with his diet?

Nathan Sheon

Actually, they opt for the third choice: HelpAround, a mobile safety net for people with diabetes. The
man can pull out his phone, see that there is another diabetes patient two sections down, and ask for the supplies his son needs. With that, the day is saved.

A story like that is how HelpAround began. Established in 2013, HelpAround was designed to bring people with diabetes together in a common space to provide not just peer-to-peer support, but peer-to-peer care as well. Using new mobile technology, the app provides a highly personalized account of treatment needs and matches patients accordingly with other patients who have similar needs.

According to Yishai Knobel, CEO and co-founder of HelpAround, the service fills in what is otherwise a gray area of diabetes treatment. People with diabetes face a large spectrum of constant health concerns that vary widely in severity. Not having test strips, for instance, might not warrant going to the hospital, but can be very serious for patients who need to constantly monitor their health. With an app like this to fall back on, according to Knobel, people with diabetes are able to live more normal lives knowing that they can get the help they need whenever they need it. “People with chronic conditions have so much going on, on top of their everyday lives,” he said. “Creating this social safety net is really something valuable.”

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Did you know that September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month? One way to help pediatric cancer patients and their families who are faced with a devastating medical emergency is to donate to HealthWell Foundation’s Pediatric Assistance fund.  Click here to learn more and donate to help families in need.

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HelpAround also provides a less tangible but equally important factor for its patients: a sense of belonging to a community. Though he did not want to disclose numbers, Knobel said that in the early stages of the app’s launch, 85% of requests for help received a response. For people with chronic conditions, knowing that there is a dedicated support base by patients and for patients is invaluable.

“Connecting the right people at the right time in a system can create a wonderful moment of empowerment, support and comradery,” Knobel said.

With use of the app growing, patient groups for other chronic diseases have also begun to discuss using technology like this. With communication technology advancing and a growing call for more patient-centered solutions to health issues, Knobel believes that technologies like HelpAround will allow patients to manage their own health needs more efficiently.  Perhaps most important, the app helps patients stay compliant with their treatment schedule.

“We want to really give the patient a full support system, (helping them) on the go, focusing on their needs, to better manage their health care,” Knobel said.

Have you ever used HelpAround or a similar technology? What was your experience? What does this mean for the future of care-delivery and treatment compliance? Let us know in the comment section!

Categories: Access to Care, General

Patient of the Month Revisited: Sharon Harris Survives Lupus and Pays It Forward

Real World Health Care is on its summer break. During this time, we will be revisiting some of our Patients of the Month. Please enjoy these inspiring stories from the patients we serve.

Sharon Harris remembers February of 2002. She remembers where she was, what she was wearing, and what she was feeling. Most of all, she remembers the day she was diagnosed with lupus.

Sharon Harris

May is Lupus Awareness Month. Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease that occurs when the body’s immune system is unable to distinguish between foreign illnesses and the body’s own tissue and organs. Inflammation caused by lupus can affect joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, brain, heart, lungs, and other organs. Although there is no cure for lupus, there are numerous medications that can alleviate its symptoms.

Sharon had just graduated from Florida A&M University in Tallahassee when she received her diagnosis. “I was 22 at the time, fresh out of college,” Sharon said. “You’re taught while you’re growing up to learn your manners, respect your elders, and get a good education. No one tells you about an autoimmune disease that you will have for the rest of your life.”

Nor had anyone told her what having lupus would entail. “I immediately went into battle mode,” she said. “I had graduated from college. I had traveled 1200 miles from my family to make my journalism degree happen, and I was going to fight.”

“But, as soon as I got my fight on, that’s when all the pain started.”

Sharon experienced a flare-up of symptoms. It would be an understatement to say that the rest of that winter was difficult for her. Her hair began to fall out. She suffered from constant fatigue and pain. In the month of February alone, Sharon lost thirty pounds.

After beginning treatment on several different medications, Sharon started feeling better by that summer. One Wednesday during a Bible study, Sharon was asked what she would do if it were her last day on Earth.

“I said I wanted to see the world,” Sharon said. “Because if lupus was going to take me out, then it was going come and find me in Paris on the Eiffel Tower or on a beach in the Virgin Islands.”

By chance, Northwest Airlines (now Delta) had put out an ad to recruit flight attendants. It was a dream job for Sharon. The job provided her with better insurance, and on her off days she could fly to any location on Northwest’s roster. Just as she had hoped, Sharon got a chance to see the world. Amazingly, Sharon started to find that her experience with lupus was helping her have a healthier mindset. “It really made me think of life in a whole different way, and just literally live. Just really get out there and live,” she said.

Sharon eventually moved back to Tallahassee, opening an eyelash parlor and holding down an office job. At that point, she experienced another flare-up. “In October in Tallahassee it is still 100 degrees outside, and I was wearing a wool coat,” Sharon said. “I was so sick.” Sharon packed up and returned to her hometown: Detroit, MI.

Now, too sick to work and without a job, Sharon did not have health insurance. The lupus was attacking her kidneys and the medicine that she was prescribed cost upwards of $3,000 for a month’s supply. Despite pinching pennies to afford her daughter’s medication, Sharon’s mother was willing to refinance her house to save her only child’s life.

That’s when Sharon’s luck shifted. One day, she visited a local lupus organization with the intention of buying a t-shirt, and she ended up walking out with a new job. Her new public relations position did not include benefits but being employed allowed her to purchase health insurance.

Although she had insurance, her share of the payments for her four medications was unaffordable; one of the therapies alone cost more than $1,000 per month. That’s when Sharon found out about the HealthWell Foundation from a Google Alert. HealthWell is a nationwide non-profit providing financial assistance to insured patients who are still struggling to afford the medications they need (and sponsor of this blog).

“Literally, HealthWell saved my life,” Sharon said. “I didn’t have to incur any debt, my mother didn’t have to refinance her house, and HealthWell saved the day.”

SharronHarris2

And Sharon wanted to save the day for others like her. She has become a leading activist for lupus awareness, starting her own advocacy group called Lupus Detroit, which offers lupus patients emergency grants. Sharon points out that there are two colors that are used for lupus awareness, orange and purple. She opted for orange for her organization because the color is “louder” and garners more attention. “Lupus needs all of the attention that it can get,” Sharon said.

Sharon is currently in remission and has been doing well since receiving a grant from HealthWell in 2011 that allowed her to afford her medications. “I was inspired by the work that HealthWell does to help people with their medications,” she said. “I just don’t believe that someone should have to choose between paying for their medication and feeding their children.”

And neither do we, Sharon. Keep up the excellent work.

If you are inspired to help, consider raising awareness during Lupus Awareness Month and showing your support. Here are some suggestions:

  • Make a donation to HealthWell’s SLE Fund in honor of a family member or loved one who is battling lupus.
  • Celebrate World Lupus Day on Saturday, May 10th.
  • Put on Purple on Friday, May 16th and visit The Lupus Foundation of America’s website at www.lupus.org to learn how you can show your support.
  • Find your local Lupus Foundation of America chapter to learn about activities in your area.

Has lupus touched your life? Do you have plans to show support during Lupus Awareness Month? Share your story in the comments section.

Patient of the Month Revisited: Alex Defio Shares His Story for Men’s Health/Cancer Awareness Month

Real World Health Care is on its summer break. During this time, we will be revisiting some of our Patients of the Month. Please enjoy these inspiring stories from the patients we serve.

Alex Defio did not feel sick on the day he was told he was going to die.

A construction worker and amateur poker player, he considered himself a generally healthy individual. On this day, however, Alex was being dealt a hand that no one should ever have to play; he was diagnosed with stage IV stomach and liver cancer. It was terminal.

Alex Defio

Alex remembers the doctor advising him – coldly – to return home and seek hospice care for the remaining months he had to live. “It knocked me out. I couldn’t believe anyone was talking to me that way,” Alex recalled. “When you know you’re going to die, when someone tells you the time of death, that is very scary.”

Like many cancer patients, Alex felt fine until he began chemotherapy. Bed-ridden for months, he could no longer work. Although he had been receiving financial assistance from his home state of Arizona, the budget for his program was soon cut.

Alex was able to access social security, but it did not cover everything. He watched his money run out knowing that he would be unable to cover his medical expenses. He tried turning to non-profits and charities, but to no avail. “I’d spent most of my life donating to various [charities] and organizations, but when I went looking for help, everyone told me that I had such a rare cancer that nobody collects money for it,” Alex said. “Every place I went – and I went everywhere – could not give me any help.”

After two years struggling to put what little money he had toward his medical expenses, Alex sought help from his oncologist, Dr. Rakkar.

Dr. Rakkar introduced him to the HealthWell Foundation, a nationwide non-profit providing financial assistance to insured patients who still struggle to afford the medications they need (and sponsor of this blog). Through HealthWell, Alex was finally able to get the help he needed.

Since then, Alex has continued his treatment, which is restricted to chemotherapy. He knows he has not been cured and that surgery is not an option, but he has lived past his original prognosis and is grateful for every day he has.

Alex has continued to give to others and has donated to HealthWell. “I know that after I’m gone, there are still people who are going to need you,” Alex said. “The people that you help – and I’m speaking for people I don’t even know – if they’re cancer patients like me, you’re saving their lives.”

“I try to give back what little I have and hope it helps,” Alex added. “I will never be able to give enough for the help that HealthWell has given me. I am just so thankful you are there for us.”

And we are thankful for you too, Alex. During this Men’s Health/Cancer Awareness Month, we are honored to share Alex’s story and generosity.

How has cancer touched your life? Share your story in the comments section. For more information about seeking assistance from HealthWell, visit www.HealthWellFoundation.org.

Categories: Access to Care, General

Patient of the Month Revisited: Charles Fazio’s recovery from heart bypass surgery, kidney failure, and financial crisis

Real World Health Care is on its summer break. During this time, we will be revisiting some of our Patients of the Month. Please enjoy these inspiring stories from the patients we serve.

Charles Fazio wasn’t sure how he could survive another health crisis.

Charles Fazio

Just three years after his four-way heart bypass surgery, he developed end stage kidney failure. In the worsening economy, he had lost his job as a traffic signal technician in Norfolk, Virginia and had since become too sick to work. On top of his serious health problems, Charles’ financial worries were overwhelming.

“It was like after having all of these other things happen, now I have to deal with this, too,” said Charles. “It was a big shock.”

Charles’ disability benefits had not begun to come in and he had to sell off his possessions to afford his medical expenses. Eventually, he lost his home and found himself homeless for several days.

“One night I stayed in my mom’s nursing home. I went in to visit her and I pretended like I just fell asleep in the chair next to her,” Charles said.

In short, it had been a rough few years, to say the least.

Charles was treated at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital and received dialysis for a year and a half at the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Medical Center. Completing the process for Medicare allowed him to afford his dialysis treatments and living expenses.

Then, one day in 2012, Charles’ regular doctor appointment morphed into an overnight kidney transplant. “I was scared to death,” Charles said. “I didn’t know what to expect. I had read up on everything thoroughly, but when the time comes, you really just have to face it.”

By 4 o’clock the next day, he had a transplant kidney.

Charles continued treatment and testing at the VCU Medical Center after his operation. His recovery went smoothly, but he still required numerous medications and immunosuppressants. Again, he couldn’t afford the copays.

That’s when doctors and social workers introduced Charles to the HealthWell Foundation, a nationwide non-profit providing financial assistance to insured patients who are still struggling to afford the medications they need (and sponsor of this blog).. Charles was given a grant that enabled him to afford his medications.

“The grant I got from [HealthWell] took a lot of worry off of my back, a lot of tension,” Charles said.

With his financial stress reduced, Charles was better able to emotionally cope with his condition. “The help I got from Norfolk General, the VCU and [HealthWell] was the turning point for all of my frustrations, for feeling sorry for myself,” he said.

Now, Charles is doing quite well. At a recent annual check-up with his doctors at the VCU, his blood tests came back looking good. His transplant kidney is holding up well and his medication is stable. “You never know how you’re doing, even though you’re dieting and doing what your doctors are telling you,” he said. “In the back of your mind you’re asking, ‘How am I doing?’ and only a doctor can tell you.”

“But they said I’m doing well, and I feel good too.”

Charles is optimistic that his series of unfortunate events may now be in the past. He is recovering well and doing his best to stay healthy in his eating habits and his lifestyle. “When the weather’s nice, I try to take a walk once a week, and I hold on,” he said.

One step at a time, Charles. We’re all glad you’re here.

Categories: General

When Laughter Is the Best Medicine

More than three million times each year, a child is hospitalized. Some of these are planned surgeries or treatments for a chronic illness, others immediate and sudden injuries. Regardless of the nature of their stays in the hospital, common among all of these children and their families is fear, anxiety, confusion and uncertainty.

Radio Lollipop is out to change all of that.

Run entirely by volunteers, Radio Lollipop provides
care, comfort, play and entertainment to children in hospitals. A nightly radio broadcast, the program features banter between children, comedy and song requests. Volunteers also visit the children in-person, playing games, reading stories and doing arts and crafts.

“The point is to have interaction between the volunteers and the children,” said Donna Huck, Chairman of Radio Lollipop USA. “We believe that laughter is the best medicine.”

A 2009 study proved her right. The study found that after the Radio Lollipop activity, children reported a significant decrease in overall anxiety with the greatest reduction coming in the area of worry. Furthermore, postgraduate research in Perth, Australia reported an 82% reduction in requests for pain-killing drugs after Radio Lollipop involvement. “We think that is a pretty good indication that we are doing something right,” Huck said.

According to Deborah Prout, a volunteer at Radio Lollipop at Texas Children’s hospital in Houston, Radio Lollipop provides something equally crucial for the children: “It is something that they have control over, whereas in a hospital stay they don’t have control over anything,” Prout said. “It all depends on them and what they want to do.”

Founded in 1979 in the UK, Radio Lollipop has grown to include over 10,000 volunteers operating 26 hospital radio stations in five countries.

A health crisis is a scary thing, especially for a child. With what these children and their families have to go through, we at www.RealWorldHealthcare.org look forward to Radio Lollipop’s continued development. According to Huck, the program is hoping to expand further, particularly in the United States.

“We would love to see every child in the United States have the opportunity to experience this,” Huck said.

And for the children, so would we.

Categories: General

UV Safety Month: Shedding Light on Melanoma Treatment and Prevention

In 2014, an approximate 77,000 Americans will be diagnosed with melanoma, culminating in nearly 10,000 deaths. Every eight minutes, an American is diagnosed with melanoma, and every hour, an American dies from it. Despite accounting for only four percent of all skin cancer cases, melanoma results in 80 percent of all skin cancer-related deaths. In observance of UV Safety Month, Real World Health Care is examining what’s working and what’s new in the prevention and treatment of melanoma.

photo (1)

Nathan Sheon

If detected early, melanoma is easily treated with surgery. If a tumor in the epidermis – the upper-most layer of skin – is removed before it deepens into the skin or spreads to other parts of the body, the likelihood of completely curing melanoma is high. When melanoma spreads, other treatment options include chemo- and radiation therapy.

Once melanoma has progressed to its later stages, however, treatment of the disease becomes much more difficult. For these patients, treatment options usually focus on extending life expectancy and improving quality of life.

Within the last few years, developments in melanoma research have provided promising leads on how to increase a patient’s lifespan beyond the capabilities of existing treatments. Certain activation immunotherapies – drugs that activate the immune system’s ability to fight disease – are showing potential in their ability to combat the spread of melanoma by killing tumors. Though these treatments do not work in all melanoma patients, in some cases they have been associated with unprecedented increases in lifespan.

“All of these trials involve late stage cancer patients. Suddenly we’re seeing those same patients getting two years or more survival time,” said Ashani Weeraratna of the Wistar Institute, the nation’s first independent institution devoted to medical research and training. “Enhancing the immune system such that it can effectively target and destroy your tumor has been a goal for many years. That’s [the field’s] big advance.”

Melanoma is almost always curable when detected and treated early on. Monthly self-examinations and yearly visits to the dermatologist are highly advised, even for those not predisposed to skin cancers. More information on how to perform a self-examination can be found online in guides from the Skin Cancer Foundation and the Melanoma Research Foundation.

Among other important measures like self-examinations and avoiding tanning booths, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) advises that wearing sunscreen when spending time outdoors is vital, especially during peak daylight hours between 10 AM to 2 PM. The AAD suggests using sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or above. With a range of sunscreen products on the market, choosing the right one can be difficult. Different products are more effective for different people depending on skin type. Visit the Skin Cancer Foundation’s guide for more information on choosing the right sunscreen product for you. For more information and tips on preventing and detecting melanoma, visit the AAD’s online guide.

How do you stay safe in the sun? Let us know in the comments section.

*Jamie Elizabeth Rosen, editor of Real World Health Care, contributed to this piece.

Health Benefits of Letting Your Employees Sleep Until Noon

How does an extra hour of sleep sound to you? How about not having to commute to work every day? Flexibility in the workplace is becoming an increasingly popular perk in business, with 45% of Millennials preferring flexible work hours over higher pay.

Nathan Sheon

Nathan Sheon

The correlation between workplace flexibility and productivity, morale, etc. is being debated in the business world. However, when it comes to health, a new study by researchers at the University of Minnesota suggests that models for workday time management that focus exclusively on accomplishments can confer health benefits.

The idea behind the so-called “Results-Only Work Environment” (ROWE) is to pay employees based solely on results, as opposed to hours spent in the office. Advocates of ROWE suggest that employees then have the freedom – and responsibility – to get their work done whenever, wherever they would like, as they are only expected to make measurable contributions to the organization without necessarily having to spend time commuting or working in the office. This approach has the potential to allow employees to spend less time during the day focusing on work, and more time focusing on their families, recreation, and health.

A 2011 study by the University of Minnesota research team suggested that “participating in the ROWE initiative directly increases employees’ health-related behaviors of sleep and exercise, as well as the likelihood that employees will not go to the workplace when sick and will see a doctor when sick.” Although the ROWE approach did not directly produce changes in measures of well-being such as sleep quality, energy, and self-reported health, there is evidence that such a system “directly improves health-behavior outcomes over a six-month period.”

The new 2014 study by the same team did not suggest that ROWE implementation reduces psychological time demand, but it did find that employees experienced an increase in sense of time control – a sense of time adequacy and schedule control. Furthermore, the study found that these factors can predict an increase in a worker’s energy, mastery, and self-assessed health, along with reductions in somatic symptoms, emotional exhaustion, and psychological distress.

“This study provides strong support for our hypotheses that time demands and time control are important job conditions that matter for health, net of classic job strain measures (job demands and job control), as well as measures of home strain (home demands and home control),” stated Phyllis Moen, the head researcher, in the study. “It thus builds on and extends the limited evidence to date on the health effects of the rising time strain experienced by growing numbers of workers.”

ROWE was originally developed by Jody Thompson and Cali Ressler at Best Buy in 2005. Some companies that have experimented with ROWE include GAP Retail and Yum! Brands, which oversees the restaurant chains KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut, among others.

Have you ever worked in a Results-Only Work Environment or with a more flexible schedule than the typical 9-5 job? Did you find that flexibility with your work hours affected your health? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

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