Monday, January 31, 2011


Snow and snowblower injuries are piling up

The immense piles of snow this year have made snowblowers more important than ever. We had our snowiest January on record, with well over 50 inches.

That’s a lot of snow in a short period of time. And if weather forecasts are correct, more snow is on the way this week. Hopefully the snowblower injuries that we have been seeing in the Backus Hospital Emergency Department won’t come along with it.

We have seen at least five snowblower-related injuries this year, and over the years I have seen some very serious injuries, usually the result of people putting their hands or feet in the machines.

They tend to get clogged with debris or wet snow, and even if the engine is turned off when the clogging mechanism is dislodged the torque propels the blades.

The best advice I can give is never stick your hand or foot in a clogged snowblower, even if it is off.

Here are some other snowblower safety tips:

• Many models now include a tool for safe clearing — use it.
• Always turn off it off before attempting to clear it.
• Don’t wear loose clothing that can get caught in the moving parts.
• Always warm up the snowblower outside, not in the garage — carbon monoxide poisoning can result.
• Wear ear plugs.
• When using electric snowblowers, be sure to keep the extension cord safety away from the engine while working.
• For gas models, wait until the engine is cool before refueling.

There is no denying that snowblowers are excellent options to help you clear the driveway, the sidewalk, around the mailbox and make paths for oil deliveries — without the back injuries and dangers of heart attack that traditional shoveling brings.

But they can be dangerous if you don’t use them safely.

Gillian Mosier is a registered nurse and manager of the Backus Trauma Program. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your personal physician. If you want to comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Mosier or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

Friday, January 28, 2011


Together, cancer patients can overcome psychosocial issues they face

Having access to the best caregivers, modern technology and the latest treatment program is important for cancer patients.

But an often overlooked part of the continuum of cancer care is helping patients deal with the many psychological and social issues that arise, whether it is depression, sexuality, accepting physical changes or fear of recurrence.

It is important for cancer patients to know they are not alone – in fact 41 percent of Americans will be diagnosed with some form of cancer during their lifetimes. Sometimes just talking with others in a group setting can be extremely therapeutic.

That’s why Backus Hospital has started a new free support group, “Diagnosed with Cancer? What You Need to Know,” which is held the second Tuesday of every month from 5-6 p.m. in front lobby conference room 1.

We will tackle a different topic each month, and also include time for questions and answers and interactive activities.

The support group will also be a good setting to face other common issues cancer patients face, including:

• How humor can help heal
• The role of spirituality and faith
• Communicating with your healthcare provider
• Financial pressures
• Handling fatigue.

Being diagnosed with cancer has more than just physical impacts. It can cause a great deal of stress for patients and their loved ones. Talking about these issues in a group setting can be just what the doctor ordered.

Elynor Carey is a social worker in the Backus Hospital Care Management Department. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your personal physician. If you want to comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Carey or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

Monday, January 17, 2011


Haitian mission changed our lives

Somehow, despite all we saw while in Haiti Jan. 9-14, I was able to keep my emotions in check. It must be the nurse in me.

We didn’t treat as many children as we expected, but that might be because the very old and very young died before reaching us. We felt like we were in a race against time — and this horrible disease. We would squeeze IV bags as hard as we could to push the fluid in — all while hearing the fluid pour out of them in the form of deadly diarrhea.

But when I was singing at church on Sunday, the dam finally broke — I couldn’t stop the flood of tears. I’m still not sure it has really hit me yet.

Our local team of medical professionals helped a lot of people during our mission. We all did our part to help — and what we saw while there impacted us in various ways.

To communicate to others we set up a Backus Haiti Relief Team Facebook page. It chronicled our journey, and also probably served as an emotional outlet for many of us.

Here are some day-by-day Facebook posts:

• Jan. 9: “So, our first task on arrival yesterday afternoon was to unload a trailer full of supplies…we saw many patients that would be in a Critical Care Unit at home, but are being cared for in tents and portable buildings here.”

— Fred Potter, Backus Hospital Emergency Medical Services Coordinator

• Jan. 10: “We’re all starting our first shifts today. We’ve had some great recoveries in the cholera hospital. This disease is severely debilitating, but we’re working as a team to assist in any way possible. Spirits are high and the work is difficult, but very rewarding. I’m so proud to be a member of this medical mission.”

— Manuela Lescault, registered nurse and Backus Nurse Residency Coordinator

• Jan. 11: Wow…that’s all I can say. We just got off of our first full shift…eight hours felt like 16! In addition to taking to taking care of several patients, including a woman that died, we did aggressive fluid resuscitations for two patients…so far, so good for them.”

— Fred Potter

• Jan. 12: Finished another exhausting shift today at the cholera hospital. We ended the evening with a visit to St. Damien’s children’s hospital to give toys to the beautiful children there. It’s really difficult not to cry, but the children’s smiles are worth the entire effort here!”

— Manuela Lescault

• Jan. 13: “We’re all very pleased with what we’ve been able to do here – we have made a difference in several peoples’ lives. As a great friend of mine told me, ‘this trip will be good for your soul.’ I couldn’t have said it any better.”

— Fred Potter

• Jan. 14: “I am so proud and grateful to have been part of the Backus relief mission to Haiti. I am very fortunate to have shared this experience with such a fantastic team of people. Thank you all for the unforgettable memories and friendships.”

— Cassandra Gryczewski, Backus Hospital registered nurse

Cindy Arpin, is a registered nurse and Stroke Coordinator at The William W. Backus Hospital. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your personal physician. If you want to comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Arpin or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

Monday, January 10, 2011


Healthcare extends beyond the walls of a hospital

I have the best job around. I can say that, because after 30-plus years as a registered nurse, I still enjoy each day.

Together with my colleague Lisa Cook, I am a patient and community educator at Backus Hospital. We get to arrange and coordinate various free educational programs, events and screenings for the community, which is our way of preventing major health problems before people end up in the hospital.

We collect data and surveys to prove that these programs are worthwhile, informative, and health-promoting. But more importantly, health screenings facilitate the identification of problems, make appropriate referrals, and facilitate subsequent treatment — possibly saving lives in the process.

Backus Hospital’s mission is to improve the health of the community. To accomplish this, it takes a team of people. Here are examples of what I mean:

• In April, the monthly “Family Matters” educational series presentation was “Recognizing the Signs of Autism Spectrum Disorders.” Our speaker was Dr. Dumont-Mathieu, a developmental-behavioral pediatrician from West Hartford. Sixty-two people attended this program, some from as far away as Old Lyme and Colchester. So many parents commented on how valuable this information was, how much they learned, and how appreciative they were to be informed about available resources for autism diagnosis and treatment.

• In September, we offered a free community prostate cancer screening. Two Backus urologists, Dr. Franklin Friedman and Dr. T. Casey McCullough, volunteered their time to examine 40 men, who also had blood drawn for PSA blood tests. Several men had elevated PSA tests, requiring follow-up, and one young man was identified with a suspicious prostate exam, resulting in the recommendation for a biopsy for prostate cancer.

• In December, Backus participated in the Mohegan Sun Employee Health Day. The health theme was “All About Diabetes.” Chinese and Spanish interpreters were available to talk to the many Mandarin, Cantonese, and Hispanic employees who might otherwise not have access to this vital information. Written information was provided in several languages. More than 50 home glucose meters were distributed, and more than 250 people talked to the healthcare providers and interpreters there. Several referrals were made to bi-lingual physicians to establish primary care medical “homes.”

So, a community hospital’s role definitely extends beyond its walls. We will continue to help improve the health of our community with free community education and screenings, including our second “Enjoy LIFE (Lifelong Investment in Fitness and Exercise) program in Plainfield. The kick-off for the monthly series is Jan. 20, 6:30-8 p.m. at the Plainfield Recreation Department. Call 860-889-8331, ext. 2495 to register. Let’s work together and support one another to get healthier in 2011.

Alice Facente is a registered nurse and clinical educator with the The William W. Backus Hospital Education Department. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your personal physician. If you want to comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

Tuesday, January 04, 2011


Survey your home for health hazards

First responders often describe a “survey of the scene” before they enter a hazardous incident. A survey of your living environment can be equally beneficial.

A hazard assessment provides an opportunity for an individual to develop a plan of correction, prioritizing from most critical to least critical.

While people can identify public health hazards on their own, it can be invaluable to have a third party assist in the assessment. We tend to become very accustomed to our environment. How often have you missed your significant other’s new haircut or glasses? This same principle applies to a home assessment.

So, what can you do? One way to look more critically at your living environment is to use a maintenance checklist. One helpful checklist can be found at While this is a good starting point, the list may need to be modified due to personal and environmental considerations such as the age and construction of a home, or specific health conditions of the tenants.

I would also recommend contacting your local health department. Health departments maintain vital information on the history of your home and community. Public health nurses, environmental sanitarians, and public health educators can help determine the most critical hazards and possible remedies.

There are currently two free programs at the Uncas Health District serving the residents of Bozrah, Griswold, Lisbon, Montville, Norwich, Sprague, and Voluntown. They include:

Healthy Homes Program. A home hazard assessment is conducted by a health district inspector and a report is provided to the owner or occupant recommending interventions that may mitigate housing-related hazards.

Free radon kits. Available on a first-come, first-served basis in recognition of National Radon Action Month in January. To learn more about these programs, contact Devon Thornton at 860-823-1189 or

Remember, prevention is the key when it comes to public health.

Patrick R. McCormack, MPH, is Director of Health for the Uncas Health District, based in Norwich. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your personal physician. If you want to comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Mr. McCormack or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

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