One of the ironic things about becoming sick and living with a chronic illness is that you increasingly appreciate good health and feeling well. Although I have lived with rheumatoid arthritis since I was a small child, I still admire wellness in others.

For example, I have difficulty walking and yet enjoy watching others—how easy it looks in comparison to the gait I practice with great effort and thoughtful concentration. It amazes me just not only how people can walk without thinking about it, but that they can run. To me, running is akin to flying—an amazing feat.

Maybe my favorite healthy person to watch is a toddler. They have such beautifully healthy and flexible joints! I love how they can tumble and play—moving without an ounce of effort and filled with energy. Living with a joint disease has led me to appreciate bones that are not painful, that are flexible and healthy.

When I had my knee removed, all I wanted was a good, functioning knee. When I had my new knee replacement, I wanted strength and to be able to lift my leg on my own power. Gradually I got there, but it was keeping that goal of better health in my mind that helped me to achieve it. Sometimes seeing good health and knowing what it is to you can be an inspiration for a goal. Other times it is something you can appreciate and admire.

I know that I will not be cured of my rheumatoid arthritis and return to perfect health. I live with an ongoing condition that can also cause other issues. However, I appreciate the relative health I do have. No matter how bad we’re feeling, I think it’s possible to find a bright side—like a steady heartbeat, breath of fresh air, or the feeling of sun on our skin.

Appreciating good health, means being glad of it for others and counting our blessings even during an illness.

Kelly Mack lives in Washington, DC, and works for a marketing communications firm.

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fotor_(48)Now that I am surrounded by folks with fall colds, and woke up this morning congested, it’s time to address a critical question. Is blowing my nose advisable or not? Will blowing my nose relieve the stuffy feeling? Will it shorten the length of my symptoms?

A 1999 study at the University of Virginia used four healthy human subjects to measure the pressures generated by nose blowing. Nose blowing generated over ten times as much intranasal pressure as coughing and sneezing did. CT scanning was then used to see if nose blowing, coughing or sneezing caused contrast medium to be pushed into the paranasal sinuses. Only nose blowing resulted in contrast movement. In two of the subjects, some contrast had moved into the maxillary and frontal sinuses after the subjects had blown their noses.

Does this mean that nose blowing increases the risk for a cold progressing to a sinus infection? Are the viruses or bacteria in the nose being propelled into the paranasal sinuses? Given the small scale of this research, there would need to be more studies to answer the question definitively. The preliminary conclusion that the pressure generated by nose blowing can increase the risk of furthering an infection makes logical sense, however.

Health care providers recommend that nose blowing only be done gently. If you feel your ears popping, you are definitely using too much force. Holding one nostril closed while blowing out the other nostril helps to control the pressure. Blowing through one nostril at a time also assists in assuring that both sides are somewhat cleared. Another good way to lower the pressure is to keep your mouth open while blowing your nose.

Wiping your nose or using saline nasal rinses may be less traumatic to your nasal passages than blowing your nose. These more gentle measures could possibly decrease the risk of pushing the infection into the sinuses. Inhaling steam or taking decongestant medication can help thin the secretions and ease the drainage of the congestion. Of note, much of the feeling of congestion is due to swollen membranes and dilated blood vessels rather than actual mucus. For this reason, blowing your nose may not even relieve the stuffy feeling.

Finally, if you’ve decided to blow your nose, wash your hands when you’re done. Try to avoid touching your face throughout the day. It is easy to spread the cold to others if you then touch something like a shared keyboard or door handle.

Cherise Tasker is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the Central Branch and has a background in health information. Most evenings, Cherise can be found reading a book, attending a book club meeting, or coordinating a book group.

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1970s family portrait

1970s family portrait

Commit to give up smoking for at least one day: the Great American Smokeout is Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014

This year, for the Great American Smokeout, I share a childhood story that may hit home for smokers who are also parents.

I grew up in Howard County in the early 70s and 80s, with two wonderful parents who did everything for me. I don’t know where I would be without them. More people smoked back then, and both of my parents did, too.

The county public schools in the 70s were showing scary pictures of black lungs to young school children in an effort to convince us that smoking was not a good habit to start. It did make me think twice about smoking, but it also made me worry about my parents’ health. So I came home from school and proposed a deal with them that I would quit sucking my thumb (yes, I still did that through the second or third grade and they’d been trying to get me to quit) if they would quit smoking. Around that same time, my Uncle Joe died of cancer. He was a smoker, too. After his funeral, they both decided it was time to quit smoking.

No surprise, I ended up working in health care as an adult, writing about healthy behaviors, prevention and risk factors. It’s fascinating to me how many illnesses can be prevented with the advice your parents always gave you: eat right, exercise, get good rest—and of course don’t smoke. We all know what we should and shouldn’t do, but actually doing it is sometimes difficult.

Tragically, my father died at age 63, the year after he retired. I still miss him every day. He had a heart defect and I truly believe that he lived as long as he did because he quit smoking in his early 40s, as smoking would have put more stress on his heart. My mother is in her early eighties now, and in overall good health despite a strong family history of heart disease and stroke (plus help from some great doctors and the caring team at our hospital’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Program!).

I can’t take credit for having great parents or for making them quit smoking—they did it all on their own. But sometimes we forget that daily behaviors can make a big difference in ensuring a long and healthy life. I think most people would agree that they’d like to be there for their children as they become adults. I may be a grown up, but I still need my mom, and it goes without saying that I’m glad she’s still here.

Incidentally, before my mother retired, she helped run the smoking cessation program at her workplace. Today, there are many good programs and methods out there for quitting if you really want to do it. Maybe your kids can be your motivation, or maybe it will come from somewhere else.

On Thursday, Nov. 20, at least consider quitting for one day and try to keep it going. Visit the Howard County General Hospital lobby during the Great American Smokeout for information and literature to help you quit.

The hospital also offers a Smoke Free Lungs class, and you can find information on free smoke free programs for Howard County residents here.

Susan Case is the director of Marketing and Communications at Howard County General Hospital.

 


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calendar_2014smSaturday, November 8, 2:00 p.m. I’m Going to be a Big Brother or Sister. Prepare for the arrival of a baby in this class at the Central Branch for new siblings. Enjoy stories, activities, and bring a favorite doll or stuffed animal to practice holding a baby. Resources for parents, too. Well & Wise event. Families; 30 – 45 min. Tickets available at Children’s Desk 15 minutes before class.

Saturday, November 8, 2:00-4:00 p.m. Time for a Spa-liday. Need to relax before the holidays? Paint your nails, learn relaxation techniques, listen to soothing music, and make spa treats such as coconut oil hand scrub, bath fizzies, and glycerin soap scrubbies at the Savage Branch. Recipes and ingredients provided. Ages 8-13. Register online or by calling 410.313.0760.

Monday, November 10, 10:00-12:00 p.m. Blood Pressure Screening. Free, walk-in blood pressure screening and monitoring at the Savage Branch offered by Howard County General Hospital: a Member of Johns Hopkins Medicine. No registration required.

Monday, November 4, 10:15 & 11:15 a.m. Turkey Twist and Shout. Sing and shake your turkey tail to tasty tunes at the Elkridge Branch! Ages 2-5 with adult; 30 min. No registration required.

Thursday, November 13, 1:00 p.m. A World of Kindness. CCome to the East Columbia Branch and celebrate random acts of kindness. Share books, songs, and make a craft. Choose Civility event. Ages 3-5; 30 min. Tickets available at Children’s Desk 15 minutes before class.

Wednesday, Nov. 19, 7 to 9 p.m. Happiest Baby on the Block in Howard County General Hospital’s Wellness Center. Learn successful techniques that can quickly soothe your crying newborn and promote a more restful sleep for your infant. Parent kits are included in the $50 couple fee.

Thursday, Nov. 20, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Great American Smokeout in the Howard County General Hospital lobby: includes information and literature to help you stop smoking. Free event.


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calendar_2014smMonday, November 3, 10:15 a.m. Just for Me. A class at the Savage Branch for children who are ready for an independent class that includes creative expression, listening comprehension, and early reading skills. Ages 3-5; 30 min. Tickets available at Children’s Desk 15 minutes before class. Also offered at 2 p.m. at the Miller Branch and 11/5 at 10:15 & 11:15 a.m. at the Elkridge Branch.

Monday, November 3, 2:00-6:00 p.m. HiTech Symposium. Join us at the Savage Branch for a dynamic event for students, parents, and educators, featuring STEM industry leaders and showcasing classes and various projects built by HCLS’ HiTech students (including a hovercraft, catapult, weather balloon, and music in our new sound booth). Learn how middle and high school students can participate in this STEM education initiative that teaches cutting-edge science, technology, engineering, and math via project-based classes. HiTech is funded in part through a federal grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.Sponsors include Friends of Howard County Library, Frank and Yolanda Bruno, and M&T Bank. Register online or by calling 410.313.0760.

Monday, November 3, 3:30-5:30 p.m. Blood Pressure Screening. Free, walk-in blood pressure screening and monitoring at the Glenwood Branch offered by Howard County General Hospital: a Member of Johns Hopkins Medicine. No registration required.

Tuesday, November 4, 7:00p.m. Shell Shock: A Study in Medical History from Florence Nightingale to World War I.
Philip Mackowiak, M.D., comes to the Central Branch to discuss the impact of war trauma on Florence Nightingale and the combatants in World War I as he explores shell shock and post-traumatic stress disorder. He is a professor of medicine and the Carolyn Frenkil and Selvin Passen History of Medicine Scholar-in-Residence at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Register online or by calling 410.313.7800.

Tuesday, November 4, 7:00p.m. Guided Meditation. Enjoy a guided mindfulness meditation designed to impart a feeling of peacefulness and connection at the Miller Branch. Please bring a cushion or meditation pillow. Presented by Star Ferguson, M.Ac., L.Ac. Well & Wise event. Register online or by calling 410.313.1950.

Friday, November 7, 7:00 p.m. Scott Stossel and Brigid Schulte in Conversation. Do you make notes in a book’s margins? Imagine having a conversation with the author about your thoughts. Scott Stossel and Brigid Schulte indulge in the opportunity to discuss their most recent works and ask the pressing questions they’ve penned in the margins of each other’s books. Scott Stossel, editor of The Atlantic, is the author of the 2014 New York Times bestseller, My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind. An award-winning journalist for The Washington Post, Brigid Schulte wrote the New York Times bestselling Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time. Register online or by calling 410.313.1950.

Wednesday, Nov. 19, 7 to 9 p.m. Happiest Baby on the Block. Learn successful techniques that can quickly soothe your crying newborn and promote a more restful sleep for your infant in Howard County General Hospital’s Wellness Center. Parent kits are included in the $50 couple fee.


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Wong Mei Teng meiteng http://www.freeimages.com/profile/meitengIt’s baby season on Facebook these days. I love seeing my friends post their exciting news, especially knowing that I have my own special news that I am quietly enjoying right now.

I wonder about the friends that stay quiet. Those that I know love and want kids, but have not posted an announcement for themselves. I wonder if they are feeling that sting that comes with being happy for their friends, but wondering if it will ever be their turn, or knowing that they will never have that turn, or worse yet, knowing they had a turn and it was cut  short.

This summer, my husband and I lost a baby. My midwife thought I was farther along than I did, but it didn’t matter. It still hurt. I shared the news gradually with a very small group of people, mostly because I didn’t know how to feel.

I felt bruised. I was sad. I wasn’t devastated, but I still hurt. I had no idea how I would answer the question, “How many kids do you have?” I wanted to say, “Three.” – but people wouldn’t understand. I would cry at the oddest times over the oddest things – things that I had no idea would be a trigger. My husband held me while I cried.

I was pretty numb. I actually stayed at work while it happened because the rest of the leadership team was out that day and I knew someone needed to be there. Only one person in the office knew. I plastered a smile on my face, hunched over my computer, prayed that the cramping would go away quickly, and took the next triage call.

When I lost the baby, my midwife told me that other women would hear about it and tell me their own stories. She told me her story, and it was comforting to know I wasn’t alone. But, I quickly found out that miscarriages are taboo topics. People, especially those who have never experienced a miscarriage, can be very uncomfortable talking about them. Most of us don’t even announce pregnancies until we are past that golden “13 week” mark. It’s almost as if losing a baby doesn’t count until then. Like if we lose the baby in the first trimester, we can deal with it better by ourselves because “it was early.” 

I beg to differ.

miscarriage bookWe need to break this code of silence about the loss of a baby. We need to support each other through good news and bad. We need to be sensitive about the questions we ask, but neither should we be silent. A hug goes a long way. Don’t be afraid of tears. They are healing.

Dads need support too. My husband acknowledged that he did not yet feel as attached as I did, but he still hurt. The baby was half him, after all. And he had to watch me go through the emotional roller-coaster afterwords. I don’t know how he did it.

I still think of the baby often. It’s not every day any more, but I will never forget. If anything, it has given me a greater appreciation for my son and daughter. I don’t take the uneventful pregnancies I had with them for granted any more. Every “normal” milestone I achieve in this pregnancy gives me a sense of gratefulness that I didn’t have before.

I know that my husband will be there for me no matter what, always willing to hold me and let me cry.

And every time I see a friend post that they are expecting, or that their baby has arrived, I am glad. I am grateful that they, and their baby, are healthy. I also say a little prayer for those experiencing the pain of a loss, because I’ve been there- and it’s hard to face someone else’s joy over something you want so much when you’ve had it and lost it.

This pregnancy, I did what I always do – shared the news with close friends and family as soon as we found out. However, this time I plan to announce our news to the world before the 13 week mark. Once we have that first ultrasound I will share our joy, but I will share it with a prayerful heart for those who are hurting because of a loss.

I want to start conversations. Let’s take the taboo out of talking about miscarriage.

Rachel is a wife, mom, and registered nurse. She enjoys photography, playing with her kids, and tearing her house apart and putting it back together.

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