The Howard County Garden Club has 37 active members, including its president, Laura Warfield, who spent more than 30 years in health care before retiring and focusing on creating gardens. “Gardens help with healing...When I retired, I wanted to continue to provide service in health care, which is near and dear to my heart, only in a different capacity. We were honored to have the opportunity to redesign the entry gardens because the hospital is such an integral part of our community,” she said.

The Howard County Garden Club plants a garden in front of Howard County General Hospital. “Gardens help with healing…When I retired (from health care), I wanted to continue to provide service in health care, only in a different capacity,” said Garden Club President Laura Warfield.

Howard County Garden Club creates a “Circles of Healing Garden” as its gift to HCGH

Gardens are places of nourishment – for both the body and soul. We plant vegetable gardens for the joy and health benefits of growing our own food, and flower gardens for the aesthetic joy they bring to our lives.

But gardens can also have healing properties. Sitting quietly in or by a garden is a form of meditation. In fact, the March 1, 2014 issue of Scientific American noted that, “Studies show that just three to five minutes spent looking at a view dominated by trees, flowers or water can begin to reduce anger, anxiety and pain and to induce relaxation.”

With that in mind, in June, the Howard County Garden Club installed a beautiful new garden at the entrance of HCGH with the theme “Circles of Healing.” The garden includes an array of flowers that bloom throughout the year arranged in a circular design. There are 158 plants of 12 different species designed to provide color and interest throughout the seasons.

The Howard County Garden Club, originally established in 1932, today has 37 active members, including its president, Laura Warfield, who spent more than 30 years in the field of health care before retiring to focus more of her energy on creating gardens. “Gardens help with healing, and this garden will be welcoming to people as they arrive at the hospital at what could be a stressful time. When I retired, I wanted to continue to provide service in health care, which is near and dear to my heart, only in a different capacity. We were honored to have the opportunity to redesign the entry gardens because the hospital is such an integral part of our community,” said Warfield.
There are many kinds of gardens being included in health care settings today, including nursing homes, continuing care communities and hospice facilities. Therapeutic, meditation, restorative and other kinds of gardens have specific elements and definitions. The American Society of Landscape Architects said the following about gardens and their healing properties, “A healing garden is a somewhat vague term lacking precise design implications, but its purpose is to support generalized healing by helping patients become healthful, well and whole. A meditation garden is likely to encourage inwardly-focused attention for the purpose of deepening personal knowledge and attaining peace with oneself. A contemplation garden provides an ambience conducive to examining issues beyond and/or larger than oneself in a thoughtful, deliberate, perhaps religious or mystical way.”

Each year, the Howard County Garden Club raises funds to provide a garden to a local organization. This year, in addition to Howard County General Hospital, the club installed the Enchanted Garden at the Miller Branch of the Howard County Library in Ellicott City—a sustainable, community-based teaching garden with an emphasis on healthy eating. The Enchanted Garden was a natural fit for a partnership between the hospital and the library, and the Well & Wise blog project was created to promote healthy choices for residents of Howard County, with the Well & Wise blog as its first component.

The next time you visit HCGH, stop by our “Circles of Healing” garden at the main entrance and enjoy a few minutes of reflection on the healing gifts of nature.


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calendar_2014smMonday, Oct. 20, 3:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. Blood Pressure Screening at Glenwood Branch. Free, walk-in blood pressure screening and monitoring offered by Howard County General Hospital: a Member of Johns Hopkins Medicine. No registration required.

Monday, Oct. 20, 3:30 p.m. Superfoods at Miller. Some foods promote health and longevity better than others. Licensed nutritionist Karen Basinger names these powerhouses and how to best use them. Register online or by calling 410.313.1950.

Tuesday, Oct. 21, 9 to 11:30 a.m. Diabetes Screening & BMI. Free. Held in Howard County General Hospital’s Wellness Center. Meet with an RN for a glucose blood test, BMI measurement and weight management information. Immediate resu­lts. Fasting eight hours prior recommended.

Tuesday, Oct. 21, 7 to 8:30 p.m. Choose Your Pediatrician and Promote Your Newborn’s Health. Free. Held in Howard County General Hospital’s Wellness Center. Learn factors to consider and questions to ask when choosing your pediatrician and ways you can promote your newborn’s health. Presented by Dana Wollney, M.D.

Thursday, Oct. 23, 7 to 9 p.m. Get Moving Again: Total Joint Replacement. Held in Howard County General Hospital’s Wellness Center. Free. Learn about total hip and knee surgery from health care professionals, past patients of our Joint Academy and Richard Kinnard, M.D.

Monday, Oct. 27, 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Adult, Child and Infant CPR/AED in Howard County General Hospital’s Wellness Center. Cost is $55. This course will teach the skills needed to clear an airway obstruction, perform cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR), and how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED).


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Even though all women are at risk for gynecologic cancers, the risk can be lowered, and treatments work best when these cancers are found early.
Margot Watson, M.D.

Margot Watson, M.D., chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at HCGH.

Uterine Cancer
Uterine cancer is the most common cancer of the female genital tract, and 2.6 percent of U.S. women will develop uterine cancer in their lifetime. “It often is caught early and usually has a high cure rate because most women have an early warning sign of abnormal bleeding or bleeding after menopause,” says Margot Watson, M.D., chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at HCGH. “Women are encouraged to see their gynecologist promptly if they experience heavy or irregular bleeding or, most especially, any bleeding – even spotting – after one year of not having periods.” Long-term use of birth control pills and the levonorgestrel-releasing intrauterine system (IUD) can greatly lessen the risk of uterine cancer.

The strongest risk factors for uterine cancer include being over 50, obesity, never having had children, previous use of Tamoxifen or a long history of irregular menstrual cycles.

Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer is the only gynecologic cancer for which there is an effective screening test: the Pap smear. It also is highly curable when found and treated early. The human papillomavirus (HPV), which is a sexually transmitted infection, causes cervical cancer. Eighty percent of sexually active adults will acquire HPV by age 50. HPV also causes cancer of the anus, vagina, vulva, penis and many oral cancers; however, there are two vaccines available (Gardasil and Cervarix) which lessen the risk of developing cervical cancer.

“All young people, both boys and girls, should be vaccinated against HPV at age 11 or 12, the ages at which they get the best immune response,” says Dr. Watson. “It is a great advance in medicine that we have a vaccine that lessens the risk of several types of cancer.”

Regardless of sexual activity, women should have their first gynecologist visit at age 15, and Pap smears should begin at age 21. From ages 21-30, women should have yearly gynecological exams and Pap smears every three years if normal. From ages 30-65, women should have yearly exams and Pap smears with HPV testing every five years if their Pap smears are normal.

Ovarian Cancer
About 90 percent of women who get ovarian cancer are older than 40, and the greatest incidence occurs in women over 60. Risk factors are obesity, never having had children and a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer.

Unfortunately, there is no effective screening test for ovarian cancer, and it is difficult to detect in the early stages. Some women do present with symptoms such as abdominal swelling or bloating (due to a mass or a buildup of fluid), pelvic pressure or abdominal pain, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly and/or urinary symptoms (having to go urgently or often). Birth control pills and tubal ligation greatly lessen the risk of ovarian cancer.


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© Madartists | Dreamstime.com

© Madartists | Dreamstime.com

With all the news about infectious diseases, people may get the idea that the flu isn’t all that serious; but we need to remember that it can be a very dangerous—even fatal—illness, especially to the very young, the very old and the immune-compromised. It descends upon our local communities every year, causing a great deal of sickness and sometimes death. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes, “Over a period of 31 seasons between 1976 and 2007, estimates of flu-associated deaths in the United States range from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people. During a regular flu season, about 90 percent of deaths occur in people 65 years and older.” But even healthy people can get very sick from the flu and spread it to others.

How should I prepare for the flu?
As with most illness, prevention is the best defense and the best form of prevention is the annual flu vaccine. The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older.

Influenza can be spread even before you have symptoms. Therefore, practicing good flu etiquette is always encouraged:

  • wash your hands often
  • try to stay away from people who are sick
  • stay home if you are sick
  • cover your cough with tissue or the inside of your elbow.

Is there any treatment for the flu?
If you get the flu, there are antiviral drugs that can make your symptoms milder and make you feel better sooner. They can also prevent serious flu-related complications, like pneumonia. However, sometimes a flu virus has changed in a way that makes antiviral drugs less effective, and the CDC conducts studies to determine which strains are becoming resistant. (Click for more information about antiviral drugs.)

What should I do if I get the flu?
If your illness is mild, stay home and avoid contact with other people. You should stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone. However, if you have symptoms and are in a high-risk group, contact your doctor. See People at High Risk of Developing Flu–Related Complications. Your doctor may prescribe an antiviral drug.

What is the difference between the common cold and the flu?
In general, the flu is worse than the common cold, and symptoms such as fever, body aches, extreme tiredness and dry cough are more common and intense. People with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose. Colds generally do not result in serious health problems, such as pneumonia, bacterial infections or hospitalizations. Special tests done within the first few days of illness can tell if a person has the flu.

When should I get the flu vaccine?
The flu season peak activity most commonly hits in the U.S. between December and February, however it can begin as early as October and continue until May. Since it takes about two weeks to develop antibodies after vaccination, it is a good idea to get vaccinated soon after the vaccine becomes available, usually in October, to ensure you are protected before the flu season starts.

Where can I get the flu vaccine?
Flu vaccines are offered at locations throughout the community: doctors’ offices, clinics, health departments, pharmacies, college health centers, employers and even some schools. Even if you don’t have a regular doctor or nurse, you can find a vaccination location by visiting the HealthMap Vaccine Finder.

How long does the flu vaccine protect from the flu?
Studies over several years show that the body’s immunity to influenza viruses (acquired through natural infection or by vaccination) declines over time. Older people and those with weakened immune systems might not generate the same amount of antibodies after vaccination, so it’s important to get a vaccine every season.

Can the vaccine provide protection even if the vaccine is not a “good” match?
Even if the virus and vaccine are not a “good match,” getting the vaccine can lessen the severity of your illness. Antibodies made in response to vaccination with one flu virus can sometimes provide protection against different but related viruses, although sometimes with reduced effectiveness.

Myths about the flu and flu vaccine:

  • You can get the flu from the flu vaccine.
    No, you cannot contract the flu from either the flu shot or the nasal spray, although you might have a mild fever, runny nose or sore arm that lasts only for a day or two.
  • The flu vaccine is more dangerous than the flu.
    No. Any flu infection can carry a risk of serious complications, hospitalization or death, even among otherwise healthy children and adults. Getting vaccinated is a much safer choice than risking illness.
  • Getting vaccinated twice provides more immunity.
    No. Studies have not shown any benefits for adults receiving more than one dose during an influenza season. Except for some children, only one dose is recommended.

Are there special concerns for vaccinating children?
Children between 6 months and 8 years may need two doses of flu vaccine to be fully protected. Your child’s health care professional can tell you whether your child needs two doses. Visit Children, the Flu, and the Flu Vaccine for more information.

Starting with this season, the CDC recommends use of the nasal spray vaccine (LAIV) for healthy children 2 through 8 years, because recent studies suggest that nasal spray is more effective than the flu shot for younger children. However, if the nasal spray vaccine is not immediately available and the flu shot is, your child should get the flu shot. Don’t delay vaccination to find the nasal spray flu vaccine. Visit Nasal Spray Flu Vaccine in Children 2 through 8 Years Old or the 2014-2015 MMWR Influenza Vaccine Recommendations. Children younger than 6 months are at higher risk of serious flu complications, but are too young to get a flu vaccine. If you live with or care for an infant younger than 6 months of age, you should get a flu vaccine to help protect them from flu. See Advice for Caregivers of Young Children for more information.

Emergency Warning Signs
Go to the Emergency Department if a child experiences the following symptoms:

  • Fast or difficult breathing
  • Bluish skin color
  • Not taking fluids
  • Not waking up
  • Fever with rash
  • Symptoms that improve but return with fever and worse cough.

For adults emergency signs include:

  • Difficult breathing and shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness or confusion
  • Persistent vomiting
  • Symptoms that lessen but return with fever and worse cough.

The bottom line is the flu vaccine is your best defense. More information about influenza vaccines is available at Preventing Seasonal Flu with Vaccination.


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forget me notI love picture books. I love to read them, share them with children, talk about them, and get lost in wonder at the ability of authors and illustrators to perfectly meld text and illustration. I especially treasure when I find books that capture the emotional truth of difficult subjects.

Forget Me Not by Nancy Van Laan is an Alzheimer’s story. Julia loves her grandmother and is afraid and worried when grandmother becomes forgetful, starts wandering, and finally becomes unable to care for herself. Van Laan deftly guides the reader through the stages of Alzheimers, always through the child’s perspective. When it becomes clear to Julia and her family that grandmother can no longer safely live alone they make together the decision to move her from her home to “a place that will give her the special care she needs.” Muted color washes of blue, green, and yellow contribute to the gentle, delicately perceptive tone of this book.

I lost my mother to dementia a year ago, I wish this book had been around then.

the very tiny babyThe Very Tiny Baby by Sylvie Kantorovitz is a rock star at addressing the serious issues surrounding a premature baby from a sibling’s point of view. Luckily, Jacob has his teddy bear to pour out all of his mixed-up feelings. Sibling rivalry, fear for his mommy, and resentment at the lack of attention are all poured into the understanding ears of Bear. The hand-lettered text and scrapbook style drawings engage the young reader and provide a safe outlet for children in Jacob’s situation.

A keen sense of a child’s perspective makes this a useful book to have in your Tender Topics arsenal.

my fathers arms are a boatMy Father’s Arms Are a Boat by Erik Lunde. This beautiful, quiet, sad book is respectful of the grief of both father and son. Unable to sleep, the boy seeks comfort in his father’s arms. Bundled up, the boy and his father go out into the cold, starry Norwegian night. The boy asks his father “Is Mommy asleep?… She’ll never wake up again?” The father’s soft refrain to his son, “Everything will be alright” as he calms his fears and answers his questions, resonates the truth of the present sadness and the hope for the future. The paper collage and ink illustrations monochromatic tones convey the sorrow, while the flashes of red (like the warmth of the fire) allow the reader, like the young boy, to find comfort in the love of those still with us. The final spread of this Norwegian import is lovely and life affirming.

Shirley ONeill works for Howard County Library System as the Children’s and Teen Materials Specialist. She cannot believe she actually gets paid to do this job.

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sick teddy bear

© Robeo | Dreamstime.com

The rare respiratory virus that has sickened hundreds of kids across the Midwest has made its way to the East Coast, its arrival in Maryland was confirmed this past Wednesday (Sept. 24). Reports of severe illness have fueled anxiety among parents and caregivers, but infectious disease specialists at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center expect that most children who get the bug should recover swiftly without lingering after-effects.

What is Enterovirus D68?
Enterovirus D68 belongs to a family of nearly 100 viruses that cause a wide range of symptoms, infecting millions of people around the world each year. First identified in the 1960s, Enterovirus D68 is not a new virus. It affects predominantly children and teens and causes mild to moderate upper respiratory infections. Some people may also develop more serious infections of the lungs. The virus is contained in airway and mouth secretions, such as saliva, spit and nasal mucus, and is spread in much the same way as the common cold and the flu viruses — by touching contaminated surfaces, coughing and sneezing.

How dangerous is it?
In most healthy children, the virus will cause brief and self-limiting illness that resembles a bad case of the common cold, but it could lead to more severe disease and respiratory distress, particularly in those with underlying chronic conditions such as asthma, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell disease, heart disease or compromised immune function.

How is it treated?
There is no specific treatment for this virus. Children should drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration and rest until fully recovered. Antibiotics used to treat bacterial infections will NOT work against this or any other virus. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen, can help reduce fever, pains and aches. Aspirin should not be given to children.

What can I do to reduce the risk of infection?
Follow common sense hygiene etiquette. The single most effective way to reduce the risk of infection is to wash hands frequently and avoid touching your face. Sneeze and cough into your sleeve rather than in the palm of your hand. Keep home children with cough and fever to avoid spreading the virus to others. Make sure that infected family members use separate hand and facial towels and do not share cups, glasses or utensils.

When should I take my child to the ER?
Most children who get the virus will do fine and do not require emergency care or hospitalization. A small number of children may go on to develop more serious disease and require urgent medical attention or emergency treatment.

One or more of the following warrants a trip to your pediatrician’s office or to the ER:
• Struggling to breathe, apparent respiratory distress
• Severe, prolonged vomiting
• Fever over 103 degrees that does not break in 48 hours
• Lethargy

Dr. Julia McMillan is a pediatric infectious disease specialist at The Johns Hopkins Children’s Center. The center offers one of the most comprehensive pediatric medical programs in the country, with more than 92,000 patient visits and nearly 9,000 admissions each year. Johns Hopkins Children Center is consistently ranked among the top children’s hospitals in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.

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