Before deep brain stimulation, Howard County resident Andrea Freeman suffered from Parkinson’s disease. “I could barely walk…trips to the mall with my daughters were filled with worry that I wouldn’t get back to the car. I was totally hopeless.” Now she’s back to hiking and biking again, completing a 20-mile ride this past spring.

Deep brain stimulation gives Howard County resident new life after Parkinson’s diagnosis

In 2005, at age 34, Andrea Freeman, a longtime Howard County resident, found herself off-balance –literally. An avid hiker, she began tripping and falling frequently. She went from feeling energetic and active with her family to a state of utter exhaustion. Her most strange symptom was a slight shake in her little finger.

“For four years I sought answers and was tested for fibromyalgia and Lyme disease among other conditions and diseases,” recalls Andrea. “But the doctors couldn’t determine what was causing these strange symptoms in someone so young.”

Throughout those four years, Andrea continued to deteriorate. Andrea remembers “shaking a lot and dragging my right leg. My right arm and hand were rigid and stuck, and I started having a blank look on my face. “

In 2009, she started seeing Howard County General Hospital neurologist Joseph Savitt, M.D. who finally gave Andrea the answer she was looking for—a diagnosis: Parkinson’s disease.

Dr. Savitt started Andrea on a regimen of medications. “Many of the medicines had side effects that you take different medicines to counteract,” says Andrea. “I would get dyskinesia (twisting of my limbs) but at least I wasn’t shaking. Holding a job was no longer possible.”

By 2014, Andrea found herself withdrawn and overwhelmed by her symptoms. “I couldn’t take any more medicine—it made me tired, and I was already chronically exhausted but I couldn’t sleep,” she remembers. “I could barely walk—my leg would twist—and I would fall a lot. I would go for a walk in the woods and panic I wouldn’t get out. Trips to the mall with my daughters were filled with worry that I wouldn’t get back to the car. I was totally hopeless. I had reached the point that nothing else could be done for me except deep brain stimulation.”

Andrea began the process of being evaluated and was approved as a candidate for the surgery.

According to The Johns Hopkins Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) Center, DBS is an FDA-approved neurosurgical procedure where electrodes are implanted in the brain to send mild electrical signals to the area that controls movement. These electrodes are connected to a stimulator (implantable pulse generator) that is implanted under the collar bone, similar to a pace maker.

“In November of 2014, my brain was turned back on,” says Andrea. “I am so grateful that I have my life back. I can cook, rollover in bed and smile again. I can put my feet on the ground, get out of bed and dress myself. The rigidity released immediately in my arm. It was like a switch was turned on. I am still building back my muscle, but this winter I did a six-mile hike up a mountain in Western Maryland. In the spring, I completed a 20-mile bike ride—it was hard and I went slowly—but I did it.

“You just can’t imagine the things that I couldn’t do that were simple tasks and the ability to be able to do those again—I can’t put into words. Not being able to work was the worst feeling. I was literally wasting away mentally, emotionally and physically. Now I am back at work full-time and have a purpose again. I start every day with complete gratitude.”

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It’s summertime which means cookout season is in full swing! Whether you are hosting or attending a cookout, it is always difficult to stick to your diet or a healthy eating plan with all the delicious temptations surrounding you. Just keep in mind there are a variety of alternatives to add a healthier menu to your cookout which go beyond the traditional hot dogs and hamburgers!

Healthy tips for your next cookout:


  • Ditch the Chips – Substitute potato chips and French onion dip for raw veggies accompanied by hummus, salsa or guacamole. These snacks are not only better for you, they taste great and keep you full! Still crave that crunch? Try kale chips or a pickle! [© Jenifoto406 |]
  • Grill Outside the Box – Trade your regular ground beef burger for a lean meat such as chicken, sirloin, fish, pork or skinless turkey breast. Other popular, tasty options are salmon (or any fish!), black bean, portobello or veggie burgers. Don’t limit yourself to meat. Pineapple, peaches and vegetables are great grillers, too! Or fill a skewer with mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, squash and tomatoes. [© stockcreations |]
  • Talking Turkey (Dogs) – Switch your regular frank for a turkey dog to get that great hot dog flavor at a fraction of the calories and fat. If you are on a reduced sodium diet, read the label. [© Trudywilkerson |]
  • Calorie Counting – Using 100 percent whole grain sandwich thins is an easy way to cut down the calories. Go even lighter by ditching the bun altogether or prepare meat that doesn't require a bun. You can also say no to mayo in your salads by using a lighter alternative such as Greek yogurt or vinegar. [© Cardiae |]
  • Be Fruitful – Dessert doesn’t have to be a sugary sweet. Replace cookies and cakes with a naturally sweet fruit or fruit salad. [© Photodeti |]
  • Sweet Drinks – Trade your sugary beverages for water and add flavor by infusing with lemons, fresh strawberries or other fruit, mint, ginger or cucumbers! Low sugar lemonade or teas are also great options. [© Evgenyb |]

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leaflets three let it beWhen I was ten years old, I got two unforgettable cases of poison ivy. A nature girl, I spent spare time out of doors, digging in the dirt, and climbing trees and fences. In the spring of that year, I was digging a hole (purpose, unknown) and found some pesky roots in the way. In pulling up the poison ivy roots, I released urushiol oil all over my hands and next day, my hands were covered with huge weeping blisters. I missed a week of school, as the medication of choice at that time was calamine lotion, which was totally ineffective. That winter, I left a Christmas party to hike and climbed a vine-covered fence. In climbing the fence, I again exposed my hands to urushiol, and missed another week of school with the misery and pain of poison ivy. Because at least 75% of people react to poison ivy, you might know what I’m talking about.

I took these experiences as a personal affront, and swore a vendetta on this innocent plant. Its urushiol oil covering conserves moisture in hot Maryland summers, and is not a defensive measure. Its green leaves are commonly enjoyed by wildlife such as deer and bears, and birds relish the seeds in the fall. In fact, birds which consume the seeds are responsible for the sudden appearance of the plant in your back yard.

Because the plant flourishes where light is prolific in the forest edges, not in the shade, more poison ivy grows in Maryland in 2015 than before the European colonists cleared the trees. And we may be seeing more of it in the future. A Marine Biological Laboratory study found that the plant is highly sensitive to greater carbon dioxide levels. With climate change bringing rising CO2 levels, poison ivy will enjoy an ideal growing environment.

poison oak poison ivyDepending on the severity of the rash and the location on your body, a case of poison ivy rash can make people a little itchy or endanger their health. Calamine cream may help minor rashes. Medical help should be sought for heavy rashes, swelling (especially on the face and genitals), or breathing problems. Strong medications and even hospitalization may be necessary.

Prevention always beats treatment. Learn (and teach your kids) what how to avoid skin contact with urushiol-covered plants. The American Academy of Dermatology’s website includes excellent photographs of poison ivy, oak, and sumac, all of which produce urushiol.

Wear clothes with long sleeves & long pants when you spend time in the woods or in the garden, removing and washing the clothes after use. After suspected exposure (gardening, walks in the woods), immediately wash a soap or cream such as Tecnu or Zanfel to remove the urushiol. If your pet has run through poison ivy, she won’t get a rash- but she can bring the rash to you, so wash her, too.

Jean has been working at Howard County Library System’s Central Branch for nearly nine years. She walks in the Benjamin Banneker Park whenever she gets a chance.

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Ever heard of no ‘poo? It’s really not what you think.

No ‘poo advocates ditching store-bought shampoo and conditioner for ethical, environmental, economic, and health reasons and replacing it with baking soda and apple cider vinegar.

I had severe dandruff that none of the store-bought shampoos cured.  Head and Shoulders made the dandruff and the itching worse. Neutrogena’s T/Gel worked a while, then it stopped working and the itchiness came back. Selsun Blue helps with the itching but the scent is completely intolerable to me. I couldn’t even watch those dandruff shampoo commercials on TV where the person can’t wear black because of embarrassing dandruff. Desperation led me to no ‘poo two years ago and I lasted a whole three months.  In short, after going no ‘poo, I found that my hair was cleaner for a longer period of time and that my dandruff problem was cured (for the duration that I went no ‘poo).

So why should you try no ‘poo? No more harmful chemicals polluting our waterways. Looked at the ingredient list of shampoos and conditioners recently? I don’t know about you, but I certainly do not know what most of the ingredients are, let alone how to pronounce them. Take, for example, the ingredients in Pert Plus shampoo:   Water, Ammonium Laureth Sulfate, Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate, Glycol Distearate, Cocamide MEA, Dimethicone, Cetyl Alcohol, Fragrance, Sodium Citrate, Polymethacrylamidopropyltrimonium Chloride, Sodium Benzoate, PEG-14M, Dihydrogenated Tallowamidoethyl Hydroxyethylmonium Methosulfate, Disodium EDTA, Sodium Chloride, Citric Acid, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone, Ammonium Xylenesulfonate, D&C Yellow No. 10, FD&C Blue No. 1. I probably should have paid better attention in chem class.

Going no ‘poo is also very animal friendly. I highly doubt baking soda and apple cider vinegar mix needs to be tested on animals. Companies that do not conduct animal testing proudly advertise that they do not conduct animal testing. For a list of companies that might conduct testing on animals, click on this PETA link. PETA has separate listings of cosmetics companies that do and do not conduct animal testing.

Another reason to try no ‘poo? Economic reasons. It is vastly cheaper to buy baking soda and apple cider vinegar than it is to purchase shampoo and conditioner, even if it’s a two-in-one shampoo. After the initial shock of switching to no ‘poo, your scalp will begin to secrete less oil, and as a result, you’ll wash your hair less frequently.  Fewer washings means that you’ll stretch your baking soda and apple cider vinegar supply much longer.

Initially, there may be no difference after switching. It took two weeks for me to notice that my hair was less oily, less itchy, and less flaky. My main problem with no ‘poo, however, was the inconvenience of it. There are no shampoo and conditioner-filled plastic bottles ready to go. With no ‘poo, you need to prepare your own baking soda and apple cider vinegar concoctions. It’s not complicated, but it is very inconvenient.

Here’s the recipe: For “shampoo,” mix together 1 tablespoon baking soda with 1 cup of warm water. For “conditioner,” mix together 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar with 1 cup of warm water. Warm water is very important because the one time I used regular room temperature water, it felt very cold once I dumped it onto my head.

Now for the inconvenient part. I keep my baking soda, apple cider vinegar, and measuring spoons/cups in the kitchen. I make the mix in the kitchen before I head to the shower and put it into two separate soda bottles. I use soda bottles because I have a lot of them (soda is my vice), and the smaller neck allows me greater control on how much I pour onto my head at once. I also mark with a permanent marker on the bottle itself how much water goes into the bottle so I need not constantly bring out the measuring cup. Finally, I keep handy a newspaper so I can funnel the baking soda directly into the soda bottle.

One more piece of advice: keep your mouth closed so the baking soda or apple cider vinegar mixtures don’t accidentally stream into your mouth. It’s all natural so it won’t kill you, but it might dampen your enthusiasm for going no ‘poo. The baking soda and apple cider vinegar mixes are not nearly as viscous as regular shampoo and conditioner, and hence, they do dribble all over your head no matter how careful you are.

Finally, does it work, you ask? I had my doubts about this, but I tried it anyway, reasoning I didn’t really have anything to lose and that I’ll be wiser for the experience.  The apple cider vinegar especially worried me as well as I did not want to smell vinegary. I even took precautions for my first attempt to make sure I didn’t have to interact with anyone immediately following my first no ‘poo experience. But to my surprise, my hair did not have even a whiff of vinegar tainting it (with a thorough rinsing of the hair, of course) and my hair was very soft after my first no ‘poo experience. Now, I still do no ‘poo once a week to keep my dandruff in check and use small amounts of shampoo and condition during the week because I cannot resist the sweet smell of shampoo.

Mio Higashimoto is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the East Columbia Branch. She has a background in history and spends much of her spare time knitting, reading, hiking, and watching Star Trek reruns.

(Special repost from November 2012)


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Do No Harmdo no harm is a gift of a book bestowed upon us by Henry Marsh, an accomplished British neurosurgeon. These linked stories eloquently describe life as the person who holds others’ lives in his hands. With 35 years in practice, Mr. Marsh has insight into all aspects of providing medical care. (In the UK, surgeons are referred to as “Mr., ” so please allow me to refer to this renowned physician as Mr. Marsh.) He shares his accomplishments, fears, and failures. He boasts, gripes, mourns and vents.Mr. Marsh takes us inside the skull, behind the orbits, into the brain. We join him on a fascinating anatomic journey as he incises through to the meninges, the spine, and the pituitary gland. We are riveted by the urgency of his patients’ conditions such as brain tumors, aneurysms and trauma. We are pulled along hoping that all of his patients do well, but he leaves us with no illusions.  These are stories of life and death and the mistakes even the most experienced surgeons make.

Not only patient outcomes lie at the heart of Do No Harm. Mr. Marsh also describes the challenges he has faced as son, father, husband, medical colleague and customer of the UK’s National Health Service (NHS). There is much dark humor in the aggravation he describes dealing with NHS management and computerized health records. Will there be beds for his patients? Will he be able to coax the NHS computer system to show him the patients’ brain scans? He admits to an arrogance that has mellowed over time, but we see that he continues to be an opinionated force wherever he goes. One of my favorite chapters is “Infarct,” where he confronts how medical care and bureaucracy impossibly conflict.

In Mr. Marsh’s beautiful descriptions of his days, as he cycles to work, evaluates patients, instructs new surgeons, and waits to enter the “operating theatre,” we appreciate his dedication. His powerful introspection illuminates how medicine is a “craft.” Enmeshed in the combination of art and science exists a huge human element with alternately confident and nervous providers striving to develop their skills to provide the best treatment for their patients. As in a lecture he has delivered internationally, “All My Worst Mistakes,” Mr. Marsh is willing to share his experiences so that others can grow from what he still hopes to learn.

Mr. Marsh never loses perspective on his fallibility as a surgeon no matter the fame he has achieved. As an example, he has worked extensively in Ukraine providing care to its medically underserved population. Documentaries have been made about him and his service. Still, he writes “of surgical ambition and of my failure” and reminds us that diagnosis and treatment plans are filled with “uncertainty” and that “patients become objects of fear as well as of sympathy.” As a reader, I am grateful for his honesty and generosity as a neurosurgeon and author.

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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raccoon, rabies symptoms

© William Rodrigues Dos Santos |

Rabies is one of those things you don’t think about until it affects you. You should be aware of things you can do to prevent rabies when in certain situations­–like finding a bat in your house or seeing a fox in your neighborhood who acts a little off.

Rabies is a viral disease that is most commonly transmitted through animal bites. It infects the nervous system and can lead to death. Early symptoms include headache, fever and fatigue, but as time passes, more severe symptoms may develop including confusion, anxiety, insomnia, slight paralysis and difficulty swallowing, among others. When these symptoms occur, death often happens within days. If you suffer from an animal bite, be it domestic or wild, immediately seek medical help.

Rabies is much more commonly found in wild animals including raccoons, skunks, bats, foxes and coyotes than in domestic animals like dogs. However, in the United States, rabies from bats to humans is extremely rare with only one to two cases annually. In Howard County, we still see a lot of wild animals and residents should be aware.

The species in this part of the United States that most commonly carry rabies are typically raccoons, skunks and foxes. Rabies symptoms include the wild animal biting or snapping at inanimate objects, appearing tame and fearless, appearing wobbly or “drunk,” or acting disoriented. If you see a nocturnal animal such as a skunk or a raccoon out and active during the day and exhibiting abnormal behavior, that is a likely sign of rabies, and you should contact Howard County animal control at 410-313-2780. Additionally, if you find a bat in your house, as a precaution in case of being bitten while asleep, you should receive a series of shots, the first dose at the hospital and subsequent doses at an urgent care center.

Your dog is at a high risk for rabies if they have not been vaccinated and are exposed to wild animals. That is why it is important to mind the Howard County Police Department’s animal control law by maintaining a rabies vaccination for dogs, cats and ferrets that are four months of age and older.

When a dog shows behavior changes such as restlessness, irritability or aggression – this could be a sign that he or she has been exposed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The dog may present a fever and bite or snap at you or even objects. As the rabies progress, your dog may hide in darker places, lose their appetite, have seizures or a sudden death. If you think your dog has been in contact with a rabid animal, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Rabies is preventable. The CDC says vaccinating your pet, spay or neutering your pet, maintaining control of your pets, avoiding exposure to wild animals and reporting any stray or sick animals are all ways you can participate in rabies prevention. Also, keeping your dog on a leash and supervising it when it is outside is a great method to prevent their exposure to rabid animals.

Never approach or handle a wild animal. If bitten by a wild animal, scrub and flush the wound and seek medical help immediately – timely treatment has proven to be successful.


Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention & The Humane Society of the United States

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