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Grieving and the holidays

December 20, 2013

A cancer doctor is very familiar with the anxious and fearful grief that accompanies a diagnosis of cancer. We are less acquainted with the lonely and empty grief that is experienced by those left behind when our patients die. However, when I wear my hospice medical director hat, I am privy to those struggles, and knowing that the loss of someone close is particularly difficult during the holidays, I have chosen to divert from subjects I am more familiar with and rely on the experts at hospice to help me present a meaningful discourse on grief during the holiday season.

For the bereaved, the joyous holidays trigger emotions of great conflict. Every act of preparing for the holidays, once a time of cheer and anticipation, becomes another stabbing reminder of ones loss. The demands of family and friends, always a bit stressful around Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year, now are overwhelming, both physically and emotionally. Traditions, designed to create love and family unity, now see...

Hearing loss and holiday gatherings

December 16, 2013

Holidays are known for gathering with friends and family to celebrate the season and the passing of another year.  For those with hearing loss, these gatherings can be more stressful than enjoyable. Small groups of people around the room all talking at once about how best to serve the cranberries or the beautiful lights that are decorating homes in the neighborhood can be difficult to hear even with a mild hearing loss.  Working to understand what is being said takes a lot of energy and focus and can result in the feeling of isolation, tiredness and depression.

There are things you can do to help improve your communication during these otherwise festive times.  No matter your hearing abilities, good communication strategies are always helpful when you are talking to others while cooking in a busy kitchen, gathered around the warm fireplace or sitting across the dinner table.  The Better Hearing Institute Read More

How to give safe gifts to children during the holidays

December 13, 2013

As the holidays approach, parents often wonder what toys are safe for their little ones.  When making your list and checking it twice, here are some tips to ensure that toys are appropriate for the age and developmental stage of your giftees.

For younger children/infants:

  • Make sure all parts are larger than the child’s mouth.  Most children age 3 and under consistently put toys in their mouth, and some older children do as well.  A small-parts tester, or “no-choke tube” is about the size of a small child’s airway and can be purchased to test parts if you are unsure.  If a part or toy fits inside the tube, it’s too small to be safe.
  • When buying stuffed toys, look for embroidered or secured parts rather than pieces (such as eyes or noses) that could be removed and swallowed.  Remove all loose strings and ribbons.  Avoid animals with stuffing made of small pellets or material that could cause ...

Inspiration in medical missions in Vietnam

November 29, 2013

I recently returned to volunteer in Vietnam for the first time in 13 years. On my first mission with One World Pediatric Care, I was still in nursing school, so I had limited clinical expertise, but being a native of Vietnam I was able to provide language skills and cultural knowledge to the team. I have fond memories of our team intro-ducing the Vietnamese doctors to Laparoscopy equipment and training them on its use. When we deprted, we left behind the Laparoscopy equipment. It was gratifying to return to Vietnam and find that Laparoscopy equipment is now readily available and in common use at Vietnamese hospitals and clinics.

This year, I joined a mission trip with Vietnam Health Clinic (VHC) from August 23-September 6. VHC is a student-led organization at the University of Washington dedicated to improving access to healthcare for underprivileged people in Vietnam, and recruits medical professionals to volunteer their services.  I joined ten medical physicians, two doctors of dentistry...

What you should know about influenza or flu vaccines

November 04, 2013

Influenza or the “flu” is a contagious viral disease that occurs every winter in the US from October to May.  While anyone can get a “flu” infection, some people are especially vulnerable and at risk for severe disease.  Each year thousands of people die from influenza infections and many more are hospitalized.  Getting your annual flu vaccine is the best protection against the flu and its complications.

The influenza virus is spread by coughing, sneezing and close contact.  The symptoms can occur quite suddenly. Typical symptoms are high fevers and chills, sore throat, muscle aches, fatigue, cough, headache and runny nose.  Although anyone can get the flu, children, people over 65 years old, pregnant women and people with chronic health conditions are at risk for severe disease and complication. 

The flu virus is always changing. Each year the flu vaccine is made to protect from the virus strains most likely to cause disease. ...

More tips for feeding picky eaters

October 20, 2013

In my last post, I shared a few tips about what to expect and how to help encourage your child to eat more. Here are some more tips to help your child eat more variety of foods, including more vegetables:

How can I get my child to eat more variety?

  • Offer a "nibble tray". At snack time, fill a muffin tin or ice cube tray with bite-sized portions of colorful, nutritious foods. Try cooked macaroni, cheese cubes, kidney beans, grape halves, broccoli florets, ready-to- eat cereal, and canned pineapple tidbits.
  • Let children cook. Your child is more likely to eat what he has helped to make.
  • Children can help wash vegetables, tear up lettuce, scrub potatoes, or stir batter.
  • Be playful. Call these finger foods playful names that a two-year-old can appreciate, such as: apple moons (thinly sliced), avocado bo...

Healthy tips for parents and kids to help prevent the spread of colds and the flu

October 19, 2013

Summer has ended, the kids are back in school, and fall is officially here. Which means….cold and flu season is upon us! Hospitals are already seeing documented cases of seasonal influenza. There are no known cures for colds and flu, so cold and flu prevention should be your goal.

Why do we care about preventing influenza? The flu can be very dangerous for children, causing illness, hospital stays and death each year. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) reports about 20,000 children below the age of 5 are hospitalized from flu complications each year.

The most effective way for preventing the flu is to get the flu shot. It works better than anything else. (Flu vaccination is recommended for all children aged 6 months and older). There are additional strategies you can employ to help ward off those nasty viruses.

Here are 6 tips you can use to help prevent colds and the flu:

Second Annual Oral Cancer Walk for Awareness

August 24, 2013

Last year marked Seattle’s first oral cancer awareness walk. The Swedish Head and Neck Surgery Clinic was proud to get behind the cause and walk alongside of our patients. The 2012 walk was a great success with about 300 participants and close to $60,000 generated in funds. Next month we hope to surpass that goal by raising $75,000 on September 14, 2013, with the second annual 5K walk for oral cancer awareness. The walk is a fundraising event for the whole family, set to take place at Magnuson Park.

Oral cancer is a type of head and neck cancer that, unfortunately, is on the rise. This is the most common site of cancer in the head and neck. We used to see  ...

Dirt is good for kids

August 23, 2013

I remember one day during my pediatric gastroenterology fellowship, a mother and child were walking in front of my professor and me, as we made our daily rounds in the hospital.  When the pacifier fell out of the toddler’s mouth and the mother picked it up and put it right back into the child's mouth, my professor remarked to me, "mark my words....that child will never get Crohn’s disease!"   My professor was referring to the theory of the "Hygiene Hypothesis".  This theory  is thought to explain (at least in part) why so many more people in developed nations become afflicted with autoimmune diseases such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD - Crohn's disease and Ulcerative Colitis) as well as food allergies, compared to people in non-developed nations. 

In non-developed countries, where children are...

Sports Concussion Clinic and Community Education

August 05, 2013

This past Wednesday, July 31, Dr. Renee Low and I provided a class on sports concussion education to Issaquah youth athletes, their parents, soccer club coaches and trainers.  We hosted about 47 attendees and discussed signs and symptoms of a concussion, risk factors and prevention, when to seek medical attention, and baseline testing. (Click here for a PDF that explains concussions and some of the symptoms.)

We also discussed Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing (ImPACT) now being offered at Swedish.  Swedish Spine, Sports, and Musculoskeletal Medicine is now offering a sports concussion clinic for youth and adult athletes.  We provide assessment of concussion severity, physical evaluation, ongoing monitoring, neuropsychological evaluation, education, return to play, and academic support.