Friday, July 27, 2012

The generous act of a loving son

I'm saddened by the death of Lewis Deaton (above left), 59, of Davidson. The beautiful obituary, written by his longtime partner Jon Guttman (right) , describes many of the reasons why so many people loved and respected Lewis, who died July 26 of pancreatic cancer.

I'll remember him most for one generous act of love.

Twelve years ago, in August 2000, Lewis' father, Rock Deaton, a popular Davidson resident and ardent fan of Davidson College athletics, died after surgery. That left Lewis' mother in a predicament. Eugenia (center) had lost her sight in recent years, and Rock had been her sole caregiver. She couldn't live alone.

Lewis, their only living son, had left North Carolina for New York City, where he and Jon had established, exciting careers. What would they do?

Despite the culture shock -- especially for Jon, a native New Yorker -- the two men decided to move to Davidson to care for Eugenia. I wrote this story about their decision in August 2001. By the time Eugenia died in 2006, Lewis and Jon had put down roots and chose to stay.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

CPR training required for high school grads

On Thursday, N.C. Gov. Beverly Perdue (seated in the photo at right) signed a law requiring students to complete cardiopulmonary resuscitation training before they graduate from high school, starting with the 2014-2015 school year.

Since 1997, state law has required basic education in CPR and the Heimlich maneuver in the public schools, but it hasn't been compulsory or documented.

State Rep. Becky Carney (D –Mecklenburg) and Rep. Carolyn Justice (R-New Hanover, Pender) co-sponsored the legislation aimed at saving more lives.

Carney was “saved by good Samaritans that knew CPR and responded quickly" after she suffered cardiac arrest during a legislative session in April 2009.

Mark Fleming, a lobbyist for Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, moved Carney from her desk, where she had slumped over, and laid her on the floor. State Rep. Bob England, an Ellenboro Democrat and retired physician, helped perform CPR. And General Assembly police officers Will Smith and Willie Morris and Sgt. Forrest Johnson assisted with CPR and used an automated defibrillator.

"I am honored to be part of a lasting life-saving legacy for North Carolina,” Carney said in a news release. “Providing our youth with the power and confidence to save a life when it matters most may be the most valuable lesson a student can learn.”

North Carolina is the fifth state to pass such legislation. The State Board of Education will work with the American Heart Association to develop a plan for implementation.

Fewer than one-third of out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrest victims receive bystander CPR and less than 8 percent of people who suffer cardiac arrest outside of the hospital live, according to the American Heart Association. Effective bystander CPR, provided immediately after cardiac arrest, can vastly improve victims chance of survival, the association said.

“If we lived in a world where most everyone knew CPR and was ready to help, we could double, even triple their chance of survival," said Todd Baker, director of training and education at Southeastern Emergency Equipment.

Protection for pre-existing conditions

Nearly 2.1 million North Carolininas, under 65, have been diagnosed with pre-existing medical conditions that could have led to denial of insurance coverage, prior to passage of the Affordable Care Act, according to Families USA, a Washington-based advocacy group.

The group published a report Thursday, “Worry No More,” showing the extent of pre-existing medical conditions in individual states and counties.

In North Carolina, more than 25 percent of non-elderly residents would be at risk of being denied coverage without health reform, the report said. The risk increases with age. More than 38 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have a pre-existing condition that could lead to denial of coverage. And nearly half of those aged 55 to 64 have a pre-existing condition.

In Mecklenburg County, 23.5 percent of residents have been diagnosed with a pre-existing condition. The range by county is from 22.9 percent in Onslow County to 30 percent in Robeson County.

Other Charlotte-area counties and their numbers are: Gaston and Lincoln, 27.2 percent; Rowan 26.8 percent; Cabarrus, 24.6 percent; Union, 23.8 percent; Iredell, 25.8 percent.

Before the Affordable Care Act, insurers were generally free to deny coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. Under the act, insurers are now prohibited from refusing to insure children with pre-existing medical conditions. The law expands that prohibition to adults in 2014.

People of all races and income groups are represented in the Families USA analysis. But the report says that, because people with low incomes and racial and ethnic minorities are disproportionately uninsured and under-insured, they are likely to be undercounted.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Got Breast Milk?

Milk for Wishes is looking for breastfeeding mothers with extra milk who want to do a good deed for premature babies.

Qualified mothers can donate to the virtual milk bank that works with Prolacta Bioscience, a company that processes human milk to create a breast milk fortifier to give to critically ill, premature babies in neonatal intensive care units across the country. The fortifier is used to reduce necrotizing enterocolitis, a leading killer of premature babies.

In return, Prolacta donates one dollar for every ounce of qualified milk received through Milk for Wishes to the Make a Wish Foundation, which grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions.

Almost any healthy, nursing mother can donate. Milk for Wishes requires donors to complete a medical survey and get approval from their obstetricians and their babies' pediatricians to have blood tests and cheek cells samples taken at no cost.

The milk bank wants only excess milk, so donors should make sure their own babies' needs are met before making donations.

Qualified donors should pump their milk into clean bottles connected to the pump, then transfer the milk into breast milk storage bags for freezing. Milk for Wishes provides cold shipping containers for the milk to be sent directly to Prolacta Bioscience. Milk for Wishes pays all testing and shipping costs.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Check out these health stories

A couple of interesting health stories worth sharing:

The first is about the American Urological Association's support for a bill that would make changes to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, the independent group that recently recommended against routine PSA screening for prostate cancer.

"We should be wary of any legislated efforts to invite the foxes to guard the hen house," warns the author, Dr. Richard Hoffman, an editor at the Informed Medical Decisions Foundation and a reviewer for Here's the link. is a great information source, published by Gary Schwitzer, who leads a team of more than two dozen people who grade daily health news reporting by major U.S. news organizations. While you're there, look for Schwitzer's blog, HealthNewsWatchdog. Here's the link.

The second story is called "How Your Chicken Dinner is Creating a Drug-Resistant Superbug," published by The Atlantic magazine. It's by Maryn McKenna, a former Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter and author of "Superbug: The Fatal Menace of MRSA."

Her chilling report warns that treating urinary tract infections as a short-term, routine ailment rather than a long-term food safety issue risks turning the responsible bacteria into a major health crisis. Here's the link.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Belize patients get help from Charlotte

Surgeons performed the first open-heart surgery in Belize this week thanks to equipment and assistance from Carolinas HealthCare System's International Medical Outreach Program, founded by renowned Charlotte heart surgeon Dr. Francis Robicsek.

Dr. Mark Stiegel, a cardiothoracic surgeon with Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute in Charlotte, performed the surgery with Dr. Adrian Coye, medical services director at Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital in Belize City. Their patient, a 72-year-old Belize man, is recovering after undergoing a coronary artery bypass graft Monday.

The surgeons expect to perform the second open-heart procedure, a mitral valve replacement, on a 56-year-old Belize woman Tuesday, July 17.

Although heart disease is the second leading cause of death in Belize, the country lacked a modern cardiovascular diagnostic and interventional facility until 2011, when the international outreach program began providing support. Before then, patients would either not receive treatment or would travel to neighboring countries.

The international program, a partnership between Carolinas HealthCare and the Heineman Foundation of Charlotte, donated and installed the country’s first fully-equipped cardiac catheterization laboratory in February 2011 at the Belize City hospital. The laboratory, also equipped with diagnostic imaging equipment, modernized cardiac care by 30 years.

Since October 2011, cardiology teams from Sanger have performed catheterizations in Belize each month and will continue to send teams until the hospital's own interventional cardiologist is trained to perform them alone.

The Charlotte program also helped make possible the first heart transplant surgery in Costa Rica in 2007 and co-founded the largest, most comprehensive heart institute in Central America, located in Guatemala City, in 1984.

Since the 1960s, the international program has donated a variety of medical equipment to hospitals and clinics worldwide. Robicsek's program raises money to refurbish and ship medical equipment that would otherwise be discarded by the Charlotte hospital system.

In addition to equipment, the program has provided free training for medical personnel from facilities globally. Coye and other medical staff from the Belize City hospital have visited Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte for educational experiences.