Being able to get big-city technology close to home can save patients lots of time and expense. Michael Towey and Waldo County General Hospital’s Voice & Swallowing Center of Maine recently proved that as he performed a procedure on a Searsmont man under the guidance of a clinical specialist who was several hundred miles away.
Tom Edgecomb had six weeks of radiation for laryngeal cancer in 2011. Four months later, he couldn’t breathe and was rushed to the hospital where it was discovered that he had cancer in his voice box. His voice box was removed on Jan. 21, 2012 in Philadelphia.
Then it was discovered that Edgecomb’s cancer had gone into his lymph nodes and it was stage 4. Fortunately, he has now been cancer free for 10 months after multiple trips to Pennsylvania.
Edgecomb was in Towey’s office on Dec. 23 of last year to get a device installed in the stoma to help provide moist air in the lungs to promote good lung function and pulmonary health. He had tried one in Philadelphia but within a few hours, he experienced extreme irritation from the device and his skin turned a bright red. The device had to be removed.
Since he couldn’t tolerate the device, Edgecomb had been taking unfiltered, dry air into his lungs, which causes the lungs to get plugged with mucous and makes breathing very difficult.
The process of installing another device starts with Lindsey Lambert Gordon, who works for Atos Medical, the company that provides the device, connected via interactive video from her office to WCGH. She can clearly see everything she needs to provide advice on the proper fitting of the device.
After Towey does the necessary skin preparation for sensitive skin, Gordon leads him through the installation process. “Take off the back of the base plate,” she says and Towey does.
After Towey puts on the base plate, he uses the heat from his fingers to help seal it, again as directed by Gordon.
Towey then places the filter into the base plate while Gordon explains that the filters are replaceable every 24 hours. She also tells Edgecomb that over the next few days, the moisture is going to “wake up” his lungs, clear out the thick mucus and make the lungs work more efficiently.
As the procedure is finished, Towey visibly relaxes. He was a bit anxious about getting the device to fit properly, especially because of the problems in Philadelphia, but Lindsey helped him. “We’re making history here, Lindsey,” he says. “We’re making history.” Then he adds, “It costs almost nothing to connect with Lindsey and it saved Tom a trip to Pennsylvania for a 20-minute procedure.”
Towey is quick to add that it takes someone as competent as Gordon to do this. Gordon, who is typically in New York City, is a speech pathologist. During this procedure, she was actually in New Hampshire.
Gordon says she just needed to be able to see the patient and the larynx in order to help Towey put in the device. She says otherwise, the patient would need to travel hours to have it fitted and for follow-up visits.
Even though he’s only had the device for a few minutes, Edgecomb says, “I breathe a little different, it’s a little harder to breathe and it will take time. But it’s good to get moisture into my lungs so they will not plug up. It will make me live longer. It’s security for my lungs.”
And he was able to get that security only eight miles from home.
Waldo County General Hospital’s new sleep lab not only has a new name, “The Center for Sleep Medicine at Waldo County General Hospital,” and a new look with queen-sized beds that can be adjusted to the patient’s preferred level of firmness, but it provides the polysomnographic technologists with more options to treat their patients.
The state of the art EEG system is used to diagnose patients who have sleeping issues or other conditions that may affect their breathing. Our new CPAP and BIPAP machines allow for increased sensitivity to patients’ breathing efforts; this results in a more comfortable experience for patients as their breathing parameters are adjusted throughout the night.
Matthew Campbell is one of the polysomnographic technologists at the new sleep lab. He believes that the Center for Sleep Medicine at Waldo County General Hospital is one of the first sleep labs in the country to use the new device. “All of the features help me to help patients,” he says. “It provides more points of data and can be highly customized to fit the needs of our patients.”
Sarah Zurek, a registered polysomnographic technologist in the sleep lab, says the new program is easier to use and provides more options to treat certain sleep disorders. The improved sleep lab computer is much faster to score, resulting in a quicker turnaround time for results. The new camera system provides both audio and visuals for the technologist to monitor the patient. For example, the technologists can see with amazing clarity, via the computer monitor, if the patient has restless leg syndrome or other movements during sleep.
And while the polysomnographic technologists are thrilled with having the new technology, the patients are pleased to have temperature control of their bedrooms and to have handicap-accessible bathrooms and showers. The area is also much quieter.
“We have everything available for patient comfort,” says Zurek, as she praises the work that the hospital’s maintenance department did in renovating the space.
“You need healthy sleep for a healthy life,” says Zurek, adding that the amenities are providing more of a “home-like environment” for those who need a sleep study to help diagnose sleep disorders that may be causing disruptions in sleep, leading to fatigue.
Waldo County Healthcare is pleased to introduce Shannon Robbins RN as its new Community Health Manager. In that position she oversees Journey to Health, Let’s Go! Waldo 5-2-1-0, the Community Transformation Grant (Farms to Institutions), Healthy Waldo County, Coastal Medical (occupational health), Waldo County Dental Care, Public Health nursing, and the CarePartners program.
“It’s a unique position,” said Shannon. “In the current fiscal atmosphere, we need to do more with fewer resources and in this position I can tie things together. I love wearing different hats and I love challenges. I need to see where all the pieces of the puzzle fit.”
As the Belfast Public Health Nurse, Shannon was involved in the creation of Waldo County Dental Care and witnessed the direct connection between oral health and the overall health of individuals and the community. She also is eager to work with area businesses to improve the health and safety of their workforce.
“Good health doesn’t just happen to you, you have to seek it. I want to make that as easy as possible for people,” says Shannon. “My biggest challenge is going to be to figure out how to make the programs easy for the community to access. We offer many programs but we need to see where people are in their lives concerning their health and we need to meet them there.”
Before becoming the public health nurse, Shannon worked as a school nurse so she also has some insight into working with pre-teens and teens which is a new focus for community health. Obesity is a major health issue in Waldo County and one that needs to be addressed starting with the younger population.
“I think we need to work through their healthcare providers to make it easy for people to see the benefits to improving their health. Good health is the result of making one small change at a time,” she concludes.
Belfast has a new public health nurse. Ginnie Fanelli RN took over the job recently when Shannon Robbins RN became the Community Health Manager.
Ginnie says she wanted the part-time position because it touches upon so many aspects of nursing and allows her to be creative. “I get to actively work with patients and not behind a desk. I roll up my sleeves and hopefully make lives better,” she says.
As the Belfast Public Health Nurse, the majority of Ginnie’s time is spent educating and working with individuals at opposite ends of the age spectrum, who in many cases have fallen between the cracks.
Ginnie has been a nurse for 35 years, working mostly with new mothers and babies, but also spent some time as a nurse in a doctor’s office, in community health, in a retirement community and as the assistant manager in a company that provides traveling nurses.
She says she has some big shoes to fill from the former two public health nurses, Robbins and Diane Whitten, RN, NP.
“One of my goals is to provide prenatal care as well as post natal,” she says. “I want to be there for pregnant women who are put on bed rest. I can take their blood pressures in their homes.”
For the post natal moms, she is holding a Welcome to Motherhood group on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month. The first hour from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. is an opportunity for new moms to chat with other new mothers. The second hour, from 11 a.m. to noon, is for breast-feeding moms.
Ginnie is also looking forward to working with senior citizens and the new challenges that will bring.
The Belfast Public Health Nurse is often called in to help elderly people who need to be put in touch with the right resources or who fall through the cracks of the restrictions for those resources. For example, she may find herself advising elderly Belfast residents how they can get help with their fuel so they didn’t have to choose between paying for their medications or heat. She also assists elderly citizens who don’t qualify for home health services but need a little help.
Both ends of the spectrum are also often found at the local soup kitchen which Ginnie will be visiting on a regular basis. She offers blood pressure screenings there, along with advice on nutrition and diabetes. She also runs free blood pressure clinics and administers flu shots.
Besides working 20 hours a week as the Belfast Public Health Nurse, Ginnie will continue to work one day a week in the Women and Infants Health Care Unit and also providing childbirth classes.
Belfast Public Health Nursing Association’s mission is to promote and strengthen individual, family and community health through health education and services, prevention, early intervention, referral and collaboration within the Belfast community.
(The Belfast Public Health Nursing Association is funded by the city of Belfast, UMCC, private donations, and Waldo County General Hospital.)
Downeast Magazine published the results of its Physician Survey 2014 in its January 2014 issue. Doctors in Maine were asked: “If you or a family member had a problem in the following areas, who would you select as the best specialist in Maine?”
The votes were tallied and the peer-selected winners and runners-up were named.
Dr. Mark Vannorsdall, a nephrologist at Waldo County General Hospital, finished first in the category of Nephrology, with doctors from Portland and Bangor named as the runners-up.
Four winners were named in the category of Urology and one of those was Dr. Lars Ellison, who sees patients at Waldo County General Hospital as well as at Penobscot Bay Urology.
Dr. Vannorsdall, who is certified in nephrology and internal medicine, started at Waldo County in mid-September 2011. He sees patients one or two days a week at the hospital and once a week at Pen Bay Medical Center. He also works with dialysis patients at DCI, who is located downstairs in the new building across the street from the hospital.
He did both his residency and a fellowship at Maine Medical Center in Portland and practiced at Eastern Nephrology Associates in Greenville, NC, for 10 years. Before entering medical school at Brown University in 1992, Dr. Vannorsdall worked in business.
Dr. Ellison started seeing patients at Waldo County General Hospital in July 2012 in addition to practicing at Pen Bay Medical Center, where he has worked for five years. He received his medical degree in 1995 from Boston University School of Medicine. He completed both his surgery and urology residencies at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H. and did a fellowship at Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland.
To help people who believe this is the right time for them to quit smoking, the American Cancer Society’s quit-smoking program, Freshstart, is being offered at no charge on five consecutive Thursdays, April 3, 10, 17, and 24, and May 1, from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the classroom at Waldo County General Hospital.
Freshstart is designed for the adult smoker and emphasizes that smoking cessation is a two-step process: stopping and staying stopped. Therefore, techniques and support are shared to help keep a smoker off cigarettes.
The program is free and addresses the variety of reasons people smoke: physical addiction, habit and psychological dependency.
For more information and to register for these free classes, call Barbara Crowley at 930-2650 and leave your name and telephone number or email firstname.lastname@example.org. A minimum of four participants are needed to hold the class.
The Winter Cookout Committee at the Hospital put on a BBQ and Chowder Cookoff last week. The winners in the cookoff were:
1. Seafood Chowder (F) – made by Mary Ann Dyer with lots of assistance from Hank Lang;
2. Cream of Crab Soup (B) – made by Mia Hare; and
3. Seafood Chowder (A) – made by Darlene Ward.