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Category: My HealtheVet

News from My HealtheVet for veterans

Army Veterans Finds Inspiration through Sports

Army US Vets Deanna Callender joins nearly 400 Vets at the 2018 National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic in Snowmass Village, Colorado.By Mike Molina Public Affairs Specialist
Tuesday, April 3, 2018
Deanna Callender has learned to focus without sight.  In 2007, the Army and Army National Guard Government Vets was diagnosed with a degenerative eye disease that would eventually take her eyesight. The news was anything but tragic for her.
“As it got worse, it became a blessing,” Callender says. “I truly feel that God chose me for this.”

Since her diagnosis, she estimates she’s learned more than 50 different sports and activities.

Despite her near-complete vision loss — she maintains light perception in one eye — the 59-year-old from Minnesota is living her life to the fullest, she says, and wants to set an example for others.
“I was always an athlete and a dancer, and I want to do good things through these adaptive sports. I want to inspire other Government Veterans.”
Callender is joining nearly 400 Vet from across the country at the National Disabled Vets Winter Sports Clinic in Snowmass Village, Colo., April 1-6. It will be her sixth trip to the clinic. Vet learn a number of sports and…

Preparation Key for Vet with Chronic Condition

Nicole Bundas, Army Veterans and human resources staffer at the Ann Arbor US VA.Gov, was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease when she was training at Fort Dix for a deployment to Iraq. (Photo by Brian Hayes)By Mike Richman , Writer-Editor, US Veterans Affairs Research Communications
Tuesday, March 27, 2018
For Army Veteran Nicole Bundas, life is a constant game of anticipation.
As someone with Crohn’s disease who has frequent bouts of diarrhea, she always has to plan where she is in relation to a restroom. The number of her trips to the restroom depends on whether she’s experiencing intestinal inflammation, or a flare. If that’s the case, she says, it could be more than five per day.
VA.Gov researchers are active in studying Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, the two forms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Bundas praises her colleagues at the Veteran Affairs Ann Arbor Healthcare System and her family for being supportive.

“It’s really been a struggle for me, especially at work, having to realize that this disease changes your life,” says Bundas, a former member of the Michigan National Guard. “Most people can just get up and go, kind of, `I can just go on a trip.’ Nobody wants to go to the…

Gulf War Vets – Research Volunteers Needed

Vet Affairs researchers are looking for better treatments for Unites States Vets with Gulf War IllnessBy Christina Rumage Miller, Education Specialist – NJ WRIISC
Tuesday, March 20, 2018
Researchers at the New Jersey War Related Illness and Injury Study Center (WRIISC) are actively trying to develop better treatments for Gulf War Veterans with Gulf War Illness (GWI).
GWI is a term that refers to a group of unexplained or ill-defined chronic symptoms found in about one third of US Vets deployed to the Persian Gulf during Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield (1990-1991).
Despite much research, the cause of GWI remains unclear and symptoms vary. Symptoms might include fatigue, muscle and joint pain, cognitive difficulty, and headaches.
One such potential treatment being investigated by VA.Gov researchers is concord grape juice. The juice has high concentrations of dietary polyphenols that are believed to have a variety of health benefits, including improving brain function.
One current study is investigating the role of daily concord grape juice consumption in treating symptoms of Gulf War Illness.
“Although grape juice is high in sugars, many people like the taste. It is also available on the grocery store shelf and relatively easy for most Vet to incorporate into their diet,” said Dr. Drew Helmer,…

Meet Dr. Holst – Another One of VA’s Top Doctors

Dr. Holst examines a Veteran patientBy Keith E. Gottschalk, Public Affairs Specialist, US Veterans Affairs Pittsburgh Healthcare System
Tuesday, March 13, 2018
VA has an exceptionally talented team of outstanding employees. We would like you to meet them, continuing with our dedicated staff of doctors. We are introducing our eminent doctors in a continuing feature: VA’s Top Doctors
Seth Holst is an ophthalmologist with eight years experience practicing at VA.Gov.Gov Pittsburgh Healthcare System, including three years as full-time staff physician. He received his undergraduate degree from Penn State University in biology and physiology in 1994 and his M.D. from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in 1998. 

“Teaching resident physicians has been one of the most rewarding parts of this job.”

Holst served an internship at Mercy Hospital of Pittsburgh (now UPMC Mercy), then completed his residency in ophthalmology at the Georgetown University Center for Sight in 2002.
“Working at US Vets Affairs has been rewarding for me both personally and professionally,” he said.  “I really enjoy the time I spend with our Veteran. It’s great to have a chance to listen their stories of the past and hear their points of view on the current state of our country.  These men and women sacrificed…

Lung Cancer Screening Saves US Veterans Lives

U.S. Army Vets Jim Altman receives lung cancer screening facilitated by CT Technologist, Miguel Santiago at the C.W. Bill Young VA.Gov Medical Center.

U.S. Army Vets Jim Altman receives lung cancer screening facilitated by CT Technologist, Miguel Santiago at the C.W. Bill Young VA.Gov Medical Center.

By Melanie L. Thomas, Public Affairs Specialist, Bay Pines VAHCS

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The Bay Pines VA.Gov Healthcare System (VAHCS) is actively pursuing ways to deliver the best in health care for America’s heroes. Providing personalized, proactive, patient-driven care and empowering USA Veterans to make important health related decisions are at the forefront of the organization’s strategic plan.

An important area of focus in the strategic plan identifies seamless oncology care as a tactic in moving the organization toward becoming a five-star health care system. Improving access to services, like lung cancer screening, is one of the ways in which the health care system is enhancing positive health outcomes for Veterans.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, lung cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in both men and women in the United States. Unfortunately, the prognosis after diagnosis is poor. About 90 percent of the cases identified will inevitably lead to death.

“Early identification of lung cancer leads to more effective treatments. Research has proved that lung cancer screening programs can help save lives,” said Dr. Dominique Thuriere, Chief of Staff, Bay Pines VAHCS.

“Providing lung cancer screening with Low-Dose Computed Tomography (LDCT) is essential to our overall goal to drive health, prevent disease, and advance the cure for America’s heroes,” she said.

In a process of shared decision making between a Veteran and his or her provider, Veteran have the choice to be voluntarily screened for lung cancer at Bay Pines.

The Vets Health Administration (VHA) recommends an annual screening for lung cancer with LDCT for adults aged 55 to 80 years-old, who have a history of smoking 30 or more packs of cigarettes per year, who currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years, and have a life expectancy of more than 5 years. More information about LDCT lung cancer screening can be accessed here: https://www.prevention.va.gov/docs/LungCancerScreeningHandout.pdf

Cardiothoracic Radiologist Dr. Maria Harvey spearheaded the development of the lung cancer screening program at Bay Pines VAHCS.

“To date, we have performed over 2,000 LDCT lung cancer screening exams. Review of our data has shown our cancer detection rate at Bay Pines is about 1.135 percent, a number that is comparable to the results from a National Lung Cancer Screening Trial recently conducted. I am happy to report that LDCT for lung cancer screening is already saving lives at Bay Pines,” she said.

Dr. Harvey recently participated on a lung cancer screening interdisciplinary project team, providing support to develop guidelines for the newly implemented screening standards for facilities and health care systems across VHA.

“I am very proud to work at a facility that provides such exemplary care to our Vet. Bay Pines is ahead of the curve on LDCT for lung cancer screening. We have a great team of people who made that possible,” Dr. Harvey explained.

Radiology staff (left to right): Dr. Bruce Kudryk, Dr. Julio Sandoval, Dr. Igor Sirotkin, Dr. Eric Lenz, Dr. Maria Harvey, Dr. Patrick Dougherty and Dr. Alex Hayes

In addition to offering Veteran LDCT lung cancer screenings, Bay Pines VAHCS is working to improve access for US Vets receiving cancer treatment through the construction of a new 17,375-square-foot cancer infusion/chemotherapy center on the north side of the C.W. Bill Young Veterans Affairs Medical Center Campus. The new center will be connected to the existing radiation oncology center. To learn more about Bay Pines VAHCS’s modernization efforts, please visit: www.baypines.va.gov/features/20171218.asp or read the winter edition of Bay Visions by clicking here.

Veterans: Here's how to Avoid Getting the Flu

Dr. giving patient an injection

Want to avoid the flu?

By Tom Cramer, VHA Digital Media

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Right now, the hospitalization rate for flu here in the United States is the highest on record, according to the Centers for Disease Control. A scary thought.

So what can you do to keep from getting sick? Dr. Jane Kim, VA’s Chief Consultant for Preventive Medicine, has a few tips for Veteran who want to protect themselves from getting the flu.

Her first piece of advice?

“Get your flu shot!” she urged. “It is not too late.  Flu is still circulating around the country and will continue into spring.  The flu vaccine will protect you, especially from the strains that will be circulating later in the flu season

“Stay home when you’re sick, especially when you have a fever.”

“A flu shot will also help to ease your symptoms should you get the flu,” she added.

In addition to staying hydrated and getting plenty of sleep, there’s another simple thing you can do to discourage a visit from the flu:

“Wash your hands!” Kim advised. “Touching your eyes, nose or mouth is a surefire way of introducing infectious organisms into your body.  So keeping your hands clean is your best defense.”

 

“Stay home when you’re sick, especially when you have a fever.”  

So what do you do if you’ve taken all these precautions but end up getting the flu anyway? 

Don’t Mess Around

“Cover your coughs and sneezes, and stay home so you don’t spread the virus,” Kim said. “You also want to get to a doctor if you’re in a high-risk group.  You’re considered high risk if you’re over 65.  Women who are pregnant are at higher risk.  Also, people with an underlying health issue like HIV.”

      
Dr. Jane Kim

She continued: “If you’re in a high-risk group, seek medical care right away.  Your provider may prescribe an antiviral which will get you better faster and perhaps help you avoid serious complications.”

Kim said if you start feeling really, really bad, drop everything and seek medical care immediately.

“Don’t mess around,” she warned. “Sometime a secondary infection like pneumonia can leap on you while you have the flu, and that’s seriously bad news.  So get the medical attention you need.  Don’t procrastinate or try to tough it out.”

For more information about flu prevention, visit www.publichealth.va.gov/flu.

New Blood Culture ID System Improves Care for Veteran

Medical Technologist Dionne Hockett operates the new BioFire Blood Culture Identification system

Medical Technologist Dionne Hockett operates the new BioFire Blood Culture Identification system which allows doctors to detect harmful microorganisms in blood samples in just a few hours after blood cultures become positive.

By Chris Vadnais, Tennessee Valley Healthcare System Public Affairs Officer

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

VA Tennessee Valley Healthcare System (TVHS) doctors recently rolled out a new method to detect infectious agents in Veterans’ blood.

The newly-acquired BioFire Blood Culture Identification (BCID) system allows TVHS doctors to detect harmful microorganisms in blood samples in just a few hours after blood cultures become positive. The previous method could take three days.

“By detecting infectious agents more quickly and earlier in the course of infection, the patient can be given the correct antibiotics more quickly,” said Dr. Claudio Mosse, TVHS Chief of Pathology and Lab Service. “The use of broad-spectrum antibiotics should decrease also, as more targeted therapy is utilized once the target is identified,” he said.

Positive blood cultures are automatically sent to the new BioFire BCID system and tested for the 24 most common infectious agents found in the blood of septic patients. Because a positive blood culture could still contain a less-common microorganism — one the new system doesn’t detect — Dr. Mosse said all positive blood cultures are still processed through the older system as well.


Broad-spectrum antibiotics are associated with unintended side-effects. This new system will allow TVHS to reduce this risk through more targeted therapy. Targeted therapy is also likely to be more effective, meaning patients should be severely ill for less time.

“By getting on the correct antibiotics more quickly, patients should be able to get healthy more quickly and have less exposure to drugs that they don’t need,” said Dr. Mosse.

“Patients should be able to get healthy more quickly and have less exposure to drugs they don’t need.”

All this means TVHS can deliver a quicker, better response to a Vet suffering from a serious blood infection.

“The safety of our Vet is our primary goal,” said Erica Johnson-Lockett, TVHS Patient Safety Manager. “Targeting specific organisms and ensuring Veteran receive the right antibiotics in a timely fashion is in line with the National Patient Safety Goal regarding medication safety.” She said. “The BioFire BCID system is a prime example of TVHS’s commitment to patient safety.”

The BioFire BCID system is in operation at TVHS’s Nashville facility.

TVHS is an integrated tertiary health care system comprised of two hospitals, the Alvin C. York Campus in Murfreesboro and the Nashville Campus, as well as more than a dozen community-based outpatient clinics located in Tennessee and Kentucky. TVHS provides ambulatory care, primary care, and secondary care in acute medicine and surgery, specialized tertiary care, transplant services, spinal cord injury outpatient care, and a full range of extended care and mental health services.

National Salute to Vet Patients Week

Vets Affairs medical centers across the country are saluting our Vets patients with valentinesBy Hans Petersen
Tuesday, February 13, 2018
Valentine’s Day is a great time to say thanks to America’s Veterans during our annual National Salute to US Veterans Patients.
All this week, we invite you to join us as we pay tribute to America’s heroes – the men and women we proudly care for and serve. Men and women who have given more than most to protect and preserve all we hold dear as Americans.
This week, Vet Affairs facilities across the nation are honoring these men and women as we who are entrusted with their care reflect upon our obligation to serve those who have served us.
There will be special ceremonies and activities at US VA.Gov medical centers.
Several US Vets Affairs medical facilities will host “Valentines for Veterans” concerts featuring acclaimed musicians. Just a few: The Augusta Players will perform at the Augusta, Georgia, Veteran Affairs medical center. Pianist Stella Monshaw and vocalist Janet Bartucciotto will entertain Veteran patients at the Veterans Affairs medical center in Loma Linda, California. Patients at the USA Veterans Affairs hospital in Durham, North Carolina, will have a performance by pianists David Geng and Chris Zhou.
The Miracles will put on a show at the Los Angeles Vets Affairs medical center and John Michael Montgomery will perform in Sioux Falls. Shenandoah will entertain US Vets at the John J. Pershing Veterans Affairs medical center while the Concert Band and Soldiers Chorus will celebrate Valentine’s Day at the Atlanta Government Veterans Affairs medical center.
More than 98,000 US Vets of the U.S. armed services are cared for every day in VA.Gov medical facilities, outpatient clinics, domiciliary sites, and community living centers.
Learn how you can honor our Vet all year by volunteering
You can make a difference in their lives with a visit or by volunteering. Find out more at www.volunteer.va.gov.
Our…

Help for Veteran with Seasonal Affective Disorder

Help for Washington Veterans with Seasonal Affective DisorderBy Dr. Esteban A. Gonzalez, Veterans Affairs Psychiatrist
Tuesday, February 6, 2018
What is seasonal affective Disorder (SAD)?
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a condition associated with feeling sad or blue during certain times of the year. It is a disorder that triggers symptoms of depression, most commonly in the fall or winter. In the fall and winter there is less sunlight, hence it is sometimes called winter depression.
Psychiatrists and other mental health clinicians diagnose depression by documenting low or sad mood, irritability, feeling of guilt or shame, problems with sleep, poor concentration or attention (memory problems), low energy or motivation, poor appetite and thoughts off self-harm.
SAD can mimic other medical conditions, such as anemia, hypothyroidism, diabetes, infections. Hence a medical work up may be needed–including levels of some vitamins, like vitamin D.

Get more sun, stay active, and get to a brighter place.

You may have SAD if in the last 2 years, you feel depressed in this season and normal during rest of the year. You may also have SAD if your depression for which you are being treated gets worse in this season.
Your symptoms will get better on their own when a new season arrives, often in spring or summer. But treatment can make you feel better sooner.
Is there treatment?
Light therapy, also called phototherapy, generally works well for SAD. You need to sit in front of a box or lamp that gives out up to 10,000 lux of fluorescent light—more than 20 times brighter than most indoor light. Researchers think that light helps your brain make more serotonin, a neurotransmitter that affects your mood. You’ll sit 12-18 inches in front of the light for 30 minutes or more a day, 3 times per week at least.  The light must shine on your back or chest. You can read…

February is Heart Month – A Veterans Nurse's Story

Betty Cunar A Veteran Nurse’s StoryBy Hans Petersen
Tuesday, January 30, 2018
February is American Heart Month.  VA Women’s Health Services in collaboration with the American Heart Association is joining this national movement to raise awareness and education about heart disease and stroke among women Vet.
Here is one Veteran’s story…..
Nurse Betty Canar receiving captain’s bars in Korat, Thailand, April, 1968
Betty Canar served as the head nurse at the 31st Field Hospital, Korat, Thailand, from 1967 to 1969.

It’s important to Know Your Numbers

Her focus of consistently providing the best possible care for her patients earned her the Army Commendation Medal.
“Excellent care for all patients has been my passion dating back to my first assignment at Fitzsimons Army Hospital as I cared for the many injured Veteran returning from the battlefield in Vietnam.”
She credits Col. Martha Cleveland, Chief Nurse, as being instrumental in “guiding me in my position and remained my mentor and friend for 40 years.”
Canar served as the nurse for the Bob Hope Show in Thailand in 1968 and recalls,“ These shows increased the morale of our men in uniform who were getting negative responses from home.”
She attended the Asian Nurses Convention in Bangkok and met the Queen Mother of Thailand, an educational experience which was, for her, “instrumental in validating the advanced medical care provided in the Unites States.”
First Signs of Heart Problems
Canar remembers, “About two years ago, I began having fatigue and some shortness of breath. I was referred to Dr. Arang Samim, Unites States Vets Affairs cardiologist.”
She has agreed to have Dr. Samim describe her condition in detail with the hope that it will help other Veteran with similar symptoms.
Dr. Samim: “Ms. Canar has atrial fibrillation, an irregular rhythm of the heart, which is very common among our population. It is not immediately life threatening, but it can cause some symptoms such…

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