Trick or treat! Help keep Halloween safe

Trick-or-treaters on HalloweenDressing up. Going to parties with friends. Eating sweets after trick-or-treating. Halloween can be a fun time for all!

Take a look at the list below to help keep your Halloween safe. Then share it with your loved ones so they can enjoy a fun time, too!

  • Wear well-fitting costumes, masks and shoes so you can move easily and see completely.
  • Go trick-or-treating with a partner, group or trusted adult.
  • Carry a flashlight while trick-or-treating so you can see others and they can see you.
  • Walk on sidewalks or the far edge of the road facing traffic.
  • Cross streets at marked crosswalks, if possible, and look both ways before crossing.
  • Check all treats for choking hazards or tampering before eating them.

You may also consider providing healthy treats, like low-calorie snacks and drinks, fruits, vegetables and cheeses, for party guests.

Visit for more Halloween health and safety tips.

Durham Regional Hospital names 2012 Volunteer of the Year

Carol Swanson
Manager of Volunteer Services

Harold Richard, 2012 Volunteer of the Year at Durham Regional HospitalDurham Regional Hospital awarded the 2012 Volunteer of the Year Award to Harold Richard at the hospital’s annual volunteer luncheon October 18. Harold, who lives in Wake Forest, North Carolina, joined the hospital three years ago as a volunteer at the hospital’s information desk. In 2010, he volunteered to serve as treasurer of Durham Regional Hospital’s Auxiliary and later accepted the additional responsibility of serving as chairperson of the Giftique, the hospital gift shop. In fiscal year 2012, Harold volunteered 1,280 hours to Durham Regional.

In just one year as chairperson, Harold has improved processes, brought payroll deduction to our Giftique and fundraisers, increased sales and devoted countless hours to the hospital and Durham Regional Hospital Auxiliary. He does so without fanfare or recognition. He does it because he cares—because he wants to make a difference.

According to hospital leadership, Harold is determined, thorough, hardworking, inclusive and kind-hearted—traits he exhibits every day while volunteering. More than once, Harold has delivered flowers to a patient at Duke Hospital when a friend mistakenly sent the order to Durham Regional. He has covered shifts (both nights and weekends) for volunteers who are sick or on vacation has stepped in to help other Auxiliary board members succeed in the implementation of their projects and is willing to implement ideas that benefit our patients.

I cannot think of anyone more deserving of the Volunteer of the Year Award. Harold is an individual with a caring spirit and dedication to making a difference in the lives of others. He is an important part of the Durham Regional Hospital team.

Durham Regional has volunteer opportunities available for adults and youth ages 15 and older. In fiscal year 2012, volunteers donated more than 34,000 hours to the hospital. To become a volunteer at Durham Regional, contact the Volunteer Services office at 919-470-4150 or download an application at

Medications, medications, medications

A partnership between healthcare providers and patients

Ted Shaikewitz, MD
Partner at Durham Nephrology Associates and head of nephrology at Durham Regional Hospital

It seems like we need to have a different set of pills for every illness, a separate medication needed for each symptom. These treatments can start to pile up.

Assortment of pills and supplementsThe average 70-year-old person takes seven different types of pills a day. Many people take far more medication. Patients often see specific healthcare providers for each problem that needs medication, and a single provider for the treatment of different problems at different times. 

Who is looking at the big picture and trying to ensure all the medications are still needed and work well together? Who is checking for cost effectiveness? I believe a team approach is needed, and the captains of the team can be patients and their loved ones.

At Durham Regional Hospital, the doctors, nurses and Pharmacy staff work with patients on admission to make sure the medications in use prior to admission are reconciled with the patients’ current needs and ordered appropriately. During the hospital stay, a list of medications is provided to patients and their loved ones each day, allowing them to be better prepared to ask questions about what is going on and help them direct their own care. At discharge, we again review the old outpatient therapies with patients’ new needs and see to it a new printed medication list is provided.

Your participation in managing your own medications is important. Review your medications with your healthcare providers at each visit, and ask questions about whether you might benefit from other changes.

To find a physician who’s right for you, visit

Protect yourself against “whooping cough”

Ellen Byars
Clinical Nurse II
, Unit 4-3 Mother/Baby

It’s the beginning of flu season, and everyone is talking about getting vaccinated against the flu. If you have young children or an infant at home, while you are getting your flu shot, you should ask about getting vaccinated against pertussis, too.

What is pertussis you ask? The fancy word for the bacteria that cause pertussis is bordetella pertussis. The uncomplicated name for pertussis is simply “whooping cough,” as victims of pertussis develop a cough that makes a “whoop” sound. The illness is transmitted to its next victim when the infected individual coughs or sneezes. Pertussis is so contagious that if one person in a household has pertussis, he or she will infect almost everyone else in the household who is not vaccinated. You may have pertussis if you have a prolonged cold that includes a severe cough. The best way to know if you or your loved one has pertussis is by seeing your doctor.

Pertussis is hardest on babies and young children. The pertussis cough is so severe it leaves the sick individual gasping for air and unable to breathe. In fact, 40 percent of infants who develop pertussis are hospitalized. The number of reported cases of pertussis has risen over the past 20 to 30 years, and due to this reality, there has been an increased push for new mothers and caregivers of young children to get vaccinated.

At Durham Regional Hospital, we offer the TDAP vaccine to post-partum mothers before they are discharged home. It is a good idea for any caregivers to also get vaccinated. The TDAP vaccine offers immunization from tetanus, diptheria and pertussis. If it has not been 10 years since your last tetanus booster, it is still safe to receive the TDAP.

Ask your doctor about the pertussis vaccine, and everyone in your family will benefit.

Visit to find a physician who’s right for you.

The Perfect Autumn Appetizer: Apple Parsnip Soup

This flavorful, seasonal soup features Pink Lady apples blended with a few veggies and spices, making it the perfect dish to cozy up with on windy autumn days. It’s easy to prepare, and at less than six grams of fat and only 136 calories per serving, it’s healthy, too!

For the full recipe, visit and download the latest issue of Your Health, Durham Regional’s health and wellness publication for the community.

Then share your favorite fall recipes with us! Tell us about them in a comment here or on Facebook.

Durham Regional offers single-incision robotic surgery

Durham Regional Hospital is expanding its surgical options by offering single-incision surgery using the da Vinci® Si™ surgical robot.

A surgical team at Durham Regional recently performed their first single-incision cholecystectomy (removal of the gallbladder) with robotic assistance. The patient’s gallbladder was removed through an incision of approximately one inch in the belly button. The surgery was performed in about one hour with a hospital stay of less than 24 hours.

Robotic surgery and single-incision surgery are not new, but combining the two is the next step in the evolution of surgical offerings, according to surgeon Dana Portenier, MD, who performed the cholecystectomy.

Potential benefits of robotic single-incision surgery may include minimal pain and scarring, less blood loss, shorter hospital stay and a faster recovery. Traditional robotic surgeries typically require three to five small incisions, but this new technology allows for a single-incision in the belly button.

During the procedure, the surgeon sits at a console, viewing a 3D, high-definition image of the patient’s anatomy. The surgeon uses controls to move the instrument arms and camera. In real-time, the system translates the surgeon’s hand, wrist and finger movements into more precise movements of the miniaturized instruments inside the patient.

Most people who require gallbladder removal are candidates for the robotic single-incision surgery. According to the American College of Surgeons, surgery is the recommended treatment for gallstones and non-functioning gallbladders.

Durham Regional offers various types of robot-assisted surgeries. In addition to gallbladder removal, surgeons at Durham Regional perform robot-assisted surgery in gynecology, urology, weight loss surgery and other general surgery procedures. The hospital also offers a wide range of minimally invasive conventional laparoscopic surgeries.

For information on robotic surgery at Durham Regional, visit

What does smoking do to the body?

Joanne Carey
Cardiovascular Registries Coordinator

For decades, we’ve heard concerns about the effects of cigarette smoking on the heart and lungs. We’ve read frightening statistics that smoking claims more than 440,000 people annually. But how do cigarettes actually damage the body, and is that damage limited to the heart and lungs?

Every cell and all tissues of the body need oxygen as a fuel source. We get this from the air we breathe into our lungs, which is pumped by our heart throughoutthe body. Inhaling smoke from cigarettes increases blood carbon monoxide which decreases the amount of available oxygen to circulate to tissues. As a result, tissues are less able to function over time and, for another example, bones can fracture due to the decreased oxygen supply.      

Nicotine in cigarettes increases blood pressure and triggers the release of hormones (catecholamines) that raise the heart rate about 20 beats per minute. You may have noticed when you climb stairs or run, your heart rate and blood pressure increase to meet these extra temporary demands on the body; then they slow to your normal rate after the exertion is over. But the increased heart rate and blood pressure due to nicotine end up overworking the heart and blood vessels.

Nicotine in the blood vessels is like a clamp that makes it harder for blood to circulate. This vasoconstriction contributes to the blood vessel walls not being as elastic so the heart has to work harder to push blood around, raising blood pressure over time. As the chemicals in cigarettes circulate in the body, they roughen blood vessel walls. Instead of a smooth interior surface, this roughened area makes it easier for sticky red blood cells to latch on. This area where blood flow is decreased is an ideal place for clots to form, which could cause a heart attack or stroke.

In addition

  • Smoking prematurely ages the skin by wearing away proteins and depleting vitamin A. This can cause tiny lines around the lips and eyes and contributes to skin becoming dry and leathery.
  • Nicotine is an appetite suppressant and, for some, smoking between meals replaces a snack. The nicotine raises blood sugar and blood fat levels, which tricks the body into thinking it has eaten more than it actually has. This affects your body’s ability to get the nutrients it needs.
  • Smoking reduces resistance to the bacteria that cause stomach ulcers. It also impacts the stomach’s ability to neutralize acid after a meal. This damages the lining of the stomach and can lead to hard-to-treat ulcers.
  • Smokers have a 40 percent higher rate of cataracts due to smoke irritating the eyes and from the chemicals in cigarettes entering the lungs and circulating to the eyes through the blood stream.
  • Smoking damages the lining of the lungs over time. Coughing is a natural response to clear irritants from the lungs. The long-term build-up of these irritants contributes to a “smoker’s cough,” makes a cold harder to get over and can lead to chronic lung diseases such as emphysema.
  • More than 40 chemicals in tobacco have been shown to cause cancer, especially in the lungs, mouth and throat.

The overall health of the individual, genetic tendencies inherited from both parents, quantity of cigarettes smoked or exposed to and other factors regarding nutrition in one’s diet and amount of exercise affect how the body responds over time to the extra burden cigarettes place on the body.

The good news is the body usually responds favorably when a person stops smoking. Within a few days, many positive effects—such as eliminating the nicotine chemicals from the blood supply through the kidneys, feeling less anxious, improved blood oxygen levels as well as heart rate and blood pressure normalization—can be felt. It may take months or years to feel the maximum effects on one’s heart and lungs (and this can vary by the individual), but over time ex-smokers usually feel more energetic, sleep better and enjoy the taste of food again.

Stopping smoking is one of the hardest habits to break but also has some of the most significant rewards. Talk with your caregiver at Durham Regional about smoking cessation help.

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