The Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety (PPAHS) is pleased to announce that it will be moderating a panel discussion on the risks and liabilities of delayed diagnosis during COVID-19 at the upcoming Crittenden Medical Insurance Conference to be held virtually from April 13-14, 2021. If you would like to attend the Conference, please register here.
[Editor’s note: PPAHS believes in removing as many barriers to communication between clinicians and their patients. With that goal in mind, Louise Taylor discusses how medical interpretation services can be an effective tool to facilitate clinician-patient discussions.]
By Louise Taylor
Patient safety goals should be a primary concern no matter which language you are speaking. As such, you may need the medical interpreting services to make sure important patient instructions are not lost in translation. Below, we’ll cover some of the top ways to make sure you are working with medical interpreting in a way that keeps your patients safe, no matter which languages they may speak. Interpreters in this medical field speak the language of medicine—they are there at points in the patient’s journey from making a medical appointment to outpatient doctor’s visits to clinical consultation to drug diagnoses. They help remove the language barriers between the doctor and the patient.
Map Your Medical Interpreting Needs
The first thing to be clear is which languages you are likely to need. Understanding the demographics of your local area will help with this, as will analyzing your current patient list and your previous experiences where language barriers have been a concern. Knowing in advance which languages you are likely to need can ensure that you use the best service for your needs.
You’ll also need to understand just what that service entails. What is medical interpretation? Medical interpreting is a specialized interpretation for the medical field. Interpreting often happens in real-time, such as having an interpreter present during a consultation with a patient. The interpreter’s role is a pressurized one, as they have only a split second to find the right phrase and deliver it in the target language. They also have to deal with the emotional side of the work, such as when a doctor delivers bad news to a patient.
Plan ahead regarding when you will need to access the service. While it is much easier to find medical interpretation services than it used to be, since many services are online, planning ahead can avoid last-minute scrambling. Using any old service could put your patient safety at risk.
One way to have an organized medical interpreting process is to keep track of when appointments are scheduled with patients who don’t speak English. You can plan ahead to have the service ready when they arrive.
Use a Professional Service
Your medical interpreter’s level of skills and experience is of the utmost importance. They should be knowledgeable about interpreting best practices and experienced in the role. They should also have patient safety concerns at the forefront of their professional goals and know medical terminology in both languages.
You can assess a professional service in a number of ways:
- Look at independent consumer reviews of the service before contacting them.
- Check the background of the interpreters the agency employs or the individual interpreter that you are thinking of using. How long does it take to become a medical interpreter? Often years. A medical interpreter should have a background that shows they are fluent in the language, such as higher education qualifications, extensive work experience and belonging to a professional organization.
- Medical interpreting also has industry certifications, where interpreters sit a rigorous test to prove that they are at the top of their field.
By properly vetting the medical interpreting service you plan to use, you can make sure you’re working with a professional company that values patient safety.
Make Accuracy Your Priority
It’s important to look into how the service assures and values medical interpreting accuracy. For instance, it’s common for services to have some kind of rotation and break schedule in place for their interpreters, given the mentally demanding nature of the work. If the service has people doing medical interpreting jobs for hours on end without a break, they don’t value either their interpreters’ or patient safety as much as they should.
Because medical interpreting often happens in real time, where an interpreter must convert spoken language on the fly, it can be very draining; a good service will mandate some kind of brake system or even swap out interpreters to keep them alert.
Interpreters in this field cover everything from patient diagnoses to doctor-to-patient clinical interactions to setting up medical appointments to specifying instructions and drug interactions. They are the language experts of the medical field.
Consider Remote Services
Video and remote working has become the norm since the pandemic. 81% of people want to continue working remotely at least some of the time, while 61% want remote work to become their primary way of working.
Zoom’s expansion reflects this. The service grew to 300 million users in April 2020. Many of those providing medical interpreting services have been using it. This kind of video remote interpreting is where an interpreter is present in the conversation through video chat. It’s cheaper than having interpreters attend in person. It can be a great solution for getting the best services for your needs, no matter where they are located.
Understandably, the use of remote interpreters has expanded greatly during the pandemic, making it possible for you to have interpreters present while keeping everyone safe.
However, to meet your patient safety goals, make sure your technology is up-to-date and you have a fast internet connection. Well-connected video is the key to making sure conversations are well-interpreted and understood with video remote interpreting.
By Michael Wong, JD (Executive Director, Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety)
Here is my story of efforts to get the COVID vaccine, waiting, waiting, and more waiting … and then finally receiving the first dose of Pfizer COVID vaccine.
Like many people around the country – and indeed the world – I met the news of approval of vaccines against COVID-19 with joy and some trepidation. Joy because a COVID vaccine could mean an end to physical distancing and mask wearing, and a return to some normalcy.
There is No Cure for COVID-19
The anti-COVID vaxxers will tell you that there is a cure for COVID-19 – this is FALSE! Don’t let this misinformation prevent you from protecting yourself and your loved ones.
There are treatments that are being used to try to stop the progression of COVID-19, but there is NOT a cure for COVID-19.
Getting the COVID Vaccine is Not Worse Than Getting COVID
The anti-COVID vaxxers will also tell you that getting the vaccine is worse than getting COVID – this is FALSE! Don’t let this misinformation prevent you from protecting yourself and your loved ones.
Researchers have found that there are long-term effects of getting COVID-19. Anthony L. Komaroff, MD (Editor in Chief, Harvard Health Letter) writes
“When people first started getting sick with COVID, doctors thought that it affected primarily the lungs. Unfortunately, we quickly learned that it also could affect the heart, kidneys, brain, and other organs.
“There also are people who survived COVID and have no evidence of injury to the heart, kidneys, or brain — but who nevertheless have not returned to full health. They still have fatigue, body aches, shortness of breath, difficulty concentrating, inability to exercise, headache, and trouble sleeping. Some studies find that more than 50% of people who “recovered” from COVID remain hobbled by these symptoms three months later. They can’t return to work. They can’t fulfill their responsibilities at home. They are being called “long haulers.”
The Mayo Clinic, in looking at those who get mildly sick from COVID, concluded:
“some people — even those who had mild versions of the disease — continue to experience symptoms after their initial recovery.
“These people sometimes describe themselves as ‘long haulers’ and the condition has been called post-COVID-19 syndrome or ‘long COVID-19.’
“Older people and people with many serious medical conditions are the most likely to experience lingering COVID-19 symptoms, but even young, otherwise healthy people can feel unwell for weeks to months after infection.
I also met the news of COVID vaccine approval with some trepidation. I like many people who had questions about how the vaccine works, been tested, and approved:
- Is the vaccine safe?
- What are the side effects of taking the vaccine?
- Was the approval of the vaccine politically motivated?
My Experience Getting the COVID Vaccine
However, what I probably should have feared most was the uncertainty and the efforts I would need to exert to get an appointment to receive the vaccine. I signed up on my state’s site to get the vaccine when it was approved and dutifully filled out the state requirements – giving my age, address, whether I was a frontline worker, whether I had an existing condition … and waited, and waited, and waited …
After some time and not getting an appointment for a vaccine shot, despite being in a priority group, my local news told me that individual clinics and hospitals were providing the vaccine outside of the state registration site. In short, a double vaccine system had been created – one run by the state in which I resided and one run by healthcare facilities that were able to get supplies of the COVID vaccine – in short, chaos!
When there was news that pharmacies were getting the COVID vaccine, I searched those sites online – no result.
I even entered into daily “lotteries” to get the vaccine – no result.
Then, out of the blue, I won the vaccine lottery – I got an email from a local hospital asking me to schedule a time to take the vaccine. I didn’t hesitate and scheduled the first available appointment for a few days later – and received back a confirmation of the time, as well as instructions to bring the email, ID, and proof of insurance. The email also said to “Please wear a mask when you arrive and ensure you wear clothing that allows access to your upper arm” and warned “If you have a fever or cold/respiratory symptoms on the date of your vaccine appointment, you will not be able to proceed with your vaccination.”
At the appointed time, I went to the vaccine site, a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) “mega” site at a nearby convention center. Even though it was still quite early in the morning, the parking lot at the convention center was full and a small queue of people had already formed at the entrance.
At the entrance, I showed the greeter my cell phone confirming my appointment, and then I found the end of the line. Looking at the long line, I thought that this is just like standing in line at Disneyland – only a fun ride was not at the end, only a much needed vaccine. Thankfully the line moved very quickly and I soon came to the first of four stations – at this first station, I showed my driver’s license and received back a numbered card, with the instructions that the card would be collected at the end.
I then joined another fast-moving line that brought me to the second station – the registration desk. Here I was greeted by a very pleasant young man from FEMA. As he entered the required information on a laptop, we chatted. I found that he was with the local national guard, that he is going to get married soon, and that he hopes to travel the world with his new wife.
He then sent me on my way to the third station filled with many partitions behind which clinicians were providing the vaccine shots to individuals. The nurse asked me whether this was my first dose of the vaccine, whether I had had COVID-19, and whether I had any of the medical conditions listed in large type on the 8.5” by 11” sheet. She told me that about 4,000 shots would be administered that day at the site (I don’t think she told everyone this – we were just chatting, I was curious and she was happy to engage in friendly discussion). She then proceeded to very efficiently put one end of a band aid on my left arm, swab the area to be injected, give the injection, and put the other end of the band-aid on my arm.
Getting the COVID vaccine shot was no different than getting any other vaccine.
The nurse then told me to go to the fourth and final station where I was to wait for 15 minutes before departing (negative reactions like anaphylaxis appear within the first few minutes of vaccination). She explained that I was also going to get a text scheduling my second vaccine dose, and that if I had any questions that there were people at the fourth station to answer my questions.
I did indeed get a text to schedule my next dose – which I scheduled for three weeks hence. As I waited for 15 minutes, I also signed up at the CDC site vsafe.cdc.gov, where in exchange for some basic contact information, I was told that vsafe would periodically check-in to see that I was ok. vsafe.cdc.gov has indeed checked in with me as promised. At this fourth station, there was also staff roaming around to ensure that all vaccine recipients were ok.
When my allotted 15 minutes were up, I exited the mega-site, where I turned in the numbered card I received at the first station and received a small bottle of hand sanitizer – good for use in the car, I thought.
The whole process from start to finish – about an hour.
Side effects – none. I have had NO side effects from getting the COVID vaccine. I have not had an anaphylactic event or Bill Gates’ microbes inserted into my bloodstream.
My advice – get the COVID vaccine when you can!
The Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety is pleased to announce that PPAHS is now an accredited provider of continuing professional development (CPD).
PPAHS will be providing CPD courses accredited through the CPD Standards Office, a world-leading accreditor.
CPD/CME credits are required annually to maintain medical licenses for doctors, nurses, and other clinicians. In addition, most hospitals require a specified number of credits for their physicians to remain credentialed to see patients. CPD and CME “help medical professionals maintain and upgrade their knowledge in the chosen medical field and broaden their personal and professional experience after obtaining the postgraduate degree and becoming specialists. Above all, CPD-CME enhances the quality of patient’s care by constantly improving the physician’s skills, broadening the physician’s professional outlook and helping him/her to keep up with the vast amount of scientific information constantly being generated.”
CPD is a broader term than CME covering different educational programs. Internationally there is a move from CME to CPD, and PPAHS’s accreditation as a CPD provider reflects PPAHS’s national and international following.
“The Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety has since its establishment in 2011 been a medical educator through our podcasts, webinars, and conference presentations,” explained Michael Wong, JD (Executive Director, PPAHS). “Being able to provide CPD credits for our activities now means that doctors, nurses, and other clinicians can receive recognition for participating in our educational initiatives.”
PPAHS’s first course offering CPD credits will be “Respiratory Compromise Prevention, Recognition, and Intervention.” Other courses are planned in critical issues to help improve patient safety and care, said Mr. Wong.
Editor’s Note: In this opinion piece, Elaine Vanessa an Occupational and Physical Therapist discusses why exercise plays such an important role in maintaining physical and mental health.
By Elaine Vanessa (Occupational and Physical Therapist, Dissertation Assistance)
A healthy mind needs a healthy body and vice-versa. This has been a known truth discovered by various physiologists and mental therapy professionals for quite some time.
Exercising on a routine basis can improve our moods the same way an unhealthy lifestyle can adversely impact our minds creating stress. Exercising at our homes, especially during this COVID-19 pandemic is a huge concern because a lot of people are feeling distraught and with some exercise, they can uplift their morals and feel more active.
According to a recent study by Statista.com, 27% of respondents to a survey conducted during April 2020 reported a decrease in exercise-related activities as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
Other than that, around 53% said they were exercising as usual as they were before the pandemic while surprisingly, 17% observed that they have been exercising more than usual.
In light of this information, let’s take a quick look at how a healthy exercise routine can play an important role in our lives.
Detoxifies Your Body
The human body is naturally gifted with a detox system that removes toxins from the body. However, with a sedentary lifestyle, much of our organs become inactive, overloaded, and lethargic with time. Frequently exercising regulates the functions of the human body that are necessary for our upkeep.
This keeps the body parts and organs in a healthy state where through the process of urination, defecation, and sweating toxins within our body are excreted out of our systems. Poor exercise can lead to the development of troubles related to metabolism and the digestive tract.
Enhanced Cognitive Functioning
When you exercise, not only do you detoxify your body but also helps in supporting brain health. This is due to the fact that exercise allows for better blood flow and circulation, along with making your lungs powerful.
This increases the supply of oxygen which the human brain relies on heavily. Many studies nowadays also report that exercise can reduce anxiety, depression, and stress which is why you see a lot of people practicing yoga and Tai Chi around the planet.
Apart from improving your body posture and helping you look more attractive, exercise also improves your skin, complexion, and acts like a de-aging agent. This can be especially true for special face exercises that reduce wrinkles and make your skin look younger.
Furthermore, regular exercise can also make your skin glow by helping you fight off toxins within the body that can affect your appearance. Exercise promotes collagen production, supports new skin cell development, and provides important nutrients to your skin from within.
Sleeping disorders are considered fatal if not managed properly. As human beings, we require our time to shut off and relax. Nighttime sleep in this regard is extremely important as this is where our biological clock restarts and rejuvenates our body, preparing it for the day ahead.
Missing sleep can result in the development of serious health issues and ailments. By exercising regularly, your body can achieve better nighttime sleep and lead to all-around improvements in your life.
Reduce Risk of Diseases
Exercise can be a major factor in improving your heart and well-being. Exercise increases tolerance of your body, improves cholesterol profile, better insulin sensitivity, as well as glucose levels. This all leads to greater life expectancy and a better quality of life.
People who suffer from cardiovascular troubles like coronary artery disease, valvular disease, and other heart diseases are often advised to walk or even jog if they can to improve their physical conditions.
Stronger Musculoskeletal System
The musculoskeletal system is made of the bones, cartilage, joints, ligaments, muscles, and various other connective tissues that support and bind organs together. It is a miracle of nature and therefore rightly deserves to be treated like a temple. Exercise is the need for your musculoskeletal to stay healthy and fit.
It not only leads to stronger bones and their development but also helps in the production of stronger muscles and ligaments. Exercising during the pandemic is a great way to care for your musculoskeletal system. Negating this health factor can lead to the development of health problems in the future.
It is a known fact that becoming a sloth will naturally make you more obese and that just consuming calories day after day without burning them can lead to serious concerns.
Exercise allows you to burn excess fat in your body as well as cleanse your inner systems from unhealthy nutrients forming a mass structure and collecting at one point.
This regulation of the human body and its system is a must and should be considered necessary for our upkeep. Today you can find a lot of regimens being sold commercially that can help you with your weight management.
This is neither a complete nor an exhaustive list of benefits that exercising can offer you in your life. Studies reveal that exercise also improves sex drive along with mental focus and the ability to concentrate. Overall exercising should be considered an obligation to avoid and combat unhealthy lifestyles that we have generally adopted, leading towards sedentary living.
Elaine Vanessa currently works as an Occupational and Physical Therapist at Dissertation Assistance. This is where higher education students can acquire research proposal writing service UK from professionals specializing in their field of study. During her free time, she likes to meditate and practice mindful yoga.
Will the US Reach COVID Herd Immunity?
Vaccination has been shown to be an effective measure to combat disease. As the World Health Organization (WHO) Bulletin proclaims, “Vaccination greatly reduces disease, disability, death and inequity worldwide.” Prior to the pandemic, there were vaccines for 17 diseases, many of which have prevented or eliminated critical public health crises, such as chicken pox, measles, mumps, and tetanus.
The latest vaccine is against COVID-19. In the United States, there are currently two COVID vaccines that have been approved by the FDA – the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine.
However, the success of vaccines to combat the COVID pandemic is dependent on whether enough people take it in order to achieve herd immunity. In a November 2020 report by McKinsey & Company, the end of COVID is not expected until the end of 2021 – “In the United States, while the transition to normal might be accomplished sooner, the epidemiological end point looks most likely to be reached in the second half of 2021.” This estimate is shared by Dr. Anthony Fauci (Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases) but he cautioned that his estimate is “dependent on significant numbers of Americans being willing to be inoculated with one of several vaccines in various stages of development.” Between 75 to 80 percent of Americans need to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity against COVID.
Whether enough people in the US are inoculated against COVID to achieve herd immunity is questionable. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that 27% of Americans are hesitant to take a COVID vaccine, “saying they probably or definitely would not get a COVID-19 vaccine even if it were available for free and deemed safe by scientists.” If this survey holds true, the US may not achieve COVID herd immunity.
To read the rest of the article, please click here.
There’s no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has shaken the world, and has had people worrying for their safety. While this can be a scary time for so many, that doesn’t mean that your mental health has to be jeopardized at times like this.
This quick guide will show you some of the many ways to improve and safeguard your mental health during the COVID-19 crisis:
Stick With A Routine
“People’s lives may have changed since the pandemic,” says Roger Kelly, a lifestyle writer at 1Day2Write and OriginWritings, “whether they’ve been furloughed from their jobs, or chosen to work from home instead. In that case, one must find ways to incorporate a new routine that they’re comfortable with, and stick with it. If there are things that HAVEN’T been affected by the pandemic, then stick with those routines like you’d normally would.”
Get Going, And Keep Going
Just because we’re in a pandemic right now, doesn’t mean that you should give up on tending to your own health. You should still keep up with yourself. Waking up in a depressive state can prevent you from going about your day.
Therefore, practice motivating yourself every day. And, practice continuing with life to the best of your ability. Remember: We’re all in this together.
No matter what you believe in – what religion, yoga, or meditation you involve yourself in – practice your beliefs in as many ways as possible. At times like these, it’s going to take a lot of praying, meditating, and so on.
Praying and meditating can help you get through the day, despite the catastrophic things that have transpired during the pandemic. Start with a saying: “I can do this!” or “I can handle myself!” When you turn to prayer and meditation, you’ll be one step closer to mindfulness, even at the darkest of times.
Have Consistent Meal Times
It’s important to feed yourself, even if it’s hard to swallow the truth about the pandemic. Also, keep in mind that while comfort foods are okay to have every once in a while, you must also have healthy foods in your meals. In addition, stick with regular meal times, so that you’re on an efficient schedule. Don’t resort to snacking mindlessly and excessively, especially whenever you’re bored or stressed out.
Get Good Sleep
“Times are tough right now, that it can be hard to sleep,” says Thomas Bridges, a psychology blogger at Write My X and Britstudent. “Or, you may be using sleep as an escape from the world as it is right now. However, it’s imperative to get the right amount of sleep every night. Have a schedule in place where you go to bed at a certain hour, and wake up at a certain hour. That means turning off the distractions and the noise at night, and getting into the zone. If it helps, read a book or listen to music. Or, you can listen to guided meditation, which are available for free on sites like YouTube. These routines allow you to observe your thoughts and how you’re feeling, so that you can get caught up with the present moment, and eventually fall asleep.”
Take Care Of Yourself
Finally, this cannot be stressed enough – take care of yourself. Yes, even YOU should be taken care of every so often. Life is already stressful enough; so, why not make sure that you’re doing okay mentally? Rather than kick yourself every time you make a mistake, or worry about negativity, think about all the positives that have transpired thus far in your life. And don’t forget: You’re not alone, when it comes to having feelings of isolation. Not only should you be a supportive person for friends and family, also be supportive of yourself.
While the COVID-19 crisis will continue to be challenging for everyone – even after the pandemic is over – it’s still important to safeguard your mental health. While you might experience a mix of emotions during this time, that’s normal.
As you keep in mind this article on protecting your mental health, you’ll be on your way to coming out stronger, even once the COVID-19 pandemic comes to pass.
So, take care and stay safe!
For more information on how to protect your mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic, please see “COVID Fatigue? Keeping the Mind Sharp at Home, Work, and Everywhere In-Between.”.
Regina Wheeler is an e-Learning consultant at Write My Dissertation and PhD Kingdom. She is also a contributing writer at Next Coursework. As a professional writer, she has been involved in many writing projects nationwide. As a blogger, she specializes in management, marketing, and finances.
By Pauline Dinnauer (VP, Audiological Care, Connect Hearing)
Just because it’s 2021, doesn’t mean the pandemic has ended. New Year’s Eve didn’t come with the flip of some magical switch that made COVID-19 disappear. COVID-19 is still very real, and very dangerous.
According to John Hopkins University, the virus has already claimed over two million lives. But even those who survive their brush with the disease might not be entirely out of the woods. There has been a steadily-growing body of evidence to suggest that COVID-19 may be responsible for a range of debilitating long-term effects.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these symptoms can last for weeks or months, and may include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Persistent cough
- Joint and chest pain
- Difficulty thinking and concentrating
- Muscle pains
- Intermittent fever
- Heart palpitations
- Issues with smell and taste
- Memory issues
- Heart inflammation
- Kidney damage
There could be even more long-term symptoms than seen above, too. even longer than the CDC suggests. This past October, meanwhile, medical journal BMJ Case Reports profiled a 45-year-old British man who suffered from rapid-onset hearing loss after being infected. A survey published in the International Journal of Audiology, meanwhile, saw one in 10 people self-report tinnitus or hearing impairment as a direct result of COVID.
It’s all rather frightening, at first glance, isn’t it? Let me be the first to caution you — take this information with a grain of salt. Most evidence we have of COVID-19’s long term effects is anecdotal, based on self-reporting from those who’ve fallen ill with the disease. The CDC is itself currently engaged in several multi-year studies to further analyze COVID’s long-term symptoms.
As for hearing impairment, we also have no guarantee of a connection there, either. While there’s a small chance that COVID-19 could exacerbate an underlying condition, it’s just as likely that the impairment is unrelated to the virus. It could just easily be a side-effect of medication.
“Antiviral medications have known adverse effects, including tinnitus and hearing loss…the symptoms may be misdiagnosed as being caused by COVID-19,” reads another study published in the International Journal of Audiology.
“Reports of audio-vestibular symptoms in confirmed COVID-19 cases are few and the publications are of poor quality…High-quality studies are required in different age groups to investigate the acute effects of coronavirus, including temporary effects that may be caused by, for example, medication, as well as for understanding long-term risks, on the audio-vestibular system.’
So, could COVID-19 be tied to hearing loss? We simply don’t know enough about the virus to say for certain. It’s not been around long enough for there to be an adequate body of peer-reviewed evidence into its long-term symptoms, and self-reporting can only be trusted to a certain point.
I want to emphasize that I am not saying the pandemic is not dangerous, nor that it shouldn’t be taken seriously. We’ve yet to fully understand the virus at this point in time. Even though we’ve developed a vaccine, there are still many things we don’t know, such as;
- Although per Live Science Magazine, we understand some of the risk factors that lead to severe infection, we still don’t know why it occasionally kills people without underlying conditions.
- How long someone’s antibodies render them immune to the virus after they’ve been infected.
- The viral load necessary for someone to be infected.
- If the virus spreads through both aerosols and droplets or solely through droplets.
In time, we’ll understand the long-term impact COVID-19 can have on its victims. But for now, it’s enough to say that it is one of the most dangerous pandemics we’ve faced in years. Wear your masks, obey all social distancing and lockdown guidance, and wash your hands.
Unless we take this seriously, it will only get worse.
Pauline Dinnauer is the VP of Audiological Care at Connect Hearing, which provides industry-leading hearing loss, hearing testing, and hearing aid consultation across the US.
“Stroke” – the word conjures about mental and physical disability. Indeed, stroke is a leading cause of serious long-term disability and reduces mobility in more than half of stroke survivors age 65 and over.
Mark McEwen is a reporter for CBS, but what many people may not know is that Mark has a common heart arrhythmia called atrial fibrillation (also known as AFib) and suffered a stroke, and has gone through extensive rehabilitation to regain what his stroke took away from him. As Mark told us – “I was in a coma, I was in intensive care for a week, I was in the hospital for a month, rehab for a year … I wouldn’t wish stroke on my worst enemy. It’s like being stuck in a block of ice – your brain can handle things, but it’s hard to speak, it’s hard to move, it changes everything.”
So that others may learn from Mark’s experience, Michael Wong, JD (Executive Director, Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety) interviewed Mark. Below are highlights and key messages from this interview which took place on October 22, 2020:
Mark Didn’t Know What Afib Was, but Now You Do
Mark had never heard about Afib until it struck him. As he said in the interview, “I didn’t know what Afib was. I’d never heard of it before, and all of a sudden, it’s an irregular heartbeat in my case and I take medication for it, but it was a surprise to me when the doctor said atrial fibrillation. Again, I never heard of it before. Now, I really know what it is.”
And so now that you’ve heard about Afib, ask your doctor about Afib and how to get tested for Afib – and, it’s a simple and painless procedure: “Typically, afib is diagnosed by a simple EKG or ECG (electrocardiogram) where several electrodes are placed on your skin to measure and record your heart’s electrical activity in wavelengths. It is painless and takes only a few minutes as you lie down for the test to be administered.”
Don’t Think That Afib Can’t Happen to You – Be Vigilant About Your Health
People often think that bad things won’t happen to you and it’s going to happen to someone else. Mark cautions against thinking that “bad things will happen to someone else and then one day guess what, my friend, they happened to me. I always say, you rarely if ever hear “lucky” and “stroke” in the same sentence. I’ve been lucky … I had no idea this was out there and that it would affect me .. I’m here to scream from the top of the highest trees, go check it out! It’s better to say “no, you don’t have to worry about that,” but if you do, again, it’s something that can be corrected and you can live with it, but, again, you have to be vigilant about your health.”
Don’t Delay Seeing Your Doctor – Doctors’ Offices are Safe, Even During COVID
In a recent survey of its followers, the Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety found that many patients have delayed or not seen a doctor because of COVID-19. Fear of getting COVID-19 is particularly high in patients with Afib and other cardiovascular diseases – more than nine of ten (92%) of whom were extremely concerned or moderately concerned. As a result, more than half of the respondents with Afib or cardiovascular disease reported that they had delayed or not gone to see a doctor during this COVID pandemic (53%). Studies have found that patients have delayed seeing a doctor, resulting in more at-home heart attacks and delayed ED visits during the COVID-19 pandemic. Such delays are particularly significant for patients with atrial fibrillation or other cardiovascular diseases because such patients are at a higher risk of a heart attack.
“Like everyone else, Mike, I was afraid, scared to see the doctor. I had my medication, I could have it – when it ran out – go to CVS, they would call my physician, fill up my medication, but I had to go in.
“Mike, it’s hard for people to go in, but I’ll tell you this, doctors’ offices might be one of the safest places to go, because they’re busy wiping down things – wear your mask, wash your hands, all that – they are on the forefront of being safe.
“If you go to, say, Home Depot or you go to Target, it’s a bit different than going to your doctor’s office. They’re more aware of safety when going to the doctor’s office. I would tell people ‘don’t be afraid to go into your doctor’s office.’”
You Can’t Forget Your Anniversary, You Can’t Forget Your Wife’s Birthday – Don’t Forget to Take Your Medications
Low adherence to physician-prescribed medications has consistently been observed across all classes of medications and disease states – about half of patients with chronic diseases do not take their medications as prescribed by their physicians. Medication non-adherence may especially have serious consequences with cardiovascular patients. This is particularly the case with those patients diagnosed with Afib.
From the interview with Michael Wong and Mark McEwen:
Mark – “So, I have that case where it says “Monday,” “Tuesday,” “Wednesday,” “Thursday” where I put all of my pills. So, every morning I make sure I take all my pills. And, with my blood thinner, I have to take it twice a day, so I have a smaller “Monday,” “Tuesday,” “Wednesday,” “Thursday” right next to my bed, so after dinner I take the other pill for my Afib.
There’s a couple of things you can’t forget – you can’t forget your anniversary, you can’t forget your wife’s birthday.
Mike – Not if you want to stay married for long.
Mark – Exactly! Exactly! And, you can’t forget your medication, you can’t do that. You can forget what day it is, you can forget to take the dog out, but try hard not to forget your medication … Be part of the solution, because you don’t want your forgetfulness to be part of the problem.
To listen to the interview, please go to the PPAHS YouTube Channel.
For a transcript of the interview, please click here.
To read more about Mark’s experience, please go to Mark McEwen’s website.
By Angela Hughes (Writer and Editor for Anapol Weiss, a personal injury law firm)
In the pre-COVID era, most people longed for more time at home, but if there’s one thing that 2020 has taught us, it’s that too much of a good thing isn’t always good.
The pandemic pushed people inside and away from family, friends, and co-workers. Although necessary, unstructured time at home can lead to boredom, stress, and mental health issues. Brain fog may set in and cause a decrease in memory and cognition.
The good news is that there are healthy ways to cope with COVID fatigue and keep your mind sharp wherever you happen to be.
Create a Healthy Routine
During uncertain times such as these, it’s important to feel like you maintain some control over your life. You can do this by maintaining your healthy habits and creating a routine that works for your situation. Doing so will help give you a sense of normalcy and ease anxiety.
In an article for Healthline, clinical psychotherapist Erin Wiley notes that, “In order for our minds to function at maximum efficiency, we must have order and stability, and right now it’s harder than ever to have either. Simple habits that we may have previously done — making the bed, blow drying our hair — are simple activities we can do to remind our brain that life is still going on despite the interruptions we are facing.”
Your routine may not look exactly as it once did, but you can establish a new one that’s similar. Set your alarm and wake up at the same time every day. If you showered before work before COVID or worked out afterward, maintain those habits. You can also create checklists to help you stay organized and power through work tasks.
Use the Internet Mindfully
It’s easy to hop online and scroll through social media for hours, but to keep your mind sharp, consider using technology to inspire and educate yourself.
Stimulate your mind by taking an online course, learning a new language, following guided meditations, or taking virtual tours through a museum. You can find everything from gallery tours and library collections to podcasts and wellness resources for free.
If you’re feeling digitally fatigued, you can also keep your mind sharp by reading books and playing offline games. According to a study published in JAMA Psychiatry in 2018, people over age 65 who participated in intellectual activities, like reading and playing card games, had a significantly lower risk of dementia.
Stress affects brain cells and wreaks all kinds of havoc on your life. If you’re not getting adequate sleep, feel anxious most of the time, or are stressed out about work and life in general, you could find yourself physically ill, depressed, forgetful, and irritable. Additionally, you could be at a higher risk of getting into car accidents.
Even if you’re not driving as much as you used to or taking the long commute to work, you could still end up careless behind the wheel and in car accidents. The Association for Psychological Science says that a history of stress may contribute to anxiety while driving, leading to accidents.
One of the best ways to target stress is to practice mindfulness and breathing techniques. Meditation has a lot of research behind it, and it’s been shown to reduce anxiety and depression and increase certain areas of the brain. You can find various meditation videos online to suit your preferences: guided, visual, music only, etc. Experiment with different kinds to see what works best for you.
You can also incorporate deep breathing exercises into your daily routine. For five to ten minutes a day, breathe slowly in through your nose and out through your mouth. Research has shown that slow, controlled breathing calms the mind. A peaceful mind can make decisions more easily and respond to outside events in a calmer manner.
Keeping your body strong and healthy also keeps your mind sharp. Exercise boosts blood flow to the brain and increases the part of your brain (hippocampus) associated with learning and memory. The best part is, a little bit of exercise goes a long way, so you don’t need to run on the treadmill for six hours daily to see the benefits.
Try walking or cycling three times a week or workout to an online video. It’s also beneficial to include resistance training into your physical activities. Brush off those dusty hand weights and start building a little body and brain muscle.
You may not always know what will happen in the future or control how this pandemic will pan out, but you do have the power to control what’s happening in your mind and how you respond to uncertainty.
Keeping your mind sharp and your body healthy will help you navigate daily life, even in the post-COVID world. Whether you end up using the internet mindfully or lower stress from potential risks like car accidents, these tips above can help you stay sharp.
Angela Hughes is a writer and editor for Anapol Weiss, a personal injury law firm. She writes about driving safety and personal safety tips to keep the world a little bit safer.