My mother died two years after being diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer. She had for years believed strongly in naturopathy, so after a six-month period of remission, when her cancer returned after a round of integrating complementary medicine with chemotherapy, she chose to treat her cancer solely with alternative treatments.
I am a nurse who believes in evidence-based practice and also in innovation. I accepted my mother’s decision not to use chemo when her cancer came back because I knew from researching the disease that when ovarian cancer comes back, life expectancy is similar with or without chemo.
So, despite my reluctance to trust treatments that have not been tested for safety or efficacy, I reasoned that little harm could come from alternative treatment methods at this point.
I watched as my 73-year-old mother spent the last year of her life replacing the foods she loved with concoctions of cottage cheese mixed with flaxseed oil. I listened as she justified spending thousands of dollars and hours of her precious remaining time traveling many miles to receive vitamin C infusions.
Hope for ‘miracles’
As she grew more ill, I gently questioned the supplements she was taking — often so many that there was no room left in her shrinking stomach for any food. And at times, when I could find evidence that a treatment had been scientifically tested — and proved not to be effective — I shared a strong opinion.
Being called a “hero” by her colleagues seems a bit strange to Joselyne Nicolalde, BSN, RN, a nurse in Rush University Medical Center’s cardiac intensive care unit.
After all, Nicolalde says she did what any one of them would have done when a teenage girl was pulled from Lake Michigan unresponsive and not breathing after a near-drowning incident. She sprang into action.
She was enjoying an afternoon at Montrose Beach with her 10-year-old son and a friend on Aug. 14 when they heard people yelling for help.
“I looked up and saw a man holding what seemed to be a lifeless girl on the shore,” she recalled. “I couldn’t believe my eyes. I had to do something.”
‘She lacked a pulse’
Nicolalde and a lifeguard were the first to reach the girl. “She lacked a pulse and was unresponsive at the time, so we immediately administered CPR. There was a return of circulation shortly thereafter. It wasn’t long before the paramedics arrived and took over.”
The barista had at least six tattoos ranging in size from a small rose on the inside of his wrist to a half-sleeve depicting a landscape scene.
When I asked about them, he smiled and told me each one had a special meaning. Then he rolled up his sleeve to show a disfigured area of skin from an infection on one tattoo on his shoulder. His only regret was not talking with someone knowledgeable about the process — beforehand.
The T-Mobile commercial airing on television takes a lighthearted jab at regrettable tattoos as two 30-something women sit poolside, their backs emblazoned with matching tattoos. The song, “Always Something There to Remind Me” plays in the background. It’s innocuous and funny.
Yet sometimes complications from body modifications can be severe and permanent. I know. Because in my health care practice, teens often talk about body modifications but don’t ask questions about health safety, prevention or maintenance.
Believe me, beyond the artful ink are many stories of work that went awry.
Health insurance is a common proxy measurement for access to health care services. That is, if a person has health insurance, they also have access to health care services and time to seek regular visits. Unfortunately this isn’t always the case.
A new Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index shows the number of adults without health insurance is up 3.5 million this year. But those with health insurance also may not have access to doctors, nurses or clinics.
One of those Americans is my patient; I’ll call him Joe. He has worked two full-time jobs for all of his adult life. Joe is 57 years old and regularly works the evening shift six or seven days a week from 2 to 11 p.m. in a distribution factory operating heavy machinery. He then clocks in for his night shift warehouse job at another factory from midnight to 7 a.m.
For nearly 30 years, Joe has had about four hours of sleep a day between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. He smiles proudly and says he supported his family with his tough schedule. He put three kids through college and now all three are independent, successful professionals who are free from college loan debt. He and his wife own their home and two vehicles outright.
In my role as lung cancer screening coordinator at Rush, I have the pleasure of working on a program that has the ability to save lives by identifying lung cancer that otherwise would go undetected.
In doing so, I hope to spare my patients and their families the sadness and grief one experiences when diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. I know and understand lung cancer on a very personal level.
To understand my relationship with this disease, one has to learn a bit more about me. Here is my story.
I always wanted to be a nurse. When I graduated from high school, my family encouraged me to focus my career on business. I held positions in advertising and marketing. Looking back, I was always restless and never quite satisfied with my work.
‘Love, laughter, tears’
Fast forward many years to helping my mother, a widowed lifelong smoker, who recently downsized to a senior apartment. Tired and blaming the move for her unsteady gait, in the back of my mind, I wondered if she might have a brain tumor because of lung cancer. My worst fears came true when a few weeks later she was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer that already spread to her brain.
By Chris Spaletto, MAAT, ATR, and Kevin Pittman, RN, BSN
If you are on the Rush campus this week, you may see us giving purple-and-teal-colored ribbons to passersby. As clinicians at the Rush Day Hospital — the outpatient adult program in the Department of Psychiatry — we and other psychiatry units at Rush are doing our part to promote awareness of National Suicide Prevention Week.
The Rush Day Hospital treats people 18 years and older diagnosed with affective disorders and other conditions that interfere with relationships and daily functioning. We work collaboratively as a team, which includes nursing, social work, art therapy and a psychiatrist who serves as our medical director.
Here are some important facts about suicide:
In the United States, 50 percent more people die by suicide each year than from homicide.
Experts believe that most suicidal individuals do not want to die. They just want to end the pain.
When suicide risk or intent is detected early, lives can be saved.
There’s a saying that nurses make the worst patients. Now I understand why, and it makes me even prouder of my fellow nurses and the work we do every day.
I’m an advanced practice nurse who has worked in Rush for the past three years. I also recently gave birth to my twin sons at Rush.
I was admitted to the hospital in November for gestational hypertension (pregnancy-induced high blood pressure). I was at such risk for pre-eclampsia — a kind of hypertension disorder that’s a leading cause of maternal and infant death — that my doctors determined I needed to deliver a few days after I was admitted. I was 35 weeks pregnant at the time.
Fred Brown is director of nursing psychiatry at Rush
By Fred Brown
Minor daily stressors can actually be good for us, keeping us on our toes, alert and even motivated. But as many of us know, stress can get away from us and feel out of control very quickly.
Excessive stress can have a negative effect on your health and lead to more severe issues such as anxiety, depression and even cardiac events.
Here are five ways you can celebrate national Stress Awareness Month and minimize stressors in your daily life:
Laugh and connect
We’ve all heard the phrase “laughter is the best medicine,” and you may have had the experience when a good belly laugh felt like you just took an emotional jog around the block. Many of us are together daily and have been together for years, knowing each other well. Connecting with each other on a daily basis is important. Take time each day to enjoy your relationships through laughing or having lunch together.