Monday, April 25, 2011


When the female body begins to change, watch for common health conditions

While many women aren’t impacted by major health issues when they are young, once they hit their mid-30s it is time to be aware of some common health conditions.

That’s because women’s bodies begin to change at this time, and it is important to know the signs and symptoms of illnesses and chronic diseases. Some of them are non-life threatening but impair quality of life, while others, like cancer, can be fatal.

Common non-life threatening gynecological issues can include:

• Endometriosis, a painful tissue condition that can cause infertility.

• Uterine fibroids, which are sometimes painful non-cancerous tumors.

• Uterine and pelvic prolapse, a condition sometimes caused by childbirth in which the muscles and ligaments in the pelvic region stretch or weaken, causing the uterus, vagina, bladder or rectum to move out of its normal position. This affects one in every three women, according to the National Institute of Health.

• Urinary incontinence, which millions of women suffer from, sometimes as the result of childbirth or menopause.

Treatment options for these conditions can include everything from lifestyle changes to minimally invasive surgery.

Gynecological cancer, which according to the Centers for Disease Control is diagnosed in 80,000 each year, include:

• Cervical cancer,

• Uterine cancer, including endometrial cancer

• Ovarian cancer

Treatment options for these forms of cancer include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and hormone therapy.

To learn more about women’s health issues, The William W. Backus Hospital, United Community & Family Services, da Vinci Women’s Health and are teaming up to offer a free program, “Focus on Women’s Health,” on Wednesday, April 27, from 6:30-8 p.m.

Dr. Reid Gentile, of United Community & Family Services and I will lead a discussion on menopause, hormone replacement therapy and the da Vinci robotic surgical system, which can be used for hysterectomy and other surgical procedures. To register, call 860-889-8331, ext. 2495.

As women age, it is more important than ever to know the signs, symptoms and treatment options available for a variety of common conditions. Please join us to learn more, and to see demonstrations of the da Vinci robot.

Suzelle Hendsch, MD, is an OB-GYN and robotic surgeon on the Backus Hospital Medical Staff and a member of OB/GYN Services of Norwich. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your personal physician. If you want to comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Dr. Hendsch or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

Monday, April 18, 2011


Volunteers are special people

The numbers are staggering. At The William W. Backus Hospital, our 464 volunteers – ranging in age from 14 to 97 – donated 47,414 hours in the past year.

Some of our loyal, dedicated volunteers put in more than 500 hours in the past year; some have volunteered more than 7,500 hours in their lifetimes; and some have been selflessly been doing it for more than a half century.

But more important than these numbers are words. During National Volunteer Week April 10-16, we asked our hospital volunteers to jot down on paper what volunteering means to them. Here are some excerpts:

• “I volunteer at Backus because I enjoy helping people and it gives me a reason to stay healthy.”

• “I volunteer to give back to Backus for the good experience my family has had in the past.”

• “I volunteer because four years ago, I found myself all alone. I was very lonely, and wanted to do something meaningful with my time. I became a volunteer 3½ years ago, and it is the best thing I could have done. I have met wonderful people that I have learned to love. We have a great time together. I will volunteer as long as the Lord lets me.”

• “I volunteer to get out of the house and into the real world!”

• “Five reasons why I volunteer: 1) I want to help people. 2). I like the social part of it and meeting all the people. 3) I want to do something useful with my spare time. 4) I want to give back to my community. 5) It’s lots of work, but lots of fun, too.”

• “I needed to feel needed. Someone, somewhere, could use my extra time to do something useful. A friend at the Senior Center asked me to come to Backus and see if I liked doing volunteer work. My first assignment: HospiTell (employee newsletter) mailing. Then, discharging. Making charts came next. I’m still doing this, and feeling very proud of the time I give to Backus.”

• “I enjoy being with people who are experiencing difficult times, and hopefully providing them with some degree of consolation.”

• “I volunteer because it makes my hear feel good. Putting a smile on a patient’s face, helping out a hospital employee, or just helping a patient get from one place to another — it lifts my heart, and makes me feel like I made a difference in someone else’s day.”

• “First and foremost, I volunteer to help our community hospital. Second, working for a pleasant and dedicated director, which makes our job that much more pleasant. Third, the self-satisfaction of helping someone.”

Fulfillment. Purpose. Friendship. Making a difference. These words epitomize volunteers, at Backus Hospital and in many organizations.

It takes special kinds of people to volunteer, and we are lucky to have these individuals in our midst.

Our hospital, our community, our state, our nation and our world are better places because of them.

If you would like to support our volunteer program, and enjoy the sounds of Tony Bennett in the process, please consider purchasing tickets to a benefit concert on Friday, June 24, at the Mohegan Sun. Although the show is sold out, the Mohegan Tribe has graciously donated a skybox for this cause. Tickets are $150 and include a pre-concert reception at 6:30 p.m. and refreshments. All proceeds benefit our not-for-profit hospital’s Volunteer Bridge Program, which provides career exploration and hands-on experience for more than 100 young men and women each summer.

Mary Brown is the Director of Volunteer Services at The William W. Backus Hospital. If you want to comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog or e-mail Ms. Brown or any of the Healthy Living columnists

Monday, April 11, 2011


Connection between hunger and obesity is not as far-fetched as it sounds

An Eagle Scout created an inner city garden for poverty stricken inner city children to grow and eat fresh vegetables. But the health department halted the well-intentioned effort due to regulations requiring the food to be inspected.

Supermarkets moved out of the inner city to the suburbs, but public transportation never adjusted, leaving urban families without a way to access fresh food, only fast food.

As childhood obesity continued to increase, nutritional education decreased in schools.

These are all true scenarios in Connecticut, issues that Food Policy Councils like the one recently established in New London County can tackle. Coupled with programs like the Backus Weight Loss Center and continued collaboration with other organizations, are positioning ourselves well to handle the number one health threat in eastern Connecticut – obesity.

United Way of Southeastern Connecticut, Backus Hospital, Lawrence and Memorial Hospital, Thames Valley Council for Community Action, FRESH New London and others are among those partnering on the newly formed New London County Food Policy Council, which is attempting to systematically fix food issues in region.

Interestingly, this obesity problem is connected to hunger. While at first glance this seems like an unlikely pairing, further reflection enables us to comprehend why this is not so far-fetched.

The exodus of food markets from urban areas to the suburbs is one of the ways that hunger and obesity connect. As the stores with fresh fruits and vegetables moved, they were replaced by fast food establishments, leaving those without transportation with too many super-sized, unhealthy options.

Couple this with increasing reliance on food pantries – the local Gemma E. Moran United Way Labor Food Center reports distribution of 2,000 pounds of donated food in the past year – and not all of it was healthy.

What can we do to help? An easy first step is when you donate food, don’t just just dust off the old box of macaroni and cheese hiding in the corner of your cupboard. Think about healthier food options, such as canned vegetables.

Our nursing staff will be taking a step in this direction when they conduct a food drive in the Backus cafeteria beginning May 2-6. The food drive, done in conjunction with National Nurses Week, will focus on collecting healthy products. They contacted the food center and obtained a list of healthier food that you can donate, which includes canned tuna, canned vegetables, fruits, rice, instant potatoes, pasta, healthy cereal like oatmeal, peanut butter and baby food.

Please consider donating to this important cause. It’s one of the small but important steps we can take towards better health in our community.

Mark Tousignant, MD, is a minimally invasive general surgeon with Backus Physician Services and Medical Director of the Backus Weight Loss Center. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your personal physician. If you want to comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Dr. Tousignant or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

Monday, April 04, 2011


Occupational therapy helps patients return to everyday activities

Occupational Therapy helps people of all ages to live life to its fullest. It promotes health and helps people prevent — or live better with — injury, illness, or disability. It is a practice deeply rooted in science and evidence-based, which means that the plan designed for each person is supported by data, experience, and the most proven treatments that have been developed over time.

April is National Occupational Therapist Month. Occupational Therapists and occupational therapy assistants focus on doing whatever occupations or activities are meaningful to the individual. It is occupational therapy’s mission to tackle physical obstacles that prevent a person from living life to its fullest. Solutions to these obstacles may be adaptations for how to do a task of daily living, changes to the person’s surroundings, or helping individuals to alter their own behaviors and expectations.

When working with an occupational therapist practitioner, strategies and modifications are customized for each individual to resolve problems, improve function, and support everyday living activities.

The goal is to maximize a person’s physical potential and instill self confidence and independence. Through these therapeutic approaches, occupational therapy helps individuals design their lives, develop needed skills, adjust their environments (for example home, school, or work) and build health-promoting habits and routines that will allow then to thrive and be successful in all environments.

By taking the full picture into account — peoples’ psychological, physical, emotional, and social makeup, as well as their environment — occupational therapy assists clients to:

• Achieve personal goals
• Function at the highest possible level in their environments
• Concentrate on what matters most to them
• Maintain or rebuild their independence
• Participate in daily activities.

Occupational therapists are dedicated healthcare professionals who aren’t always in the spotlight. But Occupational Therapy Month is a time for them to shine.

Kim Tattersall is an occupational therapist with Backus Rehabilitation Services. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your personal physician. If you want to comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Tattersall or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

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