Monday, November 28, 2011


Distracted driving must be taken seriously

Over the holiday weekend, there was some good news to report on Connecticut roadways: There was a significant decrease in arrests and tickets related to driving under the influence, seat belt violations, speeding and other moving violations.

This might very well have to do with the many efforts aimed at educating the public. For many, the messages have finally sunk in. You just don’t see as many people driving under the influence or not wearing their seat belts.

For the most part, we have seen this trend at The William W. Backus Hospital as well. As Trauma Program Manager, the statistics do seem to show a decrease in car crashes related to these reckless behaviors.

Unfortunately, there is one area where the news isn’t so good. We continue to see many people hospitalized and/or injured due to distracted driving. Whether it is talking on the phone, sending a text or even drinking a cup of coffee, these behaviors continue to cause tragedy on our roads.

Nationally, approximately 40 percent of teens report being in a car at some point with a driver using a cell phone. And as cell phones have moved into the age of smart phones with texting and internet access, the temptations have only increase.

What can we do about this?

First, all of us must continue to do our best to educate young people on the dangers of distracted driving.

In recent years, we have modified our Be Aware program at Backus to include this message. Previously, this program focused only on showing teens the dangers of driving under the influence, speeding and seat belts.

But distracted driving can be just as deadly. Some of the worst crashes – and major tragedies – I have seen in recent years are related to distracted driving.

It all starts with educating our youth, combined with laws banning cell phone use while driving and enforcement. We need distracted driving to be taken as seriously as other moving violations. Lives depend on it.

Gillian Mosier is a registered nurse and manager of the Backus Trauma Program. 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. Mosier or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

Monday, November 21, 2011


Winter months bring more than just cold feet

Podiatrists deal with many foot conditions -- sports injuries, fractures, bunions, arthritis pain, and lower extremity wound care.

With the weather turning colder, there is an increase in some of these.

That is because in the summer, we allow our feet to stretch out and even slightly widen in open, loose-fitting shoes. As the weather changes, the shoes become more constrictive, which increases many issues from bunion pain to joint pain to numbness and sores and ingrown toenails. Proper shoe-fitting is a simple key to decrease rubbing pressure that can increase the chance of developing a problem.

During the colder weather, there is decreased humidity in the air, which can increase dry, cracked skin throughout the body. Specifically on the feet and legs, these cracks can open, bleed and become infected. Proper skin hydration lotions, a bedside humidifier and limited barefoot time are simple preventative measures that help reduce these issues.

Another concern during the winter months is for people with poor circulation, neuropathy or diabetes. There is already decreased circulation to the legs, and in the colder months, not protecting with appropriate garments can lead not only to increased symptoms, such as pain, color change and burning, but could even lead to sores, infections and amputations.

If you’re experiencing any of these conditions, you should seek medical attention before the problems become worse.

Dr. Eric Levine is a podiatrist who is on staff at the Backus Wound Care and Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Center. This column should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. If you want to comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Dr. Levine or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

Monday, November 14, 2011


You can prevent deadly carbon monoxide poisoning

With the recent snowstorm and power outages, carbon monoxide poisoning has made lots of news. And as the cold weather continues to make its way into the region, this public health threat will remain.

It is important to make the community aware of this condition because it is very treatable, and more importantly, preventable.

Carbon monoxide is a toxic gas, but, being colorless, odorless, tasteless, and initially non-irritating, it is very difficult for people to detect.

Carbon monoxide poisoning is the most common cause of injury and death by poisoning -- both accidental and intentional (suicide). Inhaling even small amounts can be fatal. Serious neurological effects may be delayed days or weeks after acute poisoning. Chronic exposure may cause persistent headaches, dizziness, and nausea, if not permanent neurological damage.

Sources of carbon monoxide include fuel-burning vehicles, heaters, and cooking equipment. It is important to always operate this equipment in a well-ventilated area to avoid the accumulation of carbon monoxide in a closed space.

Since the gas is odorless and non-irritating, people can be fooled into thinking no harm is being done until symptoms come about. Symptoms of mild poisoning include lightheadedness, confusion, and headaches and larger exposures can lead to significant toxicity of the nervous system and heart, and even death. The most important rescue measure is to remove individuals from the source of the carbon monoxide build up.

Red blood cells that provide oxygen to the human body have more affinity for the carbon monoxide molecule and displace the oxygen molecule. This results in much lower levels of oxygen reaching the organs of the body. Since the brain is very sensitive to changes in oxygen levels, it is usually the first organ affected. Hence, the early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning tend to be neurologic in nature.

Treatment of poisoning largely consists of administering 100% oxygen or providing hyperbaric oxygen therapy. High concentrations of oxygen work as an antidote as it increases the removal of carbon monoxide from hemoglobin, in turn providing the body with normal levels of oxygen. As I mentioned earlier, the hemoglobin has a higher affinity for carbon monoxide than oxygen, so the only way to combat poisoning is to provide very high oxygen concentrations to compete for these binding sites. Hyperbaric oxygen works by utilizing high concentrations and pressure of oxygen to achieve an even higher competitive advantage than can be achieved with even 100% oxygen not delivered this way.

Carbon monoxide poisoning is a significant public health issue. Domestic carbon monoxide poisoning can be prevented by early detection with the use of household carbon monoxide detectors. Avoiding usage of carbon monoxide-producing equipment in a closed space and recognizing the early symptoms are key to avoiding long term health issues with carbon monoxide poisoning.

Mark Tramontozzi, MD, is the Medical Director of the Backus Wound Care and Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Center, which is located in the Backus Outpatient Care Center on Salem Turnpike in Norwich. This column should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. If you want to comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Dr. Tramontozzi or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

Monday, November 07, 2011


In the face of adversity, everyday heroes come through

With Veterans Day approaching, we will be appropriately saluting our military heroes.

But in these increasingly stressful times, we should consider reflecting on our everyday heroes as well.

Christopher Reeve described a hero as “an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.”

As a community health nurse, I see healthcare heroes every day.

But I have also witnessed the behaviors and actions of numerous people I would classify as behind-the-scenes “heroes.” They have no fame, notoriety or recognition for their tireless efforts on behalf of others.

Look around eastern Connecticut. Perhaps you know ordinary individuals who quietly live their lives in the spirit of a hero described by Reeve.

In our own community, a woman cares for her husband who became paraplegic due to an auto accident. She bathes, feeds, dresses, and toilets him day after day, and manages to work full time to support them. Yet she always has a cheerful smile or a hug for anyone who needs it.

A young newlywed couple canceled their honeymoon plans to become instant foster parents to an infant who was born to a heroin-addicted mother. The foster father completed his military service and they soon became foster parents to another toddler. Both babies had to undergo months of withdrawal symptoms and still have resulting ongoing developmental delays. They are happy, well-adjusted children, due to the tireless efforts of these “ordinary heroes.”

A 24-year-old woman gave up her job to care for her terminally ill father, a Gulf War Veteran. Hospice provided support, but the daughter took on the tremendous responsibility for feeding, repositioning, bathing, and delivering his pain medications as his cancer progressed.

A couple with twins, both of whom are autistic, spend countless hours providing therapy for their children. Yet they manage to find time to work tirelessly for the Autism Speaks organization, advocating and fundraising for other families facing the immense challenges of raising autistic children.

These are just a few examples of “everyday heroes.” They are quietly walking among us, with little awareness of how they are admired as they make the world a better place.

Alice Facente is a registered nurse and clinical educator at the The William W. Backus Hospital Education Department. 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. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?