Have a Heart – It’s National Organ Donor Day (February 14th)

Close Up Of Doctor Holding Cardboard Heart

(PCM) If you’ve ever given your heart away, you know that love is one of life’s greatest gifts. But here’s something else to consider this Valentine’s Day: one of love’s greatest gifts is life.

February 14th is National Donor Day (a.k.a. National Organ Donor Day). Started in 1998 as a collaboration between the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Saturn Corporation, the United Auto Workers Union and various health organizations, Donor Day has become an annual nationwide effort to raise awareness for organ, eye, tissue, marrow, platelet and blood donation.

Many of us are willing enough to donate our dollars, our time, or our goods to a needy cause – it makes us feel good to make a difference.

But finding people to volunteer for physical donations – giving up parts of ourselves, literally – can be challenging. It can make us think about our own mortality – since, let’s face it, the only time we’re eligible to donate something like a heart is when we don’t need it anymore.

And while you don’t have to be a goner to be a donor (a living, healthy person can provide a plethora of parts, including blood and blood components, stem cells, bone, marrow, skin, amnion (after childbirth), umbilical cord blood, or organs such as a kidney, pancreas, a lobe of a lung, or part of a liver or intestine), the decision to be a living donor is still a very personal one – and also, for some, still icky to think about.

But not thinking about it is a luxury many people can no longer afford. The American Red Cross reports that 41,000 blood donations are needed every day. Although an estimated 38 percent of the U.S. population is eligible to donate blood, less than 10% actually do.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, over 120,000 people are currently on an organ transplant list; – enough to fill two professional football stadiums – but only a fraction of those will ever receive a transplant. An average 22 people die waiting, every day.

Just think of the difference it would make if every person who could be a donor would be a donor.
Part of the mission of National (Organ) Donor Day is to educate people so they can make informed choices about end-of-life issues (such as organ donation/living wills) and living donations.

There are many avenues to becoming a (hero)donor.

  • Say “yes” to the question at the DMV. This puts you on a donor list in your home state, so your wishes for end-of-life donations are a matter of public record. It’s free and easy. Many states will you register online. Plus you get a pretty little Valentine on your driver’s license.
  • Blood and blood components (like plasma or platelets) can be collected through blood drives – businesses, schools and community groups often hold drives in January for National Blood Donor Month – or in regional donation centers. Many centers offer incentives to donors like money, free health checkups, membership benefits (blood when and if you ever need it!) and cookies. I mean, come on. Cookies.
  • If someone you know is in need of a transplant and you’re thinking about helping out, you can usually contact the hospital/transplant center where they are registered. Ask to be evaluated as a potential donor – the process is free and confidential and, again, often includes a comprehensive health examination at no cost to you. You could even be eligible for reimbursement of travel, subsistence, and other expenses related to your mission. (Visit livingdonorassistance.org)
  • Even if you don’t personally know a transplant patient in need, you can give the gift of life by becoming an altruistic donor – someone who signs up to donate just because it feels like the right thing to do. There are many online registries for different types of donations. Organdonor.gov and optn.transplant.hrsa.gov are run by the Department of Health and Human Services. Unos.org (United Network for Organ Sharing) and redcross.org (The American Red Cross) are also excellent places to start.

If you can’t be a donor for health, religious, or personal reasons, you can still help support the cause. Health organizations area always looking for volunteers, financial donations, or even just a signal boost.

When someone wishes you Happy Valentine’s Day today, have a heart – wish them a National Donor Day too!

The post Have a Heart – It’s National Organ Donor Day (February 14th) also appeared on PCM Lifestyle.

My Journey To Health, Doctors 101

Lucy-PsychToday I decided to write doctors 101, which I should probably apologize ahead of time to all my friends who are doctor for having the audacity to write this.

This is going to seem fairly simple to some of you, but for others it will help.  I have found a lot of confusion out there regarding the terms we are going to discuss.

First the MD.  MD stands for medical doctor.  A medical doctor is the one who takes care of you when you’re sick.  At this point in time I have 4 medical doctors.  The first one is my Primary Care Physician, otherwise known as a PCP.  In the past we would use the term family doctor, I have no idea why that changed.  Your PCP takes care of your general health.  A cold, the flu, and your regular aches and pains, blessed is the person who only ever sees a PCP.

We need to take a break hear now and add the PA or The Physician’s Assistant.  A PA can do the things a doctor can do only he does them under the immediate supervision of an MD.  In reality I am not sure how this works in the office.  I, however, see a PA and I have a high respect for him.  He treats me well and thinks of alternatives to regular meds which sometimes really help.

Next you have the specialists.  We are no longer in the days of the Wild West.  Where your town had one doctor and he helped you with your cold and set your broken leg.  After a certain level of treatment your PCP may advise you to see a specialist.  I have three, 1, a podiatrist for my feet, 2 a neurologist for my brain and 3 a psychiatrist for mental health issues.

Now let’s take a look at the PHD.  The PHD is a doctor of philosophy and as many as there are subjects under the sun you can have a PHD.  You can have a PHD in English, Math, Botany, Theology, Religion; Music the list is really endless.  I see one PHD and that is my Psychologist.

As mentioned above a Psychiatrist is an MD and he is.  A psychiatrist takes care of the medical side of emotional and mental illness.  He supplies the medications you may need such as anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds.  I have found that there are two types of Physiatrists.  The first you see for a very brief time, they quickly checks your meds against how you are feeling and alter them accordingly.  These psychiatrists are usually the ones you will find that are covered under your insurance.  The second talks to you for a longer period of time and then alters the meds.  These you will rarely find covered by insurance.

A psychologist is different as he does not provide you with medication but instead helps you with what is now popularly come to be known as Talk Therapy.  Talk Therapy is the type that you see depicted in cartoons where the patient is laying on a couch and the doctor is sitting there taking notes.  This differs from Peanuts where Lucy has a psychiatric both and she sits on one side and Charlie Brown sits on the other.  As Lucy only charges five cents I doubt this is much of an issue.

Talk Therapy, in reality. takes place in a pretty relaxing atmosphere.  There can be a couch present but mostly people sit up and talk.  Comfortable chairs are usually available though I can think of one instance where the office was pretty Zen oriented and had two chairs and wall hangings.

The PHD is going to set up his or her office according to their personal choices as well as the type of therapy that they do.  There are many types of talk therapy.  One where you do just talk and the PHD takes notes and listens rarely giving advice, but giving you the opportunity to figure stuff out on your own.

The other will be more active in the conversation and will challenge you while you are speaking as well as help you set goals.  This is the type of psychologist I see.  He was the doctor that had me come off sugar identifying it as an addiction.

Here is the key with all doctors, both MDs and PHDs.  YOU ARE THE BOSS.  If one of your docs isn’t treating you well, go to another.  This is especially true with the psychologist and psychiatrist.  The guy that fixes your leg can be an ass personality wise, but if he is an amazing surgeon, keep him.  You only deal with him for a short time.

With a psychologist or psychiatrist it is very different.  This becomes a real relationship in your life.  You have to like someone that you have to trust with all your deepest feelings and secrets.  Some will even allow a phone interview before you come in for an appointment just to see if the two of you are a good match.  This relationship may be very short term or long term, but you gotta like and trust the guy, if you don’t, or the relationship goes south, fire him or her.  It is your right to do so.

With talk therapy there are also therapists.  These mostly have master’s degrees.  My first experience was with a therapist and he was brilliant.  He gave me two pieces of advice that I now pass on to you.  The first, is a therapist is not a paid for friend.  You are there to accomplish something together then part company, this is not a person who you hang out with.  The second is, if your therapist and you decide that you are to do something, do it.  If you don’t or you don’t have a very good reason for not doing the work, you are wasting the therapist’s time and your time as well as your money.

One final thought.  Medical Doctors and Doctors of Philosophy work equally hard at earning their degrees.  They, as I understand, get there through different processes, but the time and energy spent are probably about equal.  I want to take a second to pause and salute those who have made this achievement in their lives.  Many of them gave as the benefits that we have today in the 21st century, and those that follow will play a key roll in building a better tomorrow.

The post My Journey To Health, Doctors 101 also appeared on PCM Lifestyle.

My Journey To Health, A Trip to the Doctor’s

frodo-and-samI had a trip to the doctor’s yesterday and it wasn’t very good.

I have said more than once that I have several issues with my feet.  Yesterday I went to a New Doctor’s office to have some test run, specifically an EMG.  EMG stands for  Electromyography the test involves receiving several small electric shock to your muscles.  They even you use small needles in the test as well.  It is more uncomfortable than painful.  An EMG is a diagnostic procedure to assess the health of muscles and the nerve cells that control them (motor neurons).  Special thanks to the Mayo Clinic.

The test showed that there were definite problems with my feet and legs and what those problems may be, but not the cause and so there were really no answers.  The test can show the cause, but not with me.  This was not encouraging at all.

The doctor did uncover some definite issues.  My feet have the same tremors that my hands do.  On my left foot, when the electricity ran through the nerves my big toe would react.  On my right foot nothing happened at all.  The rest of the test results appeared on a graph sheet which I did not see and couldn’t have interpreted if I had.  The end result was still no answers.

There were a lot of guesses.  Maybe it’s my vascular system, but it is more likely to be a neurological problem.  It was my neurologist that sent me for the test.  I didn’t find this encouraging.  The worst part was that it was time for more testing, at another hospital with another doctor using different machines.  The depression which had come back proceeded to get worse.

It is extremely hard to hold on to hope with stuff like this, so much of my health issues seem to be unsolvable.  The anti-depressants don’t really work.  The anti-tremor medication works until I get a little nervous and then just stops.  At church on Sunday I was in a kneeling position with my head bowed and my jaw started to shake like there was an earth quake in my mouth.  But no one knows why.  This is more of a report than anything else but I don’t want to leave you with all bad stuff so let me close with these words from Samwise to Frodo in The Lord of the Rings.

“I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened?
But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something. Even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t. Because they were holding on to something.”

The post My Journey To Health, A Trip to the Doctor’s also appeared on PCM Lifestyle.

Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas for the Romantics, Foodies, Athletes and More

Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas
There’s still time to buy (or make!) your loved one a Valentine’s Day gift they will remember long after the chocolates are gone. Sure, a box of chocolates and flowers are always appreciated (especially roses and chocolate-covered anything), but step outside the box a little and show your Valentine how much they mean to you with a gift that’s unique and special for them.

For the romantic:

Candles, chocolates, flowers…you know the deal: Romantic women love the most traditional of Valentine’s Day gifts, but that also means you better not forget, and you better be romantic about it! Instead of waiting for a table at an expensive restaurant, go all out and have a romantic dinner for two at home. The more effort you put into it the better, so set the mood with candles, roses, and of course, a homemade dinner for two.

For the foodie:

Foodies are fun and easy to please – as long as it tastes good! If you’re talented, or even mediocre in the kitchen, whip up something that will amaze your Valentine’s taste buds and touch their heart with your effort. Whether it’s an exquisite three-course dinner or a simple dessert like cheesecake or creme brulee, it’ll be a Valentine’s Day your sweetheart won’t forget.

Afraid you’ll burn down the kitchen? Melt some chocolate in the microwave and start dipping! The higher quality the chocolate, the better it’ll taste, so forget Hershey’s and other 99 cent bars. Make homemade chocolate-covered strawberries, bananas, apricots, pretzels, or whatever you’re Valentine fancies. It doesn’t get much easier than that!

For the athlete:

Working out can get ugly, and that may pose a serious fashion faux pas for the most stylish of gym rats. Sure, you can always give her more sports bras, workout tees, and other not-so-sexy gifts, but unless you can find heart-print sports bras and socks, or go for an all pink ensemble, none of that is very Valentine’s Day appropriate. And let’s face it, it’s not always easy to pick out clothes for women.

Instead, go the tech route! Bring out her stylish side with some fashionable, yet functional ear buds! chicBuds Arts are the latest new fashion accessory for the music-loving, workout-obsessed fashionistas – and we absolutely love them! The cord is actually printed in either zebra, leopard or graffiti designs. And unlike regular earphone cords that wrap together to form a tangled mess, these feature no-mess flat cords. Perfect for working out without looking like a tangled, hot mess, and a gift that your fitness and/or music-loving Valentine will love.

Let’s not forget about the spa. A couples massage is a great idea for any couple on Valentine’s Day, but will be especially appreciated by an athlete. Strapped for cash? You know where we’re going with this…pull out the lotion or oils, light some candles, and go to work on your loved one’s over-worked bod.

For the sentimental:

Nothing will touch your sentimental sweetie more than a personalized gift. Have something engraved, whether it’s a jewelry box, wine glass, or even a custom phone case! You can create a case with a photograph of you and your significant other, displaying your love right where everyone can see it. So sweet!

Or go all out and start a scrapbook for your lady (or man!). It’s not as hard as you’d think – just go to a craft store and pick out the basics: a scrapbook and it’s accompanying paper, stickers, pens, etc. Then print out anywhere from 10-15 photographs, and you’re on your way to a beautiful, creative display of your love. What sentimental, romantic Valentine wouldn’t love that?

For the professional:

Initialed cuff links are a great gift for the business man in your life, as is a new briefcase, wallet, or even a nice watch – just stay away from the heart-printed ties and boxers.

For your guy, from the hot and camera-ready:

This may not be for the shy, timid, or body-conscious…but it’s definitely a gift that your man, and even you, will appreciate for years to come. Grab your VS lingerie and find the nearest “boudoir photography studio.” That’s right – take a professional, sexy picture for the man in your life. Women who have done this LOVE it, and say it makes them feel more confident and sexy than ever before, and even see themselves in a whole new light. “I never knew I could look like that,” says one woman.  Some professional photographers will even do house calls, so you can feel better about posing in the comfort of your own home. Give it a try!

The post Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas for the Romantics, Foodies, Athletes and More also appeared on PCM Lifestyle.

My Journey To Health, Sugar Free

sugar-evilI never thought going sugar free would be easy, I have to admit, I never thought it would be this hard either.

I don’t want this column to sound like an ongoing session of whining, and so let’s talk about the legitimate troubles of stopping sugar.

I Think the first one has to be restaurants, and for me that means fast food.  I love McDonald’s and if all of us were honest we would almost all agree.  It’s funny that many people say how bad the food is there.  A few blocks from me there is a Burger King, a Boston Market, a Kentucky Fried Chicken/Taco Bell, and an Arby’s as well as a McDonald’s all on the same block.  However it is only McDonald’s that ever seems to have a long waiting line. In the rest you are in and out in a few minutes.  This food is hard to give up.  For now it’s once a week and no soda or dessert is purchased.

Going to the market is hard too.  My supermarket has a great bakery, to be honest it has the best donuts I have ever had and I have congratulated the donut maker several times.  They a make a dessert called a chocolate bomb that should be illegal.  And what is also in the bakery?  All the really good whole grain breads.  I have not touched a morsel of the sugar filled treats but my eyes get bigger whenever I walk through the place.

Then there’s Juice.  I have always loved juice.  Not the things like HI C or Hawaiian Punch but fruit juices like grape, white, grape and apple I also have a weakness for Lemonade, but all of that is gone.  It truly is not much better than sugar and it must be let go.

I have found some alternatives though.  A couple of years ago I fell in love with frozen lemonade.  While going through the frozen food department of the store I noticed frozen strawberries.  I bought a bag as well as a bottle of Simply Lemonade and put both in the blender.  Now that is frozen strawberry lemonade.  I have modified this a bit by putting the frozen strawberries in the blender and some real lemon and a bit of Blue Agave.  This is exactly the same and my understanding is that lemon juice is ok to use.

I have also found that frozen cherries a bit of Blue Agave, milk and two teaspoon of cocoa powder in the blender makes a great shake.  These are satisfying alternatives that I really enjoy.  The shake is very filling to.  I had one by itself last week and did not get hungry for hours.

No, this road has not been easy, but I will not give up. Time will change my tastes as well as allow me to discover new ways to eat and to be satisfied.

The post My Journey To Health, Sugar Free also appeared on PCM Lifestyle.

My Journey to Health, Short and Sweet

wishes-nighttime-spectaculaToday’s column will be short…and sweet.  It hasn’t been a good day and I hope to be asleep as early as possible.

Today I went into one of the worst depressive battles of my life.  It didn’t last long but it hurt a lot.

I got up at 6:30 and walked the dog.  I knew I was dropping within the hour and by 8:30 all I could do was lie on my bed and stair ahead feeling nothing much more than emotional pain that came from nowhere.

Around 9:30 my father came in the room and told me some news that I was not ready to hear.  It wasn’t bad news at all, but it was upsetting for me.  I put on a face, encouraged him, and as soon as he was gone the tears started to come.  Now I was depressed and dealing with a legitimate emotion at the same time.

The tears and pain continued throughout the day.  I contacted my small group leader and he encouraged me as best he could.  I was relieved someone knew what was happening.  Not long after I sent out a group e-mail asking for prayer and some folks got back to me quickly support doesn’t take it away but it makes it a bit easier to bear.

At 3:00 I called my psychiatrist.  By that time I could not form sentences, I was stuttering and crying at the same time.  I didn’t know what else to do and was getting ready to take myself to the hospital or find someone who could take me.  I tried to write this column but what came out of me was not worth reading.

Around four o’clock I “officially” went to bed.  If I slept there would be no pain, I had slept well the night before so I wasn’t sure I would sleep at all.  But I did.  At 6:30 the phone rang and I answered it.  It was a friend calling to see how I was.  I told him about the day, but I began to realize something was different.  I didn’t want to say anything.  I didn’t trust it.  I hung up and realized I was really me again.  Emotionally I was working well.

And so it is now.

This was a battle and a win, a new win at that.  Never had I had this type of depression lasted this short a time.  Never would this column have been written before.  The only real difference was that I reached out to many people who on my behalf prayed for me.  Believe when I tell you it was not something I could do for myself.

One more thing, something I want to reiterate every chance I get.  If you ever feel like you are going to harm yourself or others GO TO THE HOSPITAL!  I don’t want anyone who reads these columns to ever find themselves in a place where they won’t go.  I want you alive.  So do many others, even at the times you can’t believe that in any way.

The post My Journey to Health, Short and Sweet also appeared on PCM Lifestyle.

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