JC and Max Middleton.

Family confronts diabetes with help from UK

A natural instinct for a mother is to protect her children by keeping them healthy and safe. But what do you do when your spouse and not just one, but both of your children are diagnosed with a chronic illness like diabetes, all within a relatively short amount of time? That’s the challenge Lisa Middleton, her husband and two young children faced.

With the help of the University of Kentucky’s Barnstable Brown Diabetes and Obesity Center, the Middletons are confronting diabetes, ready to meet that challenge head-on, all day, every day.

The first diagnosis

James and Lisa Middleton look like the couple next door. Lisa, an energetic and personable young woman, received her doctorate degree in pharmaceutical sciences from the University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy and later was a research assistant professor in the College of Medicine. She is currently a lecturer at Eastern Kentucky University.

James “JC” Middleton is an avid long-distance cyclist and a software engineer at Valvoline. It was quite a shock when, 12 years ago at age 29, he was diagnosed with diabetes. JC suddenly dropped 20 pounds from his already slim physique. He was constantly tired, stayed thirsty and drank more than usual. That caused him to use the bathroom more frequently, even throughout the night. Weight loss, excessive thirst and frequent urination are common symptoms of diabetes.

Lisa was puzzled by her husband’s initial diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes sometimes referred to as adult-onset or non-insulin dependent diabetes because he didn’t completely fit the profile. Type 2 diabetes typically occurs in older adults and can be aggravated by unhealthy eating habits, inactivity and obesity. None of these traits describe JC. Following a visit to the endocrinologist, JC’s diagnosis was changed to Type 1, and that day he began insulin therapy.

Lisa describes her husband as “independent and incredibly smart.” He was immediately able to learn carbohydrate counting and quickly did the math to calculate his insulin doses. Although the diagnosis presented a huge change in JC’s life, she said “he just handled it.”

Barnstable Brown supports the family

The Middletons have two children, Kara, a lively and self-confident 7-year-old who loves horses and wants to be a famous singer, and Max, an active and strong-willed 2-year-old who likes to run, jump and climb.

About a year ago, the Middletons noticed something unusual about baby Max. He stopped gaining weight and produced a lot more wet diapers. Late one evening while JC was testing his blood glucose level, he decided to test Max’s glucose level on a whim. He couldn’t believe his eyes.

“It was off the charts; it simply registered high,” JC said.

The next day, Max’s pediatrician strongly suspected that at age 20 months, the Middletons’ youngest child had Type 1 diabetes, and their world seemingly turned upside down.

“It crushes you,” JC said. “We were all but on the floor crying.”

Their pediatrician immediately directed the Middletons to UK’s Kentucky Children’s Hospital where Max was hospitalized. The first night, as Max was sleeping, Lisa took out her smart phone and read everything she could on diabetes, including the latest on clinical trials and advances in research.

Today, Max wears an insulin pump connected to a strap around his waist that delivers constant short-acting insulin through a catheter placed under the skin. The pump offers freedom from multiple injections and can be programmed based on what Max eats throughout the day and his activity level. A continuous glucose monitor, called a Dexcom, is attached to Max’s upper arm. This allows JC and Lisa to continuously monitor his glucose levels every five minutes, 24 hours a day. If his glucose level reads too low or too high, the Dexcom will send an alarm to JC’s and Lisa’s smart phones to warn them, which is especially important throughout the night.

“He handles his diabetes like a rockstar,” Lisa said. “Once you see your 2-year-old handling their diabetes better than you are, you have to get over it and move forward.”

About six weeks ago, while on a family vacation in Lisa’s home state of Michigan, Lisa noticed Kara had wet the bed during the night and thought she had a possible urinary tract infection.

“I think it was always in the back of my mind that diabetes could also happen to Kara, but honestly, I thought we were in the clear with her. We had one child with diabetes, surely we wouldn’t have another,” Lisa said. “My mom had some urine test strips and I tested Kara. Her urine was full of sugar.”

Kara was taken to a hospital in Michigan and was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. She began treatment that day. The Middletons then contacted UK to consult with Max’s pediatric endocrinology team about Kara’s treatments. The team includes Dr. Alba Morales, associate professor of pediatric endocrinology and Barnstable Brown faculty member and diabetes educator Angela Hepner.

“They were incredibly helpful, supportive and confirmed treatments,” Lisa said. “As soon as we returned home to Kentucky, Kara was seen at Barnstable Brown immediately.”

Kara is currently taking four to six shots every day and checking her blood sugar by herself six to 10 times per day. She also will be starting on an insulin pump and Dexcom next week thanks to the quick work of the staff and doctors at Barnstable Brown.

Dealing with diabetes

According to the American Diabetes Association, there is a 3-5 percent chance siblings will develop diabetes. Hepner said UK is seeing more sibling sets with diabetes as well as several families where one parent has Type 1.

“Our team is committed to making families like the Middletons have as positive an experience with diabetes as possible,” Hepner said. “For our younger children, we focus our educational efforts toward the parents, and also emphasize to the kids that diabetes should never stop them from doing what they love.”

Morales says it is a huge challenge to manage children with diabetes because they are changing and growing on a daily basis and their management has to evolve with them.

“The mother has been wonderful in the way she manages her children’s diabetes on a daily basis. It is more difficult than anyone can imagine,” Morales said. “She is really good at keeping us informed here so that we can all work as a team.”

While the Middletons say they are fortunate because both their children were diagnosed early before they got extremely sick, their biggest challenge is managing their worry.

“Like all parents, we want the best for our children and want them to lead as normal a life as possible, and a diagnosis of diabetes is just a detour in the road,” JC said. “I try not to blame myself for my kids’ diabetes because in all likelihood, I passed it on to them. There are so many potential things that may cause diabetes, you can’t blame it all on genetics.”

Morales says that the reason there is no cure for diabetes yet is because the disease’s causes are still unknown.

“It’s a combination of factors and genetics is only one. We believe there are undiscovered environmental factors as well,” she said. “Diabetes is impossible to predict in children, even if both parents have diabetes.”

Lisa said JC knows the seriousness of the disease and is involved in every aspect of their children’s care, but as the mother and the only non-diabetic in the family, she worries about them all.

“I worry whose blood sugar is up and whose is down. I have to keep track of checking glucose levels and who ate what and when, and if they got their insulin. Now that Kara is in the mix, it’s even more worrisome. I have to work every day to keep my family alive,” she said. “Worrying can consume all of the energy I have that I could be putting somewhere else; so I have to push nervousness to the back of my mind and focus.

“Diabetes is an invisible disease. My kids are not obviously diabetic. They are normal and active. We can easily hide the monitors and pumps with clothes but the seriousness of the disease is always present.”

JC adds, “there is light at the end of the tunnel. You can live a normal healthy life with diabetes. Hopefully our children will see a cure for Type 1 diabetes in their lifetime.”

Dr. John Fowlkes, director of the Barnstable Brown Diabetes and Obesity Center, said the clinical team is about much more than just seeing patients and prescribing treatment.

“Diabetes doesn’t just impact the individual, it can potentially impact the entire family whether there is one diabetic or several,” he said. “We strive to educate our patients on how to live a full and healthy life with diabetes, and serve as a medical home that addresses all their needs.”

5 benefits of breastfeeding

5 benefits of breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is a natural way for mothers to bond with their new baby and provide the vital nutrition the baby needs.

Celebrate World Breastfeeding Week this week by learning more about breastfeeding’s benefits.

  1. Breastfeeding has preventive power. Research has shown that breastfeeding can help prevent allergies, asthma, diabetes, ear infections, childhood obesity, leukemia and even sudden infant death syndrome. Your first milk, colostrum, provides your baby with all your immunity to diseases.
  2. It creates a special bond. Breastfeeding allows you to have a special bond with your baby. Studies have shown that breastfeeding can improve your child’s neurodevelopment. And the hormones released during breastfeeding have been found to decrease maternal stress and increase bonding.
  3. Breast milk is easy on your baby’s tummy. Breast milk is easier to digest than formula, meaning your baby will have fewer stomach aches and develop fewer food allergies. Breast milk also changes to meet your growing baby’s needs
  4. Breastfeeding is good for you, too. Breastfeeding can decrease your risk of heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, postpartum depression and some forms of breast and ovarian cancer. The longer you breast feed, the greater your protection. Plus, you burn an extra 500 calories per day breastfeeding!
  5. Breastfeeding saves you money. Formula, bottles and supplies can cost about $3,000 annually, but breast milk is free. There’s no prep time for breast milk, and it’s always the right temperature.

The Birthing Center at UK HealthCare wants your breastfeeding experience to get off to the right start. Our nursing staff and physicians have received special training to help you begin breastfeeding. We also have lactation consultants who will see you during your hospitalization and the Mommy and Me Clinic, located at the Kentucky Clinic, for assistance after you are discharged.

For more information, visit our breastfeeding support services website or contact your physician or the Childbirth Education Coordinator at 859-323-2750.


Next steps:

  • UK HealthCare is a Baby-Friendly Hospital, which means we offer the highest-quality care for newborns and their mothers, emphasizing mother-baby bonding and successful breastfeeding. Learn more out what it means to be Baby-Friendly.
  • Are you expecting or thinking about having a child? Check out our UK Delivers blog, where our experts discuss topics related to pregnancy and childbirth.
Preventive exercises have been shown to reduce the risk of ACL injury, and they are becoming increasingly important for young athletes.

Preventive exercises can reduce ACL injuries

Written by Dr. Cale Jacobs, Assistant Professor in UK’s Department of Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine.

Dr. Cale Jacobs, Assistant Professor in UK’s Department of Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine.

Dr. Cale Jacobs

Unfortunately, each year, about 7 million sports-related injuries occur in the U.S. Approximately half occur in people between the ages of 5 and 24 years old. Injuries, especially to the knee, remove young athletes from the playing field and can have long-term repercussions that limit mobility and lead to more severe issues.

Tearing the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), the tough band of tissue joining the thigh bone and shin bone at the knee joint, is not uncommon in “cutting” sports like soccer, volleyball, football and basketball. An ACL tear is a particularly damaging injury as it often leads to knee arthritis, and studies have reported that 50 percent of people who tear their ACL develop arthritis within 15 years of their injury. When you consider that most ACL injuries happen to those under the age of 25, this means that many patients are developing knee arthritis in their 30s or early 40s.

The ACL can be surgically reconstructed, which improves the stability of the knee. However, for young female athletes playing in cutting sports after ACL reconstruction, roughly one in three of these athletes will suffer a second ACL injury. Also, recovery after ACL reconstruction differs from patient to patient, with some taking longer to safely return to sports.

Because of the high rate of early knee arthritis and the risk of a second injury, preventing the first ACL injury is crucial. Preventive exercise programs have been shown to reduce the risk of ACL injury, and the free Get Set-Train Smarter app available on Android and iOS is a great resource for parents and athletes. This app, created by the International Olympic Committee, enables athletes to select an exercise program that is specific to the sports they play.

In addition, UK researchers are studying a number of ways to prevent a second ACL injury as well as prevent or delay the onset of knee arthritis for younger athletes that suffer an ACL injury. These include injections to lessen cartilage damage, improved surgical techniques for younger athletes and innovative rehabilitation protocols like one’s being used with injured NFL athletes. Current research has also identified that athletes still have sizeable muscle imbalances when they return to sports, suggesting that both improved rehabilitation protocols and better testing methods be used to safely return young athletes back to their sport.


Next Steps

Former UK nurse Kristin Ashford has dedicated her life to researching ways to prevent pre-term birth and promote healthy pregnancies.

UK nurse, researcher helps prevent pre-term birth

Working as a labor and delivery nurse for a decade, Kristin Ashford was surrounded by happy beginnings. She helped women and families welcome healthy babies into the world. But Ashford also helped mothers and their families deal with the stressful and heart-wrenching experience of pre-term birth.

As a first-hand witness of the negative outcomes associated with pre-term birth, Ashford was motivated to make a difference. She transitioned from nursing into a researcher, studying risk factors of pre-term birth and creating strategies to prevent them through pregnancy interventions.

“It really got me interested in how to help these women more,” Ashford said of her nursing experience in labor and delivery. “Not only to reduce their risk, but also to help them emotionally cope with pre-term birth.”

Risk factors for pre-term birth

Pre-term birth is defined as delivery prior to 37 weeks gestation. Several risk factors, including smoking, substance abuse, poor socioeconomic conditions and obesity, increase a woman’s chance of experiencing pre-term birth. The consequences for the baby include respiratory illness, gastrointestinal disorders, immune deficiency, hearing and vision problems, and a prolonged hospital sta. There can also be longer-term motor, cognitive, visual, hearing, behavioral, social-emotional, health, and growth problems.

Now, as the assistant dean of research in the UK College of Nursing, Ashford oversees multiple research projects and interventions driven by the common goal of prolonging pregnancy.

“I think that any time that you can prolong a pregnancy, it is a rewarding experience,” she said. “If you can prevent the child from being sick, prevent that family’s stress and prevent life-long complications associated with that risk, that’s extremely rewarding.”

Research and interventions

Ashford’s research covers the issues relevant to pre-natal care, as there are many things that can be changed in order to prevent pre-term birth, like tobacco use. Her interventions aim to prevent tobacco and illicit drug use, manage chronic conditions such as diabetes and obesity, and reduce emotional distress in expectant mothers.

Ashford’s interventions are founded on the CenteringPregnancy model, which prepares women for pregnancy, labor and delivery, and motherhood through a peer support groups led by nursing and other health professionals. Ashford has designed CenteringPregnancy interventions to help pregnant women in high-risk categories like diabetes, tobacco use, substance abuse, or other socioeconomic or ethnic risk factors.

“Our UK program actually wants to put women together that have more in common with one another,” Ashford said. “So, in addition to being put in the group about the same time that they’re pregnant, they also are put in (a group) based on their most high-risk factor for pre-term birth.”

One intervention effort led by Ashford effort seeks to inform pregnant women about the dangers of using tobacco products while pregnant and give them resources to quit. Despite the known risks of using tobacco products during pregnancy, many pregnant women in Kentucky still smoke. Ashford is troubled by the rising popularity of e-cigarettes among women of childbearing age. Her research studies indicate that women are using both e-cigarettes and traditional tobacco products during pregnancy.

“Tobacco causes birth defects in pregnancy — that’s known,” Ashford said. “And so, it’s very clear that electronic cigarettes contain tobacco. Certainly, there’s risks associated with electronic cigarette use in pregnancy.”

Ashford is expanding CenteringPregnancy programs to areas in Eastern and Western Kentucky. She is working with local health departments to provide a Centering support network for pregnant women in high-risk groups.

She said her position in the UK College of Nursing allows her to research and circulate interventions, teach future nurses and nursing researchers, and serve communities by improving the quality of health care.

UK assistant professor has been awarded a $65,000 grant to support new UK research on coloboma, a leading cause of blindness in children.

UK researcher uses zebrafish to study eye disorder

UK Assistant Professor of Biology Jakub Famulski has been awarded a Career Starter Grant by the Knights Templar Eye Foundation, a charity sponsored by the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar. The $65,000 grant will support Famulski’s new UK research on coloboma, a leading cause of blindness in children. The eye abnormality occurs before birth and involves missing tissue in or around the eye.

Famulski and his collaborators recently discovered a new type of coloboma, superior coloboma, which occurs in the top of the eye. But the underlying cause of most coloboma cases remains unknown.

To better understand the disorder, Famulski and UK graduate students Kristyn Van Der Meulen and Nicholas Carrara will use zebrafish as a model to study how coloboma occurs in the eye’s early development. With zebrafish, the team can easily and efficiently observe, manage and change cells in the laboratory.

“For a junior faculty member like myself, this grant is not only great financial help, but also confirmation that scientists in the community value this work, which I hope will help patients suffering from this disorder,” Famulski said.

The Knights Templar Eye Foundation, incorporated in 1956, works to improve vision through research, education and supporting access to care. Since its beginning, the foundation has awarded more than $23 million in grants to pediatric ophthalmology research. Thanks to this most recent grant, new UK research can help Famulski make a difference through the power of advanced medicine.

Dr. Sean Skinner teaches surgery basics to first-graders

My experience teaching surgery to first-graders

Written by Dr. Sean Skinner, pediatric surgeon at Kentucky Children’s Hospital.

Dr. Sean Skinner

Dr. Sean Skinner

Not many first-grade science curriculums include hands-on surgical training, but that’s exactly the lesson I taught to my daughter’s class earlier this year.

As a pediatric surgeon, I had the opportunity to talk with my daughter and her first-grade peers at Sayre School in Lexington as part of a larger lesson about machines in workplaces. When she mentioned to her teacher, Mrs. Angela Hardin,  that I “worked with machines and robots at the hospital,” Mrs. Hardin offered me the opportunity to share my experiences with the class.

What followed was an exploration of surgery seen through the eyes of first-graders. I showed them the tools I use on a daily basis and fit them for surgical masks. I then explained to them that laparoscopy is a kind of surgery where we make very small cuts and perform the procedure with the assistance of a small camera that goes inside of a person’s body.

With the basics out of the way, the real fun started. The kids got to try their hands at the same laparoscopic training machines we use at the hospital. Using surgical tools attached to a camera and monitor, they performed a short drill of picking up beads from one cup and moving them to another. It didn’t take long for them to realize just how hard it is to use the instruments while watching a monitor at the same time.

I had a blast seeing how excited the kids were to use the simulators and answering all of their questions about surgery and being a doctor.

Pediatric surgery is no doubt a complicated subject for first-graders, but I think it’s important for children to learn about as many different careers as possible. Through activities like the one at my daughter’s school, kids are able to see what their parents and what other parents do.

I think it would be great to do this type of presentation and hands-on learning activity with more classrooms in Lexington and bring it to different age groups. The more topics children are exposed to at a young age, the better.

Of course, I think learning about science is important for all students and doing so at an early age could spur their interest in science and medicine going forward.

And who knows, maybe an activity like this could spark the next great scientist of the future.


Next steps:

water safety

Going to the pool? Keep the kids safe with these tips

Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer, and pools everywhere will be opening this weekend.

Swimming and water recreation can be great fun, but they can also be dangerous. So before you and your family hit the water, check out these tips for keeping the kids safe.

Water safety tips to teach your children:

  • Learn how to swim.
  • Always swim with a buddy.
  • If you can’t swim, don’t get in water deeper than your shoulders.
  • Always wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life vest when you are playing water sports, when you’re near an open body of water or when you’re on a boat.
  • Never run, push or jump on others around water.
  • If you see someone struggling in the water, shout for help. Don’t try to rescue the person yourself.

Water safety tips for adults to keep in mind:

  • Never leave children alone near water – adults must supervise at all times.
  • Never let children swim alone – no exceptions to this rule, ever.
  • Children in baby bath seats and rings must be within arm’s reach every second.
  • Teach children to swim after age 4.
  • Never substitute a flotation device for supervision.
  • Do not allow children to run, push or jump on others around water.
  • Learn CPR for infants, children and adults.

In case of drowning

According to the CDC, two children 14 and younger in the United States die by drowning every day. And for every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency department care for nonfatal submersion injuries.

In a drowning accident, seconds make the difference between survival, recovery or death. Drownings occur when a child is left unattended, even for a brief moment. If a child is missing, always check the water first before looking elsewhere. Wading pools, swimming pools, spas, hot tubs, lakes, rivers, oceans, bathtubs, buckets and even toilets all pose a risk of drowning.

If you see someone struggling in the water:

  • Shout for help immediately.
  • Find something you can throw out to the person to pull him or her to safety, such as a life preserver, rope or towel.
  • If you can’t reach the person, throw out a floating object he or she can hold onto until additional help arrives.
  • Never swim right to the person. He or she is scared and may accidentally hurt you.
  • If no one hears your shout, call 911.

Next steps

Epilepsy

13-year-old boy enjoys being “normal kid” again after epilepsy surgery

Anyone who’s 13 years old – or who was once 13 – can relate to the embarrassment of a parent insisting on sitting in the room while they showered.

Unfortunately, that was the reality for 13-year-old Joey Maggard until a delicate surgical procedure eliminated his epileptic seizures this past January.

At the time of his surgery, Joey’s seizures were so frequent and unpredictable – about 20 to 30 per month – that his mother, Erin Smith, would sit in the bathroom in case he seized while showering.

“It was so frustrating for him and heartbreaking for me,” Erin recalls. “He wanted so much to be ‘just a kid,’ but the reality was that being ‘just a kid’ could have been dangerous for him.”

Adding to the disappointment were the other restrictions imposed upon Joey. He could no longer play his beloved sports or have sleepovers with friends. He was forced to follow a restricted diet and reduce Xbox and electronics use. After his seizures increased in frequency, his school district asked that he be tutored at home for the last half of his sixth grade year.

A very understanding doctor

“Epilepsy is often misunderstood by the lay public, and epilepsy patients are often teased or shunned, particularly when they are younger,” said Dr. Meriem Bensalem-Owen, director of the Epilepsy Program at the Kentucky Neuroscience Institute at the University of Kentucky. “As a result, they often isolate themselves for fear of losing control in public, and depression and anxiety commonly go hand-in-hand with the stigma of epilepsy.”

Bensalem-Owen considers it part of her responsibility to reassure patients that they are not alone in their journey.

“More than 150,000 Kentuckians are living with epilepsy today,” she explains. “I think many patients are surprised when I tell them that.”

Even more reassuring, Bensalem-Owen believes, is the fact that she has a personal experience with epilepsy.

“My son had seizures few years ago, and I literally told myself ‘OK, so now I have to be as brave as the parents of my patients and do what I tell them to do.’ So I understand, not just as an epileptologist but as mom, what Joey and his family were going through and I can reinforce with them that there is a team with them step of the way.”

An epilepsy center to get the job done

Joey’s odyssey began when he was 9. Erin said that while Joey’s birth was stressful, otherwise “he was great, he hit every milestone.” With no family history, his first and second seizures – about six months apart – were a shock to his family. After Joey experienced a grand mal seizure – considered the most violent and dangerous of all seizures – a CAT scan at a hospital close to their Lincoln County home found a lesion in his brain. He was referred to Dr. Qutubuddin G. Khan, a pediatric neurologist at the Kentucky Neuroscience Institute (KNI).

The Epilepsy Program at KNI is accredited by the National Association of Epilepsy Centers (NAEC) as Level 4 Center — its highest designation. A Level 4 center provides more extensive medical, neuropsychological, and psychosocial treatment, including thorough and highly technical evaluation for a wide range of surgical treatment for epilepsy. Since 2003, US News and World Report has included NAEC Level 4 adult epilepsy centers as a part of its ranking criteria.

“Level 4 epilepsy centers have the professional expertise and facilities to provide the highest-level medical and surgical evaluation and treatment for patients with complex epilepsy,” said Dr. Larry Goldstein, chair of the UK Department of Neurology and KNI co-director. “To achieve this designation is an apt reflection of our institutional commitment to provide the best subspecialty care to the people of Kentucky and beyond.”

At first, Khan tried a variety of medications, alone and in combination. Each time, says Erin, they would work for a while, but Joey’s seizures would eventually return.

“One of the things I loved most about Dr. Khan was how candid he was,” said Erin. “After each setback, he’d sit with us and explain patiently what our next options were and the pros and cons of each option.”

Based on initial testing to determine what areas of the brain Joey’s seizures came from, Khan felt Joey was a good candidate for surgery, and referred him to Bensalem-Owen for further evaluation.

A crucial step in the process of assessing Joey’s seizures — and a hallmark of centers with NAEC Level 4 accreditation — is invasive brain monitoring, where the skull is opened and a delicate web of electrodes is placed directly on the brain. Over a period of days Joey was monitored and brain mapping was performed to pinpoint exactly which parts of his brain controlled essential functions like speech, and those points were compared to the areas were his seizures arose. It’s a painstaking and uncomfortable process.

“I asked Joey if he was ready for this, and he looked me straight in the eye and said YES,” said Bensalem-Owen. “He said he was tired of missing school and having poor grades. I was impressed by how determined and brave he was.”

Brain mapping indicated three small areas that were leading to Joey’s seizures. Two areas were perilously close to the part of Joey’s brain that controlled vision and motor function; Bensalem-Owen knew that precision was critical to a successful outcome for Joey.

Once the doctors knew which parts of Joey’s brain to target and which parts to avoid, KNI neurosurgeon Dr. Thomas Pittman performed the surgery to remove the lesions that were causing his seizures. Then began the waiting game.

“Joey’s been seizure-free since his surgery,” said Amy. “He now can take showers and be alone outside without my constant supervision. I know we’ve got a ways to go before we’re out of the woods, but this has been a huge burden lifted.”

Furthermore, says Bensalem-Owen, Joey’s vision and other motor function have remained intact. “We couldn’t have hoped for a better outcome,” she said.

Surgery shouldn’t be treated as a last resort

Bensalem-Owen stresses that while surgery isn’t an option for everyone, there are large swaths of individuals with epilepsy who either don’t know about or are afraid of surgery, and those people are suffering needlessly.

“In the U.S., there are more than 100,000 patients who are candidates for surgery, and only about 2,000 people elect to have the surgery every year,” she said. “We need to educate patients and healthcare providers that surgery shouldn’t be treated as a last resort, that patients don’t need to suffer from the physical and emotional effects of epilepsy for ten or twenty years. If someone has uncontrolled epilepsy for more than a year, they should seek an opinion at an accredited epilepsy center.”

In a post-surgery appointment with Bensalem-Owen, Joey was bouncy and talkative. His hair was growing back, mostly covering the scar that extends from the top of his head to just behind his ear. His grades have rebounded since his return to school in March and he has been cleared to play sports in June. He will continue epilepsy medication as an added precaution, but Bensalem-Owen predicts a complete return to the life that allows kids to be just that — kids.

“On my first day back to school, as I was going down the hall teachers were shrieking and kids were hugging me,” Joey recalled with a smile. “I was back with my buddies again, and I was so happy.”


Next steps

lawn mower safety

Mowing the lawn? Keep these safety tips in mind

Even though it’s easy to forget when you’re using it week in and week out, your lawn mower is actually dangerous and potentially deadly piece of equipment.

Each year 20,000 people are injured in the U.S. due to mower-related accidents, and 75 are killed. One in five of those deaths involves a child, and more than 600 children will lose a limb this year as a result of a preventable lawn mower accident. While it’s important to be extremely cautious when cutting your yard, one of the safest things you can do for your family is to keep your children inside while you’re operating a lawn mower. In many cases where children were injured, the adults involved didn’t know they were near the mower when the injuries occurred.

To raise awareness about the dangers lawn mowers pose to children, The Amputee Coalition and Limbs Matter, a group of parents whose children have undergone an amputation because of a lawn mower accident, have partnered on national safety initiatives.

Kids aren’t the only ones at risk from lawn mowers. Here are some personal safety tips to keep in mind:

Wear the right clothing. Avoid shorts or sandals. Long pants will protect your legs and closed-toed shoes protect your feet and provide better traction.

Survey the yard. Before mowing, pick up any sticks, rocks or other debris that could become dangerous projectiles if hit by a mower blade.

Tell somebody. Before you begin mowing, be sure to tell a family member or neighbor that you’re going to be working outside in case an accident happens.

Mow across the slope. If you have to mow a slope, always mow across the slope and never up and down. This removes the risk of the mower rolling back on you.

Don’t mow at night. You should only use your mower in daylight or good artificial light.

Beware the sun. If it’s hot outside, be sure to take frequent breaks and drink plenty of water. Don’t forget the sunscreen.


Next steps:

Learn more about the importance of lawn mower safety by watching the “Limbs Matter” public service announcement.

What you can do to prevent child abuse

Child abuse can happen in any family and in any neighborhood. Studies have shown that child abuse crosses all boundaries of income, race, ethnic heritage and religious faith. The incidence is higher, however, in families in which the parents are in their mid-20s; high school dropouts or lack a high school diploma; below the poverty level or financially stressed; stressed because of a loss of job or home; or have a history of intergenerational abuse, alcohol, or substance abuse problems, a history of depression, or spouse abuse.

Stopping abuse

Prevent Child Abuse America offers these tips for stopping child abuse:

  • Try to understand your children. Learn how kids behave and what they can do at different ages. Have realistic expectations and be reasonable if children fall short.
  • Keep your children healthy. Denying children food, sleep, or health care is abuse by neglect.
  • Get help with alcohol or drug problems. Keep children away from anyone who abuses those substances.
  • Watch your words. Angry or punishing language can leave emotional scars for a lifetime.
  • Get control of yourself before disciplining a child. Set clear rules so the child knows what to expect. Avoid physical punishment.
  • Take a time-out. Stop if you begin to act out frustration or other emotions physically. Find someone to talk with or watch your kids while you take a walk. Call a child abuse prevention hotline if you are worried you may hit your child.
  • Make your home a violence-free zone. Turn off violent TV shows and don’t let kids stay under the same roof with an abusive adult.
  • Take regular breaks from your children. This will give you a release from the stress of parenting full-time.

If you want to go the extra mile for supporting the safety of children, visit the Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky site and join us for the Commit to Prevent 5K Run/Walk on April 10. UK HealthCare is a proud sponsor of this event and we hope to see you there! Also, don’t forget to wear blue April 8 to promote child abuse awareness and stop by the Pavilion A Atrium Lobby at UK Albert B. Chandler Hospital at 1 p.m. for a group photo.


Next Steps: