Family honors veteran’s memory with toy drive for KCH

Jonathan Edward Ard always wanted to serve his country. As an Eagle Scout, he lived his life by the Boy Scout creed, vowing to always help others. After the events of 9/11, he joined the army where he trained to become a member of the U.S. Special Forces and served two tours of duty in Iraq.

But to his family and friends, “Jon” was so much more than a soldier; he was a big kid at heart who delighted in shopping for toys to donate at Christmas.

“Purchasing and donating toys was a cherished Christmas tradition for him,” said Jon’s older brother Michael. His family honored Jon’s memory by continuing that tradition on the first anniversary of his death.

During his tours in Iraq, Jon was exposed to toxic burn pits and depleted uranium. Little was known at the time of the long-term effects of the exposure.

After returning from Iraq, Jon graduated from Eastern Kentucky University, got married and started a family. He was working as an engineer at 3M when he began to experience flu-like symptoms in the summer of 2015.

On Oct. 28, 2015, Jon was diagnosed with leukemia and was admitted to the UK Markey Cancer Center for several rounds of chemotherapy, during which his second daughter, Elizabeth, was born. In February 2016, Jon underwent a bone marrow transplant with stem cells from an anonymous donor.

“While going through chemo and the stem cell transplant, he often expressed concern for children who might be going through cancer treatment,” said Jon’s mother LaBera.

Though the transplant went well, Jon developed pneumonia and passed away on Dec. 14, 2016. At Jon’s visitation and memorial service, the family requested toys in lieu of flowers or other offerings. Jon’s pickup truck was parked in front of the church, and visitors were asked to put their donations in the truck, which would be driven to Kentucky Children’s Hospital after the service.

Visitors filled the truck five times over.

“Jonathan was a generous person and a big kid at heart and loved selecting and purchasing toys to donate to local toy drives at Christmas,” his mother said. “To continue a celebration of Jonathan’s life and some of the things that made him so dear to us, we decided to collect toys again this year for donation to KCH and deliver them on the anniversary of his death.”

Friends, Jon’s coworkers from 3M and members of the community generously donated over a thousand toys. His family delivered them on the anniversary of Jon’s passing. The donations collected by the Ards were made available to the parents of patients at KCH’s Winter Wonderland Toy Workshop, an annual event where parents select Christmas gifts for their children without having to leave the hospital.

“One of the things my brother Jon really enjoyed doing was Christmas shopping and bringing the toys he had and donating them to the children in need at the hospital,” Michael said. “So we thought that was a fitting way to honor his memory.”

Next steps:

  • Interested in donating to the Kentucky Children’s Hospital? Visit Give to KCH to learn more about ways you can support our mission.
  • Markey’s new state-of-the-art 11th floor will allow our care teams to treat more patients with complex cancer diagnoses, including blood cancers such as leukemia.

Fire safety tips for the holiday season

Putting out decorations and baking special recipes create wonderful memories during the holiday season, but there’s also a risk. House fires occur more during the winter holidays than at any other time of the year.

Keep your holidays festive and your loved ones safe with these fire safety tips:

  • Pay attention to your Christmas tree. If using a real tree, keep it watered, and keep heat sources at least three feet away. If using a fake tree, make sure that it’s flame retardant. In either case, use a sturdy tree stand that won’t fall over.
  • Be mindful when you decorate. Follow manufacturer’s instructions, and only use flame resistant or flame retardant decorations. Replace broken pieces or loose cords.
  • Unplug decorations when you’re sleeping or away. Keep your tree, lights and other electronic decorations unplugged when you leave the house or go to sleep.
  • Be careful with candles. The incidence of candle fires is highest in December. Never leave flames unattended, and blow out each candle before leaving the room or going to bed. Never use lit candles near your tree.
  • Install smoke alarms. Test them monthly, and put in fresh batteries at least once a year. You should have one in the kitchen, on each level of your home and near sleeping areas.
  • Have your fireplace inspected. The chimney walls may need cleaning. Use a screen to embers from escaping, and only burn seasoned wood – no wrapping paper or other materials.
  • Stay in the kitchen when cooking or baking. Keep flammable items like pot holders, oven mitts or food packaging away from your stovetop.
  • Always supervise children and pets. Keep them away from candles, matches and lighters, and watch them around other decorations.
  • Clean up after the holidays. Get rid of your tree after Christmas or when it’s dry. Dried-out trees are a fire hazard, so don’t leave them in your garage or outside leaning against your house. Also bring outdoor electrical lights inside to prevent hazards.

Next steps:

signs of dementia

Visiting older relatives this holiday? Take time to notice memory changes

If you’re spending time with elderly friends and family members this holiday season, be aware of noticeable changes in their memory and behavior, as these can be early warning signs of dementia.

“If you haven’t seen your elderly loved one in a while, you might be more likely to notice changes in their memory and behavior that worries you,” said Dr. Gregory Jicha of the UK Sanders-Brown Center on Aging.

Here are some early warning signs of dementia that you might notice in an older friend or family member:

  • It’s normal for someone to forget a date or a name but suddenly remember it later. However, pay attention if they ask for the same information repeatedly, or struggle to recall important dates (like their own birthdate).
  • Are they having trouble following a recipe? Problem-solving skills can deteriorate in someone with dementia.
  • Do they get lost when driving to a familiar location? If they have difficulty completing familiar tasks, it might be a sign of dementia.
  • Healthy people occasionally struggle to find the right word, but using the wrong word – particularly if they call something by the wrong name – merits further scrutiny.
  • Poor judgment. Are they giving lots of money to telemarketers or charities? Pay attention to behavior related to important aspects of their life.
  • Poor hygiene.
  • Personality changes. Are they suddenly irrational, fearful or suspicious? This can be a symptom of serious memory-related problems.

Next steps:

family health history

This holiday season, find out about your family’s health history

Did your grandfather have a heart attack? Did your aunt have a stroke? Did any of your family members have diabetes? How old were they when this happened?

The answers to these questions can help you understand your own disease risk.

And if you don’t know the answers, the holidays are a perfect time to find out. If you’re reuniting with parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and other relatives during the holiday season, take some time to learn more about your family health history.

Why your health history matters

Your family history gives you and your doctor crucial information that will guide your healthcare plan.

While you can’t counteract your genetics, if you have a family history of heart disease, for example, you can change your behavior to reduce your risk. By committing to healthier habits for yourself – such as improving your diet, exercising more and quitting smoking – you also become a role model for family members who share your genetic traits.

A family history can be helpful for more than just heart disease, since genetics can play a role in many other diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, some cancers and osteoporosis.

Knowledge is power

Even if your family has a clean bill of health, there are other factors, such as race or ethnicity, that can increase your risk for heart disease. For example, African-Americans have higher risks for diabetes, high blood pressure and stroke. One in three Hispanics will suffer from high blood pressure, and nearly half will have high cholesterol levels.

Knowing your family’s health history is one important step to help you avoid these health concerns. Talk to your relatives this holiday season and then then share this information with your healthcare provider, who can tailor a plan to help you counteract the potential negative effects of your genetics.

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For the New Year, resolve to treat your gut bugs right, says UK expert

Sara Police

Written by Sara Police, assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacology & Nutritional Sciences at the UK College of Medicine.

The top New Year’s resolution in 2017 was to “lose weight/eat healthier.” That’s a great goal, but as we flip the calendar to 2018, I challenge you to make a different type of resolution: a resolution for your gut bugs.

At this very moment, there are trillions of bacteria living in your body – the majority in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Collectively, these bacteria are known as the microbiome. The bulk of them are symbiotic – in other words, they are mutually beneficial. We help out microbiome survive, and it helps us survive. Researchers are continually uncovering diverse and important functions of the microbiome related to energy metabolism, immunity, GI and mental health – among others.

Weight loss resolutions are relevant in this regard, since the gut microbiome affects the rate of absorption, metabolism and storage of calories. For example, specific bacterial strains, such as Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes, shift during obesity – potentially increasing energy harvest from food.

Ai-Ling Lin, assistant professor at the UK Sanders-Brown Center on Aging, is investigating the impact of the microbiome on the aging brain and mental health. Her research findings demonstrate that a healthy microbiome is associated with reduced anxiety and risk for dementia with aging.

A well-known role of the gut microbiome is protection of the GI tract’s health and function. This is why some antibiotics can cause loose stools or diarrhea. Of note, probiotic supplementation has been shown to be effective in the treatment of antibiotic-associated diarrhea.

Maximize your beneficial and defensive features of the microbiome by nourishing and protecting it, every single day. Here are some tips to nurture the good bugs with during the coming year:

Choose complex carbohydrates. A primary source of energy for the microbiome is complex carbohydrates. Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, seeds and nuts are sources of resistant starch and dietary fiber – also known as “prebiotics.” Prebiotic-rich foods (not refined, sugary foods) give gut bugs plenty of fuel to flourish.

Include natural probiotics in your diet. Enrich your microbiome with a serving of yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut or fermented vegetables regularly. Beyond vitamins and minerals, these foods are rich sources of beneficial bacteria such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, which may boost immunity and overall health. Effects of probiotics vary from person to person since everyone’s microbiome is unique.

Get plenty of sleep. Even gut bugs need a good night’s rest. The microbiome shifts in composition and function when the sun goes down. Research indicates that irregular circadian rhythms (associated with jet lag in frequent flyers, for example) lead to shifts in the microbiome associated with metabolic changes. Taking steps toward getting a good night’s sleep will safeguard your gut bugs’ health and functionality.

Next steps:

Ensure a safe holiday season with these toy safety tips

With the holiday season in full swing, many of us are on the search for that perfect gift, but remember, safety should always be the number one priority.

Toys are a fun and important part of your infant or toddler’s development, but each year, many kids are treated in hospital emergency rooms for toy-related injuries. Here are a few toy safety tips to keep in mind:

Check the materials

  • Read labels. Most toys should have a recommended age range, so follow it. All toys should be flame retardant or flame resistant, and dolls and other stuffed toys should be washable and made of hygienic materials.
  • Check hand-me-downs. Older toys might have sentimental value, but make sure that they are both safe and age-appropriate. Toys made before 1978 may have lead paint.
  • Check for choking hazards. Throw away the wrapping and packaging. Beware of small magnets and batteries, which are easily swallowed and cause many health risks. Choking is a particular risk for children under 3.

Check the size, shape and function

  • Give toys the toilet paper roll test. If a toy could fit inside a toilet paper roll, then it’s a choking hazard, and too small for an infant or toddler.
  • Don’t allow toys with strings or cords longer than 12 inches. These are also choking hazards and shouldn’t be used or hung in cribs or playpens.
  • No toys with sharp points or edges, removable parts or loud noises. Excessive noise can be harmful to young ears.

Your role as a parent

  • Supervise your children as they play. Teach your children how to use their toys the right way – this includes putting toys away when playtime is over, which removes tripping hazards.
  • Conduct regular “toy maintenance.” Look for broken parts or other potential hazards. Check outdoor toys for rust or weak spots, and check wooden toys for splinters. Broken toys can expose dangerous points, edges or wires.
  • Enlist the help of older siblings. Young children are curious and might want to play with toys that aren’t age-appropriate, so teach older children to keep their own toys out of reach from their younger siblings.

Next steps:

Are you washing your hands correctly? You might be surprised.

This week is National Handwashing Week, which is the perfect reminder to wash your hands frequently during the busy holiday season. In fact, handwashing with soap can prevent one in three diarrhea-related sicknesses and one in five respiratory infections, including a cold or the flu.

If you have kids, it’s also a great time to go over proper handwashing technique. Studies have shown that many people don’t wash their hands correctly, or for long enough.

How to wash

  1. Wet your hands with warm or cold water and apply soap.
  2. Lather your hands, including the backs, between your fingers and under your nails.
  3. Scrub your hands vigorously for at least 20 seconds. You can sing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” or the “Happy Birthday” song twice to make sure that you or your children are washing for long enough.
  4. Rinse your hands well under running water.
  5. Dry your hands with a clean towel or air dryer.

When to wash

Washing your hands with soap and water at key times throughout the day is one of the most important things you can do to get rid of germs. Most of us know the basics of when to wash our hands, but there are some times when it’s is most important.

  • Before and after both preparing and eating food.
  • Before and after giving medical care of any kind.
  • After using the bathroom, changing diapers, or cleaning up after a child or pet who has used the bathroom.
  • After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
  • After touching garbage, or when your hands are visibly dirty.

Other tips

  • If you don’t have water or soap, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Make sure that it’s at least 60 percent alcohol, and only let children use it under adult supervision.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched areas at home, work or school.
  • If possible, use a paper towel to open doors, turn faucets or even touch elevator buttons.

Next steps:

Annual Circle of Love donation drive gives toys to kids across Kentucky

The holiday season is quickly approaching and for the 31st year, the UK community is preparing for the annual Circle of Love, an event that provides UK employees and students the opportunity to fulfill the wishes of hundreds of children in need from 10 Kentucky counties.

Thanks to the generosity, compassion and teamwork of UK HealthCare employees, volunteers and students, all Circle of Love children have been sponsored for 2017. At 8 a.m., Friday, Dec. 8 a troop of UK HealthCare Circle of Love committee members will help Santa Claus load school buses and vans with gifts for hundreds of local children and families needing assistance during the holiday season.

Circle of Love is organized by UK Volunteer Services and UK Hospital Auxiliary. For further information, contact Katie Tibbitts, manager of Volunteer Services at 859-323-6023.

Next steps:

  • Interested in donating to the Kentucky Children’s Hospital? Visit Give to KCH to learn more about ways you can support our mission.
  • When your child is sick or hurt, you want the best care possible. That’s exactly what you get at Kentucky Children’s Hospital. Learn more about our services.


Join us this Saturday for our annual breakfast with Santa

Santa will make his annual visit to UK HealthCare this weekend, along with UK athletes, cheerleaders and mascots to delight and entertain Kentucky Children’s Hospital patients and UK HealthCare families. Breakfast will be provided at 9 a.m., Saturday, Dec. 2 in the UK Chandler Hospital Dining facility in Pavilion A.

Children will have the opportunity to share their holiday wish list with Santa, sing carols and receive goodies handed out by UK athletes and volunteers.

Tickets are available now in the Pavilion H/A corridor from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. until sold out. For more information, call Volunteer Services at 323-6023.

Next steps:

  • Learn more about the Kentucky Children’s Hospital, which provides more than 30 advanced sub-specialty programs in children’s health.
  • Interested in donating to the Kentucky Children’s Hospital? Visit Give to KCH to learn more about ways you can support our mission.
stress-free Thanksgiving

6 steps for a stress-free Thanksgiving

Between cleaning your house, preparing the holiday meal and dealing with family, Thanksgiving can quickly go from celebratory to stressful. Here a few ways to keep stress at a minimum:

1. Ask for help.

Divide and conquer your to-do list with the help of family member or guests. Don’t hesitate to ask for help with food prep and other chores around the house.

2. Take a deep breath.

Practice deep breathing. Taking deep breaths when you get stressed out can lower your heart rate and help your body naturally relax.

Try the 4-7-8 method recommended by former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Andrew Weil – breathe in slowly for four counts, hold for seven counts, then exhale for eight counts.

3. Enjoy the atmosphere.

Prepare a feel-good Thanksgiving playlist with music that will make cooking fun and keep your guests in a good mood.

Take regular breaks from preparing dinner to chat with friends and family or simply to rest your feet.

4. Make time for a turkey trot.

Get some exercise earlier in the day, before you sit down at the dinner table.

A brisk 30-minute walk can burn between 100 and 200 calories and help get you on the right side of the day’s calorie count. And not only that, exercise of any kind helps trigger your body’s natural stress-relieving responses.

5. Keep the meal manageable.

If you’re hosting this year’s feast, don’t stress about trying to please everyone. Keep the meal simple and don’t overextend yourself trying to prepare too much.

If guests want a certain type of stuffing, a particular side dish or a special kind of pie that you weren’t planning to make, ask them to bring it.

6. Don’t beat yourself up.

Think about your health this holiday, but remember, it’s just one day.  If you do go for that second slice of pumpkin pie or extra helping of stuffing, it’s not the end of the world. Enjoy yourself and the company of friends and family on Thanksgiving, while resolving to make healthy choices part of your year-round lifestyle.

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