Retired Navy Veteran Adrian Knight’s Recovery from Stroke

Neurologist Aabha Shah, MD, with patient Adrian Knight.

A trip to Golden Corral began like any other lunch for Adrian Knight, a trim, previously healthy, retired IRS worker, and father of two grown daughters who live in Capitol Heights. He headed into the restaurant but began to notice his left foot was dragging as he walked. He shrugged it off, thinking because it was rainy out, his foot was slipping.

As he headed to the buffet, he realized the numbness on his left side wasn’t going away and was, in fact, getting worse. He began to worry, thinking it could possibly be a stroke, remembering the stroke his mother suffered when he was a child. He left, calling his girlfriend to meet him at home. When she saw how weak he was, she insisted they visit a local urgent care facility.

When Mr. Knight was seen there, they quickly realized he needed an Emergency Room, and transported him by ambulance to MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center (MSMHC). At the hospital, MSMHC Emergency Department associates took his vitals, determined he was experiencing a stroke, immediately put him on IV medication, and began running numerous tests.

“Everything went right for Mr. Knight because we were able to help him in a prompt fashion,” said MSMHC Neurologist Aabha Shah, MD. “The benchmark for best possible stroke recovery is to be administered thrombolytic therapy within sixty minutes, and he was. Because of this, he had the best possible outcome for a stroke patient and he’s now at home, able to return to normal activities.”

Dr. Shah stresses when stroke patients come to MSMHC, not only do they receive excellent care from the team here, but physicians also have access to on-call stroke specialists. This can come in the form of telemedicine, which provides virtual consultations, much like using FaceTime, with stroke specialists from MedStar Georgetown University Hospital and MedStar Washington Hospital Center. In addition, patients have an entire multidisciplinary stroke network here to help them, which includes neurologists, physical, occupational and speech therapists, and stroke-trained nurses.

“I learned if I had not gotten to the hospital when I did, if I had been even an hour later, I would not have recovered,” said Knight. “I’m now 100 percent restored and I’m following all recommendations, like watching my diet and using the patch to quit smoking. I feel better now than before the stroke and I’m reducing the stress-related causes.” During testing when he was an admitted patient, Mr. Knight was also found to have untreated high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

“What I’d tell people is, your health is so important and you need to monitor that,” said Knight. “I never thought I’d have high cholesterol, but I do, so I keep it in check. I take high blood pressure medication and I practice yoga and meditation. I tell everyone to listen to your body and remember that your health is so important. I’m learning to accept life on life’s terms. I keep my aggravation down and let problems roll off my back like water off a duck.” Mr. Knight credits the entire MedStar team for his recovery, but specifically his neurologist, Dr. Shah. “She was awesome,” said Knight. “She walked me through everything, step-by-step, keeping me in the loop about everything. It was so personal that I really felt comfortable with her. The whole staff was awesome, but she sat with me and took her time to make sure I understood. She genuinely showed her care and concern.”

To recognize stroke symptoms, learn the acronym BE FAST (right). Call 9-1-1 as soon as stroke symptoms start. Acting quickly is very important and means the difference between recovery and suffering debilitating consequences from a stroke, as stroke treatment must be administered within four and a half hours of the onset of symptoms.

Please visit MedStarSouthernMaryland.org/Stroke to learn more.

MedStar Southern Maryland Saves Lives Through Organ Donation

April is Donate Life Month

For Renee Sicheri, a registered nurse at MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center (MSMHC), organ donation is very personal. Indeed, it is a solemn occasion for everyone at the hospital. We know it means one family is dealing with a devastating loss and a sad time, but we also know another family will be able to celebrate a second chance for their ailing loved one.

Sicheri has been on both sides of this equation. She suffered the loss of a beloved family member whose organs lived on and saved lives in the bodies of others, and she is part of the team at MSMHC who works with Washington Regional Transplant Community (WRTC) to coordinate this process to save numerous others. WRTC is the organization responsible for the delicate and complicated process of finding donor organs for recipients on donor lists and coordinating the transfer of the organs to recipients.

The way the organ donation process works is this: First, every effort to save the patient’s life is expended, provided this is what the patient would want. After extensive testing, once it is determined the patient will not make it, but whose organs may be able to function and save a life in the body of another person, WRTC is notified. They will come to MSMHC, review the patient’s chart, and check their database for matches. Then, the family of the patient is consulted, but it is always the wishes of the patient that overrides anyone else. Once the organ is harvested, it is put on a medivac helicopter for rapid transit to its recipient.

After the process is complete, the donor’s family receives recognition from WRTC for the generous gift of life from their loved one in the form of a thank you certificate that includes how many people were potentially saved through each person’s organ donation and how long they were on a recipient list.

At MSMHC, we are proud to be a part of this process and proud to support WRTC by promoting their Donate Life campaign and the process of becoming a donor. We promote this message in various ways, including through education to both our associates and our community, through hosting a WRTC representative for an organ donation sign-up day in our hospital’s cafeteria, and by participating in Blue
and Green Friday on April 13th, to increase awareness of the Donate Life campaign.

Late last year, WRTC awarded the entire MSMHC perioperative team for being champions of the organ donation process, and for being among the Top 50 hospitals for notification and procurement. It also awarded Dr. Katharine Modisett, MD, for facilitating the organ donation process at MSMHC.

Please visit MedStarSouthernMaryland.org/DonateLife for more information about organ donation.

How Do I Recognize What Might Be Addiction?

Addiction Awareness

Rodney Scales, Director of Behavioral Health at MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center, Valerie Stanfield, Coordinator of Intake Assessment, and Chelsea Lewis-Wilkins, Counselor, give their advice on alcohol and drug addiction.

How Do I Recognize What Might Be Addiction?

If you suspect a friend is suffering with addiction, these are some of the signs: rapid weight loss, poor hygiene, irritability, depression, radical changes in mood, financial problems, sniffing, enlarged pupils, changes to their social network, and living outside of their past values and belief system.

What can I do to help?

  • Open up the lines of communication. Ask your friend or loved one if anyone has expressed concern whether they have a problem with alcohol or drugs. This could be a sign others have recognized a problem, too.
  • Encourage them to enter into a program. There are many different levels of care available, says Stanfield, ranging from out-patient classes, to one-on-one or group therapy, to residential in-patient, intensive programs. The level of care someone needs can be determined through an assessment by a professional with experience in addiction.
  • Encourage them to seek out resources, including programs available through their county’s health department. If they have private insurance, their provider can also help direct them to available resources.
  • Encourage them to find meetings to help them in their sobriety journey, and you may find meetings helpful, as well. All areas of the country have meetings and there is even a phone app that can locate the nearest meetings wherever you are, say Stanfield and Lewis-Wilkins.
  • Be a part of their support system, as long as they follow their sobriety path.

What is MedStar Southern Maryland’s Approach to Addiction and Mental Health Resources?

At MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center, the Inpatient Behavioral Health Department is designed for patients with a primary psychiatric diagnosis. Our treatment for those patients with a dual or co-occurring diagnosis of alcohol or other substance dependence is to stabilize and refer the patient to an appropriate substance abuse program for treatment. Our Behavioral Health Department is staffed with contracted professionals who have the tools to help these vulnerable patients, say Scales, Stansfield and Lewis-Wilkins.

“We’re here to ask for an honest depiction of a patient’s use,” said Lewis-Wilkins. “This helps us make an informed decision for the best course of treatment. Before a patient leaves the unit, whether they’re being discharged from the Emergency Department or the Inpatient Behavioral Health Unit, we work with the patient to establish a plan which includes an outpatient appointment for further treatment. This appointment should occur during their first few days at home. In order for treatment to be successful, the patient must follow through with the treatment plan.”

“Once a patient is identified as having addiction issues, these patients are referred to our Certified Addictions Counselor who conducts additional assessments and coordinates referrals to inpatient substance abuse treatment facilities or outpatient treatment facilities, depending upon the patient’s level of need,” says Scales.

“In addition to the services currently provided on the Behavioral Health Unit, we also provide on-going substance abuse education to our patients who attend the Partial Hospitalization Program. We are also partnering with our Emergency Department to offer our substance abuse services to include all behavioral health patients who present to the Emergency Department. Our goal is to provide routine assessments, brief intervention and counseling services for those patients at risk, and referral and treatment for those patients who require this level of care.

All MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center patients needing addictions counseling and/or mental health help will be assessed at the hospital. If you are a community member in need of treatment for addiction, contact your local health department or a treatment center. This is a very serious problem and MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center is committed to helping patients needing alcohol and drug treatment.

Dr. Kevin Reed

“Regardless of the reason a person starts taking drugs, tolerance and dependency can develop quickly. A user constantly tries to replicate the first high they had by taking increasing amounts, since the effects of the drug diminishes over time. A drug overdose occurs when the body has been overloaded with prescription medications or illicit substances.

Opiates, such as heroin or prescription pain pills like Percocet, affect the breathing centers of the brain. A person may develop small contracted pupils, lose unconsciousness, breathing may become erratic and shallow. Ultimately breathing may completely stop, causing a lack of oxygen to the brain and possible death.

Stimulants, such as cocaine and methamphetamine, produce a brief sense of euphoria and primarily affect the brain and the heart. Seizures or strokes can occur, as well as many heart-related conditions, including irregular heart rhythms, very high blood pressures, and a heart attack. Alcohol depresses the central nervous system, leading to slurred speech, difficulty walking, lowering inhibitions leading to increasing risk taking behavior and possible memory loss or blackouts.

Drinking too much too quickly can affect your heart rate, breathing, body temperature, swallowing ability and potentially lead to coma and death. For chronic drinkers, a complex interaction in brain signaling chemicals can lead to a vicious cycle of increased drinking followed by greater tolerance that eventually leads to dependence and addiction. Alcohol withdrawal can be a life-threatening event that can involve severe tremors, high blood pressure and heart rate, agitation and seizures."

- Kevin Reed, MD, FAAEM, FACEP Chair of the Emergency Department


For more information, visit MedStarSouthernMaryland.org/Addiction.

Need Help?

Maryland's Crisis Hotline is available 24/7 to provide support, guidance, and assistance. 

Call 1-800-422-0009 
or 800-662-HELP (4357)

Resources

A variety of treatment options are available for individuals with addictions to drugs, alcohol and other substances. Other behavioral health services are also offered through the PG County Health Department. Interested individuals or family members should call the location nearest their home:

Saving a Family: Pregnancy Complications Halted by OB/GYN & Critical Care Experts

Local Woman and Newborn Saved After Sudden Potentially-Fatal Pregnancy Complications

Our story begins on a chilly night in late December 2016. Excited, soon-to-be parents, LaWan Sypert-Mujiheed, an accountant, and her doting husband, Dawud, arrived at our doors ready to welcome their daughter.

OB/GYN Dr. Michael Hotchkiss was ready for this moment, as well. “They’re a wonderful couple,” he said. “Dawud would come to every single visit with LaWan. We were following her carefully throughout her pregnancy, as it was a high-risk case, being IVF with advanced maternal age. At her last appointment, Dawud asked, ‘Doc, are we doing okay?’ I said, ’we’re doing just great.’”

Dr. Hotchkiss knew LaWan was on her way to the hospital that evening. The plan was for the OB/GYN on duty, Dr. Meghan Malentacchi, to begin induction of labor. Dr. Hotchkiss planned to see LaWan by morning when she was ready to deliver. Soon after arrival at our doors, though, LaWan began contracting on her own. This baby was ready to meet her parents. And the OB/GYN team was prepared.

But it quickly became frighteningly apparent that something was very wrong. LaWan, who was in active labor, let out a noise, a whoosh of air, and collapsed, passing out completely. The baby’s heartbeat slowed.

Nurses sprung into action, activating the hospital code for Rapid Response. The mother's condition continued to deteriorate. An anesthesiologist was paged. The baby needed to come out, now. Dr. Malentacchi performed an emergency c-section and baby Laila was delivered around 1:40 a.m. Both mother and baby needed immediate attention. Both were in grave danger.

Dr. Brook Gebeyehu, the anesthesiologist on duty, intubated and oxygenated LaWan. She was rushed into the Intensive Care Unit as the doctors worked in concert to try to save her life. LaWan was comatose and experiencing a blood clotting disorder that caused her to begin to bleed out of every orifice of her body.

Across town, the Chair of our hospital’s OB/GYN Department, Dr. Nahid Mazarei, received a phone call. It was 2:30 a.m.

“I’m so glad the nurses didn’t hesitate to call,” said Dr. Mazarei. “They called at 2:30 a.m. with no reservations and that accelerated what we were able to do. They’re empowered to go above and beyond. I tell every patient, you’ll get everything I have and that’s how the whole system operates. We work collaboratively and it’s seamless the way we work with one another and communicate with patients and their families.”

Dr. Mazarei thought carefully about what was being described to her. It sounded like a case of an amniotic embolism, which was a scary proposition. She knew these cases are around 80 percent fatal and that fatality comes so quickly these cases are typically only diagnosed during an autopsy after the mother passed away. She also remembered, with the remaining 20 percent who survive, the majority experience the tragedy of permanent brain damage. Dr. Mazarei sprung into action, jumping in her car and calling another of our hospital’s experts, Dr. Sara Parker.

Around 3 a.m. the piercing ring of her phone awoke Dr. Parker. She bolted out of bed, raced to her car and discussed the facts of the case en route. They concurred: it was an amniotic fluid embolism, wherein the amniotic fluid and fetal cells flood a mother’s body, disrupting every system, causing LaWan’s heart and lungs to collapse and her body to have a seizure. She was dying and they had to hurry.

“I’m one of the luckiest OB/GYN Chairs around,” said Dr. Mazarei. “To have Dr. Parker, who is trained in both critical care and obstetrics, it’s rare across the nation. It takes us to a whole different level. What is great about this place is that with the MedStar network, you get layer after layer of support.”

In Labor & Delivery, baby Laila was struggling. After birth, she was experiencing a drastically fluctuating heart rate. Her lungs were also compromised. Then, baby Laila coded, her tiny body going into cardiac arrest, three times. She was intubated with an unstable heart rate and was readied to be flown to Children’s Hospital.

Dr. Parker arrived. She saw LaWan had lost way too much blood. She ran down to the blood bank, to the lone associate working this normally quiet shift before dawn. Dr. Parker counted units of blood herself, determined the amount of platelets LaWan needed and made the call that the Red Cross must bring extra units to save LaWan’s life. The Red Cross’s truck departed Baltimore for Clinton.

The skies outside turned from mist to rain. It would be unsafe for baby Laila to fly by helicopter to Children’s Hospital. It would take longer, but they must drive, with paramedics performing CPR for an hour on the road, not knowing how fortuitous it was that the weather prevented their flight. They did not know until later, when the x-ray came through after they were already on their way, but during the event of her birth, Baby Laila had developed a lung condition called bilateral pneumothorax. The pockets of air that were present in her walnut-sized lungs meant the pressure changes that would have occurred during a helicopter flight would have been fatal.

Laila arrived in dire condition, but alive, at Children’s Hospital. It was now after 10 a.m. To stabilize the baby, physicians there put her into a hypothermic state, where her delicate body was cooled down, slowing her metabolism and hopefully, they fervently wished, sparing her from brain damage.

Back at MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center, steroid treatments and units of blood had been administered to LaWan, and the medication began to help her blood coagulate again. After all the units of blood and platelets she received, it looked like there was a sliver of possibility she might live. She was in a coma, but was as stable as possible under the circumstances. Would she come out of her coma? Would she live long enough to meet her baby? If so, would she ever wake up and be able to hold her?

Exhausted, Dr. Parker and Dr. Mazarei could finally breathe again. For now, though they would stay at the hospital for countless hours ahead, as would the entire team, they could rest. And wait.

The Aftermath

LaWan lay in her bed, barely responsive, for days. ICU nurses were losing hope for recovery because their patient just wasn’t responding. But Dominique Stuckey, Director of the Women and Newborn’s Center, would bring her fellow Labor & Delivery nurses in numerous times per day, believing LaWan could hear and understand them. Slowly, she began to respond to simple commands.

Baby Laila gained weight. Her daddy came to see her every day. Her doctors waited nervously for the results of her EEG tests measuring brain activity. To their delight, the tests came back with normal results. Laila was bright-eyed, and incredibly, she was perfect. After just over a week at Children’s Hospital, she was ready for discharge and was finally brought to the bedside of her mom.

From MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center, LaWan would transition to the MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital (MNRH), thanks to the help Dr. Parker and hospital administration provided to secure transition to this top-tier facility.

It would take her months in rehab at the MNRH for LaWan to recover. There, she learned how to eat, swallow and speak again. She grew stronger by the week.

The Present

Miraculously, ten months have passed and LaWan and Laila are doing well. Laila is a happy baby who likes to make her voice heard. She has two teeth and is mere weeks from crawling.

“You are never prepared to hear your wife is dying and your baby is too,” he said. “But God had a plan. I thought of that every time I would drive to the hospital to see my baby. I knew she would pull through, just like her mother. They are strong women. And I think about Dr. Mazarei. I’ve never seen a woman as strong as my wife, but she is.”

As his anxiety has faded with time, the overwhelming feelings of love and gratitude remain with Dawud. He calls Laila the apple of his eye and a gift from God. He also continues to marvel at LaWan powering through her recovery. She still goes to therapy three times per week, but they are healthy, they are alive and they are a happy family.

For the doctors, nurses and all MedStar associates who played a part in this story, the experience has not left their minds, either. What remains with the team is an inspiring, touching memory of being a part of something that can truly be called a miracle.

“The whole team functioned extremely well,” said Dr. Hotchkiss. “Every time we’d say ‘you’ve got to do more!’ they did more. It was an amazing response and a great outcome.”

Visit MedStarSouthernMaryland.org/Family for more information about our Women and Newborns Center.

Director of Security Brings Workplace Violence Seminar to Hospital

This fall, MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center Director of Security, Christopher Wade, attended an informative program presented by the Maryland Hospital Association and the Maryland Nurses Association, which outlined positive steps associates can take to prevent hostile exchanges before they start, ways to identify and monitor potentially difficult situations and steps MedStar Southern Maryland can take to prevent workplace violence.

“We’re committed to keeping our staff safe,” says Wade.  “With early intervention, and employing techniques that de-escalate situations, we can prevent workplace violence.  We also rely on training and working together because it takes a collaborative effort.”

Wade urges associates to be proactive.  An example of this occurred when he saw a frazzled mother of a three-year-old waiting in the ED.  After asking her to have her son not run across the row of chairs, Wade went to the front desk for a coloring book and crayons for the little boy, giving them to his grateful mother, helping them both better endure waiting for service.

“I look at it this way: we have an opportunity to help,” said Wade.  “In healthcare, this job gives you the opportunity to impact people’s lives in a positive way.’”

In 2018, Wade will be implementing additional ways for the hospital to create a safer environment, including installing panic buttons, additional cameras, a visitor management system in the main lobby and emergency call towers.  He says all MedStar Southern Maryland Security associates have participated in a verbal de-escalation training and he plans to present the information he learned at this forum at the next quarterly in-service day. Wade is a member of the MedStar Corporate Workplace Violence Committee, which is finalizing a MedStar Health system-wide plan to combat workplace violence. 

400 Stuffed Animals Donated to Hospital for Young, Elderly Patients

CLINTON, MD -- MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center recently welcomed 400 stuffed animals through their doors, a donation from LaPlata High School senior Sidney Monk.

Monk collected the brand-new stuffed animals through friends, family, acquaintances and a donation from the LaPlata Chick-fil-A restaurant.  She was inspired to perform this philanthropic mission after her own experience receiving a stuffed animal during a hospital stay as a child.  She has collected and donated stuffed animals to hospitals ever since, totaling thousands.

MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center plans to distribute the animals first to young visitors to our Emergency Department.

“Stuffed animals for pediatric patients really help,” said Emergency Department Nurse Kristin Quade.  “Parents are also grateful and floored we go through the trouble to have them here.”

The animals will also go to elderly patients.  Care of elderly patients is something MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center prides itself on, having achieved the highest level of care possible in the Nurses Improving Care for Healthsystem Elders (NICHE) program just a few months ago.

“When patients are elderly and/or confused, having something to help that helps soothe them will be great,” said Nursing Director Anne Johnson, who helped receive Monk’s donation.

Monk was accompanied on her trip to donate the stuffed animals by her best friend and fellow LaPlata High School senior Holly Miller.  She was also accompanied by her mother Cheri, a teacher, who recalled, “When Sidney was six years old, she was in the hospital after an asthma attack, and she received a stuffed bear.  Sidney asked if all kids in the ER received stuffed animals and was told no, the hospital often runs out.  She said, ‘That’s really sad, I’ll see what I can do to help,’ and later created Sidney’s Dream Foundation to bring brand-new stuffed animals to kids in hospitals.”

MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center would like to thank Sidney Monk, Dave and Cheri Monk, Holly Miller and Sidney’s Dream Foundation.  This is Monk’s second donation to MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center.

New Emergency Services Ambassador Brings Extra Care to Families

MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center's New Emergency Department Liaison Helps Emergency Department Patients and Families Navigate their Visit with Care

Angela Green, MedStar Southern Maryland ED Liaison

If you go through the stressful, upsetting experience of having a loved one rushed to the Emergency Department (ED), you would hope to be greeted by someone like Angela Green, MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center's new ED Liaison. Her job is to introduce herself to family members, explain what is going on while the patient is being treated, make sure they understand each step, answer any questions they have and give regular updates as they wait for news. 

“I’m able to monitor who is coming in by ambulance and I watch for their family,” said Angela, who is also a nurse.  “When they arrive, I say, ‘I’ve been looking for you,’ so they know I’m someone who knows what is going on and I’m here to help them through the process.”

For our patients, Angela will also assist to make sure they understand what is going on with their treatment, lab work and tests.  She will also follow up with them after they have been moved to another area after treatment to see if they need any additional assistance.

“It has been fantastic,” said Ryan White, Director of Emergency Services.  “When a patient leaves the ED and she follows the patient up to the floor and accompanies the family, families love it because it shows the patient hasn’t been forgotten.  It’s been very, very powerful.  This is just a part of what Angela does and it has taken this position to a new level.”

Angela says she knew she wanted to pursue nursing since the age of five, when she watched her grandmother take care of people.  She has been a nurse for more than a decade, bringing with her experience in urgent care and in long-term assisted living.

To learn more about Emergency Services at our hospital, visit MedStarSouthernMaryland.org/Emergency.

Hospital Partners with PG County Paramedics for Training

An exciting partnership between MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center and Prince George’s County Paramedics educates EMT’s on the basics of airway management, saving lives in the field.

To gain valuable airway management experience, Prince George’s County paramedics have partnered with MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center for training that gives them ongoing education on mask ventilation, laryngoscopy (using a metal instrument to visualize the airway) and intubation (placement of a breathing tube in the trachea).  Since paramedics often employ these life-saving methods out in the field, the ongoing experience they can gain at MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center helps increase their skill level and confidence, says MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center Anesthesiologist Clyde Pray, MD.

“It’s going great,” says Dr. Pray, of the program.  “They’re a great group, very motivated, very respectful.”

This program brings paramedics in to train several days per week and the goal, says Dr. Pray, is to perform two intubations during one shift, though one enterprising paramedic was able to perform six during one day spent in the Operating Room.  Dr. Pray or one of his associates explains the training program to each patient, who gives consent before a paramedic practices, and these patients know they are helping paramedics and EMT’s maintain a vitally important skill.

“The experiences that our students receive at MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center are invaluable in their development as competent paramedics, says Jonn A. Mack, Assistant Professor of PG County’s Paramedic Program at PG Community College.  “Being the primary training facility for paramedics in PG County is a task that we do not take lightly and the team at MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center allows our students to expand their knowledge, hone life-saving skills, and perfect patient care techniques.”

In 2016, U.S. News & World Report named MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center the #2 Hospital in the Washington Region and the #5 Hospital in the State of Maryland, in its Best Hospitals edition.  MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center also ranked in the top forty hospitals in the nation for Neurology & Neurosurgery.  In addition, the hospital rated as a high-performing hospital in the areas of Diabetes & Endocrinology, Gastroenterology & GI Surgery, Geriatrics and Nephrology.  The hospital was also rated as high-performing with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and Heart Failure procedures. 

How to Avoid Winter-Related ER Visits

Emergency Department Physician Sonja Devaul, MD, Advises Area Residents

161026_072_rsEach winter, many Emergency Departments across the country see admissions for common winter conditions and emergencies caused by drops in temperature.  Falls on ice are common, particularly when ice forms that is difficult to see, and elderly people more easily break bones in falls. 

Emergency Department (ED) physicians also see patients who over-exert themselves shoveling, says ED physician Sonja Devaul, MD, who advises anyone out shoveling to take breaks, restrain themselves from overdoing an activity when they are not used to strenuous exercise, and to stay hydrated. 

Other common problems that bring patients into our hospital include colds, flu and coughs due to viruses and infections.  Dr. Devaul advises everyone to wash their hands thoroughly during the winter months to help prevent the spread of colds and flu, and to receive annual flu shots.  She also suggests we should layer our winter clothing and wear hats and gloves to prevent frostbite and hypothermia.  Nosebleeds are common as well, caused by the dry winter air. Dr. Devaul says sleeping with a humidifier in the room can help, as well as applying Vaseline in the nostrils.

There are also winter-related problems not often thought about, says Devaul.  First, she cites carbon monoxide poisoning as a danger during winter months.  Using space heaters and generators in areas that are not properly ventilated can lead to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide in the air.  Since it is an odorless gas and the earliest symptom is drowsiness, poisoning can quickly incapacitate a person and may even lead to death.  Problems linked to space heaters are exacerbated for the elderly, smokers or those with pre-existing lung conditions.

Another winter-related complication seen in the Emergency Department are burns caused by space heaters and electric blankets.  Dr. Devaul urges caution and making sure to monitor children to prevent injury.

Dr. Devaul has been with MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center’s Emergency Department for one year.  She came to the hospital from MedStar Washington Hospital Center, where she completed her residency. Dr. Devaul earned her undergraduate degree from Cornell and her doctor of medicine from the University of Buffalo.  

Your Primary Care Doctor, PromptCare Facility or the ER — Where Should You Go?

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Nosheen Azam, MD, Michael Antonis, DO, and Tara Saggar, MD.

The way to receive the proper care when you’re ill is to go to the correct doctor who can best address your health care needs.  Developing a long-term relationship with your primary care doctor is very important, but when you are unable to see them, we present a guide that shows when to use our MedStar PromptCare facilities or our Emergency Department.

When to Go to Your Primary Care Doctor

Unless you are experiencing a traumatic injury, this should be your first choice.  It is important to have a primary doctor and to schedule regular visits, so that physician gets to know you well and can proactively deal with any health problems before those problems advance.  Not only does regularly visiting your primary care doctor keep you healthier, which proves to be more cost-effective over the long-run, your primary care doctor can be a great resource to help you when you are having trouble.

“As primary care doctors, we like to monitor your health, and to guide and steer you in the right direction,” says internist Tara Saggar, MD.  “We always want to know first what is going on, and we can help guide patients and get you the level of care you need.  We’re the goal keepers who know when we can help you, or where we should send you if, for example, you need imaging or certain tests better suited to a PromptCare facility or to the ED.”

When to Visit a PromptCare Facility

MedStar PromptCare is ideal for a range of illnesses that arise outside of your primary care doctor’s office hours, but are not serious enough for an ED visit.  Some examples of PromptCare-treated issues are sports injuries, sprains, cuts and scrapes, and most facilities provide basic lab and X-ray service. 

“We can treat simple colds and sore throats, as well as simple infections, like ear infections,” explains Nosheen Azam, MD, who is stationed at MedStar PromptCare Waldorf.  “When a patient can’t get into their doctor or doesn’t want to wait at an ER, we can treat them for issues like strep, flu and urinary tract infections.  We can also provide urine pregnancy tests and basic blood work to determine whether a patient is low on electrolytes or is anemic.  PromptCare can also treat patients with IV fluids for mild to moderate dehydration.” 

When to Rush to an Emergency Room

For trauma involving your face or head, for open fractures, big lacerations, injuries you believe may require a CAT scan and for any life-threatening emergencies, head straight to the ER.  There, physicians like Michael S. Antonis, MD, can work on the most complex emergency cases, order more sophisticated lab procedures and tests than PromptCare facilities and treat serious injuries 24-hours a day.

“We really want you to be proactive about your health because a primary care physician establishes a relationship with you and gets to know you, your health and your medications,” says Antonis, echoing the message of Dr. Saggar.  “They can always help coordinate care for you, especially when they’re in the MedStar Network.  If you do need to come to the ER, it’s easy for us to call and talk to them and consult with them when they know your history.”  As a safety measure, Antonis also recommends everyone type in a list of all medications and dosages into their cell phones, or to take a photo of the labels on your medications and keep that on your phone in case of an emergency.

Antonis estimates around 250 cases per month that come into the MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center  ED who should have gone to either the patient’s primary care physician or a PromptCare facility.  He estimates that within the next few years, MedStar will be on a completely integrated system which will give ED, MedStar PromptCare, and MedStar physicians instant access to the complete medical records of patients, which enables seamless and accurate ordering, documentation and billing. 

MedStar is proud to provide PromptCare facilities throughout the Maryland/D.C./Virginia area, including the newest locations in nearby Waldorf and Charlotte Hall. 

MedStar PromptCare Waldorf
3064 Waldorf Market Place
Waldorf, MD 20603

MedStar PromptCare Waldorf hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends.  You can call 301-932-5960 or visit MedStarPromptCare.org/Waldorf for more information.

MedStar PromptCare Charlotte Hall
37767 Market Drive
 Charlotte Hall, MD 20622

MedStar PromptCare Charlotte Hall hours are 3 to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends.  Call 301-290-1499 or visit MedStarPromptCare.org/CharlotteHall for more information.