Thursday, February 25, 2010

Fauquier Fares Well in County Health Rankings for Virginia

For the first time, Virginia's counties have been ranked based on how healthy its people are. The study, released by the University of Wisconsin, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, considers key factors that affect health. Among them: smoking, obesity, binge drinking, access to primary care providers, rates of violent crime, education level, air pollution levels and access to healthy foods.

Counties’ health scores were ranked on two sets of measures: health outcomes (length and quality of life); and weighted health factors (health behaviors (30%), access to and quality of clinical care (20%), social and economic factors (40%), and the physical environment (10%). Fauquier County fared pretty well, coming in as the 21st healthiest county for health outcomes, and 15th for health factors, out of 132.

We have a fairly educated populace, and that certainly helps in a lot of ways. A funny thing ... Fauquier ranked 110 of 132 on physical environment. Here in bucolic Fauquier, who would have thought? Perhaps this is a function of how it is determined. For instance, a county's access to healthier foods is decided by determining the percentage of zip codes healthy food outlets are available. We have lots of healthy food outlets, but they may concentrated in only three or four zip codes. And many new places have opened in the last few years, too recently to be counted. Fauquier ranked at only 26 % for that category; Virginia tallied 35 %.

The rankings in the study include some measures that reflect self-reporting by individuals and that express their personal beliefs. The technique of self-reporting differs from some of the other methods available to measure health, so that's good to keep in mind. It's also important to remember that much of the data from the study is from 2006 or earlier. Still, it's interesting.

One factor considered under health outcomes rates "poor mental health days." Fauquier (at 3.9 days per month) rated slightly higher than the Virginia average (3.2 days per month). Fauquier Health has been aware for years that there is a dearth of mental health providers in the county, and has been looking at the problem as part of its strategic planning.

Low birth weight is another health outcome considered in the University of Wisconsin study. Although results for Fauquier (6 %) indicate that we have fewer babies born here with low birth weights than the Virginia average (8 %), Fauquier Hospital's Family Birthing Center is addressing the concerns proactively. The Birthing Center is equipped with special beds called “isolettes” that provide a controlled, draft-free environment in which low birth weight babies grow most effectively. The Birthing Center has trained staff, including neonatal nurse-practitioners, who have the expertise necessary to support infants from birth through discharge.

Under health behaviors, smoking, adult obesity and motor vehicle death crash rate are among the factors listed as detrimental to the health of a community. Fauquier Health is already taking steps to address these issues:

Adult smoking (18%)– Fauquier Health has been a tobacco-free campus since July 4, 2008. The health system ran a stop smoking campaign for staff, offering medication, one-on-one “coaches” and financial incentives for those trying to quit.

Adult obesity (26 %)– A new Make One Change for staff members and LIFE Center members is being offered, providing education and prizes for those who want to make one healthy change in their lifestyle.

Motor vehicle crash rate (16)– A New Driver Control Clinic for teens and AARP Driver Safety Program for Motorists 50 and over are saving lives. Fauquier Health also enlisted the help of Sheriff's Office deputies at its KidSafe event to help parents with safe car seat positioning.

Under clinical care health factors, Fauquier Health is making a difference as well:

Uninsured adults (15 %)– Fauquier Health provided $6.1 million in charity care, community outreach and support of the Fauquier Free Clinic last year.

Diabetic screening (83 %)– At the Fauquier Health LIFE Center, diabetes self-management training classes and a diabetes support group are offered. Diabetes educators on staff and Fauquier Health endocrinologist Dr. Deepak Kashyap give lectures on diabetes management.

Fauquier Health has always tried to keep a close eye on the health needs of our community. Every two years, Fauquier Hospital contracts with the Fauquier division of the Virginia Health Department to carry out a health needs assessment. The information is specific to Fauquier, and is a great tool as the health system tries to plan for the health needs of the community.

The assessment has been used to:

-- Plan classes and events, like physician lectures on cholesterol, diabetes and other topics.

-- Develop long-term programs to battle problems like diabetes management or breast cancer detection.

-- Hire and train personnel. In the last few years, Fauquier Health has hired diabetes educators, a rheumatologist, Nandini Chhitwal, M.D.; endocrinologist, Deepak Kashap, M.D.; infectious disease specialist, Tam Ly, M.D.; and a medical oncologist, who will be starting work at the hospital this summer.

-- Decide on new technology purchases, like digital mammography (2009) or breast MRI (2010) equipment.

Friday, February 19, 2010

A Lot to Learn at Fauquier Health

I have learned a lot in the past few weeks.

I learned how to use Tweetdeck, a really cool application that lets you manage all your Tweets and Twitter followers and other Tweet-related paraphenalia. And I learned how to retweet. (Find Fauquier Health on Twitter at Fauquierhealth.)

I learned how to fix a text box that fails to show any text.

I learned that plastic snow shovels crack when you try to break ice with them.

I learned that Fauquier Health has welcomed two new physicians, radiologist Darshan Acharya, M.D., and pediatrician Alexander Eisen, D.O.

I learned how to post stories on Fauquier Health’s new website,

While exploring that very same website I learned that – besides being good-looking and functional -- it features incredibly comprehensive health information, and some awesome videos.

I learned how to spell gastroenterology.

I learned that that even when Fauquier County schools open two hours late, after dropping off my daughter I can almost get to work on time.

I learned that when measuring residents’ health in Virginia counties, a University of Wisconsin study ranked Fauquier 21 out of 132. (More on that in a future blog.)

I learned that Fauquier Health’s Facebook page has 282 fans.

I learned that “hospital” is spelled the same in English or Spanish.

Next week, I’m going to learn to whistle through my teeth, really loud, and what the Bistro on the Hill chefs do to make their soups taste so heavenly.

Knowledge is power.

Medicaid Cuts Hit Virginia’s Hospitals Hard

Rodger Baker, CEO and president of Fauquier Health, comments on the current budget cuts in Medicaid and what they could mean to Virginia's hospitals.

Recent visitors to Fauquier Hospital would not have found anything amiss. They experienced the same well-staffed, well-equipped, patient-centered healthcare they have come to depend on. But with $800 million in Medicaid cuts scheduled in Virginia over the next two years, it will be a strain for your non-profit community hospital to continue to provide the same level of care.

Medicaid provides insurance for low-income families and the disabled with funding from the state budget, with an equal match from the federal government. States are responsible for determining reimbursement rates. Last year, for every dollar of healthcare provided to Medicaid patients, hospitals were paid 72 cents, 6 cents lower than the year before. Experts predict that in the next two years, Medicaid reimbursement could drop to as low as 50 cents for every dollar of care.

The cuts are coming at a tough time. As unemployment has risen, more people have qualified for Medicaid and fewer have had health insurance. In 2004, Fauquier Health paid out $3,146,000 in charity care. Last year, by comparison, Fauquier Health provided $9,507,000 in uncompensated medical care.

Virginia faces a two-year budget shortfall of about $2 billion. Experts predict that another $600 million in Medicaid could be cut, in addition to the $800 million already planned. And for every Medicaid dollar that is cut, Virginia loses another dollar in federal matches.

If the additional cuts do materialize, Fauquier Hospital and Fauquier Health Rehabilitation & Nursing Center (formerly Warrenton Overlook Nursing Home) combined will lose $5.1 million in 2011; $5.8 million in 2012.

Without additional money to fund Virginia’s Medicaid program, hospitals – including Fauquier Hospital -- will be forced to cut quality, services and jobs. Hospitals are among the largest employers in many regions, and further cuts to Medicaid could eliminate 6,000 jobs in Virginia. That would mean fewer taxes for localities, loss of wages for those affected, and further drains on the Medicaid system as more people become uninsured.

Budget cuts are not unique to healthcare. Deputies’ and teachers’ positions are in jeopardy, and businesses have been forced to run lean. But people are still going to show up in the Emergency Department, and we have to take care of them.

Will our legislators take care of us?

Fauquier Named a 5-Star Hospital for Gastrointestinal Surgeries

Fauquier Hospital was recognized in the February 2010 edition of Northern Virginia Magazine as a five-star hospital for Gastrointestinal Surgeries and Procedures, Pancreatitis.

The honor was bestowed based on the hospital’s HealthGrades Specialty Excellence Award. HealthGrades analyzes objective physician and hospital data and provides ratings based on the findings.

Fauquier Health a Place for Reliable Health Information

Fauquier Health's fresh new website at is a great place to start if you are trying to research a particular medical issue or treatment.
In addition to hosting information about Fauquier Health – everything from orthopedic services to Bistro specials to details about the new assisted living facility – the website also has easy-to-navigate libraries of information about specific health problems.

Under the “Tools to Manage Your Health” section of the home page:
• Search the Health Encyclopedia for details on every condition, from anemia to Zollinger-Ellison syndrome.
• Look up a symptom, learn about a test, prepare for a surgery or procedure or learn what to do after being discharged.
• Find self-care instructions or questions to ask your doctor, or learn about nutrition, vitamins and special diets.
• You can read all about it or watch the high-definition videos – from “After your child's tonsil or adenoid surgery” to “What makes your heart beat?”
• Use the symptom checker where you can click on a picture of a person to point out where it hurts.
• See Q&As with local physicians in their areas of expertise.
If you would like to locate a physician in our area, that’s easy, too. Just click on “Find a Doctor” at the top of the home page and type in a name or a specialty. You’ll find a full biography with education, experience and contact information.

In addition to finding health information directly from, residents can find a host of health-focused databases through the health system’s partnership with the Fauquier County Library. The library interface can be accessed by clicking on “Health Information” in the “Tools to Manage Your Health” box.

● Type in search terms to be referred to books and periodicals on the subject you would like to learn about.
● Click on the “Browse all health resources” link to be sent to the Fauquier County Library online catalog. Check out these items with your Fauquier County Library card.
● Click on one of eight preselected topics — from joint replacement to pregnancy — to find specific resources relating to the subject.
● Using your library card, access hundreds of online medical journals, health-related videos and medical reference information. (If you don’t have a library card, you can apply for one here and get immediate access.)
● From the Health Information Library, visit a recommended, librarian-approved website like, or
● Find contact information on how to reach a Fauquier County librarian by phone, e-mail or in person.

Fauquier Health Reaches Out to Earthquake Victims

Upon hearing of the devastation caused by the earthquake in Haiti, and the employees and administration of Fauquier Health opened their hearts and pocketbooks to the victims of the devastated country. In order to provide aid directly and quickly, Fauquier Health partnered with Medical Missionaries, located in Manassas, VA. The group is a non-profit volunteer coalition of more than 200 doctors, nurses, dentists and others who work to improve the health of the poorest of the poor in the U.S. and throughout the world. One area they focus on is along the Haiti-Dominican border.

The Fauquier Health Foundation issued an appeal to employees for donations to Medical Missionaries. Fauquier Health matched the employee donations $.50 for every $1 contributed by employees. Fauquier Health sent $11,124 from the employees, plus a matching gift of $5,562 from Fauquier Health for a total of $16,686.

In addition, the Fauquier Health Pharmacy ordered 40 different medications for the Medical Missionaries, which the Medical Missionaries were able to obtain at cost. Fauquier Health also coordinated a supply drive. In one day, the employees and administration contributed enough soap, toothpaste, wipes, diapers, and medical supplies (gowns, syringes, needles, sharps box, etc.) to fill the bed of a large pick-up truck and the inside and trunk of a Honda Accord. The supplies collected were loaded into a sea container that was shipped to Haiti for use by Medical Missionaries doctors. Several physicians, technicians and RNs affiliated with Fauquier Health also traveled to Haiti as volunteers with Medical Missionaries.

Calendar of Events for March

Monday, March 1
Your Childbirth Experience
Where: Fauquier Hospital Family Birthing Center
When: 7 to 9 p.m.
Details: 4 sessions; 3/1, 3/8, 3/15, 3/22
Cost: $120
Register: 540-316-3588

Tuesday, March 2
New Mom’s Support Group
Where: Fauquier Hospital Family Birthing Center
When: 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Details: Free

Saturday and Sunday, March 6 & 7
Your Childbirth Experience
Where: Fauquier Hospital Family Birthing Center
When: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Details: Weekend class
Cost: $120
Register: 540-316-3588

Tuesday, March 9
Breastfeeding Made Simple
Where: Fauquier Hospital Family Birthing Center
When: noon
Cost: $30
Register: 540-316-3588

Wednesday, March 10
Physician Lecture
Where: Fauquier Hospital Sycamore rooms
When: 7 p.m.
Details: “Colorectal Cancer: What You Need to Know” with Paul Arnold, M. D.; Darren Baroni, M.D. and Jin-Hong Park, M.D.
Register: 540-316-3588

Thursday, March 11
Look Good…Feel Better
Where: Fauquier Hospital Chestnut room
When: 10 a.m.
Register: 540-878-2136

Saturday, March 13
First Aid/Adult/Infant & Child CPR/AED
Where: Fauquier Hospital Sycamore room
When: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Cost: $65
Register: 540-316-3588

MS Support Group
Where: Fauquier Hospital Sycamore rooms
When: 1 to 3:00 p.m.
Register: 800-344-4867

Tuesday, March 16
Baby Care Essentials
Where: Fauquier Hospital Family Birthing Center
When: 6:30 to 9 p.m.
Cost: $25

New Mom’s Support Group
Where: Fauquier Hospital Family Birthing Center
When: 11a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Details: Free

Cancer Support Group
Where: Fauquier Hospital Chestnut room
When: 7 to 8 p.m.
Register: 540-878-2136

Saturday, March 20
First Aid/Infant & Child CPR
Where: Fauquier Hospital Sycamore rooms
When: 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Cost: $60
Register: 540-316-3588

Monday, March 22
Massage for Couples, Level I
Where: Fauquier Health LIFE Center
When: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Cost: $45
Register: 540-316-2640

Tuesday, March 23
AARP driver safety program for motorists ages 50 and older
Where: Fauquier Hospital Sycamore room
When: Tuesday, March 23 and Wednesday, March 25 (participants must attend both sessions), 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Cost: $12 AARP members and $14 non-members
Register: 540-316-3588

Thursday, March 25
Physician Lecture
Where: Fauquier Hospital Sycamore rooms
When: 6 p.m.
Details: “Joint Replacement” with Blue Ridge Orthopaedic & Spine Center
Register: 540-316-3588

Saturday, March 27
Babysitter Training
Where: Fauquier Hospital Sycamore rooms
When: 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Cost: $40
Register: 540-316-3588

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Good Neighbor Winds up in Fauquier Hospital ED

Some say that no good deed goes unpunished. Cynical? Maybe, but it proved true for Peggy Marko, who wound up in the Fauquier Hospital Emergency Department with a badly injured ankle Saturday after helping a neighbor shovel his walk.

“I made some muffins and some hot chocolate for the men who were plowing the roads all night,” she said. “A neighbor helped me with shoveling this morning, so I thought I would help him a little. Now I'm in the hospital, and I don’t even know what happened to the muffins!”

Fauquier Health Staffer Snowbound

Not all of our staff are lucky enough to be camping out at Fauquier Hospital. Some of us, like many or our fellow residents, are confined at home, with no way to get out until the roads are cleared -- or spring, whichever comes first.

Many residents are without electricity -- and in case you haven't heard, it's a bit nippy out.

One of my co-workers, Gayla Vandenbosche, lives in Nokesville. She lost electricity Friday night and she and her jack russell terrier have been huddling together ever since.

Her husband came home with a generator last night, but they have not been able to get it in the house yet.

It's Gayla's 29th wedding anniversary today and interestingly enough, Gayla says this snowbound experience reminds her of the first days of her marriage. "We took a Winnebago and went on a ski honeymoon. The heater went out and it was freezing. We had to sleep in every piece of clothing we had."

For those residents who are without electricity or can't get home, Fauquier County has set up a shelter at Brumfield Elementary School. If you need a ride there, you can call the Sheriff's Office at 347-6843.

A Cool Tip from Fauquier Hospital -- Make Snow Cream

I’ve got a cool recipe for all of you stuck in the snow.

As Janice Cooke, CNA, and I stood by a fourth-floor window of Fauquier Hospital, looking out across the snow, she said that she was longing for some snow cream. Her mom used to make chocolate snow cream for her when she was a little girl.

You take a big bowl of fresh, pristine snow and add Hershey’s cocoa powder (real Hershey’s – no artificial stuff), some sugar and some milk. Stir it all up and you’ve got snow cream. Yum!

An added bonus: “It doesn’t go to waste. After it melts, it’s chocolate milk,” Janice said.

She cautioned, “My mother always told us not to use the first snow of the season. You have to wait for the second snow.”

She said that some people used vanilla extract to make vanilla snow, but Janice is a snow cream purist.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Therapist Takes Strange Odyssey to Fauquier Hospital

One of the respiratory therapists at Fauquier Hospital had more than a little trouble getting to work this morning.

Joan Armstrong called in to the hospital asking for a ride to work at 10 a.m. She was asked to make her way down Featherstone Lane in The Plains, where she lives, to the corner of Featherstone and Bunker Hill. Thanks to her husband and his 4-wheel drive – and no thanks to their St. Bernard, who drooled on her shoulder the whole way – they got to the corner.

They waited for 40 minutes, but then got a phone call saying that the road was impassable. Undaunted, Joan hitched a ride with a tractor that was occupied with getting someone else unstuck, and rode it a quarter mile, where she was picked up by an obliging volunteer fireman, who carted her to the end of Bunker Hill.

At last, she then connected with a state trooper, who then drove her the 12 miles to the hospital. She arrived at 1 p.m.

Obviously, Joan packed a bag and will be guest of the hospital tonight. The St. Bernard will just have to get along without her for a night or two.

Snow Pictures From Fauquier Hospital

The snow sure does look pretty, but it's tough on those who have to shovel out.

Fauquier Health IT Specialist Goes Above and Beyond

Vernon Rhea, director of Nutrition Services for Fauquier Health, tracked me down this afternoon to tell me of an unselfish act performed by a co-worker.

Vernon said, “Our printer broke, the one we use to print out patient labels. We were hand printing all of the labels for everyone’s food, including all their dietary restrictions."

No one from the Information Systems team was in the building, but Vernon got hold of Greg Gibson, technical support specialist, and asked for help.

Vernon said, “Greg lives down at the bottom of the hill. He walked all the way up here and fixed our printer. Greg said that at first, the snow was up to his thighs, but by the time he got here, it was up to his waist!”

Baby -- and Mom -- Breathe Easier After Arrival at Fauquier Hospital

Saturday morning, another baby had a dramatic ride to Fauquier Hospital, but this one came without his mom.

Desiree Lickey said that her 5 month-old son Damien Jackson had been having trouble breathing since Friday night. “We live in Manassas, but came to visit here and got snowed in.”

Damien seemed to be a little better after his mom set up a steam tent, but Friday night he hardly slept at all. By Saturday morning, he was gasping for breath and Desiree called 9-1-1.

A Fauquier County Department of Fire and Emergency Services ambulance set out with a pickup truck from the Warrenton Volunteer Fire Department following behind for safety. When the ambulance slid off the road just out of town, Natasha Randall and Andrea Schaeffer of Fauquier County DFES climbed in the pickup with Wade Kastorff and Craig Rispoli of the Warrenton Fire Department.

Natasha said, “When we got to the house, the boy was almost non-responsive. He opened his eyes a little, but was very lethargic and had trouble breathing. He wasn’t moving around.”

The women gave Damien oxygen and a nebulizer breathing treatment, set up an IV, and struck out for the hospital in the pickup truck with Wade and Craig.

Problem: there was no room for his mom in the pickup truck. Desiree remembered, “I was really scared. I’d never left him before. And letting him go like that, into the snowstorm, I was scared.”

But the pickup arrived safely at Fauquier Hospital and breathing treatments set Damien right again very quickly. By the time the Sheriff’s Office delivered Desiree to the hospital, her son was smiling and grabbing his toes happily.

Dr. Gregory Wagner of the Fauquier Hospital Emergency Department checked Damien out thoroughly – while simultaneously delighting Damien with his broad, comforting grin.

It’s been a tough few days for rescue squads all over the region. Indicating Wade and Craig, Natasha said, “These guys are the rock stars. They got us back here safe.”

The four admit they haven’t slept very much the past two days. When it was mentioned that they all looked pretty alert for folks who hadn’t slept much, Natasha said, “We just brought in a 5-month-old baby who couldn’t breathe to the hospital in a pickup truck. Give me a minute.”

Adrenaline will keep you alert.

Rescue Squad Delivers Mom in Labor to Fauquier Hospital

Speaking of rescue squads (I was really, two posts ago), Christine Shellington is grateful to the Catlett Rescue Squad for delivering her to Fauquier Hospital so she could deliver her eighth child.

Christine said that she called 9-1-1 between 5 and 5:30 a.m. on Saturday from her home in Catlett. By then, her contractions were pretty strong. She said, “I saw the red flashing lights from our window, but the ambulance couldn’t make it up the driveway. They walked up to check on me, then sent a brush truck to transport me down to the end of the driveway so I could get in the ambulance. I was scared during the drive to the hospital . All I could see was the heavy snow on the trees and hear it landing on the roof of the ambulance.”

Christine arrived at Fauquier Hospital at about 7 a.m. and gave birth at 10:13 Saturday morning to Brianna Christine Raymond, 7 pounds, 5 ounces. Brianna has been a quiet baby so far. She only cries when the phone rings. For now, Christine is enjoying the quiet in the hospital. With seven children, all under 12, at home, she could use the rest.

“I call them about every hour or so. They’re playing Wii,” she said.

Dr. Thomas Myers, OB/GYN, delivered Brianna. He said of Christine, “She was worried about getting here, but once she was here, she was a great patient, very calm.”

Dr. Myers has been staying at the hospital since Friday afternoon at about 5. “We got our patients in early on Friday and closed the office by 1 p.m. I don’t think I’ll be going home for a while.”

He has several patients who could be delivering in the next few days, so he’ll stay to be sure he’s at the hospital when he’s needed. He’s philosophical about the snowstorm. “We have one like this about once a decade. I remember in 1994, I was in snow up to my waist.”

Still, he says, the accommodations at the hospital are comfortable and the food is great. He smiled, “The hardest part was that we didn’t have TV last night. Our satellite here at the hospital went out and I actually had to read a book!”

Blizzard Demands Big Effort from Fauquier Health Facilities Department

Well, no need for me to shovel the parking lot (see previous post). Doug Dunkle, director of Facilities Management was out most of the night and much of Saturday on a giant – and I mean giant – Kawasaki snow plow. He must have been exhausted when I spotted him Saturday afternoon, but to tell you the truth, Doug looked like he was having fun.

Michael Kresse, supervisor of Engineering Services, used a Bobcat to work on the smaller piles and reported that his crew was managing to keep the roads and parking lots at the hospital “barely passable.” They never let up, but the snow just kept on coming.

Priorities, said Michael, were to keep the roads around Fauquier Hospital passable and the sidewalks to the three hospital entrances clear.

Other members of the hard-working facilities team handling snowblowers and shovels are: Mike Dodson, Larry Weaver, Scott Iseman, Gerald Sims, Phil Hunt, Del Clarambeau, Ken McCladon and Shino Kurin.

Fauquier Hospital Staff, Rescue Squads Working Hard During Blizzard

I woke at 8:30 this morning to a phone call telling me about a pregnant woman with contractions who came in to the hospital with the Rescue Squad this morning.

As I climbed out of my cot, I felt like a slacker when I realized that everyone else at Fauquier Hospital had been up for hours; they were hard at work already.

Well, not everyone was up. Those on the night shift had just gone to bed.

I stopped down in the Emergency Department, where I was accosted by Donna Burke, RN. “You have to write about the rescue squads. That’s the real story.”

Of the eight patients who arrived in the Emergency Department last night, six came by rescue squad. The rescue squad out of Little Washington, for instance, brought in two patients. “It took them an hour to get here, and they got stuck in the snow, but they made it. One woman who came in was very ill.” said Donna.

Not everyone who calls the ED is sick enough to come in to the ED, Donna said, “Sometimes it is elderly folks who are scared and alone. We got one call from a woman whose mother is alone and without power and she needs hemodialysis. The rescue squads are working on getting the mom to her daughter’s house.”

The ED is well-staffed, with those who stayed over last night and a few who made it in this morning. But the medical staff are also wives, moms, husbands and dads. As they provide compassionate care for their patients, they worry about their families, who may be home without power.

It’s a tough job, and I am constantly amazed at their dedication. After spending a half hour in the ED, I really feel like a slacker. Maybe I'll go shovel the parking lot.

Fauquier Hospital Braves the Blizzard of 2010

Sometimes an emergency occurs unexpectedly, and an instantaneous reaction is necessary. Other times, you can see it coming. Such has been the case with the blizzard of 2010. For nearly a week now, we have heard forecasts predicting up to 2 feet of snow.

Instead of a last-minute rush to the store for bread and milk, it’s been a four-day meander to the store for bread and milk. There was time to search in numerous shops for snow shovels and ice scrapers and to locate the sleds in the back of the garage.

Fauquier Hospital, too, benefited from the advanced warning. Almost 90 employees arranged to stay overnight at the hospital so they could be there for their shifts without having to brave the elements. Beds or cots were found for all, and extra food was brought in to feed everyone. Soup and sandwiches were available through the evening for volunteers and EMS workers.

Movies were set up in one of the conference rooms for those between shifts, and hot chocolate flowed freely in the Bistro.

The atmosphere has been cheerful and relaxed. There has been more than enough time for those between shifts to share conversation and laughter. Fauquier Hospital is a pleasant place anyway, but the “we’re all in this together” feeling is something special.

There has been time this evening to listen to the stories of my co-workers.

Pranita works in the Nutrition Services Department. She is a native of Bombay, India, and returns often to spend a month working in an orphanage there owned by her uncle. She was working in an Indian hospital, cooking and taking care of people, when she met her husband – a guitar-playing missionary from the U.S. They were married within three weeks and have been together nine years.

Pranita says she loves working at Fauquier Hospital. “I love to help people. I bring people their meals and help them if they need something opened. I like to talk to them. Sometimes after my shift I will stop back to see how they are doing. One lady asked me to sing to her so I sang a song I wrote. She liked it very much and told me, ‘I will never forget this hospital.’ ”

When I mentioned Pranita to two of my roommates as we settled in, they both laughed, thinking about her bubbly personality and talkative nature.

Then, as the storm raged outside our window, they remembered the blizzard of 1996. During that storm, a doctor they knew got stuck in a snowdrift near her home when there was no one else around. “The snow was over her head,” said Patty. “She remembered she had a cell phone and called her husband, but was afraid he would never find her. She held her cell phone up to the hole in the snow so he would be able to see the light and find her.”

Janice remembers having to stay at the hospital during that blizzard, too. “It was very different then. We slept on the floors, on cots in the OR, anywhere there was a space. It was wonderful. We had so much fun.”

Patty and Janice are both longtime employees at Fauquier Hospital. Janice has worked for the hospital for 30 years; Patty is a 15-year veteran.

Unprompted, they spoke for a long time about the wonderful doctors they have worked with over the years. One doctor would go to a patient’s home to check on them … another stayed up all night in the ICU holding the hand of a sick patient … still another braved the ’96 snowstorm to get them all pizza.

It’s 1 a.m. and quiet now. My co-workers are asleep or working the night shift in another part of the hospital. The men and women in the Maintenance Department will work through the night, plowing and shoveling.

In the morning, the National Guard may arrive to help with transportation issues.

Time enough then to share more stories, or perhaps make some new ones to tell during the Blizzard of 2020.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Strength Training May Help Women Maintain Cognitive Abilities

Older women who do one to two hours of strength training per week may stave off cognitive impairments associated with aging, according to a study published this week in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

For the study, researchers from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and colleagues assigned 155 women ages 65 to 75 to a once-weekly or twice-weekly resistance training workout program or a twice-weekly balance and tone training exercise regimen. They found that after one year, women in the resistance-training groups improved their performance on cognitive tests by 10.9 percent to 12.6 percent, while women in the balance and tone group saw a 0.5 percent decline.

According to researchers, the results show that resistance training may not only improve muscular function in older women but also enhance cognitive functions, including selective attention, decision making and conflict resolution. They conclude that the findings have important clinical implications because there is currently no effective pharmaceutical treatment for cognitive impairment and resistance training is not a widespread practice among elderly individuals.

The Fauquier Health LIFE Center's exercise physiologists can help you set up a strength-training regimen that works for you. Try a week at the LIFE Center for free. Call 540-316-2640.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Now Is the Best Time to Get an H1N1 Vaccine

The Fauquier Times-Democrat is doing a story this week on the H1N1 flu. Should we still be concerned about it?

According to Dr. Tam Ly, Fauquier Health infectious diseases specialist, complacency is not our friend. She pointed out that historically, pandemic flus come back around with a surge in cases during January and February. Both Dr. Ly and Dr. Joseph Servideo, director of the Fauquier Hospital Emergency Department, agree that January was very quiet for flu cases.

But Dr. Ly emphasized that it's still important to get vaccinated for both the seasonal flu and the H1N1 flu. She said, "If we do have a surge, and you wait until you start to feel sick, or until those around you begin to feel sick, it's going to be too late. The H1N1 vaccination takes several weeks to reach full potency."
She added, "Getting vaccinated is an easy thing you can do to protect yourself from a serious, even potentially fatal disease."

Dr. Ly said that many of her patients have been questioning the safety of the H1N1 vaccine; she assures them that if they have had no trouble with the seasonal flu vaccine, they should be fine with the H1N1 vaccine. "It is a very safe vaccine," she said. "And it's very effective, because it's an exact match for the H1N1 strain."

Fauquier Hospital: "How Tweet It Is"

I spent some time today playing with Twitter -- seeing how it works ... reading Tweets from other healthcare organizations and news agencies.

Very fun.

Fellow Tweeters can look for Fauquier Health updates, news items and maybe even some specials at the Bistro on the Hill by following us at "Fauquierhealth."

If you don't know what "follow" means in Twitter Talk, go to and play yourself.