Monday, June 27, 2011
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Shane O’Dowd-Rutherford was only nine years old when he and a friend decided to cook up some homemade fireworks. It was the season, after all, so the duo started mixing household items they’d found under the kitchen sink. Within two minutes, the concoction (ripe with highly flammable solvents) exploded, the eruption landing on Shane’s shirt. It quickly ignited, leading to the pattern of injuries Shane sustained: burns to his neck, chest arms and face. In the short time it took Shane’s mother to duck out to help her other son uncover some toy cars buried in the family’s backyard sandbox, Shane’s life would be forever changed.
It would be nice if Shane’s story was unique, but it’s not. Dr. Marc Jeschke, Director of Sunnybrook’s Ross Tilley Burn Centre, tells me he treats hundreds of these types of injuries every year. Incredibly, people throwing igniters into campfires, reaching to flip burgers with their bare hands or lighting fireworks without even reading the instructions. The circumstances vary, but the outcomes are equally horrific: flash burns causing disfigurement, pain and often numerous surgical procedures to correct. Fortunately, Dr. Jeschke says there isn’t a lot of magic when it comes to prevention. Always supervise children, use common sense and enjoy your alcohol after the BBQing is done (I can see the bumper sticker now: don’t guzzle and grill!)
If this brief shout out from the injury prevention soapbox doesn’t do it, and you do suffer a burn, know that cold water is the way to go. Dr. Jeschke has seen it all when it comes to kitchen cupboard remedies (jam, butter, oil…) that only aggravate the injury further. In short, keep the condiments for your burgers and seek prompt medical attention.
Having walked the walk, Shane says it’s just important to be conscious whenever you’re doing something even remotely dangerous. As he learned, one second of carelessness can turn into 25 years of recovery (and still counting).
For more information, click here or check out the great information offered by Toronto Fire Services.
Monday, June 20, 2011
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Eat your vegetables! They’ll make you strong. Those carrots will help your eyesight. And oh ya, make sure you wash everything properly or you could suffer serious gastrointestinal symptoms, kidney failure or even death. OK? Now eat up. (You’ve just experienced my inner thought process after learning about the virulent new strain of e-coli originating in Europe).
Meal preparation will never be the same, and maybe that’s a good thing. While I’m the first to admit to eating an apple from the grocery store after just shining it up on my pant leg, or to pouring pre-washed salad straight onto my dinner plate, this e-coli outbreak is a tragic reminder of how serious, and even deadly, the consequences of improper food preparation can be. And it’s not a foreign problem. Here in Canada, there are about 13 million cases of food-borne illness every year. That number could be slashed by 85% with safe food handling practices alone.
I set out to learn how to protect myself from any invisible bacteria, and enlisted the advice of two registered dietitians at Sunnybrook. Here’s a little true and false synopsis of what I uncovered:
True or false: It’s enough to wash your produce under cold running water.
True! For foods like apples and tomatoes, run them under the water until it runs clear. For produce with a hard rind, like a cantaloupe, invest in a produce brush to get into all the nooks and crannies before you cut it up. And remember, if you soak it, you’ll still need to wash it under running water to remove any harmful bacteria. For lettuce, make sure to separate the leaves and wash each one separately.
True or false: You need to wash your produce with soap.
False! Enough cold running water will do the trick.
True or false: All produce is safe for everyone if prepared properly.
False! The dietitians told me that The Canadian Food Inspection Agency recommends children, infants, the elderly and immuno-compromised don’t consume mung bean sprouts and alfalfa sprouts because they have a high contamination rate of e-coli and salmonella.
True or false: If the package says pre-washed, you don’t need to wash it at home.
True! (Hurray, at least I was doing something right!)
There are some other great tips you can see in my video, including why the eyeball test should never be used to judge food safety (yes, I’m guilty of that, too). But when you know better, you do better, so here’s to turning over a fresh new (safe) leaf.
Monday, June 13, 2011
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When Dr. Donald Redelmeier studies something, the headlines almost write themselves. His quirky yet intriguing research has uncovered some unique and important gems: election day can be fatal (more traffic and rushed drivers), texting and driving can be deadly (yup, he’s the one that make the link) and now the newest research on hockey and health: when the big games are on, emergency department visits drop like a puck at centre ice.
During one particular shift at Sunnybrook last year, Dr. Redelmeier noticed how unusually quiet things seemed. Turns out, it was the day of the Olympic gold medal hockey game, reported by broadcasters as being the highest-rated game ever in Canadian history. Coincidence? He thought not. He set out to study his observation and found that indeed, Ontario’s emergency departments saw 136 fewer patients per hour during that 3 hour broadcast. The biggest drop was seen in middle-aged men. (I’d love to see what beer sales were that day!)
To get the first-hand scoop on this, I went to talk to Teresa Korogyi, the Patient Care Manager for Sunnybrook’s emergency department. Sure enough, it came as no surprise to her that big sporting events of all kinds have an impact. “A lot of times people register before the game and it would be six, seven o’clock and the first thing they say is, how long is it going to be? I’ve to be out of here at seven-thirty, the game is on tonight and I have to see it!”
The important thing is, don’t let your buddies smack talk you into ignoring that shooting chest pain as just a consequence of the bucket of wings you just consumed. In other words, come to the hospital if you need to, when you need to. It’s really never a convenient time to be sick, but you can at least rest assured that there is a television in the waiting room. Now there’s something to bet your life on.
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
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They say life happens when you’re busy making other plans. For Joel Shafer, that came with a cruel twist of timing. Two days before his birthday, and two days after his wedding anniversary, he got the unexpected news that he had prostate cancer. Faced with the reality of now what, Joel started doing his homework. Having recently settled into retirement, this certainly wasn’t what he’d hoped to be filling the hours with.
The statistics sound like background hum until you are the one in six affected (or the countless spouses and family members trying to steady the waters). Deciding on a course of treatment is different and difficult for every man, trying to weigh the balance between what can be both a deadly and slow growing cancer. For Joel, after much consideration, surgery was his choice. So he embarked a treatment path that’s delivered to about 200 men a year here at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre: complete prostate removal, known in medical speak as radical prostatectomy.
Dr. Robert Nam is one of the top surgeons in Canada doing this procedure. I sat in on one of his surgeries last week, and watched him deliver what he calls the ‘Nam Deluxe’: a delicate sparing of nerves around the prostate, allowing the vast majority of men to recover with little to no impact on their urinary or erectile function over time. (There’s a reason the term “surgical precision” has made it into our vocabulary. Having witnessed it firsthand, I think Dr. Nam had a lot to do with it.)
Joel is now several months post-op, and doing very well. I met with him at his home in a well-established neighborhood. Family photos adorning the walls, he now hopes to get back to the business of being retired. For men facing the same diagnosis he did only months ago, he encourages them to read up and reach out to those who have been there. Understand you should take a little time before you make any decisions, he told me. And when all is said and done, you put your faith in the doctors and the process.
To watch Dr. Nam walk you through a radical prostatectomy, click here.
Did you know?
Men should have a PSA test done at age 50, or earlier if they have a family history of prostate cancer. Make sure to complete Sunnybrook’s Prostate Cancer Risk Calculator with your family doctor.