‘Hands on Health Fair’ highlights services

EVERETT — The new Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Medicine Center served as the centerpiece of the Providence Regional Medical Center’s “Hands-On Health Fair” in its Cymbaluk Medical Tower in Everett on Saturday, Feb. 25.

Preston Simmons, chief operating officer of the Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, explained that its Vascular Surgery program has become even more robust since the opening of its Wound Healing Center within the past month.

Ruth Henderson, licensed practical nurse and hyperbaric chamber technician, answered visitors’ questions about the Wound Healing Center’s hyperbaric medical chamber, whose features include curtains for privacy and a TV for patients to watch shows or movies during their two-hour treatment periods.

“This chamber helps with diabetic foot ulcers, burns, carbon monoxide poisoning, bone infections and radiation damage from cancer treatments,” Henderson said. “It forces oxygen into wounds and other tissues at high pressure, and improves circulation by giving the lungs more concentrated oxygen to feed the bloodstream. It’s actually been shown to build brand new capillary blood vessels, and flesh-eating viruses can’t grow with that amount of oxygen.”

While some visitors wondered whether the inside of the chamber might feel claustrophobic for some patients, Henderson reported that many patients express disappointment when their sessions end.

“There’s no demands on them inside that chamber,” Henderson said. “Besides, I’m in constant contact with them, right outside the chamber.”

In the main “Hands-On Health Fair” area, more than 30 interactive information booths provided services and demonstrations such as training mannequins to teach CPR, bicycle helmet-fittings and car seat measurements, flu shots, and screenings for blood pressure and diabetic foot ulcers. Arlington-based registered nurse and “Organ Lady” Kathy Ketchum was even on site, with her table full of human organs, to present “InsideOut: The Original Organ Show,” albeit to a decidedly older audience than she typically addresses at area schools.

Cardiac surgeon Dr. Joseph Austin, who successfully treated a teenage girl for a knife wound to the heart last fall, discussed attendees’ concerns about the symptoms of heart valve trouble, from shortness of breath to lack of stamina, as well as the likely course of treatment.

“The doctors will listen for a heart murmur, then refer the patient for an echocardiogram if one turns up,” Austin said. “If your heart’s valves are failing, it’s a condition you were born with or developed. It’s not like blocked arteries, which are avoidable.”

Harvinder Bedi and Gary Wickman, who manned the echocardiography booth at the fair, summed it up as cardiac ultrasound carried out through a variety of methods, from putting a probe down the patient’s throat to check the back of their heart to conducting stress tests which record how each chamber of the heart functions before and after exertion.

Austin noted that many open heart surgeries can now be avoided through the use of robotic probes, which can enter through a small incision in the side of a patient’s ribs.

“It’s less traumatic than opening the breastbone, so patients tend to recover much faster from surgery,” Austin said.

Dr. Clifford Rogers has already taken advantage of such technology as part of his gynecological surgeries. He invited fair attendees to look through the 3-D viewer of the da Vinci Surgical System, which allows surgeons to manipulate flexible and adjustable surgical robot arms through hands-on controls.

“Two out of every three pelvic operations required me to make big incisions before,” Rogers said. “Now, I only need to do that in 3-5 percent of those operations.”


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