Home is Where the Test Is
Do-it-yourself home health kits are becoming more and more diverse, with the ability to test for pregnancy, blood pressure, hepatitis C and even HIV. But which ones should you trust, and which ones should you trust to your doctor? Although home tests for pregnancy, diabetes and blood pressure are considered accurate and useful, testing yourself for more serious conditions such as hepatitis C and HIV, is more complicated. “I think home pregnancy tests, great. [Testing] blood pressure at home, great,” Dr. Travis says. “Should we really be checking our hepatitis C status at home?”
“If you’re doing that, you should probably be seeing the doctor,” Dr. Jim says.
Dr. Lisa advises that if you do use do-it-yourself health kits, make sure to follow up with a doctor to verify that the test results are accurate.
Hotspots for Catching Colds
If you’ve come down with a cold this season, you’re probably wondering “Where did I catch it from?”
Confined areas such as airplanes, hospitals, daycares, schools and offices are major breeding grounds for the cold virus because people are very close together, allowing germs to spread easier. In the home, kitchen sponges are the No. 1 sources of spreading cold and flu germs, so be sure to replace them if someone in the house is sick.
“And don’t go to work!” Dr. Lisa declares. “I know that it’s hard, but you’re just going to get everybody else sick.”
If you are sneezing, it means that your body is trying to rid itself of the virus, and you are contagious. The Doctors advise washing your hands often. If you are around somebody that is sick, try to avoid touching them and then touching your face, because doing so is a sure-fire way to spread the germs.
Are Cold Medicines Safe for Kids?
Although the average child catches a cold eight to 10 times per year, major medical groups such as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have suggested banning cold medication for children up to the age of 6. Citing potential side effects and cases of overdose and misuse, the AAP indicated that children’s cold medicines do not cure the virus; though some medications may temporarily suppress symptoms such as a cough. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns against giving cold medicines to children younger than 2.
“I think, [when] used properly, they are safe,” Dr. Jim explains. “The problem is [that] they are very confusing. They come with different sized droppers, and there [are] all these different combinations.”
Other ways to help children overcome a cold without using medication is to give them fluids and make sure they get plenty of rest. Dr. Jim advises using the bathroom as a makeshift sauna by turning the shower on hot and letting the steam help ease congestion and breathing.
A 2-Year-Old Miracle
Three weeks before her due date, Liz, 38, knew something was wrong with her pregnancy. Her baby, Landon, had been very active in the womb, kicking constantly, but suddenly his movements ceased. After seeing her doctor and explaining her concerns, Liz was told she needed to have an emergency C-section to save the baby.
When Landon was delivered, Liz says he looked lifeless, and her husband, Brett, noticed that Landon’s right arm was purple and the skin looked as if it was coming off.
“Landon’s arm looked like it had been slammed in a car door,” Liz says. “The doctors [were] talking about cutting his arm open from the elbow to the wrist. They whisked him away so fast.”
The doctors diagnosed Landon with compartment syndrome, which prevents adequate blood flow from the wrist to the elbow. Landon also had blood clots in his arm and had suffered a stroke. The doctors couldn’t explain how he had developed the condition, but they think it could be due to an umbilical cord injury or leaning on the arm a certain way in the womb.
“[Doctors] depend on that so, so much,” Dr. Lisa says. “A mother’s instincts are fantastic, and that’s the only way we can know between the times that they see us that something’s going on. I would say that more times than not, a mother is right, actually, and you really have to take it seriously when a mother says, ‘I just don’t feel right and check it all out.’”
Landon was in surgery almost immediately after he was removed from the womb. The doctors toiled to reestablish blood flow in his arm, and Landon was kept in the neonatal intensive care unit for 52 days. “We barely, barely made it through those 52 days,” Liz recalls. “It was like going straight to hell.”
After numerous surgeries, doctors could still not guarantee that Landon’s arm would ever function normally. But when Landon was 2 years old, he underwent a ground-breaking skin graft surgery to save his arm. Dr. David Kulber, Director of the Center for Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, performed the surgery and says Landon had lost nearly all the soft tissue in his arm, including the skin and fat. “It was basically like an arm with some muscles. Like a hand on a stick,” Dr. Kulber says.
To rebuild the soft tissue in Landon’s arm, Dr. Kulber used AlloDerm, which is human cadaver dermis that has all the skin elements of the deep part of the dermis. It acts as tissue filler to give more bulk to the arm, and a layer of Landon’s own skin was then placed over the AlloDerm to make it look like a normal arm. Landon still had some arteries intact, which allowed him to have use of it.
“He has function, he has sensation, he has movement in his fingers, so the nerves are all working, which is just incredible,” Dr. Kulber says.
Landon can now grip and pick up objects such as Cheerios, and can even hold a fork.
“He’s a walking, talking, 2-year-old miracle,” Liz says.
Imagine not being able to read without the aid of a magnifying glass, drive around the block or even recognize your own children in a crowd of people. For 39-year-old Theresa, those are realities.
Theresa suffers from Stargardt’s disease, a macular degeneration of her retina that has left her legally blind. “When I look at someone, it’s as if I have glasses on and there’s Vaseline on those glasses,” she explains.
Stargardt’s disease is a genetic condition that typically begins to affect people between the ages of 6 and 20. People with Stugart’s diease will first begin to notice difficulty in reading because of hazy spots in the center of their vision. It will also take longer for their eyes to adjust between light and dark environments. The vision loss associated with the disease usually begins slowly, and although it doesn’t affect peripheral vision, the condition progresses rapidly once eyesight worsens to 20/40. Currently, there are no effective cures or treatments for Stugardt’s disease.
Theresa realized her vision was deteriorating about 10 years ago when she had trouble noticing punctuation marks while reading. She went to the eye doctor, was diagnosed with Stargardt’s and within three months, she had lost 65 to 75 percent of the central vision in her left eye. Soon she was deemed legally blind.
Theresa is unusual in that her vision deteriorated at a much older age than most who are afflicted with the disease. Dr. Michael Gorin, a professor of ophthalmology at the Jules Stein Eye Institute at UCLA, says “[Theresa and her husband, Paul] are very fortunate that it [occurred] later [in her life] because they were emotionally better prepared to deal with that sudden loss of vision. When you’re a teenage boy wanting to drive, or a young girl who’s thinking about dating and you’re faced with this, it’s really quite traumatic.”
While she can still make out some shapes and colors, Theresa, a mother of two, has trouble distinguishing faces -- even those of her own children.
“We were at a birthday party, and I couldn’t tell which child was [mine],” Theresa says in a video, holding back tears. “So that was really hard. Not to be able to tell which little 4-year-old was my child, and not to be able to see the presents and what was going on and to be able to converse with the other parents, it can get really frustrating.”
To deal with her vision loss, Theresa and her family have developed ways to help keep track of her children, such as having her boys -- Joseph, 7, and Patrick, 4 -- wear certain hats she could recognize. The two boys also try to help Theresa out around the house.
“They are really great about trying to keep the floor clear of toys, and saying ‘Oh, mommy, watch for that step,’ or ‘Watch for that toy,’” she says. “They really do quite well.”
Theresa is a stay-at-home mother, but due to her vision has trouble finding ways to spend time with Joseph and Patrick outside of the house because she can no longer drive her boys to the park. She would like to play with them in the backyard, but it is full of weeds and the ground is uneven, which makes it difficult for Theresa to walk around safely and has even caused her to twist her ankles. To help make the backyard a safe haven, The Doctors surprised Theresa and her family and sends lifestyle expert Moll Anderson to perform a backyard makeover!
Instead of having a small, brown playground in the middle of the yard, Moll suggests making a perimeter and using large, colorful objects to help Theresa navigate the space. Moll surprises the family with an outdoor oasis that includes an extended deck to allow Theresa more room to walk. The deck connects to a new, brightly colored playhouse. Moll also replaced much of the weeds and grass with 100 percent recyclable rubber tire pieces, which creates a safe, soft play surface. A side patio area with baseball glove-shaped chairs for the boys allows for lots of quality family time.
“Thank you for bringing the park to me!” Theresa says with a big smile.