All posts by Angelo Antoline

Diabetes, Diet & Exercise

For many, a healthy diet and regular exercise are self-prescribed ways to feel better. But for people with diabetes, diet and exercise are key to managing the disorder.

If you have diabetes, be sure to speak to your doctor about developing a healthcare plan that balances what you eat with regular physical activity.
When reviewing your diet, consider creating meal plans that include foods that are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber, such as:

  • Beans
  • Dark Green Leafy Vegetables
  • Citrus Fruit Nuts
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Fish High in Omega-3 Fatty Acids
  • Tomatoes
  • Nuts
  • Whole Grains
  • Milk and Yogurt
  • Berries

When it comes to adding exercise to your plan, a combination of both aerobic exercise and resistance training can have the most positive effect on glucose levels. Aerobic exercises help your body use insulin better, while resistance (or strength) training makes your body more sensitive to insulin and can lower blood glucose.

Examples of aerobic exercises include brisk walking, dancing, biking or hiking – anything that helps get your heart rate up. Strength training exercises can be done by lifting weights, using resistance bands, or using your own body weight to do squats, push-ups, or lunges.

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3 Stretches for a Good Morning

Can’t quite wake up in the morning?

A few good stretches can help you relieve muscle tension, increase circulation, and even help release endorphins (those hormones that make you feel good).
“Wake up” your muscles and add a little energy to your mornings with these three stretches below*:

  1. Knees to Chest
    This stretch lengthens tight lower back muscles and can decrease back pain. Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent and both feet flat on the floor or bed. Brings your hands to rest either behind the knees or right below the knee caps. Slowly bring both knees toward your     chest using both hands to gently pull the knees inward. Hold 20-30 seconds, return to start position.
  2. Upward Stretch
    Lace your fingers together and raise your hands above your head, palms facing upward. Elongate your spine and feel the stretch in your ribcage and arms. Hold for a count of 10.
  3. Neck and Shoulder Stretch
    To stretch the muscles on the right side of your neck, turn your left ear over to your left shoulder and hold for 20 seconds. Repeat on the other side to stretch out your left side. Relax for a moment and then roll your shoulders to the back, and then to the front. Then lift them up to your ears, tensing the muscles, and allow them to drop completely.

As a reminder, always check with your doctor first to make sure these exercises are safe for you.

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Treating Chronic Pain with Physical Therapy

We’ve probably all experienced the nuisance of minor pain. You get a sinus headache, you reach for a decongestant. A backache? Ibuprofen may do the trick.

But for people with chronic pain (it lasts longer than 6 months), the answer may not be as simple. That’s where physical therapy can help.

Physical therapy can help treat not only the pain, but the underlying cause of it as well. Physical therapy can help decrease pain, increase mobility, and improve overall mood.

There are a number of ways that a physical therapist can help a person manage pain depending upon individual abilities, including:

  • Low-impact aerobics
  • Massage
  • Stretching
  • Use of modalities like ultrasound and electrical stimulation
  • Strengthening exercises
  • Movement therapy

Therapeutic treatments are designed to help a person increase muscle strength, endurance, joint stability, and flexibility. In addition, it can help reduce inflammation, stiffness, and soreness. It encourages the body to heal itself by boosting the production of the body’s natural pain-relieving chemicals.

Now, that seems like a smart move!

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Weekend Warriors – Battle Potential Injuries

Are you a weekend warrior?

Check “yes” if you’re someone who’s physically inactive most of the week, and then approaches exercise on the weekend with the rigor of an elite athlete.

If this is your plan of action when it comes to exercise, you may want to rethink it. Weekend warriors have a higher risk of being injured – both because of overdoing it in a short amount of time and because of poor conditioning.

Reduce your chance of hurting yourself with the following:

  • Realize that exercise doesn’t have to be “all or nothing.” Look for ways to sneak extra movement into your day.
  • Increase activity gradually. The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of exercise a day, 5 days a week. Break this into smaller goals for yourself so you can attain it. If three 10-minute sessions are easier for you to accomplish, then do it.
  • The “best” time of day to exercise is whatever time works for you.
  • Start at a lower intensity, and warm up before beginning an activity.
  • With any sport or exercise, always learn and use proper techniques and follow safety guidelines.
  • Put your workouts into your calendar as appointments. Be sure to keep them.
  • Wear comfortable shoes every day that you can move about easily in no matter where you are or what you’re doing…and then move!
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Hospitals and Disasters

Are hospitals prepared for disasters?

The short answer is…yes.

All hospitals are required by laws, regulations, or accreditation requirements to plan for disasters.

Hospitals prepare for both internal and external disasters. Internal disasters are events that occur inside the hospital building like a fire, flood, or power outage and have potential to affect services.

An external disaster is one like Hurricane Harvey or Irma that occurs outside the hospital. This includes severe weather conditions, chemical incidents, or large-scale community accidents. In these situations, the disaster can affect the operations of the hospital or cause an influx of patients to a hospital, depending on the situation and type of hospital.

Every disaster is different. Hospitals prepare for a variety of situations through ongoing planning and practice. This helps everyone understand what to do and how to do it to ensure patients’ safety and well-being.

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Recognizing a Concussion

With fall around the corner, participation in football and other cooler-weather sports and activities will grow – along with the potential for concussions.

A concussion is a brain injury that’s caused by a blow or jolt to the head or body. Concussion symptoms can occur immediately or days/weeks later. Signs of a concussion can include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Concentration or memory issues
  • Change in sleep habits
  • Feeling sluggish/”foggy”
  • Light sensitivity

Early treatment of the symptoms of a concussion may help speed recovery and prevent further injury down the road. If an incident occurs and you suspect a concussion, ask the person immediately and then again a few minutes later:

  • What day is it?
  • What month is it?
  • Repeat these words: Girl, dog, green (ask to repeat again a few minutes later)
  • Repeat the days of the week backward

If the individual appears confused and is unable to answer these questions, it could be a concussion.
End all activity and consult a physician immediately.

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Improving Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms through Rehabilitation

If you live with multiple sclerosis, rehabilitation can play an essential role in helping you function at your best.

From diagnosis on, rehabilitation specialists such as physical, occupational, and speech therapists can help with symptoms of the condition. These usually include muscle control and weakness – affecting the way you walk, move or talk.
Therapies that can help improve these issues include:

  • Physical Therapy – Physical therapists can evaluate and address how your body moves and functions. Therapists can help you with walking, mobility, strength, balance, posture, pain, fatigue, and bladder issues, helping to prevent unnecessary complications.
  • Occupational Therapy – Occupational therapists can help you with everyday activities to increase your independence, productivity, and safety. They can help you modify tasks, use adaptive equipment, and recommend strategies in the home and work place.
  • Speech Therapy – Speech-language pathologists can evaluate and treat any issues you may be having with speaking or swallowing. Some may also help with cognitive issues, which can affect your ability to think, reason, concentrate or remember.
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10 Early Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease

Michael J. Fox was a 29-year-old actor who woke up one morning and noticed his little finger shaking. What he thought was a side effect of a hangover actually was an early symptom of Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s disease is a chronic and progressive movement disorder that has no known cause. Nearly a million people in the United States live with the disease.

Some symptoms of the disease are easy to see, while others are hard even for a trained healthcare professional to detect.
The National Parkinson Foundation offers these 10 early warning signs of Parkinson’s disease:

  1. Tremor or shaking of a body part
  2. Small handwriting – your handwriting changes to become smaller
  3. Loss of smell
  4. Trouble sleeping
  5. Trouble moving or walking
  6. Constipation
  7. Soft or low voice – your voice changes to be softer
  8. Masked or serious look on your face even when you’re not in a bad mood
  9. Dizziness or fainting
  10. Stooping or hunching over

No one symptom necessarily means that you have the disease; the symptom may be caused by another condition. However, if you feel you are experiencing symptoms, don’t hesitate to visit your physician.

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Rehabilitative Care – It’s Not All the Same

When looking for rehabilitative care, you may have heard of inpatient rehabilitation hospitals, assisted living centers, skilled nursing facilities, and nursing homes. While these may seem like equal choices for care, they’re not.

Each of the facilities mentioned above has rehabilitation professionals on staff, but only one – the rehabilitation hospital – specializes in rehabilitation, offering 24-hour rehabilitative nursing care, along with daily physician management and intensive rehabilitation therapies.

So, why is this important?

Simply put, when it comes to your health, you want the best option provided.

A national study commissioned by the ARA Research Institute shows that patients treated in inpatient rehabilitation hospitals have better long-term results than those treated in skilled nursing facilities.
The study shows that patients:

  • Live longer
  • Have less hospital and ER visits
  • Remain longer in their homes without additional outpatient services

In addition, patients in the study:

  • Returned home from their initial stay two weeks earlier
  • Remained home two weeks longer

So the bottom line is, as a patient, you get to choose where you want to go. Don’t ever hesitate to research, observe and ask questions about a facility to be sure you receive the level of rehabilitative care that you want and need.

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Lower Your Stroke Risks this Summer

Summer is a great time for a lot of things – barbecues, outdoor activities, vacations…but what you may not think about when it comes to summer is using all it has to offer to lower your stroke risks.

Strokes – or brain attacks – are the leading cause of adult disabilities in the United States, and can happen to anyone at any time. According to the National Stroke Association, nearly 800,000 people experience strokes every year.

One of the biggest myths regarding strokes is that they can’t be avoided. But in reality, nearly 80 percent of all strokes can be prevented by controlling lifestyle risk factors, or habits that we engage in that can be changed to improve our health.

Summer provides easy-to-find opportunities to lower stroke risks, such as:

  • Buy and eat fresh produce. Visit your local farmer’s market or grocery store to find in-season, fresh fruits and vegetables. Eat them in their natural states.
  • Eat less salt. Eat fresh vegetables versus canned items, and your salt intake will decrease.
  • Visit the beach. Eat more seafood (at the beach or not) instead of red meat.
  • Enjoy the outdoors. Get active outside during the warmer and longer days.
  • Put the cigarettes down. Summer usually is less stressful. Use it to your advantage to try to break the habit.
  • Shoot for your healthy weight. Healthy eating and activities may help you reach a healthy weight (if you’re not already at it).
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After a Stroke — Finding the Right Words

It’s common to struggle at times to find the right word during a conversation. But for an individual who has had a stroke, finding the right word may be much more difficult.

Aphasia can be a side effect of a stroke, which can affect a person’s ability to communicate by impairing the ability to speak, read, listen or write. When a person with aphasia has word-finding difficulty, it’s called anomia.

Anomia makes it difficult to find the words or ideas that a person wants to share. Sometimes the word may come, and sometimes it won’t.

When this happens in a conversation, the person who is speaking to the stroke survivor may want to jump in quickly to supply the word. But in reality, that can be more of a hindrance than a help. It would be more beneficial to help the person find the word they are looking for rather than supplying it.

So, how can you best communicate with someone under these circumstances? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Allow plenty of time for a response. Talk with the individual, not for him or her.
  • Ask “yes” or “no” questions that can be answered simply and without a lot of explanation.
  • Use photographs or pictures to help provide cues.
  • Write your cues – such as a letter or a drawing – on a piece of paper to share.
  • Confirm and repeat back what the person has said. Use paraphrases or key words to be sure that you’re understanding properly.
  • Use gestures as you ask questions.
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Act FAST and Save a Life

FAST is an easy way to identify the most common symptoms of stroke:

F – Face drooping. Ask the person to smile. Note if one side of the face is drooping.
A – Arm weakness. Ask the person to raise both arms to the side. See if one drifts downward.
S – Speech difficulty. Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Listen if the speech is slurred or strange.
T – Time to call 911. If you observe any of these signs, call for help immediately.

Take note of the time of the first symptom so you can tell medical personnel because this can affect treatment decisions. Rapid access to medical treatment can make a difference between full recovery and permanent disability.

Other symptoms of a stroke also may include sudden onset of:

  • Confusion, trouble speaking or understanding what someone is saying
  • Numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg – especially on one side of the body
  • Trouble seeing out of one or both eyes
  • Severe headache with no known cause
  • Trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination

Even if you’re unsure if someone is having a stroke, don’t delay in calling 911 to get the person medical help immediately.

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Don’t Have a Stroke

Dick Clark. Sharon Stone. Rick James.

When you think of these celebrities, you probably think of their talents. What you probably don’t realize is that each suffered a stroke.

Strokes – or brain attacks – can happen to anyone at any time. Strokes are the leading cause of adult disability in the United States, and the fifth leading cause of death.

According to the National Stroke Association, about 800,000 people suffer from strokes every year. What’s notable, however, is that nearly 80 percent of strokes can be avoided.

Certain traits, conditions and habits can raise an individual’s risk of having a stroke. Many of these lifestyle risk factors can be controlled and may actually help prevent a stroke from occurring.

That’s good news, right? So, how do we lessen our chances of having a stroke?

We can start by controlling these lifestyle risk factors:
• High blood pressure
• Smoking
• Diabetes
• Poor diet
• High blood cholesterol
• Physical inactivity
• Obesity
• Heart diseases
• Alcohol consumption

If you think you can improve any of these lifestyle risk factors, do it.
The changes you make now may affect what happens – or better yet, what doesn’t happen – later.

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South Texas Rehabilitation Hospital Provides Nationally Recognized Care to Community for 10 years

For the 10th year, South Texas Rehabilitation Hospital has been acknowledged for providing nationally recognized rehabilitative care to its patients. The hospital was ranked in the Top 10% of inpatient rehabilitation facilities nationwide for providing patient centered care that is effective and efficient.

“This means that in the Brownsville area, we’re providing the highest level of rehabilitative care available anywhere in the United States right now,” says Leo Garza, CEO of South Texas Rehabilitation Hospital. “Patients and their families don’t have to leave the area to receive the latest in technology and clinical protocols – we’re providing it here in our own backyard.”

The hospital was ranked from among 781 inpatient rehabilitation facilities nationwide by the Uniform Data System for Medical Rehabilitation (UDSMR). The UDSMR is a non-profit corporation that was developed with support from the U.S. Department of Education, National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research. UDSMR maintains the world’s largest database for medical rehabilitation outcomes.

“This national ranking speaks highly of the commitment and dedication of our employees and medical staff,” Garza says. “Our staff is passionate about helping patients return home at their highest possible levels of productivity and independence. And for anyone who has ever had a family member or friend needing healthcare, that matters. We consider it a privilege to be able to provide this higher standard of care to our community.”

South Texas Rehabilitation Hospital provides specialized rehabilitative services to patients who are recovering from disabilities caused by injuries, illnesses, or chronic medical conditions. This includes strokes, brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, and amputations, along with illnesses such as cerebral palsy, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.

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Hospital celebrates decade in Brownsville

South Texas Rehabilitation Hospital celebrated its 10th anniversary in Brownsville with a big outdoor party on May 14, an event that also recognized the significant accomplishments of retired neurosurgeon Dr. Jose Kuri, STRH’s assistant medical director.

Kuri also celebrated his 90th birthday during the event, which drew a full house, including many local physicians, to pay tribute.

“We had invited about 250 people,” said Letty Mann, STRH director of marketing and business development. “A little over 300 showed up.”

A main conference room at STRH was also named for Kuri, she said. Although he’s retired from neurosurgery, Kuri still helps out with patients on weekends at STRH, Mann said.

“He’s very passionate about patient care and rehabilitation,” she said.

Kuri , a native of San Miguel , El Salvador , became board certified in neurological surgery in the United States in 1956 before returning to his home country. He was El Salvador ’s first neurosurgeon, serving as the dean of the medical faculty and professor of neurological sciences at the University of El Salvador .

From 1967 to 1975, Kuri served as director of that country’s social security institute and was instrumental in establishing a social security system in Central America and Panama , and expanding medical services outside El Salvador ’s capital city, San Salvador .

He arrived in Brownsville in 1975, launching a private practice in 1976 and performing neurosurgery at Brownsville Medical Center (now Valley Baptist Medical Center-Brownsville) and Valley Regional Medical Center .

Kuri , who also taught at the University of Tamaulipas in Matamoros , served as medical director of rehabilitation services for VRMC from 1990 to 2005, and since 2005 has served as STRH assistant medical director.

Leo Garza, CEO of STRH, spoke during the event, as did Jessie Smedley , national head of marketing and business development for Ernest Health Inc., which owns STRH.

Dr. Christopher Wilson, medical director of STRH, and Dr. Jumar Apolinario, outpatient medical director, also were on hand for the festivities, as was Darby Brockette , one of the founders of STRH and now CEO of Ernest Health.

Among the honorees were 26 STRH employees who have served with the institution since its earliest days, Mann said.

STRH, at 425 E. Alton Gloor Blvd. , is a 40-bed, freestanding, acute-care rehabilitation hospital offering therapy for patients suffering functional deficits due to conditions such as amputation, brain injury, joint replacement, major trauma, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injuries, stroke and work-related injuries.

Its rehabilitative services include aquatic, cognitive, occupational, physical and speech therapy, case management and social services, community re-entry, and rehabilitation nursing.

“We’ve also got dialysis beds, so we can serve those patients as well,” Mann said.

STRH’s aquatic therapy pool, contained within a 6,000-square-foot gym, is a game changer for many clients, she noted.

“That aquatic therapy gym has done wonders for so many patients,” Mann said. “It makes a big difference.”

She characterized STRH’s 10th anniversary celebration as a major milestone.

“It was a big deal for all of us,” Mann said.

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BEATING THE ODDS: After severe accident, victim fights to walk again

After surviving an accident in Mexico that claimed the lives of his two friends, doctors told 20-year-old Billy Jean Paul Hernandez that he would never walk again.

The accident happened Dec. 30 in Ciudad Valles, Mexico.

Upon hearing from doctors there that he could be paralyzed, his mother, Sandra Ruiz of Brownsville, decided it was best to return to the United States for Hernandez’s treatment.

Hernandez, who had been a student at Browns ville Early College High School, was living with his grandparents in Ciudad Valles, when the accident happened.

He described himself as once a “rebel,” but said after moving in with his grandparents and sustaining himself by

selling elote en vaso, or cups of corn, he eventually found God.

After an almost nine-hour drive in an ambulance, Ruiz and her son arrived at Valley Baptist Medical Center-Brownsville, where Hernandez received a number of surgeries.

Hernandez said he never lost sensation in his right leg after the accident, but lost hope when he heard he would never walk again.

“I thought I would have to depend on people for the rest of my life,” Hernandez said.

When Hernandez was going to be discharged from VBMC, the South Texas Rehabilitation Center evaluated him and placed him in its care.

Based on his injuries, he was a prime candidate for the center’s services, said Letty Kretz, director of Marketing and Business Development at STRH.

Eva Anger, an occupational therapist at STRH, where Hernandez quickly recovered from his injuries, said it’s very unlikely that someone with his kind of injuries could walk again.

Hernandez suffered three fractures in his spinal cord, one in the cervical spine, Anger said.

“It was pretty severe,” Anger said. “When you have that high of a level of spinal cord injury most of the patients don’t walk.”

Ruiz said her son was supposed to be at the rehabilitation center for a week, but on the last day of his stay, doctors noticed improvement and decided to let him stay for an extra week. 

It was then that therapy and stimulating his muscles with electricity worked, Anger said.

“The first day we saw him walk was amazing,” Anger said.

Although this is a rare occurrence, Anger said Hernandez was determined.

“His family was here around the clock,” Anger said. “He’s young and as tragic as it is, young people stand a really good chance because the body is not finished yet.”

Ruiz said she had a really hard time accepting the notion that her son wouldn’t walk again.

“It all happened too quickly,” Ruiz said.

Hernandez is now relieved that he can walk. He takes cautious, wobbly steps. He is now headed for another facility in Austin that will help him, thanks to the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services, Ruiz said.

The South Texas Rehabilitation Hospital has been ranked in the top 10 percent of inpatient rehabilitation facilities, Anger said.

“Inpatient rehab is the best chance our patients have of getting better,” Anger said.

After he is well, Hernandez said he plans to return to live with his grandparents and attend a technical school.

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Hospital helps patients recover after trauma

Luis Martinez, injured by a car accident that left him in a wheelchair, is now employed by South Texas Rehabilitation Hospital, which is celebrating National Rehabilitation Week, in Brownsville. Martinez is just one of many Brownsville residents who have benefited from rehabilitative therapy.

For anyone who has suffered a serious medical setback, completing everyday tasks can be a milestone—and can make a tremendous difference to quality of life.

The SouthTexasRehabilitationHospital in Brownsville is celebrating National Rehabilitation Week, which runs this week and aims to educate the public on the benefits of rehabilitation and the capabilities of people with disabilities.

The rehabilitation hospital opened in 2005 to serve locals with rehabilitation services, such as occupational, speech and physical therapy. A press release issued by Letty Kretz, director of marketing and business development, explained that rehabilitation is a medical specialty that helps people to recover after disabling diseases or injuries.

In 2009, Luis Martinez, a father of three, was involved in an accident when a tire blew out and spun his car out of control before it flipped over 10 times in Memphis, Tenn.

Martinez was paralyzed from the waist down and received a surgery a week after being hospitalized in Memphis to help mend his broken back. Martinez spent the next four months in physical therapy at the hospital, trying to regain as much mobility as possible. Soon after, Martinez was transferred to an out-patient facility to learn how to drive again using custom controls.

Martinez, who uses a wheelchair, has since moved back to Brownsville and works as a PBX operator at the SouthTexasRehabilitationHospital, where he handles incoming calls.

Martinez said he learned about the hospital two years ago at a Sprint store while shopping when he was approached by South Texas Rehabilitation Hospital CEO Jessie Smedley. Martinez impressed Smedley with his great attitude, and she immediately offered him employment at the hospital, Martinez said. Martinez began by performing maintenance duties around the hospital — painting, inventory and working with the nurse’s station — before working in the PBX department.

Martinez is currently a student at the University of Texas at Brownsville and is pursuing a degree in psychology so he can learn to communicate and understand the needs of patients at the hospital. The care and encouragement Martinez received on behalf of rehabilitation therapists have affected him and motivated him to serve others. 

Martinez hopes to obtain his degree and become a counselor at the hospital. Kretz said Martinez motivates other patients through his hard-working example. Martinez explained that paraplegics are especially susceptible to bed sores, which can very dangerous because poor circulation prevents the sores from healing quickly. Activity is vital to their health.

“People need to understand that there is life after incidents like this,” Martinez said. “It is possible through therapists who encourage patients to push themselves.”

Martinez contends that he owes much of his success to rehabilitation.

“We are lucky to have the South Texas Rehabilitation hospital here in Valley. It’s the kind of thing you don’t think about until you or a loved one need it,” Martinez said.

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