News/Blog

Starting a Health Journal

There is an importance of compiling a medical history, and while a record of your medical history is essential to your doctor-patient relationship, there are even more ways to improve on it.

One of those ways is by keeping a health journal, which is a very detailed record of your daily activities, diet, medications, and feelings.

Reasons to keep a health journal:

A health journal can be a great way to keep track of the general state of your body, the effectiveness of your current lifestyle, and weight loss progress. The ability to look back on your previous activities and food consumption provides an accurate and expansive window through which you can assess your habits, and make decisions based off of the information you’ve collected.

Many people with chronic pain or concerning symptoms rely on a health journal to stay on top of their medical issues and improve communication with their physicians. Cross-referencing flare-ups and symptomatic occurrences with activities and foods can shed light on triggers.

What to record in your health journal:

Sleep: How did you sleep the night before? How long did you sleep? What time did you go to bed, and what did you do before you fell asleep?

Medications: If you take any medications, vitamins, or supplements, record what they are and when you take them.
Physical Activity: Any exercise or out-of-the-ordinary strenuous activity can have a significant impact on your health, and should definitely be included.

Symptoms: Any physical symptoms you experience should be recorded in detail. What time you experience them and the level of severity and length should be noted.

Food/Drink: Record anything you consume throughout the day, and be as detailed as possible. What did you eat, and how much? Where did you eat? Who prepared the food?

Emotions: Health is about more than simply the physical aspects. Being aware of your mood and recording any drastic changes is essential to health tracking.

 Helpful hints/how to get started:

Talk to your doctor. Even if you are starting a journal simply for general health observation, it can be very helpful to ask your doctor what to include. Based on your medical history, he or she might have specific concerns or insight that will aid in accuracy and effectiveness.

Find a journal that works for you. The options for a health journal are endless. Even something as simple as a one subject notebook with each day’s date at the top of the page can work if that’s a format that you favor. There are also options for printable journal pages, and even apps that keep all of your information on your smart device.

Keep your journal in an easily-accessible place. Whether it’s your kitchen, purse, or bathroom, keep your health journal in a place that you frequently visit or use. The kitchen is usually ideal, because foods, beverages, and medicines are often found there. Recording what you eat is much easier when the diary is close to the refrigerator.

Be honest. Recording false or altered information, for whatever reason, will only deter your efforts as you try to assess your health. Remember that your doctor is on your side, and that open communication is essential to the doctor/patient relationship.

We hope you’ll find these tips useful in enhancing your health care experience. We deeply value honesty between our patients and team members, and a health journal can be an incredible tool in that line of communication.

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There’s an App for That

February is American Heart Month. It’s a great time to make strides in taking better care of your body and your health. But, while we all know we should take better care of ourselves, it’s actually easier said than done. Find ways to motivate and challenge ourselves and track our progress can be truly helpful.

Now, this very motivation and accountability is available—literally–at your fingertips. With the increase in smart phones has come an increase in apps (applications) to meet every need you could imagine. Health and wellness is no exception.

We’re here to share a list of our favorite apps to help you stay healthy. Most are free or cost less than $5 to download.

c8a0a1732d32c3f08d571880c75a1473fad84013Daily Burn

Description: Of all the apps, this one does the best job of combining exercise and diet. Not only are you able to log your daily meals and snacks, you can also scan barcodes of food items to find full nutritional value. This app also creates sample workout plans for a variety of levels.
Cost: Free
Learn more hereMyFitnessPal_Logo

My Fitness Pal

Description: Track calories in and calories out with My Fitness Pal. You can track each item of your meals and snacks as well as the calories burned from your daily exercise. If what you’re looking for is accountability to help you stay on track, this is a great app for you!
Cost: Free
Learn more here

0x0ss-85FitJourney

Description: FitJourney helps you track your weight loss by photographs. It keeps track of your weight, what you’ve eaten (with photographs as well), and can even give a decent estimate of your BMI. The visual component is powerful in helping you in your journey to lose weight, but the one big downside to this app is that it doesn’t offer much guidance, just accountability. For the self-motivated, visual person, it’s a great fit!
Cost: Free
Learn more hereunnamed

Nike Training Club

Description: The Nike Training Club app actually works like a personal trainer, containing a variety of workouts that include strength and cross training, cardio, and yoga. With videos to help you see what each move should look like, you’re never in the dark with any of your workouts. The one negative to this app is that if you are a beginner, it might be best to wait a few weeks after you’ve begun exercising to try it, or you may have to modify some of the workouts to fit your needs.
Cost:  Free
Learn more hereicon175x175

Fitness Builder

Description:  FitnessBuilder contains the largest library of exercise images & videos (over 7,000) produced with excellent form by our exercise physiologist, physical therapy and orthopedist team. It features the most challenging workouts across all disciplines (over 900), access to a live personal trainer and the most complete set of workout building & performing tools, fitness calculators, tracking, scheduling and progress graphing features –on this app and syncing to the web. If you are a beginner, this might not be the app for you. However, if you have a solid working out experience, you will definitely benefit from this one!
Cost:  This app is free for one month. After that trial period, the Plus version costs $7. It’s the most expensive version, but definitely worth it.
Learn more hereLoseItIconLarge

Lose It!

Description: This app is another great option to track your calories consumed and burned. Another great feature is that it allows you to set goals of what you would like to consume for proteins, fats, carbs, etc. It also tracks your progress and allows you to connect with friends to receive accountability and encouragement.
Cost: Free
Learn more heresporty_gavsus

Fooducate

Description:  Lose weight, track your progress, and eat REAL food. This is one of the only apps that looks beyond the calorie and helps you eat healthy and tasty. Scan a product barcode to see what’s really in your food. Fooducate will also show you healthier alternatives. The one thing some may not love about this app is that real food substitutes often require cooking from scratch. If you are pressed for time, it can can be difficult to cook from scratch. However, we think that cooking from scratch can be fun and gets faster with time!
Cost:  Free, or “Plus” version available for $3.99
Learn more hereunnamed 9.58.52 AM

My Diet Coach

Description:  (Note: this app is only available for women) My Diet Coach helps keep you motivated and committed to lose weight fast. It will motivate you, help keep you on track, resist food cravings, temptations, emotional eating, exercise laziness and other challenges by motivational arguments and guidelines, helpful and necessary reminders, notifications with your goal, and motivational photos and weight chart.
Cost: Free, an upgraded version is available for $0.99
Learn more hereyaFl1DAS

Couch to 5K

Description: If one of your goals is to run a 5K, this is the app for you. The popular Couch to 5K program is a great way to help you exercise more and meet a specific goal at the end of your time.
Cost: Free
Learn more heremzl.hdtbpfba

Gympact

Description: This app is the most unique, and is also a fairly new app. The idea behind it is really great, but we don’t know a lot about how well it works. Each week you set your exercise and healthy eating goals each week and put a monetary value with each goal (working out a certain number of times each week, eating fruits or vegetables with every meal, etc). You snap photos of each meal and have them verified by other members, and check in to the gym, or track workouts via GPS and accelerometer. As you meet your goals, you will receive weekly notifications of your earnings. Missing a goal will cost, however!
Cost: Free
Learn more here 

With such a wide range of apps available to meet every kind of fitness goal and plan, it’s easier than ever to live healthy. Which apps are your favorite? We would love for you to share them in the comments below!
Note: as always, before you begin any exercise routine, it is important to consult with your doctor and get the best insight into what kind of exercise and what level is best for you. These apps are merely suggestions, and should be used until you have spoken with your doctor more.

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Take Part in Your Healthcare

It’s normal to have questions and anxieties when facing any kind of health issue, whether it’s an illness, injury, surgery, recovery, etc. Every patient wants to receive the best care possible, but did you know that patients play a big role in the care that they receive? Inherent in any medical care is relationships — relationships between the patient and practitioners (physicians, therapists, nurses, etc.). When patients come prepared with the best knowledge of their symptoms, medical history, and current circumstances, the practitioners have a better understanding of their patients and can offer the best treatment plan.

So what does it mean to “come prepared”?

PARTICIPATING IN YOUR HEALTHCARE: 1. MAKE A LIST

Time with practitioners is often limited, so by making a list of things you’d like to address you will make the most of that limited time. What symptom(s) is worrying you the most? Try to pinpoint when it started and anything that makes it better or worse. Avoid waiting until the practitioner is leaving the room to bring up another symptom or concern. Undivided attention is important in patient/practitioner communication.

PARTICIPATING IN YOUR HEALTHCARE: 2. COMMUNICATE YOUR CONCERNS AND DESIRES

Patients will often hesitate to discuss financial or family concerns to practitioners. Health issues can be scary and it’s not easy to talk about them, even with your own doctors. Practitioners understand that medical problems and treatment are both financially and emotionally taxing. Don’t be afraid to communicate those concerns! Are you worried about how you will pay for your healthcare and prescriptions? There may be programs to help you. If your practitioner doesn’t immediately know the answer he/she will direct you to a staff member who can help. Does your family need help coping with the stress of your illness or recovery? Support groups and/or counseling can do that. Let your practitioners know you need it!

PARTICIPATING IN YOUR HEALTHCARE: 3. ASK QUESTIONS

Don’t hesitate to ask, “What does that mean?” if a physician says something that goes over your head. If you don’t ask, the practitioner will assume you understand all that is being said. Ask about surgery risks, expected outcomes, prescribed medications and therapies. Tell your physician, therapist, nurse, etc. what you hear them saying. Make sure you’re all on the same page before anyone leaves the room. You might even think of questions in the middle of the grocery store or while watching TV — write them down and ask them at your next appointment.

Remember, you are an active participant in your own healthcare. You are an expert on your body, your circumstances, your life. Your doctors are experts at what they do but they need your expertise on YOU in order to provide the best healthcare.

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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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Winter Care Tips for Seniors

The winter season presents specific risks and challenges that can be exaggerated for older adults. We value the safety of our patients while they are with us and certainly once they go home. Because of this we believe that it’s important to be prepared for the risks that winter weather can bring. Here are seven safety tips to help mitigate those risks.
  1. Keep warm. Older adults are at a greater risk of developing hypothermia — a dangerous drop in body temperature — during cold weather. Aging lowers one’s ability to withstand longer periods of cold, even from just sitting in a colder than normal room. Certain conditions and medications can also affect a person’s ability to sense cold, making them especially vulnerable. Because of this, older people should keep indoor temps above 65 degrees and look for the warning signs of hypothermia – shivering, cold and pale or ashy skin, abnormal fatigue, sudden confusion, and/or slowed breathing and heart rate. If you notice these symptoms call 911 immediately.
  2. Avoid falls. While falls are a constant concern regardless of weather, seniors need to be especially vigilant in avoiding falls during the winter. Ice, snow, and mobility impeded by cold temperatures can wreak havoc on a normally safe environment. Given the particularly dangerous nature of falls in older adults, it is crucial for individuals and their loved ones to keep steps and walks clear of snow, ice, and other potential fall hazards. Be especially cautious when using canes, walkers, crutches, etc. on snow and ice.
  3. Watch for wintertime depression. It’s not uncommon for older adults to alter their social engagements during the winter months because of the cold and inclement weather. While this seems like a good idea in terms of limiting exposure to winter illnesses and avoiding fall risks, it can actually have a negative impact on one’s mental and emotional well-being. Staying active and finding alternative social outlets is a big factor in avoiding wintertime depression. If you have older family members who are at risk of becoming isolated, make an effort to visit, call, or arrange activities to keep their spirits high.
  4. Eat a varied diet. When it’s cold outside we’re less likely to get the sun exposure that we need for our bodies to produce Vitamin D, and we tend to eat a less varied diet. Eating foods with Vitamin D, like milk, grains, and certain seafood can help with this deficit. You might even talk with your doctor about taking a vitamin D supplement.
  5. Prepare for emergencies. Winter storms can cause a variety of problems including long-lasting power outages and snowed- or iced-in conditions. It is essential to be prepared for such events before they occur. The CDC website has a wealth of information on preparing for extreme cold conditions. They have created a printable document – Extreme Cold Guide – that includes information for what to do before, during, and after a winter storm. Tips include storm preparation, safety checklists, and health information. This guide is a valuable clearinghouse for anyone preparing for winter weather. [1]
  6. Drive safely. While safe driving practices are always paramount, hazards can be exaggerated during inclement weather. It is important to know one’s limits when it comes to operating a vehicle. If you don’t feel comfortable driving in ice and snow, ask a friend or family member for a ride. Another concern on the road is emergency preparedness. Make sure you have supplies in your car to keep you safe in case of a stranding or accident. Warm blankets and clothes, food, a flashlight, and an ice scraper should be standard equipment in the car. Always travel with a cell phone and charger in case you have an emergency. Another way to avoid problems is to have your car winterized by a trusted professional.
  7. Maintain safe heating. It is vitally important to keep heaters, fireplaces, furnaces, etc. in good working order and free of clutter to avoid fires and carbon monoxide leaks. Beyond having these devices checked by a professional, you should have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Make sure the detectors are properly installed on every floor and are in good working condition. Each bedroom and sleeping area should have its own smoke detector. [2]
By following these basic safety tips you and your loved ones can reduce the risk of serious problems this winter. Stay warm and be safe!
Resources:
  1. http://emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/winter/guide.asp
  2. http://www.nfpa.org/safety-information/for-consumers/fire-and-safety-equipment/smoke-alarms
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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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