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Silhouette of a father in son walking together in front of a beautiful sunset

Blood Cancer: Diagnosis and Treatment

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According to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, every three minutes an American learns that they have blood cancer — the 3rd leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States.

But the earlier you are diagnosed, the more treatable blood cancer can be. At LifeBrite Early, we take cancer awareness seriously, which is why we are dedicated to sharing compassionate, quality information during National Blood Cancer Awareness Month in September.

What is Blood Cancer?

A Yale fact sheet reveals how blood cancers originate — usually as an abnormal reproduction in white blood cells. Blood cancer is more common in men than women, though a full picture of causes beyond a few possible genetic or environmental factors has not been fully developed.

Because the causes of blood cancers are not fully understood, defining effective prevention is also challenging. In general, avoiding tobacco and exposure to radiation or toxic industrial chemicals are advised. Following general guidelines for cancer prevention (including a healthy diet, regular exercise, and ample sleep) may also reduce your risk.

There are three main types of blood cancer, each with complex subtypes. As a result, it is important to get an accurate diagnosis from a skilled laboratory, in order to quickly and effectively determine the best method of treatment.

Leukemia (cancer of white blood cells)

Leukemia tends to be more commonly seen in children than adults, and usually presents itself with such symptoms as:

  • Fever
  • Unexplained or sudden weight loss
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Frequent infections
  • Easy bleeding and bruising

Lymphoma (cancer that affects the lymph system)

Lymphoma symptoms are similar to leukemia, but more specific symptoms may include:

  • Unexplained itch
  • Trouble breathing
  • Tiredness
  • Night sweats

Myeloma (cancer of plasma cells)

The symptoms of myeloma may be very subtle or difficult to detect. When signs do begin to emerge, they may include:

  • Bone pain
  • Nausea
  • Weakness in the legs
  • Excessive thirst

As with many illnesses, having a symptom does not necessarily mean you have the disease itself. That is why it is so important to consult your doctor if you experience any symptoms that are unusual for you.

How is Blood Cancer Detected?

If you do express symptoms of blood cancer, accurate testing will be of utmost importance. Two common methods for detection include:

  • Total Protein Test: This test gives your doctor a snapshot of the proteins that work hard to keep your immune system healthy while transporting important vitamins, enzymes, and hormones. If anything is amiss in your blood, certain protein levels may climb.
  • Complete Blood Count: Your blood cells can tell your doctor a great deal about your overall health. A Complete Blood Count (or CBC) test can determine how many blood cells are present in a sample of your blood. Depending on the cancer for which you’re being tested, either an overabundance or deficiency of cells may be an indicator.

What to do After Diagnosis?

Being diagnosed with cancer of any kind is an emotionally and physically trying experience for anyone. Even imagining you could have cancer might be paralyzing. Here at LifeBrite Early, we understand those fears, but remind you that early detection can lead to early and effective treatment.

Depending on your blood cancer diagnosis, age, overall health, family history, and other potential factors, your treatment team may recommend different methods of treatment, including:

  • Watch and wait
  • Chemotherapy or other drug therapies
  • Radiation therapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Stem cell transplant
  • Blood transfusion
  • Palliative care
  • Clinical trials
  • A combination of any of the above

Communicating closely with your doctor and medical team is important through each stage. If you are concerned you may show symptoms of blood cancer and have questions around diagnostic testing, reach out to us online or call us at 229-723-4241.

Learn More About LifeBrite

Atlanta-based LifeBrite, led by CEO Christian Fletcher, operates LifeBrite Community Hospital of Early, LifeBrite Community Hospital of Stokes, and Lifebrite Laboratories. For more about our specific services and facilities, visit our website.

Hepatitis and the vaccine is being discussed by doctor and patient.

How Hepatitis Affects the Body

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Hepatitis is a disease involving inflammation of the liver. There are several types of viruses that cause the condition, including hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C. While receiving a hepatitis diagnosis can be unsettling, understanding how the condition affects the body may help you to feel in better control of your health.

Hepatitis A

According to NYU Langone Health, hepatitis A usually clears up on its own without the need for medical intervention. The condition rarely has long-term effects on the body, and in its early stages, symptoms may not appear at all.

When symptoms do manifest, they may include fatigue, stomach pain, nausea, and jaundice — lasting for up to two months. Experts at the CDC warn that hepatitis A is highly contagious and can be passed through close personal contact or ingesting contaminated food, but it is also preventable with a vaccine.

Hepatitis B

Unlike hepatitis A, hepatitis B is a serious liver infection which can become chronic. The Mayo Clinic states that symptoms may appear one to two months after infection, but some patients see them within two weeks. At first, symptoms may include dark urine, fever, joint pain, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, weakness and fatigue, and yellowing of the skin.

Hepatitis B also differs from hepatitis A and C in that it’s far less contagious. It must be transferred through bodily fluids to cause infection, including through sexual contact, the sharing of needles, and pregnancy (mother to child).

Most adults will recover from hepatitis B, even if they experience severe symptoms. In some people, hepatitis B becomes chronic and lasts six months or longer. This occurs when the immune system fails to fight the infection, so the condition may persist indefinitely.

Because hepatitis B affects the liver, serious issues such as cirrhosis and liver cancer could occur. The risk of chronic infection is highest in younger individuals, such as newborns and children under the age of five. For this reason, newborns are given the hepatitis B vaccine at birth, and anyone who may come into contact with infected individuals is also advised to receive the vaccine.

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is similar to hepatitis B in many ways, but with some important differences. Like hepatitis B, it is also transmitted through bodily fluids (usually blood), and an acute case (lasting six months or less) is often cleared by the body’s own immune system. Unfortunately, however, hepatitis C becomes chronic in nearly half of all people who contract the virus.

Symptoms may not appear at all in the early stages of chronic hepatitis C, and, when they finally do, they may present as advanced liver disease. Treatments can cure most people if they’re given within 8 to 12 weeks after contracting the illness, but there is no vaccine for hepatitis C.

This is why testing and vaccinations are extremely important.

The Widespread Impact of Hepatitis

Regardless of which type of hepatitis you have, the hallmark characteristic of the virus is its impact on the liver. The liver’s role is to process blood to filter toxins out of the body. It also produces critical components in the blood, as well as bile, which aids in digestion. As a result, hepatitis can have a compounding effect and lead to a wide range of problems including:

  • Digestive troubles
  • Reduced ability to absorb nutrients
  • Changes to the hair, skin, and nails
  • Weight loss
  • Jaundice, a yellowing of the skin caused by a buildup of bilirubin

If you’re concerned about your risk for hepatitis, talk to your provider at LifeBrite Early to discuss your options. Schedule an appointment with our family medical practice by calling (229) 723-4313.

Learn More About LifeBrite

Atlanta-based LifeBrite, led by CEO Christian Fletcher, operates LifeBrite Community Hospital of Early, LifeBrite Community Hospital of Stokes, and Lifebrite Laboratories. For more about our specific services and facilities, visit our website.

Bowl of cut up healthy vegetables and fruits.

How to Start Incorporating More Fruits & Vegetables into Your Diet

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Fruits and vegetables have long been associated with a number of health benefits. According to Harvard School of Public Health, a diet filled with fresh produce can:

  • Control blood pressure
  • Reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke
  • Prevent certain types of cancer
  • Lower your risk of eye and digestive issues
  • Help control your appetite and promote weight management

Each piece of produce has unique beneficial properties, so including a variety of plant foods in your diet is the key to well-rounded nutrition.

Of course, not everyone finds themselves reaching for raw fruits and vegetables when hunger strikes. Fortunately, there are simple ways you can begin incorporating more of these fresh foods into your meals.

Start With What You Already Enjoy

It’s easy to enhance the nutritional value of many dishes you already enjoy by adding some fruits or vegetables. For instance, you might:

  • Add chopped vegetables to a lasagna, casserole, or meatloaf.
  • Incorporate spinach, tomatoes, or mushrooms into your morning omelet.
  • Throw some extra veggies into your favorite soup or stew.
  • Top your oatmeal, cereal, or yogurt off with fresh fruit.
  • Blend fruit or vegetables into a protein smoothie.

Small, daily additions can have a major nutritional impact when you add them up.

Try Something New

While there are more than 1,000 vegetable species on record, the average consumer is only familiar with about 7% of them. Barriers such as limited access to fresh foods and poor local growing conditions can hinder our ability to try a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, but so can simple ignorance.

Even if you don’t have a thriving farming community nearby, you could discover a fruit or vegetable you love in the frozen or canned section of your grocery store. Or, you might consider subscribing to a produce delivery service, as many switch out their offerings regularly in order to provide a large variety.

Swap Out Simple Substitutions

In addition to adding vegetables to your favorite dishes, there are many opportunities to swap out existing ingredients with vegetable alternatives. For instance, cauliflower, which is rich in disease-fighting antioxidants and phytonutrients, makes for a great pizza crust or “rice” with the help of a food processor. Lettuce “buns” made from romaine leaves can stand in for bread and wraps and help you get plenty of vitamins A and K. Try a lighter take on your favorite pasta dish by spiralizing carrots, zucchini, butternut squash, or sweet potatoes.

Make Stars Out of Your Sides

In a hurry, a bag of steamed vegetables can serve as a nutrition-packed side at any meal. Yet, when you have the time to do a little more prep work, consider getting creative with your veggie side dishes.

If you’re grilling, kabobs featuring corn, zucchini, and bell peppers with simple seasonings like olive oil, garlic, oregano, and salt and pepper are an easy addition. Or, roast a tray of vegetables alongside your other oven-made main dish. While vegetables pack plenty of flavor on their own, experimenting with different seasonings, sauces, and marinades can also introduce you to new pairings and help you discover new favorite recipes.

Whether it’s helping you make the right dietary choices, or managing chronic disease, our healthcare team is committed to meeting each patient’s unique wellness needs. To schedule an appointment with a provider in our family medical practice, call 229-723-4313.

Learn More About LifeBrite

Atlanta-based LifeBrite, led by CEO Christian Fletcher, operates LifeBrite Community Hospital of Early, LifeBrite Community Hospital of Stokes, and Lifebrite Laboratories. For more about our specific services and facilities, visit our website or call 229-723-4241.

Senior male worried, thinking about his mental health.

Let’s Talk About How Hard It Is to Discuss Mental Health

By Uncategorized

In 2019, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly one in five Americans reported living with a form of mental illness. That means within any two estimated households across the country, at least one family member could currently be afflicted.

At LifeBrite Community Hospital of Early, we live and work in the same communities that you do. Our homes and families are next door to yours. And we care deeply about your entire wellbeing — including your mental health.

So if mental health challenges are right here in our neighborhoods, why are they so tough to discuss?

Stumped by Stigma

Fear of being judged and mistreated due to mental illness is very real. Even though we are far from the days when mental illness was equated with possession by evil spirits, according to the American Psychiatric Association, “prejudice and discrimination against people with mental illness is still very much a problem.

How problematic? A study in World Psychiatry found that prejudices against those with mental illness may result in hostile behavior toward sufferers, withholding assistance, avoiding or terminating employment, and/or preventing individuals from exploring assistance and other life opportunities for themselves, among other punishments.

This mistreatment may not come from a single source, either. The American Psychiatric Association identifies three general types of stigma that someone with mental illness could encounter, including institutional (stereotypes embodied in laws or regulations), public (negative attitudes upheld by societies or groups of people), and self (shame that individuals have about their own condition). Many already wrestling with mental illness may find themselves living and working in areas where all three types of stigma are combined.

The discrimination isn’t felt only by mentally unwell individuals, either. It also impacts their family members, friends, and other loved ones, as well.

At a Loss for Words

Many times, the feelings and anxieties associated with a mental illness can be disorienting, and overwhelming. Identifying what’s going on internally may be difficult to do for yourself — let alone someone else.

But feeling equipped to express a condition doesn’t always mean others are able to handle or receive it.  “Even in 2020,” writes Rohini Chatterji in HuffPost,those with mental health concerns are perceived as being ‘weak’ or ‘dramatic’ by some.” Well-intended listeners may come off as dismissive, assuring that “Everything will be fine.”

Breaking the Silence

Even business associates can have a hard time with less-than-surface conversations — regardless of the subject matter’s severity. Amy Morin at Inc. recommends the following tips to alleviate almost any awkward conversation:

  • Set aside time to speak in private
  • Acknowledge the discomfort of the subject matter
  • Be clear and direct

Writing things out beforehand may also help, as the Child Mind Institute suggests, along with checking the facts and being equipped with data. A qualified online symptom checker could provide a helpful resource if you’re not yet ready to discuss symptoms with a doctor or mental health specialist.

Above all, knowing the prevalence of mental health challenges can remind you that you’re not alone. In 2018, Harper’s Bazaar published a list of celebrities who have given voice to their mental wellness struggles. The number of names continues to grow, now including Demi Lovato, Billie Eilish, and Taylor Swift.

LifeBrite Community Hospital of Early is committed to your entire well-being. Whatever you’re going through, we’re here to help.

Learn More About LifeBrite

Atlanta-based LifeBrite, led by CEO Christian Fletcher, operates LifeBrite Community Hospital of Early, LifeBrite Community Hospital of Stokes, and Lifebrite Laboratories. For more about our specific services and facilities, visit our website or call 229-723-4241.

Family in bed, suffering from allergies.

Dealing with Pollen Allergy Season in Georgia

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During March and April in Georgia, it’s hard to escape: yellow coatings of dust on cars and outdoor furniture, or rimes of it along the edges of puddles and curbs after the rain. Some of you may have sensed it, however — with your sneezing, coughing, runny nose, and itchy eyes — long before it was even visible.

Yes — spring is here, which means an increase in airborne pollen particles from trees, flowers, and grasses, and a resulting increase in allergic reactions to them. At LifeBrite Community Hospital of Early, we care about providing compassionate, comprehensive care for you and your family in all seasons. Here are some recommendations we have for our local neighbors regarding this condition.

Besides Annoying, What are Allergies, Really?

“An allergy occurs,” The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America explains, “when the body’s immune system sees a substance as harmful and overreacts to it.” These substances are called allergens, and when encountered by the immune system of someone with allergies, they cause the production of immunoglobulin E — resulting in your allergic reaction.

There are several types of allergens, including in food, pet hair, certain medicines, and even latex. But the allergic symptoms you might be experiencing as early as mid-February and even into May in Georgia are likely due to seasonal allergic rhinitis, or hay fever:

  • Runny & stuffy nose
  • Mucus production
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy nose, eyes, ears and mouth
  • Red, watery, and irritated eyes

According to The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology allergies may also affect your concentration and focus, and cause feelings of irritability and fatigue — so they can impact your life in broader ways than simply requiring more tissues.

What Treatments are Available?

There are several nonprescription treatments The Mayo Clinic suggests may help with your allergic rhinitis symptoms:

  • Oral antihistamines – Examples include loratadine (Claritin, Alavert), cetirizine (Zyrtec), and fexofenadine (Allegra).
  • Decongestants – These can be administered either orally as pseudoephedrine (Sudafed, Afrinol) or in nasal sprays, such as oxymetazoline (Afrin) and phenylephrine (Neo-Synephrine).
  • Nasal spray – “Cromolyn sodium nasal spray can ease allergy symptoms and doesn’t have serious side effects, though it’s most effective when you begin using it before your symptoms start.”
  • Combination medications – These combine an antihistamine with a decongestant, such as loratadine-pseudoephedrine (Claritin-D) and fexofenadine-pseudoephedrine (Allegra-D).

Some natural remedies may provide relief, as well, though keep in mind that it is important to speak to your doctor before beginning any new supplements or herbal remedies, as they may interfere with certain medications.

Three potential remedies reviewed by experts at Medical News Today include:

  • Vitamin C – Found primarily in fruits and vegetables, including citrus fruits, bell peppers, tomatoes and tomato juice.
  • Bromelain – Available as a supplement, but also found at the core of pineapples and in pineapple juice.
  • Quercetin – An antioxidant flavonoid found in many plants and food, including broccoli, kale, grapes, and berries.

Action May Be the Best Medicine

Avoiding pollen may feel impossible during the spring months in Georgia, but there are some other actions you can take to minimize your exposure:

  • Monitor the daily pollen count and limit outdoor activities when they are at their highest.
  • Keep car and home windows closed, running air conditioning on the recycled air setting instead.
  • Wash your hair and body before going to bed, to keep yourself from spreading pollen all over your sheets.
    • And even then, wash bedding in hot water once a week.
  • Change or clean your air filters regularly.
  • If you have pets, wipe their paws and fur with a damp cloth before they come inside.

Learn More About LifeBrite

Atlanta-based LifeBrite, led by CEO Christian Fletcher, operates LifeBrite Community Hospital of Early, LifeBrite Community Hospital of Stokes, and Lifebrite Laboratories. To learn more about our services and facilities, visit the LifeBrite Community Hospital of Early website or call 229-723-4241.

Pam Temples

Employee of the Year: Pam Temples

By Uncategorized

For Pamela Temples, preparing for disasters has never been a hypothetical idea.

The respiratory director at LifeBrite Community Hospital of Early, Temples manages the hospital’s disaster team. She also teaches CPR and First Aid classes to hospital staff and out in the community.

The COVID-19 pandemic was not the first time her emergency management skills were put to the test.

Responding to Hurricane Michael

When Hurricane Michael passed through southwest Georgia in 2018, knocking out power through much of Early County, Temples didn’t leave the hospital for days.

She coordinated with the Emergency Management Agency (EMA), law enforcement, and the city government of Blakely to make sure the hospital had everything we needed to care for our vulnerable patients and support our staff.

Temples brought more than 20 people with supplemental oxygen needs to the hospital, caring for them around the clock with little sleep. And when a baby was born prematurely during the hurricane, she was there to support the baby’s breathing until they could be transported to the Phoebe Putney Health System’s neonatal unit in Albany.

Finding Her Calling at Hall Drug

In high school, Temples got a job at Hall Drug, in Blakely. The drug store had a home healthcare service at the time, and they would send Temples around to check on patients’ oxygen machines.

“I would read up on different techniques of breathing,” says Temples, “and I would talk to them about that. I really enjoyed working with them.”

Bob Hall, owner of the drug store and a longtime mentor to Temples, took notice. He told her, she says, “You’re really good with patients. You really should think about being a respiratory therapist.”

And after a couple detours in her life, that’s just what she did. Temples became respiratory director at the hospital in 1993.

Responding to COVID-19

For a respiratory therapist managing a hospital’s disaster response to a respiratory virus, the COVID-19 pandemic has been the stuff of nightmares.

“It can be pretty scary, no doubt,” says Temples. “I’ll be the first to tell you that I’ve never been afraid like that, but you know what you gotta do. You just take a deep breath, put on what you know, and do what you gotta do.”

Despite the best efforts of Temples and her respiratory team, some patients have succumbed to the virus.

“The most challenging part,” she says, “has been watching people pass away. That’s really, really hard. You worked so, so long and so hard, and you think you have it figured out. Then everything just goes up in the air. That’s really hard and discouraging.”

As science has learned more about the disease, Temples’ team has been able to adjust their techniques and improve their success.

And Temples has felt all the support of those around her at the hospital, and of statewide coalitions and agencies, including Georgia’s Regional Healthcare Preparedness Coalition for southwest Georgia, Region K.

“I’ve made good rapport with Region K directors and coordinators, and they respond very quickly when I ask questions,” says Temples. “The EMA here, the community EMS director, we used to have drills all the time, although we’ve been in the real deal for a year.”

But more than anyone, she turns for support to everyone else on the hospital staff.

“I certainly couldn’t do it without every one of them,” she says. “We’re a close knit hospital. I feel so close to everybody here. We’re like family, and we figure things out together. I could call on anybody here and they would help me with any situation.”

Having grown up in Early, she knows the people she’s fighting for are the people she grew up with, their parents and children, their grandchildren and cousins.

“I know everybody in the community,” she says, “so I’ve always tried to treat everybody like it’s my mom or daddy. I do love my job and I love what I do, and I think that makes a difference.”

The Importance of Family

Temples has four children and three grandchildren, and on Sundays she likes to bring the whole family together at church and, afterward, to her home for a family meal.

“We have a little white church down the road, with little shutters and a steeple,” she says. “I grew up there, so it means a lot to me.”

Her sons-in-law do the grilling for Sunday dinner, and afterward there might be a cake. Temples likes to bake and is known for her 14-layer chocolate cakes and 8-layer red velvet cakes.

The pandemic has made it harder for the family to gather, but they’ve stayed connected as well as they can. Her teenage grandson recently sent her a text message: “I hear my nana is pretty good at her job. Congratulations.”

From everyone at LifeBrite Community Hospital of Early: We couldn’t agree more.

Learn more about LifeBrite Atlanta-based LifeBrite, led by CEO Christian Fletcher. LifeBrite Hospital Group operates LifeBrite Community Hospital of Early, LifeBrite Community Hospital of Stokes, and Lifebrite Laboratories. To learn more about what LifeBrite Hospital Group is doing to make healthcare better, visit our homepage.