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A Phone Call, Journal, & Bar of Soap: A Personal Impact Story of Ebola

11 Oct

Recently, I came across a great piece written by good friend Moiyattu Banya. moiWhen asked, Moiyattu describes herself as a feminist, writer and digital mover and shaker. Currently, she teaches “Women Studies” courses at Temple University and does consulting work for social enterprises in West Africa. As a native of Sierra Leone, the current Ebola health crisis in West Africa is much more than a media epidemiological case study. Quite to the contrary,  this recent outbreak hits very close to home.

The following is her story as told to the “African Women’s Development Fund” (AWDF) which highlights just one of the many ongoing stories on the ground  in Sierra Leone as  young women, neighbors, families, and the government band together to tackle Ebola and the spread of this deadly illness in our global community.

For more work from Ms. Banya, follow her via Twitter @Wcaworld or via her blog.

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Holistic Births: Are They for You?

6 Jul

Birthing in America has become a medical process … an experience filled filled with wires, computers, narcotics, surgical rooms, and uncomfortable birthing positions. However, it was not always this way. Once upon a time, not that long ago, babies were delivered at home. Birthing was seen as a normal life experience rather than medical emergency. Expectant mothers were surrounded by family, women trained in early midwifery, and placed in birthing positions which felt natrual to them, ultimately easing the birthing process.

Conversely, at this time of heightened home / holistic birthing, delivering a child was considered one of the most dangerous things a woman could do. With the advent of modern obstetric medicine, the lives of countless mothers and babies were saved during the birthing process. Lives that would have otherwise been loss duing the dangerous complications that could arise while giving birth at home, away from the hospital setting, monitoring technology, emergency surgical care (if necessary).

That said, how do you know which choice is best? Could a holistic, non-medically invasive birthing option like water-birth work for you and your family? Could a traditional hospital birth be a potential life saver? While you should always discuss decisions with a medical provider, the following guide could help lead the discussion.

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Has anyone opted for a home birth … if so, what guided your decision to do so? If home births are not something you or your family would consider, would you mind sharing why?

Child Life Month: Surprise Feature via The Starlight Foundation!

18 Mar

In honor of “Child Life Month,” The Starlight Foundation, which supports Child Life Specialists as they develop holistic programing and positive coping modalities for children and families under stress during pediatric hospitalizations has chosen to feature and acknowledge respective therapists from across the country. Click here for my feature! Thank you so much Starlight Foundation NYC! … Your unwavering support of happy, healthy children is amazing!

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The Man / Woman in the Iron Mask

13 Feb

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In a world where things can be SO overwhelming and everyone wants a piece of you .. Make sure you take time for yourself … Self care is a beautiful and very necessary thing!

Sanity Breaks: Part 2

2 Dec

imageA while ago I created a post about the importance of taking what I affectionately call “Sanity Breaks.” I went on to talk about how magically delicious they were and how important it was to fit them into ones life. Like most people, I forgot to take my own advice. LOL : ]). As time went on, I got away from my healthy routine and fell into a super stressed, super anxious state. Everything was overwhelming … work, classes, my personal life. While I began not long ago to take steps to remedy these concerns, I also got the itch to “escape” … to just get away and disappear from the world with no distractions or responsibilities. Sometimes this is easier said than done. With the prompting of a close friend and a few coins I’d been saving up, I randomly booked a flight to the U.S Virgin Islands. I told a few family members and friends, then, just as suddenly, I left crazy Manhattan life and a sudden 20 degree cold weather snap behind.

As impromptu as this trip was, it was exactly what the faux doctor in my mind ordered. I went only for the weekend, but pulling the escape hatch on life was just what I needed. I went with no plans, expectations, to do list, morning alarms, or schedules. I just soaked up to some sun, ate delicious “home foods,” woke up according to my internal body clock, caught up with family from the island (St. Thomas), then on my last day, sat on the beach with my notebook and reflected. I was living a completely un-regimented life; the free-spirited hippie that lives inside me was overjoyed; she’d been stuffed away for a time. At the end of those four days, I felt amazing. It was in one of those moments of reflection that I had my lightbulb epiphany moment and realized, I had just taken the most epic “sanity break” ever! Not only did I get a change of scenery (and the chance to take the great photos included in this post), but I also got a chance to recoup, collect myself, and just recalibrate my mental / emotional state … It felt awesome. In the end, I rekindled my desire to start traveling while finding this long elusive sense of peace that’s been missing for quite a while now. This whole trip reminded me once again, how self-care and mental health check-ins are key to healthy living. The body can’t function on daily tasks if the mental core is frazzled. My take home lesson? Listen to your body. It will tell you what it needs and if it’s calling for a break … Don’t wait for things to fall apart before you act.

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How Far Would You Go to Save Your Child? … Breakthrough Pediatric Cancer Treatment & HIV Injections

27 Nov

A cancer diagnosis is never easy to hear, especially when it pertains to a little one who, if life goes as planned, should have a lifetime ahead of them. While the prognosis and survival rate for childhood leukemia has improved over the years (nearly quadrupling since the 1960’s) many families still are left to make some very difficult decisions. One of the more interesting treatment breakthroughs from a scientific standpoint, especially as I plan to apply to medical school next fall, is the idea of modifying the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) to treat / cure cancer. While controversial to be sure, this new treatment plan is giving families another last shot option to save their child’s life. It begs the question, how far would you go?

“Hippie Things”

4 Oct

I stumbled upon this great organic farmers market / holistic living street fair not long ago during my trip home to Connecticut during the Labor Day holiday. The focus of the market was centered primarily on clean eating and health living (self care). Raw / organic fruits and veggies, all natural beauty supplies (made from goat’s milk), creative arts corners, $5 massages from a licensed massage therapist, and live music were just some of the great vendor options available. SO awesome, I even convinced mom to get her 1st massage ever. She loved it ^_^ .. Just wanted to share a quick personal video from a wonderfully peaceful, fun day.

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“Jerry the Bear” – Fun Teaching Tool for Kids with Type 1 Diabetes

4 Aug

As a Certified Child Life Specialist, teaching children about bodily functions and diagnosis are key to normalizing their health experience and increasing compliance. In the medical world, “compliance” is a term used to describe the level to which a patient is following through with the recommended form of medical treatment. For any child, incorporating a new routine can be difficult … tie in a new routine with the need to take potentially life saving medication in a timely manner and you can imagine how daunting the prospect can become.

Below is a fun new teaching tool I recently discovered by the name of “Jerry the Bear.” This bear is especially tailored to help address the questions and concerns both families and little ones living with Juvenile Diabetes may have. I love that this teaching bear was created by young people, for young children … giving them a cuddly health-conscious friend to serve as a guide through the early stages of diagnosis.

Enjoy and let me know what you think!

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The Importance and Benefits of Hydration

18 Jul

The Importance and Benefits of Hydration

As we enter day 5 of a 95+ degree heat-wave here in the Northeast and Mid-West tomorrow, please remember to stay cool by drinking plenty of water! On average, about 2 – 3 liters of water a day is great!

Photo credit: @Renegade_blvd via Instagram

Child Life, the Robin to a Doctor’s Batman

14 Jul

photo copy 2Last week, I had a really cute conversation with a 9 year old male patient during my morning assessment rounds. He had been admitted for a few days, but feeling quite well. As you can imagine, he was very bored. It was during my morning check-in with him that a really fun, “lightbulb moment” happened. The following is a synopsis of our conversation:

Child – “So what is a Child Life Specialist (my job) anyways…”

Me –  “Well, we’re kind of like the right hand helpers to doctors.”

Child – “Sooooo,”   *thinks*   you’re kinda like their side-kick?

 Me – “In a way, yeah. If the doctor comes to check-in on you & they realize they might need to do something scary, like give you a new medicine, use machines to check how your body is feeling, or use needles … they might ask me to come in 1st to help you get ready so it’s not as scary anymore.

 Child – *thinks some more* … “Soooo, you’re like the Robin to the doctor’s Batman then?” .. *smiles brightly*

Me – “Exactly” *returns smile*

When working with school-age children, especially in the medical setting, it’s important to keep your language simple and concrete. For this child, Batman and Robin were a familiar team working together to keep the inhabitants of Gotham City safe from those who meant to hurt or cause pain. After taking a few seconds to reflect, I saw his line of thinking. As a Child Life Specialist, we are charged to advocate and even protect children from as many of the stressors related to the medical environment as possible. We work alongside other medical clinicians, trying our best to keep fear provoking experiences at bay. In the end, the correlation between the interrelated roles of both superheroes and medical staff made sense to this child and ultimately, it helped to transform what could have been a somewhat difficult explanation into a simple and very cool conversation. Salute to me fellow Child Life Specialists, superheroes changing the lives of children one interaction at a time!