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KODE Medical Focus: Radon Awareness Month

KODE — Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer… And first if you’re a non-smoker.

But the odorless, invisible gas is tough to detect.

“…and there are natural levels of uranium that are around in our soil and in our basements all over the place and this guy has a gradual decline or has a gradual or wearing down of the uranium and as it wears this down, it actually changes into radon,” said Dr. Philip Slocum, Freeman Lung Center.

Dangerous for those who come in contact with radon, which the EPA says leads to 21,000 lung cancer deaths a year.

“Recent review in the European Respiratory Journal. They looked at a number of studies and they did an estimate and they think that with significant radon exposure, you increase the risk of lung cancer and non-smokers by 15% over people who are non-smokers and have not been exposed to radon.”

Risk levels in the Four States area generally thought to be lower than some other regions, but that’s no guarantee.

“That is a general evaluation of the whole environment and where we live, but individual spots and individual homes still can have high levels of radon and they need to be monitored.”

And that’s not a one-time test.

“They need to be monitored at least several years at a time. So you need monitoring. Now you come back in five years and you’re monitored again, the same place has to be looked at over and over again,” said Dr. Slocum.

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KODE Medical Focus: Family Medicine Residency

JOPLIN, Mo. — When you need medical advice, your family physician is likely the first person you turn to. But there’s a growing gap between the need for those doctors and the number actually practicing medicine.

“You know, a lot of our physicians are aging out,” said Dr. Rob McNab, FHS VP Med. Ed.

But there are more and more patients needing medical help. It’s a problem both in the Four States but also around the country.

“They’re predicting by around 2030 that we’re going to have somewhere between 35 and 50,000, primary care physician shortage in this country. And really, that is just not acceptable,” said Dr. McNab.

Now Freeman Health System is bringing back its family medicine residency program to help train more local physicians.

“And so putting that back in place allows us to really address this need for a lot more family practitioners.”

The three year residency will include a wide range of experiences for the new doctors.

“You know, they start off with more of the acute care setting, hospital rotations, internal medicine, surgery, that sort of thing. And as they go through the three years, the emphasis becomes much bigger on the outpatient side.”

The process started with a needs assessment about five years ago. It’s now accredited and ready to find the residents who will fill the first class.

“So we are currently in the recruitment process. So we will know by somewhere late March April, who our new young family practitioner residents will be,” added Dr. McNab.

The Freeman Family Medicine residency program will eventually have a total of 15 doctors in training.

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KODE Medical Focus: Knee Surgery "Pre-hab"

JOPLIN, Mo. — Patients with serious knee issues will likely have to undergo surgery at some point.

But what they do before the procedure can help determine how they recover. It’s the focus of tonight’s “KODE Medical Focus.”

“Let you know what to expect while you’re here while you’re going through this recovery and even what to expect after you go home. Understand one of the aspects of this can be that you can actually do a little bit of PT fitting into the surgery to be more successful,” said Dustin Richardson, PT Assistant.

Physical Therapy Assistant Dustin Richardson likes to think of it as “pre” hab. Building strength in very specific muscles before surgery.

“So this kind of accelerates that strength, helping to promote a better outcome during and throughout the whole process,” said Richardson.

Freeman Health System hosts the pre-surgery education class. It targets areas like the quad muscles.

“A lot of people when their joints get in bad shape, they stop moving, they lose strength. They can’t do things that they normally do on a daily basis. So this helps promote strength you know, a stronger body is going to move better move easier than an a weaker atrophy body and so this kind of promotes that,” said Richardson.

The class is set about a month ahead of time. And it’s not the only pre-surgery strategy for knee patients. A couple of weeks out, an Iovera procedure can isolate the nerves affected.

“It deploys a little pin drop of nitric oxide down to that nerve root. And what that does is it freezes that nerve for up to three months helps tremendously with the nerve pain that you’re having,” said Richardson.

So it both minimizes your pain now and helps with your recovery later.

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KODE Medical Focus: Memory Loss Part 2

JOPLIN, Mo. — Last week, we looked at memory loss associated with aging — and what folks can do to minimize the effects. But simply getting older isn’t the only cause. Action 12’s Gretchen Bolander reports in tonight’s KODE Medical Focus.

“It can be related to mental health diagnoses such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar, any form of trauma. It can also be caused by substance use over time,” said Kimberly Hammonds, Nurse Practitioner.

Even stress can trigger memory loss.

“When you get in stressful situations, whether it’s finances, your medications, you’ve got medical illnesses going on family issues, it can all play a factor on your memory,” said Hammonds.

But there are ways to minimize the impact without medication. That starts with exercise – at least 2 1/2 hours a week. Also watching what you eat.

“Healthy diet, abstaining from substance use, getting plenty of rest,” said Hammonds.

8 hours a night. And keep your mind active.

“Games for your brain, working word search puzzles, getting outside,” said Hammonds.

Even reading out loud can exercise more parts of brain, and help your memory. And make sure to interact with others… isolation can make things worse.

“You need to be out socializing. COVID has been a huge factor with some of the patients where the memory isn’t as well because they just isolated to the room or to their home. They’re not making appointments and it has really played with their emotions, their stress level and their memory,” said Hammonds.

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KODE Medical Focus: Memory Loss

JOPLIN, Mo. — If you find yourself looking for your keys or finding the remote in the refrigerator — you may have some problems remembering things. Memory loss is the focus of tonight’s KODE Medical Focus.

“We see a great deal of people with memory loss,” said Dr. Henry Petry, Geriatrician.

Freeman Geriatrician Dr. Henry Petry says it’s no surprise that problems remembering can come with aging.

“Our brain is like a magnificent computer. If we don’t use it, or do the things that we need to do, we do not remember well, so we have lots of things to do to help remember and to help people. One of the leading causes of memory loss is a thing we call dementia,” said Dr. Petry.

And that can be connected to several different causes.

“All the way from Alzheimer’s dementia, which is the most common vascular dementia, which is found quite frequently in people that have had strokes, or something of that nature,” said Dr. Petry.

Also dementia associated with Parkinson’s Disease.

“We have dementia secondary to Lyme’s disease,” said Dr. Petry.

There are treatment options that include medication

“So we have only like three or four drugs currently that are used for the treatment of dementia to help you,” said Dr. Petry.

There are other options, things like your overall health, starting with injuries to avoid.

“We try not to have any head trauma. Lots of head trauma is a big deal,” said Dr. Petry.

Also your blood pressure, keep that between 120 to 130, and LDL cholesterol below 90. Dr. Petry also says to maintain a normal weight and avoid smoking – both tobacco and marijuana products.

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KODE Medical Focus: Check Your Medications

JOPLIN, Mo. — It can be a simple, but potentially lifesaving bit of homework.

Checking your medications to make sure they’re working for — and not against you. Action 12’s Gretchen Bolander takes that angle in tonight’s KODE Medical Focus.

“It is a great reminder for us to understand the importance our medications play in our wellness and in our lives. And this is an opportunity for us to make sure we know about the medications we take and understand how to best take them and optimize what they do for us,” said Greg Cobble, Freeman Pharmacy Op.

On the other hand, not knowing can have a negative impact on your health.

“Sometimes we may not realize an OTC medication might have multiple ingredients in it and a prescription medicine can have the same ingredients in it. We can sometimes double up without knowing and have diverse effects,” said Cobble.

So building a complete list of both prescriptions and over the counter drugs is important now, in the event a health crisis happens later.

“I think the key is always knowledge – we can help protect ourselves the more we know about our medications – I would encourage you to always know the name of the medications, the brand name, the generic name, how often you take it, what it’s supposed to do for you, and possible side effects,” said Cobble.

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KODE Medical Focus: Knee Pain

JOPLIN, Mo. — A new treatment is offering relief to local patients in need of knee surgery. Action 12’s Gretchen Bolander gives us the details in tonight’s KODE Medical Focus.

“On the first one I had trouble even getting in and out of bed,” said Dayon Huffman, Patient.

Dayon Huffman has had knee surgery not just once, but twice. Recovering from the second procedure was much easier.

“From the time I came back from surgery I had no trouble,” said Huffman.

Huffman says there still was some pain – but nothing like his first go round.

“It just took a lot longer, it was a lot more painful and I’m attributing the Iovera that made it better,” said Huffman.

Dr. Derek Miller is seeing good results with his patients using Iovera.

“Probably have been using it throughout the country for about a year – we’ve been using it here since June and it’s used to treat post operative knee pain,” said Dr. Derek Miller, Orthopedic Surgeon.

The treatment starts before surgery using nitrous oxide.

“And it freezes the nerves that provide the feeling to the skin and the muscle and the soft tissue. It freezes the area where the surgery’s performed through the soft tissue and there’s significant pain and swelling afterwards and this treats the post operative surgical pain by pretreating the nerves and freezing those prior to the surgery,” said Dr. Derek Miller, Orthopedic Surgeon.

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KODE Medical Focus: Workforce Shortages

JOPLIN, Mo. — “Help Wanted” signs are a common sight these days — even at hospitals. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, hospitals lost more than 8,000 jobs last month alone.

It’s the focus of tonight’s KODE Medical Focus.

“It’s a great rewarding career to have especially now,” said Taylor Gravett, Freeman Employee.

Taylor Gravett says choosing Freeman Health System as an employer was an easy call when he was hired a couple of years ago.

“For me it’s having been in the community, my entire life, you know from the Pittsburg area, I know the community I know the people,” said Gravett.

But that’s not always the case. Employee retention is an issue – at Freeman, for hospitals throughout Missouri, and those across the nation. It’s estimated healthcare as a whole has lost more than half a million jobs in the last year and a half.

“I’ve been doing this for going on 27 years in human resources, and I’ve never seen it like this before,” said Mary Frerer, Freeman HR.

Freeman Chief Human Resource Officer Mary Frerer says there are a number of issues.

“Call it the perfect storm a pandemic hits, and then the pressure of caring for the patients that we’ve cared for the last 20 months, a lot of nurses are leaving completely there they’re choosing other career fields,” said Frerer.

While nursing has been a focus for years – but it’s not the only position affected.

“Really probably across the board – several different positions within healthcare scrub techs nurse techs, respiratory therapist, like we’ve never, never seen before,” said Frerer.

Freeman is thinking outside the box to attract more talent. They do some training in-house and offer on-site child care.

“We offer a sign-on bonus, we offer relocation assistance, we have tuition assistance programs,” said Frerer.

Hoping each benefit is the one that will attract that next worker.

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KODE Medical Focus: Breast Cancer Testing Abnormalities

JOPLIN, Mo. — We continue our focus on Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Tonight — what happens to a patient when early testing results in something not normal.

“There’s a lot that plays in to different types of cancer, and what kind of treatment is offered,” said Marcella Sowell, Breast Cancer Patient Navigator.

And that regular mammogram is the start. If there’s something new in the results, it could lead to further testing.

“We usually call the patient back for more compression views and diagnostic views and ultrasound to see if this is something concerning or this is by findings,” said Dr. Jane Seto: Freeman Radiologist.

And ultrasound can help, testing that doesn’t require compression or radiation. It’s often used with dense breast tissue.

“It has the X-ray beams and it’s very good for detecting calcifications, or for dense breasts with the tissue is also dense and the tumor is also dense, so sometimes the tumor can hide in this dense tissue without seen on the mammogram,” said Dr. Seto.

Many of the issues with those patients are benign, with a much smaller number needing further testing.

“It’s about, maybe I would say on average five to 7% of the patients will be called back. So, majority of the patients will actually go back to their yearly screening,” said Dr. Seto.

A patient without a firm diagnosis may then get a biopsy, which could be a stereotactic core biopsy.

“The technology that the computer use 3D spatial calculation to detect the target and tells us how deep we go in under the skin, so it’s usually reserved for calcifications sometimes small masses that cannot be seen with ultrasound we can use that too,” said Dr. Seto.

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KODE Medical Focus: Breast Cancer

JOPLIN, Mo. — Tonight, we continue our focus on October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. And specifically on mammograms and the difference an early diagnosis can make.

“It’s disappointing that more women don’t come in,” said Dr. Alan Buchele, Freeman Women’s Pavilion.

Because Freeman Dr. Alan Buchele knows local patients will get breast cancer. And an early diagnosis can be crucial in what happens next.

“We’re doing a little better, we’re fighting breast cancers on early diagnosis and so women who may have presented at a later diagnosis or diagnosed earlier were so we do have some survival improvements but it’s not near where we would like for it to be,” said Dr. Buchele.

Dr. Buchele says about 50 percent of women eligible for a mammogram don’t get tested.

“So there’s a lot of women out there who are for one reason or another not coming in and getting their mammogram, whether it’s here in Joplin or Missouri or anywhere else in the country,” said Dr. Buchele.

He points out the test is quick.

“It doesn’t take very long — techs are all pros at doing them,” said Dr. Buchele.

And if you have been avoiding it due to a bad experience in the past, he hopes you’ll reconsider.

“We used to put the breast in quite a bit of compression, and now it’s not as painful as it had been in the past,” said Dr. Buchele.

There’s more on Freeman mammogram events this month here.