Review Category : Health

Beaufort is in the “Stroke Belt”

Charles Wood never saw it coming. By all accounts, the Naval Hospital Beaufort maintenance supervisor was a healthy 59-year-old man.

“I took no medications whatsoever,” Wood said. “Except for the occasional cold, I was never sick.”

So, when his right hand went numb one afternoon while he was working on his computer, he assumed it had just fallen asleep. Within minutes, the numbness had crept up to his elbow and then to his shoulder.

“It was like my arm wasn’t there,” he said. “I thought, oh shoot, I’m in trouble.”

Before he knew what hit him, his eyesight became blurry and his right leg went out on him, causing him to fall to the floor. Hearing him yell for help, his wife Chris came into the room and immediately realized what was happening. She asked him to smile to see if his face was drooping—one of the signs of a stroke.

“I couldn’t smile or stick out my tongue,” Wood recalled. “I was scared. I knew I was having a stroke.”

Not 15 minutes after Wood arrived in Beaufort Memorial Hospital’s Emergency Department, he was being virtually examined by a stroke expert from Charleston thanks to MUSC Health’s Telestroke program.

The physician was able to ask Wood questions and see his symptoms via an oversized computer screen. After reviewing his brain imaging studies, the neurologist confirmed Wood was having an ischemic stroke. About 87 percent of all strokes are ischemic, caused when a blood vessel to the brain is blocked by a clot.

According to current guidelines published by the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association, clot-busting medication should be started within 180 minutes of symptom onset with a goal of 60 minutes from the patient’s arrival in the hospital. Wood received the life-saving drugs in 48 minutes.

BMH Emergency Department physicians Drs. Luke Baxley and Stephen Larson with the Telemedicine Cart used to consult with MUSC stroke specialists.

BMH Emergency Department physicians Drs. Luke Baxley and Stephen Larson with the Telemedicine Cart used to consult with MUSC stroke specialists.

“Two million neurons are lost every minute blood flow is blocked to the brain,” said MUSC Health Telestroke program manager Ellen Debenham. “It can lead to some devastating disabilities.”

Beaufort Memorial is one of 18 hospitals across the state participating in the MUSC Health Telestroke program, part of a statewide initiative focused on reducing the incidence of stroke and augmenting provision of acute stroke care in South Carolina.

“The stroke program is one of the first services to offer telehealth,” Debenham said. “It’s really the wave of the future.”

The potentially life-saving network connects partnering hospitals with immediate, round-the-clock access to MUSC Health’s stroke care experts. With the activation of this network, almost all of South Carolina is within an hour of expert stroke care. To date, the MUSC Health Telestroke program has provided expert consultative care to some 6,000 stroke patients in South Carolina.

“We’re averaging 15 patients a month that can now receive an urgent consultation,” said Beaufort Memorial Hospital stroke coordinator Sheri O’Brien.

BMH Emergency Department physicians are consulting with MUSC experts even in cases where they suspect a patient is having a “mini-stroke” known as a transient ischemic attack (TIA). While TIAs generally do not cause permanent brain damage, they are a serious warning sign that a stroke may happen in the future.

“If we know a patient has had a TIA, we can get them on blood-thinning medication and recommend lifestyle changes that could prevent another stroke,” O’Brien said.

The fifth leading cause of death in the United States, stroke ranks as the No. 3 killer in South Carolina, part of an 11-state region in the United States known as the Stroke Belt.

“We have three great neurologists in Beaufort, but it’s difficult for them to be available immediately in our Emergency Department 24/7,” O’Brien said. “With the telemedicine cart, we can reach an MUSC Health neurologist within 10 minutes.”

Less than 48 hours after being wheeled into the BMH Emergency Department on May 3rd, Wood was discharged from the hospital with virtually no deficits. He was back to work in a week.

Since his initial treatment in the hospital, Wood has continued to receive follow-up care from a Beaufort Memorial neurologist. After seeing a physical therapist, he was able to regain full dexterity in his right hand, allowing him to once again enjoy his favorite hobby—playing the guitar and piano.

“I feel fantastic,” the Port Royal resident said. “I’m very grateful for what the ER staff did for me that day. They worked like ants. Their fast response saved me from having any permanent damage.”

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June is Cataract Awareness Month!

By Dr. Mark S. Siegel

The American Academy of Ophthalmology has declared June as Cataract Awareness Month. Cataracts are the leading cause of treatable vision loss in the United States, and it is the leading cause of blindness in the world. There are 24 million Americans over the age of 40 who are affected by cataracts, so it seems fitting that an entire month should be dedicated to education and awareness.

In honor of Cataract Awareness Month, here are some common questions and answers about cataracts:

What is the treatment for cataracts? Even though cataracts are so prevalent, they are very successfully treated. Cataracts are a clouding of the human lens inside the eye, which prevents passage of light into the back part of the eye. The solution to cataracts is cataract surgery, which requires a surgeon to remove the deteriorated lens and replace it with an artificial lens called an intraocular lens or IOL. Over 3 million Americans undergo cataract surgery annually, making it one of the most common surgeries in the United States. In fact, the entire surgery lasts only about 20 minutes, and most people can resume normal activities after surgery fairly rapidly.

Is cataract removal safe? Cataract surgery is a twenty-minute miracle! Cataract surgery is one of the safest and most effective surgeries with a success rate well over 95 percent. Your eye surgeon will remove your clouded lens and replace it with an intraocular lens (IOL). Only a micro incision in the cornea is necessary to do this procedure, and it can be completed in about 20 minutes in an outpatient surgery center. We currently use phacoemulsification, an ultrasonic process that breaks up or emulsifies the cloudy lens and then vacuums it out. We currently have a wide variety of vision improving IOL’s that patients may choose to reduce their dependence upon eyeglasses, thereby improving their lifestyle.

Do cataracts only affect seniors? Cataracts can affect anyone! Although most people do not show symptoms of cataracts until at least the age of 40, cataracts can also affect young adults or even children. Heredity, disease, eye injury and smoking may cause cataracts to develop at an earlier age.

Can I prevent cataracts? There is no proven way to prevent age-related cataracts. However, choosing a healthy lifestyle can slow the progression of cataracts. Some ways to delay the progression of cataracts include avoiding smoking, reducing exposure to UV rays, eating healthy foods, and wearing proper eye protection to avoid eye injury.

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Smalheiser joins BMH Lowcountry Medical Group

Beaufort Memorial Lowcountry Medical Group continues to expand its primary care services, adding a nurse practitioner to the 18-year-old practice. Veronica Smalheiser, formerly a nurse practitioner for the Bridge to Home Transitional Care Program at Beaufort Memorial Hospital, will be working with Lowcountry Medical Group internists Drs. Nicholas Dardes, F. Carl Derrick III and Robert Parrick.

Veronica Smalheiser

Veronica Smalheiser

A First Honor Graduate of the Medical University of South Carolina with a Master of Science in Nursing, Smalheiser earned board certification as an Adult Nurse Practitioner and Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner in 2013. She is also board certified as a Cardiovascular Nurse Practitioner through the American Board of Cardiovascular Medicine.

Smalheiser began her nursing career in 2007 at University of Florida, where she served as an intensive care nurse and charge nurse in the hospital’s coronary care unit.

She joined BMH in 2010 and went on to earn her certification as a critical care registered nurse. Prior to taking a position with Lowcountry Medical Group, Smalheiser worked for five years in Beaufort Memorial Hospital’s Emergency Department. The last four years, she also was working in the hospital’s radiology/catheterization lab.

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Dental health and whole health

By Dr. Stephen W. Durham

The mouth is where your body meets the outside world up close. It’s where we eat, speak and at least partly, where we breathe. So nature gives us elaborate defenses there. Some of those defenses are tough, like the enamel on the surface of the teeth. And some are delicate, like the margins between the teeth and gums. None of those defenses do well without some care and maintenance.

When your dental defenses are down, an unhealthy mouth can set off immune reactions that are associated with big problems like heart and coronary artery disease, even cancer.

So when we visit the dentist only for the toothache we shortchange our
whole health.

Prevention and Early Detection 

By “having a look around” with any dental treatment, and especially by getting regular checkups, people save time and money in the long run. The best time to solve a problem is before it comes up, and it’s as true in dental health as in anything else. Maybe more so.

There’s a two-way street between appearance and health too, so there’s nothing superficial about working toward and maintaining the best looking teeth you can have. Whiter, straighter teeth, healthy gums and ready smile are good investments in your health and outlook.

Qualified to See 

It’s a good idea then to make sure the dentist you select is qualified in a wide range of procedures and techniques – from composite fillings to caps and crowns and bridges, to laser periodontal treatment, to cosmetic dentistry, to neuromuscular dentistry that relaxes the neck and jaw and eliminates many headaches. Even oral cancer screening can be part of your dental checkup. Advanced, recent and ongoing training are a good sign your dentist won’t overlook something that is good for you. There’s no substitute for comprehensive ability.

A recipient of the 2012 Mastership Award from the Academy of General Dentistry, Dr. Stephen Durham, DMD, MAGD, is a graduate of Clemson University and the Medical University of South Carolina College of Dental Medicine. He is a past recipient of the LVI Fellowship Award for Neuromuscular and Cosmetic Dentistry. Dr. Durham practices at Durham Dental at Town Center in Beaufort. For more information, visit his website at or call 843-379-5400.

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Nurse Amy Hane wins prestigious Daisy Award

Women’s Imaging Center clinical director Jackie Brown congratulates Amy Hane on winning the Daisy Award.

Women’s Imaging Center clinical director Jackie Brown congratulates Amy Hane on winning the Daisy Award.

Beaufort Memorial Hospital breast nurse navigator Amy Hane knew she was walking a fine line when she stepped up to help the children of a 43-year-old single mother who died of breast cancer last November.

“In nursing school, they teach you about professional boundaries,” said Hane, a registered nurse with more than 11 years experience. “But I had spoken with the mother and I knew they were destitute. I would want people to help my children if I had been in her shoes.”

In her off hours and with her own money, Hane quietly began offering the children assistance. She filled up their refrigerator with food, bought them clothing for school and found them community resources to help with a wide range of needs from grief counseling to legal representation.

“Their mother passed away right before the holidays,” said Jackie Brown, managing clinical director of Beaufort Memorial’s Women’s Imaging Center. “It was a very difficult time and Amy wanted to make sure they had a Christmas.”

The Beaufort Memorial Women’s Imaging Center staff pose with the banner they created to recognize their co-worker Amy Hane (pictured front row left) in honor of her Daisy Award.

The Beaufort Memorial Women’s Imaging Center staff pose with the banner they created to recognize their co-worker Amy Hane (pictured front row left) in honor of her Daisy Award.

Realizing they would need more than she could provide, Hane reached out to the community for help. The response was so great, a website was created for donations and delivery of home-cooked meals twice a week.

In recognition of her kindness and generosity, Hane was honored last week with the Daisy Award for Extraordinary Nurses, a national tribute reserved for RNs who go the extra mile to care for patients and their families.

“Amy has such compassion for her patients,” said Daniel Mock, senior director of imaging services at Beaufort Memorial Hospital. “It’s a very difficult job, but she gets joy out of what she does.”

When co-worker Matthew Hurtt found out how much Hane had done for the family, he nominated her for the prestigious award.

“She has truly embraced the ideals of nursing and the core values of the hospital,” said Hurtt, Beaufort Memorial’s advanced imaging supervisor. “I was touched by the caring she showed to these children and her efforts to help them.”

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Walking and winning

COMMUNITY - Heart Walk BMH staff 2015

Several members of the Beaufort Memorial staff and their families took part in the annual American Heart Association’s Palmetto Heart Walk recently on Hilton Head Island. Congratulations to the BMH team for winning the T-shirt design award at the event!

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New oncology practice opens


Beaufort Memorial Hospital opened its new oncology practice headed by longtime Beaufort oncologist Marcus Newberry III, MD, along with its new Chemotherapy & Infusion Services facility. Both are located in the Beaufort Medical Plaza on the main hospital campus at 989 Ribaut Road. President & CEO Rick Toomey (left) drops in to visit with Dr. Newberry and staff members Kendall Cook and Lexie Paulk.

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Beaufort Memorial Hospital expands oncology services

Beaufort Memorial Hospital has opened a new oncology practice headed by longtime Lowcountry Medical Group oncologist Marcus Newberry III, MD, along with a new chemotherapy and infusion center.

Dr. Marcus Newberry, MD

Dr. Marcus Newberry, MD

Located on the main hospital campus, Beaufort Memorial Oncology Specialists offers treatment for a wide array of cancers, as well as benign hematological conditions. The practice moved to the newly renovated Suite 310 on the third floor of Beaufort Medical Plaza, 989 Ribaut Rd. earlier this week.

As a board-certified internist, Newberry helped found Lowcountry Medical Group in 1997. After practicing internal medicine for six years, he returned to school and completed a fellowship in medical oncology at the Medical University of South Carolina. He has been practicing medical oncology at the recently renamed Beaufort Memorial Lowcountry Medical Group since 2004.

In addition to treating cancer patients, Newberry will provide medical supervision of a new chemotherapy and outpatient infusion center BMH opened in conjunction with the oncology practice.

Beaufort Memorial Chemotherapy & Infusion Services is located on the ground floor of the same BMH medical building in space formerly occupied by LifeFit Wellness Center in Suite 120. It has been remodeled to include two private treatment rooms and a group room with 12 infusion recliners where patients can receive blood transfusions, chemotherapy and other medications administered through a needle or catheter. A pharmacist and pharmacist technologist will work on site, mixing the chemotherapy drugs to speed up the infusion process.

“We’ll also have a social worker available to assist patients with psychosocial issues, including financial concerns, problems with transportation and difficulty coping with their diagnosis,” said Connie Duke, RN, OCN, and Beaufort Memorial’s Cancer Program Director. “The idea is to reduce any barriers patients may have to receiving treatment.”

“The current space is small and doesn’t have enough chairs,” Dr. Newberry said. “The new center has more room. It will provide privacy for those who want it and the esprit de corps of a group for those who prefer to be interactive.”

With the new oncology practice on the hospital campus, Dr. Newberry’s patients also will have easy access to Beaufort Memorial’s lab and imaging services.

“Beaufort Memorial Oncology Specialists and the new infusion center are part of the continued commitment to our comprehensive cancer program to provide the best possible care to our patients,” Dr. Newberry said.

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Turn it down: the effects of loud noise on hearing

By Monica Wiser

I’ve had a hearing loss since childhood, so I don’t really know what it’s like to have normal hearing. While hearing aids have greatly improved my hearing, they still won’t give me perfectly normal hearing. By the same token, people with normal hearing don’t really know what it’s like to have a hearing loss. If you’re curious to know what it’s like, try using hearing protection all day. That will give you a sense of what it’s like to experience a mild hearing loss. Just don’t do it if you have children in your care, because you might miss their cries for help. And don’t do it if you are driving, because you might not hear emergency vehicles coming up from behind. And don’t do it if your job depends on good communication skills, because you just might get fired. Sounds pretty limiting, doesn’t it? Still, it’s a good exercise to try it in a controlled environment while watching your favorite program at the level where you normally set the TV or while conversing with a group of friends indoors. See how long you can tolerate it and then ask yourself, “Is it really worth it to risk damaging my hearing?”

We are bombarded with noise —at nightclubs, at sporting events, at concerts, and even at the gym. Once in a while, there are unavoidable situations, but those are rare. In most situations, you have the ability to control the situation. If it’s your car radio, home stereo, or iPod, just turn it down. If it’s at a concert or sporting event, wear hearing protection. If it is at a restaurant or at the gym, ask them to turn it down. If they don’t take you seriously, leave. There’s no sense in paying someone to damage your hearing.

Here’s what you may not know. Excessive noise exposure doesn’t just cause permanent hearing loss. It can also cause tinnitus. I’ve worked with enough tinnitus patients to know that it can be very disruptive in their lives and very stressful. Noise exposure can also cause elevated blood pressure, loss of sleep, increased heart rate, cardiovascular constriction, labored breathing, and changes in brain chemistry. According to the WHO Guidelines for Community Noise, “these health effects, in turn, can lead to social handicap, reduced productivity, decreased performance in learning, absenteeism in the workplace and school, increased drug use, and accidents. Noise has also been shown to affect learning ability and reading ability in children (Boncraft 1975).

Pregnant women should be particularly cautious. In the October 1997 issue of Pediatrics, the Committee on Environmental Health of the American Academy of Pediatrics published a policy statement based on a review of research on the potential health effects of noise on the fetus and the newborn. The committee concluded that excessive noise exposure in utero may result in high-frequency hearing loss in newborns and further that excessive sound levels in neonatal intensive care units may disrupt the natural growth and development of premature infants.

Here’s what you need to know. Keep it below 85 dB SPL. That’s where damage begins to occur and the louder it is, the less time it takes to permanently damage your hearing. You can monitor noise levels easily with apps on smartphones. A good one for iPhones is: Decibel 10th and for Androids is: Sound Meter, by Smart Tools. Both are free.

May is Better Hearing Month. Protect your hearing, because once the damage is done, there is no turning back.

Monica Wiser received the ASHA Certificate of Clinical Competence in Audiology and is currently the Audiologist at Beaufort Audiology & Hearing Care. Contact Monica by phone at (843) 521-3007 or by email at

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‘Bionic eye’ is an incredible breakthrough…but not right for everyone

By Dr. Mark S. Siegel

News stories about a ‘bionic eye transplant’ have gotten a lot of attention, but what is the reality of new technology for restoring sight to some blind patients? The Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System has sometimes been called a ‘bionic eye transplant.’ Right now it is not possible to transplant an entire human eye – only corneas and some other specific eye tissues can be transplanted. And there is no electronic replacement for the whole eye.

The Argus II is a three-part device that allows some perception of light and motion in patients who have lost their vision due to retinitis pigmentosa. Surgery is done to place a small electronic device on the patient’s retina. Later, the patient wears a camera mounted on a pair of glasses, and a portable video-processing unit. Images are taken in through the camera, processed, and then sent wirelessly to the implant in the patient’s retina. The implant stimulates the living cells in the retina, and the brain interprets these patterns as light. Over time, the patient learns to interpret the signals from the Argus II to see objects, their surroundings, and — in some cases — even read large-print text.

This is an exciting development, but the Argus II is not for everyone. It is only for patients who have no vision or almost no vision due to advanced retinitis pigmentosa (RP), a group of genetic disorders that affect the retina’s ability to respond to light. This inherited disease causes a slow loss of vision, beginning with decreased night vision and loss of peripheral (side) vision. Blindness ultimately results. Unfortunately, there is no cure for RP.

Patients must pass a careful medical screening to make sure there are no other physical reasons that they shouldn’t be given the implant. And patients should be aware that the Argus II does not restore complete, natural vision. The vision that is restored is black-and-white only, and does not include fine details.

Currently, only a handful of tertiary-care referral centers are performing the surgery. However, as more refinements are made to the Argus II and more progress is made, we may begin to see significant improvements in visual prognosis for RP and other debilitating eye disease.

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