How UM Charles Regional Medical Center’s Team Helped Colan Ratliff Walk Again

Colan Ratliff with UM Charles Regional Medical Center's doctors

There for You Every Step of the Way

A spinal cord injury nearly paralyzed Colan Ratliff, but thanks to grit, determination, and expert medical care at UM Charles Regional Medical Center, he’s walking again.

It was a frigid day in 2013 when Colan Ratliff, 72, stepped outside his house in La Plata, Maryland, before dawn to shovel snow off his driveway. A historian and conservator for the U.S. Navy, Ratliff had just finished sprinkling salt on the driveway when he slipped on a sheet of ice and fell backward, striking the back of his head and neck as he hit the pavement.

“I’m lying there and saying to myself, ‘That was kind of stupid,’” Ratliff says. “And I thought, ‘Well, I’ve got to get up,’ but I realized I couldn’t get up. I couldn’t move at all.” 

Ratliff didn’t panic, but he yelled as loud as he could. Several hours passed before a neighbor found him, alerted Ratliff’s wife, and called 911. Within minutes he was at University of Maryland Charles Regional Medical Center (UM CRMC), where Emergency Department (ED) doctors immediately stabilized and assessed him. Imaging studies revealed a disc problem, though the extent of the injury wasn’t clear. But doctors knew that his paralysis suggested something threatening.

Catering for a Life-Altering Injury

It was Ratliff’s first step on a treatment journey that would draw on numerous medical resources, none more significant than his community hospital, UM CRMC. 

“It’s important to have a hospital that you can count on,” says UM CRMC Chief Medical Officer Joseph Moser, MD. 

“As the frontline community hospital for our area, our providers and nurses are trained to recognize all disease processes and get people the specialized care they need even if it’s not at the community hospital itself,” adds Richard Ferraro, MD, UM CRMC’s chairman and chief of staff, and medical director of the ED. “Luckily, we are part of a system that can provide comprehensive care for just about any condition imaginable and is among the nation’s leaders in some of these fields.”

In fact, ED doctors determined that Ratliff needed to be airlifted to the University of Maryland’s R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore. 

“Just like many emergency conditions, including stroke and heart attack, when it comes to spinal cord injury and compression, time is really of the essence,” says Dr. Ferraro. 

There, surgeons established that Ratliff had suffered an injury to the C4 nerve, which typically causes paralysis in the arms, hands, trunk and legs. They prepared him for surgery to decompress a herniated disc pressing on his spinal cord and fuse his spine to protect it from further harm.

Ratliff had served as a Marine in Vietnam and had suffered a serious and more painful injury to his head and face while there. But this injury was far scarier. 

“My worst fear was that I would be a burden to my family,” he says.

Surgeons told Ratliff’s wife, Grace, that he likely wouldn’t walk again, but, she says, she never doubted that he would. 

“He’s stubborn,” she says. “If he puts his mind to something, he’s going to do it. I just knew he would.”

The Ratliff family

(From left to right) Ethan, Grace, and Colan Ratliff

Recovering with a Will and a Way

A two-month period of rehabilitation at a nearby Virginia facility lay ahead of him, however. 

“Rehabilitation is very important because during the time that the spinal cord is injured and nerve signals are not getting down to the muscles in the hips and legs, muscles tend to shrink when they are not used,” says Dr. Moser. “By keeping the muscles and tendons strengthened and flexible, if the nerve signals can come back, the function of lower limbs is much easier to recover.”

Ratliff made the most of the opportunity. 

“I realized that I had to take advantage of everything they were offering me,” he says. In the beginning, nurses dressed him for his therapy sessions. “But then after I got some more movement back, I wanted to be ready when they came and got me. And oftentimes, I was waiting on them. I was ready to get started on all the activities and exercises that they had for me.”

There were days that Ratliff felt like staying in bed. 

“But I couldn’t do that,” he says. “Being in the Marines helped in that regard because when that drill instructor flipped the light on, you were on your feet ready to go. And they didn’t want to hear that you were tired. I told my wife, ‘I’m going to walk out of this hospital.’”

At the same time, his family did everything they could to boost his recovery.

“We knew my father had nerve damage, we just didn’t know to what extent,” says Ratliff’s son, Ethan. “But I knew that if he could move something, that he could improve. And because he could not move anything on his own, I had to help him. So I would massage his arms and legs to get blood flowing to the nerves. Every time I went there and helped him out, he gained more movement.”

Ethan Ratliff assisting his father, Colan Ratliff, with rehabilitation exercise

Colan Ratliff and his son, Ethan Ratliff

“One of the things that I drew on a lot was the fact that my family was by my side,” Ratliff says. “I had someone there nearly every day.”

Physical therapists also kept challenging Ratliff and motivating him to do more. He spent many hours on a stationary recumbent bicycle and was strapped into an anti-gravity treadmill, a machine that uses air pressure to reduce gravitational forces on patients, allowing them to experience the motion of walking without being encumbered by their body weight.

Slowly, Ratliff began to regain his function until the remarkable moment when he took his first steps with a walker. He made so much progress that his rehabilitation was extended by two weeks to capitalize on these gains.

“When you leave the hospital, they wheel you out in a wheelchair and they usually wheel you over to the car,” says Ratliff. “I stopped the lady and said, ‘That’s as far as you’re taking me.’” 

He stood up and walked to the car, fulfilling his promise to his wife.

Comprehensive Outpatient Therapy

But Ratliff’s recovery still wasn’t complete. His legs were very stiff, and outpatient physical therapy offered a way to improve further. 

“When I got up after I sat any length of time, the back of my legs were very tight,” he says. “It made me shuffle a little bit.”

UM CRMC coordinated with its healthcare partners to transfer Ratliff’s care back to the hospital. Back on home turf, he again threw himself into the activities that his therapists prescribed. The hospital works with patients to create an individualized treatment plan tailored to their needs. In addition to physical therapy, UM CRMC’s rehabilitation department — part of the UM Rehabilitation Network — offers other forms of therapy. 

Colan Ratliff holding a medicine ball with Physical Therapist Beth Ann Galligan

Colan Ratliff and UM CRMC physical therapist Beth Ann Galligan

“Our facility is one of the few in Charles County that has physical, occupational and speech therapy in-house,” says Beth Ann Galligan, DPT, a physical therapist at UM CRMC. “That’s a plus for patients with complicated injuries like a spinal cord injury. You can see all of us in one day and not have to go to different facilities. We’re all working together to help you get better.”

Because Ratliff had no speech issues and the use of his hands had improved greatly, therapists focused on strengthening and stretching exercises and other types of physical therapy. They also aimed to improve his walking and limit his need for assistive devices, like his walker.

When he first began walking, Ratliff could only manage 100 feet, but the team worked with him to go farther and farther distances. When the weather allowed, Galligan took Ratliff outside to practice taking steps on different inclines and surfaces.

“He never complained of pain,” Galligan says. “He was always determined and positive. When you’re in that mindset, you’re so motivated, it makes therapy go well because everybody’s on board with getting you better.”

On his last day, Ratliff walked more than 1,200 feet without an assistive device. “I’d say I’m back 95 percent,” he says. “I can’t run. But I get on my bicycle and go 13 miles or so, and I try to get a little faster each time to get my heart rate up.”

A Continuing Connection

Ratliff’s experiences at UM CRMC bookended his treatment for his spinal cord injury. But he has ongoing ties to the hospital. Four of his grandchildren were born there, and his family has received care there for other medical needs.

Last fall, Ratliff saw a diabetes educator and took group classes to stay on top of his blood sugar — another key health objective. He was diagnosed with diabetes eight years ago.

“I was surprised to learn that I was already eating pretty healthy — the right amount of sugar and salt,” Ratliff says. “But there are other things you can do.” He found out he also needed healthy snacks to keep his blood sugar levels steady.

After sitting down with a diabetes educator, patients typically sign up for four two-hour group classes covering a range of topics on diabetes management. Since he started the process, Ratliff’s weight has dropped, and his blood sugar is starting to go down.

Colan Ratliff and Cindy Adams in front of a mock plate of food

Diabetes Educator Cindy Adams, CDE, with Colan Ratliff

“We’re affirming what they are doing right and then guiding them in baby steps to make more and more helpful changes,” says diabetes educator Cindy Adams, CDE. 

Ratliff is grateful that UM CRMC has had his back in large and small ways, though he confesses that he doesn’t like hospitals very much.

“Nevertheless,” he says, “Charles Regional was there for me. They sent me on my journey to recovery, and they were there when I went to rehab and continued my recovery. It’s nice knowing they’re here.”

“We are the community’s first stop for injuries, and if we can’t help, we have exceptional health care partners who can,” says Dr. Moser. “From Emergency Department services to patient education, our goal is to serve.”

This story originally appeared in the Winter 2020 issue of Maryland’s Health Matters, the official magazine of UM Charles Regional Medical Center. Click here to read more by downloading this issue now.

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6 Steps That Could Help You Prevent Cancer

National Cancer Prevention Month awareness ribbon

Over 1.7 million new cases of cancer and more than 600,000 cancer deaths per year — those are the latest estimates from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), and that’s just for America.

Simply put, cancer continues to play a major role in our society’s well-being. Today, the five most common cancers in America are (according to the NCI):

  • Breast cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Colon and rectum cancer
  • Melanoma of the skin

With so many different types of cancer and countless variables to consider, it can be hard to know exactly what you should do to limit your cancer risk. Fortunately, there are a few different recommendations you can follow that will not only help prevent cancer but also help you live a healthier life overall.

So in honor of National Cancer Prevention month, here are six steps we recommend you take to help lower your risk for cancer:

Choose a Diet That’s Rich in the Right Nutrients

Diets that favor fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help reduce your cancer risk significantly. This is because diets made up of these different types of foods are often lower in calories and higher in nutrients compared to those that are made up of animal-based and/or highly processed foods.

Here’s a simple rule of thumb: At least two-thirds of your meal should be made up of non-starchy vegetables, fruits, whole grains, or beans.

Limit Red Meat and Processed Meat Consumption

Speaking of diets, if you’re a fan of steak, burgers or pork chops, you’ll want to be extra careful about how much you’re consuming.

Research has shown that eating over 18 ounces of red meat per week can increase your risk of developing colorectal cancer, which is a type of cancer that’s becoming more common among Americans. Beef, lamb, and even pork are all considered red meat.

Additionally, excess consumption of processed meats, such as bacon, deli meats, hot dogs, ham, etc., has also been linked to an increased cancer risk due to the preservatives used in preparation.

Bear in mind that no one is telling you that you have to cut these foods out of your diet entirely. As with anything, moderation is key, and simply being aware of what you’re eating — and how much — will go a long way to helping you live a healthier life.

Make Exercise a Priority

Too often, we think of exercise as an activity designed solely for losing weight. And while exercise can certainly help you manage your weight, it has so many other health benefits, too.

AICR recommends you get at least 150 minutes of moderate (or 75 minutes of intense) exercise every week. Here’s how exercise helps limit your cancer risk:

  • Abnormal hormone levels are associated with higher cancer risks, and physical activity helps keep your hormones in balance
  • Frequent activity can help strengthen your immune system
  • Exercise can help your digestive system’s processes which may help get harmful substances through your digestive tract faster
  • Consistent physical activity can help you manage your weight and/or body fat levels — both of which have been shown to increase your cancer risk if at unhealthy levels

Not sure if your lifestyle is active enough to help you live healthier? AICR has put together a simple quiz to help you get the answer.

Quit Smoking, Chewing, or Vaping

If you never started smoking, chewing tobacco, or vaping in your life, great job! You’ve already eliminated one of the biggest risk factors for cancer in your life.

If you’re a smoker or use chewing tobacco now, however, we recommend you make quitting a priority above all other items listed in this article. According to NCI, there are 250 known harmful chemicals found in tobacco smoke and 69 of them can cause cancer. As for smokeless (chewing) tobacco? There are at least 28 chemicals that have been linked to cancer.

And although vapes and e-cigarettes may be a less harmful alternative for current smokers, studies are still ongoing to determine exactly how they affect the body. Early tests have shown that the vapor inhaled while vaping is far from harmless, however, and it can sometimes include cancer-causing chemicals as well as traces of heavy metals such as nickel, tin, and lead.

Breastfeed Your Baby if You Can

According to the AICR, there’s strong evidence to suggest that breastfeeding has benefits for both mother and child.

Because it has been shown to help eliminate damaged cells and lower levels of some cancer-related hormones in a woman’s body, breastfeeding can help moms reduce their risk of breast cancer. And babies who breastfeed have been shown to be less likely to become obese — one of the primary health factors in a person’s cancer risk level later in life.

Be Consistent with Medical Checkups

Your primary care provider can help guide you in the right direction in terms of diet and lifestyle choices. And even if you’re the healthiest person alive, you’ll never totally eliminate your cancer risk. Regular checkups and physicals mean your doctor will be more likely to detect any signs of cancer while more treatment options are available.

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Recognizing the Importance of Heart Health During Cardiac Rehabilitation Week

Line of treadmills in a gym space

During American Heart Month, much of the focus is put on raising awareness and sharing strategies for preventing heart disease. But what about raising awareness for those who have already suffered from some form of heart disease? That’s where National Cardiac Rehabilitation Week comes in.

Celebrated every year during the month of February, National Cardiac Rehabilitation Week is meant to highlight the importance of cardiac rehabilitation and all those who benefit from it. Never heard or thought about cardiac rehabilitation before? Read on to learn more about these important programs.

What is Cardiac Rehabilitation?

Cardiac rehabilitation (or just cardiac rehab for short) is a set of programs designed to help those who’ve suffered from a heart attack, heart failure, heart surgery, or any number of other cardiovascular conditions. Through these programs, patients are able to improve their cardiovascular health to live a healthier, more fulfilling life.

How Can Cardiac Rehabilitation Help Someone with Heart Disease?

Every person’s cardiac rehab program is going to be a little bit different based on their condition, but most programs revolve around three distinct elements:

  • Exercise – Physical activity is a very important part of heart health, and cardiac rehab programs will get patients moving and learn how exercise can promote a heart-healthy lifestyle.
  • Education – There are a lot of factors that determine someone’s heart health, and a cardiac rehab program can help patients learn how to manage their risk factors and make smarter lifestyle choices.
  • Counseling – Perhaps nothing can derail a heart-healthy lifestyle more than stress, so cardiac rehab programs often include some form of counseling to instill stress-management techniques and strategies in patients.

Cardiac Rehabilitation at UM Charles Regional Medical Center

We’re proud to offer a comprehensive cardiac rehabilitation program here at UM Charles Regional Medical Center. Led by an expert team and a board-certified cardiologist, this program is designed to help participants achieve heart-healthy lifestyles and reduce their cardiovascular risk factors.

From doctors, nurses, and physical therapists to exercise physiologists, social workers, and dietary experts, our team works with patients to achieve the following benefits:

  • Improved functional abilities
  • Improved quality of life
  • Reduced lifestyle-related risks
  • Increased knowledge of the disease process
  • Understanding of prevention strategies
  • Increased ability to perform normal tasks in daily life
  • Improved self-esteem and confidence
  • Better adherence to healthy lifestyle choices

Want to learn more about our cardiac rehabilitation program? Visit our website or call (301) 609-4413 to make an appointment today.

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5 Things You Need to Do to Keep Your Resolutions on Track

Apple and tape measure sitting on a bathroom scale representing weight-loss

You did it! You made it through the first month of the new year, and it’s time to take stock of your progress for your resolutions.

There are 11 months left to accomplish your year-long goals, so there’s no better time to figure out if you’re still on the right path or if adjustments need to be made. With that in mind, here are five things you should do right now to keep your resolutions on track:

Reflect on Progress You’ve Made Thus Far

First and foremost, making it through an entire month with new habits or an altered perspective is no small feat. Congratulate yourself for making it this far and take pride in what you’ve already accomplished.

If you’re not quite as far along as you expected to be by this time, that’s OK. Take note of what went right, what went wrong, and how you can bounce back in the months to come. You can also consider resetting your resolutions to something that seems a little bit less daunting, but no matter what, don’t give up entirely. 

Make It About Your Health, Not Anything Superficial

If you’re embarking on a weight-loss journey or starting a workout regimen, it might be tempting to make milestones more about the way you look rather than the way you feel.

Of course, losing weight or building strength often comes with improvements to your outward appearance, but these should never be your primary measurements of success. Everyone loses weight or gets in shape differently, with some people showing signs of improvement far more quickly than others. And because of that, it can be easy to get discouraged if you don’t see noticeable results right away, even if you’ve been working your tail off at the gym or eating better.

Focus on the real benefits of your resolutions in terms of your overall health, not your physical appearance. If you’ve been going to the gym since the beginning of the new year, think about how much more you’re already able to do in terms of exercise compared to your first day. Similarly, if you’ve dedicated yourself to eating better, focus on how much better you feel when you eat a well-balanced diet. Just remember, the physical changes are sure to come in time, but it takes long-term dedication to make a real difference. 

Consider How You’re Framing Your Resolutions

One of the best psychological “hacks” for your resolutions is simply changing the way you’re thinking about them. This is especially true for any goal that involves health or wellness.

Rather than focusing on all the things you’re unhappy with as being the driving force behind your goals, start thinking about all the positive reasons to stick with your resolutions. 

For example, if your goals involve living a more active lifestyle, don’t think about it in terms of how you’re unhappy with your lifestyle now — think about how much happier and healthier you’ll feel by striving for your goals. The power of positive thinking is real!

Create an Action Plan for the Rest of the Way

If you began the new year with just an idea of what you wanted to accomplish, you’re less likely to hold yourself accountable for the rest of the way. Having a goal in writing and a realistic action plan that outlines all the steps you need to take are key to accomplishing your goal even as distractions or hurdles appear throughout the year.

Think About Why You’re on This Journey

Whether you’re off to a great start or not, this is a tip that you should keep in mind for the rest of the year.

Personal goals are just that — personal. Resolutions set for the wrong reasons are rarely completed and even more rarely fulfilling, so keep asking yourself why you’re striving for something. If the answer stops being about making yourself — not someone else — happier, consider changing your goals up entirely. 

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A Smart Approach to Dealing with Seasonal Allergies This Spring

Photo of a butterfly collecting pollen on a flower

Warmer weather. Green grass. Leaves on the trees and flowers in bloom. 

Spring is a beautiful thing — except when you’re dealing with seasonal allergies. The grass, trees, and flowers also signal the return of pollen and a season of sneezing, coughing, and stuffy noses. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that more than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies each year.

Pollen is nearly impossible to avoid altogether. If you suffer from seasonal allergies, it’s important to come up with a plan to stay as healthy as possible, so you can enjoy this beautiful time of year. 

Start with Over-the-Counter Medicines

With so many Americans suffering from seasonal allergies, it’s no surprise that there are countless options for over-the-counter medications that can help prevent and treat your allergic reactions.

  • Oral Antihistamines — These help relieve sneezing, itchy eyes, and runny noses. Antihistamines are typically available in pills, liquids or nasal sprays.
  • Decongestants — These help relieve congestion by treating the linings of the nasal passages. Decongestants may come in the form of pills, liquids and nasal sprays or drops.
  • Nasal Spray — A cromolyn sodium nasal spray is most effective when used as a preventative measure before the onset of symptoms.

Your Primary Care Physician Can Help

When your seasonal allergy symptoms are severe and the usual medicines aren’t providing the relief you need, your next step should be scheduling an appointment with a primary care physician.

Your doctor can prescribe allergy medication that isn’t available over the counter. They can also recommend tests to help diagnose your specific type of allergy, so you know that you’re taking the right steps to stay as healthy as possible.

  • Skin Prick Test — A small drop of an allergen will be placed on your skin and then you’ll receive a light prick or scratch on the spot to expose you to the allergen. If you’re allergic, a small reaction may occur within minutes to help them diagnose the allergy and devise a treatment plan.
  • Specific IgE Blood Test — As an alternative to the skin prick test, you can provide a blood sample. The laboratory will add an allergen to the sample and then study the antibodies that the blood produces in response.

Be Smart and Enjoy the Season

Armed with knowledge, medication and the support of your physician — like the team at UM Charles Regional Primary Care — you don’t have to miss out on all the best parts of spring.

You may never be able to completely avoid pollen and its effects, but when you’re prepared in advance, you can enjoy more days of clear eyes and sinuses and actually be excited about the warm weather, the sunshine and, yes, even the beautiful flowers.

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Get to Know Frehiwot Temesgen, MD, Charles County’s Newest Neurology Specialist

Photo of neurology doctor standing in office

Neurologists are doctors who specialize in diagnosing and treating conditions that are caused by the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and the peripheral nervous system (nerves that branch off from the spinal cord through the body). Although it’s a highly specialized field of medicine, it doesn’t mean that you can’t see a high-quality neurologist right here in Southern Maryland.

We’re proud to introduce Dr. Frehiwot Temesgen, Charles County’s newest board-certified neurologist who’s now practicing at UM Charles Regional Medical Group – Neurology in La Plata, MD.

Specialties and Treatments Offered

Dr. Temesgen is able to provide patients with evaluations and treatments for several neurological conditions, including:

  • Headaches
  • Seizures
  • Stroke
  • Memory Loss
  • Neuropathy
  • Radiculopathy
  • Tremors
  • Migraines
  • Spasticity

Dr. Temesgen uses a wide variety of treatments and specializes in the following procedures:

  • Electroencephalogram (EEG)
  • Electromyogram (EMG)
  • Botox for Chronic Migraines

Education and Background

Board certified in neurology and clinical neurophysiology, Dr. Temesgen has more than a decade of practical medical experience and expertise. She graduated from the Gondar University School of Medicine in Ethiopia in 2005 and worked as a general medical practitioner at Hawassa University Hospital until 2008 when she took a medical internship in Washington, D.C.

From there, she undertook a three-year neurology residency at Howard University Hospital, before becoming a clinical neurophysiology fellow at George Washington University.

Her most recent experience in the field includes:

  • Locum/PRN Neurohospitalist in Pennsylvania and West Virginia
  • Neurologist at Mary Washington Healthcare in Fredericksburg
  • Clinical Neurophysiology Fellow at George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C.

How to Schedule an Appointment

Dr. Temesgen is now accepting new patients right here in Charles County at the UM Charles Regional Medical Pavilion in La Plata. 

To schedule an appointment, please call (301) 609-5044 — a doctor’s referral may be required. Patient registration and authorization forms are also available online to speed up the check-in process on the day of your first appointment (click here to download Spanish forms).

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Having a Happy & Healthy Pregnancy

How to Have a Happy, Healthy Pregnancy

Whether you’ve been planning this moment for years or have just been surprised to learn that a bundle of joy is on the way, every pregnancy promises a unique and life-changing experience.

Soon you’ll discover there’s no right way to parent, and the same idea is true for pregnancy. That said, the following information will give you a basic roadmap to help maximize your journey.

Preparing for Pregnancy

Even if you live a relatively healthy lifestyle already, there are still additional steps that you should consider taking to boost your preconception health. Just a few small changes can make a world of a difference down the line, as there is a greater risk of low birth weight and preterm babies when you fail to prepare for pregnancy.

You can improve your preconception health in a number of ways:

  • Take a folic acid supplement 
  • Avoid toxic substances, alcohol and smoking 
  • Monitor any preexisting conditions 
  • Talk to a doctor about your current medicines

Tackling Each Trimester

Congratulations — you’re expecting! It’s a long road until you’re holding your baby, but these 40 weeks are home to critical development within your womb, which translates to a lot of big changes for your body and lifestyle as well. Here are some common things that you might experience.

First Trimester

Hormonal changes can affect every part of your body and can trigger unique reactions. Some common symptoms include: 

  • Tiredness
  • Upset stomach 
  • Cravings 
  • Mood swings

Second Trimester

Many say that the second trimester is easier than the first. That said, more noticeable changes may affect your body including: 

  • Body aches 
  • Stretch marks 
  • Patches of darker skin on the face 
  • Numb or tingling hands

Third Trimester
Some of the same discomforts will continue, and other new ones may develop in preparation for the birthing process:

  • Shortness of breath 
  • Heartburn 
  • Trouble sleeping 
  • Swelling (see doctor if severe)

Birth and Beyond

It can be difficult to tell when your baby is ready to make their grand entrance. You could be having contractions, but what if it’s false labor? You could have felt your water break, but what if it’s just urine? When in doubt, seek a medical professional to confirm if you are just approaching or already in labor.

One decision you can plan for in your labor experience is how to manage the pain. The epidural is one commonly-known and popular method of pain relief, but other medical options are also available, as well as more natural routes that can also make the experience more bearable.

Once you get through labor, the pain will start to subside, but recovering from the birth should not be overlooked. New mothers must not only tend to their baby, but also take special care of their own bodies.

You will likely experience a number of physical changes in the days following the birth. Some symptoms you may encounter are vaginal discharge, cramping, swelling or constipation. Rest is a crucial component of the recovery process, and leaning on loved ones in these early days will help you bounce back.

Emotionally, childbirth will have changed your hormones and may bring unexpected feelings of sadness. This is completely normal and will usually go away on its own. If it doesn’t, reach out to your doctor and inquire about postpartum depression, a serious but treatable condition that can happen any time within the first year after birth.

If you’re seeking additional support as you go through your pregnancy journey, UM Charles Regional has a newly renovated Birthing Center with medical professionals and resources for each step of the way.

 

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Looking Ahead: What’s to Come for UM Charles Regional in 2020

Photo of exterior of UM Charles Regional Medical Center

It’s hard to believe that 2019 is already in the rearview mirror. Our 80th year in Southern Maryland was really one for the books, and we’re so grateful for the support of our community and the hard work of our team to make it one of our best years yet.

As we reflect on all that we accomplished last year, we’re also looking ahead to everything that will shape our medical system here in Charles County. From new practices to upgrades for existing facilities, 2020 is sure to be a great year for UM Charles Regional. Here’s a look at some of the bigger changes on the horizon for our hospital and its associated practices:

Expansion of Our Birthing Center

One of the biggest updates to come to UM Charles Regional Medical Center in 2020 is the expansion of our Birthing Center. The upcoming upgrades to this highly rated unit will enable our team to serve more expecting mothers than ever before — all with the same great level of care you’ve come to expect from our obstetrics team.

Neurology Specialists, Right Here in Charles County

If you live in Southern Maryland and are in need of neurological care, you won’t have to travel outside of Charles County to get high-quality, expert care because UM Charles Regional Medical Group – Neurology is now seeing patients in La Plata. Led by Dr. Temesgen, this new specialty practice is located at the UM Charles Regional Medical Pavilion (just off Washington Ave.) and offers a wide variety of treatments for neurological conditions.

Visit our website to learn more, or call (301) 609-5044 to schedule your appointment today.

New Women’s Health Office for More Convenient Visits

The team at UM Charles Regional Medical Group – Women’s Health continues to provide compassionate care in La Plata, and we’re excited to announce that seeing a women’s health specialist is getting even more convenient if you live near Waldorf. While the existing La Plata office will continue to serve patients as always, a new office will be opening up in Waldorf later this year.

Our Annual Celebration Gala to Help Support It All

Without the support of our community, none of this would be possible. And with the help of the CRMC Foundation, we’re able to provide more services and better care right here in Charles County.

You can help support our mission of making Southern Maryland the happiest, healthiest place to call home by joining us at our annual Celebration Gala on February 29. Proceeds from this black-tie event benefit the CRMC Foundation and help us continually update and improve our care and medical practices just like those outlined in this blog. 

Visit the CRMC Foundation’s website to learn more and to reserve your tickets today!

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5 Real Benefits of Having a Primary Care Doctor

photo of dr. lorenzo childress with a patient

If you’re like most people, you might turn to urgent care or even the emergency room whenever you get sick or injured. While these two types of practices are essential for short-term or more immediate needs, they generally fall short — both in terms of practicality and cost-savings — in regards to long-term wellness.

A lot of people choose to use urgent care or the emergency room simply because it’s easier and more convenient for them, or they don’t know why they would need a primary care doctor in the first place. Despite what you might appreciate about the convenience of your nearby urgent care, there are some real benefits to having a primary care provider in your life:

Consistent Care with a Trusted Partner

Healthy living is a lifelong endeavor. Sure, there are some things you can do in the short term that can help you feel better or keep you safe from getting sick, but the biggest boost to your overall health will be the result of the decisions you make over the months and years to come.

Although an urgent care provider can give you some helpful tips and advice whenever you visit, it’s important to remember that those practices rarely ever know anything about you beyond what illness or injury brought you in that day. A primary care provider, however, is there to build a long-term rapport with its patients. The biggest benefit of this is that patients will feel more comfortable over time sharing more information about their health, and a primary care doctor will then be able to better understand the big picture for each of his or her patients.

Chronic Condition Management

Regular communication, recommended specialist referrals, and long-term strategies for managing chronic conditions such as diabetes, COPD, heart disease, etc. — these are all big benefits to having a primary care doctor in your corner. 

Primary care doctors can’t do it all, and they’ll often lean on other specialists for more in-depth chronic condition care. But, in general, the management of your condition is made far easier and more effective when you have someone who knows your full medical history and is with you every step of the way.

Referrals Are Made That Much Easier

When you require the help of specialists, such as those for physical therapy, diagnostic imaging, or even surgery, you’re almost always going to need a referral from a trusted doctor to get an appointment. And while you can still probably get an appointment with one of these specialists through an urgent care doctor, the process is made far easier with a primary care doctor.

A primary care doctor is usually going to be better connected and more experienced with patient referrals compared to a practitioner at an urgent care practice, so you’ll always know you’re getting the best recommendation possible. Moreover, if you’re working with a primary care provider that’s part of a larger network, like Dr. Childress at UM Charles Regional Medical Group – Primary Care, you can get the added benefit of faster, more seamless referrals to other practices.

Preventive Medicine is a Priority

If you’re only turning to a medical care provider whenever you get sick or injured, you’re really only being reactive about your overall health and wellness. Preventive medicine is all about taking a proactive stance and taking the necessary steps to reduce the likelihood of getting sick or hurt in the first place.

With regularly scheduled appointments with a primary care doctor, you’ll have a better chance of spotting warning signs before they evolve into something potentially more harmful or debilitating. Your doctor can also ensure you’re up to date with recommended vaccinations as well as help you along with your general wellness goals — making you more likely to live a healthier life in the long term.

Potential Long-Term Savings

What all this boils down to is this: Having a primary care doctor comes with the added benefit of saving you time and money.

Following a regular appointment schedule and keeping your primary care doctor involved in your medical history are key to preventing illnesses before they happen or limiting the damage done when you do get sick. That means you’ll be able to spend less time trying to get well and more time actually being well. On top of that, many insurance companies understand that it’s in their benefit to incentivize preventive care, so you’ll often pay far less for regular checkups than you would going to urgent care or the emergency room for far more serious ailments.

Where to Find a Primary Care Doctor in Southern Maryland

A quick online search will help you get started in your search for a primary care provider, and other resources such as your insurance company can help you narrow your list based on which doctors are in your network. 

If you live in Southern Maryland, we recommend you take a closer look at UM Charles Regional Medical Group – Primary Care, located in La Plata. Led by Dr. Lorenzo Childress III, this primary care practice offers flexible appointment times in a convenient location. Visit our website or call (301) 609-5044 to learn more.

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2019: A Year in Review at Your Hospital

Photo of the hospital exterior | 2019 In Review

It’s been an incredible year for University of Maryland (UM) Charles Regional Medical Center. 2019 saw us celebrating our 80th year in Southern Maryland while serving tens of thousands of people who walked through our doors. Here’s a brief look back at some highlights from the past year:

Thousands of Patients Served. Hundreds of Newborns Welcomed.

Over the course of fiscal year 2019, our talented, compassionate team worked with thousands of people — many of whom live right here in your community. How busy were we? Just take a look:

  • 51,592 Emergency Department visits
  • 6,049 hospital admissions
  • 3,227 outpatient surgeries
  • 1,627 inpatient surgeries
  • 712 births

The Latest Awards and Certifications

Our hospital and medical system received numerous prestigious awards and certifications over the past 12 months. And while we’re proud to have received these designations, they’re simply a reflection of our ongoing mission to provide you and your community with the highest quality of medical care right in your backyard.

Here are a few of the awards and certifications we received in 2019:

A Major Employer in Charles County

We’re proud to be one of the largest employers in your community, and in 2019, we employed over 900 people, including 373 medical staff members, right here in Charles County.

Employees are found outside the walls of UM Charles Regional Medical Center, too. You can find our team members in Waldorf and La Plata in practices focusing on primary care, surgical care, diabetes and endocrinology, outpatient physical therapy, gastroenterology, medical imaging, and more.

The Dedication of the Bill and Julie Dotson Imaging Center

Photo of the dedication ceremony and ribbon-cutting

In early November, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford came together with the Dotson family at the Medical Pavilion to dedicate the Bill and Julie Dotson Imaging Center at UM Charles Regional Imaging here in La Plata. You can read the full press release for the event here.

More on the Horizon…

There’s so much more to come from UM Charles Regional here in Southern Maryland. 

With the support of the CRMC Foundation and the strength of the University of Maryland Medical System as a whole, our hospital and associated practices will continue to undergo improvements to provide you, your family, and your neighbors the best medical care possible. In 2020, work will begin on vital upgrades for our Emergency Department, and our highly rated Birthing Center will be expanded and enhanced as well. 

We look forward to serving you in 2020 and many years to come, and we thank you for another incredible year here in Charles County. Best wishes and happy new year!

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