How UM Charles Regional’s Emergency Department Cares for the Region’s Most Vulnerable Patients

CRMC Emergency Department Photo

In January 2018, a typical afternoon took a frightening turn for the Bean family of Waldorf, Maryland. Chris, a police officer, had picked up the couple’s older son, Jake, 13, from school. And Kimberly, a real estate agent was driving their 7-year-old son, Xavier, home.

Kimberly glanced at Xavier in the rearview mirror and saw his eyes blinking.

“I thought he was smiling at first,” she said. “I couldn’t figure out what was going on. Then I turned my whole head around and looked at him, and I could see that he was having a seizure. It scared the heck out of me.”

Kimberly pulled the car over, rushed to the back seat and called her husband, who requested an ambulance through the police dispatch.

Within minutes, Xavier and his parents were at the Emergency Department (ED) of UM Charles Regional Medical Center (UM CRMC).

“They took him in, and it was like something out of a movie or TV, where all the doctors and nurses just swarm in and they’re taking turns at checking on things,” Kimberly remembers. “But with Xavier, it was super challenging.”

Xavier is autistic and nonverbal; he is also intellectually disabled and developmentally delayed.

Xavier needed a CT scan to look for abnormal growths, blood and urine tests, and a spinal tap to rule out meningitis, encephalitis, and bleeding in the brain, as doctors tried to get to the root of his seizure. After several hours, the family left the ED with a referral to a neurologist — and nothing but gratitude for UM CRMC’s doctors, nurses and staff.

“It was an exhausting day, but we were pleased they went through the whole gamut of tests,” Kimberly said. “They accomplished so much and did so with incredible patience and compassion.”

A Commitment to Care

Providing such service is an everyday occurrence at UM CRMC’s Department of Emergency Medicine.

“Coming out of a seizure is very confusing for any patient,” Richard Ferraro, MD, chief of medical staff at UM CRMC, and chairman and medical director of the Department of Emergency Medicine, said. “That’s a time where patients can be combative, extremely emotional, and very confused. It’s really important to show patience and perseverance because you really do need to get the work-up done and to not give up because the patient isn’t able to understand everything. It takes a special type of disposition to do that.”

Dr. Ferraro Photo

The emergency medicine team is well-equipped for these situations. Doctors and physician assistants train with children of all ages and see them on a daily basis. In fact, children represent 15 to 20 percent of the patients who come through the doors of the ED, Dr. Ferraro noted. The department also relies on a team of nurses with extra training with pediatric patients whom they can call on when a child with special needs comes to the hospital.

“Your mindset changes when you are dealing with a child, especially one with a seizure or cognitive impairment,” Melissa Sager, RN, one of the emergency medicine nurses on duty the day Xavier was taken to the hospital, said. “These children are so sensitive to everything around them. If you show that you’re scared or nervous, they can really feel those emotions from you. We try to stay calm and confident and work with the parents to make sure they understand everything we’re doing.”

“Our ED is focused on our community members and committed to providing the best care,” Debbie Shuck-Reynolds, MSN, nurse manager of the Department of Emergency Medicine, said. “The one aspect about our team that I find endearing is the concept that we care for each of our patients as if they were our own family member. Everyone is entitled to the best care, and that is what we strive for every shift.”

A Second Scare

Unfortunately, the Beans’ ED visit was not the end of the story. At another medical facility, Xavier underwent an electroencephalogram, or EEG — a test to detect abnormalities in a patient’s brain waves.

But before they heard back from the neurologist there, Xavier experienced another seizure, and once again, the Beans headed to UM CRMC. It happened on the drive home from school in virtually the same location. The Beans think this may have had to do with the pattern of light through the trees creating a strobe effect. Strobe lighting is associated with triggering epileptic seizures in some patients.

“I wasn’t as frantic that time,” Kimberly said. “But I wanted answers. We were anxiously awaiting test results when Xavier’s second seizure occurred.”

While Xavier was under observation, UM CRMC doctors called his pediatrician to get insights into his medical history, asked his parents more about his health and behavior, and tracked down the neurologist who evaluated him.

The tests revealed abnormal brain activity that pointed to epilepsy.

“We were so impressed with the doctors at UM Charles Regional,” Kimberly said. “They realized that we weren’t trying to be difficult. We were just very concerned and felt like we weren’t getting answers. They were on a mission to help us.”

“For all patients, our job is to do good detective work reviewing records, talking to other physicians involved in their care, doing a medical history and physical while the patient is there, and then synthesizing all that data and trying to make the right plan,” Dr. Ferraro said. “In the meantime, you’re treating whatever acute condition they have and stabilizing them.”

Kimberly and Chris Bean Photo

Adjusting to a New Diagnosis

Thanks to the persistence of the ED staff, the Beans finally got a diagnosis and Xavier was started on anti-seizure medication. He has done well on the medicine, but last fall he had several small “breakthrough” seizures, which doctors attributed to growth spurts.

“The dose of his medicine had to be changed,” Chris Bean said. “He is now at the maximum dose allowed for his height and weight.”

Now the Beans are breathing a little easier and things are back to normal in their household, particularly the joy that Xavier brings to it.

“He’s a loving boy,” Chris said. “He doesn’t exhibit classic autism in the sense that he doesn’t want to be touched or he’s antisocial. He’s very engaging, and he loves physical touch like wrestling and being tickled.”

Like many people with autism, Xavier craves routine, especially in his nighttime ritual. After dinner, he takes his mom and dad by the hand and goes upstairs.

“We have about a 40-minute snuggle session where we get to watch his shows together up in our

bed,” Kimberly said. “It’s the same every single night, so he loves that. He doesn’t speak, but you can see this little grin on his face when he’s happy. When we are all together, it seems like the world is right to him.”

While Xavier’s newest diagnosis is distressing, the Beans are taking it in stride.

“We were told he has to go to the ED if the seizure lasts more than five minutes, or if he falls and has trauma to his head, or if he has two separate seizures within five minutes,” Chris said. “Luckily, he’s been seizure-free for several months.”

Chris and Kimberly are comforted that UM CRMC’s Emergency Department has their back if problems occur.

“I can’t say enough about UM Charles Regional,” Chris said. “The level of care and professionalism are just top-notch. You can just tell that these people are dedicated to making a difference.”

“It’s important for parents to know we did everything we could for their child,” Melissa Sager said. “Their child is their life. To know we had a positive impact on the Beans is really wonderful.”

This story originally appeared in the spring issue of Maryland’s Health Matters, the official magazine of the University of Maryland Charles Regional Medical Center. For more stories from this issue, visit our website. And stay connected with your local hospital by following UM Charles Regional on Facebook.

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5 Important Things You Need to Know About Stroke

Stroke Awareness Graphic

Few medical conditions are more severe or dangerous than stroke. It’s the fifth leading cause of death in America, and it’s also one of the most common causes of long-term disability.

There’s plenty to learn about the causes of and risk factors for stroke, but these are the five most important things you need to know right now:

Stroke Claims the Lives of 140,000 Americans Every Year

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), stroke claims the lives of about 140,000 people in the United States per year. The CDC also estimates that stroke accounts for one out of every 20 deaths in America.

There Are Two Main Types of Stroke

A stroke occurs when something blocks the supply of blood to the brain or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. When that happens, it causes damage to parts of the brain, depending on the severity of the stroke. Here are the two main types of stroke:

Ischemic Stroke – This is the type of stroke that happens when blood flow and, as a result, the oxygen supply to the brain becomes blocked — often because of a blood clot. It’s estimated that nearly 90% of all strokes are of this type.

Hemorrhagic Stroke – This type of stroke occurs when an artery in the brain leaks or ruptures, which puts pressure on and damages brain cells.

Nearly 25% of Strokes Occur Among Stroke Survivors

While there are a variety of health conditions, behaviors, and genetic characteristics that can increase a person’s risk, one of the most prominent factors in a person’s stroke risk is whether or not they’ve had a stroke before.

The CDC estimates that about one out of every four cases of stroke occurs among people who have had a previous stroke.

You don’t have to be a victim of a full ischemic stroke or hemorrhagic stroke to be at greater risk, either. In fact, there’s a third type of stroke, known as a transient ischemic attack (TIA). While TIAs are very serious medical emergencies just like major strokes are, these “mini-strokes” are characterized by a blockage of blood flow to the brain that only lasts for a short time. As a result, TIAs are often considered warning signs for a future stroke.

Most Strokes are Preventable

Stroke is something that is largely preventable by making healthy choices in your life. This is especially important to understand if you have any of the following conditions:

  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Certain heart conditions

High blood pressure is one of the most prevalent conditions in Americans, so it’s even more important for everyone to keep an eye on their blood pressure to ensure it stays within a healthy range. Check out this video to learn more.

With all that in mind, here are some things you can do to reduce your level of risk:

  • Enjoy a healthy, balanced diet
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Engage in physical activity regularly
  • Don’t smoke
  • Limit your alcohol intake

Visit the CDC’s website to learn more about how healthy lifestyle choices can improve your overall well-being and limit your risk for stroke.

Every Second Counts During a Stroke

The potential for long-term disability or even death as a result of a stroke is high, which means there’s no time to waste to get help. How can you spot the signs of stroke? Just follow the “BE FAST.” method if you think someone may be having a stroke:

Balance – Ask them if they feel like they’re losing their balance or coordination.
Eyes – Ask them if they’re having vision trouble or if things look blurry.
Face Drooping – Ask them to smile and observe whether or not one side of their face is drooping.
Arm Weakness – Ask them to raise both arms and see if one arm drifts downward.
Speech – Are they slurring their speech or are they speaking abnormally?
Time to Call 9-1-1 – If any of these symptoms are present, it’s time to call 9-1-1 immediately.

Bonus: Did You Know that University of Maryland Charles Regional Medical Center is a Primary Stroke Center?

We’re proud to have been designated a Primary Stroke Center by the Maryland Institute for Medical Services Systems. What this means is that we’re always ready to care for stroke patients by ensuring everything is in place to identify and intervene rapidly and effectively in cases of stroke

University of Maryland (UM) Charles Regional Medical Center has also consistently received top ratings from the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association for its continued effective and efficient treatment of stroke patients.

We’re also proud to host the Stroke & Brain Injury Support Group here at the hospital. This free support group meets regularly at UM Charles Regional Medical Center and is designed for those who’ve been affected by stroke or traumatic brain injuries. Visit our Facebook page to learn more and to keep up with upcoming meeting dates.

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Shining a Light on the Epidemic of Traumatic Brain Injuries During Brain Injury Awareness Month

Brain Injury Awareness Month

Did you know that millions of Americans are hospitalized and treated for traumatic brain injuries (TBI) every year? It’s why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls TBI “a serious health problem in the United States.”

You might know a fair amount about TBIs, including concussions, thanks to the awareness spread about such issues in the NFL and other professional sports leagues, but the problem goes well beyond athletes. And that’s why we’re joining the health community this month to shine a light on TBI in America.

Who’s Affected by Traumatic Brain Injuries?

TBI doesn’t discriminate and is a major cause of death and disability in our country, especially among adolescents and children. In fact, TBIs contribute to about 30% of all injury deaths, or about 50,000 deaths, per year, according to the latest data from the CDC.

A TBI is caused by a blow, bump, or jolt to the head that disrupts the normal function of the brain. And while not all impacts to the head result in TBI, the severity of these injuries can range from mild to severe. These are some of the leading causes of TBI:

  • Falls
  • Sports/Recreation Injuries
  • Domestic Violence, Child Abuse, Abusive Head Trauma (Shaken Baby Syndrome)
  • Motor Vehicle Accidents
  • Workplace Injuries
  • Assaults and Gunshot Wounds

Military action is also a leading cause of TBIs — affecting a large number of America’s servicemen and servicewomen. According to the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center, there have been nearly 383,000 of these injuries diagnosed among service members in the past 18 years. And because the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have increased the number of veterans with TBI, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) now mandates TBI screenings for all veterans getting care from the VA.

Signs of Traumatic Brain Injury

Everyone who has TBI experiences it a little bit differently, so the symptoms of TBI can vary greatly from person to person. Only a health care provider can diagnose TBI accurately, and the symptoms outlined below do not automatically mean a person has a TBI, so see a doctor if you or someone you know have any questions or are in need of diagnosis.

Some immediate signs of TBI include:

  • Being Dazed and Confused
  • Loss of Consciousness
  • No Memory of the Injury

In addition, the following symptoms may occur well after the TBI has occurred:

  • Persistent Pain in the Neck or a Headache
  • Light and Noise Sensitivity
  • Loss of Balance
  • Loss of Sense of Smell and Taste
  • Fatigue or Lack of Energy
  • Slurred Speech
  • Ringing in the Ears
  • Nausea

The Danger of Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries (Concussions)

Concussions are the most common form of TBI. But even though they are often considered the most mild form, these TBIs can still be especially damaging to the brain.

Because people who sustain a concussion don’t necessarily have a visible injury, pass out immediately, or show signs of injury right away, many don’t seek medical attention until well after a TBI has occurred. With that in mind, it’s important to monitor someone who you think may have a concussion and look for the symptoms of TBI. If any of the signs appear, even well after the fact, you should take him or her to the ER as soon as possible.

How Traumatic Brain Injuries Affect People

Brain injuries affect people in complex ways, and the effects a TBI can have on someone’s life can be devastating.

Depending on the severity, adults who’ve experienced a TBI may have difficulty re-adjusting to life at home, returning to work, managing their overall health, or even maintaining relationships. TBI is an especially unique condition because it affects everyone, not just the person who was injured.

For children, TBI can cause several physical, cognitive, and emotional impairments that impact their development. These can result in delays in education or financial stress for the affected family.

Brain Injury Support Groups in Southern Maryland

At UM Charles Regional Medical Center, we strive to take an active role in the management of and recovery from TBIs.

We regularly host free support group meetings here at the hospital for members of the community who’ve been affected by a brain injury or stroke as well as their family members. At these meetings, our team shares special educational materials, hosts question-and-answer sessions, and often welcomes guest speakers.

If you or a loved one has been affected by a TBI or stroke, we invite you to call (301) 609-4890 to learn more today. And if you know anyone who would benefit from attending one of these meetings, we hope you’ll share our event page with them on Facebook.

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3 Reasons to Get the Flu Shot Now

Get the Seasonal Flu Vaccine

With all that you have going on in your everyday life, it’s easy to see why so many people put off getting the seasonal flu vaccine. But what if we told you getting it now, rather than later, is one of the most important things you can do for your health and the health of others?

Here are 3 reasons why there’s no reason to put off getting vaccinated this flu season.

It Takes About Two Weeks for Vaccine Antibodies to Develop

Unfortunately, the seasonal flu vaccine doesn’t offer instant protection. Because it takes up to two weeks for the vaccine antibodies to fully develop in your body, you’ll want to get your flu shot before the flu starts spreading around you. December is generally when peak flu season begins, so the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends getting vaccinated in October.

Getting the Vaccine Protects Others Around You

Even if you’re the type of person that “never gets sick,” receiving the seasonal flu vaccine is an important part of preserving overall community wellness. When more people get vaccinated, those who are especially vulnerable to the effects of the seasonal flu — infants, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems — benefit.

It Doesn’t Take Long and Can Save You Money in the Long Run

In most cases, getting the vaccine takes a matter of minutes. In addition, many insurance plans will cover the cost of getting the seasonal flu vaccine, and others will offer it with a minimal co-pay option.

Don’t forget, the Charles County Department of Health sponsors numerous free flu vaccine clinics throughout the fall. Here’s where you can find the upcoming clinics:

Tuesday, October 17 | 4:30-7pm  – Mattawoman Middle School (Waldorf)
Thursday, October 19 | 3-7pm – La Plata High School
Friday, October 27 | 2-6pm – Charles County Dept. of Health (White Plains)
Tuesday, November 2 | 10am-2pm – Piccowaxen Middle School (White Plains)
Thursday, November 4 | 10am-2pm – Charles County Dept. of Health (White Plains)
Tuesday, November 7 | 4pm-7pm – Smallwood Middle School (Indian Head)
Tuesday, November 14 | 3pm-7pm – Thomas Stone High School (Waldorf)
Thursday, November 16 | 3pm-7pm – La Plata High School
Thursday, December 14 | 3pm-7pm – Charles County Dept. of Health (White Plains)

Alternatively, UM Charles Regional Urgent Care is a convenient location to receive the vaccine as well. Avoid costly medical expenses by getting your flu shot early — remember, it’s far better to prevent the flu than having to recover from it.

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UM Charles Regional Medical Center Honored for Stroke Treatment Excellence


We’re proud to announce that UM Charles Regional Medical Center has once again been honored by the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association for excellence in treating stroke patients.

Recognized with a Gold Plus Quality Achievement Award and a Target: Stroke℠ Honor Roll Elite designation as part of the Get With The Guidelines-Stroke® program, our hospital has continued to provide quick diagnoses and prompt interventions for patients suffering from strokes.

Which hospitals receive these designations?

Hospitals that receive a Get with the Guidelines Gold Plus Achievement Award and an Honor Roll Elite Designation have reached a high standard of treating stroke patients with 85 percent or higher compliance to core standard levels of care as outlined by the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association for 24 consecutive months. In addition, this recognition means that the awarded hospital has demonstrated that it meets stroke quality measures during the 12-month period.

These quality measures are designed to help hospitals follow the most up-to-date, evidence-based guidelines to speed recovery and reduce death and disability for stroke patients.

Why is speed so important?

Stroke is one of the leading causes of death and disability, but many of its long-term, most damaging effects can be avoided or minimized with immediate medical intervention.

What do these awards mean to the community?

We are so honored by this award because of what it represents for our community. As a Primary Stroke Center, we are committed to maintaining a heightened state of readiness for stroke patients so that we can deliver rapid, expert care when it’s needed most.

About Get With The Guidelines®

Get With The Guidelines® puts the unparalleled expertise of the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association to work for hospitals nationwide, helping hospital care teams ensure the care provided to patients is aligned with the latest research-based guidelines based on the latest scientific evidence. Developed with the goal to save lives and hasten recovery, Get With The Guidelines programs have touched the lives of more than 6 million patients since 2001. For more information, visit

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Learn the Warning Signs and the Leading Cause of Stroke During American Stroke Month

American Stroke Month

Did you know that stroke is the leading cause of serious, long-term disabilities for Americans?

Did you also know that 80% of strokes can be avoided? That’s right, strokes, which claim the lives of more than 133,000 Americans every year, are largely preventable, according to the American Stroke Association (ASA).

That’s why we’re proud proponents of American Stroke Month, which takes place every May. This year, the ASA is focusing its efforts on spreading awareness about stroke symptoms as well as the leading cause of strokes, high blood pressure.

How to Spot the Symptoms of Stroke — Think F.A.S.T.
Your ability to spot stroke symptoms and act quickly might mean the difference between life and death or between a full recovery and long-term disability. Want an easy way to remember the warning signs? Just think F.A.S.T.

Face Drooping — Does one side of the face droop or feel numb? Ask the person to smile and see if it appears uneven.

Arm Weakness — Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms and watch if one drifts downward.

Speech Difficulty/Slurring — Is speech slurred or hard to understand, even for simple sentences?

Time to Call 911 — If you or someone else shows any of these symptoms, even if they go away, call 911 immediately.

The Leading Cause of Stroke? High Blood Pressure.
Although the risk of stroke increases as you age, strokes can occur at any age, and they affect people of every race and gender. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take steps to reduce your individual risk.

Beyond family history and other unavoidable health factors that contribute to your risk level, your lifestyle choices, including smoking, diet and exercise habits, play a pivotal role in determining your likelihood of having a stroke.

The ASA emphasizes that high blood pressure makes people more vulnerable than any other factor, however. That’s because high blood pressure increases your chances of having a clot or rupture interrupt blood flow to the brain. They also note that 1 in 6 adults with high blood pressure doesn’t know he or she has it, so this is the perfect month to go get your blood pressure checked.

Visit our Online Health Library to learn more about high blood pressure, its contributing factors and ways you can work on lowering your blood pressure. In addition, you should also take our Stroke Risk Assessment to understand your risk for having a stroke — it takes just a couple minutes, and it could make all the difference.

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Become a “Stroke Hero” During American Stroke Month


Count to 40. In the time that you do so, someone in the United States will have suffered from a stroke.

Stroke claims the lives of 130,000 Americans every year, making it the fifth leading cause of death in our country. It’s the leading cause of disability in the U.S., and it’s estimated that one out of six people will suffer a stroke in his or her lifetime. And while people of certain demographics are at greater risk to have a stroke, strokes can occur at any age and aren’t limited to any race, sex, ethnicity or genetic predisposition.

But according to the American Stroke Association, one in three Americans is unable to identify all the stroke warning signs. And many Americans still do not think of stroke as a major health concern to themselves or others. To get a better understanding of the misconceptions surrounding stroke, check out this video:

That’s why we’re proud to support the American Stroke Association in their mission to create as many “Stroke Heroes” as possible throughout the month of May as part of American Stroke Month.

How can you become a Stroke Hero? All it takes is knowing the warning signs of a stroke and acting F.A.S.T.

F-ace drooping — Does one side of the face droop or feel numb? Ask the person to smile and watch if it appears uneven.

A-rm weakness/numbness — Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms and watch if one drifts downward.

S-peech difficulty/slurring — Is speech slurred? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence and listen if it’s hard to understand.

T-ime to call 911 — If you or someone you know shows any of these symptoms, even if they go away, call 911 immediately. And remember to note the time that the symptoms appeared.

Your ability to spot stroke symptoms and act quickly by calling 911 might mean the difference between life and death or between full recovery and lifelong disability.

This is a great time to start working towards reducing your risk of stroke as well. Certain lifestyle choices, like smoking, can lead to an increased risk, so it’s important to understand which habits you should be working to eliminate. To help you understand your individual risk, we have a helpful stroke risk assessment — simply answer a few questions about your health and lifestyle, and you’ll instantly have a better idea at what kind of risk you face.

Think you’ve got a firm grasp on the symptoms and potential risk factors? Take our simple stroke quiz or the American Stroke Association’s F.A.S.T. quiz to find out if you’re on the right track.

For even more information, visit our Online Health Library or click here to see why UM Charles Regional Medical Center was named a Primary Stroke Center by the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems.

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