Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

My little “project restart” is going pretty darn well. I’ve lost 7.5 lbs. since last Sunday (August 28). Not too shabby, and it’s nice when I can continue to motivate myself. ūüėČ

Let’s take a look at the week (and a half) …

I …

HAVE filled the fridge with fresh fruits and vegetables, cut/sliced as needed.

HAVE eaten them.

HAVE had at least 8 glasses of water a day (usually more).

HAVE chosen healthy snacks at home and at work.

HAVE eaten a completely healthy lunch at a catered work event.

HAVE just eaten until I was satisfied.

HAVE encouraged my kids to eat well.

And to illustrate that this is also about not doing things – which is just as hard as the things I have to make sure I do – I …

Have NOT eaten a brownie or a cookie at a work event where dessert was served (had fresh fruit instead, and made sure to compliment the organizer for providing the option).

Have NOT overeaten.

Have NOT had a single sip of pop, not even diet.

Have NOT snacked because I was bored.

Have NOT bought a single item of junk food at the grocery store. (And what’s left in the cupboards is mostly not going to be replenished as it gets eaten.)

Have NOT fed my kids (much) junk food.

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I’ve commented before how nice it is to live in SE Michigan, as a child passenger safety technician. I have the pleasure and benefit of working with experts from GM, Ford (never Chrysler, I think), Recaro, Takata, and more.

On the other hand, I’m also lucky to live near and work at one of the top research universities in the country. In fact, the institute that I’m part of actually exists to support researchers. Health research is important, and the kids and I have talked about the possibility of participating in research studies at some point.

Who knew the two would come together?

The transportation research department is doing a study of kids ages 4-11, to observe and evaluate their fit in various seating and restraint situations. As soon as I heard about it, I mentioned it to Allie and Adam, who were eager to participate. (The $36 payment didn’t hurt, of course, and I let them keep that money for themselves.) I contacted the research assistant right away to set up an appointment.

Once we got there, the kids had to put on special blue bathing suits, and the researchers painted motion capture dots on them. Then they used a Faro arm to precisely measure each child’s body dimensions in three seating positions. After that was completed, they moved to a special curtained area that was equipped with four lasers (one in each corner of the “room”). ¬†Once the kid was situated precisely, the lasers moved down on their tracks. They made a 3D image each time, like so:

(That’s Adam, of course. Not a good pic, but in real life you could even look at the face and tell it was him.) They did this for each of the various measurement scenarios, so they probably made five or six 3D models of each kid. It was pretty darn cool.

The researchers told me that the findings will be published by NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) and then used by auto and child restraint manufacturers to improve the design of vehicle seats, child restraints, and crash test dummies. The kids enjoyed joking that they were going to become crash test dummies. I, on the other hand, like to think that by the time Jenny is ready for a booster, the seats on the market then will have been informed by the research that Adam and Allie participated in. It was definitely worthwhile, and we’re going to keep our eyes open for other appropriate studies.

Just out of curiosity, has anyone else ever participated in any sort of health or medical research study? I’d love to hear about it!

(Nephew Nick actually took part in a study when he was recovering from open heart surgery last year, and it turns out that the principle investigator for the study is the recently hired big cheese in my department. Neat coincidence.)

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A Clean Bill of Health

My nephew was born last St. Patrick’s Day with a congenital heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot. He had open heart surgery in late June, when he was just three months old. He seemed to do quite well post-surgery, but we didn’t know for sure until he had his six-months-post-op checkup yesterday.

He got a clean bill of health! The pulmonary valve that the surgeon replaced is functioning well, and the three holes in his heart are sealed. They may need to put a stint in his pulmonary artery when he’s around 3, and will probably need a full valve replacement once he’s done growing (which we’ve always known), but he doesn’t need to go back to the cardiologist for a full year. My brother and his wife are thrilled with the report.

He is such a typical little boy now – he crawls/rolls all over, eats as well as his 6’3″ dad did, is getting close to walking, started saying Mama last week, etc. He’s gonna be a bruiser, too – at not quite 11 months old, he’s 32″ and 27 lbs. (For comparison, Book Baby is 15 months old but only 29″ and 18.2 lbs. He’s in the 95%ile for height and weight, she’s 37%ile for height and 1%ile for weight, skinny little thing.) I can’t wait until they get old enough to really play together.

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Seriously … Again?!?

Book Baby is sick. Yesterday it seemed to be croup – today, her cough is less croup-y and more junky (and OH the snot – I must have wiped her nose a hundred times today – but at least it’s the good clear kind of snot). She missed two days of day care, which means that Tim and I each missed a day of work. I’m still going on the assumption that we’re just having a bad winter in terms of sickies … that has to be it, right? Right?

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Being a parent can be hard. No matter whether you’re a single mom, a working dad with wife who stays home with the kids, or a mom who’s part of a couple who both works, it’s tough.

But there seems to be one special stress that’s reserved just for working moms (whether single, or with a working partner). It’s that momentary panic you feel when you get that call from school or day care, saying that junior is sick and needs to come home. No, not that worry – I really don’t worry too much that my kids are going to get some horrible illness; most of the time they just have a bad cold, a tummy ache, something minor like that.

No, I’m referring to the “Oh crap, what are we going to do with Junior tomorrow?” panic that quickly sets in. Tim and I both work full-time, and while we do have sick time (and understanding bosses), that time is not limitless, nor is our bosses’ patience (presumably). So, we’ve already lost half a day by having to pick the kid up early, and now we have to worry about the next day, too – because all day cares around here have a 24-hour rule that means a child cannot return until they’ve been fever-free for 24 hours. Even if the fever was 99.8, even if the child is clearly just fine. This happened to us with Book Baby last week, and Tim and I each took half of Friday off to care for her.

Today, Tim got the call about Book Girl. Now, she’s clearly under the weather – had a temp, was complaining of a tummy ache, etc. – but I still worry about what’s going to happen tomorrow. I think she may go to work with Tim – the office is attached to the boss’ residence, she can rest on the couch and watch TV, etc. But since I started my new job four weeks ago, I’ve taken 3 half-days off due to sick children, 1 half day off due to a snow day (and no care for the kids), and 1 half day off for a dr. appt. for BB. My employer is very generous with vacation/sick time, and I know that my boss knows that I’m not an unreliable flake, but still – that’s an awful lot for just four weeks! (Possibly more unexpected time than I took in 6 months at my old job, some years.)

Anyone else get that same feeling in the pit of your stomach when you get “the call” from school or day care? Or is there another situation that does it for you? I’d love to hear it.

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Still not convinced of the importance of putting children in a car seat that is appropriate for their age/size/maturity? (And, of course, ensuring that it is used properly every single time.)

Then read this.

Just read the summary and discussion sections if you want to.

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One of the benefits available at my job is flexible spending accounts, whereby money is deducted from my paycheck pre-tax, and then I can get re-imbursed for eligible dependent care or¬†health care¬†expenses. It’s a “use it or lose it” deal.

I always opt for the maximum amount ($5,000 annually) for dependent care because, with Little Sister in full-time child care and Big Brother in full-time child care in the summer, we spend well over that amount.

The health care flexible spending account is a little trickier. I never know how much to opt for at the beginning of the year, because our medical costs are different each year and are not totally predictable. However, since both kids have mild asthma and take meds from time, we usually have a fair amount of out-of-pocket expenses.

For 4/07-3/08, I elected to have $1,200 deducted for my health care flexible spending account. The “plan year” is up at?¬†the end of March. Guess how much I’ve spent?

$650. Apparently the kids needed a LOT less asthma meds this year, and the wisdom teeth we thought were going to be pulled weren’t.

That means that I have $550 to spend on health care by the end of March, or I forfeit the money altogether!

As it turns out, in addition to actual medical expenses like prescriptions, doctor visits, over-the-counter items like antacids, Tylenol/Advil, bandages, antiseptics, etc. are eligible. Even a humidifier would be eligible for reimbursement.

So I guess I’m going to pick out a nice humidifier.

And after that? Well, I guess I’m going to need a bigger medicine cabinet.

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I am not normally one to use scare tactics to reinforce child passenger safety information. However, I want to share with you the story of a real-life accident, which I heard from a fellow CPS advocate. I hope you will take a few minutes to read it.

The children were seated this way: A 3-year-old in a forward-facing seat on the driver’s side, a 5-year-old in a lap/shoulder belt on the passenger side, and an 8-year-old in a lap-only belt in the middle.

The father had turned around to yell at the kids to sit properly in their seat belts. He wasn’t paying attention and ran into the back of a stopped truck, at 65 mph.

The 3-year-old had a big bruise on his stomach from an improperly positioned chest clip. It also appeared that he had whiplash, because he wouldn’t turn his head to either side.

The 5-year-old suffered huge bruises to his chest and stomach, and almost bled to death from a deep cut in his neck from the seatbelt.

The 8-year-old hit his face on the center console, breaking his nose and lower jaw. His intestines were sliced in several places from the forces of the lap belt.

One year later:

At 9, the oldest still has some hip problems and walks with the help of crutches. He developed extreme IBS and reflux after his intestines healed (they are now 8″ shorter), and has a permanent GI tube in his stomach. He’s had a ton of corrective plastic surgery and is now a year behind in school.

The youngest is 4. Mentally, he is doing the worst. He no longer speaks, has anxiety attacks in public places, and still fights getting in the car.  

The middle boy, now 6, still has a large scar on his neck, but is otherwise OK.

The entire family is still in therapy.

Please remember to keep your children properly restrained for their age, size, and maturity level. And please, please, PLEASE do not use a lap-only seatbelt for anything other than installing a harnessed car seat.

If the 3-year-old’s car seat had been installed with the lap-only belt, the 8-year-old probably would‚Äôve been fine sitting with just a lap/shoulder belt. The 5-year-old would have been fine if he was in a booster seat, since it would have made his seatbelt fit properly (though a harnessed seat like the one Big Brother uses would have been even better). The 3-year-old was lucky he didn’t suffer any internal bleeding from the chest clip, and his injuries would probably have been less severe if he had been rear-facing.

Again….PLEASE don’t put your kids¬† (or adults!) in a lap-only belt. And if they’re not mature enough to sit properly in a booster, keep them harnessed!

To learn more about keeping kids safe in the car, visit my car seat info page or post specific questions in the comment section below.

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For anyone who is interested, I have updated my car seat info page. Just click on the tab at the top of my blog to view the updated page. Let me know what you think!

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The article I posted about a couple of days has had me thinking. What would I do if I had fat kids?

Now, I was never really fat as a kid (that pretty much happened after I was grown), and my kids are both skinny, so this isn’t something that I’ve ever had to deal with. However, I see it all the time. And I’m not talking kids who just still have a little baby fat left, I’m talking kids who are seriously overweight – obese, even.

Would I ever consider resorting to surgery for a seriously overweight child? Perhaps, IF all other options (and I mean ALL) had failed, if the child was old enough (at least mid-teens), and if our trusted family doctor recommended it.

But, as a fat grown-up,¬†first I would start by doing these three things¬†– which I just don’t think enough parents of overweight kids are doing.

  • Get the junk food¬†out of¬†the house. No cookies, candy, chips, pop, chewy “fruit” snacks, etc. And that means for everyone in the house. (They are OK for a once-in-a-while small treat, of course.) If you or hubby need your chocolate fix, have it at work or somewhere else. Have lots of fruits and veggies available for snacking, and make sure they’re cut up and ready to eat. Try new healthy foods and recipes.
  • Get the kid moving! Go to the park and let the kid run around for the afternoon. Take an after-dinner walk around the neighborhood when it’s nice out. Get a pool for the kids to splash around in during the summer.
  • Limit screen time (TV/computer/video game) on the weekends and don’t allow it on school nights (we already have this rule, actually, and Big Brother doesn’t mind it a bit.)

Now, before anyone starts flaming me, let me say that I KNOW these things won’t work for every kid. But you know what? It won’t be easy – kids will probably resist – but they WILL work for most kids, if parents would just DO them and stick with them.

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