The pain was off the charts. Surgery was a last resort that helped get her back into action.

A month before her 28th birthday, Angela Crews was carrying a heavy piece of equipment at the photography studio where she worked. When she twisted to keep from dropping it, pain shot through her lower back.

Angela had x-rays and began physical therapy, but her pain worsened over the next three years. After consulting several orthopedic physicians and a pain specialist, she was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease—a condition that is relatively rare in a young, slim and active person like Angela. She was treated with further physical therapy, therapeutic exercise, electric stimulation, medication, steroid injections, and spinal manipulation by an osteopathic physician. But the pain remained.

Public Health Colorado| The El Paso County Board of Health unanimously appointed Jill Law to the position of El Paso County Public Health Director, and welcomed Dr. Bill Letson as the agency’s Medical Director.

Both Law and Letson come to their new roles with decades of public health experience.

For the past five or so years of my life, I have dedicated my time to understanding health. My reference to health is not simply the absence of pain or a diagnosable disease. Health is something more. Over these five years, I have noticed the word wellness thrown around with different ideas of what it means. This pushed me to explore within myself to find my definition of wellness.

So, after attending hundreds of hours of classes and lectures and spending more time than I would like to admit reading various articles, books and papers, this is what I have come up with.

Wellness cannot be offered in a single service or purchased at a store. Wellness is much more than that. The best definition that I have found is written by The National Wellness Association and they define wellness as “an active process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a more successful existence.”

Improve Public Health | The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment identified 10 Winnable Battles that are key public health and environmental issues where progress can be made to improve public health in the next three-five years.

Chris Urbina, executive director and chief medical officer for the department, said, “We selected these 10 Winnable Battles because they provide Colorado’s greatest opportunities for ensuring the health of our citizens and visitors and the improvement and protection of our environment. All partners and stakeholders are needed and welcomed in helping address these Winnable Battles. With collective efforts, we can make a difference.”

The identified 10 Winnable Battles for public health and the environment are:

Occlusion and TMJ…do you have them?

If you have natural or replacement teeth (most of us), the answer is yes! The term “occlusion” refers to the relationship between upper and lower teeth when they are held together. More commonly it could also be called a person’s “bite.”

Health Insurance Premiums got some protection from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) when they issued a final regulation to ensure that large health insurance premium increases will be thoroughly reviewed, and consumers will have access to clear information about those increases. Combined with other important protections from the Affordable Care Act, these new rules will help lower insurance costs by moderating premium hikes and provide consumers with greater value for their premium dollar. In 2011, this will mean rate increases for health insurance premiums of 10-percent or more must be reviewed by state or federal officials.

Aortic Valve Replacement | Replacing a heart valve – one of the trickiest, most difficult and most dangerous things a human can do to strengthen the structure of a heart – is about to become a minimally invasive procedure. The procedure, transcatheter aortic valve replacement surgery, or TAVR (pronounced TAY-ver), is coming to UCH as soon as March, and the hospital’s Valve Clinic will be the first – and for a time the only – hospital in the state to offer it.

Dosage Calculations| Within the next several weeks, the hospital’s Emergency Department should receive a new scale. It’s not just any scale; it will be used to weigh stroke and other patients who need potentially lifesaving but also risky blood-thinning medications.

It’s a much-needed solution. A patient’s weight, after all, determines the precise dose a stroke or heart patient needs for life-saving clot-buster drugs. But, pressed to shave seconds off their responses to these patients, emergency room clinicians everywhere have long estimated the patient’s weight, and based their dosage calculations and orders on it.

A small UCH study, however, found 77 percent of the estimates are incorrect, so the wisdom of purchasing a scale to ensure a true reading seems indisputable.

Pulmonary Valve| The day before Thanksgiving, a young adult patient lay on an operating table in the Cardiac Catheterization Lab at University of Colorado Hospital. In a couple of hours, he would have reason to be especially grateful.

The patient, who is in his 20s, was the first at UCH to receive an artificial pulmonary valve via a minimally invasive procedure designed to treat a congenital narrowing of the vessel just below the valve. The condition, right ventricular outflow tract stenosis, increases pressure on the right ventricle, which pumps blood to the lungs. Left untreated, it can cause sudden death.

The Melody® valve, developed by Minneapolis-based Medtronic, is the first catheter-delivered pulmonary valve device approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

By Colorado HealthStory

Theresia, previously gainfully employed, shares her story about losing her job and the affect it had on managing her chronic health issues. She describes needing assistance and the impact of a safety net clinic.

“I’ve just kind of learned to be honest, say that there was a need and hold my head up high because I didn’t do anything to cause this to happen and it’s been a very humbling experience. I’m used to giving, not receiving.”

Few patients enter our health care system prepared for the unexpected and embarrassing circumstances that can routinely happen.

Most can accept it when we’re treated with modesty and respect. But not many are prepared for those times when you might be unnecessarily exposed or treated rudely. The possibilities for embarrassment are endless and it is usually unexpected. When avoidable incidents do happen, most patients are not prepared to speak up. Many regret their inability to speak at the time of the incident.

Prescription Drug Abuse| Prescription medications relieve all sorts of ills, but they are increasingly being abused for recreation or addiction. In 2002, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that an estimated 29.6 million Americans had used pain relievers non-medically; by 2005, the number had risen to 32.7 million.1

In 2009, 45 percent of the nearly 4.6 million drug-related emergency room visits nationwide were attributed to abuse of pharmaceuticals.2 The Drug Abuse Warning Network estimates that of the 2.1 million drug abuse visits, 27.1 percent involved non-medical use of medications.3 Prescription drug abuse means taking a prescription medication that is not prescribed for you, or taking it for reasons or in dosages other than as prescribed. Abuse of prescription drugs can produce serious health effects, including addiction. Commonly abused classes of prescription medications include opioids, central nervous system depressants and stimulants.

Lung Transplant| They were a mere 13 steps up an ordinary staircase. But they symbolized, ironically, how steeply a man’s life can decline because of illness.

Less than a month ago, it took Mark Tomes five minutes to ascend those steps in his home. He suffered from severe emphysema, the result of a nearly four-decade, two-pack-a-day smoking habit. He routinely required six liters of oxygen to breathe. Physical exertion that most of us think nothing about – like climbing a short flight of stairs, washing pots and pans or even taking a shower – forced him to increase the flow to nine or 10 liters.

Military Traumatic Brain Injury - James Kelly, MD, has gone from the clinics of University of Colorado Hospital to the front lines in the fight against the signature injuries of modern American warfare.

Kelly is director of the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE) at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. The center brings some $65 million in infrastructure and a $30 million annual budget to help diagnose and treat soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with military traumatic brain injury and associated disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“There’s essentially nothing equivalent to it in the country at any of the academic centers,” Kelly said.

Pulmonary Hypertension: David Badesch has spent more than 25 years chasing a disease, one so elusive that many physicians have trouble even recognizing it, much less knowing how to treat it.

It’s pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), a relatively rare, but extremely debilitating and even deadly disease that increases pressure in the blood vessels in the lungs, making the right side of the heart work harder. Patients suffer from shortness of breath, fatigue, heart palpitations, and limb swelling. Left untreated, it leads to right-side heart failure.

New survey reveals patients and doctors need to talk about asthma management.

If you have asthma, ask your doctor to talk with you about how to properly manage and control your condition.

That was one of the most important messages from the Asthma Insight and Management (AIM), the largest, most comprehensive survey of asthma patients and physicians in the United States in a decade. Results of the survey of 2,500 current asthma patients 12 and older, 1,004 adults without asthma, and 309 physicians in the United States, were released in November 2009.

The study showcases the burden of this chronic disease, says Dr. Robert Nathan, an allergist at Asthma & Allergy Associates and Research Center in Colorado Springs and Pueblo, and a principal adviser on the survey.

What the survey found

Avoid Sugar - Things That Make Sugar Not So Sweet

Contributed by Tony Isaacs author of Cancer's Natural Enemy

Refined sugar is the number one cause of health problems in the world. The following list is taken from the Article126 Reasons Sugar Is Ruining Your Health by Nancy Appleton, Ph.D. If you have a thing for sugar, you might want to copy this list and put it on your refrigerator or underneath your sugar bowl.

1. Sugar suppresses the immune system.

2. Sugar upsets the minerals in the body.

3. Sugar can cause hyperactivity, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, and crankiness in children.

4. Sugar can produce a significant rise in triglycerides.

5. Sugar contributes to the reduction in defense against bacterial infection.

6. Sugar causes a loss of tissue elasticity and function, the more sugar you eat the more elasticity and function you lose.

Cancer Center Research has been funded for two diabetes drugs taken by millions of Americans and believed to prevent lung cancer in some patients but could speed up cancer metastases in others, according to researchers at the University of Colorado Cancer Center.

The National Institutes of Health has just awarded these researchers a $1.4 million, five-year RO1 grant to learn why the same drug could have seemingly opposite effects.

You’re most likely aware of the symptoms and dangers of stroke, heart attack, and obesity. You’ve probably seen ads on TV and in print media generated for national campaigns about these conditions. But if someone asked you what you know about Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD), what would you be able to tell them?

Although it affects more than 8 million people, there has been no national campaign to educate patients or health care professionals about PAD. As a result, PAD often goes unrecognized until it reaches advanced stages. People often mistake its symptoms for other conditions.

“PAD is like an iceberg,” says Dr. Jonathan Sherman, a cardiologist with Pikes Peak Cardiology. “We’re treating only the tip of the iceberg.”

There is much wisdom in the saying, “You are what you eat,” and most health care practitioners agree that good health starts with a good diet. What you put in your body can influence whether or not you’ll develop heart disease, type-2 diabetes, cancer, or have a host of other health problems. Every meal is an opportunity to improve your health, but most people don’t realize just how simple healthy eating can be. Once you understand that the foundation for good health is dependant on supporting the body with an optimal amount of nutrients through whole, natural foods, and then learning how to combine those foods to get the most nutritional value, you can build the groundwork to support a healthy and vibrant life. It is simpler, less time-consuming, and tastier than you might think.

Functional Electric stimulation can commonly help with the difficulty moving following a stroke or brain injury. Therapists help persons with weak muscles to move better is through functional electric stimulation.

A healthy muscle contracts when an electrical signal from the brain travels along a nerve to a muscle and stimulates that muscle to move. Therapists can also stimulate muscles to move by using functional electrical stimulation (FES). FES works by electrically stimulating the muscle through an electrode that is placed on the skin.

Two historically independent hospitals told the region’s patients June 22 that they hope to become partners in the near future.

The boards of directors of both University of Colorado Hospital and Poudre Valley Health System (PVHS) signed a non-binding letter of intent – meaning a final deal is not inevitable – to form what would be one of the largest hospital systems in the state.

More significantly, it would also be the only system trying to tie together two different approaches to patient care: the community care focus of Poudre Valley and the academic medicine of UCH and its partner at the CU School of Medicine.

UCH President and CEO Bruce Schroffel says he’s energized by the challenge. “I am very excited about the possibility of a very different kind of health system for the region.

When Dr. Rick Meinig, a surgeon with Front Range Orthopaedics, first heard news reports about the disastrous earthquake in Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010, he knew immediately that he had to do something.

“I put in an application for volunteering with the Orthopaedic Trauma Association, Partners in Health, and some other associations,” Dr. Meinig says. “I thought I would get a quick response, because they were saying there was a critical need for orthopaedic surgeons.”

Through Facebook posts, he learned that Dr. Jim Smith, a Pueblo surgeon, was already in the devastated country, helping to organize the medical personnel streaming in. He also found that a small, private hospital in Port-au-Prince was desperate for help.

Stroke Rehabilitation | HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Colorado Springs has earned certification for Disease-Specific Care in stroke rehabilitation. The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval™ was awarded to the hospital for its compliance with the organization’s national standards for healthcare quality and safety for stroke rehabilitation.

Gamma Knife | After months of discussion, planning and other heavy lifting – both literally and figuratively – the Rocky Mountain Gamma Knife Center opened its doors in the Anschutz Outpatient Pavilion on Monday, Jan. 9.

Those doors lead into a 4,700-square-foot addition built just for a center to house the 42,000-pound Leksell Gamma Knife Perfexion, which has spent the better part of a month in transit from its former St. Anthony Central Hospital home, and then in testing here at UCH. The Gamma Knife focuses cobalt-60 radioactive sources into 192 guided beams, which converge in precise patterns to destroy tumors and other malformations deep inside a patient’s brain noninvasively and with minimal collateral damage. Patients usually go home the same day.

Ytttrium - 90 | Interventional radiologists at Memorial Hospital are treating liver cancer patients with yttrium-90 (Y-90) radioembolization, an outpatient procedure that targets tumors with a high dose of radiation while sparing healthy liver tissue.

For patients with Hepatocellular Carcinoma (HCC) or liver tumors from metastatic colorectal carcinoma, Y-90 radioembolization is “an exciting form of therapy that’s very well tolerated by the patient and can prolong the time to progression and survival,” says Dr. Steven Wegert, one of two radiologists at Radiology & Imaging Consultants, P.C., trained to do the procedure at Memorial.

Quit Smoking Program: for those Coloradans receiving Medicaid benefits there are free resources to help quit tobacco. This population has smoking rates that are more than twice the general adult population and many don’t know about QuitLine’s free quit smoking program or that Medicaid offers two 90-day free or low-cost tobacco medication treatments each year.

In addition, the Colorado QuitLine now has a special tobacco cessation program designed specifically for pregnant women. The quit smoking program gives women the option of working with the same personal coach throughout her entire quit smokingprocess. She can receive up to nine calls, specifically designed to meet her needs during pregnancy and after delivery. With each completed call, she earns rewards that she can use to buy things for her baby. And, she can also choose to receive text messages that support her in the quitting process.

Bunions aren’t just unattractive lumps on your big toe. They’re a common, progressive foot deformity that can become quite painful. But many people don’t take them seriously and delay treatment for years. Conservative treatment may help to relieve the symptoms, but bunions get worse over time, and surgery is the only way to fix the deformity.

“It’s not uncommon for patients to wait until they absolutely can’t stand it anymore,” says Dr. Fred Hainge of Hainge & Groth Foot and Ankle Clinic of Colorado Springs. Not only that, but waiting can mean that arthritis sets in. It’s much harder to fix them if arthritis is present.

Thanks to technological advances, the procedures that Drs. Hainge and his partner Bryan Groth perform are highly successful and have a low risk of complications.

What are bunions?