LeConte’s Healthy Lifestyles is a health and wellness publication printed twice a month in local newspapers serving Sevier County and South Knoxville. And here online! We hope you find this information healthful.
Table of Contents
“Get It Checked Out”
World-Class Cancer Treatment
Join Tom and Ursula!
Paint the Mountains Pink
Pulmonology: Caring for the Breath of Life
LeConte Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Program Certified by Industry Leader
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“Get It Checked Out”
Ricker Says Early Detection May Have Saved His Life
He would aim the car straight ahead, but it seemed to want to go off in a different direction. At first, his only thought was that some repairs might be in order.
Soon he began noticing other problems that had nothing to do with his car, like a decline in peripheral vision and depth perception. His world seemed to be turning dark.
Ricker decided he didn’t need a visit to a mechanic – he needed a visit to the doctor’s office.
Ricker has always been healthy and active. After 22 years in the United States Army, he worked as a maintenance technician for Covenant Health (Fort Sanders Sevier) for 20 years, and since then has co-coordinated operations as a volunteer at the LeConte Volunteer Thrift Shop on the Parkway in Sevierville with his wife, Ursula. This sudden set of symptoms was certainly out of the ordinary for him, and definitely disconcerting.
“Within two weeks it all came on,” Ursula says, “and it got worse and worse each day.” The signs and symptoms came just a few weeks after Ricker had suffered a head injury, so they wondered if he might be experiencing the delayed effects of a concussion.
As part of his exam at Smoky Mountain Family Medicine, Ricker was asked to close his eyes, hold his arms out to the side, and touch his nose using one hand at a time. “I was standing crooked,” Ricker says of the results.
The doctor immediately ordered a brain scan at LeConte Medical Center’s emergency room. Afterward, the administering doctor, emergency department chief, Steven Dronen, MD explained that something out of the ordinary had shown up on the scan. It might be a hemorrhage or it might be a tumor, but either way, Ricker needed to see a neurosurgeon.
Because LeConte Medical Center is part of the network of facilities affiliated with Covenant Health, quick contact was made with Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center in Knoxville, and Ricker was able to go there the same day for answers. Ricker was diagnosed with Glioblastoma Multifome, which is an aggressive type of malignant brain tumor.
“I had never even thought about brain cancer,” Ricker says. “When they hit you with that, it smacks you right in the face.” Doctors Joel Norman, MD, and Barrett Brown, MD, with TN Brain and Spine recommended surgery.
The first order of business was to reduce swelling so surgery could be performed. Ricker was sent home with a prescription for steroid tablets, and instructions to return a week later.
On Oct. 1, 2014, surgery was performed and the tumor was successfully removed. Ricker surprised everyone by recovering so quickly that he was able to leave the hospital the next day.
“It’s good that I was so healthy going into it,” Ricker jokes. “I think the Army prepared me well, all that running.”
After consulting with doctors at Thompson Cancer Survival Center in downtown Knoxville, Ricker learned that he had the option of getting his follow-up treatment at Thompson Cancer Survival Center – Sevier. The idea of making those regular visits closer to home was very appealing to a man who has a lot to do, and who has a lot of energy with which to do it.
“I could be in and out and not have to drive an hour down, an hour for treatment, and an hour back home – that’s half a day shot,” Ricker says. “So I said, ‘I want to do it in Sevierville!’”
Radiation oncologist Natasha Townsend, MD, and medical oncologist Thomas Repine, MD, ordered chemotherapy and radiation. “Chemotherapy and six to six-and-a-half weeks of radiation are standard treatment following maximal safe surgical resection,” Dr. Townsend explains. “Pending acceptable chemotherapy side effects, this is usually followed by six more cycles of chemotherapy. Mr. Ricker was treated in this standard-of-care manner and he tolerated his treatment exceptionally well.”
“My last scans were clear, and they said there was nothing to be concerned about,” Ricker says. “This kind of cancer does have a tendency to grow back, so I have a scan every three months.”
Ricker is hopeful that he will continue to improve to a point where he will be able to wait four months for a scan. Meanwhile, he continues to work in the LeConte Volunteer Thrift Shop with his wife, a job he enjoys and never stopped, even during treatment.
His day begins with checking donation boxes outside the shop, then sorting through electronics and appliances to make sure they’re in good working order. He takes care of routine maintenance, and joins his wife Ursula in greeting customers.
“It’s good to be busy,” Ricker says. “I don’t want to just sit and dwell on it, and say, ‘my life is over.’ I’m not going to do that.”
Ricker says he is blessed, and he’s glad he had his symptoms checked out early. Dr. Townsend fully agrees, saying tumors detected earlier are usually smaller, which means they are often easier to remove in surgery.
When a tumor is smaller, radiation fields are also smaller, radiation treatment design is easier, and there is less of a dose to surrounding tissues, such as the brain and the eyes.
“Had he ignored his symptoms and waited, he could have had other and worsening neurologic symptoms which could have been life threatening,” Dr. Townsend says. “This type of tumor grows very quickly, and a delay in diagnosis would almost certainly have resulted in greater volume of brain involvement, therefore compromising the treatment outcome and increasing toxicity.”
“If you start having symptoms, go get it checked,” Ricker says. “Faith in God and doctors at Covenant Health got me through it.”
You can learn more about the local services of Thompson Cancer Survival Center by visiting www.thompsoncancer.com/sevier, or by calling (865) 446-9125.
Thompson Cancer Survival Center – Sevier brings world-class cancer care home to Sevier County. Among the services offered are radiation therapy (often used in treating cancer that is localized to one area of the body), and chemotherapy services.
In July, TCSC – Sevier added PET/CT scanning, available every two weeks on Tuesdays. As a comprehensive cancer care center, Thompson provides industry-leading treatment and therapy, genetic counseling, dieticians, social workers, and a host of clinical trials and multidisciplinary clinics.
Learn more at www.thompsoncancer.com/sevier, or call (865) 446-9125.
The LeConte Volunteer Thrift Shop is operated by volunteers, and it’s a popular place for people who want to find quality merchandise at affordable prices. In fact, it’s become so popular that more volunteers are needed.
“We have such a good time here,” says volunteer Ursula Ricker. “There is plenty to do, and we all enjoy our customers helping the hospital.”
The Thrift Shop operates as part of the volunteer services department at LeConte Medical Center. After expenses, the proceeds are used to help further the hospital’s mission of improving the quality of life through better health by supporting both LeConte Medical Center and the Dr. Robert F. Thomas Foundation.
The shop is located at 441 Parkway, next door to First Baptist Church of Sevierville. Volunteers should be available to work at least four hours per week. For more information, or to apply, visit www.lecontemedicalcenter.com/volunteer or call (865) 446-8406.
On Thursday, Oct. 8, LeConte Medical Center celebrated breast cancer survivorship with over 120 guests at the first-ever Paint the Mountains Pink Survivorship Luncheon in Pigeon Forge. The women, most of whom had their cancer diagnosed at LeConte Medical Center in the past 10 years, were welcomed by Jeny Hanson, LeConte Medical Center president and chief administrative officer. Before lunch was served Robert Santee, MD, chief radiologist at LeConte, welcomed the survivors and thanked them for entrusting their healthcare to LeConte Medical Center. Dr. Santee, a member of the Paint the Mountains Pink committee, had the idea for the survivorship luncheon, wanting to celebrate our community’s survivors. Natasha Townsend, MD, radiation oncologist at Thompson Cancer Survival Center – Sevier introduced herself to the group, and shared information about what TCSC provides in Sevier County.
Paint the Mountains Pink co-chairman and breast cancer survivor Emily Kile educated the group about the progress Paint the Mountains Pink has made since its inception, raising over $195,000 and providing over 254 free mammograms to women in our community. Kile challenged the luncheon attendees to help Paint the Mountains Pink spread its mission that “mammograms do save lives!”
During lunch guests enjoyed the humor of local comedienne Leanne Morgan. Morgan’s funny but honest point of view has earned her spots on various TV programs and comedy tours, and she is heard daily on Sirius / XM and has her own show on Blue Collar Radio called “Chewing the Fat.” Laughter truly is the best medicine!
The group then learned more about two volunteer opportunities that Paint the Mountains Pink is trying to help the American Cancer Society bring to Sevier County.
The first program is called Reach to Recovery. This program matches trained volunteer breast cancer survivors to individuals living with a diagnosis of breast cancer. Through face-to-face visits or by phone, Reach to Recovery volunteers provide understanding and hope to individuals who need support during their breast cancer experience. For more information you can visit www.cancer.org/involved/volunteer/reach-to-recovery-volunteers.
The second program needing locally trained volunteers is Road to Recovery. This program provides free rides for cancer patients to and from treatments. Trained volunteer drivers donate their time and the use of their personal vehicles to help patients get to the treatments they need. For more information visit www.cancer.org/involved/volunteer/road-to-recovery-volunteers.
The American Cancer Society is collecting names of those who are interested in volunteer training for these two programs. Training dates will be announced later. If you are interested in attending either training please email Amanda Paletz at email@example.com or call (865) 446-8900.
Luncheon attendees had the opportunity to visit booths of several community support services including: American Cancer Society, Befitting You Mastectomy Boutique, The Cancer Support Community of East Tennessee, Faithfully Fashionable, LeConte Medical Center Gift Shop, Smoky Mountain Cancer Support Group, and the SUBWAY® Race Against Cancer, which will be held on Sunday, Nov. 8.
“We are one of the only pulmonary medicine providers in Sevier County, so our goal is to provide excellent care and a good experience for our patients.”
Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out. It’s an automatic process people don’t think about – unless we have difficulty taking a breath or getting sufficient airflow. In some cases, breathing restrictions can be caused by diseases of the lungs and/or respiratory tract. Pulmonology is the medical specialty that focuses on lung diseases and conditions that affect breathing and airflow.
A doctor who specializes in treating lung diseases is a pulmonologist or pulmonary disease specialist. Pulmonology is a subspecialty of internal medicine, and often involves evaluation of the nose, pharynx, throat and heart as well as the lungs.
LeConte Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine in Sevierville provides care for patients with lung diseases and conditions. The staff includes William Cole II, MD, and nurse practitioners Brandon Brown, NP-C, and Pamela Wright, DNP. Brown says the practice treats conditions such as asthma, pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) including chronic bronchitis or emphysema, interstitial lung disease (such as pulmonary fibrosis) and pulmonary hypertension. Other conditions treated by pulmonary specialists can include chronic cough, tuberculosis, cystic fibrosis, acute respiratory distress syndrome, complicated chest infections and other conditions.
Pulmonologists often perform specialized procedures to examine the lining of the chest wall or the lung.
“There are three specific tests we use frequently,” Brown said. “In a pulmonary function test, the patient breathes through a tube and we measure the air flow going out and coming in. This can help us identify COPD or other restrictive conditions.
“Another diagnostic test is a six-minute walk, where we measure oxygen levels, heart rate and blood pressure to see if they are normal and stable and how they respond with to activity,” he said. “The third test is a chest x-ray, which gives us an image to see if there are any abnormalities in the heart, lungs, blood vessels, airways, or bones. It will also reveal fluid in or around the lungs or surrounding a lung.”
Depending on the outcomes of the testing, pulmonologists may prescribe medical treatments using oral medications or inhalation, such as oxygen therapy. Pulmonologists also manage patients who are on mechanical ventilation.
They may refer patients to thoracic surgeons if surgery is required. Pulmonologists may also refer patient to outpatient pulmonary rehabilitation programs for assistance with managing chronic lung conditions. In outpatient pulmonary rehabilitation, nurses, respiratory therapists, and other health professionals work with the pulmonologist to provide effective programs for patients.
“Unfortunately, in many cases lung diseases are not reversible,” Brown said. “But we can help keep the conditions from progressing quickly, and reduce the symptoms significantly.
“Education is very important when it comes to managing lung diseases,” he added. “We spend a lot of time educating patients about their conditions.”
In addition to helping patients manage chronic lung conditions, LeConte Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine offers same-day or next-day appointments for those with acute illnesses. “We are one of the only pulmonary medicine providers in Sevier County,” Brown noted, “so our goal is to provide excellent care and a good experience for our patients.”
For more information about medical conditions requiring a pulmonologist or to schedule an appointment contact LeConte Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at (865) 446-9725.
LeConte Medical Center is proud to announce the re-certification of its cardiopulmonary rehabilitation program by the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation (AACVPR). LeConte Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation was recognized for its commitment to improving the quality of life by enhancing standards of care.
Cardiovascular and pulmonary rehabilitation programs are designed to help people with cardiovascular problems (e.g., heart attacks, coronary artery bypass graft surgery) and pulmonary problems (e.g., chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD], respiratory symptoms,) recover faster and improve their quality of life. Both programs include exercise, education, counseling, and support for patients and their families.
The LeConte Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation program participated in an application process that requires extensive documentation of the program’s practices. AACVPR program certification is the only peer-review accreditation process designed to review individual programs for adherence to standards and guidelines developed and published by AACVPR and other professional societies. Each program is reviewed by the AACVPR program certification committee and certification is awarded by the AACVPR board of directors.
AACVPR-certified programs are recognized as leaders in the field of cardiovascular and pulmonary rehabilitation because they offer the most advanced practices available. AACVPR program certification is valid for three years. For more information about the cardiopulmonary rehabilitation program at LeConte visit www.lecontemedicalcenter.com/cprehab or call (865) 446-8500.