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  • January 14, 2022

    By Allison Larson, MD

    Whether you’re a winter sports enthusiast or spend the season curled up by the fireplace, the low humidity, bitter winds, and dry indoor heat that accompany cold weather can deplete your skin’s natural moisture. Dry skin is not only painful, uncomfortable, and irritating; it also can lead to skin conditions such as eczema, which results in itchy, red, bumpy skin patches. 


    Follow these six tips to prevent and treat skin damage caused by winter dryness.


    1. Do: Wear sunscreen all year long.

    UV rays can easily penetrate cloudy skies to dry out exposed skin. And when the sun is shining, snow and ice reflect its rays, increasing UV exposure. 


    Getting a sunburn can cause severe dryness, premature aging of the skin, and skin cancer. Snow or shine, apply sunscreen before participating in any outdoor activity during the winter—especially if you take a tropical vacation to escape the cold; your skin is less accustomed to sunlight and more likely to burn quickly.


    The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends sunscreen that offers protection against both UVA and UVB rays, and offers a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30.


    That being said, if you are considering laser skin treatments to reduce wrinkles, hair, blemishes, or acne scars, winter is a better time to receive these procedures. Sun exposure shortly after a treatment increases the risk of hyperpigmentation (darkening of the skin), and people are less likely to spend time outside during the winter.


    Related reading: 7 Simple Ways to Protect Your Skin in the Sun

    2. Do: Skip products with drying ingredients.

    Soaps or facial products you use in warm weather with no issues may irritate your skin during colder seasons. This is because they contain ingredients that can cause dryness, but the effects aren’t noticeable until they’re worsened by the dry winter climate.

    You may need to take a break from:

    • Anti-acne medications containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid
    • Antibacterial and detergent-based soap
    • Anything containing fragrance, from soap to hand sanitizer

    Hand washing and the use of hand sanitizer, which contains a high level of skin-drying alcohol, cannot be avoided; we need to maintain good hand hygiene to stop the spread of germs. If your job or lifestyle requires frequent hand washing or sanitizing, routinely apply hand cream throughout the day as well.


    During the COVID-19 pandemic, I have seen a lot of people develop hand dermatitis—a condition with itchy, burning skin that can swell and blister—due to constant hand washing. Sometimes the fix is as simple as changing the soap they're using. Sensitive-skin soap is the best product for dry skin; it typically foams up less but still cleans the skin efficiently.


    3. Do: Pay closer attention to thick skin.

    Areas of thin skin, such as the face and backs of your hands, are usually exposed to the wind and sun the most. It’s easy to tell when they start drying out. But the thick skin on your palms and bottoms of your feet is also prone to dryness—and tends to receive less attention.


    When thick skin gets dry, fissures form. You’ll see the surface turn white and scaly; then deep, linear cracks will appear. It isn’t as pliable as thin skin. When you’re constantly on your feet or using your hands to work, cook, and everything in between, dry thick skin cracks instead of flexing with your movements. 


    To soften cracked skin, gently massage a heavy-duty moisturizer—such as Vaseline—into the affected area once or twice a day. You can also talk with your doctor about using a skin-safe adhesive to close the fissures and help them heal faster.


    Related reading:  Follow these 5 Tips for Healthy Skin

    4. Don’t believe the myth that drinking more water will fix dry skin.

    Contrary to popular belief, the amount of water or fluids you drink does not play a major role in skin hydration—unless you’re severely dehydrated. In the winter, especially, dry skin is caused by external elements; it should be treated from the outside as well. 


    The best way to keep skin hydrated and healthy is to apply fragrance-free cream or ointment—not lotion—to damp skin after a shower or bath.
    Some people need additional moisturizers for their hands, legs, or other areas prone to dryness.

    While some lotions are made better than others, most are a combination of water and powder that evaporates quickly. Creams and ointments work better because they contain ingredients that can help rebuild your skin barrier. 

    Look for products with ceramide, a fatty acid that helps rebuild the fat and protein barrier that holds your skin cells together. The AAD also recommends moisturizing ingredients such as:

    • Dimethicone
    • Glycerin
    • Jojoba oil
    • Lanolin
    • Mineral oil
    • Petrolatum
    • Shea butter

    For severely dry skin, you can try a “wet wrap” technique:

    1. Rinse a pair of tight-fitting pajamas in warm water and wring them out so they’re damp, not wet.
    2. Apply cream or ointment to your skin.
    3. Put on the damp pajamas, followed by a pair of dry pajamas, and wear the ensemble for several hours.

    Dampness makes your skin more permeable and better able to absorb hydrating products. If the wet wrap or over-the-counter products aren’t working for you, talk with a dermatologist about prescription skin hydration options. 

    Drinking more water isn’t the answer to dry winter skin. The best solution is to apply fragrance-free cream or ointment directly to damp skin. Get more cold weather #SkinCareTips from a dermatologist in this blog: https://bit.ly/3KbVUA1.
    Click to Tweet

     

    5. Don’t confuse skin conditions with dryness.

    Skin conditions are often mistaken for dry skin because peeling or flaking are common symptoms. Redness of the skin or itching in addition to dryness and flaking indicates a skin condition that may need more than an over-the-counter moisturizer.


    Skin cells are anchored together by a lipid and protein layer (like a brick and mortar wall). With very dry skin, the seal on this wall or barrier is not fully intact and water evaporates out of the skin’s surface. The skin will become itchy and red in addition to scaly or flaky. If you experience these symptoms, visit with a dermatologist.

    6. Don’t wait for symptoms to take care of dry skin.

    Be proactive—the best way to maintain moisture is to apply hydrating creams and ointments directly to your skin on a regular basis. Start by applying them as part of your morning routine. Once you get used to that, add a nighttime application. And carry a container of it when you’re on the go or keep it in an easily accessible location at work.

     

    You can’t avoid dry air, but you can take precautions to reduce its harsh effects on your skin. If over-the-counter products don’t seem to help, our dermatologists can provide an individualized treatment plan. Hydrated skin is healthy skin!


    Does your skin get drier as the air gets colder?

    Our dermatologists can help.

    Call 202-877-DOCS (3627) or Request an Appointment

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  • January 02, 2021

    By MedStar Team

    MedStar Health regularly updates, revises and creates new policies for the operational efficiency of the organization.

    A new policy and associated procedure related to the application of Uniform Guidance or Federal Acquisition Regulations to grants and contracts awarded to MedStar Health Research Institute. The Research Institute Office of Contracts and Grants Management has been following the appropriate federal regulations; this policy brings the Research Institutes official policy in line with regulations.

    The new procedure closes the gap between billing and payment for contracts and grants to ensure that accounting practices are in line with regulations. 

    Please be advised, the following policies and procedures are now in effect.
    OCG.O-004.01 Cash Management
    OCG.O-004 Uniform Guidance and FAR

    Any questions regarding the new policy and procedure should be directed to MHRI-OCGM@medstar.net.

  • January 02, 2021

    By MedStar Team

    Maureen McNulty, RN, Compliance Assurance Associate was awarded the MedStar Health Nursing Impact Award for MedStar Health for the second quarter of 2020. This award honors nurses who have led efforts at process improvement or practice development through their role as representatives to MedStar Health Nursing committees and councils at each entity.  Maureen was presented with the award at the quarterly nursing leadership meeting on behalf of the MedStar Health Nursing Leadership by Joan K. Bardsley, Assistant Vice President, Research and Nursing Integration, MedStar Health Research Institute.

    The Impact Award recognizes a nurse who makes an effort to communicate and implement MedStar Health nursing goals at their entity, including reduction in unit or service line Hospital Acquired Pressure Injuries or Falls, achieving Magnet designation, contributing to or supporting research, focus on quality and safety or improvement in continuity of care index.

    Maureen has been an expert resource in assessing and ensuring quality and safety for research and regulatory compliance in all areas of research with audits, trainings, and support of investigator-initiated trials during her time with the Research Institute. Throughout the pandemic, Maureen has volunteered to work with Occupational Health to support the need for screening, disposition of results and plan of care for associates affected by COVID-19. In this role, Maureen has identified areas of process improvement opportunities for Occupational Health and continues to ensure that the voices of the associates are heard, particularly in the area of quality improvement.

    Joan Bardsley said, “I strongly believe Maureen has made a local and system wide impact on both quality of research and the health of our associates. Her knowledge, adaptability and approachability are attributes that support her effectiveness and contributions to MedStar Health.”

    Congratulations to Maureen on receiving this important award for her continued dedication to MedStar Health, our patients, and our associates.

  • January 02, 2021

    By MedStar Team

    Congratulations to all MedStar researchers who had articles published in December 2020. The selected articles and link to PubMed provided below represent the body of work completed by MedStar Health investigators, physicians, and associates and published in peer-reviewed journals last month. The list is compiled from PubMed for any author using “MedStar” in the author affiliation. Congratulations to this month’s authors. We look forward to seeing your future research.

    View the full list of publications on PubMed.gov here.

    Selected research:

    1. Offset in Reverse Shoulder Arthroplasty: Where, When, and How Much
      Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, 2020. 
      DOI: 10.5435/JAAOS-D-20-00671
      Wright MA, Murthi AM.

       

    2. Comparison of Characteristics and Outcomes of Patients with Acute Myocardial Infarction with versus without Coronarvirus-19
      The American Journal of Cardiology, 2020. DOI: 10.1016/j.amjcard.2020.12.059
      Case BC, Yerasi C, Forrestal BJ, Shea C, Rappaport H, Medranda GA, Zhang C, Satler LF, Ben-Dor I, Hashim H, Rogers T, Waksman R.

    3. Race Differences in Reported Harmful Patient Safety Events in Healthcare System High Reliability Organizations
      Journal of Patient Safety, 2020. DOI: 10.1097/PTS.0000000000000563
      Thomas AD, Pandit C, Krevat SA.

    4. Inpatient and Outpatient Technologies to Assist in the Management of Insulin Dosing
      Clinical Diabetes, 2020. DOI: 10.2337/cd20-0054
      Cui L, Schroeder PR, Sack PA.

  • December 30, 2020

    By Kevin O’Malley, MD, Orthopedic Surgeon

    The wrist is a small space with a lot of moving parts. Slender tendons pass through it, transferring power from the muscles in our forearms to our fingers and thumb. These tendons are bundled with the median nerve, which branches out in the hand.

    Like electrical wires threaded through a conduit pipe, the tendons and nerve must navigate a narrow passageway that lies between the wrist bones and the flat, wide transverse carpal ligament. That passageway is referred to as the carpal tunnel.

    The carpal tunnel is an enclosed space and in many individuals the carpal ligament can start to compress the nerve, causing numbness, night pain, tingling, hand clumsiness and eventual muscle loss in the hands. That’s carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS).

    And fortunately, for most people, this nerve compression can be relieved through a number of interventions, including non-operative treatment such as bracing or through a simple and reliable surgery—a carpal tunnel release.

    Carpal tunnel syndrome starts with numbness and tingling in the long finger, index finger, thumb and part of the ring finger. Untreated, it may lead to muscle loss and permanent weakness. Dr. Kevin O’Malley has the details. @MedStarWHC via https://bit.ly/3r4dI6F.
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    Risk Factors

    We refer to CTS as a syndrome because it is a constellation of symptoms related to compression of the tunnel and pressure on the median nerve. The development of CTS involves multiple risk factors—both patient-specific, such as diabetes, and environmental. In many cases, no single specific cause of carpal tunnel is determined. While we don’t always fully understand why it begins, we know that over time this pressure impedes the nerve’s blood supply, restricts nutrition to the nerve cells, causes inflammation and impairs function.

    CTS is common, affecting up to five percent of the adult population. Women are at least three times more likely to experience it than men. Certain underlying conditions—including diabetes, hypothyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, obesity and other specific diseases such as amyloidosis—can increase the risk. In other cases, CTS may acutely follow a wrist fracture.

    Carpal tunnel syndrome is commonly seen in pregnancy as well. This is typically a temporary situation that resolves, but some individuals will continue to have symptoms post-pregnancy. In pregnancy-related carpal tunnel cases, I rarely recommend surgery; if the CTS becomes an obstacle, we use bracing and, occasionally, injections to relieve symptoms.

    Both CTS and osteoarthritis often appear in patients over 50, and the two conditions are sometimes confused. But they are distinct problems, and one does not cause or increase the risk of the other.

    In the 1990s, the theory was that CTS could occur from the repetitive use of computers and desk phones. This spurred a greater focus on workplace ergonomics benefitting many workers. The data connecting typing and carpal tunnel syndrome remains inconclusive. However, repetitive workplace wrist activities such as those seen in assembly line workers does appear to put individuals at risk for carpal tunnel syndrome. We’re also confident in citing vibration as a cause of CTS and recommending preventative measures—for example, limiting use of a jackhammer for construction workers or wearing anti-vibration gloves when operating a motorcycle.

    Symptoms

    Unlike disorders that have a hidden or asymptomatic phase, CTS causes noticeable indicators. In the beginning, the patient may experience sensory symptoms that follow the median nerve distribution: numbness, tingling or “falling asleep” feelings in the long finger, index finger and thumb, as well as the inside half of the ring finger. Over time, patients may develop hand weakness and, as nerve function decreases, atrophy of the thumb muscles.

    Most people first notice symptoms at night. Patients often tell me the numbness and tingling wakes them up, and they feel a need to shake out their hands. This may be due to a number of causes—for example, some people sleep with their wrists bent, putting additional pressure on the nerve.

    CTS is generally progressive and can result in permanent disability if not addressed. When it has progressed to the point that the thumb muscles are involved, the success of treatment is less predictable. So I recommend seeing a hand specialist early, when symptoms first appear.

    Carpal tunnel symptoms may also signal nerve compression in the cervical spine. It’s not uncommon for those with CTS to have simultaneous issues with their neck, referred to as double crush syndrome. This is another reason to seek professional guidance: If compression exists in more than one location, each site must be addressed individually. Simply fixing one won’t improve the other.

    Diagnosis

    When I examine a patient, I capture their medical history and symptoms and perform a complete physical exam on the arms, hands and neck. Occasionally, tapping the medial nerve can provoke symptoms. I check the thumbs for any signs of atrophy, and probe for cervical symptoms in the neck.

    We can generally confirm CTS upon examination. If results are not conclusive, an ultrasound or nerve conduction test can assess nerve function. If the neck and spine are causing symptoms, but CTS is not present, I refer the patient to a spine specialist.

    Treatment

    When symptoms occur only during sleep, our first strategy is asking the patient to wear wrist braces in bed. Good quality braces can be found at most drug stores and can be particularly effective for people who sleep with their wrists tucked in and bent.

    As nerve compression advances, the patient may notice that symptoms begin to appear during the day. At that point, we move beyond wrist braces to other treatments.

    Steroid injections may temporarily alleviate symptoms, and are appropriate for pregnant women, those who cannot tolerate surgery or those who need to delay surgery. Injections offer relief for a few months to a year, but the symptoms return when the medication wears off.

    I do not routinely send patients to physical or occupational therapy for carpal tunnel syndrome since no form of exercise or strengthening can physically enlarge the carpal tunnel. I do occasionally perform corticosteroid injections for patients unable to undergo surgery. These injections do not resolve the underlying compression and the carpal tunnel symptoms will return. However, they do help patients understand the relief they may obtain with surgery.

    I do not prescribe steroids in pill form, as the potential side effects outweigh the benefits. And although ibuprofen, naproxen and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents may alleviate pain, they typically do not fully address the numbness and tingling present in CTS.

    Surgery

    Surgery, known as carpal tunnel release, is the sole treatment to address the root cause of CTS, and typically has an excellent result. We separate the wide, flat ligament at the palm side of the tunnel, releasing pressure on the nerve and bringing improvement very quickly. The procedure is straightforward and normally finished in under 20 minutes. We find that people who responded well to injection also tend to do well with the surgery.

    We perform open procedures in the office under local anesthesia, and recovery takes just a few weeks. Endoscopic surgeries require sedation and are limited to the hospital setting, but with these, the incision is small and recovery and return to activities are quick!

    The procedures are not particularly painful, and most patients recover well using ibuprofen or acetaminophen, as needed. Driving is OK after both types of procedure, but we restrict any heavy lifting.

    Although ligament tissue does not regenerate the way bones do, the body does reconnect the ligament after surgery. As it heals, it accommodates the medial nerve, giving it the space it needs. CTS may recur in some patients if the remodeled ligament becomes large enough to compress on the nerve again.

    Recovery varies depending on the patient and the level of compression they’d been experiencing prior to surgery. Some patients will experience relief from improved nerve function almost immediately, with continued gradual improvement over weeks and months.

    At MedStar Washington Hospital Center

    Here in the Washington, D.C., area, Dr. Derek Masden and I are among a handful of specialists who perform minimally invasive, endoscopic carpal tunnel release. The clinical results are the same as the open procedure, but the incision is much smaller, with patients returning to work and normal activities much faster.
    Although the progress of CTS can be slow, we recommend that you do not wait too long to schedule an appointment when you notice symptoms, to avoid any potential motor damage that your CTS may cause.


    Persistent wrist pain?

    Schedule time with a specialist.

    Call 202-788-5048 or Request an Appointment

  • December 28, 2020

    By Matthew L. Pierce, MD

    Although not as common as other cancers, throat cancer will affect some 53,000 Americans this year and nearly 11,000 will die of the disease.

    This cancer can start in the mouth or tongue, as we witnessed in rock guitarist Eddie Van Halen, who succumbed to the disease this year. It spreads locally and can metastasize as well—reaching other parts of the body via the bloodstream and lymphatic system.

    For decades, the typical throat cancer patient was a male about age 60 with a history of alcohol and tobacco use. That population remains at risk, but trends are changing.

    We’re seeing more throat cancers in younger men and women, even when alcohol and tobacco are not involved. The culprit? Mostly HPV, human papillomavirus, a family of common viruses to which nearly everyone in the world is exposed, usually in adolescence.

    The link between HPV and cervical cancer in women is well established. But in recent decades, HPV has also become implicated in cancers of the head and neck. And, like many head and neck cancers, the resulting throat cancer can be aggressive, debilitating and, frequently, deadly.

    Cancers of the throat will take the lives of 11,000 Americans this year. Dr. Matthew Pierce explains risks, diagnosis, treatment and prevention strategies. @MedStarWHC via https://bit.ly/386HBuD.
    Click to Tweet

    The Risk Factors

    Your throat is a complex system that supports breathing, swallowing, talking and our sense of taste and smell. “Throat cancers” may include many different areas of the head and neck, however, they are most commonly cancers of the oropharynx, a muscular tube in the middle part of the throat that controls swallowing. Cancer in this region can affect the back of the mouth, tonsils, back of the tongue and soft palate. (Throat cancers may also refer to cancers of the oral cavity, the voice box and the hypopharynx, the area of the throat just above the voice box.)

    The most common form of cancer in these areas, squamous cell carcinoma, is a disease of the surface lining of the throat. With time, it can invade into deeper tissues such as muscle, fat and bone and can be quite dangerous.

    Throat cancer generally appears in patients over 50, although it’s certainly not unusual for HPV-related cancers to affect younger people. Non-HPV cancers tend to be diagnosed in people over 60, and men continue to be at higher risk than women; this is often the result of lifestyle choices, specifically alcohol and tobacco use. Men are also at higher risk for HPV-related cancers of the throat, but we’re not sure why.

    We’ve mentioned tobacco, alcohol and HPV infection, but other risk factors for this disease can include exposure to workplace chemicals, and even poor nutrition or unhealthy teeth. Those with immune systems suppressed by illness, radiation or medication are also at a slightly higher risk.

    Frequency of oral sex is also suspect; research suggests people with up to five lifetime oral sex partners are about twice as likely to experience throat cancers. The risk is five times higher for people with six or more lifetime partners.

    The HPV Connection

    HPV is a sexually transmitted disease. One of the most common infections in the world, it causes warts on the skin and genitals. Some 79 million Americans have HPV, and an estimated 14 million more contract it annually. Most become exposed as adolescents and young adults. Although many strains of HPV exist in the environment, only a few are associated with cancer.

    Evidence linking HPV and cervical cancer, mounting since the 1960s, led to development of an HPV vaccine, initially targeted at adolescent girls. Today, we know that infection is linked to head and neck cancer as well, and vaccination guidelines have been expanded to include girls, boys and transgender people.

    Signs and Symptoms

    Because there is no lab test or single screening tool for throat cancer, most instances are discovered after the disease is underway. Classic symptoms include:

    • A mass or growth in the neck that can be felt or seen
    • Hoarseness or a change in the voice that doesn’t go away
    • A sore throat that doesn’t improve
    • Difficulty swallowing or painful swallowing
    • Neck or ear pain
    • A mass or ulceration visible in the back of the throat
    • Bleeding
    • Unexplained weight loss

    Of course, it’s important to note that many other problems can cause similar symptoms, including infections, allergies, gastric reflux, benign cysts or a swollen lymph node or salivary gland, so it’s important to let a specialist make the correct diagnosis.

    We conduct a physical exam and detailed medical history, and we also perform a scope study in which a camera mounted on the end of a small flexible tube is passed through the nose and into the back of the throat. Done in the office with a local anesthetic to numb the nose and throat, this procedure gives us a clear view of mucosal surfaces that can harbor hidden cancers or other issues.

    If we spot anything warranting further investigation, we order imaging tests, typically an ultrasound or CT scan, to look deeper. A biopsy of any suspicious mass or lesion will confirm cancer. But, depending on the stage of the disease, we can often suggest if cancer exists even without the biopsy.

    If throat cancer is confirmed, it’s critical to begin treatment immediately to improve the patient’s odds of survival.

    Don’t Delay Treatment

    Quick action is key because head and neck cancers can be aggressive and fast-growing. Discovered early, they are often curable—but can become a lot more dangerous in just a few months’ time. Left untreated, they are virtually guaranteed to progress.

    Throat cancer treatment can have significant effects on quality of life. It can affect breathing, speaking, eating and swallowing—and can even alter appearance. All of this is less likely to happen if the disease is caught and managed at its earliest stage.

    Treatment is unique for each patient and may involve surgery, radiation, chemotherapy or some combination of these. Our approach depends on the specific site of the cancer, its stage and the patient’s specific preferences, overall health and tolerance. Minimally invasive, robotic surgery techniques are often an option with smaller tumors.

    Each patient case is carefully reviewed at our tumor board conference by our multi-disciplinary team of surgical, oncology, radiology, pathology, social work, nutrition and other specialists. We collaborate with the goal of finding the most effective treatment options that will offer the best possible quality of life for the patient.

    Be Vigilant

    Because most cancers of the throat are not diagnosed until symptoms appear, prevention remains the best strategy. Here are some recommended precautions:

    • Get an HPV vaccination
    • Avoid tobacco
    • Moderate your alcohol intake
    • Practice safe sex
    • Limit oral sex partners

    Because many suspicious growths are discovered by the patient, it’s also a good idea to perform self-checks at home. Be aware of any new or unusual lumps or bumps in the neck. Use a mirror to look inside your mouth and keep an eye out for any new masses or sores. Report these and any other symptoms to your health care provider.

    In fact, seeing your family physician on a routine basis is important, as well as seeing your dentist for regular exams every six months. Poor oral hygiene is a known risk factor, and dentists are experienced at early detection.

    Experience and Expertise

    MedStar Washington Hospital Center is one of the largest treatment centers for cancers of the head and neck, with particular expertise in HPV-related cancers and salivary gland tumors. Because throat cancer treatments can sometimes have dramatic impacts on a patient’s appearance and lifestyle, the team is skilled and experienced in reconstructive surgery and microsurgery.

    We deliver personalized care combined with the most advanced expertise and technology.

    Our team is also involved in research; my areas of interest, for example, include head and neck cancer in the elderly. We will soon embark on a national study to assess and quantify quality-of-life outcomes for head and neck cancer patients.

    Navigating head and neck cancer can present many challenges. But our mission is to be readily available to every patient, no matter the diagnosis.

    Unusual lump in your throat?

    Contact us today.

    Call 202-788-5048 or Request an Appointment

  • December 23, 2020

    By MedStar Health

    Life was bliss for 25-year-old Tyquela Able. It was 2015 and she was loving motherhood and her new baby boy, Kimahni. But when her son was nine months old, Ms. Able was feeling fatigue that wasn’t simply the normal tiredness that comes from parenting an infant.

    “I couldn’t go three steps up the stairs without feeling out of breath,” she says. Then she lost her appetite. After visits to urgent care, the local hospital, her primary care physician and a battery of tests, diagnoses ran from gallbladder disease to pneumonia. Ultimately, she was sent to MedStar Washington Hospital Center.

    “Then everything happened so fast,” she recalls. “I had a series of tests including an echocardiogram, which showed that the left ventricle of my heart wasn’t pumping correctly.” Ms. Able was not getting adequate oxygenated blood to her body—her heart was failing.

    “I was really shocked!” she says. But Ms. Able—a born optimist—thought “things could always be worse.” With her faith and her family, she felt all would be ok.

    “They first tried a defibrillator to see if that would help, but it didn’t,” she says. “That’s when the doctors told me I needed an LVAD [left ventricular assist device] to serve as a bridge to heart transplantation.”

    “I had my battery put in a fanny pack in a fashionable color. It was just when fanny packs were coming back in style!” she says.

    Then Ms. Able went on with her life. A call came a little over two years later: A heart was available. Sadly, the organ proved to be diseased. So, Ms. Able’s agonizing wait continued.

    “Then I got a call this past April. It was 7:30 p.m. and we were watching a movie. We ignored the ringing at first because it was an unfamiliar number. Finally, my Mom answered it. There was a heart for me, and they asked if I wanted it, and of course, I did.”

    “COVID was not on my mind,” she says. “I trust the transplant team. I trust my surgeon, Dr. Molina. When I told my son that mommy was getting her heart, he was so excited he wanted to kiss my chest.”

    Her mother and Ms. Able’s fiancé, John Lloyd, drove her to the hospital and had to leave her because of restrictions on visitors. “But it wasn’t too bad,” she says. “After three days in intensive care, we used FaceTime® and ZOOM. I was up and walking as soon as possible. They wanted me safely out of the hospital quickly because of COVID. And I was motivated to get home as soon as I could, too.”

    Just two weeks later Ms. Able was discharged. “I feel pretty good,” she says. Good enough to be walking up to five miles and to complete the last chapters of the book she is writing. “It’s my story with devotionals to help people going through the same experience,” she says. “I understand that dealing with heart failure and facing transplant can be overwhelming, and I’m happy to be able to help.”

    What Is an LVAD?

    A left ventricular assist device, or LVAD, is a mechanical pump implanted inside the chest to help a weakened heart pump blood. The LVAD doesn’t replace the heart, but just helps it do its job. LVADs can mean the difference between life and death for those waiting for a heart transplant and are often called a “bridge to transplant.”


    Your heart deserves expert care.

    Connect with our team today.

    Call 202-788-5048 or Request an Appointment