Dec. 11, 2017 | Her youngest daughter, Cheyenne, covets new shoes like most 10-year-old children; her oldest child, 13-year-old Sequoia, continues to hit growth spurts every few months making new shoes a necessity; and she, 35-year-old Virginia Duck, has worn through the soles from her current pair of shoes.
Those circumstances made the annual Hearts2Soles event led by UAMS’ Ruth Thomas, M.D., at River City Ministry in North Little Rock a relief for Duck’s entire family.
Duck and her girls were three of the 60 homeless, working poor and disabled to receive free medical foot care, shoes and multiple pairs of socks Nov. 30.
In addition to Thomas and staff from UAMS, helping at the event were staff from Snell Prosthetic & Orthotic Laboratory and other volunteers. The event has been spearheaded since its inception by Thomas, professor in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery in the UAMS College of Medicine.
The first Hearts2Soles event in North Little Rock was in 2008. Stephen Conti, M.D., an orthopaedic surgeon from Pittsburgh, who started Our Hearts to Your Soles that works in partnership with Soles4Souls, reached out to Thomas about starting a similar operation in Arkansas.
Since then, Thomas and her volunteers have set up at River City Ministry every year, except 2014 when a shortage of shoes forced the group to cancel, to help the less fortunate in central Arkansas.
“This is just one way we can help the homeless in our community,” said Thomas. “Obviously, the participants get a lot out of tonight, but so do our volunteers who come back year after year to help. We love being able to help.”
After signing in and receiving a plate of food, participants were called back one at a time for a foot bath in warm water, followed by an exam and pedicure. Then, each participant was fitted for a new pair of shoes donated by Red Wing Shoes, as well as a few pair of socks.
Waiting to be fitted for her own shoes, Duck smiled as Cheyenne showed off a new pair of colorful socks and Sequoia sported a shiny pair of white sneakers.
“This is important to us,” said Duck. “Most of the homeless and less fortunate need new shoes often, because of the amount of walking. Personally, I’m happy to see my girls so excited about getting new shoes.”
Dec. 8 2017 | The procedure itself was nothing out of the ordinary for a seasoned orthopaedic surgeon like C. Lowry Barnes, M.D., but the response he received from the patient will always be a special memory for him.
In the middle of a medical mission trip to Trinidad, Barnes had just helped a middle-aged woman move her hip to show her the arthritis pain she had suffered from for years was gone. Overcome with joy, she expressed her thankfulness by kissing Barnes’ hands.
“It gets you pretty fired up,” said Barnes.
It’s always satisfying to travel to faraway lands with experienced colleagues to provide medical care to those less fortunate. It’s the exact reason Barnes, chair and professor of the UAMS College of Medicine’s Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, has gone on so many trips with Operation Walk in the last decade.
Barnes and his physician assistant, Sara E. Foster, were two of the more than 50 health care professionals — including nurses, anesthesiologists, hip and knee surgeons and other operating room staff — who collectively replaced 52 joints in 48 patients in Trinidad over the week of Oct. 13.
The trip was sponsored by Operation Walk Maryland, a not-for-profit group based in Baltimore and one of the many chapters of Operation Walk USA that offers free surgical treatment for patients in developing countries and the United States through volunteer medical service.
Barnes met Lawrence D. Dorr, M.D., founder of Operation Walk USA and The Dorr Arthritis Institute, and Paul Khanuja, M.D., leader of Operation Walk Maryland, during his John Insall Traveling Fellowship in 2006. Since then, Barnes has accompanied Dorr and Khanuja on several mission trips to Peru, India and Trinidad. He joined Operation Walk Boston to the Dominican Republic, where he worked with his peers from a previous fellowship at Harvard Medical School.
The group spent the first day evaluating patients and performing the first four surgeries. The next days started around 7 a.m. and lasted until about 7 p.m. In between, doctors, nurses and other staff inhabited four operating rooms as patient after patient was wheeled in for surgery.
One of the noticeable things on a trip like this, Barnes said, is the increased severity of conditions in patients, compared to stateside because of the lack of widespread care and treatment.
“Many of the patients are much worse off because they’ve been without care for so long,” said Barnes. “Here, we manage orthopaedic conditions and if treatment fails, there are many surgeons to address the issue, but that’s not the case in many parts of the world.”
Gratitude from the patients is one of the main reasons Barnes continues to go back.
“It’s always a very rewarding experience that allows you to work with other wonderful surgeons from around the country in a less fortunate place,” said Barnes. “Obviously, it does so much for the patients, but the surgeons benefit just as much because we’re reminded of why we became surgeons: To take care of others.”
This particular trip had extra meaning for Barnes because his daughter, Sally, currently a sophomore in college, came along to assist.
“Sally has a heart of gold and really enjoys these types of mission trips,” said Barnes. “It was special to be able to see her excel and do such a great job.”
Trips like this will continue to be a part of Barnes’ efforts. He’s already planning his next trip with Operation Walk in the spring. This time, in Nicaragua.
Dec. 6, 2017 | Thirty-eight-year-old Melissa Owen of Little Rock died on Christmas Eve 2014 after suffering a brain aneurysm and a stroke. Two days later – just one day after being placed on the transplant list — Yolanda Harshaw, also of Little Rock, received a call that the heart she needed for a life-saving transplant was available.
Both women will be featured on the 2018 Donate Life float in the 2018 Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Calif., on Jan. 1. Owen will be honored as one of 44 organ donors depicted in floragraphs in the center of the float. These portraits, created out of natural materials such as seeds, spices and flower petals, will be the centerpiece of the parade float as the face of an Azetc calendar as a reminder of the enduring power of the generosity of donors and families. Harshaw plans to ride on the float as one of the honored organ recipients.
Owen’s family, friends and members of the UAMS transplant program gathered at the hospital Nov. 30 to add finishing touches to her floragraph and bring awareness to the lives changed through organ donation.
The floragraph event also honored Austin Elder, a 19-year-old from Fort Smith who died after a fall during a camping trip in the Ozark Mountains. His corneas and tissue were donated to help others. His portrait will also be featured on the Donate Life float.
Richard Turnage, M.D., senior vice chancellor for clinical programs and CEO of UAMS Medical Center, recognized the physicians, nurses, lab personnel, schedulers, pharmacists, case managers, financial counselors, dietitians and quality management staff dedicated to the UAMS transplant program. Ninety solid organ transplants and hundreds of cornea transplants have been performed at UAMS in 2017, along with tissue used by UAMS surgeons for restorative surgeries.
The first kidney transplant was done at UAMS in 1964, and more than 1,900 transplants have taken place since them. More than 350 liver transplants have been performed since the first one at UAMS in 2005. There are 240 Arkansans waiting for a kidney or liver transplant.
For more information about organ donation in Arkansas, visit the Arkansas Regional Organ Recovery Agency.
Dec. 1, 2017 | Tina Farber arrived in Arkansas with one thing on her mind — meeting her two new grandbabies. Her son’s third child had arrived in April, and her daughter was expecting her third about one month later.
“I was planning to stay about two months,” said Farber, a native Arkansan who now lives in New Mexico. “I had a PET scan scheduled for July 7 and needed to return home in time for that.”
A stage 3 lung cancer survivor, Farber was considered to be in remission following surgery, chemotherapy and radiation in 2016. The PET scan was a routine follow-up to ensure the cancer had not returned.
Her plans were about to change, however, when she soon developed a cough, headache and fever, prompting a trip to the urgent care clinic. After returning to her daughter’s house with a diagnosis of pneumonia, Farber’s fever shot up to 102.4 degrees and the family took action.
“My daughter, Brittney, said to pack my bags. She was taking me to the hospital,” said Farber.
About a year earlier, while still undergoing chemotherapy, Farber also had made a visit to Arkansas. A bout with dehydration during her stay landed her in the UAMS Emergency Department, where she was impressed with the doctors and nurses who attended to her.
“Everything was in sync. They got me all taken care of. I told my kids that if I’m ever visiting again and need to see a doctor, don’t take me anywhere but UAMS,” she said.
After making the hour-long drive from her daughter’s home in Malvern, Farber again arrived at UAMS where she was quickly admitted and given the attention of a team of health care providers.
“Before I even got my wristband, they called me to triage and then immediately put me in a room where six people were waiting to take care of me. I was blown away,” she said.
After a series of tests, the doctor arrived with unexpected news. Lesions were found in her brain and bones that likely meant the lung cancer had spread.
“Once we found out the tumor had progressed to the brain and bones, we immediately got Mrs. Farber’s team together to carefully review her case and formulate an overall treatment plan,” said Fen Xia, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology in the UAMS College of Medicine.
That team included Xia, who specializes in radiation therapy for brain cancer; medical oncologist Konstantinos Arnaoutakis, M.D., who specializes in lung cancer; and orthopedic oncologist Corey Montgomery, M.D., who specializes in bone cancer. Other specialists in neurology and neurosurgery also were consulted as the treatment plan took shape.
“Having a team of physicians who work together efficiently and in a timely manner is particularly critical in cancer patient care. At the UAMS Cancer Institute, our doctors and nurses communicate instantly and continuously to coordinate our patients’ care at every step, from diagnosis and care management planning to treatment delivery,” said Xia, who also works closely with nurse practitioner Nikki Baxter, A.P.R.N., at the UAMS Radiation Oncology Center.
Because radiation therapy requires daily treatments, Baxter is available to assist patients with symptom management and other issues that arise on a day-to-day basis.
“Communication and accessibility are the top priority with our patients. We all work together to provide the best care possible,” Baxter said.
That emphasis on communication and coordination have lightened the load for Farber and convinced her to postpone returning to New Mexico in favor of continuing treatment in her home state at the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute.
“It’s hard to be away from my husband, but God put me here for a reason,” said Farber, who added that her family and long-time friends have offered endless support and encouragement during her extended stay in Arkansas.
“The doctors and nurses at UAMS have taken the time to get to know me. They all know my story, which is really important to me. I’m going to stay here and fight this battle because I know I’m in good hands,” Farber said.
Nov. 21, 2017 | Xavius Hymes, of Pine Bluff, has had a lifelong support group to help him mange sickle cell disease.
Now the 22-year-old is looking to the future and the possibility of becoming a doctor to care for patients like himself.
Diagnosed at birth, doctors say Hymes has always been proactive in taking care of himself which helped prevent disease complications. He meticulously drinks plenty of water and eats healthy food.
“I can’t take all the credit,” Hymes said. “I’ve had great doctors from the beginning. My mom and grandparents play a big role in making sure I stay healthy.”
Sickle Cell Disease, a hereditary blood disorder, effects about 100,000 Americans. In patients with sickle cell, some red blood cells become stiff and c-shaped like a sickle instead of round. That makes it difficult for the cells to pass through tiny blood vessels that carry oxygen throughout the body, causing many complications including painful flare-ups that require hospitalization.
Hymes recently moved from the pediatric sickle cell clinic at Arkansas Children’s Hospital to the Adult Sickle Cell Clinic at UAMS. Since it opened in 2014, the adult clinic has been an invaluable resource for hundreds of patients living with the disease in Arkansas. Leigh Ann Wilson, a licensed certified social worker, is an integral part of transitioning patients from pediatric to adult care. She works on both sides and remains a constant for patients once they become adults.
Megan Davis, M.D., is a palliative care physician who treats patients with sickle cell disease. She says the lifespan for patients with sickle cell has doubled since the 1970s thanks to a greater understanding of the disease and advancements in treatment.
“The discovery that hydroxyurea can treat sickle cell is one those advancements,” Davis said. “Hydroxyurea is a medication that helps the patient produce more red blood cells that don’t sickle, which will reduce the frequency of painful episodes.”
This year the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the amino acid, L-glutamine, as a treatment for sickle cell patients. L-glutamine is a powder, given orally, to reduce sickle cell crises. During clinical trials, patients taking the L-glutamine had fewer sickle cell crises compared to those taking the placebo.
Another treatment choice is stem cell transplant. The transplant replaces the patient’s bone marrow, which prevents the body from producing abnormal blood cells. While considered a cure for the disease, transplants require a matched donor and sometimes have severe side effects.
“The advice I give to all my patients is that it’s important to take an active role in your care. Partner with your physician and be an active member of your health care team,” Davis said. “That’s when patients have the best outcomes.”
Hymes recently graduated from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff with a degree in biology. He’s taken the Medical College Admission Test with hopes of one day becoming a hematologist.
“I was in and out of the hospital as a child. Doctors and other health care professionals have had a big impact on my life. I would love to make that same impact in the lives of others.”
Nov. 13, 2017 | Charles Goins was unsure exactly what ailed him, but he knew the result was excruciating pain in his abdomen.
When the discomfort began in December, the 69-year-old Warren native realized immediately that something was wrong. He spent the next several days in a hospital with a pain he had never experienced before and his return home was short-lived.
“The next morning the pain returned, I was in the ambulance coming back to Little Rock,” said Goins. “It was very, very painful.”
Goins was in and out of the hospital for the next several months, all the while, answers as to what caused his discomfort seemed as elusive as finding relief. For an active person like Goins, who unintentionally lost 60 pounds, those months were agonizing.
There was no fishing, no hunting and no yard work because the pain was too much.
“It was miserable,” he said. “I wasn’t strong enough to do anything. Some days, I walked out to my truck and could hardly make it. I got so weak it was unbelievable. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat and didn’t want to eat. I honestly thought I was going to die.”
In August, during another hospital stay, Goins was transferred to UAMS.
A scan revealed Goins had chronic pancreatitis, the inflammation of the pancreas, and an abscess on his pancreas. Goins was then referred to Benjamin Tharian, M.D., an interventional gastroenterologist, director of endoscopy and assistant professor in the UAMS College of Medicine’s Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology.
“The most common cause of pancreatitis is gallstones and alcohol abuse. The pancreas’ main function is to produce digestive juices and enzymes and insulin that remain inactive within the pancreas,” said Tharian. “During an episode of pancreatitis, there is a release of active enzymes within the pancreas, which automatically digests the organ. As was the case with Mr. Goins, fluid can leak out of the pancreas during this process and form a pseudocyst.”
The majority of pancreatic cysts will improve and disappear on their own, Tharian said, but other times, as with Goins, intervention is required. To avoid an invasive surgery and a long recovery time, Tharian offered a procedure known as endoscopic-ultrasound-guided cystogastrostomy.
“The special camera equipped with the ultrasound goes through the mouth and into the stomach at which point a hole is made in the stomach wall to access the cyst followed by placement of a stent under endoscopic ultrasound guidance,” said Tharian. “Then, the cyst drains into the stomach and its contents are eliminated by the body.”
The procedure itself typically takes less than half an hour and often requires an overnight stay for observation. Tharian said he has started sending patients home the same day of late, with equally good outcomes. Patients return after a few weeks for a follow-up scan to see if the cyst has completely collapsed. If so, a brief outpatient endoscopic procedure is done to remove the stent.
The procedure is advantageous to patients like Goins looking to avoid major surgery and a strenuous recovery.
“I couldn’t have stood surgery, I don’t think I was strong enough,” said Goins, who had the procedure in August. “The recovery at UAMS was so quick and easy. I went to getting well immediately.”
A few months following his surgery, Goins is almost back to full strength, has gained back 20 pounds and most importantly has returned to the active lifestyle he enjoys.
Tharian has done more than 60 procedures of this kind over the last 18 months, with excellent outcomes comparable to those results seen elsewhere in the country.