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January 16, 1998     Cape Gazette
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January 16, 1998

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34 - CAPE GAZETTE, Friday, January 16 - January 22, 1998 HEALTH & FITNESS Illnesses plague region; facilities edge to capacity By Kerry Kester With winter illnesses sweeping through the country, many health- care facilities are finding their re- sources stretched to the limits. Beebe Medical Center, on Mon- day, Jan. 12, declared the hospital was at "Code Max," a term staff members use when the hospi- tal is at capaci- ty. "We have had a very tight bed situation," said Colleen Wareing, Beebe Medical WAREING Center vice president of patient care. At 4 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 12, the hos- pital notified emergency transport personnel, such as Sussex Para- medics, that the hospital was on diversion, she said. All hospital beds were in use, so anyone who was not in a critical or life-threatening situation was diverted to Bayhealth Medical Center-Miltbrd Memorial Hospi- tal. "Anyone who was critically ill still went to the closest hospi- tal," Wareing said. "We're just extremely busy." She said the hospital's intense ac- tivity was not necessarily because of illness. On Monday, she said, many patients were scheduled for normal surgical procedures. The hospital is, however, compiling data on illnesses. "At this point, we're not seeing any trend," said Wareing. Bayhealth-Milford Memorial Hospital also reported a high-ca- pacity rate. "Our census is up," said Kim Wilkins, public relations specialist. "It is much higher than normal." Last weekend, the emergency room was full, she said. Many pa- tients were treated for gastroin- testinal maladies such as diarrhea and vomiting; others were treated for influenza-type symptoms. Flu misinterpreted A common misconception about influenza is that those who contract the virus will have gas- trointestinal symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. During a December interview, Beebe Medical Center infectious disease specialist, Dr. Scott Olewiler, said influenza is purely a respiratory ill- ness that infects the lungs and can kill its vic- tims by causing pneumonia. Symptoms of influenza in- clude the sud- den onset of a very high fever, OLEWILER he said. Other symptoms are headaches, muscle aches so se- vere that the patient may feel nearly paralyzed, scratchy throats, irritated and/or red eyes and runny noses. He said patients may de- velop dry coughs several days af- ter the onset of the illness. An added danger with influenza is that although the lung illness is sometimes treatable with antibi- otics, patients may develop bacte- rial pneumonias or staph infec- tions after the influenza is con- trolled. Staph infections cause holes in the lung tissue. Some types of pneumonias may be brought under control with antibi- otics, but even after the "bugs" are dead, Olewiler explained, they can still release a lot of toxic chemicals. Olewiler said most people have never had influenza in their lives. However, he said, those who are most vulnerable to becoming in- fected and having dangerous com- plications from the virus are peo- ple 65 and older. Those people who suffer from gastrointestinal illnesses that cause fevers, nausea and vomiting Continued on page 36 Teen's tragic death resulted from rare condition By Kerry Kester When a 14-year-old, seemingly healthy, teen-ager suddenly collapses at track prac- tice and dies several days later, shock and fear plague schoolmates and the communi- ty. Amanda Dera, a freshman at Cape Hen- Iopen High School, died Sunday, Jan. 11; the death certificate from A.I. duPont Hos- pital for Children listed the cause of death as massive stroke. The bright, active, effervescent young athlete had no symptoms of a serious med- ical condition before she became dizzy dur- ing track practice on Thursday, Jan. 8. Coaches advised her to rest, but moments later when she attempted to rise, she had paralysis in her left arm and leg. Emergency personnel quickly transport- ed her to Beebe Medical Center, and later that evening she was transferred to A.I. duPont Hospital for Children. Three days later, her blood supply became cut off, and she died. "This is extremely uncommon," said Dr. David Corddry of the children's hospital. Any kind of stroke is relatively rare in chil- dren, he said, but in those cases where stroke occurs, there is often an identifiable problem, such as a clot- ting abnormality, aneurysm or other vascu- lar abnormality. Often patients with those prob- lems will have some symptoms, he said. Amanda had no symp- toms. "We did not find some cause of the DERA stroke," said Corddry. She did not have a problem in her carotid artery, aorta or her heart, he said. He also emphasized, "it had nothing to dowith her running." Strokes in adults, he said, are often attrib- utable to lifestyle. Too much cholesterol, for example, can lead to the plaque buildup that can block the carotid artery and cut off the brain's blood supply. "Strokes in chil- dren...they're not caused by anything you can do anything about," said Corddry. School offers counseling On Monday morning, when students ar- rived at school to hear the news that they had lost a classmate, the school's crisis in- tervention team was already in place. School counselors and psychologists from other buildings were available to meet with students and staff trying to cope with the news. "We're all shocked," said Principal Ron Burrows. "She was just this wonderful child - such a sweet kid. She was just so positive." Burrows said that overall, stu- dents and staff are coping well and provid- ing each other with much-needed support. Dave Jefferson, the school's psycholo- gist, said there are four key coping strate- gies that students, staff, parents and com- munity members should know. First, he said, those having difficulty ac- cepting Amanda's death, or coping with it, need someone to listen to them. The person could be a sibling, close friend or parent. "It's really listening and letting them vent," said Jefferson. The second point is that people need to try and understand "that it takes time to heal," he said, and there is no magic date when the healing will be complete. Third, he said, "Accept your feelings. They're genuine." Some people he said, may openly grieve; others may grieve more privately. "Grief is a very personal thing." Grief, he said, differs from bereavement. Grief is the emotional reaction to losing Amanda. Bereavement includes growth and reconciliation. Jefferson said the fourth component is rituals, such as the funeral process. "Ritu- als are helpful; they really are," he said. Young people often have fears to cope with when they lose a classmate, he said. One common fear they have is that they will forget the person. "The memories may dim a little," he said, "but we end up com- ing to a reconciliation." Those going through the grieving and be- reavement process will learn to recognize that Amanda was part of their lives, but she is no longer a physical presence. "It's O.K. to carry a picture," said Jefferson, "and it's not irreverent to remember the good times, the funny times." As students and staff mourn Amanda De- ra, they may have periods of time when they need support. In addition to Jefferson, there are three counselors available at the high school. Jefferson said peer counselors may also help students, and some students may find support at the wellness center. Severe weather yields widespread Red Cross response From the deep South to the Ca- nadian border, the American Red Cross is responding to floods, tor- nadoes and ice storms created by last week's unusual weather sys- tems. The largest Red Cross relief op- erations are in upstate New York and Maine, where thousands are suffering from power outages, cold conditions and some flood- ing caused by the ice storm. In the South, the Red Cross re- sponse to earlier flooding and tor- nadoes is being largely managed with resources available in each affected state. The Red Cross is active in at least 12 states, meet- ing the needs of families affected by last week's deadly weather events. The largest Red Cross operation is in the northernmost portion of New York, where roof damage, loss of power and other effects of the storm have been compounded by flooding caused by melting. To date, the Red Cross has opened 100 shelters, housing more than 7,000 people. Five emergency response vehicles (ERVs), including one that was deployed recently from Wilming- ton, are supplying additional food and supplies to those affected, and an additional 15 ERVs have been requested from outside the affect- ed region. The relief operation anticipates opening service centers soon to provide families with a setting to meet one-on-one with Red Cross caseworkers to plan their recov- ery. The relief operation in Maine consists largely of providing warm shelter and food to the thou- sands of people without power. Latest reports indicate 44 Red Cross shelters have been opened, housing 2,327 individuals. To date, the Red Cross has served 9,934 meals to victims and relief workers. One in-state ERV is providing mobile feeding, and the operation has requested five additional ERVs from out-of- state. The Red Cross is also offering food and shelter in New Hamp- shire and Vermont. Other relief operations are un- derway in the states of Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and West Vir- ginia. In those states, the Red Cross successfully met emer- gency needs using resources from within the respective states. This is true, even though some areas like eastern Tennessee were especially hard-hit by tornadoes, flooding and other storm damage caused by last week's weather system. All Red Cross disaster assis- tance is free, made possible by voluntary gifts of time and money from the American people. The Red Cross is not a government agency. To help the victims of these and other disasters, call i- 800-HELP NOW (1-800-435- 7669). Checks may also be sent to the Red-Cross in Delaware, 100 West 10th St., Suite 501, Wilm- ington, D.C., 19801-1678.