The International Council on Infertility Information Dissemination, Inc

Chat Bytes: Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine Treatments for Infertility.

Webinar Weekly (Lunch Bytes Fridays starting up again November 20, 2020, 4:00 PM ET: REGISTER

Mike Berkley, L.Ac., FABORM is the founder and director of The Berkley Center for Reproductive Wellness. Mike is licensed and acupuncture board-certified in New York State and also certified in Chinese herbology by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.

Mike graduated from The Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in New York in 1996, and he has been treating reproductive disorders since then. Berkley is the first acupuncturist/herbalist in the United States to work exclusively in the field of reproductive medicine.

He enjoys working in conjunction with some of New York’s most prestigious reproductive endocrinologists while delivering attention and treatments meeting fertility patients’ needs. Call (646) 832-4480 to schedule an initial appointment today.

 

 

 

Mike’s Personal Story

"I developed an interest in acupuncture and herbal medicine due to a very personal and difficult reason - infertility. My wife and I decided that we wanted to start a family soon after we got married. We tried and tried for two years before seeking the help of a reproductive endocrinologist. My wife was diagnosed with a bacterial infection and an autoimmune marker. At our follow-up examinations, we were “cleared” of all obstacles to conception and told to go home and “try.” We tried for another six months without success.

At this point, my wife sought out the help of an acupuncturist/herbalist who had some basic knowledge of reproductive issues. After treating with acupuncture and herbal medicine for six months my wife got nothing more than a regulated period. We were disappointed, then, the very next month, the miracle manifested! She was pregnant and she carried to term without a hitch. We had a beautiful 7.5-pound little tiger who is now a young man, healthy, happy, and productive! I was amazed, humbled, and enormously excited and gratified by the result which was yielded by what seemed like some hocus-pocus newfangled type of medicine, but it really worked.

It was then that I started to explore acupuncture and herbal medicine on my own. I had a curiosity to learn more. I couldn't believe it when I found out that this type of medicine had existed for 3,000 years and there are hundreds of medical texts dating back centuries on the subject of reproductive disorders and how to treat them.

I responded to an ad in the Village Voice for an open house at Pacific College of Oriental Medicine’s New York campus and left almost six years later with a degree in acupuncture and a National Board Certification in herbal medicine.

With license in hand, I devoted every free moment to studying Western medical and Chinese medical approaches to treating infertility. After years of study and clinical experience, I have been fortunate in that I have been able to develop my own unique acupuncture protocols and proprietary herbal formulas."

INCIID"s Infertility Project

INCIID Birthday Cake

Happy 25th to INCIID

Challenge: The photo below of twins is just one example of what INCIID's outreach in the form of information and our National IVF Scholarship provides to consumers.
On March 17th, 1995, INCIID received its 501 C 3 and incorporation as a charity. On March 17, 2020, INCIID celebrates 25 years of supporting families. INCIID was the first infertility site on the World Wide Web. In order to continue to help and support our mission to help the more than 6 million affected by infertility and multiple pregnancy loss, INCIID needs an updated web platform.

Recently the technical person who donated so much of his time and gave so much of himself retired with some health issues. INCIID continues to provide help to consumers as an all-volunteer organization. Donations go right back into the maintenance of the charity. We need updated technical support and have volunteers lined up to help us move INCIID's thousands of articles, install updated software to a new platform and design an easier access and accessibility compliant venue. But to do this will need to raise a minimum of $12,000 dollars.

We need 480 people to donate $25 dollars by March 17th so we can enact the Fertility Project. 

Solution

Building a new Website with an updated Drupal platform will enable INCIID to reach more people securely and allow more interaction and support to consumers. It will allow us to continue to securely take donations, and launch a regular newsletter to consumers who not only need information but also support. It will allow us to man our immediate chat mechanism and launch a new interactive and support network that is secure and private.

Long-Term Impact

Longterm this project will allow us to expand our base and continue the work we do for consumers. It will allow us to expand funding through professional memberships thus allowing us to provide more scholarships to consumers and ultimately help those who want to build their family through treatment or adoption. The Infertility Project will arm consumers with the information and support they need and that we launched 25 years ago.

Send INCIID a Birthday Present today. We need 480 people to donate $25 dollars each by the end of March. Please donate today

We need 480 people to send INCIID  a $25 Birthday Present  Happy 25th Birthday, INCIID.

INCIID needs a number of crucial updates to our website. Our fundraising goal is $12,000.
INCIID is a charity. We were the FIRST to launch a website dedicated to infertility on March 17, 1995.  INCIID was also the first to provide professionals to interact and answer questions online for consumers. 
We've been supporting the community for 25 years but now we need your help! 

We only need 480 people, consumers, industry professionals, interested parties or family members to send us just $25 dollars by our March 17th birthday.

We have a plan in the works but we need to fund it in order to continue our IVF Scholarship and mission to educate and support the infertility community. 
Read more about The Infertility Project here.
I hope you will consider helping us by donating. Please send us a Happy Birthday note and let us know how you're doing.

For more information call us at 703-379-9178 or email us.

 

May 6th National Nurses Day

May 6th is National Nurses Day. Thank you to all the nurses everywhere!

 

 

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Corona Funk

Illustration of snow falling and gingerbread houses, and masked snowman and gingerbread character

Corona Christmas and Chanukah --

 

A Holiday Time Like no Other in our Time. By Helen Adrienne, LCSW, BCD

I've always been a self-starter.  I never lacked for some project to dive into, whether by obligation or by interest.  Until now. 

I've already knitted an afghan blanket for everyone I know and love who can still fog up a mirror.  Yeah, there's the book-club book, staring at me from the coffee table.  Of course, if you wanna eat, there's always the obligatory trip to the supermarket, and from the supermarket to the stove.  That is unless ennui prevails, and then the effort goes into deciding on and dialing for take-out if that's an option in your neck of woods.  And not until the threat of running out of underwear becomes real do I override the ennui and take off for the laundry room. 

So what happened to Self-Starter Me?  And maybe you?

I remember hearing about the pandemic of 1918.  Who woulda thunk that we'd be living through a pandemic in this "advanced" age of miracle medicine in the 'first world' US of A?  But here we are, at the mercy of a microscopic enemy.

Much of life goes on, albeit virtually, which is a boon.  Yet, if you're like me, there's nothing like the real thing.  For instance, I'll be participating in the annual but this year virtual Evolution Conference for mental health practitioners.  Missing will be the meet-and-greet so enjoyed by me and my colleagues who in years past have harkened from all corners of the world. 

What substitutes have been mandated in your world?    

I greet my husband every day with the comment, "Good morning.  It's another Dayday."  While it is true that Suspended Animation shall eventually pass, meanwhile, it's best to be thankful for what we've got: an on-line substitute for the real thing, with colleagues, friends and relatives.    

So.  What would give you a sense that you will survive this pandemic?  Do any of us need to add to, or polish up our coping skills at this time like no other?  There's a saying, "Move a muscle, change a mood."  Perhaps we should invent a Funky Corona Funk dance.  It could become a craze that relieves the craziness you might be feeling.  Imagine -- Zoom parties where everyone is wearing a mask and 'funky-ing' around! 

The holidays can be a mixed bag.  This year, if we respect the request to hunker down with our "pod", the holidays could feel like a wedding without a bride.  Given the socially requested limitations, what could happen if we called upon our creative juices?  How can we make the best of the reality right down to watching a virtual nutcracker, leaving cookies and milk for a Santa who will have to zoom down the chimney via Zoom, or maybe a virtual game of Dreidel? 

Fortunately, at least we have the United States Postal Service.   

I sincerely hope that anyone reading this is healthy, either having dodged the corona bullet or having safely recovered.  

Helen Adrienne, LCSW, BCD

 

Dealing with the Stress of the Holidays

DEALING WITH THE STRESS OF THE HOLIDAYS

By HELEN ADRIENNE, MSW, ACSW, BCD

 

The stress of the holidays is a topic that has appeared with regularity in articles and newsletters since 1979 when I began working as a psychotherapist with infertility patients.  Rightfully so.  Infertility is demanding and stressful.  The Holidays are demanding and stressful.  And in this case, one plus one equals way more than 2.

It is no longer in dispute that both the mental and physical experiences of stress land in the body.  That’s about the last thing that an infertility patient needs.  Your body is the stage upon which the treatment gets played out.  Being poked and prodded physically evolves very naturally into a mental ordeal for everyone.

This article addresses a big opportunity to turn down the level of stress that comes with the holidays.  That opportunity exists in the marital relationship.

In the best of families, tensions abound at holiday time.  The backdrop for get-togethers may have to do with who expects what, who can’t stand whom, whose house is center stage, whose traditions “win”, who’s impossible to buy presents for and who’s jealous of what.  And of course, a separate and very long thorn is who’ll be there who has babies.  The whos, whose and whats go on ad nauseum.

This does not mean that all families are looney toons.  It does mean that in the most serene of families, things can’t ever be perfect – AND – you are not likely to be in the mood for anyone’s imperfections.  It is a known fact that often, well-meaning people do not know what to say and invariably say the wrong thing, presuming that they even know about your struggle.  And if they don’t know, the secret may be the lesser of two evils, but it still creates additional stress.

The opportunity for any couple lies in the fact that it is critically important to be on the same page when it comes to making decisions about how to handle the holidays.  Infertility may be the first crisis of major proportions that has hit you in the time that you’ve been together.  Any crisis will demand that a person locate his or her coping methods.  It might even put you in a spin if you need better coping mechanisms than you have.  But it is only the rare couple whose coping mechanisms are congruent when a crisis hits.  This does not mean that you aren’t supportive of one another.  Most couples are.  But there is a difference between the support that flows out of compassion for someone you love and working to achieve a united front, which works best, at holiday time especially.

The Chinese character for crisis is a combination of the characters for danger and opportunity.  It may feel dangerous to set a limit to one or both families.  But it is very important for any couple to define their “coupleness.”  As married adults, it is your job and your right to let both families know what boundaries you need for your mutual satisfaction.   It is highly recommended that if you cannot get past the pull back to the whos and whats of your respective families, that you seek the guidance of a therapist with skills in both infertility counseling and family counseling.

Whether on your own or with professional help, if you successfully decide and declare your decisions about the holidays, you set yourselves up to minimize the impact of family/holiday stress on your bodies.  And beyond the logistics of who and what, there exists a further opportunity to nurture the marriage.  Now is the time to explore techniques of mind/body relaxation that you can enjoy together.  Besides being on the same page, feeling loved and understood is palliative and has a positive impact as a stress reducer.

As hectic as the holiday time can be, it would make a difference if you could locate a yoga class designed specifically for couples or a massage class for couples.  Or, this could be a really good time to go to a spa together for a weekend.  By focusing on gaining physical relief from tension, you can break the grip of the aspects of the infertility challenge that land in your bodies.

Furthermore, couples can learn methods of breathing, muscle relaxation, mindfulness meditation and self-hypnosis that go a long way toward breaking the grip of the infertility challenge from the inside out.  These techniques are extremely empowering, at a time when couples tend to feel powerless.

In this society most of us live in a state of red alert, tolerating high levels of stress.  The incidence of stress-induced illness and anxiety has risen dramatically.  As a culture, we need to take better tender-loving care of ourselves, but we tend not to.  So, while there are many who need to learn stress reduction techniques as much as you do, few need to learn them more than you.

Infertility is nasty.  But the silver lining in the clouds is that as a couple, you can and should put your needs front and center.  You need to keep your love alive, for each other and for yourselves.  The best way to do this is to acknowledge the enormous stress involved and take the opportunity to learn to communicate so you can land on the same page.  And then, you can pursue the myriad of techniques available these days which reduce stress on the body and the mind.

 

 

HELEN ADRIENNE, MSW, ACSW, BCD

PSYCHOTHERAPIST

PRACTITIONER OF MIND/BODY MEDICINE

 

 

Avoiding Toxins During Pregnancy

Illustration of 6 different ethnic pregnant women

Pregnancy is what we strive for but with a history of infertility and miscarriage, it can be one of the scariest times in a couple's life. Environmental factors play a big role in the development of the baby. Here are some toxins to avoid and some tips on how to avoid them

Please feel free to share this simple infographic: Avoiding Toxins During Pregnancy. Click each icon to find more information and tips to avoid toxins during pregnancy.

 

 

 

Mental Health and Starting a Family: A Guide

Happy couple looking at a pregnancy test

Mental Health and Starting a Family: A Guide

Starting a family is a life-changing experience which many people aspire to at some point in their life. Having a child truly is a miraculous experience which has the power to change everything, both regarding your life and regarding you as a person.

As with any life-changing event, your mental health may be impacted by the change, as well as being severely compromised if you have trouble starting a family or if you run into problems conceiving the way you had hoped. You may then feel as though you need further tailored support, such as from someone with a masters in mental health counseling.

Perhaps you have always thought that you would like to start a family and are wondering whether now the right time for you is. When making this decision, you may want to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you financially able to support a growing family?
  • Is your home equipped for a new baby, such as having the right amount of space and room?
  • How will your career be affected by having a baby? Are you ready to take a career break, or have your job take a back seat for a while?
  • Are you with the right person, or are you mentally ready to raise a child alone if you are considering family options as a single person?

This guide discusses the issues you may face where mental health is concerned, and important steps to consider when starting a family.

Mental Health and Trying for a Baby

Deciding to try for a baby and start a family is a significant step. No matter whether you've always planned for it or whether you've recently decided, it would be natural to feel overwhelmed by such a momentous decision. It's possible that your mental health can therefore be compromised if you feel the pressures, as well as the desperate desire, to start a family.

Although starting a family and trying for a baby is a wonderful thing, it can take a lot of planning, crucial steps and lifestyle changes. It may also take a very long time to conceive. This can easily affect your mindset and mental health if the routine becomes too draining or if you develop anxiety over not being able to conceive as quickly as you would have hoped.

It's important to be as positive and healthy as you can be while trying for a baby. Undue stress on the mind and body may only make it more difficult to naturally conceive or make it difficult to enjoy the process. To make everything easier, consider:

  • Seeking advice regarding how to improve your chances of conceiving
  • Try to avoid treating intimacy as a strict routine and instead try to conceive when you naturally feel ready to try
  • Speak to others about how you're feeling, including your partner if the situation is becoming overwhelming

Trouble with Conceiving: Which Steps to Take

It may be that, after trying to conceive for a significant period, it simply isn't working. This, naturally, can have a detrimental effect on your mental health, as not only are you not achieving the beginning of your new family, but you may also begin to worry why it is not working for you and whether there is any cause for concern health-wise for you and your partner.

In the first instance, it is crucial to speak to a medical professional regarding your trouble conceiving so that you can discuss the possibilities. Tests may need to be carried out, and your next options may need to be explored. This can be a difficult and worrying time which can take a toll on your mental health. Still, it's important to understand that difficulty conceiving in the first instance doesn't mean that you will never be able to start the family that you've been dreaming of. Alongside health and physical attention, you should also seek mental health support if necessary, from those with a masters in mental health counseling.

If you cannot conceive naturally, there are other steps you can take, such as:

  • Adoption
  • IVF treatment
  • Treatment options for infertility
  • Sperm or egg donation
  • Surrogacy

When considering which option may be right for you, be sure to do as much research as possible and gain the relevant medical advice. Taking one of these options, even if it means you can achieve the family you had hoped, can still be overwhelming and upsetting, therefore affecting your mental health.

Support is crucial during this key decision-making, so be sure to check your options from those with a masters in mental health counseling.

Mental Health and Helping Others

If you are a parent who has experienced mental health issues relating to starting a family, or perhaps an individual who has suffered from their mental health following infertility issues and not being able to start a family, maybe you're eager to help others struggling through the same — whether those with general mental health issues or specifically parents who are suffering through mental health concerning conception or raising a child.

There are various avenues to explore if you would like to help others, including seeking a career in counseling and a masters in mental health counseling so that you can support others going through the same journey or any related issues with mental health.

Wanting to start a family and either wanting to be a parent or becoming a parent, naturally means you're a compassionate and caring person who wants to help and care for others (your own child or family), so these are virtues which can be applied to counseling and helping others, too.

Mental Health and Adoption

Adoption can introduce a variety of mental health issues, both for you as a parent, and for an adopted child. For a parent choosing to adopt, it can be a difficult path if you always wanted to conceive naturally. It is a big step in deciding to seek an alternative to raising a family and helping a child who needs to have a home and a family.

Furthermore, it's important to be in a healthy and good mental state when preparing yourself to adopt a child. If your mental health has become compromised due to difficult circumstances around trying to conceive (such as being told that you're infertile), it may be a good idea to take a break and concentrate on your own recovery before adopting. That way, you can be in the healthiest condition to care for a new child. It's, therefore, imperative to seek out support options, such as sessions from a licensed individual with a masters in mental health counseling.

Regarding an adopted child, if they are at an older age when they are adopted, or if you choose to tell your child the truth about their adoption when they reach a certain age, this knowledge can affect their mental health. They may struggle emotionally trying to understand about their birth parents, or why they had to be put up for adoption. Or perhaps the truth may simply be something they struggle with mentally. It may even be the case that an adopted child suffered through difficult circumstance or even trauma, leading to the need for them to be adopted, and this could result in issues later in life.

Your child always has the option of receiving counseling at any age from someone with a masters in mental health counseling.

Mental Health and IVF Treatment

If you've chosen the IVF route, then firstly, it can be expensive, depending on how many attempts of the treatment you need. Therefore, you may experience stress and anxiety relating to your finances when trying to get pregnant through IVF. It's essential to manage your finances properly and plan for the cost of IVF treatment in advance, to have a better understanding and avoid any unwarranted stress.

Furthermore, IVF treatment is never guaranteed to work successfully. This can be extremely traumatic for those parents who had hoped the treatment would work for them. There are other options you can consider as an alternative if IVF treatment is not a success for you, or you can try again with the same treatment. Alongside this, support your mental health during this journey by seeking out services from someone with a masters in mental health counseling.

Mental Health and Your Growing Family

Mental health issues can arise at any time, at any age, in anyone. This means both for you as a parent, and for your growing child. You can never plan for how your child is going to behave, whether in their childhood years or as they develop. You can easily run into difficulty and negativity as a parent if you are worried about your child's behavior or if they are difficult.

Additionally, your child may develop mental health issues of their own as they age. It's important as a parent to know what to look out for in others regarding signs and symptoms of mental health issues such as depression.

In growing children, this could include:

  • Persistent low mood
  • Withdrawing from social situations
  • Disruptive or out-of-control behaviour
  • Speaking of negative or troublesome thoughts
  • Issues with behaviour and mood in other situations, such as school or out in public

There is always support available for parents struggling with their own mental health issues, such as from those with a masters in mental health counseling, or for parents with children who have mental health problems.

Mental Health and Suffering with a Miscarriage

While it is possible to heal and gain support from loved ones and professionals who can help through the process of miscarriage recovery, your own mental health and how you choose to handle the situation is what is most important. Nobody can tell a parent how to act when they have lost a child, and it's important for you to never keep it inside about what you are experiencing.

You may want to speak to other parents who have suffered through the same experience so that you can gain a better understanding and the support you need. Naturally, those who have never experienced the loss of a child will not be able to understand or support you fully — even if those people love you and care about your grief — so it can be very helpful to speak to other parents who know directly how it feels.

Physical, mental and emotional health can be severely impacted following the loss of a child, perhaps even for the rest of your life. The emotional distress and grief experienced by those who suffer from a miscarriage will undoubtedly mean that their mental health is compromised, and they may benefit from the services of a professional with a masters in mental health counseling.

It's important to understand that suffering a miscarriage does not mean that you can never try again for a family or that you will never be able to have a child. Still, it's also important to allow yourself enough time to understand, grieve and heal.

Understanding Postnatal Depression

You can never plan for postnatal depression, and you may think that it would never happen to you, but the truth is, it can arise in any parent following giving birth to their child. What's important to remember if suffering through postnatal depression that is — just with any mental health illness — it is not your fault, and it does not mean that you are any less of a loving parent. After all, having a baby is completely life-changing, which means it can trigger new and overwhelming responses in your mind and body when raising a new child.

The signs of postnatal depression include:

  • Feeling anxious and tearful. While this is natural after giving birth, if these symptoms persist for a long period, such as a month or longer after giving birth, it could be a sign of a large problem
  • Lack of energy and feeling tired
  • Loss of interest in anything
  • Withdrawing from other people, or different situations
  • Worrying thoughts involving your baby, including negative thoughts towards them

Strategies to cope with postnatal depression include:

  • Seeking professional help and support, such as from those with a masters in mental health counseling
  • Being prescribed medication, such as anti-depressants
  • Speaking with loved ones
  • Trying to keep up with a healthy routine, such as exercise and your diet choices
  • Trying to partake in activities which will help you to feel more positive, such as pastimes you've always enjoyed
  • All of the above

Take Away

While the experience of trying for, and raising, a family is rewarding and positive, it's undoubtedly one where many problems can be faced. These problems don't mean that raising a family isn't everything you'd hoped for or that it can't be a success, it simply means that better care and planning may be needed for problems which can arise.

Most importantly, it is your own emotional and mental wellbeing as a parent — as well as that of your child — which needs to be taken into consideration during this important time, and you can always seek support from those with masters in mental health counseling.

Why Refusing to Wear a Mask Is Not ADA Protected

A close up photo of a woman wearing a face mask and surgical hair covering
We’re all living through COVID-19 and some of us are more vulnerable than others. I’m hearing more and more accounts of individuals claiming their “access rights” under the ADA are being violated because they refuse to put on a mask.
 

So to set the record straight and as a person who has a child with multiple disabilities, I am going to explain the 99.9% of those who won’t wear a mask are not entitled to accuse businesses of violating the “ADA”.

If a person with a disability is not able to wear a face mask because of their disability, businesses can consider REASONABLE modifications to the face mask policy (so they continue to protect others) but also accommodate the person with the disability. The accommodations enable a person to participate in, or benefit from, the programs offered or goods and services that are provided while not jeopardizing others in the midst of a public health crisis.

A REASONABLE modification means changing the business policies, practices, and /or procedures, IF NEEDED, to provide goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations to an individual with a disability.

The requirement to modify a policy, practice, or procedure does NOT include individuals WITHOUT disabilities, as those without a disability are NOT protected under the ADA. So, when the self-entitled "Karens" OR "Kens" of the world enter a place of business and tell you it is their right not to wear a mask under the ADA, ask this allowed question, “Do you have a disability that prevents you from wearing a mask.”
If they say yes, tell them you are happy to modify your policy to accommodate their shopping. However, there are a multitude of ways to accommodate them (under the ADA) that does not include allowing them to wander throughout the store or business without a face-covering.

Reasonable modifications to the policy of wearing a face mask:
​​​​​​​

  • Allowing a person to wear a scarf, or loose face covering, or FULL-FACE SHIELD instead of a face mask; (If you identify as a person with a disability who cannot wear a face-mask, buy yourself a full-face shield;

  • Allow customers to order online with curbside pick-up or no contact delivery;

  • Allow customers to order by phone with curbside pick-up or no contact delivery in a timely manner;

  • Shop for the customer;

  • Allow a person to wait in their car for an appointment and enter the building when called or texted;

  • Offer appointments by telephone or video calls.

I would bet that most of the anti-wearing face-maskers do not identify as a person with a disability in their place of employment.

The excuse (being a person living with a disability) is a slap in the face toward people who DO live daily with a disability. False claims of disability hurt those with a disability.

The science is clear. Studies show us that viral load peaks in the days before symptoms begin and that speaking is enough to expel virus-carrying droplets. Wearing a mask shows respect for others but also for yourself.

In Summary

What most of these entitled people don't get even if they do have a disability is that their "disability rights" do not outweigh the rights of others; others who may have a compromised immune system or be involved in cancer treatment or live with a vulnerable adult or child. I would urge everyone to think long and hard about personal motivation, acts of kindness to others, and self-respect.

 

​Back to School During a Pandemic: What you should consider.

Should I send my child to school: What you should consider.

 

Fairfax County Public Schools signFor more than a decade, I was a resource and self-contained special education teacher in Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS), one of the largest school systems in the United States. One of my two children is currently enrolled in the FCPS system.

The FCPS system includes a diverse group of students speaking 182 different languages and dialects in the home. Of the approximate 187,800 students, 90% general education, 37% English Language Learners, and about 15% special education needs. 

A group of high school and middle school students interacting in a school hallwayThe sheer size of Fairfax County and the transportation complications of bussing thousands of students just adds to the complexity of sending students back to school

Large or small, there are multiple things to think about including the physical and emotional cost to your family in making the decision on whether or not to send your child/ren back into school buildings that may not have the resources to keep children safe.

 

 

Risk vs. Benefit: Consider the Brain's Executive Function

 

We all know how crucial education and social interaction are to learning and we all want kids back in school. But that transition must include health and safety preparation as a premium and highest priority.
We often hear about the adaptability and resilience of children. What we aren’t hearing about is their executive function; something to seriously consider in making the decision to re-open schools. Executive function (EF) takes place in the prefrontal regions of the frontal lobe of the brain. Executive function helps us figure out how to handle situations, particularly new situations.
Illustration of the brain highlighting executive function in the frontal lobe 

 

EF incorporates a variety of skills including the ability to focus attention on issues or obstacles in order to make good choices. It also involves learning from mistakes and planning for the future.  Fully developed EF in adults involves successfully wading through complex emotions, situations and regulating behaviors.

 

These are all characteristics necessary to navigate this new normal we are experiencing during the COVID-19 crisis and pandemic.  Mistakes are part of any learning process but a mistake made in the age of COVID may be lethal. Here’s the real “kicker”!

Children do NOT fully develop executive function until the age of 25. Keep this in mind when making the decision to send children back into school buildings. Here’s why executive function is so important to development.

Teenagers and Executive Function (EF): Engaging in risky behaviors

 

Young man sitting in the bucket seat of a car with steering wheel in hand texting on his cell phone.

Let’s take a look at teens. Teen years can be tempestuous, and unsettled as they navigate puberty and young adulthood. Because EF doesn’t fully develop until age 25, teenagers are naturally and normally prone to impulsivity, lacking in the ability to consider consequences of their actions. It’s just part of their development.

This lack of fully developed EF makes teens vulnerable to their emotions and unable to plan or to see the “big picture” particularly with a novel or complex scenario such as a pandemic. It also makes them likely candidates to engage in risk-oriented behaviors. Teens may have mood swings, lack of focus, and preoccupation with their appearance – Their focus is not on complex health and safety issues.

For example, although teens recognize that talking and texting while driving is dangerous, they still engage in these behaviors. Why? Their executive function is operational but not fully developed. According to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, in 2017 close to 40% of teen drivers reported engaging in texting or emailing during the past month of the survey.

 

Teens and Social Distancing

Teens at a music festival interacting with each other and on social media

 

Expecting teens to social distance once back in schools is a recipe for disaster. Even if the school system could stagger desks 6 feet apart (doubling the system’s space requirements), once the bell rings, do you really think they won’t embrace their friends in the hallways during the change of classes? Do you really think they will keep their masks on when they gather to take selfies and share digital interaction or they hug each other in the halls?

If you do, I would bet you haven’t been to a high school for any length of time since you graduated!

 

  COVID-19 and Spread of the Virus

Scientist looking at a test tube

Previously, the virus was thought to spread mainly through droplets. On July 9th, 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) admitted the coronavirus has the potential to spread through the air under certain conditions. At present, this finding has not been incorporated into any formal guidance as far as opening schools or businesses. Keep that finding in mind when weighing the risks of sending your child back to school and into classrooms without windows or with poor ventilation.

When an infected person breathes, talks, coughs, sneezes, or sings, they send tiny particles into the air traveling a much as 16 feet.  Some of the smaller particles may float for hours.

This past week more than 200 scientists published an open letter to the WHO warning about airborne transmission via aerosols. Unlike droplets that quickly fall to the ground, aerosols can suspend in the air for hours. These smaller particles are also more efficient at penetrating the pulmonary system and pose much more infection risk.

Any human in close proximity to another human can spread the virus. To me the logic would say, children spread the virus to each other, and their families just as easily as anyone else spreads a respiratory virus.  Remember that up to now schools and gatherings have been closed. Children have been sheltered. To me, the scenario where children return to schools has never been tested as far as the spread. We just do not know. Sending your child back to school under these circumstances is making them a test case.

Photo "Betsy DeVos" by Gage Skidmore is licensed  under CC BY-SA 2.0

When Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education tells us, that children are not likely to spread the virus, I wonder where she is getting her information.  Children have been sheltered meaning there has not been a chance for them to spread the virus. When schools open, children become the test cases in close quarters with other children who cough, sneeze, breathe, sing, or talk. Parents should be aware children returning to buildings become the test cases for whether children become vectors of the spread of the virus.

Schools often have antiquated ventilation systems and classrooms that have no windows.  Will schools retrofit their air conditioning heating systems to install air filters like those installed in hospital surgical suites to clean the air and lower the infection rate? A CNN article on July 12, 2020, stated,

“In Fairfax County, teachers too will be required to wear masks, even in the front of the classroom, and students who come to school without a mask will have temperature checks.” 

What’s wrong with this picture. Temperature checks should not replace wearing a mask. Some people are asymptomatic. Many who have contracted the virus do not have symptoms until some days later when they have already spread it. I greatly admire the work FCPS does but they are not equipped at the time of writing this to open schools so both staff and students are safe.

 

A Tweet from Hong Kong Disney picturing the Hong Kong Magic Kingdom characters

 

 

 

Hong Kong Disney just closed due to 173 new cases.  The city of Hong Kong has a population of 7 million people. Compare that to the Disney location in Orlando, Florida, population about 2 million with the Orlando cases of COVID-19 topping out at over 15,000 as of July 12th.

A second tweet from Hong Kong Disney closing due to 107 local cases of virus

 

 

 

 

 

Photo of Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) by National Institutes of Health (NIH) is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0The health experts such as Dr. Anthony Fauci (left) tell us what we need to do contemporaneously:

  1. Testing, testing, and more testing
  2. Contract tracing (Widespread)
  3. Social distancing
  4. Wearing a mask

In Fairfax county, if you do not have symptoms, you cannot get a COVID-19 test.  Testing and contact tracing together are how clusters of the infected are found so they can be isolated and treated. Pervasive and widespread testing should have started months ago.

Listen to health experts and weigh what they say based on science. Read the resource articles. At this point in time, adequate testing or a national testing strategy in most places is not available. In Fairfax County, anyone who wants a test CANNOT get a test even with potential exposure to someone who tested positive. Testing and immediate reliable feedback on results are mandatory to curtail the virus. At the same time, we must be contact tracing, isolating, and social distancing.

Only through persistent widespread testing and contact tracing will communities be able to isolate virus clusters. Right now, the necessary far-reaching testing is not happening and until it does, opening schools put children and staff at risk of illness, followed by long term recovery and long-term effects or worse, death.

 

Cautious Warning About Children as Vectors for Spread

 

Children sitting clustered reading a book outdoors.Most of the reporting observed has proposed that children do not spread the virus. So, I will leave you with this final thought. Schools have been closed since March. Most of the new information coming out about spread is within the recent month.

Researchers cannot tell us if the spread by children is less likely – they cannot know because for the past 4 months schools have been closed and most children continue to be sheltered.  

What happens when children mix with others such as summer camp? Here’s a test case to ponder.  Two recent outbreaks at summer camps. Kanakuk camp in Missouri had 82 campers and counselors infected and another two YMCA camps in Georgia reported 85 infected. There are numerous other camps that are in operation where children are being infected. This suggests to me that school outbreaks are inevitable.  
Think carefully, use logic, and listen to the health experts before you send your child back to unprepared environments in places where the COVID-19 infection rate is on the rise and not flattened. The infection rate should be BELOW 5% to open schools.

Before you send your child into the school system, ask some pointed questions. We now know that the virus has an aerosol component that can and does infect others.
Ask about ventilation and how the air will or won't be filtered.
Ask how they intend to deal with rooms that have carpet. Carpets are viral and bacterial breeding grounds. 
Ask how the computer equipment and other electronics are being disinfected.
There are many unknowns. Sometimes we have to wait for the things that we might want now. 

 

Consider the Science: COVID-19 Resources

UCSF Magazine (Summer 2020): "We thought it was just a respiratory virus. We were wrong" 

New York Times (June 12, 2020): The Science, the Air, and the Virus

Elemental (May 19, 2020) The Long-Term Health Impacts of Being Infected With the Coronavirus: Experts take clues from other infections and predict what the future might hold for Covid-19 survivors

Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States (June 20, 2020) Identifying airborne transmission as the dominant route for the spread of COVID-19

 

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How Has The Nursing Profession Evolved And Where Is It Headed?

Team of medical personnel in a hospital

Nurses are essential components of a functioning healthcare system and have been for some time. However, it is only within the last couple of centuries that nursing has been recognized as the profession we know today.

The Birth Of Modern Nursing

Healthcare has been an important part of human civilization since its earliest days. However, nursing did not emerge as a proper bonafide profession until around the middle of the 19th century. Most historians agree that Florence Nightingale is the first example of a modern nurse. Prior to her arrival, there had been many people, mostly women, doing work that we would now recognize as nursing, although it was not referred to as such at the time, as male doctors dictated the terms of healthcare.

Florence Nightingale was the first person to recognize the importance of the scientific method for healthcare. Her contributions to nursing during the Crimean war laid the groundwork for the modern field of nursing.

A decade later, with the outbreak of the American Civil War, the nursing profession accelerated as women like Mary Ann Bickerdyke and Captain Sally Tompkins developed many of the techniques that would become standard for nurses going forward. Many of the volunteer nurses during the civil war were female slaves. Freed male slaves would often fight for the union army, while freed female slaves would offer their services as nurses and caregivers.

Because of this, public support for and recognition of the nursing profession spread across the United States. The contribution of women throughout the civil war also helped to cement their role in American society. For the first time, there was a recognized and respected profession that women could pursue. However, nurses were still considered inferior to male doctors.

Training

The study and field of nursing began to coalesce into the profession that we recognize today. With the emergence of nursing as a recognized vocation for many ambitious women, a standardized approach to the training was required. The first programs that we would recognize as training for nurses opened their doors to students in the late 19th century.

By the latter half of the 20th century, these training courses had evolved into more complex and comprehensive training programs, and colleges and universities took over responsibility for training new nurses from hospitals, which had been handling the training process until then.

Work And Responsibilities

Over the years, the responsibilities of a nurse have also changed quite dramatically. There are a number of reasons for this, shifting societal attitudes towards nurses and towards the role of women in nursing, in particular, have played a big part.

Nurses are no longer considered as subordinate to doctors, and there is now a recognition that the two roles are different, although they obviously complement one another. Nurses were originally seen as caregivers, looking after patients while they were stuck in the hospital, but not really providing much in the way of medical care, which was left to doctors.

As Americans began to seek out medical care in greater numbers, more nurses we needed in the second half of the twentieth century to cope with the increased demand. This resulted in the nursing profession expanding significantly and nurses taking on many of the roles and responsibilities that had previously been reserved for doctors.

The Future Of Nursing

We have looked at how nursing has changed over the years. Now let’s take a look at where it is headed in the future.

The nursing profession is in a constant state of flux. There are always new advances being made in the fields of medicine and technology, and these advances can significantly impact what nurses do and how they do it. As time goes on, nurses' training is continuing to expand, meaning that nurses are able to take on new responsibilities. This is a trend that we have witnessed since the earliest days of nursing, and which we expect will continue long into the future.

Nurses today have more options than ever before when it comes to career progression. A registered nurse can set their sights on any specific field or industry within the realm of healthcare that they would like to work in. For example, if you are passionate about working with children, then you could pursue a career as a family nurse practitioner or pediatric nurse.

The nursing profession has changed a lot since Florence Nightingale’s time and will likely be unrecognizable again in another century. Nurses are always going to be in demand, that is never going to change. But the nature of nursing reflects our current understanding of both medicine and technology.

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