Posts tagged with Health

5 Questions: Peaceful Rest

More than 40 million Americans suffer from chronic, long-term sleep disorders each year, and an additional 20 million experience occasional sleeping problems. To get the lowdown on sleep disorders and sleeping problems, we turned to the Sleep Disorder Program at St. Luke’s South in Overland Park and its medical director, Dr. Ann Romaker.

Q: What kinds of sleep disorders are there?

A: There are more than 150 recognized types of sleep disorders today. These range from teeth grinding to snoring to sleepwalking.

Q: I seem to be tired all the time. Should I just chalk it up to insomnia?

A: While insomnia can occur due to stress, anxiety or depression, being tired all the time is not normal and could be a sign of a sleep disorder.

Q: What effects can lack of sleep or interrupted sleep cause?

A: According to the American Sleep Association, concentration, memory, physical performance, social interactions, mood stability and even appearance can be impacted by the amount and quality of sleep a person gets each night.

Q: Aren’t sleep disorders overblown?

A: Undiagnosed sleep disorders can worsen and/or partially trigger conditions such as diabetes, stroke, cancer, heart failure, emphysema, depression and arthritis.

Q: Can sleep disorders be life-threatening?

A: Sleep apnea can cut life expectancy in half for middle-aged individuals as well as older adults. It increases the risk of stroke, heart attack, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, congestive heart failure and rhythm problems.

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Experts warn of carbon monoxide leaks

When Robert Coffman began checking homes for energy efficiency, he discovered some had far more to worry about than drafty windows.

In the past few years, Coffman, owner of Airtight Energy Audits, has visited between 25 to 30 homes that have had high levels of carbon monoxide, a colorless and odorless gas produced by incomplete burning of fuels.

“I was completely caught off guard. I didn’t realize there would be that many people with numbers like 1,600 to 2,000 part millions, which can be deadly very quickly,” Coffman said.

As the days turn colder and furnaces are turned up higher, making sure that fuel-burning appliances aren’t spewing carbon monoxide is important, said Curt Floerchinger, with Black Hills Energy.

“If you got a carbon monoxide problem to start with at a lower levels, there is always a real potential for it to increase to a dangerous level,” Floerchinger said.

Each year, carbon monoxide poisoning kills more than 500 people and sends another 15,000 to the hospital. Because the gas can’t be seen, tasted or smelled, it is nearly undetectable.

Physical signs of carbon monoxide are flu-like symptoms such as headaches, nausea, dizziness, light-headedness or shortness of breath. Another sign of carbon monoxide is moisture or frost on the inside of windows.

Floerchinger recommends homeowners install carbon monoxide detectors. The detectors should be put on the lowest level of the home because the gas sinks. Also, they should be near sleeping areas.

Just like smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors need to be regularly maintained with batteries replaced annually and the alarm tested monthly. Some models are combined with smoke detectors. Floerchinger recommends purchasing higher-end detectors, which he said have a longer life.

Carbon monoxide can escape into the home when a furnace’s heat exchanger cracks or when the flu pipe isn’t properly vented to the outside. Floerchinger recommends having the furnace checked each year, which will help catch maintenance problems before they become expensive to fix and test for carbon monoxide.

In the case of the homes Coffman found with high levels of carbon monoxide, the fact that the home was so drafty was a saving grace. But, since the goal was to close those air leaks, Coffman said the amount of carbon monoxide being pushed into the air would have been much more dangerous once energy efficiency measures were taken.

Coffman wasn’t the only one who found homes with high carbon monoxide levels. Another local energy auditor, Kirk Devine said he came across quite a few homes in Kansas City’s older and lower-income neighborhoods that had high levels.

“It got so we did the testing at the end of the audit so we could complete it,” Devine said. “It was a regular occurrence and happened pretty frequently, and there were some bad ones”

By Christine Metz

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Advocates urge slowdown on part of Brownback’s Medicaid overhaul

Health care advocates on Thursday criticized a plan by Gov. Sam Brownback to turn over management of services for those with disabilities to for-profit companies.

"We really need to have this process slow down," said Sharon Spratt, chief executive officer of Cottonwood Inc.

Brownback and Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer are moving to overhaul Medicaid, which is the state and federally funded health program for those with disabilities, the elderly and low-income residents.

Medicaid covers approximately 350,000 Kansans at a cost of nearly $2.8 billion.

Brownback wants to contract with private managed care companies to handle the program, calling it KanCare. Companies are scheduled to submit their bid proposals by the end of the month.

The Brownback administration has promised that KanCare “will improve coordination of care and services to achieve better outcomes and long-term savings without reducing benefits or eligibility, while safeguarding reimbursements for providers.”

But unlike most other states that have adopted the managed care model, Brownback also wants to add services for those with developmental disabilities.

That has raised alarms in organizations such as Cottonwood that provide services to people with developmental disabilities.

Spratt and other service providers spoke with members of the Douglas County legislative delegation. The meeting was being held in preparation for 2012 legislative session which starts Monday.

Spratt said there is no model in the nation where managed care companies have succeeded in meeting the long-term needs of people with severe disabilities.

"These individuals are not `sick,' but have life-long disabilities, and with adequate supports can enjoy a full and meaningful life," she said.

State Rep. Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence, and other legislators, said they have heard numerous questions about the Medicaid proposal and planned to seek answers at hearings during the session.

"Everybody is concerned," Ballard said.

Representatives of other area organizations said they hoped that with state revenues running approximately $300 million more than projected, legislators would help restore funding for services that have been damaged by budget cuts over the past couple of years.

Stacey Hunter Schwartz, executive director of Independence Inc., said there are 3,369 persons with physical disabilities on a waiting list to receive assistance that would keep them in their homes and avoid having to be place them into more expensive nursing home care.

"In the name of saving money, we are actually spending more," she said.

By Scott Rothschild

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Breast cancer patient's dying wish to upgrade Lawrence oncology center coming true

Jamie Pursley’s wish is coming true.

Three weeks before she died of breast cancer on March 29, the 35-year-old Lawrence resident looked her closest friends in the eyes and told them that she wanted to renovate the infusion rooms at Lawrence Memorial Hospital's Oncology Center where she had spent countless hours receiving treatment.

She wanted all 15 rooms to have a peaceful, spa-like feel with comfortable chairs and other amenities, especially for the guests.

“She was just always thinking of other people and her big thing was to really get new guest side seats for the friends and family who would come to visit, which was unbelievable that she was thinking of others while she was facing the last few weeks of life,” said Aimee Jackson, one of Jamie’s close friends and a sorority sister at Kansas State University.

On Aug. 14, Jackson and Kelli Alldredge, another one of Jamie’s friends, launched a fundraiser and Jamie’s Wish Foundation. Their goal was to raise the $100,000 needed to make Jamie’s wish come true. They figured it would take about a year, especially in a difficult economy.

But not Lawrence businessman Miles Schnaer, who gave Jamie’s Wish Foundation its first donation and helped in any way he could. He said they had a specific goal and they were passionate about reaching it.

“These girls just engulfed everybody that they came in contact with to be able to do something,” he said. “It was $5 here and a couple of bucks stuffed in a can at a game there.”

They did some major fundraising at the Kansas State University and Kansas University football game Oct. 22 because Jamie, who was originally from Topeka, was a diehard K-State fan who had fallen in love with the Lawrence community. She, her husband Aaron, and their young daughter Kayden, moved to Lawrence in February 2010 from Kentucky to be closer to home. Jamie had been battling cancer for about four years and it had metastasized to her bones.

“She never complained and I felt like she really never had a bad day,” Jackson said. “I think she internalized it, but never said ‘Why me?’ and dealt with the cards that she was given.”

Once KU and K-State fans heard about the cause, they put their rivalry aside and came out in full support. Former KU wide receiver Harrison Hill and former K-State quarterback Jonathan Beasley became heavily involved in the project. Then, a national sports TV station aired Jamie’s story and people took to the cause like wildfire.

Jackson said they received small and big donations and even letters from people across the country and around the world, including Italy, Russia and London.

“It’s just been an overwhelming response of amazing people,” she said.

So far, they’ve raised $116,000 and exceeded their expectations. The extra money is going to allow them to be able to upgrade countertops and flooring which wasn’t in the original plan. If they raise more, they would like to get iPads or iPods and docking stations for every room so patients and families have something to help bide their time. Currently, there is one laptop computer for the entire center.

The LMH Oncology Center serves about 600 new patients each year and administers about 18,000 treatments. Those treatments can be up to eight hours long.

Dr. Sherri Soule, who was Jamie’s oncologist, said she was a joy to be around and there often was laughter coming from her room. Thanks to Jamie, she said, her patients and their guests are going to have some of the best infusion rooms in the country.

“It has just been wonderful and really touching,” she said.

On Friday, Alldredge, Jackson, Schnaer and a couple of other friends visited LMH’s oncology center to try out two infusion chairs they are thinking of ordering. The chairs are in the waiting room where staff, visitors and patients can try them out as well and vote on their favorite.

Their hope is to have the renovation work done and a ribbon-cutting ceremony near the first anniversary of their friend’s death.

“I think she would just be so thrilled and so happy, and I just love that she was the catalyst for this idea,” Jackson said.

HOW TO HELP

Jamie Pursley’s dying wish was to renovate all 15 infusion rooms at Lawrence Memorial Hospital’s Oncology Center, where she received treatments. Her close friends created Jamie’s Wish Foundation to make her wish a reality.

They reached their goal of raising $100,000 in November, but now are using extra donations to do even more with the rooms, like upgrade flooring and countertops. They would like to raise enough money for each room to have an iPad or iPod and a docking station. Currently, there is one laptop computer for the entire center.

If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation to the Jamie’s Wish Foundation:

• Visit the LMH Endowment Association’s website at lmhendowment.org/donate/jamies-wish.

• Make a check payable to: Jamie’s Wish — LMHEA, in care of Kathy Clausing-Willis, 325 Maine St., Lawrence, KS 66044.

To learn more about Jamie’s story visit jamieswish.org.

By Karrey Britt

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No frills resolutions: Improving the quality of your life in 2012

It’s easy to stare down a new year coming with designs on making everything different over the course of the next turn of 365 days.

But actually doing it? That’s another matter entirely.

If you told yourself things would be different on New Year’s Eve, how are you doing two days in? Are things going well/poor/middling? Are you winging it or do you have a plan?

We talked with a local experts about a few common resolutions and how to actually achieve them. These aren’t grand resolutions we’re talking about here — Lose 200 pounds! Win an Oscar! Become a millionaire! — just ones that have the possibility of improving your quality of life in 2012.

How to get more quality sleep

It seems so simple, but getting quality sleep can be elusive to many.

Dr. Lida Osbern, a specialist in pulmonary and sleep medicine at Reed Medical Group, 404 Maine, says that if you want to improve the quality of your sleep, first you need to know what you’re looking for.

“Even as adults, people need seven to eight hours of sleep per night. There was one study that said college students need 8.6 hours of sleep per night — I don’t know how they came up with that number, but most college students, I’m sure, would say, ‘Yeah, right,’” Osbern says, laughing.

“It’s not really possible to pay back sleep deficits by sleeping in on weekends, for example. So, it’s important, as much as one can, to get eight hours of sleep each night, if possible.”

To make sure you’re getting the sleep you need, first you need to take care that your pre-sleep routine is beneficial to your sleep habits. Some of Osbern’s suggestions:

  • Consider only taking caffeine in the morning.

  • Don’t look at your computer, iPad or smartphone shortly before sleep — that sort of stimulation to the brain can interfere with your natural rhythms.

  • Do exercise, but don’t exercise close to bedtime if you have noticed restless sleep afterward.

Osbern says a personal trick to keep her mind from keeping her up at night is to keep a pen and paper on her nightstand. If anything comes to her, she can write it down and rid her thoughts of it so that it won’t keep her awake.

That said, Osbern notes that if your sleep problems are more a matter not feeling rested, no matter how much sleep you get, you should take a closer look.

Moreover, if you snore or wake up consistently at 3 or 4 in the morning, she says, seek a referral for a sleep study — these could be signs of serious health problems.

“If you have snoring and daytime somnolence — sleepiness — then you need to have a sleep study, or polysomnography study, to determine whether or not you have sleep apnea. Because leaving sleep apnea untreated can lead to serious medical problems, such as heart attack, stroke, congestive heart failure, impotence, and recent articles suggest that it may knock 20 years off your life if you have untreated sleep apnea,” Osbern says. “And almost 100 percent of people who snore badly have some degree of sleep apnea.”

How to clean up your finances

We all know this economy has meant a lot of tough financial decisions and a lot of life adjustment. But your finances still may not be where you want them. That’s totally understandable, and fixable, says Rich Lorenzo, vice president of Great Plains Financial Group, 3310 Mesa Way.

His first suggestion? If you haven’t done it already, get out of debt.

“Debt, in a lot of ways, just makes you a slave,” he says. “There’s a lot of different methods of how to do it, but I would just work on paying the smallest one off with the highest interest rate and then, just little by little, going toward the biggest ones. Just get out of debt — that’s so huge.”

Debt or no debt, you should also make sure to create a budget. Even something very simple will help you immensely when looking at your financial picture. Lorenzo says your budget should give you a good idea of your basic living expenses so that you can figure out places to cut out fat, so that you can put that money toward debt or savings.

As for savings, Lorenzo recommends working toward three to six months’ worth of living expenses saved up for emergencies like a job layoff or medical bills. Consider setting up a Roth IRA to maximize your savings with great tax benefits. Once you have basic savings, look to further protect yourself from the cost of inflation by investing in some hard assets — things like gold and silver.

“You never know when your company is going to reduce your hours, you never know when you’re going to get laid off, or things just start costing more due to inflation,” Lorenzo says. “You’ve just got to prepare for the unexpected.”

How to find time to volunteer

Lori Johns, director of the Roger Hill Volunteer Center, 2518 Ridge Court, has a few suggestions for those of you who are hoping to help out others with volunteer work. If you don’t think you have time or aren’t sure how to add more to your schedule, Johns says, think outside the box. There are plenty of opportunities, both ongoing and single-time.

“Volunteer in areas you’re already involved with your family, like school, sports teams, scouts,” says Johns, who says more than 80 volunteer opportunities are available at volunteerdouglascounty.org. “Or try something new — sort clothes/donations at the Social Service League (thrift store, 905 R.I.), adopt a park, prepare and serve lunch at LINK (221 W. 10th St.), make regular visits to a nursing home, consider a ‘family match’ through Big Brothers Big Sisters.”

If it’s not a matter of what to do, but when to do it, wedge in time over your lunch break, or carve out just one weekend day a month — both are enough to make a difference.

How to “green” up your life

City waste reduction and recycling specialist Cassandra Ford says if you’re hoping to cut your energy bill and up your eco-friendly status quotient, your best bet is to just start with one thing. What that thing is? It’s up to you, Ford says.

“We always tell people to pick one thing that they think will make the biggest impact for them,” says Ford, who works out of the City of Lawrence’s Waste Reduction and Recycling Division, 320 NE Industrial Lane. “Change your habit, and it can make a big change to their life, as well as the environment and their community. And we’ve also found that changing one thing, when you realize how big of an impact that one thing can make, really leads to changing other things in their lives. One thing really can lead into being greener overall.”

Some singular things you can do? Change all your regular light bulbs to compact fluorescent ones, or make a pledge to recycle any plastic bottles or aluminum cans in your home.

Want to up the ante? Ford says there are a lot of things you can do to “green up” your life, just by changing a habit or two here or there. Some examples include recycling hazardous wastes like paint and batteries, composting your food (“That’s a form of recycling,” Ford says) or buying items in bulk — there’s a reason “reduce” and “reuse” go right along with “recycle.”

“We also encourage people to reduce the amount of waste at the beginning because recycling is great, but you’re still buying things and you’re still using them, so you still need to recycle something at the end,” says Ford, who added that upcycling items — creating something new out of used items — or simply not buying at all can make a big change. “But maybe reducing your waste in the beginning, it takes out all those additional steps."

By Sarah Henning--

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Dermatologist offers tips on how to prevent, treat dry skin

Along with winter comes dry, itchy skin that can crack and become painful.

Dr. Lee Bittenbender, a dermatologist and owner of the Dermatology Center of Lawrence, said it’s a common problem and there are several factors that contribute to the dryness: cold weather and low humidity, overuse of soap, and genetics.

“Some people tend to have a drier, more sensitive skin and that’s the way they are made. It’s partially genetics and we can’t change that,” he said.

But there are many things we can do. Among Bittenbender’s suggestions:

• Don’t take long, hot showers or baths. “The hotter the water, the longer you are in it and the more soap you use — the drier you are going to tend to be,” he said.

• Don’t soap up all over the body. He tells his patients to use any brand of soap that they like, but to just use it on the stinky parts like the underarms and groin area.

• Use oil before drying off. He said before you grab a towel, put any kind of oil — bath, baby or mineral — on your wet skin and then pat dry with the towel. He said oil works better than lotion. Also, when people use oil in their bath water, most of it goes down the drain and only a little stays on their skin and some sticks to the side of the tub which can be dangerous because it makes it slippery.

• Two-glove technique. When washing dishes, preparing food or cleaning bathrooms, he recommends wearing two gloves. First, put on thin cotton Dermal gloves. They are available at most pharmacies and cost less than $5. Then, put a rubber glove on over the Dermal glove. “The goal would be to have a clean, dry surface next to your hands. If you only use rubber gloves, in time the lining gets dirty, your hands perspire, you splash a little water in there and then the next thing you know: You’ve got a wet, dirty lining next to the skin you’re trying to protect,” he said.

• Wear gloves and other protective clothing outdoors. They help protect your skin from the wind, cold and wetness.

• Hand washing. Unless you are a nurse, he said, you probably don’t need to wash your hands more than 30 times a day. “Sometimes, I think people get kind of compulsive about washing their hands and may overdue it,” he said.

When it comes to hand washing, he said it’s important to get them completely dry and then immediately put a squirt of moisturizer on them. “The skin will absorb some moisture when you wash and then if you can put on a moisturizer, it helps to seal it in,” Bittenbender said.

He said it doesn’t matter if there’s lotion in the soap or not because the soap is being used to get rid of dirt and then it goes down the drain.

• Lotions. Bittenbender said there are a lot of products on the market and all of them work just as well as the other. Theoretically, he said the ones that contain ammonium lactate are better. A couple that he recommends are Lac-Hydrin and AmLactin. “It’s really a matter of personal preference,” he said.

• Antibacterial gels. The popular gels are good at getting rid of bacteria, but they have a very high percentage of alcohol in them, so they tend to dry skin.

• Medications. If skin gets really dry, red and cracked, he said you can try an over-the-counter 1 percent hydrocortisone cream, but it probably won’t be strong enough. He said most likely you will need a prescription cortisone cream. He said these creams are healing ointments that have the same texture as vaseline.

• Painful cracks. If someone’s skin has a crack, he said you can use super glue on them, but you have to be careful and have someone help you. “Ideally, you pinch the fissure together and then put super glue on there to try to hold it,” he said. “Now, if you get sloppy, you could end up gluing your finger together. So, you want to be really careful in doing that. But, sometimes that is helpful.”

By Karrey Britt

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KU cancer center designation may happen in 2012

The year 2012 will be a pivotal one for the Kansas University Cancer Center. After a site visit from an NCI team in February, KU will await word on whether it has achieved its top research priority of attaining designation as a cancer center from the National Cancer Institute.

The effort has been ongoing since 2005, but 2012 marks a turning point. After the site visit, the KU Cancer Center expects to hear back on whether it has received designation in the summer.

Designation, of course, is no guarantee.

KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said she has to keep reminding herself that most universities don’t achieve designation on the first try.

“In my heart of hearts, I think we’re going to get it,” Gray-Little said.

The results so far have been good. And in many cases, KU leaders say, the community is already beginning to see the benefits of a lot of hard work.

During the site visit, each section of the 600-page application will get a small group of reviewers associated with it.

“It’s a very scripted process where our programs have 10 minutes to present and they’ll be asked 10 minutes of questions,” said Roy Jensen, KU Cancer Center director.

They’ll also visit other areas of the cancer center until near the end of the day, when the room will clear out except for the site visit team and Jensen himself.

“That’s when I start earning my pay,” he said.

Group members will ask Jensen other questions or clarifications, and will then retreat to their hotel. Each grant section will be graded, and the entire grant as a whole will be graded. Those recommendations will be forwarded back to Washington, D.C., where a separate NCI review team, responsible for reviewing all cancer center grants in the country, will look at it, and decide whether it should be funded.

The waiting game begins after the site visit, and budget wrangling in Washington can make the timing of the decision a little more unpredictable. If KU doesn’t get designation, it will immediately begin the process of reapplying. University officials would receive a document from the NCI detailing areas where they need to improve.

“That document would become a blueprint of how we should address certain deficiencies and making sure that we comply with their guidelines,” Jensen said.

If KU does achieve designation, the cancer center plans to keep working. The grant must be renewed every three to five years.

KU also hopes to work toward the next level of designation as a comprehensive cancer center, which involves a more restrictive set of benchmarks for the center to meet.

Also in 2012, the KU Cancer Center will see the opening of its new clinical research building in Fairway. Ray Perez is the director of that facility, and is a recent KU hire from Dartmouth. The clinical research building is set to open at the end of January, and will vastly expand KU’s ability to perform Phase I clinical trials for new treatments.

Perez said he came to KU to help start an effort that was already going strong at his old school. He also saw the level of support — from the university, the state, the philanthropic community and the voters of Johnson County, who passed a sales tax to help fund the clinical trials building in Fairway.

“I don’t have a single colleague who isn’t really jealous of what we’ve got here at KU,” he said.

He said the voters who provided the sales tax gave the cancer center an extra boost.

“I think that what they’re really enabling us to do is very quickly jump in to the early-trial game,” he said.

Whether the application for designation is approved, Perez said, great strides have already been made.

“The indisputable fact here is that cancer treatment in Kansas City has already been improved by what we’ve put in place,” he said.

Andy Hyland

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Kansas health department reports first cases of flu, urges vaccination

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported Friday that it has identified the first cases of flu this season.

The cases were two adults from northwest Kansas who are in the same workplace and who did not receive a vaccination. Five co-workers also were ill with symptoms of the flu.

KDHE Secretary and state health officer Robert Moser urges everyone to get a flu vaccination, noting that it’s not too late.

“Although flu activity is now low, it normally rises during the holidays before peaking around February,” he said. “Influenza can continue to circulate through spring, and the flu can be unpredictable.”

Anyone 6 months and older is recommended to receive an annual flu vaccination. Additional ways to avoid spreading influenza include covering coughs and sneezes, washing your hands and staying home when sick.

Flu symptoms include fever, headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough and muscle aches. Complications can include pneumonia, ear and sinus infections and dehydration; influenza may also worsen other chronic conditions.

Older people, pregnant women, young children, and people with certain health conditions are at high risk for serious complications from the flu.

Influenza was documented as a cause of death for 31 Kansans in the 2009-2010 flu season and for 14 last year. However, flu is often not listed on death certificates because laboratory tests may not show flu by the time pneumonia or other complications develop, state epidemiologist Charles Hunt said.

“The actual numbers of influenza-related deaths are likely much higher and can vary substantially from year to year,” Hunt said.

For more information, visit www.kdheks.gov/flu.

By Karrey Britt

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Shawnee insurance agent to ‘give the gift of a birthday’ with kidney donation

Joseph Vohs, an insurance agent with Farmers Insurance in Shawnee, will donate a kidney anonymously in Chicago at the end of the month. Vohs said he hopes the procedure can become more commonplace in the Kansas City area.

Joseph Vohs, an insurance agent with Farmers Insurance in Shawnee, will donate a kidney anonymously in Chicago at the end of the month. Vohs said he hopes the procedure can become more commonplace in the Kansas City area. by Stephen Montemayor

Before long, a Shawnee insurance agent will be on a flight to Chicago with his wife. It will be just after Christmas and just before New Year’s Eve.

When he gets there, he’ll be giving up a kidney to someone he doesn’t know and may never meet.

Joseph Vohs lives in Linwood and has worked at Farmers Insurance in Shawnee, 21640 Midland Dr., for more than five years. His wife, Katy Vohs, spent 10 years as a dialysis nurse and during that time, Joseph got to know many of her patients either personally or through the stories she shared at home.

“Her passion for her patients inspired me,” Vohs said.

And with that, he vowed to one day donate a kidney anonymously. He wanted to help because he and his wife knew too well the two ways patients get off dialysis: transplant or death.

Those on dialysis would visit his wife three days a week for four hours each stop. It was survival, not living, Vohs said.

After a few years of searching, Vohs came upon the National Kidney Registry on television. He learned that his name would be thrown into a pool and that he’d be notified when a match was found. When the call came, Vohs found out he’d become a link in a chain that ensured three people would receive a kidney.

Vohs has to fly to Chicago because that’s where one of the nearest medical centers affiliated with the registry is located. It’s one of the primary reasons he finally decided to share his story. He didn’t want a vanity piece written about him, but rather to shed light on how far he has to travel to give this gift he wants to give.

“Most people assumed initially that I’d be doing this here,” he said.

Instead, Vohs had to rely on all the pieces falling into place. His wife was able to take off work, his co-workers pitched in to fill in while he was out and he has no children — which otherwise would have been a huge cost consideration.

It’s been a long time coming, and in the week preceding his procedure, Vohs started feeling anxious to get it all going. Still, he said, he’s not quite nervous and has never been worried. It’s been an easy decision.

“I get to give the gift of a birthday to someone,” he said.

Vohs said he expects Christmas not to be emotional. No that’s not the right word, he said, but close. He still thinks the holiday will take on a different feel despite the usual trimmings of turkey, ham and presents.

Vohs said he found further inspiration through his efforts with the Shawnee Rotary Club in recent years. He’s helped with its bike rodeo, its efforts cleaning up tornado damage in Reading and the Johnson County Christmas Bureau to name a few.

“Their mission is service,” he said. “I can’t think of a better way to serve than to give up a part of yourself.”

Dec. 29 will mark the culmination of a years-long process —after gallons of blood, days of tests and CT scans and psych evaluations.

“I’m not crazy,” Vohs said, “despite what some may say.”

He said that every day we come across opportunities to do good, be them minute or epic. It comes down to recognizing them and having the courage to act and make the difference.

Vohs wants to be an advocate for the procedure. And now, he said, having been there, the job will become that much easier.

“For me it would be great if this wasn’t a story because it happened so much,” he said.

By Stephen Montemayor

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Health department changing hours at walk-in clinics

The Johnson County Health Department will have new walk-in clinic hours beginning Jan. 3 at both its Mission and Olathe locations.

The changes are hoped to improve access to preventive health services for working individuals and families, according to the county’s announcement.

To see complete hours for all walk-in services — including immunizations, family planning, STD testing and treatment — at both the Olathe and Mission locations, visit health.jocogov.org. Look under ‘Latest News and Updates.’

Late hours on the first Monday of the month for immunizations will no longer be offered in Olathe. Immunization clients 18 and younger with private health insurance are required to provide documentation of immunization coverage.

The Mission clinic is at 6000 Lamar Ave., Suite 140. The Olathe clinic is at 11875 S. Sunset Drive, Suite 300. For more information, call (913) 826-1200.

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