Dr. Smotherman’s story of hope

Dr. Robert Smotherman

In August 2017, Dr. Robert Smotherman and his wife Janice were eating breakfast when Dr. Smotherman realized something was wrong.

He was starving, but he wasn’t able to swallow the food. Each bite was getting stuck in his throat.

Worried, Dr. Smotherman, a retired Bardstown City Schools Superintendent, made an appointment with his friend Dr. Mickey Anderson, a surgeon at Flaget Memorial Hospital. That appointment included a scope that revealed a tumor in Dr. Smotherman’s esophagus.

That day was the start of more than a year of cancer treatment and surgery. Dr. and Mrs. Smotherman and their four kids met with Dr. Kristie Paris and Dr. Monte Martin at the CHI Saint Joseph Health – Cancer Care Center at Flaget Memorial Hospital, and they walked away confident in his treatment plan.

“They were all so supportive,” Mrs. Smotherman remembers.

Dr. Smotherman received five chemotherapy treatments and 25 radiation treatments. That was capped off with a nine-hour surgery in February 2018 to remove what remained of the tumor.

Dr. Smotherman is now cancer-free and is recovering from a whirlwind year and a half. He said he can’t say enough about the care he received at Flaget Memorial Hospital. Dr. Paris would bring him protein packs and other foods to help him stay nourished. The nurses would encourage him, and celebrated with big cheers and gifts when he finished his treatment.

“I have no regrets about choosing Flaget,” Dr. Smotherman said. “They were great.”

Eight simple tricks to mindful eating

Eating is such a significant part of our daily lives, yet it’s so easy to get disconnected from it. One moment our plates are full, and the next moment, they’re empty and we’ve hardly tasted or enjoyed one bite.

Practicing mindful eating can bring us awareness of our own actions, thoughts, feelings and motivations, plus insight into the roots of health and contentment. So what is mindful eating and how can we achieve it?

Below we explore what it means to eat more mindfully and steps you can take to help focus on your food.

What is Mindful Eating?

Mindful eating is having awareness of physical and psychological sensations associated with eating, which includes:

  • Allowing yourself to become aware of the positive and nurturing opportunities available through food preparation and eating by respecting your own inner wisdom.
  • Choosing to eat food that is both pleasing to you and nourishing to your body by using all your senses to explore, savor and taste.
  • Learning to be aware of physical hunger and fullness cues to guide your decisions to begin eating and to stop eating.
  • Acknowledging responses to food without judgment – Someone who eats mindfully acknowledges that there is no right or wrong way to eat, but varying degrees of awareness surrounding the experience of food.

Tips to Eat More Mindfully

  1. Chew 25 times: There is reliable scientific data that extra chewing results in less overall food intake.
  2. Feed yourself with your non-dominant hand: Making things more difficult is a great way to force yourself to pay attention to what you’re doing. Start slow by just doing it for breakfast and snacks.
  3. Put your fork down between each bite: This is an excellent complement to the chewing habit. Setting your fork down forces you to focus on chewing your food rather than letting yourself mindlessly pick at your plate for your next bite.
  4. Tune in: Take your first bite with your eyes closed and tune into the sound of the bite and swallowing. This will help you to slow down as you consume your meals.
  5. Try to identify every ingredient in your meal: This is a great way to focus on the present moment.
  6. Put your food on a plate: This may sound obvious, but eating out of a bag is not practicing mindful eating. Get in the habit of placing small snacks on a plate before you eat them. This forces you to acknowledge exactly what and how much you will be eating.
  7. Sit at a table: This formalizes a dining experience, helping you draw attention to your food and eating habits.
  8. Eat in silence: Put away your phone and turn off the TV. Eat distraction free so that you can focus on the taste and smells of your meal.

By CHI Saint Joseph Health Weight Loss & Surgery Associates

Low back pain: A physical therapist’s perspective

When patients who are suffering from low back pain come to physical therapy for the first time, the two most frequently asked questions are, “Why was I referred to physical therapy when my MRI shows joint or disc abnormalities?” and “Don’t I need an MRI so you know what is going on?”

Both questions are very reasonable. After an MRI reveals a disc bulge or protrusion, many patients feel that a referral to a physical therapist is the equivalent of having your mechanic tell you to continue to drive your car and see if your flat tire improves. Frankly, both scenarios can feel ridiculous.

Thankfully, the human body is not like a car. Multiple studies in the last few years have shown that the farther a disc extrudes or protrudes, the more likely your body is to reabsorb the disc with time.(1,2) In other words, disc healing is a very real and normal occurrence.

MRI and X-ray Abnormalities

As we age, we can develop abnormalities that can be seen on MRI and X-ray. For example, in studies of patients without low back or neck complaints, about 30 percent of patients in their 20’s have disc bulging and degeneration.

The percent of abnormalities increases with age and by the time an individual is in his or her 80’s the prevalence of these abnormalities is greater than 80 percent.(3) Remember, these abnormalities are in patients without pain.

While there are times when surgery is needed to address low back pain, outcomes are significantly improved when abnormalities in imaging correspond with the expected complaints of the patient and positive clinical findings.

Low Back Pain Treatment

When developing a treatment plan for low back pain, it is important to realize that a one-size-fits-all approach is not appropriate. In other words, some movements and treatments that help one patient may not be effective for treating your low back pain.

Research has shown that subgrouping patients based on their history and clinical findings improves outcomes.(4) We do this first by getting a good history of the patient’s symptoms, screening for potential red flags, assessing neurologic involvement (how is his or her sensation and strength), and then determining movement or directional preference.

Movement preference is part of a spine examination where you complete range-of-motion exercises in particular planes of movement to determine how these motions affect your pain sensitivity or symptom location. Once movement preference has been determined, evidence-based therapeutic exercise and manual therapy are used to reduce pain sensitivity and restore previous mobility.

After the first visit to physical therapy, you should have a better understanding of what movements or postures are affecting your pain and what you can do immediately to improve symptoms. In each subsequent visit, response to treatment is reassessed and joint mobilizations, manipulation, soft tissue mobilization, and other various manual techniques along with progressive therapeutic exercises are utilized to further decrease pain sensitivity and movement limitation.

While the time it takes for symptoms to resolve varies, most patients should be able to see a benefit in their pain with physical therapy after the first few visits.


By Nelson Caudill

Nelson Caudill is a physical therapist with CHI Saint Joseph Health.

  1. Zhong M, Liu JT, Jiang H, et al. Incidence of Spontaneous Resorption of Lumbar Disc Herniation: A Meta-Analysis. Pain Physician. 2017;20(1):E45-E52.
  2. Chiu CC, Chuang TY, Chang KH, Wu CH, Lin PW, Hsu WY. The probability of spontaneous regression of lumbar herniated disc: a systematic review. Clin Rehabil. 2015;29(2):184-95.
  3. Brinjikji W, Luetmer PH, Comstock B, et al. Systematic literature review of imaging features of spinal degeneration in asymptomatic populations. AJNR Am J Neuroradiol 2015;36:811–6
  4. Fritz JM, Cleland JA, Childs JD. Subgrouping patients with low back pain: evolution of a classification approach to physical therapy. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2007;37(6):290-302.

Guided by our values

It’s been nearly 38 years since Cleveland Smith, supervisor, respiratory care, walked into Saint Joseph Hospital as a floor tech in respiratory.

That wasn’t the original path he had chosen in high school. Originally, he had an interest in radiology, but the program at Madisonville Vocational-Technical School was full. he saw the respiratory path as a way to migrate, eventually, into radiology when an opening occurred.

That was 1977. Now, Smith says he would like to encourage young people to go into the field he’s worked in for more than 40 years. As supervisor, respiratory care, Smith is part of a team that provides patient care at the bedside, working closely with nurses and physicians.

“That allows a lot of growth and opportunity to serve and help patients and their families,” Smith said.

He’s been able to grow in his vocation and credits the emphasis of his department structure and CHI Saint Joseph Health on continuing education. When Smith began with Saint Joseph Hospital in 1981, many of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth were still on-site regularly “walking the floors every day.” He appreciates the “values that they kept before the staff and those values we still operate under today.”

Smith said the RICE principles – Reverence, Integrity, Compassion and Excellence – guide his work and inspire the servce he provides, not only as a support art for his manager, but also for staff.

“I do consider it a calling or ministry because I’m helping people, and I believe you really cannot help people if that’s not where your heart is,” he said.

This article originally appeared in the Winter 2019 edition of Spirit of Health magazine. For more health and wellness articles like this one, learn more about Spirit of Health and how to subscribe. T

Working your body for a better you

Eat less. Move more. You might have heard this or seen this written at your doctor’s office. It does sound like a simple prescription for wellness, right? But we all know it’s easier said than done.

Busy lifestyles keep us from stopping at the gym, playing sports or even walking around the neighborhood. But research is telling us fitness activities are more important than ever for physical, mental and even emotional wellness. Making them a priority is possible with a little planning and thought.

Regular physical activity increases your chances of living a longer, healthier life. For children and adolescents, it improves muscular fitness, bone health and heart health. For adults it can help with sleep, lower the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer. Being active also helps with emotional and mental health, by helping to manage depression and anxiety.

Here are some ways you can make “moving more” a fun part of your life.

For families:

  • Consider making a charity 5K walk part of your family’s next holiday or summer plans before heading for the cookout or family meal. Everyone can participate at their own pace without pressure and get some steps in while having fun.
  • While your child plays soccer or basketball, don’t pick up that cell phone and scroll Facebook. Use that time for a mini-workout by walking the perimeter of the field or court during practices or games.
  • Explore the outdoors by visiting a state park or hiking area. Most offer trails of varying lengths and family-friendly options. To make it more fun for kids, let them participate in picking the location or trail.
  • Make it a new habit to go for a group bike ride or dog-walking after dinner.

Just for you:

  • Finding an exercise buddy increases your chances of showing up for regular exercise, whether it’s at the gym or walking in the park or your own neighborhood. Having someone to chat with while you walk or work out makes it a social outing as well.
  • You’re not too old to play sports. Dust off your racket and join a tennis league or sign up for a volleyball team. You don’t have to be good; just have fun moving your body.
  • Instead of meeting a friend for dinner or drinks, meet at the park for a catchup session. Dinner can wait for a bit.
  • Replace a coffee or lunch break with an outdoor walk or walk a few flights of stairs to get your heart pumping.
  • Swim at your local recreation center. Instead of just sunbathing or watching the kids play, walk the length of the pool in the shallow end back and forth a few times for a light resistance workout.

Ways to be active are only limited by your imagination. Health benefits abound for people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities, but be sure to consult your doctor if you haven’t been active in a while. Start slowly and build up.

A common mistake some people make is to take an all-or-none approach and fail by putting too much pressure on themselves. Don’t try to work out five days a week if you are just starting or getting back into physical activity; you’ll burn out or get injured. Remember, even a little activity is better than none.

With just little changes in your lifestyle and attitude, you can reap big health benefits from being active. If you think about it, you have nothing to lose, and everything to gain.

Looking for a great family-friendly event that gets you moving and also helps you give back to your local community? Sign up for the Yes, Mamm! 5K. Learn more about the race and then register today!

A few goals to help keep your weight loss on track

Are you considering or have you undergone weight loss surgery? If so, then it’s likely you’ve thought about personal milestones or goals you would like to achieve on your journey to living a healthier you.

During our bariatric support groups, we often talk about realistic goals and tips as we cheer each other on during this life changing experience. Below are a few goals that will have you thinking beyond the number on the scale and directly impact your health!

Eat Enough Protein

When it comes to your diet, Rule #1 is “eating enough protein.” Eating a diet rich in protein can help reduce hunger, improve your immune system and build strength. Your provider or dietitian can work with you to determine how much protein you should consume daily. Even if your bariatric surgery is long behind you, it’s a good idea to be aware of your protein intake to be sure you’re reaching your daily goal.

Drink More Fluids

Lose more weight, stay fuller and prevent dehydration fatigue and headaches by getting enough fluids. The goal for most adults is to drink at least 64 ounces of water, or rather fluids, each day. If you find yourself struggling to reach this goal, here are a few tips:

  • Create a visual reminder of how close you are to reaching your daily goal by filling up four, 16-ounce water bottles (or a 64-ounce pitcher) and make sure you finish them by the end of the day.
  • Get high-tech and set up a hydration reminder that syncs to your smartphone.
  • If plain water is too boring, try adding lemon or mint for a little flavor without the added sugar. Low-calorie flavored water, decaf tea and coffee can also be good choices when it comes to reaching your 64-ounces-a-day goal.

Find a Friend

Make it one of your goals to not go it alone. A friend can provide that extra encouragement and motivation that we all need some days. If one friend is good, more friends are better – the more the merrier when it comes to finding help and support with eating right, exercising and reducing stress.

Go to the Doctor

If you are considering weight loss surgery, it’s easy to see why going to a doctor is necessary. But you shouldn’t only be scheduling an appointment with your surgeon. Whether pre-op or post-op, seeing your primary care provider and any other of your regular doctors can help you get healthy and stay healthy. By routinely going to your doctor, you can actively monitor important health and wellness measures, like blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Together with your physician, you can also create action plans for any other conditions, such as knee pain or sleep apnea.

Take Your Vitamins

There is no substitute for a healthy diet, but a healthy diet is not always enough. If you’ve had weight loss surgery, a multivitamin may be part of your daily routine. Talk to your surgeon or doctor about any vitamins you should take and then be sure to take them as recommended to prevent nutritional deficiencies. Remember, staying nourished can also help you lose weight by keeping up your energy levels and metabolism.

Smile

And finally, make it a goal to smile more. Smile when you greet people. Smile when you say goodbye. Smile when you are talking and listening. Smile for no reason at all. Why? Because the very act of smiling can help convince your mind that you are happier. Plus, smiling at other people will make them more likely to be friendly to you, which in turn will make you happier. All that extra happiness can make it easier to do your daily duties, like eating right and working out!

CHI Saint Joseph Medical Group Weight Loss Surgery

Hospital volunteer shares message of hope

On a chilly February night, Frank Peters stood inside the crowded lobby of the CHI Saint Joseph Health Cancer Care Center at Flaget Memorial Hospital and nervously read his story of hope.

At first, it didn’t seem like a hope-filled story. In fact, it seemed like anything but that – Frank’s wife Patsy had died from an aggressive cancer in summer 2017.

But Frank was flooded with memories of how the volunteers and staff at the cancer center at Flaget Memorial Hospital treated him and his wife of 52 years. His voice halted as he looked over at Marty Mercer, one of the center’s volunteers, and shared memories of how much Patsy had adored her.

“I can’t say enough about that woman,” Frank said about Marty. He then extended his gratitude to, “all the nurses.”

But the cancer center team, superb treatment and quick scheduling made their experience a little easier, he said. Frank now volunteers at the hospital, where he greets people many afternoons as they walk through the main entrance, and he’s a supporter of Project Hope. He also spoke in February at the foundation’s Stories of Hope tour.

“If I had cancer, I’d come right back here,” Frank said.

About Project Hope

The Flaget Memorial Hospital Foundation is on a mission to raise $1.1 million for two of the most critical projects in Nelson and surrounding counties: expanding the cancer center to have more infusion rooms and its own pharmacy, and adding 3D mammography. Project Hope is helping to make this possible.

Learn more about Project Hope and how you can help make a difference today.

Nipping seasonal allergies in the bud

Allergy season is right around the corner. Learn how to manage the symptoms of the season, including stuffiness and sneezing.

“Spring allergies can often lead to a variety of ear, nose and throat problems,” said Ron Shashy, MD, an otolaryngologist with CHI Saint Joseph Health – Ear, Nose and Throat Care. “Your body reacts to environmental triggers, causing inflammation and drainage that can then close off your sinuses and lead to a sinus infection or that general stuffiness we associate with spring.”

Devising a Spring Allergy Plan

The simplest way to combat allergies is to avoid triggers. If you do not already know your triggers, an otolaryngologist can conduct tests to identify them. If circumvention does not work for you, Dr. Shashy recommends starting an over-the-counter antihistamine regimen.

“It is easier to get ahead of the problem by getting medication in your system now,” Dr. Shashy said. “Most of these medications are taken once per day, so taking them regularly is not cumbersome.”

If antihistamines and other over-the-counter remedies, such as neti pots or nasal sprays, do not provide relief, make and appointment with your primary care provider or an otolaryngologist.

“Some people require allergy shots or higher doses of medication, while others need a round of antibiotics because the symptoms are from an infection and not allergies at all,” Dr. Shashy said. “Talking to a physician will help ensure you are on the right track.”

For allergy diagnosis and treatment, call CHI Saint Joseph Health – Ear, Nose and Throat Care at 859.629.7140.

This article originally appeared in the Winter 2019 edition of Spirit of Health magazine. For more health and wellness articles like this one, learn more about Spirit of Health and how to subscribe.

Five bariatric surgery myths and realities

If you’re struggling with your weight and related conditions, it’s likely that you’ve tried just about everything. While bariatric surgery is not a quick fix, it can be part of a plan to help you achieve significant weight loss and start living a healthier life.

As you explore your options, including weight loss surgery, it’s important to keep track of any questions you may have. That way, once you meet with your provider or bariatric surgeon you can be sure to have this list as a reference to discuss any information or concerns you have before making a decision.

There is an abundance of information out there regarding bariatric surgery, including some misconceptions. We’ve put together a list of some of the more common myths about bariatric surgery and what you can really expect below.

Myth 1: Weight loss surgery prevents you from regaining weight.

Not true. Most patients are successful in maintaining their weight loss one to two years after their surgery, however, it is possible to regain the weight you’ve lost. Weight loss surgery works in conjunction with healthy lifestyle changes. Your provider will discuss the necessary lifestyle changes you may need to make following your surgery.

Myth 2: Weight loss surgery is a cop-out.

Also not true. Most people undergoing bariatric surgery have tried every diet and pill out there. And while diet and exercise will benefit someone who is severely obese, it may just not be enough for others. Undergoing a weight loss procedure is a tool to help you lose weight. In order to lose weight and keep it off, dietary changes and regular exercise regimens will need to become part of your lifestyle.

Myth 3: After surgery, I won’t need to change my lifestyle.

Weight loss surgery is not a cure for obesity. If you do not change your lifestyle and return to old habits, you will regain weight and experience a relapse in your obesity-related condition. You don’t have to become a marathon runner who adapts a vegan lifestyle, however, your provider will work with you to determine any dietary restrictions and exercise needed to maintain success.

Myth 4: The surgery guarantees weight loss after recovery.

Nothing in life is guaranteed. Within the first few months following weight loss surgery, it is common to see more pounds dropping each month. After those initial few months, it becomes a slower weight loss, which is normal. Keep in mind that weight loss will depend on your ability to make the best choices possible and live a healthier lifestyle.

Myth 5: You do not have to go for follow-up care.

The first few weeks after weight loss surgery are crucial, and you need to be diligent about making it to your follow-up appointments. These appointments allow your health care provider to monitor your healing and advance your diet safely. A year after surgery, follow-ups depend on how you’re doing, but checking in with your provider helps ensure that your progress is monitored and any issues or questions you have can be addressed.

If you are interested in learning more about bariatric surgery, join us for a free informational seminar. A board-certified surgeon will explore a full range of weight loss surgery solutions, and answer any questions to help you make the right decision for your life. Call 502.513.6026 or fill out the quick online form to register for an upcoming seminar near you.