Illness Caused By Clostridium

July 21, 2014

Clostridium is a bacterium that comprises the species perfringens, tetani, botualinum, and difficile. The clostridia can be deadly, comprising some of the worst diseases that the medical community encounters.

Food borne botulism, the technical name of the disease, is a very dangerous food poisoning that can be found in canned food that has not been properly prepared. Most incidences are attributed to home canning, but foods produced commercially have been know to cause outbreaks. It can be found in canned foods including vegetables, tuna fish, chicken, luncheon meats, ham, sausage and lobster. Symptoms include double vision, slurred speech, weakness, paralysis and eventual respiratory failure.

Another food borne bacteria coming from clostridium is perfringens. The bacterium causes toxins that grow to high levels causing food poisoning. Cooked food that has been left out for hours is usually the host. It is most often found in institutional settings like schools, cafeterias, and hospitals, often attacking meats and gravy. Food poisoning caused by perfringens usually starts with diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain

Clostridium tetani causes tetanus due to a puncture wound or a trauma that leads to tissue contamination. The contamination invades the body and can cause cardiac failure in approximately 55 to 65 percent of those infected. A vaccine is available for tetanus. It is usually given in childhood and every ten years. It can also be administered at the time an injury occurs.

Perfringens that causes food borne illnesses can also cause another deadly illness called gas gangrene. Infection of a wound can lead to death within one to five days. The disease is often fatal. Gas gangrene infects a wound immediately causing the surrounding tissue to die. It may turn black or a dark green color, and have a foul odor. Fever and pain will develop around the wound and may be the first indicator. Amputation is a normal course of action to keep the infection from spreading. It is also treated with hyperbaric oxygen, and chelating agents. Antibiotics are used but not always successful.

The c. difficile bacteria produces two toxins that are usually eliminated by the normal bacteria in the intestines. When someone takes antibiotics it can destroy the normal bacteria that lives in the intestines and the toxins can grow. Onset is exhibited by diarrhea and abdominal pain. Fatality rates are 27 to 44 percent if not treated.

FDA: BBB-Clostridium perfringens

FDA:BBB-Clostridium botulinum

Southern Illinois University Carbondale: Medical Microbiology

(c) 2014 Vickie Van Antwerp

Dementia Or Something Worse

July 21, 2014

I received a frantic phone call one day from my mother-in-law. She was crying and hard to understand. I was finally able to calm her down enough to find out that while paying her bills she became so confused; she didn’t know how to write the checks. She asked me to come over to her house. She only lived about 15 minutes away so I hurried over and found her sitting on the couch, eyes red and swollen and a dazed look on her face. This was not the first time that she became confused.

I suggested to her that I would come over every month and write her checks for her. We could sit together and enjoy a cup of coffee and some good conversation while we did the bills. She liked that idea and so we wrote her bills together each month.

In the midst of her confusion with the checkbook, she began to feel very insecure and asked my husband, to become her power of attorney. He went to the attorney with her and they she added him to her checking account in case he needed to pay bills for her. This all took place during the summer and we thought things were working out fine but, the beginning of December brought a new symptom that landed her in the hospital. She awoke one morning so dizzy she could not stand. Her doctor admitted her to the hospital for tests. She stayed in the hospital for several days, but nothing was indicated that could explain her symptoms. She had treated with medication for her usual aliments of high blood pressure, angina and arthritis..

Christmas Eve was always spent at Mom’s. The entire family would gather and the grandchildren would open presents frantically until there was no room to walk. Mom would have a spread of deli delights for family and friends that would drop in. Later in the evening, the family would gather around and sing Christmas carols. As we sat around the dinning room table I looked over at Mom and she looked so frightened and confused, as if she did not know any of us. Her lips moved to the music, but her mind was not in the room. Before we left, we got her settled on the couch and she seemed to be a little more alert. Fortunately, her oldest son lived with and would be there if she needed anything.

Sometime in January, Mom had an appointment with her gynecologist. She had a hysterectomy thirty years before but kept up with annual visits. Mom was very short, only four foot eight, yet she weighed over two hundred pounds. When the doctor examined her she told her that she had a very large mass that she could feel across her abdomen. She wanted her to have an ultra-sound immediately. She never indicated what it might be, but as people usually do, we thought the worst.

When the results came back, the radiologist identified the very large mass in her abdomen as her uterus. We knew that wasn’t correct and so did her gynecologist. At this point the word, “cancer” appeared and we followed the next steps to a sure diagnosis without hesitation.

For the next month, Mom was bounced from one doctor to another. Her primary sent her to a general surgeon who suggested that her belly was full of fluid and if it were cancer it was very bad. He sent her back to her primary. Her primary checked her again and sent her to an oncologist. The oncologist took a blood test, checking her for ovarian cancer with the CA-125 test. As we sat in the examining room, Mom joked and laughed about her belly being so large with fluid. The doctor returned with the results and the protein was very high. He concluded that she did in fact have ovarian cancer. The entire ordeal of going from one doctor to another was exasperating for her because she did not remember the visits. When she was confronted with the news that she could have cancer, she acted surprised, as if she was hearing it for the first time. When the oncologist told her she indeed had ovarian cancer, she said that no one had mentioned it before and she began to cry. By the time we got home, she was fine and did not remember the visit.

The one thing that added to her confusion was the fact that she had a total hysterectomy twenty years earlier. She thought that meant her ovaries and tubes had been removed. Since her short term memory was all but gone, the truth wasn’t in her mind long enough to sink in.

The oncologist sent her back to her primary and he told the family he was going to enroll her on hospice. What we thought was a case of Alzheimer turned out to be end stage ovarian cancer.

She finally understood. Her short term memory loss did not take over, this time it was all real. It was still a shock to us all because she never had any pain in her abdomen. She gained a great deal of weight that turned out to be fluid. She complained about her legs hurting but she was carrying a lot of weight for her small frame so we thought nothing of it. Her mental symptoms gave rise to the thought that she was suffering from dementia. Her primary physician never suspected a thing. When the doctor checked for dementia, he said she was fine. This hidden disease was racking her body and we didn’t know it. Hospice arrived on Friday, February 25, she died on Monday.

According to the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance, ovarian cancer is called the “silent killer” because by the time it is diagnosed 75% of women will already be in the advanced stages. Some early symptoms include; bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, difficulty
eating or feeling full. Later, there may be an urgency to urinate, fatigue, indigestion, back and leg pain. A genetic predisposition to the disease can be an indicator for a more prophylactic approach by your doctor. Make sure he/she is aware of your family history.
Some of these symptoms mimic a dozen other diseases which is why it is difficult to diagnose.

What steps can be taken to diagnose this disease before it reaches an advanced stage? Aside from a pelvic exam, we can insist on two other tests; the CA-125 blood test and a transvaginal ultrasound. Some physicians may not want to order these tests, but if you feel something is wrong, insist on it. A pap test does not diagnose ovarian cancer.

National Cancer Institute: Ovarian Cancer

Medline Plus: CA 125

(c) 2014 Vickie Van Antwerp


July 21, 2014

Ankle fusion is also known as ankle arthrodesis and is a corrective measure to increase the mobility of the ankle. It may also decrease the amount of pain that is experienced. Arthritis is one cause of severe pain and immobility. It can relate back to an old injury that has caused the arthritis to set into the joint. Whatever the cause, fusion may be the best treatment for some conditions.

You may find your condition among the list outlined here. Requiring ankle fusion can begin in childhood from a fracture of the lower part of the tibia (leg bone) or the talus (ankle bone). The joint can eventually deteriorate from osteoarthritis.

Cartilage deterioration can immobilize an ankle from moving freely. The constant friction of the joints moving against each other can cause the soft tissue known as the synovitis which is very painful.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a condition of the immune system that causes inflammation and eventual deformity in joints from bone deterioration. Ankles are affected as well causing instability and keeping mobility to a minimum.


Orthopedic surgeons perform ankle fusions. During surgery the lower part of the tibia and fibula leg bones are shaved and smoothed during surgery. The upper part of the talus is also shaved and smoothed. The bones are cleaned with a saline solution, careful not to leave any bone fragments.

Fusions are accomplished with screws that secure bone between the joint.
External fixation places pins through the joint that are attached to an external plate. The plate is removed when fixation has been achieved.


Any anesthesia can be a risk, especially general. Vessel and nerve damage can take place causing permanent damage. It can leave the patient with less mobility then before surgery.

Infection can develop in the wound causing more surgery to drain the infection.

Union deficits can occur such as an imbalanced union of the joint or no union of the joint.
Both can result in more surgery to correct the problem.


The average recovery time includes 12 weeks using an ankle brace. After the brace is removed physical therapy follows. To assist with weight bearing and comfort, your physician may decide to order a shoe device.

Search for an orthopedic surgeon that is qualified. Check credentials on the state medical board website.
Do not bear weight on the joint after surgery until instructed by the surgeon.
Report any inflammation of the wound immediately.
Contact the surgeon if the joint slips, is weak or misaligned after healing.

Mayo Clinic: Ankle Fusion Surgery

The Foot and Ankle Clinic: Ankle Fusion

Orthogate: Ankle Fusion

(c) 2014 Vickie Van Antwerp

My Dragon Slayer

July 2, 2014

Will you be my dragon slayer Lord
Take this grief and make it a servant instead
Cause my heart to lean on you and not be afraid
Carry my spirit above the clouds with you
And never let me doubt your loving arms around me

You can be my dragon slayer Lord
Keeping the grief in a place where it belongs
Never forgetting where it is, but at your side
I can stand in the face of the dragon
And know that my Lord goes before me

You are my dragon slayer Lord
Cradling me in your arms of comfort and mercy
Lifting me up from the ground and placing me by your side
Where I find peace and warmth in your light
You are my dragon slayer Lord

(c) March 2012 Vickie Van Antwerp

Remembering Elvis Pressley and Joy

August 18, 2013

HPIM0834This past week, a celebration took place at Graceland to honor the life of Elvis Pressley who died 36 years ago on August 16, 1977. Thousands attended the event that has been a tradition every year since Elvis passed away. People from all over the world make a special pilgrimage to honor the man known as the King of Rock n Roll.

People of all ages listen to Elvis Pressley’s music as it continues to be played by DJs all over the country. The fan base of this legend is faithful to keep his memory alive. Their faithfulness has transformed Graceland from his home to his shrine.

It is not unusual for shrines to be built to honor special people. We have the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Memorial, 911 Memorial, and Holocaust Museums. These places are visited by millions every year and what they take away from their visit is a sense of knowing the person or people of whom they just honored.

Not much hoopla is given to everyone. Ordinary people leave this earth without being noticed by the press but broken hearts are still left behind. Parents that loose children anguish over their deaths and sometimes become desperate to keep their child’s memory alive. Some will create memorial funds, foundations and gardens. If you see a sign on a road in your neighborhood with a name on it that says Adopt a Highway, it is most likely the name of someone’s child that does not want him forgotten.

A problem faced by most bereaved parents is that people can understand the creation of memorials and foundations because most of the events surrounding those efforts are conducted once a year, but what becomes unacceptable is a daily mention of the deceased child’s name. It is at this point that parents experience the backlash from well meaning people that their continued mention of their child is just proof that they have not moved on and need to just let it go.

Why is it that we can run to Tennessee to see a mansion owned by a rock star on the anniversary of his death but not mention our child’s name without repercussions?
Why is it that we can honor those who died on 911 and build memorials, but to talk about our children is off limits? There are cases where workers complained about parents who talked about their deceased children and were fired for disrupting the workplace. Complaints have been levied against bereaved parents because they had their deceased child’s picture on their work desk and it just “freaked” people out. Work place incidents of insensitivity toward bereaved parents are an everyday occurrence causing some to quit their jobs.

A group of women were sitting around during their lunch break talking about their children. One lady mentioned that her daughter just started dance classes. Another mother chimed in and said, “My daughter Joy took dance too. She was so good at it.” The other mother continued on to say how her daughter loved the color purple and she just re-decorated her bedroom in purple. Others began to discuss their children and their favorite colors. Finally, Joy’s mother said, “I remember Joy dancing at her first recital. She smiled the whole time through her routine.’ The other mother’s looked at each other until one of them said, “You know Mindy, maybe it’s time you move on. You should see a counselor to help you get past your daughter’s death. Talking about her all the time will not bring her back.” Needless to say Mindy left the room in tears.

Think about what took place and ask yourself these questions; if you lose a child, do they cease to be your child? Why is it wrong to talk about them? If you think that every parent should “move-on”, what is the time frame; two months, six months, one year, more? How long would it take you to stop talking about one of your children if you lost them? How long before you could put away your memories and not celebrate your child’s life? How long before you think the pain and anguish of losing one of your children would cease?

Bereaved parents were once you. They are parents that never thought they would have to bury their child. They don’t ask for your pity, just understanding that you recognize their need to breathe their child’s name, and have someone listen to the stories that are now tucked away in their hearts as memories.

Every person’s child is worth remembering just as much as rock stars, politicians, or victims of mass tragedy. If it is ok to talk about them, it is ok to talk about Joy.

(c)2013 Vickie Van Antwerp


Forgotten Pain

February 13, 2012

A prose for the bereaved mother.


Remember childbirth? The sheer pain and agony of bringing another human being into this world can only be described as anguish. It gave new meaning to the word , “pain”.

Soon after you looked upon your child; your gorgeous little cherub, and all the pain, all the travailing was gone with one glance. The pain was forgotten.

A day came and a new pain emerged, but this pain was in your heart. It came so fiercely, so violent, that it took your breath away. Anguish, I think they call it. A bereaved parent knows it as the worse pain you can ever imagine. This one gives new meaning to the word, “pain”, for sure.

In the depths of your anguish you can rest assured because just as your birth pains are forgotten, so will this pain be forgotten in the blink of an eye, when you see your child once again.
(C) 2012 Vickie Van Antwerp

It’s like it just happened yesterday.

February 8, 2012

I remember when my cousin suddenly lost her son. She lived over 400 miles away and I did not know her very well. She was 18 years my elder and I had not seen her in at least 15 years. My mother called to tell me the news. She said, “Margie has lost Danny. He died in his sleep.” Danny was not much younger than me. Being a mother I could only imagine what my cousin was going through. I felt so helpless but I wanted to help in some way. I sent her a book on grief and a card with my condolences. From that day I felt a special bond. I spoke to her occasionally on the phone. I did not bring up the subject of Danny because I did not want to upset her. We just talked about small things.

Many years later, Margie lost another son, this time to cancer. She had three boys, two were now gone. We spoke more often this time. Before she lost her second son Glen, I asked her how she coped with the loss of Danny. Little did we know at the time she would relive the nightmare again. She said to me, “Its like is just happened yesterday.” Her sorrow was fresh every day. It did not loose its grip.

A few months after Glen died, I told her I was attending a candle lighting service and that I would light a candle in memory of Danny and Glen. She was pleased.

The night of the service I spoke with a man from the church my husband and I attended. He had lost his daughter 20 years before. He was there to light a candle for her. He said, “It’s like it just happened yesterday.”  Twenty years and his sorrow was still present. He told me that his daughter’s room remained the same as she left it. To a person that has not lost a child, it would appear that he was stuck in grief out of choice. For parents that have experienced the same loss, it is a story of love and honor.


I stood beside my husband on a December night and we lit three candles, one for Danny, one for Glen and one for our son Craig. It was no wonder to me now why I felt a bond with my cousin. Maybe my spirit knew then what was to come, maybe not. Craig was found in his apartment by a close friend. He had been there for days. He was 33 years old and his father and I were over 600 miles away. The nightmare began in 2006 and it has not ended.

I was on the other side at one time, trying to comfort my cousin, not knowing what to say. I know now, and wish I didn’t. I did not want to join this group of people that have to learn how to live without their child. I found that it is not about moving on with your life. It is not about leaving things behind. It is not about letting go. When you loose a child, those things don’t happen. Grieving a child leaves you empty.  There are no words, there are no poems, no songs, and no books that will make you feel better. The pain is so intense that you think it will kill you.

I have moments when I can see my child so clear in my head. I can touch him and kiss him and talk to him. Maybe someday, those moments will not hurt like they do now but for now, when they come, every time they come, it’s like it just happened yesterday.

(c) 2012 Vickie VanAntwerp


November 8, 2011


If you are planning to decorate your bedroom but are not sure what color scheme to use, consider choosing paint colors for a calming bedroom effect. Wall color can possibly help you sleep better. According to All-Home Décor, emotions that are evoked by blues and greens create a sense of serenity and peace because they are associated with nature. Blue affects cravings for less food through its calming nature.

Plan your bedroom design before searching paint and accessories. If you are not replacing any furniture decide on a color change. Wood furniture looks different against a blue wall then a white headboard. Another consideration is how the lighting in the room can change the hue of colors.


The goal is choosing paint colors for a calming bedroom. Start with the planning design. Pick up color cards in blue, green; the two main calming colors. Use grid paper to draw a layout of furniture in the bedroom, including where you plan to place any lighting fixtures. Decide where the focal point of the room will be. When you walk into the room, what catches your eye first? This is your first impression and can set the mood for the room immediately. Poorly placed furniture can have an effect on the mood. Too much furniture can make the room look cluttered and set off an imbalanced feeling. Test the furniture placement on the grid sheet for the best layout.

Experiment with the colors from the paint cards. Look at each one for a few seconds and record your feelings. Which one gave you a calm, warm feeling? Which one do you like best? This should help you to narrow down the colors to use. Light blue walls give the appearance of expansion to a wall, according to Dream Home Decorating. If you have a small room, light blue can make it appear larger. Blue also cools down a room. Hot sunny rooms benefit from blue walls but north facing rooms that get the cold winds of winter will require more blankets.

The color green has the same calming effect as blue but it is harder to achieve. Dream Home Decorating suggests using green hues mixed with other colors like grey and pink to give more depth.  Avoid solid dark green colors around window trims. The green trim can appear fake against nature’s scenery. Test lighting against color swatches in different areas of the room to see how the colors change and where shadows are cast.


Choosing paint colors for a calming bedroom effect depends on the room, lighting and your taste. Experiment with color swatches. Some stores will give customers a small amount of paint to help them decide on the right color. If you know you are going to paint the wall, use the color samples on different areas in the bedroom and check lighting and furniture against the colors. View the colors during the day in sunlight and artificial lighting at night. Add colors that you plan to use with the wall covering to see how they blend. Plan on a new bedspread and curtains that include all of the colors used to make your bedroom a calm and relaxing room.


All-Home Décor: Psychology of Colors Choosing Color for the Bedroom

Do It Yourself: Popular Bedroom Wall Paint Colors

Dream Home Decorating: Psychological Effects of the Color Blue

Dream Home Decorating: Psychological Effects of the Color Green






Is Foster Parenting For You?

October 25, 2011

Lenght of stay in U.S. foster care

Image via Wikipedia

Have you ever considered becoming a foster parent? The idea usually starts with the thought of helping a child in need by providing a safe and loving home. You watch the plight of some children in the news on TV and wonder if you could contribute to their well being. Perhaps you have a heart for children that are abused and neglected because you experienced the same type of home life growing up. What ever has caused you to contemplate foster parenting can also drive you to a final decision.

The Child Welfare Information Gateway of the Children’s Bureau reported that 423,773 children were in the foster care system throughout the United States in 2009. Only 24 percent were in the care of a family member, the rest went to foster homes or institutions.

The primary goal of the foster care system is to reunite children with their families. Many return home within a year, others return home only to be placed in foster care again, and again. It is not unusual to find a child that has grown up in several different foster homes from birth to age eighteen.

Over the past decade a decrease has occurred in the number of children that returned home. In the year 2000, 57 percent of the children leaving foster care returned home while in 2009 the percentage dropped to 51 percent. That means 135,371 children left foster care, but did not return home. They were either adopted, emancipated, or went to live with a guardian.

The case for more foster homes is essential. If a child can not be placed immediately from a dangerous situation where do they go? A case worker is left with the task of finding an immediate placement that can result in a less than favorable choice. Foster homes are needed for emergency placements for children of all ages. These homes can provide a safe haven until a more permanent solution is made. Long term foster homes are needed as well to keep children secure in an environment without fear.

To help you decide if you should open your home consider some of the following;

  1. The primary goal is to return children home if possible. You may not agree with the decision. The decision does not rest with you.
  2. Bringing a child into your home and treating them as your own will cost you. You will get attached and you will have to let go.
  3. Foster children are usually “street-wise” and not used to structure and discipline.
  4. Many foster children have emotional, mental and physical needs.
  5. Be sure your children understand that their home life will change. Sometimes it is easier to receive foster children younger than your own. There is a pecking order in families and your children can feel left out.
  6. Decide on an age that is appropriate for your family and how many children you will foster.
  7. Some parents have contact with their children that can interfere with your family dynamics.
  8. Be prepared to register children for school, arrange visits with parents, seek medical treatment, buy clothing, school supplies and toys. Foster children should be treated as family members.
  9. Consider restricting parental contact at your home. Some family situations are not healthy and better left to a controlled environment.
  10. Agencies do not give much notice when they have a child for placement. A child can be at your door within an hour of the initial phone call.


If your love for children and desire to reach abused kids is still rising up in you after reading the above negatives, you might be ready to say yes. Start by contacting your local children’s services. You can make a difference in a child’s life and they can make a difference in yours.


Child Welfare Information Gateway: Foster Care Statistics 2009:

Check Your Doctor’s Credentials

October 25, 2011

Dr. Schreiber of San Augustine giving a typhoi...

Image via Wikipedia

Why is it a good idea to check your doctor’s credentials? Perhaps, you would like to know where your doctor went to college or served his residency. Did he receive his education in the United States and does it matter to you? Has he ever been disciplined by a medical board or sued for malpractice? Years ago, I investigated the doctor that was hired by a hospice provider to treat my mother. It turned out that the doctor had spent the last ten years teaching high school chemistry in Chicago because his license had been suspended in two states. There were numerous complaints against him involving medical care and he owed thousands of dollars to a major medical insurance carrier for over payments he received.  Since then, it has become routine for me to check a doctor’s credentials before making an appointment.

Each state maintains a list of all medical professionals required to be licensed. A search  through the internet will quickly give you the information you are seeking. You will need the name of the doctor and the city he practices in. In some cases you can use just the surname to gain results, but make sure the full name matches your information.

Use a Yahoo or Google search for the medical board site in your state. Be sure it is the site maintained by the state and not an information site that requires a fee. Follow instructions for looking up a licensee. When you open the page associated with your search, check all of the tabs. You will find education, honors and awards, papers, general information, practice information, discipline actions, malpractice and convictions tabs.

Being informed helps you to make better decisions about your health care. It is your right to choose a health care provider based on his credentials and not a referral. If you have to choose from a list provided by your insurance carrier, check them all and then decide. Don’t let someone else choose for you.

You can also check the license of other health professions within the practice such as physician assistants and nurses. You might be surprised at what you find.


North Carolina Medical Board:

New Jersey Medical Board: