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Stone Turtle Health Blog

Gratitude Posts

October 8, 2015

Gratitude and acknowledgement. I'm seeing an uptick in these types of posts on social media and it's not because I'm following more hippy-dippy accounts, either. As community members, people are reaching out to help one another and are getting recognized. Maybe the actual helping hasn't increased but having a forum to sing someone's praises certainly makes it seem that way. My feeds are filled with friends, neighbors, and family members showing gratitude for gestures, gifts and for simple pleasures in daily life. It's a trend I wholeheartedly support, not just because it's "nice" or "sweet" to acknowledge someone for their work, but also because it's good for US to do so. Connections with an extended support network have been shown to improve mental health and illness outcomes in study after stduy. Community makes us healthier and recognizing other people's contributions to our community makes the ties that bind that much tighter. 

Tomorrow, my son turns one year old. Last year, at this time, we went through a terrifying journey and I want to express my gratitude for everyone who wa a part of it. First, my family, who helps in many, many ways from stocking his closet and sending home toys, covering some of my childcare needs to allow me to keep the clinic running and just holding him for me so I can get a hot meal or a drama-free trip to the bathroom. My long-time and new friends who've shared laughs and tears as we went from the NICU to home and I tried to figure out how to juggle everything. My patients and office mates who have been so understanding of my mommy brain and have welcomed CJ into the clinic family with open arms and occasional smiles of commiseration aimed in my direction. The doctors who covered for me while I wrestled with the heavy fog of early motherhood, shuttling back and forth to the NICU for 70 days, not wanting to get out of bed until it was time to go and see him. My colleagues who helped me figure out how to balance (-ish) life with a baby and a clinic. Our community in general, via Faccebook, that has shown me how deeply the need to connect lives in each of us. Women I never knew drove me back and forth to the NICU to see CJ for the first few weeks. Families hand down clothes and toys and we, in turn, pass them on to new babies that come along. Ballard is NOT the big city, it's a small town full of folks who are maybe trying out this "neighbor" thing for the first time, or they want things to be like when they were a kid and they realize the importance of connection in reaching that goal. 

His sitters. Oh, bless the young women and their moms who have covered my ass so many times and whose families have absorbed him into their midst, so he can have a mini-vacation from me, complete with older brothers and sisters. The initial fear of handing over my son to someone who looked barely big enough to lift him has been far outstripped by their impressive growth as caregivers and young women. It's a privilege to be a part of their lives and to watch them gain competence and enthusiasm, and to see CJ bond and build relationships with them. 

Thank you, everyone, for making this the BEST year of my life.

Another reason to stay active

April 8, 2015

According to the U.S. census, over 25% of our population will be over 65 by 2030. There are many reasons for adults to stay active throughout their life, and the NY Times has another: staying active protects brain cells from dying, preventing brain shrinkage. And a common outcome of brain shrinkage is a chronic subdural hematoma (SDH), or bruise in the space surrounding the brain, which puts pressure on the brain and interferes with its function. The Times' article discusses the increasing incidence of chronic SDH in older populations, even without a head injury or fall, and how it mimics other neurological conditions. Symptoms such as sudden and severe headache, weakness on one side of the body, personality or cognition changes, and confusion or difficulty speaking are a sign of immediate need for medical care to rule out SDH or other serious concerns, such as TIA, stroke, dementia, Parkinson's disease, migraine, epilepsy or psychiatric condition. In many cases, chronic SDH can resolve on its own or with medication but about 1/3 of patients require surgery.

So, in addition to cardiovascular and respiratory health and prevention of weight-gain related diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes, staying active works to protect brain function and cognition and to prevent chronic SDH. Don't know where to start? Try adding an after-dinner stroll to your daily routine, check out some yoga or dance classes at your neighborhood community or senior center, or visit one of Seattle's beautiful parks for a walk along the beach or a forest path. Wear proper footwear to support your ankles and prevent injuries. Now is the season to get out and enjoy the fresh air. Your brain will thank you for it later!

Happy New Year!

January 5, 2015

Wow! It's been SUCH a long time since I last posted and there is a reason for that. In October, I gave birth to my son, abput 3 months ahead of time. The intervening months have been a scramble of daily hospital visits, bringing on two doctors to cover for my mandated absence. and runnnig things behind the scenes. I have been incredibly fortunate to have Dr. Christine Cirovic and Dr. Madison Fandel caring for my patients while I was gone. Dr. Cirovic is remaining in the office, starting her own practice, in January and Dr. Fandel will hopefully continue to cover on occasion. Both very impressive new doctors that I look forward to watching grow and thrive in their own practices. 

First of all, the amount of gratitude that I have towards the staff at Ballard Swedish and Swedish First Hill knows no bounds. The Ballard folks took a very scary situation and made everything come out in the best possible way. At First Hill, the NICU and later the Intermediate Care Unit and Pediatric Special Care Unit folks were very compassionate and understanding. My son was there for exactly 10 weeks and I spent most of my time with him. The staff helped answer my questions, soothe my fears, and get me set up for a successful transition home before Christmas. A lot of their work, especiallly the paarent outreach program, is supported by the March of Dimes, which works to end polio, birth defects, and premature births worldwide. 

Secondly, my family, friends, neighbors and patients who took the time to visit, send food, give rides, or just check in with me deserve a big hug and many thanks. Without a strong support system, being a single parent is difficult enough, but being a single parent whose child is in the hospital is just the worst! Thank you to all of you for keeping me sane and not letting me stay in bed all day (most days). 

Finally, I'd like to remind everyone that, as this is the start of a new year, this is also the beginning of a new leg of our journey together towards health. Resolutions are not so easily sustained but slow, steady improvement can lead to a lifetime of difference.  As we ease into 2015, our office will be implementing electronic medical records, which we hope will be more of a blessing than a curse. On occasion, my son may be in the office, as childcare schedules never go the way they're planned, and I consider it my own good luck to be able to bring him in when needed. From my perspective, anything other than another hospital stay is a good thing. I ask for understanding and patience in both of these areas from my patients, whose own families I love to see often. We would love to see you in the office in the coming year and I hope to continue to provide care for my friends and neighbors for a long tmie to come!

Happy New Year 2015!

Dr. Katie Baker

Band of Brothers (and Sisters)

September 29, 2013

I'm a big fan of Kid President. This kid stands for positive change, "being awesome" and "more dance parties". His partnership with local actor Rainn Wilson, of "The Office" and Soul Pancake is a bright light in an often-cynical and sad world I think the message that they are sharing is important. I LOVE dance parties! I want to be awesome!

Last month, I did an awesome thing. Via Twitter, I thanked Anthony Shears, a local recording artist living in L.A., for a beautiful song he had written about domestic violence. He did an awesome thing- he replied. Our dialogue, such as it was, transferred from Twitter to Facebook, to phone & email. We dreamed about what we could do to REALLY make a positive change in the lives of children touched by domestic violence or in difficult home situations. Anthony spent a lot of his childhood at the Ballard Boys & Girls Club. He tells me there were some days where most of his meals came from there. The folks at the Ballard Boys & Girls Club helped keep Anthony, his brother and their friends off the streets by providing them a safe place where they could build healthy relationships and stay out of trouble. Mentors at the Club gave the boys opportunites to play sports and support to succeed in school. Anthony went on to attend Dartmouth and work in L.A. with some legendary recording artists; Norris is an Olympic athlete. They want to give back.

My own work with children spans 20 years, in various areas such as medicine, social work, teaching, and volunteering. I believe that if we support children who need it the most, we benefit ourselves through building a strong community. Another generation will be raised up with the values that we treasure. Values like integrity, honesty, a strong work ethic, creativity, and a sense of community are supported at Boys & Girls Clubs. 

Working with Anthony, Norris, and a team of amazing volunteers, we are designing the first annual "Field of Our Dreams Celebrity Softball Tournament" to benefit the Ballard & Wallingford Boys & Girls Clubs. Money raised will help to re-surface the softball field and provide scholarship funds to the 70% of children that rely on assistance to be a part of the Clubs. Scheduled for May 4 at B.F. Day Playfield, the softball game will have local celebrities and athletes and live performances. This event can't happen without volunteers- let us know if you'd like to help!

Our first step: The upcoming Ballard Boys & Girls Club Auction to begin the fundraising for the field, held October 25th at 5:30 with both silent and live auctions. More information can be found here, as well as tickets ($45, including free childcare and a salmon dinner)

Dance moves

May 24, 2013

 

Music, for one reason or another, has always been an integral part of my daily life. I meet people who can have music in the background at dinner or a barbecue, but how can you focus on anything without reveling in the songs, the lyrics and melodies changing you into whoever you were, wherever you heard that song for the first time?

Odd, this, but every few months or so, I'll just cling to some music, one particular artist or one song covered by many, as I use it to process whatever is happening in my life. Last spring, I was drawn to Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah". Life was not good. Love was not good. Love ended in brokenness.  Suffice to say, I survived and that song (although on repeat for a few, wallowing months) stopped being so personal. I was bright and shiny and life was beautiful again. Showtunes, old school R&B, anything that was sunshine and hope and the rush from dancing at home on my lunch break or after work, became preferred again.

What I've been feeling lately is spring and summer and hip-shaking solo dance parties. I've been moving through the world, walking for miles on my lunch break. The only trouble is trying to keep from dancing in the streets to the beats in my ears.  Right now, I'm grooving to "Fugees Radio" on Pandora, which I've filled with my own personal blend of 80's & 90's rap & hip-hop (memories from middle school through college) and today's new discoveries. For a few songs, I'm no longer staring 40 (well, ok, 36) in its exhausted eyes, I'm back in middle school, before the self consciousness, before any aches and pains, when we all danced in tight circles in the gym, trying to pick up new moves.

Which brings me to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis's "The Heist", only the second album I've purchased on my iPhone (the other being Johnny Cash's "Unchained", if you must get all the details of my "diverse" music tastes). There's that resonance again. I will warn you that there's cursing, so it's not something to spring on your kids without listening first. But, as an adult, I would definitely recommend you give it a listen. Listen to the words...

"My, Oh, My" makes me tear up at the loss of Dave Niehaus a few years back, remembering how I couldn't get my mom to get out of the car and come in for dinner until the M's game she'd been listening to all the way home from work was over. "Can't Hold Us" had me freak out,  dancing with a classmate in my improv class, "Thrift Shop" has its own dance routine worked out at home (with or without my vacuum cleaner),  "Victory Lap" and "Ten Thousand Hours", about the journeyman process to getting good at what you are passionate about rings true for me every day I step in my clinic, especially those times when I wonder what the heck I'm doing and when I should know enough to give up and let it crumble versus buckling down and riding out the rough spots. "Same Love" is thrilling to me now that marriage equality is a reality in our state, in so many other states and countries. How principled, how upright to stand up for this belief in equality in a genre that routinely diminishes and demonizes those who love people of the same gender, especially before it was the law to allow everyone the freedom to marry. I am so happy that all my friends, gay or straight, can choose to live the way they want to live with the partners that they love. 

But, oh, the heartbreak on "Starting Over", his follow up to "Otherside" makes me cry every time. I want to punch a hole in something when I think about addiction and the people I love that struggle with it. I hate that these are the stories that pretty much everyone has, that there's a saboteur in so many brains.. that this disease called addiction waits patiently for so many people to have a moment of weakness. The closing line is exactly what I want to hear: "If I can be an example of getting sober, then I can be an example of starting over..."

Macklemore's willingness to share his own struggles, his openness about what he's gone through and about his beliefs, and his positive attitude as reflected in his work are all inspiring to me. I became a doctor to make a difference in someone's life, to provide caring and healing for the people in my community who need it, to help build a stronger Seattle, a stronger and better world. He's made such a name for himself as an independent artist- that, too, I admire. The hard work and heartbreak, the two steps forward, one step back process of getting recognition, especially without the backing of a large corporation. If I could say anything to him, it would be "Well done. Keep making a positive change. Share your message with as many people as possible. You are a force for good. You matter and you have a chance to change so much. Keep moving. " I realize as I write this, these are the words we should say to everyone.

So, I guess this post is just a mash note to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, but it's also for everyone I see making a choice every day to make a positive difference in the world, to reach out and connect with people around them, to stand up for the changes they want to see happen. Yeah, "The Heist" hits me. It's beautiful. You should listen to it. And you should dance.

 

Food Revolution Day 2013

May 9, 2013

You all should know by now how much I love Jamie Oliver and his Food Revolution, promoting healthy foods in schools and communities. May 17th is the date for his Second Annual Food Revolution Day, a worldwide grassroots effort to provide fun and education experiences around food to local communities. I love what he is doing for so many reasons: healthy kids are better learners, healthy families can work together to make changes in their communities, and healthy communities can provide better support for those who need it most. I strongly encourage my readers to attentd or even host a Food Revolution Day activity in their neighborhood, even if it's as simple as hosting a vegetarian potluck or barbecue for their friends and neighbors. Check out a book about food from the library and read it to your children. Reach out to the local food bank and donate or volunteer to provide more healthy food to their customers. Visit your children's school to see what their school lunch program offers. Try a healthy new dish from a cuisine you aren't familiar with. There are TONS of ways we can improve our diets and our family's lifestyle, from meatless Fridays to making sure we "eat a rainbow" every day. We have the tools within our reach to fight the epidemics of obesity, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses that are distinctly related to our lifestyles. This is one thing that we can do something about. Viva La Revolution!

 

Winter Comfort Foods- Lightened Up!

January 21, 2013

This great post on HuffPo shows you ways to lighten up those lovely, tasty, heavy winter comfort foods. 

Some other great ways to make your favorite foods healthier:

1. For breads, like banana bread or pumpkin bread, try adding apple sauce or smashed banana in place of oil.

2. Use this list for sugar substitutes in baking: zylitol, honey, agave nectar, succanat/rapadura, barley malt, brown rice syrup, corn syrup (NOT HFCS), sorghum, blackstrap molasses, stevia. For many of these, you can find conversion charts online as they don't always translate directly to an equal amount of granulated (white) sugar. With liquid sweeteners, you may need to compensate by lowering the amount of liquid or increasing the total amount of solids in a recipe.

3. To thicken soups or sauce, add cooked, pureed califlower, potato, or zucchini

4. Lots of dairy in the fridge from the holidays or parties? Add it to soups for more flavor and to minimize the amount you'll get in each serving. I did that last weekend and came up with Baked Potato Soup, Split Pea & Bacon Soup, and Broccoli Cheese Soup. While butter, bacon, heavy cream and cream cheese don't need to be in your diet on a daily basis, this is a great way to use them up if you already have them and don't want to waste money by throwing them al out. Plus, adding a small amount of fat can increase satiety, making you more full from eating less.

5. Avoid dairy (if you don't have the problem in #4) by using stocks and broths for liquids instead of milk or cream. 

6: For richness in vegetarian dishes without adding meat, use 1 tsp of miso paste instead. It contains glutamate, which triggers the "umami" tastebuds that tell us when something tastes rich or full (which usually requires meat or butter).

Dream a Little Dream

January 11, 2013

My friend and inspiration, the comedian & musician Greg Behrendt (@gregbehrendt on Twitter) has always been someone I admired. I used to skip Chemistry class as an undergrad in order to watch his stand up specials on Comedy Central (don't worry, I passed and took 2 more years of Chem). Beyond his original voice and his incredibly spot-on sense of humor which I enjoyed a great deal, he seemed very relatable. very much a guy next door finding humor in everyday life. This was in the mid 90's and I had free cable and my own room for the first time in my life. Both were exhilarating!

Fast forward a few years: Greg goes to work on the set of "Sex and the City" and co-writes a book that a few people seem to enjoy called "He's Just Not That Into You", which gets made into a movie. He goes on Oprah, gets a talk show, and slowly stops doing what he loves. He fell off my radar for awhile, what with school and starting my first job, going back to school, and starting my career as a doctor.

Then, one day, I was listening to a local podcast, The Marty Riemer Show, that was broadcasting interviews from Bumbershoot. Marty & Jodi Brothers were talking to comedians. I'm a comedy nerd. I listened every day and heard Greg, Marc Maron, Jimmy Pardo, and others, all with their own podcasts. Greg was as charming as ever and talked about a little podcast project he was working on with his best friend, Dave Anthony, called Walking The Room. A warning: this podcast is both charming and vile. Definitely not safe for work and definitely full of gems that have actually made me fall down when listening to it on my lunchtime walks. Greg enjoys a short pant, a cardigan, and designing clothes. Somewhere in there, he began taking guitar lessons from a friend, Mike Eisenstein (formerly of Letters To Cleo, on Twitter as @USAMike). They formed a band.

Because of the podcast, I eventually got the opportunity to see Greg perform live and to meet him. As awesome as it was to do that, it was even cooler to find out that he was even more excited to meet me! We've hung out together at various podcast-related events and correspond on occasion. And he is the most encouraging person I know, bar none. As busy as he is, he always takes time to support his friends who are just starting out, or trying a new side-project. He's just good people.

So, this year, he had a bit of a mid-life crisis (which means he'll have to live to 100), had some emotional ups and downs. And he hasn't been shy about getting some help for this and talking about it. In fact, in speaking about it on his podcast, he's inspired a few of my friends around the world to seek therapy as well, which has been life- changing, even life-saving, for them. 

And what came of his therapy? This dream: to take his band, The Reigning Monarchs and, over the course of this year, create a second LP, promote the album, tour the U.S. and film it all for a documentary about "old men living their dreams". Funding is all that stands in the way. For awhile. 

The band started an IndieGoGo fundraising campaign and Greg put the word out to his fans and friends. The word spread. Their goal was $10,000 to record an album. Fans, friends, and family donated, tweeted about it, posted on Facebook and Google Plus. Everyone seemed invested in making someone else's dream come true. But, very specifically, the dream of a certain someone else who has supported them each individually with words of encouragement, enthusiasm, occasionally with connections to other folks who can help, and with an honest belief in them and their dreams, an honest concern for them and their lives.

Tonight, with 8 hours left in the fundraising, they have raised almost $26,000. They will use this money to create and produce the album, hire a publicist to promote it and book their tour, pay for tour travel expenses, and begin filming the documentary. And the day ain't over yet. 

 

Mindfulness

December 13, 2012

An absolutely great article in the Huffington Post about Mindfulness, written by Michael Broder, PhD.

60% of the time, they're right 100% of the time..

July 10, 2012

A friend of mine posted a screenshot of Fox News' latest propaganda attempt. Across the screen was the large print shocker: 83% DOCTORS CONSIDER QUITTING OVER OBAMACARE it screamed out. What? First of all, 83% of doctors can't even agree on basic healthcare screening guidelines like when to get a mammogram or how frequently your cholesterol should be checked, much less something as "controversial" as national health care. There was a survey done by DPMA, a conservative lobbyist group that is trying to raise funds to overturn the National Healthcare Act. 83% of their survey respondents were "considering quitting", but it wasn't linked directly to the passage of the bill. This sort of bogus "reporting" is part of what created the political divide today between states, neighbors, and even families. When all anyone hears is vitriol spewed about members of the opposing political party, other countries, our own government, and about people who earn more or less than us, it's bound to overthrow our reason and our critical thinking skills. 

That being said, I'm for "Obamacare". As a physician, I try to avoid getting too political for fear of alienating any of my patients. But coverage and healthcare for everyone does have a nice ring to it. I want to see more patients. I want to provide patients with preventive care and early interventions that keep them from seeking care at the emergency room for non-emergent medical problems. I want to be covered by Medicare and Medicaid- I would take more Medicare and Medicaid patients if I could. Right now, I choose to see them on my sliding fee scale because Medicaid and Medicare do not cover naturopathic physicians. I have committed myself to improving the lives of people in my community and that means seeing sick people who need care, not just sick people with insurance.

But, it would be easier to do that if I could get paid better. 

Part of what "Obamacare" does is to require insurance companies to use more of their member's premiums to pay doctors instead of their own CEOs. Yet Cigna's CEO made over $19 million last year. Last month, I got $37 from them for a patient visit that lasted 30 minutes. And the patient had a $40 copay on top of that. Any complaints about the unfairness of this to the patient or to the provider are met with cries of "free market economy" and "who are we to prevent businesses from making money" and "socialism".  And I am free to do as many of my colleagues do and not accept insurance or be an out-of-network provider. But I rely on insurance directories for some of my referrals and to allow more people to take care of themselves and to see a naturopathic doctor than might otherwise be able to. Yet there is a sharp divide between how much insurance companies are making and how much they are reimbursing doctors and patients are stuck in the middle (see my blog article on "The Insurance Secret" for more). 

Obamacare also provides subsidies for patients who can't afford policies on their own. Covering more of our vulnerable populations will keep them out of emergency rooms. Covering naturopathy would aid this and shift their burden of care to doctors who are willing and able to provide preventive and primary care medicine to reduce the numbers of people suffering from chronic conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma and allergies, etc that are a huge percentage of healthcare costs. A small study in Vermont showed that members of a professional association that joined a preventive healthcare program run by an ND were able to lower their direct healthcare costs by $21 for every $1 spent. This is phenomenal and, at the very least, should provide impetus for studies on a larger scale about the potential impacts by naturopathic medicine on the national healthcare debate.

The time for rational and intelligent merit-based and well-thought out discussions about where our country and our planet is going is rapidly dwindling as news outlets push their ratings up at the expense of the common good. Turn them off. Think for yourself. Teach your children (as my parents taught me) the power of emotional appeals and the importance of critically parsing statements to discover verifiable facts and how to make decisions based on those facts and how they impact our families, communities and our world.