One of our core values is to promote “healthy lifestyle choices among the people in Southeast Alaska.” SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) would like to provide patients with the information needed to be successful on the journey toward health as well as tools to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

“Picture of Health” is one of the tools that may help motivate you to pursue and sustain good health through the experiences of others. Here you will find stories about successes and challenges – some of them may be from people you know. You’ll also learn about people who are making a difference, health tips, and more.

We will be adding new stories and encourage everyone to revisit our Picture of Health page.

I’ve been in PT Rehab for over a year. First, I was learning ways to walk and use my leg muscles. Then this year I had to really work out. Boy! That Megan is one tough cookie! I had to really work – first with a walker, then a cane.

- Virginia T., Sitka AK

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After a fall in early September, I was hospitalized, went through a bunch of tests and was sent to Anchorage. After a couple more falls, I had to start physical therapy.

My first physical therapists were Christopher Jones, then Gio Villanueva and Megan Bays. I’ve been in PT Rehab for over a year. First, I was learning ways to walk and use my leg muscles. Then this year I had to really work out. Boy! That Megan is one tough cookie! I had to really work – first with a walker, then a cane.

When my brother Henry died it hit me hard and I stopped PT for a while. Megan, Gio, Suzan and Christopher were so kind and caring when I went through the loss of my brother, I could talk to them when I needed to. I was grateful for them helping me get my feet back on the ground.

Why am I doing this?  I have a wife and two adult children that need and love me.  I want to be here for them longer.

- Don Nickerson, Klawock AK

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Don tried his first cigarette at 17 and experimented with cigarettes because he didn’t want to be an “outcast” from his older friends who smoked.  Eventually, Don was smoking 8-10 cigarettes a day and at the age of 29 he decided to quit.  He was a successful non-smoker for 8 years.  Don became a smoker again when he was 37 and continued until last year when he asked himself, “Why am I doing this?  I have a wife and two adult children that need and love me.  I want to be here for them longer.”

Don Knew He Needed Help

Don didn’t want to be powerless to tobacco.  He knew nicotine was an addiction.  Don reached out to a SEARHC co-worker who referred him to Alaska’s Tobacco Quit Line.  Don received calls from Quit Line coaches who shared ideas and helped him develop a quit plan.  He also received nicotine patches to help reduce his urges to smoke.

After using patches for a few months, Don switched to using toothpicks and chewing gum to keep the remaining urges at bay.  Don felt supported as Quit Line coaches called him twice weekly.  “We discussed possible challenges I could face, they called when they said they would, and gave me pointers on ways to manage urges.” Don also received support from his family and friends.

Now, Don is a non-smoker, and will be tobacco free for one year on November 27th.  He is happy his senses of taste and smell have improved and he is no longer powerless to tobacco.  Don shared his story to empower other smokers and to praise Alaska’s Tobacco Quit Line for their support in his journey.

Don encourages other tobacco users to use the Quit Line.  Don says, “First you have to admit nicotine is an addiction and don’t be afraid to ask for help.  You don’t have to quit alone.”

There’s good reason to quit now – compelling reasons. Damage from tobacco smoke is immediate.

Alaska Quit Line

http://alaskaquitline.com/how-to-quit-successfully/

You can call Alaska’s Tobacco Quit Line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW or enroll online at http://alaskaquitline.com/. Talking with your doctor about quitting smoking and using FDA-approved cessation medication can increase your chances of success.

Don is Tlingit from Klawock, Alaska.

Story by SEARHC Health Educator, Tammi Meissner, X’atshaawditee (Tlingit name), in Wrangell, Alaska

It is important that we give back to those less fortunate than us by providing basic needs such as eye glasses, dentures, and elder patient escort travel.

- Corrine Garza

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Corrine Garza is an active member of Healing Hand Foundation’s board of directors. Corrine explains why she serves: “I am well aware of the fact that the federal government does not fund all the health needs of our tribal citizens. It is important that we give back to those less fortunate than us by providing basic needs such as eye glasses, dentures, and elder patient escort travel. A donation to the Healing Hand Foundation provides direct assistance to our tribal citizens.”

SEARHC recognizes Corrine’s years of work, dedication and contributions to the health our communities. She represents our picture of health. Over the years, Corrine has worked with the board to create policies that reflect the areas of most need. Currently, Healing Hand offers assistance to SEARHC beneficiaries and veterans in three areas: pharmaceuticals, durable medical equipment, and elder escort travel.

In 2015, 95 recipients were granted assistance from 8 Southeast Alaska communities totaling $20,000, and 13 patients received airline miles to be with a family member during their time of need. Since 2002, Healing Hand has averaged about 106 opportunities to lend a hand each year.

Corrine recently signed up to support Healing Hand Foundation by enrolling in the Fred Meyer Community Rewards program. She says “It’s free and easy to sign up. Just click here to link your Fred Meyer Rewards Card and we’ll both get rewards! Our nonprofit org number is 84236.”

There was no assistance like there is now to quit. I had to do it cold turkey. I kept my mind and body busy by hunting, fishing, and camping with my four boys and my wife. Keeping busy helped me ignore the cravings.

- Frank, Retired Elder, Wrangell, AK

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Never try it and you’ll never miss it!

I started smoking when I was 18 years old. I switched to chewing when I began working at the Wrangell Mill because smoke breaks were limited. I got my nicotine fix from chew.

Most of my co-workers chewed, too. I had a friend who ended up with a hole in the front of his bottom lip from chewing. I sometimes developed a white area in my lip, like a cold sore. In the late 1970’s I began hearing how chewing causes cancer. I decided to quit because my wife was pressuring me, I had four wonderful boys to look after, and I didn’t want to end up with cancer.

For me it was harder to quit chewing than it was to stop smoking. I chewed daily for 12 years.  It was a habit and I was addicted. I quit in 1980 but it was tough for about a year. I was grumpy and my mouth watered every time I saw a can of chew. Back then, there was no assistance like there is now to quit. I had to do it cold turkey. I kept my mind and body busy by hunting, fishing, and camping with my four boys and my wife. Keeping busy helped me ignore the cravings.

I think it’s great that people have the Alaska Tobacco Quit Line to call for assistance with quitting. I encourage people to quit the nasty habit of chewing, and am proud to say none of my boys smoke or chew.

As my children were growing up I always told them ‘Never try it and you’ll never miss it!

 

Alaska Quit Line

http://alaskaquitline.com/how-to-quit-successfully/

You can call Alaska’s Tobacco Quit Line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW or enroll online at http://alaskaquitline.com/. Talking with your doctor about quitting smoking and using FDA-approved cessation medication can increase your chances of success.

 

Story by SEARHC Health Educator, Tammi Meissner, X’atshaawditee (Tlingit name), in Wrangell, Alaska

And those little old ladies from the villages built a very strong foundation; they developed their bylaws, made sure everything was in order and what they structured back then is still in place today.

- Ethel Lund, SEARHC Founder, Juneau AK

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It should come as no surprise that our first choice for the SEARHC Picture of Health was Ethel Lund.

Ethel was one of the nine women on the founding board for SEARHC. The women had very real concerns for health care. They were serious about what they discussed and planned to do. The commitment of Ethel and the other women to improve the health of their people led to the creation of SEARHC.

Some men who went to early SEARHC meetings would later comment dismissively about the “little old ladies from the villages.” As the years went by, if Ethel was making a speech and saw the people who made the comments in the audience, she would say “And those little old ladies from the villages built a very strong foundation; they developed their bylaws, made sure everything was in order and what they structured back then is still in place today.”

Strength training is key as I prepare for the next 50 years of my life. I am 48 years old and not ready to be immobile.

- Martha P., Sitka, AK

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What health issue(s) have you been focusing on recently or on an ongoing basis?

There are a couple of ongoing issues I deal with. Bad knees and hearing loss.

What are your goals concerning managing this health challenge and staying healthy?

Strength training is key as I prepare for the next 50 years of my life. I am 48 years old and not ready to be immobile. Concerning my hearing, I need to just make the best of the situation that I can.

 How are you working with your SEARHC provider(s) to accomplish your goal?

My treatment/management plan includes medication, advice, support, physical therapy, and hearing aides. Dr. Bruhl, Dr. Lehman and Dr. Dunn are fantastic and give me great support.

How do you feel about your progress so far? Your ability to achieve your goal(s) long-term?

Today – happy.

On days when I cannot hear people talking or can barely get upstairs with my cranky knees, it is depressing. My issues are all about aging well. I am a little young to be dealing with this stuff, but if I can get good at managing these issues now, it will be smoother sailing from here on out. 

I feel great! I just have to make myself do the necessary exercises. Every year, I organize an 8-person team called the Klawalkers for the POW Marathon.

- Adeline D., Klawock AK

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I feel great! I just have to make myself do the necessary exercises. Every year, I organize an 8-person team called the Klawalkers for the POW Marathon. Because of my age (83) I do not run. Many elders break bones and it is the end for them. Since the POW Marathon began I have missed only two. So I have a good collection of marathon shirts and medals.

I had difficulties with sore knees. My PT, Dan Weaver gave me exercises that I do regularly so I no longer need knee braces. I take an iron supplement and plan to continue the exercises. My health care provider is Dr. Kemper who is like a good friend. She even walked in the marathon with me when I was determined to walk it with knee braces. Dr. Kemper checks my blood regularly and prescribes iron tablets when needed. She also encourages me to keep walking and watch my diet. Dan coaches me to keep up with the exercises for my knees.  

My focus is to eat well and stay active. I sew and am active with a Quilter’s guild that helps welcome new babies or assists others who are in need. I became a Wisewoman in 2003 and I am proud to wear my first Wisewoman jacket when I walk the Prince of Wales Island Marathon. I love seeing people active, walking or running and feel very proud of community members assisting with programs that enable us to enjoy our lives to the fullest.

My long term goal is to keep doing the marathon until it gets to be too much for me. I enjoy being a part of the annual marathon!