Monday, April 14, 2014

Over 400 Race/Walk for Pulmonary Hypertension, Team PH Hope

By Chuck Finder

More than 400 people came out Sunday to run or walk for 3.1 miles along the North Shore’s Riverfront Trail in support of pulmonary hypertension (PH) research and the UPMC cycling foursome who will race 3,000 miles cross-country to raise awareness and donations for the oft misdiagnosed and misunderstood disease.

“This is an awesome day – it’s the largest event ever held in Pittsburgh for PH,” Patty George, M.D., UPMC pulmonologist and captain of Team PHenomenal Hope, told the crowd after the race.

There were sizeable groups wearing red T-shirts (“Slippery Rock PHights for a Cure”) and purple T-shirts (“Anna’s Army”), the latter for an 11-year-old Monroeville girl who saw a television story about Team PH Hope and became both a friend and a donor. 

“It all came together the last three weeks,” Jay Lindner said of the Army of nearly 40 friends and family who gathered on the North Shore Sunday for Anna.

And there were another 25 folks or so who dressed in zebra-striped socks and leggings. That’s a variation of the national PH Association’s campaign about identifying the disease faced by potentially 100,000 Americans. Just as a zebra looks like a painted horse, often PH (high blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs) is mistaken for asthma or another condition less serious than PH. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently announced research findings where deaths from PH are on the rise.

“Anything we can do,” said Nicole Stafford of Warren, Ohio, a mother of two and the ringleader of the zebra-striped crew that she teasingly called her “cult.” Stafford thought she was symptom-free and in the clear after surgery for a congenital heart defect while in third grade, then went on to become an occupational therapist and the mother of a son, now 7. When she had her daughter a little over two years ago, her condition was exacerbated and she learned she had PH. 

“Apparently with PH, you shouldn’t have kids. They didn’t tell me that,” Stafford added. “Suddenly, I was back in the hospital. Class 4,” meaning PH symptoms occur even at rest.

Patients such as the elementary-schooler Lindner and the mother Stafford are gratified by the national efforts of Team PHenomenal Hope, in support of whom the national Pulmonary Hypertension Association staged a PHenomenal Mile in 30-plus states as part of their Race of Our Lives campaign for the cycling team’s mid-June Race Across America adventure.

“They’re PHenomenal,” Stafford said. “They’re amazing. I’m excited.”

As for the more than $10,000 raised from Sunday’s race and walk for PHA, not to mention the patients taking part in Pittsburgh’s version of a PHenomenal Mile-plus, organizer Julia Feitner, of Baden, called it a resounding success for an inaugural effort.

“As a patient, it is easy to feel isolated. So it means so much to have all of these people here,” said Feitner, the mother of two young sons. “I’m absolutely ecstatic for a first time race and walk.  To have Pittsburgh showing this kind of support for us is just fantastic.”

Friday, April 11, 2014

Answering the Call When Tragedy Hits Close to Home

By Amy Ashbridge and Martin Kinnunen

It takes just 10 minutes to drive from Franklin Regional Senior High School in Murrysville to UPMC East in Monroeville.

When a mass stabbing incident happened Wednesday morning at Franklin Regional High School, the tragedy hit close to home for the UPMC family. For many of the patients from Franklin Regional High School, UPMC East was their first stop.

Six of the injured were rushed to UPMC East, a community hospital that opened less than two years ago and has quickly become a trusted source of care in the eastern suburbs. When Wednesday’s incident happened, associates and physicians at East and across the UPMC system were ready to step into action. Not only did this incident test the clinical abilities of the hospital's physicians, nurses and staff to treat an influx of patients, but it also called on our staff to draw from personal emotional reserves to support their friends, neighbors, and family members.

UPMC East is not a designated trauma center. However, its Emergency Department physicians and associates are highly skilled at stabilizing severely injured patients, and transferring them to trauma centers when necessary at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, UPMC Mercy, and UPMC Presbyterian. UPMC East medical staff also trained to handle a mass casualty event prior to the opening of the facility.

“The successes we see at the trauma centers could not occur without the efforts made by the physicians, nurses, and other employees in our UPMC community hospitals and their emergency departments,” said Steven G. Docimo, M.D., chief medical officer, Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.

Of the six injured taken to UPMC East, one was transferred to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, and the remaining five were treated in the Emergency Department and discharged home; an adult patient seen at UPMC Mercy also has been discharged. One patient remains at UPMC Presbyterian in critical condition. Two teenagers remain hospitalized at Children’s.

Dr. Juan Carlos Puyana, one of the UPMC trauma surgeons caring for the most seriously injured victims, said the wealth of medical resources in the region and well-coordinated triage services at UPMC East (see video), gave doctors at UPMC Presbyterian a jump start on caring for the student.

“It was thanks to the prehospital services and their quick actions stabilizing the patient and transferring him to our level one trauma center at UPMC Presby that we were able to successfully operate as fast as possible,” said Dr. Puyana. “We are very lucky here in Western Pennsylvania that when a traumatic, terrible event like this happens we have the medical infrastructure to respond quickly and save lives.”

At a news conference held Wednesday at UPMC East, leadership emphasized that East’s — and UPMC’s — successes in handling these patients was directly related to the skill of its physicians and associates. First responders were in quick contact with UPMC East providers while en route, and in turn stepped up to facilitate care and support of patients and their families. Nursing staff worked quickly to transport patients from the ED who didn’t require critical care. Support and hospitality staff worked to make sure patients and their families had food, juice and emotional support.

“The students, as well as the families, are going to need some type of emotional support over the next several days, if not weeks,” said Tamra Minton, UPMC East chief nursing officer and vice president, Patient Care Services. “And we will do that in any way that we can.”

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Trial to Examine Efficacy of Body Cooling for Some Trauma Patients

By Anita Srikameswaran and Tim Betler

Last week, a trial began at UPMC Presbyterian to see whether profound body cooling can rescue people who suffer cardiac arrest after massive blood loss. Watch the video to see the team review the steps of procedure and talk about its potential to save lives that would otherwise be lost.

Trauma, such as car accidents and gunshot wounds, causes more than 150,000 deaths annually in the United States. Standard care includes the rapid administration of intravenous fluids and blood products. If the patient suffers a cardiac arrest, surgeons may open the left side of the chest to perform open cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and attempt to quickly repair the injuries. Despite these efforts, fewer than 10 percent of patients who suffer a cardiac arrest from trauma survive.

In the Emergency Preservation and Resuscitation for Cardiac Arrest  After Trauma (EPR-CAT) trial, 10 patients who come to the emergency department with gunshot or knife wounds and bleeding severe enough to stop their hearts will receive large amounts of cold fluids through a cannula, or tube, placed in the aorta, explained principal investigator Samuel Tisherman, M.D., professor of critical care and surgery at the University ofPittsburgh School of Medicine.  Body temperature will drop nearly in half to about 50 degrees Fahrenheit. A heart-lung bypass machine will be used to restore blood circulation and oxygenation as part of the resuscitation process.

“When blood loss is the cause of cardiac arrest, restarting the heart does little good if the bleeding is not under control,” he said. “Rapid cooling might be able to sustain the patient – particularly the brain – long enough to ‘buy time’ to find and treat the source of blood loss.”

Due to the severity of the injuries and need for rapid treatment, the EPR team will not be able to obtain informed consent from the patients on whom these measures will be tested nor from the patients’ next-of-kin.

Instead, the study, which has been reviewed by government agencies and university research review boards, will be conducted under the federally regulated exception-from-informed consent process. Community members who do not wish to included in the trial can obtain a bracelet to show they have opted out by going to at or calling  412-647-9652.