Local boxer Franchon Crews participates in “Rappel For Kidney Health”

— The National Kidney Foundation of Maryland (NKF-MD) held the fourth annual Rappel for Kidney Health signature event on Saturday, June 8, 2013 at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront in Harbor East.


Courtesy photo

Franchon Crews packs a punch

As the exclusive rappel event occurring annually in the Baltimore metropolitan area, Rappel for Kidney Health invited people of all ages to scale the 33-story hotel, from the roof to the fifth floor pool deck.

Adventure seekers, “edgers” with connections to kidney disease, and even transplant donors and recipients participated.

After pledging $1,000 for this unique opportunity, each participant was provided a fundraising web page, underwent a training session on event day and was photographed while in action.

Rappeller and local boxer Franchon Crews raised money for the NKF-MD because her mother suffers from kidney disease. She said the steady rain didn’t deter her from scaling 28 stories. “ If I had to do it again I would and plan to next year with Mama Crews in tow,” she said. “We look forward to helping knockout kidney disease.”

“I am proud to support NKF-MD, which is committed to helping the more than 13,000 Marylanders with end stage renal disease through direct services, research, funding and advocacy,” said 2013 Rappel for Kidney Health Event Chair Brigitte Sullivan, administrative director of The Johns Hopkins Comprehensive Transplant Center, who rappelled for the fourth consecutive year.

Funds raised through Rappel for Kidney Health will directly support NKF-MD’s patient services, education and research efforts. The first three Rappel for Kidney Health events created an unbelievable amount of excitement, drawing 200 participants and raising over $320,000.

Rappel for Kidney Health is organized by Over the Edge (www.overtheedgeusa.com), the only company in North America with the proven experience, safety record and insurance to provide rappelling services to the non-profit sector.

Serving central and western Maryland, the Delmarva Peninsula and portions of West Virginia, NKF-MD is the area’s only voluntary health agency dedicated to the prevention, treatment and cure of kidney and urinary tract diseases. For more information about kidney disease, to volunteer or to made a donation, visit: www.kidneymd.org or call 410-494-8545.

Medication during pregnancy: What’s safe to take?

— Pregnancy is a time of excitement and joy, but it can also be an anxious, frustrating time if a mom-to be needs to take medication.

More than 90 percent of women use at least one medicine during pregnancy. To learn about taking medicine during pregnancy, about half of women ages 18 to 44 years old look for health information on the internet.

A new study shows that while many internet websites post lists of medicines that are safe to take during pregnancy, for many of the medicines listed, there is not enough known to determine their safety or risk for use during pregnancy.

Cheryl Broussard, PhD an epidemioligist with the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities says pregnant women are taking more medications than ever and they need to be informed. ” Don’t use information you find on the internet to bypass a conversation with your doctor,” she warns. “Use this information as a starting point to talk with your doctor and be sure you’re only taking what’s necessary.”

Remember, if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant:

  • Talk to your doctor about any medications you are taking or thinking about taking. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, as well as dietary or herbal supplements.
  • Don’t stop or start taking any type of medicine that you need without first talking with a health care provider.
  • Check with your health care provider about the information that you find online. A conversation with your health care provider can help ensure that you are taking only what is necessary.

To learn more about medication use during pregnancy visit the CDC’s Medications and Pregnancy webpage.

Prescription painkiller epidemic among women

Women are dying from prescription painkiller overdoses at rates never seen before, according to a new CDC Vital Signs. While men are more likely to die of a prescription painkiller overdose, the percentage increase in deaths since 1999 was greater among women (400 percent in women compared to 265 percent in men). Prescription painkiller overdoses killed nearly 48,000 women between 1999 and 2010.

About 42 women die every day from a drug overdose (including those from prescription painkillers). Since 2007, more women have died from drug overdoses than from motor vehicle crashes. More than 940,000 women were seen in emergency departments for drug misuse or abuse in 2010.

Prescription painkillers have been a major contributor to increases in drug overdose deaths among women. More than 6,600 women died from a prescription painkiller overdose in 2010. This is about 18 women a day; which accounts for nearly half of all drug overdoses that happen each day among women. In 2010, there were more than 200,000 emergency department visits for opioid misuse or abuse among women; about one every three minutes.

Health care providers and women can take steps to protect against prescription painkiller overdoses. It is important that health care providers follow guidelines for responsible opioid prescribing (including screening and monitoring for substance abuse and mental health problems). They should also discuss all pain treatment options with their patients (including ones that do not involve prescription drugs).

“Health care providers can play an important role in curbing this epidemic by improving the way painkillers are prescribed among women,” says Karin Mack, a senior behavioral scientist at the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. “Women should only use prescription drugs as directed by a health care provider and should dispose of medications properly as soon as the course of treatment is done.”

Prevent misuse and abuse by never selling or sharing prescription drugs. Get help for substance abuse problems (1-800-662-HELP) and call Poison Help (1-800-222-1222) with questions about medicines. For more information about prescription drug overdoses, please visit CDC’s Injury Center.

Stay cool, hydrated and informed this summer

Summer is here and with it comes the sweltering Baltimore heat. A new study shows that heat-related deaths are on the rise. In a 2-week period in 2012, excessive heat exposure resulted in 32 deaths in 4 states, four times the typical average for those states for the same 2-week period from 1999-2009.“

Robin Ikeda, Acting Director of the National Center for Environmental Health says with the proper precautions no should die from the heat. “Heat-related illnesses and deaths are preventable,” she says. “Taking steps to stay cool, hydrated and informed in extreme temperatures can prevent serious health effects like heat exhaustion and heat stroke.”

No one should die from a heat wave, but extreme heat causes more deaths than any other weather event. Extreme heat can lead to very high body temperatures, brain and organ damage, and even death. People suffer heat-related illness when their bodies are unable to properly compensate and cool themselves.

  • Stay cool by going to an air conditioned place and wearing light, loose clothing
  • Stay hydrated by drinking more water than usual and avoiding drinks with alcohol, caffeine, or carbonation
  • Stay informed by tuning in to heat-related alerts in your area
  • Watch for symptoms like muscle cramping, heavy sweating, rapid heartbeat, nausea, or fainting.

For more information on how to protect yourself from extreme heat visit the CDC.

Maryland bans sale of crib bumper pads

— Maryland’s statewide ban on the sale of crib bumper pads will took effect on June 21, 2013.

The new policy was adopted by regulation of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) in November 2012 following 18 months of expert and public consultation. Because crib bumper pads offer no meaningful benefit and pose potentially serious risks to infants, including suffocation and death, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Institutes of Health all advise against their use.

“Pediatricians in Maryland support the new ban on the sale of crib bumpers. Far too often in our state, healthy infants are dying in unsafe sleep positions,” said Dr. Scott Krugman, Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center and President of the Maryland Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “Bumpers offer no benefit to infants and may cause unnecessary deaths.”

“The ban on the sale of crib bumpers promotes safer sleep for infants, and safer sleep will mean fewer tragedies for Maryland families,” said Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, Secretary of DHMH.

The ban on the sale of crib bumper pads is part of an ongoing public health effort to educate parents about safe sleep practices for babies. The Department is distributing over 200,000 cards and posters on safe sleep to WIC agencies and local health departments. Free materials are also available to providers and can be ordered at www.dhmh.maryland.gov/safesleep. The key message of this effort is that babies sleep best alone, on their back and in a crib free of blankets, pillows, fluffy toys, crib bumpers, or stuffed animals.

The Department is releasing data showing that growing numbers of Maryland mothers are placing their infants to sleep primarily on their backs (74 percent) and never or rarely co-slept with their infants (60 percent), a notable increase that coincides with public health outreach on safe sleep.

The ban applies to crib bumpers that are made of non-mesh type material, rest directly above the mattress along the length of each of the interior sides of the crib, and are intended to be used until the age that an infant pulls to stand. The Department will issue a warning to an individual who ships or sells crib bumper pads to a purchaser in Maryland. If there continues to be violation of the regulation after a warning is issued, a fine of up to $500 for each crib bumper shipped or sold can be assessed.

The proposed ban does not apply to vertical bumpers that wrap tightly around each individual crib rail or mesh crib liners. However, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene does not endorse any product for use as bumpers in infant cribs.

Additional information about safe sleep and the crib bumper ban, as well as the fact sheet containing the new safe sleep data, can be found at: www.dhmh.maryland.gov/safesleep.

City declares first code red heat day of summer

— The Baltimore City Health Department issued the first code red heat alert of the summer on Sunday, July 7.

With temperatures expected to remain in the 90s for the rest of the week, here’s a few tips to help you stay cool and safe.

The Baltimore City Health Department recommends that City residents:

Drink plenty of water or juice

Avoid alcohol and caffeine

Wipe skin with cool water as needed

Reduce outside activities

Wear light-weight and light-colored clothing

Stay inside during the hottest time of day (between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.)

Seek relief from the heat in air-conditioned locations

Check on older, sick or frail people in your community who may need help responding to the heat

City residents who want information on the cooling centers can call 311. Any City resident experiencing the signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke should call 911.

Watch out for signs of heat exhaustion, which can lead to heat stroke:




Muscle cramps

Cool and clammy skin

Symptoms of heat stroke include:



Slurred Speech

Hot, dry, flushed skin

Rapid or slowed heart beat

Seek medical help immediately if any of the above symptoms occur.

Shirley M. Watts appointed to Court of Appeals

— On July 3, Governor Martin O’Malley announced two historic judicial appointments to the Maryland Court of Appeals, Maryland’s highest court. The Governor named The Honorable Shirley M. Watts to fill the vacancy in the Sixth Appellate Judicial Circuit on the Court of Appeals, which represents Baltimore City. He also named the Honorable Mary Ellen Barbera as Maryland’s first woman Chief Judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals. Together, these decisions give the Maryland Court of Appeals its first ever female majority, first female Chief Judge, and first African American female judge.

Judge Barbera has served on the Court since 2008, representing the Seventh Appellate Judicial Circuit in Montgomery County. She will succeed the Honorable Robert M. Bell as Chief Judge. Chief Judge Bell retires on July 6, 2013. Judge Shirley M. Watts has served on the Court of Special Appeals since 2011 and on the Circuit Court for Baltimore City from 2002 to 2011.

“Judge Barbera and Judge Watts represent the best of the Maryland bar and will do an outstanding job serving on the highest court in Maryland,” said Governor O’Malley. “Throughout their judicial careers, they have exhibited integrity, intelligence, and compassion. I am honored that we are not only making history today with these appointments, but that the hard work, talents and skills of these women will help us build on the progress we’re making together for the people of Maryland.”

Judge Watts will be the first African American woman to serve on the Court of Appeals. She has served on the Court of Special Appeals since January 2011. She began her legal career practicing criminal law and spent four years as an Assistant State’s Attorney for Baltimore City. She then served nine years in the Office of the Federal Public Defender for the District of Maryland, where she represented indigent criminal defendants and served as Supervisory Assistant Public Defender for her final four years.

In 1997, Judge Watts accepted an appointment as a federal Administrative Law Judge. She served as Chief Administrative Law Judge for the Office of Hearings and Appeals in Maryland from 1999-2002 until she was appointed to the Circuit Court for Baltimore City in 2002. Judge Watts served as an Associate Judge on that court from 2002 until her appointment to the Court of Special Appeals in 2011.

Judge Watts received a Juris Doctor from Rutgers University School of Law and a Bachelor of Arts from Howard University. For several years, she was an adjunct professor at the Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law, where she taught trial practice. Judge Watts was awarded The Daily Record’s Leadership in Law award in 2011 and has been active for many years with Jack and Jill of America, Inc.

Indepence Day is a City holiday

— Department of Public Works Director Alfred H. Foxx reminds everyone that Independence Day, Thursday, July 4, 2013, is a City holiday. Department of Public Works’ offices and yards will be closed.

There will be no curbside waste or recycling collection on Independence Day.

Trash or recycling that is normally collected on Thursdays, will be collected on the make-up day, Saturday, July 6, 2013.

NO BULK TRASH collections are scheduled for that day.

All Citizen Convenience Centers WILL BE CLOSED, including Quarantine Road Landfill.

Mechanical street sweeping will not take place that day.

Citizens will be unable to access city offices for bill payments or permits. Some bills can be paid online. Please visit www.baltimorecity.gov.

Parking meters WILL NOT be in effect.

Public fireworks a safe option this 4th of July

With the arrival of summer, State Fire Marshal William E. Barnard is suggesting that Marylanders should attend public fireworks displays. “I would suggest the safest way to enjoy fireworks is to attend one of the many public fireworks displays throughout the state.” stated Barnard. To help Marylanders enjoy a safer summer season, the State Fire Marshal offers several ways to enjoy fireworks while avoiding injury:

• Consider attending one of the numerous public fireworks displays scheduled throughout Maryland every year. Leave fireworks to the professionals. Check the Maryland State Fire Marshal’s website for listed public fireworks displays throughout the state.

For those individuals who insist on the use of consumer fireworks:

• Purchase the fireworks in the location where you intend to discharge them. Check with the local municipality to determine what fireworks are considered legal for use in that area.

• Read and follow label warnings and instructions.

• Do not allow small children to use fireworks.

• Do not consume alcoholic beverages while using fireworks.

• Have a bucket of water or hose available

• Fully extinguish remains of fireworks in water before disposal.

“Fireworks have been a long tradition of the 4th of July holiday celebrations. Please make safety your number one priority so everyone can enjoy the holiday season.” adds the State Fire Marshal. “By acting responsibly, we can help eliminate fireworks injuries in Maryland.”

Public invited to participate in flag stitching as part of bicentennial celebration

— Beginning July 4, 2013, The Maryland Historical Society (MdHS) will recreate the 30 x 42 foot Star-Spangled Banner flag that inspired the writing of our national anthem. Using authentic materials, MdHS will employ traditional stitching techniques that Mary Pickersgill used 200 years ago.

Once completed, the flag will fly over Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine and, along with the original Star-Spangled Manuscript, will be a part of the 2014 Flag Day celebration at the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

“We are so fortunate, during the Bicentennial celebrations, to make an idea like this come alive!” says Kristin Schenning, MdHS Director of Education. “It means so much for our state of Maryland, and its place in American history.”

The Maryland Historical Society has recruited more than 100 experienced quilters from around the country to construct the majority of the flag. The group will gather in MdHS’ France Hall and, by working up to eight hours a day, will assemble the flag in three sections, including: the long stripes, the short stripes, and the blue field. Descendants of Mary Pickersgill are scheduled to participate.

On Saturday, August 3 and Sunday, August 11 from noon until 3 p.m. the general public is invited to come and add a stitch to the flag. During these days, MdHS will host the Fort McHenry Fife and Drum Corps, celebrity guest appearances, actors in period costume, exhibit tables from our friends and partners, and mobile food vendors outside of the

Museum. To register for the public days, visit www.mdhs.org/events.

“This is the ultimate participatory event,” says President Burt Kummerow. “It will be a once in a lifetime opportunity. Visitors will be able to participate in the creation of an artifact that will become part of the nation’s proud history.”

Participants in the sewing days will also receive a stamp in the 1812 Bicentennial Passport, a free passport from the Baltimore National Heritage Area that includes over a dozen Baltimore-area historical sites.