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Health programs available for free

By Ed Brock

Just the idea of having prostate cancer was enough to make 59-year-old Ed Hendry nervous.

"The first thing your mind does is go off the deep end," Hendry said.

Even more frightening would have been having prostate cancer and not finding out in time to stop it. Fortunately for Hendry, after a free prostrate screening at Henry Medical Center in Stockbridge showed some warning signs of cancer he underwent some tests and found out all he had was a bacterial infection.

"I was totally relieved," said Hendry who lives in Hampton. "I think (the free screening program) is one of the best programs they can put out, especially with the problems men have with their prostate."

There are a variety of free programs available from Henry Medical and Southern Regional Medical Center in Clayton County that are designed to educate the public about staying healthy or to provide tests for specific diseases. The programs are often held at the hospitals but they sometimes bring their services out into the community.

On Monday, in conjunction with the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Day celebrations in downtown Jonesboro, SRMC's cultural diversity committee plans to co-host a blood drive and health fair. The event, also sponsored by the American Red Cross and several civic groups, will be at the Salvation Army building on Spring Street near the parking lot where the MLK Day parade will end in speeches and events. From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., if SRMC Human Resources employee Milrinette Nelson, has her way, crowds of people will leave the MLK Day event and walk across the street to give blood and get free screenings for blood pressure, blood glucose levels and cholesterol levels.

"We'll have cancer awareness and prevention information, chronic disease prevention information and American Heart and Stroke Administration information," said Nelson, recruitment coordinator for the event.

Participants in the blood drive also receive a commemorative Martin Luther King, Jr. lapel pin along with the usual cookies and juice. People planning to participate in the blood drive can make a reservation by calling 1-800-GIVE-LIFE (448-3543).

Donors must be 17 or older and should weigh at least 110 pounds. They should eat a well-balanced meal and get plenty of rest the night before giving blood.

There is a desperate need for blood nationwide, Nelson said, and people should bear in mind that blood cannot be frozen and only stays usable for 42 hours so the supply must be replenished. People shouldn't be afraid of the needle, either.

"You're not going to catch anything from giving blood," Nelson said.

In fact, blood donors also get free screenings for diseases like HIV, hepatitis B and C and syphilis.

Among the many other free classes at SRMC is "Breast Expectations," a program for women with breast cancer that meets each Tuesday from 6 to 7:30 p.m. SRMC nurse Marty Polovich started the class based on a similar program she organized at another hospital.

Polovich said that improved techniques have led to more women being diagnosed with cancer at their doctor's office rather than going into surgery and coming out "not knowing if they had had a mastectomy or not." That advanced diagnosis can be good, but it also means there's a one to three week period between the diagnosis and the surgery.

"That's a very stressful time," Polovich said. "During that time they have a lot of questions and concerns. Our class addresses those issues."

"Those issues" can include the different types of surgical treatment, what the women can expect on the day of their surgery and what they can do to recover from the surgery.

Most frequently the women suffer from "a fear of the unknown," Polovich said.

"What will recovery be like? How long will they be out of work? How long before they know if the cancer has spread or not?" Polovich said. "They also want to know if being scared is normal."

During the class a nurse specializing in cancer treatment and a surgical nurse are on hand to answer those questions along with an occupational therapist. They also teach the women exercises that will help them recover more quickly and how to deal with complications such as lymphedema, a condition that occurs when lymphatic vessels or lymph nodes are damaged or removed. It can lead to a build up of fluid that causes swelling in the arms, legs, breast, abdomen, neck or head.

The women are encouraged to bring their spouses or significant others to the class. More information is available by calling the Southern Regional Cancer Information Line at (770) 909-2099.

A complete listing of SRMC's information classes is available at www.southernregional.com or by calling (770) 541-1111.

Also, a list of programs at Henry Medical is on their Web site at www.henrymedical.com.

"I have several requests from groups every week that want us to come to them," said Vicki Ayers with the Henry Medical Center's community education department.

One upcoming event will be the Heart Fair on Feb. 14 at the hospital's foundation and education building on the hospital campus in Stockbridge from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. It will educate the community on the signs and symptoms of a heart attack and there will be free screenings for blood pressure and body fat analysis.

For more information on the fair call (770) 506-1579.

Other classes include the arthritis self-help group that offers support and education to those with arthritis. There is also PACE (People with Arthritis Can Exercise), an eight-week program that meets twice a week to provide range of motion, muscle strengthening and/or endurance exercises, body mechanics, lectures and relaxation techniques for people with arthritis.

The Better Breathers Class is a four-session course that provides education for lung disease patients and their families. The Fresh Start smoking cessation program helps people kick the habit.

Other classes cover childbirth, cancer, heart disease, diabetes self-management, healthcare at the end of life, CPR and first-aid, being a parent to multiple children and a Red Cross course on babysitting.

Call the Education Department at (770) 389-2143 for more information on each class.