Author Archives: UNC REX Healthcare

Sophie and the Little Red Wagon

Sophie, a seven-year-old German Shepherd, has a kind heart and gentle spirit. Bone deformity cost Sophie her right front leg. In spite of her physical condition, Sophie is living her life to the fullest. When she’s not busy running and playing with other dogs, she’s motivating patients at UNC REX Hospital as a therapy dog. 


At her home in Wake Forest, NC, Sophie lives with her family of five German Shepherds who compete in dog shows throughout the year. Her owner, Sarah Bridges, raised and trained two champion show dogs from Sophie’s family. Though the tradition of a show dog lifestyle runs heavily in her bloodline, Sophie has unique talents that can only be shared off stage.

“She’s extremely friendly with people of all ages and has the ability to sense emotional needs without any commands,” Sarah says.

Three years ago, when Sarah visited a friend at UNC REX Hospital, she discovered REX Fur Friends, an Animal-Assisted Therapy Program.

“The second I saw the pamphlet about dog therapy teams, I said to myself, ‘This is where Sophie and I are going to apply,’ says Sarah.

Fur Friends has a total of nine dog teams who volunteer each week, offering companionship for patients at the hospital. The program’s mission is to provide encouragement and support to patients during their stay, bringing comfort and healing in every interaction. Studies show that pet therapy helps lower blood pressure, reduce overall physical pain, and cope with anxiety or stress. Sophie not only volunteers to relieve the stress of patients, but she works as a role model showing others how to take difficult situations in strides.


Today, Sarah and Sophie are cheering up patients and staff members, making new friends and building stronger relationships with every trip. Wheeling through the hallways, Sophie is instantly recognized as she cruises along in her signature red wooden wagon labeled, ‘Sophie’s Ride.’

“There’s not a day that goes by when we don’t get stopped by a staff member or visitor who wants to pet Sophie,” she says.

While therapy dogs build one-of-a-kind relationships between patients, so do their owners. Looking back at her most memorable moments as a volunteer, Sarah remembers the joy one patient experienced when meeting the therapy team for the first time.

DSC_1778Recovering from a stroke, the patient had difficulties moving her hands and legs on her own. Taking caution because of the patient’s physical condition, Sophie carefully sat on the bed with the woman to keep her company. Petting Sophie with a smile, the woman laughed and said, “My children would not believe that I’m lying in a hospital bed with a dog!”

“After Sophie laid her head on the lady’s right hand, she slowly started scratching Sophie’s chin,” says Sarah.

Then, a nurse in the room asked the patient to scratch the top of Sophie’s head, lifting her right hand.

“We watched the lady slowly move her hand over Sophie’s head, it was so meaningful to witness and be a part that milestone,” Sarah says. “When we left the room, her medical providers told me that it was the first time she had moved her right hand since beginning treatment,” she continues.

No matter what the level of impact the pair brings to patients, Sarah hopes to continue delivering inspiration from the little red wagon for many years to come.

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Tips to Keep Kids Healthy in Childcare

Do children in day care get sick more often than those who stay home? Yes, according to research published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. But there’s good news! Research suggests that the rate of illness evens out by the time the children enter school — and day care children may have fewer illnesses in elementary school compared with peers who were at home.


Here are some quick stay-healthy tips:

  1. Wash hands frequently. Prevent the spread of germs by washing hands before and after your child attends day care or school. Remind your child to follow all of the steps of washing hands properly.
  2. Stay up-to-date on shots. Protect your child and others by getting recommended vaccinations including an annual flu shot (for you and your child!).
  3. Keep children at home when sick. Staying at home prevents the spread of illness to other children, and may also help your child get rest and recover faster.
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How Obesity Hurts Young Hearts

With school still in session, often times our attention towards outdoor activities and healthy eating tends to shift to a less active lifestyle for children. According to the American Heart Association, one in three American children are overweight or obese.

Every year, on the last week of April, Action for Healthy Kids launches Every Kid Healthy Week to emphasize the link between nutrition, physical activity, and learning. When kids are healthier, they learn better!

Children who are 100 pounds or more overweight may face greater heart disease risks than previously thought, says new research. While obesity has been increasing among U.S. adolescents, there’s been some research previously done for heart disease risk factors in this group.

In the study of more than 240 very obese teens, 95 percent had a least one risk factor for heart disease. Half had high blood pressure, half had high cholesterol and almost 15 percent had diabetes. Boys were more likely than girls to have high blood pressure and high cholesterol.


Keep your family on track to a healthier life with these four tips:

  1. Make healthy eating a family focus. No one wants to put his or her child on a diet. Instead, focus on nutritious meals as a family.
  2. Include protein in meals and snacks. Lean protein, like eggs, chicken and beans, helps promote satiety.
  3. Encourage activity. Limit screen time and put the “active” back in family activities. Think bowling on the weekend, riding bikes after dinner or a scavenger hunt around the neighborhood.
  4. Get cooking! Kids are more likely to try new foods if they’ve had a hand in making them. Teach your kids how to make healthy meals and ways to reduce the amount of fat, salt, and sugar in everyday recipes.

If you’re concerned about your child’s weight or general health, visit Find a Doctor to choose a pediatrician.

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Q&A on Blood Donations at UNC REX

In America, there are about 5 million people who are in need of blood transfusions each year. Some reasons for why blood donations are needed include:

  • Bleeding disorders
  • Chronic anemia associated with cancer
  • Burn victims
  • Organ transplants
  • Sickle cell anemia
  • Other hereditary blood abnormalities

The need for blood donations is constant and contributions by donors are vital for health care facilities to have a reliable blood supply for patients.


Each year, REX Blood Services receives about 2,0000 gallons of blood donations to UNC REX Hospital. Almost 25,000 individual blood products are produced from donors at REX Blood Services. We sat down for a Q&A with Emilie Sanders Watson, donor services coordinator of Rex Blood Services to discuss ways to prepare for donations, best candidates for blood donors, and more.

  1. What are the benefits to donating regularly?
    Habitual donors have the best experiences and it’s an activity that healthy people can do on a regular basis. Regular donors know what to expect, they’re familiar with the things they need to do before and after donating and they’re aware of their own individual needs. Healthy people that make it a habit of giving blood regularly are the best, safest and most successful donors out there.
  1. What are the characteristics of a person who is healthy enough become a blood donor?
    A healthy person that can give blood is someone who is not fighting off infections. People who have heart conditions should talk to their doctor beforehand. Some people who are fighting chronic illnesses can give blood healthily but there are some cases when individuals should not consider donating.
  1. What are the restrictions for those who’ve traveled to different places outside of the U.S.?
    About 40% of the population in the U.S. is eligible to give blood right now. Unfortunately, a lot of people who are eligible health-wise are unable to donate due to their travel history. People who’ve lived in Europe for five years or more since 1980 are indefinitely differed from donating because of the risk for mad cow disease. That doesn’t mean they’re not in great health condition right now, most of these people are walking around extraordinarily healthy. But until we’re either able to develop a screening or narrow down the areas of risk then for those reasons they will be indefinitely differed. Due to the risk of the Zika virus, we’re asking people not to give blood if they’ve traveled to the Caribbean or Central/ South America in the last 28 days.
  1. What is the impact of donation from one unit?
    We could potentially transfuse three patients with one unit (about 3 pints) of blood. We split each unit into its various components, including red cells, platelets, and plasma. Because two or three of these elements are usually produced from a pint of donated blood, each donation can help save up to three lives. By dividing the elements separately, we’re making each transfusion efficient for patients and impacting as many people with one unit. For example, if a patient only needs red blood cells to help fight infection, then we’ll provide a unit that only has red blood cells.
  1. How should donors prepare before, during, and after transfusions?
  • shutterstock_256009735Hydrate – Hydration is the key for preparing to give blood and after donating. Even if you stay hydrated on a regular basis, it’s always good to increase your intake of water when donating blood.
  • Eat at regular meal times – When you eat a meal prior to giving blood, it decreases the risk of becoming shaky or weak after donating. Regular meals add to hydration and ensures that our bodies have the fuel we need normally, so skipping a meal prior to donating would mean we are already deficient going into the process.
  • Be are of the medications you’re taking – We provide a short list of medications that can affect the ability to donate. If you have questions about medications you’re currently taking, you may contact Rex Blood Services before your donation appointment.
  • Bring a photo I.D. or blood donor I.D. with you.
  • Plan your day ahead – You can do most normal activities after your transfusion. However, we recommend donors plan their day of the appointment before so your schedule isn’t interrupted. During the appointment, we ask that you allow an hour for the entire donation process. The donation process alone, takes about 5 to 10 minutes. Most of the time is spent on the questionnaire beforehand.
  • Relax afterwards – We’re going to ask you to not do strenuous exercise on the day you donate. Though each person has a different recovery time, the reduced blood volume can be a result of lower blood pressure throughout your body. Lowered blood pressure, combined with reduced blood volume, may reduce the oxygen supply to the brain and cause dizziness or fainting. Give your body time to recover and replenish your blood supply by staying hydrated and taking in healthy calories and iron with your regular meals.
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REX Hospital Open Golf Lingo 101


Golf fanatics and their families alike can enjoy an afternoon at the Rex Hospital Open, part of the Tour PGA TOUR.

AO3C2594Whether you’re a seasoned sports fan of the Rex Hospital Open or you’re joining the tradition for the first time, golf rules and terminology can be a learning curve. Get up to par with your golf jargon before this year’s tournament!

Mulligan: Mulligans are not played in tournaments. But, in an informal game of golf an extra stroke allowed after a poor shot but is not counted on the scoreboard.

Par:  The value assigned to represent par for an individual hole is always comprised of two putts and the number of strokes it should take to reach the green. Holes typically are listed as par-3, par-4 or par-5 based on length.

Birdie: One stroke less than par

Eagle: Two strokes less than par

Bogey: One stroke  over par

The Fairway: A closely mown area that runs between the tee box and the putting green

The Green: A small patch of grass that is cut and manicured to a very short length compared to the fairway for a smooth roll of the golf ball.

The Rough: The area of the golf course that surrounds the outside of the fairway. As a penalty for missing the fairway, the unkempt grass is designed to make it more difficult to play from.

Stiff: To hit a pure, perfect shot.  A stiffed iron shot finishes very close to the hole and results in a good opportunity for a birdie or an eagle.

Shank: A shank occurs when a golfer hits the ball on the side of the club instead of the face.

Fade: A fade is a gentle shot that moves from a left-to-right motion towards the target.

Slice: A slice is when the golfer hits the ball with a severe left-to-right curve.

Hook: A hook is when the shot curves sharply to the left, the opposite of a slice.

Draw: A draw is a controlled golf ball flight that has a slight right-to-left shape.


Now that you’ve got the lingo down, TPC Wakefield Plantation can be your hangout at this year’s Rex Hospital Open. Proceeds from this year’s tournament will benefit the new N.C. Heart and Vascular Hospital on the UNC REX main campus.

As the Triangle’s only professional charity golf tournament, the Rex Hospital Open has raised more than $9 million to support patients in need, provide preventive care and enhance access to high-quality healthcare in our community. More than 500 awesome volunteers (no experience necessary!) from our community make the Rex Hospital Open possible. Join us for some fun and fresh air May 9-15. Sign up to volunteer today!

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Aging well: 4 simple ways to stay fit

Getting and staying physically active doesn’t mean becoming a superstar athlete. It can mean just moving around a little more throughout the week. Staying fit becomes especially important as you get older because it can help you stay healthy and independent.

Health experts point to various long-term benefits of exercise, including:


  • Enhanced focus, planning and working memory
  • Improved conditions in those with diseases and disabilities such as arthritis and diabetes
  • Prevention or delay of many diseases and disabilities. For example, exercising may lead to lower blood pressure, which can help you avoid damage to your brain, eyes, heart and kidneys.
  • Reduced stress and improved mood

You might understand why it’s important to exercise, but feel like you’re physically unable or don’t have the time. But there are ways you can fit activity into your day.


  1. Start slow and easy. You can always work your way up to more difficult activities.
  2. Exercise when you wake up. This creates a habit and prevents other distractions from getting in the way.
  3. Break it into chunks. If you can’t dedicate much time at once, get 10 minutes of exercise several times throughout the day.
  4. Find something you enjoy. It’s easier to make exercise a habit if you enjoy it.
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Grilled Asparagus and Shrimp Quinoa Salad

Enjoy this superfood salad with a refreshing lemon vinaigrette dressing.


Prep time: 45 minutes
Yield: 4 servings


  • 2 cups fresh asparagus, large spears (cut into 1” pieces)
  • ½ yellow or red bell pepper (cut into ½” pieces)
  • 1 clove garlic (minced)
  • 1 14-ounce can quartered artichoke hearts (drained)
  • 12 ounces fresh or frozen large raw shrimp (peeled and deveined)
  • 1½ cups dry quinoa (cooked according to package directions)
  • For the lemon vinaigrette:
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh or bottled lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper


  1. asparagus recipePlace vinaigrette ingredients in a small bowl and whisk; set aside.
  2. Cut vegetables as directed.
  3. Heat grill and grilling tray.
  4. Place vegetables and shrimp in a large bowl; add about ⅓ of the vinaigrette (about 3 tablespoons) and toss.
  5. Spread shrimp-vegetable mixture over hot grilling tray.
  6. Grill, turning shrimp and vegetables, until the flesh of the shrimp is an opaque color (about 5 to 6 minutes); remove from grill.
  7. Serve grilled mixture over cooked quinoa and drizzle with vinaigrette.

Nutritional information per serving: 33 g protein; 62 g carbohydrates; 7 g dietary fiber; 570 mg sodium.

Recipe courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture,


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Parsley Veggie Dip

shutterstock_287212199Whip up some homemade veggie dip with low-fat or fat-free cottage cheese and a blend of spices. Whether it’s for a potluck with friends or just a quick snack for the family, this easy-to-make side dish works for any occasion!

Number of servings: 8
Per serving:
20 calories, 0 g total fat, 0 g saturated fat, 4 g protein, 1 g carbohydrates, 0 g dietary fiber, 190 mg sodium.


  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • 1 tablespoon onion (chopped very fine)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons parsley flakes


  1. Measure cottage cheese and put in bowl or blender.
  2. Beat with a fork or mixer, or in a blender, until cottage cheese is smooth.
  3. Add the other ingredients. Stir together.
  4. Store the dip in the fridge for 1 to 2 hours to let the flavors blend.
  5. Serve with slices of raw vegetables such as carrots, celery, cucumbers, zucchini, broccoli, turnips, cauliflower or green pepper.


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How to Have a Pleasurable & Healthy Eating Experience

Lauren LeBeau is a dietetic intern at the REX Wellness Centers.LeBeau
She currently attends Meredith College, and will complete her dietetic internship in June 2016. During National Nutrition Month, LeBeau shares useful information and tips that focuses on the importance of making informed food choices and developing positive eating habits.

In a busy world, it is often hard to sit down, enjoy a meal, and appreciate what the dining experience is truly about. Here are some tips to help make eating more pleasurable:

Focus on the act of eating: Remove all distractions, such as the T.V. or cell phone, and focus on the flavors and aroma of the food, and the people at the table.

Take time to eat: Make time to sit down in a pleasant environment, and eat without rushing. Focus on eating slowly, and savor the food.

Provide variety: Eat a variety of colors, textures, temperatures, and flavors at a meal to maximize the satisfaction of the meal, as well as its nutritional content.

shutterstock_172085921Remember, making sure to have a mindful eating pattern that includes nutritious, flavorful foods is the best way to savor the flavor of eating right!

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Tips to Make Traditional Recipes More Nutritious & Flavorful

Lauren LeBeau is a dietetic intern at the REX Wellness Centers.LeBeau
She currently attends Meredith College, and will complete her dietetic internship in June 2016. During National Nutrition Month, LeBeau shares useful information and tips that focuses on the importance of making informed food choices and developing positive eating habits.

Every March, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics launches a nutrition education and information campaign called National Nutrition Month® to raise awareness about healthy eating decisions. This year’s theme is “Savor the Flavor of Eating Right,” which emphasizes the importance of taking the time to enjoy food traditions, as well as taking the time to appreciate the flavors, memories, and social experiences associated with food in order to develop an overall healthy eating plan.

Recipes do not have to be full of fat, salt, or sugar to be flavorful. There are several ways to make traditional recipes more nutritious, without compromising flavor.


Here are some general tips on how to reduce the amount of fat, salt, and sugar in recipes:

Fat: Replace half of the butter, shortening, or oil with unsweetened applesauce, mashed banana, pureed beans, or pureed pumpkin.

Salt: Reduce the amount of salt by half, or even eliminate it. With yeast-leavened baked goods, the quantity of salt may need to be tested several times before in order to determine the correct amount that could be used without the product becoming dense/flat.

Sugar: Reduce the amount of sugar by one-third to half by adding spices, flavorings, and dried fruits instead.

Substituting certain ingredients not only helps reduce the amount of calories, fat, salt, and sugar, but can also improve the nutritional content of the recipe. The following are some examples with common recipe ingredients:

Pasta: Use whole wheat instead of enriched/white.

Milk: Use 1% or skim instead of whole.

Meat: Use fish or poultry instead of red meat; or use beans or a vegetable, if possible.

Depending on the recipe, an ingredient may be able to be reduced or eliminated completely. The following are some examples of how the amounts of ingredients can be scaled back:

Cheese: Reduce the amount by half, and use a sharp cheese instead to maximize flavor with a smaller amount.

Toppings: Eliminate items such as frosting, whipped cream, and the like.

Condiments: Use half or, if possible, eliminate altogether.

Avoid frying and adding excessive amounts of fat/oil, salt, and sugar by using the following preparation methods:

Liquids: Use vinegars, low-sodium broths, and other similar liquids instead of basting with meat drippings or oil.

Cooking: Braising, broiling, grilling, baking, poaching, sautéing, and steaming.

Healthy Ways to Add Flavor to Recipes

Recipes can be packed with flavor without having excessive amounts of calories and other unhealthy ingredients. Season foods with some of the following herbs, spices, and flavorings instead of adding fat, salt, and sugar:

 Garlic  Cumin
 Ginger  Coriander
 Oregano  Turmeric
 Basil  Cinnamon
 Parsley  Allspice
 Thyme  Cloves
 Dill  Nutmeg
 Rosemary  Dried Fruits
 Mint  Citrus juice
 Pepper  Citrus zest
 Red pepper flakes  Onion
 Garlic powder  Paprika
 Mustard powder  Vinegar
 Onion Powder  Vanilla extract

The following are a couple of recipes for salt-free seasoning blends. Combine the ingredients in a small bowl, blend, and store in cool, dry place:

Herb Seasoning:

  • 2 tablespoons dried dill weed or basil leaves (crumbled)
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Spicy Seasoning:

  • 1 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seed (crushed)
  • 1 tablespoon rosemary
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