Author Archives: UNC REX Healthcare

A Gift of Song

Searching for ways to give back to new mothers, fathers, and families at the REX Women’s Center, UNC REX postpartum nurse, Meghan Presnell, RN, teamed up with eleven co-workers to create an album of lullabies.

Meghan Presnell’s love for music always thrived in her heart. At the age of 20, she launched a career as a country music singer in Nashville, Tennessee. For two and half years, she and her band wrote, produced, and performed their own music together.

Upon her engagement to her now husband, she decided to start a new life and career in North Carolina.

Meghan Presnell, RN“I found a love for nursing – I’m passionate about women and children’s health and those were the type of patients I wanted to work with,” says Presnell, who graduated from the University of North Carolina.

Presnell, who was born at UNC REX, knew exactly where she wanted to start her new career as a health professional.

Over the past three years of working at the hospital, Presnell witnessed and cherished many unique moments at the REX Women’s Center.

“We see births ever day in the work that we do, but we have to step back and remember, for the women we serve, that this is one of the biggest highlights of their lives,” says Presnell.

Searching for ways to celebrate new mothers, fathers, and family members at the birthing center, Presnell thought about collaborating with her fellow co-workers to create a music album.

“We wanted to show families at UNC REX that we are also thankful to be a part of the most incredible part of their life,” Presnell says, who was one of the leading coordinators of the lullaby project. “What better way to give back than by giving them the gift of song!”


After suggesting the project to her nursing managers, Wanda Adams, RN, and Tanya Creek,RN, the pair immediately latched onto the idea and connected Presnell with staff leadership.

This Mother’s Day, families and medical staff will hear the first-ever lullaby album, ‘What a Busy Day,’ sung by UNC REX co-workers and volunteers.

Laurie Cain, RNAccording to one project member, Laurie Cain, RN, the album will be beneficial for life at home and at work.

“With the hearing screening program, babies are screened on their first day of life and they have to be very calm in order to get through the test successfully,” Cain says, a child birth educator and infant massage instructor.

“To lull the infants to sleep, I sometimes sing lullabies. Now, I use new material we learned from the project, like the Braum’s lullaby and it works great!” Cain continues.

Though a majority of the singers and instrumentalists carry strong backgrounds in music, this project taught the group’s piano player Chris Morris new aspects about studio production.

“Because we were recording these songs in layers, it was an experience that I wasn’t quite used to at first,” says Morris, a child passenger safety technician at UNC REX. “Since then, if I listen to a song now, I have a better understanding of how music is created,” Morris continues.

Chris MorrisThe group had to review more than 100 songs in order to find seven that worked well with the project’s theme and were affordable to obtain due to licensing rights. Once the song choices were finalized in February, the album’s producer John Carlson began rehearsing with the group. Towards the end of April, several days were spent in the studio to record, mix, and master.

Presnell, Morris, and Cain believe this album is a solid representation of how an employee-driven initiative can spawn into a meaningful work of art.

“I described this album once as a love project and that’s what it is – you had to love it and be invested in it. It took up a lot of time and you have to love it to do that and I think you’ll hear it in the finished product.”

img-rex-birthcenter-cdcoverProduced by: John William Carlson and Blue Yonder Media

Recorded, mixed, and mastered by: Bunker Sound Productions

Song performers:
Laurie Cain
Helen Dobbins
Claire Fitzpatrick
Mark Hackett
Sylvia Hackett
Chris Morris
Meghan Presnell
Joel Ray
Abby Schiller



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Mental and Behavioral Health in Wake County

In Wake County alone, more than 65,000 people suffer from serious mental illness. Families, friends and communities are also affected.

shutterstock_212336449May is National Mental Awareness Month and UNC Health Care and UNC REX Healthcare continue to lead the way with mental and behavioral health initiatives in Wake County.

UNC WakeBrook, a behavioral health facility located in Raleigh, offers a continuum of services for people dealing with mental health and/or substance abuse disorders.

WakeBrook’s campus, at 107 Sunnybrook Road, Raleigh, provides a wide range of services for patients: crisis and assessment services, inpatient services, facility-based crisis services, alcohol and drug detoxification and primary care. Our leadership continues to work with Alliance Behavioral Health and representatives from area hospital emergency departments, crisis centers and other mental health providers to better serve the growing number of behavioral health patients in Emergency Departments. Some behavioral health patients have a multitude of additional needs, and are often in crisis.

One of Wake County’s strongest advocates is the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) of Wake County. Its leaders Gerry and Ann Akland continue to shine the spotlight on mental and behavioral health needs. Last week, NAMI hosted its 10th Annual Celebration of Courage luncheon as well as a Gala of Hope and Courage. These events offer other advocates, health providers and loved ones an outlet of support and hope, and help to raise crucial funding. NAMI works diligently to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health. “No blame, no shame,” is a common, heart-felt phrase echoed by advocates. NAMI’s continued support offers education, awareness and hope to those who struggle with mental illness.

A visual reminder of Irises, the flower symbol for mental health awareness, graced UNC REX’s front lawn last week.


Our commitment to providing access to the health care services those with mental illness need continues. In addition to WakeBrook opening an on-site primary care and dental clinic in last year, which has helped provide behavioral health patients with basic medical and preventative care, additional beds are set to open this summer.

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Stepping Outside with Seasonal Allergies

Brett E. Dorfman, MD, at Rex Ear Nose and Throat Specialists at Wakefield is board certified in Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. Dr. Dorfman is also a member of the American Academy of Otolarygology and American Academy of Otoloaryngologic Allergy. The Rex ENT Specialists at Wakefield provide allergy testing and immunotherapy treatments in office or at home.

Are you experiencing constant sneezing, sniffling, stuffiness, or irritated eyes? Many people look forward to enjoying the fresh spring air, but not the common allergens that come with it. But, with proper preparation you can enjoy the great outdoors even if you suffer from seasonal allergies.

shutterstock_267288281An inhalant allergy occurs when your immune system overreacts to a normal substance that gets into your nose. Your body overreacts, creating a chemical response to attack the allergen. This chemical response then causes symptoms like watery or dry eyes, constant sneezing, and/or a runny nose. The common inhalant allergens are pollen dust mites, pet dander, and naturally occurring molds.

Follow these steps suggested by Dr. Dorfman before going outside. With these tips, you can learn how to enjoy the fresh air while keeping your allergies under control.

  1. Know what you are allergic to and when. When taking precautions for your allergies, the first thing to figure out is which seasons are you might be allergic to. Typically allergies tend to be caused by:
  • Trees in the spring
  • Grass in the summer
  • Weeds in the fall
  • Mold in the winter

If you can identify which season your symptoms flare up, then there are a number of things you can do. For example, if you’re allergic to tree pollen, you can visit and find daily reports on the levels of pollen and for which specific trees.

  1. shutterstock_197035589Find the best times to go outside. The pollen count tends to be highest around dawn and dusk so try to avoid being outside during those times of day. During days when it’s raining or shortly after rain showers, pollen gets pulled to the ground and the levels aren’t as high. And on nice sunny days, you’re going to have pretty consistently high levels of pollen.
  1. Take your recommended medications. If you plan to be outside for a long period of time, and you know you’re going to be symptomatic, be sure to take the appropriate medications beforehand. There’s not a perfect allergy medicine that resolves everyone’s symptoms, however, different types of medication are best for different things.
  • Oral antihistamines are best for treating sneezing and itching
  • Nasal steroids help control running noses and congestion
  • Newer medications such as nasal antihistamines and antihistamine eye drops help manage itchy or runny eyes
  1. Flush out pollen afterwards. After you come in from being outside, using salt water (nasal saline) will help flush out and dilute any excess pollen that’s sitting in your nose.Change into clean clothes and wash any attire that accumulated pollen from being outdoors. Scrub and rinse hands and face with soap and water to wash off pollen on your skin.shutterstock_332413589

You can learn more on which seasons cause allergy symptoms by taking an allergy test with Rex ENT Specialists at Wakefield.


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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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