Tips for healthy back-to-school lunches

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By Shelby Hunke, Registered Dietitian


We’ve all heard breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But for growing children, all meals are important, especially when you want them to function at their best both physically and mentally at school. healthy lunch box example

While school food services provide nutritious meals for children, some like to pack their own lunch. If you have a picky eater or a child who chooses to have a “cold” lunch, here are some tips for healthy back-to-school lunches.


Put your kid in the chef’s role

Sit down with your child once per week and help them plan their lunches. They are more likely to eat food when they have a say in the choices.

Focus on the recommendations and include foods from each food group: milk, meats, grains and vegetables/fruits. It’s okay to include a small sweet or snack item.

Make a checklist or spreadsheet of foods your child is willing to eat from each food group.


Choose nutrient-dense foods

Even in small amounts, nutrient-dense foods have a lot of nutrition. Examples are whole-grain breads or wraps, colorful fruits and vegetables and low-fat dairy such as yogurt, string cheese or low-fat milk.


Focus on “eye”-ppetizing foods

Kids and adults alike eat with our eyes first. Kids especially are attracted to colorful foods and fun packaging. Buy a lunch box, Tupperware and disposable silverware with their favorite character or color. Have fun with shapes and sizes by cutting out their sandwiches, fruit or vegetables with a cookie cutter.


School lunch box for kids. Cooking. Keep the food safe

If you are packing perishable food in your child’s lunch, remember to include an ice pack or two to reduce the risk of food poisoning.

It’s also important to invest in a well-insulated lunch box. Refrigeration is usually unavailable at school, so packing shelf-stable foods is important: trail mix, granola bars, bagels, baby carrots, whole fruit, dried fruit, single-serve applesauce or whole grain crackers.


Prevent boredom

Some kids could eat the same lunch for two weeks straight, while others get bored and need some variety. To help ensure their lunch doesn’t go to waste, try these strategies:

Celebrate special days: Plan a lunch menu around a special date or event. For example, pack an all-red lunch on Valentine’s Day.

Pack extra: Use peer pressure to your advantage by packing extra “ants on a log” or hummus dip for your child to share with their friends.

Have trendy lunch supplies: Kids will be excited to eat their lunch when it’s packed in a “cool” lunch box or includes stickers on plastic baggies.


Pinwheel lunch recipes

All recipes should start with a whole-wheat wrap of choice. Roll and cut after assembly.

  • Turkey and apple: Base layer of mustard and/or mayo topped with grated cheddar cheese, turkey breast, apple slices and lettuce.
  • Hawaiian Pizza: Base layer of spaghetti or marinara sauce topped with grated mozzarella cheese, Canadian bacon and pineapple chunks.
  • Southwestern: Base layer of cream cheese topped with salsa, black beans, sliced black olives and strips of red bell pepper.
  • Veggie Lover: Base layer of hummus topped with mixture of vegetables, such as grated carrots, sliced cucumber, lettuce and pepper strips.
  • Turkey and Pesto: Base layer of pesto topped with turkey breast, cucumber slices and lettuce.


Sources: and


Shelby with her husband, Paul, and their children, Madison and Jackson.

About the Author: Shelby Hunke is a registered dietitian working at Tri-County Health Care in the hospital and clinic. She has a degree in exercise science and a passion for helping patients live a healthy lifestyle. She lives in Wadena with her husband, Paul, and two kids, Madison and Jackson. In her spare time, she enjoys family time, running with her dog, Bela, and cooking!

Garden of Hope honors organ and tissue donors

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By Lois Miller, RN, BSN, Garden of Hope Project Manager


Nationally, more than 117,000 people are waiting for transplants, and that number rises every day. Those transplants might be the difference between life and death, which is why all organ and tissue donors, whether living or deceased, deserve gratitude.

View of the Garden of HopeA group of Tri-County Health Care employees and interested community members proposed the idea of a memorial garden. A garden represents life and hope and could serve as an inspiration to others to consider organ and tissue donation.

The nonprofit organization LifeSource, which aims to save lives with organ and tissue donation in the Upper Midwest, helped the garden committee spark ideas for this new project. The committee included a heart transplant recipient and two families of organ donors.

Youngbauer Landscaping built the garden on the Wesley Hospital lawn and unveiled the work in progress to the public during Tri-County’s community block party on July 18.

A circle of pavers will surround a weathered stone bench and blooming plants while the organ donation flag flies overhead. One by one, each paver will be engraved with a donor’s name. The peaceful area offers visitors a place to rest, reflect and recognize each donor listed.

The centerpiece of the garden is a poem engraved in granite, written by former Wadena resident and heart transplant recipient Jim Swenson. He penned the poem about six months after receiving his transplant on Sept. 18, 2004.Garden of Hope on the Wesley Lawn

“How else can I put it other than to say I wouldn’t be here today if I hadn’t received that gift of a heart?” Jim said. “It means everything. It’s a chance for life, and it is almost impossible in words to express gratitude for being given that chance.

“I can tell you from a standpoint of caregivers, while they are waiting for loved ones … I think the garden would be a wonderful place for them to go sit for a while rather than a hospital waiting room.”

You can share in the legacy established by the Garden of Hope by purchasing a paver to honor a donor or by making a donation toward the garden’s preservation. Pavers will be added on an ongoing basis and can be ordered at any time.

Brochures and paver order forms are available at Tri-County Hospital entrances or can be obtained from Project Manager Lois Miller at 218-631-7485 or A plaque in the garden will recognize those who have made a financial donation.


What does it mean to give locally?

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By Ryan Damlo, Foundation Executive Director


Keeping local dollars donated by our residents in our community is my focus. Allow me to introduce myself and the TCHC Foundation as we talk about the benefits of keeping your donations local.

$1000 Scholarship Recipient

$1000 scholarship recipient, Allysa Kimber, with Ryan Damlo, Foundation executive director.

My name is Ryan Damlo, and I am the Foundation’s new executive director. I have lived and worked in Wadena for the past 10 years. Together, my wife, April, and I have two children, Cooper and Kylie, and our dog, Snickers.

The TCHC Foundation was created back in 1994 with a generous starting donation of $50,000. This gift allowed the Foundation to become the charitable arm of Tri-County Health Care, accepting gifts to fulfill our mission: improving the health of the communities we serve. Over the past 23 years, the Foundation has received many more generous gifts ranging from $50 to $450,000 to help us focus on that mission.

Part of that mission ties to a big question: What does it mean to give locally?

Today, there are so many worthwhile causes that sometimes we overlook our own backyard. Whether it’s the local humane society, your church or the local library, we have great choices for keeping your donation dollars close to home.

The TCHC Foundation is another excellent donor choice. The Foundation awards grants to local organizations to help with equipment, education, transportation and more, as well as gives out $23,500 in scholarships each year to local students seeking careers in health care.

The Foundation also uses funds to invest in TCHC’s facilities and technology to provide state-of-art services so that you and your family will receive the best care possible.

Amy Severson with Patients

Amy Severson, NP, sees patients at the Henning clinic.

The donations used for upgrades and to give back to our communities come from people just like you. They come from someone who lost a loved one but was touched by how staff treated them in their last days. They come from grateful patients recognizing our amazing team of nurses and doctors or our staff at the registration desk, cafeteria and gift shop. They come from estate planning and donations made through a will.

No matter how the donation is made, the benefit stays local. Your donation might help buy the next piece of equipment that saves lives. Your donation might help put a local student on track to be your next doctor or nurse. Your donation will change lives locally.

Our vision at the TCHC Foundation is to inspire generous donors, no matter the amount, to make tomorrow’s health care possible today.

Why not consider the Foundation as another outlet for you to contribute to the health and success of the community? To see how your donation can impact lives locally today, call me at 218-632-8148.


About the Author: Ryan Damlo is the Foundation executive director at Tri-County Health Care. Foundation executive directorHe joined TCHC in July of 2017 but has been a part of TCHC for the past two and a half years serving on the Foundation Board, as well as serving on the TCHC Wadena Clinic advisory committee.

Ryan and his family reside in southwest Wadena and he is passionate about serving in the community. Ryan volunteers with Pack 54 Cub Scouts as Cubmaster, serves as first-vice president of the Wadena Lions, is a board member for the Wadena Redevelopment and Housing Authority, and serves on the Wadena-Deer Creek Community Education advisory board.  In his free time, Ryan loves spending time with his family, taking walks, going for bike rides and traveling.

The benefits of breastfeeding

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By Sarah Riedel, RN, BSN – TCHC Prenatal Educator and Certified Lactation Counselor


Did you know that World Breastfeeding Week is Aug. 1-7? It is a time when women from all over the world celebrate the special bond between mothers and babies. I would like to share a few World breastfeeding week logobenefits of breastfeeding for moms and babies both. (From the National Institutes of Health, WebMD and Le Leche League)


Benefits for Mom

Breastfeeding burns extra calories to help you lose pregnancy weight faster, releases the hormone oxytocin to help your uterus return to its pre-pregnancy size and may reduce uterine bleeding after birth. Breastfeeding also lowers your risk of breast and ovarian cancer, as well as osteoporosis.

Since you don’t have to buy and measure formula, sterilize nipples or warm bottles, breastfeeding saves you time and money so that you have the time to relax quietly and bond with your newborn.


Benefits for Baby

Breast milk provides the ideal nutrition for infants. It has a nearly perfect mix of vitamins, protein and fat – everything your baby needs to grow. And it’s all provided in a form more easily digested than infant formula.

Breast milk contains antibodies that help your baby fight off viruses and bacteria. Breastfeeding lowers your baby’s risk of having asthma or allergies. Plus, babies who are breastfed for the first six months have fewer ear infections, respiratory illnesses and bouts of diarrhea. They also have fewer hospitalizations and trips to the doctor.

young mother breastfeedingBreastfeeding has been linked to higher IQ scores later in childhood in some studies. What’s more, the physical closeness, skin-to-skin touching and eye contact all help your baby feel secure and bond with you.

Breastfed infants are more likely to gain the right amount of weight as they grow rather than become overweight children. The AAP says breastfeeding also plays a role in the prevention of sudden infant death syndrome. It’s been thought to lower the risk of diabetes, obesity and certain cancers as well, but more research is needed.


Benefits for Society and Employers

Breastfeeding does not waste scarce resources or create pollution. Breast milk is a naturally renewable resource that requires no packaging, shipping or disposal. There is less use of natural resources (glass, plastic, metal, paper) and also less waste for landfills. Employers will also experience reduced absenteeism in the workplace due to children’s illnesses. Breastfeeding reduces the number of sick days that families must use to care for their sick children.

At TCHC, we have prenatal classes along with doctor appointments that include breastfeeding education. We can meet with you one-to-one while you are in the hospital after the baby is born, and we can also do a home visit after you go home to make sure everything is going well.

Breastfeeding your baby is a very personal choice, and it is not for everyone. If you want more information about breastfeeding or to schedule a prenatal class, please call Prenatal Education at 218-631-7538.

Happy World Breastfeeding Week!


Sarah Riedel with her husband and their three children.


About the Author: Sarah Riedel is a registered nurse certified lactation counselor (CLC) at Tri-County Health Care in Wadena. A CLC has specialized training in the topic of breastfeeding to better help new moms and babies start out in the right place with breastfeeding and troubleshoot when there are problems.


Sun, summer and what you can do to prevent skin cancer

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By Tammy Nevala, TCHC RN, Ambulatory Care Supervisor


As we reach the pinnacle of summer, days become warmer and the sun becomes brighter. It’s the perfect time to get out and enjoy the Minnesota lake country.

It’s also a great time to make sure you’re practicing proper sun safety in order to prevent skin cancer. Caused by damage to skin cells, this cancer is often preventable and can be cured if caught early enough. But in order to prevent it, you need to know what causes skin cancer in the first place.

sunblock applicationSunlight is the number one culprit. It gives off harmful radiation called ultraviolet (UV) rays, and they come in two types. UV-A are steady all year long and increase aging and the development of wrinkles, while UV-B are more powerful, more common in the summertime and more likely to cause sunburn. The longer you’re in the sun, the more radiation you get.

Tanning beds also play a part in skin cancer growth. Many believe the lights in tanning beds are harmless, but in reality, they give off the same UV rays as the sun to give you a quick tan. Early exposure to tanning beds can significantly increase your risk of getting skin cancer, even if it’s just an occasional use.

Knowing some of the causes of skin cancer will better equip you to prevent it. Here are some practical ways to apply this knowledge:

Say no to tanning beds. Because tanning beds give off such concentrated doses of UV rays in a short amount of time, your chance of skin cancer is augmented. It’s best to avoid them altogether. If you still want to achieve a tanned look, use a sunless tanning lotion instead.

Cover up exposed skin. Use sunglasses, hats, long-sleeved shirts and long pants whenever feasible to protect your skin from direct sunlight. Dark colors and tightly woven fabrics are best.

Take shelter in the shade. Don’t linger in direct sunlight for too long. UV rays can even reach you on cloudy days, so it’s best to stay in shady areas as much as possible. You should also limit time spent around sand, water or snow, as they reflect sunlight and increase UV radiation.

Slather on the sunscreen. The higher the sun protection factor, or SPF, the better. Only broad-spectrum sunscreens with an SPF of at least 15 can help protect you from skin cancer. Broad spectrum simply means it protects against both UV-A and UV-B rays. Use waterproof or sweatproof sunscreen and reapply it often if you’re planning a long day of outdoor activities.Dermatologist examines a mole of male patient

Keep an eye on the kiddos. Since kids tend to spend more time in the sun when playing or exploring, parents should take the proper precautions to protect them from sun exposure and set a positive example by using good habits themselves. Keep babies younger than 6 months out of direct sunlight.

Watch for changes on your skin. You know each mark and bump on your body better than anyone. By routinely checking your skin for anything out of the ordinary, you’re more likely to spot and report a strange mole or growth before it can turn into skin cancer.


About the Author: Tammy Nevala is a registered nurse and the ambulatory care supervisor at Tri-County Health Care. The role of ambulatory care is outpatient medicine, which includes chemotherapy, blood transfusions, IV antibiotics, IV fluids and more.

To pet or not to pet? Eight tips for interacting with a service or support animal

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By Jessica Sly, Communications Specialist


service dogService and support animals provide life-saving assistance and emotional aid to their owners and their families.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines “service animal” as a dog that is trained to perform tasks for an individual with a disability. Though other animals can be trained to perform those tasks, only dogs are recognized and protected by the ADA.

Support animals relieve emotional or psychological symptoms connected to a handler’s condition or disorder. Any domesticated animal – cat, bird, hedgehog, miniature pig, dog, etc. – can be an emotional support animal.


The next time you see a service or support animal in public, follow these tips:

  1. Don’t assume an animal without identification isn’t a service animal. By U.S. federal law, dogs are not required to wear a patch, tag or harness that identifies it as such.
  2. Always speak to the owner first, not the animal. They are considered a team.
  3. NEVER touch the animal without first asking permission from the owner. Petting is a distraction and can keep the animal from completing its tasks. If the owner says “no,” smile and respond with, “I understand.”
  4. Don’t offer food to the animal. Treats can be one of the biggest distractions. The animal could also be on a specific diet or feeding schedule.
  5. If the animal is napping, don’t assume it’s off duty. It might be resting because its owner has been sitting or standing for a long time. It is still working.
  6. Don’t assume the animals never get time to just be pets. Their owners recognize how challenging and stressful the job is, so animals get downtime when they’re at home and not needed to help with daily tasks.
  7. Refrain from asking personal questions about the owner’s disability. If you think the animal/handler team might need help, ask first before assisting, and respond in understanding if they decline your offer.
  8. If an animal approaches and engages with you, resist the urge to respond and politely tell the owner. He or she will correct the animal. therapy dog with man in wheelchair


TCHC’s Policy

For patient safety and infection control, Tri-County Health Care (TCHC) has a policy in place to help manage service and support animals on TCHC campuses, which are reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Here are some highlights of the policy:

  • Service animals are allowed in any area where the public is normally allowed to go unless it causes a threat to others. For infection control purposes, they are not allowed in certain areas such as places where food is prepared, operating rooms and the nursery.
  • Service animals that show aggression when not provoked may be prevented from entering the facility.
  • Animals not protected under the service animal definition cannot enter TCHC without a Pet Visitation Authorization Form.
  • Though miniature horses are not included in the definition of service animal, they are allowed as service animals but are subject to limitations and the facility’s requirements.

If you have any questions about service or support animals or about the policy, contact Director of Quality, Risk and Compliance, Tammy Suchy, at

Extinguish the burn of acid reflux

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By David Kloss, M.D., FACS


You know that painful little burn you get in your chest after you eat? That’s acid reflux. It’s a pretty common occurrence in this country, and sometimes, it can interfere with everyday life.

Tri-County Health Care has advanced by leaps and bounds in our available technology for treating and managing reflux. Our newest gadget, software for esophageal manometry testing, examines how well your esophagus, or food pipe, muscles work.

manometry testing

Dr. Kloss volunteered to let operating room nurses practice the new manometry testing on him.

When we installed this new technology on May 23, I enthusiastically volunteered to let the operating room nurses practice on me to get them prepped and educated for our first patient.

To conduct this test, we gently insert a thin electronic catheter covered in tiny sensors down your throat to measure the pressure in your esophagus. Nurses give you liquid to swallow while the machine records the pressure, represented by colors on our chart.

Purple shows low pressure the moment you swallow. After that, the chart should display red for high pressure as your esophagus contracts to push the liquid into your stomach.

Why is this important? It shows us if the sphincters in your esophagus are working properly. Sphincters are handy muscles at the top and bottom of your esophagus that keep out fluid and saliva. We pay the most attention to the lower sphincter because when that isn’t working properly, it allows stomach acid to splash into your esophagus and causes reflux.

Once we determine you have bad reflux, you could be a candidate for our LINX procedure. LINX involves putting a little ring of magnetic beads around your esophagus by the lower sphincter to tighten it just enough so that stomach acid can’t get in. The magnets are weak enough so that when you swallow, your esophageal muscles can still push food through.

test results

Manometry testing records esophagus pressure using a color chart. Purple is low, and red is high. Operating room nurses check the results of Dr. Kloss’ test.

Manometry testing plays a crucial role in determining if you are even eligible for LINX because esophagus function is the deciding factor. If your esophageal muscles are weak or don’t work properly and you have the LINX procedure, then your muscles won’t be strong enough to open up those magnets and push food through. Then you’ll be really unhappy.

This technology benefits thousands of people in the area because you don’t have to go to the Mayo, Brainerd, Fargo or elsewhere. In fact, TCHC is one of only nine hospitals in the entire state that offers this surgery. We can do it all here and quickly get you on the road to recovery and relief.

To schedule an appointment for a consultation about the LINX procedure, call 218-631-7581. For more information, click here.


About the Author: Dr. Kloss is a board-certified general surgeon at Tri-County Health Care. In his free time, Dr. Kloss is an avid marathon runner. His race résumé includes the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., as well as marathons in Dublin, Ireland; Paris, France; and Pittsburgh. He also ran the Twin Cities Marathon for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and the New York City marathon for the American Cancer Society. Dr. Kloss also earned Ironman status, having completed the Madison, Wisconsin, Ironman race in 2014. All this running helps Dr. Kloss control his weight so he can eat cookies WHENEVER he wants.

Keep your kids active this summer

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By Sarah Maninga, TCHC Athletic Trainer


Mother and daughters hula hooping outdoorsSummer. The season we all patiently wait for in Minnesota is here! Now that it’s finally upon us, you may be asking yourself, “How can I keep my kids active and fit while they are out of school for the summer?”

If you enjoy community activities, check out your local Chamber of Commerce, city website or school district for possible ideas.

Tri-County also hosts area events. Our Bertha Area Wellness Center 5K Fun Run/Walk is July 7. It includes a 5K and a youth 1K. We’re also hosting our annual Block Party on July 18. There will be free food, music, kids’ games, a bike rodeo and more.

You can find more information about these events and more here.

If you think organized events may not be for you and your kiddos, or maybe you’re spending your summer at the lake, don’t worry. There are plenty of activities you can do yourself. Most of them don’t require any supplies either!

Here are just a handful of ideas:

  • Plan a scavenger hunt in the yard. Give the kids a time limit and have the kids look for caterpillars, ants, leaves, rocks.
  • Play hopscotch
  • Water balloon baseball
  • Hula hoop
  • Make activity dice
  • Play activities such as wiggle like a worm, crab walk and hop like a frog.

The above are great ideas for younger kids, but what about the older kids and teenagers? Mother and kids hiking through a forest.

One great summer activity is hiking. Itasca State Park is just a short drive away and provides miles of hiking trails, as well as biking trails.

Another great option is geocaching, which is a large scavenger hunt for adults and kids that utilizes a GPS. It’s as easy as downloading the app on your phone, and then you’re ready to start searching.

You can also have them check out the local parks that have Frisbee golf. The only thing you need is a Frisbee to enjoy a whole afternoon of fun.

Now that your kids are out and about and staying active, don’t forget about the sunscreen, bug spray and keeping them hydrated.

Have a great summer, and I hope you get a chance to try some of these ideas to keep everyone active this summer!


Sarah ManingaAbout the Author: Sarah Maninga has been an athletic trainer at TCHC since January 2015. She works with athletes at three area schools: Wadena Deer Creek, Sebeka and Menahga. During her time off, she enjoys spending her time with her husband on their small farm and doing anything that involves being outside, especially hunting and running.

Good Catch for Patient Safety Award

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By: Tiffany Orsello, Health Unit Coordinator, Certified Nursing Assistant


A few months ago, TCHC’s nursing staff was awarded the Good Catch for Patient Safety Award by the Minnesota Hospital Association for the work we do in preventing in-patient falls.

We started our falls program in 2010 and have been improving it every year. In 2015, we only had five falls. Last year, we only had five falls as well, and we broke our record by going 234 days without any falls.

You might hear this and wonder, why is that such a big deal? Falls don’t happen in a hospital setting.

Good Catch for Patient Safety

TCHC’s nursing staff was recognized with the Good Catch for Patient Safety Award by the MN Hospital Association.

Actually, patients in a hospital are especially at risk for falling because if you’re at the hospital, the chances are that you’re sick, you’re not feeling well, you might be dizzy, and you could be taking medications that impair your coordination. Those are all recipes for a fall.

For those reasons, we conduct a risk assessment on every patient who stays at the hospital, whether they’re at a high or low risk for a fall or if they’re at risk for injury if they do fall.

Once we know that, we use lots of different methods to let all of the nurses and other staff know who is most at risk, such as signs by their rooms, wristbands, colored slippers and a magnet board.

Then we lower that patient’s risk by using alarms and closely monitoring them.

Beds are lined with railings and have pressure-sensitive alarms to alert us if a patient tries to get out of bed.

We also make rounds to check on patients every hour during the day and every two hours during the night, and sometimes it’s more than that. Most importantly, we ask if they need to use the bathroom, if they’re in any pain or if they need to be repositioned because a lot of times, those are leading factors in falls.

In the event that a fall does occur, we are prepared. We stay with the patient and make sure they don’t try to get up. We check if they can move and ask them what hurts. Then we use a powered lift to get them off the floor.

After that, we examine what caused it so that we can stop it from happening again.

Patient safety is our highest priority. We’re extremely proud of the work we’ve done and continue to do to keep our patients safe, and reaching that goal involves everyone at the hospital working together as a team.

Tiffany and her family

Tiffany with her husband and son.

About the Author: Going on five years at Tri-County Health Care, Tiffany Orsello is a health unit coordinator and a certified nursing assistant with a passion for giving TCHC patients the best health care possible. She lives in Wadena with her husband, Joe, and son, Joey, with another baby boy due at the end of August.

The truth about vaccines

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By: Ben Hess, M.D., TCHC Chief Medical Officer


Every year, thousands of people fall ill with preventable diseases such as whooping cough or measles (read more here). Some recover. Some develop complications. Some even die.

Vaccines could stop that from happening. In fact, vaccines have the potential to completely wipe these diseases off of the planet. We did it with smallpox, we just about did it with polio, and we hope to someday eliminate them all.

But that can’t happen without vaccines.  vaccine in vial


How do vaccines work?

When germs cause an infection in your body, your immune system fights off that infection to make you well again. By doing so, it builds immunity to that illness so that you’re less likely to catch it again.

A vaccine imitates specific infections so that your body can build immunity to a disease without actually getting it.


Are they safe?

New vaccines always go through rigorous testing to determine risks and side effects. They are then regularly monitored while in use.

Just like any medication, there are side effects to vaccines, though minor and few. Most often, you might feel achy or develop a mild fever, but that’s actually good news. It’s a sign that your body is responding to the vaccine.

You might also experience bruising or muscle soreness at the site of injection. This is usually caused by being poked with a needle, not necessarily by the medication.

In rare cases, serious allergic reactions could occur, but that number is extremely small. Here are some statistics to show you how your chance of a serious reaction stacks up:

  • Break a bone: 1 in 55
  • Die in a motor-vehicle crash: 1 in 114
  • Die from measles: 1-2 in 1,000
  • Get struck by lightning: 1 in 12,000
  • Make the U.S. Olympic team: 1 in 380,000
  • Have an allergic reaction to measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) or Hepatitis B vaccine: 1 in 1 million

(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Safety Council, Sanofi Pasteur)


Vaccines and autism: Is there a link?

In recent years, many people have declined to receive vaccinations, specifically MMR, because of a belief that they cause autism.

In order to understand that reasoning, it’s important to know where the idea first started.

British former physician Andrew Wakefield published a study in 1998 in The Lancet, a medical journal, suggesting a link between the MMR vaccine and autism.

However, an investigation later revealed that Wakefield had manipulated and modified the data. Other violations included conducting invasive tests on children without ethical approval, using a pre-selected test pool of only 12 children, and accepting funding from lawyers whose clients were suing MMR companies.

Ultimately, The Lancet retracted the study, and Wakefield was stripped of his medical credentials.

Since then, many scientific entities have spent millions of dollars on studies involving millions of children worldwide. These studies show beyond a reasonable scientific doubt that there is no link between vaccines and autism.

child vaccines

Ask an expert

Having completed many years of medical school to become experts on topics like vaccines and diseases, my colleagues and I are here to help you interpret vaccine research so that you can make confident, informed decisions about your health and the health of your children.

If you have any questions, please reach out to your provider or another medical professional.


Here are some additional trusted resources related to vaccines:

Minnesota Department of Health

World Health Organization

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

How Vaccines Work – CDC

Case Studies – CDC


Dr. Hess

About the Author: A board-certified family practitioner and Chief Medical Officer at Tri-County Health Care, Ben Hess, M.D., was inspired to study medicine because he wanted to make a difference in people’s lives every day. While not at work, Hess enjoys hunting, fishing, bowling and listening to public radio. He and his wife have three daughters and make their home in Verndale.


Measles: Here’s what you need to know

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By: Ben Hess, M.D., TCHC Chief Medical Officer


For the first time in almost 30 years, measles has hit Minnesota with a vengeance.

As of June 9, the Minnesota Department of Health reported 76 total cases of measles in Hennepin, Ramsey, Crow Wing and Le Sueur counties.

To put that in perspective, Minnesota only had a total of 56 cases in the last 20 years, and this year, it already exceeded last year’s total for the entire United States.

This is the highest number of measles cases Minnesota has seen since 1990, when 460 people fell ill. With the numbers continuing to climb this year, it’s crucial that you learn all you can about the disease, what makes it so dangerous and how you can prevent the spread.


Recognizing the signs

Measles is a highly contagious respiratory virus. It is so contagious, in fact, that 90 percent of the people who come into contact with an infected individual will also become infected.

measles on childIf you’re infected, you are contagious for several days before you even know you’re sick and for several days after you think the illness has passed. The virus is also durable enough to survive for up to two hours in the air.

Because the disease settles in the mucus of the mouth and throat, breathing and swallowing can be difficult. Other symptoms include high fever, cough, red and watery eyes, runny nose, loss of appetite and fatigue.

You then develop a rash that begins as flat red spots at the hairline and spreads down your whole body.

When the disease takes hold, outcomes are unpredictable, especially in children younger than 5 and adults older than 20. They are more prone to serious conditions, like blindness, swelling of the brain, severe dehydration, ear infections or pneumonia. Even if they survive these complications, they could suffer from permanent damage or disability.

Unfortunately, there is no anti-viral treatment for measles, so all we can do is use supportive measures to try to relieve symptoms. Then we do our best to prevent the spread by quarantining people and improving vaccination rates.


Preventing the spreadMeasles graphic

Measles was declared eliminated in the U.S. in 2000 thanks to vaccinations and improved measles control, but anti-vaccination campaigns are threatening that progress.

No vaccine is 100 percent effective, but the more people who are vaccinated, the less likely it is that a disease will spread.

Outbreaks always start with unvaccinated populations. Because measles is so highly contagious, if you get a large enough outbreak, even people who have had their vaccinations are susceptible.

Right now, there are large pockets of unvaccinated patients in the tri-county area. It would be extremely easy for one of those cases from the Metro or Crow Wing County to spread to this area, and it could spread like wildfire.

Anyone who is not up to date on their vaccinations should consider getting them as soon as they can.

For more information, click here.

Watch for next week’s blog post where I’ll discuss the benefits and risks associated with vaccines, including a look at the link between vaccines and autism.


Dr. HessAbout the Author: A board-certified family practitioner and chief medical officer at Tri-County Health Care, Ben Hess, M.D., was inspired to study medicine because he wanted to make a difference in people’s lives every day. While not at work, Hess enjoys hunting, fishing, bowling and listening to public radio. He and his wife have three daughters and make their home in Verndale.

Eight do’s and don’ts of tornado safety

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By: Mike Ittner, NR, Paramedic, TCHC Emergency Preparedness Coordinator

Summer. What a wonderful time of the year! Grass and flowers are growing, and the Minnesota state bird, the mosquito, is back in full force. Not only that but summer brings about the Minnesota tornado season.

This season runs from early spring well into fall, as warm moisture comes in from the Gulf of Mexico and clashes with colder, drier air. The only months during which a tornado has never touched down in Minnesota are December, January and February. tornado warning sign

To recognize a tornado, FEMA suggests looking for these danger signs:

  • Dark, greenish sky
  • Large hail
  • A large, low-lying cloud, particularly if rotating
  • Loud roar, similar to a freight train

If you find yourself caught in a tornado emergency, follow these do’s and don’ts so that you will know how to react calmly and stay safe in each situation.


  1. House – with basement

DO: Get to the basement and shield yourself with sturdy protection such as a heavy table or work bench, or use a mattress or blankets.

DON’T: Sit in the basement where heavy objects like a piano or refrigerator rest on the floor above. They could fall through the floor if it’s weakened by the storm.


  1. House – without basement

DO: Go to a stairwell or interior hallway without windows and crouch as low as possible. Cover yourself with a mattress or blankets.

DON’T: Stand near windows or other glass objects.


  1. Mobile home

DO: Get out as quickly as possible and find a shelter or lie flat on low ground away from trees and cars, protecting your head.

DON’T: Stay in the mobile home, even if it is tied down, as most tornadoes can destroy mobile homes that are tied down.


  1. Apartment, dorm or condo

DO: Go to the lowest level and move away from windows. In a high-rise building, find a hallway or stairwell in the center of the building.

DON’T: Take shelter in an elevator. Power may be lost, trapping you inside.


  1. Office building or storestorm with tornado

DO: Be conscientious of others and take cover in a windowless, enclosed area in the middle of the building.

DON’T: Ignore the instructions of facility managers.


  1. School

DO: Follow the drill and follow instructions given to you by faculty. Go to an interior hall or room. Crouch, put your head down and protect your head with your arms.

DON’T: Take shelter in large, spacious rooms such as gyms or auditoriums.


  1. Car or truck

DO: Drive away from the tornado at a right angle if it is far away and if traffic is light. Otherwise, park, get out and find shelter in a building or by lying flat on low ground.

DON’T: Seek shelter under a bridge. It offers little protection from flying debris and can accelerate wind speed.


  1. Outdoors

DO: Find shelter in a building. If that’s not possible, lie flat on low ground and protect your head with your arms.

DON’T: Take shelter under a bridge or near trees or cars. A tornado can blow them onto you.



Source: Minnesota Department of Public Safety

Telestroke reduces stroke statistics

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By Dennis Faith, M.D. – Emergency Medicine Physician

May is National Stroke Awareness Month, and did you know that strokes are the fifth leading cause of death in the United States? That being said, did you also know that Tri-County Health Care’s new Telestroke program is reducing that statistic?

stroke-Telestroke care-Tri-County Health Care-emergency medecine

Dr. Dennis Faith, Emergency Medicine Physician (right), works with staff from TCHC and St. Cloud Hospital’s Stroke Center to implement and continue Telestroke care at Tri-County Health Care in Wadena.

Strokes occur when a blood vessel is either blocked by a clot or ruptures. This deprives the brain of blood and oxygen, destroying millions of nerve cells within minutes. The resulting damage can lead to paralysis, speech difficulties and emotional problems.

Tri-County has made amazing strides in treating stroke patients with its Telestroke program, which it introduced in the fall of 2016. It works like this:

If you or your loved one comes to the emergency room with stroke symptoms, we have immediate access to a 24/7 stroke intervention specialist at the St. Cloud Hospital Stroke Center through a live video conference. That specialist can conduct a brief interview and interactive examination and see lab tests and images in real time as if they were standing in the room.

In mere minutes, we can complete a comprehensive stroke evaluation, administer clot-busting medications, dispatch a medical helicopter and transfer you for life-saving care. In many cases, you can receive stroke-reversing treatments within 30 minutes and actually be landing in St. Cloud within 60 minutes.

But here’s the important piece: We can’t help you if you don’t get here. And you need to get here within the treatment window. That time frame is up to four and a half hours from symptom onset. Though, even if you wake up with stroke symptoms, we could still treat you. We can do this with multiple interventions, such as administering medication that dissolves clots or utilizing methods that “fish” the clot right out of the blood vessel.

This means you need to learn to recognize stroke warning signs and act quickly. Symptoms aren’t always left-side numbness and slurred speech. It could be a little hand weakness, slight vision change or dizziness. Other symptoms include confusion, severe headaches and difficulty walking.

A helpful way to remember the signs and symptoms of a stroke is “FAST”:

Face Drooping: Ask the person to smile. Is one side of the face numb or does it droop?

Arm Weakness: Ask the person to raise both arms. Is one arm weak or numb?

Speech Difficulty: Ask the person to say a simple sentence. Is speech slurred, are they unable to speak or are they hard to understand?

Time to call 911: As soon as you have even the slightest thought that your symptoms could be a stroke, call 911. Don’t call the hospital. Don’t call the clinic. Call 911. Our paramedics are trained to start the evaluation and treatment process wherever you are: home, work, the lake or a local store.

Tri-County has invested a lot of resources and a lot of faith in this program, and it’s working. This technology clearly improves our ability to provide stroke care here at Tri-County, and in fact, has already proven invaluable with several of our patients. The early data shows us that we’re treating more patients with appropriate treatment, we’re treating them faster and their outcomes seem to be better. So the moment you suspect a stroke, call 911 and get here. Once you arrive, you’re only two minutes away from a stroke specialist and the best care modern medicine has to offer. Any time of the day, every day of the year, we are prepared, we are here, we are trained and we are ready!

For more information about Telestroke and other services offered by the TCHC Emergency Department, click here.


Dennis Faith-M.D.-Emergency Medicine

Dennis Faith, M.D. – Emergency Medicine Physician

About the Author: Dennis Faith, M.D., specializes in emergency medicine, with special interest in preventive medicine and clinical research. A science nerd at heart, Faith loves that medicine allows him the opportunity to combine his interests of working with kids, teaching and researching. Though he has a lifelong fascination with astronomy and recently got back into cycling and triathlons, most of his time, by far, is spent with his family.