Jonathan Ferguson is the kind of problem-solver who tackles a challenge head-on-even when he has every right to be inactive.
Ferguson, 37, a vice president of technology for the Members Choice Credit Union in Ashland, Ky., became a cancer patient at the new Taussig Cancer Center at the Cleveland Clinic, where he stumbled upon a shortcoming of the high-tech outpatient facility.
"The center has 60 individual treatment rooms, each equipped with a combination TV/VCR," Ferguson says. "But they only had a handful of movies for patients to watch during their treatments."
So Ferguson, who was diagnosed in March with acute lymphocytic leukemia and completed a bone marrow transplant in July, kicked off a video donation drive. Friends and family helped.
"It was just one of those things where the need dictated the response," Ferguson says. "This center is new and beautiful, but it was crying out for movies. Some of these chemo treatments take six or eight hours. It's nice to watch movies to pass the time, and some parents bring children for treatments. Having movies for the kids to watch makes it easier for everyone."
The town of Ashland, population 23,000, pitched in. "Everyone wanted to help," Ferguson says. "One of the schoolteachers thought it was a good idea and got the grade schools to compete to see who could donate the most videos." Thanks to Ferguson, the not-for-profit center now boasts a library of more than 2,000 tapes.
Sleeping on the job? When he took his cholesterol medication early one summer morning, Los Angeles news anchorman David Cruz didn't know it would cause him to nearly collapse on the air. That's because the drug Cruz took wasn't one used to keep cholesterol in check; it was one used to help people sleep.
The Los Angeles-based public relations firm Cerrell Associates, representing Cruz, says his pharmacy filled a prescription incorrectly, replacing his cholesterol drug Lipitor with "Watson 745." A Cerrell news release issued in late August, and firm spokesman George McQuade, said Watson 745 is used to treat seizures and brain disorders. However, the drug's manufacturer says Watson 745 is estazolam, which is used to treat insomnia.
In any case, on July 25 Cruz apparently took the wrong drug shortly before starting his morning news program, "Today in LA," on KNBC-TV. Within a half-hour, he was dizzy and slurring his speech, and he eventually collapsed on the air. Cruz was taken to St. Joseph's Medical Center in Burbank for treatment.
The medication error, which Cruz blames on a pharmacy he has yet to publicly name, "could have cost him his life," said his lawyer, Walter Lack, in a written statement. On Aug. 30, Cruz returned to work after a 36-day recovery. As of last week, he was still deciding whether to bring legal action.
Cruz could not be reached for comment by deadline, so it was unclear why he did not recognize that Watson 745-a small rectangular pill-was not Lipitor, a larger oval-shaped pill.
The best medicine. Researchers at the University of California Los Angeles Medical Center are using kids and humor to test a theory: Something that makes you feel good can keep you from feeling bad.
Children ages 8 to 18 are asked to submerge their hands in frigid ice water while they watch videos featuring the Marx Brothers, the Simpsons and other jokesters. Preliminary results indicate that kids watching funny videos are able to keep their hands in the ice bath 40% longer. Researchers hope the videos ultimately will help ease the pain of kids who have cancer and other debilitating diseases.
A former TV executive brought the idea to UCLA, and the concept was an instant hit with Lonnie Zeltzer, M.D., a pediatric pain specialist who wondered why doctors didn't think of it sooner.
Some researchers believe humor works simply as a distraction, much the same way that sadness or even disgust has worked in some studies, but others say humor may promote long-term changes, even healing.
Researchers are gauging humor's impact on the children's physiologic responses to stress. Although heart rate, blood pressure and levels of the stress hormone cortisol normally rise in response to stress or pain, Zeltzer believes humor can diminish that effect.
Gone buggy. A surgical department at Meadville (Pa.) Medical Center had to close for a few weeks in August after hospital staff discovered a plaster beetle infestation in an operating room.
Plaster beetles, less than an eighth of an inch long, are considered a "nuisance pest," not a disease carrier, according to the National Pest Control Center.
A hospital spokeswoman says officials postponed and canceled some surgeries while arranging to have other surgeries performed at a second surgical center.