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Unlike a new car or an iPhone, newborn babies don't come with instruction manuals. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), the cause of which is unknown, claims the lives of thousands of babies per year. Louisiana has one of the highest rates of SIDS deaths in the country and has the second-highest infant mortality rate in the nation, according to a 2005 Report by Louisiana's Department of Health and Hospitals.

In recognition of SIDS Awareness month, the Louisiana SIDS Awareness Program will host a Safe Sleep event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 13, at Wal-Mart (5110 Jefferson Hwy., Harahan). The event will include free demonstrations and information about proven ways to decrease the risk of SIDS in newborns, such as positioning them to sleep on their backs, using pacifiers from one to 12 months and breastfeeding. Pregnant women and mothers with children under 1 year old also can register at the event to win a free baby bed and other baby merchandise. For more information call 1-800-251-BABY or visit www.1800251BABY.org.

Cell Help
In early October, Tulane University's Health Science Center will open a new Sickle Cell Day Hospital with help from a $420,000 grant awarded by Louisiana's Baptist Community Ministries. Located at Tulane University Hospital and Clinics, the day hospital will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday to provide alternative care for patients with sickle cell disease.

A genetic defect that alters the structure of red blood cells and reduces their ability to deliver oxygen to organ tissues, sickle cell disease can be exacerbated by stress, dehydration and physically taxing situations. It can result in acute pain crises and a need for immediate treatment and relief for those who suffer from the disease.

The day hospital will offer five beds and the services of a registered nurse, nurse practitioner, social worker, hematologist and pain specialist to provide patients with a faster alternative to seeking treatment in the emergency room. It will work mostly with Medicaid patients and their primary-care physicians to offer pain counseling and redirect patients away from the emergency room. In addition, it will make sure patients have access to information and routine check-ups.

Because of its partnership with Tulane Hospital, patients with serious cases will be transferred to Tulane's emergency room but will bypass the usual wait time because they'll already be assessed and checked in.

Up to Their Teeth
Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center's School of Dentistry has resumed clinical care and education at its New Orleans campus near City Park, completing the return of all six of LSUHSC's New Orleans schools.

The School of Dentistry, Louisiana's only dental school and home to the only research center for oral health in the state, began classes a month ago with 342 dental, dental hygiene and dental laboratory technology students and 61 dental residents and postgraduates enrolled for the year. The school educates 75 percent of the state's dental health-care professionals and offers patient services at heavily discounted rates for adults and children.

Since it reopened, phones have been ringing off the hook with patients requesting appointments, says Leslie Capo, director of Information Services for LSUHSC New Orleans. To schedule an appointment for an adult, call 941-8374, 941-8375, 941-8436 or 941-8437. For children, call 896-1337.

It's Not Too Late
Two years after Hurricanes Rita and Katrina, many Louisiana residents still suffer from anxiety, depression and frustration related to the storms and their aftermath. It's not too late to seek help in managing these feelings. The Louisiana Spirit 24-Hour Helpline (1-800-273-TALK) offers free crisis-counseling services from professional counselors and provides referrals and information about emotional and mental health.

Kenner Stork Overwhelmed
In response to the increasing need for obstetric and newborn care in the Kenner area, the Ochsner Medical Center-Kenner has opened the Well-Baby Nursery and a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit to provide services similar to those offered there before the storm. In addition to regular obstetric and neonatal care, the new NICU also will provide round-the-cl0ck care by neonatal nurse practitioners who will be on hand to provide services for babies with additional needs.

The center expects to deliver as many as 125 babies by the end of the year and nearly 700 by the end of 2008.

Home-Bound
In an effort to reopen its doors and bring its permanent residents back to New Orleans, St. Margaret's Daughters Home has moved into the former Bywater Hospital on St. Claude Avenue. Purchased for $5.5 million in FEMA dollars and renovated for $6 million, the building will serve as a temporary facility until the nursing home can rebuild a permanent complex.

St. Margaret's expects to open in a few weeks, once the Department of Health and Hospitals completes a relicensing process. Since evacuating from the storm, many residents of this former Lower Ninth Ward home have been living in various locations around the state. St. Margaret's already has a list of returning and new residents who are ready to move in, but there still is space for new applicants. For more information contact St. Margaret's at 279-6414.

BRCA Gene Screening
Deadly diseases often strike without warning, so detecting a serious illness before it occurs or identifying it early on may slow or prevent the progression of symptoms and prepare a patient for proper treatment right away. One key is knowing your family's history and genetic makeup.

The Center for Restorative Breast Surgery in New Orleans now offers BRCA gene testing for patients who have a strong family history of cancer or early onset of the disease. The process is simple and only requires drawing blood — usually as little as one tube — which is examined for inherited genetic mutations (BRCA 1 and BRCA 2) associated with breast and ovarian cancers. Women with BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 mutations have a higher risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer than women without them.

It is estimated that approximately 80 percent of women with an altered gene will develop breast cancer and 25 to 44 percent will develop ovarian cancer, depending on which gene is altered. To qualify for the testing, patients will meet with a doctor or a certified nurse to discuss their family history and other risk factors. In many cases, health insurance will cover the cost of testing once eligibility is determined. BRCA testing also is available at Ochsner's Tansey Breast Center. For more information or to schedule an appointment with the Center for Restorative Breast Surgery, call 899-2800 or visit www.breastcenter.com.

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