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Holy Cross Hospital Expands Speech and Language Therapy Services

Most people think that a “speech therapist” helps people who have a lisp or need to re-learn how to talk after a stroke. This is true, but you might be surprised to find out that Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) do much more than this. Did you know that Medical Speech-Language Pathologists are experts in swallowing disorders?

Swallowing is a complex process. Under normal circumstances, we swallow about 500 to 2000 times daily. Swallowing requires the concerted actions of about 50 pairs of muscles and 5 main cranial nerves (nerves in the skull).

People with “dysphagia” have difficulty swallowing and may even experience pain while swallowing. Some people may be completely unable to swallow or may have trouble safely swallowing liquids, foods, or saliva. When that happens, eating becomes challenging or even impossible. Often, dysphagia makes it difficult to take in enough calories and fluids to nourish the body and can lead to additional serious medical problems. Dysphagia can occur at any age, but it’s more common in older adults. The causes of swallowing problems vary, and treatment depends on the cause.

Patients who experience dysphagia may benefit from a form of treatment called swallowing therapy. During swallowing therapy sessions, the speech pathologist may use different methods involving the lips, jaw, and tongue to strengthen the muscles of the mouth. Special exercises for engaging the swallowing muscles and stimulating the nerves that trigger the swallow reflex may be used. Food may be used with the exercises for different textures, temperatures, and swallowing abilities. Patients may also be taught simple ways to place food in the mouth or position the body and head to help swallowing occur successfully. Sometimes, therapy may also include a change in diet.

Speech and language pathology services available in Taos.

At Holy Cross Medical Center, we are fortunate to have a team of Medical SLPs who diagnose and treat dysphagia. Kristen Torres started the speech and swallowing program over 30 years ago. Tracey Poffenroth Prato is the primary SLP and continues to grow the program to meet the needs and demands of our community. Mia McMullen is the newest member of the team. Early this year, the SLP team worked closely with radiology to update video fluoroscopy equipment and purchase a specialized swallowing chair. Medical SLPs collaborate with Radiologists and Radiology Technicians to perform Videofluoroscopic Swallowing Studies (VFSS). This test is also called a Modified Barium Swallow (MBS) Study and is now available right here in Taos.

These specialized swallowing studies are real-time x-rays that allow Medical SLPs to see what happens in your mouth and throat when you swallow. It allows the therapist to see if food or liquids go into your airway instead of your stomach, which muscles and parts of your mouth and throat may not work well, what kinds of foods are safest for you to swallow, and if certain positions or strategies help you swallow better. It helps the therapist create a treatment plan and therapy to help improve swallowing.

Troy Martinez, Tracey Poffenroth Prato, and Marcos Romero standing with the video flouroscopy equipment at Holy Cross Hospital
Troy Martinez, Tracey Poffenroth Prato, and Marcos Romero standing with the video flouroscopy equipment at Holy Cross Hospital

With over 20 years of experience as a Medical SLP and dysphagia, Tracey is only 1 of 8 SLPs in the state who is certified in the McNeill Dysphagia Treatment Program (MDTP), an innovative and evidence-based program for swallowing rehabilitation. Tracey and the Medical SLP team use their vast experience, expertise, and compassion with their patients, which means, you don’t need to leave Taos to get great care.

For more information contact Holy Cross Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation by calling (575) 737-0304 or visit www.taosphysicalhealth.com

Written by Tracey Poffenroth Prato M.S., CCC-SLP

Community Health Needs Assessment – 2022

The Taos County Health Assessment surveys local residents every three years to identify local strengths, household challenges, and issues, as well as the perception of needs in the area. Results of this survey are used to document needs and develop plans that make Taos County a healthier place to live. This year’s survey represents over 500 submissions. You can find the results of this survey in the link below.

Holy Cross Medical Center and the Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon Fires

As the Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon Fires continue to threaten our region, Holy Cross Hospital has been working closely with local Emergency Response Coordinator David Elliot to make sure that proper response plans are in place.

Holy Cross Medical Center has over 400 employees. Some employees live in neighboring communities that are under different levels of evacuation notice, and the team at the hospital is monitoring the situation in regards to those that might be affected by evacuations. Holy Cross is helping employees that are displaced from their homes find safe places to relocate and is offering housing support if necessary. 

In preparation for possible air quality degradation due to smoke from the fires, the Holy Cross Hospital maintenance team is evaluating the hospital’s HVAC system and making plans to mitigate potential smoky conditions and poor air quality. 

Holy Cross Hospital remains open and the emergency response team does not foresee an immediate situation where services would need to be restricted. Bill Patten, CEO of Holy Cross Medical Center said  “It is important that our community knows that our hospital remains open to provide quality health care. Though this is an evolving situation and weather patterns can change, it appears unlikely that the hospital or any of our facilities will be at risk, and Holy Cross is here and ready to care for our community.”

Non-invasive Kidney Stone Treatments are Available in Taos

It is estimated that over half a million people will go to the emergency room for kidney stone problems and roughly ten percent of people will have a kidney stone at some time in their lives. Kidney stones grow when minerals and salts in urine crystalize and form stones. Usually, the chemicals that cause kidney stones are processed by the kidney and washed out of the body through urine, but sometimes the concentration is high enough that hard stones form. Kidney stones can be as small as a grain of sand and as large as a pebble and can cause an array of symptoms. Though more often found in adults, kidney stones are found in children as young as five. 

Kidney stones cause pain when they get large enough to cause irritation and can even cause blockage. Common symptoms of kidney stones include severe pain on either side of the lower back, a vague pain or stomach ache that won’t go away, bloody urine, nausea, vomiting, fever, and urine that smells pungent or looks cloudy. 

While there is no single cause for kidney stones there are a few lifestyle choices that may impact whether stones develop. Not drinking enough water, consuming high amounts of salt, eating meat-heavy diets, and genetics may all be important factors as to whether you may develop kidney stones. The body usually processes and flushes smaller stones without needing medical intervention, but the process is painful. Luckily there are some fantastic non-invasive solutions that break up the size of the stones, and we have access to this technology right here in Taos.

Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy is a process that breaks up kidney stones without needing surgery. High energy shockwaves are focused on kidney stones and the process breaks up the stones into small pieces that will pass naturally through urine. The non-invasive lithotripsy treatment usually takes less than an hour and most patients can return home within hours of the procedure. 

Dr. Stephen Lucero is a urologist at Holy Cross Surgical Specialties and has over 35 years of experience in the medical field of urology. Dr. Lucero graduated from the University of New Mexico School of Medicine and joined the Holy Cross Medical Center team in 2017. While Stephen offers many general urology services, one of his major projects was bringing a lithotripsy machine to Taos. 

“It’s not common for a rural community this size to have access to a state-of-the-art non-invasive lithotripsy machine, so it’s impressive that we have one right here in Taos.” Says Dr. Lucero.

Lithotripsy causes less pain than many other treatments, offers a shorter treatment time, reduces follow-up procedures, is effective for children and adults, and is available at Holy Cross Hospital. You don’t need to leave Taos for great care. If you ever have the unfortunate development of kidney stones, you have access to non-invasive treatment right here in Taos.

For more information about lithotripsy and other urology services call our Surgical Specialties office at (575) 758-3141.

Community Health Needs Assessment Focus Groups

Holy Cross Medical Center is looking for community members to participate in a focus group as part of our Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) process. Every 3 years, we conduct a CHNA to evaluate the overall health needs of the area. By getting broad community feedback, we can identify ways that our hospital can adequately address these needs.

During this hour-long focus group, we hope to prioritize the health need in our area, identify community resources, and develop strategies for improving community health.

Two sessions will be available to participate in on April 1st at Noon and 5:00 PM.

This is very important in our commitment to our community, and we appreciate your time and assistance!

Please note, the following links will only be effective at the time of the event. You will need to log in and join the session at the scheduled time.

Link for April 1st – Noon focus group:

Link for April 1st – 5:00 PM focus group:

Jeannie Ross is One of This Year’s Taoseña Awards Recipients!

We’d like to take a moment to congratulate Jeannie Ross, Director of Community Health Services at Holy Cross Medical Center, for being recognized as a Woman of Impact at the annual Taos News Taoseña Awards!

The Taoseña Awards are presented to women who are committed to the community and passionate in spirit. Congratulations to Jeannie, and we thank her for the great work being done by her and her team.

Find more at https://taosnews.com

Community Health Services of Holy Cross Hospital manages free programs for the community:

Monthly Video Update

In an effort to help our community understand the changes happening in health care and at the hospital, we will be posting regular updates from the administration at Holy Cross Medical Center to help share information with the public.

Board Review – June, 2022

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