Monthly Archives: September 2016

Caring for a Child with Sickle Cell Disease

By Malerie Hartsell, MPH, CHES, DHEC’s Children with Special Health Care Needs Program

Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) affects many South Carolinians across the state who either have the disease or care for someone with SCD who needs their assistance. DHEC employee Brenda Green knows all too well the impact that SCD has had on her life and the life of her son, Braden.

Brenda is an environmental engineer with the Bureau of Water in the Domestic Wastewater Permitting Section. Ever since her family was informed of her son’s SCD diagnosis, she has been a champion and advocate for Braden and his health.

To help raise awareness during National Sickle Cell Awareness Month, Brenda did a Q&A interview with DHEC’s Children with Special Health Care Needs program to share a small piece of her SCD story and how the disease has impacted her family.

 Q:  Tell us about your son, Braden Green.

A:  Braden is 10 years old and in the 5th grade at Satchel Ford Elementary School. He loves school and his favorite subject is math.  He loves to draw, paint and create art.  He plays the piano, drums and just began the strings program at school where he will play the cello.  He loves ALL sports but plays little league baseball.  He knows the stats on almost all baseball, football and basketball teams and their star players.  He’s a really smart and sweet kid.

Q: You and your husband have three children, and your son has sickle cell disease. What are some things you have to be mindful about when raising and caring for Braden that you don’t necessarily worry about with your other children?

A:  I’m more mindful about a lot of things in comparison to his big sisters. It was more difficult during the first years of his life.  He wasn’t able to tell me where it hurts and how the pain felt.  I had to wonder, when he was an infant, whether he was crying because he was hungry, teething or having sickle cell pain.

Now that he is older, we use the number scale for pain that is used in the hospital (1-10 with 10 being the worst).  He can also tell me if it’s a sharp, dull or burning pain. I have to make sure he’s hydrated especially when he’s playing or practicing baseball.

I have to make sure he understands that he has to wash his hands and try to keep his hands from his face. Germs are not our friends at all times.  The common cold can be very dangerous to him.  He is most susceptible to pneumonia and has been hospitalized several times because of it.

I have to make sure he’s not too cold in the winter or too warm in the summer.  Even though it’s warm now, I make sure he takes his jacket to school just in case the classroom is cold.  Extreme temperatures can cause pain crises for him.

I worry about him at birthday parties, especially if they are running and playing.  He gets tired quicker than the average child but he will push himself if he’s not reminded to rest.  This is the same with him playing sports.  I’m also more mindful of the types of sports he plays.

Q:  What have you found to be the most helpful for your family since finding out Braden has SCD?

A: The most helpful thing that my husband and I have found is to be very observant of him and his symptoms and to make sure we’re responsible when it comes to his medical care.  We call his pediatrician if we are concerned and we make sure he attends all routine appointments.  It’s important that we continue to learn as much as we can about SCD and be very proactive with his care.

The pain level chart, I reference earlier, has been very helpful to us.  We now understand his pain tolerance better.  He can function normally until his pain is a 5.  At that point, he will take more frequent breaks and may ask for his heating pad.  Usually a pain of 8 or greater requires pain medication.  If we’re unable to control his pain at home, then it requires medical attention.

 Q: Braden has been attending Camp Burnt Gin for several summers. What has that experience been like for him and for your family?

A:  The experience has been wonderful.  He has made friends and has enjoyed being with other children who battle the same disease as him.  It’s his opportunity to relax and have fun without mommy hovering close.  My husband and I are happy that he can go to an overnight camp where he can have fun, experience the camp life just like the healthy kids and all the while at a safe location with his hematologist, Dr. Carla and his nurse, Nurse Julia on site.  What more could we ask for?


Braden and Dr. Carla at Camp Burnt Gin, a summer camp in Wedgefield, SC for children with physical disabilites or chronic illnesses.

Q:  What advice would you give to other parents who have just learned their child has SCD?

A: Be encouraged and know that your child is so special and will teach you the true meaning of resilience and strength.  Use your resources.  Your child’s hematologist, pediatricians, nurses and other caregivers are all there to help your child and your family battle this disease.  Learn as much as you can. Document all that you learn and ask questions.

Finally, never, I mean never, be afraid or hesitant to be the main advocate for your child.  Through you being your child’s advocate you will teach your child to be able to advocate for themselves as they get older.

For more information on DHEC’s Children with Special Health Care Needs division, visit


You Can Help #EndRabies

By Travis Shealy, DHEC Rabies Prevention Program Manager

World Rabies Day, Sept. 28, is an international event that seeks to raise awareness about rabies in order to enhance prevention and control efforts. Rabies is a deadly virus that kills humans, pets, and wildlife across the globe. Education and regular vaccinations are the key to #EndRabies.

What is Rabies?

Rabies is a virus (Lyssavirus) that can be transmitted when saliva or neural tissue of an infected animal is introduced into the body of a healthy person or animal. It infects cells in the central nervous system, causing disease in the brain and, ultimately, death. Any animal with rabies has the ability to transmit the disease to humans or pets. In South Carolina, rabies is most often found in wildlife such as raccoons, skunks, foxes and bats. Keep in mind, pets are just as susceptible to the virus.

Rabies in S.C.

As of Sept. 1, 2016, there have been 68 confirmed rabies cases in South Carolina this year. In 2015 there were 130 confirmed cases of animal rabies statewide.

The SC Rabies Application provides statistics of rabies cases by county, species and year. View rabies statistics across the state here


Rabies Prevention

Join us in the fight to #EndRabies by keeping your pets up-to-date on their rabies vaccination. This not only protects your pet, it protects you and your family from this deadly virus.


Another great way to safeguard against rabies is to avoid wild animals, particularly wild animals acting tame and tame animals acting wild, and to educate your children on the dangers of handling unknown animals. If you see an animal that appears sick, contact your local animal control office, wildlife control operator, rehabilitation group, or veterinarian for help. Never handle strays or wildlife, and make sure to keep them away from your family pets. You can learn more about rabies symptoms here.

Bats: Exposure to a rabid bat can easily be overlooked. Bat bites can go unnoticed because they have such small teeth, often people – especially children – don’t realize they’ve been bitten. If you find a bat in a room, tent or cabin where someone has been sleeping, or find a bat where children, pets, or persons with impaired mental capacity (intoxicated or mentally disabled) have been left unattended, always assume a bite occurred. Any bat that could have had potential contact with people, pets or livestock should be safely trapped in a sealed container and not touched. Contact your local DHEC Environmental Health Services office to report the incident.

Reporting Possible Rabies Exposure

If you’re bitten or scratched by a wild, stray or unvaccinated animal care for the wound properly and contact your health care provider immediately. The health care provider is required by the Rabies Control Act to report the incident to DHEC.

If you or your child is bitten, scratched or otherwise exposed and you do not seek medical treatment for the wound, you are required by the Rabies Control Act to report the bite to DHEC by the end of the following business day.

Contact information for the Environmental Health Services office in your area can be found on our map.

For more information on rabies, visit

World Rabies Day is co-sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and the Alliance for Rabies Control (ARC).

September is Healthy Aging Month

By Michelle James, DHEC Director of Healthy Aging Division

September is Healthy Aging Month, an annual national observance focused on the positive aspects of growing older and taking personal responsibility for one’s health – physically, socially, mentally and financially. Healthy or successful aging can best be understood as a process, rather than an outcome. Staying healthy as we age involves more than just diet and exercise; mental and social well-being also plays an important part in a person’s overall health.

Older adults who are aging well are characterized by a positive outlook on life, a willingness to continue to learn and satisfaction with the way things  are.  Since aging is an inevitable part of life, it goes without saying that the more cheerfully we can embrace the process, the easier life will be — for ourselves as well as our family members.

Researchers looking at the issue of successful aging have identified the following 10 behaviors and attitudes that provide older adults with the best chance of aging well:

  1. Don’t smoke: if you still do, it’s never too late to quit and there is free help available. 
  2. If you drink, drink moderately: one alcoholic drink a day doesn’t hurt, and could even reduce your chances of heart disease. But alcohol abuse can lead to disability and early death.
  3. Stay physically active: find something you love to do and do it regularly. Exercise is associated with a variety of good outcomes, from increased memory to reduced rates of heart disease, depression and cancer.
  4. Eat a balanced diet: limit the fats in your diet and try to include at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
  5. Prevent obesity: being significantly overweight is associated with a variety of bad health outcomes including heart disease and diabetes.
  6. Protect your vision and hearing: your eyes and ears are critical to functions such as driving and reading. They also help you remain engaged in conversations and relationships.
  7. Get regular health care and vaccinations: you can prevent many problems before they require more serious treatment.
  8. Maintain a vibrant social network and strong personal relationships: it’s good for your health and for how you experience your later years.
  9. Stay active in professional, community or other activities: feeling useful is positively associated with good outcomes as people age.
  10. Plan for your financial well-being: having the money to meet your material needs can increase your chances of successful aging.

For more information on aging well through exercise and programs to help manage ongoing health conditions, please visit 

Pass the Plate – Take Action on Hunger

Pictured: DHEC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity, took the challenge and shared “On an empty stomach I can’t be active.

By Emily Pineda, DHEC Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity

As part of  Hunger Action Month, Feeding America is encouraging individuals to share what they can’t do on an empty stomach. You can write it on a plate, take a selfie, and post to your social media channels with #HungerActionMonth. It’s one way to help raise awareness for more than 790,000 of our neighbors in South Carolina who do not always know where they will find their next meal.

In South Carolina, there are several ways you can help end hunger in your community. One way is working with your local food bank. You can donate food, volunteer, or make a gift. There are four food banks that serve South Carolina – Golden Harvest Food Bank, Harvest Hope Food Bank, Lowcountry Food Bank, and Second Harvest Food Bank. To find out more about each food bank, please visit

DHEC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity is working with the S.C. Department of Agriculture to increase the amount of produce at food banks and food pantries. To learn more about the Farm to Food Bank initiative, visit In addition, DHEC’s Office of Solid Waste Reduction and Recycling is working with the SC Department of Commerce and partners to help South Carolina cut food waste in half by 2030. To learn more about Don’t Waste Food S.C. campaign, visit

To learn more about Hunger Action Month, please visit


S.C. Food Grades App Wins State Award

Pictured above: DHEC GIS Section Manager Phil Weinbach accepted  the award on behalf of the team. He is pictured with DHEC Chief Information Officer Mi Sou Hood. 

The S.C. Information Technology Directors Association has recognized DHEC with the 2016 Innovation Award for the recently debuted S.C. Food Grades App.

Congratulations to our Bureaus of Environmental Health Services and Information Technology team members that made the project a success!food_grades

In June 2016, DHEC launched the new web application that provides the public with important information on retail food establishments including risk-based inspection scores and detailed reports of the findings. Detailed photos and inspection outcomes are now available for the public with the click of a few buttons.  This level of transparency allows S.C. citizens and visitors to make educated choices related to dining and food purchase options.

Less than 60 days after the launch the site had more than 25,000 visits

The project team included: Rick Caldwell,Sandra Craig, William Phillips, Dylan Murphy, and Mallori VanSyckel of the Bureau of Environmental Health Services; and Patty Mapes, Patrick Yusko, Wes Askew, Seth Church, Dax Patel, Stephen Bryant, Phil Weinbach, and Regina Crolley of the Bureau of Information Technology.

The team collectively decided to donate its cash prize to Camp Burnt Gin. Kudos to this group for exemplifying DHEC’s core values of inspiring innovation and promoting teamwork.

To learn more about S.C. Food Grades, visit