Freeman Medical Musings Blog

Keep Up With Your Health

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As the leaders of healthcare in Joplin and surrounding areas, you rely on us to keep your informed and healthy. Locally Owned, Nationally Recognized means we're here for you every step of the way. 

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Ozark Center Family

May 22, 2023

What Your Surroundings Say About Your Mental Health

May is Mental Health Month, making this a most appropriate time to consider suggestions for establishing and maintaining mental health.

May is Mental Health Month, making this a most appropriate time to consider suggestions for establishing and maintaining mental health. The world around us can be both positive and negative – bringing joy and sadness, hope and anxiety.

Look around, and look within: Take a moment to consider your surroundings. Do you feel safe? Do you have access to health care and other community resources? Does your home support you, both physically and mentally? 

Factors such as these can affect our mental health. Where we are born, live, learn, work, play and gather – in addition to our economic stability and social connections – all influence “Social Determinants of Health” (SDOH). The more SDOH factors work in our favor, the likelier we are to possess mental well-being. Conversely, when it seems like the world is working against us, the more our mental health may suffer. 

While many aspects of our environment are beyond our control, there are steps we can take to change our space and protect our well-being. 

One is housing. Safe, stable housing is a vital piece of the SDOH landscape. While financial stability, age and other factors dictate our living situations, there are places to seek assistance. State and local agencies, for example, help clients secure safe, healthy and livable housing arrangements. 

Once appropriate housing is secured, consider keeping your space tidy, sleep-friendly, and well-ventilated. Surround yourself with items that help you feel calm and positive. 

Next, bond with your community members by getting to know the neighbors, joining (or even spearheading) neighbors-helping-neighbors group, and patronizing local businesses.

Connect with nature by hiking, sitting in a city park, or simply bringing a plant inside and or keep the shades open to absorb natural light. 

If you’re taking steps to improve your physical surroundings but are still struggling with your mental health, you may be experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition. If you feel as though you are unable to maintain your mental health, numerous screening and treatment options are available in person and by phone or text.  

Ozark Center Crisis Intervention Services and its 988 crisis line offer 24/7 day per week services. Call 417.347.7720 or 800.247.0661 to speak to a mental health professional now. Translation and TTY/TDD services are available. For messaging service, text REGISTER to 720-7-TXTOZK (720.789.8695).

You can also visit Urgent Behavioral Solutions at 3230 Wisconsin Ave Suite A, in Joplin, provides mental health services 7 days a week and into the evenings. Walk-in services are offered during the week at most Ozark Center outpatient locations.

For more information, visit

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Nurses Week

May 09, 2023

Freeman Celebrates National Nurses Week

Nurses are Freeman Health System’s backbone, demonstrating empathy and loving care as they diligently meet the healthcare needs of Freeman’s patients every single day.

Nurses are Freeman Health System’s backbone, demonstrating empathy and loving care as they diligently meet the healthcare needs of Freeman’s patients every single day.

Freeman’s nurses will be showered with treats, praise and more than a few hugs from Freeman officials during National Nurses Week. The special week kicked off Monday morning with a pancake feed and will wrap up this Friday with a birthday bash for Florence Nightingale – the iconic founder of modern nursing.

“Our leadership team absolutely loves showering our nurses with the love and respect that they deserve during this very special time of year,” said Jeanee Kennedy, Freeman’s Chief Nursing Officer.

“Each year, we celebrate nurses during the week of Florence Nightingale’s birthday. In celebrating Florence and the contributions she made to our field, we also celebrate the longstanding history of a profession rooted in trust, compassion and selflessness,” Kennedy said. “Nurses always answer the call to serve and heal the communities in which they reside. We are blessed at Freeman to have an amazing team of nurses.”

Remaining celebrations scheduled for both Freeman Hospital West and East include:

  • Barbecue and the Blessing of the Hands ceremony, 11:00 am to 2:00 pm on Wednesday, May 10.
  • Florence Nightingale’s birthday bash and nurses’ stations judging from 1:00 to 4:00 pm on Friday, May 12.

“The importance of nursing at Freeman cannot be overstated,” said Nicki Lopez, Freeman’s Clinical Compliance Specialist. “Our nurses are the lifeline of our health system. They not only care for their patients, but also for the patient’s family and their coworkers. They truly make a difference in Freeman as they empower patients with their knowledge, emotional support, and a caring touch.”

Without nursing, Lopez continued, “hospitals would be unable to function adequately.”

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Apr 24, 2023

The Surprising Benefits of Volunteering

The benefits of volunteering at Freeman Health System, however, go far beyond altruism; it harnesses the power to directly change lives.

It goes without saying that most Americans lead terribly busy lives. People are so engaged, in fact, that on average a person has just four hours and 26 minutes of free time available to them each week. Despite this, nearly 25 percent of the U.S. population – 60-plus million people – find the necessary time to volunteer for a good cause.

The benefits of volunteering at Freeman Health System, however, go far beyond altruism; it harnesses the power to directly change lives.

“Helping others is something I always love, especially those in need; I think helping with even the smallest tasks can make a real difference in people’s lives,” said Eliana Lewis, current Freeman Auxiliary President who regularly volunteers at Freeman West Hospital.  When I volunteer, I know I'll meet at least one person who will either touch my heart, make me smile or gives me something to reflect upon. It's rewarding when I can answer a question, solve a problem or just make a person feel less lonely.”

Volunteering can directly help people in need and the community as a whole. The benefits, however, are reciprocal. Volunteers can find new friends, connect with the community, learn new skills, or help advance personal careers.

“Whatever the age or life situation,” Lewis said, “volunteering can help take one’s mind off their own worries and add more zest to their life.”

Freeman Health System volunteer Earline Kelley, after working professionally in the medical field in California and Kansas City, returned to Joplin in 2005. She immediately began volunteering at Freeman West Hospital.

“Wow – where have the years gone?” she said with a chuckle. “I volunteer at Surgery Check In Desk and the ICU and I have always hoped that I have helped someone if they have a family member or friend that is a patient.”

For many men and women, the volunteer spark is kindled during a traumatic moment in life, when they briefly come into a contact with a volunteer who says something, or does something, that touches them deeply. In other words, volunteering gives men and women the opportunity to “pay it forward.”

Susan Carlsten, an 11-year volunteer at Freeman Neosho Hospital, decided to volunteer after what took place during one of Joplin’s darkest days – May 22, 2011. She, her husband and mother were caught in the path of the EF-5 tornado. When her mother suffered serious head trauma, she was transported and treated by Freeman physicians in neighboring Neosho.

The care and concern shown to my mother at Freeman Neosho defies description,” Carlsten said. “The staff literally saved my mother's life.  As a way of saying ‘thank you Freeman Neosho,’ I am now a volunteer there.”

Over the years, the former Freeman Auxiliary President has volunteered all over the complex, from the hospital’s admitting area to its gift shop.

“The friendships I have made at Freeman Neosho are amazing.  It is like another family,” she said. “Eating lunch together in the cafeteria is always fun and entertaining.  You also get to know some of the patients.  It is wonderful to see them outside the hospital and be able to speak with them.”

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Autism Awareness

Apr 10, 2023

Moving Beyond Awareness

Awareness is a good start, but now we must continue to push forward to autism acceptance.

In a world where one in 44 children have an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosis, autism awareness is no longer the goal. A good portion of the population is aware of autism now, but that does not mean the race is over. Awareness is a good start, but now we must continue to push forward to autism acceptance.

The distinction between autism awareness and autism acceptance is an important one. Awareness means that people can recognize signs of autism in others, but recognition alone does not lead to less stigma or discrimination for people living with ASD. That’s where acceptance comes in.

Admittedly, acceptance takes more effort than awareness. Awareness highlights the differences between someone with autism and someone without autism. Acceptance challenges us to embrace those differences and see the value of a different mindset and a different way of seeing the world.

Acceptance means moving past first impressions or surface level interactions. As humans, we can get uncomfortable with situations or behaviors that we are not accustomed to. Acceptance means sitting with that discomfort to learn about the person behind those unfamiliar actions. Someone with autism may flap their hands when they are happy or excited. While it might be unfamiliar at first, it is really a beautiful expression of joy. And how wonderful is it to see joy expressed so freely?

Becoming aware is simple. Becoming accepting is an ongoing process that we must actively engage in. It’s work, but it’s worth it. Maya Angelou said it well: “We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what.”

Learn More About Autism Services

Support program development and scholarship assistance at Bill & Virginia Leffen Center by joining us for the Freeman 5K and Walk for Autism on Saturday, April 22, 2023. Learn more or register now at

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spine care

Mar 27, 2023

Non-Surgical Treatment Options for Spine Care

Freeman NeuroSpine offers a specialized non-surgical spine treatment service for patients.

Spinal pain can impact your day-to-day activities. Some patients who experience this pain might be apprehensive or delay seeking treatment for the fear that treatment might involve surgery and a lengthy recovery. The good news is many patients with back pain and spinal problems do not require surgery. In fact, Freeman NeuroSpine offers a specialized non-surgical spine treatment service for patients.

Many factors can cause back pain, including age, genetics, strains, occupational risks or skeletal irregularities. Common problems our team treats include bulging discs, degenerative disc disease, certain muscle and ligament injuries and sciatica.

Our comprehensive services provide patients with:

  • Non-narcotic pain management options
  • Prescription medications
  • Physical therapy
  • X-ray/CT/MRI imaging
  • Surgical assessment and referral for fast-tracking
  • Education
  • No referral necessary

There isn’t a one-size-fits all treatment for spinal pain. What might work for one patient might not work for another. That is why we offer a variety of non-surgical treatment options to our patients. There are several benefits to seeking non-surgical treatment including avoiding surgery and recovery time and being able to still go about your day-to-day activities while receiving treatment.

Exercise is an important tool to use for chronic back pain treatment. Physical therapists teach patients proper exercise techniques to help relieve back pain. Maintaining the exercise routine at home is also a key to successful treatment. Physical therapy treatment might include retraining your posture, stretching and flexibility exercises and core strengthening.

Other non-surgical methods of treatment include occupational therapy, heat and cold packs, over-the-counter pain medications, electrotherapy and massage therapy.

To learn more about other non-surgical spine treatment options visit Call today for an appointment 417.347.7200. No referral necessary.

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Mar 13, 2023

Creating Healthy Eating Habits to Last a Lifetime

Here are some steps you can take today to help set your child up for a lifetime of healthy eating

If your child’s favorite food belongs cake-and-cookies food group, you’re not alone. While children do naturally have a bit of a sweet tooth, many of their eating preferences are learned and changeable. And that’s great news for parents trying to raise healthy kids.

The American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children eat two to four servings of fruit and three to five servings of vegetables each day. Beyond reducing the risk of childhood obesity, these foods provide essential vitamins and minerals that help ensure your child’s health and development.

Here are some steps you can take today to help set your child up for a lifetime of healthy eating:

  • Make healthy foods easy to access in your home. Just like adults, kids are more likely to reach for the snack that’s ready to eat than the one they have to prepare. Make healthy choices easy by keeping fresh fruit in a bowl in the kitchen and having ready-to-eat vegetables (like carrot sticks, snap peas or cherry tomatoes) on an easy-to-reach shelf in the fridge.
  • Limit juice and fruit snacks, and opt for whole fruits instead. Juice and fruit snacks might seem like a good way to help your child reach their daily recommended servings of fruit, but they contain a lot of added sugar and almost none of the fiber of whole fruits. Children younger than one should not drink juice at all. Children ages one to three should have no more than four ounces of juice daily, and kids ages four to six should have no more than four to six ounces daily. Even after age six, fruit juice should be limited to eight ounces a day.
  • Try different preparation methods. Some children like their veggies raw and crunchy, but others may prefer the softer texture of cooked vegetables. Find what your child prefers.
  • Eat together as a family. Set a positive example for your child by eating your meals together so your child can see you enjoy a balanced diet.
  • Keep mealtimes positive. Forcing or nagging your child to eat healthy food can actually create negative feelings about the food, making it less likely that they’ll eat it. Try to focus on the positive aspects of the meal. If your child does not like a food, that’s okay. Give it some time and try offing that food again later.

    If you are concerned about your child’s nutrition, reach out to your family’s pediatrician for advice that is tailored to your child and your family.

Visit for more information about pediatric services at Freeman Health System. You can also visit for more information about AAP recommendations.

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Feb 20, 2023

Watchman®: Implant Alternative to Reduce Risk of Stroke in Afib Patients

Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is an irregular often rapid heart rate that causes poor blood circulation in one of the heart chambers.

This can lead to blood clot formation that can lead to stroke. It affects about five million people in the United States, and a treatment option for some of these patients is the Watchman® procedure. 

The Watchman is a device for patients who are at a high risk for stroke due to atrial fibrillation and need an alternative to blood thinners. Freeman Heart & Vascular Institute was the first in the region to offer Watchman. 

To determine if a patient is a candidate for Watchman, a team of Freeman physicians will evaluate your risk for stroke as well as bleeding. A transesophageal echo is performed to identify if this is the right treatment option for you. During the Watchman procedure, the physician inserts a narrow tube through the femoral vein. The physician then guides the implant, which is about the size of a quarter, into the left atrial appendage of the heart. It excludes the left atrial appendage, so no blood clot can form in it, thereby reducing the risk for stroke and simultaneously eliminating the need for a blood thinner.

The hour long procedure is done under general anesthesia, and most patients go home the next day. 

The Watchman procedure is a team approach. Freeman cardiologists Dr. Vigyan Bang, Dr. Ryan Longnecker, Dr. John Swartz and Dr. Darwin Jeyraj specialize in this procedure.

For more information about Freeman Heart & Vascular Institute – and to learn about types of heart conditions, early detection, risk factors and more helpful resources – visit or call 417.347.5000.

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heart health diet

Feb 13, 2023

Tips to Keep Your Heart Healthy

The month of February abounds in hearts.

We observe not only Valentine’s Day but also American Heart Month, and there is no better time to be reminded of the importance of keeping your heart healthy. 

According to the CDC, heart disease accounts for approximately 1 in every 5 deaths annually in the United States, totaling approximately 697,000 deaths a year. Every year approximately 805,000 Americans suffer a heart attack. 

Fortunately, a few simple changes you can lower your risk of heart disease, keeping your heart healthy and improving your quality of life. To keep your heart healthy, follow these health tips:

  1. Eat healthy
  2. Get active
  3. Quit smoking
  4. Control your cholesterol and blood pressure
  5. Maintain a healthy weight
  6. Manage stress
  7. Have regular health screenings

Eating foods low in cholesterol and saturated fats can significantly reduce your risk for heart disease. Though your favorite foods often include ingredients to avoid, you can eat right and still enjoy your meals if you follow a few simple guidelines: 

  • Limit your cholesterol intake to 300 milligrams per day and total fat to less than 30% of a day’s calories, including no more than 10% of calories from saturated fats. Check food labels for fat content.
  • Cholesterol is found in animal products such as meat, eggs and cheese. Saturated fats, those that remain solid at room temperature, are most commonly found in fatty cuts of meat, whole milk products, butter, and palm and coconut oils.
  • Eat plenty fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes, such as dried peas and beans. These foods are rich in vitamins and can also help keep your cholesterol levels down.
  • Know that it’s okay to use butter and dressing as long as you use them in smaller portions. Also, give low-fat or nonfat products a try.
  • Additionally, it’s important to know the symptoms of a heart attack so you can act right away. The signs of a heart attack aren't the same for everyone. For some, symptoms are sudden and intense. For others, the symptoms are mild and begin slowly. Know the warning signs and act quickly – by calling 911 or going to the nearest emergency room – if you think you're having a heart attack.

It’s also important to know your risk factors, be aware of your blood pressure and cholesterol, exercise regularly and avoid smoking to decrease your risk of a heart attack. Above all, listen to your body, and if something isn’t right, talk to a doctor.

For more information about Freeman Heart & Vascular Institute – and to learn about types of heart conditions, early detection, risk factors and more helpful resources – visit or call 417.347.5000.

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heart care

Feb 06, 2023

Freeman is Most Experienced in the Region for TAVR Procedure

Patients with severe aortic stenosis (narrowing of the valve in the aorta) can’t undergo open-heart surgery.

That’s why cardiothoracic surgeons and cardiologists at Freeman Heart & Vascular Institute take a different approach by inserting a replacement valve in the aorta through a vein in the upper thigh. 

Freeman was the first health system in the area to successfully perform transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR). Since June 2017, Freeman has successfully performed over 300 TAVR procedures. The minimally invasive technique gives hope to four-state patients who suffer from severe aortic stenosis but who are not ideal candidates for a complex open-heart surgery.

TAVR is a minimally invasive procedure in which a folded valve is slipped into a catheter, inserted through the groin and threaded up to the heart through the arteries. When the valve reaches its destination near the heart, a balloon inflates to open the valve and secure its position in the artery. 

This procedure is done while the heart remains pumping, eliminating the need for a heart-lung machine and takes an average of 45 minutes to two hours. Freeman’s median length of inpatient stay post-procedure is 2.06 days.

Patients go through a comprehensive screening process with the structural heart team prior to the procedure, and then that same team of physicians place the patient’s new heart valve.

The Structural Heart Program features:

  • Collaborative team of interventional cardiologists, cardiothoracic surgeons and echocardiologists.
  • Diagnosis and treatment of conditions affecting the valves and other vital structures of the heart.
  • Personalized, coordinated care and comprehensive range of medical and surgical treatment options for patients throughout the region.

For more information about Freeman Heart & Vascular Institute – and to learn about types of heart conditions, early detection, risk factors and more helpful resources – visit or call 417.347.5000.

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Blood Drive Blood Donation

Jan 16, 2023

Blood Donation: Give the Gift of Life

It’s the season when people are setting goals and resolutions for themselves.

This year consider helping your community by donating blood. Every two seconds, someone in the US needs blood and/or platelets. Blood is essential for helping treat patients who undergo surgeries, cancer treatment or experience traumatic injuries. Although the need for blood donation is great, only 37% of the US population is eligible to donate, and less than 3% do.

Freeman Auxiliary works with Community Blood Center of the Ozarks (CBCO) by hosting mobile blood drives routinely throughout the year. CBCO is responsible for providing blood to 44 local hospitals (including Freeman) in 40 counties and needs to collect 200 – 250 units every day to meet their needs.

January was designated as National Blood Donor Month (NBDM) by President Richard Nixon in December 1969. The designation recognizes donors and encourages new ones to donate. January is also a time when blood centers typically see less donations. Causes range from people being busy during the holidays, getting sick during cold and flu season or blood drives being canceled due to inclement weather. 

On average, eligible donors give two times or less per year when they could donate once every 56 days, which is up to six times in a year. According to CBCO, if those one-time donors gave just one more time a year, local hospitals would have over 17,700 additional units of blood available to help patients!

To encourage people to donate more this year, CBCO is bringing back the 56-Day Challenge. Last year’s challenge ran from January to April and donors could win a $1,000 VISA gift card. This year donors have the opportunity to win up to $15,000 in VISA gift cards.

"Thanks to the generous donations from Adam Swenka Team at Flat Branch Home Loan and The Giving Branch, we are able to make the challenge even bigger and better this year and reward some lucky donors who go above and beyond by donating more than the average blood donor," said Michelle Teter, CBCO Media Relations representative.

How the Challenge Works:

  • Donate blood, plasma or platelets at any CBCO blood drive or donor center in January. The next Freeman Blood Drive is 9:00 am – 5:00 pm Friday, January 20, at Freeman Hospital West, Conference Rooms 1W – 4W. Donors will receive a free hoodie while supplies last.
  • Donors can then commit to take the 56-Day Challenge by filling out and completing the form by February 28.
  • Donors who then make a second donation by April 6 at any CBCO blood drive or donor center will be entered to win a $1,000 VISA gift card. 

Those who donate throughout the year by the deadlines, will have chances to win $2,000, $3,000, $4,000 and $5,000 Visa gift cards. And yes, a donor could win more than once. Learn more about the challenge at  

Commit to the challenge at the January Freeman Blood Drive. Appointments are strongly encouraged to manage donor flow. Schedule your appointment here. Photo identification is required. Please eat well and drink plenty of fluids prior to donating. 

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