New Years Celebration Appetizer: Jean Eppler’s Cranberries Gone Wild Dip

Cranberry dipHere’s a wonderful, unusual dip recipe.  It has the tartness of cranberries, with the zest of jalapeno and cilantro.  It’s an amazing surprise on the appetizer table.  I replaced the 1.5 cups sugar with about 3/4 cup sugar substitute.  I skipped the cream cheese, which lowered the calories considerably. Try it on celery!

Time: 15 minutes prep + 4 hours refrigeration


12 ounce package fresh cranberries
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1 small jalapeno pepper
1  ¼  cup sugar
¼ heaping teaspoon cumin
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Dash kosher salt
2, 8-ounce packages whipped cream cheese (use a mixer to whip the cheese just before serving)
Chips (or veggies such as celery)


  1. 005Chop cranberries in a food processor.
  2. Cut up your green onion, cilantro and jalapeno pepper into small pieces.
  3. Mix all ingredients (except cream cheese and chips) in a bowl, cover and store in the fridge for at least four hours. The sugar needs some time to soak into the cranberries and break up their bitter taste.
  4. When you are ready to serve, spread cream cheese on a platter.
  5. Pour cranberry mixture over the cream cheese.
  6. Serve with chips, celery or your favorite dippable ingredients.

Per serving (1 tablespoon on 4 chips):
Calories 47, Fat 2 g, Carbohydrate 6 g, Potassium 63 mg

Recipe adapted from Jean Eppler of Fargo, N.D.

Mary TvedtMary Tvedt is a certified diabetes educator and has managed the Diabetes Care Center at Wyoming Medical Center for the past seven years. She has a bachelor’s degree in foods and human nutrition with a minor in child development and family science from North Dakota State University. If you have concerns about diabetes talk to your doctor. To learn more about services at the Diabetes Care Center, call (307) 577-2592. 

The Birth Place welcomes five Christmas babies to Casper

Wyoming Medical Center welcomed five Christmas babies this year, and each got a crocheted cap donated to The Birth Place. Three modeled their caps for us this morning.

Grayson Gifford was born at 4:57 p.m. Dec. 25, 2013, to Iveeth and Matthew Grayson of Casper.
Grayson Gifford was born at 4:57 p.m. Dec. 25, 2013, to Iveeth and Matthew Grayson of Casper.
Elden Antonio Gomes was born at 6 p.m. Dec. 25, 2013, to Janelle Brode and Timothy Gomes of Casper. He was supposed to come on New Year's Eve, but when mom and dad came in for tests, doctors told them he was coming for Christmas.
Elden Antonio Gomes was born at 6 p.m. Dec. 25, 2013, to Janelle Brode and Timothy Gomes of Casper. He was supposed to come on New Year’s Eve, but when mom and dad came in for tests, doctors told them he was coming for Christmas.
Dominick Allen Reynolds was born to Anggie Young and Donald Reynolds at 11:56 a.m. Dec. 25, 2013.
Dominick Allen Reynolds was born to Anggie Young and Donald Reynolds at 11:56 a.m. Dec. 25, 2013.














hatsIn November, an anonymous donor dropped off a whole pile of these adorable caps to The Birth Place. We still don’t know who, but are eternally grateful. We think our babies are too!

Read the full story here or click to see our Thanksgiving baby model her turkey cap.


Ninja Santa: Boy, 5, spends his Christmas money to brighten hospital stays of Casper children

Dorian Layton, 5, strikes a ninja pose with Marine Sgt. Wesley Capp at Wyoming Medical Center on Tuesday. Layton, who has a brain tumor, used his Christmas money to buy presents for kids at WMC over Christmas.

My name is Dorian Layton, but my family and friends call me Ninja Dorian. I am a Make-A-Wish kid and I am also a cancer kid. I have a brain tumor, but I am not afraid. Ninjas are BRAVE! One day, I will go to sleep and not wake up, but people shouldn’t be sad about that because Heaven is an alright place. I know the reason I am here. I am supposed to help people be happy and tell them that they shouldn’t be scared.

Dorian Layton, 5, knows how it feels to be a kid in a hospital. He’s stayed at several. He’s been poked, prodded, cut open and put under general anesthesia 14 times. It can be boring and the waits can be long. He doesn’t like to think of other kids sitting there with nothing to do.

This weekend, Dorian had an idea: What if he used his Christmas money to buy toys and games for kids at the Wyoming Medical Center? He arrived on Tuesday wearing his red ninja suit and bearing gift bags for boys and girls unfortunate enough to come to the ER over the holidays. Why a ninja suit? Because ninjas save the city, Dorian said.

Sometimes, ninjas also have brain tumors.

“This is my little brother. I don’t want him to go to heaven yet,” said Julien Layton, 9. “I want him to live until he’s 100 years old.”

Dorian once told his brother not to be sad. He knows why he’s here: to help people and tell them that heaven is a good place. He’s not scared to go, he said. Ninjas aren’t afraid.


Dorian dictated this letter to his mother for the hospital gift bags.
Dorian dictated this letter to his mother for the hospital gift bags.
Dorian dictated this letter to his mother for animal gift bags delivered to Metro Animal Shelter. Click to enlarge.
Dorian dictated this letter to his mother for animal gift bags delivered to Metro Animal Shelter. Click to enlarge.

At 15 months old, Dorian fell out of his high chair and hit his head. The emergency room CT scan showed he didn’t have a concussion nor a fractured skull. But doctors spotted a strange shadow, and they admitted him for an MRI the next morning at Texas Children’s Hospital.

A neurosurgeon walked in and showed his mother, Krishelle Layton, the results. Dorian had a tumor, partially on his brain stem, he said. Inoperable. He couldn’t explain why Dorian was functioning so highly, ahead of all the milestones for his age group.

For months, years even, the family learned to adapt to each new symptom. Brothers played cars in the house, wrestled in the dirt and climbed on the tree outside their trailer. “We’d use our imagination and we’d do anything,” Julien said.

This last year, though, the tumor advanced more quickly. Doctors removed a thyroglossal duct cyst from his neck and he suffered a grand mal seizure which triggered a tick episode that wouldn’t stop. His long-term memory seems to be slipping. His mother and grandmother, Carolyn Hackworth, have to reintroduce him to relatives he’s known for years.

Dorian always went under general anesthesia for his MRI scans because he couldn’t keep still and the machine made him feel claustrophobic. In October, he went in for yet another appointment. He had a bad reaction to the anesthesia and had a short grand mal, this one lasting about 30 seconds. It triggered the biggest tick episode he ever had.

I don’t want to be put to sleep anymore, he told his cancer doctors later. It’s scary. If I ever have to have another MRI, I promise I’ll be still.


Krishelle and her mother, Carolyn, started talking about moving back to Casper in March. Dorian was born in Casper. Krishelle and Carolyn were born in Casper. It’s home, where friends and family live. But as Dorian’s condition worsened, they stayed close to their doctors.

Then, Dorian’s cancer doctor had frank words for mother and grandmother after Dorian’s last MRI appointment: At this point, the doctor said, there’s no good reason to put him through it anymore.

“Not just the general anesthesia and the MRI , but all the things that are all entailed in cancer treatment that people don’t realize,” Krishelle said. “You have to go in the night before, or be up very early, and be poked and do labs and get IVs set, have an MRI. And, several hours later after you’ve woken up in recovery, then you can go see the doctor.”

No good reason. The tumor is still inoperable and untreatable, no matter what they put the boy through. Their doctor recommended that they take Dorian home. Keep him comfortable and happy. Be near family, friends and a good support network. Find a good neurologist and keep watch, but above all, let Dorain be a boy.

The family moved back to Casper on Dec. 15.

“It was bitter-sweet, that last visit. We felt kind of crushed, but it kind of felt like we had a weight lifted,” Krishelle said. “Ok. Now it’s time to start living a life and having fun.”

Dorian's mother, Krishelle Layton, sorts through gift bags for donation to Wyoming Medical Center on Tuesday.
Dorian’s mother, Krishelle Layton, sorts through gift bags for donation to Wyoming Medical Center on Tuesday.


Dorian’s philanthropic streak started with Macy’s Believe campaign. For every Santa letter filled out and dropped in the big red mailboxes at Macy stores, the company will donate $1 to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Dorian’s turned in 1,486.

The whole family pitches in. They set up a table outside Macy’s and Dorian tells people about his tumor and why Make-A-Wish is so important. Julien pushes around his 18-month-old sister, Vivien, because he’s discovered that her red hair and blue eyes are fantastic bait for potential signers.

Dorian got the idea from his Facebook friend Gabriella Miller and collected letters in her honor. Miller pledged to raise $1 million for Make-A-Wish through the letters and founded the Smashing Walnuts Foundation to fight pediatric cancer. She had a brain tumor, too, and posted fun riddles and jokes on her page. By dictating to his mother, Dorian started exchanging messages with Gabriella.

“They bonded because the feelings she wrote about were the same feelings he was feeling,” Carolyn said.

Gabriella died Oct. 26 at 10 years old. Dorian wasn’t sad, his mother said. He definitely wasn’t happy about it. He sat quietly and processed it. But then, out of nowhere, he said: Ok. She’s in heaven now and I’ll see her when I get there.

This weekend, Carolyn’s parents gave him a check for $200. It came from some family cousins who donated it to Dorian’s cancer fund with the stipulation that he spend it on anything he wanted for Christmas. Mother and grandmother expected Dorian to go on a shopping spree. If any kid deserved one, Dorian did.

Dorian Layton strikes a pose next to his new ninja poster made for him by Wyoming Medical Center. “Thank you ninja Dorian,” it says.

Instead he asked about all the animals who don’t have homes. Wouldn’t they like treats and toys?

After delivering gift bags to Metro Animal Shelter, Dorian still had money left over. Mama, how many children are in the hospital who can’t come home from Christmas? he asked.

Now they call it Dorian’s bucket list. When Dorian thinks of a small community service project, a charity he wants to support, or something he wants to do like learning to ninja climb, they post it on his Facebook page, Karate Chop Cancer with Ninja Dorian. Anyone who wants to help in whatever way is welcome, and his family starts working to make it happen.

“I never did much community service or involvement. I was just raising them,” Krishelle said, nodding toward her children. “Dorian’s philanthropic gene is entirely his. He comes up with the ideas and we encourage him.”


For a long time, the family couldn’t say the word out loud. Not with Dorian’s name in the same sentence. He gave them a new way to think about it one day, out of the blue, on a drive across town.

I know why I’m here, Dorian said.

Yeah, you’re here to go to the store, Julien answered.

No, I’m here to tell people about heaven. To make them feel all right that their brothers, or their sisters or their mothers are going to heaven.

Wyoming Medical Center Emergency Department staff and Marines representing the Toys for Tots program pose with Dorian, his brother and his sister.

That’s how the family thinks of it now.

On Tuesday, Ninja Santa delivered his gift bags to the few boys and girls in the ER and left some for others who might come in. Then it was his turn to be surprised.

Seven Marines and Marine reservists from Toys for Tots gave him and his siblings sacks of presents after hearing about Dorian’s Christmas gesture. Lance Cpl. Ashton Buckingham, 22, dropped to one knee and presented Dorian with his Eagle, Globe and Anchor, the official emblem of the U.S. Marine Corps.

“This is never given, but always earned. If anyone has earned this, it is you,” Buckingham said to Dorian.

It’s tempting to say, after watching a U.S. Marine humbled by the strength of a 5-year-old boy, that he’s just too young. Too young for a bucket list. Too young for grand mal seizures. Too young for what might come next. But on Christmas Eve, in his red ninja suit, Dorian might have been the wisest person in the Emergency Department.

He doesn’t want you to be sad for him. He wants you to write a letter to Santa and drop it off at Macy’s. He wants you to give a cat or a dog a good home or deliver a present to a deserving kid. He doesn’t want you to be scared about what will happen when he goes to sleep and doesn’t wake up. Dorian’s not scared. Ninjas are brave.

To help

“Like” Dorian Layton’s Facebook page, Karate Chop Cancer with Ninja Dorian, for updates on his bucket list.

Donate to his cancer fund at

Toys for Tots brings Christmas to WMC’s youngest patients

From the bottom of our hearts, we want to thank Toys for Tots Natrona County for bringing Christmas to a few children in the hospital today. Much to the delight of several of our youngest patients, seven Marines in their full dress blues arrived to distribute gifts this Christmas Eve.

“I have given out toys to those in need and I will tell you there is nothing that feels better than to help children during the holidays,” said Terry Probst, coordinator for Toys for Tots Natrona County and former Navy corpsman. “Every child deserves a Christmas. To me, it feels like Christmas on distribution day since we are giving, and isn’t that what this season is all about?”

Toys for Tots logoMajor Bill Hendricks of the U.S. Marine Corp Reserves started Toys for Tots in Los Angeles in 1947. He and others gave away more than 5,000 toys, Probst said. The Marine Core commandant was so impressed that he initiated it nationwide in 1948. Walt Disney Studios designed the logo – a three-car train.

Most of the time, they don’t have the opportunity to deliver gifts in person, but they arrived at Wyoming Medical Center in hopes of making the kids’ hospital stays a little more bearable.

We know they did just that.  Thank you. 

Toys for Tots’ support of our community’s children has been wide-reaching this holiday season, with gifts delivered to the Boys and Girls Club, Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Casper Housing Authority, Interfaith, Food for Thought and more.  To learn how to get involved, visit Natrona County’s Toys For Tots website

Pvt. 1st Class Tyler Clark, GySgt. Clinton Rasmusson, GySgt. Lisa Rasmusson, Sgt. Courtney Capps, Lance Cpl. Ashton Buckingham, Sgt. Wesley Capps and Sgt. Chris Cloud arrived on Christmas Eve to deliver gifts on Wyoming Medical Center’s Pediatric unit on behalf of Toys for Tots Natrona County.
Tasha M. Burchfield, 17, received books and other gifts from a Marine delivering on behalf of Toys for Tots Natrona County.
GySgt. Lisa Rasmusson kneels down to offer gifts to Colleen Pulanco, a patient in Wyoming Medical Center’s Emergency department, on Christmas Eve.
The Marines delivered gifts to several young patients receiving care in Wyoming Medical Center’s Pediatric unit on Christmas Eve.
A Marine delivers gifts to Lily Crago, 9, of Kaycee.

WMC employees give back this holiday season


Christmas is a time of giving, and that rings true for the employees of Wyoming Medical Center. Not only do our employees take care of the sick and injured on a daily basis, they take their giving attitude out into the community to help our friends and neighbors.

This year, a few departments got together to give back to our community in amazing ways – check out their stories.

Sending Wyoming soldiers some cheer

The respiratory department adopted three Wyoming soldiers for Christmas.  These soldiers are currently on deployment and without family. Each soldier received three gift boxes loaded with candy, personal care items and iTune cards to open for Christmas . Each soldier also received a stocking from Santa.

“This was a wonderful experience to participate in as it was our pleasure to provide for others who are keeping us safe and placing their lives on the line each day for us” said Gail Parker, manager of respiratory care.

A special thanks to Connie Wood for helping organize this event.

Employees from Finance "stuff" the tree on Pediatrics
Employees from finance “stuff” the tree on Pediatrics.

Stuff the tree

The WMC finance department raised over $300 to put toward gifts for our pediatric patients. This year they decided to decorate a tree and stuff it full of goodies. Items that were “stuffed” into the tree are for various ages and include: 120 stuffed animals, 25 stress balls, 30 toy cars, 12 decks of cards, 100 bracelets, 12 finger puppets sets, 12 soft sports balls, and coloring books.

A special thanks to Kylie Gibson, Ted Notestine, Paula Gorsuch, Martha Schuler, Chris Parks and Corie Perry for organizing this event.

Food collection

Laboratory staff organized a food collection for the Restoration Food Pantry. Donations began Dec. 6 and will continue to be picked up weekly until Christmas.  As of Dec. 19, eight bags of food have been donated to the local food pantry.

A special thanks to Dana Becker and Micky Hazen for helping organize this event.

A representative from Meals on Wheels accepts a check for $300 from the WMC Patient Finance Department/WHMG Central Business Office
A representative from Meals on Wheels accepts a check for $300 from the WMC Patient Financial Services Department/WHMG Central Business Office.

Abandoning the gift exchange

This year, Patient Financial Services and Wyoming Health Medical Group Central Business Office decided to share the spirit of the season a little differently than they usually do.  Rather than their standard department ornament/gift exchange, they chose to support a local charity. They sent out a survey asking staff which of three charities they would like to support. Meals on Wheels was the lucky selection and the departments raised a combined $300 total for the program.

A special thanks to Julie Stengel, Anita Neubauer, Llwetta Windsor and Sherry Bohannon for organizing this event.

Holiday Appetizer: Party Shrimp with Cilantro Dip

The pulse Dec 2013 075

This appetizer is a healthy choice to add a little spice to your holiday celebration. The leftover cilantro dip also goes well with your eggs for breakfast the next morning.

Party Shrimp with Cilantro Dip      

Makes: 16
Serving Size: About 4 shrimp, 1 tablespoon dip
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 5 minutes


Cilantro Dip

6                                  garlic cloves, mincedThe pulse Dec 2013 051
3/4       cup                  minced cilantro
1/2       small               green bell pepper, seeded, cored, and diced (about 1/2 cup)
1          teaspoon         ground cumin
1/4       teaspoon         kosher salt
1/4       teaspoon         red pepper flakes
3          tablespoons     red wine vinegar
1/3       cup                  olive oil


The pulse Dec 2013 056

2          pounds              peeled and deveined fresh shrimp, tails on
1          tablespoon      ground cumin
1          tablespoon      sweet paprika
1 1/2    teaspoons        ground coriander
1/2       teaspoon         garlic powder
1/2       teaspoon         hot or mild chili powder
1/2       teaspoon         cayenne pepper
1/4       teaspoon         kosher salt
1/4       teaspoon         ground black pepper
2          tablespoons     vegetable oil


  1. The pulse Dec 2013 052In a small food processor, mix the garlic, cilantro, green pepper, cumin, salt and red pepper flakes, pausing to scrape the sides. Add the vinegar and oil, and puree until smooth. Spoon the dip into a small serving bowl; set aside (chill in the refrigerator if not serving right away).
  2. In a large bowl, combine the shrimp, cumin, paprika, coriander, garlic powder, chili powder, cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper.
  3. In a large skillet or wok, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and sauté for 5 to 8 minutes, until the shrimp turn pink and are no longer translucent. If you need to cook the shrimp in two batches, cook them for about 3 to 5 minutes per batch, until the shrimp are pink. Add the shrimp to a serving bowl.
  4. To serve: Spoon 1 Tablespoon dip into each of 16 shot glasses, and place three or four shrimp around the lip of the glass.

Per serving: Calories 120, Fat 7 g (Sat. Fat 0.9 g), Carbohydrate 1 g (Fiber 0 g, Sugars 0 g), Cholesterol 90 mg, Sodium 205 mg, Potassium 150 mg, Protein 13 g, Phosphorus 130 mg Exchanges: Lean Meat 2, Fat 0.5

Recipe adapted from Diabetes Forecast

Mary TvedtMary Tvedt is a certified diabetes educator and has managed the Diabetes Care Center at Wyoming Medical Center for the past seven years. She has a bachelor’s degree in foods and human nutrition with a minor in child development and family science from North Dakota State University. If you have concerns about diabetes talk to your doctor. To learn more about services at the Diabetes Care Center, call (307) 577-2592. 

Survive. Don’t Drive: In case of a heart attack, dial 911

Dr. Adrian Fluture reminds people to call 911 at the first signs of a heart attack. WMC doctors and staff can administer the best and fastest treatment when patients trust our EMS system, rather than driving to the hospitals themselves. (Photo by Dan Cepeda Photography)

It seems like common sense: At the first signs of heart attack, call 911. Do not lie down to see if the symptoms pass. Do not ask a friend or loved one to drive you to the hospital. Above all else, don’t think you can drive to the hospital yourself.

Americans wait an average of 2 hours after the first symptoms appear before deciding to do something about them, said cardiologist Dr. Adrian Fluture, Director of Regional Myocardial Infarction Care at Wyoming Medical Center. Only about 60 percent of those patients use EMS services, instead trying to make it to the hospital on their own.  Natrona County’s numbers are even worse. Here, only 30 percent of people who suspect heart attacks call 911.

That can be a deadly decision.

Heart attacks require immediate medical treatment. When a patient calls 911, Wyoming Medical Center shaves an average of 10 to 11 minutes off door-to-balloon time – the time from when a patient arrives at the emergency room to the time a balloon is inflated in the blocked vessel. The shorter the time, the more heart tissue doctors can save.

“Data shows that of the people who die from (heart) rhythm disturbances, most of them die within the first one hour of onset. Rhythm disturbances can be so bad that it can kill you within a couple or three minutes,” Fluture said. “You need to trust the system. Dial 911. Every minute a person delays medical treatment increases the likelihood of damage or even death.”

At the first signs of heart attack, call 911. Never drive yourself to the hospital or have someone else drive you.  Here are three reasons why:

1.       You may crash your car.

If you suffer a heart rhythm disturbance on the drive, you will likely crash. Worse, you may crash into another car or run over pedestrians.

“The thing I tell my patients is they may kill a mom with kids coming from school. Just be responsible,” Fluture said. “These are unpredictable things. You cannot say, ‘I just have a chest pain. I know I’m going to be fine until I reach the hospital.’ You can never guarantee that.”

2.       Cardiac resuscitation requires a team effort.

Even if a loved one is trained in cardiac resuscitation, one person is not enough. He needs help to arrive as quickly as possible, and calling 911 is the fastest way to get it. If a loved one decides to drive you to the hospital and you go into cardiac arrest, he can’t do anything for you while he’s behind the wheel.

Ambulances are mobile emergency medical clinics. When paramedics reach you, they can treat low blood pressure, administer IVs and aspirin, remove clothing and prep you for immediate admission to the hospital. If you go into cardiac arrest, paramedics are trained with defibrillators and can resuscitate you – at home or en route to the hospital. Casper Fire/EMS crews, which may arrive on emergency scenes before anyone else, also carry and are trained on defibrillators.

“The earlier you get these things done, the higher the chance the patient will survive if heart rhythm disturbance happens,” Fluture said.

3.       Time means muscle.

Treatment is started more quickly for patients who call 911. That means less chance for damage to heart tissue.

Natrona County’s fire crews and WMC’s ambulance crews have all been trained to start the first phase of treatment in suspected heart attacks. Upon arriving on scene, they will perform an EKG and send the results to the hospital right then. Hospital doctors will read the results and, if you are indeed suffering a heart attack, will prepare the Cath Lab team and forward the results to the cardiologist’s personal cell phone. The cardiologist can respond to the hospital while you are en route.

“Everything that we need to do at the hospital is already prepared when the patient is rolling in by ambulance. The whole time to treatment will be much shorter,” Fluture said.

Our heart program is among the best in the country, but you have to trust the medical professionals to take care of you. The American Heart Association’s Mission: Lifeline protocol recommends a 90 minute door-to-balloon time. Wyoming Medical Center averages 41 minutes, putting us in the top 90th percentile of American hospitals. But we can only save patients and provide the best outcomes when they get to us as quickly and as safely as possible.

 Heart attack symptoms: ‘From belt to teeth’

Warning signs of a heart attack can be hard to identify. They may start slowly, presenting as mild pain and discomfort, and may develop over days or weeks. They can feel similar to symptoms of other ailments, including heart burn, making them easy to discount.

Dr. Fluture recommends that you carefully weigh any pain or discomfort from “from belt to teeth” if you think you might be suffering a heart attack. Play it safe. If there is any doubt, call 911.

The more of the following symptoms present, the greater the likelihood of heart attack:

* Any pain, tightness, heaviness, pressure or squeezing in the chest. It may even feel like heart burn or a generalized apprehension or uncomfortable feeling.

* Pressure or pain spreading to the neck, jaw, left shoulder or both shoulders. You may feel tingling or numbness in the left arm and forearm, spreading to the inside of the arm. It may migrate to between the shoulder blades or, occasionally, to the back or spine.

* Feelings of fullness, pain or indigestion in the stomach.

* Shortness of breath or cold sweating with no good explanation.

adrian fluture

Dr. Adrian Fluture specializes in cardiology, interventional cardiology and vascular/endovascular medicine at Wyoming Cardiopulmonary, 1230 E. First St. in Casper. 

He is board certified in internal medicine, cardiovascular disease, interventional cardiology, nuclear cardiology, echocardiography and vascular medicine; and CT Angiography. He is also Director of Regional Myocardial Infarction Care at Wyoming Medical Center. For more information or referrals, call (307) 266-3174. 



Flu season is here: H1N1 nothing to sneeze at, but not out of the ordinary

Swine Influenca (H1N1) Virus

Wyoming Medical Center has seen a few cases of the dreaded H1N1 influenza virus this month, but it’s nothing to get excited about, said Dr. Mark Dowell, medical director of infection control at WMC.

H1N1 (also called swine flu) got a lot of media attention in 2009 because it hadn’t been seen in United States for many years and, as a result, the population was more susceptible. Young adults, who typically fend off most flus, fell ill. It caused more than 100 deaths in non-immunized pregnant women. Ever since, H1N1 has been one of three strains included in the influenza vaccine.

“H1N1 is just one of the many influenza viruses that are circulating right now internationally. It is no different really than most of the other strains of flu that go around every year,” said Dowell, who is also the Natrona County Health Officer. “It just is a little more aggressive in some people and it has hung around longer year to year than other strains. And it really doesn’t do too well in pregnant women.

“But it’s not a superstrain of virus. It’s another strain of virus.”

Flu cases at Wyoming Medical Center are still fairly sporadic, but they signal the start of Natrona County’s flu season. Cases will likely peak in 4 to 6 weeks, before tapering off again, Dowell said. If the season follows the typical pattern, cases will straggle in through March or April.

Here’s what you need to know to get ready for the worst season of the year – flu season:

Is it a cold or the flu?

Influenza, including H1N1, will make you sicker than you normally get. It sometimes presents with a cough but more usually with a 100-degree-or-so fever, headache  and tremendous muscle and joint pain. A stuffed-up nose is typically not a sign of the flu.

“You will often say, ‘This is as sick as I’ve ever been in my life,’” Dowell said. “I have had influenza as a teenager, and believe me, you will not forget it.”

Is it serious?

It can be. About 36,000 people a year die in this country from influenza. It is typically most dangerous to the very young, the very old or people with weakened immune systems – people with heart or kidney disease or cancers, for example. Complications can include flu pneumonia or developing bacterial pneumonia on top of your flu.

But, in most healthy people, the flu can be fought off at home.

“We don’t want to put patients with influenza in the hospital if we can help it because it tends to spread by droplet. The majority of people never get hospitalized for influenza. The treatment works if you start it early when you recognize the disease, otherwise it does nothing,” Dowell said. “The complications that occur usually mainly occur in those that are least healthy.”

How can I prevent it?

Get the vaccination, plain and simple. The CDC recommends that everyone six months and older get a flu shot, particularly people who are very young or very old or who may suffer from other chronic illnesses. Pregnant women should also get it since they have two lives at stake.

H1N1 can still seem like a big, bad monster because it’s been around for just a few years. “And since, a lot of times, only 30 to 50 percent of the population gets immunized , there is a whole population that is still susceptible. Because of that, it spreads,” Dowell said.

In the elderly, the flu shot may protect 50 percent of the time. But 50 percent is 50 percent, Dowell said. If you’re not willing to get the shot, be diligent about washing your hands and using hand gel. Use common sense. Flu is spread through fluids, so avoid fluids secreted by infected people.

But I’ve heard the shot will give me the flu?

The flu shot uses a dead virus. It cannot infect you. Symptoms you might experience afterward are caused by your immune response and only about 7 percent of people even get a fever from the shot, Dowell said.  The nasal vaccine does contain a live virus, so only choose this option if you have a fairly good immune system.

“Here at Wyoming Medical Center, we have more than 99 percent of our employees immunized against flu. We do not want our employees bringing influenza into our sick patients,” Dowell said. “We have done this for several years. We are very proud of it, and our employees just go for it.”

Ok, I’m convinced. But do I still have time to get the shot and be protected?

Yes. Get it now.

The shot lasts four to six months but is strongest after two to four weeks. So, you will likely be protected when the Natrona County season peaks in the next month or so.

As a general rule, people in Wyoming should not get their flu shots any earlier than October or November, despite the signs in supermarket parking lots. Our flu seasons typically come later than other parts of the country. Talk to your health provider.


Dr. Mark Dowell is an infectious diseases physician at Wyoming Medical Center and the Natrona County Health Officer.

Dr. Mark Dowell is an infectious disease specialist with Wyoming Medical Center and Rocky Mountain Infectious Diseases, 1450 E. A St. He is also the Natrona County health officer and is board certified in infectious disease and internal medicine. Reach his office at (307) 234-8700.

Couple, married 36 years, renews vows at Wyoming Medical Center

Bob and Marie Richter hold onto one another after renewing their vows on their 36th wedding anniversary Tuesday at Wyoming Medical Center in Casper. Bob has battled esophageal cancer since June, enduring two major surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation, and a tracheotomy, and will soon undergo another major surgery which will restore his ability to speak. ‘Stay close. Love them all you can,’ Marie says. ‘You don’t know when it will be last, and I’m not ready for last.’ (Casper Star-Tribune photo by Ryan Dorgan)

If you do nothing else today, take the time to read this story from Casper Star-Tribune reporter Patrick Simonaitis. “Through sickness and health” tells about Thermopolis couple Marie and Bob Richter who have been driving to Casper weekly since June in a fight against Bob’s esophageal cancer. Tuesday, the couple renewed their vows in Bob’s hospital room at Wyoming Medical Center.

“We’ve had a great 36 years. We’re going to have 36 more,” Richter told the Star-Tribune.

The Richters have stayed at the Masterson Place since the summer, driving home to Thermopolis on weekends. The Pulse first met Marie just before Thanksgiving when she attended a potluck for guests of Masterson Place — a home away from home for out-of-town patients of Wyoming Medical Center and Rocky Mountain Oncology.

“Each week, they give us the same room. It feels like we’ve come home whenever we get here,” Marie told us then.

Last week, though, Bob took  a turn for the worse. Doctors didn’t expect him to make it, but he hung on for another day and then another. Marie decided to surprise her husband with the renewal ceremony on Tuesday night, the couple’s 36th wedding anniversary, according to the Star-Tribune.

“I felt this was the best anniversary to repeat our vows because I didn’t know if I’d get to keep him or not,” Richter told the paper.

The whole story is worth a read, especially now with less than a week until Christmas.

For more

* Read the entire Star-Tribune article, “Through sickness and health: During a battle for life, a couple renews vows.”

* Read how the Masterson Place becomes a home away from home for many out-of-town patients in “The Turkey Chef: How cancer helped Casper man rediscover the joy of food.”  

About the Masterson Place

The Masterson Place serves thousands of patients every year. At a cost of $40 per night with both short- and long-term rooms, it is a comfortable refuge for those who need it most. Each room has a small eating area, microwave and refrigerator. Through contributions, the Wyoming Medical Center Foundation continues to make significant upgrades to the Masterson Place each year. For reservations or more information, contact the Masterson Place at (307) 237-5933 or visit our website.

To make a donation, contact the Wyoming Medical Center Foundation:

1233 E. Second St.
Casper, WY 82601
(307) 577-2973

New wig room offers comfortable place for cancer patients

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The new wig room at Rocky Mountain Academy of Hair, Skin and Nails will give cancer patients a private, comfortable place to pick out and style their new wigs.

Every month, Wyoming Medical Center Foundation’s Angels Cancer Care Program receives multiple requests from cancer patients needing a wig. With the help of local cosmetologists, the Angels have created a room to make the entire experience more comfortable and intimate for cancer patients.

The Angels have partnered with Kirby Morris – co-owner of Rocky Mountain Academy of Hair, Skin and Nails (RMA) – to create a wig room in the cosmetology school. Morris completely refurbished a room in his school with a washing and styling station, welcoming décor and a variety of wigs lining the walls.

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Cancer patients can have students at Rocky Mountain Academy shave their heads and style their wigs, or they can invite their own cosmetologists in to help.

“Opening the wig room at the Rocky Mountain Academy of Hair Skin and Nails is allowing us to pool our resources.  It’s giving patients a place to have privacy while having their head shaved and to choose a wig that fits them,” Morris said. “It’s giving our school a place to teach our students about giving back to our community and to cancer patients while using the skills that they are learning here at RMA.”

In the wig room, cancer patients can have their head shaved, pick out a wig and have it styled either by RMA students or their own cosmetologist. It presents another facet of cosmetology that is not typically covered in the academy curriculum and offers an opportunity for students to learn how to handle sensitive situations with cancer patients, Morris said.

Angels Cancer Care Coordinator Jillian Riddle said the Angels are looking forward to serving hundreds of cancer patients in the new room.  “Our goal is to not only give patients privacy during this difficult time, but make them feel special when choosing their new wig. We are thrilled the wig room has come to life.”

About the Angels

The Wyoming Medical Center Foundation’s Angels Cancer Care program serves hundreds of Wyoming cancer patients every year offering emotional support and financial assistance with wigs, gas cards, transportation and more. To learn more or to make a donation, call (307) 577-4355 or visit our website.

If you are a cancer patient needing a new wig or would like more information about the wig room or the Angels Cancer Care Program, contact Jillian Riddle at

About RMA

 Rocky Mountain Academy of Hair, Skin and Nails is located at 315 E. Fifth St. in Casper. Call them at (307) 237-4247.

Alisha HavensAlisha Havens is development director of the Wyoming Medical Center Foundation. For more information about the foundation or how to give, go to