The Leadership Institute Silver level team The Sterlings, presented an informative forum Friday, April 9 via Zoom to raise awareness and help others understand the complexities of chronic illness. Group members Alexandra Calpo, Chris Sclafani, Morgan LePore and Javonica Latimore integrated topics related to congenital heart disease, asthma, cystic fibrosis and Alzheimer’s disease.
The Leadership Institute is a four-year leader certification and preparation program that works with students from when they are incoming freshmen to when they are graduating in their senior year to grow their interpersonal and professional leadership skills. The Silver Leadership Program is the second level of the Leadership Institute. The goal of the Silver Leadership Program is to increase a student's ability to succeed and contribute to the Kean University student community as leaders. It focuses on group values as well as collaboration, common purpose and controversy with civility.
At this event, Silver Team Sterlings discussed in detail a variety of chronic illnesses that affect many people in the world.
Congenital heart disease results when the heart, or blood vessels near the heart, don’t develop normally before birth. This can affect the way the blood flows through the heart. Some defects can cause no signs or symptoms while others can be life-threatening. Symptoms may include but are not limited to abnormal heart rhythms known as arrhythmias, swelling of body tissues or organs referred to as edema, a bluish tint to the skin, lip and fingernails labeled as cyanosis, shortness of breath and tiring quickly upon exertion. Not everyone with a congenital heart defect requires treatment but it is important to maintain observation with a cardiologist. Some instances may require surgery that uses a tubing known as cardiac catheterization to reduce and or repair the defect.
Asthma is a very common condition in which the airways (the tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs) narrow and swell creating extra mucus causing an obstruction. This can trigger coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath that may cause a whistling sound. There can also be chest tightness or pain as well as difficulty sleeping with symptoms increased by exercise, seasonal allergens and workplace irritants such as fumes or gases. Asthma can be treated by inhalers prescribed by a doctor but in some asthma attacks may require emergency treatment and be life-threatening.
Cystic fibrosis is an inherited disorder in which the lungs and the digestive system get clogged with mucus. The mucus blocks airways and leads to lung damage, traps germs and makes infections more likely. The symptoms include persistent cough with thick mucus and because of the intestinal blockage, may cause chronic or severe constipation that may worsen or improve as time passes. Important to note that this disease can only be inherited if both parents pass on the gene for the illness. Over time, cystic fibrosis can damage lung tissue so badly that it no longer works. A person may cough up blood, have growths in the nose known as polyps, have a lung collapse due to air leakage, develop intestinal obstruction and it may even cause infertility.
Alzheimer’s disease is a type of brain disorder that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. The disease is the most common cause of dementia which is a continuous decline in thinking, behavioral and social skills that disrupts a person's ability to function independently. The early signs of the disease may be forgetting recent events or conversations. As the disease progresses, mental cognition severely deteriorates making it difficult to engage in activities of daily living. While generally misrepresented as an illness of senility that affects the older population, Alzheimer’s and signs of dementia do not discriminate or rule out individuals of younger age groups. Mood and behavior can lead to depression as well as withdrawal as simple tasks become more of a challenge.
The open forum with Silver Team, The Sterlings, ended with a Kahoot trivia game testing the knowledge of audience participants. To make a donation to support the Children's Specialized Hospital, please visit their website here. If experiencing any of the symptoms of the above-mentioned illnesses, consult with a doctor, outpatient clinic or contact Student Health Services to be provided with additional information as needed. Remember, it is important to recognize, respect and rethink the portrayal of chronic illnesses.