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Irene Maher, Times Correspondent

Irene Maher

Irene Maher has reported on health for more than 25 years, mostly for WFLA-Ch. 8 in Tampa. She now writes about personal health and wellness for the Tampa Bay Times.

Phone: (813) 226-3416


  1. Gestational diabetes screening, treatment important for health of mother and child


    When Sarah Ricca learned she had gestational diabetes last year during her second pregnancy she was surprised. But she also understands why it happened. With her first pregnancy, the results of her blood sugar screening were just on the borderline. Her doctor didn't think treatment was necessary. Three years later, the screening test with daughter Abigail was not ambiguous. "This time I failed miserably," said Ricca, a 33-year-old labor and delivery surgical tech at Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater. "I thought it would be the same as with my son." ...

    When Abigail was born, her blood sugar was low. She was fed right away and was given supplemental donor breast milk, which helps when mom isn’t yet producing enough milk. Within 24 hours her blood sugar was within normal limits.
  2. A look at the latest on breast cancer detection, treatment and research


    Orange pumpkins and black cats may feature prominently starting tomorrow, but don't forget to think pink, too. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a time to draw attention to annual screening, the need for research funding and programs that support patients, their caregivers and families.

    The Times spoke with Dr. Brian Czerniecki, chairman of the department of breast oncology at Moffitt Cancer Center, for an update on breast cancer detection, treatment and research. Here are some highlights from that conversation. ...

  3. With a tailored approach to cancer treatment, doctors at Moffitt see more cures, fewer side effects


    Treatment at Moffitt Cancer Center has been more precise since doctors and researchers there began using targeted drug therapies nearly a decade ago. And soon they plan to expand on that approach, known as personalized medicine, to include radiation therapy.

    Doctors already know how to more precisely deliver beams of healing radiation so they spare as much healthy tissue as possible. Their next step will be to tailor the dose and duration of radiation to each patient based on their tumor biology, genetics and complex mathematical equations. ...

    Nurse Isabel Canizares draws blood from Gail Porter at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa.
  4. Relatively new treatment offers alternative for men with BPH


    David Aslan was looking forward to hitting the beaches at his new Longboat Key address when he moved from New York to Florida last December. But trips to the beach and beyond soon became a source of worry for the retired firefighter when he developed BPH, a benign form of prostate enlargement that leaves men always looking for the next restroom. While not cancerous, it's certainly annoying and often embarrassing because of the frequent, urgent need to urinate....

    Dr. Scott Klavans of Morton Plant Hospital plans to take special training.
  5. Summer 101: How to have fun and stay out of the ER


    Whether it's picnicking in a city park or traveling to a bucket list destination, summer calls us to do something fun. Whatever it may be, check out our Summer Survival Guide first.

    We hope these tips will ensure your summer diversions end safely at home, and not in the emergency room.

    Irene Maher, Times correspondent

    Outdoor food safety

    • Pack raw, cooked and ready-to-eat foods in separate containers and coolers....

    Friends Eric Wheeler and Peter Highland, both of Pass-a-Grille, enjoy the shade at Pass-a-Grille Beach. It’s best to avoid sun exposure from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and, when outside during the day, to always seek shade.
  6. Glen Campbell's wife Kim discusses challenges, guilt caregivers of Alzheimer's patients, others face

    Life Times

    If there's one thing Kim Campbell would change about caregiving for Alzheimer's patients, it's the attitude so many of us have toward transferring a loved one from home to a long-term care facility. According to Campbell, it's often the most kind, loving decision you can make. It's not a sign of failure, but one of acceptance that you need help. It shouldn't be a source of guilt.

    Kim is the wife of country music legend Glen Campbell. They've been married almost 35 years and have three children together, all of whom performed with their father's band. In 2011, the couple revealed that Glen has Alzheimer's disease. "Glen did so much to remove the stigma, to open a national conversation when he went public with his diagnosis," said Kim, 58, in a recent phone interview from her Nashville home. ...

    Kim Campbell, wife of country music legend Glen Campbell, is acknowledged by those attending the free event where she shared the story of her personal journey with Alzheimer???‚??„?s disease and the struggles she faced caring for her husband on Friday (5/26/17) at the Suncoast Hospice's Empath Health Service Center in Clearwater. Empath Choices for Care, a member of Empath Health, and Arden Courts Memory Care hosted the free event where Kim shared her story to help others understand the early stages, how the disease changes lives, the challenges families face and the role of caregiver.
  7. Dementia: learn about a living will extension, better communication and resources

    Life Times

    Make your wishes known

    Empath Choices for Care, one of the organizations that co-sponsored Kim Campbell's late-May visit to Empath Health in Clearwater, has launched something new to help people plan for their care should they develop dementia. It's a document that was designed to be an extension of a completed living will. "Living wills are great, but they only apply during a small window of time at the end of life, when there's little or no hope for recovery," said Tracy Christner, executive director of Empath Choices for Care. "When someone has dementia, there are many care decisions to make before the end of life. Dementia can last for many, many years. That's why it's important to document your wishes early, before the stress of managing a terminal illness affects you and your family." ...

    Tracy Christner is executive director of Empath Choices for Care.
  8. Old-looking hands and what you can do about them


    If you really want to hide your age, hide your hands. • Hands are often forgotten when it comes to anti-aging prevention measures and cosmetic treatments. You dye your hair, spend big bucks on Fountain of Youth skin creams for your face, and dip into savings to have Botox injections and lifts for the eyelids and jowls. • But most of us — okay, it's primarily women — forget about our hands, which, experts agree, will say more about your age than your hair, face and neck. • Here are some things to know about hands:...

    Paula Knaus, associate dean of faculty affairs at the USF College of Public Health, underwent hand filler treatment about a year and a half ago.
  9. Less invasive treatment lowers risk for those with an abdominal aortic aneurysm


    At 92, George Luzier wasn't up for major surgery to repair a potentially life-threatening abdominal aortic aneurysm, also known as a triple-A or AAA.

    The aneurysms develop silently and often grow larger over time. The larger they are, the more dangerous they can be. As with most people, Luzier's was discovered by chance a few years ago when a doctor ordered a scan of his upper body for another medical reason. ...

    Using X-ray images to guide the placement, a team led by Dr. Bruce Zwiebel, left, and Dr. Murray Shames, right, places a Z-Fen graft to treat an AAA at Tampa General. The doctors have put the device in more than 100 patients.
  10. Message for national stroke month: If you see the signs, get to the hospital fast


    Every 40 seconds in the United States someone has a stroke.

    This interruption in blood flow to the brain can cause lifelong disability, even death, if the symptoms are not recognized and treated within a few hours. According to the American Stroke Association, death from stroke is on the increase again after years of decline.

    Yet 80 percent of strokes are preventable by taking commonsense steps such as controlling your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar, exercising and not smoking. But almost as important as prevention is knowing the warning signs of stroke and treating them as a medical emergency worthy of a call to 911. ...

    Yolande Petit-Homme, 60, of Lakeland is shown in April 2016 with daughter Jen, 31, who recently moved from Wesley Chapel to Atlanta. Yolande had a stroke in 2015. She ignored the signs for days and did not get a clot-busting drug. She has weakness on her left side. She works hard at rehab, hoping to resume such daily tasks as bathing and dressing. But, she is back to two of her favorite activities: attending church and handwriting letters.
  11. The essentials of skin cancer prevention: self-checks, sunscreen and covering up


    Would you recognize skin cancer if you saw it?

    The American Academy of Dermatology chose May, Skin Cancer Awareness Month, to launch a nationwide campaign it hopes will get you to check yourself and a loved one for suspicious skin spots that should be evaluated by a doctor.

    The new awareness campaign, "Check Your Partner. Check Yourself," urges us to take self skin checks seriously. Anyone who sees you regularly — not necessarily a trained professional — might notice a spot, freckle, mole, bump or crusty patch that has changed or just doesn't look right. If they do, take action and have it checked. If you notice the same on someone else, speak up....

    Dr. Kenneth Tsai
  12. National 'take back day' for unused prescription drugs lets you safely empty your medicine cabinet


    That collection of prescription pills, liquids, sprays, patches, tubes and blister packs is sitting in your medicine cabinet, getting old. You no longer need them or they're expired, but you don't know what do with them. Don't just flush them down the toilet or toss them in the trash. Instead, get rid of them Saturday during National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, sponsored by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration....

    A Tampa resident drops off unused prescription drugs at the 2011 Statewide Drug Take Back Day.
  13. The Dish: JJ Layton, executive chef at St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa, talks cooking hospital food for thousands


    Imagine cooking for more than 4,000 people each day. For most of us, it's hard enough just getting lunch boxes packed and a family meal on the dinner table every night.

    But JJ Layton, executive chef at St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa, has experience cooking and preparing thousands of meals for people of all ages — from toddlers to grandparents of multiple cultural and ethnic backgrounds, with widely differing taste preferences and food traditions and a variety of food allergies and dietary restrictions. That's what he and his team of 30 cooks, plus a small army of support staff, face each day when they come to work....

    A plate of roast pork loin with pepper jus is served with quinoa pilaf and green beans with bacon, blue cheese and onions.
  14. Implanted devices offer an alternative to CPAP machines for some sleep apnea patients


    Mark Yegge knew he was a snorer. But when he found out that he also repeatedly stopped breathing during the night, followed by gasping for breath, he knew it was time to see his doctor.

    "I didn't believe it until someone taped me sleeping," the Clearwater resident said.

    A sleep study confirmed he had obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, the most common sleep disorder, which affects about 18 million Americans. It occurs when the tongue, tissue and muscles in the throat relax during sleep, become floppy and block the airway. ...

    Dr. James Herdegen is medical director of the Rush Sleep Center at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.
Courtesy of Rush Sleep Center

  15. Treatments vary for painful plantar fasciitis, but rest is the best


    You might say Judi Briant has spent more than 33 years on her feet. As a teacher with Hillsborough County schools and a professor at Hillsborough Community College, she was always standing or walking.

    "That's the way I work," said Briant, who retired from Armwood High but still teaches at HCC. "I can't sit down and teach, I'm always on my feet in the classroom."

    On some days she'd put in another 3 miles at home on the treadmill. ...

    Judi Briant, 70, turned to extracorporeal pulse activation technology or EPAT treatment when conventional methods didn’t relieve pain from her plantar fasciitis.