Author Archives: Jennifer Kellner

Mental Health in a Pandemic

Cathy Sneed, LISW

Not many of us have lived through times like these before. Cathy Snead, Senior Life Solutions Therapist for Ringgold County Hospital, outlined some strategies for keeping you and your family mentally strong.

Children have become isolated from some friends and family. Routines have changed, they’re fearful of the virus, and are often spending too much time in front of a computer. Parents can start with the basics and provide a healthy diet and time for exercise and p l a y . “Parents should watch for behavior changes like wanting more time alone, Solutions Therapist acting out verbally, or behavioral outbursts,” said Cathy. “If you are aware of these kinds of changes, seek out expert help as early as possible. Ask a counselor for advice on how to speak with your child. It’s important to listen openly and to encourage them to feel safe asking for and accepting help.”

Children are not the only ones affected. Parents are being pulled in many directions as they try to work from home while they tend to children and perhaps elderly parents as well. If you or your spouse are experiencing mood changes, wanting to isolate, having crying spells, or are having difficulty concentrating, it’s most likely stress related. Along with counseling, Cathy recommends self-care. “Self-care is being aware of your personal needs,” she explains. “It’s important to make time for yourself to prevent burnout and fatigue during stressful times.” She adds that it’s normal to feel depressed occasionally, but if it continues for extended periods of time, seeking professional help is a good plan. “I suggest they start with their primary care physician to rule out a medical complication,” advised Cathy. “If there are no medical concerns, a mental health professional can help identify techniques and strategies that will work best for the individual.”

Seniors are being isolated for the sake of their own physical health, whether they’re in assisted living or in their own homes. They’re missing church, social activities, family visits, and regular meals and routines. According to Cathy, depression in seniors can be mild, evidenced by a low mood, lack of interest in activities they used to enjoy, or insomnia. Major depression affects a person’s thinking and can have them overstressing the negative, having inflexible rules, and taking responsibility for bad events. “Seniors may also experience generalized anxiety, chronic worry, while feeling uptight and restless,” she added. “These are all symptoms that can be exasperated by experiencing the current pandemic.” Friends and family members can offer emotional support and encouragement by listening with intent, offering to take the depressed person to the doctor or medical provider, and sharing validation for their feelings. It’s clear that mental health is as important as physical health. During these trying times, it’s critical that we keep our eyes on each other and watch for signs of stress and anxiety. If you or an older adult need help, or to speak to a professional, contact Senior Life Solutions at 641-464-4468.

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Ophthalmologist now treating cataracts at RCH

Matthew Raecker, MD

Des Moines Eye Surgeons has partnered with Ringgold County Hospital to offer cornea and comprehensive ophthalmology with a focus on treating cataracts. Matthew Raecker, MD will be available at Ringgold County Hospital the first Wednesday of every month.

A native of Cedar Falls, IA, Dr. Raecker, his wife, and three young children currently live in Des Moines. He travels monthly to Ringgold County Hospital to care for patients here. “It’s nice to get away from Des Moines and see a different part of the state,” he said. “But mostly, I enjoy helping patients get their care close to home. It’s great that they can stay local for their care if possible.”

Medicine is definitely the career he was meant to have. His father was a doctor and his father-in-law is also an ophthalmologist. Dr. Raecker studied biology and earned his BA at St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN and went on to earn his medical degree at the University of Iowa in 2010. “I became interested in ophthalmology specifically after doing research with my father-in-law,” he said. He completed his residency in Ophthalmology at the Casey Eye Institute, Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, OR in 2014. After returning to Iowa, he attended the University of Iowa where he completed his fellowship in Cornea, External Disease, and Refractive Surgery in 2015. Dr. Raecker is board certified by the American Board of Ophthalmology. He likes to have continuity of care with his patients in clinic and enjoys the challenges that come with having a surgical practice as well. When he’s not caring for patients or commuting between clinics, Dr. Raecker looks for opportunities to spend time with his family, golf, bike, and be outdoors.

A referral from your eye doctor is encouraged. To schedule an appointment, call the RCH Visiting Physician Clinic at 641-464-4409.

Vaccinations prevent disease

Diseases like polio, measles, mumps, and chickenpox have almost been eradicated by parents choosing to vaccinate their children and prevent them from getting sick.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States earlier this year, it’s been easy to dismiss the other illnesses that can affect ourselves and our children. Because of vaccines, diseases like polio, measles, mumps, and chickenpox are no longer the health threats they once were. But the reason they’ve been almost eradicated is because parents have made sure to vaccinate their children and prevent them from getting sick. According to Katie Willcox, D.O., both the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization have noticed a decline in vaccinations this year, primarily due to fears of COVID-19. “It’s understandable. Parents don’t want to bring their children into a doctor’s office or clinic. But it’s critical that we stick to the recommended immunization schedule,” she said. Dr. Willcox explained that the schedules are set so the immunizations are received when they are most effective. “It’s really important not to delay.”

Newborn babies get the Hepatitis B vaccine at birth. Then, beginning at two months old, they start getting routine vaccines including: Hib (Hemophilus influenza), Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR); chicken pox, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), polio, among others. “Some parents worry that we give their babies too many vaccines at once,” said Dr. Willcox. “But there is no data to support any issues related to giving multiple vaccines at one time, and in fact it has been shown to improve immunity when certain vaccines are administered together.

Most children receive their vaccines in the first year of life and continue through preschool at the age of four or five. At that point, they’re all set until they reach the age of 11 or 12. “We’ve started recommending Gardasil to prevent the Human Papillomavirus and the meningococcal vaccine for meningitis, with a booster again at age 16,” she said. “Our nurses here at the Mount Ayr Medical Clinic do a good job of keeping up with our patients’ immunizations. As children get older, they often get the vaccines during sports physicals when they’re needed.” Dr. Willcox emphasized the importance of 100% participation in a community when it comes to vaccinating children. “We have a way to prevent these communicable diseases that are transmitted from person to person. If we don’t have enough people participating, it doesn’t work. Vaccines protect our children.”

For more information, contact your medical professional, or schedule an appointment at the Mount Ayr Medical Clinic: 641-464-4470.

Positive attitude helps in cancer fight

Math teacher, athletic coach, and cancer survivor, Brett Ruggles is surrounded by his family

Regular, routine health screenings are recommended for all adults, usually beginning at the age of 40. Checks for colon and prostate cancers are standard for men as they age. However, one type of cancer, testicular, is the most common malignancy found in young men, ages 15 to 35. There are no screenings for it and in most cases, there is no pain. Bruce Ricker, D.O. advises young men to “know their bodies and be aware of any changes.” For one testicular cancer survivor, Brett Ruggles, pain and discomfort were what drove him to be checked out seven years ago. The Mt. Ayr High School math teacher and basketball and softball coach said, “I started to feel a lot of pain. As males, we don’t talk about things like this. I kept thinking it would go away. It was January and it was basketball season. I thought I could get through it, but then everything started to hurt.” He went to his doctor and got an ultrasound and a pregnancy test. “Here’s an interesting thing,” he said. “I took a pregnancy test! If it comes up positive, you have cancer. Mine was positive.” Once he was diagnosed, he said the staff at Ringgold County Hospital sprang into action. “I went to the front of the line for all testing,” he recalled. He was quickly scheduled for surgery. “I had to announce to the basketball team that I was stepping away for a week or two. It was a tricky time. That team will always be special to me.”

Brett had Stage One, non-seminoma testicular cancer. After his surgery in January in 2013, he went through two cycles of chemotherapy beginning in early March. Like many cancer patients, he suffered hair loss and almost daily nausea. “On one of the hardest days, I remember I was typing lesson plans. I put my hands on my head and my hair was falling out in clumps. Out came the clippers and we shaved my head. I thought, this is for real.” Even on the darkest days, Brett always felt he could fight the cancer. “I remember getting home and thinking, it’s going to take a bigger bus than this to knock me down!” He missed some school days, games, and parent-teacher conferences. “My immune system was so low. And it was prime flu season at school.” But he has made a full recovery and credits his care at RCH and the hospital in Des Moines along with his positive attitude. “I never thought I would lose this battle,” he said. While he was going through treatment, he ran into author Jon Gordon who had written the book, “Feed the Positive Dog.” “I believe it. You must stay positive and fight. I had a T-shirt made!”

Brett had a lot to fight for. With a wife and three children, a high school full of math students, basketball and softball teams, there are plenty of people looking up to him. He was only 32 years old when he was diagnosed. “It’s usually a young man’s disease,” he said. “I was literally on the outside edge for this.” He admitted that when it comes to these personal types of cancers, no one wants to talk about it. “I take a different approach. I joke about it. I bring it up in class. I talk to my guys about the idea of checking themselves. I tell them that if it doesn’t feel right, it’s not right. I want everyone around me to understand that it’s ok to talk about.”

Hospital is Prepared for COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

Ringgold County Hospital is following all the guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Iowa Department of Health in response to the current Coronavirus pandemic affecting the nation. In order to protect the safety and well being of all our patients and staff, we are pre-screening everyone wishing to gain entry to the hospital for fever, chills or sweats, cough, shortness of breath, or nausea/diarrhea. The hospital has made changes both physically and operationally to ensure the safety of patients and healthcare workers. A dedicated entrance to the hospital has been created for those experiencing breathing issues. The dedicated entrance is on the north end of the hospital next to the Emergency Room entrance. In addition, car-side triage and services have been implemented to add to the safety of both patients and healthcare providers. Patients can have simple services like blood drawn without ever leaving their cars! Some routine exams and wellness visits at the Mt. Ayr Medical Clinic have been rescheduled to reduce the potential spread of this virus. The hospital advises the community:

  1. Call prior to coming into the hospital 641-464-3226 or the Mt. Ayr Medical Clinic 641-464-4470. You will be directed to the appropriate department for assistance. Some tests and visits may be conducted at your vehicle.
  2. Whether you are sick or not, stay home. Social distancing will slow down the spread of COVID-19.
  3. Wash your hands frequently and clean all the surfaces in your home.
  4. Wear a cloth face covering in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain like grocery stores and pharmacies. This is to protect others from the risk of getting infected. Learn more about cloth face masks.
  5. Call “211” in Iowa, or 877-435-8411 in Missouri, to receive general information on COVID-19 and testing options.

Visitor access to the hospital has been restricted and entry to the building is limited to the two main entrances. The main entrance is open between 6:30am and 5:00pm Monday – Friday, and the Emergency Room entrance is open at all times. Anyone who enters the hospital will be pre-screened for temperature and other COVID-19 risk factors. No public walking is allowed until further notice.
Additionally, we are instituting strict visiting restriction. For the immediate future, NO visitors will be allowed in our facilities.

Visitor Restrictions
NO visitors will be allowed in our facilities.
Some exceptions will be made for extenuating circumstances.
Exceptions may be made on a case-by-case basis for:

  • Children admitted to the hospital
  • Patients receiving end-of-life care

For approved exceptions, only one visitor per patient will be allowed. They must be:

  • 18 or older
  • Either immediate family members, powers of attorney, guardians or patient representatives

Checklist to prepare and protect yourself and your family (DOWNLOAD AND PRINT)

• Get up-to-date information about local
COVID-19 activity from public officials and
• Create a list of important organizations and providers your household can call in case of emergencies.
• Choose a designated room that can be used to separate family members who are sick or under quarantine.
• Stay in touch.
• Stay informed about the local outbreak situation.
• Notify your work or school if your schedule or arrangements need to change.
• If you live alone, ask family, friends, and health care providers to check on you during the outbreak.
• Stay in touch with family and friends with chronic medical conditions.
• Wash your hands frequently.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
• Let family members who are sick or have underlying issues stay at home and away from the office, school or crowded places.
• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue then throw the tissue in the trash.
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
• Avoid sharing personal items.
• Outbreaks are stressful for both adults and children. Find resources here.
• Children may respond differently to stressful situations.
• Talk with your children and answer their questions. Let them voice out their fears or worries.
• Practice meditation.
• Stick to a schedule.

For the latest information on COVID-19, visit the Iowa Department of Health: and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: www.

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