Health fair gets to the ‘heart of the matter’

One of the biggest attractions of the annual Sanford Vermillion Community Health & Wellness Fair last weekend was a giant walk-through display that allowed visitors to get a larger-than-life idea of how their heart works. (Photo by Travis Gulbrandson)

One of the biggest attractions of the annual Sanford Vermillion Community Health & Wellness Fair last weekend was a giant walk-through display that allowed visitors to get a larger-than-life idea of how their heart works. (Photo by Travis Gulbrandson)

By Travis Gulbrandson

travis.gulbrandson@plaintalk.net

The Sanford Vermillion Community Health & Wellness Fair held on the USD campus last weekend really allowed visitors to get to “the heart of the matter.”

The main display in the annual event, now in its seventh year, was a giant inflatable walk-in human heart, which sat on the floor in the main hall of the Lee Medical Building, where the fair took place.

“(The display) explains where the blood goes through once it comes to your heart, what the deoxygenated blood goes through and how it comes back out,” said Paul Davis of the mobile heart screening unit from Sanford Hospital. “If you can listen, it has a sound effect (of a heart) pumping. That’s what gets the kids.”

Adults were drawn to the exhibit, as well, said Davis, who also was on-hand to coordinate heart screenings for all age groups.

“It’s was kind of cool,” he said. “When we first start rolling it out, everybody is like, ‘What is this big thing laying on the ground?’ Then it blew up, and you can hear, ‘Ooh, ahh.’

“There are a lot of people with questions on it, a lot of people going through it,” he said. “Then they go back and get their friends and bring them back here.”

Along with the heart screenings, area residents had the opportunity to get a number of other tests, such as blood pressure, blood sugar and lipid panel.

According to Mary Merrigan, marketing director at Sanford Vermillion, approximately 200 visitors came to view the 30 different vendors and information booths and take some of the 15 possible screenings.

Louis Papka, physician assistant, associate professor and academic coordinator of USD’s PA program, oversaw a session that checked cardiometabolic risk factors, measuring visitors’ waist circumference, weight, height, body mass index and blood pressure.

“Even if they’re healthy, we would like them to go away with a better understanding of what their risk factors are later in life, as well as now, for the development of heart disease and diabetes,” Papka said. “So we do discuss with them proper nutrition, exercise, smoking cessation – basically health promotion and prevention.”

Near the heart display was a booth that taught visitors hands-only CPR using small mannequins.

“We are providing … a DVD instructional with the hands-on mannequins,” said Heidi Fodness, RN. “It shows you the rate at which you should be doing the chest compressions and how to identify that somebody needs CPR.

“It takes about 22 minutes, and then if there are questions, it may take about 30 to 45 minutes,” she said.

Fodness said knowing CPR can be an important skill to have.

“I believe that with knowing CPR and other life-saving techniques, that the community will be much more aware, and they will feel more comfortable if they ever get into a life-saving situation,” she said.

The wellness fair enabled visitors to take a more active role in community health through the Community Blood Bank, which was taking donations for Sanford Vermillion.

Executive Director Ken Versteeg said he hoped the blood drive would generate enough blood to get Sanford Vermillion through February.

“We go to a lot of health events around the 200-mile radius of Sioux Falls, and I would say this is our best health fair event for turnout,” Versteeg said. “We collect the most donors at this event every single year. It’s been very consistent for us.”

Merrigan thanked USD for its involvement in the event, which incorporated 10 departments from the USD Medical School and Health Sciences divisions.

“We appreciate the med school opening their doors to us, especially using all the students from USD,” she said. “And they, in turn, are very excited about having more people into this building to see what all those dollars were used for – to build this incredible facility in Vermillion.”

Versteeg added that the yearly health fair offers a number of good opportunities for area residents.

“Under one building, you have so many resources for people to check out,” he said. “My family came with us and they got hand massages over at a station and got to learn about aromatherapy. That was something unique. It really is an advantage for any age group from young to old. …

“It’s a wide variety of educational tools for people to learn a little more about their body and what they can do to improve their health,” he said. “I think it’s a fantastic event.”

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