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DiversityNursing Blog

Why I became a human guinea pig

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Mon, Sep 22, 2014 @ 01:36 PM

By Caleb Hellerman

140919093254 pkg elbagir ebola hope for vaccine 00011720 story top resized 600

Earlier this week, Brian Shepherd sat down in a small doctor's office in Bethesda, Maryland. A technician swabbed his arm and gave him a quick jab with a needle.

With that, Shepherd became subject No. 13 in the experiment testing a potential Ebola vaccine.

The trial was launched on an emergency basis earlier this month by the National Institute on Allergy and Infectious Disease. It's the first to test this kind of Ebola vaccine in humans.

"It's not just for the money," Shepherd wrote in a Reddit AMA. "I'm very interested in translational research and experiencing it from the guinea pig side is very rewarding. But yeah, the money helps. This one study will fund most of my grad school application costs, though not in time for application season."

The vaccine doesn't use live virus and can't infect volunteers with Ebola. Instead it uses specific Ebola proteins to trigger an immune response. They're delivered through the body on a modified version of an adenovirus, a type of cold virus.

In the initial phase, 10 healthy volunteers were given a low dose of vaccine. They were monitored for side effects and tested to see if their bodies are producing antibodies. In the second phase, of which Brian is a part, an additional 10 volunteers are being given a higher dose.

All participants will be followed for nearly a year and tested at regular intervals.

Shepherd, who has volunteered for several prior research studies at NIH, spoke with CNN about his experience.

The following is a condensed version of that conversation:

CNN: How did you come to join the study?

Brian Shepherd: I actually work at NIH; I'm a post-doc researcher in a developmental biology lab. Most trials I learn about from reading a ListServ (email list).

I heard about the vaccine study from going to preliminary meetings for a different study.

CNN: When was this?

Shepherd: Less than a month ago. I had my first appointment on August 26. It was just a sit-down, to talk about the trial, go through paperwork and consent forms, explaining what the trial was for. Then they did an initial run-through of my health history.

CNN: What was next?

Shepherd: The next week I had my second appointment. They did a full physical, blood work, health history, breathing checks. A lot of poking and prodding. My third visit was Wednesday. They drew blood, then gave me a shot. Now, my next appointment is Sunday.

CNN: What was it like? You wrote that pulling off the Band-aid was the worst of the pain.

Shepherd: I'm supposed to keep a daily diary for the first seven days, logging my temperature and any symptoms. The next morning, I woke up with a slight fever, 100.5. I took some Tylenol and it went away.

Other than that I feel fine. In fact, I ran a half-mile in a relay race at lunchtime with some people from work.

CNN: You wrote that for each of these regular visits, you're paid $175. How many times have you been a human guinea pig?

Shepherd: This is my second drug trial. Before that, I did mostly MRI studies.

The first one I did, I was in the MRI machine and had three tasks. They gave me two buttons and showed pictures. If it was Spiderman, I'd hit one button; if it was the Green Goblin, I'd hit the other. So I spent 15 minutes playing Spiderman vs. Green Goblin.

CNN: Did you have any reservation at all, taking part in this Ebola vaccine trial?

Shepherd: None at all.


Topics: Ebola, interview, volunteer, cures, healthcare, vaccine, medicine, testing

Paula and TJ Brown: When Cooking Dinner is About More than the Food

Posted by Alycia Sullivan

Mon, Mar 03, 2014 @ 02:12 PM

Paula and TJ resized 600

Written by Elizabeth Swaringen for UNC Health Care 

As a nurse at UNC Hospitals, Paula Brown, RN, knows firsthand the difference family presence makes in a patient’s healing.
She also knows the importance of the care and feeding of family members — especially when home is two or three hours away.

So volunteering to cook dinner for guests at SECU Family House was a no-brainer for Paula and her 16-year-old son, TJ, a sophomore at Carrboro High School.  It just took the inspiration of a like-minded 10-year-old boy to make it a priority in 2014.

“I’ve known about Family House since it was a dream, before the construction even began,” said Paula, recalling a massive yard sale to raise money for the 40-bedroom hospital hospitality house that offers safe and affordable accommodations to seriously ill patients and their families who come to UNC Hospitals for care.  

And once Family House opened in March 2008 minutes from UNC Hospitals, Paula had always planned to volunteer, “but sometimes life gets in the way,” she said.

“Then I learned more about the House and the good that happens there from Family House Diaries, the stories that are included in news for employees,” said Paula, who is in her 20th year as a nurse in the post-surgery acute care unit at UNC Hospitals. “It was the awe-inspiring story in October of a 10-year-old boy who cooks and serves that told us the time is now.”

Paula wasted no time getting on the dinner schedule. She called Allison Worthy, who coordinates volunteers at Family House, and nailed down Sunday, Jan. 19.  Allison put Paula in touch with volunteers Charles and Patsy Harrison who lead a team that cooks dinner for guests twice a month.   

She observed Team Harrison, asked questions and checked out the availability of crock pots and utensils in the community kitchen for the chili and cornbread that she and TJ had already decided would be their debut meal.

TJ3“I really enjoy chili that way and wanted to give others the option,” TJ said, surmising correctly that most guests weren’t familiar with it.  The Browns offered both a meat chili and a vegetarian chili, again giving guests choices to best suit their palates.

Mother and son spent the day before in prep:  chopping the onions and browning the meat for the chili, chopping other vegetables for tossed salad, baking the cornbread muffins and the brownies for dessert.  By noon Sunday, four crock pots were hard at work in the Family House kitchen.

“We prepared for about 50, forgetting that it was the MLK Holiday weekend and there would be a slimmer crowd as the hospital clinics were closed on Monday,” said Paula.  “But it didn’t matter.  Although we had fewer guests than we’d planned for, we had plenty of leftovers, and chili is always better the second day.”

Leftovers are always welcome and disappear at Family House because the illness of a loved one does not follow a mealtime schedule, said Allison, the volunteer coordinator.

“Our guests always comment with gratitude and amazement about the volunteers who prepare the home-cooked meals here and the quality of the food,” she said.  “But it’s beyond nourishing their bodies; it’s about the community of support that forms around the shared meals. We’ve steadily added Sunday night meals because Sundays have become a busy check-in day for guests.  Like our guests we are grateful that Paula and TJ know their way our around kitchen, especially on Sunday nights.”  

Paula and TJ saw — and felt — the gratitude firsthand.  A lone female guest showed her appreciation by insisting that Paula accept a cash donation that could be used for the next dinner she and TJ prepare.

“That was one of those arguments that you can’t win, so I graciously accepted her gift, assuring her it wasn’t necessary, but much appreciated,” Paula said, noting that she and TJ had already discussed “next time” even before they had served the first bowl of chili.


And neither will forget the guest who slipped back into the kitchen after dinner, slammed his palm on the countertop to get their attention and declared,

“I just want to thank you.  With her treatment my wife hasn’t felt like eating in over a month, but tonight she did. We enjoyed it.”

“I thought we were just feeding people, but it was so much more than that,” said TJ, who enjoys the logistical challenges of cooking, especially for a crowd. “Family House is a haven for people.  The reactions to our meal told us that. I had run by the house many times in better weather when training with my cross-country team, but I really didn’t know what goes on here. Cooking here was fun, and I look forward to coming back.”

Cooking at Family House also allows TJ to work towards earning the 25 community service hours he needs for high school graduation.  But it’s not about that requirement, both TJ and Paula agreed.

“It’s the reaction we got from people,” he said.  “It was emotional and genuine for us all.  The fun of the cooking makes the service requirement easier.”  

"It’s a win-win for all,” Paula said, beaming.  

Will chili be their signature Family House meal?

“We’ll probably branch out, but we’ll keep with comfort foods,” said TJ. “You don’t want to go too exotic.  You gotta eat sometime, and we need to make it easy for people to enjoy it, maybe meatloaf and my grandmother’s macaroni and cheese.”

Just as a 10-year-old boy inspired Paula and TJ to step up and cook a fellow nurse told Paula her unit is going to plan a meal at Family House.  

“I just hope it’s my day off so I can participate,” she said.

Source: UNC Health Care

Topics: volunteer, SECU Family House, UNC Hospitals, mother and son, dinner

Milkshakes to pigs feet: Hospice volunteer does whatever he can

Posted by Alycia Sullivan

Wed, Feb 06, 2013 @ 11:27 AM


Covenant Hospice Brice Horwell

On any given day you can see a group of people sitting in a small corner at Emerald Coast Center nursing facility.

Members of the reading club deal with disease, death and heartache, but there are no tears because of the special attention Covenant Hospice volunteer Brice Horwell gives them.

They enjoy their books, some conversation and milkshakes Horwell brings.

Horwell does more than visit with patients. He becomes their friend.

Horwell brings fresh flowers to the nursing facilities he visits each week. He tours the halls to say hello to each person he sees; he knows most by name.

He also visits hospital rooms and people’s homes.

“I feel like I’m doing something,” Horwell said. “I don’t want to see anyone die alone.”

Horwell, who is retired from the Navy, has volunteered with Covenant Hospice for eight years. He visits his clients weekly, runs errands and finds ways to make hard days better.

“I‘ve done some weird things,” Horwell said, laughing. “There‘s a patient that loves pigs feet. I would never eat pigs feet, but I’m happy to go and get them.”

Tim Morgan is a member of the Emerald Coast Center’s reading club. Morgan, who is no older than 60 but suffers from kidney failure, says Horwell’s weekly visits add joy to his day.

“Life wouldn’t be what it is without this guy,” Morgan said. “He brings us outside contact and is a great conversationalist. It means a lot to have somebody come to visit.

“It really makes a difference and lifts your spirit.”

In the last year, Horwell has accumulated more than 350 volunteer hours through his weekly visits, 11th-hour work and Hospice’s We Honor Veterans.

“He is the last face they will see as a measure of comfort,” said Dennis Krebs, Covenant Hospice’s volunteer services outreach assistant. “That means something to him and it means something to the people he’s with.

Topics: volunteer, Emerald Coast Center, Covenant Hospice, hospice

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