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Baby Talk

Raising a child can be stressful, especially when the youngster has a lot to communicate but is too young to talk effectively. St. Tammany Parish Hospital (STPH) (16300 Hwy. 1085, Covington, 985-898-4435) provides relief with a free class about teaching children sign language to help discouraged parents. Studies show that teaching children sign language may reduce their frustration as well as their parents' by giving them the ability to articulate their needs. The class targets parents of children 6 to 24 months old, who may be dealing with the fits and tantrums associated with that age group. Rebekah McNary, sign language interpreter, leads this free session on Monday, July 16, at the St. Tammany Parish Hospital Parenting Center from 10 a.m. — Lauren LaBorde

Storm Watch In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, only three out of 12 local hospitals remained open. Ochsner Hospital was one of those, and a new documentary, Surviving the Storm, chronicles how the hospital managed to continue treating patients through planning, a strong, compassionate staff and a dose of luck. Louisiana Public Broadcasting (LPB) produced the film, which was narrated by actor and New Orleans goodwill ambassador John Goodman. It was Ochsner videographer Jackson Ellisor, however, who tirelessly documented the original footage of the hospital's daily struggles during the storm. Ochsner learned from hospitals that had previously endured hurricanes and arranged for necessities such as food, water and backup generators before the storm hit. Just as importantly, the staff buoyed each other's and their patients' spirits throughout the weeklong ordeal. Ellisor was seemingly ever present, filming, interviewing and recording this warts-and-all rendering. Although the documentary has already been shown locally, LPB is trying to market it nationally. The universal lessons of the film should be required viewing for hospital administrators everywhere. — David Winkler-Schmit A Boost for Mobility Rene de la Tour, owner of We Care LLC, knew how frustrating it could be for a disabled person to fall out of a wheelchair. If alone, the person would have to somehow prop themselves up, using phonebooks, a chair, or whatever was handy, to get back into the wheelchair. De la Tour, a paraplegic for more than 40 years, decided to relieve some of this irritation by inventing the Para Ladder, a transfer aid that allows people with limited mobility to push themselves up the ladder until they are in a standing position, or back in their wheelchair. The Para Ladder is collapsible and only weighs 11 pounds. De la Tour says the device has been approved by the FDA and the VA, and Medicare recently agreed to pay for the device for its patients. The Para Ladder is available at Total Health Solutions, 3211 N. Causeway Blvd., Metairie, 1-866-834-8114, and can viewed in action at www.paraladder.com. — Winkler-Schmit A Good Shot in the Arm The Louisiana Board of Regents has awarded Alistair Ramsay, a professor and director of Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center (LSUHSC), a $5.5 million grant to create the Louisiana Vaccine Center, a consortium of research scientists from several institutions in New Orleans. The center's goal is to become a nationally recognized expert in vaccine research and development. Ramsay, an expert in vaccine immunology, will serve as principal investigator. He will be joined by scientists from Tulane University's Health Science Center and Xavier University. Besides establishing a framework for research and development, the center will work to retain and recruit researchers into the state, foster collaborations between scientific institutions in Louisiana and assist in the overall recovery of the research and educational missions and infrastructures at LSUHSC, Tulane and Xavier. The grant was awarded by the Board of Regents Post Katrina Support Fund Initiative. The Vaccine Center project was ranked No. 1 out of 32 applicants in the biological, material and IT sciences. — David Winkler-Schmit

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