The town has Rock Chalk fever.
Lawrence doctors warn it’s contagious and, for the most part, healthy to have. But moderation is key.
Dr. Charles Yockey, a Lawrence Memorial Hospital pulmonologist and a diehard Kansas University fan, said as the team progresses its way through the bracket, the partying also progresses.
“People will drink more than they usually do, they will eat more snacks and salty foods, they smoke more cigarettes and drink more coffee — all of those are bad,” he said.
In preparation for Saturday’s Final Four matchup between KU and Ohio State, LMH has beefed up its emergency room staff. More patients are expected — win or lose.
“Intoxication and high-fiving vigorously results in dislocated shoulders. If we win Saturday, we will see at least two dislocated shoulders,” Yockey said. “If we lose, we will see at least two broken hands from people trying to pound their fist through the wall.”
Additionally, he said alcohol, salty snacks and stress are dangerous for anyone with high blood pressure or heart disease.
“People get so stressed that they have to leave the room. They want KU to win. They are afraid they’re going to lose. They don’t want to see the end,” Yockey said. “If it’s a close game, people get really emotional and really excited and the adrenaline flows and the alcohol flows. The snacks flow.”
Yockey said he doesn’t want to be a killjoy, but he has seen the ill effects of March Madness firsthand. In 1988, he saw 14 dislocated shoulders after the championship win.
His advice: moderation.
“Cheer on the ’Hawks. The sun will come up Sunday morning if we lose, and if we win, we will look forward to Monday night,” he said. “Keep it in perspective and have fun. Obviously, the people in Manhattan don’t have to worry about this.”
Dr. Marciana Vequist, a psychologist at Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center, said so far the tournament has been good for Jayhawk fans’ mental health because the team is winning and people are happy, excited and proud. There’s a lot more socialization and community spirit.
She also said fans aren’t crazy to have rituals and superstitions. In fact, she’s among them.
Vequist watches with a group of friends. She said last year, they had to eat certain foods, including chocolate almonds and apricots, sit in the same positions and wear certain clothes. Well, that didn’t work. So this year, they’ve vowed to change it up.
On Saturday, she might wear her a lucky black T-shirt that has “Kansas” on it in white lettering, or she might wear a new red Final Four shirt. She’s not sure.
“Most of us are having a lot of fun with it, but if you really feel that you are having some kind of impact on the team by something you are doing or not doing, you might want to look at that,” she said.
She said March Madness can be much like the holidays. If people suffer anxiety from socialization or are recovering from alcoholism, this time of year might not be so fun. For others, the time can be euphoric.
And if the team loses this weekend, she said that shouldn’t lead to depression or other mental illness unless there were already underlying symptoms.
KU fan Dr. Steven Bruner, a family practice physician, said there will be a letdown — win or lose. It may take him a week to recover.
“If we lose to Ohio State or Kentucky, everybody will regret it but nobody will be disappointed. I think nobody expected us to get this far,” he said.
“If we win, it’s like the day after Christmas. Christmas was great, but man it’s going to be a long time before Christmas again.”
Bruner, who has been a Jayhawk fan since 1976, said he doesn’t consider March Madness unhealthy unless there’s too much drinking and someone ends up getting hurt.
He could see where fans — including him — might eat too many unhealthy foods or not get enough sleep due to watching the late games.
“Fortunately, it’s only a couple nights of the year — or, OK, six,” he said, laughing.
If Jayhawk fans do suffer a fall or have chest pains during a game, they tend to avoid the hospital like the plague.
Dr. David Rios, a Lawrence cardiologist, said, “It’s funny nobody comes into the hospital during games, but there’s a bit of a rush afterward. They will tolerate their chest pains until the game is over, and then they will come in.”
The other problem is that his hospitalized patients want to go home whether they are ready or not. If they have to stay in the hospital, they have to watch the game — no tests or nurses are to interfere.
“Let me tell you, these Jayhawk fans are something else,” Rios said, laughing.
When Rios moved to Kansas in 1999, he was hellbent on not being a KU fan. He had lived in New York and was sick of hearing about the Jayhawks.
“I thought when I get to Kansas, there is no way,” he said. “They are always the favorite and they go on and on about the tradition. So, when you are not a fan — it’s like North Carolina and Duke — you just don’t want to hear it.”
Then, his son, Chris, attended several KU basketball camps and his Jayhawk spirit rubbed off.
"Before I knew it, I had drank the Kool-Aid and now I probably own more Jayhawk material than anybody, and I have no affiliation whatsoever. I have never gone to school here. But I own more Jayhawk stuff than most people,” he said, laughing.
Rios said he earned his bachelor’s degree from Harvard University and was thrilled that his alma mater made the NCAA tournament this year for the first time since 1946.
“On my bracket, they were playing KU in the Final Four,” he said. “Needless to say, it didn’t happen but I had to go with my heart.”
Rios said he didn’t know of anyone who had suffered an actual heart attack during a game, but he’s sure there’s been some chest pains.
“I try to watch it by myself. I can’t watch it with too many people. I need to be able to yell at the TV and yell at the refs, and I turn the TV off when I think I’m causing bad luck by watching,” he said. “I didn’t use to be a fan, and now I’m completely consumed. I absolutely drank the Kool-Aid.”
Nearly 900 people took advantage of the Tipsy Taxi on New Year’s Eve, a record number for the program sponsored by DCCCA, the drug prevention and substance abuse treatment agency.
The increased numbers were a result of more publicity about the service, which provided free rides home for people celebrating on New Year’s, said Jen Jordan, prevention coordinator at DCCCA.
“There was just quite a lot of buzz about it,” said Jordan of the Tipsy Taxi, now in its 27th year.
The 877 people who received rides is more than double last year’s total of 420. The program is funded by donations, primarily from area businesses, such as Johnny’s Tavern, which provided $200 this year.
“It’s part of my community responsibility,” said Rick Renfro, Johnny’s owner. Renfro said he’s been donating for the Tipsy Taxi every year, and would like to see it expand to other days of the year.
Jordan said this year’s service cost about $2,000, though the agency raised less than $1,000. DCCCA is still accepting donations, and those interested can call Jordan at 785-841-4138.
For many people, the holidays are a chance to celebrate with friends, family and co-workers. But it can also be a precarious time for anyone recovering from alcohol and drug abuse.
“Any celebratory event may raise the risk of relapse or pose a challenge to those recovering,” said Jody Brook, a social work professor at Kansas University. “We just happen to have an intense frequency of celebrations over the next six weeks.”
Add in potentially stressful interactions with family, and the holidays are the “perfect storm” of challenges for people struggling with substance abuse, Brook said.
Anyone in the early stages of recovery — less than a year — are particularly vulnerable, said Kendall Heiman, program director for Professional Treatment Services, 3205 Clinton Parkway Court.
Heiman said her agency always sees an influx of new and returning clients during the holidays and immediately following them.
Richard, a Lawrence man and recovering alcoholic who asked not to use his real name, said he tries to take a different view during the upcoming holiday season. Instead of fearing relapse into addiction, Richard, sober for more than two years, celebrates the freedom from substance abuse.
“When I was drunk, I wasn’t there,” Richard said of past holidays. “Or when I was there, I wasn’t there.”
But free from alcohol, “I get to be present for activities,” he said. “It’s really a time for me to make restitution.”
However, Richard, who assists other alcoholics by responding to a 24-hour hot-line, said he recognizes that for many people, the chances for relapse during this time of year are increased.
“We get a lot of calls all during the holidays,” he said.
It comes down to keeping up with recovery and the daily routines that have helped people stay sober, Heiman said.
With their clients, counselors help those in recovery create a relapse-prevention plan specific to this time of year, including exit strategies and other coping mechanisms for when relapse triggers occur.
Simply put, the holiday season is no time to take a holiday from recovery, Heiman said, and pointed out the daily Alcoholic Anonymous meetings that run consistently during this time of year.
“Lawrence is rich in recovery,” she said.
Tips to keep recovery on track
Jody Brook, social work professor at Kansas University, provided these holiday tips for family and friends of those in recovery:
- Just as you plan meals around those with specific dietary needs, plan for individuals who do not drink and have alternatives available
- Create a celebratory culture where it’s OK not to drink.
- Privately ask the person in recovery if there’s anything you can do to help.
- Be respectful of a person’s need to limit interactions in certain situations.
Resources for people in recovery
- The local Alcoholics Anonymous, or AA: Hotline number is 842-0110 and is answered 24 hours a day.
- A calendar for local AA meetings can be found at aa-ksdist23.org.
- The local Narcotics Anonymous, or NA: Hotline number is 749-6631.
- A calendar for local NA meetings can be found at marscna.net.
- Headquarters Counseling Center operates a crisis hotline, which can be reached at 841-2345.
Family meals will be the focus of Lawrence Memorial Hospital’s free monthly nutrition roundtable event at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 18.
Eating together as a family encourages relationship-building and overall good health in both children and adults, says registered dietitian Patty Metzler, of LMH Food and Nutrition Services.
“Family meals have started decreasing in the past few years, especially as we’ve moved into a more technological society. You see people having meals together in a restaurant, but how many of them are texting under the table?”
— Patty Metzler
According to some studies, children who have more family meals are less likely to have childhood obesity, are more likely to do better in school and have better grades, and are less likely to have substance abuse and depression, Metzler said.
Metzler hopes people will make family meals more of a priority after participating in the discussion.
“If families are eating together just once a week and we can get them to eat together three times a week, I’d consider this event successful,” Metzler says.
For more information, call 749-5800 or visit online at www.lmh.org.
For more information about the importance of family meals, check out LiveWell Lawrence's group page "Family Day Story Contest" on WellCommons.
A trio of leaders from Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center will be available Thursday to answer questions about the center and mental health.
Pat Roach Smith, chief operating officer; Eunice Ruttinger, director of Adult Services; and Janice Storey, director of Children and Family Services, will be participating in an online chat at 11 a.m. Thursday on WellCommons.com. And, you can submit your questions at anytime right here.
Make sure to log back to WellCommons.com either during or after the chat to see if your questions were answered.
Bert Nash provides services for about 6,000 Douglas County residents each year.
Time magazine came out this week with a fascinating article looking at the life expectancy of those who drink moderately, versus those who drink heavily and not at all.
The perhaps surprising result? Those who totally abstain from drinking die at a younger age than either those who drink heavily or those who drink moderately.
The standard Alcoholics Anonymous explanation for this finding is that many of those who show up as abstainers in such research are actually former hard-core drunks who had already incurred health problems associated with drinking. But a new paper in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research suggests that — for reasons that aren't entirely clear — abstaining from alcohol does actually tend to increase one's risk of dying even when you exclude former drinkers.
The study tried to account for all possible influencing factors: socioeconomic status, level of physical activity, number of close friends, quality of social support, the article said.
The article theorizes possible causes for this surprising finding, including that moderate drinking is a part of so many social situations, and that social interaction is crucial to maintaining good brain function and other a positive outlook on life, which leads to greater longevity.
What do you think? Should we be encouraged to drink a glass of wine at lunch, or a martini in the afternoon?
My series on Lincoln’s approach to addressing high-risk drinking is sure to be eye-opening. Here’s what you can expect:
Lesson No. 1 – Strict consequences are key
Next Tuesday, I’ll take an in-depth look at the perception generated in Lincoln that those participating in illegal drinking activity will be held accountable. Community leaders and organizers claim the enforcement of strict consequences are leading to reduced high-risk drinking among college age students.
Lesson No. 2 – Community-wide approach works
On March 10, we’ll look at how the Lincoln community has embraced the fight against high-risk drinking. It’s not just university leaders trying to tackle the problems of binge drinking alone, but they’re assisted by landlords, bar owners, police and city officials, who say their efforts are paying off and saving lives.
Lesson No. 3 – Don’t be afraid to dig in
On March 11, we’ll look at the passion that community leaders have to curb high-risk drinking in Lincoln. The efforts have come with resistance, from politicians, neighbors and students. At one point the police, who have been instrumental in the efforts, even gave up. It’s not easy to rally an entire community together to fight against high-risk drinking, but after more than a decade of trying, their ideas have become institutionalized and no one questions that their efforts have paid off.
Wow! What an eye-opening night with the cops…
Lincoln’s Finest take their jobs seriously and were happy to show us all about it. The bars let out at 1 a.m. sharp up here in Lincoln, and the officers spring into action, lining the bar district on O Street, just waiting to break up fights.
During our time with officers, in the wee hours of the night, we went on bar checks and interacted with bar-goers and owners. There wasn't a whole lot of drama tonight.
The importance of the officers’ “special” efforts will all make since in my upcoming series about how the Lincoln community has worked together to curb the problems of underage and high-risk drinking.
Photojournalist Steve Jones and I are headed back to Lawrence in the morning, and will get to work next week producing our series. We’ve learned a lot, worked hard and had fun in the process.
Zzzzzzzz… (I hope no one breaks out of prison.)
When I took on this assignment, I was pretty skeptical. Was Lincoln's community-wide approach to battling the problems of high-risk drinking really working?
As I've talked to people in the community -- high school students, college students, administrators, police, city leaders, bar workers, landlords and drunks -- I've found out yes, their plan seems to be working... I'll be telling you all about it in my upcoming series, Lessons from Lincoln.
But a theme has emerged: There are clear and concise consequences for drinking too much.
If you're caught with booze on campus, you can be expelled. If you're caught partying off campus, you could be nabbed by the wild party patrol and thrown in jail. If a bar's caught serving someone who is drunk, the bar is penalized. If a high school student is found to be drunk at school or a school function, they're automatically suspended for five days. If a landlord is contacted about a wild party at one of their properties, some are evicting people. Banks are punishing some property owners who don't take action.
And the key seems to be that all these rules and laws are being fairly enforced. While there has been resistance, the rules have been institutionalized and accepted, with people realizing there are consequences for anything that promotes underage, binge, or otherwise high-risk drinking.
Tonight we're hanging out with police, who enforce many of these laws. I'm told we're in for a treat.
For the record: I'm writing this from a bar on O Street.
We’re back from the bars.
Waitresses cut you off if you’ve had too much to drink; bouncers are trained how to check for fakes; and the bars close at 1. That’s just a taste of this city’s downtown party scene on O Street. We’ll have more from the bar scene tomorrow night as we go out with police, who say it’s a sight to see. But, first we have an early morning planned Friday (I promise this trip is no vacation). Photojournalist Steve Jones and I will be hanging out with the police chief bright and early. He’s invited us to his pad to discuss several initiatives he’s put in place to help with the underage and high-risk drinking problem in the city, including random house party patrols. It seems he doesn’t mess around.
We’re also meeting tomorrow morning with the woman at UNL who is the premiere driving force in bringing the community together to combat alcohol problems among students, Linda Major. She knows it all.
If you have any questions for Lincoln’s police chief, Tom Casady, or Major, let me know. We’re excited to meet with both these leaders, who I’ve heard mostly great things about. (One man I talked to just has a general beef with the police chief and called him hot-headed; we’re all entitled to our opinions, I suppose.)
Talk to you soon.
Our trip is going very well, we've had great luck here in Lincoln as we talk to members throughout this community about how they've come together to battle binge- and high-risk drinking.
Whenya think of Greek life, you might think of booze flying all over the place, drunk students stumbling down the stairs, the stereotypical party scene. Here at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, that is not the case. There is absolutely no booze allowed in any Greek house.
In our series about alcohol coming up in March, we'll tell you why exactly college life is that way here in Lincoln and why students don't seem to mind it.
As for high school students in this community, they say it's not uncommon they'll down a bottle a vodka on a night.
We'll also introduce you to the principal of Lincoln Southeast High School, Pat Hunter-Pirtle (known to the students simply as H-P), who is working to combat underage drinking among his students. He says parents choose to remain ignorant and how he's trying to change that.
The community is modest about their approach to the drinking problem, but we're learning how it takes all of them working together to make a difference.
It's been a long day and it's nowhere close to being over.
Tonight, we're headed out to the rowdy bars on O Street, the city's downtown drinking district. We'll see just how crazy it gets and find out what bar owners are doing to discourage unsafe drinking.
We just arrived in Lincoln for our series on alcohol. (For all you health nuts, I'll have you know I ate my breakfast of champions in the car - PopTarts and Dr Pepper.)
We'll begin our trip by visiting a high school, to talk to students and a principal who is teaching students about alcohol at a very young age.
Then we'll head to University of Nebraska to talk to Greek leaders who are apparently more concerned about their grades than getting drunk.
I'll check in with you later, to let you know how things went.