Category Archives: Wellington Health

Roger Roque Helps People Stay In Shape… One Paddle Stroke At A Time

Roger Roque Helps People Stay In Shape… One Paddle Stroke At A Time

Okeeheelee Park is an oasis in central Palm Beach County, offering nearly every recreational activity one could want. The park has lakes, along with plenty of trails for biking, running and walking. It’s a perfect setting for those who seek to exercise in the tranquility of fresh air.

Among the many options for exercising in Okeeheelee Park is to paddle a kayak, canoe or the more adventurous stand-up paddleboard on the freshwater lakes.

If you don’t own any of those watercraft, don’t fret, because Kayak-King WaterSports has you covered.

Eleven years ago, Roger Roque was working in the medical field when one day a client he befriended casually asked him if he was interested in buying a business. He was intrigued at the invitation and checked out the modest kayak rental business.

“I saw tremendous potential, and after arranging for financing, I bought the business,” Roque recalled.

As the United States fights an obesity epidemic, many people are trying to live a healthier lifestyle through proper diet and a regular exercise regimen. South Florida has plenty of water, so paddling one’s way to better health is quite popular.

“About 90 percent of the rentals are for an hour to an hour and a half, which is just enough time for the over-stimulated person to disconnect from their hectic lives in the peace and silence of nature,” Roque said.

The kayak and canoe offer an excellent workout for the abdominal core and arms, while the paddleboard is a complete full-body training session.

Roque said that in about five minutes, his staff can train the novice so they spend more time paddling through the water than falling into it.

In more than a decade of renting out equipment, he said he has not had one major injury. Roque believes this is because his staff ensures that the safety equipment — such as life jackets — is personally sized to the individual, ensuring a proper fit.

Anyone who is just starting to get themselves into shape shouldn’t be concerned with not being able to enjoy a kayak, canoe or paddleboard. “No one is too big to rent our equipment,” Roque said.

He suggests wearing a swimming suit and water shoes when going out on the water.

Other groups of his clientele are anglers, who typically rent a kayak or canoe for three to five hours, or people who have rented one of the park’s pavilions for a party and want their guests to be able to get out on the water.

South Florida is also known for pop-up thunderstorms, but Roque said Okeeheelee Park has lightning detectors and sirens that warn people if a storm is in the area. The warning system allows those out on the open water enough time to get back to the dock without getting caught in a lightning storm.

An added safety dimension of paddling at Okeeheelee Park is that the lakes there are not connected to the canal system, so the possibility of alligators, snakes and other dangerous animals is fairly minimal, Roque said.

Bicycles are also available to rent, and the paths in the park give the right of way to bikes rather than to those on foot, he said.

Running a small business can be a challenge at times, and Roque counts on the community for support. “If the community wants to continue to have these kinds of services available, then they need to support small business,” he said.

Kayak-King WaterSports is open Saturday, Sunday and major holidays (except Christmas Day) from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (last rental is at 4 p.m.). During the summer, the business runs Thursday through Monday.

Kayak-King WaterSports is located in Okeeheelee Park at 7715 Forest Hill Blvd. For more information, call (561) 304-1344 or (561) 632-7969, or visit www.kayakkingwatersports.com.

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Dr. Z. Catherine Navarro Brings Decades Of Experience In Vein Care

Dr. Z. Catherine Navarro Brings Decades Of Experience In Vein Care

Dr. Z. Catherine Navarro of the Vein Center of the Palm Beaches always did well in her science classes, but early on, she dreamed of a career as an oceanographer. However, when a friend asked Navarro to become her “science buddy,” her mind was opened to a career of helping people through medicine.

A “science buddy” was required for the volunteer hospital program that her friend wanted to do, an extension of the co-ed Boy Scouts Explorer program. Agreeing to join the program would change Navarro’s life.

“My sister was very ill as a child, and this friend was interested in becoming a doctor,” Navarro recalled. “I agreed in order for her to be part of this medical program at Coney Island Hospital.”

The more time Navarro spent at the hospital, the more interested in medicine she became. Born and raised in New York City, she went on to study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with further medical training through the Boston University system. Navarro had her sights set on becoming a plastic surgeon — but halfway through her residency, she was ready to quit.

“My legs were killing me. I was going to drop out,” Navarro confessed.

Her problem? Varicose veins and spider veins. The American doctors she was talking to had no real solutions to offer.

“I met one physician who had trained in France,” she said. “He got me connected with his friends, and I went to Europe.”

There, her studies continued, but her focus changed completely.

“The Europeans did things differently. They were more preventative, used more herbs and supplements, and were big proponents of exercise,” Navarro said. “They also had special stockings that they didn’t have here. In Europe, I got interested in sclerotherapy [vein care]. In France, most of this work was done by dermatologists, so I also learned about skin care, peels and fillers.”

When she returned to the United States, Navarro was well-schooled in skin care and vein care, choosing South Florida to set up her practice in the 1980s.

“I chose the Wellington area because it wasn’t as crowded as New York City, but it still had sophistication,” she said. “I didn’t end up having children, but it was a community that was good for children with good schools. It was also exciting because two new hospitals were going to go in at the same time.”

Over the course of her practice, Navarro has enjoyed being on the staff at Palms West Hospital, JFK Medical Center and Wellington Regional Medical Center, where she served as director of medicine in the 1980s.

Navarro is board certified in internal medicine and phlebology, and currently serves on the faculty of the American College of Phlebology. She is also a member of the American Medical Association and the American Society of Internal Medicine.

At her Vein Center of the Palm Beaches, Navarro specializes in all the latest treatments for vein care, including laser vein treatment, ambulatory phlebectomy, endovenous laser ablation, closure, ultrasound-guided foam sclerotherapy, Asclera injection, sotradecol sulfate and more. The practice also includes a wide range of skin treatments.

Navarro stressed that she does not operate a clinic, where you see the doctor for your initial visit and then are handed off to a technician.

“I do all my own work,” Navarro said. “Most people coming to see me now, they don’t like the way their face looks, or are concerned about the hair on their head. They want injections to regenerate their skin, face or hair. Or they have swelling or pain in their legs. Or they have spider veins and haven’t been able to get rid of them.”

By helping others, Navarro feels she has come full circle. “I often say I didn’t choose my practice, my practice chose me,” she said.

The Vein Center of the Palm Beaches is located at 955 Sansburys Way, Suite 209, in West Palm Beach. To schedule a consultation or appointment, call (561) 333-6366. Visit www.drnavarro.com for more information.

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Veterinarian Dr. Christina Herejk Brings An Integrated Approach To Helping Local Animals

Veterinarian Dr. Christina Herejk Brings An Integrated Approach To Helping Local Animals

Sometimes human medicine’s loss is veterinary medicine’s gain. Such is the case with local veterinarian Dr. Christina Herejk of the Royal Palm Veterinary Center.

“As is the case with many veterinarians, I was completely in awe of animals and nature as a child,” Herejk recalled. “My mother was a nurse, so I grew up hearing great stories about medicine. I was considering working with humans, but my mother suggested that I might be better off going into animal medicine.”

It has been a passion she has followed ever since.

“Once I had my first dog, I fell in love with the profession,” Herejk said. “I loved the fact that I could work with both animals and people, the animals’ owners.”

She attended the University of Florida in Gainesville for both her undergraduate and veterinary degrees, graduating in 2005. She worked with Dr. Richard Ringler, who established the Royal Palm Animal Hospital more than 25 years ago, taking over his practice in 2013.

At the Royal Palm Veterinary Center, Herejk is continuing Ringler’s mission to help animals in the community.

“We are all about providing good care to our patients and clients, taking the reins from the late Dr. Ringler to continue his life’s work,” Herejk said.

Dogs and cats continue to be the center’s primary focus.

“In addition to annual wellness examinations and vaccinations, we treat a variety of problems,” Herejk said. “We deal with a number of geriatric problems, such as osteoarthritis and kidney disease, as well as skin problems. I love dermatology, and I have started to venture into integrated medicine — cold laser therapy, veterinary acupuncture.”

Integrated medicine is an alternative approach to treating the patient, taught at the Chi Institute just outside Gainesville, which specializes in traditional Chinese veterinary medicine.

“We’re taking what we’ve been trained to do in school and combining it with other modalities for the most optimal results for our patients’ health,” Herejk explained. “Sometimes western medicine is great, but it doesn’t hit it on the head. Being able to have another tool in my pocket is fantastic.”

And what advice would she give to other pet lovers considering life as a veterinarian?

“I would say, ‘Follow your dreams, follow your heart,’ because it is a lot of work,” Herejk said. “‘Study hard, do good in school and don’t be discouraged.”

She added that the cost of veterinary school is an obstacle that keeps many from following their dreams of becoming veterinarians.

“It’s a big topic being tackled by the American Veterinary Medical Association right now. Debt could be a deterrent,” she explained. “But if you want to make a difference in animals’ lives and their owners’ lives, just go for it.”

The Royal Palm Veterinary Center is located at 610 Royal Palm Beach Blvd. For more information, call (561) 793-7000 or visit www.royalpalmvc.com.

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Caroline Blanke-Pena Of Holistic Health Palm Beach Specializes In Chinese Medicine

Caroline Blanke-Pena Of Holistic Health Palm Beach Specializes In Chinese Medicine

Caroline Blanke-Pena of Holistic Health Palm Beach discovered her calling after dealing with a condition that, for many years, couldn’t be cured by traditional western medical practices.

“As a last resort, I decided to try acupuncture,” Blanke-Pena recalled. “I didn’t even know what it was, but I found an acupuncturist I loved and went to her three times in seven days. The very first time, I felt this massive block in my abdomen move. It was a mind-blowing experience. By my third treatment, I was completely cured — never needed another drug or another treatment. That’s an incredible result.”

Convinced that eastern and western medicine could — and should — work well together, Blanke-Pena’s life had new purpose. Many courses and four state board exams later, Blanke-Pena is now a licensed acupuncturist and a nationally certified diplomate of Oriental medicine, acupuncture, herbology and Asian bodywork therapy. She graduated from the Atlantic Institute of Oriental Medicine in Florida with a master’s degree in traditional Chinese medicine. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in science from Ohio State University.

“Chinese medicine really depends on what is going on with the patient. You have to listen in order to tell what would benefit them the most. Is it emotional pain, physical pain, post-traumatic stress?” Blanke-Pena said. “Chinese medicine works best in some cases, western medicine works better in others. That’s why I partnered up with a doctor when I opened Holistic Health Palm Beach. We refer back and forth to do what is in the best interest of the patient.”

Blanke-Pena said most of her patients are complaining of three things — physical pain, emotional pain and fertility issues.

“Chinese medicine can help with physical pain, especially pain in the back, joints, knees, elbows and fingers — and arthritis,” she said. “Acupuncture has an anti-inflammatory effect. Eight out of 10 of my patients move out of pain within one or two sessions, although some need more. Acupuncture is also particularly successful in treating insomnia and emotional pain.”

Blanke-Pena said local doctors often refer patients with pre- or post-menopausal symptoms for help with issues such as night sweats. Reproductive issues can also be treated. Perhaps a woman is having problems getting pregnant or needs support after previous miscarriages. Perhaps a man has a low libido or sperm count. “Chinese medicine has great success in those areas,” Blanke-Pena said.

She is particularly happy to see that eastern and western medicine are starting to work together and does her best to unite the two.

“I take the shame out of it,” Blanke-Pena said. “If a patient comes to me and says, ‘I’ve been on Prozac for 20 years. Do I have to go off it?’ I ask, ‘Would you come to me for 20 years and take my meds and do my treatments if you still felt lousy?’ I ask them if they want an alternative. We taper off, and I’ve had excellent results.”

Acupuncture and herbal medicine can be an effective alternative to treatments that may require the use of invasive procedures, she said. Rather than resorting to surgery, knee or back pain can be controlled with acupuncture because it improves circulation to relieve pain, Blanke-Pena said. It also tends to have a positive effect on circulation throughout the body, improving energy and stamina while reducing stress and improving emotional well-being, she added.

While western medicine tends to concentrate on relieving specific symptoms, the goal of acupuncture is to resolve the underlying source of symptoms, she explained, by focusing on alleviating the origin of the ailment rather than on relieving the symptoms.

Holistic Health Palm Beach is located in Palomino Park at 3347 State Road 7, Suite 200, in Wellington. For more info., call (561) 601-0999 or visit www.holistichealthpalmbeach.com.

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Patricia Cepeda-Russell Of MPCI Treats Patients Using Their Own Culture And Diversity

Patricia Cepeda-Russell Of MPCI Treats Patients Using Their Own Culture And Diversity

Mental health counselor Patricia Cepeda-Russell has been a child advocate for more than 20 years, working in case management, placement and as a therapist. She most recently turned her talents to Multilingual Psychotherapy Centers Inc. (MPCI) as a mental health practitioner serving the western communities of Palm Beach County.

Cepeda-Russell’s specialty is Therapeutic Behavioral On Site (TBOS) for Spanish speakers, which means she works to help change unwanted behaviors, such as oppositional defiance, adjustment disorder or other mal-adaptive behaviors that impede family harmony or success in school.

“I use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which is based on the idea that your thoughts influence your feelings, which then influence your actions,” Cepeda-Russell explained. “A popular example is, ‘I think, I feel, I do.’ I also utilize play therapy to build rapport and trust with children, as well as a way of gleaning pertinent information about their feelings. What makes MPCI special is our diversity and ability to bring therapy to people in their own language and with consideration to their culture.”

Cepeda-Russell sees weekly changes in clients who are frustrated with their lack of language skills, who are now learning to express their feelings.

“I have teens who are changing their negative coping mechanisms due to sexual abuse, to positive ones,” she said. “I have families that are learning new parenting techniques that are helping their kids adjust to major life changes.”

Cepeda-Russell’s personal life experiences give her an edge when it comes to helping Spanish-speaking clients.

“I am first-generation American, and English is my second language,” she said. “I can understand the challenges and frustrations that my young clients are feeling, because I have been there. I am also a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and know first-hand what that looks like to a teenaged girl.”

Cepeda-Russell has turned her own negative experiences into a positive, not only for her clients, but for herself. “I get the privilege of modeling assimilation, positive coping skills and hope to my clients,” she explained.

She often uses a particular source, a helpful book titled From Obstacles to Opportunities, which was published in 2013 by WestBow Press and just happens to have been written by Cepeda-Russell herself. It can be found on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle format.

Multilingual Psychotherapy Centers Inc. is a community mental health/behavioral health agency that serves children, adolescent, adults and their families in Palm Beach County. Established in 1997, its mission is to improve the lives of children and families through their diversity while considering their cultural background, speaking their own language and providing the mental health services they need.

MPCI works through its office, as well as on site in homes, shelters and schools — wherever the need arises — to alleviate emotional, behavioral and mental difficulties, improve their clients’ quality of life, and prevent the need for a more restrictive placement. Together with psychotherapy, MPCI provides case management services, psychological services and psychiatric services.

Multilingual Psychotherapy Centers Inc. is located at 1639 Forum Place in West Palm Beach. For more information, call (561) 712-8821 or visit www.mpcipbc.com.

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Dr. Richard Kelleher Of Palms West Veterinary Hospital Loves Helping Animals In Need

Dr. Richard Kelleher Of Palms West Veterinary Hospital Loves Helping Animals In Need

They say if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. That might explain why Dr. Richard Kelleher became a veterinarian.

“Ever since I was young, I have been just fascinated by animals and the creatures around me,” Kelleher said. “Growing up in New Jersey, I had fish, lizards, pocket pets — it was a God-given passion. When I took our dog to the vet, I think it must have made an impression on me. Animals are such innocent, helpless creatures. It feels good to be able to give them the help they need.”

Kelleher attended Virginia Tech for his undergraduate work and went on to receive his veterinary degree there. He has been in practice for 17 years now, eventually moving to Florida, where he has been an associate at the Palms West Veterinary Hospital for the past four years.

Much more than a standard veterinary office, the Palms West Veterinary Hospital functions much like a hospital. Animals stay briefly or overnight, depending on their needs. Some may need to be hooked up to an IV.

“There’s always a doctor present and a nurse present 24 hours a day, 365 days a year,” Kelleher said. “We also are an emergency and critical care hospital. If another vet doesn’t have overnight care, and that’s what the animal needs, they can transfer them here.”

With eight doctors on staff, the facility is well-equipped to treat any medical, surgical or dental issue that may arise. Owned by Dr. Ira Grossman, the Palms West Veterinary Hospital primarily serves dogs and cats, although some of the veterinarians work in equine practice on their own.

A calming environment in the waiting room was designed to put your pet’s nerves — and yours — at ease. And, just like at a hospital for humans, the staff is always looking toward the next big breakthrough.

Kelleher is particularly enthusiastic about recent innovations in veterinary care that are especially helpful to Florida pets.

“Florida is such an allergenic state,” he said. “But there are a lot of newer medications to relieve pets of the symptoms of their allergies that are very safe and relieve them of a lot of suffering. One of these innovations has come out within the last four to five years and one — an injection — as recently as eight months ago. They are extremely safe. The allergy injection helps control itching, poses no complications with other medications and can last four to eight weeks.”

Without paying for allergy testing, sometimes pet owners don’t know specifically what is causing their animal’s discomfort.

“I’ve been doing this for a while, and it’s extremely gratifying to see pets that have come in in bad shape — whether they have skin issues or injuries — and being able to treat them and return them back to the family,” Kelleher said. “It’s like the family receives a revitalized child.”

The Palms West Veterinary Hospital is located at 556 Folsom Road in Loxahatchee Groves. For more information, (561) 798-2780 or visit www.palmswestveterinary.com.

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Dr. Marisol Lopez-Belio Specializes In A Wide Range Of Dental Procedures

Dr. Marisol Lopez-Belio Specializes In A Wide Range Of Dental Procedures

Everyone loves the drama of before and after photographs, especially the patients of Dr. Marisol Lopez-Belio of the Wellington Center for Laser Dentistry.

“I’ve done many cosmetic reconstructions that really change people’s lives,” Lopez-Belio said. “A patient may have bad teeth, worn teeth or teeth of an ugly color and, after a reconstruction, their appearance has literally changed. They’re the most amazing success stories.”

Lopez-Belio and her staff have seen many such stories. She started her practice 26 years ago, in 1991, and moved into her own office in Wellington 22 years ago. Office manager Mary Almazan and hygienist Candy Cerbone have each been with her for 25 years. Her clinical assistant, Danielle Prieto, has been with Lopez-Belio for 13 years.

But it’s not all cosmetic dentistry. Lopez-Belio serves all ages in her general dentistry practice. From fillings to mouth guards, she does it all. She particularly likes how the use of lasers has revolutionized dentistry.

“I love lasers,” Lopez-Belio said. “I have four different types. I use different ones for different things.”

For example, the minimally invasive hard tissue laser, which Lopez-Belio purchased in 2010, allows her to fill cavities or restore resin fillings without numbing.

“Patients love that,” she said. “It’s so efficient. You can do multiple fillings in one day, where otherwise you couldn’t because the patient would be numb all over. With the laser, I can almost do as many as needed without them losing work time or having to wait  hours for the numbness to wear off.”

Another plus: as it works, the hard tissue laser is also killing bacteria. With no bacteria left behind, there is less of a chance of getting a cavity there again.

“We also use a laser for gum treatments, removing soft tissue lesions, treating ulcers and trimming the gums for aesthetic purposes,” Lopez-Belio added.

She can also help with temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain. “I do a lot of neuro-muscular dentistry to correct TMJ, grinding and crunching,” Lopez-Belio said. “These things can destroy your teeth or give you migraines. People who have been under a lot of stress for a lot of years, they’ve been grinding, then they get symptoms. We correct their bite. We have patients who are chronic; they can’t open their mouth and get several migraines a week. We have to do splint therapy, a full reconstruction or orthodontics. They have a bad bite, and we have to fix that. I devise an individualized treatment for each patient.”

Traditional braces are not an option for many adults. In those cases, Lopez-Belio suggests Invisalign, a series of clear aligners that can be removed for meals. “It’s awesome, and it works great,” Lopez-Belio said. “The treatment takes about a year. Every two weeks you get new, custom-made aligners until your teeth are straight. They’re comfortable, and thin enough so that they don’t affect your speech.”

Lopez-Belio can also help with sleep apnea for people who snore or stop breathing while they sleep.

“If you stop breathing, your oxygen level goes down, and it’s very dangerous,” she said. “A physician may order a CPAP oxygen machine, but it’s noisy. The patient needs to wear a mask, there’s tubing and it’s big — not good for traveling. So many patients prefer an oral appliance, which is like two mouth guards. It keeps the lower jaw forward so the muscles in the neck don’t collapse when they’re sleeping, which improves the airway.”

Lopez-Belio also has a Cerec machine — a computer that allows her to do a crown in one day. “You don’t lose time from work getting a temporary crown, and you don’t have to worry about the temporary falling off when you’re eating dinner,” she explained. “We design, mill, stain and glaze the crown, put it in the oven to harden it, then bond it to the tooth.”

A picture is still worth a thousand words. See some of Dr. Marisol Lopez-Belio’s success stories for yourself at www.wellingtonlaserdentistry.com.

The Wellington Center for Laser Dentistry is located at 1200 Corporate Center Way, Suite 101, in Wellington. For more info., call (561) 791-8184.

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Getting To Know Patients Is A Key Goal At Bella Vida Family Practice

Getting To Know Patients Is A Key Goal At Bella Vida Family Practice

Story by Deborah Welky • Photo by Abner Pedraza

You’re sitting in the waiting room at the doctor’s office. You’ve filled out your forms. You don’t feel well, and you want to know why. But once those magical doors open and you’re ushered inside, do you still feel like a nondescript number? Not at Bella Vida Family Practice.

You’re sitting in the waiting room at the doctor’s office. You’ve filled out your forms. You don’t feel well, and you want to know why. But once those magical doors open and you’re ushered inside, do you still feel like a nondescript number? Not at Bella Vida Family Practice.

“Asking questions as if you’re running down a list of bullet points is not getting to know a patient,” Dr. Carmen Marrero explained. “With us, it’s not: ‘Are you married? Do you have children?’ It’s ‘Are you married? Oh, what does your husband do? You have children? I have a four-year-old; we have something in common.’ Here, we incorporate real life and our own life experiences into our talks with patients.”

It’s not that Marrero craves conversation that caused her to structure her practice this way. “One of my passions is education,” she explained. “I do rotations with medical students, and I tell them that a person who knows and understands what is going on in their body holds the key to getting healthier. Yes, it is important to control your sugars, but why?”

Bella Vida Family Practice also has replaced “pamphlets all over the place” with current technology. There’s an interactive tablet and TV screen in the waiting area that allows patients to pick and choose what they want to learn about while they wait for their appointment.

“They can get information on personal fitness, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes — whatever interests them,” Marrero said. “Sometimes what they’ve watched sparks questions. A diabetic may say, ‘Hmm. I need to get my feet checked. Can you recommend a podiatrist?’”

There is also an online patient portal for those who are proactive about their healthcare. Patients can update their history, change their address or insurance information, view lab results or send the doctor messages.

Marrero co-owns Bella Vida Family Practice with Elaine Fredrickson, a nurse practitioner with 25 years’ experience. Fredrickson worked in a rural setting in North Dakota before moving to the Wellington area in 2001. The two met during residency training at Wellington Regional Medical Center and opened their family practice last August.

“All the stars aligned,” Marrero said. “We wanted to treat patients like people — talk to them, spend time with them, get to know about their aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters. Nurse practitioners can function independently, but sometimes we do cross-treat, and patients get two brains for the price of one. We complement each other well. When opening the practice, we decided to go 50-50 all the way except for one thing. I told Elaine that I wanted to name the practice. Cowgirl that she is, she was skeptical.”

Marrero chose a name that meant something very special to her.

“Isabella is the name of my daughter, who was born at Wellington Regional; and ‘Bella Vida’ means ‘beautiful life.’ Elaine liked it. Our main goal is to help our patients to live their beautiful life. Everybody’s beautiful life is a little bit different. They each have their own unique challenges, medical issues and things that they have to overcome. Not everyone’s life is perfect but, at Bella Vida, we help them achieve the level of health and wellness that’s appropriate for their life.”

Bella Vida Family Practice is located at 11327 Okeechobee Blvd. in Royal Palm Beach. Learn more at www.bellavidafamilypractice.com or by calling (561) 340-1615.

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Retina Group Ophthalmologist Dr. Kevin T. Kelly Protects Patients’ Vision

Retina Group Ophthalmologist Dr. Kevin T. Kelly Protects Patients’ Vision

Story by Deborah Welky • Photo by Abner Pedraza

It wasn’t so long ago when a diagnosis of macular degeneration — a common eye problem in seniors — meant almost certain blindness.

“The prognosis was pretty grim unless it was caught really early,” recalled Dr. Kevin T. Kelly, an ophthalmologist partner with the Retina Group of Florida. “We had laser, but most patients don’t even notice that their vision is being affected until it’s near the center of vision.”

But by then, it used to be too late. “Once the blood vessel burst, and it bled or scarred, it was over,” Kelly said.

Fast forward to 2017, and this fairly common condition can be treated with medication — and the expertise of ophthalmologists trained in retinal care. “You think your vision is lost but, after we dry up the blood vessel, the macula is preserved and the patient is able to see,” Kelly said.

Kelly practices at the Wellington office of the Retina Group of Florida, which is located on the campus of Wellington Regional Medical Center.

A New Jersey native, Kelly completed his undergraduate studies at Rutgers University, earning degrees in chemical engineering and biology. He continued on to medical school at Rutgers, and completed his medical internship at Staten Island Hospital. He completed a residency in ophthalmology at SUNY-Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. That was followed by a two-year fellowship in retina care at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

“Many fellowships are only six months, but all the ophthalmologists in our practice have completed their residency and done two-year fellowships in retinal surgery,” Kelly explained.

Those ophthalmologists include Dr. Darin Goldman and Dr. Eduardo Uchiyama, who work with Kelly at the Wellington office. Kelly sees patients in Wellington four days a week, and can be found at the Stuart location of the Retina Group of Florida on Thursdays. Other offices are located in Boca Raton, Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, West Palm Beach, Hollywood, Plantation and the main office in Fort Lauderdale. Surgeries are done on the retina equipment at Broward Health Imperial Point.

The practice continues to grow. This is due largely to an aging population, as well as a growing prevalence of diabetes, which is known to cause vision problems.

“I opened my office in 2007, and began working with Retina Group in 2009. We see patients with diabetic retinopathy, retinal detachments, macular degeneration and uveitis, an inflammation of the eye sometimes associated with autoimmune diseases,” Kelly said. “We focus exclusively on the retina and even cater to other ophthalmologists when they encounter a tough problem.”

In the case of eye emergencies, the Retina Group is available around the clock.

“What makes us unique is we’re available 24/7,” Kelly noted. “Someone is taking the call.”

The Retina Group gets referrals from across Florida and the nation, especially for those patients who live in Florida only part of the year.

“I have one patient who I’ve been working with for 10 years, keeping his macular degeneration in check,” Kelly said. “Since 2007, there are new medications to treat it. Today, rather than being blind, his vision is 20/25. The point is, you still have a chance.”

The Wellington office of the Retina Group of Florida is located at 1397 Medical Park Blvd., Suite 240, on the campus of Wellington Regional Medical Center. To make an appointment, call (561) 784-3788 or visit www.retinagroupflorida.com.

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Chiropractor Dr. Randy Laurich Offers His Patients A Comprehensive Wellness Program

Chiropractor Dr. Randy Laurich Offers His Patients A Comprehensive Wellness Program

Story by Deborah Welky • Photo by Abner Pedraza

If you’ve been feeling under the weather of late and want to know why, perhaps it’s time to put your New Year’s resolutions into action with a visit to the Wellness Experience.

The Wellness Experience, owned and operated by chiropractor Dr. Randy Laurich, is “home base” for people who want to feel better and improve their quality of life. What makes Laurich’s practice unique is the number of professionals that he has assembled. They work individually and as a team in an effort to provide clients with the most comprehensive wellness program available.

“We have multiple providers playing a similar role — to help achieve the best quality of life for our patients with the most overall functional improvement,” Laurich said. “Everyone in the practice does something a little bit different. We have two acupuncturists, two chiropractors, an esthetician, two massage therapists and one nutritionist. We individualize each program to help assist each person in their healing.”

The team includes Laurich and chiropractor Dr. Tori Cunnea, acupuncturists Caroline Blanke-Pena and Dr. Howard Stoller, esthetician Dawn Snow, massage therapists Ortavia Taylor and Mikaela Martling, and nutritionist Tracy Mastandrea.

“In the seventh grade, I did a paper on chiropractic and, from that point forward, I knew I wanted to pursue it,” Laurich said. “I even got my twin sister involved. Today she’s a chiropractor in Boulder, Colorado. It’s kind of in the family now.”

There are about 150 different techniques used in the field of chiropractic healing, and Laurich has studied them all. Born and raised in Pennsylvania, Laurich attended college in Ohio. He graduated from the Sherman College of Straight Chiropractic in Spartanburg, S.C., in 1998 and worked at a chiropractic office in Coral Springs before opening his own practice in Boca Raton in 2001.

By 2006, Dr. Laurich had established his multi-discipline office in Wellington, and he is looking to move to a larger facility in the near future.

Upon a first meeting with a client, Laurich assesses his or her needs and creates a unique healing program. “This is a place for people to come who want to feel better and improve their quality of life,” he said.

For those who may be a bit shy about chiropractic services, it’s good to know that the practice has evolved just as the broader field of medicine has evolved.

“It’s kind of neat, because we use a lot of computerized technology to help evaluate the spine, and it gives us an opportunity to also adjust the spine,” Laurich said. “There’s no reason to be fearful. It’s a really gentle technique using gentle force that helps the body to heal itself. The fact that we use today’s technology is important.”

The ProAdjuster and DRX Machine analyze, adjust, decompress and provide relief to the spine. Cold laser therapy uses low levels of light to stimulate healing without heating up the tissue, relieving chronic pain and inflammation that often results from sports injuries or arthritis. Acupuncture stimulates specific points on the surface of the skin, altering various biochemical and physiological conditions to the benefit of patients.

Massage therapy is employed to reduce anxiety and stress, relax muscles, rehabilitate injuries, reduce pain and promote overall health. Fitness is the goal, and the team at the Wellness Experience believes that working out should be enjoyable — for muscles, heart and mind. They can connect you with a trainer able to meet your particular fitness needs.

Everyone has heard “you are what you eat,” but if the confusing world of food labels has you wondering if there’s anything out there that’s both tasty and good for you, nutritionists at the Wellness Experience will help demystify your next trip to the grocery store.

The Wellness Experience is currently located in Kobosko’s Crossing at 9180 Forest Hill Blvd. in Wellington. For more information, call (561) 333-5351 or visit www.wellness-experience.com.

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