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2009 The Year In Health

By Kelli Grant
Published: December 29, 2009, 10:07 PM

When you look back on 2009, will health headlines stick out in your mind? From a Salmonella outbreak to an H1N1 pandemic, it's been a busy year for health care.

At the beginning of the year you couldn't even make a peanut butter sandwich without encountering a huge health scare. That's because a salmonella outbreak that sickened hundreds of people, some even right here in KELOLAND, was linked to contaminated peanut butter.

Federal officials asked you to stop distributing and eating products containing peanut paste or peanut oil. The company linked to the outbreak, Peanut Corporation of America, had a history of problems, including shipping products that the company's own initial tests found to be positive for salmonella.

Meanwhile a medical laboratory in Sioux Falls was taking top honors. This year the College of American Pathologists named Avera McKennan's Medical Lab the safest in the world.

The medical society invited Avera McKennan's medical lab to apply. And after three on-site visits, an international committee's decision and an 11-month wait, staff received the news.

"I've been doing laboratory for 45 years. I started in laboratory when we did things by cookbooks and manually. This is the most prestigious award I have ever seen given," said Leo Serrano with the Avera McKennan Lab.

Other health headlines were made as Sanford Children's hospital opened it's doors to patients in March.

It was then 30 children made their way from the old children's hospital to what's now known as "The Castle."

A short month later, the "king" of that castle got his first glimpse of the new facility, complete with 38 exam rooms and an area for pediatric cancer. Denny Sanford donated the funds to build the hospital. It was a sight he could barely put into words.

"And they're tears of joy when I walked in that place yesterday and they're still flowing so thank you," Sanford said.
In late spring, local hospitals extended a helping hand to those in Fargo forced out by floods.

Sanford's Intensive Air Flight Team headed north and brought high risk pregnancy patients to Sioux Falls.

"You wouldn't want to have some of these types of patients in your hospital at the time of an ordered evacuation, because then it's almost too late. It gets them out while you can in a very orderly, very calm fashion, get them to a higher level of care, no interruption in the level of care they're receiving," said Randy Bury, Chief Operating Officers for Sanford USD Medical Center.

It was at that time talks began about a possible merger between Fargo-based MeritCare and the Sanford Health System. That merger was confirmed and announced later this year.

Then the country and KELOLAND braced for what was first called "swine flu." The state of South Dakota announced it's first probable case at the end of April.

That led to many early seasonal flu vaccine clinics, as health officials urged people to protect themselves from the seasonal strain, while an H1N1 vaccine was being made.

And that created a domino effect as many clinics ran out of the seasonal vaccine as people were scrambling to get it.

"There's a delay in shipment but we will get all of our vaccine. It will come a little bit later than we anticipated," Susan Nygaard with Sanford Health Pharmacy said.

In October, South Dakota reported its first H1N1 death. And health officials were preparing people for what they called the second wave of the virus.

Finally the H1N1 vaccine was shipped to KELOLAND, but at first it was only available to those considered high risk. Now everyone can get the vaccine, and thousands across the region have lined up at mass vaccination clinics to get protected.

"It attacks the lungs and with asthma and COPD, I've only got 37% of my lung capacity so I didn't want to end up in the hospital," Harwig said.

The H1N1 virus became top news across the world. And this fall, thousands of children were sick from school, thousands in KELOLAND were hospitalized with complications from the virus, and to date, more than 20 South Dakotans have died.

And that's a look back at a very busy year in health.

© 2009 KELOLAND TV. All Rights Reserved.