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A symbolism of pulmonary fibrosis: an illustration of lungs with dead flowers as the airways

What Is Pulmonary Fibrosis?

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Pulmonary fibrosis (PF) is a family of more than 200 interstitial lung diseases (ILD) that share similar medical characteristics. According to the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation, there are more than 250,000 Americans living with PF.

In honor of Pulmonary Fibrosis Awareness Month this September, we’re spotlighting PF to help patients better understand this group of diseases.

The Basics of Pulmonary Fibrosis

“Pulmonary” refers to the lungs while “fibrosis” refers to scarring. So PF is characterized by lung tissue that becomes scarred and damaged, making it harder for the lungs to work effectively. As PF worsens, patients face increasing shortness of breath and lack of sufficient oxygen.

The American Lung Association notes that the most common type of PF is idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, or IPF. Unfortunately, there is no known cause for this scarring — that’s what “idiopathic” means — though there are treatments available. Other types of PF include environmental, occupational, drug- and radiation-induced, and autoimmune connective tissue disease.


In addition to shortness of breath, PF may cause a dry, hacking cough that doesn’t improve over time. Patients may also experience fatigue, unexplainable weight loss, and muscle and joint aches. Some also experience widening and rounding of the tips of the toes or fingers, known as clubbing.

The severity and progression of symptoms can vary significantly from one person to the next. Some may experience mild symptoms that progress slowly over years, while others become ill quickly.


Although IPF has no known cause, certain lifestyle factors can contribute. For instance, exposure to air pollutants and toxins such as coal dust or asbestos fibers have been linked to PF. Radiation treatment for lung or breast cancer, some drug prescriptions, and previous conditions such as pneumonia or lupus can also lead to PF. Experts believe certain viruses, genetic factors, and exposure to smoke could also contribute to the condition.

In addition to direct causes, other factors may also increase a person’s risk for PF, including older age (most people are diagnosed between the ages of 50 and 70), and gender (PF is more common in men than women).


While the damage to lung tissue caused by PF cannot be reversed, there are medications available to help control the disease’s progression. Ofev (nintedanib), and Esbriet (pirfenidone) have both been approved by the FDA for treatment. 

Oxygen therapy, pulmonary rehabilitation such as breathing exercises to enhance lung efficiency, and lifestyle adjustments such as exercising and maintaining a healthy diet may also alleviate PF symptoms. If patients are in otherwise good physical condition and have no other life-threatening diseases, a lung transplant may be an option.

At Lifebrite Stokes, our practitioners are dedicated to helping patients receive an accurate diagnosis to create a personalized treatment plan for PF and several other respiratory conditions. Our team is here to help you find answers, manage existing conditions, and provide exceptional care. To make an appointment with one of our providers, call (336) 593-2831 or learn more about our services online.

Learn More About LifeBrite

Atlanta-based LifeBrite, led by CEO Christian Fletcher, operates LifeBrite Community Hospital of Early, LifeBrite Community Hospital of Stokes, and Lifebrite Laboratories. For more about our specific services and facilities, visit our website.

Rural country view of a road and a truck driving down it

How Rural Hospitals Impact Their Communities

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What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear or read the word “hospital”? Emergency rooms and maternity wards? Intensive care units? Maybe nurses, doctors, and technological equipment?

It’s true that all of these are essential aspects of a highly functioning hospital, but in actuality, there are many more ways in which a hospital impacts its community. Especially in non-metropolitan, rural areas like the one we at LifeBrite Community Hospital of Stokes are dedicated to serving. 

Providing Comprehensive Care

“Small rural hospitals deliver not only traditional hospital services such as emergency care, inpatient care, and laboratory testing, but also rehabilitation, long-term care, maternity care, home health care, and even primary care,” the support team at Saving Rural Hospitals (a site maintained by the Center for Healthcare Quality and Payment Reform (CHQPR)) asserts. For many in rural communities, there simply are no other healthcare alternatives.

Serving Those Who Need It Most

And citizens in rural communities may need the most medical assistance. According to a 2017 examination of rural health by the CDC, “Rural Americans are more likely to die from heart disease, cancer, unintentional injury, chronic lower respiratory disease, and stroke than their urban counterparts.” The same report shows that rural Americans also experience an approximate 50% increase in unintentional injury deaths, in part due to long travel distances resulting in a greater risk of motor vehicle accidents, and lower seatbelt use.

Though it may come as a surprise, addiction and substance abuse can also be a larger problem in rural communities. “Rural adults have higher rates of use for tobacco and methamphetamines, while prescription drug misuse and heroin use has grown in towns of every size,” the Rural Health Information Hub reported in 2020. Where there are often limited resources for prevention and rehabilitation, these health problems can be even more challenging to combat.

Supporting the Local Economy

Rural hospitals are commonly one of the largest employers in rural areas. “On average,” the Rural Health Information Hub states, “the health sector constitutes 14% of total employment in rural communities. . . .”

But providing jobs isn’t the only way in which community hospitals can stimulate their local economies. Adequate health and emergency services also attract new businesses and industries, while bringing and retaining visitors, workers, and retirees to the area, as well.

Consider a hospital’s buying power, too. When well-funded, hospitals can create  “. . . billions of revenues in purchasing goods and services from other businesses,” as a currently ongoing study reported in the Rural Health Research Gateway reminds us.

Understanding the Community

Rural hospital professionals also live where their patients live. They know the local history, news, and weather reports. They understand the community’s concerns and values. The doctors, nurses, and staff aren’t simply hospital employees — they are also neighbors.

This is one of our primary values at LifeBrite Community Hospital of Stokes, where we provide high-quality care and education across a variety of health topics. Whether you’ve experienced an emergency, require laboratory testing or surgery, are looking for a pediatrician or general practitioner  — we are here to meet you, and your needs, in these areas and more

Learn more about Atlanta-based LifeBrite, led by CEO Christian Fletcher, operates LifeBrite Community Hospital of Early, LifeBrite Community Hospital of Stokes, and Lifebrite Laboratories. To learn more about our services and facilities at Stokes, visit our website or call (336) 593-2831.

Two men having a conversation

How to Have a Conversation on Health with the Men in Your Life

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Best Friends.

There are many roles men play in our lives. Chances are you have at least one of them in yours. But talking about health issues with him (no matter who you are) may present a challenge.

According to a 2019 study by the Cleveland Clinic, you aren’t alone. As AARP’s Healthy Living reported, 50 percent of men in the Baby Boomer generation “won’t discuss health with their male friends because they ‘don’t feel it’s any of their business,’” and a quarter of them don’t talk about  private topics with anyone. Younger generations are a bit more forthcoming, but nearly half of Millennials and 56 percent of Gen Xers surveyed indicated they lacked more than one person with whom they could talk about their health.

Since positive conversation about health matters can be an important part of men’s overall well-being, during Men’s Health Month, we want to provide you with advice about how to do it well.

Arm Them With Information

Young women may be encouraged to have annual visits with a primary doctor or OBGYN starting in their puberty years, but it’s not always so with men. This could mean there are simply things men don’t know about their own health maintenance.

Empowering Intel

Keep It Positive and Encouraging

Fear, discomfort, embarrassment, and uncertainty may be part of why a man won’t visit the doctor. Keeping your conversations positive, caring, and judgment-free will help.

Remind him, as Glenn Good (an expert on masculinity and the psychology of men at the University of Florida) told Huffpost in 2016, that “A truly strong, healthy person embraces routine health care, health consultation and daily healthy habits to truly protect his body, not just his own self-image.”

Help him remember too that good friends (and relatives, and partners) only want to support him in what’s best for his longevity — whether he’s struggling physically or mentally.

Show Him He’s Not Alone

Healthiness loves company, so become his partner in total wellness. Appointment-making, transport, and follow-ups can be a part of everyone’s household upkeep — including his.

And whether you’re a concerned woman or man in his life, you can lead by your own example, or set up a friendly competition around health goals for the year.

Whatever check-ups, tests, or answers to questions are needed, LifeBrite Community Hospital of Stokes is here to provide high-quality care. We offer a wide range of services, including Radiology, Surgical, Family Practice, and Acute Care, and look forward to caring for him (and you).

Learn more about LifeBrite

Atlanta-based LifeBrite, led by CEO Christian Fletcher, operates LifeBrite Community Hospital of Early, LifeBrite Community Hospital of Stokes, and Lifebrite Laboratories. To learn more about our services and facilities, visit our website or call 229-723-4241.

Closeup of running shoes on an African American female's feet outside on a walking trail.

Realistic Tips for Starting an Exercise Regimen

By Uncategorized

You probably don’t need experts like those at the Mayo Clinic, the CDC, or even Time magazine to tell you the many benefits of regular exercise:

  • Helps maintain a healthy body weight
  • Strengthens muscles and bones
  • Staves off some chronic diseases
  • Elevates mood and helps reduce stress
  • Can even be fun and serve as a way to connect with others

Likely, you can rattle some of them off in your sleep. But getting started with an exercise program — regardless of your age or fitness level — can feel like an uphill climb (literally). Long-term exercise regimens take time, determination, and discipline to establish.

At LifeBrite Community Hospital of Stokes, we aren’t simply your healthcare providers. We are community neighbors who understand these challenges, and we want to help you get started.

Know Your Starting Point

Talk with your doctor before beginning a new exercise program to identify any potential hazards or concerns, such as instability or dizziness, high blood pressure, diabetes, muscle weakness, or other conditions that may determine what exercise is best (or potentially injurious) for you. Your health provider can also be a great resource for information or support. 

Experts at the Mayo Clinic also recommend assessing your general fitness level beforehand. Record things such as how long it takes for you to walk a mile, pulse rate before and immediately after walking that mile, and how far you can stretch forward while seated with your legs in front of you. Tracking these early may help you see progress as you go!

Choose Something You Like

If you don’t have fun doing something, very likely you’ll face challenges keeping it up. Fortunately, with exercise, there are many options. “Start with one you’re initially drawn to,” suggest Alexa Tucker and Christa Sgobba, C.P.T. in Self magazine, “whether it’s barre, boxing, Pilates, dance cardio, yoga, a strength class . . . keep trying new ones from there until you find what you enjoy.”

Ask friends and family members for recommendations, or follow a few of your favorite celebrities to learn what they’ve been successful doing. The more you’re willing to experiment, the more likely you’ll hit on something that gets you bouncing around in more than one way.

Focus on Small Achievements, and Then Build

Not even the most advanced athlete or fitness influencer began exercising at their current level of performance. In order to prevent burnout, injury, or being disheartened by not reaching unattainable goals, start small.

Current recommendations for most adults are to exercise moderately for 150 minutes per week. (That’s five 30-minute sessions weekly.) You can also break exercise into 10– or 15–minute intervals, if that helps build movement into your schedule (and your current endurance level). Finding a way to make exercise a regular habit that becomes more automatic than anguish is most important at the early stages.

Ideally, you’ll build up to doing something physically stimulating every day, but each step that moves you further from couch potato status is to be celebrated.

Practice Grace

“People who have greater levels of self-compassion tend to be more motivated, less lazy, and more successful over time,” writes Susan David — psychologist on the faculty of Harvard Medical School, cofounder and codirector of the Institute of Coaching at McLean Hospital, and CEO of Evidence Based Psychology.

Beginning anything new is challenging, so focus on what you are doing, instead of what you aren’t. Record your progress and celebrate those victories. Keeping up a positive attitude about your achievements will be good for your mind — and your body!

Learn More About LifeBrite

Atlanta-based LifeBrite, led by CEO Christian Fletcher, operates LifeBrite Community Hospital of Early, LifeBrite Community Hospital of Stokes, and Lifebrite Laboratories. To learn more about our services and facilities, visit our website or call 229-723-4241.

Trophy in background with LifeBrite Stokes logo with Pam Tilman in the foreground.

LifeBrite Stokes Named “Member of the Quarter” by King Chamber of Commerce; Hospital Administrator Pam Tillman Honored as Healthcare Hero by the North Carolina Healthcare Association

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LifeBrite Community Hospital of Stokes was recently named a “Member of the Quarter” by King Chamber of Commerce. Additionally, our very own Pam Tillman was recognized as a “Healthcare Hero” by the North Carolina Healthcare Association. We are very proud of our team for serving the local community through such an important time and in such an impactful way. Now more than ever, we are grateful for the dedicated healthcare professionals on our team who serve the people of Stokes County.

            Our administration worked diligently with the County Health Department, the CDC, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, and a broad range of additional organizations to help other healthcare and nursing facilities stay up to date regarding COVID-19 procedures and guidelines. At LifeBrite Community Hospital of Stokes, our goal is to provide quality healthcare in the safest environment possible.

            A driving force behind the success of these efforts is Stokes’ administrator, Pam Tillman, who was also recently awarded Employee of the Year. “She has ensured our team has exactly what is needed at all times, especially assuring we have Personal Protective Equipment,” says Tillman’s staff. Tillman has also led the charge on our hospital’s vaccination efforts, vaccinating 6,000 members of our small community. As a Registered Nurse, her efforts to make our hospital run smoothly in the midst of the pandemic have even included working shifts when staff is unavailable. We’re grateful to have her, and the honor of Healthcare Hero is well deserved!

            LifeBrite Community Hospital of Stokes continues to provide the key healthcare services needed in our community and is still offering vaccinations to those who need them. To register for your vaccination, call our staff at (336) 593-2831 and schedule an appointment.

Learn more about Atlanta-based LifeBrite, led by CEO Christian Fletcher. LifeBrite Hospital Group operates LifeBrite Community Hospital of Early, LifeBrite Community Hospital of Stokes, and Lifebrite Laboratories.

Young lady suffering from allergies at home on the couch.

Allergies or COVID? Our Experts Break Down the Difference

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After a long winter of pandemic isolating and extreme weather in some states, the arrival of spring’s warmer temperatures and longer hours of daylight make it easier and more pleasant to spend time outside.

So how do you know if your new congestion, sneezes, cough, or fatigue are simply signs of seasonal allergies, or symptoms of COVID?

Key Symptoms: Commonalities and Differences

The CDC has provided many reliable references throughout the pandemic, including this September 2020 infographic pointing out the overlap in symptoms between COVID-19 and seasonal allergies which include:

  • Headache
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Cough
  • Sore throat

The Mayo Clinic’s March 2021 post concurred, and both sources agree the following symptoms are far more common with COVID-19, and not with allergies:

  • Fever and chills
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

When trying to determine whether you’re experiencing allergies or COVID, you may need to look no further than your eyes. Both the CDC and The Mayo Clinic indicate that itchy nose, eyes, mouth, and inner ear are associated with seasonal allergies, but not with COVID-19. The American Academy of Ophthalmology agrees:
“Coronavirus symptoms generally do not cause those uncomfortable itchy, watery eyes.”

Timing Your Testing

At LifeBrite Stokes, we care about your entire well-being. If you’re experiencing any extreme symptoms, such as significant difficulty breathing or serious chest pains, do not hesitate to call 911.

Your healthcare provider will also want to address any persistent symptoms that match those of COVID-19, so call them for a consultation as quickly as possible. If you take a test independently, let them know as well, so that they can be aware of and monitor your results.

If you learn you have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, testing within 5-7 days of that exposure is also recommended, regardless of your symptoms.

Staying Protected

There are several things you can continue to do to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 (as well as flu, the common cold, and other viruses). Though they may be familiar, the CDC still recommended these actions as recently as March 2021: 

Believe it or not, the face mask that protects you from COVID-19 may very well reduce your allergy symptoms, as well. A November 2020 study published in Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology and covered in depth by VeryWell Health determined that for some people, wearing a face mask reduces symptoms of allergic rhinitis, or seasonal allergies. 

Remember to wash your mask regularly, especially if you have allergies, as small pollen particles may still cling to it.

We at LifeBrite Stokes are your community health partner in all seasons and through all symptoms. To learn more about our services and facilities, please visit the LifeBrite Community Hospital of Stokes website. You can also learn more about Atlanta-based LifeBrite, led by CEO Christian Fletcher. LifeBrite Hospital Group operates LifeBrite Community Hospital of Early, LifeBrite Community Hospital of Stokes, and Lifebrite Laboratories.

Pam Tillman

Employee of the Year: Pam Tillman

By Uncategorized

For the past year, LifeBrite Community Hospital of Stokes has been on the front lines of the COVID-19 response. Throughout the pandemic, citizens of Stokes who become infected with the virus have turned to the hospital for treatment or, when necessary, stabilization before transfer to Winston-Salem. The hospital’s staff has also been at the forefront of community education and prevention efforts, all while continuing to offer a full range of emergency, acute, chronic, therapeutic, and preventative care.

LifeBrite’s response to this public health crisis has all been under the leadership of Pam Tillman, administrator of the hospital.

A Team Committed to Protecting the People of Stokes

“I am nothing without the tremendous team here,” says Tillman. “I feel very blessed to have them, and they definitely deserve the credit for the good that’s been done here this year.”

She recalls a meeting she held with her managers, back in March 2020, when she could see that hard times were ahead. She told them, “There’s so much we don’t know, but we’re not going to come through this unscathed.” Tillman knew that COVID would likely impact her team directly and personally, and she gave them an opportunity to resign if the challenge ahead was too much to bear.

None of her managers left. Everyone committed themselves to doing whatever it took to protect the people of Stokes through whatever this public health emergency might bring.

A Calling to Help and to Heal

“If you do what you love,” says Tillman, “it doesn’t feel like work.”

From an early age, Tillman knew she liked to help people. When she was in the 6th grade, her grandfather became very ill, and Tillman helped her family care for him. “He said I would be a good nurse,” she says.

The idea stuck with her, and, after graduating from high school, Tillman went to college for nursing then started her career. More than two decades later, there’s still nothing she enjoys more.

“There’s just something about a patient who you’ve just helped looking you in the eye,” says Tillman, “and knowing you’re getting that sincere ‘thank you’… there’s just nothing else to compare to that.”

While her position today includes leading her staff, coordinating with the Stokes County Health Department, and managing compliance requirements, she still stays directly involved in patient care.

“I can be out in any of the units at any time,” she says, “helping troubleshoot patient care issues in the hospital or the nursing home, jumping in to help an ER patient, or getting an IV stick that nobody else can get started.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, with the hospital’s resources stretched to the limit, she has frequently stepped in to cover nursing shifts. She happened to be working a third shift in the ER when the hospital admitted its very first COVID case, and she was the nurse assigned to that patient. “God meant for me to be there that night,” she says, “whether I wanted to be or not.”

It has all made for some very long days, but Tillman and her team are driven by a mission to protect their patients and their community.

The Critical Role of Rural Hospitals

Tillman is passionate about the importance of rural hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes giving ready access to quality care.

“At the rural hospital level, I want to use my whole skillset to make sure the hospital is running as efficiently as it can. And, for each individual patient who’s presented to us for care, I want to make sure we’re doing the best we can by them.”

For the people of Stokes, Winston-Salem is an hour’s drive away. “But for some of our elderly folks who have more medical problems, for them to get into a car and navigate the curvy roads to Winston, then navigate the parking deck and a big hospital… it’s almost overwhelming,” Tillman says. “You find that they choose to not get care rather than to navigate that system. So to be able to drive up to a door, to come in and know the people taking care of them, especially for their basic care, is very important.”

For emergency care, where minutes can mean the difference between life and death, local access to care is essential. And even for patients who end up needing transfer to Winston-Salem, LifeBrite’s ER provides life-saving stabilization prior to transport.

“One of the folks who we vaccinated not long ago said, ‘I just want to thank you all for being here because my wife wouldn’t be here if y’all hadn’t been,’” says Tillman. The man’s wife had had a severe reaction to a bee sting, and LifeBrite’s ER had saved her life.

“Other folks say, ‘You all got us stabilized here. We had to go on to the big hospital, but they said we would probably have died if you hadn’t been here.’”

Stepping Up to Provide Vaccines and Hope

For Tillman, the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines has made LifeBrite even more crucial to the Stokes community.

Back in the fall of 2020, when officials from the North Carolina state government were planning for the distribution of vaccines, Tillman made sure LifeBrite was first on the list. It began with LifeBrite’s nursing home medical director and pharmacist securing it for the Stokes County Nursing Home. Soon after, the state was asking LifeBrite’s family medicine clinics in Danbury and Pine Hall to serve as vaccine sites for their communities.

Tillman responded by asking if, in addition to the clinics, LifeBrite Community Hospital could become a vaccine site as well.

“Everybody felt like we should,” she says, “so we stepped up for the fight, and it’s about trampled us down, but it really has been fulfilling.”

Across LifeBrite’s facilities in Stokes, several thousand of Stokes’ 47,000 citizens have already been vaccinated, sometimes more than one thousand in a day.

Tragically, as Tillman had predicted, the crisis recently became very personal for her team. One of her staff members lost her husband to COVID-19.

“We wished we could have saved her husband,” says Tillman. “We were dealt a blow by COVID, but it felt good at least to know we were doing something by getting the vaccine into arms.”

The Healing Power of Nature

Tillman hasn’t taken any time off since the pandemic began, though she still escapes to her back yard to garden on the old family farm she and her family still live on.

When the crisis is over, she looks forward to traveling again in her camper to visit National Parks. “We have a beautiful country,” she says.

She also wants to spend more time at the beach. “There’s something special to me about being able to walk on the beach and see the ocean out there,” she says, “and know there’s a whole lot bigger picture than just us.”

For Tillman and her dedicated team, the days are long and hard, but they know it’s all in the service of a bigger picture: their community’s health.

Learn more about LifeBrite Atlanta-based LifeBrite, led by CEO Christian Fletcher. LifeBrite Hospital Group operates LifeBrite Community Hospital of Early, LifeBrite Community Hospital of Stokes, and Lifebrite Laboratories. To learn more about what LifeBrite Hospital Group is doing to make healthcare better, visit our homepage.