Review Category : Health

Kidney Transplant Turns Acquaintances Into Brothers

Courtesy Jason Henley(NEW YORK) — In September, Jason Henley, a UPS driver, made a life-saving delivery to Greg Hall, a man he barely knew.

Hall, 31, had often signed for deliveries at a UPS store on Henley’s route in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. In 2014, when Henley noticed Hall’s absence at the store, he asked about it. He eventually learned that Hall, a father and husband, had been diagnosed with kidney failure, was on dialysis and needed a transplant.

“Being a UPS driver gives me the opportunity to come into contact with a lot of people,” Henley, 35, said. “I got to know [Greg] as an acquaintance over a month or so period. … so when I got to know Greg and immediately heard that he was sick. … [I thought,] ‘How can I help him in that?’ … The only thing I knew was his last name and where he worked.”

Henley, also a husband and father, said he got tested, found out that he was a match and decided that he was going to donate his kidney to Hall.

“I blew him off at first, thinking why would you want to give me a kidney,” Hall said.

Ten weeks after surgery, both men said that they were thankful and that during the process, they’d also become pretty good friends. In fact, Hall and Henley also learned that they shared the same birthday.
“I don’t know how many times I’ve told him, ‘Thank you,'” Hall said Wednesday. “It’s a whole new life. … Life is great.”

Hall said, he’d recently gotten the doctor’s OK to return to work and Henley said that he planned to go back to work after Christmas.

“If I was able to do this all over again, I would,” Henley said. “I have been more blessed during this entire process, more than I could have imagined.”

“That’s my brother right here,” Hall said.

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Hero Military Dog That Saved Unit in Afghanistan Gets a Second Chance

Courtesy Julian McDonald(NEW YORK) — During her deployment in Afghanistan, U.S. military combat dog, Layka, saved many lives and now some of them are helping save hers.

Layka, a Belgian Malinois, lost one of her front legs when she was shot four times during an ambush in Afghanistan in 2013. Despite her wounds, the dog managed to save the soldiers from an attacker inside the building she was sent to clear.

Now 5 years old and adopted by her Afghanistan handler, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Julian McDonald, Layka faces the possibility of losing her remaining front paw from a bad ATV jump earlier this fall.

“It’s a big injury because she only has one leg,” said Rebecca Switzer of Oklahoma, who met Layka and her handler at an event more than a year ago. “She struggled along with one leg and now her other leg is in jeopardy.”

Switzer and her husband have been helping Layka get the care she needs since 2014, the year they met her and raised funds to get the dog a prosthetic leg. When she was injured this year, they again jumped in and helped get her to the University of Tennessee’s Veterinary Hospital, where she’s being treated for her broken paw.

“We love animals and we help a lot of animals,but she’s a hero, she saved our troops,” Switzer told ABC News. “She didn’t ask to go in, she was trained to go in. We’re just enamored with her and what she has been through in her deployment.”

Many of the donors for both fundraising campaigns are some of the soldiers she helped save during that ambush while in combat, Switzer said. It’ll be a long road to recovery for the “hero dog.”

“Before her second injury, she could still attack,” Switzer said, adding that Layka will have to live a calmer life from now on. “She still has a lot of rehab to do.”

Layka’s injuries are not only physical, she still gets on edge when hearing loud noises.

“That for her means something else,” Switzer said, comparing the sound of firecrackers to that of gunfire.

When she gets better, Layka will return to her handler. Attempts to contact the former ranger were unsuccessful, but in April he told ABC News Layka is “kind of my rock.”

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Drug With Controversial 4,000% Price Hike Will Be Sold Half-Off to Hospitals, Company Says

AlexRaths/iStock/ThinkStock(NEW YORK) — The pharmaceutical company that came under fire for raising the price of the anti-parasite drug Daraprim says it will significantly lower the drug cost for hospitals, but not the overall list price.

Daraprim, a drug by Turing Pharmaceuticals used to treat toxoplasmosis, had a list price of $750 per dose as of October 2015 — up from $18 per pill before Turing Pharmaceuticals bought the drug in August.

Turing CEO Martin Shkreli, under fire for jacking up the price, had said back in September that he would lower it, but did not give details at the time.

However, on Tuesday, Nancy Retzlaff, Turing’s Chief Commercial Officer, pledged that no patient would be denied the drug based on their inability to pay and announced various price cuts to hospitals.

“Combined with our robust patient access programs, this is an important step in our commitment to ensure ready access to Daraprim at the lowest possible out-of-pocket cost for both hospitals and patients,” Retzlaff said in a statement Tuesday. “We pledge that no patient needing Daraprim will ever be denied access.”

The company has a hotline for patients who want access to the drug. More than 60 million people carry the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis, however the vast majority will not require treatment because their immune systems are strong enough.

Daraprim is not the only drug available to treat toxoplasmosis and the CDC has a list of the different drugs that can be used to treat the disease.

The drug’s price for hospitals will be cut by 50 percent, physicians will get sample packages for free, and the company will participate in federal and state programs where the drug will be available for as low as $1 per 100 dose bottle, Turing says. These account for approximately two-thirds of Daraprim sales, according to Turing Pharmaceuticals.

However, the list price, which affects how much the pills cost at a pharmacy, will not change. The company has not responded to repeated requests for clarification on the list price since October.

“Drug pricing is one of the most complex parts of the healthcare industry,” Retzlaff said in a statement. “A drug’s list price is not the primary factor in determining patient affordability and access. A reduction in Daraprim’s list price would not translate into a benefit for patients.”

However, the company said that with programs to help patients pay for the drug, there should be no more than $10 in out of pocket costs.

The company says they have multiple programs so that patients are not priced out of buying the drug including working with Medicaid, federal and state discount drug programs and providing the drug free to uninsured patients who are at or below 500 percent of the federal poverty level with the patient assistance program.

Karen Andersen, a senior biotech analyst at the investment research firm Morningstar, told ABC News in an earlier interview shortly after Shkreli pledged to lower the cost, that the new cost will reflect multiple factors in how the drug is made and marketed.

“Shkreli will likely consider the cost of manufacturing, the number of patients who will take the drug, and any marketing costs,” Andersen said. “I would not expect the future price of Daraprim to subsidize the firm’s R&D investments, particularly considering that the drug was not a product of their R&D investment. … In this particular case, pricing is likely to become more a matter of public opinion than anything else.”

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Dangerous Chagas Infection from ‘Kissing Bug’ Found in Five States

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(ATLANTA) — A rare parasitic infection called Chagas disease has been gaining headlines in recent weeks after cases of the infection were reported in at least five states, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Chagas disease, which can cause long-term cardiac damage, is mainly found in rural Central and South America, but some experts are concerned that cases are beginning to rise in southern U.S. states. Infections have been reported in Arkansas, Arizona, Massachusetts, Tennessee and Texas, according to the CDC.

The disease is caused by the Trypanosoma cruzi parasite and is spread almost exclusively through bites from the triatomine insect, also called the “kissing bug,” since it usually bites around the eyes and mouth, usually when they come out to feed at night.

In rural Central and South America, the bugs are often found in the walls of homes made from mud, adobe or straw. The insect has also been found in other U.S. states but that does not necessarily mean the bugs carry the parasite, experts said.

Once in the body, the parasite can remain hidden for years, or even decades, eventually resulting in serious heart disease, including stretching of the heart muscle called cardiomyopathy or irregular heartbeat. Other early acute symptoms include fever, fatigue, body aches, headache and rash.

While the disease can lead to serious complications, the vast majority of those infected will likely not show any symptoms, according to the CDC, which estimated that 300,000 people with Chagas disease live in the United States. A spokeswoman for the CDC said the agency does not have data on how many people are infected within the U.S. versus those infected before they arrive.

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University, said since the virus can remain in the body for decades, it’s extremely difficult to tell when a person was infected and that most people in the U.S. with the disease were likely infected before arriving in the country.

“Once the bug gets into you, it goes throughout the body and sets up quiet housekeeping … in particular in the heart,” Schaffner said. “It smolders there for many years, anywhere from 20 to 30 years.”

The parasite resides in the insect’s intestinal tract and can enter a human bloodstream if a person scratches a bite and the parasite enters through the scratches. The disease is not spread from person to person.

In previous decades, cardiologists almost never saw the infection, Schaffner said, but anecdotally infectious disease doctors and cardiologists are encountering the rare infection more and more.

Patients in the U.S. may have been infected years before they arrived and as they age their immune system gets weaker, and they “may develop these illnesses of cardiomyopaty or arrythmia,” Schaffner said, noting the patients “had parasite silently traveling with them.”

While transmission in the U.S. is rare, Schaffner said that epidemiologists are on the lookout for a rise of the Trypanosoma cruzi parasite or the triatomine insect as temperatures rise due to climate change.

“That is a smoldering concern,” Schaffner said. “We’re concerned that the ecology will change and as we get warmer climates … we may see some more of certain kinds of infections and this might well be one of them.”

The infection can be treated with medication, but if there is tissue damage to the heart, that has to be treated with supportive therapies, he said.

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Beware of Thanksgiving Calorie Overload

IPGGutenbergUKLtd/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The Thanksgiving holiday often means spending time with family, watching football or parades, and eating turkey dinner until your pants are at risk of splitting. But if you’re concerned about literally busting a gut, we’ve compiled a few helpful tips on enjoying your Thanksgiving meal without the gluttony.

Should you eat a delicious turkey dinner with candied yams, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, cranberry sauce, gravy, bread and butter and a slice (or two) of pecan pie? Maybe not after realizing that you’ll be consuming at least 1,813 calories, according to the USDA.

And that number excludes all the hors d’oeuvres and alcohol factored in. A single deviled egg can add another 77 calories in just a few quick bites and a glass of red wine means another 125 calories, based on USDA estimates.

A hearty Thanksgiving meal will likely come in at 2,092 calories, more than the 2,000 calories recommended per day for a moderately active woman between the ages of 26 and 45. For a moderately active man between the ages of 26 and 45, the recommended daily calorie allowance is 2,600.

Jessica Bennett, an registered dietitian at Vanderbilt University, said what she finds most concerning is that many people use the Thanksgiving feast as a way to kick off a holiday season of eating.

“What I see a lot is they enjoy it and make excuses all throughout the holiday and then want to start something drastic in January,” said Bennett.

She said there are a few ways to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner without feeling stuffed. Bennett recommends looking at the entire buffet before going in and only picking the foods you’re most excited about.

She also cautioned against waiting to eat until the big meal is served.

“I would recommend having a small to medium size breakfast and lunch and having a healthy snack and some fruit and nuts,” Bennett said. “Drinking water is another trick to help.”

Bennett also recommends eating slowly, which can help your body signal fullness.

“If you eat fast you’re not going to get the signal that you’re full,” Bennett said. “Eating with your non-dominant hand can help you slow down.”

Bennett said holiday weight gain is real and that people gain on average of one to two pounds per holiday season.

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Study: Infant Deaths Attributed to Crib Bumpers on the Rise

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The number of babies who die because of crib bumpers appears to have increased in recent years, despite warnings from pediatricians, according to a new study.

Data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission show 48 deaths attributable to the comforter-like padding from 1985-2012. If you divide that 28-year span into four equal time periods, the first three show an average of eight deaths, while the last — 2006-2012 — shows 23 deaths.

The danger is suffocation, and most of the deaths were determined to have been preventable had a crib bumper not been used.

Another 146 non-fatal suffocation incidents happened during the 28-year span due to crib bumpers. The average age of those who died was 4.6 months; in non-fatal incidents it was 7.4 months.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended against crib bumper use since January 2008, and safety requirements have been in place for safe bumper design and use. Even then, deaths have not decreased and bumpers remain widely available and advertised.

The study, published Tuesday in the Journal of Pediatrics, goes on to recommend that the only way to prevent suffocation and near suffocation in children is to have the CPSC ban traditional bumpers for sale in the U.S. at a national level.

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Thanksgiving: Tips to Keep Your Food Safe

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year? Before you start cooking, make sure your hands are clean to avoid contaminating the food with any bacteria.

This is especially important after handling a raw turkey.

“[Y]ou want to make sure you wash your hands for a full 20 seconds,” says food safety expert Chris Bernstein from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

As for the turkey itself, washing it won’t make it any safer, Bernstein says.

“You should never wash a turkey or any meat for that matter before cooking. It’s nearly impossible to wash bacteria off poultry, not just turkey,” he explains.

Another tip to reduce the chance of contamination: Keep raw food away from cooked food. Make sure to use separate cutting boards and plates, and clean utensils, Bernstein says.

When it’s time to serve the turkey, make sure the meat has been properly cooked before bringing it out to your guests.

“For the turkey, that is 165 degrees and it should be checked in the inner most part of the breast, inner most part of the thigh and the inner most part of the wing,” Bernstein notes.

And if there are any leftovers, put them away in the fridge within two hours to make sure that no new bacteria grows, he says.

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Your Body: Are You Taking the Right Birth Control Pill for You?

Fuse/ThinkstockBy DR. JENNIFER ASHTON, ABC News Senior Medical Contributor

There are many types of birth control pills, so how do you know if you’re taking the right one for you?

While they all serve the same purpose, not all oral contraceptives are created equally. Combination pills contain both estrogen and progestin — the same hormones your body makes, just in different amounts.

Whether you’re on a generic or brand name version, you should look for two key things on the package: The dose of estrogen and the type of progestin.

To find the estrogen dose, look at the numbers. There will be a higher number, like 20, 25 or 30. I recommend trying the lowest number possible.

Next, look for the progestin. Ones starting with the letter “N” or the letter “L” have the lowest associated clotting risk.

Keep in mind that as a method of contraception, the pill has an 8 percent failure rate with typical use, so condoms are key if you don’t want to get pregnant.

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Cancer-Stricken Infant Kissed by Pope Responding to Treatment, Parents Say

Courtesy of Kristen Marie(PHILADELPHIA) — An infant battling brain cancer, who famously was kissed by Pope Francis during the pontiff’s historic visit to the U.S. this year, is responding to treatment, according to her parents.

Gianna Masciantonio, 1, was diagnosed with a rare form of brain tumor called systemic juvenile xanthogranuloma (JXG) months after being born, her parents said. Doctors spotted the inoperable tumor on her brain stem and told her parents she would likely not survive for more than a few weeks.

“Her life was a miracle,” Gianna’s father, Joe Masicantonio, told ABC News. “They told us to go home and spend days to weeks,” with her.

Gianna had been in hospice care since shortly after she was born, and when the infant developed cysts, an 11-hour operation to drain the cysts led to the rare diagnosis of JXG. Though the tumor itself is benign, the location on the brain stem is potentially deadly because it can affect Gianna’s ability to breathe and for her heart to beat, according to her mother Kristen Masciantonio.

Since the surgery, Gianna has been on multiple chemotherapy treatments to try and shrink the tumor, said her parents, who are devout Catholic.

The Masciantonio family celebrated when Gianna was kissed by Pope Francis during a parade in Philadelphia. Joe Masciantonio said the visit helped cement how important their faith was to them throughout this ordeal.

While Joe Masciantonio said Gianna’s tumor shrunk after her papal visit, he said he did not want to call it “a miracle” and that he also wanted to draw attention to her doctors at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Texas Children’s Hospital.

Kristen Masciantonio said the last courses of treatment occurred just before she got to meet Pope Francis. She said they were nervous about bringing her to the crowd but decided at the last minute to risk it.

“Pope Francis kissing her was my miracle, was the way of God telling me he was with us,” Kristen Masciantonio said.

Joe Masciantonio said Gianna will continue to undergo chemotherapy and the tumor remains inoperable due to its placement on her brain stem. He said for now the family is enjoying all the time they have with her.

“She’s the toughest baby I’ve ever seen in my life,” he told ABC News. “She’s our inspiration. She’s really the best little girl.”

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Costco Chicken Salad Linked to E.coli Outbreak, Says CDC

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — An E.coli outbreak that has sickened 19 people in seven states was linked to rotisserie chicken salad from Costco, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The report from the CDC — which says people fell ill between Oct. 6 and Nov. 3 — says five of those who have become ill have been hospitalized. Two people have developed a type of kidney failure associated with E.coli infection, the CDC said.

Although the investigation is ongoing, 14 people purchased or ate rotisserie chicken salad from Costco in the week before illness started, according to the CDC.

The CDC also said that it is not yet known which specific ingredient in the chicken salad is linked to the illnesses.

Consumers are advised to throw out any rotisserie chicken salad purchased before Nov. 20 bearing the label “Chicken Salad made with Rotisserie Chicken” with item number 37719, according to the CDC.

Costco did not immediately return request for comment.

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