Review Category : Health

Boy’s giggle fits turned out to be rare form of epileptic seizures

UCLA Health(LOS ANGELES) — For years, Justin Cho’s family thought they simply had a happy kid who liked to laugh, even when nothing funny happened.

“Ever since he was an infant he would giggle and it would be very short lived, anywhere between 2 to 5 seconds,” Justin’s father, Robert Cho, said on the UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital website.

However, these chuckles didn’t mean Justin was laughing. His giggle fits were actually seizures and a sign he had a rare form of epilepsy called gelastic epilepsy. The family realized something was wrong when Justin’s condition progressed and he had a full-fledged traditional epileptic seizure.

At UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital, doctors saw on an MRI scan that Justin, 9, had a benign mass, or lesion, in his brain. This lesion, called a hypothalamic hamartoma, can cause developmental delay, cognitive deterioration and psychiatric symptoms such as rage behaviors, according to the National Organization for Rare Disorders.

Dr. Aria Fallah, a pediatric neurosurgeon at UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital who treated Justin, told ABC News that the area where the lesion occurred is deep within the brain and vital to keeping the body functioning normally.

“The challenges of treating it is that medications don’t usually work, and left untreated it can cause cognitive impairment,” Fallah said.

Hypothalamic hamartoma is usually present since birth, but most parents don’t realize anything is wrong until years later, Fallah explained.

“It usually takes a long time,” said Fallah. “Not many parents think giggling is problem, they think ‘Oh my child is happy.'”

In order to help Justin recover without doing open surgery on his brain, doctors instead were able to fix the lesion by using laproscopic tools, which is much less invasive than traditional surgery. The hypothalmus is deep in the brain and near the pituitary gland. Any injury to this area can mean a dangerous brain bleed or ongoing issues later with growth, hormones and other issues.

Once inside the brain, surgeons were able to destroy the lesion with an optic laser, minimizing damage to other vital tissue. A long thin rod was inserted into the brain, and through virtual reality maping, surgeons were able to get the tool to the mass and minimize the harm to other areas of the brain.

“It heats up the tissue to the point till it’s destroyed,” Fallah explained.

After the lesion is destroyed, no new seizures are expected unless another lesion forms. Since the surgery is much less invasive, it also means less recovery time for the patient.

“There’s essentially no recovery time,” Fallah explained to ABC News. “By the time he wakes up, he almost ready to leave.”

Now, six months after the surgery, Justin has had no new seizures, according to Fallah.

“Prior to this you’d see bursts of himself,” Fallah said. “Now he’s more of himself.”

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Julianne Hough wants to start ‘open conversations’ about endomitriosis

ABC/Eric McCandless(NEW YORK) — Julianne Hough hopes being vocal about her struggle with endometriosis will help more women feel comfortable talking about their own experiences. In an interview with People, she talked about her diagnosis.

“When I was 15, I had symptoms of endometriosis, but I had never heard of it, didn’t know what it was,” she said. “I thought that this was just the kind of pain you have when you’re on your period. For years, I was just thinking that it was normal and never really talked about it.”

After being rushed to the hospital in 2008, she found out about her condition and soon had surgery.

“The first initial thought was a little bit of fear because I didn’t know what it was, especially because it’s not talked about as much as it is today,” Hough said. “And then also relief because I was able to put a name to the pain, and know there were treatments and I could talk to my doctor and create a plan to help manage the pain.”

She’s now working with a campaign to raise awareness of endometriosis. She said it’s about starting an open conversation about symptoms.

“I don’t care about being private about this anymore because I really want the women that are going through debilitating pain to benefit from my story or this campaign,” the Dancing With the Stars judge said.

She’s made some adjustments since her diagnosis — she slows down when she needs to, and takes days off when necessary, but said she still leads an active, healthy lifestyle. Her fiancé, Brooks Laich, has been a source of support, Hough said.

“He’s amazing,” she said. “The first time he found out about it was because I was having an episode, and I couldn’t even speak. As soon as it passed, I was able to tell him what it was. Now he knows when I’m having a little episode, and just rubs my back and is there for me and supports me. There’s comfort in knowing that the people around me get it and understand, so I don’t feel like I have to push through the pain because I don’t want to look weak.”

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Can birth control pills protect women from cancer?

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Taking birth control pills has previously been associated with several non-contraceptive benefits. But now, a new study shows the pill can help protect women from certain cancers for decades after a woman stops taking it.

“This latest study reinforces what we have known for decades,” ABC’s Chief Women’s Health Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton said on Good Morning America Thursday. “But this study represented the longest follow up.”

“[Researchers] looked at 46,000 women, followed them up to 44 years and found that the risks of certain types of cancers were dramatically reduced. We’re talking lower risk of ovarian cancer, lower risk of endometrial cancer — which is a type of uterine cancer — and lower risk of colorectal cancer,” she added.

On the flip side, Ashton noted that taking the pill does slightly increase the risk of developing a blood clot.

“Some studies, though not this one, have shown a slight increase in the risk of cervical cancer and breast cancer but the breast cancer risk returns back to baseline after a woman stops taking the pill,” she added.

If you choose not to take birth control pills, there are other ways of reducing cancer risks. Ashton said pregnancy lowers the risk of uterine and ovarian cancer; avoiding obesity lowers the risks of ovarian, endometrial and colorectal cancer; and taking an aspirin can lower the risk of colorectal cancer.

New data also shows that removing the fallopian tubes can cut the risk of ovarian cancer, she said.

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High school student hailed as hero after performing Heimlich maneuver on classmate

School District of La Crosse(LA CROSSE, Wis.) — A high school freshman from Wisconsin has been hailed as a hero by his community after he performed the Heimlich maneuver on a fellow student who was choking on his lunch in their school’s cafeteria.

Ian Brown from La Crosse, Wisconsin, quickly jumped into action when his schoolmate, Will Olson, began choking and motioning for help.

“We couldn’t tell if Will was choking or if he was just laughing and coughing at the same time,” Brown told ABC News. “Eventually what started to give it away was the redness in his face and then the hand motions to his neck.”

Brown got up from his seat and performed the Heimlich maneuver four times on Olson until the food dislodged from Olson’s throat.

“I feel thankful that I had Ian, a friend, there that had the training to do what he did,” said Olson.

The incident was captured on surveillance video at Central High School. The video has garnered more than 80,000 views on Facebook after it was posted this week on the School District of La Crosse’s Facebook page.

The La Crosse Police Department issued a statement applauding the “lifesaving actions” of Brown, who is a member of their police explorer program. The police department said that Brown learned how to perform the Heimlich maneuver as part of his training as a police explorer.

“I felt I was just doing what I was trained to do,” Brown said. “I’ve wanted to be a police officer and that’s what they trained me to do and that’s what they told me to do.”

Michael Belott, a firefighter with the Cedar Knolls Fire Department in Cedar Knolls, New Jersey, told GMA that he believes Brown’s quick actions helped save Olson’s life.

“This student jumps right in and starts a quick intervention with those abdominal thrusts and the Heimlich maneuver procedure and definitely saves this kid’s life,” Belott said. “We can all say he did an excellent job taking that initiative.”

Choking is the fourth leading cause of unintentional, accidental death, according to the National Safety Council. The Heimlich maneuver has been credited with saving more than 100,000 lives since the technique was created in 1974.

Belott shared a few simple steps that he says anyone can use to step in and help with the life-saving maneuver: Remain calm, keep composure, call 911, ensure that someone is choking, check if something is stuck in a person’s airway that could be removed, and initiate five abdominal thrusts.

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White working class increasingly hit with ‘deaths of despair,’ report finds YORK) — The white working class in the U.S. has bucked a global trend of improved mortality rates in recent years as a host of factors including suicide, opioid addiction and alcohol-related liver disease have increasingly claimed lives.

A new report published in the Brookings Papers on Economic Activity focuses on looking at this trend of rising mortality and possible factors that have led to it.

“Ultimately, we see our story as about the collapse of the white, high school educated, working class after its heyday in the early 1970s, and the pathologies that accompany that decline,” the authors Anne Case and Angus Deaton, of Princeton University wrote in the report.

Case and Deaton both drew attention after publishing a 2015 paper that found the white working class has had growing mortality rates, while other groups including white people with college degrees continued to have declining rates of mortality. They now are expanding on the research to better understand that trend and to see if they can could come up with a preliminary hypothesis for the rise in mortality in this group.

According to the report, white non-Hispanic people of all ages show an increased mortality rate from 1999 to 2015 with some age groups seeing nearly a 50 percent rise in mortality rates. People aged 25-29 went from a mortality rate of 145.7 deaths per 100,000 in 1999 to 266.2 per 100,000 in 2015 and people aged 40-44 went from 332.2 deaths per 100,000 to 471.4 deaths per 100,000.

Case and Deaton found that while gains were made as fewer people died of heart disease and cancer, these gains have mostly stagnated and did not cancel out the rising number of “deaths of despair” or related to alcohol, drugs or suicide.

In 1990, France, Germany and Sweden outpaced the U.S. in these deaths which totaled approximately 40 per 100,000 from those countries. After 2000 white non-Hispanic people in the U.S. were far more likely to die of these causes then their foreign counterparts with the related mortality rate reaching 80 deaths per 100,000 people, according to the report. Opioids alone kill an estimated 91 people in the U.S everyday according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Case and Deaton theorize multiple factors have helped cause this worrying rising mortality rate, but are careful to acknowledge these are preliminary theories. They point out that while stagnating wages can lead to feelings of hopelessness and despair, they say there is not clear enough evidence that it was a sole factor. Instead they theorize that a steady deterioration in job opportunities for people with only a high school education as well as weakening social structures may have contributed to increasing numbers of “deaths by despair.”

The researchers say that automation and globalization diminished the opportunities for people with a high school diploma or less, while diminishing wages may have affected marriage rates and led to a rise of less stable partnerships. They also point to past studies that have found more people are moving away from the churches of their parents and grandparents to churches focused “seeking an identity” or no church at all.

“These changes left people with less structure when they came to choose their careers, their religion, and the nature of their family lives. When such choices succeed, they are liberating; when they fail, the individual can only hold him or herself responsible,” they wrote.

With longstanding forces possibly contributing to this rise in mortality rates, the authors have some suggestions but acknowledge little will be “quickly reversed by policy.”

“Controlling opioids is an obvious priority, as is trying to counter the negative effects of a poor labor market on marriage, perhaps through better safety nets for mothers with children,” they wrote.

Dr. Peter Muenning, the Director for the Global Research Analytics for Population Health at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, said public health experts have still been stymied by the rise in mortality rates for this group and for the drop in life expectancy in the U.S. overall.

Last December life expectancy in the U.S. dropped for the first time since 1993. He said the other times they’ve seen a dip in life expectancy include major traumatic events like the 1918 influenza outbreak, the break up of the Soviet Union and the rise of HIV in Africa.

“When we see a slowing and a decline that’s a huge warning sign for me,” Muenning said. “It’s not a one point blip and going down, it’s the long term trend of the slowing.”

Muenning said overall there is not a clear reason for the mortality increase or the drop in American life expectancy.

“It’s probably a multi-factorial problem but it seems like the inequality story is one of the bigger contributors.” Muenning explained that inequality and less opportunity is associated with an increase in mortality but it is difficult to pinpoint a reason why. Additionally he said it’s not clear that unequal opportunities for this group compared to others would explain such a large increase.

“We don’t really in public health have a strong explanation for why inequality kills people but it is correlated with mortality and higher crime … those correlations are not strong enough to explain something like this,” he said.

Additionally he points out that when life-expectancy decreased it was in part due to other factors that did not match up with the “deaths by despair” explanation.

“There’s lots of things like kidney failure and random things that have really increased over the last few years” to cause deaths, said Muenning. “That sort of in my mind deepens the mystery.”

While obesity has also been looked at as a factor, Muenning points out that other countries have experienced huge increases in obesity with mortality rates still decreasing.

“We should definitely be better than we’re doing,” he said.

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Cancer in young women and teens may harm future pregnancies, study finds

shironosov/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — More women who were diagnosed with cancer as teens or young adults are surviving — and many are having children of their own.

But their path isn’t always easy. A new study published on Thursday in JAMA Oncology finds women who survived cancer between 15 and 39 years old may have an increased risk of complications with
pregnancies and births, even years later.

Studies of girls who survived cancer up to age 14 have suggested that preterm birth and low birth weight babies are a risk, the authors of this study noted.

But this analysis is the first expansive study showing how women treated for cancer in childbearing age have fared with having babies, according to Dr. Ellie Ragsdale, an obstetrician and
gynecologist at the University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center.

She said that many women don’t realize that past cancer treatment could affect their future pregnancies.

“It’s generally a surprise to them,” Ragsdale said. “I think the biggest thing for us is making the patients aware that they can have the reproductive future that they want.”

Researchers from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill examined data from 2,598 women in the North Carolina Central Cancer Registry who had cancer as adolescents or young adults and went on
to give birth, as well as women who were diagnosed with cancer while pregnant.

They found that, overall, premature deliveries and newborns with low birth weight were more likely for this group compared to women who had not been treated for cancer in the past. There was also a
small, but statistically significant increase in the number of these women, who gave birth via cesarean section.

The mean time between cancer diagnosis and pregnancy was about 3.1 years and the mean age of women at cancer diagnosis was 28 years.

Certain kinds of cancer and treatments women received appeared to be associated with complications. Women who had chemotherapy without radiation were more likely to have prematurely born infants.
Cesarean deliveries were also increased among this group, compared to women without cancer. Women who survived gynecologic cancers by having surgery only, were more likely to give birth to preterm
infants. Additionally, women who had chemotherapy to treat non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and breast cancer were the most likely to give birth prematurely or have an infant with low birth weight.

Ragsdale said when women who have had cancer treatment come in to her office, high-risk specialists will work with them to understand how the cancer and treatment may affect their pregnancies.

“There is a lot of fear of ‘Can I have a healthy pregnancy?,'” said Ragsdale. She said some women are already given extra monitoring, but that further study may help oncologists figure out how to
best treat cancer, while minimizing harm to the reproductive organs.

Not surprisingly, women who were diagnosed with cancer while being pregnant had the highest rates of complications, but increased risk was also seen when there were months or years between cancer
treatment and pregnancy. The study authors theorize that chemotherapy treatments could impair cardiovascular or pulmonary function for some time.

They said more study would be necessary to assess risk for a wider variety of women, who may have been treated for various cancers and with many different treatments.

The authors suggest that counseling women who had cancer would help, both before they are pregnant and during pregnancy. Additionally, they recommend more long-term monitoring for these survivors.

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Teen gets bionic legs after being born unable to walk

WABC-TV(NEW YORK) — A teen born with a birth defect that prevented him from walking is now getting used to moving around on his own thanks to state-of-the-art prosthetic devices.

Christian Calamuci, 17, was born in South Africa with legs that bowed out dramatically, making it impossible to walk for long periods of time, according to New York ABC station WABC-TV.

“I couldn’t stand for more than two minutes, I couldn’t run,” Christian told WABC. “My legs, they didn’t bend.”

Laura Calamuci, of Staten Island, New York, adopted the boy from a South African orphanage as a child, according to WABC.

“His legs made perfect circles,” Calamuci told the station. She’s been trying to help her son get moving ever since.

After meeting with doctors in the U.S., Christian was told his best bet was to amputate his legs from above the knee and try using prosthetic legs instead.

“[The doctor] said, ‘Buddy, I don’t think your legs are cut out for this life, would you consider for having both of your legs amputated above the knee and getting prosthetics?'” Christian recalled.

The teen is now past surgery and using prosthetics that have computer processors in them that adapt to his stride. But the cost is substantial — $200,000 — and while insurance has covered some of it, the Calamuci family has been fundraising to cover the rest of it, according to WABC.

They are now working with the Emergency Children’s Help Organization on Staten Island, which is going to match up to $30,000 in donations to the family’s online fundraising page, WABC reported.

“This is whole new life for him and he deserves it,” Calamuci said, according to WABC.

The Calamucis did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

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Mom honors ‘the village’ that made daughter’s adoption possible

iStock/Thinkstock(WILMINGTON, N.C.) — A Wilmington, North Carolina, mom took the day of her daughter’s adoption as an opportunity to recognize the many people who were part of the journey.

“I met her the day she came into foster care,” Millie Holloman said of daughter Vera Wren Holloman, 5. “She was placed with another woman but I would watch her from time to time. I told the agency if she ever needed another placement or her case flipped to adoption, I wanted her.”

Holloman had just become licensed to foster and was working with the Bair Foundation. One of the women in the adoption-day photo shoot is Hilary Smith, the woman from that agency who had spent Vera Wren’s very first night in foster care with her.

“She [Vera Wren] was scared and Hilary helped her,” Holloman, 36, told ABC News. “She’s also the one who introduced me to Wren.”

Smith holds up a sign in the photo shoot that says, “Today I know that God is faithful.”

Holloman is also a photographer, and credits her sister-in-law with the idea of the photo shoot that included “the village,” which is how Holloman refers to the group of people who made the adoption, and the adoption-day photo shoot, possible.

There are many others: an aunt and uncle, supportive grandparents and cousins. But some of the most poignant photos are of those not typically seen in an adoption-day photo shoot.

There’s the social worker. The attorney. The judge who got to see a “happy ending.”

“It’s more than me and her,” the single mom said. “There were so many other people involved.”

More happy news for the Holloman family: Vera Wren is about to get a little brother. His adoption is expected to be finalized soon.

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Deadly Meningitis Trial: Ex-pharmacy head convicted of fraud, not guilty of murder

jarun011/iStock/Thinkstock(BOSTON) — A once-prominent drug executive was convicted today of racketeering and fraud but acquitted of murder for his role running the company that allegedly produced contaminated medicine that caused a deadly outbreak of infections including meningitis in 2012.

The jury today returned a mixed verdict in the trial of 50-year-old Barry Cadden, the former president and co-founder of the Boston-based New England Compounding Center, finding him guilty of
racketeering and mail fraud but acquitting him on all 25 counts of second-degree murder.

Cadden was accused by the government of creating a public health crisis as head of the NECC, where prosecutors said shoddy practices and unsanitary conditions doomed hundreds of people for whom the
company produced drugs.

The government says a total of 753 people across the country were stricken in 2012 with an epidemic of infections, including meningitis, after receiving contaminated steroid injections produced by
Cadden’s company, and 64 of them died.

One of those sickened with meningitis was 44-year-old Patricia Schmiedeknecht of Rhode Island, who told ABC News she still suffers from intense pain and continuous sickness five years later.

“I cry and I get angry,” she said. “My physical life is much different. I don’t have the energy that I used to. I feel extra pain. I have head pain.”

When investigators went to the NECC, they say they found filth, rusted equipment and insects in a facility turning out batches of contaminated medicine.

And as part of his alleged scheme to cut corners, prosecutors said Cadden created phony lists of patients, using names of people who were not customers, including Donald Trump, Calvin Klein and
Jennifer Lopez, in order to be considered a pharmacy with clients instead of a drug manufacturer, which is held to a higher standard.

During the trial, the prosecution also showed videos of Cadden telling his employees not to worry about state health inspectors.

“How can they come in and inspect me?” Cadden said in one training video. “They don’t even know what they’re looking at. They have no clue.”

Cadden’s laywer Bruce Singal called it a “disgrace” that Cadden had faced any murder charges.

“We said from Day one of this case that these murder charges were unjust, unwarranted, and unproveable and we are pleased that today’s verdict vindicates Barry on them,” Singal told ABC News.

Cadden remains free on bail while awaiting his sentencing, which is set for June 21.

Kathy Pugh, whose now-deceased mother was sickened for years before ultimately succumbing to health complications from the tainted medication, called on the judge to impose a harsh sentence.

“If he gives Barry Cadden maximum time, he will send a signal to other CEOs of major companies, whether it’s pharmaceutical, automotive, or whatever,” she said. “It will send a signal that they
can’t get away with this.”

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Shelter dog rescued from abuse gets job in airport customs department

Alcovy Pet Rescue(ATLANTA) — An abused shelter dog is starting a new chapter in life at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport customs department.

Murray the beagle came to the Northeast Georgia Animal Shelter more than a year ago, and he was in bad shape, according to shelter director Tammie Jourdanais. Murray had a band on his tail, as if somebody had been trying to shorten it, and half of one of his ears missing.

Jourdanais said Murray was brought to the shelter after he had been found outside.

“He was very scared and nervous,” she said. “You could tell he’d not been socialized much. We just gradually worked with him and gave him more love and attention.”

After receiving medical attention, Murray then moved to Alcovy Pet Rescue, which placed him in a foster home. There, his abilities truly started to show.

“[His foster owner] recognized his ability to sniff and search out food,” Yvonne Petty, director of Alcovy Pet Rescue, said. “He was constantly smelling everything and getting into cabinets. He was just very interested in that kind of thing.”

Petty said her shelter has had several dogs move on to work in customs at other airports and these signs are typical of a dog who is inclined toward that work.

“A lot of times when a beagle is that active, they’re a good candidate,” she said.

Murray then entered training with the United States Department of Agriculture. During this training, Petty said he got along well with the handlers.

“They’re very good with these dogs and that’s why we work with them,” she said. “He’s a great dog. Even when they’re done training, he still wants to work.”

Murray graduated from training on March 16 and will soon start work at the airport. There, he will join the ranks of other dogs who scan luggage for prohibited plants and foods. His story, Petty said, shows that any dog can move forward from a troubled past.

“He’s done so well and we’re just so amazed at what a transformation he [made] from being abused … to overcoming all that,” she said. “You can really find great dogs in animal control instead of going out and buying them.”

Jourdanais agreed and said she’s thankful Murray started in her shelter and not one where he would have been euthanized due to his injuries.

“It’s one of those stories that makes what I do rewarding,” she said. “They always say ‘poor shelter dogs,’ but these poor shelter dogs can really do things in the world.”

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