Review Category : Health

Mother and Son Born Without Arms Spread Hope with Special Bond

Courtesy Linda Bannon(CHICAGO) — A Chicago mother and son who were both born without arms are an inspiring testament to overcoming obstacles.

Linda Bannon, 37, and her son Timmy, who turned 11 on Monday, were born with Holt-Oram syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that causes abnormalities of the upper limbs and heart.

“I think there’s much more of a special bond between me and Tim than your average mom and son,” Linda Bannon told ABC News Tuesday.

Although she was born without arms, Bannon said her parents never treated her any different from her four younger siblings who were not born with the disorder.

“I was always expected to do chores and participate with the family activities like all the other kids,” Bannon said. “I just had to adapt and learn how to use my feet how other people use their hands.”

When she was about 5 or 6 years old, Bannon was fitted for prosthetic arms at Shriner’s Hospitals for Children in Chicago, but she preferred not to use them.

Bannon thrived. She went on to receive a degree in elementary education and eventually married her husband Richard in 2004.

Soon after, the couple became pregnant. But like his mother, doctors said the baby would too be born without his arms.

“Because they were looking at the presentation of no arms and the heart anomalies, they said that it was an indication of Holt-Oram syndrome,” Bannon recalled. “In the beginning, obviously it’s kind of a shock. No parent ever wants to know that their child is affected with a condition that’s going to alter their life. For, the most part, knowing I grew up this way, and I feel like my life was pretty good — I didn’t have fears for him. The biggest fear was how serious his heart condition was. That was more concerning than his disability.”

On May 2, 2005, Timmy was born. When he was 8 days old, he had open heart surgery and spent two months in the ICU.

Now at 11 years old, Timmy is a typical boy — energetic and outgoing, his mother said.

“Lately, he’s been referred to as Mr. President because he likes to be out with people talking,” Bannon said, laughing. “He doesn’t really shy away from social situations, so that how he’s gotten that nickname.”

She added: “He likes being outside, he definitely likes being very psychically active as much as he can be,” Bannon said. “Swimming, [riding] the modified bicycle — when we got that for him he was very excited because that meant he could keep up with everyone else on the trails.”

The mother-son duo use their feet for everything — to brush their teeth, comb their hair, draw a picture and more. Timmy even uses his feet to play video games.

Growing up, Timmy looked to his mother to show him how to improvise daily tasks by utilizing his lower limbs.

“We laugh because as much as I try to help him, I’ll say, ‘You’re doing it the hard way,'” Bannon said. “I think it’s funny because I’ve already done the legwork, so why reinvent the wheel? That’s been his personality since day one. One of our first doctor visits, I said, [Timmy] is just so stubborn.’ The doctor said, ‘No way, you’re kid is stubborn? I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.'”

Sara Klaas, director of business development at Chicago Shriners Hospital said she and the staff at the facility have been working with the Bannon family since Linda was a child.

“Over 30 years ago, Linda Bannon received our life-changing care and now, that same care and expertise are given to her son, Tim,” Klaas said. “Shriners Hospital for Children – Chicago is proud to touch generation after generation of children and families who need our world-class care..”

Timmy and his mom first grabbed the world’s attention six years ago, after Bannon shared their story with ABC Chicago.

Now, Bannon said she’s willing to continue spreading the word of their journey, as long as it keeps inspiring others.

“I think it really shows the power of the human spirit,” she said. “A lot of people will see someone with such a severe physical condition and think, ‘How is it possible to do all the things they’ve done?’ It gives [people] hope that even though they have challenges, as long as they have a positive attitude about it, then they’ll be able to conquer the same challenges.”

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Zika ‘Very Likely’ to Spread from Mosquitoes to Humans in US, Official Says

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Health officials stressed Tuesday that they are doing everything they can to minimize Zika outbreaks in the U.S.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institute of Health, said at a press conference Tuesday he thought it was “very likely” that Zika virus would spread from mosquitoes to humans in the U.S. in the future, but stressed that officials think the outbreaks will be constrained in the same manner as past domestic outbreaks of dengue fever and chikungunya.

And while a recent USA Today article categorized control of the mosquito that spreads Zika as a “lost cause,” Fauci cautioned against that mentality.

“Aedes aegypti is a very difficult mosquito to control and eliminate,” he said. “That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to have a significant impact on it — but it will require a very aggressive, concerted effort.”

The USA Today article pointed out that Aedes aegypti cannot be eliminated as effectively as some other species by traditional insecticide-spraying methods. But there are still other protective measures that the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, and the Pan American Health Organization can and will engage.

These organizations are working to “raise public awareness, have cooperation at the community level to get people to eliminate and diminish standing water of any type, as well as to push and try and utilize environmentally friendly larvicides and insecticides,” Fauci said.

There is also a trial underway that involves the use of genetically modified mosquitoes to help control Aedes aegypti reproduction, which is being overseen by the FDA.

Fauci pointed out that Zika virus itself is usually mild — but it is very dangerous for pregnant women and their fetuses, due to the risk that their babies will be born with a brain development defect known as microcephaly due to the virus.

“The focus is on pregnant women and making sure they’re not exposed to the virus,” CDC spokesman Tom Skinner told ABC News. “We want them to avoid traveling to countries with Zika and make sure they know about prevention of mosquito bites.”

Fauci also said that researchers are working on a Zika virus vaccine that will be given to humans in a study beginning in September, and that they would likely know if the vaccine is safe to use by the start of 2017 — though it could take anywhere from one to three years.

Speaking at the PAHO press briefing, Fauci stressed that the NIH and CDC need “$1.9 billion dollars because it’s critical,” referring to the money requested from Congress to combat Zika.

“What I have had to do is move money, hopefully temporarily, from other areas I would have spent it [on],” said Fauci. “We need to get the Zika money to work with Zika, and we need to backfill the money to other” areas of research.

Dr. Sylvain Aldighieri, Zika incident manager for PAHO, estimated that about 500 million people in the Americas are at risk to be infected by the Zika virus.

There have been no locally transmitted cases in the continental U.S. as of yet, but there have been over 400 travel-related cases. And there have been close to 700 cases in Puerto Rico, with 65 pregnant women having been infected.

The mild nature of Zika virus for those who are not pregnant presents a challenge for officials trying to communicate its risk, Fauci noted.

“How do you communicate the danger and the threat of a disease that is fundamentally and historically mild?” he said.

Another unanswered question: Scientists do not yet know the risk of a Zika-infected pregnant woman giving birth to a baby with microcephaly. An ongoing study of pregnant women, largely in Brazil, will help to answer that question once enough data has been collected.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Medical Errors May Result in More Than 200,000 Deaths, Study Finds

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Medical errors may be responsible for far more deaths than previously realized, according to a new study published Tuesday in the BMJ medical journals.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine found that deaths from medical errors may be responsible for more than a quarter of a million deaths annually. Data in the studies was taken from a combination of Medicare and 13 other hospitals, which researchers examined to determine that the estimated annual rate of deaths from medical errors is 251,454 in the U.S.

That number would make it the third leading cause of a non-violent death in the U.S. ahead of chronic lower respiratory disease which leads to 147,101 deaths annually, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Martin Makary, lead author of the study and professor of Surgery and Health Policy and Management at Johns Hopkins University, said he hoped the study would reveal how much needs to be done to address patient safety.

“I like many doctors have been aware that people die from fragmented care, diagnostic errors, preventable complications and the problem is serious,” Makary told ABC News. “The concern I had was ‘Why is this not a national funding priority…why does it receive a comparable fraction of the funding” for cancer or heart disease?

Makary pointed out that identifying medical errors after a patient’s death is incredibly difficult. In most cases when a patient dies their cause of death is documented by a physician. That medical cause of death is then assigned a code used in billing and it is this code that the CDC uses to measure mortality statistics. These measurements can often miss complicated deaths according to researchers pointing to a case where a final cause of death was unsuccessful CPR but the patient had suffered a liver laceration during unnecessary testing days earlier.

To come up with their number researchers used information from four past studies and then extrapolated the mean number from that data to determine that more than a quarter of a million deaths were likely related to medical error.

Makary said there should be better measurements to identify medical error and said this was not a case of doctor being bad at their job.

“This problem should not be framed as we have bad doctors, it’s a system problem…a failure to impact normal human error,” said Makary.

The American Hospital Association released a statement in reaction to the study pointing out a decline in hospital-acquired conditions in recent years.

“No matter the number, one incident is one too many. Important progress has been made since 2008, the latest year the study examines,” association officials said in a statement. “Most recently, the Department of Health and Human Services estimated that through the hard work of hospitals, physicians and others, hospital-acquired conditions declined by 17%, saving 87,000 lives between 2010 and 2014. Hospitals are constantly working to improve patient safety. But there is more work to do and hospitals are committed to quickly adopting what works into every step of care provided.”

Dr. David Classen, patient safety expert and associate professor at University of Utah, said this large analysis comes after years of data estimating medical error deaths at more than 200,000 and pointed out some studies have estimated it to be closer to 400,000 people a year.

“If you had this many deaths in aviation industry…you’d shut it down,” said Classen. “It’s amazing that in all these other industries we never tolerate this kind of death.”

Classen said it’s key that this report lead to increased funding and research into patient safety and especially identifying when there are errors. Classen is currently developing ways of using electronic medical records to keep real time data of medical error and said he thinks self-reported errors represent just 10 percent of the actual problems.

“We’ve reached a point where an average patient comes in on 20 medications and has 10 different med problems and it’s hard for anyone human to sort it out,” said Classen. “We now deliver care not by an individual but by teams because it’s way too complicated.”

Both Classen and Makary say it’s key that patients advocate for themselves in the hopsital and both recommend having family members or other caregivers go to a hospital with a patient.

Mary Burton, vice president of Performance Measurement at National Committee for Quality Assurance, said standardizing data and national reporting of causes of death could be key in helping cut down on deaths or injuries related to medical error.

“We would be supportive of that kind of message either on death certificates or potentially in some other standardized place in a record because of course not every medical error…results in death,” Burton told ABC News.

Burton said these studies should drive the medical community to take action to protect patients and improve hospital care.

“Why if we’re the first world…then shouldn’t we be passionate about patients safety?,” said Burnton. “Shouldn’t we be vigorous and unrelenting in terms of developing system improvements in regards to safe guards?”

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Safe Space for Opioid Users Reveals Changing Views on Addiction

iStock/Thinkstock(BOSTON) — A Boston homeless center has started a new program allowing people who use opioids to be in a safe space where they can be supervised after taking the drugs. The program joins a growing number of places which aim to use “harm reduction” strategies — leading people toward treatment and reducing the risk of overdose — in the difficult fight against a rapidly growing opioid epidemic.

Last month, the Boston Healthcare for The Homeless Program (BHCHP) started their initiative called Supportive Place for Observation and Treatment (SPOT) where people in the midst of an opioid high can go for support. Up to eight people will be allowed in the space at a time and they will be closely monitored by officials on site so that they don’t overdose.

“Currently, we are responding to 2-5 overdoses at our main site each week, and our lobby and clinic waiting room are already places where people rest safely in the midst of recent use of substances,” the center wrote in a recent statement on their site. “The street corners nearby are similarly filled with people who are also at high risk of overdose, and who may not be engaged with providers of health care or addiction services.”

“SPOT is one part of our larger response to lessen the impact of the opioid crisis on our patients, staff and the neighborhood,” officials from BHCHP said in a statement, adding that deaths from suspected opioid overdoses have increased by 50 percent, between 2014 and 2015, in Boston.

As overdose deaths have increased dramatically in recent years, mostly attributed to an epidemic of prescription painkiller addictions that can lead to intravenous heroin use, some health officials have advocated for simply reducing the immediate dangers for addicts.

In Ithaca, New York Mayor Svante Myrick has proposed a major initiative aimed at combating the opioid epidemic and hopes to open a supervised injection site — an option that currently exists in other countries, but not in the U.S. — so that addicts can use drugs in a safe space, to help diminish overdose cases and transmission of HIV or hepatitis through intravenous drug use. Seattle is considering a similar space.

Daniel Raymond, Policy Director at the Harm Reduction Coalition, said the spike in opioid drug use in recent years has lead to a major change in how some public health officials approach drug policy.

“A lot of these proposals reflect the state of crisis we’re in,” said Raymond. “The distinct thing with opioids and heroin is the immediate risk of overdose, the lethality. We’ve got the highest overdose numbers in the country that the CDC has ever seen.”

He pointed out that federal money is currently allocated to one of the early forms of harm reduction: needle exchange programs. These programs provide clean needles to drug users to cut down on HIV and other diseases transmitted through dirty needles. Many of these programs have informal policies to monitor addicts who are using drugs, as way to safeguard their health.

The changes at sites across the country, Raymond added, show an overall acknowledgement that more services need to be provided to people who are not yet fully sober or are looking for help to stop their drug use.

“As we learn more about addiction and treatment there’s a greater recognition that it’s not a magic bullet,” said Raymond. “Treatment is important and not magic.”

“We’ve got to something for people in the middle, that’s the space that harm reduction occupies,” he added.

Since 1999, the rate of overdose deaths involving opioids (including prescription opioids and heroin) almost quadrupled, with 78 Americans dying every day from an opioid overdose, according to the CDC.

Earlier this year, President Barack Obama proposed $1 billion to expand access to treatment for prescription and heroin use.

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Rescued Cat with Broken Jaw Learns to Smile Again

Duchess- the Miracle Kitty/Facebook(EL PASO, Texas) — Meet Duchess the “Miracle Kitty,” a cat with a broken jaw who’s learning to smile again and whose epic tale of survival is making the rounds on Facebook.

The young Siamese cat was originally rescued after being hit by a car last October, according to her owner, Crystal Tate, who works as a veterinary assistant at Adobe Animal Hospital and Veterinary Clinic in El Paso, Texas, the animal hospital that took Duchess in.

“The impact from the car broke her jaw, and seeing the condition she was in, most other places probably would’ve chosen to euthanize her,” Tate, 20, told ABC News Tuesday. “But the doctors here thought we she should give her a chance, so they attempted surgery to repair her jaw.”

Though Duchess’ “chances of survival were slim, she was a fighter and pulled through,” Tate said. “The day I first met Duchess, her mouth was just beginning to heal and the feeding tube had just been removed. She was very thin.”

Though the young cat’s “eyes showed so much sadness, her purrs showed so much love and hope,” she said, adding that she immediately fell in love with Duchess and took her home within a few weeks.

Duchess “has improved so much,” Tate said, explaining that whereas Duchess was once “lethargic and low energy,” she is now “spunky and playful.”

Tate added that Duchess loves playing and planning mischief with her other cat and two dogs.

“Duchess’ jaw is still crooked and it will be for the rest of her life, but it hasn’t crushed her spirit,” Tate said. “We are still learning her quirks and helping her live her new life, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.”

You can follow Duchess and her latest adventures on her Facebook page.

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Experts Find Insufficient Evidence to Recommend for or Against Routine Testing for Celiac Disease

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The nation’s top experts on preventive health do not recommend for or against routine testing for celiac disease, unless symptoms suggest it.

Celiac is an autoimmune disease in which the body reacts to gluten, a protein found in wheat. This disease affects approximately 0.40 percent to 0.95 percent of adults in the U.S., and the symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal pain, weight loss and malnutrition.

Although blood tests exist to screen for celiac disease, proper diagnosis relies upon biopsy — an invasive procedure.

The United States Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) concluded that there wasn’t enough evidence to recommend for or against routine screening for people without symptoms.

For those with no symptoms, there is little evidence on the short- and long-term impact of a gluten-free diet for those with or without the disease.

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Deceased Toddler’s ‘Tip Jar’ Inspires, Collects Thousands

Jessy Nahmias(NEW YORK) — Brandon Nahmias died when he was just 2 years old, but his life continues to have meaning, his mom Jessy Nahmias says.

She sold empanadas for years at food markets, and next to her empanadas, a simple tip jar stood with a picture of Brandon.

Brandon was born with Down syndrome and a heart condition that could not be corrected completely, despite surgery. Shortly after he turned 2, Brandon caught a virus.

“His heart couldn’t take it,” the New York woman said.

After his death, his mom said she “went numb for about two years. I didn’t want to live.”

But Jessy has two other children, and life had to go on. She wanted some way to honor Brandon.

“People would leave tips but I didn’t feel right about that,” Jessy said of her empanada stand. “So I put out the tip jar instead to try and raise money for other kids with Down syndrome.”

She collected thousands of dollars and donated it all to Gigi’s Playhouse NYC, a Down syndrome achievement center. “Brandon’s Tip Jar,” as it has come to be known, has improved the lives of many other children, said Benny Kaufman, program director at Gigi’s Playhouse NYC.

The tips, Kaufman said, “support free academic and recreational programs for other individuals with Down syndrome so that they can explore and define their potential. It’s helped kids like Brandon learn to read and make life-long friends, it’s helped parents receive the support they need, and it’s helped create welcoming communities and change New York’s perception of Down syndrome.”

The organization was so inspired by the enormous effect of Jessy’s simple jar that they created an online “virtual tip jar” in Brandon’s memory.

And Brandon’s short life continues to make a difference. Nahmias just opened her own shop, called Jessy’s Pastries, in Oceanside, New York.

She plans to hire people with Down syndrome to work there.

“That was my goal all along, to have a storefront and continue to help people with Down syndrome,” Nahmias said. “Brandon came here to show us all what we’re supposed to do.”

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Experts Recommend Against Routine Testing for Celiac Disease

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The nation’s top experts on preventive health do not recommend routine testing for celiac disease, unless symptoms suggest it.

Celiac is an autoimmune disease in which the body reacts to gluten, a protein found in wheat. This disease affects approximately 0.40 percent to 0.95 percent of adults in the U.S., and the symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal pain, weight loss and malnutrition.

Although blood tests exist to screen for celiac disease, proper diagnosis relies upon biopsy — an invasive procedure.

The United States Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) concluded that there wasn’t enough evidence to recommend routine screening for people without symptoms.

For those with no symptoms, there is little evidence on the short- and long-term impact of a gluten-free diet for those with or without the disease.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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“Biggest Loser” Winner Said Regaining Weight Felt ‘Shameful’

Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A former Biggest Loser winner said he felt “shameful” for regaining weight until a new study shed light on the difficulties of long-term weight loss.

Danny Cahill, a contestant on season eight of the weight-loss reality show The Biggest Loser, weighed 191 pounds at the conclusion of the show, dropping more than 200 pounds in 30 weeks.

After Cahill returned home and resumed his life, the weight started to creep back on. A study published Monday in the medical journal Obesity Biology and Integrated Physiology followed 14 Biggest Loser contestants after their remarkable weight loss and found that all but one had regained weight after the show ended. Nearly all of them had slower metabolisms than before their appearances on the show.

Cahill said he gained back 100 pounds and now has to work out three to four times as much as he did before he joined the show.

“I did feel like a million bucks for a couple years I kept the weight off completely. I wondered why others were gaining it back. I was working out two hours a day and riding my bike all over town to go where I was going,” Cahill told ABC News. “Once that stopped, the weight started creeping back on.”

The producers of the show responded to the study in a statement given to ABC News.

“We have comprehensive procedures and support systems in place which we routinely re-evaluate to ensure all contestants receive the best care possible. The lead medical doctor on the show, who has worked with the National Institutes of Health on initiatives in the past relating to The Biggest Loser, has been made aware of this most recent study and is in the process of evaluating its findings,” the statement read.

The study found that among those who lost an extreme amount of weight, their metabolism slowed greatly and they had less of a hormone called Leptin, which regulates hunger. The contestants now have to work harder to keep the weight off than someone of the same size.

Cahill admitted that his weight gain has taken a toll mentally.

“When you gain weight back, even when you’re in school it’s shameful,” said Cahill. “When you’re in front of America, then it’s 10 times as shameful.”

“When we found this out we were like, ‘Okay, some of it is not our fault.’ It is our responsibility but some of it has to do with this science,” he said, adding, “I’m going to do what David did when he tackled Goliath. I know there’s a bigger God out there that wants me to be well and I am going to do everything I can but I can’t do it all.”

Dr. Holly Lofton, assistant professor of medicine and the director of medical weight management program at NYU Langone Medical Center, told ABC News that she often prescribes Food and Drug Administration-approved weight-loss medications to patients after losing weight so they can control their hunger.

“Hunger is not a sign of poor willpower and it’s not a sign of cheating,” Lofton said. “There’s a lot of shame and guilt at the idea that they may not be able to keep the weight off on their own without medications or devices or surgery, because that is what the environment has taught us.”

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Doctors Advised to Treat Insomnia with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — People who suffer from chronic insomnia may be able to find relief without the help of drugs.

New guidelines published by the American College of Physicians (ACP) advise physicians to use cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) as the first-line treatment for patients with insomnia. CBT is a combination of therapy, behavioral interventions and patient education, and it can be done in person (individually or in groups), via telephone- or Internet-based modules, or through books.

In trials, CBT significantly improved several aspects of insomnia in all ages. Some medications improved insomnia symptoms at least a small amount, but others did not show significant benefits, and some drug therapies were associated with adverse effects.

In addition to recommending CBT for insomnia, the new guidelines advise clinicians to discuss the possible benefits and harms of drug therapy with patients if they need to prescribe it to those who did not improve with CBT alone.

While there was not enough evidence to say which approach was most effective, CBT is less likely to cause harm, so the ACP felt that it provides better overall value than drug therapy.

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