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Thursday
May252017

Hate Mondays? Blame your sleep Sunday night

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Sunday night is the worst night of the week for sleeping, according to a recent survey of nearly 4,280 Americas published by the app Calm.com.

Since your presumably lousy Mondays are presumably caused by being tired, this is important. And you're not alone: nearly half of those surveyed say they have the worst trouble sleeping Sunday compared to other days of the week.

"Many people go to bed later on Friday and Saturday nights and then sleep in later on Saturday and Sunday mornings," says Steve Orma, clinical psychologist and insomnia specialist. "So, when they go to bed on Sunday night, they’re often just not tired. And then when they can’t sleep, they start to think about why they’re not sleeping, which only makes things worse."

While sleep deprivation has been linked to all manner of health issues, from obesity to heart disease, take comfort in one thing as you drift off tonight: Thursdays are the best nights for sleep, the survey reveals.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
May242017

Poor sleep is linked to higher death risk in those with heart issues

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Diseases of the blood vessels supplying the heart and brain tissues are leading causes of death among Americans.

And while researchers have known that things like metabolic syndrome -- high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol and/or triglycerides, high body mass index and high blood sugar -- and poor sleep increase the risk of these diseases, the true impact of these other factors has remained poorly understood so far.

Researchers at Stanford University examined these metabolic risk measures, along with sleep duration, in more than 1,300 individuals using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's death records and the National Death Index.

They then tracked their survival about 16 years later. Stanford researchers found that individuals who had three or more metabolic risk factors and slept less than six hours nightly were twice as likely to have died compared with those with similar risks but who slept more than six hours a night.

Most importantly, high blood pressure and blood sugar issues were most strongly tied to this increased risk.

Click here for more information on the article in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
May242017

Mom surprised with honorary degree after helping quadriplegic son complete his MBA

Courtesy Judy O'Connor(NEW YORK) -- A mother who attended every class with her quadriplegic son so he could pursue his Master of Business Administration (MBA) was surprised with her own honorary degree at her son’s graduation.

“I was just blown away,” Judy O’Connor said of the honor. “I’d been in the trenches with his fellow grad students for two years and gotten to know them so it was really special.”

Judy O’Connor, a retired elementary school teacher, relocated from Florida to California in 2013 to care for her son, Marty O’Connor, who was paralyzed a year earlier after falling down a flight of stairs.

Marty O’Connor was a former competitive athlete who had a promising career in sales at the time of his accident. After spending nearly two years focused on his physical recovery, Marty O’Connor said he was ready for a new challenge.

“After a certain point I realized that physical therapy wasn’t going to be the end all answer,” Marty O’Connor, 29, told ABC News. “I was ready to take on another mental challenge.”

When Marty O’Connor decided to pursue an MBA degree at Chapman University, in Orange, California, his mom was right by his side.

Judy O’Connor attended every class, tutoring session, group study session and more with her son over the course of his two-year MBA program. When Marty O’Connor had a question in class, it was his mother who raised her hand for him.

Judy O’Connor also took notes and wrote test answers for her son, who uses an iPad, laptop, voice recognition software and a mouth stick to communicate.

“I did it willingly,” said Judy O’Connor, who has an undergraduate degree from Notre Dame. “When a spinal cord injury happens, you want to swoop in and make everything better and you can’t.”

She continued, “This was something that I could do for my son and I was really happy that I was able to help him in that way.”

Judy O’Connor said she watched a “total transformation” of her son as he redefined his future through his education. Marty O’Connor excelled in the MBA program, making it into the Beta Gamma Sigma honor society and receiving the business school’s nomination for Chapman’s outstanding graduate student award.


While being recognized for his accomplishments earlier this year, Marty O’Connor had the chance to meet with Chapman University president Daniele Struppa. During that meeting, he made a formal nomination for his mom to receive an honorary MBA.

“When Marty came to me asking if Chapman could present an honorary degree to his mom – and to keep it a surprise – there was no hesitation to make this happen,” Struppa said in a statement to ABC News. “The provost, the dean and the faculty senate immediately approved my request. The dedication from both Marty and his mother in his pursuit for a Master’s in Business Administration is nothing short of admirable. We were more than happy to make this happen.”

After months of planning in secret with school officials, Marty O’Connor watched as his mom was surprised at his graduation last Saturday.

O’Connor stood behind her son’s wheelchair until a school official pulled her to the front and handed her an honorary degree.

The graduation announcer choked up while describing why O'Connor deserved the award. Afterward Judy O’Connor blew a kiss to the crowd that gave her a standing ovation.

"I was so touched that my son would do that," she said. "It was therapeutic for me to do what I did.”

Marty O’Connor has already secured a job as the head of corporate sponsorships for a youth action sports startup called DIVERTcity. He is still working out the logistics but plans to have a professional assistant help him in his new career.

O’Connor will continue as her son’s primary caregiver and may start tutoring again.

Both mother and son say their graduate school journey changed their lives for the better.

“We really formed such a great bond,” Marty O’Connor said. “I learned to be patient, more thoughtful and to ask for help.”

He continued, “We were able to accomplish so much more together than if I had just tried to muscle through it on my own. We were just able to do some great things together.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
May242017

Preschool teacher to give kidney to student’s father: 'She's giving me a second chance at life'

Darreld Petersen; Nancy Bleuer(NEW YORK) -- An Iowa dad will undergo a life-saving transplant thanks to his son's teacher.

Darreld Petersen, 34, will receive a kidney from Nancy Bleuer, 54, who is donating her organ to him on June 1.

"It's just amazing," Petersen of Mason City, Iowa, told ABC News. "There are people waiting every day for a kidney, for an organ in general. I wish there were more people like her. She's giving me a second chance at life."

Petersen, dad to 4-year-old Camden, said he learned in January that he had renal kidney failure and went on dialysis.

"It wasn't until I ended up going to the ER and my doctor, the next day during a follow up .. she noticed that my hemoglobin count was extremely low," Petersen recalled. "They did a biopsy that showed 20 percent [kidney] function."

Nancy Bleuer, an educator at Washington Charlie Brown Preschool & Childcare in Mason City, told ABC News that when she heard about Petersen's health issues, she volunteered to be tested as a possible donor. Soon after, she learned she was a match.

"I was really excited about it," Bleuer said. "I was ecstatic. I don't know what I would've done for closure if I wasn't [a match]."

Bleuer said Petersen was extremely grateful for her selfless gift.

"Here was Darreld [Petersen] and his son with a dozen huge roses and I'm crying but of course, it was very nice," she added. "The day he found out, I said, 'We're on, it's a go.' Then, he came over and hugged me and he said, 'Oh my gosh.'

She went on, "It was a very cool response and it's good to know that I'll be able to go to Camden's high school graduation one day and talk about this and think, 'Well, that was crazy.'"

Petersen and Bleuer will have surgery at University of Iowa Hospital next month.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
May242017

Girl pulled into harbor by sea lion treated for rare 'seal finger' disease

Hemera/Thinkstock(VANCOUVER, British Columbia) — A girl who was pulled into a Canada harbor by a sea lion is receiving medical treatment over concerns her broken skin could have been infected by a dangerous bacteria from the animal's mouth, according to officials at the Vancouver aquarium.

A video that has gone viral showed the young girl pulled into the water after a sea lion grabbed her white dress. The girl, along with a man who jumped into help her, were quickly pulled to safety. But marine life experts warned they could have been exposed to a rare infection sometimes called "seal finger" from the encounter.

The family contacted the Vancouver Aquarium for help, after one of the facility's mammal trainers spoke about the condition during several interviews over the weekend, according to aquarium spokeswoman Deana Lancaster

"The family saw the media reports and got in touch with us. She did get a superficial wound and she’s going to get the right treatment," Lancaster told ABC News.

Seal finger infections are caused by different kinds of Mycoplasma bacteria, which live naturally in the mouths of sea mammals like seals and sea lions, according to a 2009 published case report. Exposure via a cut in the skin can often result in cellulitis or a soft-tissue infection and untreated infections that become severe can lead to loss of fingers or limbs.

"If any member of our animal care team receives a bite from a sea or sea lion, they take a letter from our vet with them to the hospital, which explains that the infection is resistant to some antibiotics," Lancaster told ABC News, explaining the condition can be "painful and potentially debilitating."

The infection which has also been called "spekk-finger," which means blubber-finger in Norwegian, can be tricky to treat. Mycoplasma bacteria are the smallest form of bacteria and do not have a cell wall, which is the primary target for many antibiotics like penicillin.

Other types of antibiotics, including tetracycline, can be used to treat the infection if it is diagnosed properly. Prior to antibiotic treatment, many seal hunters would risk losing fingers or hands to the disease.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
May242017

Foster parent shortage dire as heroin overdoses rise

Melissa Nathan Cutchin(WASHINGTON) — The opioid epidemic that has hit communities across the country with overdoses and crime is having another, less visible but significant impact: overloading the foster care system with children taken from the homes of suspected drug users.

A rising number of children are being removed from homes across the country where caretakers have been accused of using opiates, according to the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), taxing foster care systems that are ill-equipped to take in so many children in such a short period of time.

In a policy brief from July 2016 titled "Families in Crisis," the HRSA stated that the National Advisory Committee on Rural Health and Health Services “is concerned that the opioid crisis could exacerbate child abuse and neglect given that we’re seeing a link nationally. State child welfare systems have reported that they are experiencing an increase in families coming to their attention with substance use problems impacting their ability to safely parent.”

One Florida community has been hit particularly hard by this phenomenon.

Kathryn Shea, a licensed clinical social worker and president of the Florida Center for Early Childhood, told ABC News the problem is especially acute in Florida’s Judicial Circuit 12, which includes Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties.

“The little ones in foster care are coming in enormous rates right now because of their parents’ heroin addictions,” she said.

In July 2015, this circuit administered a record 281 doses of Narcan (naloxone), an opiate antidote that blocks the effects of opioids and reverses an overdose, a number confirmed by the Florida Department of Children and Families. But then came July 2016, when the number of doses more than doubled to 749.

Changes in the law in 2012 on opioid prescriptions and the creation of the prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) shut down clinics and forced many addicts to the streets to find their next high, creating a demand for drugs like heroin and the increasingly popular fentanyl, according to Capt. Todd Michael Shear of the Special Investigations Division at the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.

“Synthetic opioids have now driven the cost of heroin down,” Shear said. “A hit of heroin typically goes for approximately $15 on the streets. An opioid pill goes for $30 plus.”

Simultaneously, Circuit 12 has also seen an increase in the number of children removed from their homes and placed in foster care.

"For Circuit 12, we have had the highest child removal rate over the last three years," Brena Slater, vice president of the Safe Children’s Coalition, told ABC News. "The main issue has been due to the substance abuse ... it started out a couple of years ago as pills and we've seen an enormous progression into heroin."

Florida foster homes are only licensed to house five children at a time, a cap that is often exceeded in Florida’s Circuit 12, according to Shea, the licensed clinical social worker.

Connie Keehner, child protective investigation supervisor for the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, said, “Our foster care homes are so saturated, we just don’t have enough left.”

There are only 159 foster homes registered in Circuit 12, Slater, of the Safe Children Coalition, said. But between 2013 and 2014, the Florida Department of Children and Families removed 395 children from their homes in the area.

The state removed 880 the next month, more than double.

After children have been removed from their homes, parents have about 12 months to work a case plan; the national standard is that 75.2 percent of children should be reunified with their parents within the year.

While recovery and reunification are the ultimate goal, the risk of relapse is a very real possibility, Shea told ABC News.

The shortage of foster parents and homes in the area stems from a variety of reasons, Shea explained. It is a long and difficult process filled with home studies, classes and background checks to, ultimately, be approved. The pay is low at $417 a month per child, and many of the children display aggressive behavior or require special needs care.

There is also the fear of attachment, bonding so much with the child and then having to say goodbye when it comes time for reunification or permanent placement.

But Florida seems to be making some progress toward easing the stress placed on foster homes and foster parents with an initiative called Early Childhood Court (ECC).

With the ECC model, the goal is to place children in permanent homes more quickly -- whether that is through adoption or reunification -- particularly when it comes to child welfare cases involving children younger than 3.

A study by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that the longer a baby or toddler lingers in foster care, the greater the chances they could become developmentally delayed. To that end, an infant mental health therapist skilled in child-parent psychotherapy is immediately assigned to the family, parents are also required to stand in front of a judge monthly as opposed to every six months, and there is frequent visitation involved with consistent check-ins on the progress of the family.

The model has proven to be successful in expediting reunification between parents and children. According to Florida's Dependency Court Information System (FDCIS), in 2015, the median number of days from removal to reunification for children up to 3 years old in out-of-home care statewide was 280 days, compared with 212 days for children in Early Childhood Court.

Meanwhile, the median number of days from removal to permanency statewide was 518, compared with 360 days for children in ECC.

In the past three years, the initiative has grown from covering two to 17 circuits within the state of Florida. Advocates hope the system will soon be implemented nationwide.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
May232017

How to talk to kids about the Manchester terror attack

iStock/Thinkstock(MANCHESTER, England) -- Parents and children learning about the bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, may find the violence especially troubling since the terror attack targeted a venue full of children and adolescents.

Disturbing news can be hard for parents to grasp, much less explain to curious children. Young people also consume their own media through Facebook and Twitter and may form their own impressions, leaving parents concerned about how to best provide support amid the frightening news.

Experts advise parents not to avoid difficult topics, but instead engage their children to help them make sense of scary events.

Dr. David Palmiter, professor of psychiatry at Marywood University in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and author of "Dr. David Palmiter's Blog for Hectic Parents" advises moms and dads to prepare themselves before rushing to their children’s rescue.

"We have to acknowledge our own craziness. No engaged parent is happier than their least happy child," said Palmiter. "If my kid is hurting, then as a loving-slash-crazy parent, what I want to do is jump in and make them stop. That has an effect, dampening the dialogue and losing the opportunity to have a kid learn how to cope with painful thoughts and feelings."

Instead, Palmiter recommends parents assess their own reactions and deal with their own distress early, like the airplane emergency instructions for adults to secure their own oxygen masks before helping children.

"I want to prepare myself as a parent to listen, to get a full vetting before I say word one," he said.

Kids can have various reactions to trauma, he said, and advises that parents allow children guide the conversation.

"I would let the kids know that they’re willing, available and interested to talk about it if the kids would like to talk about it," Palmiter said. "Sometimes kids are like adults; they cope by not talking about things."

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends limiting exposure to media violence, which can cause further trauma. Very young children may not understand that they are seeing the same event over and over and instead experience each replay as a separate horrific event.

When children are ready, Palmiter recommends reflective listening plus empathy to generate what he calls "companioning," or listening side-by-side. If they ask for information, Palmiter advises selecting what to tell children based on their age and developmental stage. Well-adjusted adolescents can even help out parents by listening to the fears of their mother or father.

"The older the child, the more developmentally healthy the child, the more I’m going to be talking about my own pain," he said.

But Palmiter warns against fudging the truth with kids.

"I’m never going to say anything untrue because that will damage my credibility, because it will stop them from coming to me," he said.

Warning signs that a child is not coping well with a traumatic event or news may become apparent.

"The only time I worry is if a kid starts changing in their ability to meet developmental targets," he said. Some examples are missing sleep, eating poorly or changing behaviors around friends and at school. Mild to moderate cases normally settle down in a week or two. Beyond that, Dr. Palmiter suggests seeking professional help.

The American Psychological Association (APA) also advises parents to take action to life children's spirits. This can include giving back to the community, donating to those affected by tragedy or other good acts.

Robin Gurwich, a psychologist at Duke University, said in an earlier interview that getting involved in either a faith-based community service, talking to a friend or seeking professional help can all be ways to cope with frightening news.

She also advised taking breaks from watching the news.

"You can bear witness and do something and taking a break from it, it doesn’t mean you’re uncaring," she said in an interview last year. "While we have different levels of what we can watch, everybody needs a break from it. Watching it nonstop is not helpful for anyone."

More information about helping children cope with traumatic events is available via the AAP and the APA.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
May232017

High school student wins scholarship, gives it to cancer survivor 

Denise/S.L. Bradley (AUSTIN, Texas) -- Texas high school student Chase Bradley wasn't just inspired to raise money for cancer research. He also donated his scholarship money to a fellow student who had recently overcome the disease.

Chase, 17, a junior at Hyde Park High School in Austin, Texas, gave away his prize to survivor Sergio Garcia, 18, since his sister, Hunter Bradley, also beat cancer five years ago.

"I remember my dad told me, 'Chase, your sister has cancer,'" Chase told ABC News. "I didn't know what it meant at the time. I didn't know what it meant for a family. I remember being in my her hospital room, trying to keep a straight face and not cry in front of her. It was a very heartbreaking setting. I gave my sister a hug and it was very overwhelming."

This year, Chase joined 13 other students in the Austin area to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Chase was awarded the $2,500 scholarship money after raising $57,000 for the society in seven weeks.

"He started a letter writing campaign, phone calls, emails, social media and reached out to friends and family and a lot of people who have followed our daughter's story," Chase's mom, Denise Bradley, told ABC News.

The fundraiser was part of his school’s “Student of the Year” competition. Chase said he knew he was going to give the $2,500 away to a cancer survivor even before he won the scholarship.

"I knew I couldn't keep this scholarship because cancer -- it doesn't impact just that one person," he said. "The last thing they want to worry about in fighting cancer is having enough money to go to college."

After receiving the scholarship, Chase and his family asked the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society to help identify a high school student area who had battled cancer and could benefit form having a college scholarship.

The society connected Chase to Sergio Garcia. Sergio was diagnosed with leukemia in 2013, but has been cancer-free for almost two years, he told ABC News.

On May 8, Chase handed the scholarship over to Sergio during an end-of-the-year awards ceremony at Hyde Park High School.

"It was just absolutely moving," said Denise Bradley. "Chase called Sergio to stand up next to him and told Sergio he respected and admired his strength during his cancer battle and he handed the scholarship over to him."

Chase's father, S.L. Bradley, said he was pleased with his son's kind act.

"He was sacrificing for a greater cause," S.L. Bradley told ABC News. "Because of this, I was really proud of what he's done."

Sergio said he was very grateful to accept Chase's scholarship.

"It was something really nice that he did for me and I didn't even know him," he added. "We've become really good friends after that. [I plan] to pay some of my tuition for college."

Sergio will attend Austin Community College in the fall to study architecture before transferring to a 4-year institution, he said.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
May232017

Manchester attack victims include 8-year-old girl 'loved by everyone'

SWNS.com(MANCHESTER, England) -- The day after a devastating bombing in Manchester killed at least 22 people at an Ariana Grande concert, officials and parents alike are grappling with the news that many of the injured and killed were young adolescents or children.

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May called the bombing a "sickening attack" that targeted children and young people "who should have been enjoying one of the most memorable nights of their lives."

"We struggle to comprehend the warped and twisted mind that sees a room packed with young children not as a scene to cherished but as an opportunity for carnage," May said Tuesday.

The first two victims identified were just 8 and 18 years old, and at least 12 children under the age of 16 were seriously injured, officials said.

Saffie Rose Roussos

Among the dead is Saffie Rose Roussos, described by her teacher as a "beautiful little girl."

Saffie had become separated from her mother and sister during the attack.

Chris Upton, the headteacher at the Tarleton Community Primary School, where Saffie was a student, released a statement calling the girl's death a "tremendous shock."

"I would like to send our deepest condolences to all of her family and friends," Upton said. "The thought that anyone could go out to a concert and not come home is heartbreaking. Saffie was simply a beautiful little girl in every aspect of the word. She was loved by everyone and her warmth and kindness will be remembered fondly. Saffie was quiet and unassuming with a creative flair."

Upton said the school will be calling in specialists to help students and staff cope with Saffie's death.

Georgina Callander

Runshaw College confirmed that the 18-year-old college student was among the victims.

"It is with enormous sadness that it appears that one of the people who lost their lives in Monday’s Manchester attack was one of our students here at Runshaw College," school officials said in a statement posted on Facebook. "Georgina Callander was a former Bishop Rawstorne pupil studying with us on the second year of her Health and Social Care course. Our deepest sympathies, thoughts and prayers go out to all of Georgina’s friends, family, and all of those affected by this loss."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
May232017

Special ed teacher surprises her student with graduation cap and gown, tears ensue

ABCNews.com(GRIFFIN, Ga.) -- It was an emotional moment when special education teacher Kimberly Wimbish surprised her student, Jamias Howard, 19, with his graduation cap and gown -- an accomplishment that certainly had its challenges along the way.

“Oh man, thank you,” Howard told Wimbish in her touching Facebook video that has now gone viral.

“Congratulations,” she replied through the car window.

“Appreciate it, ma’am. I love you so much,” said an overwhelmed Howard. “Thank you so much for everything you do for me. Appreciate it.”

After his devoted teacher reminded him about his graduation rehearsal at 8 a.m., Howard can be seen wiping away tears as he once again told her, “I love you so much.”

Getting to this heartwarming moment was no easy feat for these two, however.

“Jamias has had his challenges. He had additional challenges that wouldn’t afford him the opportunity to come to school to be educated,” Wimbish, a teacher at Griffin High School in Georgia, told ABC News. “I saw need, and I was able to fulfill that need. I had no problems volunteering to try to help him graduate.”

So that’s exactly what she did, meeting Howard for private tutoring after she finished teaching a full school day.

“We’d meet at the local library or a local park or Burger King, wherever he could walk to,” she said. “We’d go through lessons and I’d grade him and I’d teach him. He really worked. When I found out he had enough credits, I was just about to explode with excitement.”

Wimbish is used to dealing with difficult student situations, but Howard was a “very special case,” she said.

“It was like he didn’t trust anyone and he had up a wall. And before you got him, he was gonna get you,” she explained. “It was a challenge. It looked like he was never going to graduate, like he wasn’t going to be able to pull it together. All I could see was things not going well for him from that point on, had he not been given an opportunity to get it right, been given another chance.”

She so badly wanted to afford him that opportunity, and after a few minor setbacks, “He put in his time, and he worked, and I worked, and Lord knows it was a challenge, but it was well worth it,” said the determined teacher.

Howard is now graduating high school on Saturday, proudly walking across the stage in his hand-delivered cap and gown.

“Everything he’s been through, the challenges he’s faced, he’s going to be happy,” she proudly said of her student. “I had no idea he would get so emotional. He always tried to be a tough guy, but I had to break those walls down.”

Now Howard is going to have a whole crowd of people cheering him on from the stands.

“So many people have reached out to me,” said Wimbish. “They want to come to crowd the stadium in an uproar when they announce Jamias’ name. I’m just going to be happy for him and his mother.”

But it will be a proud mother moment for Wimbish too, whose own son is also graduating in the same ceremony.

“I feel like I have two sons graduating,” she said.

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