Wheelchair-Bound Bride Determined to Walk Down the Aisle

Michael Blann/Thinkstock(ONTARIO, Canada) -- When Jennifer Darmon and Mike Belawetz get married next month, the ceremony will be especially emotional because Jen plans to get out of her wheelchair and walk down the aisle.

"It was Mike's idea," says Jen, 28, who was paralyzed in a 2008 car crash. "I was thinking there's no way I'm going to roll down the aisle. Mike said, why don't you walk with two people on both arms. They will be your crutches."

Jen travels three times a week from her home in Ontario, Canada, to the Detroit Medical Center's Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan for aggressive therapy designed to treat people with devastating spinal-cord injuries.

She and Mike, who has stood by her despite her paralysis, are recording her progress in a video diary, "Walk for Love," on the institute's website. There have been two episodes so far, with a third due to be posted on Tuesday.

They are making the videos to inspire other paralysis victims. "Somebody else might see it and it might motivate them to achieve their goals. Nothing is impossible," Jen says.

On July 27, 2008, Jen, Mike and five other friends were headed to the beach in Grand Bend, Ontario, when their minivan was struck head-on. The other passengers got out of the van without serious injuries, but she was trapped, and Mike and his friends had to get her out.

She was airlifted to London Hospital where she was in intensive care for a week and learned that she would spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair.

When Jen was told soon after the crash that she would never walk again, "it kind of crossed my mind that he might not stay," she says in the video about Mike. "Right away he reassured me that he wasn't going anywhere."

"The situation's changed, but she's still the same person, " says Mike.

Last June, on the fourth anniversary of their romance, he proposed, and Jen began her fight to walk down the aisle, wearing braces on her legs.

She is practicing at the rehabilitation facility where she has been treated since the fall of 2008, wearing an old wedding dress belonging to a therapist there. "She said, 'I just got married, and you're more than welcome to borrow my dress to practice in,'" says Jen.

During the practice, Jen balances herself by holding onto to parallel bars, explains Cheryl Angelelli, a spokeswoman for the institute. "Her goal on her wedding day is to walk with her dad holding her on one side and her brother on the other," she said.

Doctors believe Jen will be able to walk short distances in the future using crutches, Angelelli said. "She's a very, very determined young woman. She has the best attendance out of any client in our program. She's very committed."

"Once I want to achieve something, I always give it 100%," Jen says. "I was like that before the injuries."

She has always been organized, too, and says she is nearly all ready for the wedding. Her dress is strapless and A-line. "When I walk, you can't see my braces under my dress," she explains. "I have everything booked, bought--I just need to get a pair of shoes."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


'Heart Attack Grill' Spokesman Dies at 29

ABC News/HeartAttackGrill [dot] com(PHOENIX) -- Blair River, the 575-pound spokesman for the Heart Attack Grill, an Arizona restaurant that serves shamelessly high-calorie burgers and fries, died Tuesday at the age of 29, following a bout of the flu.

At 6 feet 8 inches tall, River garnered celebrity as the grill's "Gentle Giant" when he became the face and advertising star of the medically themed restaurant -- famous for its triple-bypass burgers, flatliner lard fries and server "nurses" donning uniforms fit for adult films.

River came down with the flu last week, and after four days in the hospital, he succumbed to pneumonia, says Jon Rosso, owner of the grill and close friend of River. Rosso described River's death as "tragic," because he was a "young creative genius, a promising man whose life got cut short because he carried extra weight. Had he been thin, he would have had a tenfold opportunity to survive the pneumonia."

Though Rosso goes by "Dr. Jon," in line with the restaurant's medical theme, he is not medically trained and so can't speak to the role obesity might have played in River's illness. The official cause of death for the hamburger model is still unknown.

"Obesity increases your risk for just about every condition, and it can make nearly every acute health problem worse," says Keith Ayoob, director of the nutrition clinic at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City.

Those who are morbidly obese have an increased risk for sudden cardiac death and heart attacks at a younger age, says Dr. Carl Lavie, medical director of cardiac rehabilitation and prevention at the Ochsner Heart and Vascular Institute. "All of this could be worsened with a flu or other respiratory illness.

And research during the H1N1 swine flue epidemic of 2009 suggested that extreme obesity did complicate recovery in flu patients. One study, published in the journal PloS One, found that among those requiring inpatient care for the flu, those with a body mass index of 40 or higher were almost three times more likely to die than those of normal body mass index.

It is impossible to say whether River's weight was a factor in his death from pneumonia, but Ayoob says that it's a matter of adjusting the risk when dealing with obese patients.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


What Killed a High School Basketball Star Following Big Win?

Thomas Northcut/Thinkstock(FENNVILLE, Mich.) -- Celebration turned to tragedy Thursday night at a Michigan high school when 16-year-old Wes Leonard collapsed on the basketball court after scoring the game-winning shot in overtime, helping his team clinch a perfect season.

Paramedics took Leonard to a defibrillator on the Fennville High School court. Soon after he was rushed by ambulance to nearby Holland Hospital, where he died two hours later at 10:40 p.m., the Holland Sentinel reported.

The cause of death remains unclear. Hospital spokesman Tim Breed said an autopsy will likely be conducted.

Sudden death in young athletes is relatively rare, but a major concern among schools and professional organizations. It gained significant attention in 1990 with the death of 23-year-old Hank Gathers, a basketball star at Loyola Marymount University. Gathers died after collapsing on the court during a game against the University of California, Santa Barbara. A medical examiner determined that Gathers suffered from hypertophic cardiomyopathy -- an enlarged heart.

Efforts to develop more sensitive screening tests that could detect risk factors for sudden death, such as cardiomyopathy, are under way. In a study published in the March issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, recording the heart's electrical activity during exercise by electrocardiography had no effect on predicting young athletes' risk for cardiac arrest.

"A variety of cardiac disorders can result in sudden death during sport activity," wrote Dr. Alfred Bove, professor emeritus at Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia in an accompanying editorial in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. "These include hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, long QT syndrome, and Brugada syndrome."

In an interview last week, Fennville coach Ryan Klinger told the Sentinel Leonard was recovering from the flu. Klingler told the Sentinel that Leonard took care of his body "better than probably anybody I've ever coached," adding that the teen spent "a lot of time on his own in the weight room."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Study: Breast Cancer Survivors at Higher Risk for Falls

BananaStock/Thinkstock(PORTLAND, Ore.) -- Women who suffered from breast cancer have a higher risk of falling than woman who never had the disease, according to a new study published in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

Researchers at Oregon Health Science University looked at muscle and balance in 59 post-menopausal breast cancer survivors whose average age was 58.  They first asked the women if they fell in the past year and then followed them for six months.

The study found that 58 percent of the women reported a fall in the past year and almost half fell within six months after joining the study.  In all, the breast cancer patients had a 15 percent higher rate of falls than women who do not have breast cancer.

Fractures, which can result from falls, are of particular concern for breast cancer survivors as a combination of early menopause due to breast cancer treatment and common drugs used to treat breast cancer could lead to the weakening of bones.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Study: Cadmium Found in Cheap Jewelry Exceeds Safe Limit

Liquidlibrary/Thinkstock(ASHLAND, Ohio) -- Cadmium found in cheap pieces of jewelry could expose consumers to more than the amount considered to be safe if the chemical is ingested or makes contact with one's mouth, according to a new study released Friday.

Researchers at Ashland University measured the amount of cadmium present in 69 pieces of jewelry, imported primarily from China and sold for about $5 each. They found that some of the pieces, if placed in the mouth or swallowed, could release as much as 100 times the recommended maximum limit for cadmium.

The study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, highlights the recent concern of the dangers of cadmium in children's jewelry, especially items imported from China.  Dangerous effects of ingested cadmium include kidney, bone, lung, and liver disease.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Does Media Spotlight Encourage Teens to Become Moms?

BananaStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The visibility of teenage moms has exploded in pop culture. Lifetime's The Pregnancy Pact, the Fox hit Glee and ABC Family's The Secret Life of an American Teenager have explored the subject.

But, without a doubt, today's most notorious young mothers are the stars of MTV's hit reality series Teen Mom. The popular documentary-style show chronicles the highs and often trashy lows of teenage girls dealing with the fallout of diapers, dead-beat "baby daddies" and demanding grandparents.

Pick up any tabloid -- Us Weekly, OK! magazine, Life & Style, In Touch -- and these high school moms are elevated to near-celebrity status. Even Saturday Night Live has poked fun at the trend. In a skit spoofing MTV as "Maternity Television," actress Scarlett Johansson plays a 16-year-old girl partying her way through delivery, screaming, "I'm rich, I'm beautiful and I'm fully dilated."

While teen pregnancy may be exploding on TV, teen birth rates decreased six percent between 2008 and 2009, reaching a new low, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

While that's good news, the United States still has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the developed world -- twice as high as the U.K., and three times as high as Canada. One in six U.S. girls will become a teen mother, and the annual public cost of teen childbearing is estimated at $9.1 billion.

"There is no fear and shame in teen pregnancy anymore," says Michelle Hankins, who runs a Young Moms support group in Rome, Ga. "Seeing all these teen moms in the media, it makes them less fearful. It's desensitized them, there's just an immunity to the shock value of it."

Media critic Jessica Coen, editor-in-chief of, says when a reality show becomes a popular hit series with multiple seasons, fame is inevitable.

"MTV can be as objective as they want about it, but once these women, these young women, are being followed by tabloids and on TMZ and on the cover of Us Weekly, it's hard to view them as documentary subjects. They're reality stars," she said.

MTV gave a full statement to ABC News:

As part of the filming process we sometimes ask cast members to talk about their stories to provide context and background on what they're going through, but we do not influence the stories in any way -- this is a documentary and our cameras are there to capture real life situations as they unfold.

We absolutely don't solicit and would never knowingly cast anyone who chose to get pregnant on purpose -- that is the exact opposite of the intent of the show.

"16 and Pregnant" is designed to cast a light on the harsh realities teens face when dealing with an unplanned pregnancy. In fact, the show has been called one of the best public service announcements for preventing teen pregnancy because it is a gritty, unvarnished look at the reality of unplanned teen pregnancy, and research by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy found that among teens who have watched "16 and Pregnant,' 82 percent think the show helps teens better understand the challenges of teen pregnancy and parenthood and how to avoid it.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Study: Can Diabetes Be Linked to Reduction in Life Expectancy?

Jeffrey Hamilton/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- A new study coordinated by the University of Cambridge says middle age development of diabetes may reduce lifespan by about six years, reports The Times of India.

More than 250 scientists from 25 countries -- from the Emerging Risk Factors Collaboration -- reviewed data on 820,900 people.  

In the study, researchers found that people with diabetes were at increased risk of death of cancer, infections, mental disorders and disease of the liver, kidney, lungs or intestines.  They considered risk factors including age, sex, obesity and smoking during their analysis.

"The findings not only show the extensive range of complications linked to diabetes, but also the importance of raised sugar levels, as opposed to cholesterol and blood pressure to such complications," said Naveed Sattar, a researcher from the University of Glasgow.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


CPR Marathon: More Than Two Dozen Responders Resuscitate Neighbor for 96 Minutes

Thinkstock Images/Getty Images(GOODHUE, Minn.) -- It's not very often Dr. Roger White uses the word "amazing." But when more than 20 first responders tirelessly performed CPR on a dying man for more than an hour and a half -- and saved his life -- the co-director of the Mayo Clinic's emergency transport team said it was nothing less than remarkable.

In the tiny, remote town of Goodhue, Minn., where the population is less than 1,000, Howard Snitzer, 54, was heading to buy groceries at Don's Foods when he crumpled to the sidewalk, suffering a massive heart attack.

While the grocery clerk called 911, the only customer in the store, an off-duty corrections officer, rushed to Snitzer's side and began what could be the longest, successful out-of-hospital resuscitation ever. Across the street, Roy and Al Lodermeier, of Roy and Al's Auto Service, heard the commotion and hurried over and started CPR on Snitzer.

As news spread, the numbers grew. The team of first responders in Goodhue is made up entirely of volunteers. In total, about two dozen pairs of hands worked to the point of exhaustion to save Snitzer's life in a CPR marathon.  The emergency volunteers took turns performing CPR on Snitzer for a marathon 96 minutes until paramedics arrived via helicopter.

Mary Svoboda, a Mayo Clinic flight nurse who flew in on the emergency helicopter, said "it was unbelievable. There were probably 20 in line, waiting their turn to do CPR. They just kept cycling through."

To restore a normal heartbeat, first responders shocked Snitzer's heart 12 times and administered intravenous drugs. When they finally felt a pulse, Snitzer was airlifted to the Mayo Clinic. After 10 days, he was released from the hospital -- miraculously healthy, and incredibly grateful.

"My heart wasn't pumping anything, so the only thing that was pumping my blood was those guys doing CPR," he said.

Snitzer, a relatively new addition to Goodhue, reunited with those who worked to save his life on Tuesday at the town's fire station.

"I think it's the quality of the person," he said. "We're in small-town America, hard-working people. I happened to have a king-size heart attack in the right place and the right time, and these guys would not give up."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Sleep Study Shows Increase in Drowsy Driving 

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) -- If you're behind the wheel, wake up! The Centers for Disease Control found a disturbing trend about drowsy driving.

In just the last month, nearly 40 percent of Americans say they unintentionally fell asleep during the day and among them one in 20 told the CDC they nodded off while behind the wheel.

Drowsy driving is estimated to cause more than 1,500 deaths every year. The CDC found Americans just may not be getting enough sleep. A third reported they sleep fewer than seven hours a night.

The CDC says unhealthy sleep behaviors are a significant cause of morbidity and mortality and are associated with chronic diseases like obesity and health risk behaviors.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


CDC Report Finds Fewer Youths Are Having Sex

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Fewer teens and young adults are having sex, according to a report on sexual behavior, attraction, and identity released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The report, which presented updated findings from the national survey of family growth between 2006 and 2008, found that 27 percent of males and 29 percent of females between the ages of 15 and 24 reported never having sex.  The new percentages represent an estimated five percent rise from 2002, when similar data was last released.

Among the report's other findings, which did not differ from 2002, are:

-- More than 50 percent of young people aged 15 to 24 who reported having oral sex engaged in this behavior prior to having vaginal intercourse

-- 13 percent of women, but only 5.2 percent of men, reported having same-sex contact in their lifetime

-- 3.5 percent of women reported they were bisexual compared to 1.1 percent of men

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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