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Thursday
Mar232017

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.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Mar232017

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.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Mar222017

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.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Mar222017

What to know about FDA's warning on breast implant risks, rare cancer

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A warning by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has raised new concern about breast implants risks and the possibility of developing a rare form of cancer called anaplastic large cell lymphoma, or ALCL.

Here's the key information about the new warning:

When did the FDA first discover the link?

The FDA first noticed a possible association between breast implants and ALCL, a rare type of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, in 2011.

"Women considering breast implants should be aware of the very small, but increased risk of developing ALCL and discuss it with a physician," Dr. Binita Ashar, a physician and FDA scientist studying these cancer cases, said in a statement on the FDA website in 2011.

Ashar said, at the time, that most women were diagnosed with cancer years after surgery when they noticed changes in the look and feel of the area around the breast implant. They did not have enough cases then to determine a certain connection.

After further research, the FDA announced Tuesday that, in rare cases, they believe breast implants can lead to the development of ALCL.

How many women have been affected?


The risk of ALCL remains rare even in women with breast implants. The FDA so far has found 359 reports of women developing breast cancer-associated ALCL, including nine deaths. The majority of women who developed the cancer, 208, had a textured type of implant rather than a smooth implant. Additionally, 186 of the women who developed ALCL had implants filled with silicone versus 126 who had implants filled with saline.

An estimated 1.7 million breast implantation surgeries were completed in the U.S. alone between 2011 and 2016, according to the American Society for Plastic Surgeons, so the risk remains low.

"All of the information to date suggests that women with breast implants have a very low, but increased risk of developing ALCL compared to women who do not have breast implants," FDA officials said on their website. "Most cases of breast implant-associated ALCL are treated by removal of the implant and the capsule surrounding the implant and some cases have been treated by chemotherapy and radiation."

What to know for women who already have breast implants

The FDA stressed that those with breast implants do not need to change routine care and medical follow-ups. However, the FDA continues to recommend women with silicone implants have MRI scans to detect any potential rupturing -- and consult with a doctor if they notice any physical changes around the implant site.

ABC News' Chief Women's Health Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton said that people with implants should be informed of the potential risks, but stressed that breast implantation surgery is generally safe.

"An increased risk of a rare event is still a rare event," Ashton said Wednesday on ABC News' Good Morning America.

What to know for women considering breast implants


The FDA suggests patient should research thoroughly before having breast implants.

Women considering implants should also remember they will likely need additional procedures or replacement in the future. They should research the range of different products, communicate with a surgeon and understand long-term risks, before deciding to have the surgery, and monitor any adverse reactions after.

More information can be found on the FDA website.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Mar222017

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."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Mar222017

Former 'Bachelorette' opens up about decision to freeze her eggs

ABC/Randy Holmes(NEW YORK) -- Two years after falling in love on season 11 of The Bachelorette, Kaitlyn Bristowe and her fiance Shawn Booth sat down with ABC News' Good Morning America to discuss their future together and Bristowe's recent decision to freeze her eggs.

"I think a lot of women feel pressure to have kids, especially when you get engaged," Bristowe, 31, told GMA. "And for me, I'm like, I don't want that pressure on myself."

Bristowe took to social media earlier this month to announce her decision to freeze her eggs, writing on Twitter that she was "taking control."

"This is kind of a backup plan for us and for us to feel comfortable," Bristowe said of the egg freezing process, for which she turned to another former The Bachelor star, Whitney Bischoff, for help. "It's kind of like insurance."

Booth posted a photo on Instagram after the procedure of Bristowe asleep in his arms.

"Very proud of her for taking control of our future and continuing to empower others! #ovaeggfreezing," he captioned the photo.

Bristowe said she didn't know "what I would have done" without Booth by her side.

"I think Shawn's role in this was, I mean it was crucial for me," Bristowe said on GMA.

In deciding to freeze her eggs, Bristowe joins a growing list of celebrities who have made the same choice, including actress Olivia Munn, comedian Whitney Cummings and former The Real Housewives of Miami star Joanna Krupa.

The number of women choosing to freeze their eggs has increased from under 500 in 2009 to nearly 4,000 in 2013, according to the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology.

"Freezing eggs is something they can do for themselves right now that will actually open up their reproductive options for the future," Dr. Karine Chung, associate professor at The Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California, told ABC News. "So I think it is a very empowering process for women to go through."

Bristowe and Booth have yet to set a wedding date. They said the decision made by Bristowe to freeze her eggs was an investment in their future together, which they hope includes children.

"We always say we want to have probably five, but we'll talk after we have one," Booth joked.

"Yeah, that's what we say every time," Bristowe added.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Mar212017

Health care experts doubt changes to GOP bill with lead to more coverage

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) --  Health care experts doubt that the amendments added Monday night to the Republican health care bill will change top-line numbers estimates from the Congressional Budget Office about how many people will be uninsured under the proposed bill or how much out of pocket cost may go up.

"The notion that the basic story is going to be fundamentally different is probably not true -- the bill is basically what the bill is," Dr. Michael Chernew, director of the Healthcare Markets and Regulation Lab at Harvard Medical School, told ABC News.

Karen Pollitz of the non-profit Kaiser Family Foundation said the changes were mostly done to appease political concerns.

"In the plain language of the law, there is not a lot in this manager's amendment that would change things substantially for real Americans," she says. "There is this question mark –- a change in a provision that might increase somewhat the tax credits for older people. But it's not spelled out. There's just a lot of buzz about it."

One of the other major concerns with the bill were skyrocketing, out-of-pocket costs projected for lower income, older Americans, who could see costs rise but their tax credit shrink significantly compared to current subsidies provided under current law.

The changes to the House bill do not directly address this. Instead, Republicans tweaked another part of the bill dealing with tax deductions to essentially bring in a little more cash for the government without raising the cost of the bill. They are telling moderate members that the Senate can use the new bundle of money to bump up the tax credits to seniors.

(House Republicans changed how much people would be able to deduct on their taxes for medical expenses from 10 percent currently to 5.8 percent. It was 7.5 percent in the older version of the bill. Staff hopes that results in approximately $85 billion for the Senate to allocate.)

Matt Fiedler, a fellow at the Center for Health Policy at Brookings Institution, was skeptical that that money would really be able to change the overall coverage.

"Where are the coverage losses in the bill coming from? They are coming from the Medicaid provisions, the repeal of the individual mandate and the change in the credit structure," he said. "Changing the credit structure does not do anything about the first two buckets," he said, adding that the bill currently spends about $300 billion less on tax credits than current subsidies.

"Even if they use that $85 billion in an optimal way to sort of fill in the gaps they have created ... they are filling in less than a third of one prong of the problem," Fiedler added.

Fiedler said some of the changes to the bill could help expand coverage, but that others would likely cut coverage too.

For instance, the Rules Committee on Monday night passed a provision changing how interest rates are calculated for Medicaid, which in turn, experts say, could help relax some of the caps for that states hit with their Medicaid spending. Bottom line, this small change could lead to more coverage, by giving states more flexibility to keep people on their Medicaid rolls.

On the flip-side, the package of changes added last night also give states license in to change their Medicaid programs in ways that would likely lead to fewer people being covered.

The bill now expressly allows states to require "able-bodied" adults on Medicaid to show proof of work to get coverage. Dr. Richard Frank, former deputy assistant secretary for planning and evaluation at HHS under Obama, told ABC News that he thought work requirements would largely impact the mentally-ill people or those struggling with addiction.

"If you take away their coverage because of that, you are going to reduce their chance of working rather than if you cover them and get them treatment," he said.

The bill also now allows states to receive Medicaid funding as one big block grant from the federal government, not on a per capita basis, a change that many experts argue would lead to fewer people being enrolled.

"My is take if I was a Medicaid advocate, I don’t think this goes very far if at all to making me feel very comfortable," Chernew said. "If I were a senator I would be concerned about the exact same things I was concerned about before the manger's amendment, which is they're taking a fair bit out of the health care system, largely out of Medicaid."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Mar212017

CDC: Infant mortality declines 15 percent

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Infant mortality in the U.S. declined 15 percent between 2005 and 2014, according to new numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Mortality rates fell for four out of the five leading causes of infant death: Congenital malformations, prematurity/low birth weight, sudden-infant death syndrome (SIDS) and maternal complications. SIDS alone saw a 29 percent decrease.

The rate for the other leading cause of death, unintentional injuries, increased 11 percent.

The CDC figures also show that where you live can make a difference. Overall, 33 states saw a decline in infant mortality, while the remaining 17 saw no significant change.

The states where the numbers went down at least 20 percent were Connecticut, South Carolina, Colorado and Washington, D.C.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Mar212017

Surrogate mother responds to viral post: 'I think it has confirmed why I love this'

Melissa Holman(NEW YORK) -- A photo of two women and a baby boy has touched thousands on social media.

Australian mom, egg donor and surrogate Melissa Holman posted the photo to the Facebook page of Constance Hall, a popular blogger.

Holman wrote: "A few weeks ago I gave birth to a baby boy. This is me holding him. He was perfect - a screaming newborn mess, lifted off my stomach and put gently into his Mother’s loving arms. Those arms were not mine."

Holman told ABC News she's been "overwhelmed" by the response to her post.

"I think it has confirmed why I love this," she said. "I've had countless letters from women struggling to conceive and also other mothers who want to help. I learned when I was young to focus on what you can change rather than what you can't. And with this, I can make a difference."

In Australia, surrogates do not benefit financially.

"There's a shortage of women willing to do something like this for someone without payment," said Holman. "But there's women out there that will and want to and if some of those women read my story and consider it, then it's worth it."

In eight years, Holman has been the surrogate for two babies and an egg donor for 18 babies.

"I know and keep in touch with all of my recipients and they're amazing women," she said. "We are friends. They could have taken the donation and run, but they haven't. Things work beautifully."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Mar212017

Celebrity trainer Harley Pasternak shares top blending tips

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Having trouble getting your necessary serving of fruit in each day? Try blending them, says celebrity trainer and Jamba Juice representative Harley Pasternak.

Pasternak says when blending one’s fruits and veggies, time is no longer an excuse.

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