Teen who was put on life-support for vaping says ‘I didn’t think of myself as a smoker’

licsiren/iStock(LOS ANGELES) -- Though she might not look like it today, Simah Herman said she was sure she was going to die last month as she sat in the car unable to breathe, her father racing her to the hospital.

“I just remember feeling like absolute...nothing. Like I just couldn't do anything,” Herman, 18, said. “I couldn’t drink water. I couldn’t move. Like, I literally just wanted to crawl out of my skin.”

The doctors looking after Herman at Los Angeles’ Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center were also stumped. On that day, Aug. 15, a chest X-ray showed white hazy areas at the bottom of her lungs, which her pulmonologist, Dr. Kathryn Melamed, said could potentially be pneumonia. Less than 48 hours later, chest X-rays showed that her lungs were filled with white — they were inflamed and full of fluid, Melamed said.

“My best guess since we’re still learning about what is really going on in the lungs is [it’s a] profound inflammatory reaction to the vape products or some...component of the vape products,” Melamed said.

Still unable to breathe after two days, Herman had to be put on a ventilator, and shortly afterward, a medically induced coma. It was while she was in the coma that her cousin revealed a secret that Simah had been keeping from her parents that helped lead to some answers.

“She said, ‘You know she smokes every day?’” said Stacy Herman, Simah Herman’s mother. “I said, ‘What? What are you talking about?’ And she said, ‘She smokes every day. She smokes that vape.’ I said, ‘You tell the doctors right now. You go tell the doctors right now.’”

By the time that Simah Herman had emerged from her coma, she had been in the hospital for five days. With a ventilator still pumping oxygen into her failing lungs, the teen who said she would vape every 10 to 15 minutes decided to become an advocate against vaping.

“I asked for, like, a pen and paper because that was the only way I could communicate,” Simah Herman said. “And I wrote, ‘I want to start a no-vaping campaign.’ That was the first thing I did when I opened my eyes.”

Simah Herman’s story is one of the latest in a string of cases of serious — sometimes even life-threatening — illnesses linked to vaping.

As of Sept. 10, there have been six confirmed deaths and over 450 possible cases of lung illness in 33 states associated with e-cigarette products, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which noted that in addition to nicotine, patients also reported using e-cigarette products with liquids containing cannabinoids like THC, the active compound in marijuana.

Many of the cases involve teens. Just last month, 17-year-old Trystan Zohfeld spent 18 days in the hospital after suffering from a vaping-related illness, during which he said he was “throwing up everywhere.” On Monday night, a Texas high schooler was also rushed to the hospital after vaping.

Melomed is one of countless health officials who fear that vaping-related illnesses are an emerging crisis. Among high school students, there was a 78 percent increase in e-cigarette use between 2017 and 2018, according to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) National Youth Tobacco Survey.

Simah Herman said she first started vaping at age 15, and that she’d buy the cartridges from a smoke shop despite being a minor.

“I went in and I was like, ‘Can I get a pack of Juul pods?’ And they were like, ‘How old are you?’ And I said, ‘22,’ and they were just like, ‘OK,’” Simah Herman said.

Just this week, the FDA sent a warning letter to Juul, the industry leader for vape products, accusing it of illegally marketing its nicotine vape products as safer than traditional cigarettes without proof.

In a statement to ABC News, Juul said it was reviewing the FDA letter and that it would "fully cooperate."

"We share these concerns about youth vaping, which is why we have taken the most aggressive actions of anyone in the industry to combat youth usage," Juul said. "We strongly advocate for Tobacco 21 legislation, we stopped the sale of non-tobacco and non-menthol-based flavored JUULpods to our traditional retail store partners, enhanced our online age-verification process, strengthened our retailer compliance program with over 2,000 secret shopper visits per month and shut down our Facebook and Instagram accounts while working constantly to remove inappropriate social media content generated by others on those platforms.

"Most recently, we announced the deployment of technology at retail stores that automatically restricts the sale of JUUL products until a government-issued ID is electronically scanned to verify age and ID validity," the company continued. "This technology also limits the amount of JUUL products that can be purchased to prevent reselling or sharing to those underage, and it will soon be mandatory for all JUUL product sales across the country."

Simah Herman was healthy and active when she first started vaping. She had been a dancer for years, even making the dance team during her freshman year of college. But she said her abilities started to diminish as her vaping habit increased and she began vaping cannabis as well.

Eventually, she was vaping a nicotine cartridge a day, with the total amount of nicotine in one cartridge the same as that in a pack of cigarettes.

“I didn’t think of myself as a smoker. Like, it’s just a different kind of smoke,” Simah Herman said. “The vaping just makes it seem like nothing. Like you’re doing nothing wrong.”

In the two years that she had been vaping, Simah Herman said she lost 50 pounds “without trying” because she felt sick all the time. She said she often felt nauseous and dizzy, too, and that she didn’t notice how her appearance had changed.

As her health issues worsened, she also stopped going to classes. Doctors, meanwhile, weren’t able to offer any solid answers, even though she would tell them that she vaped, she said.

“I told every doctor that I went to just because I had such severe issues,” she said. “I wanted to make sure that...wasn’t making anything worse, but no doctor ever said, like, ‘Maybe you should stop vaping.’”

Melamed said there is a lot that’s still unknown about the consequences of vaping. “We don’t know which components — if it’s a certain component or certain product [or] certain brand that is responsible for both the short- and long-term effects of vaping,” she said.

Stacy Herman, however, believes the whole industry — not just Juul — markets to minors purposely. After she discovered that her daughter was hiding her vape addiction, she said she “ransacked her room” and “found all the vapes.”

“The fact that they market this crap to children, and they turn it into pink, pretty purple packaging [kind of] pisses me off,” Stacy Herman said. “I’m so angry that [Simah] can get a hold of this thinking it’s nothing wrong with it because everyone’s doing it. … It looks and smells like mango, and it looks and smells like bubblegum and her room smells delicious. I smell[ed] the packages. They smell great.”

Although Simah Herman has stopped vaping, she said she still feels compelled to pick one up.

“Now I don’t necessarily crave the nicotine. I don’t necessarily crave the weed. It’s just craving, like, the act of smoking,” she said. “So that’s been the hardest thing...staying away from it.”

Hoping that her story going public will help to discourage e-cigarette use, she said that she’d tell teens who want to try vaping that she once wanted to try it just once, too.

But then “I tried it another time and then another time. It’s just remembering that you don’t need it. Like, it’s going to kill you.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Momtroversy: Is it OK to call your kids 'annoying'? 

fizkes/iStock(NEW YORK) -- One mom's viral Facebook post in which she recounts telling her kids they were being "annoying" has drawn some very heated comments -- both of support and backlash.

Kristen Hewitt's Facebook post has been shared almost 30,000 times.

It reads, in part: "I was at the grocery today with the kids when I probably said a little too loudly, NOT in my nice mom voice, 'You know I love you very much, but you’re REALLY annoying me today.' Right then a young couple walked by, presumably with no kids because the man uttered, 'Well that was brutally honest.' To which I replied with a sickening sweet smile, 'Well they ARE being brutally annoying.'"

She went on to write that an older woman told her she would someday miss this, which Hewitt does not agree with.

The Florida mom of two told ABC News' Good Morning America she didn't expect her post to go viral and was surprised by the more than 4,000 comments: pleasantly by the vast majority that were in support of her and shocked by the vitriol of the ones that weren't.

"If your kids don't behave any better than that in public, maybe you aren't being that great a mom," said one. "Put some real effort into parenting. Yes I'm being judgmental, I had kids and I like to shop and eat without having to put up with kids like yours."

Another wrote, "Children are a product of their environment so how you've raised them to behave is how they will behave."

Hewitt told GMA the negative comments won't change the way she parents.

"This is who I am, an honest person who doesn’t sugarcoat everything," she said. "If telling my kids I love them but they are annoying me is the worst thing I ever say to our girls, then I think I’ve won motherhood."

Alexandra Sacks, M.D., a reproductive psychiatrist and the host of the Gimlet Media podcast Motherhood Sessions told GMA, "Asking another mom if and how you might be able to help is much more supportive than critically commenting from the sidelines. And, unless you're worried about safety, it generally is viewed as intrusive to comment on the behavior of strangers or even acquaintances in public settings. Trust that if someone wants your input they can always ask for your advice."

So what do the experts say? Is it OK to call your kids annoying?

First, there's a big difference between telling your kids they are annoying and telling them their behavior is annoying, said Dr. Stephanie Samar, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute.

"Telling your child that their behavior is annoying will not cause long-term issues," she told GMA.

"With that said, it is important to distinguish between evaluating behavior and evaluating the whole person when providing feedback – saying 'this behavior is annoying to me' can be constructive while saying 'you are annoying' is not and leads to all or nothing thoughts like 'I did a bad thing which means I’m bad'. Providing corrective feedback is an incredibly important parenting tool; however for it to be effective you need to notice and provide feedback on what your child is doing well," Samar added.

For example, she said, try catching them the 30 seconds between bickering among siblings to say “I love how quiet you both are being.”

Samar also suggested parents look at where their own frustration is coming from.

"If you find your child is 'annoying' all of the time, that could mean you are burnt-out," she said.

If that's the case, it's time to find time for self-care.

One thing both experts and Hewitt agree on is that judging parents isn't helpful.

"Parenthood is hard enough. Most moms are so tough on themselves, they may not have the bandwidth to productively use outside unsolicited advice from others," said Sacks. "Before you judge another parent because you think you know better, remind yourself that there's no way to know what any other family's circumstances and emotional experience are, even if it looks like yours from the outside."

Samar told GMA that judgmental comments usually have the opposite of the intended effect.

"Judgments often leave parents feeling unsupported and misunderstood which then gets in the way of them being effective parents," she said. "If we want to help each other be better parents then offering support or validation is more likely to lead to 'better' parenting than criticism."

Hewitt hopes that parents who have been in a similar situation to the one she found herself in at the grocery store will feel encouraged by her post.

"I want people to know that it’s OK to not love every single part of motherhood," she said. "It’s OK to not be the perfect parent. You can be angry at your kids and love them at the same time. There is no one-size-fits-all kind of parenting, we all are walking life in different shoes, on different paths to different destinations. What works for me may not work for you, and that’s OK. Let’s offer more kindness and less judgment to parents."

"And also," she added, "it would be great if grocery stores could offer daycare like at the gym."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Kids battling illnesses reveal their dream careers in inspiring photo series

AgFang/iStock(ATLANTA) -- A group of children are sharing what they want to be when they grow up in an inspiring photo series.

Five patients of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta posed as their dream professions and even had a day at the "office" during the session photographed by Ashley Berrie.

Berrie told ABC News' Good Morning America the moments were captured in August.

"They showed so much joy dressing up in this role of what they wanted to be," Berrie said. "These children show so much hope for their futures and I think every child deserves a lifetime."

Alivia, 7, (future hair stylist), Andrew, 7, (future soccer player), Ariana, 15, (future chef), Dakota, 9, (future marine biologist) and Matthew, 16, (future doctor and researcher), all participated in the project.

Denise Linnekin, a mom of two, said her daughter Alivia was diagnosed with acute myleoid leukemia March 19, and has received four rounds of chemotherapy.

On the day of Alivia's shoot, she visited her mother at work. Linnekin is a hair stylist herself -- just as Alivia aspires to be.

"She had fun, she shampooed my hair and blow dried it," Linnekin told GMA, adding that Alivia shaved her own hair when she began losing it to chemo. "[T]o actually see her go through the fight she went through and have that photo shoot, it made us excited for the future in a different way than we were before."

Molly Southerland, mother to Dakota, said her child is currently fighting juvenile pilocytic astrocytoma (JPA) -- a rare childhood brain tumor.

Dakota loves animals and hopes to become a marine biologist. Her photo shoot was snapped at the Georgia Aquarium.

"It was like an experience of a lifetime for Dakota to be able to get up close and personal with the animals that she loves," Southerland told GMA. "Just seeing her light up just when she was getting to feed the whale shark, it was priceless to me."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Number of uninsured Americans jumps by nearly 2 million: Census Bureau

Valeriya/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- The number of Americans without health insurance jumped by nearly 2 million in the year after President Donald Trump took office -- the first time in a decade that there has been a year-to-year increase, according to federal data released Tuesday.

The data, based on a U.S. Census Bureau survey, swiftly reignited attacks by Democrats on Trump's handling of health care. The president campaigned on repealing President Barack Obama's health care law and has argued in federal court in favor of dismantling it.

While the law mostly remains intact, Democrats have said the administration's reluctance to fund outreach and educational programs has depressed enrollment via federal exchanges.

"President Trump's cruel health care sabotage has left 2 million more people without health insurance, forced to live in constant fear of an accident or injury that could spell financial ruin for their families," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

Added Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York: "The relentless effort by Republicans to sabotage our health care system has resulted in millions of fewer Americans with health insurance and skyrocketing costs for American families."

According to the Census Bureau, about 25.6 million didn't have coverage at any point during 2017, the Trump administration's first year. That number increased to 27.5 million -- almost 8.5% of Americans -- last year.

It's the first year-to-year increase since 2008 to 2009, according to the report.

Ed Haislmaier, a senior research fellow at the right-leaning Heritage Foundation, called the survey data "questionable" and said it conflicts with other administrative data released by the federal government. He said there's evidence that about 1.6 million people have dropped Medicaid, the government's health care program intended for low-income and disabled Americans, as well as the Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, in one year.

That potential drop in Medicaid and CHIP enrollments is likely due to an improved economy and that some of those people no longer qualify, he said. Worth noting, too, is that those 1.6 million Americans no longer enrolled in Medicaid or CHIP aren't necessarily going without insurance or health care, he said.

"Uninsured does not mean people don't get care," Haislmaier said.

In an interview with ABC News last June, Trump called the current health care law a "disaster" and said he would revamp it if the GOP regained a majority in the House. It remains unclear, however, for which specific plan the president would advocate. A GOP-led health care bill failed under his presidency when Republicans held control of both chambers.

"If we win back the House, we're going to produce phenomenal health care," he told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos. "And we already have the concept of the plan, but it'll be less expensive than Obamacare by a lot."

Last June, Trump signed an executive order aimed at curbing health care costs by requiring health insurers and providers to reveal pricing for care to patients. He said it would "blow everything away" in the health care industry.

Looking ahead to the 2020 campaign, Democrats have seized on health care -- particularly the rising cost of prescription drugs -- as an issue where they think they can sway voters.

According to Kaiser Health News, enrollment in states that use the federal platform has been sluggish in 2018 compared to 2017. From Nov. 1 through Dec. 1, about 3.2 million people had chosen plans for 2019. Compared with the previous year, that's about 400,000 fewer, a drop of just over 11%. The wider availability of short-term plans was one big change, as well as the elimination of the penalty for not having health insurance.

Haislmaier said the data doesn't support Democratic claims that Trump's policies or funding of outreach programs are culpable in suppressing enrollment in federal health care exchanges under the Obama-era law.

"When you look at all the trends," he added, "it's pretty much flatlined for three years."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Texas high school student has 'medical emergency' after vaping, officials say

Paolo_Toffanin/iStock(HOUSTON) -- A Houston-area high school student fell ill after vaping and was rushed to the hospital on Monday evening, officials said.

A public school district serving Tomball, Texas, a small city about 35 miles from downtown Houston, told ABC News in a statement late Monday that a Tomball High School student "experienced a medical emergency during an after school activity involving a vape pen."

A school staff member, who "assisted with the incident as the student became ill," immediately called 911. An ambulance took the student to a local hospital, where family members were present, according to the school district's statement.

The condition of the student was unknown, and the Tomball Police Department did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment Tuesday morning.

"We have no new details on the student's health at this time," the school district told ABC News in its statement Monday night. "Educational resources have been put in place and the district will continue its efforts to educate students and parents on the negative effects of vaping.”​

Tomball High School senior Ariel Scott told Houston ABC station KTRK that the incident happened just minutes before a choir orientation. She said she saw the student take the vape pen from another student.

"The girl handed it to him. He hit it and passed out," Scott told the station in an interview Monday night. "He would not wake up. He was not waking up. They tried to get him up. He was not getting up so the ambulance had to come and get him on a stretcher."

Tomball Independent School District superintendent Martha Salazar-Zamora said they have partnered with University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center "to carry out a preventative curriculum through their ASPIRE program," an online educational tool that helps middle and high school students learn about being tobacco-free by explaining the dangers of tobacco and nicotine use.

"We are fully aware of the seriousness of vaping and the negative effects it has on our nation and our young students today," Salazar-Zamora said in a statement issued Monday night. "We continue to have candid conversations with our students, staff and greater Tomball community on this issue."

It's the third person in the Houston area to be hospitalized within the past month with serious lung illnesses following e-cigarette use. All three are teenagers and two have been discharged from the hospital, according to the Houston Health Department.

“This is a very serious outbreak and I urge all parents to check with their children to make sure they are not using e-cigarette products. Adults should also stop using the products,” Dr. David Persse, Houston's local health authority and EMS medical director, said in a statement Tuesday. “These illnesses are life-threatening, even for healthy young people who may not regularly use these products.”

“These three people are just those we’ve confirmed so far,” Dr. Persse continued. “We’ll very likely find other cases and, unfortunately, there will probably be new cases until the cause is identified.”

The incident comes as cities and states across the country urge people to immediately stop using all vaping devices and e-cigarettes amid a spike in vaping-related illnesses and deaths.

On Friday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that a fifth person has died from a vaping-related lung disease. The health protection agency said it is aware of over 450 possible cases of vaping-related illnesses in 33 states and one U.S. territory. Those five deaths have occurred in California, Illinois, Indiana , Minnesota and Oregon.

There is no specific vaping device or chemical linked to all the cases, but the CDC reports that a majority of the patients are male, between the ages of 18 and 35, and admit to using nicotine, THC (the main active component in cannabis), or both, about 90 days before experiencing symptoms, which include shortness of breath, gastrointestinal issues, fever and fatigue.

Then on Tuesday, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment confirmed the first death in the state from a vaping-related lung disease, bringing the nationwide total to six. The CDC has not yet commented on the latest case.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is investigating at least 127 reports of people suffering seizures or other neurological symptoms after using e-cigarettes. All of the reported cases occurred between 2010 and 2019, and many involved youth and young adults. It remains unclear whether there's a direct link between vaping and the reported cases of neurological events, according to the federal agency.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Cover your pimple no more: New skincare brand, Starface, debuts acne stickers

PeopleImages/iStock(NEW YORK) -- According to the American Academy of Dermatology, acne affects up to 50 million Americans annually.

Aiming to help that massive group, a brand new solution-based product was born this month: Starface.

It's a cool new Gen Z friendly skincare brand that features "Hydro-Stars," which are hydrocolloid pimple patches that absorb fluid, keep out bacteria and speed up recovery.

These star-shaped stickers protect pimples from outside bacteria and prevent them from being picked at -- and are a fun go-to for selfie lovers.

Sold exclusively on Starface's website, at least for now, a 32-pack costs less than $25.

It's highly recommended to consult with a dermatologist before trying the stickers, but they're designed specifically for acne-prone skin.

"Starface is here to show your skin some love -- no matter what it’s going through," the company wrote on its website. "At the end of the day, acne-positivity is the name of our game."

While the star-shaped pimple patches are a first for the brand, there are plans for more products to drop soon.

In the meantime, cheers to making your next acne selfie a sticker constellation of amazing-ness.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Ginger Zee calls for mental health acceptance on World Suicide Prevention Day

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- For World Suicide Prevention Day, ABC News' chief meteorologist Ginger Zee opened up about her own battle with depression and called for more to be done to take "care of our minds as well as we take care of our bodies."

"I want the ability to go to a hospital because you’re mentally ill to be just like going to a hospital for anything else that you’re ill for," she told ABC News. "I want an annual checkup to always include mental health -- because we should be taking care of our minds as well as we take care of our bodies."

The mother of two, who rose to fame for her coverage of severe weather on Good Morning America, revealed in her book Natural Disaster: I Cover Them. I am One, that weeks before she began working at ABC News in 2011, she checked herself into a mental health hospital to seek treatment.

Zee, 38, has openly addressed many aspects of her personal life, including being involved in an emotionally abusive relationship and her battle with depression, which gave readers a rare glimpse of aspects of her life not shown on TV.

"I want it to be regular for people to find meditation and all these alternative ways of addressing what’s happening [in our head] to be accepted," she said.

Zee also noted that rehabilitation for drugs and alcohol in our society is "fully accepted."

"I want mental health rehabilitation to feel like that," she said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Lea Michele details her struggles with polycystic ovary syndrome

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Lea Michele is opening up about a common but little-discussed condition that she shares with thousands of other women: polycystic ovary syndrome.

In a new interview with Health magazine, Michele said that she's been hesitant to discuss her experience with PCOS, as many others have more "intense" cases.

Although it's caused weight gain and breakouts, Michele told the magazine, "Through diet, I have been able to manage it."

"Growing up, I had terrible skin. I went on Accutane three times. I was put on every medication that you could imagine to help my skin. Luckily, birth control was a savior for me when I was in my teens. And then when I was in my late 20s, I realized I wanted to detox my body of all medications," she said.

"That’s when everything happened -- the return to bad skin and, this time, weight gain. I didn’t know what was going on," she recalled. "All people wanted to do was give me more medication. I don’t shun people for needing or wanting to take medication, but for me, I knew something wasn’t right. I just felt medication wasn’t going to be the final cure."

Ultimately, a new doctor gave her a diagnosis of PCOS, which explained all her symptoms.

ABC News Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton told Good Morning America that the hormone abnormality, which affects one in 10 women, can cause reproductive issues, acne and excess body hair. Ashton also said that women with PCOS are five to seven times more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes, for reasons not entirely understood.

Ashton added it is crucial for women with PCOS to eat well and keep up with a fitness regimen, as well as keep their weight within a healthy range.

Michele told the magazine that she grew up in a "carb-heavy" household, but is thankful that her mother "kept a clean home." She also loves workouts "with a spiritual element," such as SoulCycle and hot yoga.

"I wasn’t raised eating candy or processed food. I’m very grateful that my parents raised me to have a healthy relationship with food," she said. "Food was family. It was happiness; it was joy. I never looked at food as the enemy. But listen, I’m a New Yorker, and it was definitely carb-heavy -- bagels and sandwiches. But I’ve never really been a meat eater. Even as a child, I didn’t like the idea of it."

Now, Michele says she is "the most mentally, physically, and spiritually sound that I’ve ever been."

"Around 30, my metabolism changed, and I suddenly gained weight and felt out of control. That was a moment where I had to think, 'OK, I’m older and things are not going to be the same as they were before.' So I took the time to listen to my body and figure out what it needed," she said. "Now, I’m 33 and so happy with my body. My husband thinks I’m the most beautiful girl in the world, which is pretty great. But it’s most about how I feel in my own skin -- and I feel truly great."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


11-year-old girl teaches valuable lesson about embracing what makes your different

Courtesy Lisa Brown(NEW YORK) -- Destiny Strickland wants the world to know that everyone is different in their own way.

What's more, she hopes "to encourage people who are different not to hide what they have different."

Destiny, 11, was born with amniotic band syndrome, or ABS, a medical condition in which the amnion bands affect the development of babies in utero. In her case, it led to severe bilateral facial clefting, a bilateral cleft lip, a cleft palate, the absence of her left eye and more.

To date, Destiny has undergone 31 surgeries. Her first reconstructive surgery happened when she was just 4 months old.

"Compound these problems with growth, and it is not hard to understand the number and variety of surgeries that were required," Dr. Joseph Williams, the chief of plastic surgery at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and the doctor who performed Destiny’s surgeries, told ABC News' Good Morning America. Williams said her next surgery will be to create a space, or socket, for her eye prosthesis.

ABS occurs in 1 of every 1,200 to 15,000 live births, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. As such, Destiny’s grandmother and legal guardian, Lisa Brown, wanted to protect her from unwanted reactions.

Growing up, Brown limited Destiny’s time in the public, afraid of what people might say.

"The reactions I got from some people, even adults, it broke my heart," said Brown. "I want to protect her from that. If I could have just taken her to an island and kept her away from all of that, I would have."

Destiny, however, had other plans. She didn’t want to hide from the world anymore.

On her first day of kindergarten, she walked into her class with confidence and ready to make new friends.

Brown realized that it wasn’t Destiny who was afraid of the public, it was Brown herself.

And, upon arrival on her first day of school, Destiny already had a long line of friends waiting to meet her.

Teachers and counselors at Destiny's school had spoken to students in every grade to explain that it’s important to understand that everyone is different in their own way and how that shouldn’t stop them from being friends.

"Her first day of school, she goes into her desk and there’s cards from students [in] kindergarten through fifth grade everywhere, welcoming her and saying, 'I want to be your friend.' It was just so awesome," Brown said.

But Destiny wanted to take things a step further to inspire as many people as possible. She and her grandmother started a campaign called "Different is Beautiful" and a YouTube channel to tell others that someone’s appearance is only one side of them.

"It does not matter what they look like on the outside. What matters [is] what’s on the inside because they could be a really nice person. You just don’t see it," Destiny told GMA.

Destiny is a huge fan of Dove Cameron, star of Disney’s The Descendants, and was inspired by her favorite YouTuber, Jojo Siwa, to start her own YouTube channel. Destiny shared her story as her first video on her channel so that people can focus on other sides of her later.

"It is obvious that the surgeries we perform are only small complements to this journey," Williams said. "It is wonderful to see someone who recognizes their uniqueness as a source of strength. That the Destiny we see is very different then the Destiny that we can experience by getting to know this delightful young girl."

Brown hopes Destiny’s story teaches a lesson about acceptance to not only kids but also their parents.

"You can’t assume that your kids understand different. You can’t assume that your kids know to go offer to be a friend. You can’t assume that they’re not scared of somebody different," Brown said. "You really have to teach that."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Court denies custody for parents who stopped chemo for 4-year-old son with cancer

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- A court has denied parents custody of their 4-year-old son with cancer after the Florida couple stopped chemotherapy treatments earlier this year.

Hillsborough County Judge Thomas Palermo announced the ruling to parents Joshua McAdams and Taylor Bland-Ball Monday afternoon. Their son, Noah McAdams, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in early 2019. McAdams and Bland-Ball stopped the child's chemotherapy two days into treatment.

Bland-Ball could be seen crying after the ruling was announced.

The child will remain in the custody of his grandparents. However, the state does still have the option of returning custody to the parents in the future, the judge said. Palermo said the ruling was not a punishment, but instead done to protect the child.

Instead of chemo, McAdams and Bland-Ball turned to medical marijuana and CBD oil -- the increasingly popular cannabis extract that's sold over the counter.

"He had vicious mood swings, making him violent, making him very emotional, and he also started to lose his hair right away after the first treatment," Bland-Ball said of her son in an interview with ABC News' Good Morning America in August.

McAdams and Bland-Ball took Noah to Kentucky where they sought a second opinion. The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office had asked for the public's help to locate the family after McAdams and Bland-Ball failed to bring Noah to the hospital for a medically necessary procedure on April 22.

"The parents have further refused to follow up with the life saving medical care the child needs," the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office wrote on Facebook. "The parents have possible criminal child neglect charges pending."

The parents were found one week later and the state of Florida placed Noah in the custody of his grandparents, who were ordered in May to resume chemotherapy.

Multiple hearings have since been held as McAdams and Bland-Ball fought to regain custody.

Dr. Bijal D. Shah, head of the Moffitt Cancer Center's acute lymphoblastic leukemia program, said the current protocol for treating acute lymphoblastic leukemia has a 90 percent cure rate for patients who follow the treatment plan.

St. Jude’s Children's Research Hospital confirmed this statistic for GMA.

Noah has been receiving both chemotherapy and CBD for treatment.

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