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Friday
Jul122019

Hilary Duff mom-shamed for baby having pierced ears: Here's what parents should know

ArtShotPhoto/iStock(NEW YORK) -- A seemingly innocent moment Hilary Duff thought she was sharing with fans has ignited unexpected controversy on Instagram.

The actress-singer recently posted a photo of herself holding her 8-month-old daughter, Banks, who appeared to have ears pierced.

Duff's prior posts show the child earring-free, which could be what caused the so-called mommy shaming against the mother of two.

"We usually recommend the youngest being 3 months due to risk of infection from a process like piercing," Dr. Julie Capiola, a pediatrician with Premier Pediatrics in New York, tells ABC News' Good Morning America. "It's a cultural or personal choice to whether or not parents want to pierce [their] child's ears."

Some Instagram users gave Duff flack for her daughter's studs, while most fans came to her defense.

"They pierced my ears 2 days after I was born," one follower said.

"[Cause] you were not given a choice," another replied. "It is dangerous [especially] when they get to toddler age and could pull [the] earring off and swallow it."

"Can we maybe NOT permanently scar babies for no reason other than accessorizing them?" someone commented. "That would be great."

A fan chimed in with a different approach: "We love you Hilary, you’re doing amazing sweetie, please don’t let these internet trolls ruin your day."

"Keep being the fabulous mother u are!" another said.

Many people commented how they had their ears pierced as a newborn, but Capiola advises against it, adding how there's a lower risk for infection after the appropriate vaccinations have been given to a child. Plus, the child's immune system is stronger at 3 month old and after, Capiola said.

Capiola says as long as they're 3 months or older, ear piercing is OK for kids.

Here are safety guidelines and more:

A sterile environment is advised

Capiola says a pediatrician's office will be a safe, sterile environment -- should they perform piercings. If you choose a jewelry store, make sure it is reputable and safe.

Choose an appropriate metal

Capiola said sterling silver or 14-karat gold metals are nickel-free, which could cause an allergic reaction. Medical plastics are also an alternative, she says.

Use a screw back

If parents are fearful of earrings being a potential choking hazard, screw backs may be the wiser choice.

Will my child feel any pain?

There are nerve endings in the ear, so baby is likely to feel some pain.

"It's usually brief," Capiola said.

Watch for signs for infection

Redness, swelling, fluid drainage or warmth on the ear are all signs of infection. If your child appears to be in pain, or has a fever (pain being a later sign of infection), call your physician.

Avoiding infection

The American Academy of Pediatrics says rubbing alcohol could minimize the chance of infections. Do not remove the earring for four-to-six weeks and gently rotate each day, the AAP states.

"Follow the advice of the piercer or doctor for cleaning techniques," added Capiola

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Jul122019

Mom who investigates drownings posts viral plea to parents on water safety

Courtesy Natalie Livingston(NEW YORK) -- A mother who investigates drownings is raising awareness with her viral tips on water safety.

Natalie Livingston, vice president of Oostman Aquatic Safety Consulting (OoASC) in California, posted her expert knowledge on Facebook, where it has been shared 33,000 times.

People commented by the thousands, thanking Livingston for her clever advice.

"I see moms and users hungry for actionable information," Livingston told ABC News' Good Morning America. "If the parents were educated and the kids were educated, we'd have a way safer environment all around."

Livingston spent 25 years as a lifeguard and worked as the general manager of a water park for 10 years. She trains lifeguards, consults in both private and public operations, and is hired as an expert witness in drowning cases.

Here is Livingston's post in full, reprinted with her permission:

10 Water Safety Tips: From a Mom Who Investigates Drownings

I investigate drownings. I understand the realities of what can happen, often so quickly and quietly.

I read a lot about water safety and tips telling parents [to pay] attention to their children and not being distracted, which is so important. We see so many news articles about drowning during this time of year, but a lot of the advice isn’t practical and just highlights the problems, so I decided to write my own list of tips to help. Here is a list of 10 random things I do to keep my own kids safe in the water.

1. Safety Briefings


This actually started with a swim lesson procedure of making sure they always asked permission before entering the water. I have expanded it by having a little meeting about expectations. My kids now know to wait (sometimes impatiently continually asking me “Mom, what do we need to know…can we go yet?!?!?”) until I give my briefing.

I outline where they can swim, jump in, how they can jump in, and anything else safety related. A great time to do this is while applying sunscreen. They also know the consequences if they don’t follow the safety rules.

These meetings are a way for me to teach my kids respect for the water. They obviously know it is dangerous, knowing what I do for work, but sometimes aquatic centers, waterparks, beaches, and pools look so fun and enticing, that it is easy to forget.

I think as parents we need to be just as concerned with the safety as we are with the fun, but that takes effort. I think some people may not want to ruin the fun by adding in rules, but I know rules create boundaries, which gives freedom in safety. I also love including my children in the safety briefings. What do they think the rules should be? What do they see as dangerous? They have some amazing insights too and sometimes see things I didn’t think of right away!

2. Depths of Water vs. Height

My kids know depths of water and how to read them on the pool deck, and they know what it means related to their height.

My 6 year old knows that 4 ft of water is over his head, and 3 1/2 ft of water is up to his eyes, which is still over his airway. My 8-year-old daughter knows that 4ft of water is at her eyes and she will need to tread and can’t have her airway out at this depth. This piece of knowledge helps them to make good decisions and helps them to understand how water depths are different for each person. Their taller friend may have no problem in the 4ft area, while they would need to tread or have trouble touching.

Awareness of depth in relation to their body is important. This keeps me away from the “But mom, Jayden gets to go over there…”. Yes, he does, he is also 6” taller than you are buddy!

3. How to Get Away

I jumped in last weekend fully clothed with my phone in my hand at my 8-year-old daughter’s all-star softball hotel swim session after a tournament. It was instinct, a 5-year-old boy panicked and grabbed onto a 4-year-old girl and they were both struggling. He was holding her down and trying to keep himself above the water.

In I went and scooped both of them out. They were both naturally scared, and a little burping of water/air, but they were fine. We see this all the time in drowning events, swimmers who are okay on their own, have someone grab onto them because they are struggling and they can’t get away.

 I have taught, and I am still teaching my kids how to get away if someone grabs onto them. My daughter is a great swimmer, but I still don’t think she can tread water and keep her and another kid above the waterline.

I’ve taught them to suck, duck, tuck: Suck in air if you can (get a breath), duck under the water (the struggling person doesn’t want to go there), and tuck (use your arms and legs to push away) -- and then yell for an adult immediately to help the other person.

I’ve also taught them to be very careful of who they touch/grab onto in a pool. Even adults can be weaker swimmers and may have a hard time with them hanging on. Personal space is key.

4. Distraction Reminders

I ask my kids to keep me accountable. They know either myself or my husband should be watching them at all times. We have told them that if we aren’t watching them, they need to get our attention and help us because as humans we get distracted naturally.

I try to stay involved in their activity and also tried to keep my phone away, but I was still distracted with other kids, food, talking, you name it…life is full of distractions. I changed my tactic and downloaded a reminder app, and I set reminders for every minute.

I turn my phone into airplane mode and then use the app. Every minute it alerts me and I have the notification say “Kids Breathing”, so I confirm my kids are ok and then clear the notification.

Obviously, my goal is constant supervision, but sometimes my brain starts to wander to something I am thinking about and the notification checks me back in.

There are tons of campaigns about designating a “water watcher” with a specific tag indicating you have the responsibility of watching the water. I think these are great tools, and we also need to make sure the water watcher is not distracted.

Alerts can keep you focused as long as you stay off your phone for all other purposes. I put my phone in airplane mode, but you can still have the tendency to look at.

Be aware of your distractions both internal and external. If the phone is a distraction all together, maybe alerts aren’t for you.

Find what works to keep you focused and stick with it for the entire swim time.

5. Designate Breaks

We swim for a designated time, usually 30 minutes, but it varies depending on where we are and the activity taking place. Regardless, we always have breaks. I need these breaks more than my kids. They would swim endlessly for hours if I let them, but they need to rest and so do I.

As a lifeguard, we would rotate every 20-30 minutes with the premise being to give our minds a break and so we could stay fresh.

The same thing applies to parental supervision. I need to use the restroom, I need to do other things, I need a break too! So, we give time warnings and take swim breaks.

Sometimes the breaks are also unscheduled, if I have to make an emergency restroom visit or answer the door, everyone gets out, every time!

6. Limited Trust

This may sound harsh, but I don’t trust other people to watch my kids in the pool. It is me or my husband, that is it.

If they are swimming at Grandma’s they have to wear a lifejacket. If they are going in the water at the beach on a board with their cousin, they have to wear a lifejacket.

I see so many events where trust was placed in another person, watch my kids while I go do XYZ, or grandpa took them to the pool, or a neighbor invited them over. I may love these people, and they may love my children, but I don’t trust them, nor do I want them to have to own that responsibility if something were to happen to one of my kids in their care. It just isn’t worth it.

Do my kids whine, yep. Do I care, nope! They know the other option is they just don’t go. Same goes for school pool parties and camps with water activities, it just isn’t worth it for me.

Same goes for lifeguarded swimming areas. I know I am my kids' primary source of supervision and the lifeguard(s) are there for back up and emergencies. I do not rely on them for basic supervision.

I only have two children and I can supervise them much more closely than a lifeguard who has divided attention between 25 or more people.

7. Life Jackets are Cool

Culturally we seem to have a negative attitude towards lifejackets. I don’t think there is anything wrong with lifejackets, in fact, there are so many games and activities you can do with them. We just need to make them cool again.

If there are a bunch of kids I’m watching, I’d rather have everyone be in a lifejacket. It can be a cousin lifejacket pool party. Having everyone in one makes it much “cooler” and doesn’t embarrass the littler kids or weaker swimmers.

When I ran camps, even the counselors would wear them, be cool like them! Having rolling log challenges in the life jackets, water balloon tossing contests, have relays to pass rings from your toes...the games are endless, and the safety is higher with everyone in a life jacket. Now there are times that my kids will even say they would rather just be in a life jacket. Awesome.

 **Just an added side note that when referring to “life jacket” I am referring to a USCG approved life jacket (check the inside of the jacket or vest). Noodles, Inflatables, baby circles, tubes, and all other items are not safety related and should not be used or trusted to keep your child safe.

We see countless videos of kids who flip over in an inflatable ring and can't right themselves and are stuck underwater upside down, or are in arm floaties and can’t get their head out of the water because their arms aren’t strong enough, or who lose purchase of a kickboard they were holding onto for floatation.

Even in a lifejacket, you need to diligently and constantly supervise as children can get in positions that can still obstruct their airway especially if they are younger or weaker.

8. Educate

My kids know what drowning can look like. They know water is dangerous. They know good swimmers can drown. They know medical events can happen without warning. They know that drowning can happen quickly.

I talk about how events happen, about what their weaknesses are.

They know they can’t breathe in the water, they know why we take breaks from swimming, they know why they enter the water feet first, they know why we don’t play breath-holding games or activities. It isn’t just because I said so, I try to give them real reasons to my rules.

A healthy fear of the water is a good thing.

9. Hey, Watch This…

Phrases like “Hey, watch this…” usually are the beginning of something dangerous or a little crazy about to take place.

This is a kid's way of announcing they are pushing the boundaries or are going to show-off, and I take these phrases as a time to talk about danger and pushing boundaries. Are they just showing me something or are they about to do something risky? There is a difference and I try to talk about good decisions around the water.

Phrases like “Hey, watch this…” are ways to cue into other people’s behaviors and intentions. They now alert me when others use these types of phrases too. I always say we can have fun without being dumb.

10. See Something, Say Something

My kids are part of my safety team. They are buddy watchers for each other and I ask them to look out for other kids.

I’ll often ask my son where his sister is, or what the other person is doing. I want to train them to look at others and make sure they are okay, to know what they are doing.

My daughter the other day said, “Mom, I almost called you…that boy was under the water and I counted from 5…5, 4, 3, 2, 1 but he popped up again before I got to 2.”

I asked her, "What would you do if he was still underwater when you got to one?" and she said, “I’d say something to you or an adult until you responded.” Perfect.

Kids are an additional layer of protection and they have good instincts.

My kids know not to assume someone is playing. If they see someone underwater, they start counting.

So often, in drowning investigations we see kids (and adults) swimming over or around someone who is underwater and they don’t do anything. They assume they are okay, they assume they are playing, they assume they are doing it on purpose. Don’t assume.

Teach them the 5-second rule (check out Mel Robbins' book on the topic) and if they see something [teach them] to say something.

Other Water Safety Tips:

  • Swim Lessons Save Lives
  • Learn CPR -- Drowning patients need oxygen -- give air first!
  • USCG approved lifejackets only -- no arm floaties or inflatables
  • Designate A Water Watcher / Swim with a Lifeguard
  • Always use pool barriers and layers of protection
  • Enter the water feet first
  • No running
  • Stay hydrated / protect yourself from the sun
  • No drugs / alcohol
  • All water is dangerous -- even inches
  • Always swim with a buddy
  • Lost / Missing kids -- always check the water first

I hope this helps and gives you some practical tips to improving safety during your water-related activities. Share this information to hopefully prevent any more drownings.

Stay safe and vigilant!


Like Livingston addresses in her post, a water watcher is a helpful solution for keeping children safe. An appropriate water watcher, according to Water Safety USA, is at least 16 years of age, but adults are preferred. That person must have the skills, knowledge and ability to save a person in distress, or can immediately alert someone who has those capabilities.

More tips for designating a water watcher from Water Safety USA:

  • The water watcher should be rotated every 15 minutes, with a new person taking on the job to avoid losing focus
  • Knows CPR or can immediately alert someone nearby with that skill
  • Has a working phone to be able to dial 9-1-1
  • Has a floating and/or reaching object that can be used in a rescue
  • Is alert and not under the influence of drugs or alcohol

For more safety tips, you can follow Livingston's Facebook page, Aquatic Safety Connection.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Jul112019

Nearly 120 people in Minnesota reportedly became sick after boating on July 4th weekend

studiodr/iStock(MINNEAPOLIS) -- July 4th weekend often brings an influx of people to large lakes across the U.S., but celebrations took a turn for some people who went to Lake Minnetonka in Minnesota.

An investigation was launched by the Hennepin County Public Health Department after nearly 120 visitors reported getting sick.

The department received 116 calls from lake visitors experiencing vomiting and/or diarrhea, according to Lake Minnetonka Conservation District, a regional government agency.

“It is unfortunate that some people that recreated on the lake over the 4th of July holiday reported becoming ill,” the organization said in a statement. “We want everyone to be safe and healthy while enjoying the lake, which is why certain regulations and measures are in place.“

The public health department has since sent water samples to a lab for testing and is still awaiting the results.

A majority of people who reported getting sick were celebrated near an area of the lake called the "Big Island," according to Lake Minnetonka Conservation District.

Beaches are only closed when high levels of concerning pathogens or contaminants are found, according to the Hennepin County Public Health Department. A small number of beaches are currently closed on the lake.

“There is no reason to believe the lake cannot be used,” the Lake Minnetonka Conservation District said in a statement. “Further, it is unlikely that if a pathogen was introduced and existed at the time, that it would still be present due to natural destruction and dilution.”

The Big Island area of Lake Minnetonka is not a beach and therefore is not an area where the public health department performs a routinely test, according to the agency.

One man who visited the lake during the holiday weekend said he received his test medical results back, and was negative for E. Coli and norovirus, according to ABC affiliate KSTP.

“The definitive source of the illness has not been identified at this time,” Hennepin County Public Health epidemiology manager, Dave Johnson, told ABC News.

“We have been interviewing ill persons to evaluate all potential exposures, including water exposure and foods that were consumed...We have been asking people who are reporting illness to submit stool samples so we can determine the pathogen responsible.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Jul112019

Win for pregnant women! Moms ask city to issue 'Baby on Board' buttons to remind subway riders to offer their seats

Courtesy Megan Nufer(CHICAGO) -- Moms who have had enough of being forced to stand on the subway while pregnant instead of being offered a seat have inspired a new campaign that could transform transportation for pregnant women in Chicago.

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) confirmed to ABC News that it is planning a campaign that will be "specifically targeted" toward pregnant riders and will include "buttons that pregnant riders can wear" to let other riders know they need a seat.

Details of the campaign, including the launch date, distribution and button messaging and design are still being finalized, according to the CTA.

Megan Nufer, who gave birth to her daughter in May, said the promised campaign for Chicago's rapid transit system, called the L by locals, cannot come soon enough.

"There are a lot of working moms who commute daily and I think they should have the right to get into work and come home from work with the appropriate accommodations," she said. "I think some women try to do it all and sometimes you don’t want to make excuses, but you’re bringing a human into the world."

"You want [being offered a seat] to just be the default thing that happens," she added.

Nufer, whose daily commute consists of both a bus and the subway, reached out to the CTA in March with the idea to implement in Chicago what is commonplace in London, "Baby on Board" buttons for pregnant riders.

"My coworker, who is from London, one day was like, 'This is so silly. If you were in the U.K.you’d have a badge and people wouldn't even think twice,'" Nufer recalled. "I went on LinkedIn and found a mutual connection with someone who works for the CTA and reached out."

Nufer said the CTA replied not long after telling her to "stay tuned." Her request was not the first one for "Baby on Board" buttons on the L.

Erin Fowler, 38, now a mom of two, spoke about the idea six years ago at a CTA board meeting.

She spoke one month after giving birth to her first son and came up with the idea after a trip to London where she saw the “Baby on Board” buttons used there.

"I was motivated by my frustration, principally," she said. "[A button] removes the awkwardness of someone having to wonder if a woman is pregnant because women are not visibly pregnant for the duration of their pregnancy."

The "Baby on Board" badges in London have been around for years, worn by pregnant women riding the Tube to ensure they are given a seat.

They were put in the spotlight when Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, wore one in 2013 while visiting the Tube to celebrate the subway system's 150 years of service. Kate, now a mom of three, was pregnant at the time with her first child, Prince George.

New York City also tried a pilot program with "Baby on Board" buttons in 2017, offering customers who are pregnant or have disabilities the option of a “Baby on Board” button or a “Please Offer Me a Seat” button.

"I’m hoping Chicago can be a role model and get it rolled out to the rest of the country," said Nufer. "It’s a simple thing that doesn’t cost much money."

Fowler added that she's not sure why Chicago has yet to implement a button program, but she looks forward to the day when she sees fellow female commuters wearing "Baby on Board" buttons on the L.

"I hope it happens, that it works and that future pregnant women will be a bit more comfortable than I was," she said. "It's a small thing and it certainly won't hurt to try."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Jul112019

Girl who beat rare bone marrow disorder now fighting cancer

Hallies Heroes/Facebook(NEW YORK) -- A girl who beat a rare bone marrow disorder is now facing bone cancer.

Hallie Beatrice Barnard, known to loved ones as Hallie Bea, hasn't lost her sparkle as she continues fighting for her life. She loves crafting, unicorns, sequins and the musical pop artist, P!nk.

The 11-year-old has continued to work with her non-profit, "Hallie's Heroes," battling osteoscarcoma. The diagnosis came just five months after she beat a rare bone marrow disorder she's had since birth.

Hallie Bea was born with Diamond-Blackfan anemia (DBA) -- an extremely rare marrow failure disorder in which the bone marrow doesn't make enough red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout the body. The only cure for DBA is a bone marrow transplant.

"I felt like we kind of started all over again," mom Elyse Barnard of Denton, Texas, told ABC News' Good Morning America of the March 9 cancer diagnosis.

"It was worse than her initial diagnosis when she was 15 months old, when she had DBA and there was so much and I couldn't fight anymore. Hallie's been a champ through all of this. She said, 'I feel like God gave me cancer because there's other kids I've got to help,'" Barnard said.

Last summer, the Barnards learned Hallie Bea had a bone marrow match and would undergo a transplant.

Hallie Bea underwent intense chemotherapy, received the transplant in Fall 2018 and recovered. She was home for Christmas.

In January, Hallie Bea was having trouble walking. In March, a lump appeared in her left leg.

X-rays revealed a tumor, which led her back to chemo. The new diagnosis was osteosarcoma -- a type of cancer that produces immature bone.

Patients with DBA have a higher risk of cancer, and there is an unexpectedly high incidence of osteosarcoma, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM).

There is no defined explanation for the high incidence of osteosarcoma in DBA patients, according to the NLM.

On July 1, Hallie Bea had her left leg amputated. Doctors told her if she didn't amputate, she risked breaking a bone whenever she engaged in fun activities, like jumping on a trampoline.

"She told them, 'Just cut it off,'" Barnard recalled of her daughter's reaction. "There's a part of her that grieves, but she took it better than anybody -- when they told her about the cancer, and about amputating."

Bernard said that after Hallie Bea's cancer diagnosis, the charity mission of "Hallie's Heroes" expanded.

The organization partners with a nonprofit, DKMS, to recruit bone marrow donors and raise money for research. Since 2015, Hallie Bea and her family have held drives where they encourages others to get swabbed and join the bone marrow donor registry.

"We've swabbed over 7,000 people and found over 100 matches for 100 families," Bernard said.

Hallie Bea has given speeches to crowds of over 5,000 encouraging listeners to join the registry. In addition, Hallie's Heroes is now dedicated to helping alleviated medical debt for other families of children with cancer.

"We see the St. Jude's commercial, we see sick kids and we look away," Barnard said. "We need to do more for our children and our future. We need our children to be seen."

Barnard said Hallie Bea and her family are empowered by their work through their nonprofit.

Hallie Bea wants to be a nurse in the bone marrow transplant unit when she grows up.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Jul102019

Couple sues saying fertility center error led to painful and costly cross-country fight for infant son 

abezikus/iStock(LOS ANGELES) -- A couple in California is suing a fertility center in Los Angeles after they say they were forced to go to court to get custody of their baby from a woman across the country who had given birth to him unwittingly as a result of the facility's error.

Anni and Ashot Manukyan of Glendale claim that they were one of three couples to have their embryos allegedly swapped at CHA Fertility Center, according to their lawyer Adam Wolf.

"Due to the extreme misconduct of CHA Fertility Center, the number of things that went wrong here is just plain staggering," Wolf said on Wednesday announcing the lawsuit. "This case is one of the most egregious I have ever seen. It is clearly one of the worst fertility-center tragedies in U.S. history."

A couple in New York recently filed a federal lawsuit against CHA, claiming they'd given birth to twins that were not biologically theirs.

The couple said they spent more than $100,000 on treatment and other expenses at CHA Fertility Center, according to a lawsuit.

Identified in court papers only as Y.Z. and A.P., the couple said they were shocked in March 2019 when they gave birth and realized that the children weren’t of Asian descent, as they are. DNA testing eventually proved that the twins, both boys, weren’t related to them or each other, the lawsuit said. The twins actually belonged to two other couples who were also clients of the hospital.

Y.Z. and A.P., who married in 2012, said they were required to give up custody, “thus suffering the loss of two children,” according to the lawsuit.

On Wednesday, the Manukyans came forward with Wolf as the parents of one of the boys born to Y.Z. and A.P. in New York. In court papers, the Manukyans said they'd turned to CHA Fertility after researching and deciding to try in vitro fertilization to build their family.

The Manukyans, who were married in 2007, said that in March 2011, an embryo transfer had resulted in the birth of their daughter. In August 2018, the couple decided to try for another baby with three remaining embryos. They said two embryos were supposed to be used and the third was discarded.

However, according to their court filing, neither embryo was transferred to Anni Manukyan's uterus. The couple said that CHA allegedly implanted another couple's embryo in her womb. That transfer, however, did not result in a pregnancy, according to the couple's lawsuit.

"Anni and Ashot do not know whose embryos were actually transferred to Anni on that day. On information and belief, Defendants also do not know whose embryos they transferred to Anni," court papers said.

The couple said they believe that in August 2018, however, at least one of Anni Manukyan's embryos was implanted in the New York woman, resulting in the birth of their son.

"We live with the uncertainty that another embryo of ours may be born to someone else," Anni Manukyan said.

According to the couple, in the spring of 2019, CHA reached out to them for a "supposedly routine cheek swab test."

"CHA wanted to obtain their DNA -- under false pretenses -- so that CHA could determine covertly whether a child, born on March 11, 2019 to a New York couple as one of two twins, might actually be Anni's and Ashot's child," said a news release posted to their lawyer's website. "Weeks later, Anni and Ashot learned that they had a son, but CHA refused to provide any further information regarding the identity of the New York couple or the whereabouts of their son. During those weeks of uncertainty, Anni and Ashot did not know if they would ever be able to meet their child."

The couple said the baby was almost 2 weeks old when they learned of him.

"CHA robbed me of my ability to carry my own child, my baby boy, to be with him in the first couple of, you know, moments of his life, to nurse him, to just do like skin-on-skin contact to just, you know, be a mom to him," Anni Manukyan said Wednesday.

The couple said they hired lawyers and flew to New York, where they say they learned that Y.Z. and A.P. wanted to keep both babies. According to the lawsuit, after an "expensive" legal battle that took more than a month, a judge granted them custody of the child and the Manukyans were able to return to California in May with their baby.

Anni Manukyan described meeting her child, named Alec, for the first time in the lobby of a hotel as "heartbreaking."

"It’s indescribable ya know. I mean. It’s so many emotions running through my head like happiness, sadness, that that was the first time. Who wants to meet their child in the lobby of a hotel? It was just -- it was heartbreaking, it was terrible," she said.

Wolf, the couple's lawyer, said the Manukyans were seeking emotional and punitive damages as well as court costs in their fight for their infant son in New York and payments made to CHA.

"I hope that no one ever has to suffer through what my family has been through and I hope that CHA sees this, understands what it did, stops lying and takes responsibility before even more families are hurt," Anni Manukynan said.

"Plaintiffs' pain and fear has not abated with their reunion with their son. They cry every day. They continue to see mental-health professionals. They no longer trust anyone, and their guard is always up. Their ordeal has not ended; it is just beginning. This is something that they will live with for the rest of their lives," the lawsuit said.

The couple said Wednesday that their baby boy was thriving and bonding with the family but Ashot Manukyan said that his family had suffered mentally.

"CHA put my family through living hell. We were like zombies. We could not sleep, eat or focus. We were helpless. It was awful. This situation should never happen. ... The hurting needs to stop and responsibility must be taken," he said.

CHA Fertility Center did not return ABC News' request for comment.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Jul102019

Reefer madness? Study appears to dispel theory of spike in teen marijuana use in states where it's legal

boonchai wedmakawand/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Fears of a jump in U.S. high school students using marijuana in states where recreational cannabis has beenj legalized appears to be contradicted by a new study.

The study published this week in the medical journal JAMA Pediatrics concludes that weed consumption among high school teenagers has actually declined in states where pot is legal.

"Consistent with the results of previous researchers, there was no evidence that the legalization of medical marijuana encourages marijuana use among youth," researchers from Montana State University and San Diego State University wrote.

Eleven states and Washington D.C. have legalized recreational use of marijuana, but consumers generally must be at least 21-years-old to buy cannabis at dispensaries or possess it. A total of 33 states have legalized medical marijuana.

The study found an 8% drop in the number of high school students who said they used marijuana in the last 30 days. The researchers also found a 9% dip in the number of students who said they'd used marijuana at least 10 times in the last 30 days.

The authors of the study reached their conclusions by culling through the biennial Youth Risk Behavior Survey given to 1.4 million U.S. high school students between 1993 and 2017 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that included questions on marijuana use.

The authors noted in their report that "policymakers are particularly concerned that legalization for either medicinal or recreational purposes will encourage marijuana use among youth," but found nothing in their research or in an analysis of previous research to support that concern.

The researchers also suggested that the decline in marijuana use among high school students may be partly due to the fact that drug dealers are being replaced by licensed dispensaries that require proof of age.

The authors reported that the results of their study mirror previous studies showing a decline in teen use after sales of recreational pot began in 2014 in Washington state.

But Linda Richter, director of policy research at the nonprofit Center for Addiction in New York, pointed out that while the researchers used legitimate CDC surveys of high school students to draw their conclusions, the surveys were based on those given to students in just seven of the 11 states that have legalized marijuana. She said the study didn't include surveys given to students in Oregon and Colorado, two states with the longest histories of legal weed.

"It defies logic to argue that more liberal recreational marijuana laws somehow help to dissuade young people from using the drug," Richter told ABC News on Wednesday.

Richter also took issue with the suggestion that legalization has put illegal marijuana dealers out of business, arguing that the "black market for marijuana is alive and well" and that weed is generally cheaper on the streets than in the dispensaries.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Jul102019

Disney Channel star Cameron Boyce suffered from epilepsy: Here's what to know about it

Rochelle Brodin/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Fans of Disney Channel star Cameron Boyce were stunned to learn the 20-year-old died in his sleep after a seizure, and now we’re learning more about the condition that led to his death.

Boyce suffered from epilepsy, a neurological disorder that actively affects about 3.4 million people in the U.S., according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"Cameron’s tragic passing was due to a seizure as a result of an ongoing medical condition, and that condition was epilepsy," the Boyce family spokesperson told ABC News in a statement on Tuesday night.

"We are still trying to navigate our way through this extremely heart wrenching time, and continue to ask for privacy so that the family, and all who knew and loved him can grieve his loss and make arrangements for his funeral--which in and of itself, is agonizing."

It is not clear when Boyce was diagnosed with epilepsy, which affects about 470,000 children, according to the CDC.

Epilepsy is a condition that has no known cause, no cure and causes unpredictable seizures, which vary in type and frequency for different people with epilepsy.

Here is more to know about the condition that contributed to Boyce's passing:

Why does epilepsy cause seizures?

Epilepsy is a disorder of the brain.

Seizures are caused by surges of electrical activity in brain cells, according to the Epilepsy Foundation, a Maryland-based organization that raises awareness of epilepsy and supports research into the condition.

Seizures for people with epilepsy can take many forms, ranging from staring spells to shaking, falling and losing awareness. They usually last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes, according to the CDC.

How is epilepsy diagnosed?

A person is diagnosed with epilepsy if they have "two unprovoked seizures (or one unprovoked seizure with the likelihood of more)." Unprovoked means that the seizures were not caused by other factors like alcohol withdrawal or low blood sugar, according to the Epilepsy Foundation.

To help with diagnosis, doctors will perform a neurological exam and in most cases arrange blood tests and a brain scan.

Who gets epilepsy?

Epilepsy affects people of all ages and both men and women.

It can be caused by factors ranging from trauma to the head, a stroke, a brain tumor, certain infectious diseases or electrolyte abnormalities, according to ABC News chief medical correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton.

Some people are also born with epilepsy, according to Ashton.

How is epilepsy treated?

Epilepsy is most often treated with anti-seizure medication.

Adults and children can often discontinue medications after two or more years without seizures, according to the Mayo Clinic.

How common is it for someone with epilepsy to die?

Around 1 in 1,000 people in the U.S. die every year from what is called Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP), according to the CDC.

SUDEP is even more rare in children, where it occurs in about 1 in 4,500 cases, according to Ashton.

Most cases of SUDEP occur during or immediately after a seizure, the CDC notes.

Risk factors for SUDEP include uncontrolled or frequent seizures and grand mal seizures, which are seizures involving a loss of consciousness and violent muscle contractions. Other risk factors include seizures that begin at a young age, missed doses of medicine, drinking alcohol and living with epilepsy for many years, according to the CDC.

How can people help those with epilepsy during a seizure?

Ashton provided these four tips for helping someone experiencing an epileptic seizure.

1. Do not panic.
You want to get that person in a safe and protected space so that they don’t injure themselves during the seizure.

2. Roll them gently on their side so it can keep their airway clear.

3. Do not put anything in their mouth.

4. Get that person to medical attention.


Follow the CDC for more information on first aid for seizures.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Jul102019

Gene therapy gives people with inherited eye disease a new perspective on life

Heather Hodlin, 25, from San Diego, practices rowing with her teammates in February 2019. (ABC News)(NEW YORK) -- For most of her life, Heather Hodlin’s eyesight would fade with the day. By nighttime, she was almost completely blind.

Everything was clearer in the daytime, but still, she struggled — unable to see areas that were shaded by trees or buildings. She could see at night if the lights were on inside her home, but they remained fuzzy — she still couldn’t make out the features on her fiance’s face or the color of his eyes.

Regardless of the time of day, Hodlin, 25, used to have to tap her foot in front of her to prevent herself from falling or colliding with objects. She also has a guide dog named Luna who helps her navigate everyday life.

“I've been told all my life [that] my vision is going to go,” Hodlin told Nightline, adding that she feared the day that she would go completely blind. “It's happening and I get really scared.”

Watch ABC News' Bob Woodruff's full report on Nightline TONIGHT at 12:35 a.m. ET on ABC.


Hodlin has Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA), a rare genetic disease that typically affects the retina and begins in infancy, causing severe visual impairment that experts say deteriorates slowly over time. It occurs in two to three out of 100,000 newborns, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Hodlin and her guide dog Luna were often spotted walking around the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) campus, where she had studied for a bachelors degree and participated in rowing. Hodlin said she has always wanted to be an astrophysicist. However, activities such as stargazing have become increasingly difficult as her vision has worsened.

But there is hope for Hodlin and others who deal with the congenital disease.

In March 2018, Hodlin said her father called to tell her that he had been watching the news where they had reported on the first FDA-approved gene therapy for patients with inherited retinal disease, called Luxturna.

LCA is caused by mutations in both copies of a particular gene that allows people to see properly. The therapy works by introducing a functional copy of these genes to patients’ retinal cells, which allows them to function properly.

Hodlin said she didn’t initially think the new treatment was for her disease, but that she learned it was for the group of retinal diseases for which her LCA is included after reading more about it.

“I kept looking and I was really nervous, but I got on the phone with my eye doctor at UCSD to figure out if it was for me,” she said.

Doctors first had to determine if Hodlin had a form of LCA that could be treated by Luxturna, which only works on people with mutations in the RPE65 gene. So, Hodlin underwent genetic testing in spring 2018, and three weeks later, she received the email that would change her life forever.

“I was reading [the results] and I read RPE65, and then I just started bawling my eyes out crying,” Hodlin said of the moment she learned that she was a candidate for Luxturna. “I was trembling. I was so happy.”

Dr. Aaron Naigel, of the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles (CHLA), is one of the few doctors in the United States qualified to perform the gene therapy, which requires an injection administered by a surgeon experienced in intraocular surgery. The hospital is one of only eight in the country that are allowed to deliver the treatment.

The treatment requires two separate operations: one eye is treated the first week and the second eye is treated the following week. The entire treatment with recovery time could take up to six months.

“We make small incisions on the front part of the eye, go into the eye [and] clean out the vitreous gel, which is this gel-like substance that fills the eye,” Naigel told Nightline. “We then use a very fine needle to deliver a small amount of medicine underneath the retina.”

Naigel said that there’s no room for error when performing the surgery because the retina is only a quarter of a millimeter thick. Any mistake could result in permanent damage to the retina, he said.

“Even a small [hand] tremor can make a big difference in delivering this medicine in the right location,” Naigel said.

There are varying levels of success to the treatment, Naigel said, with younger patients often showing the best results since the disease has had less time to progress.

At least 37 people received Luxturna treatment in 2018 and a majority of them saw improvements within a month, Naigel said.

One of those patients is 6-year-old Monroe Le, who was diagnosed with LCA when she was 3. Since she received treatment from Naigel in 2018, she has seen massive improvements in her quality of life, according to her mother, Heather Le.

Le told Nightline that when the family went on a recent trip to Disneyland, it was like the little girl was seeing it all for the first time.

“It’s like it’s a new place,” Le said. “She sees things for the very first time that have been here for years and years, so it’s such a special experience.”

Hodlin’s surgery took place in December 2018 at CHLA. She said it went off without a hitch but that the initial results worried her. In the first few days after the operation, she said that her vision became worse than ever — it was blurrier than before she had the surgery and her depth-of-field was practically nonexistent. Hodlin said she began to question whether it was worth getting the treatment.

Within weeks, however, Hodlin said her vision improved beyond expectation. She said her sight is still far from perfect but that she now notices details she never could before — from the red light blinking on a smoke detector in her bedroom to the white foam atop the ocean’s waves at night. The aspiring astrophysicist said she even recently saw her first star through a telescope.

That said, Hodlin and other Luxturna patients are expected to see their doctors for routine check-ups as the treatment is still relatively new and experts are unsure how long the results will last or if they are permanent.

Christian Guardino was 12 years old when his mother volunteered him to be one of the first patients to undergo the treatment during a clinical trial with Luxturna’s creators, Drs. Jean Bennett and Albert Maguire.

“I think some of my first memories of blindness and really knowing that I had a problem was when I was maybe around 4 or 5 years old,” Guardino, who is now 19 years old, told Nightline. “My cousins would always play outside. Even at nighttime, they'd play things like manhunt, running around, doing whatever kids do and I remember not being able to do that.”

Guardino said that, before the treatment, he couldn’t navigate outdoors once the sun went down.

“I would have to sit inside with light,” Guardino said. “Or if it was an outdoor party, I'd have to sit outside next to my parents.”

Guardino, who underwent the surgery when he was 13, said one of the first things he remembered was “seeing my parents face in detail…that was pretty incredible.”

Guardino told Nightline that he tries to forget what life was like before Luxturna but added that his poor vision inspired an early passion for music.

“I've been singing for my whole entire life — that's all I remember,” Guardino recalled. “I didn’t have good eyesight, but...I could hear music, and music was so important to me.”

In 2017, Guardino competed in America’s Got Talent, where he earned the “Golden Buzzer” from judge Howie Mandel. The show often referenced Guardino’s story, telling viewers how he was one of the first to undergo the gene therapy.

Guardino has also performed several times at the iconic Apollo Theater in New York City, and recently, he teamed up with country music singer and songwriter Hunter Hayes for help on his latest single, “Waiting,” which was released in March 2019.

“I feel blessed,” Guardino told Nightline. “You know, I wanted to forget what it was like before the gene therapy, because now I'm so lucky to have what I have. I work to use all the sight that I have today. I'm lucky to have all the vision that I have today.”

While Luxturna sounds like a dream come true for those suffering from LCA, the treatment comes with a hefty price tag.

“We announced a list price of $425,000 per vial and there is a vial required for each eye,” said Jeff Marrazzo, CEO of Spark Therapeutics, which bought Luxturna in its infancy.

Marrazzo told Nightline that although it’s expensive, patients with health insurance often pay only a fraction of the price. None of the patients interviewed by "Nightline" paid the full price for their treatment.

Hodlin said that she continues to see improvement in her vision.

“I don't want my vision to stop me from doing anything,” Hodlin said. “It's not going to stop me. I don't want to miss out on anything. I want to have just as much fun as everybody else. I just want to enjoy it…enjoy life.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Jul102019

ESPYS 2019: How amputee veteran turned her injury into a mission to inspire others

Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic(NEW YORK) -- Kirstie Ennis was surprised when she got the call saying she would be honored at the 2019 ESPYS with the Pat Tillman Award, but was incredibly honored.

"This award to me represents community and compassion for humanity, and what people can actually make happen when they come together," she told ABC News' Good Morning America ahead of Wednesday night's big show.

But to know Ennis is to know she is far more than awards and honors. A former Marine who was injured seven years ago in a helicopter crash while on duty in Afghanistan, Ennis had to work her way back from a traumatic brain injury, spine trauma and shoulder damage, not to mention the dozen or so surgeries she's endured, one to amputate her left leg above the knee.

The 28-year-old adventure philanthropist said that she's thought long and hard about what she will say with millions watching Wednesday night, and the common thread will be "embracing failure or hardship."

"That can be the thing that compels us into the best years or moments of our lives," she said. "Turning something in my case that could be really freaking awful and making it something powerful."

'My purpose is serving people'

Ennis admits that there were a lot of people who contributed to getting her back to the person she's always wanted to be.

It's this support that drives her now, and has crystallized her mission in life.

"I think it would be really selfish of me not to turn around and pay it forward," she said.

Enter the Kirstie Ennis Foundation, which she founded a few years back to improve the quality of life for individuals and families all around the globe by raising funds for several deserving non-profit organizations.

What she does and who she helps is a long list, but a recent trek to Mount Everest in May was part of her effort to become the first female above-the-knee amputee to summit all seven of the world's highest peaks. And all the while, she raises money for a non-profit in the U.S. and organizations wherever she is locally.

After conquering her first summit in 2017, Mount Kilimanjaro, and raising $150,000 for clean water for East Tanzania, Ennis has now finished four of the seven peaks. Her foundation has also earned close to $1 million for the causes she champions.

"I didn't want to just do it to say look what I can do on my cool one leg. I wanted there to be heart and purpose and passion," she said. "I consider myself one of the lucky ones who made it home. I'm broken, I've got scars on me, but I made it home and I can still serve people."

"And that's how I want to live my life," she added.

'I don't want people to feel like they are alone.'

When Ennis woke up in the hospital after her injury in 2012, she admits she was the only female in the room.

"I was surrounded by a bunch of guys in the hospital and that was hard because I didn't have anybody I could sit down and talk to," she said. "I got hurt when I was 21 years old. I wasn't necessary wondering if I can run again. I'm wondering, 'Can I wear a dress again? Can I wear heels?'"

Less than a decade later, Ennis wants to be in that hospital room for another young woman trying to get a grasp on what's happening and what's next.

"I want to be that person for the younger generations. I don't want people to feel like they are alone," she added.

Ennis wants to help women and men look at their scars, their injuries, no matter how severe, and help them move forward.

"Everything that I'm doing physically or adventure-wise is for the next generation," she continued.

While she wants to inspire, Ennis also wants to motivate others to take it one step further than even she did.

"I'm hoping someone is watching me and say, 'I can do it better than Kirstie.' And I hope they freaking try," she said, laughing.

When she's not climbing peaks, walking 1,000 miles for charity or planning to swim the English Channel, Ennis says she spends an hour a day writing letters or signing autographs for fans and young amputee children.

After being featured in the ESPN's 2017 The Body Issue, she said the most rewarding aspect of the honor was parents reaching out saying '"'Thank you for being that person for my kid.'"

"That just solidifies everything that I'm doing," Ennis said. "I didn't think that's what I'd be doing 10, 11 years ago when I joined the Marine Corps, but it's been pretty wild to watch all of it evolve."

The 2019 ESPYS air Wednesday night at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

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