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Entries in Michigan (6)

Friday
Oct052012

Michigan 'Hero's Welcome' for Staff Sgt. Travis Mills, Who Lost Four Limbs

Hemera/Thinkstock(VASSAR, Mich.) -- Two rival teams will face off Friday night at a Michigan homecoming football game, but this year fans from both sides will be sporting the same T-shirts with the motto, "Two Teams, One Hero."

The "hero" to whom they refer is Army Staff Sgt. Travis Mills, who's returning to his hometown for the first time since an IED explosion caused him to lose both his arms and legs. Mills, 25, is one of five surviving quadruple amputee servicemen from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

He has been at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., for the past six months and was waiting until he was ready to visit his small hometown of Vassar, Mich. Everyone had known him in the town as a popular football, basketball and baseball player.

"I decided that I would wait until I was ready to walk and show people the progress I'm making, not that they would ever doubt me or make fun of me," Mills told ABC News. "It was a personal thing."

He has been stunned by his welcome home. Mills and wife Kelsey Mills, 23, and their 1-year-old daughter, Chloe, were grand marshals Thursday night at a homecoming parade. He will address the crowds Friday night at Vassar High School, his alma mater, before the homecoming game.

Mills said his community has welcomed him, "Just arms wide open, big hugs, everybody's cheering, thanking me for my service. It's just wonderful."

Mills' life changed in April while he was serving his third tour in Afghanistan. He went out on foot patrol at around 4:30 p.m. A mine-sweeper surveyed the area, but did not pick up on an IED made of plastic and copper wire that was in the exact spot where Mills set down an ammunition bag.

"As soon as I set it down, five or six seconds later, I woke up on the ground and I looked at my hand and said, 'This isn't good,'" he recalls.

A medic rushed over to him and Mills told him, "Get away from me, doc. You go save my men. Let me go. Save my men."

Mills laughingly recalled the medic saying, "With all due respect, shut up."

The next few weeks were fuzzily spent being transferred from hospital to hospital and town to town under a medically induced coma.

When Mills woke up, he was with his brother-in-law, a fellow soldier who had stayed with him. Mills' first question was about his soldiers and whether they were OK. They were. His next question was whether he was paralyzed. He was not, his brother-in-law said.

Mills told his brother-in-law that he couldn't feel his fingers and toes and not to lie to him.

"Travis, you don't have them anymore but you're alive," Mills recalls his saying. "I said OK."

His limbs could not be saved and Mills lost most of both arms and both legs.

"You have a lot of emotions. At first you're upset. Why did it happen? What did I do wrong? Am I a bad person?" he said. "Then you realize it just happened because it happens. There's no reason to dwell on the past or live in the past. I have a beautiful wife and a beautiful, young 1-year-old daughter and I'm never going to give up on them or my family or the people who support me."

At Walter Reed, Mills' doctor told him that he would probably spend two years recovering in the hospital. Mills told him he could do it in a year.

For the past six months, he has spent every day doing occupational therapy and physical therapy. He works on his therapies from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. every day. He has received support from his medical team, family friends and the few other surviving quadruple amputees. And he has already begun to pay that support forward.

"He has got such an unbelievable attitude," Mills' father-in-law, Craig Buck, said. "He takes time out of his week each week to go up to the fourth floor of Walter Reed. That's where the most critically wounded guys that are coming back home are, and he'll put on all of his prosthetics and go visit them to encourage them."

Buck, 49, has spent the past six weeks at Walter Reed with Mills and his family and has been amazed by his resilience.

"Just his spirit, he lifts everyone up around him even though he's had such devastating injuries," Buck said. "Of course there's down times, which is to be expected, where he's not feeling so chipper, but 90 percent of the time he's positive, motivated and just works so hard at getting better."

Mills has prosthetics for both legs and both arms. He uses a wheelchair sometimes, but is already walking on his prosthetics. He hopes to be completely out of the wheelchair by November, using it only occasionally.

Mills calls his wife "a real hero" for helping him and staying by his side. He says his wedding band is his most prized possession. His brother-in-law pulled it off of his mangled finger after the explosion and Mills marvels that it does not even have a scratch on it. He wears it around his neck.

He is confident that his military career is far from over. His goal of being in the military for 20 years is unchanged after his accident. He hopes to be an instructor.

"I still have plans to stay in the military, if they'll have me," he said. "If I can give anything to the war effort, to the soldiers, to the guys that are signing up, I'm definitely willing to do it and I would love to."

He'll get a chance to address his thousands of supporters and thank them Friday night for their support. His only concern is he hopes he'll be able to get to everyone.

"I've never stopped wanting to help and I'll never stop training, teaching and pushing guys through what they need to push through," he said. "I'll give inspiration and motivation to anyone because that's my purpose. I don't take life for granted and I'm thankful I get to see my kid grow up and teach her to ride a bike."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jul062012

Michigan Woman Has Flesh-Eating Bacteria Aimee Copeland Survived

WXYZ-TV/ABC News(DETROIT) -- A Detroit-area woman is fighting for her life against the same, rare flesh-eating disease that nearly killed Georgia graduate student Aimee Copeland.

Crystal Spencer, 33, is in serious condition at Detroit Receiving Hospital after she was diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis, which is more commonly known as flesh-eating bacteria syndrome.  The quickly progressing infection is known for its sudden onset and the speed with which it spreads across layers of skin and subcutaneous tissues.

Spencer's husband, Jeff, told ABC News affiliate WXYZ-TV that his wife, who had been hospitalized since June 30, has already had a part of her midsection removed, which he says amounts to the size of a small watermelon.

"They only give her a 20 to 30 percent chance to pull out of this, not even to make this," Jeff Spencer said.  "The surgeon keeps going in and cleaning it and cleaning it.  But they're saying it could go either way."

Crystal Spencer entered the hospital days before Copeland was released from a hospital more than 700 miles away after she fought an uphill battle against the same infection.

After 49 days, Copeland on Monday left an Atlanta-area hospital, where she had her left leg, right foot and both hands amputated in order to save her life.

The 24-year-old contracted the virus from hydrophila bacteria, which is typically found in warm waters, when she fell from a broken zipline along the Tallapoosa River near the south end of the Appalachian Mountains in Georgia on May 1.

Jeff Spencer told WXYZ that he believes his wife contracted the infection while she was at a different Detroit hospital, where she recently had surgery to remove an abscess from her leg.  Crystal Spencer suffers from type 2 diabetes.

"They're saying it's a long road but I'm trying to think for the better that hopefully she does make it," he said.  "She's alert but she's not to the point where she can talk or really do much."

"It's just hard at night to do this," he added.  "I'm keeping my hopes up, I'm praying and have family do what they can."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jan312012

Cancer Survivor Suspended from School for Growing Hair for Charity

iStockphoto/Thinkstock (file photo)(FLINT, Mich.) -- Seventeen-year-old J.T. Gaskins woke up early Monday morning and got ready for school like all of his classmates, but instead of going to his Michigan high school, he settled in for what will be his second week of spending the school day working from home.

Gaskins was suspended from Madison Academy for having hair that did not comply with the school's rules for how long boys can grow their hair.  But Gaskins is sporting the shaggy hairdo for a very specific reason: As a leukemia survivor, he is determined to donate his hair to Locks of Love.

"I really never thought we would be here," his mother Christa Plante told ABC News.  She was "dumbfounded" when her son's school board upheld a decision to keep him out of school and says she is "very much" concerned about him missing part of his senior year of high school.

The school board did not respond to a request for comment.

Gaskins was diagnosed with Infant Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, a high-risk form of leukemia in children, when he was 8 weeks old.  He underwent nearly five years of chemotherapy and his family celebrated him being cancer-free in December 2003.

Over the holidays, Gaskins was touched by a family friend who was battling cancer and decided he wanted to give back by donating his hair.  But when his hair grew over his ears and started getting in his eyes, his school demanded he cut it.

Gaskins refused and was suspended.

"He's done his research.  He knows what he wants and why.  I'm very proud of him," Plante told ABC News.  "He's fought for all these years and I think he deserves a little exception."

Plante said her son wants to donate hair now since he will be turning 18 and graduating soon and this will be his last year of pediatric cancer check-ups, which he has gone through every year of his life.

"He's celebrating his life and now he wants to give back so that other kids can have an opportunity to celebrate theirs too," she said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Apr062011

Michigan Man Finds Kidney Over Facebook

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WARREN, Mich.) -- When Jeff Kurze found out his kidneys were failing, he and his wife, Roxy, put their lives on hold. The young couple from Warren, Michigan, hoped to start a family, but dialysis left Jeff, 35, too frail. He needed a new kidney.

After Jeff suffered a mini stroke last fall, doctors said it could take five years for him to climb the kidney waiting list and get the type O match he needed. That's when a desperate Roxy took to Facebook.

"Wishing a kidney would fall out of the sky so my husband can stop suffering," Roxy Kurze, a 30-year-old web designer, wrote on her Facebook wall. "So if anyone knows of a live donor with type O blood, PLEASE let me know."

Some people replied to say they'd get tested. But Roxy was skeptical.

"Sometimes people say stuff just so that other people will comment," Roxy said.

Then she got a private message from Ricky Cisco, a 25-year-old comedian she met once through work.

"We never even liked each other's posts," Roxy said, explaining that although they were "Facebook friends," they were basically strangers.

Cisco, who knew he had type O blood, wrote that he wanted to talk about Jeff's kidney, and asked to meet Roxy for coffee.

"Roxy's post sort of resonated because I knew right off the bat I was a candidate," Cisco said.

Cisco had never considered live kidney donation before and knew little about it.

"I had heard horror story side -- you know, people waking up in bath tubs and that," he said. "I had never heard the voluntary side."

But some online research revealed that the surgical risks were low and that life with one kidney would be no different, he said.

So the two strangers met for coffee. "He hugged me and said, 'I want to give my kidney to your husband,'" Roxy said. "I said, 'You don't even know us -- you don't know me, you don't know my husband.'"

But Cisco knew it was meant to be.

"I was prepared to donate my kidney to anybody but it was really nice to have Jeff and Roxy be the people getting it," he said.

Roxy eagerly waited for Jeff to get home from work that November night.

"She told me on the stairs when I got home from work. I was just so in shock that I had to sit down. I could hardly breathe," Jeff said. "I doubted it a little bit at first. I just said, 'We'll see what happens.' And what happened was amazing."

Cisco went to Beaumont hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan, to start the screening process immediately.

"The people who step up to be living donors are usually family members or people who know the individual with kidney failure because they love them and they want to do something to help," said Dr. Dilip Samarapungavan, medical director of multiorgan transplantation at Beaumont Hospital.

"To have someone step for pretty much out of the blue, that's a very special circumstance," Samarapungavan said. "Not enough can be said about someone like that."

Living donors are carefully screened to make sure they aren't putting themselves at any long term risk.

"Especially Mr. Cisco -- he's young and he has his whole life ahead of him," Samarapungavan said.

The final series of tests in February revealed that Cisco's kidney was a "weirdly perfect" match, Cisco said.

"Ricky told us that everything was going to work out -- that the surgery would be March 30," Jeff said. "I couldn't breathe. I knew he wouldn't give up after that."

And he didn't. On March 29, Jeff had his last dialysis treatment.

"Dialysis just sucks the life out of you. It's pretty bad," Jeff said. "I have to say the last dialysis was definitely the best one ever!"

The next morning, Cisco and the Kurzes, who went from strangers to best friends in the time leading up to that day, arrived at Beaumont Hospital for the transplant.

The procedure went off without a hitch.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Feb022011

Quality Care Program Decreases Deaths in Mich. ICU Patients

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(BALTIMORE, Md.) - A new quality improvement program in Michigan intensive care units has decreased the likeliness of patients dying while in care, reports MedPage Today.

The Keystone ICU project, designed by researchers at John Hopkins University, was implemented in 95 Michigan hospitals in 2004 to help reduce deaths caused by infection and to improve other safety standards.

During an evaluation 13 to 22 months after the program started, it was found that patients admitted to Michigan intensive care units were 24 percent less likely to die compared to before the program was initiated.

"These results strongly support governments', hospitals', and healthcare payers' investment in similar successful, large scale, robust, quality improvement initiatives to maximize patient benefits," wrote Allison Lipitz-Snyderman and colleagues.

The length of stays for patients in the ICU in Michigan hospitals also dropped after the program began.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov092010

Michigan First State to Ban 'Four Loko' Drink, Others May Follow

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- More states may follow Michigan's lead in banning the popular alcoholic energy drink Four Loko after reports that dozens of college students have been hospitalized after drinking too much Four Loko. Michigan's liquor control commission banned the retail sale of all alcoholic energy drinks statewide, including Four Loko, saying the drinks "present a threat to the public health and safety."

Commonly known among college students as "blackout in a can," one can of the fruity liquor malt combines 12 percent alcohol with a kick of caffeine sized to an average cup of coffee. The contrasting effects of consuming alcohol and stimulants conceal the effects of the alcohol.

Many college campuses sent notices to students warning about the potential dangers of alcoholic energy drinks, and some campuses, such as the University of Rhode Island, have banned the drink. But now, advocates in New York and Oregon are pushing for a statewide sales ban.

The Food and Drug Administration is already investigating caffeinated alcoholic drinks, including Four Loko, and is asking for justification for putting caffeine in the beverages. Attorneys general in New York and New Jersey have also called for federal investigations following incidents involving college students in those states.

The Malt Beverage Distributors Association of Pennsylvania (MBDA) Tuesday also asked its members statewide to stop sale of and remove Four Loko from store shelves due to health and safety concerns.

“Until the safety questions and other concerns about Four Loko are resolved, MBDA is asking its members not to sell this item," David Shipula, MBDA President, wrote in a letter to more than 600 beer distributors. "We hope all other licensee trade associations will carefully consider this issue and advise their members also to halt sales."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio