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Entries in Recovery (10)

Tuesday
May282013

Face Transplant Patient Making Sounds, Swallowing

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A Polish man who received a life-saving face transplant just three weeks after a work accident is already making sounds and practicing swallowing, his doctors said.

The 33-year-old man, identified only as Grzegorz, underwent a 27-hour operation on May 15 to reconstruct his jaw, nose, cheeks and eye sockets, which were then swathed with skin from a deceased donor -- a procedure previously reserved for patients who are years out from their disfiguring injuries.

"Usually, the recipients have to wait between one and seven years," said Dr. Adam Maciejewski, who headed the team of surgeons at the Cancer Center and Institute of Oncology in Gliwice, explaining that Grzegorz's injury was particularly extreme. "For obvious reasons, we had to act much faster, as we were saving this man's life."

Although Grzegorz is able to make some sounds, he communicates through writing because the tracheotomy tube that helps him breathe does not allow him to speak.

Earlier this month, Carmen Blandin Tarleton spoke publicly for the first time since her February face transplant. The operation came six years after her estranged husband attacked her with lye, blinding her and leaving her disfigured.

Charla Nash, a Connecticut woman who was mauled by a Chimpanzee in 2009, got her face transplant surgery in 2011.

Maciejewski said Grzegorz's surgery was the first transplant undertaken to save a patient's life. He is still at risk for infection but is expected to recover and live a normal life, doctors said.

Although post-operation photographs show stitches from above his right eye, under his left eye and around his face to his neck, Grzegorz was able to give photographers a thumbs up six days after surgery.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Jan192013

Wheelchair Dance: Paraplegic Finds Family in Recovery

Courtesy Matthew Castelluccio(NEW YORK) -- After a tragic motorcycle accident that left then 26-year-old Matthew Castelluccio a paraplegic, his dreams of marriage and children seemed completely out of reach. But in one of life’s little twists of fate, the accident that threatened to steal Matt’s dreams made them come true.

During his treatment Castelluccio met Elaine Defrancesco, Director of Adaptive Sports at Helen Hayes Hospital in New York. His spirit and unwillingness to let his accident define him moved Defrancesco to fall in love.

The couple was married. Shortly after telling their story to 20/20 (broadcasting on Saturday), which focuses on Castelluccio’s involvement with Roll Call Wheelchair Dance, a nonprofit that helps the disabled through dance — they shared more great news. They welcomed twin boys, Robert James and Dominic Michael, to their family in April.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Friday
Dec142012

Newtown, Conn. Shooting: Young Kids, Survivors Cope with Horror

DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images(NEWTOWN, Conn.) -- Witnesses at Sandy Hook Elementary School reported horrific scenes as a shooter took 27 lives today -- the shattering sounds of gunshots, children locked in the bathrooms and parents crying outside in the parking lot.

Experts say that the young children who saw events first-hand can have lasting psychological scars, but those whose home lives are stable and supportive will have fewer long-term scars.

"It was horrific," said Kaitlin Roig, a 29-year-old teacher, who was in a morning meeting when the gunman entered the school.

"Suddenly, I heard rapid fire, like an assault weapon," the first grade teacher told ABC. She rounded up her 14 students and locked them and herself in the bathroom. "I helped kids climb on the toilet dispenser [so they could all fit in].

"I thought we were going to die."

Children in such a situation "are terrified, and they don't have the cognitive or emotional capacities to make sense of this," said Dr. Nadine Kaslow, professor and vice chair of the department of psychiatry at Emory School of Medicine.

"Not that any of us can make any sense of this," said Kaslow. "It's truly inconceivable."

At least 27 people, mostly children under the age of 10, were shot and killed at the K-to-4 school this morning, federal and state sources tell ABC News.

The massacre drew SWAT teams to the school and the town of Newtown locked down all its schools, authorities said day.

According to federal sources, the gunman was identified as Adam Lanza, 20. His mother, who worked at the elementary school, was one of the victims.

One mother named Christine who has a child at Sandy Hook told ABC about the chaos that ensued when she arrived at the school this morning.

"When I got there, there were just parents running into the firehouse because they were directing us there. That's where children had been evacuating to, and we went in and people were just grabbing their children and hugging and crying. There were lots of children crying."

She said another parent who had been at the school at the time was "pretty broken up." Many parents didn't know where their children were.

In 1996 in Dunblane, Scotland, 15 children and a teacher were killed in a similar massacre.

Parents and caregivers play the most important role in a child's recovery from a traumatic event, according to Dr. Gene Beresin, director of training in child and adolescent psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital.

"Children need to know that they are safe," he said. "Are people taking care of me? How is this going to affect my life? They need to be reassured."

"Thinking about kids in all disasters, you think about the airlines -- when the oxygen mask drops, you put your mask on first and then help the child next," said Beresin.

"Parents need to take care of themselves first. [The children] need to know you are calm and in control," he said.

Adults and community support is critical, according to Beresin.

Young children who witness violence can have acute or post-traumatic stress disorder. "The immediate reaction is shock and horror," he said.

After events like this, communities typically set up crisis centers in a church or other public place where people can seek professional and spiritual help.

Turn the television off, say experts, but answer your children's questions. Don't disregard an older sibling who is watching the news unfold and is worried. They need assurance, too, he said.

According to Beresin, young children may not have "discreet memories" of the event, but they can still have an emotional reaction, experiencing nightmares or, conversely, emotional numbing, said Beresin.

"Some kids shut down," he said. "They may actually turn off and not want to be hugged or cuddled -- that's a normal response. Some kids are clingy, and others will withdraw."

Kids can also regress in the aftermath of a traumatic event.

Parents should not force a child to open up, but "don't let them be alone," he said.

One way young children can work out problems are through reenactment. "They may be playing a game about shooting and dying, and parents should not stop that," said Beresin. "Let them do it."

Young children can also ask questions that don't directly relate to the event, according to Rahill Briggs, assistant professor of pediatrics at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.

"They can ask directly or less directly about guns, or heaven or death or about a pet that died," she said.

In studies of 9/11 one of the findings -- not a surprising one -- after the terrorist attacks was that those who were most directly affected "suffered the most," according to Briggs. Coping with grief long-term depended on the cohesion of the child's family -- "how well the caregiving system responds to distress. When it is proactive, by definition the children do better."

"What was the most incredibly predictive five years out was how everyone was doing before the incident," said Briggs. "It is the same for mental health in general, those who are coping well in their lives before a trauma are the most likely to cope well afterwards -- even if they saw the towers fall."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Oct172012

Face Transplant Patient Delights in Transformation

University of Maryland Medical Center(BALTIMORE) -- A 37-year-old Virginia man who received the world’s fullest face transplant in March said he no longer lives as a recluse.

Richard Lee Norris was disfigured in a 1997 gun accident that claimed his nose, lips and part of his jaw. But during a 36-hour operation, doctors at the University of Maryland Medical Center gave Norris a new face from his scalp to his neck, complete with bones, muscles, nerves and skin.

“People used to stare at me because of my disfigurement. Now they can stare at me in amazement and in the transformation I have taken,” Norris said in a prepared statement. “I can now start working on the new life given back to me.”

For 15 years, Norris hid behind a surgical mask and put off public outings until nighttime so fewer people would see his face.

“I can now go out and not get the stares and have to hear comments that people would make,” he said.

With his new face, Norris can eat, taste, smell, smile and talk.

“Richard is exceeding my expectations this soon after his surgery, and he deserves a great deal of credit for the countless hours spent practicing his speech and strengthening his new facial muscles,” said Norris’ surgeon, Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez of the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore. “He’s one of the most courageous and committed individuals I know.”

The goal for Norris’s transplant, according to Rodriguez, was to “restore facial harmony and functional balance in the most aesthetic manner possible.”

The marathon operation was one of 22 done worldwide since 2005, and one of six done in the U.S., including those done on Charla Nash and Dallas Weins.

“We began this research more than 10 years ago when we saw the devastating injuries sustained by soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan from improvised explosive devices,” Dr. Stephen Bartlett, surgeon-in-chief and senior vice president at the University of Maryland Medical System, said in a written statement. “Now having seen how this surgery has changed Richard’s life, we are even more dedicated to researching ways to improve facial transplantation and helping more patients, including military veterans, return to normal lives after undergoing this same surgery.”

Norris still goes for routine checkups to make sure his face is healing properly on top of regular sessions of physical and speech therapy.

“Each day it improves a little more,” he said of his ability to talk. “I am doing well. I spend a lot of my time fishing and working on my golf game. I am also enjoying time with my family and friends.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jun192012

Florida Teen Survives Spear Through Brain

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(MIAMI) -- The first images of a Florida teen who survived a spear shot into his head show the key factors that likely saved the teen’s life, his doctors said.

Yasser Lopez, 16, was fishing with a friend at a Miami lake nearly two weeks ago when the spear gun they were using accidentally deployed and hit Lopez in the head, according to Miami-Dade police.

Lopez was rushed by paramedics to the University of Miami-Jackson Memorial Hospital where he arrived conscious but with three feet of the spear protruding from his forehead.

“The tip, it didn’t penetrate the skin but you could feel underneath the skin on the back of his head so we knew that it went all the way through,” said Dr. George Garcia, an assistant professor of surgery at the Army Trauma Training Center who treated Lopez.

Doctors credited the paramedics who treated Lopez with saving his life by not immediately pulling the spear out of the teen’s head.

“The temptation if you don’t have experience with these things is, ‘Oh well, pull it out,’” said Dr. Ross Bullock, a neurosurgeon at Jackson Memorial.   “If you do that, most of the time it’s uniformly fatal.”

Paramedics used a re-bar tool and pliers to stabilize the spear and a hydraulic cutter to clip the steel spear so the teen’s head could fit inside a CT scanner.

The X-rays of Lopez’s head showed the spear went all the way through his head at an angle and exited the other side but just missed his eye and dodged all major blood vessels in Lopez’s brain.  It also traveled through the right hemisphere of his brain, less than one inch above the central brain that controls the senses, heart rate and breathing.

“All of these are structures that, if this had happened to affect those, he would not have been likely to have survived to even get to the hospital,” Bullock said.  “If you had to have a spear go through there [the head], then this spear chose the right path to go with the least damage.”

Doctors used the X-rays to plan the complex three-hour surgery in which they removed the spear from Lopez’s head.

Lopez was moved out of the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit on Monday.  Doctors say he is now sitting up and speaking a few words and that brain scans since his surgery show the spear caused relatively little damage to his brain.

The teen may have some lingering trouble with movement on the left side of his body, doctors say, but he is expected to make an otherwise full recovery.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jun122012

How Hospital Noise Harms Patient Health

Pixland/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Noisy hospitals have long been a major complaint among patients. Now, new research purports to show how hospital noise can possibly harm them.

The small study, published Monday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that as the overall level of noise increased in the hospital, sleep was more likely to be disrupted. When the patients' sleep was disrupted, their heart rates increased.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School studied 12 healthy adult volunteers in a sleep laboratory, using noises pre-recorded in an actual hospital -- medical monitor alarms, telephones, staff conversations, and outside traffic -- for three nights. They analyzed how the noises affected the patients' sleep and heart rate by using brain monitoring equipment and heart rate monitors.

Of the sounds that were used, sounds from medical equipment designed to alert medical staff, such as alarms, were more disruptive than the sounds of the environment or human voices. When the patients' sleep was disturbed, their heart rates increased -- even if they did not wake up.

Dr. Orfeu Buxton and Dr. Jo Solet, two of the study's authors, said they "have heard what the patients have been saying in patient satisfaction reports, which is that there is too much noise in the hospital," and they launched the study in order to better understand the types and volume of sounds that caused the most disruption while understanding how noise affects the patient.

Previous research had already shown that noise disrupts sleep -- and that these disruptions are linked to high blood pressure, higher rates of heart disease, impaired immune function, increased memory problems and depression.

"This is the first study that has actually recorded a hospital environment and systematically quantified the response of the brain and the heart rate to these sounds," Buxton said.

A noisy hospital environment that causes disturbed sleep "may lead to increased use of medicines like sedatives that have side effects such as increased falls and increased rates of delirium. This can lead to a longer hospital stay," he said.

The authors also suggest that hospital administrators need to address three key issues to create a restful environment -- the acoustics of the hospital, the routines of hospital staff, and eliminating the noises from medical equipment.

"Eighty percent of alarm monitors in patient rooms and on hospital floors have no clinical relevance," Buxton said.

Some hospitals are already ahead of the noise-canceling curve. Susan Alves-Rankin and Jason Phillips, who works in the department of Patient Services and Service Excellence at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center, say their hospital is one such institution.

"We built a brand new hospital and took many steps to reduce noise," Alves-Rankin said, adding that the changes include noise-reducing flooring from Sweden and a silent nurse calling system to eliminate electronic noises. They are currently piloting a program using special sound masking devices in their noisiest hospital units to decrease noise and increase privacy.

Other efforts to reduce noise range from using sound absorbent materials during the design and construction phase of new hospitals to educating staff about being aware of their noise levels. At the new Shapiro Cardiovascular Center at Brigham Women's Hospital in Boston, special acoustical insulation and ceiling tiles were used during construction.

Several hospitals are using traffic light indicators to make staff more aware of their noise levels. When noise escalates, the traffic light changes from green to yellow; and when noise is too loud, the light turns red. Other hospitals have noise reduction campaigns in place.

"[The campaigns] are not only a satisfier for patients, but our staff is happy about having some more restful periods as well," said Tom Moore of the University of Iowa Hospitals.

Dr. Vineet Arora of the University of Chicago, who studies the sleep quality of patients in the hospital setting, says "we need to generalize the findings [of this study] to real patients in an actual hospital setting" and change the culture of the hospital where "patients are empowered to talk to their doctors about their sleep needs."

The hope is that when patients have a quiet environment where they can sleep and heal, patient outcomes may improve. When the dial on hospital noise is turned down, Solet says, "we can expect decreased lengths of stay and lower rates of re-admission."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Feb032012

Baseball MVP Admits to Addiction Relapse

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images(DALLAS) -- Texas Rangers’ outfielder Josh Hamilton, the 2010 American League MVP who has battled alcohol and drug addictions for over a decade, admitted Friday he relapsed and had several drinks on Monday night.

In a press conference, Hamilton, 30, said while dealing with personal issues, he went to a Dallas restaurant and in a “weak moment,” had about three or four drinks.

Teammate Ian Kinsler joined him later and the two left and eventually went to another restaurant across the street. Kinsler drove Hamilton home and asked Hamilton if he was planning to go back out. Hamilton said he wasn’t planning to go anywhere.

But, the All-Star confessed, he ended up back at the same restaurant he and Kinsler visited earlier.

“It was just wrong. That’s what it comes down to,” Hamilton said.  “I needed to be responsible at that moment.”

He later reported the incident to the team and to Major League Baseball and underwent two drug tests.

Hamilton said he plans to meet with the league’s doctors in New York in the next few days, and stressed he is serious about staying clean and sober.

“I cannot take a break from my recovery. My recovery is an everyday process.”

The relapse is not Hamilton’s first. In August 2009, Hamilton was photographed drinking in a bar in Tempe, Ariz., which he said was the first drink he had since he vowed to stay sober in October 2005.

Dr. David Sack, chief executive officer of Promises Treatment Centers in Los Angeles and Malibu, said stumbles like Hamilton’s are pretty common on an addict’s road to recovery.

“Most people who achieve long-term sobriety have failed multiple times before they’ve succeeded,” Sack told ABC News. “But an athlete has strong motivation to keep pursuing treatment because their livelihood and career depend on it. In our experience, they do remarkably well with treatment.”

Hamilton has gotten significant support from baseball management and his teammates in his efforts to stay alcohol-free. His teammates stopped drinking in front of him, even shielding him from the smell of alcohol. The 2011 American League champion team’s postseason celebrations eschewed the traditional champagne showers for ginger ale and water.

ESPN reported that the Texas Rangers are working to get Hamilton recovery-related support, which Sack said may include a combination of addiction medications like Naltrexone and individual therapy to explore what factors triggered his alcohol relapse.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Sep212011

Brain Stimulation Found to Speed Up Learning

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(BRADFORD, England) -- A mild zap to the brain could help people learn faster, according to new research recently presented at the British Science Festival.

The same technique might also some day help stroke patients recover lost motor skills.

Researchers at the University of Oxford have found that applying a small amount of electric current to the brain sped up learning, said the British Science Association, which sponsored the festival.

Using a technique called transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), a team of scientists, led by Heidi Johansen-Berg, electrically stimulated the brains of subjects trying to learn a computer game that required a series of button presses. The current was applied to the part of the brain that controls movement for about 10 minutes either before or during the game.

Subjects who received the current learned the sequences faster than subjects who received only a quick burst of electricity before the game.

"While the stimulation didn't improve the participant's best performance, the speed at which they reached their best was significantly increased," Johansen-Berg told BBC News.

The stimulation, Johansen-Berg added, could help people recovering from strokes. In a separate experiment, stroke patients who received the same electrical stimulation showed improved motor function.

Dr. Sarah Lisanby, chairwoman of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University in Durham, N.C., has been involved in her own research using tDCS. She said the current acts on the parts of the brain affected by a stroke.

"By using direct current application during the performance of a task that engages the circuits affected by a stroke, the current can help facilitate the response that leads to recovery," she said. The technique, she said, shifts the electrical potential of the brain to facilitate learning.

Experts say it makes sense that a technique such as tDCS that might affect learning could also help stroke patients improve their level of functioning.

"Stroke recovery is a form of learning, but the brain cells involved in learning are damaged," said Dr. David Alexander, professor of neurology and medical director of the UCLA Neurological Rehabilitation and Research Unit. "We want brain cells uninvolved in the stroke to take over function, but those cells will have to learn that function that's been lost."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Sep132011

Philadelphia Woman Says She Was Fired for Taking Leave to Donate Kidney

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(PHILADELPHIA) -- Claudia Rendon, 41, of Philadelphia, said her employer, Aviation Institute of Maintenance, fired her after she took time off to donate a kidney to her son. Rendon said the school was also trying to collect up to $2,000 from her son, a student at the school, related to his sick leave.

Rendon, who worked for a year and a half in the school's admissions office, said she notified the school that she planned to take leave on July 19 to undergo kidney transplant surgery on July 21 at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania on behalf of her 22-year-old son, Alex, whose kidney failed last January. After extensive testing in early July, Rendon was found to be a match.

"I would do it all over again. No questions asked," Rendon said.

Kidney transplant surgery normally requires at least six to eight weeks of recovery time, and Rendon said the Aviation Institute agreed to give Rendon unpaid leave until Sept. 1. Rendon told ABC News that on her last day of work before the surgery, her manager promised Rendon she would have her job upon her return, but one hour later, asked her to sign a letter acknowledging that her job was not secured.

"They said, 'If you don't sign this letter, you are abandoning your job and quitting,'" Rendon told ABC News. "I said, 'I am not abandoning my job. I am saving my son's life.'"

Rendon said she signed the letter after a superior at the company told her she was a "good employee" and would most likely have her job when she returned. Rendon said she'd taken holiday leave earlier this year related to the illnesses of family members, which included one week to bury her mother in Colombia in February.

Calls to the Aviation Institute of Maintenance's headquarters in Virginia Beach, Va., were transferred to the school in Philadelphia, where Rendon had worked. When asked if it would comment on Rendon's firing, its communications department said, "Absolutely not."

On Aug. 24, Rendon called Aviation Institute, saying she was not sure she could return to work by Sept. 1 because of severe back pain. She said the institute then asked her for a letter from the hospital.

The University of Pennsylvania hospital and her short-term disability provider each wrote letters to Rendon's employer, according to Rendon, indicating she would return to work Sept. 12.

On Sept. 8, Rendon said she made a social visit to her workplace and learned that her job was filled two days before. Rendon said the school cited business needs.

Rendon, who said she could walk only 10 to 15 minutes without assistance because of severe back pain, said she was still shocked about her firing.

"If they would have told me to come back that day, I would have done it," Rendon said.

Losing her job, Rendon said, means she can't pay for a new apartment she just moved into.

While her son has recovered from the transplant, Rendon said the school is trying to collect $2,000 related to time he took off for medical reasons. Rendon said the school is charging her son, who became a student December 2009, $150 to re-enroll, on top of the $2,000.

"[The school] told him he took too long of a leave," Rendon said.

Michael Foreman, clinical law professor and director of Penn State's Civil Rights Appellate Clinic, said Rendon's employer is not required to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act because it has less than 50 employees. Rendon estimated the company had about 30 employees in the Philadelphia office.

Foreman said the state of Pennsylvania, like most other states, has its own medical leave laws, but they closely mirror federal laws.

Foreman said Rendon's surgery and medical complications could possibly be covered under the federal Americans With Disabilities Act or under Pennsylvania's disabilities law. The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act applies to all public and private employers in Pennsylvania with four or more employees.

"The issue is whether her surgery and complications would constitute a physical impairment substantially limiting a major life activity. That is basically the legal definition from these laws," said Foreman.

If it's determined that it does, the employer would have to provide "reasonable accommodation" requiring an examination of how keeping the position open could harm the company's business.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Mar012011

Optimism Linked to Improved Survival With Coronary Artery Disease

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- Can a smile a day keep your heart okay? Some researchers are now saying say it might.

A new study released Monday and published in the Archives of Internal Medicine adds to growing evidence that having a positive attitude can help you live longer.

Researchers looked at nearly 3,000 patients who underwent hospital treatment for heart disease and found that those who had the highest expectations of a full recovery had a higher chance of living longer than those who were pessimistic about their chance of recovery.

Study researchers also noted that those who are generally optimistic about their health are more likely to follow treatment recommendations.

On the other hand, those who are pessimistic about their health may experience stress that could trigger additional heart problems, researchers said.

The nearly 3,000 patients enrolled were followed for 15 years. One year after their hospital stay, they were asked to fill out a survey that would help researchers learn more about their attitude.  The group of patients with a better perspective on their health had lived nearly 20 percent longer than those who seemed pessimistic. Optimistic patients also lived a more active lifestyle than the pessimists.

Previous studies looking at other potentially fatal diseases including cancer suggest that a positive outlook can affect not only your quality of life, but also whether you survive longer.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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