Entries in Washington DC (3)


East Coast Earthquake 'Cures' Veteran's Deafness

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- For Robert Valderzak of Washington, D.C., Tuesday's earthquake was a miracle.

Ever since he fell and fractured his skull on Father's Day, 75-year-old Valderzak had suffered severe hearing loss.  But after the 5.8 quake, he could hear everything.

"It was God's blessing," Valderzak told ABC News, his voice shaking with emotion.  "It was a miracle for me."

Valderzak was visiting with his daughter and three sons when the quake rattled D.C.'s Veterans Affairs Hospital, where he is battling cancer.

"It shook me terrible -- right out of the bed," said Valderzak.  "But after that it stopped.  And my son talked to me, and I could hear his voice."

Tests confirmed Valderzak's significant hearing improvement.  But his doctors think they have a medical explanation for the "miracle."

"He had conductive hearing loss, caused by fluid in his middle ear, as well as loss due to nerve damage," said Dr. Ross Fletcher, chief of staff at the VA Hospital.  "A combination of a drug he was taking and the earthquake event itself likely led to him losing the fluid and gaining back his hearing."

Dr. Jennifer Smullen of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary said the shaking itself might not have been enough to clear the fluid from Valderzak's inner ear.

"But if somebody was startled, and yawned or yelled, sometimes that's enough to clear some fluid out from the ear drum," she said.

In any case, recovering the ability to hear after going months without is a gift.

"People are usually very grateful, very happy, very surprised," said Smullen.  "They'll walk around looking at things that they'd forgotten made noise.  It's very gratifying."

Valderzak had adjusted to his hearing loss with the help of a special microphone and a crash lesson in lip reading.  But the situation was far from ideal.

"The devices helped, but by the time I got them all hooked up, everyone had left and I was talking to myself," he said, adding that lip reading meant he could only talk to one person at a time.

But now he can talk to all four of his kids again.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


After 102 Years, Walter Reed Army Medical Center to Close

U.S. Army Medical Department/Bernard S. Little(WASHINGTON) -- Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the Washington, D.C. hospital that has treated the country's war wounded for more than a century, is closing its doors.

Although the historic red brick, pillared building which lies six miles from the White House will stay, Walter Reed's operations will move to a new location in Bethesda, Maryland that will consolidate three military hospitals.

The move, which has been planned since 2005 to cut costs, will take place throughout August.  But patients and staff will say goodbye at a ceremony to be held on the grounds Wednesday.

Since it was built in 1909, the small hospital with an 80-bed capacity has grown to accommodate the hundreds of thousands of troops who served in World War II, Vietnam, Korea and, most recently, Iraq and Afghanistan.  The now 5,500-room facility currently treats about 775,000 outpatients each year, including veterans and their families.

Many of the nation's most heroic and influential people have visited Walter Reed. Allied commander-turned President Dwight Eisenhower died there, and a black-and-white photo taken in 1960 shows Sen. Lyndon Johnson visiting Richard Nixon, vice president at the time, who was treated for a staph infection.

But Walter Reed's reputation as a state-of-the-art hospital for privates and presidents alike came under fire with a 2007 investigation by The Washington Post, which uncovered unlivable conditions and a failure to ease rehabilitated veterans back into civilian life.

According to The Post, more than five years of sustained battle had "transformed the venerable 113-acre institution into something else entirely -- a holding ground for physically and psychologically damaged outpatients."  Black mold and mouse droppings adorned the now infamous outpatient ward, Building 18.  And bureaucratic red tape delayed discharges, leaving patients in limbo before they returned home or to active duty.

The Post's findings spurred a government investigation and the firing of some top military leaders.  They also led to improved military medicine at Walter Reed and elsewhere.  But plans to close Walter Reed's campus in the nation's capital would still move forward, with then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates telling reporters, "Far better to make an investment in brand-new, 21st-century facilities."

The new facility, called the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, opens in September.  The State Department and the District of Columbia will take over the Washington campus Sept. 15.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Kids Hit Capitol for Diabetes Cure

BananaStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Four children living with type 1 diabetes testified on Capitol Hill Wednesday to urge lawmakers to invest in research that could provide a cure for the disease that afflicts nearly three million Americans.

"I was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes at age six. I had been losing weight, wetting the bed at night and had extreme thirst. I was always tired and very emotional," Jonathan Platt, an eight-year-old from Tarzana, Calif., said in prepared remarks. "I was thinking, How did I get this disease? I didn't know what it was. I was very scared and nervous.

"I am here to ask you to continue to do your part and fund research to find a cure," he contintued. "A cure for diabetes means that I could go to any summer camp and have sleepovers whenever and wherever I want. It means I could be a regular kid again. Most of all, it would mean I would not have diabetes."

The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation estimates that of the three million Americans who have type 1 diabetes -- in which the body does not produce insulin -- 15,000 children are diagnosed each year. This week close to 150 children gathered in Washington to participate in the foundation's children's congress, where children could interact with lawmakers and explain the importance of diabetes research.

In a rare glimpse at the childhood of a Supreme Court justice, Sonia Sotomayor shared her own story of living with diabetes with the group of delegates Tuesday.

"I was ashamed," Sotomayor said as she described how she learned she had type 1 diabetes at the age of seven. Before she was diagnosed, Sotomayor had chronic thirst and wet the bed at night.

"It's a disease you have to deal with, but you can," Sotomayor told the group of children.

The Supreme Court justice continues to cope with diabetes, injecting herself with insulin four to six times a day.

One child asked Sotomayor if living with type 1 diabetes ever gets easier, to which Sotomayor replied, "Absolutely." She said having type 1 diabetes taught her discipline, which has helped her as a student and to land the job of her dreams as a Supreme Court justice.

"Figuring out how I felt all the time," she said. "All of that taught me discipline."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio