Boy with Rare Disease Inspires Donations of Band-Aids, Blood

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- These days, SpongeBob SquarePants, Transformers, pirates and Disney-character Band-Aids are all a part of the selection for Liam Gorman, who receives blood transfusions every third Friday of the month.  But for Liam, who's six, there's nothing like a bacon Band-Aid strip to wrap up an all-day visit to Brooklyn Hospital Center.

Liam must get transfusions every two-to-three weeks because of a rare condition known as Diamond Blackfan Anemia, in which one's bone marrow is unable to produce red blood cells.

After a difficult birth, doctors found that baby Liam had a low platelet count.  He spent his first 32 days of life in the neo-natal intensive care unit, but it wasn't until he was 15 months old that Liam was diagnosed with Diamond Blackfan Anemia.  Only about 600 people in the entire world have been diagnosed with it.

Red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body, so, when Liam's levels are low, he can become pale and fatigued.

Doctors have not kept Liam from playing sports or doing the things that most kids do, but he must be monitored carefully.  Those with Diamond Blackfan Anemia can live full lives if treated and cared for properly.

And his treatments are not for the faint of heart.  Once a month, Liam takes off from school to get his transfusion.  While the kids like to spice up their treatments with fun or funky Band-Aids, Liam and the other children in the pediatrics department didn't always have such colorful options.  After the hospital went through a series of budget cuts, the kids were stuck with boring brown Band-Aids.

So Liam had an idea.  He said to his father, Anthony Gorman, a paramedic, last April, "Let's go ask people for Band-Aids."  The colorful kind, that is.

Gorman began asking his paramedic friends to donate a box of Band-Aids for the kids at Brooklyn Hospital Center.  The word spread, and in a matter of three weeks, Gorman had collected 500 boxes of children's Band-Aids.

It may sound trivial, but for those kids receiving blood transfusions or chemotherapy treatments, the choice of Band-Aid can go a long way, Gorman said.

Gorman said that Brooklyn Hospital should be all set with colorful Band-Aids for a while.  But Liam and his father plan to continue their campaign.  Along with the Band-Aids, Gorman also holds blood drives in honor of Liam every six-to-nine months. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


HealCam: Chatroulette-Like Site Pairs Patients for Web Chats

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(HALF MOON BAY, Calif.) -- Many patients who suffer from diseases or medical complications comb through medical websites and forums searching for people share their pain, seeking advice and support.

But a website called HealCam gives patients a new approach to sharing their stories with others in  the online community.

Much like Chatroulette, the website connects people visually at random using their webcams.  Once connected, patients can share their stories, give advice and ask questions to one another face-to-face.

Dr. Michael Ostrovsky, a 41-year-old anaesthesiologist from Half Moon Bay, California, said he and his brother, Gene, started the website last June after learning about ChatRoulette.

"I think people want to talk to each other for a variety of reasons," Ostrovsky said.  "People want to meet people with the same diseases and share experiences."

The brothers already run MedGadget, "an Internet journal for medical technologies," and say they know of other websites that let patients share information with the crowds.  But he said they saw the potential for a site that let people share advice and experiences with one person at a time.

"I think it's good for the health-related community and patient-to-patient communication because it provides anonymity, and anonymity is important," Ostrovsky said.

Visitors to the site use a webcam to communicate with others, but they don't need to share their real names or other identifying personal information.

After signing on, patients simply select one of more than a dozen health topics they'd like to discuss -- from bones and joints to cancer to the immune system -- and then the site searches for another user who wants to talk about the same thing.  Users can also indicate their gender, as well the gender of their ideal conversation partner.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Man Sues Drug Maker Over Gambling, Gay Sex Addiction

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NANTES, France) -- Didier Jambart, 51, of Nantes, France, is suing the British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, claiming the drug he took to treat his Parkinson's symptoms, Requip, turned him into a gambling and gay sex addict.

The married father of two said he blew through his family's savings and even took to stealing to finance his online gambling habit, the French Press Agency reported.  He also became addicted to gay sex and risky sexual encounters that led to him being raped, his lawyers said.

Parkinson's disease destroys neurons deep within the brain that release the "feel-good" neurotransmitter dopamine.  Requip belongs to a class of drugs called dopamine agonists that relieve motor symptoms, such as shaking, stiffness, slowness and trouble balancing, by activating dopamine receptors.  But the drugs have side effects that, while rare, are serious.

"There are plenty of reports of people developing side effects from Parkinson's drugs, such as hypersexuality, gambling and excessive shopping," said Dr. David Standaert, professor and interim chairman of neurology and director of the Center for Neurodegeneration and Experimental Therapeutics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.  "It's uncommon, but very dramatic when it happens."

It's estimated that 13.6 percent of people with Parkinson's disease who take dopamine agonists experience behavioral side effects, according to Dr. Mark Stacy, a neurologist at Duke University Medical Center, who first linked the drugs to gambling in 2000.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Mother's Stroke History Points to Daughter's Risk of Heart Attack

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(DALLAS) - A mother's history of stroke could help determine her daughter's risk of having a heart attack, according to researchers at the University of Oxford.

The study, published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Genetics, examined approximately 2,200 female patients and how their mother's history of stroke affected their risk of both stroke and heart attack, compared to those whose father had suffered a stroke.

"Our study results point towards sex-specific heritability of vascular disease across different arterial territories — namely coronary and cerebral artery territories," said study leader Amitava Banerjee.

The study was the first of its kind to focus on both the sex of the patient and the sex of the relative in determining risk of such diseases. The researchers say it is important to evaluate gender-specific risk factors related to women and heart attacks because women are more likely to die from suffering a heart attack than men.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Head Injuries Increase Future Risk of Death

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(GLASGOW, Scotland) -- People who suffer a head injury may face a greater risk of death years after the injury, according to new research reported by WebMD.

Researchers at the University of Glasgow found that up to 13 years after even a slight head injury, an individual was nearly three times more likely to die compared to those who have never suffered a head injury.

“More than 40% of young people and adults admitted to hospitals in Glasgow after a head injury were dead 13 years later,” wrote researcher T. M. McMillan of the University of Glasgow. “This stark finding is not explained by age, gender or deprivation characteristics.”

The highest level of death in the 757 people studied occurred in the year following the head injury. Within 13 years, 305 of those individuals had died. That number is 19 percent higher than a seperate group of 757 who had not suffered a head injury.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


New Device Detects Skin Cancer in Seconds

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(VANCOUVER, British Columbia) -- Detecting cancerous moles could soon take a matter of seconds, thanks to a new device by Verisante Technology.

The device, called the Verisante Aura, is held above a suspicious mole and scans for 21 cancer biomarkers in under a second. The technology works by utilizing Raman spectroscopy, which determines a mole's spectral signature.

The device will now head to the Food and Drug Administration and Canada Health for testing and confirmation. Even if the device wins approval, however, it is not expected to take the place of traditional biopsies, but rather be used for preliminary testing.

Traditionally, moles that are expected to be cancerous are removed and sent to a lab for testing, a process that takes a much longer period of time.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Artificial Pancreas Could Help Prevent Stillbirth

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(CAMBRIDGE, U.K.) - New research could help save the lives of pregnant women with type 1 diabetes and their children, reports WebMD.

The research, funded by Diabetes U.K., has found that an artificial pancreas could help control blood sugar levels by producing insulin. The device would automatically produce the correct amounts of insulin in order to keep blood glucose levels in a normal range.

“For women with type 1 diabetes, self-management is particularly challenging during pregnancy due to physiological and hormonal changes," said Helen Murphy of Cambridge University. "Previous studies indicate that pregnant women with the condition spend an average of 10 hours a day with glucose levels outside the recommended target."

High blood glucose levels in pregnant women can lead to stillbirth, preterm delivery and congenital malformation.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Children Often Gain Weight After Getting Tonsils Removed

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(ST. LOUIS, M.O.) - Although food consumption is often limited immediately after getting a tonsillectomy, new research suggests that children who get their tonsils removed often gain weight.

According to WebMD, researchers at Saint Louis University found that children who get their tonsils removed gained more weight than was normal.

"About 30 to 50 percent of this generation of children is overweight so anything that can exacerbate that should be looked at very closely," Dr. Anita Jeyakumar, a pediatric otolaryngologist at Saint Louis University Medical School, told WebMD.

Over the course of the study, 795 children were monitored for weight gain after surgery using different methods of weight measurement. In one group, where Body Mass Index (BMI) was used to judge weight gain, it was found that those who had their tonsils removed saw a seven-percent increase in their BMI after surgery, 3.6 percent above the control group.

Jeyakumar and her colleagues determined that doctors should take more care in determining whether such a surgery in necessary, or whether other options may be available.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Elders Confused By Too Many Medications

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Many elderly Americans take various types of pills every day, and remembering which pill combats which ailment, or the proper dosages, can become trying.

"There are a lot of patients who see multiple specialists, and nobody is coordinating their care," said Barbara Paris, director of geriatrics at Maimonides Medical Center. "And they get into dangerous situations where the right hand doesn't know what the left is doing."

Nearly one-third of Americans ages 57-85 take at least five prescription drugs, while people with chronic illnesses may take more than 20. Sixty-eight percent of Americans are also taking over-the-counter medicines or supplements, according to a 2008 article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. These combinations may lead to dangerous and often unmonitored interactions.

"There are over 100,000 deaths per year related to polypharmacy and medication misuse and adverse reactions, which brings it to one of the leading causes of death in this country," Paris said.

Seniors can experience polypharmacy not only when they are prescribed numerous medications, but also when they start taking the medications of other family members as well.

Family members can watch for signs of polypharmacy at home, according to ABC's chief health and medical editor, Dr. Richard Besser. These signs can include weight loss, depression, or lack of interest in normal activities.

Also, there are forms an elderly patient can fill out, which will allow family members to discuss the care of their loved ones with the doctor. Filling out HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) release forms beforehand can assure you'll be included in conversations about your loved one's care, Besser said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


New Guidelines Emphasize Timely Teen Vaccination

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The American Academy of Pediatrics has released its latest vaccine recommendations.

"The new vaccination schedule draws more importance to vaccinate teens," said ABC News chief health and medical editor Dr. Richard Besser. "Even though our kids may have gotten a vaccine when they were young, we know that as we get older, protection wears off."

More frequent visits to the doctor make it easier for babies to get all of their recommended vaccines. But it's harder to keep up with vaccines as a child gets older, Besser said.

  • Flu vaccine: Most children aged 6 months to 8 years old should now receive two doses of the flu vaccine, even if they received the H1N1 vaccine last year.
  • Pertussis vaccine: Children 7-10 not previously vaccinated against pertussis -- also known as whooping cough -- should get a single dose of the tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, or Tdap vaccine. Teens ages 13 to 18 who did not get the Tdap should get the vaccine, followed by the Td booster every 10 years after.
  • HPV vaccine: The HPV vaccine is now recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics for prevention of genital warts in females, but may also be administered in a three-dose series to boys aged 9 to 18.
  • Haemophilus influenza type b vaccine: Children older than 5 and adults who have sickle cell, leukemia or HIV, or have had a part of their spleen removed should receive a single dose of this vaccine.
  • Hepatitis B vaccine: This vaccine is typically given right after birth. Catch-up vaccinations for children who miss the recommended birth dose should be given on a schedule of 0, 1, and 6 months. The third dose should be given no earlier than 24 weeks old. If your teen did not receive the hepatitis B vaccine as a baby, they should receive a two-dose combination.
  • Pneumococcal vaccine: Any series begun with the older, 7-valent vaccine should be completed with the new 13-valent version. A single supplemental dose of the new vaccine is recommended for children who have completed the series using the old one.
  • Meningococcal vaccine: Adolescents should receive the first vaccine before age 12, and then should receive a booster when they're between ages 16 to 18.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio