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Monday
Jul012013

Steve Gleason Embraces New Challenges in ALS Battle

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Steve Gleason is a hero in New Orleans.

The former safety for the New Orleans Saints earned that status when he blocked a punt by Atlanta Falcons’ Michael Koenen as the teams played in the Superdome in 2006.  The team went on to win the game.  It was the Saints’ first victory since the devastation of Hurricane Katrina the previous year, and the win raised the spirits of people in the city.

That game -- and the symbolic turning point in the city’s spirits -- was immortalized with a statue in Gleason’s likeness outside the Superdome.  The statue was named “rebirth.”

That symbol of resilience holds special meaning for New Orleans now that he’s battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a severe neurodegenerative disorder also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the disease causes progressive degeneration, killing the nerve cells that control the body’s muscles, including those needed to breathe, eat or perform other functions.  Those with Lou Gehrig’s disease experience increased muscle weakness, or paralysis and even death.

Gleason, 36, was diagnosed with ALS in 2011.

In an interview with ABC's Good Morning America news anchor Josh Elliott, Gleason’s wife, Michel, described the moment they realized something was wrong.

“We were walking across the street.  And he tripped and fell, face-planted … you know, his foot dropped,” she said, adding that it was “devastating.”

Scott Fujita, Gleason’s friend and former teammate, described his own reaction when he got the news.

“I remember breaking down on the phone.  And my wife came into the other room.  And she felt like a close relative had just passed away.  It was intense,” Fujita said.

When Elliott first met with Gleason earlier this year, he’d lost most of his physical abilities, and was communicating through a computer that he controlled with his eyes.

Back then, Elliott asked him how the diagnosis changed his life. Gleason said that he had been losing his ability to run in 2011, and said he was “dreading the loss.”

“I wasn’t sure what I would do if I could no longer run,” he said.

And when he finally couldn’t run anymore, he said he chose to search for “new avenues of joy."

“It has not been easy … And we’ve had to be very creative,” said Gleason, who uses a wheelchair full-time now.  “But with each loss we have worked to find the beautiful replacement.”

One of Gleason’s new avenues of joy is his son, Rivers, who was born soon after his diagnosis.

Gleason has been creating a video journal for Rivers, so that one day, his son can know his father.

At times, creating the journal -- and seeing images of his old self -- is difficult.

“I have moments where I miss my old self,” he said.  “But I think anyone can get caught up in what we used to have.  But at the same time, we can choose to focus on the beauty of now.”

Gleason also created Team Gleason, a foundation dedicated to raising awareness and finding a cure for ALS.  Many in the NFL have rallied around him.

When Gleason was diagnosed, he was told he had an incurable terminal illness and should prepare to die, Blair Casey, who manages Gleason’s foundation and helps care for him round-the-clock, said.

“And so when Steve was told that he said, ‘I’m going to prepare to live,’” Casey said.

Gleason has been living up to that pledge.

“I mean, this is a guy who one-year post diagnosis to celebrate he goes and jumps out of an airplane.  I mean, it’s unbelievable,” Fujita said.

Then there was the time Gleason told Fujita he wanted to go to the top of Macchu Picchu, an ancient Inca site located in the mountains of Peru.

“I said, like, ‘That’s 9,000 feet?’  And he says, ‘Yeah.’  And I said, ‘All right.  Don’t know how we’re going to do it.  But it’s booked.  We’re doing it,’” Fujita recalled.

And they did do it.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jul012013

Tips to Look 10 Pounds Skinnier in Swimsuits this Summer

Ciaran Griffin/Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- It’s summertime, and people are hitting beaches, pools and parks.  For some of us, it’s also time to hit the mall for a swimsuit that will cover up body parts we’re not too secure about.

As we shop, we may wonder: which swimsuit will give the perfect fit?

Lori Bergamotto, style editor for Lucky magazine, helped ABC's Good Morning America's Tai Hernandez shop for swimsuits at Bloomingdale’s in New York City.

Bergamotto shared four style tips and tricks that every swimsuit shopper should know.

“There are…tricks of fabric and of design that will instantly make you look about five to 10 pounds thinner,” she said.

Tip 1: Color Blocking

Color blocking is a way to create an optical illusion -- of curves or slenderness -- on your body through the use of strategically placed blocks of color.  If you want to create an hourglass figure, pick a suit that has black down the middle and another color on the side panels.  Adding a belt can also shave pounds off instantly.

Tip 2: Ruching

Ruching -- or gathered fabric -- on a suit can give the appearance of fullness where you want it.  So if you want to have a bigger bustline, pick a suit with a ruched bustline.  Another way to modify the bustline is to wear a lighter color on top and fade down to something that’s darker on the bottom.  If you want to minimize your bustline, wear the colors in reverse.

Tip 3: Halters Work

Think Marilyn Monroe in her iconic white halter dress.  Bergamotto says halters are great for the woman who is a little bustier.  A halter suit with a deep “V” plunging bustline can be very flattering because it gives adequate coverage and support, but flatters the cleavage as well, Bergamotto said.

Tip 4: Try a Two-Piece

Believe it or not, a two-piece can actually be slimming.  For those who are trying to create the illusion of longer legs, the best way to do that is to try a suit bottom with a higher cut so you’re showing more of your thighs.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Jun302013

WHO Recommends Earlier HIV Treatment

Bananastock/Thinkstock(GENEVA, Switzerland) -- The World Health Organization announced on Sunday that it is recommending earlier treatment for people who are HIV-positive.

According to WHO, if people in the developing world who are HIV-positive are given lifesaving drugs earlier it could potentially avert an additional 3 million deaths and prevent 3.5 million more new HIV infections by 2025.

A single pill combining three drugs would be given to those people much earlier, when their immune systems are still strong. Evidence shows that earlier treatment keeps patients healthier and lower the amount of virus in the blood, which in turn reduces the risk of spreading the virus to someone else.

“These guidelines represent another leap ahead in a trend of ever-higher goals and ever-greater achievements,” says WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan. “With nearly 10 million people now on antiretroviral therapy, we see that such prospects – unthinkable just a few years ago – can now fuel the momentum needed to push the HIV epidemic into irreversible decline.”

Implementation would add 10 per cent to the overall bill for treatment of HIV/AIDS in the developing world, but WHO is convinced the idea is cost effective in the long run.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Jun292013

Hepatitis A Outbreak Linked to Turkish Pomegranate Seeds

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The FDA announced Saturday it will block shipments of pomegranate seeds from a company in Turkey after U.S. health officials determined that the seeds are to blame for a multi-state outbreak of Hepatitis A that has sickened more than 120 people.

The outbreak began several months ago, and as of this week the CDC reports 127 people were exposed and sickened by in 10 states across the U.S. Health officials were able to trace the outbreak back to the seeds that were used in Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend, a frozen food blend sold at Costco and Harris Teeter.

“Hepatitis A is a foodborne illness,” explained ABC News' Chief Health and Medical Editor Dr Richard Besser. “It's spread from either contaminated food or contaminated waters, so the presumption is that [when] this was being harvested in Turkey, someone had hepatitis A and it was able to get onto the seeds. From there it survives very well.”

Pomegranate seeds were a particularly effective vehicle for the spread of disease, as the seeds are eaten raw. “Whenever you're eating a raw product, you're at greater risk of a food-borne illness because heat is one of the best ways of killing so many different germs,” Besser said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Jun292013

FDA Approves New Drug for Hot Flashes

iStockphoto(NEW YORK) -- The Food and Drug Administration approved a new and somewhat controversial drug to treat moderate to severe hot flashes and night sweats associated with menopause on Friday.

There are several drugs that treat hot flashes, which up to 75 percent of women experience, but Brisdelle is the first one that is non-hormonal. It contains a low dose of paroxetine, which is used in higher doses in the antidepressant drug Paxil.

Many are surprised that the FDA approved the drug after an expert advisory panel voted ten to four against it, saying it risks outweighed its benefits. But the FDA says many women are now opposed to hormonal treatments since being linked to increased risk of breast cancer.

“There are a significant number of women who suffer from hot flashes associated with menopause and who cannot or do not want to use hormonal treatments,” said Hylton V. Joffe, director of the Division of Bone, Reproductive and Urologic Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “[Friday’s] approval provides women with the first FDA-approved, non-hormonal therapeutic option to help ease the hot flashes that are so common in menopause.”

According to the FDA, the most common side effects of Brisdelle are headache, fatigue, and nausea and vomiting.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Jun292013

Fish Oil Might Help Fight Breast Cancer

Paul Tearle/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- It’s a supplement that millions of Americans take each day, hoping to reduce their risk of heart disease. But a new review of research suggests that fish oil might protect against another killer: breast cancer.

Chinese researchers looked at 21 studies and found that a higher intake of fish oil, but not necessarily fish itself, appears to be linked to a lower risk of breast cancer later in life. Specifically, they found that a high intake of fatty acids found in fish oil was associated with a 14 percent reduced risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women.

If it’s real, the link could have big implications for women and their health. Breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in U.S. women other than non-melanoma skin cancers, and the second deadliest cancer in women, following only lung cancer, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“These findings could have public health implications with regard to prevention of breast cancer through dietary and lifestyle implications,” the authors wrote in their study, published Thursday in the journal BMJ.

But while it is known that a healthy diet and lifestyle decrease the risk of breast cancer, past studies have reached different conclusions when it comes to the consumption of fish oil and breast cancer risk.

Science Still Slippery on Fish Oil Health Connection

One thing we do know is that including oily fish in your diet is good for you, a reason that it is recommended by many nutritionists. The benefits of fish oil supplements are less clear, although this has not stopped fish oil from becoming big business.

Americans spent $739 million on fish oil supplements in 2008, according to the trade publication Nutrition Business Journal. Proponents have primarily touted them as heart-healthy, and past research has also pointed to the effects of fish and fish oil on breast cancer risk.

But this research has been less than conclusive. On one hand, two large prospective studies and several case-control studies have suggested a protective effect on breast cancer risk. On the other, a number of studies have found no such association.

Dr. Kathy Helzlsouer, breast cancer expert and director of the Center for Prevention and Research at Mercy Health Services in Baltimore, Md., said the reasons behind the finding that fish oil supplements were linked to a lower risk of breast cancer, but that fish consumption was not, are unclear.

She also called the link between fish oil consumption and breast cancer prevention “modest,” and noted that it is still hard to say that these supplements deserve all the credit.

“Whether this is cause and effect is not certain,” Helzlsouer said, adding that the authors themselves admit in the paper that more research is needed to better understand the reasons for their findings.

What Women Should Do

The good news is that there is little out there to suggest increasing your intake of fish oil is harmful, and you might even be doing yourself some good.

But Helzlsouer says she believes the best, and perhaps tastiest, option to achieve the benefits of fatty acids found in fish is to eat more oily fish.

“I usually recommend consumption of fish rather than supplements,” she said. “I believe fish consumption is a healthy part of the diet and I have recommended it.”

Here are a few tips women should consider to reap the possible benefits of fish oil:
•    Nutritionists suggest one to two servings per week of oily fish like salmon, sardines or tuna;
•    If you’re not a fan of fish, taking a daily fish oil supplement might not be a bad idea;
•    The two important omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids found in fish are: docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Try to look for these if you decide to go with a fish oil supplement.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Jun292013

Woman Disfigured by Generic Drug Loses $21 Million Award

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Eight years after she was burned and blinded by a prescription drug, Karen Bartlett feels numb.

On Monday the Supreme Court ruled that Mutual Pharmaceutical Co., the maker of the drug Bartlett took for shoulder pain, should not be held responsible for her injuries because the company had copied the brand drug's formula and warning label.

"I was numb," Bartlett said of the moment her lawyer delivered the news. "I don't even have words to describe it because I can't believe that they would do that."

In a five-four decision, the court ruled Monday that generic drug makers could not be sued by patients over defective drug design because they're required by federal law to copy their brand-name counterparts. The ruling overturns the verdict from Bartlett's 2010 New Hampshire Superior Court trial in which a jury awarded her $21 million in damages, as well as the decision by an appeals court to uphold the verdict.

"I can't believe the Supreme Court can just say, 'I'm sorry, you guys are wrong,'" said Bartlett, whose body is scarred from the fierce reaction to sulindac, a generic version of the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug Clinoril. "It boggles my mind. I just don't get it."

Bartlett remembers little from the three months she spent at Massachusetts General Hospital in 2004, "wrapped up like a mummy" as the skin eroded two-thirds of her body. She was diagnosed with Stevens-Johnson syndrome, a rare and sometimes fatal reaction triggered by certain medications, including NSAIDS like Clinoril and sulindac.

The ordeal left her disfigured and legally blind. She also has lung damage and difficulty swallowing.

"I have no independence," said Bartlett, 53, who lives off disability checks for a fraction of the salary she once earned as a secretary at an insurance company in Plaistow, N.H. "This ruined my life, basically."

In a lawsuit against Mutual Pharmaceutical Co., Bartlett's lawyer argued that the company "failed to adequately warn users" about Stevens-Johnson syndrome, one of sulindac's more serious, albeit very rare side effects. A jury in New Hampshire Superior Court agreed, awarding Bartlett the $21 million payout to cover medical and legal costs, and compensate her for "physical and mental pain and suffering" as well as "loss of enjoyment of life," according to the complaint.

At the time of Bartlett's reaction, sulindac's label did not specifically warn about Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, the Supreme Court acknowledged, though it did warn that the drug could cause "severe skin reactions" and "fatalities." But under federal law, generic drugs must be chemically identical to the FDA-approved brand-name drug and don the same warning label.

"Here, it is impossible for Mutual to comply with both its federal-law duty not to alter sulindac's label or composition and its state-law duty to either strengthen the warnings on sulindac's label or change sulindac's design," Supreme Court Justice Samuel Anthony Alito Jr. wrote in the majority opinion of the court.

In 2005, one year after Bartlett's reaction, the Food and Drug Administration recommended changes to the labeling of all NSAIDs, including Clinoril and sulindac, to more explicitly warn about Stevens-Johnson syndrome.

Alito noted that Bartlett's case "arises out of tragic circumstances" and "evokes deep sympathy.
"But sympathy for [Bartlett] does not relieve us of the responsibility of following the law," he wrote.

Jay P. Lefkowitz, the lawyer who represented Mutual Pharmaceutical Co., said the ruling "vindicates the authority" of the FDA, the federal agency charged with assessing drug safety.

"The FDA has the scientific and medical expertise to make decisions about the safety and efficacy of drugs based on all of the data," said Lefkowitz, whose office is based in New York City. "State court juries that are only looking at one example of a tragic side effect don't have the ability to make an assessment about the safety and efficacy of a drug that millions of people use with good results."

Lefkowitz said his "heart was filled with sympathy" for Bartlett.

"Every one of us takes prescription drugs. We give them to our kids, and this can happen to anyone," he said. "But I think the court got it right, even though it's obviously a tragic set of circumstances."

Bartlett said, "I walk away with nothing except disability checks. They don't seem to care that this has affected me for rest of life."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jun282013

Is Your Beach Fine or Filthy?

Vivi Pineda Fotografía/Flickr(WASHINGTON) -- The annual list of the cleanest — and dirtiest — beaches is out.

The Natural Resources Defense Council examined the water quality at more than 3,000 U.S. beaches along the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the Gulf of Mexico and the Great Lakes. It then rated the 200 most popular sites.

The council, which has been reporting on the state of U.S. beaches for the last 23 years, found that in 2012, those sandy, sunny vacation spots had more than 20,000 closing and advisory days — for the third straight year.

According to the council, “the largest known contributor to beach closings or health advisory days was stormwater pollution.”

After analyzing the violation rates and practices regarding bacteria testing and public safety at the 200 popular U.S. beaches, the council awarded 13 with the highest rank of five stars.

Those beaches included Alabama’s Gulf State Park Pavilion, California’s Newport Beach, Rehoboth Beach in Delaware and Minnesota’s Lafayette Community Club.

Before you head to the shore, click here to see how your beach ranks.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jun282013

Sarah Murnaghan Had Two Lung Transplants, One Failed

The Murnaghan Family(PHILADELPHIA) -- The 10-year-old girl whose parents successfully fought a rule preventing her from qualifying for adult lungs didn't have just one lung transplant from an adult donor this month.

She had two.

Sarah Murnaghan's family on Friday revealed her June 12 lung transplant failed almost immediately and left her on life support. Unlikely to survive for more than a week in that condition, Sarah went back on the transplant list. She had a second lung transplant – again from an adult donor – on June 15.

"After we announced the overwhelmingly joyful news on June 12 that Sarah's lung transplant was a success, things quickly spiraled out of control," Sarah's parents, Janet and Fran Murnaghan, said in a statement. "That evening, as we waited for Sarah to be transitioned back to her room, an emergency code blue was announced.… The news was grim."

Sarah was suffering from "primary graft failure" because the donor lungs were in poor condition, the Murnaghans wrote. Patients who experience this complication die half of the time, they added.

Sarah was put on life support and approved to be re-listed for an adult lung transplant the following night in accordance with the Organ Transplantation and Procurement Network's new policy that allows patients to be exempt from the so-called Under 12 Rule on a case-by-case basis.

Sarah's second donor lungs were high risk because they were infected with pneumonia, according to the statement. This was known before surgery. A healthier patient might have turned down the lungs and waited for a better pair, but Sarah was out of options, so they went ahead with the operation.

"They were Sarah's best and only hope," the Murnaghans wrote.

But the operation was "truly a success," and Sarah got better each day, the family wrote. A week later, on June 21, doctors closed Sarah's chest, and she was slowly brought out of her induced coma.

Sarah, who was dying of cystic fibrosis this time last month, had her chest tubes removed June 28, and she is expected to be able to breathe without the assistance of a ventilator soon.

Cystic fibrosis is a genetic condition that affects cells that produce mucus, sweat and digestive fluid. Patients typically suffer so much lung damage that they often go into respiratory failure, which is why Sarah needed a lung transplant to survive.

About a month ago, Janet Murnaghanstarted a viral Change.org petition, calling attention to what would become known as the Under 12 Rule, which said that even though Sarah would be given priority when pediatric lungs became available, adult lungs would have to be offered to adult matches in her region before they could be offered to her.

On June 5, a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order to prevent Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius from enforcing the rule for Sarah. By June 10, the Organ Transplantation and Procurement Network re-evaluated the Under 12 Rule and decided to keep it but created a mechanism for exceptions to be made depending on the case.

Doctors at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia first removed Sarah's chest tubes on June 26 but had to replace them because Sarah's body "could not handle the reduced support" at the time, Janet Murnaghan wrote on her Facebook page that day.

This, the Murnaghans revealed on Friday, is because the surgeries caused Sarah to have a "partially paralyzed diaphragm." She will have diaphragm surgery to ease extubation on Monday.

"The important thing to us is that sweet little girl is back with us and is very much alive," the Murnaghans wrote. "She is communicating, she has sat on the side of her bed and started exercising her arms and legs. And she is determined than ever to walk out of the hospital and go home to her brothers and sister."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jun282013

NJ Woman Gives Birth on Front Lawn

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Two New Jersey police officers helped revive a newborn moments after he was born on a front lawn in Barnegat to a woman who said she didn’t realize she was pregnant.

According to the Barnegat Police Department, two officers arrived just after 21-year-old Elizabeth Whitehead gave birth to her son in the yard.  The officers found the baby boy unresponsive and without a pulse and immediately began CPR before the ambulance had arrived. In the ambulance the medical staff were able to stabilize the baby’s heart rhythm and normalize his breathing.

The infant was stabilized and then admitted to the Jersey Shore Medical Center for further treatment Tuesday. Whitehead was treated and released from the Southern Ocean Medical Center.

According to the Lacey Patch, Whitehead also has a 9-month-old son and had no clue she was pregnant. Instead she thought early labor pains were menstrual cramps. When the pain became worse she headed to the hospital, but only made it to her front lawn.

According to Dr. Lori Gawron, obstetrician and gynecologist at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, some women mistakenly believe they cannot become pregnant within weeks of giving birth.

“Moms don’t think how quickly after they deliver they can resume ovulation,” said Gawron, who did not treat Whitehead. “They can start ovulation 25 days after having a baby.”

Another complication for new moms is breastfeeding. Although breastfeeding can severely decrease the chance of a woman becoming pregnant, some women can spontaneously ovulate, especially if they are not exclusively breastfeeding.

Dr. Karen Ashby, associate professor of reproductive medicine at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, said she has had patients arrive at her office pregnant only six weeks after giving birth.

“If they’re not getting their period they think they can’t get pregnant, which isn’t true,” said Ashby, who did not treat Whitehead.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio