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Tuesday
Oct102017

'Fed is best' viral photo shows a mom feeding her two babies differently

Maya Vorderstrasse(NEW YORK) -- Maya Vorderstrasse is a New Jersey mom who feeds her two babies in different ways: one by breast and one by bottle.

She wants to the world to know: Fed is best.

In a now-viral Instagram photo of her feeding Zoey, 13 months, and Hazel, 2 months, Vorderstrasse shares her journey down two different paths that are often at odds with one another in the parenting world.

"I always dreamed I would breastfeed my child as long as I could," she wrote. "I've seen so many beautiful and amazing journeys through the bonding and comforting experience that it is. I breastfed my first daughter until she was 6 months old, and I loved all of it. It was our time together, so special ... and no one could take that from me. I got pregnant when she was 2 months old and by the time she was almost 6 months old, my milk was gone, dried up, like, it disappeared."

She goes on to say that her heart "shattered." The guilt, she said, consumed her.

"We had to start bottle feeding and I thought our bond would disappear and that she would think I was not providing for her, until it hit me: nothing had changed," she continued. "It was still our time, she'd still grab my hair and smile at me with her eyes. She was so happy. Fed. Loved."

Vorderstrasse told ABC News she was inspired to post the photo after preparing Zoey's nighttime bottle, right after breastfeeding Hazel.

"All of a sudden," she said, "my mind revisited everything we had gone through. It was such a powerful memory and I felt so grateful to be at a good place today. I thought that it was not possible that other women weren't going through this. I had the idea of posting a picture that represented my journey, so other mothers would know that they will be OK, and to not waste time feeling bad about their feeding choices."

Vorderstrasse called the response to her photo, which has now been like more than 10,000 times, "overwhelming."

Many women, she said, have contacted her to say they have gone through the same thing and felt alone.

"They aren't," Vorderstrasse said.

While she is breastfeeding little Hazel, she said in her post, there's "comfort of knowing that if life throws me a curved ball and I have to stop, or even if I decide to stop, she will be ok. Feeding them is beautiful."

She wants moms to know they are doing a great job, no matter how they feed their babies.

"This has been such a humbling experience," she told ABC News. "Us mothers have to support and encourage each other. Mothering is not easy and there is absolutely no room for mom-shaming."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Oct102017

Friends 'just keep swimming' despite blindness and bone cancer 

moodboard/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) --  As 14-year-old Grace Bunke faced numerous rounds of chemotherapy to combat bone cancer, her friend McClain Hermes gave her a wall plaque with “Just keep swimming” etched into the wood.

That motto epitomizes their relationship.

The two teenagers met during a swim practice for BlazeSports, a nonprofit that supports children with physical disabilities through adaptive sports.

Hermes had double retinal detachments in both eyes at the age of 8, the result of Wagner Syndrome. She became completely blind in her right eye and is progressively losing her vision in her left eye.

McClain was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in 2014, faced 18 rounds chemotherapy and had a partial leg amputation known as rotationplasty to attempt to remove the cancer from her left leg.

“One day we were thrown in the same lane together and just instantly became friends,” said Hermes.

They help one another in and out of the water.

On land, Bunke provides a guiding arm to Hermes, who otherwise uses a cane. When they jump into the pool together, Bunke kicks ahead so that Hermes can follow her bubbles in a straight line.

All the practice has paid off. Hermes became the youngest Team U.S. athlete to compete in the 2016 Paralympics in Rio and finished eighth in the women’s 100-meter breaststroke.

Bunke also won several medals in recent races in her home state of Georgia.

“We can compete in elite level sports and kick butt and win medals,” said Hermes.

After hopes that Bunke’s cancer had gone into remission following the extensive chemotherapy process, the cancer reemerged in her spine earlier this summer.

Hermes read about the life-threatening condition on Bunke’s mother’s CaringBridge page, where family and friends support one another through challenging health journeys.

“The day that we found out that [Grace’s] cancer had come back I wrote 'Grace' on my hand because she’s my best friend and that morning I just lied in bed crying because I don’t want to lose my best friend,” said Hermes.

Grace’s name stayed on Hermes’ hand throughout her qualifying heats for the Para Sport Festival in Mexico City. A number of other teammates and friends followed Hermes example and a sign of support for Grace.

“I know my friends and family are basically going through it too. So it’s like everyone’s fight,” said Bunke.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Oct092017

Striking images show what the environment looked like before the EPA

Gary Miller/EPA via U.S. National Archives(WASHINGTON) -- Public concern for the environment led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, which began operations on Dec. 2, 1970.

Its mission? “To protect human health by safeguarding the air we breathe, water we drink and land on which we live,” according to the EPA website.

From 1971 to 1977, the agency created a visual baseline to understand the state of the environment. For the project, called Documerica, the EPA collected over 15,000 images related to environmental problems.

Here’s a look at some of the most striking images from the project on the U.S. National Archive's Flickr page.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Oct092017

'ICU Grandpa' has soothed hospital's youngest and smallest patients for 12 years

Children's Healthcare of Atlanta(ATLANTA) -- For 12 years or so, David Deutchman -- recently nicknamed "the ICU Grandpa" -- has been tending to the needs of babies, children and their parents at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta hospitals.

"Some of my guy friends ask me what I do here. I say, 'Oh, I hold babies. Sometimes, sometimes I get puked on, I get peed on. It's great.' And they say, 'Why would you do that?' They just don't get it -- the kind of reward you can get from holding a baby," he said.

Deutchman said he was coming to the hospital for rehabilitation after a running injury 12 years ago when met some mothers. From conversations with them, Deutchman said, he realized that he wanted to make more of a connection with parents and children being treated at the hospital.

He started volunteering at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta hospitals after he retired from a job in international business marketing.

Deutchman started in the pediatric intensive care unit and eventually added the neonatal intensive care unit.

"It's been wonderful because it gives me something to do that has meaning to it. Every day I drive in here, I don't know which kids and parents I'm gonna meet and what the issues will be and how can I help," he said. "It's been wonderful for me."

He now volunteers Tuesdays in the PICU to hold babies and on Thursdays he makes rounds in the NICU.

"In the PICU, they have two to three new admits every night so the first thing I do is visit the moms who were admitted the previous night. Usually they need a break or someone to talk to. And I make sure they can go down for breakfast and I'll stay with their child until they get back," he said. "I think in PICU I spend more time with the parents. ... Whereas in NICU, it's the reverse."

Elizabeth Mittiga, a NICU nurse at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, said the staff treasures Deutchman's calming presence.

"He's just a really special person to us, as nurses, and our babies just adore him. So we're so grateful for him to be a part of our unit and to be a baby buddy," Mittiga said.

In his own life, Deutchman has two daughters in their 50s and grandchildren who are 19 and 21. He told ABC News on Monday he had no plans to stop volunteering at the hospital.

"Right now, I'm still going strong and enjoying it an awful lot," he said. "So as long as they'll have me, I'll be there."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Oct092017

Breast cancer survivor raising money to help others fight the disease

The Pink Fund(BEVERLY HILLS, Mich.) -- One year after a breast cancer survivor nearly went into financial ruin while fighting her disease, she's helping make sure no others have to struggle financially during their fight.

Molly MacDonald of Beverly Hills, Michigan, was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer in 2005. It was just five years after a divorce that left her "financially devastated," she told ABC News.

A mother of five, she said she was just about to accept a job that could have earned her six figures a year, with a car and health insurance, when she got her diagnosis.

"That diagnosis and treatment ... left me unemployed and unemployable," said MacDonald, 66. "I had no savings. We were already kind of living month to month. And the house we were in, I couldn't make the payments, so it went into foreclosure."

MacDonald, who at the time underwent a lumpectomy and six weeks of radiation treatment, said she tried to bargain with creditors for any sort of financial relief.

Although she was able to rescue her home from foreclosure, she said, "When everybody stopped delivering food ... I was standing in line at the food bank to feed my family."

MacDonald knew she wasn't the only one battling cancer who was under financial strain.

"When I was in radiation, I met lots of other women like myself," she said. "They were plowing through their savings, and none of us could get any help. I thought, 'Maybe I'm supposed to give help. I'm supposed to do something to make a difference.'"

So MacDonald began the Pink Fund in October 2006, to provide those battling breast cancer with financial support.

Since then, MacDonald and her organization have helped nearly 2,000 survivors in all 50 states with financial help for 90 days. The Pink Fund focuses on "nonmedical cost-of-living expenses," according to its website, so patients "can focus on healing, raising their families and returning to the workplace."

Deborah Hale of Brighton, Michigan, is one breast cancer patient who has benefited from MacDonald's vision. Hale was diagnosed on Feb. 1 with two kinds of breast cancer, later undergoing a lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

Hale, 49, said her social worker recommended she apply to the Pink Fund after she was forced into unemployment because of her cancer treatments.

Previously, she was a professional caregiver, noting that her job didn't provide her with health insurance. Meanwhile, her husband, Jeffrey Hale, worked two part-time jobs to keep her and her two children afloat, but he was laid off from his second job in April.

"So we were behind on our mortgage," she told ABC News.

Thankfully, the Pink Fund stepped in to pay her utilities and car payments "so I could go to and from treatment without having to worry," she said.

As far as their mortgage, her husband's co-workers covered it. He is a firefighter with the Green Oak Charter Township Fire Department.

Deborah Hale said the help is "wonderful."

"I was really stressed out because there was no income coming in," she continued. "But this allows me to just get better. It also allows me to just take care of me and not have to worry about getting up and going to work."

Hale is particularly thankful to MacDonald, whom she met for the first time last Thursday at a local fundraiser for the Pink Fund.

"She understands what I'm going through, and that helps," Hale said of MacDonald. "It helps just knowing there's someone out there who gets it — gets the anxiety-disorders.htm" id="ramplink_stress_" target="_blank">stress, gets the anxiety, gets the mental anguish that comes with ... batting cancer."

MacDonald said she's just living out her life's purpose.

"Back in the '90s, when I was among the 2 percent, I lived the life. My children were in private school. We had a beautiful home, went on first-class vacations," she recalled. "I felt all my value was represented by my stuff."

MacDonald said it wasn't until she "lost everything that had value and then was diagnosed with breast cancer" that she realized her "value was really defined by my actions with helping others, and that changed everything for me."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Oct092017

Police officer and 4th-grader bond over kidney donation

Gutzman Photography(JANESVILLE, Wisc.) -- Even though fourth grader Jackson Arneson and police officer Lindsey Bittorf have known each other for less than a year, they are like family now, with the scars to prove it.

Jackson, 9, even calls Bittorf his "other mom."

Jackson was born with a kidney condition called posterior urethral valves. His family members said they always knew that he would need a transplant one day. So when his mother, Kristi Goll, found herself desperate and out of options for finding a kidney donor for him in the winter of 2016, she turned to social media.

"It was horrible," Goll said of the search for a donor. "It was absolutely horrible."

Goll of Janesville, Wisconsin, took to Facebook, writing, "Please contact me if you are interested in becoming a living kidney donor."

Enter Bittorf of the Milton Police Department, who was scrolling on Facebook and saw Goll's post. Bittorf said she was compelled to get tested to see whether she was a match.

"I'm pretty set in my ways, so if I set my mind to something, there's really not talking me out of doing this. I was doing it," Bittorf told ABC News affiliate WISN-TV in May 2017.

She was a perfect match. She passed the initial health test, finding that she has the same blood type as Jackson and they matched three antigens — more than enough to proceed with a kidney transplant.

Bittorf, who did not know the family, delivered the news to Goll and Jackson in person.

"I took an oath to serve and protect our community," Bittorf told him, "and now my kidney is going to serve and protect you."

Jackson's June 22 transplant went smoothly, but he suffered collapsed lungs and pneumonia after the surgery. Thankfully, he pulled through after spending 11 days at the University of Wisconsin Hospital in Madison, according to WISN-TV.

"Thank you for giving me a new kidney ... I'm so lucky to have you as my donor," he told Bittorf via video.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Oct092017

High school senior gives up playing in marching band to serve as blind classmate's 'eyes'

iStock/Thinkstock(LAINGSBURG, Mich.) -- When the Laingsburg High School marching band performs on their Michigan school's football field, one band member marches without an instrument.

Rachael Steffens, 17, gave up playing clarinet in the band for her senior year to help bandmate Autumn Michels, who is visually impaired.

"I was excited to do it," Rachael told ABC News, adding how much she enjoys having Autumn in the band. "She’s always making jokes, and it makes band a lot more fun."

Autumn was 4 years old when, after a diagnosis of a brain tumor (http://abcnews.go.com/topics/lifestyle/health/cancer.htm) led to chemotherapy and multiple surgeries, she lost vision completely in both eyes.

She found an outlet in music, learning to play the clarinet by memorizing the musical notes in songs.

“Our comment to her has always been, ‘No matter your disability, there is nothing that’s going to stop you,’” said Autumn’s mom, Angela Michels. “She’s definitely a go-getter.”

When Autumn, now 14, decided she wanted to play in her high school marching band, band director Thomas Cousineau searched for a solution.

“It was a little bit of the unknown,” he said. “We do so many [marching] formations, and the speed of the music is so fast at times.”

Cousineau and Autumn’s parents agreed a fellow student should be by her side on the field to help guide her.

Rachael volunteered to help Autumn at a band camp over the summer, and when the fall band season began, she stepped up again.

“I asked Rachael when we got back from camp, and before I finished she cut me off and was on board,” Cousineau said. “She enjoys every minute.”

Rachael stands by Autumn’s side at all times to keep her both safe and in formation, while also making sure other band members around her are in the right spots.

"I love Rachael. she's amazing," Autumn said. "She puts her hand on my shoulder and tells me where to go. If she realizes I'm on the wrong foot she'll tap the shoulder [of the foot] that everybody is on."

She said of their fellow band members, "Everybody is really, really supportive of Rachael and I, just cheering us on."

Michels described what it is like to watch Autumn march alongside her peers.

“You always want your kid to have something special,” Michels said. “This gave us the opportunity for our family to see Autumn do something that makes her happy.”

She added, “Rachael did that for us.”

Rachael said she also finds joy in helping Autumn to do something that she loves.

"I’m really happy that she’s able to do this because music is something that she loves," she said. "Just being able to see her flourishing in something that she really enjoys is great."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Sunday
Oct082017

Barber goes above the call of duty to ensure child with autism gets amazing haircut

Fauve Lafreniere(MONTREAL) -- When a 6-year-old boy with autism kept being refused by barbers, one Canadian stylist welcomed him with open clippers.

Wyatt Lafreniere's mother Fauve told ABC News that her son was diagnosed with autism at 2 years old. Since then, it's been hard for the boy to get his hair cut due to his hypersensitivity to sound and touch.

"He doesn't like his hair to be touched and a lot of sounds are aggressive for him," she explained.

After meeting Franz Jakob, who owns Authentischen Barbier in Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec, and mentioning the issues she was having getting her son's hair trimmed, the barber invited them into his shop.

"I was nervous the first time," Fauve Lafreniere, 30, said of when she first went to Jakob's vintage barbershop two years ago. "But now, I just feel blessed that we have Mr. Jakob in our life, in every way."

Jakob, 45, who's been cutting hair since he was 12 years old, said he's not doing anything special -- he's just doing his job.

"I’m trying to take care of all my clients. It’s in my nature to go the extra mile," he said. "There’s no difference for me if I’m doing a popular singer or if I’m doing Wyatt. I’m doing what I need to do to... get a real nice haircut, honestly. That's what it’s all about."

The barber cuts the hair of many children with disabilities and even terminally ill patients, whom he doesn't charge. He typically schedules them at the end of his day so "I can take all the time I need," Jakob explained.

For Lafreniere, he usually begins their 90-minute sessions by playing a game or by eating candy.

"I'm just being really, really, really patient because they are the drivers. I'm not the one driving those moments," he explained.

Captured in a now viral photo on Facebook, Lafreniere got onto the floor during his haircut two weeks ago.

"So I put the mirror in front of him and I finished what I was doing," Jakob said. "It’s an honor for me to do all of this."

Lafreniere and his mother were both thrilled with the result.

"Anyone can make a difference with an open mind and love," Fauve Lafreniere said of the experience.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Oct072017

Three geneticists win Nobel Prize for 'body clock' research

Spencer Platt/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Three scientists who studied circadian rhythms have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young were able to "peep inside our biological clock" by helping “explain how plants, animals and humans adapt their biological rhythm so that it is synchronized with the Earth’s revolutions,” according to the Nobel Prize committee. They isolated a gene in fruit flies that controls the rhythm of a living organism’s daily life, according to the New York Times.

The section of DNA that Hall and Rosbash isolated, called the period gene, contains data that makes a protein called PER. Levels of the PER protein oscillate over the course of a day, rising during the night and falling during daytime.

Young discovered a gene that affects the stability of PER.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Oct062017

WHO has sent 1.2 million doses of antibiotics to Madagascar to fight plague outbreak

iodrakon/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The World Health Organization has delivered 1.2 million doses of antibiotics and provided $1.5 million in emergency funds to fight an outbreak of plague in Madagascar.

The Madagascar Ministry of Health has reported more than 200 infections and 33 deaths since August. The majority of those cases are associated with pneumonic plague, a more deadly form of the disease, which can be transmitted through coughing.

"Plague is curable if detected in time," Dr. Charlotte Ndiaye, WHO Representative in Madagascar said. "Our teams are working to ensure that everyone at risk has access to protection and treatment. The faster we move, the more lives we save."

The WHO has provided drugs for both curative and prohpylactic care. With another 244,000 doses expected in the coming weeks, the agency says it has provided sufficient medication to treat 5,000 patients and protect 100,000 more who may be exposed.

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