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Thursday
Sep112014

Couple Completes Bucket List for Unborn Child

Courtesy Dan Haley(NEW YORK) -- When you find out you’re pregnant, it’s not unusual for parents to start dreaming of all the places and experiences you want to share with your bundle of joy once they’re born.

Jenna and Dan Haley, of Philadelphia, had to get started on those plans much earlier than expected. At only 13 weeks, their unborn son, Shane, was diagnosed with anencephaly, a birth defect in which babies are born without parts of their brain and skull.

“We learned of his condition on April 10,” Dan, 25, told ABC News. “We were shocked and devastated. It's definitely not something anyone ever expects to hear. As we learned more about his diagnosis we experienced pretty much every emotion you could imagine.”

Over time, however, the disheartened couple “accepted his condition for what it was, and decided to give Shane all the love we could while we have him with us,” the father said.

The Haleys learned the life expectancy for infants born with anencephaly is extremely short -- generally ranging from mere hours to a few days -- so their time with Shane would not only be precious, but limited.

“When we found out that Jenna was expecting, we would often talk about all of the places that we wanted to go as a family after Shane was born,” Dan recalled. “After his diagnosis and understanding that almost 100 percent of babies with anencephaly die shortly after birth, we decided to start visiting the places we had wanted to go with him while he was living in his mother's womb.”

The couple made a bucket list of significant activities and locations they still wanted to share with Shane, from going to a Phillies game, visiting the Statue of Liberty and Times Square in New York City, to even taking their unborn son to enjoy a famous cheesesteak from Geno’s in Philadelphia, all while Jenna was pregnant.

“He's still our little boy and even though he's been given such a short life expectancy because of anencephaly, we wanted to make sure that we gave him a lifetime worth of adventures and love while he's with us,” said Dan.

The proud parents-to-be have been chronicling their bucket list adventures on their Facebook page, Prayers for Shane, for the nearly 175,000 followers who’ve joined in to witness their journey and provide support, something for which the Haleys are so incredibly thankful.

“One thing we would want people to take away is that each human life is so valuable and that it's so important to live each day to its fullest potential,” Dan explained. “Whether we live one hour or 100 years, our time here is limited. Make sure to enjoy the little things in life and hug those who mean the most to you. Choose to make the most of the hand you’re dealt and always look on the bright side of every situation and the world will be a better place because of it.”

And as for their growing boy who is due on Oct. 12, he can rest assured his parents are over the moon to meet him.

“We honestly just can't wait to hold Shane in our arms and show him how much we love him,” said Dan. “It's all in God's hands and we will accept His will, but we just can't wait to finally hold and hug our little man!”

As of early September, the Haleys had completed their entire bucket list for Shane.


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Sep112014

Cancer Survivor Saved by Measles Virus Raises Funds for Expanded Trial

Mayo Clinic(NEW YORK) -- After battling blood cancer for 10 years, Stacy Erholtz has no signs of the disease, thanks to an experimental treatment that used an engineered version of the measles virus.

Now, a year after finishing her treatment, the 50-year-old mother of three is transitioning from patient to advocate, working with the Rochester, Minnesota-based Mayo Clinic to expand the tiny trial that saved her life.

"When I was first diagnosed, there was not a lot of options. We strung together 10 years of life with a disease that is typically done in three to five," said Erholtz, who had tumors on her forehead, color bone, sternum and spine from multiple myeloma before the last-ditch treatment. "I'm encouraged. I want people to join me in remission right now."

Multiple myeloma is a type of blood cancer that affects the immune system, according to the Mayo Clinic. It can cause kidney failure, bone fractures and repeated infections.

After chemotherapy and stem cell transplants failed, Erholtz was accepted into the measles trial and given the highest possible dose of the engineered virus, which was designed to attack her cancer cells and leave her healthy cells alone, according to her physician, Dr. Stephen Russell.

"It's been adapted, so that it learned in the lab how to grow pretty efficiently on myeloma cells, "said Russell, who is in charge of the new trial. "It's lost the ability to cause harm on normal cells."

The effects were immediate and incredible, according to Erholtz. A large tumor on her forehead -- nicknamed Evan by her children -- disappeared within 36 hours, she said, adding that her energy "quadrupled" within weeks and within a few months, all of her tumors disappeared.

"At the Fourth of July parade, my mom and my husband accused me of taking steroids because I was so crazy energetic," Erholtz said. "I was having a great time. They had not seen that kind of energy from me for a long time."

Erholtz was one of two patients given the highest dose of the engineered virus. Both patients experienced some degree of remission but Erholtz was the only one to have all signs of cancer disappear. One forehead tumor did come back in January, she said, but it disappeared after a localized radiation treatment.

Another four patients received a lower dose of the engineered virus, according to Russell.

Now the trial is entering its second phase, with nearly 400 patients on a wait list hoping to have a reaction similar to Erholtz's. But the researchers only have enough engineered measles virus to treat 20 patients initially, according to Russell.

The patients enrolled in the trial will need to meet certain criteria, which include having virtually no measles antibodies circulating in their blood, according to Russell. They will also need to have exhausted other treatment options.

The researchers will have to see if the staggering results from the initial trial can be repeated. They plan to work with one patient about every week, and if the results don't appear to be positive over consecutive weeks, Russell said they'll likely halt the trial with 20 participants. But if the treatment appears to be working, they'll expand the trial to include an additional 17 patients, he said.

Erholtz said she wants to help other patients on the wait list get access to the treatment she received. Beyond partnering with the Mayo Clinic to raise funds for the trial, she also launched a foundation called Viral Village, which aims to stop "the bottleneck" of manufacturing process for experimental cancer drugs, she said.

"I had applied for [the trial] and [been] rejected 18 months before I got accepted," she said. "I had my mind and heart set on the measles trial."

And that trial led to a "beautiful remission," according to Erholtz.

"It's been a roller coaster for everyone as a family, [thinking] 'Is this going to work?'" she said. "We were all excited and we just take it one a day at a time."


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Sep112014

FDA Approves Weight-Management Drug Contrave

Jack Hollingsworth/Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved weight-management drug Contrave on Wednesday to help adults with weight-related health problems.

According to a press release from the FDA, the drug is approved for use in adults with a body mass index above 30 (considered obese) or above 27 (considered overweight), or who suffer from high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes or high cholesterol. "Obesity continues to be a major public health concern," says Jean-Marc Guettier, director of the Division of Metabolism and Endocrinology Products in the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. "When used as directed in combination with a healthy lifestyle that includes a reduced-calorie diet and exercise, Contrave provides another treatment option for chronic weight management."

Contrave combines two FDA-approved drugs, naltrexone and bupropion. Naltrexone is approved to treat alcohol and opioid depenence, while bupropion is used to treat depression and season affective disorder, and as a smoking cessation aid.

Contrave was expected to receive FDA approval in 2011, but the agency opted to wait for the results of clinical trials to evaluate the cardiovascular risks of the drug. Even after approving the drug, the FDA is requiring several more post-marketing trials to ensure patient safety.


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Sep112014

Some Infertile Women More Prone to Mental Illness

iStock/Thinkstock(CARDIFF, Wales) -- Infertility can be devastating for a couple trying but failing to have a child and it’s a fact of life for about 15 percent of couples in the U.S.

Dr. Sofia Gameiro at Cardiff University in the United Kingdom says the psychological side-effects from the inability to conceive include depression, anger, and frustration.

Based on a study of more than 7,100 women in the Netherlands who underwent fertility treatments over a five-year span, Gameiro learned that those who were not able to have children and refused to accept that reality were 2.8 times more likely to develop problems associated with mental illness than women willing to move past their problem.

Even women who previously gave birth but couldn’t expand their families were 1.5 times at greater risk of mental illness if they were unable to let go of their desire to have more kids.

Although each case is different, Gameiro suggested that attempting to give up the idea of having children might help women in the long term for their own psychological well-being. She suggested that focusing on other goals, such as a career, might help relieve some of the angst of infertility.


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Sep112014

After a Can of Soda, Walk It Off

iStock/Thinkstock(SYRACUSE, N.Y.) -- Sweetened soda is losing its popularity in the U.S. but not soon enough for health officials who believe that high-fructose corn syrup is a serious threat to Americans' health.

One of the chief problems with the ingredient is that transforms into fatty acids, some of which stay in the liver while the rest of it filters into the blood stream. Either way, fructose is a health menace.

Amy Bidwell, currently a researcher at SUNY Oswego in New York, conducted a small study at Syracuse University to determine if physical activity could lessen then detrimental effects of fructose when included in soda.

Among 22 students who volunteered for the experiment, half moved around half as much as they normally did on a daily basis while the other participants doubled their activity, namely walking about 12,000 steps a day. Meanwhile, everyone drank two fructose-laden sodas daily for a total of 500 calories.

Bidwell also conducted metabolic and health tests before and after the two-week experiment and found, to some dismay, that the group who didn’t walk as much experienced higher concentrations of very-low-density lipoproteins, a type of bad cholesterol that builds up on the walls of arteries.

Naturally, Bidwell believes that cutting out high-fructose corn syrup is the best option but if people feel the need to drink soda, she recommends plenty of exercise to help offset its effects.


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Sep112014

ER Visits for High Blood Pressure Increase Dramatically

iStock/Thinkstock(KALAMAZOO, Mich.) -- It’s possible that hearing about all the risks of having high blood pressure could actually be giving Americans high blood pressure.

Certainly it’s a problem with as many as 76 million adults believed to have hypertension, some going for years without it ever being diagnosed.

What’s more, the number of people visiting emergency rooms for high blood pressure with no known cause rose 25 percent between 2006 and 2011 while visits for hypertension with complications and secondary hypertension also increased by 19 percent during that time span.

The upside, according to Sourabh Aggarwal, M.D. at Western Michigan University School of Medicine, is that admissions for these conditions have dropped. Of those admitted, deaths fell by more than a third from 2006 through 2011, likely because doctors are better equipped at treating the disease.

Just the same, Aggarwal says that people need to have a better handle on treating hypertension before it sends them to the hospital. The American Heart Association recommends adults get themselves to an ER if their blood pressure is 180/110, otherwise known as hypertensive crisis.


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Sep102014

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Pledge $50M for Ebola Outbreak

iStock/Thinkstock(SEATTLE) -- The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced on Wednesday a $50 million pledge to help fight the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

"The foundation will immediately release flexible funds to United Nations agencies and international organizations involved in the response to enable them and national governments to purchase badly needed supplies and scale up emergency operations in affected countries," it said in a statement.

"In addition, the foundation will work with public and private sector partners to accelerate the development of therapies, vaccines, and diagnostics that could be effective in treating patients and preventing further transmission of the disease," the statement continued.

According to the latest data from the World Health Organization, the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has killed at least 2,296 people and sickened 1,997 more.


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Sep102014

Oregon Girl Dies from E. Coli as Friend Battles Same Bug

Courtesy Aleasha Hargitt-Profitt(OTIS, Ore.) -- A 4-year-old girl has died of complications from E. coli while her 5-year-old friend remains in critical condition, also infected with E. coli, a lawyer for the girl’s family told ABC News.

Serena Profitt of Otis, Oregon, was gone in the “blink of an eye,” her aunt said.

Aleasha Hargitt-Profitt said a nurse pulled the family aside and said, “Mother-to-mother, everything should be OK,” but the little girl was brain dead about 12 hours later.

Serena shared a sandwich with a 5-year-old boy during a Labor Day weekend gathering on Saturday, Aug. 30, but it’s not yet clear whether the sandwich carried the deadly bacteria, said Hargitt-Profitt, who explained what happened in the following days.

On Sunday night, Serena began to experience gastrointestinal pain. On Monday, the little boy was sick, too, and they both had diarrhea.

Two days later, Serena’s stools had turned bloody and she wasn’t eating, according to Hargitt-Profitt, so her family took her to a hospital. But she was sent home two more times over the following days without ever being tested for E. coli, Hargitt-Profitt said.

By Saturday morning, Serena’s body was going into shock, so her family took her to a different emergency room, where doctors discovered she had gone into complete kidney failure and put her on dialysis. They also ordered an E. coli test.

“Sunday morning, she woke up and had great color and was able to sit up in bed for the first time” since she’d gotten sick, Hargitt-Profitt said. “She was able to talk to her mom and dad and tell them she loved them.”

By that afternoon, however, Serena had a stroke that paralyzed the right half of her body, Hargitt-Profitt said. At 2 a.m. on Monday morning, she had a massive seizure, and doctors learned that her brain was “covered in blood,” Hargitt-Profitt said.

Although the little girl went into surgery to relieve pressure on her brain, she had no brain activity. They learned that she was brain dead at around noon, and the Profitts knew it was time to say goodbye.

“They said their goodbyes,” Hargitt-Profitt said. “They sat with her and sang her songs.”

Serena died of hemolytic uremic syndrome, which is a common complication of E. coli, according Doernbecher Children's Hospital, where she died. In hemolytic uremic syndrome, red blood cells are prematurely destroyed and clog the blood-filtering system of the kidneys.

“Serena tested positive for E. coli, but we don't yet know which strain,” hospital spokeswoman Tamara Hargens-Bradley told ABC News. “A sample has been sent to the state lab for further testing."

Serena’s 5-year-old friend, who has not been named, is at another hospital in critical condition, according to Bob Marler, a food safety lawyer representing the Profitts.

“He’s also in acute kidney failure,” Marler said. “That’s what killed Serena.”

Hargitt-Profitt said the boy has tested positive for a rare and fast-acting form of E. coli called O157.

Although the Oregon state health department says it can’t comment or speculate on Serena’s pending test results, E. coli O157 sources would include “high-risk foods such as undercooked meat, unpasteurized milk or juices, restaurants at which [people with E. coli] have eaten, exposure to live animals, recreational water, and exposure to child care centers.”

E. coli is also more dangerous in young children and the elderly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

State and county health departments are investigating to determine what both children did before they got sick at roughly the same time, according to Marler. He said it’s possible the sandwich is to blame, but it’s also possible they picked up the bacteria on something else.

Hargitt-Profitt said Serena’s family also owned goats, but no one has ever gotten sick from being around them. The gathering took place at the Profitt home and a restaurant, where the two children shared the sandwich, she said.

The Profitt family's primary concern now is finding the source to make sure no one else gets sick, she said.


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Sep102014

How Other Fitness Wearables Can Fight Off Apple Watch Juggernaut

Apple(NEW YORK) -- The newly unveiled Apple Watch should give existing wearable fitness trackers a run for their money, but the tech giant's competitors in the burgeoning category aren't about to take the onslaught lying down, industry experts said.

The Apple Watch is vulnerable on three particular fronts, experts note.

1. Price

"It's a nice-looking piece but the price point is pretty high and the fact that it has to be tethered to an iPhone lessens its appeal," said Jamison Cush, executive editor of TechTarget, a business technology publishing company.

Cush likes the sleek look of the $349 Apple Watch and praised its healthy dose of fitness monitoring features that will collect basic stats like steps, mileage and calories burned. But those are functions stand-alone trackers already do competently for a lot less money.

"Jawbone, Fitbit and the others do one thing and they do it really well at a good price," Cush noted.

"Apple Watch does a lot of other things like communication and notifications, which some users may like but could be perceived as 'feature creep' by many users," he said, using a term that is a play on "mission creep," where the scope of a mission keeps expanding.

The Fitbit Flex costs about $100. The Jawbone UP24 retails for about $150.

2. Still Months from Hitting the Market


The Apple Watch is at least six months away from hitting the stores, Cush noted. And that gives Apple competitors quite some time to come up with new strategies and new products in response to the Apple Watch, he said.

"It's the big idea now but by the time it comes out, the market will be much more mature and Apple will have some serious competition," he said.

Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst of the tech consulting firm Moor Insights and Strategies, said because fitness tracking devices serve such a singular purpose, he believes the category won't be dented too much by the Apple Watch entering the market -- at least for now.

Apple unveiled two different apps on Tuesday for its watch that should intrigue both gym rats and casual movers, Moorhead said. The "activity" app will keep track of any movement you do throughout the day. The "workout" app will monitor more intense movement of workouts and sports. And third-party apps are expected to follow.

While the proprietary apps are a differentiator for the watch, Cush isn't sure they are enough of a draw for anyone except for "fitness nerds." But, he said, he thought its design -- including a sharp display and six interchangeable wristbands -- might tempt a few fashion-forward users away from other wearables.

"Most wearables are very techy, very geeky looking," he noted. "This one is more fashionable and people may want to wear it because it looks good."

3. Battery Life

Apple Watch's toughest selling point could be its purportedly short battery life. Apple CEO Tim Cook has sidestepped the question of exactly how long the battery will last, but some tech blogs are reporting that the device will need at least a daily charge.

"Many fitness trackers can go a week or more without a charge," Cush pointed out. "Battery life is the number-one complaint from users of any wearable and it limits growth in that category."

But Moorhead noted that the Apple Watch might also drive quite a few new customers into the wearable market.

"Apple seems to have paid a lot of attention to user experience, functionality and ease of use. They've removed many of the barriers that were holding consumers back," he said, adding that this might possibly benefit competitors as well.

Officials at Fitbit, the leading fitness wearable seller, said that far from being worried, they welcome the coming of the Apple Watch.

Company officials noted in a statement to ABC News Wednesday that Fitbit is a "trusted brand" that has a 70-percent market share of what it calls the "Connected Health and Fitness space."

"Our mission remains empowering and inspiring people to lead healthier, more active lives, and to that end we welcome new products and services like Apple Watch into the market that help further that mission," the company said in its statement.

Apple and Jawbone did not respond to requests by ABC News for comment.


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Sep102014

Single Mom Shares Story of Being Pregnant at 51

Courtesy Tracey Kahn(NEW YORK) -- At age 51, Tracey Kahn has a very busy life as she splits her time between running her publicity firm and raising her daughter, Scarlett, as a single mother.

But even after passing her 50th birthday, Kahn said, her family still felt incomplete. Since she wanted another child, earlier this year Kahn underwent in-vitro fertilization with donor sperm and a donor egg and became pregnant with her second daughter.

Scarlett, 2, was also conceived through IVF using donor sperm and egg.

This week, Kahn revealed her story in the New York Post as way to show other women that they should not pay attention to anyone else when they are considering having children, even if they are much older than most women giving birth.

While Kahn’s two pregnancies, one in her late 40s and now one in her early 50s, are rare, they are no longer unique, said Dr. Eric Flisser, an assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive science at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.

“It’s, for sure, not as shocking as it was in the past,” said Flisser, who also works at Reproductive Medicine Associates of New York, where Kahn was treated. “Forty years ago, none of [these treatments] existed at all.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, women over the age of 44 underwent 6,790 cycles involving assisted reproductive technology in 2010. Women over the age of 48 using IVF and other reproductive technology had a 4.90 percent chance of becoming pregnant with their own eggs and a 49.6 percent chance of becoming pregnant with a donor egg.

Kahn, who used her donor eggs, told ABC News most people have been supportive of her decision to have children as an older and single mother, although she said some people have been a little overly concerned.

“The strangers were like, ‘How are you doing this?’” said Kahn. "Today, I’m getting both sides of reactions. I do get a lot of people, who say, ‘You are so brave.’”

Kahn said she decided to try IVF after miscarrying a natural pregnancy at 45. While she had multiple unsuccessful attempts at getting pregnant using donor sperm, the first time she used a donor egg and tried in vitro fertilization she became pregnant with Scarlett.

Once she decided she wanted a child, she never had second thoughts about the medical intervention that was needed, Kahn said.

“I had to do my own progesterone shots. I was bummed about the drugs, you’re moody,” said Kahn. “I always looked at the end: I’m going to have a child at the end.”

Kahn said she’s also started counseling friends in their late 40s who also want children and are questioning the idea of using IVF with donor eggs.

Kahn said she tells her friends that without a donor egg she “never would have had Scarlett.”

“I ended up with the most amazing [daughter],” said Kahn.

Kahn hasn’t been too afraid of raising two girls on her own, she added, although she does work to stay healthy and in shape.

As fertility treatments have gotten better, Flisser said, more and more older women are becoming pregnant. Because of their age, doctors have distinctive guidelines to ensure healthy pregnancies.

In addition to a normal physical, Flisser said, older women using donated eggs should have certain cancer screenings and a meeting with a psychological counselor to help them work through potential issues that could arise from a pregnancy with donated eggs.

“There are concerns [people] will find them out if they don’t want people to know that they [used donor eggs],” he said. “And [they can discuss] the ramifications of being an older parent. ...It’s still not very common. Some people have some social concerns about that as well.”

Kahn had absolutely no concerns about how other people would react to her being an older single mom, she said.

“If you want something and are thinking about it," she added, "don’t worry about what someone else is telling you.”


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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