Courtesy of Kim and Fred Spratt(NEW YORK) — A New Jersey couple is stranded in Portugal after giving birth to their first child, caught between medical regulations, insurance costs and visa stipulations.
Doctors cleared Kim and Fred Spratt to travel in May, when Kim was six months pregnant with twins.
But one week into the vacation, Kim went into labor. The couple’s newborn son, Hudson, did not survive. Their daughter, Hayden, weighed 1 pound, 8 ounces at birth.
More than three months later, the family remains in Portugal, nearly 3,500 miles from home. Doctors say Hayden is now healthy enough to fly home, but not on a commercial fight. She needs a medically equipped plane, something the Spratts say their insurance carrier has refused to pay.
“We just want to have a normal life like any other parent has with their newborn,” Kim Spratt said.
The family’s insurer, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, declined to comment on the case because of privacy laws.
The Spratts’ visa may only allow them to stay in the country for a few more weeks.
“They are at their wits end,” Kim Spratt's mother said. “They don’t know where else to turn.”
Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Cigarette smoking among Americans has hit a historic low, according to preliminary data released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics.
Through the first three months of 2015, the CDC estimates that 15.2 percent of American adults over the age of 18 are current smokers. For the purposes of the survey, current smokers were considered adults who had reported smoking more than 100 cigarettes in their lifetime and now smoke every day or some days.
Figures for 2014 showed 16.8 percent of surveyed Americans were current smokers, continuing a downward trend. In 1997, 24.7 percent of American adults were considered current smokers. The percent of smokers has dropped every year since 2010.
iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Some patients relying on commercially available laboratory testing may be getting false indications that they may have contracted Lyme disease.
Lyme disease, a bacterial infection transmitted by tick bites in the northeastern U.S., often can mimic other diseases and can be an elusive diagnosis.
A study in CMAJ evaluated the accuracy of lab tests administered to Canadians who sent their blood to American labs and questions whether these tests may be causing more harm than they are help in finding a diagnosis.
The type of laboratory testing involved in the diagnosis of Lyme disease is known as a ‘Western Blot’ test. Researchers looked at 40 patients without Lyme disease and found that as many as 25 percent had a false positive result with this test.
The authors of this report concluded that commercial laboratory testing may have too low of a threshold for a positive test result – in other words, too many false positives.
While the treatment for Lyme disease is a simple course with an antibiotic, the researchers warn that a false-positive test result may be dangerous, saying “Mistakes in diagnosis can deprive patients of treatment specific to the true cause of their symptoms, and can result in prolonged therapy for a condition they do not have.”
KTRK-TV(HOUSTON) -- The family of a 14-year-old athlete has confirmed that he died after being infected with a deadly amoeba that attacks the brain.
Michael Riley is believed to have contracted the amoeba during a swim in a fresh water lake, and his family posted a message on a Facebook page dedicated to supporting his health battle.
"Michael fought a courageous fight over the past week, allowing him to move on to be with the Lord for future heavenly tasks, a beautiful set of wings, and a pair of gold running shoes," the family's message reads.
"The tests tonight produced undesirable results which were coupled with the inability to function without support and proper blood flow to the brain," the statement says.
The so called "brain-eating amoeba" occur naturally in fresh water and can cause irreversible damage or death if they infect a person through the nose. Cases are rare, but deadly and only a handful of people are known to have survived the infection.
The Harris County Public Health & Environmental Services reported they were notified of a suspected amoeba infection Aug. 22, but could not confirm the teen was the patient due to privacy reasons.
Michael's family initially told ABC News affiliate KTRK-TV in Houston, Texas that they believed the teen contracted the dangerous infection on Aug. 13 during a trip to the lake with his teammates.
The teen, who qualified for the Junior Olympics three times, and was playing in the lake alongside his new high school track teammates.
About a week later, the teen reported a headache and fever and within 24 hours he had become confused and disoriented, according to the family's website. At the hospital, his doctors quickly suspected the rare naegleria fowleri amoeba.
"As Michael's work here is done, we will begin our work in honoring him by continuing with our search for a better understanding along with an awareness campaign in hopes of sparing others from the tremendous pain and agony that follows the onset of Naegleria fowleri and primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM)," the Riley family wrote in their statement on Facebook early Monday.
iStock/Thinkstock(PHOENIX) -- A mother of four is at the center of a blistering social media movement dubbed #IStandWithCherish.
Cherish Peterson is under fire for leaving behind her 2-month-old son, Huxton, outside an Arizona supermarket Aug. 24. A photo snapped by a bystander shows the baby strapped into a carrier inside a shopping cart.
In an interview with station KPHO-TV in Phoenix, Peterson shares her side of the story.
“I got into my car and normally I put my cart away, but I didn’t need to because I parked at the front of the store and I never park there, and I drove away,” Peterson, of Gilbert, Arizona, told the station.
She describes the horrific moment she realized baby Huxton was not in the car when she got home 40 minutes later.
“As I was pulling into the garage, my 3-year-old goes, ‘Where’s baby Huxton?’” she explained. “His car seat is right behind me so I turned around and realized it was gone.”
An off-duty Phoenix police officer had spotted the infant and took him inside a nearby salon. Huxton was not injured, but Peterson now faces a misdemeanor count of child endangerment.
“I thought the whole time he was in my car,” the mother, now 28, said.
The incident has sparked a social media firestorm with many quick to condemn Peterson’s actions.
But just as fiercely, others are rushing to support Peterson on Twitter and a Facebook page attracting nearly 17,000 members. Supporters are sharing what they’re describing as their own “perfectly imperfect” parenting moments and calling for forgiveness.
“I have never met Cherish but the public punishment through social media has to be far more painful than any charges that might be brought against her. I forgive and so should we,” one user wrote on the page.
Her husband, Nathan, is also springing to her defense.
“We love our family and we love our children,” he said. “I married the best, in terms of the mother and wife Cherish is to me and our children.”
The Petersons admit they’re not perfect parents and they’ve learned this the hard way.
“I’m a good mom who made a horrible mistake,” she said, fighting back tears.
iStock/Thinkstock(SAN QUENTIN, Calif.) — The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, along with local and state health officials are investigating an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease at San Quentin State Prison.
As of Sunday, officials confirmed there are six cases of the disease, which is a severe form of pneumonia, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Five of the affected inmates are currently being treated at outside hospitals. Another 51 inmates are currently under observation for respiratory illness.
Legionnaires’ is caused by bacteria found in both potable and non-potable water systems, and is “carried via aerosolized water, such as steam, mist and moisture,” the CDC said in a blog post. It can’t be transported between people and symptoms can appear two to 10 days after exposure.
While the investigation continues, the San Quentin prison has limited its use of water.
ABC News(NEW YORK) — A 51-year-old mother with multiple sclerosis gave birth to her own granddaughter in North Dakota, acting as a surrogate for her daughter.
The pregnancy came with an unexpected and welcome side effect.
Mandy Stephens and her husband Jamie couldn’t wait to get pregnant after marrying in 2013, but they had trouble conceiving and opted for in vitro fertilization.
Stephens became pregnant, and the 20-week ultrasound looked perfect. But she subsequently went into early labor and lost the baby, which she named Theo.
“There’s so much excitement,” Stephens, 32, said. “You carry the baby for so long, and then it’s all ripped apart and taken away. Your whole world stops.”
Mandy’s mom, Sherri Dickson, felt the pain, too.
“Watching your child lose a child is the definition of sadness,” Dickson said. “I can’t describe it any other way. It breaks your heart.”
Because Stephens’ cervix opened early, doctors warned the couple that a premature birth could happen again, though there is a procedure that may allow women with cervical insufficiency to carry their own baby.
The couple considered different options. Adoption? A surrogate?
That’s when her mother stepped in.
“I decided that if they needed somebody to carry their child, I would volunteer,” Dickson said.
The decision was easy for Dickson, who, at 51, had three grown children of her own. But there could be complications because of her age and diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease that attacks the central nervous system.
“The disabling effects of the disease may make it physically difficult for the mother to carry a pregnancy,” according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. “Muscle weakness and coordination problems may increase the likelihood for falls.”
But the situation also came with a potential health benefit for Dickson, whose MS was in remission: Becoming pregnant might help keep it that way.
Researchers think that protective changes in the immune system during pregnancy keep the disease at bay.
Two attempts were made with in vitro fertilization, and by November of last year, Dickson was pregnant with her daughter and son-in-law’s baby.
“Pregnancy was easy,” Dickson said. “I was very fortunate … I was playing tennis a week before I delivered, and working out with my trainer, but the delivery at 51 was way harder than the delivery at 33 with my last baby.”
Mila was born four weeks ago.
“It’s indescribable,” Dickson said. “There are times I look at Mila and say, ‘We did that, you know?’ We gave her what she wants. Not that you ever make up for a baby you lost but you give someone that hope, you know?”
iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- Reduced-fat ice cream that doesn't melt? That's what British scientists are said to be working on.
A team of scientists from the University of Edinburgh and the University of Dundee said in a written statement that they have discovered a type of protein which could be used to create ice cream that is more resistant to melting.
"The protein binds together the air, fat and water in ice cream, creating a super-smooth consistency," the scientists said in the statement, enabling summer treats to keep frozen for longer in hot weather.
“We’re excited by the potential this new ingredient has for improving ice cream, both for consumers and for manufacturers," Professor Cait MacPhee, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Physics and Astronomy, who led the project, said.
Researchers estimate that ice cream made with the naturally occurring protein, known as BslA, could be available within three to five years.
In addition, products manufactured with that protein would contain lower levels of saturated fat and fewer calories than those currently on sale.
iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- It may be better to talk to your teens about alcohol earlier rather than later.
The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a statement Monday telling parents to talk to their teens about alcohol, and specifically address the dangers and health effects of binge drinking.
And the message may not come a moment too soon.
Past research cited by the group shows that over three-quarters of U.S. teens will eventually experiment with alcohol. These teens are more likely to engage in risky behavior leading to such negative consequences as unwanted pregnancies, irreversible brain changes, and severe injury and death.
The group also notes that kids as young as 9 years old have started to think about trying alcohol.
What’s the solution?
Talk to your kids about alcohol. The AAP says the very act of addressing the dangers with them influences their decisions around alcohol and leads them to make smarter choices.
cosmin4000/iStock/ThinkStock(HOUSTON) -- A 14-year-old boy from Houston has died after battling a 'brain-eating' amoeba.
The announcement of Michael Riley's death was posted on his Facebook page by his family on Sunday.
The CDC says that the 'brain-eating' amoeba, known as the Primary Amoeba Meningoencephalitis (PAM), can be contracted after being in a freshwater lake and is very common in freshwater lakes and rivers in Texas, according to ABC News affiliate KTRK-TV.
The amoeba is said to travel into the nose and it's most common victims are children.
smolkapressepool/ullstein bild via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Renowned neurologist and author of "Awakenings" Oliver Sacks died Sunday. He was 82.
His assistant, Kate Edgar, told The New York Times the cause was cancer. ABC News was unable to reach Edgar.
Sacks, a professor of neurology at New York University School of Medicine, announced in February a rare eye tumor had spread to his liver and that he was in the stages of terminal cancer.
Sacks is best known for his writing on neurological case histories including "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat" and an "An Anthropologist on Mars." His book "Awakenings," based on his work in the 1960s with patients who were unable to initiate movement, was turned into an Oscar-nominated movie of the same name starring Robin Williams and Robert De Niro.
Sacks, whose autobiography was released this spring, wrote in February he felt "intensely alive" after his diagnosis.
"Over the last few days, I have been able to see my life as from a great altitude, as a sort of landscape, and with a deepening sense of the connection of all its parts," he wrote. "This does not mean I am finished with life."
janulla/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Researchers say a new type of pacemaker without wires and that doesn't require surgery to install could be the future of the device.
According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the new device is about one-tenth the size of a conventional pacemaker and was effective in about 90 percent of the 300 patients who were studied. Researchers followed the participants for six months after they received the new pacemaker, and found that just 6.7 percent of patients had severe adverse events.
The study notes that the rate of side effects was about double that of the 3.2 percent of patients with serious adverse events when using a conventional pacemaker, but say that the non-surgical nature of the device and its lack of wires could make it a feasible option in the future.
Still, the study's authors acknowledge, more time may be needed to accurately assess the safety and efficacy of the new pacemaker device.
iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Don't pay any attention to the label.
The Federal Drug Administration said this week they issued "warning letters" to three tobacco manufacturers including ITG Brands LLC, Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company Inc., and Sherman’s 1400 Broadway N.Y.C. Ltd., for their package labeling that says "additive-free" or "natural."
“The FDA’s job is to ensure tobacco products are not marketed in a way that leads consumers to believe cigarettes with descriptors like 'additive-free' and 'natural' pose fewer health risks than other cigarettes, unless the claims have been scientifically supported,” said Mitch Zeller, J.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products in a statement. “This action is a milestone, and a reminder of how we use the tools of science-based regulation to protect the U.S. public from the harmful effects of tobacco use.”
According to the FDA, it's the first time they've used this kind of authority under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009 to "pursue regulatory action regarding the use of “additive-free” or “natural” claims on tobacco product labeling."
The makers have to respond to the letters within 15 days of their delivery with a plan on how they're going to change the labeling or wording.