Health Headlines

Office of Congresswoman Grace Meng(NEW YORK) -- A New York congresswoman known as the "period lady” for her work on ending period poverty has proven critical in enacting changes so that girls in schools and women in prisons and homeless shelters can have free access to pads and tampons.

Rep. Grace Meng is still fighting for more, trying to create a world where menstruation is not stigmatized and period products are not seen as luxury items but necessities that should be accessible and, in many cases, free.

“I think almost everyone can relate or remember a situation where you were in a public space and you got your period and you didn’t know what to do because either you didn’t have money or you or you weren’t near a drugstore,” Meng, a Democrat who represents Queens, New York, told ABC News' Good Morning America. “These are not luxury products that we choose to use for ourselves and they should be just as available as toilet paper is and paper towels in a bathroom.”

Meng’s activism on the issue all started with a letter from a high school girl who lived in her congressional district and wrote to her concerned that women in homeless shelters did not have access to tampons and pads.

“When I first started studying up on this issue I sort of just assumed, OK, this affects people in underdeveloped countries and how can we help girls who have to skip school,” said Meng. “Then the more I learned about it, I realized that it’s happening to people right here in our country and right here in [New York City].”

“I realized there really was a sort of injustice about how girls and boys are being treated, especially in the lens of menstrual equity and just the basic human right of being able to access these products that affect a majority of our population,” she said.

Women make up more than half of the population in the United States, according to the Census Bureau. They are also more likely than men to live in poverty, and they spend an average of 2,535 days in their lifetime, or almost seven years, on their periods, according to UNICEF.

A survey released this year of low-income women in St. Louis, Missouri, found nearly two-thirds couldn’t afford menstrual hygiene products in the past year, and more than one in five said they had the same problem every month. The women said they instead had to use cloth, rags, tissues, toilet paper and sometimes diapers or paper towels, according to the report published in Obstetrics & Gynecology.

It is those stories that Meng said she hears too often and which motivate her to make menstruation equity a priority in Congress.

"In this great country, there should not be anyone who is not able to access these products for a human bodily function that they have no control over," she said. "Access to these products should not depend on your income level or your status in life."

From a high school student's letter to changing federal prisons

Meng, a mother of two sons, learned after receiving the letter from her high-school-age constituent that federal grants provided to homeless shelters in New York City prohibited the shelters from purchasing and distributing menstrual products.

She wrote a letter to the Obama administration asking for help, and soon after the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) announced it would allow homeless shelters to use federal grant money to buy the products.

Up next, Meng took on the federal prison system after she heard stories of women in prison having to ration out their menstrual supplies with their cellmates or having to use limited funds in their commissary accounts to buy tampons and pads.

Meng again wrote a letter to the Obama administration asking for menstrual products to be free in federal prisons, but it was close to the 2016 election and the end of President Obama's second term.

When President Donald Trump was elected in 2016, Meng said she was "concerned" about the future of her request, but the Trump administration expressed its support.

Free menstrual products for inmates at federal prisons was included in the bipartisan First Step Act that Trump signed into law last December.

"Obviously people in both parties menstruate and know people who get their periods," said Meng of the bipartisan support she sees on the issue. "Quite frankly, I find that a lot of people just haven’t thought about this issue and once they hear and learn about this issue are willing to support and help alleviate these situations."

Meng is now pressing governors to increase access to menstrual products in state and local prisons and questioning the Trump administration on their protocols for making sure female migrants at the border have access to menstrual products and showers.

She is also pushing to require that federal buildings, including the building where her office sits in the U.S. Capitol, have free supplies. It was only this year that House members became allowed to use their budget to purchase menstrual products for their offices.

Meng's "Menstrual Equity for All" bill also proposes changes like requiring corporations of 100 employees or more to provide free menstrual products to employees. Her "Menstrual Products Right to Know" bill would make tampons and pads just like most other products where manufacturers are required to list out their ingredients.

Both of those bills are still pending in the House, while legislation she worked on in the last Congress that would allow people to use health savings accounts to buy menstrual products passed the House but was never taken up in the Senate.

"[One] big hurdle that we are still trying to overcome is that this, in most cases, is not a life or death issue," said Meng. "So especially in this unpredictable political climate [it] might not necessarily be the first priority issue that is on the minds of people but we definitely want to make it a priority."

"I don’t mind being called ‘the period lady’"

Poor menstrual hygiene does pose health risks for women, including reproductive issues and urinary tract infections.

The taboo around menstruation and the lack of access to menstrual products also hurts women economically because it costs them money for products and may keep them from jobs and school, advocates say. It also sets women back mentally and in a society where something that happens to them naturally is demeaned or even not discussed.

"Most of us have been conditioned for all of our lives to not talk about menstruation," said Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, a lawyer and author of Periods Gone Public. "And the things that keep us potentially from succeeding are often the things that happen to be what we don’t talk about in polite society."

"All the ways our bodies work just the way they’re supposed to we don’t talk about because we haven’t truly valued women and girls," said Weiss-Wolf, who took up the issue of menstrual equity after teen girls in her community posted on Facebook seeking tampon donations for a food pantry.

Weiss-Wolf, also the co-founder of Period Equity, a law and policy organization fighting for menstrual equity, said the needle has moved in talking publicly about menstrual equity with celebrities including Sophia Bush, Gina Rodriguez and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, taking on the issue.

A documentary short on menstruation even won an Oscar this year.

Weiss-Wolf credits Meng with elevating the discussion in a "really productive and responsible and meaningful way." The two have worked together on issues like eliminating the so-called "tampon tax" that still exists in more than 30 states in the U.S.

"Congresswoman Meng really does stand out," she said. "She’s’ been extraordinarily creative in thinking about what federal levers can be pulled."

Meng, who took office in 2013, said she doesn't mind being called the "period lady" by her colleagues or the public, saying, "If it helps me be able to talk about the issue and educate people around me, then I don’t mind being called that."

She noted that growing up in a middle-class household, she never knew about the issues of period poverty or menstrual equity, but she did learn from a young age the stigma of having a period.

"I don’t want to, as I [did when I] grew up, feel like I have to hide my product up my sleeve as I’m walking through the halls of school or the office toward the bathroom," Meng said. "This is a natural part of being a human being and I don’t want people to be ashamed of it."

"What’s been so inspiring is that anywhere I go, I will run into people, mostly women, who come up to me and these are women of all different ethnic backgrounds or come from different professions or are students or grandmothers," she said. "They tell me how much they appreciate our work on this subject and a lot of them tell me they never thought about this issue before and how it impacts so many people in this country."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Alicia Jordan(NEW YORK) -- Hannah Jordan is a cycling champion who will compete this weekend in the 2019 Hillclimb Worlds in California on a demanding course that rises more than 2,500 feet in elevation.

But the 18-year-old will race the course with something no one else in the competition has: a gastrostomy tube, or G-tube, that keeps her alive.

In a sport where aerodynamics is everything, Jordan, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, uses a specially designed race jersey to hold the G-tube monitor that pumps glucose into her body, preventing her from going into potentially life-threatening hypoglycemia.

"I’m the only person I know who is on a G-tube and competes like this," Jordan told ABC News' Good Morning America. "When I’m told I can’t, that makes me want to ride faster and better."

Jordan was classified as small for her gestational age as a child and suffered extreme fatigue and dangerously low blood sugar because her body could not keep up with her brain's need for glucose, according to her doctor, Madeleine Harbison, a pediatric endocrinology specialist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.

"We don’t know exactly what is different about Hannah," said Harbison, noting that she and other doctors have not been able to pinpoint a genetic defect. "What we do know is that this is a child who without her continuous glucose infusion into her stomach becomes hypoglycemic and is essentially bedridden."

Jordan had to be home schooled because of her medical complications and would be so fatigued that her mom had to push her in a stroller. She has had the G-tube for more than a decade.

The teen's entire life changed nearly five years ago when she picked up an old bicycle and taught herself to ride. She discovered that she could not only ride the bike but thrived riding it, finding it fueled her energy.

"I lived my life in a hospital bed," she said of her pre-cycling days. "I’m living my childhood now and I live every day like it’s a gift."

When Jordan's mom, Alicia Jordan, saw her daughter "come out swinging" on the bike, she sought out USA Cycling, the national governing body for bicycle racing, and got her daughter in a training program and under the care of expert dietitians.

"She morphed into this incredible athlete," said Alicia Jordan. "[My husband and I] transferred our energy from keeping her alive to letting her live the best life possible."

Jordan has gone on to compete in more than two dozen cycling races, winning gold and silver medals and setting personal records along the way.

The same condition that for so long kept her bedridden is now an asset to Jordan as a competitive cyclist in a way that has astounded medical experts, according to Harbison.

"For her, there is some difference in the way her muscle metabolizes energy that allows her to do this, especially since one of her specialties is hill climbing," she said of Jordan. "Exercise is her fuel, essentially, that allows her to be closer to normal."

"What it is about exercise that has woken her brain up, and how she thrives in it, is what’s so curious to me," Harbison added. "She’s the only child I've seen who’s had this extreme lethargy that was improved by exercise."

Jordan's life has changed off the bike, too. With her improved energy she has been able to attend school and is doing an internship at Kate Farms, the maker of the plant-based formula she now uses in her G-tube.

"I call cycling my mental sanity," she said. "It’s definitely helped me just be able to live my life and feel like a normal human being and has been a doorway to many paths."

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency officially cleared Jordan to compete last spring at any level after ruling that her G-tube does not give her an advantage over athletes.

The Hillclimb Worlds will be Jordan's first world championship race -- her first of many, she hopes.

"I knew ever since I was 8 years old that I couldn’t just have a 9-to-5 life and I wanted to change the world, even though I was sick," she said. "I knew I wanted to do something great, but didn’t know what it looked like until I found cycling."

"What I love about cycling is that it doesn’t stick anyone in the box," Jordan added. "You can do whatever you want and decide how fast you want to go and how far you want to go."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


(ABC/Nicolette Cain) Breast cancer patient Sarah Weimer opens up about her breast cancer journey on "The View" on Oct. 17, 2019, for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.(NEW YORK) -- For Sarah Weimer, a 36-year-old mother who was diagnosed with breast cancer, the "hardest thing" wasn't the side effects of chemotherapy but telling her six children that "mommy has breast cancer," she told The View on Thursday.

Weimer, who is from Idaho, was diagnosed with stage-three breast cancer earlier this year. She opened up about her journey on Thursday, speaking about the warning signs that she had missed months before her diagnosis and the ongoing treatment she expects to face in the future.

The whole world felt like it had stopped, Weimer said of the moment her breast cancer diagnosis was confirmed. "No one ever wants to hear those words: 'cancer' or 'you have cancer,'" she said.

"The hardest thing was to tell my kids mommy has breast cancer," she said tearfully. "My two older ones, I could see the fear in their eyes a little bit. I could see them being scared and they knew instantly that it was serious, and that was really hard for me to stay strong in that moment. We just ended our conversation with hope and with, you know, we know where our strength comes from, and as a family, we're going to work together."

Summur Shaikh, a producer for The View who was successfully treated for breast cancer earlier this year, found Weimer's story online. She said the story "stuck out" for her because they were both diagnosed at the same age and Weimer's "positivity really inspired" her.

"I have always been a positive person, but dealing with cancer, you could easily get into a very dark place," Weimer said on Thursday. "I knew that wasn't how I wanted to live my life. I chose to focus on waking up and just being thankful that I have another day to be here, being thankful I have another day to be with my kids."

As a mother of six, Weimer admitted that she didn't prioritize her health as much as she should have.

"I first noticed [in] the beginning of this year [that] something was different," Weimer said, referring to her early signs of breast cancer. "I thought, 'OK, maybe it's an infection. Maybe it's just something minor. Maybe it's hormonal.' There was one day where I really looked in the mirror and realized my breasts were literally two different sizes and that's when I decided to call the doctor."

Weimer explained to Whoopi Goldberg, who grappled with her own health issues earlier this year, why she waited so long to see a doctor.

"As a mom, I'm just busy and life happens, and we don't make the time to stop and take care of ourselves. We're taking care of our kids, our house, our family, our job, and we forget to stop and say, 'Wait a minute. Am I okay? Is anything going on with me?'"

"I didn't take the time for myself like I should have," she continued. "I was thinking, 'It's going to go away. It's nothing serious.' And when I realized the changes continued to get more aggressive, I just had a sinking feeling."

With no other options, Weimer had to put her breast cancer treatment before anything else to save her life and be there for her family. She sought treatment three hours from her home at Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City, which was founded by The View co-host Abby Huntsman's grandfather, Jon Huntsman, who passed away from prostate cancer in 2018.

Jon Huntsman's wife, Karen Huntsman, had designed parts of the hospital and she was seated in The View's audience on Thursday.

"I want to say thank you, Grandma," Weimer said to Karen Huntsman. "Thank you for having a wonderful family because I know that the investment over at Huntsman means a lot to my family and to my life."

In September, Weimer underwent a double mastectomy and what she thought was her last round of chemotherapy treatments. After the surgery, however, her doctors informed her that the cancer had spread and that she would have to restart chemotherapy.

"Cancer is life-threatening and it's really important that you go to a facility that is going to be well taken care of, and they're going to take care of your needs and have the best outcome," Weimer said. "I really just love Huntsmans in general. The view of Salt Lake is gorgeous, so I'm just so, so grateful that I have a great place."

After hearing of Weimer's story, Ford Motor Company's Warriors in Pink donated $20,000 to support her to journey to recovery.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


utah778/iStock(NEW YORK) -- By Dr. Saumya Bhutani

The incidence of stroke, a major cause of disability and death, is on the rise in young and middle-aged adults. A new study suggests that PTSD may be a contributing factor.

"There is now a large amount of evidence that stroke is on the rise in young adults aged less than 45. We are still unable to identify the cause of stroke in about half of overall stroke patients below 30 years of age. We need more studies and funding to study this population which forms the future of our country," Dr. Rohan Arora, director of the stroke program at Long Island Jewish Forest Hills said to ABC News.

The new study, published in the journal Stroke, found that young veterans with PTSD had a 36% increased risk for stroke. They also had a 61% increased risk for transient ischemic attack (TIA), a brief, self-resolving stroke-like event that can represent a warning for future stroke.

Post-traumatic stress disorder has gained significant attention over the past few years with health concerns of those near ground-zero on 9/11, the return of veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, multiple mass shootings and increased awareness of sexual assault.

Researchers examined over 900,000 veterans with an average age of 30 for thirteen years. Almost 30% of these veterans developed PTSD. They found that those that did were more likely to experience stroke and TIA than those who did not.

"PTSD may lead to the secretion of 'bad chemicals' in the bloodstream that cause inflammation ... causing injury to the arteries leading to clot formation," Arora said. Clot formation is the basis of stroke.

"PTSD also worsens pre-existing high blood pressure and diabetes -- important risk factors for stroke," he added.

Compared to the veterans without PTSD, those with PTSD had higher rates of high blood pressure and diabetes, as well as other known stroke risk factors, such as irregular heart rhythms, diabetes, high cholesterol, smoking and obesity. Still, the occurrence of these conditions was low among all young veterans. They were relatively healthy.

Beyond that, the 36% and 61% increased risk was found when accounting for these factors. The fact that the relationship was strong and significant regardless of these other variables suggests that PTSD plays a unique part in the development of stroke.

"PTSD is a national public health issue," said Lindsey Rosman, Ph.D, the lead author of the study, and assistant professor of Medicine in the division of Cardiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“We know that young folks are increasingly exposed to direct and vicarious trauma, whether its natural disaster, gun violence or sexual assault. These same young folks don’t have the same traditional cardiovascular risk factors for stroke we see in older people," Rosman said.

Rosman said that the digital age exposes people to "indirect trauma."

“Young people can develop PTSD symptoms that are severe and impairing through vicarious trauma. They are continuously exposed to videos of traumatic events that they have the ability to watch over and over again," she said.

The veterans studied were predominantly male and white. Rosman pointed to directions of future research, “It’s very important in future studies to look at the role of sex in PTSD and stroke. Women are more likely to experience chronic stress and PTSD, but are known to have a lower stroke risk than men.” She also stated, “It’s possible other factors that we didn’t control for played a role, including sleep disturbance and migraine.”

Although the study focused on veterans, Rosman noted, “We did not assess the nature of the trauma and it’s possible that our veterans, many of whom were not in combat, experienced more than military trauma. They could have experienced sexual assault and life adversity.” Thus, she believes the findings can apply to those who have PTSD whether they are veterans or not.

“Based on this, we need to realize that there is no one-size-fits-all. We need to develop age-appropriate screening and intervention. We need to expand our view when it comes to risk factors," she said.

"Unique mental health issues may be an important part in understanding a young person’s risk factors of developing disease."

Dr. Saumya Bhutani is a resident in psychiatry in New York with the ABC News Medical Unit.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Ryne Jungling(MANDAN, N.D.) -- It was a normal Thursday morning in January for new mom Rachel Jungling as she took her infant twins to day care.

Both Rachel and her husband, Ryne Jungling, headed to work, and Rachel was on drop-off duty for Anders and Linnea, who were 11 months old at the time. The boy and girl were miracle babies for the Mandan, N.D., couple, who struggled with infertility for seven years.

"When we found out we were having twins, other twin parents said, 'It's awesome. You're going to have the most fun.' They were right," Ryne told Good Morning America.

"Anders, he was the snuggler ... always giving hugs and he really liked being held," he added. "They were pretty inseparable. When they went to bed, if they weren't sleeping, they'd look at each other and make noises until they fell asleep. If Linnea left the room, Anders wasn't OK. He really liked companionship and being around her."

On Jan. 10, Rachel, who was a teacher at the time, brought Anders and Linnea inside their day care facility while strapped into their car seats. Linnea was awake. Anders was close to sleeping.

"With two, Rachel didn't feel comfort leaving one in the car, so she would grab them both in the carriers and bring them in," Ryne said. "It was common practice. Every day, we'd give the day care provider the update -- how they slept the night before, what they ate. [The kids] were usually out of the car seat."

Ryne said the day care provider removed Linnea from her car seat. Anders was still in his car seat when his mother walked out the door.

"Anders looked over at Rachel and Rachel said, 'Bye buddy,'" Ryne said. "He kind of smiled, and she left -- with the assumption that he was going to be taken out of his car seat, and he wasn't."

"It's not something you ever think is going to happen."

A few minutes after 10 a.m., Rachel received a call at work from police.

"They asked her twice, 'Are you sitting down?' And they said they were coming to pick her up and that Anders was being rushed to the hospital," Ryne said.

Ryne, who was also working in education, said his wife called to let him know Anders was being hospitalized.

"She said, something happened to Anders and you need to get to the hospital and I think it's really bad,'" he recalled. "I remember her voice, I never heard it like that. She was really worried, it was tough. She thought it was kind of weird, but she knew it was pretty serious, if something like that was happening."

When Ryne arrived to the hospital he was met by two detectives. Ryne said he learned Anders was left sleeping in his car seat for two hours. The day care provider did not know of the risks involved when leaving a sleeping baby in a car seat, Ryne explained.

Anders was given CPR by the day care provider until paramedics arrived and worked on him for 40 minutes. After 30 minutes in the emergency room, Anders was airlifted from Bismarck to a hospital in Fargo, N.D.

"To actually realize what was happening with our son, that was hard," Ryne said. "We prayed a lot that he would get better, that this would all go away. We were praying for a miracle to happen. At the same time, we started to pray that this story would lead to a miracle. Maybe Anders surviving, maybe that wasn't the miracle. Maybe it was preventing this [from happening] to someone else."

On Jan. 12 at 5:45 p.m., after three days on life support, Anders died. An investigation determined he died from positional asphyxia in the car seat after his airway was cut off from his head slumping over and his chin falling into his chest.

"It's not something that you ever think is going to happen," Ryne said. "Everybody describes it as a parent's worst nightmare. I'll definitely agree with that. You feel helpless when you can't do anything for your child. It's hard to say ... but we really think lots of good has come out of this."

"We need this story to get this out there."

After losing Anders, a friend of the couple connected them to Carma Hanson, coordinator of Safe Kids Worldwide's Grand Forks, N.D., chapter. The organization's mission is to help prevent unintentional injuries or death to children with five E's: education, encouragement, engineering, enforcement and evaluation.

"Carma immediately was like, 'We need this story to get out there,'" Ryne recalled.

In July, Ryne and Rachel attended the 2019 Safe Kids Worldwide Childhood Injury Prevention Convention where they shared their story with other parents who lost a child through tragic events.

"My heart bleeds for them because I know this is a really difficult time," Lorrie Walker, the technical adviser for Safe Kids, told GMA. "The fact that they want to help other families is amazing and I can't thank them enough."

Ryne and Rachel now have their own mission to spread awareness about positional asphyxia and overall safe sleep practices for children.

"We know it's not the car seat's fault, it's an education issue," Ryne said. "The old adage of 'Don't wake a sleeping baby' is so wrong when it's not safe sleep."

In 2017, there were 3,600 sudden unexpected infant deaths (SUID) in infants less than 1 year old in the U.S., according to the CDC. Of these deaths, 1,400 were due to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), about 1,300 were unknown causes, and about 900 deaths were due to scenarios involving accidental suffocation (like positional asphyxia) and strangulation in bed.

Besides positional asphyxia, the AAP says deaths can also happen in car seats due to strangulation from straps that are unbuckled or partially buckled.

Edith Bracho-Sanchez, a primary care pediatrician and assistant professor of pediatrics at Columbia University, told GMA that this happens when the devices are being used for things like unsupervised naps or soothing.

"The vast majority of these tragic deaths are easily preventable by taking infants out of car seats and strollers when you're no longer traveling and placing them in a crib or bassinet," Bracho-Sanchez said. "This may mean bringing a portable bassinet or crib if the place where parents are going does not have an environment where their babies can continue to sleep safely. "

The AAP said babies "should not be placed on an incline to sleep."

"With the head elevated, an infant is in a position that could lead to asphyxia," the AAP noted. "The straps on such products also can strangle infants. In addition, the AAP does not recommend any products for sleep that require restraining a baby, especially if the product also rocks."

Study co-author Dr. Jeffrey D. Colvin said mothers, fathers and other family members should be educated on safe sleep practices.

"They also need to have parents educate anyone who is taking care of their infant, whether it’s a grandparent, babysitter or child care provider, that car seats are not substitutes for cribs and bassinets,” he said.

Baby Anders inspires education for sleep safety

As part of their new safe sleep initiative, Ryne and Rachel, who welcomed a son, Elias, on Oct. 2, helped launch a class for grandparents at Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health on safe sleep, furniture tip-over prevention, nutrition, breastfeeding support and more.

They hope to eventually have car seat manufacturers place a warning directly on their devices, reminding parents and caregivers that it's not for sleeping.

"It's in the pamphlet, but no one reads the instructions besides the installation," Ryne noted.

Here are safe sleep practices from the AAP to prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), plus how to prevent positional asphyxiation in car seats:

1) Do not use a car seat as an alternative to a crib or bassinet.
As Bracho-Sanchez said, be sure to bring a portable bassinet so babies can continue safe sleep while traveling.

2) Children who fall asleep in a car safety seat while traveling in a motor vehicle should remain in the car seat until travel ends.

3) After reaching a destination, children who are still sleeping should be removed from the car seat and placed in a crib or bassinet.

4) Avoid use of soft bedding, pillows, crib bumpers or stuffed animals inside a child's crib.

5) If you're getting sleepy or tired, put the baby down on the hard surface to avoid risk for injury or death.

6) Share a bedroom with parents, but no co-sleeping, preferably until the baby turns 1 but at least for the first six months. The AAP says that room sharing decreases the risk of SIDS "by as much as 50 percent."

7) Avoid overheating.

8) Follow car seat manufacturer's guidelines, and make sure the device is installed at a 45-degree angle in the vehicle.

9) Do not place car seats on elevated surfaces or on soft surfaces like a bed, mattress, or couch.

10) Be sure the car seat's shoulder straps and hip straps are positioned tightly, and the chest clip is buckled at under arm level.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Paolo_Toffanin/iStock(NEW YORK) -- When 29-year-old Dr. Rose Marie Leslie, a second-year family resident at the University of Minnesota Medical School, first found out about TikTok, she did what every other millennial did and downloaded the app to try it out.

“I had seen other TikTok videos on other social media platforms and they were always really funny and creative and made me laugh a lot,” she told ABC News' Good Morning America.

She’s only been on the app for six months, but she caught on to the trend quickly by first using the app to depict how chaotic life is as a resident.

Perhaps what helped her gain a larger following was when she started sharing informational videos about medical facts.

“I realized the most likes and the most comments were on these specific medical videos,” she said. “The demographic that was using TikTok maybe was not getting as much health information at home or at school and was seeking it out in other places.”

Now she takes her office to the app to talk about things like tuberculosis, mental health and even sex education.

And she still tries to teach her followers a thing or two about health while keeping it fun.

“It’s been a great way for me to understand what health topics are important to youth and young adults,” she said.

She added, “I share health information the way I would to one of my friends. I really think that’s the most effective way about talking about a health topic and getting people to listen.”

Recently, Leslie’s videos have been focusing on a more serious topic: vaping.

In a story first reported by Rolling Stone, the doctor was featured after she started sharing TikTok videos about the epidemic.

In one video that has over 600K views, Leslie shows a lung X-ray, explaining in detail how lungs look like for someone who vapes.

“If you’re thinking about quitting, now’s the time to do it,” she says in the video.

She told GMA, “I have been following all the reports on this new disease related to vaping and thought it would be really important for teens who are on TikTok to hear so I decided to take that information and spread it on TikTok in a palatable and easy to understand way.”

Vaping-related illnesses in the U.S. has reached an all-time high with more than two dozen deaths confirmed, and more than 1,000 lung injury cases associated with the use of e-cigarette products reported in 49 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Recently, the CDC found that most patients with vaping-related illnesses report a history of using THC vaping-related products which suggest they were either obtained off the street or from other informal sources.

So far, the response to Leslie’s videos has been overwhelmingly positive. And teens are taking note.

Martin Wolk, a teen who follows Leslie on TikTok, was inspired to quit vaping after being an avid smoker for five years.

“I was scrolling through her videos and watching her vaping videos and it was really informative,” Wolk told GMA. “She showed you damage to the lungs and I’ve never really seen like X-ray photos of damage to people’s lungs after vaping so it kind of scared me and I wanted to do something about it.”

Like many teens, Wolk started smoking in middle school after being drawn to the variety of flavors. He described how hard it was for him to quit, but how important it is for people like Leslie to use social media to reach youth about the issue.

“There are a lot of kids right now who are vaping and it’s good to reach them through social media which they are always on,” he said.

“I’ve been pretty surprised that a lot of followers are asking me pretty basic health questions,” Leslie said. “I really feel like continuing to make videos on TikTok will help address a lot of the questions that people have.”

As the CDC continues to investigate vaping-related illnesses and lung-related injuries, Leslie said that getting information to teens is critical and doctors like her will start to use platforms like TikTok to reach them.

“As time goes on it’s just going to be more popular that medical professionals are using social media as a way to spread public health information and get connected to large groups of people,” Leslie said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Courtesy Maria Alves(NEW YORK) -- Maria Alves thought the crippling anxiety and worry she said she felt after the birth of her son three years ago were simply “baby blues” that would go away.

When the feelings continued weeks post-delivery and got worse, Alves asked her then-employer, Boston University, for an extension of her maternity leave, which she was granted.

Alves, of Brockton, Massachusetts, was eventually diagnosed with postpartum depression. When she asked Boston University for additional medical leave to give her more time to recover, she was denied the leave and then terminated from her job.

Alves, a single mom, had worked in administrative roles at Boston University for nine years. Her son, Luis, was 4 months old at the time.

"It was a compound effect because you have the postpartum depression and next thing you know I was terminated," Alves told ABC News' Good Morning America. "Financially it was drastic. I was maxing out credit cards because I had a newborn I had to feed, and clothes and diapers to buy."

Alves said she isolated herself while suffering from postpartum depression and had only told her sister and a cousin about her struggles. Her cousin happened to work in human resources in another field, and when she learned Alves had been fired, she encouraged her to seek legal help.

Last month, three years after her firing, a jury awarded Alves, now 40, a total of $144,000 in compensatory damages for lost wages and emotional distress at the end of a six-day trial in Suffolk Superior Court.

The 10-person jury ruled that Boston University violated the Massachusetts discrimination laws, specifically disability and medical condition discrimination, based on Alves’ diagnosis of postpartum depression.

"I believe I did the right thing in holding [Boston University] accountable," Alves said. "Postpartum depression is really real but unfortunately when you have it you don’t want to talk about it and you don’t want to expose yourself for fear of losing your job."

Postpartum depression is a mood disorder that affects one in nine new mothers in the U.S., according to the U.S. Office on Women's Health. It is considered a serious mental illness during which feelings of sadness and anxiety may be extreme and may interfere with a woman’s ability to care for herself or her family

"It’s difficult to explain for someone who has never gone through it," said Alves. "I really didn’t even know what it was. I just knew that my sister had gone through the 'baby blues' and I figured it was going to go away for me in a few weeks and it didn’t."

While many women do not know what to expect with postpartum depression, even more women don't know what their employee rights are when they are pregnant or suffering from postpartum complications, according to Joan C. Williams, director of the Center for WorkLife Law, a California-based research and advocacy organization.

"Women who are pregnant and women who have postpartum depression often have a qualifying disability under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)," said Williams. "The ADA imposes a whole new set of duties on the employer."

The ADA, signed into law in 1990, requires employers to work with employees to see if they can create a reasonable accommodation to allow the employee to do the essential parts of the job without creating an undue hardship for the employer, according to Williams.

If, for instance, a woman who is pregnant is a cashier, she could request under the ADA that her employer provide a stool to sit on so she would not have to stand for her entire shift, explained Williams.

"The ADA requires the employer to work with the employee in an interactive process, like, 'Would this work for you?''" said Williams. "And then the employer would come back with another proposal and say, 'Well, would this work for you?'"

Alves, who had just been promoted months before her pregnancy, claimed in her lawsuit against Boston University that the university did not work with her to provide a reasonable accommodation. Her attorneys, Matthew Fogelman and Jeff Simons, presented email evidence during the trial and called Alves' therapist to the stand.

"Their reason [to fire Alves] was that they just couldn’t hold the job any longer, that the department was busy and they needed to fill the position," said Fogelman. "They tried to argue in the case that there would have been undue hardship on the company but the jury did not find that persuasive."

Boston University said in a statement to GMA in response to the lawsuit, "The University respects the jurors’ verdict and wishes Ms. Alves the best going forward. Thank you."

Alves will take home around $182,000 after accounting for interest, according to Fogelman.

"I think it’s notable," he said of the jury's ruling. "Employers have to be equipped to know how to handle not only maternity leave but other complications, whether it’s a mental condition or a physical condition after birth. Maybe you have to hire a [temporary employee] for another month or maybe you have to borrow someone else from another department or maybe the person can work part-time or from home."

Williams' Center for WorkLife Law has established a website,, and a hotline -- (415) 703-8276 -- as resources for women to know their rights in the workplace.

Williams wants women to know that even beyond paid maternity leave -- which only about 35% of women in the U.S. have, according to the Society for Human Resource Management -- and the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) -- which only covers about 50% of workers in the U.S. , according to Williams -- they have rights through the ADA.

"That is the big news here," she said. "What we have found is that OBGYNs often didn’t know that, employers didn’t know that and pregnant women didn’t know that."

"Not everyone has a cousin in human resources to talk to," Williams said, referring to Alves.

Alves' son, Luis, is now 3 and she's back to work now at a law firm.

Although she has not recovered financially from her termination, Alves said she is on the other side of postpartum depression, no longer isolating herself or living with crippling anxiety.

"Luis is happy. I’m happy. We’re doing good," she said. "I would hope people with postpartum depression reach out and get help because it is real."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


(Courtesy University of New Mexico) The University of New Mexico is handing out coasters that will test for drugs.(ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.) -- Students at the University of New Mexico can now pick up coasters that will alert them if any drugs are in their drinks, the school announced.

The university's Campus Office of Substance Abuse Prevention said they are handing out the coasters, which test for GHB and ketamine, drugs commonly referred to as "date rape drugs."

Students can place a drop of their drink onto a dot on the coaster, using their finger or a straw, and if a blue dot appears, it means the drinks tested positive for a detectable amount of either GHB or ketamine.

A "drug detector" built into the coaster reacts to the chemicals in the drink and produces the blue dot, according to Dr. Randall Starling, a senior research scientist at the office.

Amber Greene, a marketing assistant in the office, told ABC News that there are about 200 coasters left.

A few students have personally come to the office to pick them up, while other coasters were sent to fraternities and sororities on campus.

"We're always doing prevention work to try to keep students safe when they're out drinking," Greene said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


RyanJLane/iStock(NEW YORK) -- A new yoga craze is all the rage and a bit of an oxymoron.

Rage yoga has started to stretch across the U.S. where more new instructors are adopting the practice that includes alcohol, profanity and some not so family-friendly poses.

The seemingly off-brand flow, which first took roots in Canada, may be the antithesis of what most yogis expect from a dimly lit room with soft music and calming poses.

Lindsay Istace, the founder of Rage Yoga, told that "It's meant to be a different approach to yoga for those who find their peaceful center in a different way."

The practice is more chaotic and involves ones sense of humor.

Students are encouraged to let it all out with screams, curse words and hand gestures, Istace explained, but it still incorporates traditional yoga postures and breathing, just with alternative principles.

Some of-age participants are even served an alcoholic drink that they can enjoy throughout the class.

According to, there are online training programs available for people interested in becoming a Rage yoga instructor that start at $800.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Savany/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Halloween is around the corner and parents have a sweet way to make trick-or-treating more inclusive and fun for everyone, especially children with autism.

The tradition at the end of the month when kids dress up and go door-to-door can be daunting for someone with autism, especially when prompted to boast, "trick or treat!"

One mother took to Facebook and shared the story of her 3-year-old son who is nonverbal and said they will be trying a new technique to ensure people who hand out candy understand he has a disability.

"This year we will be trying the blue bucket to signify he has autism. Please allow him (or any other person with a blue bucket) to enjoy this day and don't worry I'll still say 'trick or treat' for him," she wrote. "This holiday is hard enough without any added stress. Thank you in advance."

The post went viral and quickly garnered mass attention, which has helped spread the word.

Another Pennsylvania mother, Michelle Koenig, told ABC Scranton affiliate WNEP this is her 5-year-old son's first year trick or treating.

"I think it's hard for them, but it's getting easier. People are becoming more accepting of it and people are aware," she explained. "It's good and it's getting better."

Rachel Brnilovich, a clinical director for the Pennsylvania Autism Action Center, said she thinks the blue bucket idea is a great one.

"We love this campaign. It really gives our kids an opportunity to go out, no matter their age and experience Halloween," Brnilovich told the station. "Taking notice of the blue bucket and then just treating them like a child, how any child would be, give them the candy and just move on."

Koenig said, "It gives people a chance to understand -- and it opens everyone's eyes."

The idea is to have a blue bucket, or at least something blue, but there are no special logos or tags.

Other Halloween trends like the "Teal Pumpkin Project" have successfully caught on and raised awareness for food allergies. Read more about that here.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Jody Davidson(ULSTER, Pa.) -- In a typical year, Ariah Cook's grandparents are the first house in Ulster, Pa., to put up holiday decorations.

But this hasn't been a typical year.

Ariah, 6, is battling stage 3 glioblastoma, an aggressive type of brain cancer, and her grandmother with whom she lives just hasn't had the time to get into the holiday spirit -- for any holiday. She's simply been too busy taking Ariah to appointments.

So neighbors Jody Davidson and Amber Gray decided to do it for them.

"Amber and I came up with the idea to light the town up from one end of Main Street to the other and all in between," Davidson told Good Morning America. Gray came up with a flier asking the whole town to decorate for any and all holidays, and within two days it was done.

The two women's children attend school with Ariah and her sister Selene.

"She is one of the happiest girls we have ever met -- she always has a smile on her face and that helps all of us to keep a smile on ours," Davidson said.

The little girl arrived home last week from a week-long treatment at Geisinger Janet Weis Children's Hospital in Danville, Pa., and rode into town on a firetruck.

"It was accompanied by several other trucks from surrounding communities who had heard of her homecoming just hours before," Davidson said.

The Halloween-Christmas-Easter-purple decorations were a hit.

"She loves it -- everyday there is a new decoration that pops up in town," Davidson said. "She absolutely loves Christmas, and with the unknowns of her time here on earth with us, most of the decorations are Christmas and her favorite color purple. She enjoys her family pushing her around town to see all the lights and decorations and it helps to ease the bad days."

The support for Ariah has moved well beyond Ulster, Gray told GMA.

"We get messages from states away of people lighting up a corner of their homes in support of her -- it's just truly amazing," Gray said. "There is just no way to possibly thank everyone for what they have done to keep Ariah fighting. While her prognosis isn't the brightest, our town's love for her is."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Mikumi/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Quayla Harris knew exactly how she wanted the delivery of her third child to go: a natural birth in the hospital with her husband by her side.

Only one of those things happened.

Harris' husband was, in fact, by her side -- but she gave birth in the passenger seat of their car after being sent home from the hospital less than two hours earlier, the couple told ABC News.

Harris' experience is not unique for women in labor, though it's unclear how common it is for the nearly four million babies that are born in the U.S. every year. Earlier this month, a woman in Virginia gave birth in her bathtub hours after she says she was turned away from a hospital there. Similar stories have played out elsewhere in the U.S. and the U.K. as well.

While there are no statistics as to how often and how many women are sent home from the hospital in the early stages of labor, the issue appears to be front of mind for many. Numerous online message boards offer tips for women to avoid being sent home and online articles share advice for those who have been.

ABC News' Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton, who has delivered more than 1,500 babies, said that "obstetric management of early labor and active labor is both a science as well as an art."

Doctors consider numerous factors, including if it's a woman's first labor, if the pregnancy is high-risk and whether fetal heartbeat patterns are reassuring, as well as how far away the patient lives, according to Ashton.

“If you think of labor and delivery as an ICU for pregnant women with continuous monitoring and often 1-to-1 nursing, it’s easy to understand how sometimes there are not free beds to admit women who don’t yet meet the above criteria.” said Ashton.“To be clear, it’s never ideal to send a women home and have her deliver outside of the hospital.”

Some research also indicates that there are benefits to delaying admission to labor and delivery wards, including fewer medical interventions as well as better outcomes.

Women who spoke to ABC News regarding the difficulties in their labor experience said they understood the procedures in place when it comes to admitting pregnant women and each had known that not being admitted because of early labor was a possibility. However, they felt they weren't being heard when it came to their own feelings.

“Sometimes it's not about policy and procedures," Harris said. "It's about doing what's right. Women know their bodies ... Why are we being dismissed?"

'See you next week'

Harris, 30, said she was sent home from a Dallas hospital after a doctor told her she was “rushing things” because she wasn’t 4 cm dilated, she told ABC News. She was 40 weeks along at the time.

A number of factors come into play as to whether a hospital admits a woman in labor, depending on risk and other parameters. Among them is whether the woman is in active labor, which is gauged by cervical dilation. Guidelines changed in 2014 from 4 cm to 6 cm dilation to help avoid unnecessary C-sections.

“He said it could be another week and we were just kind of looking confused. I’m like ‘OK. No, this is not another week,’” she said.

Her contractions were consistently 5 minutes apart, had reached a point of being unbearable, and the nurse said she her cervix was 95% effaced, according to Harris -- all indicators of how far along labor is.

“I have two other children," she remembered thinking that day, July 1, 2017. "I think I know when my body is ready."

Even so, she still left the hospital -- a decision she now regrets.

Harris said staff sent her off with drugs to relieve the pain and a nurse told her, “see you next week, probably.”

Less than two hours after leaving, they rushed back to the hospital, with Harris giving birth to a baby boy just as they pulled up. Harris' son had the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck when he was delivered, she said. Nurses rushed out and managed to successfully unwrap the cord, but Harris remembers being terrified.

"I don't remember hearing him fully cry until we got into the room in the hospital," she said.

Her son’s birth time was listed as 11:45 a.m., but Harris thought it was closer to 11:35 a.m.

“They didn’t know what time to put because they weren’t there,” she said.

Active labor guidelines

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) said active labor for most women does not occur until 5 to 6 cm dilation, according to the association’s guidelines.

ACOG said, per its guidelines, which are not mandatory, that if a woman is not admitted to a labor unit, “a process of shared decision making is recommended to create a plan for self-care activities and coping techniques.”

Dr. Wendy Wilcox, an OB-GYN in Brooklyn, New York, said the process of admitting a woman in labor goes far beyond just one factor, such as their cervix dilation or contractions.

Doctors also check the mom's vital signs, baby's heartbeat, the patient's medical and birthing history and if there is any vaginal bleeding, Wilcox told ABC News.

Dr. Rade Vukmir, an emergency medicine physician in Michigan, said about 30% to 50% of women in the obstetrics triage unit experience early labor, also known as the latent phase. Physicians are supposed to provide proper medical care to determine if a woman is actually near labor or in the latent phase. If it's the latter, those women are then sent home, he said.

"Labor starts at this early, so-called latent phase ... so we say, 'OK, you're in labor until we prove you're not in labor.' That's where things get kind of complicated," Vukmir told ABC News.

Studies concerning admitting women in early labor have produced different results, according to an ACOG committee opinion from February 2019. Some observational studies have found that doing so led to more medical interventions as well as C-sections, but the studies weren't able to discern if that was attributable to longer exposure to the hospital environment or a "propensity for dysfunctional labor," according to ACOG.

On the other hand, a 1998 randomized controlled trial cited by ACOG found that delayed admission produced better outcomes, including "lower epidural use and augmentation" as well as greater satisfaction in the experience.

And a 2015 study found that, in addition to potentially saving $694 million, delayed admission to labor wards would result in 672,000 fewer epidurals as well as 67,000 fewer C-sections in a theoretical cohort of 3.2 million low-risk women.

"Admission to labor and delivery may be delayed for women in the latent phase of labor when their status and their fetuses’ status are reassuring," ACOG said in its 2019 opinion. "The women can be offered frequent contact and support, as well as nonpharmacologic pain management measures."

Some instances of not providing appropriate care for women in labor have resulted in fines and violations of law. Over the years, hospitals that participate in Medicare have been fined under the 1986 Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), which regulates medical screening and patient transfer in emergency situations.

About 6% to 8.5% of the more than 2,800 EMTALA complaints from 2014 to 2018 were related to labor in hospitals, according to data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Of those complaints, the majority (53% to 82%) were determined to be EMTALA violations, the data showed.

It was not clear how many of those cases were for women being turned away in labor, and the cases represent just a fraction of the total number of live births in the country each year. Officials did not provide the details of the cases and ABC News has not reviewed them.

But some of the most egregious EMTALA violations are listed on the Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General's website.

In a 2015 case, for instance, a Kansas hospital "did not record the patient’s medical history, take any vitals, conduct fetal monitoring, test for fetal movement, or perform any exam on the patient," who was 38 weeks pregnant and complaining of abdominal and lower back pain. She delivered a stillborn baby at another hospital, according to a report from the HHS OIG.

The hospital in the Virginia case where the mother gave birth in a bathtub is not required to comply with EMTALA as it is a military facility, a Health and Human Services official said.

'I think I know'

Two other women spoke to ABC News about being sent home from the hospital after reading about the Virginia couple's story.

Lesli Newton, a 39-year-old Cincinnati resident, said she was 37 weeks pregnant when she began experiencing contractions on the night of Feb. 7, 2015. She had two other children at the time, two girls with her third on the way, and knew what labor felt like.

She and her husband went to a local hospital around 10 p.m. where the nurses performed a cervical check (she was 4 cm) and put a fetal monitor on her stomach. Ultimately, Newton said, they told her she wasn't in labor.

Newton asked the nurses to call the OB-GYN, but she said she was told he was on a golf retreat. When they did phone him, according to Newton, the nurses said the doctor maintained what they had said: She wasn't ready.

"This is baby number three, I think I know ... but I was still going to take their word because they're the nurses and he's the doctor," she said.

By the time she got home, the contractions became "really heavy and really painful." Just minutes after they walked in the door and Newton managed to make it upstairs, she began to feel a sensation of needing to push.

Her husband called for an ambulance and Newton began pushing. By the time EMTs arrived, her daughter was crowning.

She managed to safely give birth to a baby girl in her room upstairs.

Last-minute switch

Liz Kimller, 33, of Orlando, said she remembers her contractions felt like a "9 out of 10" in terms of pain by the time she arrived at the hospital in February of this year.

The nurses, she said, wouldn’t admit her because she was only 2 cm dilated but they checked on her periodically in the triage at a local hospital.

At one point, Kimller said a nurse told her if she were in true labor, she wouldn’t be able to talk through the contractions.

“I felt like I couldn’t talk because when she was asking me questions, I had to put my hand up as if to say ‘Hold on a minute,’ and I was, like, screaming in pain,” Kimller said.

After being in the hospital for about two hours, she and her fiance were sent home. Kimller’s water broke about an hour after that.

Her pain, she said, had increased to beyond a 10 at that point.

“I felt like they should have known that if I’m in too much pain then that means something. That means I’m very close,” she said. “Which I was.”

Kimller and her fiance chose to drive to a different hospital, where she delivered a healthy baby girl.

But the experience still weighs on her.

"For me, this is my first time and I honestly felt as if I was dying and they don't believe me," Kimller said.

ACOG did not comment on specific cases. While the association’s guidelines recommend doctors and patients engage in shared decision making, those guidelines are not mandated and are followed at the discretion of the hospital and provider.

'I've had patients push back'

Dr. Elizabeth Langen, an obstetrician at University of Michigan’s Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital, told ABC News that she got into the profession because she thinks "birth is a beautiful process."

"I want to help women and babies come through birth physically and emotionally healthy," said Langen, who is also a member of the Michigan Obstetrics Initiative, a data driven quality-improvement project that includes 73 maternity hospitals throughout the state trying to increase the safety of childbirth.

She cited studies that suggest admitting women in early stages of labor are associated with higher risk of C-section. Langen also said that delayed admission led to higher patient satisfaction and a lower rate of other medical intervention.

"Our goal for delayed admission is to optimize women’s outcomes," she said.

Langen suggests working on a birth partnership document with their doctor or midwife prior to labor and if she finds herself wanting admission when it’s not recommended, she says “express her needs to the team."

"The team may not understand the concerns she has about discharge and she may not fully understand the reasons the team is recommending that she not be admitted," Langen added. "Coming to a shared understanding of her goals for her birth is essential."

Wilcox similarly said that "no one comes to work wanting to do a bad job."

But she offered advice to any woman who feels as though they aren't being heard by their doctors: Advocate for yourself.

"I've had patients push back," she said. "I've said, 'I don't think you're ready yet,' and a patient said, 'I'm not going home.'"

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


technotr/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Pauline Dowell may never be able to drive a car, but she can sail a boat around the world.

Dowell is legally blind and is one of many athletes with disabilities who competes in the C. Thomas Clagett Jr. Memorial Clinic and Regatta, an event she has competed in since losing her sight nearly a decade ago.

Each year, dozens of athletes with disabilities participate in the twice-a-year event, which is held in both Newport, Rhode Island, and Oyster Bay, New York. The mission is to provide a space for sailors with disabilities to train and compete at an elite level, and sailors of various abilities -- ranging from paraplegia to those missing limbs to those who are blind -- are invited to show off their skills.

Since its founding in 2002, 20 of the regatta’s sailors have gone on to win medals at the Paralympics.

“These sailors have done very well,” Clagett president, chair and co-founder Judy Clagett McLennan told ABC News' Good Morning America. “Just because you may not have a leg or you have a disease-driven issue doesn’t mean that you are not a whole person inside and that you need to expel that competitive energy somewhere and sailing is one of the many ways they can do this.”

Perhaps no one is more competitive than Dowell, who has a degenerative eye disease that has left her legally blind.

“I’m very passionate about every aspect of sailing, and it’s growing every year,” she told GMA.

Dowell loves sailing so much, she even resides on a sailboat in Boston Harbor with her guide dog.

“It was always a dream to live on a boat,” she said. “I live year-round [on the boat] and yes, the boat is heated.”

She says that sailing has given her a new beginning.

“I’m not allowed to drive. Even robots will have jobs driving but I will never do that,” she said. “I can drive the boat. I can make the boat go. I am able to be an integral part of a team and that’s huge for me.”

Jodi Munden is one of Dowell’s closest teammates. Munden, who is blind herself, found sailing six years ago when a friend invited her to a sailing event in Ontario, Canada.

“It gave me a whole new world of freedom and self-confidence,” Munden said. “It gives a new meaning to the word independence and showing individuals what you can do as a blind athlete."

The duo has competed in a multitude of competitions all over the world against sighted and non-sighted athletes. They find the sport of sailing to be fairly equal for all participants, regardless of physical ability.

“It’s this great equalizer where we can play on, basically, an even playing field... Off the water, it’s not an even playing field,” Munden explained.

More than certain other sports, sailing can be adapted based on competitors' physical abilities. For Dowell and Munden, they compete with the assistance of a sighted guide whose only job is to alert them if there is an obstacle or safety hazard.

For other competitors, equipment can be altered on the vessel to accommodate an athlete’s physical needs.

This is the case for Sarah Everhart Skeels, who was paralyzed from the waist down after a spinal cord injury in the early 1990s.

“I will be sitting in a seat that keeps me in the boat, but my job is to still sail the boat,” she said.

Her teammate, Cindy Walker, also suffered a spinal cord injury, leaving her unable to walk since the age of 14. Today, Walker has regained some movement in her legs but uses adaptive equipment to help her balance while sailing.

“Sailing is the only sport where there’s no barriers,” Walker said. “I can take my family out in a sailboat, but I can’t necessarily take my family to play wheelchair basketball.”

At the end of the day, sailing comes down to skill.

“Everyone out on the water has a different ability. We happen to have abilities that are more identifiable to people, not necessarily on the water but here on land,” Skeels said. “It’s about capitalizing on what your abilities are and not worrying about what abilities you don’t have.”

“It’s more about being in the moment than it is about abilities,” she added. “The disability is just another aspect of who we are, but we are sailors out on the water.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Janet Weinstein/ABC News(COLUMBUS, Ohio) -- Treatment facilities and employers are working to tackle the opioid epidemic in central Ohio, which has been particularly hard hit by the growing national crisis.

House of Hope in downtown Columbus has helped an increasing number of opiate addicts through recovery. Hot Chicken Takeover, a Nashville-style chicken restaurant chain headquartered in Columbus, hires recovering addicts as well as other formerly incarcerated and homeless people.

House of Hope has provided addiction recovery services to city residents for 60 years, originally treating mostly alcoholics. But as the drug crisis has slammed Central Ohio particularly hard, they have seen more recovering opiate addicts.

"We treat the disease of addiction. We don't treat a drug," Carolyn Ireland, House of Hope’s CEO, told ABC News. "We are here to help people get sober, you know, and live a life of sobriety."

Twenty-four men at a time can join House of Hope’s six-month residential treatment program where they go through individual and group counseling as well as cognitive behavioral therapy. Graduates may continue to live in recovery residences after completing the program.

Kyle Harden entered House of Hope’s doors two years ago as he was battling alcohol and opiate addictions. Now he works as the organization’s outreach director.

"Two years ago I couldn't stop using drugs and alcohol, was living in a homeless shelter. I was in and out of jail, couldn't hold down a job. No money, no hope. No friends, family wanted nothing to do with me," Harden said. "Now because of my time here, I work for the House of Hope."

While Harden found employment at House of Hope, the program also helps place graduates into jobs at other local businesses, including Hot Chicken Takeover.

Hot Chicken Takeover considers itself a "second chance employer," meaning people with employment barriers, like past drug addiction or incarceration, have a fair shot at jobs.

"A large percentage of our workforce are men and women in some state of recovery," Joe DeLoss, the founder and co-owner of Hot Chicken Takeover, said. "There's a sense of ownership, often an aspiration for what life could look like."

Approximately 70% of the restaurant chain's employees are formerly incarcerated or homeless. DeLoss said they have found second-chance applicants through a variety of local treatment centers and other community partners.

Jamila Perry began working at Hot Chicken Takeover’s North Market location last month after going through treatment for a years-long addiction to opioids. She can now provide for her children, whom she has recently reunited with, and has found a community in her coworkers.

"Our team is like family. Wherever one slacks, we pick it right back up and they don't complain about it. I just love it here," she said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


rmcguirk/iStock(NEW YORK) -- High school athletes are more likely to have concussions during games than in practice, according to a new study by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

In the new study, 20 high school sports, including football, wrestling, field hockey and cheerleading, were examined over the course of five years to see trends in concussion incidences and found that athletes were more likely to get concussions during games than practices.

"This is alarming since greater impact forces during the heat of competition may result in more severe head injuries and post-concussive effects over the short- and long-term," said Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, who was not connected with the study.

The study, which took a sample of 9,542 reported concussions across a variety of sports, showed that 63.7 percent of concussions occurred during competitions and 36.3 percent occurred during practices.

Football had the highest concussion rate followed by girls’ soccer and boys’ ice hockey.

Glatter said, "The game of football is inherently dangerous and unpredictable, making the risk of serious head trauma, along with bodily injury, always a concern."

As a former sideline physician for the NFL's New York Jets, Glatter is no stranger to head injuries and has seen the effects firsthand.

"The pressure to perform and excel in competition may lead athletes to ‘overplay’ or push themselves beyond their natural capabilities, leading to a higher risk for head injuries and concussions," Glatter said.

For years, concussions have been a growing concern among student athletes, especially in high-contact sports, like soccer, where concussions are mainly posed by "heading," when players use their heads to control the ball to pass, shoot or clear.

Glatter said that repetitive subconcussive impacts can lead to lasting neurocognitive effects that affect teens and children more.

Just last week, the Concussion Legacy Foundation compared football to smoking in a dramatic PSA video and said that kids who play tackle football at an early age versus later in their teen years are 10 times more likely to get CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a brain disease common among former football players.

Glatter pointed out that preventative efforts, like the use of a helmet, may reduce the risk of skull fractures and intracranial bleeding, but no helmets exist that can prevent or reduce the risk of concussions.

On soccer, he said, "While a recommendation to avoid heading exists for those under the age of 14, there seems to be no solid effort to make an all-out ban on this practice a reality anytime soon."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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