By Jeffrey Donovan
Nicknamed “The Flying Squirrel," 6-year-old Quincy Symonds is making waves not only for her incredible surfing skills, but also for her courage while coping with a genetic condition called congenital adrenal hyperplasia.
With a growing social-media following both on Instagram and YouTube, the Australian phenom might just be the best 6-year-old surfer in the world.
“I have never seen a surfer male or female this good at such an early age — and I’ve taught thousands of kids to surf,” her coach, Anthony Pope, told TODAY.com.
In March 2013, when Quincy was 4, she became fascinated by her father's love of surfing, and insisted on doing some of her own. Her mother, Kim Symonds, told TODAY.com it didn't take long for Quincy to find her balance on a surfboard.
“It was just the second or third wave she stood up on, which is apparently quite phenomenal,” she added. “Within a week, she was going across the waves and looking to make turns.”
From a coaching perspective, Pope admitted he had his doubts at the start of their first session, when they swam to 3-foot waves at the surf break known as Currumbin Alley.
"There were a lot of surfers looking at me like, 'You shouldn’t be out here with that tiny kid,'" he said. "However, after pushing her into a perfect 3-foot wave, she took off down the line, tearing the wave up. I was shocked, speechless and super excited. I knew immediately she was something very special."
Pope credits Quincy's success to her fearless nature, exceptional balance and a drive to catch the best wave.
Quincy started making international headlines this month, when Australian media outlet ABC Open featured her serious skills in a Vimeo video that's racked up almost 1 million views. In that video, her father, Jake Symonds, says he still can't believe what he's seeing. "I'm amazed by it," he said. "I'm really proud of it. But, to be honest, I can't comprehend how she does it, and how she's done it so quickly."
It's especially impressive given Quincy's medical condition. According to the Mayo Clinic, congenital adrenal hyperplasia limits adrenal glands' ability to make certain vital hormones.
When Quincy was born, she spent many stints in the intensive-care unit of various hospitals. "On and off, we spent more time in a hospital than we spent at home," Kim Symonds told ABC Open.
The young surfer's health is more stable these days, but because her body doesn’t produce cortisone, she depends on three daily doses of steroids.
Because her illness means she'd require immediate medical care in the event of injury, “We keep emergency medication on hand always,” her mother told TODAY.com.
Despite her condition, Quincy seems fearless when she surfs or skateboards in her family’s hometown on Australia’s Gold Coast, north of Sydney.
That fearlessness led to her nickname, too.
According to ABC Open, when she was younger, she spotted a squirrel in a tree near her house and hopped off her father's SUV to mimic it. "The Flying Squirrel" was born.
As someone who's worked with pro surfers Owen Wright, Dion Agius and Stephanie Gilmore, Pope told TODAY.com he feels "privileged" to work with his young protégée.
"I feel like a better person just knowing Quincy," he said.
By Eun Kyung Kim
Four students at North Carolina State University hope to tackle a problem on many campuses by developing a nail polish that can detect so-called date rape drugs by changing colors when it comes into contact with them.
Women who wear the polish can simply swirl their fingers in a drink to test it for any colorless, odorless compound that may have been slipped in.
The four male entrepreneurs behind the product, which they call Undercover Colors, have received mainly positive responses. They won an $11,000 prize from a contest on campus, where they also have met with a potential investor.
A White House report estimates one in five women has been sexually assaulted while at college, but only 12 percent of those student victims ever report the crime.
“As a rape victim, and a mother of 3 daughters, I can not thank you enough,” one fan said in a post on the group's Facebook page, which has been “liked” by more than 26,000 users.
But some have expressed skepticism about the product, however well-intentioned it may be.
"I think it reflects the cultural reality where we actually put the blame on women,” often when they are the victims of rape,” said Elizabeth Plank, a senior editor at Mic. “We put the onus on them, to prevent rape, when we very well know that this is not an effective way of actually reducing sexual assault."
North Carolina State has encouraged the students to continue pursuing their project, providing them with lab space to experiment. It’s not clear when the nail polish will be available on the market.
By SYDNEY LUPKIN
At Boston Children’s Hospital, doctors perform practice surgeries with replicas of their patients’ body parts. Though the hospital has had a simulation program for about a decade, it started 3D-printing children’s body parts about a year ago, said Dr. Peter Weinstock, director of the hospital’s simulator program.
“They perfect what they want to do before ever bringing the child into the operating room or putting them to sleep,” Weinstock said.
The models are also used to help parents understand their children’s surgeries before the operation and to educate students afterward, Weinstock said.
The printer is precise, with a resolution of between 16 and 32 microns per layer. That means each layer is about the width of a “filament of cotton,” Weinstock said. And since the printer can print multiple resins or textures, doctors can work on replicas that model different tissue types, like brain matter and blood vessels.
The printer only takes a few hours to do their work once CT scans and other forms of imaging are collected and rendered into 3D models. A child’s finger might take three hours to print, but a chest replica they made last week took longer, Weinstock said.
The team has already printed about 100 body parts over the last year and demand is growing, Weinstock said, adding that the printer is running around the clock.
Dr. Ed Smith, a pediatric neurosurgeon at Boston Children’s, said he recently used several different 3D models to perform brain surgery on a 15-year-old patient with an abnormal cluster of veins above his optical nerve. One wrong maneuver and the patient could have gone blind.
He even used a see-through replica of the patient’s skull on a light box in the operating room as a reference.
“It’s kind of like being superman with X-ray vision where you can actually hold this up and see right through it,” Smith said.
The surgery, which would have normally taken five or six hours, wound up clocking in at 2 hours and 20 minutes, Smith said.
Though Boston Children’s hasn’t conducted any formal studies of how the models help surgeons, Smith said he’s heard anecdotally that they result in shorter surgeries because doctors know what to expect.
By DENISE LAVOIE Associated Press
If something good could come out of the Boston Marathon bombing, James Costello and Krista D'Agostino seem to have found it.
Sixteen months after the attack killed three people and injured more than 260, including Costello, he married D'Agostino, the nurse who helped him recover. The couple exchanged vows Saturday at the Hyatt Regency Boston in front of about 160 guests.
A photograph of Costello with his clothes ripped to shreds and parts of his body burned became one of the most recognized images of the 2013 attack. He met D'Agostino, a nurse at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, while he was recovering from multiple surgeries for shrapnel injuries and serious burns that required pig skin grafts on his right arm and right leg.
After the couple became engaged, Costello said he believed he was involved in the tragedy in order to meet D'Agostino, whom he described as his best friend and the love of his life.
"One thing that she hates that I always say is I'm actually glad I got blown up," Costello said on the "Today" show in December. "I wish everyone else didn't have to, but I don't think I would have ever met her if I didn't."
Wedding planner Rachael Gross said she and the other vendors involved in the wedding donated their services.
"They are the most gracious, generous, kind, ... loving couple," Gross said. "They believe that they were meant to meet."
The wedding ceremony was held outdoors on the hotel's third-floor terrace, with blue and white hydrangeas all around. The reception was held in the hotel's grand ballroom.
"It was more like a classic Nantucket style, but without a literal nautical theme," Gross said.
Costello, of Malden, was gathered with friends near the marathon finish line, watching for another friend who was running when two bombs exploded within seconds of each another. Three of Costello's friends lost a leg, while other friends suffered burns and shrapnel injuries.
During his two-week stay at Massachusetts General Hospital, Costello was among patients who met President Barack Obama. He was later transferred to Spaulding.
Costello and D'Agostino, both 31, are honeymooning in Hawaii.
Emergency department nurses aren't like the rest of us - they are more extroverted, agreeable and open - attributes that make them successful in the demanding, fast-paced and often stressful environment of an emergency department, according to a new study by University of Sydney.
"Emergency nurses are a special breed," says Belinda Kennedy from Sydney Nursing School, a 15 year critical care veteran who led the study.
"Despite numerous studies about personalities of nurses in general, there has been little research done on the personalities of nurses in clinical specialty areas.
"My years working as a critical care nurse has made me aware of the difficulty in retaining emergency nurses and I have observed apparent differences in personality among these specialty groups. This prompted me to undertake this research which is the first on this topic in more than 20 years.
"We found that emergency nurses demonstrated significantly higher levels of openness to experience, agreeableness, and extroversion personality domains compared to the normal population.
"Emergency departments (ED) are a highly stressful environment - busy, noisy, and with high patient turnover. It is the entry point for approximately 40 per cent of all hospital admissions, and the frequency and type of presentations is unpredictable.
"Emergency nurses must have the capacity to care for the full spectrum of physical, psychological and social health problems within their community.
"They must also able to develop a rapport with individuals from all age groups and socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds, in time-critical situations and often at a time when these individuals are at their most vulnerable.
"For these reasons, ED staff experience high levels of stress and emotional exhaustion, so it's understandable that it takes a certain personality type to function in this working environment.
"Our research findings have potential implications for workforce recruitment and retention in emergency nursing.
"With ever-increasing demands on emergency services it is necessary to consider how to enhance the recruitment and retention of emergency nurses in public hospitals. Assessment of personality and knowledge of its influence on specialty selection may assist in improving this.
"The retention of emergency nurses not only has potential economic advantages, but also a likely positive impact on patient care and outcomes, as well as improved morale among the nursing workforce," she said.
Since this article is from Aulstralia, do you agree that Emergency Room Nurses in the US should have the same characteristics to be successful in a US Emergency Room?
By Dr. Chethan Sathya
Inside the operating room, video cameras track every movement. Outside, a small computer-like device analyzes the recordings, identifying when mistakes are made and providing instant feedback to surgeons as they operate.
This is the dream of the surgical "black box." Operations could become flawless. Post-operative complications could be significantly reduced. Surgeons could review the footage to improve their technique and prep for the next big case.
Such a device isn't far from reality.
Researchers in Canada are working on a surgical tracking box -- like the ones placed in airplanes -- that records surgeons' movements and identifies errors during an operation.
By pinpointing mistakes and telling surgeons when they're veering "off course," a black box could prevent future slip-ups, says Dr. Teodor Grantcharov, a minimally invasive surgeon at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto. Unlike the so-called black boxes in aviation, which are used after disasters occur, the surgical black box Grantcharov is creating will be used proactively to prevent major patient complications.
A number of hospitals have already expressed interest in using the device, Grantcharov says.
But the litigious medical environment may make its implementation problematic. If the recordings were used in court, they could open the floodgates to a new wave of malpractice concerns, which would be counterproductive to surgeons and patients, Grantcharov says.
"We have to ensure the black box is used as an educational tool to help surgeons evaluate their performance and improve," he says.
A work in progress
Grantcharov's black box is a multifaceted system. In addition to the actual box, it includes operating room microphones and cameras that record the surgery, the surgeon's movements and details about team dynamics.
It will allow surgeons to hone in on exactly what went wrong and why.
The black box will eventually assess everything from how surgeons stitch to how delicately they handle organs and communicate with nurses during high-stress situations. Error-analysis software within the black box will help surgeons identify when they are "deviating" from the norm or using techniques linked to higher rates of complications.
So far, Grantcharov's black box has been tested on about 40 patients undergoing laparoscopic weight-loss surgery.
"At this initial stage, we are analyzing surgeries to determine how many errors occur and which ones actually lead to bad results for patients," Grantcharov says. Not every error will result in a patient complication.
Grantcharov's initial research has shown that surgeons recognize few of their mistakes, and, on average, make about 20 errors per surgery -- regardless of experience level. Once Grantcharov's team determines which errors affect patient safety, it hopes to be able to provide this information to surgeons in real time. The team has also developed software that can synthesize the recorded data into user-friendly and interpretable information for surgeons.
The concept of using a black box in surgery isn't new. But until now, the technology never made it out of the laboratory because it lacked comprehensiveness, Grantcharov says. Earlier surgical black boxes didn't record all the important elements of the operating room, he says, leaving pieces of the puzzle missing.
"To truly understand what causes an error, you need to know all the factors that may come into play."
Grantcharov was inspired to develop the surgical black box after years of witnessing how patient complications affected surgeons.
"The feeling of not knowing what causes a complication, whether it's surgical technique, communication in the operating room or the patient's condition itself, is tormenting," Grantcharov says.
Many surgeons, however, may be uncomfortable with using a black box in the operating room, says Dr. Teodoro Forcht Dagi with the American College of Surgeons Perioperative Care Committee.
"If there was a legal requirement to record every operation, then many surgeons would be resistant," Forcht Dagi says. He says he believes doing so would create a sense of nervousness that would paralyze a surgeon's ability to operate and end up ultimately harming patients.
"The black box needs to be used solely by surgeons for their own education, in which case I think it's a great idea," Forcht Dagi says.
Errors during surgery have generally been dealt with after the fact, and only once a complication during the patient's recovery occurs. Weeks after surgery, cases with complications are presented to a panel of experts, who weigh in on what may have gone wrong during the operation.
Yet in many cases nothing is recorded apart from an audio transcript of the operation, making it tough to identify what caused each complication. The black box would add much needed context.
"I would rush (a black box) into service immediately," says Richard Epstein, professor of law at New York University's School of Law. Since most medical lawsuits end up being "he said, she said" arguments, not knowing exactly what happened in the operating room just adds to the level of distrust, Epstein says.
In the United States, the Healthcare Quality Improvement Act prevents courts from using data that doctors and hospitals use for peer review, a self-regulation process in which experts or "peers" evaluate one another. The law allows doctors to assess each other openly and identify areas for improvement without fear of litigation.
But there are exceptions to this rule, says William McMurry, president of the American Board of Professional Liability Attorneys. For instance, cases where surgeries are recorded but don't receive any peer review can be used in court.
While McMurry says that "keeping patients in the dark about the details of their surgery is never OK," he points out that litigation concerns should not derail use of the black box. It will be an asset to the health care system regardless of whether it can be used in court, he says.
"We care about better health care, and the black box will provide surgeons with the information they need to avoid mistakes," McMurry says. "It's a win-win situation."
The surgical black box will be tested in hospitals in Canada, Denmark and parts of South America in the next few months. Talks are also under way with a number of American hospitals.
If doctors accept it, implementation in U.S. hospitals could happen quickly since the surgical black box isn't considered a medical device and doesn't require approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Bottom line, Grantcharov says, is that even after years of practicing medicine, the black box "made me a safer surgeon and a better teacher."
"People tend to think that happiness in schizophrenia is an oxymoron," says senior author Dr. Dilip V. Jeste, distinguished professor of Psychiatry and Neurosciences at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine.
"Without discounting the suffering this disease inflicts on people, our study shows that happiness is an attainable goal for at least some schizophrenia patients," he adds. "This means we can help make these individuals' lives happier."
Dr. Jeste's team surveyed 72 schizophrenia outpatients in the San Diego area - all but nine of whom were taking at least one anti-psychotic medication. Just over half of the respondents were residents in assisted-living facilities.
A comparison group was comprised of 64 healthy men and women who did not currently use alcohol or illegal drugs and who had not been diagnosed with dementia or other neurological illnesses.
The mean age for both groups was 50 years.
In the survey, the respondents answered questions on their happiness over the previous week. They were asked to rate statements such as "I was happy" and "I enjoyed life" on a scale from "never or rarely" to "all or most of the time."
The results reveal that about 37% of the schizophrenia patients were happy most or all of the time, compared with about 83% of respondents in the comparison group.
However, about 15% of people in the schizophrenia group reported being rarely or never happy, but no one in the comparison group reported such a low level of happiness.
'Patients' happiness was unrelated to the severity or duration of their illness'
The researchers compared the self-reported happiness of the respondents with other factors including age, gender, education, living situation, medication status, mental health, physical health, cognitive function, stress, attitude toward aging, spirituality, optimism, resilience and personal mastery.
The study - which is published in the journal Schizophrenia Research - suggests that the patients' levels of happiness were unrelated to the severity or duration of their illness, cognitive or physical function, age or education. This is clinically significant because, among healthy adults, all of these factors are associated with a greater sense of well-being.
Lead author Barton W. Palmer, PhD, professor in the UC San Diego Department of Psychiatry summarizes the study's findings:
"People with schizophrenia are clearly less happy than those in the general population at large, but this is not surprising.
What is impressive is that almost 40% of these patients are reporting happiness and that their happiness is associated with positive psychosocial attributes that can be potentially enhanced."
By JANE E. BRODY
The teenage years can be tough enough under the best of circumstances. But when cancer invades an adolescent’s life, the challenges grow exponentially.
When the prospects for treatment are uncertain, there’s the fear of dying at so young an age. Even with an excellent chance of being cured, teenagers with cancer face myriad emotional, educational and social concerns, especially missing out on activities and losing friends who can’t cope with cancer in a contemporary.
Added to that are the challenges of trying to keep up with schoolwork even as cancer treatment steals time and energy, and may cause long-lasting physical, cognitive or psychological side effects.
Sophie, who asked that her last name be withheld, was told at 15 that she had osteosarcoma, bone cancer. After a bout of how-can-this-be-happening-to-me, she forged ahead, determined to stay at her prestigious New York high school and graduate with her class.
Although most of her sophomore year was spent in the hospital having surgery and exhausting chemotherapy, she went to school on crutches whenever possible. She managed to stay on track, get good grades — and SAT scores high enough to get into Cornell University.
Now 20, Sophie is about to start her junior year and is majoring in biology and genetics with a minor in computer science. She plans to go to medical school, so this summer she has been studying for the MCATs and volunteering at a hospital.
Her main concern now is that people meet and get to know her as a whole, normal person, not someone who has had cancer, which is why she asked that I not identify her further.
“I’m pretty healthy, and I don’t want people to think I’m weak and need special care,” she said in an interview.
“Having cancer puts other issues into perspective,” she added. “I feel like I have to do as much as I can. I’ve gotten involved in so much. I try to enjoy myself more. And I don’t regret for a minute how I’ve been spending my time.”
Sophie’s determination to do the most she can and her desire for normalcy are hardly unusual, said Aura Kuperberg, who directs an extraordinary program for teenagers with cancer and their families at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Dr. Kuperberg, who has a doctorate in social work, started the program, called Teen Impact, in 1988. It operates with the support of donations and grants and deserves to be replicated at hospitals elsewhere.
“The greatest challenge teens with cancer face is social isolation,” she said in an interview. “Many of their peers are uncomfortable with illness, and many teens with cancer may withdraw from their friends because they feel they are so different and don’t fit in.”
In the popular young adult novel “The Fault in Our Stars,” a teenager with advanced cancer says, “That was the worst part of having cancer, sometimes: The physical evidence of disease separates you from other people.”
Within the family, too, teenagers can feel isolated, Dr. Kuperberg said. “Patients and parents want to protect one another. They keep up a facade that everything will be O.K., and feelings of depression and anxiety go unexpressed.”
Teen Impact holds group therapy sessions for young patients, parents and siblings so they “don’t feel alone and realize that their feelings are normal,” Dr. Kuperberg said. The goal of the program, which also sponsors social activities, is to help young cancer patients — some still in treatment, others finished — live as normally as possible.
“For many, cancer is a chronic illness, with echoes that last long after treatment ends,” Dr. Kuperberg said. “There are emotional side effects — a sense of vulnerability, a fear of relapse and death, and an uncertainty about the future that can get in the way of pursuing their hopes and dreams. And there can be physical and cognitive side effects when treatment leaves behind physical limitations and learning difficulties.”
But, she added, there is often “post-traumatic growth that motivates teens in a very positive way.”
“There’s a lot of altruism,” she said, “a desire to give back, and empathy, a sensitivity to what others are going through and a desire to help them.”
Sophie, for example, took notes for a classmate with hearing loss caused by chemotherapy. She recalled her gratitude for the friend “who was there for me the whole time I was in treatment, who would come over after school and sit on the couch and do puzzles while I slept.”
One frequent side effect of cancer treatment now receiving more attention is the threat to a young patient’s future reproductive potential.
In an opinion issued this month, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists urged doctors to address the effects of cancer treatment on puberty, ovarian function, menstrual bleeding, sexuality, contraceptive choice, breast and cervical cancer screening, and fertility.
“With survival rates pretty high now for childhood cancers, we should do what we can to preserve future fertility,” said Dr. Julie Strickland, the chairwoman of the college’s committee on adolescent health care. “We’re seeing more and more cooperation between oncologists and gynecologists to preplan for fertility preservation before starting cancer treatment.”
The committee suggested that, when appropriate, young cancer patients be referred to a reproductive endocrinologist, who can explore the “full range of reproductive options,” including the freezing of eggs and embryos.
For boys who have been through puberty, it has long been possible to freeze sperm before cancer treatment.
Although some female patients may be unwilling to delay treatment, even for a month, to facilitate fertility preservation, at the very least they should be offered the option, Dr. Strickland said in an interview.
She described experimental but promising possibilities, like freezing part or all of an ovary and then implanting it after cancer treatment ends. It is already possible to move ovaries out of harm’s way for girls who need pelvic radiation.
By Robert Preidt
Many children get anxious or afraid when they have to get a vaccination, but there are a number of ways that parents can make these shots easier for their kids, an expert suggests.
The first step is to explain to children in an age-appropriate way that the vaccinations help protect their health, said Rita John, director of the pediatric primary care nurse practitioner program at Columbia University School of Nursing in New York City.
"Children need to know that vaccines aren't a punishment or something negative, vaccines are something that keeps them from getting sick," John said in a Columbia news release. "When parents are anxious, they pass that fear on to their kids. The best way to talk about vaccines is to keep the conversation positive and focused on the benefits of vaccination."
Before a vaccination, you can reduce toddlers' and preschoolers' anxiety if you give them a toy medical kit so that they can give pretend shots to you or a favorite doll or other toy.
When you arrive for the shot, ask the clinician to use a numbing cream or spray to limit the pain caused by the needle. Blowing on a bubble maker or a pinwheel can help distract younger children during vaccinations, while listening to music, playing games or texting may benefit older children and teens.
"If the kids think something is going to reduce their pain, there can be a placebo effect where the technique works because they expect it to work," John explained.
"It doesn't matter so much what you use to make your child more comfortable so long as you do something that acknowledges that they may experience some pain and that they can do something to make it hurt less," she added.
Be sure to reward and/or praise children after a vaccination. For example, give stickers to younger children. "You want the final part of the experience to make kids feel like even if they suffered some momentary pain, it was worth it," John said.
"Good play preparation, a positive attitude about immunization, and bringing something to distract kids during the shots can all help make the experience better," she concluded.
By Jason Lee
Surgeons in Beijing, China, have successfully implanted an artificial, 3D-printed vertebra replacement in a young boy with bone cancer. They say it is the first time such a procedure has ever been done.
During a five-hour operation, the doctors first removed the tumor located in the second vertebra of 12-year-old Minghao's neck and replaced it with the 3D-printed implant between the first and third vertebrae, CCTV.com reported earlier this month.
"This is the first use of a 3D-printed vertebra as an implant for orthopedic spine surgery in the world," said Dr. Liu Zhongjun, the director of orthopedics at No. 3 Hospital, Peking University, who performed the surgery.
The boy was playing football when he headed the ball and injured his neck, and it was later confirmed that he had a tumor, Minghao's mother said.
Prior to the surgery, the patient had been lying in the orthopedics ward for more than two months, and he could occasionally stand up, but only for a few minutes.
Normally, a diseased axis would be replaced by a standardized, hollow titanium tube, Liu told Reuters.
"Using existing technology, the patient's head needs to be framed with pins after surgery," as his head cannot touch the bed when he is resting for at least three months, he explained. "But with 3D printing technology, we can simulate the shape of the vertebra, which is much stronger and more convenient than traditional methods."
Five days after the surgery, Minghao still could not speak and had to use a writing board to communicate. However, doctors said at the time that he was in a good physical condition and they expected him to make a strong recovery.