Skull deformity that doesn’t allow the brain to grow properly

When their first baby Ellis was born last year, Abi and Peter Obre  didn’t notice the slight ridge on the front of his skull.

“We were absolutely oblivious like many new parents are, their baby is perfect but looking back it was obvious from the day he was born we just weren’t aware of it,” Abi Obre said.

 At the urging of a friend they went to their pediatrician, who referred them to a specialist.

 That’s when Ellis was diagnosed with a rare condition called metopic craniosynostosis, where the bones in the skull fuse together.

 “I received the call about it and it was the worst phone call of my life it’s really scary you don’t know what’s to come you don’t know what’s to happen,” Abi Obre said.

 In February, Ellis underwent a  procedure at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital to correct the condition.

 “The way the operation is done we make an incision we find the bones that are fused and we release the bones that are fused,” pediatric plastic surgeon. Dr. Chad Perlyn said.

He added that it’s not as simple as it sounds.

“We literally take the eye sockets and forehead and part of the skull off and put it all back together with plates and screws like a carpenter would with a piece of furniture,” Perlyn said.

Within three days of surgery Ellis was sitting up in bed laughing.

The six-hour procedure left him with 67 stitches. But the scar is the only reminder of what he went through.

“People told us you’ll be surprised how resilient they are,” Abi Obre said. “We are in awe of him.”

Ideally the surgery should be performed around the first year of life, before the brain begins to outgrow the skull.

 Interestingly enough,  the plates and screws used to reshape his skull will, like a hard candy, just dissolve over time.  

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Drug counselors overdose at addiction facility

Two counselors at an addiction facility in southeastern Pennsylvania died after overdosing on opioids, according to the Chester County District Attorney.

“If anybody is wondering how bad the opioid epidemic has become, this case is a frightening example,” Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan said. “The staff members in charge of supervising recovering addicts succumbed to their own addiction and died of opioid overdoses. Opioids are a monster that is slowly consuming our population.” Authorities haven’t released the counselors’ names.

First responders were called Monday to Freedom Ridge Recovery Lodge in West Brandywine Township, a private group home and halfway house for struggling drug addicts, according to the district attorney’s office.

Freedom Ridge Recovery Lodge did not return phone calls for comment and, as of Wednesday, its website has been taken offline.

The six recovering addicts who live at Freedom Ridge Lodge found the two live-in counselors in separate rooms, unresponsive, authorities said. The counselors were found with used needles and small baggies for heroin near their bodies, the district attorney’s office said.

The concerned residents gave one of the counselors an injection of the opioid antidote naloxone before they called paramedics, but it didn’t revive the counselor, the district attorney’s office said.

Both counselors were pronounced dead at the scene by first responders.

The baggies found at the scene were stamped with “Superman” and “Danger/Skull & Crossbones” logos, investigators said, and preliminary toxicology reports from the deceased counselors tested positive for heroin and fentanyl.

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CBO score on House health care bill: Here’s why it matters

When Republicans in the House of Representatives voted narrowly to repeal and replace Obamacare earlier this month, they weren’t entirely sure of the bill’s impact on the deficit or on the millions of Americans who gained coverage through the health reform law.

Three weeks later, they’re about to find out.

The Congressional Budget Office, the non-partisan scoring agency, will announce its much-anticipated update on the American Health Care Act Wednesday afternoon. The analysis will finally provide crucial figures that the Senate needs to move forward with crafting its own plan.

The agency has already issued two reports on earlier versions of the GOP health care bill, but lawmakers continued to make changes up until the last minute to secure enough votes for passage.

Here’s what to watch for in the updated score:

Total savings

The CBO score is high-stakes. Republican leaders are watching closely not only just to be able to say their bill saves money, but to make sure the CBO confirms it hits the $2 billion savings goal laid out by the budget committee. Here’s the issue: In order to use a process known as reconciliation in the Senate, which allows a bill to be approved with just 51 votes, the AHCA has to save $2 billion over the next decade.

If it doesn’t, that’s a fatal flaw, which means the House would have to vote again on a new bill that hits that target or forfeit its right to use the reconciliation process.

Now, House and Senate Republican aides are confident their legislation will easily hit that goal. An earlier CBO score of the bill showed the legislation saved $150 billion over a decade. But there is an additional hiccup.

Republicans can’t just save $2 billion overall. They have to save $1 billion in the Senate Finance Committee and then $1 billion in the Senate HELP Committee.

Some experts have also raised questions in Vox and Bloomberg as to whether last-minute changes to the bill that would allow states to waive certain regulatory requirements of Obamacare might make insurance leaner and cheaper. That could lead more consumers to buy policies, many of whom would be eligible for federal government tax credits available under the AHCA. That could end up costing the government more money than originally anticipated.

Also, Republicans have committed to putting more money in the State Stability Fund to help states and insurers deal with high-cost enrollees.

Coverage numbers

This is the biggie. Earlier scores of the American Health Care Act predicted 24 million fewer people would have health insurance in 2026. The Medicaid rolls would be 14 million lower than they would be under current law.

These numbers became a key talking point for Democrats railing against the GOP bill and even spooked moderate Republicans out of voting for the legislation they feared could haunt them in the midterms in 2018.

It’s unclear how the CBO will score the latest version of the bill, which gives states more room to waive some Obamacare regulations like community rating, which barred insurers from charging people with pre-existing conditions more for policies, and essential health benefits, which required insurers to provide comprehensive coverage.

Conservatives argue that scaling back these requirements will allow insurers to offer a wider variety of policies and will lower rates, enticing more people to sign up for coverage. But consumer advocates say these changes could render insurance unaffordable for the millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions.

The CBO report will be able to give lawmakers their view on that.

Premium costs

Republicans in the House have claimed the changes they made in the latest version of the health care bill were all aimed at lowering premiums for consumers. It was a key refrain from the conservative House Freedom Caucus who had railed against the original version of the AHCA, but ultimately came on board with the revised option.

The original version of the AHCA would lower premiums for younger Americans, according to the CBO, but only because many older consumers would drop their health insurance because it got too expensive. The bill would allow insurers to charge those in the 50s and early 60s higher premiums compared to younger enrollees.

The more recent amendments, which would weaken Obamacare’s protections for those with pre-existing conditions, are also expected to lower premiums for healthy consumers, but raise them for the sick.

CBO is expected to weigh in on how these changes will affect premiums.

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Man kicks porn habit he developed in childhood, warns others of dangers

Gabe Deem admits he had a problem that started surprisingly early.

“I was first exposed to porn when I was 8 years old,” Deem, 29, said. “I would watch porn 15, 30 minutes a day through my years.”

The older he got, the more he watched.

“I went to a high school where they gave out laptops. We first figured out how to play games on them. Then we figured out how to watch porn on them,” Deem said.

The addictive habit started affecting his adult relationships.

“It was horrible. They thought it was them,” Deem said. “You know, a partner will think they’re not attractive enough and, again, that’s completely not the case.”

 Neurosurgeons say the constant exposure to pornography actually leads to a rewiring of the brain that causes individual craves pixels instead of people.

 “Really, anything the individual imagines can be produced with a few clicks so it’s that novelty that drives this tremendous search for variety,” Dr. Donal Hilton, a neurosurgeon, said.

 Craving that novelty can be defined as an addiction.

“It’s like when someone is addicted to cocaine. They see a line of cocaine, the reward center in their brain on functional MRI lights up like a Christmas tree,” Hilton said.

But mental health experts said it’s not a true addiction.

Emily Dealyla, a sex therapist, said people can die if they are not physiologically weaned off drugs or alcohol so physiologically.

“The thing is not happening when you stop a sex or porn problem. It’s two  different processes, which is why you can’t label it as an addiction,” Dealyla said.

Gabe stopped watching porn six years ago and turned back to the internet for help, but some experts said, with young porn viewers, parents can offer the best support.

“Talk to the child about avoiding internet porn as much as possible. Real-life healthy relationships,” Dealyla said. 

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Water breaches ‘Doomsday’ vault entrance, seeds unharmed

Unseasonably warm temperatures last fall caused water to breach the entrance to the Arctic’s so-called “Doomsday” seed vault, one of humanity’s last hopes after a global catastrophe, the company that manages the vault said last week.

The Global Seed Vault is beneath the icy permafrost of Svalbard, midway between Norway and the North Pole. Carved into the side of a mountain, the vault holds more than 500 million seeds from around the globe that could be used to recreate food supplies.

The seeds were unharmed by the water breach, said Hege Njaa Aschim, a spokeswoman for the management company, Statsbygg. Water seeped only about 15 meters in to part of an access tunnel during the “very unusual warm and rainy October,” according to Aschim.

“We have seen changes; the ground is looser and the permafrost has not settled as planned,” Aschim said Friday.

She said the management team, along with climate scientists from University Centre in Svalbard, don’t know if the event was part of a long-term cycle or if it will escalate. But “we will not take any chances,” Aschim said.

Remediation efforts include removing power transformers from the entrance of the tunnel, allowing fewer people into the tunnel, and building waterproof walls inside the tunnel entrance, Aschim said.

The permafrost acts like nature’s refrigerator. Even if the power fails, the temperature inside would eventually stabilize at -8 degrees Celsius (17.6 degrees Fahrenheit), which is low enough to preserve the vault’s contents for decades.

Aschim said media headlines citing global warming as the cause of the permafrost melt were speculation, but that is one of the theories scientists are investigating.

The Global Seed Vault opened in 2008 as a way to protect and preserve seeds in case of worldwide agricultural calamity. The seeds’ genetic traits make them vital if a species of plant is wiped out by war, drought or floods. For example, Australian wild rice is resilient to pests and disease.

The Norwegian government owns the vault, which is built of angular concrete. The Ministry of Agriculture and Food handles the administration.

In October 2015, seeds were withdrawn for the first time, because of the Syrian Civil War.

Scientists from the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas, who fled their base in Aleppo, Syria, for a new home in Lebanon, asked for the return of many of their seeds. The scientists planned to plant and regenerate them, and resume their decades-long research.

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10 hospitalized with botulism tied to nacho cheese sauce

Ten people have been hospitalized after they contracted botulism from eating nacho cheese sauce served at a gas station outside of Sacramento, California, according to state and local officials.

The Sacramento County Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement last week that the cause of the illness “appears to be prepared food, particularly nacho cheese sauce” from a gas station in Walnut Grove.

Botulism is a rare illness caused by nerve toxins released from bacteria, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms can include blurred vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech and paralysis, among others. Some cases can be fatal.

CNN affiliate KTXL reports that one woman, Lavinia Kelly, was reportedly hospitalized after putting the nacho cheese sauce on some Doritos chips on April 21.

“My phone rings and I pick up the phone and it’s her, and she can’t articulate a word,” her sister, Theresa Kelly, told KTXL. She said that at first she thought her sister was going to die.

Kelly has spent more than three weeks in the intensive care unit, KTXL reports.

The store was ordered to stop selling prepared foods on May 5, but was allowed to reopen and sell prepackaged food items only on May 8 after a California Department of Public Health officer seized four bags of the cheese sauce, according to a Sacramento County inspection report.

In a statement sent to CNN, state health officials confirmed that the outbreak is believed to have been caused by the nacho cheese sauce. There does not appear to be an ongoing risk to the public, CDPH said.

Botulism outbreaks are rare, according to the CDC’s website.

Foodborne botulism is spread through ingesting the contaminated food, the CDC said. Symptoms typically begin to appear around 18 to 36 hours after eating the food.

While botulism can be fatal, the CDC’s website said only 3 percent to 5 percent of patients die.

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