10-year-old double amputee who lost everything in California wildfires gets snowboard lessons from US Paralympian

iStock/Thinkstock(BRECKENRIDGE, Co.) -- A 10-year-old double amputee who lost everything in the California wildfires learned how to snowboard from a Paralympic medalist who is also an amputee.

Lilly Biagini, of Santa Rosa, California, spent last week hitting the slopes in Breckenridge, Colorado, with Keith Gabel, a U.S. Paralympian bronze medalist in snowboarding.

Gabel said of his student, “I’ve never met anybody with the spirit that Lilly has.”

“When I turned and I stopped without anybody’s help, it made me feel strong and proud of myself,” Lilly said. “I was really surprised that I did it by myself.”

Lilly, a third-grader, chose to have her legs amputated in 2014 after being born with arthrogryposis multiplex congenital, a condition that prevented her joints from bending.

Lilly and her mom, Jessica Biagini, had to evacuate their home within about five minutes in October when one of the fast-moving wildfires that devastated parts of the Sonoma County area swept through their neighborhood. Their home was destroyed by the fire, along with all of Lilly’s medical equipment.

“Everything that makes Lilly a confident, spunky, sassy little girl she lost,” said Biagini. “She’s very, very proud of who she is and proud to be an amputee. She never wears pants because she wants people to see her prosthetic limbs.”

A San Francisco-based prosthetic company stepped up to offer Lilly a new set of legs for free. Then she got an invitation to attend The Hartford Ski Spectacular in Breckenridge, one of the nation’s largest winter sports festivals for people with disabilities.

Instead of skiing, Lilly decided to tackle snowboarding, something she hadn’t tried before.

“When I was introduced to her, her jaw just dropped,” recalled Gabel, 33, who said Lilly picked up the essentials of snowboarding within one hour of lessons. “Her level of excitement for this whole thing and her gratitude, I don’t have the vocabulary to express those feelings.”

Lilly said her favorite part of the experience was, “Being free and being with Keith.”

“He told me to keep working hard and help yourself and be proud of yourself,” Lilly said of Keith. “I’m so amazed and very, very grateful … for being here with everybody and being alive.”

During their time on and off the slopes, Lilly and Gabel had the chance to talk about the more serious near-death experience Lilly went through during the fire.

“She has a very vivid memory of the whole thing and I think that’s going to stick with her for a long time,” Gabel said. “And to see how she’s handled it so far, it’s empowering. It really is.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Family fights to find a cure after 2 children are diagnosed with fatal genetic disease

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- A couple from New York are pleading for the public's help to raise awareness and funds in order to find a cure after two of their children were diagnosed with a rare and fatal genetic disease.

"They're beautiful babies, they're happy babies," Gary Landsman told ABC News of his two sons. "Josh, at about 4 months now, is starting to smile and starting to become happier."

"Benny, at 17 months, should be doing more things, he should be crawling, he should be beginning to talk but he's not," he added. "But he's happy and smiling."

Gary Landsman and his wife, Jennie Landsman, told ABC News that they first became concerned when their older son, Benny, seemed to be developing motor skills at a slower pace than most infants.

"Around six months he wasn't holding his head up, and he wasn't sitting by himself, which he should have started to do independently at that point," Jennie Landsman said.

The couple took Benny to see countless specialists over the next few months, desperate for a diagnosis. Eventually, Jennie Landsman said that a geneticist told her that Benny was "missing an enzyme."

"I said, 'OK, when can we start giving it to them?' Like, it seemed so simple," she added. "And she said, 'No, it's fatal,' and just like that ... it was like the world ended."

The couple found out that Benny had Canavan disease, an extremely rare degenerative disorder. Canavan disease currently has no cure, and most children diagnosed with it do not live past 10 years old, according to the nonprofit advocacy group Canavan Foundation.

"Canavan disease is a rare genetic disease that affects the ability of the brain to send and receive messages," Dr. Joanne Stone, the director of maternal-fetal medicine at Mount Sinai Health System in New York City told ABC News.

At the same time that the Landsman family finally got a diagnosis for Benny, they had also just welcomed home their 2-week-old son Josh. The family was heartbroken to learn that Josh also tested positive for the Canavan disease.

"We're taking life day by day right now because when you think about the big picture, I don't want to go on," Gary Landsman told ABC News, "I don't."

Jennie Landsman added that they are coping with the double diagnosis "minute by minute."

Symptoms of Canavan disease begin appearing in children when they are between 3 and 5 months old, and the disease can affect a baby's ability to develop skills such as turning over, controlling head movement and sitting without support, according to the National Institutes of Health.

While the disease is extremely rare, it is most common in people of Eastern European Jewish descent, and it can be predicted by genetic testing. The disease affects approximately 1 in 6,400 to 13,500 people in the Ashkenazi Jewish population, according to the National Institutes of Health, although the frequency of the disease in other populations is currently unknown.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Sixth-graders create video to help classmate reach $1M goal for medical research

iStock/Thinkstock(IPSWICH, Mass.) -- From selling shoelaces to lemonade stands and bake sales, the community of Ipswich, Massachusetts, has been rallying hard to raise $1 million by the end of 2017 for sixth-grader Talia Duff.

Talia has Charcot-Marie-Tooth neuropathy type 4J (CMT4J), a rare, genetic disease that weakens the muscles. Talia's mother, Jocelyn Duff, told ABC News the $1 million was needed to take the science that researchers already have and approach the Food and Drug Administration in hopes of a clinical trial.

Duff said missing the 2017 deadline would mean an additional $1 million to $2 million needed for 2018.

Rewind to before Thanksgiving, when the math and science classes at Ipswich Middle School, Talia's school, began brainstorming a project, in which they incorporated math to fill jars with cookie mix.

Kathleen Simms, a sixth-grade math teacher at Ipswich, said the previous year, the students had created 150 jars and sold them for a suggested donation of $12.

This year, she said, the classes decided to make twice the number of jars - 300 - and donate the money to CMT4J research. But when the classes tallied how much they stood to donate with the jars, the teachers felt an urge to do more.

"We were just sitting around the table, thinking 'OK, that's $3,600. Yes, that would be an amazing donation but we need to go big. We need to go much bigger than this,'" Simms said. "We realized to reach that end-of-the-year goal of $1 million -- if we were going to be a part of that -- we had to do something much bigger than selling cookie jars."

So, the teachers and students decided to create a video. Simms said it has been shared many times over social media. So far, close to $500,000 has been raised and the donations continue to roll in.

"Talia is just such an important part of our community," Simms said. "The video really speaks to that town, this grade, to these students with just how connected they are to her. ... They work with her on a daily basis. They are interacting with her."

Amelia Mooradd, a sixth-grade student at Ipswich who has known Talia for three years, helped make the video.

"The video basically talks about what's going on with Talia," she said. "I'm so excited to finally be able to do something really big to help her because before I was just doing lemonade stands and bake sales and trying to find some ways to help her."

Duff, Talia's mother, told ABC News that she felt positive about reaching the $1 million goal before Jan. 31.

"We have been so overwhelmed by the support and the love of our community," she said. "It was something that we never expected with this journey. ... It's really been our community and family and friends that's really gotten us to where we are now at almost half a million dollars."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Virginia warning families the state's CHIP program may 'shut down'

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) --  Virginia is now the latest state to start informing families enrolled in the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) that their coverage will be terminated unless Congress reauthorizes the popular health insurance program soon.

On Tuesday, the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services will be sending out a letter to 1,114 pregnant women and parents of the 68,495 Virginia children currently enrolled in FAMIS, the name for the state’s children’s insurance program.

“After delaying these notifications to give Congress as much time to act as possible, Virginia has a responsibility to these families to inform them of the possibility that their coverage could lapse so they can be as prepared as possible to explore alternatives,” said Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe in a statement.

The letter states Virginia’s CHIP program will end on Jan. 31, 2018, unless Congress acts.

“For 20 years CHIP has had the strong support of Congress and has been renewed many times. We are hopeful that Congress will once again provide the funding to continue this program,” reads the letter. “However, because Congress has not acted yet, we need to let you know that there is a chance the FAMIS programs may have to shut down.”

Colorado was the first state to send a letter out to CHIP-enrolled families encouraging them to start making contingency plans for their health insurance.

According to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 11 states -- California, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Ohio, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Hawaii -- anticipate running out of funding by the end of the year. Another 21 states, including Virginia, expect their funding to run out soon after the new year.

The two-week continuing resolution passed on Thursday allows for the temporary redistribution of funds by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to states experiencing CHIP funding shortfalls. Seventeen states have received redistribution payments from October to December, totaling $1,161,888,184 per CMS.

“This continues to be a top priority for Chairman [Orrin] Hatch,” a Senate Finance Committee spokesperson told ABC News of CHIP reauthorization. “The Senate Finance Committee reported out a bipartisan bill that would extend funding for five years and provide certainty for families and states. The chairman is continuing to make progress in his discussions on how best to address this issue on the Senate floor and remains confident this will be resolved before the year’s end.”

But many states are concerned they’re running out of time for families to figure out their finances and alternative health insurance plans.

“You keep hearing from Congress, sure they’ll reauthorize it, of course they’ll do it. But on the other hand, they don’t seem to be taking seriously the consequences of the delay,” Linda Nablo, deputy director of Virginia’s Department of Medical Assistance Services, told ABC News. “Causing the least amount of anxiety and chaos for families actually take a lot of work, and states can’t continue to live on the promise, ‘We’ll get around to it.’”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


How to sneak greens into your children's favorite foods

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Can't find a way to get your children to eat their greens?

Dawn Russell, the creator of the 8Greens, a tablet supplement packed with eight powerful green health foods including kale, spinach, chlorella, blue green algae, spirulina, aloe vera, wheatgrass and barley grass, appeared live on Good Morning America to share her expert tips for how parents can sneak nutrient-dense foods into their children's favorite foods.

Russell is the author of a new cookbook, which she says is simply a collection of recipes that she makes for her family and that they love. In addition, they all contain her 8Greens superfood tablets for added nutrition.

Russell, a mother of two, said she was inspired to re-prioritize her health and learn more about nutrition after she was diagnosed with Stage III lymphatic cancer at the age of 25.

She said that she believes nutrition is the building block to true health.

"The 8Greens Cookbook: The Simple Way to Get Your Greens" is currently available in bookstores nationwide.
Here are four of Russell's simple and kid-friendly recipes that are both delicious and good for your body:

1. Turkey meatballs recipe: Russell said this healthy meatball variation is also a blast to make, especially for little kids.

2. 8Greens red sauce recipe: This is a modified version of one of a red sauce recipe given to Russell by an Italian friend. She says it is one of her 3-year-old son's favorite foods and is perfect with pasta, meatballs and chicken.

3. 8Greens banana bread: This family-favorite recipe that Russell said was given to her by "the cook in a beautiful English castle who is extremely private about her recipes." Adding the dissolved 8Greens tablets can help you feel less guilty about indulging in this delicious sweet loaf.

4. 8Greens brownies, chocolate chip cookies or crepes recipes: While Russell admits that chefs "will growl" at her advocating the use of premade brownie, cookie, or pancake mix, she said this is a good option for busy moms. Adding the 8Greens to the mixes, however, can help give them a nutritional boost without children even suspecting.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Acclaimed NY surgeon found dead in Park Avenue apartment in suspected suicide

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- An acclaimed trauma surgeon was found dead with a knife in his torso Sunday in his Park Avenue apartment, New York City police said.

Dr. Dean Lorich, 54, was the associate director of the Orthopedic Trauma Service at the Hospital for Special Surgery. He was also a professor at Weill Cornell Medical College. He treated Bono in 2014 after the U2 front man was badly injured in a cycling accident in Central Park.

A New York Police Department official told ABC News that the death is being investigated as an apparent suicide. Initial investigations did not find any sings of forced entry at his apartment, the official said. Authorities have not found a suicide note.

Police responding to a 911 call of an assault in a Park Avenue apartment at 1:05 p.m. Sunday found Lorich unconscious and unresponsive with a knife in his torso, according to NYPD. Emergency Medical Serice responders pronounced him dead.

According to the NYPD, there are no arrests and the investigation is ongoing.

The Hospital for Special Surgery, New York-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medicine released a statement of sympathy Sunday evening.

"Dr. Lorich was a distinguished orthopedic trauma surgeon and teacher serving at Hospital for Special Surgery, New York-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medicine. We mourn this tragic development and extend our deepest sympathies to Dr. Lorich's family, friends and patients," the statement said.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Drug companies move to block law requiring advance notice for price hikes

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Pharmaceutical companies are suing to block a new law in California that requires them to give a 60-day notice before raising prices above a certain threshold.

Signed into law in October, the legislation comes after consumers grew outraged over a rise in costs for some prescriptions, including EpiPens for allergic reactions and Hepatitis C treatments.  

This prompted the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America to file a lawsuit saying that California’s law illegally “attempts to dictate national health care policy,” according to a statement by the trade group. It said the law “singles out drug manufacturers” as the reason why drug costs rise, while there are “many other entities” that affect the prices.  

However, Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-Calif., who wrote the bill, said the lawsuit is “just another example” of big pharmaceutical companies “refusing to accept any responsibility for the skyrocketing costs of prescription drugs.”

“The idea that anyone other than drug companies is responsible for price increases is absurd,” he said. “I’m confident the law will be upheld.”

The law is set to take effect Jan. 1.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Maria Menounos shares video taken 24 hours after brain surgery: 'I was seeing double'

Jamie McCarthy/Gett Images for Gabrielle's Angel Foundation For Cancer Research(NEW YORK) -- Maria Menounos celebrated the six-month mark since she underwent brain surgery to remove a benign tumor by sharing a video taken just 24 hours after her operation.

The former E! News co-host, who stepped down to focus on her recovery, posted a video Friday of her friend feeding her chicken broth while she laid in a hospital bed.

"This video was taken 24 hours after my brain surgery," she began in a caption. "I still can’t believe that you can eat and speak normally so soon after. It was hard to keep my eyes open [because] I was seeing double at this point."

Menounos, 39, continued, "I’ve received so many messages from people saying that my story has helped them, and on my 6 month anniversary I wanted to share this so if you are about to go through this you can see with your own eyes what it can be like. Everyone is different...but if I can ease your fears a bit I would like to."

The TV personality also thanked her "best friend of 26 years," Alyssa Wallerce, for being by her "side for months and she fed me this first meal (broth)."

"It’s a journey and you need help so don’t be afraid to ask for it," Menounos added. "[I'm] forever grateful to Alyssa and all my amazing friends who helped me through this!"

In a July interview in People magazine, Menounos revealed she was diagnosed with a golf-ball-sized brain tumor. She added that she underwent a seven-hour surgery to remove 99.9 percent of the tumor.

In the interview, the TV host said that her doctor told her "there’s a 6 to 7 percent chance that we’ll see it come back. But I’ll take those odds any day,” she said.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Crossing guard warms hearts giving coats to schoolchildren in need

iStock/Thinkstock(WILMINGTON, N.C.)-- One North Carolina woman's good deed is warming more than just hearts this holiday season.

Minnie Galloway, a well-known crossing guard at Trask Middle School in Wilmington, North Carolina, for 19 years, is being hailed an inspiration for her giving spirit that has quickly gone viral.

In addition to her always-friendly demeanor and ensuring the safety of students, Galloway gathered coats from the Salvation Army to hand out to children for free on their way to school.

According to local ABC News affiliate WWAY-TV, Galloway set up 30 coats on a rack as she stood in her usual spot and handed them out Wednesday and Thursday as kids walked to and from school without any reason other than to make sure they stayed warm.

"Sometimes I don’t know if they have them or not. Some say they have them at home, but I don’t know I just let them go ahead if they want them," Galloway told WWAY-TV.

"You never know who is paying attention and I have some parents stop by and say 'I appreciate you doing this for our kids,'" Galloway said. "I have some people that come by that don’t even have any kids and let me know that they appreciate what I do and it makes me feel good."

Families in the local community have been responding to the story's growing popularity by detailing their interactions with Galloway over the years and thanking her for the selfless good deed.

One mom shared the Facebook post thanking Galloway for her selfless years of care for so many children. "Thank you, Ms. Minnie Galloway, for caring for our kids," Laurie Williams wrote.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Couple loses 400 pounds in inspirational weight loss journey

iStock/Thinkstock(HAUTE, Ind.) -- Lexi and Danny Reed of Terre Haute, Indiana, have lost a collective 400 pounds together in two years.

“Doing this as a couple has helped us in so many ways,” Lexi Reed, 27, told ABC News. “On days when we were unmotivated, we pushed each other to go to the gym. We also started meal-prepping together, setting goals. And day by day -- or pound by pound -- we grew closer throughout our journey.”

What started as a New Year’s resolution has led to a viral Instagram account, @fatgirlfedup, documenting their inspiring weight loss journey together with a whopping 463,000 followers.

When the couple started their mission to shed the weight, Lexi Reed was 485 pounds and Danny Reed was 280 pounds.

“I went from a size 28 to a size 10,” said Lexi Reed.

“I went from a 46 all the way down to a 32,” Danny Reed, 29, added.

Lexi Reed said they were "fed up" with the life they were living, so they set out to make a change -- hitting the gym, eating healthy and documenting it all on her Instagram account.

“I never expected to have such an impact,” she said. “I just wanted to get healthy.”

Fitness experts said one key to success is having someone else to lean on.

“A workout partner is key. Accountability is everything,” celebrity fitness trainer Latreal Mitchell told ABC News. “Not every day you’re going to want to go out there and give it your all. At least you’ll have someone to say, ‘Come on. Today is my day to uplift you, and vice versa.’”

Danny Reed now weighs 191 pounds and Lexi is down to 182, but they said this was no easy feat.

“The hardest part of our journey was changing our relationship with food,” said Lexi Reed. “When I was 485 pounds, I never cooked. My husband and I would go out to eat for almost every single meal, and if we did cook at home, it was frozen pizza or anything else unhealthy. We found that by meal-prepping instead of relying on fast food, we were able to stick with our goals when we were at work. And by learning to cook our own meals, we were in charge of what we were eating. We were willing to learn every single day of our journey, and we also started using the gym as therapy instead of food. By changing our minds, habits and emotional triggers, we changed our lives.”

The happy couple is excited to head into 2018 being the healthiest versions of themselves.

“There are no words to explain the feeling of saving your own life,” said Lexi Reed. “Going into 2018, I have nothing but a newfound happiness for this life I am living. I no longer am a prisoner in my own body, and instead of just existing in my own life, I’m finally alive. Every day I wake up is a blessing.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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