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Health Headlines

    Five hospital patients who died after getting potentially fatal doses of pain medication may have been given those drugs when there still was a chance to improve their conditions with treatment, an Ohio health system said Friday as its investigation continued. The Columbus-area Mount Carmel Health System said it is notifying families of those five people, who were among dozens of patients that received excessive doses ordered by one of its doctors. It also found one more patient who received a potentially fatal dose, bringing that total to at least 29 patients over several years, mostly at Mount Carmel West Hospital in Columbus. It has said six other patients received doses but that the medication wasn't likely the cause of those deaths. The findings have raised questions about whether hospital staff wrongly used drugs to hasten deaths intentionally or possibly illegally without the patients' families knowing. 'These events are heartbreaking, unacceptable and inconsistent with the values and care processes of Mount Carmel,' CEO Ed Lamb said in a statement Friday that echoed the hospital's previous apologies and pledges to ensure the situation doesn't occur again. The hospital said the overdoses were ordered by critical-care doctor William Husel, who was fired in December after Mount Carmel received reports of concerns and began investigating. Husel and the hospital now face at least 19 related wrongful-death lawsuits alleging patients were negligently or intentionally killed. Some families also question whether they were misled by hospital employees about the graveness of the patients' conditions. Mount Carmel said it put 23 other employees on leave , including nurses and pharmacists who administered and approved medications. It also said it has changed its medication protocols to prevent similar situations. Husel had worked at Mount Carmel for five years. His lawyers have declined to comment on the allegations, and they're seeking to halt proceedings in some of the lawsuits against him pending the ongoing investigation by local authorities. The State Medical Board has suspended his license , but no criminal charges have been announced. Records show the board hasn't previously disciplined Husel. He invoked his right against self-incrimination when he was questioned for the board, including when asked if he purposefully ordered excessive doses to end patients' lives, according to a board notification. The affected patients identified by relatives or in litigation so far include men and women who were treated for various ailments. They ranged in age from 39 to 85. ___ Follow Franko on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/kantele10 . Have a tip? Contact the author securely at https://www.ap.org/tips
  • The Trump administration on Friday set up new obstacles for women seeking abortions, barring taxpayer-funded family planning clinics from making abortion referrals. The new policy is certain to be challenged in court. The final rule released Friday by the Health and Human Services Department also would prohibit federally funded family planning clinics from being housed in the same locations as abortion providers, and require stricter financial separation. Clinic staff would still be permitted to discuss abortion with clients, along with other options. However, that would no longer be required. The move is the latest in a series of Trump administration efforts to remake government policy on reproductive health. The American Medical Association warned it could have an impact far beyond abortion, potentially affecting access to health care services now provided to low-income women by the clinics, including birth control, cancer screenings, and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases. By law, the family planning program does not pay for abortions. 'This is the wrong prescription and threatens to compound a health equity deficit in this nation,' AMA president Barbara L. McAneny said in a statement. 'Women should have access to these medical services regardless of where they live, how much money they make, their background, or whether they have health insurance.' It could be some time before women served by the federal family program feel the full impact. Women's groups, organizations representing the clinics, and Democratic-led states are expected to sue to block the policy from going into effect. Administration officials told abortion opponents on a call Friday that they expect legal action, according to a participant. Abortion is a legal medical procedure, but federal laws prohibit the use of taxpayer funds to pay for abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the woman. Planned Parenthood, whose affiliates are major providers of family planning services as well as abortions, said the administration is trying to impose a 'gag rule,' and launched a full campaign to block it. Congressional supporters of the organization said it receives about $60 million a year from the federal program. 'I want our patients to know this — we will fight through every avenue so this illegal, unethical rule never goes into effect,' said Planned Parenthood's president, Dr. Leana Wen. She said the new policy would prevent doctors from referring women for abortions 'even if your life depended on it.' House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., declared: 'Republicans must end their relentless assault on women's health care and rights.' Planned Parenthood and other groups representing the clinics say the new requirements for physical separation of facilities would be costly and all but impossible to fulfill. Planned Parenthood said the administration is making another attempt to drive it out of business, after efforts to deny funding failed in Congress. White House counselor Kellyanne Conway scoffed at that argument. 'They've been saying for years they don't co-mingle their funds, so this should be easy for them,' she told reporters at the White House. 'Physically separate and financially separate.' Religious conservatives see the administration's action as a way to break down what they call an indirect taxpayer subsidy of abortion providers. Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, called it 'a major step toward the ultimate goal of ending taxpayers' forced partnership with the abortion industry.' The regulation was published Friday on an HHS website. It's not official until it appears in the Federal Register and the department said there could be 'minor editorial changes.' A department official confirmed it was the final version. Known as Title X, the family-planning program serves about 4 million women annually through independent clinics, many operated by Planned Parenthood affiliates, which serve about 40 percent of all clients. The grant program costs taxpayers about $260 million a year. Leaders of health associations representing black and Latino health care providers and patients joined Wen at a news briefing to decry the new rule They said women from their communities make up more than half the beneficiaries of Title X grants and would be disproportionately harmed by the changes. But abortion opponent Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, said the administration rule 'does not cut family planning funding by a single dime, and instead directs tax dollars to entities that provide health care to women but do not perform abortions.' Her organization is a political advocacy group that backs anti-abortion candidates. An umbrella group that represents family planning clinics broadly, not only those affiliated with Planned Parenthood, said the administration was acting based on ideology and not in the best interests of patients. 'This rule intentionally strikes at the heart of the patient-provider relationship, inserting political ideology into a family planning visit, which will frustrate and ultimately discourage patients from seeking the health care they need,' Clare Coleman, head of the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, said in a statement. Although abortion remains politically divisive, the U.S. abortion rate has dropped significantly, from about 29 per 1,000 women of reproductive age in 1980 to about 15 in 2014. Better contraception, fewer unintended pregnancies and state restrictions may have played a role, according to a recent scientific report. Polls show most Americans do not want the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion. The Trump administration's policy echoes a Reagan-era regulation that barred clinics from even discussing abortion with women. It never went into effect as written, although the Supreme Court ruled it was an appropriate use of executive power. The policy was rescinded under President Bill Clinton, and a new rule took effect requiring 'nondirective' counseling to include a full range of options for women. The Trump administration is now rolling back the Clinton requirement. ___ This story corrects an earlier misspelling of the first name of Planned Parenthood President Leana Wen. ___ Crary reported from New York. Associated Press writer Jill Colvin contributed to this report.
  • Of all the little moments of joy and strife that fill the top-nominated Oscar film 'Roma,' the most gut-wrenching takes place in a Mexico City hospital room, where a doctor coolly tells a frightened young woman, 'Your baby was born dead.' The haunting scene, set in 1971, graphically introduces a subject that today is still poorly understood and often avoided. While global rates have declined since then, stillbirths remain surprisingly common with nearly 3 million each year, most in developing countries. The U.S. rate, 6 in 1,000 births, hasn't budged in a decade and the cause is unknown in at least one-third of cases. Most U.S. insurers don't cover autopsies and many parents don't want them, often leaving circumstances and potential causes a mystery. 'This is a really seriously understudied area of research,' said Jennita Reefhuis of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 'It's such a devastating event to happen to a couple. This is something that deserves more attention.' THEN & NOW The young mother in Roma is given just a few seconds to hold her lifeless child before a doctor tells her he must take and 'prepare' the body. From her hospital bed a few feet away, she watches silently as the infant is wrapped up in a white shroud. The coldness of that lingering scene is partly dramatic flourish, but it also reflects thinking at the time that stillbirths were almost to be dismissed. Dr. Francisco Ruiloba, an obstetrician from Mexico City, said many hospitals in Mexico, and elsewhere, have since adopted a more humanistic approach. In his practice, Ruiloba said, mothers are given as much time as they need and the body is prepared 'with respect and out of the room.' In 2009 guidance reaffirmed last month, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says emotional support should be offered to parents of stillborns, including referrals to grief counselors, support groups or therapists. Parents should have the chance to hold and to name their infants, and to say goodbye, the group advises. Studies have found that allowing parents to spend time with stillborn infants may reduce mothers' chances for developing anxiety and depression afterward. Many U.S. hospitals let parents spend hours or even days with them. Some hospitals take memento photographs, footprints and handprints for families; some provide cooling cots to preserve the body while the family grieves. We stress 'how important it is to the patient for us to get comfortable being with them and talking about it and reassuring them that this is a terrible thing but they will get through it,' said Dr. Alan Peaceman, who heads Northwestern Medicine's maternal-fetal medicine department in Chicago. Pediatric nurse Lindsey Wimmer, whose son Garrett was stillborn in 2004, says parents 'used to be told not to see or name their baby, just to move on and have another one. Now we know that's not a very practical way to deal with it. 'Their grief just waits for them and they will never forget about these babies,' said Wimmer, executive director of the Star Legacy Foundation, a Minnesota-based group that promotes stillbirth research and education. Social media has given grieving parents a new outlet. Canadian Rebekah Shirey posted a poignant video for friends of what looks almost like a routine labor and delivery. Surrounded by family and friends in an Ottawa hospital room, with her partner Steve Martin by her side, Shirey pushes, cries and then cradles their stillborn son Elijah. It was July 29, 2017 and Shirey had learned days earlier that Elijah's heart had stopped beating. Tests showed problems with her placenta. 'The more awareness we have and the more community we have makes it easier to go through these things,' she said. SCIENCE & ADVOCACY U.S. doctors define stillbirths as fetal deaths after 20 weeks of pregnancy; it's 28 weeks or later in many other countries. As in many countries, there is no U.S. national registry and while fetal deaths are reported in every state, the documents often include minimal information About 1 percent of U.S. pregnancies end in stillbirths, or nearly 24,000 each year. Obesity, diabetes, smoking and becoming pregnant after age 35 all increase the risk and the rate is two times higher in black women than in whites. Placenta problems contribute to about 1 in 3 stillbirths in developed countries. As part of the U.S. government's Human Placenta Project, researchers are seeking better ways to detect placenta problems, including imaging and blood tests. Recent studies have offered new clues, suggesting stillbirths might be linked with reduced or excessive fetal movement, women sleeping on their backs during late pregnancy, excessive temperatures and air pollution. One study even found that a 'gut instinct' that a pregnancy had gone wrong was more common in women with stillbirths than other mothers. Doctors advise women to pay attention to fetal movement late in pregnancy and to be aware when there's a change that could indicate fetal distress. Inducing labor is an option if the pregnancy is far enough along, and some studies have suggested kick-counting may reduce stillbirth rates. Several stillbirth moms in Iowa created a campaign urging women to 'count the kicks' that's been adopted by public health authorities in six states. In Iowa, where it was adopted in 2008, the stillbirth rate has since dropped below 5 per 1,000. Though there's no proof, Kimberly Piper, a nurse and state health department official, says the campaign may have contributed to the decline. HEARTBREAKING SCENARIOS About 1 in 5 U.S. stillbirths occur near the end of a normal, uneventful pregnancy. The scenarios are hauntingly similar: A few days or weeks before the due date, a woman suddenly becomes aware of less kicking or no fetal movement at all. Most women want an immediate cesarean section, but these operations are rarely done for stillbirths because of the risks. Instead, doctors give drugs to induce labor, and the parents wait. That's the nightmare Lindsey Schmitz of Chicago endured in 2016 after a 'textbook' pregnancy. After 24 hours of difficult labor, nurses gently placed Sawyer Schmitz on his mother's chest and stepped away as the power of that moment sank in. 'He was warm. He was beautiful and had that baby smell,' Schmitz recalls. 'He just looked like he was asleep.' Grandparents, aunts and uncles joined the distraught parents in the birthing room. 'They commented on his features. Laughed about his chin,' she said. 'The nurses took pictures, lots of pictures.' Schmitz says she's wracked by the things that in her grief she didn't think to do — 'cut a lock of his hair, read a book to him, we never dressed him. At that moment, you just don't know that's what you're going to want.' She did want to know the cause, but an autopsy and other tests gave no answers. Now, Schmitz volunteers as a resource for other women who've had stillbirths. 'When you're in this club, you realize it's so much more prevalent than anyone talks about,' she said. ___ Follow AP Medical Writer Lindsey Tanner on Twitter at @LindseyTanner. ___ The Associated Press Health & Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
  • Pakistani police say five children have died of suspected food poisoning after their family had dinner at a restaurant in the country's south. Police official Ameer Shaikh said on Friday that the family of eight, from the southwestern city of Quetta, arrived in the port city of Karachi the previous night. He says they had dinner at a restaurant in Karachi's business district where the suspected food poisoning occurred. He says the family also had food while travelling to Karachi. Shaikh says the five children were 2 to 9 years of age. Their mother and her sister are in hospital, critically ill. The restaurant was shuttered and food samples were taken for an investigation. Last November, two minor siblings also died after eating at a Karachi restaurant.
  • North Dakota's first medical marijuana dispensary is set to open next week, the culmination of a nearly two-year effort by the state Health Department to establish a distribution system for the drug. New York City-based Acreage Holdings plans to open The Botanist in Fargo on Feb. 28, selling drugs produced by a manufacturing facility in Bismarck, the company and state announced Thursday. The dispensary first will need to undergo what amounts to a final state inspection to ensure it meets all security rules, according to state Medical Marijuana Division Director Jason Wahl. The facility also will offer an educational station, according to Harris Damashek, chief marketing officer for Acreage Holdings, which has operating licenses in 19 states and dispensaries in Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and Ohio. North Dakota voters approved the drug in November 2016. The Health Department has been working on the system since lawmakers crafted rules in early 2017 allowing the use of medical marijuana for 17 medical conditions, along with terminal illnesses. A bill passed by the state House on Monday and sent to the Senate would expand the list of legal conditions to 30. The state began accepting applications in October from residents for medical marijuana cards and has been issuing them for about a month. Only about 120 have been approved so far, but the state expects as many as 4,000 residents will legally be using the drug by summer 2021. That's based on the experience in Delaware, which North Dakota officials have cited as a model. The state hopes to have dispensaries operating in its eight major cities by fall. It already has named operators for facilities in Fargo, Grand Forks, Bismarck and Williston. Applications for dispensaries in Devils Lake, Dickinson, Jamestown and Minot are being accepted through Tuesday. A second manufacturing facility, in Fargo, has begun growing medical marijuana but is probably 'a month or two away' from having product available, according to Wahl. North Dakota has used a phased-in approach to setting up a distribution system that is modeled after other states that have set up medical marijuana programs. The Health Department has endured some criticism over the amount of time it has taken to make the drug available, though the timeline isn't unusual when compared to other states with the drug, according to the advocacy group Americans for Safe Access. The state last year selected a Florida-based company to implement a monitoring system and a Pennsylvania-based company to perform laboratory testing of the medical marijuana to ensure it's safe. The market — not the state — will dictate what the drug costs, and patients are not allowed to grow their own. There are six approved forms of the drug, and the House has approved adding a seventh, edibles . The Senate must still approve. ___ Follow Blake Nicholson on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/NicholsonBlake
  • Is the 'ugly produce'' trend already reaching the end of its shelf life in supermarkets? Walmart and Whole Foods in recent years tried selling some blemished fruits and vegetables at a discount, produce they said might otherwise be trashed because it's not quite the right size, shape or color. But the two chains and others quietly ended their tests, suggesting dented apples and undersized potatoes may not be all that appealing in stores where better looking fruits and vegetables are on display. 'Customers didn't accept it as much as we had hoped,' said Mona Golub of Price Chopper, a grocery chain in the Northeast that also discontinued its offering of ugly produce. Still, some stores and home delivery startups haven't given up on the idea of selling less-than-perfect produce to reduce food waste and say they're doing well. At a Hy-Vee store in Iowa, a recent display of 'Misfits' produce included packs of apples, lemons and oranges that were either too big or small, or otherwise substandard in appearance. A sign explained that '6 million pounds of fresh produce goes unused each year,' though the packages didn't specify why the produce might have otherwise been thrown away. 'I like the cost savings and it is good to help and not throw so much away,' said shopper Brian Tice, who bought a pack of small oranges. Another shopper, Jamie Shae, said she didn't realize there was anything special about the fruit 'I happened to see the bags of lemons,' said Shae, who was in a rush and grabbed two bags. Shopper Joan Hitzel, who was browsing other produce nearby, said she thought the Misfits were a good idea given the tons of food that gets thrown away, but didn't plan to buy any that day. The supplier of the Misfits produce to supermarkets, Robinson Fresh, said about 300 grocery locations still sell the fruits and vegetables, including the Hy-Vee stores. Kroger also said it still plans to introduce its 'Pickuliar Picks' this spring. But among other regional chains that have stopped carrying ugly produce are Meijer in the Midwest, Hannaford based in Maine and Pittsburgh-based Giant Eagle, which cited 'inconsistent customer interest' for pulling the plug on its 'Produce with Personality.' Walmart no longer offers the damaged 'I'm Perfect' apples it introduced in Florida in 2016. The efforts channeled growing interest in reducing food waste. Government agencies say the best way to reduce waste is to stop producing too much food. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that 31 percent of the 430 billion pounds of the nation's food supply goes uneaten. That does not include the fruits and vegetables that get tossed at the farm level, before foods reach stores. For fruits and vegetables that don't meet supermarket standards, some may get processed for products like juices and some go to food banks. Startups delivering ugly produce say there's so much they're not taking from food banks. Shopper preferences may not be the only challenge for ugly produce in supermarkets. 'Retailers really prize their produce sections,' said Imperfect Produce CEO Ben Simon, whose company had partnered with Whole Foods on a test at the chain. Grocers might worry that cheaper produce will cannibalize sales of regular produce, or give off a bad image, he said. Delivery startups say they're seeing interest in their services. But they are up against shoppers who inspect the fruits and vegetables they buy and those who worry about all the packaging. 'I've been food shopping online, and I started thinking about all the boxes, all that cardboard,' said Nyasha Wilson, a New York City resident who carefully selects apples for ripeness at a farmer's market. The companies say they might at least change shoppers' views on discarded produce. Evan Lutz, CEO of the startup Hungry Harvest, said most of it is just too small or slightly discolored. 'The vast majority that would go to waste isn't really that ugly,' he said. ___ Choi reported from New York. ____ Follow Scott McFetridge at www.twitter.com/smcfetridge and Candice Choi at www.twitter.com/candicechoi . ___ The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
  • The World Health Organization says that an epidemic of measles in Madagascar has caused more than 900 deaths. According to WHO figures, there have been more than 68,000 cases of the disease in which 553 deaths were confirmed and another 373 suspected from measles since the outbreak began in September. Those most at risk are infants from nine to 11 months old. The epidemic is blamed on a low immunization rate for measles across the island nation over a period of many years, according to WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic. The vaccination rate is estimated to be less than 60 percent, according to figures from WHO and UNICEF figures, he said. Madagascar has launched a nationwide campaign to try to bring the outbreak under control, through mass vaccination campaigns and surveillance.
  • Even without a history-making health care remake to deliver 'Medicare-for-all,' government at all levels will be paying nearly half the nation's health care tab in less than 10 years, according to a federal report released Wednesday. The government growth is driven by traditional Medicare, which is experiencing a surge in enrollment as aging baby boomers shift out of private coverage, according to the analysis from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Federal, state and local governments will be paying 47 percent of the nation's health care costs in 2027, up from 45 percent currently, the report said. The report did not consider the potential impact of 'Medicare-for-all' national health insurance plans from Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and other liberals. Nor did it delve into a financial rescue of traditional Medicare that could become a pressing political priority for all sides in just a few years. Medicare's trustees have said the program will be insolvent in seven years, when its giant trust fund for inpatient care won't be able to fully cover expected medical bills. Spelling out the economic consequences of current laws and policies, the report serves as a reality check on the political debate over health care. That debate ranges from President Donald Trump's warnings about lurking 'socialism' to the suggestion from Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., a 2020 contender, that the U.S. can simply 'move on' to a new taxpayer-financed system that would cover all Americans. 'To the extent that a Martian landed and saw how much of the American health care system is funded by the government, it's been about 50 percent for some time,' said economist Paul Hughes-Cromwick of Altarum, a nonprofit research organization. The report projected that U.S. health care spending will surpass $5.9 trillion in 2027, growing to represent more than 19 percent of the economy. Health care spending is expected to increase somewhat more rapidly than overall economic growth from 2018 to 2027, underscoring an ingrained affordability problem for government, employers and U.S. households. Rising prices for health care goods and services are expected to account for nearly half the spending growth, said the report, with the rest driven by a mix of factors, including an aging population and more intensive use of services. 'The baby boom generation is expected to shift from private health insurance coverage to Medicare coverage during the projection period,' said Andrea Sisko, an author of the report. Some experts have called attention to higher U.S. prices as a chief reason for the disparity in medical costs with other economically advanced countries. Spending on prescription drugs is expected to pick up again after a recent slowdown, averaging about 6 percent a year from 2020 to 2027, the report found. The nation's uninsured rate was expected to remain relatively stable, hovering around 10 percent. For politicians, the numbers are a double-edged reality check. Trump's warnings about 'socialism' are undercut by the fact that much of the health care system is already paid for by the government. For Democrats contemplating a system fully funded by government, the trillions of dollars in new government spending that would entail are detailed in the report's tables. The report was published online by the journal Health Affairs. ___ Online Health cost projections - https://tinyurl.com/y65fxpzs
  • A Tennessee nurse charged with reckless homicide after a medication error killed a patient pleaded not guilty on Wednesday in a Nashville courtroom packed with other nurses who came in scrubs to show their support. The error happened at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in December 2017 when RaDonda Vaught injected 75-year-old Charlene Murphey with the paralytic vecuronium instead of the sedative Versed. The 35-year-old Vaught could not find Versed in an automatic dispensing cabinet, so she used an override mechanism to type in 'VE' then picked the first drug that came up, according to court documents and a report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Speaking to reporters after Wednesday's hearing, Vaught's attorney, Peter Strianse, called the criminal charge against the nurse 'completely unfathomable.' He noted that the state board of nursing has taken no action against Vaught's nursing license, which is still active. 'This sets a terrible precedent, and these nurses are here today because it is patently unfair to charge a nurse with a criminal offense for something that was nothing more than a mistake,' Strianse said. Vaught did not want to discuss the case, but she and several of the other nurses teared up as she spoke of the 'overwhelming' support she has received. 'I'm very thankful that I picked a profession with such generous, loving people,' Vaught said. Online supporters have donated more than $72,000 for her legal bills. Murphey's husband, Sam Murphey, reached by phone said he is too upset to talk about his wife. Her son, Gary Murphey, told The Tennessean newspaper earlier this month that his mother would have forgiven Vaught and felt sorrow for her. 'I know my mom well, and she would be very upset knowing that this lady may spend some of her life in prison,' Gary Murphey told The Tennessean. 'She probably had a family, and it's destroyed their life too.' He also said the family has no plans to sue the hospital. Janie Harvey Garner runs the online nurse advocacy organization Show Me Your Stethoscope. She has been organizing support for Vaught and flew in from St. Louis for the hearing. Garner said medication errors happen all the time but usually the public is unaware of them. And she said nurses don't take the errors lightly. 'RaDonda has to wake up every day and think about what happened,' Garner said. 'I, early in my career, made a minor error. No one was harmed. But every time I think about it, I sweat.' Garner said she believes Murphey's death was terrible and tragic. But she worries Vaught's prosecution will ultimately hurt patient safety. 'This will cause people to die, because people won't come forward with their mistakes,' Garner said. The Nashville district attorney's office has declined to speak about the decision to charge Vaught, but a spokesman sent reporters a document showing the definition of 'reckless' in Tennessee code. It reads, in part, that conduct is deemed reckless when a person disregards a substantial risk in a manner that 'constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that an ordinary person would exercise.' Nurse Marguerite McBride was at the Wednesday hearing to support Vaught and said she had worked with her at a different hospital for about a year. 'She's an amazing, compassionate, caring nurse,' McBride said. 'Families love her. Other nurses love her.' ___ This story has been edited to correct the spelling of the nurse's first name to RaDonda and to correct the charge to reckless homicide.
  • A 4-year-old Texas girl became the first child in the United States -- and second in the world -- to receive an implant that will keep her heart pumping, KHOU reported. >> Read more trending news  Kateyln Hickman received the Jarvik 2015 Ventricular Assistant Device, tailored specifically for children 4 and younger suffering from heart failure, the television station reported. “The only real therapy we have for a patient like her is to do a transplant, but we have to be able to get her there safely,” Jeff Dreyer, medical director of heart failure, cardiomyopathy and cardiac transplantation at Texas Children's Hospital, told KHOU. The implant, which uses an AA battery, pumps oxygenated blood out of the heart. Iki Adachi, who also works at the Texas Children’s Hospital, has called results of the implant “so dramatic.” “These patients are really, really sick before operation,” Adachi told KHOU. “I was particularly happy, because the family was super happy, seeing their kids doing really well.”

Local News

  • ABC News correspondent and UGA alumna Deborah Roberts will give the University of Georgia’s spring undergraduate Commencement address May 10 at 7 p.m. in Sanford Stadium. Loch Johnson, Regents Professor of Public and International Affairs at the University of Georgia, will deliver the spring graduate address on the same day at 9:30 a.m. at Stegeman Coliseum. Tickets are not required for either ceremony. Since graduating from UGA in 1982 with a degree in broadcast news from the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, Roberts has risen through the ranks of television news, received numerous awards and been a regular reporter and contributor for programs such as “Dateline NBC,” “20/20,” “Nightline,” and “Good Morning America” to name a few. Born in the small town of Perry, Georgia, Roberts was one of nine children. She began her post-college career at WTVM-TV in Columbus, Georgia, and subsequently worked at WBIR-TV in Knoxville, Tennessee, where she gained notice for her coverage of the state legislature. Roberts further honed her reporting skills as bureau chief of WFTV-TV, the ABC affiliate in Orlando, from February 1987 to May 1990, where she also served as the station’s field anchor at the Kennedy Space Center and co-anchor of the weekend news. In 1990, Roberts began her network career with NBC News as a general assignment correspondent. She covered stories in the Southeast from the Atlanta and Miami bureaus and was dispatched to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait reporting on the lead up to the Persian Gulf War. Roberts was later named a magazine correspondent for “Dateline NBC” and reported from Barcelona during the 1992 Summer Olympic games, earning an Emmy nomination for this coverage. In 1992, she received a University of Georgia Distinguished Alumnus Award, presented annually to recent graduates who have excelled rapidly in their professions. Roberts joined ABC 20/20 in 1995. Since then her curiosity has taken her around the world, from Bangladesh to report on women’s maternal health to Africa where she has traveled extensively, telling stories about the HIV/AIDS crisis and an Emmy-winning report on a woman who discovered her long lost mother in an African village. Roberts has won numerous awards for her work including a Clarion award for coverage of abuse within the Amish community. In 2006, Roberts delivered UGA’s Holmes-Hunter lecture, and in 2016 she presented an Alumni Seminar. Earlier this year, she participated in a panel discussion entitled “Grady Greats: A Conversation on the Enduring Values and Power of Journalism.” Johnson, who also holds the title of Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professor, is an accomplished scholar in political science, with numerous awards for his teaching prowess and research. During his career at UGA, Johnson authored more than 30 books and over 200 articles on intelligence agencies, foreign policy and national security. He served as editor of the journal Intelligence and National Security and as a member of the editorial boards of the Journal of Intelligence History, International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence,  Intelligence and National Security and The Oxford Handbook of National Security Intelligence, among many others. His latest book is entitled Spy Watching: Intelligence Accountability in the United States (Oxford, 2018). Johnson was a driving force in the creation of the School of Public and International Affairs in 2001. In 2012, the fourteen universities that comprise the Southeast Conference selected him as the inaugural recipient of its now annual prize: “The SEC Professor of the Year.” After receiving his doctorate in political science from the University of California at Riverside in 1969, he taught at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, California State University (San Francisco) and Ohio University, where he was tenured in 1974. From 1975 on, Johnson also served as a political consultant and congressional staff member, pushing for increased oversight of intelligence agencies. He was Special Assistant to the Chairman of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which investigated the nation’s spy agencies and led to the establishment of oversight committees in the Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives to monitor intelligence activities. Additionally, Johnson served on the staff of the Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations, as staff director of the House Subcommittee on Intelligence Oversight and on the staff of the House Subcommittee on Trade and International Economic Policy. He became a member of the UGA faculty in the Department of Political Science in 1979, becoming a full professor in 1985. He took a year’s leave from the university in 1995 to work on the Aspin-Brown Commission on Intelligence. He has also taught at Yale University and Oxford University as a Distinguished Visiting Professor, and he has presented addresses on national security and foreign policy topics at over 150 colleges and universities in North America, Europe, and New Zealand. During his time at UGA, Johnson has been involved in both local and national politics, including writing Friend of the Court petitions in intelligence-related court cases, serving as a member of the Georgia State Board of Elections and leading the SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) campaign to finance a new Cedar Shoals High School and renovate public schools throughout Athens-Clarke County. Johnson will retire at the end of the spring semester after more than 40 years at UGA.
  • There is a Saturday session for the citizens committee that is looking at the SPLOST project list: the panel meets at 9 tomorrow morning at the Sandy Creek Nature Center. Athens-Clarke County voters decide the fate of the penny-on-the-dollar sales tax referendum in November.  Saturday is a trail work day at the Sandy Creek Nature Center: Athens-Clarke County Leisure Services says volunteers will gather at 9 o’clock tomorrow morning at the Nature Center on Old Commerce Road. Leisure Services says it’s a clean-up day.  The Green Life Expo and Awards ceremony is set for Saturday at the Library on Baxter Street, underway at 10 o’clock tomorrow morning. The Green Life Awards recognize sustainability leaders in schools, businesses, community organizations, and government in Athens. |
  • The University of Georgia was ranked No. 2 by OpenStax on a list of top 10 schools that have saved their students the most money through adoption of OpenStax free college textbooks in the 2017-18 school year. These textbooks helped 42,245 UGA students, according to data from Rice University-based publisher OpenStax. Savings from these textbooks saved students around $3.9 million, according to UGA data. UGA, as well as the University System of Georgia, has made a concerted effort to move toward free online textbooks, especially for large-enrollment courses, to save students money and improve teaching. “At UGA, we are growing a culture of Open Educational Resources thanks to dedicated advocacy for affordable textbook alternatives by our students, faculty, staff and administrators,” said Megan L. Mittelstadt, director of the Center for Teaching and Learning. “The majority of these savings are a result of the adoption of OpenStax texts—the high-quality, peer-reviewed OpenStax books are popular among our faculty seeking to implement open education resources in service of equity and student academic success. These not only lower the cost for students, but data from a small sample of UGA courses using OpenStax books also shows improved end-of-course grades, especially for Pell recipients, part-time students and student populations historically underserved by higher education.” UGA was an early adopter of these free textbooks and pioneered ways large institutions can focus their implementation on a bigger scale and improve learning outcomes. Peggy Brickman, a professor of plant biology, and her colleagues teach general education biology courses taken by nearly 2,000 students a year. When she adopted an OpenStax textbook in 2013, CTL used a grant to fund a graduate assistant who worked with Brickman to redesign her course. It was an opportunity for Brickman to rethink how to best teach the course, and students have been thanking her ever since. “It has saved hundreds of thousands of dollars for students,” Brickman said, “and the course is much better after we redesigned it.”
  • The Hart County Sheriff’s Office is heading up the investigation into the shooting that wounded an Elberton man: the shooting apparently happened at the dam on Lake Hartwell. The victim, who was shot in the leg, tells investigators it happened during a robbery. A White County man begins his life sentence: Frederick Sauder is 30 years old, from Cleveland. He was sentenced after his conviction for his role in the armed robbery and murder of 66 year-old Wayne Alexander, who was killed in August of 2016. A Hall County man is behind bars, charged with a long list of drug and driving charges: the Hall County Sheriff’s Office says 39 year-old was arrested after a traffic stop.    From the Hall Co Sheriff’s Office... On February 20, 2019, Deputies with the Hall County Sheriff’s Office arrested Donald Jason Passmore, 39, of Gainesville (pictured above), at a location in the 3300 block of Baker Road, during the course of an investigation.   Four Superior Court Probation warrants had been previously issued for Mr. Passmore’s arrest in July 2018.    His original charges included: manufacturing methamphetamine near a child, possession of methamphetamine 3cts. DUI, possession of drug related objects, theft by taking and obstruction.   On February 20, 2019, Passmore attempted to break into a storage building located at a residence in the 3700 block of Baker Road by prying the lock with a crow bar.   He also attempted to enter the primary residence but fled the scene in his car when confronted by the homeowner/victim in this case.   Deputies responded.    When deputies attempted to arrest Mr. Passmore, he accelerated his vehicle, driving towards the Deputy, causing the deputy to jump out of the vehicle’s path to avoid being struck.   Passmore was ultimately arrested without further incident and charged with:    1) Aggravated Assault on a Peace Officer 2) Felony Obstruction 3) Failure to Maintain Lane of Travel 4) Suspended License 5) Reckless Driving 6) Fleeing/Eluding 7) Criminal Trespass of Property 8) Possession of Tools of a Crime (of Burglary) 9) Superior Court Probation Warrant (issued 7/13/18) 10) Superior Court Probation Warrant (issued 7/13/18) 11) Superior Court Probation Warrant (issued 7/24/18) 12) Superior Court Probation Warrant (issued 7/24/18)   Passmore was booked in at the Hall County Jail.  
  • The University of Georgia’s Black History Month Awards and Dinner is set for this evening in Athens: it gets underway at 5:30 at the Georgia Museum of Art. From the University of Georgia master calendar… This dinner and awards ceremony features the presentation of the Larry D. and Brenda A Thompson Award. Visit bit.ly/gmoa-bhma19 to sponsor and receive guaranteed tickets. Individual tickets will be available Jan. 4 for members and Feb. 1 for nonmembers. Call 706-542-4199 with additional ticket inquiries. Friday, February 22 at 5:30pm to 9:00pm Georgia Museum of Art 90 Carlton Street, Athens, GA 30602

Bulldog News

  • ATHENS — Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm doesn’t expect Georgia’s offense to change much under the direction of first-year offensive coordinator James Coley. But the 2019 Heisman Trophy candidate indicated it could evolve. When one considers the returning personnel, it’s not hard to understand why and how. The Bulldogs ranked 18th in the nation in total offense last season and return a veteran offensive line, a 1,000-yard back and a third-year starter in Fromm. RELATED: Kirby Smart makes his pick on offense “There’s just going to be more added to it,” Fromm, who ranked fifth in the nation in passing efficiency last season, told WSB. “We’re super excited in what we have going on.” Receiver Tyler Simmons, who played part of last season limited by a shoulder brace, told WSB-2 he’s expecting a different feeling in the huddles. “A little bit more energetic,” Simmons said. “Coley brings a lot of energy to the offense, we we’re all excited.” Simmons suggested the Georgia pass attack won’t drop off despite the Bulldogs losing four of their top five receivers last season in Riley Ridley, Mecole Hardman, Isaac Nauta and Terry Godwin. “We may have the ball in the air a little more,” Simmons said. “A little bit more passing, a little bit more balance offensively.” That may be true, but it won’t come at the expense of a dominant run game, if Coach Kirby Smart stays true to form. “We’ve got a set of plays, our core belief that we always have which is balance, being powerful, being able to run the ball at our will, not somebody else breaking our will,” Smart said last fall. “That’s always going to be the identity we have.” Further, Smart’s philosophy on building an offense is that the talent will dictate the play calls. “The building of the package is really based on what we have,” Smart said last fall. “What are our strengths? Are we stronger at receiver than running back or are our backs going to be as good and explosive as they were last year?” Georgia is expected to start spring football practice on March 18, with the G-Day spring football game scheduled for April 20. The post Georgia football QB Jake Fromm predicts offensive expansion under James Coley appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — The unintended consequences on the Georgia football 2020 schedule have yet to shake out, as it relates to the pending Auburn-Tennessee October-November flip. But the fact Alabama rotates on Bulldogs regular-season schedule in 2020 has some UGA fans losing sleep. Could the Bulldogs play the Tide and Tigers in back-to-back weeks? Extremely unlikely, to the point it would be shocking, and a deeper dive explains why. About the flip On the surface, Georgia’s Auburn-Tennessee schedule flip provides mutual benefits for UGA and the Tigers, to the extent Kirby Smart obviously believes it’s in the best interest of his program. RELATED: Vince Dooley says schedule change benefits Auburn Smart said last May at the SEC Spring Meetings that he was open to changing things up so UGA wasn’t playing road games at Georgia Tech and Auburn in November. WATCH: What Kirby Smart said about Auburn schedule twist But surely, Smart and athletic director Greg McGarity played out the scenario and have some assurances from the SEC office that the Auburn and Alabama games in 2020 won’t occur in back-to-back weeks. “I’d just make the statement that if there are any issues that our staff has, we’d voice that,” UGA athletic director  Greg McGarity told DawgNation. “But I think Kirby will be very comfortable with the schedule that you’ll see in 2020.” Historic trend Still, the relatively limited series history between Georgia and Alabama has led some alarmists to speculate the Bulldogs could be in another scheduling bind. The past two meetings between the Bulldogs and the Tide have been in Atlanta, with the SEC Championship on the line last December, and the national championship at stake in January of 2018. But prior to that, the teams most recent regular season meetings were Oct. 3,   2015 (Athens) and then a 2007-2008 home-and-home in Tuscaloosa (Sept. 27) and Athens (Sept. 27). The good news for Georgia fans is the Bulldogs already have a contracted home game with Louisiana-Monroe for the last Saturday in September, the 26th. More good news is DawgNation sources said earlier this week the 2020 Auburn game will be in October — not September. Circle Sept. 19 The educated guess here is that the 2020 Georgia-Alabama game will be played on Sept. 19 — a week before the contracted non-conference game with Louisiana-Monroe — with the Auburn game played on Oct. 3. It’s worth noting Alabama plays Georgia State on Sept. 12, 2020 and Kent State Sept. 26, 2020 — leaving that Sept. 19 date a prime target for a marquee early-season SEC showdown in Tuscaloosa. But until the schedule comes out, more will speculate and wonder when Georgia will play Alabama in 2020. Regardless of where or when the game is played, the most noteworthy trend that must be reversed is the outcome. The Tide has won five straight against Georgia to snap what had been a three-game Bulldogs win streak in the series dating back to the Bulldogs’ 26-23 overtime win in Tuscaloosa in 2007.     The post Evaluating Georgia football possibility of playing Auburn-Alabama in consecutive 2020 weeks appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — Georgia football has scheduling twists that seem to have some fans twisting in the wind. Here’s the thing: Coach Kirby Smart is on board with the changes, and they would’t be happening if he wasn’t. “I’d just make the statement that if there are any issues that our staff has, we’d voice that,” UGA athletic director Greg McGarity told DawgNation. “But I think Kirby will be very comfortable with the schedule that you’ll see in 2020.” So Georgia is switching the order of games with rivals Auburn and Tennessee, the matchup with the Tigers moving to October, and the Vols’ series moving to November. It would certainly be easier if Smart were to speak for himself on the issue. But Smart has chosen to strategically stay silent since the 28-21 Sugar Bowl loss to Texas on Jan. 1. Smart did, however, choose to issue a statement making it clear he’s very supportive of McGarity — a narrative that somehow some have gotten confused in the past: “Greg’s been a great resource for me since coming to Georgia and has always been supportive and energetic about all the things that are necessary to develop and maintain a successful football program,’’ Smart said in a UGA release. “I’m especially appreciative of his commitment to facilities. Greg is loyal to the University and has what is best for Georgia as his top priority.’’ It’s hard to imagine how the Bulldogs head coach could be any clearer. Smart also made his feelings known on the Auburn scheduling at the SEC Spring Meetings last May in Destin, Fla. Smart said he would be all for it if Auburn were to play two consecutive games in Athens. “Absolutely, if we can get a chance to fix it, and (they) return the favor that we paid to them,” Smart said, asked if he would be on board with the Tigers playing consecutive years in Athens. “I hear about that a lot, obviously I wasn’t there, but if you can make it more consistent and balance it out, it would help in the long run.” UGA played two straight   games in Auburn, in 2012-2013, as the SEC adjusted its schedule to include Missouri and Texas A&M. The unintended consequence of Georgia changing up its odd/even years and home/away with Auburn is that the Bulldogs fell into playing both Georgia Tech and the Tigers on the road in November every other year. Smart didn’t like that, either, and he said so. “I feel like if we could fix it, it would help to not have two road games back to back for us, like the situation we had last year (2017) with Auburn and Georgia Tech back to back,” Smart said. “I understand there are problems and difficulties trying to appease everyone.” So while the opportunity for Auburn to play at Georgia two years in a row wasn’t on the table, the chance to move up the Auburn game to October was, and Smart and UGA took advantage of that. Some have pointed out that Tennessee is also a rivalry game. Now, it’s a matter of having to travel to Knoxville and Atlanta (to play Tech) in the same month. But what won’t happen is the possibility of facing Auburn in a rematch just a few short weeks after facing that program in the regular season — something Smart alluded to in Destin last May. Smart had many other things to say that offered a great deal of insight into his feelings of what was to come with transfers and quarterback situations that are worth looking back on: Kirby Smart, SEC Spring Meetings The post WATCH: What Kirby Smart said about Auburn scheduling twist, Greg McGarity appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — Georgia is moving quickly to make improvements in every phase of its football program, and apparently that extends to the Bulldogs’ relatively new “Light Up Sanford” tradition. While the plans to transition from the old metal halide lighting system to a modern LED “Lumadapt” system installed by Ephesus Lighting. In addition to being more energy efficient and brighter, the lights also can be digitally adjusted, synchronized to music and produce special effects. Which is where Georgia’s Light Up Sanford tradition comes in. “Think about the creativity to we can bring to the games,” deputy athletic director Josh Brook said during his presentation to the board. “We can celebrate a touchdown, there are all kinds of things we can do. We’re planning on a few things. There’s a certain fourth-quarter tradition we have that might come into play. We’re working on some things I don’t want to reveal right now. But this should add to the game-day experience and the things we can do for fans.” Back in 2015, members of Georgia’s Redcoat Marching Band started a fourth-quarter tradition that has gained considerable momentum the last two seasons. After the third quarter ends, the band plays a song called Krypton. That’s alerts Georgia fans to pull out their cell phones and activate their flashlight apps and wave them up and down to the music toward the team on the field. The Bulldogs respond as well, holding up four fingers and acknowledging the crowd’s belief that the fourth quarter belongs to them. The synchronicity creates quite the scene and even has inspired video documentaries. The tradition has really taken off the last two seasons as the Bulldogs made runs to the SEC Championship and National Championship game. With the capability of the new LED lights, Sanford Stadium might be able to play along as well. Brooks said Georgia is one of the first NCAA stadiums to utilize the systems installed by Ephesus. The arena lighting specialists have done installations for the last three Super Bowl venues and will for next year’s game in Miami as well. “We can take lighting effects to the next level,” Brooks said. UGA DEPUTY AD JOSH BROOKS The post WATCH: Georgia aims to take its 4th-quarter, ‘Light Up Sanford’ tradition to a new level appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — It was just a statement buried within a UGA press release on Wednesday’s athletic board meeting, but it happened to be Kirby Smart, from whom we’ve heard very little over the last 51 days and nothing directly. Georgia’s football coach was commenting on Wednesday’s news that Greg McGarity had received a contract extension to continue as the Bulldogs’ athletic director. “Greg’s been a great resource for me since coming to Georgia and has always been supportive and energetic about all the things that are necessary to develop and maintain a successful football program,’’ Smart said in the release prepared by UGA sports communications staff. “I’m especially appreciative of his commitment to facilities. Greg is loyal to the University and has what is best for Georgia as his top priority.’’ McGarity certainly has been a strong supporter of Smart and the football program. Since taking over as the Bulldogs’ head coach, McGarity has seen that Smart’s requests for facility improvements got approved and completed fast. Upon Smart’s appointment in December of 2015, the Bulldogs were in the process of breaking ground on a $31 million indoor practice facility. That building was dedicated as the William & Porter Payne Indoor Athletic Center in January of 2017. After that, McGarity filled Smart’s request for a new locker room and recruiting lounge to be constructed in the West End of Sanford Stadium. That $63 million dollar project was completed and dedicated before the 2018 season. Meanwhile, Smart’s latest request seems to be coming on line quickly. UGA already is raising funds and drawing up plans for a new football-dedicated building to be added to the Butts-Mehre Complex on South Campus. Architectural design concepts are due to be submitted to the athletic board by the time it meets again in May. At that time, the size, layout and cost of the new addition will be revealed. The multi-million dollar project could commence as early as 2020. Georgia teams have won eight national championships since McGarity’s arrival in August of 2010. The latest came last week when the women’s team won the NCAA Indoor Championship. “Greg’s leadership and continued support instill confidence in our coaches, student-athletes, and sports programs in general,’’ said Lu Harris-Champer who just began her 19th season as head coach of the UGA softball team.  ‘’He is totally committed to providing the best opportunities for our student-athletes to be successful in competition and in the classroom.  Greg is a great facilitator of success.’’ McGarity’s extension was the only personnel news to come out of the board’s winter meeting. The group also voted unanimously to allocate $8.5 million toward the new grandstand at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex. The post Georgia coach Kirby Smart thanks Greg McGarity for unwavering support of football appeared first on DawgNation.