Teen cycles the states to raise awareness of rare diseases

Teen cycles the states to raise awareness of rare diseases

Crossing the United States by car constitutes a major undertaking. Trans-American motorists can expect to encounter inclement weather, bumpy roads, and heavy traffic on their multi-day journey from the Pacific to the Atlantic. Many cross-county travelers therefore opt to make the trip by air, rather than by road.

Not Gabriel Low. This month, the seventeen-year-old triathlete from Hawaii started a 3,000-mile road trip across the United States–on his bicycle.

Pedaling up to 90 miles a day, Low hopes to complete his ride in two months. What motivated the teen to embark on his cross-country trek? “The real inspiration, I have to say, came from my mother,” Low told KATU news.

Low’s mom suffers from Primary Periodic Paralysis, a rare disorder which causes her to occasionally lose motor function. Because the disease is genetic, Low suffers from bouts of paralysis, too. Unlike his mother, however, the teen received a diagnosis and proper treatment early in life.

“For the first 30 years [my mom] went undiagnosed,” Low explained. “All her efforts to help me grow up with the disease and not have to face the same challenges she did, that’s what I want to dedicate this ride to.”

Low hopes his ride will raise awareness not only about his own disorder, but about a host of other little-known diseases as well. According to Low, one in ten people suffer from a rare condition. Roughly 7,000 such disorders exist, and each of them “is so rare that doctors don’t learn about them a lot in med school, and they’re just not really acknowledged well,” Low said.

The teen’s cross-country cycling odyssey serves another purpose, too: transportation to the 2018 national triathlon championships in Cleveland, Ohio. That competition holds special meaning for Low. During an earlier qualifying event, an abrupt episode of paralysis tested his physical abilities to the limit.

“It was towards the second half of the triathlon, I realized that I’d forgotten to take my medication that morning,” Low explained. “As I was going, I started to feel my legs were harder to lift, and when I crossed the finish line, I collapsed.”

Low’s perseverance, however, paid off: the effort earned him a spot at the national championships in Cleveland. Thus, competing at nationals represents not only a significant athletic achievement for Low, but also a victory over his disorder.

Ultimately, Low hopes to compete in the world triathlon championships. En route to his goal, however, the teen desires to prioritize his campaign to raise awareness for rare diseases. He hopes his ride will “start a conversation and create a movement.”

Strongbridge Biopharma, a pharmaceutical firm which specializes in developing treatments for rare disorders, is sponsoring Low’s cross-country trip. “Strongbridge has given me a van and hotel rooms every night, and it’s insane what has happened,” Low said.

The teen feels grateful for the support he has received thus far, and invites fellow cyclists to join him on portions of his ride. See his Facebook page and website for updates on his journey. Additionally, well-wishers can show their support by contributing to Low’s GoFundMe account. Donations will cover Low’s trip expenses, and any leftover funds will support the Periodic Paralysis Association.

Hospice center grants ailing veteran’s final wish

Hospice center grants ailing veteran’s final wish

When doctors told Joseph Beaupre he had only a few months to live, the army veteran knew exactly how he wanted to spend his remaining moments.

Beaupre told his care providers that he wanted to celebrate his son Tracey’s graduation next year by wearing a new suit to the commencement ceremony. However, Beaupre’s doctors didn’t believe he would live to see that day. That’s when Season’s Hospice stepped in to grant Beaupre’s wish.

The organization, which provides care for the terminally ill, sometimes fulfills wishes for its patients. “He expressed . . . that he would love a new suit, he loves to get dressed up,” said hospice nurse Andrea Zimmerman. So, Season’s Hospice partnered with Joseph A. Banks store in Portland and a local tailor to gift Beaupre a new, custom-fitted suit.

Courtesy of other community donors, Beaupre then enjoyed a limousine ride to Ringside Steakhouse, where he celebrated his son Tracey’s academic achievement with a gourmet meal. The restaurant provided Beaupre’s dinner free of charge.

“He is an ‘A’ student, he’s been waiting 10 years to graduate,” Beaupre said of Tracey. Thanks to Season’s Hospice, Beaupre was able to honor his son’s hard work in style.

 

Portland army veteran offers helping hand to homeless vets

Portland army veteran offers helping hand to homeless vets

Retired teacher and former Army serviceman Ken Walker has a passion for helping fellow veterans in need. The Portland native spends his time serving homeless servicemen and women who require transportation to the doctor’s office or grocery store.

Bob Reese is one of many veterans who have gratefully received Walker’s help. “Give him a call, say you gotta do this or that, and he’ll come with his car, take you where you gotta go, do what you gotta do,” Reese told KATU news.

Reese lost access to permanent housing last year, but anticipates moving into a private apartment in June. Walker wants to ensure that veterans like Reese make the transition back to permanent housing successfully.

“To me, this is vets helping vets and keeping vets in housing,” Walker explained. “You know, formerly homeless vets but now they’re in housing, and I want to keep them there.”

To help needy veterans ease the burden of food insecurity, Walker also runs a food pantry and household items distribution center at his church. “A lot of guys when they become homeless they lose everything,” Walker said. “They’re starting from scratch.”

Walker provides more than material goods to the destitute, however. For many veterans, he also offers friendship, empathy, and a listening ear. “We hang out and get a burger and we talk,” said veteran Scott Ramsden. “He’s the only person I can talk to about my problems, that I know he’s listening and really cares. He’s my best friend.”

Walker encourages the public to recognize both the vulnerability and dignity of homeless individuals. “If you see homeless people, treat them with respect,” he explained. “You know, look at them, talk to them, you know they are people too.”

In Walker’s experience, grateful hearts amply reward his efforts to treat the homeless with compassion.

 

Supreme Court declines to repeal abortion restriction

Supreme Court declines to repeal abortion restriction

In a heartening decision for pro-life advocates, the US Supreme Court opted not to overturn Arkansas’ ban on abortion by medication. The Court heard arguments pertaining to the law on appeal from a lower court, but declined to offer an opinion. The case now returns to the lower courts via a remand from all nine of the nation’s top justices.

Abortion provider Planned Parenthood initiated the suite, and may still ask a federal judge to block Arkansas’ law. “Arkansas is now shamefully responsible for being the first state to ban medication abortion,” said Dawn Laguens, Planned Parenthood’s executive vice president. “This law cannot and must not stand.”

Laguens argues that the courts should consider the law an “undue burden,” since it also imposes radical limits on conventional abortions in Arkansas. Indeed, under the statute two of the state’s three abortion clinics would close their doors, leaving only one facility operational.

Arkansas has attempted to legalize similarly robust protections for unborn children in the past, including a recent effort to institute a 12-week abortion ban. That law, however, succumbed to a blocking order by a federal appeals court.

Arkansas’ newest pro-life measure may similarly fail to withstand judicial scrutiny: In 2016, the Supreme court struck down comparable abortion restrictions in the landmark case Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.

Family Council Executive Director Jerry Cox, however, remains optimistic. “This is very good news for people who care about the safety of women in Arkansas,” he stated. “This is a pro-life victory not only for the women of Arkansas, but for women across the nation. I’m sure other states will be looking at Arkansas and considering following our example.”

Nicaragua: The Conflict Two Days Away

Just 3 days south of Texas, there is a Latin American country on the verge of Civil War. The little country of Nicaragua is experiencing social unrest and violence throughout the country that some are calling the worst it has been since the civil war 30 years ago.

Currently, 78 people have been killed, over 868 people have been injured five of whom are in critical condition and roughly 438 people, including many students, have fallen victim to government disappearances. On one side is the communist dictator Daniel Ortega and his vice president and wife Rosario Murillo, along with the Sandinistas or Nicaraguan Communists. He has most of the government’s support, as well as a fairly large portion of the poor population. Those opposed to the communist dictator are a large group of people ranging from college students, to poor farmers, to other local municipalities who all feel that Ortega is destroying the constitution. Nearly all the major cities in the country are experiencing mostly peaceful protests.

The protests started on the 18th of April after a proposed social security reform that passed practically overnight. The reform would have increased funding for the program while raising the age for individuals to access social security and decreasing the number of benefits given out to those recipients. As with most protests and civil movements, students and the young were the first to protest the bill. The Sandinistas in turn sent in the police to break up the protest. The unarmed protesters were met with police officers firing live ammunition and Pro-Sandinista groups armed by the police. After the first week nearly 50 people were killed, most of which were student protesters. In addition to the deaths, hundreds were injured and arrested. The overreaction of the government to the protests has morphed a simple protest over social security into a nationwide referendum against the Ortega regime.

Since the beginning of the protests, Ortega has given some concessions to the protesters, including withdrawing the social security reform and releasing some of the people arrested, but to the protesters, it isn’t enough. During the unrest, pro-government groups were looting local businesses and causing destruction while under the protection of the police. This only fueled the protests further and caused more people to come out against the government. There are currently hundreds of thousands of people protesting and the number continues to grow daily.

Nicaragua is a poor country with people willing to do whatever it takes to get food. To some people, their only choice is between supporting the oppressive dictator or starve. Others truly believe that the Ortega’s plan can really work and can give everyone a better life. Not all government officials are acting out. Some government workers are joining in the protest and actually keeping the peace through the chaos. The Nicaraguan military has decided to not become involved on either side.

The situation in Nicaragua is still developing and it is hard to tell which way this conflict will go. Currently, the government is engaged in the second day of talks with the protesters in an attempt to bring peace to the country. The demands by the protester are for the government to release those arrested, fire the officers who injured citizens unjustly, and for the President and Vice-President to step down from office. More information can be found by following the social media hashtag #SOSNicaragua.

Alabama teen revives after losing all brain function

Alabama teen revives after losing all brain function

When doctors declared 13-year-old Trenton McKinley brain dead, his parents elected to donate his organs, and opted to remove their son from life support.

Trenton, however, no longer needed life support. Just days before doctors planned to remove his ventilator, the Alabama teen’s brain flickered back to life.

A severe accident had left Trenton with multiple skull fractures, forcing surgeons to remove portions of the boy’s skull. Doctors presented Trenton’s parents with a grim diagnosis: even if their son survived, he would lose nearly all brain function.

Indeed, when physicians deemed Trenton brain dead, their fears seemed to be confirmed.

Fifteen minutes later, though, the teen received a cranial reboot which his family attributes to divine intervention. “He’s a miracle, and he just amazes everybody,” Trenton’s mother, Jennifer Reindl, said of her son.

After Trenton continued to improve, doctors discharged him from the hospital. He awaits a second surgery to refuse portions of his skull.

“There’s no other explanation but God,” Trenton reflected. “There’s no other way.”