Teen Receives Double Lung Transplant After Vaping Injuries

A 17-year-old male in Michigan is said to be the first person in the United States to receive a bilateral lung transplant for vaping-related injuries.The boy’s severe injuries included extreme lung inflammation, scarring and dead tissue, which alarmed medical professionals — especially given the patient’s age.”What I saw in his lungs is nothing that I’ve ever seen before, and I’ve been doing lung transplants for 20 years,” said Hassan Nemeh, M.D., surgical director of the Thoracic Organ Transplant System at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.First admitted to Ascension St. John Hospital in Detroit in September, the then-16-year-old showed symptoms consistent with pneumonia. As his condition deteriorated rapidly, however, he was transferred to Children’s Hospital of Michigan after less than a week and placed on life support.Dr. Hassan Nemeh, Surgical Director of Thoracic Organ Transplant, shows areas of a patient’s lungs during a news conference at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Nov. 12, 2019.Doctors said they took dramatic measures to save the teen’s life.”At one point, we just looked at each other and said, ‘Let’s just go in your car,'” said Nicholas Yeldo, M.D., of Henry Ford Hospital, describing how the doctors transported a portable ECMO machine in the trunk of Nemeh’s SUV. ECMO is a life support system that stands for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation.After more than a month on life support, the patient received a successful double lung transplant Oct. 15. Doctors described the teen Tuesday as talking, eating and able to walk on his own.The patient and his family have remained anonymous, but they provided a statement for the press conference.”Within a very short period of time, our lives have been forever changed. From the typical life of a perfectly healthy 16-year-old athlete — attending high school, hanging out with friends, sailing and playing video games — to waking up intubated and with two new lungs,” stated the family.The family urged people to stop vaping.”If this press announcement saves just one person, prevents others from vaping or inspires someone addicted to seek help to quit, it is surely a step in the right direction,” said the patient’s family.Drawing in young adultsAccording to the FILE – A high school student uses a vaping device near a school campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts.Health officials have pointed to vitamin E acetate, an additive found in vaping products, as a likely culprit. Previously, the CDC linked vaping products containing THC with the mysterious injuries.Young adults between the ages of 18 and 29 are more than twice as likely to vape than their older counterparts, according to a Gallup poll. Conversely, they are less likely than 30- to 64-year-olds to smoke tobacco cigarettes, signifying a major break from the smoking trends of previous generations.According to the CDC, however, rates of tobacco use are rising among America’s youth. Last year, 4.9 million middle- and high school students used tobacco, an increase from 3.6 million in 2017.”This increase — driven by a surge in e-cigarette use — erased past progress in reducing youth tobacco product use,” stated a CDC Vital Signs report.On Monday, President Donald Trump tweeted that he will meet with representatives of the vaping industry, saying, “Children’s health & safety, together with jobs, will be a focus!” Trump has made similar comments in the past, most notably when he proposed a ban on flavored e-cigarettes, which tend to attract younger people.Recently, the president’s language on vaping has expanded to include jobs in the vaping industry that might be lost to regulation.FILE – Demonstrators gather at the Massachusetts State House to protest the state’s four-month ban of all vaping product sales in Boston, Oct. 3, 2019.Support for vapingWhile many medical professionals lauded efforts to curb vaping in the U.S., opposition from the vaping industry, pro-vaping advocates and politicians have challenged these efforts.The Washington Post reported that Trump’s campaign manager advised him to back off of the issue amid concerns it may hurt his chances for reelection.Pro-vaping advocates held protests, arguing that vaping has helped them stop smoking cigarettes, and they consider vaping to be a better alternative.The long-term effects of vaping remain unknown.  
 

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Making the Digital More Tangible: Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 Brings Holograms to Work

Microsoft is bringing holograms to the office. The company recently started shipping its 2nd version of HoloLens, a headset that allows users to touch and interact with 3D holograms in everyday settings. Various industries have begun experimenting with the new computing device and VOA’s Tina Trinh had a chance to check it out.

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Privacy, Consumer Groups Seek to Block Google-Fitbit Deal

Nine privacy, social justice and consumer groups are calling for the U.S. government to block Google’s $2.1 billion acquisition of fitness-gadget maker Fitbit, citing antitrust and privacy concerns.They say in a Wednesday letter to the Federal Trade Commission that the deal would consolidate Google’s dominance over internet services like search, advertising and smartphone operating systems.They also worry it’ll add to Google’s store of consumer data. Health information is of particular concern. Google has hired health care executives, hinting at a health-data business to come.Politicians and regulators have been scrutinizing Google and other Silicon Valley companies for how they use customer data and leverage their size to thwart competitors.Google didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
 

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CDC: Superbug Infections Rising, but Deaths Falling

Drug-resistant “superbug” infections have been called a developing nightmare that make conquered germs once again untreatable.So there’s some surprising news in a federal report released Wednesday: U.S. superbug deaths appear to be going down.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated about 36,000 Americans died from drug-resistant infections in 2017. That’s down 18% from 2013.Officials credit an intense effort in hospitals to control the spread of particularly dangerous infections.But while deaths are going down, the report says infections overall increased nationally. And while superbugs mainly have been considered a hospital problem, they are appearing much more often elsewhere.
 

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Prince Charles Discusses Climate Change With Indian Experts

Britain’s Prince Charles met with Indian experts on Wednesday during a visit to the country focusing on global challenges such as climate change and business sustainability.The Prince of Wales discussed how to strengthen disaster resilience and tackle the effects of climate change at the Indian Meteorological Department in New Delhi.He arrived in New Delhi on Wednesday with a thick gray haze clouding the sky.A man uses his handkerchief to cover his face as he walks on a road on a smoggy morning in New Delhi, India, Nov. 11, 2019.The air quality index exceeded 450, considered “severe” and nine times the recommended maximum, according to the state-run Central Pollution Control Board. A Supreme Court-appointed panel ordered the closure of schools in the Indian capital region on Thursday and Friday.Prince Charles had a short ride in an e-rickshaw driven by a woman.Air pollution in northern India peaks in the winter due to smoke from agricultural fires and fireworks during a major Hindu festival.The prince also joined celebrations of the 550th anniversary of the birth of Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion, at a shrine in New Delhi to mark the community’s contribution in Britain.The British High Commission said he will meet with Indian business leaders in Mumbai on Thursday to discuss sustainable markets.In September, the prince jointly launched a Sustainable Markets Council with the World Economic Forum.His 10th visit to India ends Thursday.  

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How Los Angeles is Taking On Cybercriminals

As the world becomes more connected people are vulnerable of being victims of cybercriminals. Police departments, hospitals, universities and businesses everywhere are also at risk. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee shows how the city of Los Angeles is fighting this problem, by sharing and pooling critical information about cyberattacks.

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Michigan Teen Who Vaped Received Double Lung Transplant

A Michigan teenager was the recipient of what could be the first double lung transplant on a person whose lungs were severely damaged from vaping, health officials said Tuesday.Doctors at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit described to reporters Tuesday the procedure that saved the 17-year-old’s life and pleaded for the public to understand the dangers of vaping.The teen was admitted in early September to a Detroit-area hospital with what appeared to be pneumonia. He was transferred to Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit and taken Oct. 3 to Henry Ford Hospital where the transplant was performed Oct. 15. The double lung transplant is believed to be the first performed on a patient due to vaping.Doctors found an “enormous amount of inflammation and scarring” on the teen’s lungs, said Dr. Hassan Nemeh, surgical director of thoracic organ transplant at Henry Ford. “This is an evil I haven’t faced before. The damage that these vapes do to people’s lungs is irreversible. Please think of that — and tell your children to think of that.”Health officials declined to release the teen’s name and said he is expected to recover. They also did not specify what the teen vaped or how long he vaped.A photo of a patient being transported is displayed while medical staff at Henry Ford Hospital answer questions during a news conference in Detroit, Nov. 12, 2019.”We asked Henry Ford doctors to share that the horrific life-threatening effects of vaping are very real!” his family said in a statement released by the hospital. “Our family could never have imagined being at the center of the largest adolescent public health crisis to face our country in decades.””Within a very short period of time, our lives have been forever changed. He has gone from the typical life of a perfectly healthy 16-year old athlete — attending high school, hanging out with friends, sailing and playing video games — to waking up intubated and with two new lungs, facing a long and painful recovery process as he struggles to regain his strength and mobility, which has been severely impacted.”The boy had his 17th birthday after initially being admitted to the hospital.More than 2,000 Americans who vape have gotten sick since March, many of them teenagers and young adults, and at least 40 people have died.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week announced a breakthrough into the cause of a vaping illness outbreak, identifying the chemical compound vitamin E acetate as a “very strong culprit” after finding it in fluid taken from the lungs of 29 patients. Vitamin E acetate previously was found in liquid from electronic cigarettes and other vaping devices used by many who got sick and only recently has been used as a vaping fluid thickener.Many who got sick said they had vaped liquids that contain THC, the high-inducing part of marijuana, with many saying they received them from friends or bought them on the black market.E-cigarettes and other vaping devices heat a liquid into an inhalable vapor. Most products contained nicotine, but THC vaping has been growing more common.FILE – A man blows a puff of smoke as he vapes with an electronic cigarette, Oct. 18, 2019.Henry Ford doctors did not say Tuesday what the lung transplant recipient vaped. They did say that he was critically ill when he arrived at Henry Ford where he was placed Oct. 8 on an organ transplant waiting list. His lung damage due to vaping was so severe and he was so close to death that the teen immediately was placed at the top of the transplant waiting list, they said.”Vaping-related injuries are all too common these days. Our adolescents are faced with a crisis,” said Dr. Lisa Allenspach, pulmonologist and the medical director of Henry Ford’s Lung Transplant Program. “We are just beginning to see the enormous health consequence jeopardizing the youth in our country … these vaping products should not be used in any fashion.”The 17-year-old’s case does not open any new ethical considerations about transplants for people how who irreparably damage their own lungs by vaping, Nemeh told The Associated Press.”It won’t change what we do on a routine basis. We will still evaluate every patient as an individual patient,” he said. “We hope sharing this patient’s story prevents anyone else from experiencing a vaping injury that would require a transplant.”Nemeh added that lung transplants have been considered for ex-smokers who have quit and demonstrated that they quit smoking, but transplants are not routinely done for people over the age of 70.
“Children do receive priority over an adult for a transplant from a pediatric donor,” he said. “The United Network for Organ Sharing creates the rules and then offers the organs to recipients who are a match. We don’t decide who gets an offer.” 

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Bringing World’s Buried Wetlands Back From the Dead

The ghosts are all around the gently rolling farmlands of eastern England. But you have to know where to look.These are not the kind of phantoms that scare or haunt — they are ghost ponds. Over the years, landowners buried them, filling in wetlands so they had more land for planting crops and other needs, or let ponds fade away with neglect. Along with those ponds, they erased entire ecosystems — and contributed to the decline of wetlands worldwide.The result: an array of environmental calamities, ranging from rising floods to species hurdling toward extinction.There are some who are trying to reclaim these lost waterbodies. In the wetlands of eastern England, a motley team of farmers, university researchers and conservationists is digging into the region’s barley and wheat fields to turn back the clock. They seek out patches of muddy earth that hint at lost ponds lurking beneath.Using chain saws, an excavator and plenty of sweat, the team takes just a few hours to resurrect one dying pond near Hindolveston, a thousand-year-old village not far from the North Sea. They fell trees and shrubs, then start digging until reaching their goal: an ancient pond bottom that once supported insects, aquatic plants, and the birds and animals that fed on them.FILE – Helen Greaves, Ph.D. student at UCL Pond Restoration Research Group, holds a frog at a former wetland on farmland near Hindolveston, Dereham, eastern England, Sept. 13, 2019.”As soon as they get water and light, they just spring to life,” says Nick Anema, a farmer in nearby Dereham who has restored seven ponds on his property. “You’ve got frogs and toads and newts, all the insects like mayflies, dragonflies, damselflies. … You can’t really beat a pond.”But the battle for the wetlands is a struggle. While efforts are under way to stem losses and regain some of what’s been lost, wetlands around the world continue to be filled in and plowed over.Almost 90% of the world’s wetlands disappeared over the past three centuries, according to the Ramsar Convention, an organization formed around a 1971 treaty to protect wetlands. The loss rate has accelerated since the 1970s, with wetlands now disappearing three times faster than the world’s forests, the group says.Every type of naturally occurring wetland has suffered — from ponds, freshwater swamps and coastal marshes, to fens, bogs and other peatlands.The consequences can be profound:* Roughly 5,000 wetland-dependent species threatened with extinction, including mammals, birds and amphibians, according to Ramsar.* Fewer natural storage areas to hold back torrential rains means more severe floods in many parts of the world, including the U.S. heartland, as seen this summer.* Draining wetlands, such as in Indonesia to make way for palm oil plantations, can release huge amounts of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, a major contributor to climate change.FILE – Jerry Doan walks through grasslands next to a wetland he restored on his land near Sterling, N.D., June 21, 2019.Climate change also threatens to worsen the problem. Warmer temperatures and changing rainfall patterns can trigger drought, leading to more pumping of water reserves that otherwise would feed surface wetlands, scientists say.Wetlands in northern China, the central U.S., northern Africa, India and the Middle East already have been depleted by the pumping of underground aquifers for agriculture.”We now know the value of wetlands, and we know with increasing precision how many wetlands we’re losing. The next step is for the governments to act,” says Royal Gardner, director of the Institute for Biodiversity Law and Policy at Stetson University in Florida.Refuge for birds vs. nuisance for farmersA few hours of heavy rain in North Dakota are all it takes to transform the dry, cracked earth of the U.S. prairie into thousands upon thousands of pocket-sized wetlands.The rain pools in shallow depressions known as prairie potholes and quickly flushes out insects from beneath the soil.Each pothole becomes a haven for a pair of ducks. Two blue-winged teals dabble in one pothole that’s sprung back to life with the rains. Nearby, a mallard hen keeps her head down to the water, stuffing herself with insects and vegetation to store up the energy she’ll need to raise her next brood, while a male, or drake, watches vigilantly for any predators. On the next pothole, two more ducks, then two more and so on, all the way to the horizon.FILE – An American avocet searches for food in a wetland near Sterling, N.D., June 21, 2019.Each spring and fall bring an even greater influx of waterfowl: clouds of migrating snow geese that descend en masse, lingering for a few days on the larger water bodies as they pass between breeding grounds in Canada and their winter refuges to the south.But to farmers, these wetlands carved into the earth by glaciers some 10,000 years ago can be an adversary. The muddy holes bog down tractors and rot newly planted seeds and they can kill young crops, leaving patches of lifeless stalks.Some farmers steer around them, planting seeds in swirling patterns to avoid wet areas often smaller in size than the hulking combines that appear at harvest time. Other wetlands are removed, often to make way for corn.”It’s the crop of the younger generation and I’ve got to think ahead,” says farmer Barton Schott, who drained several wetlands this summer to improve the corn fields he plans to pass onto one of his sons.Schott gestured at fields dotted with “nuisance wetlands” as he navigated his truck down a bumpy dirt road.”We have to make bushels for you guys. I just want to make the land better,” he says.Despite their mind-boggling numbers — several million potholes are spread across a region that covers portions of five states and three Canadian provinces — these wetlands are steadily blinking out. One by one, they’re being drained or plowed under.These changes already have rolled through large parts of the prairie pothole region with a profound impact: Iowa has lost 99% of its wetlands and neighboring Minnesota has lost 95%, according to U.S. officials. The Dakotas and Montana have seen smaller declines.Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent trying to reverse or at least halt the losses.FILE – Brad Sands surveys his cattle on a restored wetland and grassland project near Ellendale, N.D., June 20, 2019.That includes payments to North Dakota ranchers like Cody and Deanna Sands in Ellendale. Aided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Sands have plugged a series of man-made ditches on their pastures. That lets the water pool, helps grow grass for their cows and creates nesting areas for grassland and water birds.Now they worry less about having enough rain and spend more time marketing their beef. “Restoring the wetlands made it a better piece,” Deanna Sands says as she wades through knee-high grass.Just across the road is a reminder that others feel differently — a huge farm where fields have been drained to increase plantable acreage.The region’s future, experts say, comes down to a numbers game, one that so far is tilting against the potholes as wetlands are sacrificed to feed demand for the corn-based fuel ethanol.”We’re losing more habitat than we’re gaining,” U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Jon Beyer says. “The small, shallow wetlands attract the birds, and those are the ones at highest risk.”Natural wetlands vs. artificial onesOnly human-made wetlands buck the trend toward global decline. Rice paddies, reservoirs and agricultural stock ponds all increased in acreage since the 1970s, according to Ramsar.Schott, a third-generation farmer in the small community of Kulm, North Dakota, recently installed networks of perforated pipes beneath some of his fields to drain off the standing water. The water will get pumped into a nearby pond, making each acre drained “as productive as we can get it.”Under federal regulations, he must offset the losses. He’s doing it somewhat reluctantly at a site about a mile away, installing a berm across a low area in one of his fields to create a small pond.FILE – Canada geese swim on a prairie pothole near Lake City, S.D., June 22, 2019.Schott, other farmers and their political allies in Congress want wetlands less than an acre in size — such as the three that he recently drained — to be exempted from the offset requirement. For now, if he doesn’t build the pond, he stands to lose his federally subsidized farm insurance and be ineligible for other government assistance.The guiding principle is to have “no net loss” of U.S. wetlands. A similar tactic has been adopted in China, home to about 10% of the globe’s wetlands. Yet in both nations, scientists are concerned that the approach papers over significant differences between natural wetlands and those created by humans.While Schott’s pond will meet the law’s requirements, government biologists and wetlands advocates say such projects don’t fully restore what’s lost. That’s because a larger pond with water year-round doesn’t fulfill the same ecological role as the smaller wetlands they’re supposed to replace.A group of researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences raised similar concerns in a September study, warning that statistics showing a slight increase in China’s total wetlands acreage between 2000 and 2015 obscured what really happened.A significant portion of the increase came from the construction of dams that turned areas with many small wetlands into large reservoirs, the researchers found. The combined area covered by natural marshes decreased by almost 3,000 square miles (7,600 square kilometers) during the same period.”People brag about the fact that there’s been no net loss. But what they’ve done is destroy natural wetlands and created artificial ones,” says Stuart Pimm, a Duke University professor who worked with the Chinese researchers. “It makes it look like you’re doing no harm when the reality is very different.”Working with nature vs. against itSince the start of the 20th century, 75% of the United Kingdom’s ponds have been lost.The initial drive to restore wetlands in East Anglia was guided by a Norfolk farmer, Richard Waddingham, who began protecting his ponds at a time when his neighbors still were filling in theirs, says Carl Sayer, a researcher at University College London who worked closely with Waddingham.FILE – Prairie potholes dot the landscape in east central North Dakota, June 20, 2019.Waddingham drew inspiration from a pair of U.S. bird biologists from Cornell University whose work centered on the importance of wetlands to breeding ducks.Nick Anema describes how his view of farming differs markedly from his father’s, who regarded the natural world as an obstacle to overcome.For Anema, farming and preservation are inextricably linked. Farm too intensively and it degrades the soil. Cultivate all the way up to the property line and there’s no room for flowers that draw bees and insects to pollinate his crops.He’d been leaving the “shelterbelts” that ring his crops untouched for years when in 2013 he saw an advertisement seeking farmers who would be willing to have ghost ponds on their property excavated as part of a research project.He suspected a low point in one of this fields fit the description of a ghost pond and a check of old maps confirmed it. By the time the excavation wrapped up, water already was pooling at the bottom.After ghost ponds are dug out, seeds from long-buried water plants come to life, including in one case a pond on Anema’s farm that had been filled in an estimated 150 years ago. And as the plants come back, so do the insects that depend on them, followed by fish and birds that eat the insects.”We didn’t know what we would find in these holes in the ground until we started digging,” Sayer says. “They’ve done just what we hoped. They’re wonderful, healthy, vibrant ponds.”

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Teen Climate Activist Leaving US, Setting Sail for Spain

Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg will leave North America and begin her return trip across the Atlantic on Wednesday aboard a 48-foot (15-meter) catamaran sailboat whose passengers include an 11-month-old baby.The boat leaves little to no carbon footprint, boasting solar panels and a hydro-generators for power. It also has a toilet, unlike the boat on which she sailed from the United Kingdom to New York in August. That one only had a bucket.”There are countless people around the world who don’t have access to a toilet,” she said about the upgrade. “It’s not that important. But it’s nice to have.”Thunberg spoke Tuesday inside the tight confines of the catamaran, named La Vagabonde, as it was docked in Hampton, Virginia, near the Chesapeake Bay’s mouth. She’s hitching a ride to Spain in hopes of attending a United Nations climate meeting in Madrid in early December.The owners of the boat are Riley Whitelum and Elayna Carausu, an Australian couple who have an 11-month-old son named Lenny. The family, which has a large online following, responded to Thunberg’s call on social media for a carbon-free ride to Europe. An expert sailor, Nikki Henderson, is also coming along.   The trip could take two to four weeks, and November is considered offseason for sailing across the Atlantic. As Thunberg spoke Tuesday, the temperature had dipped into the 30s as sleet turned into light snow.But the 16-year-old, who refuses to fly because of the carbon price of plane travel, didn’t seem bothered.”I’m looking forward to it, just to be able to get away and recap everything and to just be disconnected,” she said.  Thunberg just finished a nearly three-month trip through North America, where she gave an impassioned speech before the United Nations and took part in climate strike rallies and protests from California to Colorado to North Carolina.   Swedish youth climate activist Greta Thunber, 16, sits on the side among other youth climate activists at a news conference about the Green New Deal hosted by U.S. Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Sept. 17, 2019.She’s become a symbol of a growing movement of young climate activists after leading weekly school strikes in Sweden that inspired similar actions in about 100 cities worldwide.She’s also drawn criticism from conservative commentators in the U.S. as well as Russian President Vladimir Putin. But she brushed off the criticism during her round of back-to-back interviews in the catamaran on Tuesday, saying that yes, she is too young to be doing this.”It should be the adults who take that responsibility,” Thunberg said. “But it feels like the adults and the people in power today are not.”When she looks back on her time in the U.S. and Canada, Thunberg said the things that stick out the most include a glacier in Canada’s Jasper National Park that is destined to disappear “no matter what we do.”Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg testifies at a Climate Crisis Committee joint hearing on “Voices Leading the Next Generation on the Global Climate Crisis,” on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Sept. 18, 2019.A visit to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, where there have been protests over a pipeline, also left an impact.”I was actually quite surprised to see how bad the indigenous people have been treated,” she said. “They are the ones who are being impacted often the most and first by the climate and ecological crisis. And they are also the ones who are at the front line trying to fight it.”She also was surprised at how much she was recognized.”There are always people who come up to me and ask for selfies and so on,” she said. “So, that really gives you an idea of how big the climate movement has reached.”

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Los Angeles Takes On Cybercriminals

As the world becomes more connected people are vulnerable of being victims of cybercriminals. Police departments, hospitals, universities and businesses everywhere are also at risk. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee shows how the city of Los Angeles is fighting this problem, by sharing and pooling critical information about cyberattacks.

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