The amazing alarm-clock dog who wakes narcoleptic owner several times a day

  • Annick suffers up to six sleep attacks a day and never knows when she will drop off
  • The 35-year-old couldn’t live an independent life and relied on parental supervision
  • Doctor suggested training a dog to wake Annick when she nodded off during the day
  • After one year’s training Idefix will now nip her ankles and ears for up to half an hour to rouse Annick

By Claire Bates

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A woman with narcolepsy who suffers up to six sleep attacks a day has had her life transformed by a very special dog.

Annick, 35, from Belgium, never knows when she will drop off. She slept up to 16 hours a day and needed careful supervision from her parents.

But she has been given a new lease of life thanks to the arrival of a little white dog called Idefix. The five-year-old mongrel is trained to wake her by nipping her ankles or ears at train and bus stops or when he hears an alarm.

Annick and Idefix

New lease of life: Idefix has been trained to nip gently at Annick’s ankles and ears if she suffers a sleep attack

Wakey wakey! Idefix can spend up to half an hour rousing his narcoleptic owner

Dr Olivier Le Bon from Tivoli Hospital in La Louvière, who came up with the novel solution, told Mail Online: ‘Annick couldn’t do simple routine tasks such as ironing or cooking because it was too dangerous if she fell asleep.

WHAT IS NARCOLEPSY?

Narcolepsy is a chronic neurological condition producing disruption to the normal sleep pattern.

This produces excessive daytime sleepiness that can prove impossible to resist.

They may therefore nap during normal activities such as eating and talking.

It affects around one in 4,000 people and usually develops during adolescence.

The precise cause is unknown though the neurotransmitter orexin is thought to be involved.

There is no known cure. Scheduled naps and exercise can help ease symptoms. Stimulants can be prescribed but have significant side-effects.

‘She is now able to move around the city, meet friends, arrive at appointments on time, cook and go for walks.’

It is the first time a dog has ever been trained as an assistance dog for someone with a sleep disorder.

However, the road to creating a successful pairing was not a smooth one. The team were turned down by a number of animal charities until one called ‘Coeur a coeur’ agreed to help. The charity trains hearing-assistant dogs who are selected for their interest in sounds.

Sadly their first trainee dog had to be turned down because he couldn’t be stopped from running after trams. Then charity trainer Chantal picked out Idefix – so named after the dog in the cartoon Asterix.

‘He had a slightly peculiar character,’ Dr Le Bon said.

‘He was rather isolated from the other dogs and was quite stubborn.’

Idefix took to the unusual training straight away. Over the course of a year he learnt to wake up Annick on hearing an alarm clock in the morning, even if this required half an hour of gentle biting.

The five-year-old dog was then trained to wake his owner up when he heard her mobile phone ring or when a timer went off. Finally he learnt to wake her at the next bus, metro or tram stop if she had nodded off on public transport.

Quick learner: Idefix was trained to respond to various cues by waking up his owner

Quick learner: Idefix was trained to respond to various cues by waking up his owner

The five-year-old dog is the first trained to help someone with a sleep disorder

Annick’s new canine companion has given her the independence she has long craved for.

She said: ‘I had been handicapped by my condition for many years and now I feel like I have been given a second life.’

Meanwhile Dr Le Bon hopes more dogs will be trained to help narcoleptic patients who don’t respond to medication.

‘I have met several other patients with sleep disorders who are interested in our success, and the charity Couer a couer has agreed to do the training,’ he said.

Annick’s unique case has been reported in the Christmas edition of the British Medical Journal.

Angie Hart Carey Lowell

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Fungal Meningitis Patients: A Long Road to Recovery

Dec. 26, 2012 — Johnnie McKee thought she was out of the woods.

McKee, a 72-year-old grandmother of four from Bethpage, Tenn., was one of nearly 14,000 people who found out this fall that they’d been exposed to tainted medications made by the now shuttered New England Compounding Center.

In her case, the threat came from a steroid shot that she’d had on Sept. 7 to relieve some nagging back pain.

“We got a letter. We were told that if we could make it 28 days, that we’d be clear,” says Fred McKee, her husband of 51 years. “We watched it and worried about it,” says Fred, his voice filling with emotion.

But Johnnie felt fine. She didn’t have any of the symptoms they were told to look for — headaches, nausea, fever.

The waiting period passed, and she felt good enough to get back to her yard, which she had always tended with great care. “She mowed the lawn,” says Fred.

Then, on Oct. 8, the pain hit like a bolt of lightning at the base of her spine. “It was just excruciating pain,” says Fred. Their surgeon told them to drive to the emergency room at St. Thomas Hospital in Nashville, where doctors had started to treat a wave of patients who were battling a rare type of fungal meningitis, an infection of the brain and spinal cord.

“There were three criteria they looked for to determine if you have fungal meningitis, and she met all three,” Fred says.

Still, he says, they didn’t worry. But that may have been because they didn’t understand what was coming.

“I don’t think we really realized that we were really getting into a two- to three-month hospitalization period and a six-month-to-a-year complete recovery,” he says.

An Outbreak Without Precedent

Since the outbreak began, 620 people have been infected and 39 have died in 19 states. No one has been cured.

“As far as we know, no one has been taken off medicines, and we wouldn’t recommend that now; it’s still too early,” says Tom M. Chiller, MD, MPH, deputy chief of the Mycotic Diseases Branch at the CDC in Atlanta.

Many hope they are on the road to recovery, but no one can tell them when it will end.

Experts say they’ve never seen these kind of fungal infections, much less this many cases.

“It’s very difficult for the doctors and the patients because we can’t say, ‘Well, just two more weeks of this and it will be over.’ What we’re saying is that we’re going to keep treating you. We’re going to keep caring for you, and when the experts tell us we can stop, we’re going to do that,” says William Schaffner, MD, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

Angie Hart Carey Lowell

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Teenager with spina bifida who was told to ‘get used to a wheelchair’ walks again after pioneering operation

  • Charlotte was confined to a wheelchair aged 11 and told to ‘just get on with it’
  • But expert at Southampton General Hospital was convinced she could get Charlotte standing again
  • Days before 18th birthday Charlotte underwent a complex operation to lengthen the tight muscles at the hips, knees and feet
  • She can now walk and says it feels ‘completely natural’

By Claire Bates

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Charlotte Volante on a Jersey beach. Now she is walking her new ambition is to learn how to drive

Charlotte Volante on a Jersey beach. Now she is walking her new ambition is to learn how to drive

A teenager who was told to get on with life in a wheelchair life because she would never walk again is now walking after a pioneering operation.

Charlotte Volante, from Jersey, had been confined to a wheelchair since the age of 11 after being born with spina bifida and hydrocephalus (water on the brain).

But children’s orthopaedic expert Caroline Edwards was confident she could get Charlotte standing again.

After a complex operation in July this year to lengthen the tight muscles at the hips, knees and feet, Charlotte amazed her family by standing up next to her hospital bed.

Supported by a nurse and her mother Bernadette, 52, the teenager then walked around her ward and the nurses’ station at Southampton General Hospital.

The breakthrough was just 10 days before her 18th birthday and left Charlotte and her family with a double reason to celebrate.

Charlotte, the youngest of five girls and two boys, said: ‘When I was 11, I was given an electric wheelchair and told to just get on with it.

‘After I met Caroline, I agreed to let her do the op she suggested but I didn’t really know if it would work.

‘Walking again after my operation did not feel strange and it didn’t hurt; it just felt completely natural.’

It has been a long road for Charlotte as she and her parents have made more than 500 return trips to Southampton for treatment. She had already undergone 42 surgical procedures on her head, legs, back and stomach.

Charlotte was born with spina bifida – a fault in the development of the spinal cord and surrounding bones (vertebrae) that had left a gap in her spine. She also developed the related condition hydrocephalus – where cerebro-spinal fluid doesn’t drain into the blood stream properly.

She will still need to return to Southampton for further treatment including having new splints fitted.

Her father Tony, 50, said: ‘We have been coming to Southampton General Hospital regularly since Charlotte was just a day old and have nothing but good things to say about it.

‘The staff have been brilliant and there are still one or two we remember from when we first came in all those years ago.’

Meanwhile, Charlotte is hoping to fulfil another dream – learning to drive.

‘Caroline has given me the drive to go on and make all my dreams a reality and I now hope to begin to drive – and I’m already saving for a car,’ she said.

Charlotte with her mother Bernadette and father Tony

Charlotte with her mother Bernadette and father Tony: They have all been impressed with Charlotte’s treatment at Southampton General Hospital

Charlotte is one of 15 children and young people who have benefited from a pioneering accelerated rehabilitation programme developed by the hospital.

The programme can see patients walking within six weeks of hip surgery through the use of a removable brace.

Conventionally, patients are placed in plaster shorts – known as a spica – for six to eight weeks. These hold the hip in place but limit movement, causing muscle wastage, delaying the start of therapy treatment and preventing them from standing for at least three months.

Under accelerated rehabilitation, patients are placed in their brace at night or during periods of rest following surgery, allowing early movement and standing to preserve muscle strength or comfortable seating.

The programme is already helping young cerebral palsy patients as well as those with spina bifida, where a series of birth defects affect the development of the spine and nervous system.

‘It is fantastic to see children and young people like Charlotte to be up on their feet so soon after major invasive surgery – the early movement with the brace seems to be the key,’ said Miss Edwards.

‘I am delighted for Charlotte and her family, especially as they thought she would never walk again.’

Tonya Harding Michelle Johnson

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Meningitis, West Nile occupy U.S. health officials in 2012

Tonya Snyder, a Mycology Specialist in the Vanderbilt Clinical Microbiology Lab for patient care examines samples to isolate and identify specimens for growth in Nashville, Tennessee on October 19, 2012. REUTERS/Harrison McClary

Tonya Snyder, a Mycology Specialist in the Vanderbilt Clinical Microbiology Lab for patient care examines samples to isolate and identify specimens for growth in Nashville, Tennessee on October 19, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Harrison McClary

NEW YORK | Wed Dec 26, 2012 5:38pm EST

(Reuters) – The year started in the United States with a mild flu season but ended up being marked by deadly outbreaks of fungal meningitis, West Nile virus and Hantavirus.

Tainted steroid medication has been cited as the cause of the meningitis outbreak that killed 39 people.

Weather contributed to the worst outbreak of West Nile virus since 2003 and an unusual outbreak of Hantavirus in California’s Yosemite National Park.

Transmitted by infected mice, Hantavirus is a severe, sometimes fatal syndrome that affects the lungs. West Nile can cause encephalitis or meningitis, infection of the brain and spinal cord or their protective covering.

As of December 11, 5,387 cases of West Nile virus had been reported in 48 states, resulting in 243 deaths, the CDC said in its final 2012 update on the outbreak. The 2003 outbreak left 264 dead from among nearly 10,000 reported cases.

A large number of cases this year occurred in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi where there are large mosquito populations.

CDC and state officials have said that rainfall in the spring and record high summer temperatures contributed to the severity of the outbreak by affecting mosquito populations, which transmit the disease by biting humans and animals.

Health officials said that only a small percentage of cases of West Nile virus are reported because most people have no symptoms and about 20 percent have mild symptoms such as aches and fever. One in 150 people with West Nile virus develop other illnesses such as meningitis and encephalitis.

The biggest outbreak in nearly two decades of Hantavirus, which emerges in dry and dusty environments, cropped up during the summer in 1,200-square-mile (3,100-square-km) Yosemite National Park, killing three of 10 infected visitors.

The National Park issued warnings to 22,000 people who may have been exposed to the rare disease, and 91 Curry Village cabins in the park were closed in late August.

In early September, a 78-year-old judge named Eddie Lovelace was rushed to a hospital in Nashville, Tennessee. Thought to have had a stroke, he died a few days later.

After a large outbreak of fungal meningitis was linked to tainted steroid injections, Lovelace’s cause of death was revised. He became the first documented death in a meningitis outbreak that has infected 620 people and killed 39 in 19 states.

The New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Massachusetts, was closed after investigators found that it had shipped thousands of fungus-tainted vials of methylprednisolone acetate to medical facilities around the United States. The steroid was typically used to ease back pain.

More than 14,000 people were warned that they may have had an injection of the tainted steroid. Doctors continue to see new cases of spinal infections related to the steroid, and cases of achnoiditis, an inflammation of nerve roots in the spine.

The outbreak led two Democratic lawmakers in the U.S. House of representatives to introduce legislation to increase government oversight of compounded drugs.

And what lies ahead in 2013?

“While there are some trends we can predict, the most reliable trend is that the next threat will be unpredictable,” said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Thomas Frieden.

(This refile corrects paragraph two to 39 instead of 243)

(Reporting by Adam Kerlin; Editing by Paul Thomasch)

Alex Kingston Helena Christensen

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From supermodels in the army to catwalk shows during missile attacks, Tel Aviv Fashion Week sets standards with ban of underweight models amid Gaza conflict

By Olivia Fleming

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As the last model left the runway at Tel Aviv Fashion Week, the Israeli city came under attack for the first time in 20 years.

But despite, or perhaps because of, the country’s escalating conflict with Palestine, Tel Aviv was determined to take its place as a burgeoning fashion capital with its second Fashion Week in nearly 30 years.

And as the first missiles began to fall in reaction to the Israel Defense Force’s assassination of Hamas’ military chief on November 14, Vice’s Charlet Duboc went behind-the-scenes of the new Fashion Week, where the size of its models is dictated by law and supermodels are also soldiers.

Tel Aviv fashion Week: Vice's Charlet Duboc went behind-the-scenes of the new Fashion Week, where the size of its models is dictated by law and supermodels are also soldiers

Tel Aviv fashion Week: Vice’s Charlet Duboc went behind-the-scenes of the new Fashion Week, where the size of its models is dictated by law and supermodels are also soldiers

Miss Duboc, the host of Vice’s web series Fashion Week Internationale, spoke to the Israeli government about the country’s new law that bans models with a Body Mass Index (BMI) below 18.5. The law also bans the use of Photoshop to make a model’s body look thinner than it really is.

Asked if the law, which went into effect in March this year, will be enforced during Tel Aviv Fashion Week, Einat Wilf, chairwoman of the Knesset (the unicameral legislator of Israel), said: ‘Right now, models need to have a certain body mass index. And also their images can not be Photoshopped. So basically it is enforced.’

However, with international brands such as Italian fashion house Moschino also taking part in the three-day Fashion Week, Ms Wilf admitted to a certain level of skepticism.

‘As a legislator, [Knesset] is aware many of our laws do not get enforced. So I’m not sure how well this one will be.’

In Israel, for ages 15-24, the main cause of death is anorexia’

 

BMI is the globally accepted method for estimating human body fat based on an individual’s weight and height. A BMI of below 18.5 is considered underweight.

Critics have said the legislation should focus on health not weight, as some models are naturally thin, and a person’s BMI does not take genetics into account.

Bill Shapiro, part of Moschino’s design team, seemed in support of the new legislation, saying: ‘Fashion is about making woman feel cool and beautiful, but that doesn’t necessarily mean ill, obviously.’

Supermodel to soldier: Elle cover girl Esti Ginzburg, now 22 (left) completed her obligatory two years of service for the IDF, which requires national service to be completed by girls, in 2011 (right)

According to non-government organization, Women and Their Bodies, over 30per cent of women in Israel, including ‘a very high percentage’ of adolescents, are not satisfied with their body. The percentage of Israeli adolescent girls who have various eating disorders is one of the highest in the world.

Rachel Adato, a member of the Knesset, explained: ‘In Israel, for the young group, 15-24, the main cause of death is anorexia. Not cancer. Not car accidents. Not suicide. But anorexia.’

Likud MK Danny Danon, a sponsor of the bill, called the measure a ‘knockout in the war’ against anorexia.

‘This will help eradicate eating disorders,’ he said, adding that the measure is also important in sending a strong message to the modelling industry that ‘life is more important than money.’

Adi Barkan, an Israeli modeling agent and photographer who founded Simply-U, a model agency that strictly represents girls with a ‘healthy’ BMI, agrees.

After a model he advised to lose 10lbs almost staved herself to death, he put all his energy into pushing legislation stating that models with a BMI of under 18.5 will not be able to work, and Photoshpped advertised images must carry a disclaimer.

New shape of models: Israel’s new law bans models with a Body Mass Index (BMI) below 18.5, these models are from Simply-U, a model agency which represents models of a BMI above 18.5 only

Work requirement: Many models, like top Israeli model Adi Neumman who, with a BMI of 18.3 fails to qualify for jobs under the new legislation, will lose the opportunity to work in Israel

Work requirement: Many models, like top Israeli model Adi Neumman who, with a BMI of 18.3 fails to qualify for jobs under the new legislation, will lose the opportunity to work in Israel

‘I am sure that the law is going to save lives,’ he says, arguing it is necessary to protect both the interests of models as well as the impressionable young public.

Many models, like top Israeli model Adi Neumman, who, with a BMI of 18.3 fails to qualify for jobs under the new legislation even though she eats well and exercises, lost the opportunity to walk during Fashion Week.

But Mr Barken says this is a price worth paying. ‘Even if another hundred girls are not working, take the hundred girls you hear scream. And I take the half million girls who are going to die. Who screams more? Who?’

Mr Barken believes that if he targets the fashion industry through how they can advertise (If they break the law, they lose money), he will ‘have them by the balls.’

However working model Lana Zelezova, who has a BMI under 18.5, said she doesn’t believe that this will bring about change.

‘It starts with the designer,’ she said. ‘And the designer wouldn’t want to put some clothes on the girls which are a little bit more… bigger.’

International support: Bill Shapiro, part of Italian fashion house Moschino's design team, said: 'Fashion is about making woman feel cool and beautiful, but that doesn't necessarily mean ill, obviously'

International support: Bill Shapiro, part of Italian fashion house Moschino’s design team, said: ‘Fashion is about making woman feel cool and beautiful, but that doesn’t necessarily mean ill, obviously’

International press: The President of Tel Aviv Fashion Week, Lev Ofir, said at a press conference, 'We want to show the world we have very, very creative people in Israel'

International press: The President of Tel Aviv Fashion Week, Lev Ofir, said at a press conference, ‘We want to show the world we have very, very creative people in Israel’

Pushing boundaries: Many photographers and designers are broaching social issues with their work

Pushing boundaries: Many photographers and designers broach social issues with their work during Tel Aviv fashion week

Another model, Danielle Segal, who admitted that her diet once consumed her life, said: ‘I can’t even imagine what Fashion TV would look like without anorexic models. For me now, I don’t think [the new law] will make a lot of difference, but for my daughter one day, it will make a difference’.

With the hope that Israel’s decision will impact the very make-up of high fashion, Mr Barken added: ‘If we change it, I’m sure that the States and Europe will follow us.’

He is not the only Israeli photographer tackling social issues with his work, either.

‘It’s the Israeli spirit, we could die every day… So we just live every day the best we can’

 

Lior Nordman, who made headlines with a controversial shoot for magazine Belle Mode, in which he parodied a news story about gender segregation on Israel’s public buses, admitted that ‘People say you’re just doing it for attention.

‘But that’s bulls**t,’ he said.

Women must sit at the back of certain buses that serve Israel’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities, who believe there should be no physical contact between the sexes unless they are married. Mr Nordman’s ongoing series ‘why cant we all just get along’, which features models dressed as members of different religions in intimate poses, aims to break the country’s political and religious taboos.

Entering his studio, Miss Duboc narrates for the camera: ‘We’re witnessing this very unlikely scene of a semi-clad solider, and a naked model in kind of, vaguely Islamic garb.

Supporter: Adi Barkan is an Israeli modeling agent and photographer who founded Simply-U, a model agency that strictly represents girls with a 'healthy' BMI

Supporter: Adi Barkan is an Israeli modeling agent and photographer who founded Simply-U, a model agency that strictly represents girls with a ‘healthy’ BMI

‘And she happens to have a big tattoo over her vagina and clitoral piercings, which is a nice touch.’

Mr Nordman explained that he wants to create ‘an atmosphere of a relationship between two people who are so far away from each other, it is unreachable.’

The model he is using, however, is from Slovakia because ‘an Israeli model would never do that,’ he said. ‘They are afraid to touch political subjects because they are afraid later on it’s going to hurt them in this campaign or that campaign.’

Israeli models, meanwhile, are more likely to be found in their country’s army.

The Israel defense force (IDF) is the only army in the world that requires national service to be completed by girls, and no one is exempt, not even supermodels.

Elle cover girl and Sports Illustrated model Esti Ginzburg, 19, completed her obligatory two years of service last year. She made headlines when she criticized fellow Israeli model Bar Rafaeli for using a short-lived marriage to a family friend to avoid military service.

She said at the time, in 2009: ‘If you live in this country, and you grow up in this country, then you have to serve, and do the minimum. It’s the value I grew up on. Even though it’s hard, it’s what I need to do.’

Proving the Israeli’s persistent normality in the face of constant madness, amid air raid sirens a male model backstage during the shows told Miss Duboc: ‘It’s the Israeli spirit, we could die every day, you know? So we just live every day the best we can.’

Controversial: Lior Nordman's ongoing series 'why cant we all just get along', features models dressed as members of different religions in intimate poses with soldiers, aims to break political and religious taboos

Controversial: Lior Nordman’s ongoing series ‘why cant we all just get along’, features models dressed as members of different religions in intimate poses with soldiers, aims to break political and religious taboos

Strong voice: Mr Nordman explained that as an Israeli, he wants to create 'an atmosphere of a relationship between two people who are so far away from each other, it is unreachable'

Strong voice: Mr Nordman explained that as an Israeli, he wants to create ‘an atmosphere of a relationship between two people who are so far away from each other, it is unreachable’

The President of Tel Aviv Fashion Week, Lev Ofir, echoed this sentiment at a press conference just three days before the IDF launched Operation Pillar of Defense to eliminate militants and weapon sites in the Gaza strip, which began with a targeted missile attack in Gaza city, assassinating Hamas military chief Ahmed al-Jabari.

Mr Ofir said of his city full of designers, models, actresses, stylists and photographers: ‘We want to show the world we have very, very creative people in Israel.

‘We are changing the concept of how Israel looks, we are not just some place in the Mediterranean that has some camels and M16s.’

With journalists from Milan, Hong Kong, Berlin, Paris and Los Angeles watching the innovative collections by unknown Israeli designers, it seems Mr Ofir may have succeeded.

The Hollywood Reporter, which covered the event from November 11-14, wrote: ‘These designer names might not mean much outside of Israel, but we have a feeling they will soon.

‘To think Israel might finally come to be associated with something cultural and uplifting like fashion… It deserves it, and the world should take notice.’

Janice Joplin Marisol Thomas

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