West Palm family mourns son, warns of nut allergy dangers

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 12: In this photo illustration, A jar of Smucker's Natural peanut butter is pictured on October 12, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. This summer's hot, dry weather devastated the Runner peanut crop, the variety most commonly used in making peanut butter, causing prices of raw peanuts to soar. The resulting increase in peanut prices is expected to raise the price consumers pay for peanut butter by more that 25 percent on most major brands. (Photo Illustration by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
(Photo Illustration by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Update Fri. Dec. 2: 

Oakley Debbs had a deadly combination: a severe allergy to nuts and acute asthma. And in a moment when the 11-year-old’s guard was down over the Thanksgiving holiday, a bite of coffee cake was all it took to fatally undo years of caution.

What torments his parents more than a week later is that they thought they had stopped the allergic reaction in its tracks.

Believing her son was on the brink of an asthma attack, she ran for that medication and her husband, Robert Debbs, stepped in.

Oakley Debbs’ heart stopped in a hospital room at 1:55 a.m. Saturday. But, says Robert, “He died in my arms Wednesday night when he was convulsing. He just went limp.”

Read the full story here. 

 

 

Original post: A West Palm Beach family is grief-stricken by the death of their 11-year-old boy over the Thanksgiving holiday, but is pushing through that pain with an aim to raise awareness about the dangers of nut allergies.

Oakley Debbs died from complications triggered by such an allergy while he was out of town visiting relatives for the holiday, family confirmed this week. A piece of cake appears to be the culprit.

Oakley was an athlete and a student at Roasarian Academy – and he favored red sneakers. And now his friends and family are donning them as well. His parents, Merrill and Robert Debbs, told our news partners at WPTV Channel 5 that they intend to start a foundation to raise awareness about food allergies, but for now the red sneakers are a symbol of support.

An estimated 4 percent to 6 percent of children in the United States have a food allergy, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Serious allergic reactions typically come from eight foods or groups of food: milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, wheat, soy, peanuts and tree nuts. Yes, peanuts are not the same as tree nuts – you can have an allergy to one and not the other.

Food allergies among children have become more common in the last two decades, the CDC reports. And at their worst, those with allergies can suffer a severe reaction called anaphylaxis  when exposed to the offending food.

The reaction can happen within seconds or minutes of exposure and sends the body into shock. Symptoms can include rash, nausea and vomiting, but also sudden drop in blood pressure and the swelling of airways.

 

 

 

Health care refugees: Couple flees Florida after Medicaid nightmare

A Boynton Beach couple said they left Florida – a state they loved – because they could not get adequate health care for their ailing 5-year-old daughter through Medicaid.
CNN’s series on health care refugees started this week with Kim and Richard Muszynski. The couple in September packed their bags and took their ailing 5-year-old daughter, Abby, to Colorado.
Abby was born with a missing a piece of her brain and is subject to violent seizures.
Like Abby, nearly early half of all children in Florida get their health care through the state-run health insurance Medicaid. Abby ended up on Medicaid when Kim Muszynski left her job – and lost the health insurance that came with it – to care for her daughter full-time.
Abby ended up on Medicaid when Kim Muszynski left her job – and lost the health insurance that came with it — to care for her daughter full-time.
Florida Medicaid refused to pay for lifesaving medicines and initially denied payment for a wheelchair. CNN reported. Sometimes Medicaid took so long to pay some of her health care providers that they refused to treat Abby, CNN reported.
Sometimes Medicaid took so long to pay some of her health care providers that they refused to treat Abby, according to the cable news network.
The Agency for Health Care Administration, which runs Medicaid for Florida, disagreed with the CNN report. “The state has done everything in its power to support this family,” said Mallory McManus,  spokeswoman for the agency.
A federal judge ruled in a civil suit that 2015 that Florida had violated the law by underpaying doctors. The state later reached a settlement.
“Florida’s Medicaid program is currently operating at the highest level of quality in its history,” McManus said.
abruzzo
State Sen. Joseph Abruzzo
AHCA and CNN also have clashed in the past.
AHCA criticized the cable news network for its story on the pediatric heart surgery program at St. Mary’s Medical Center.
AHCA characterized the June 2015 story as “sensationalized reporting.”
St. Mary’s program closed down shortly after the story ran.
The network is currently being sued for defamation by the surgeon who established the program.
Now CNN is back in South Florida reporting on the Muszynskis.
In February, the family got word she was being kicked off Medicaid by the state of Florida until state Sen. Joseph Abruzzo interceded, CNN reported.
The couple was told by the state Abby was dropped because of a computer glitch but still the family had trouble getting coverage for her. So, they decided it was time to leave Florida.
To read the whole CNN story on the Muszynskis click here.

Could party drug ‘Special-K’ be miracle cure for clinical depression?

Internist Dr. John Sortino said a few years ago a good friend’s mother died and he watched his pal fall into a deep clinical depression.

He would invite him to his Boca Raton practice to keep an eye him, watching as he sobbed for eight hours straight.

“I’ve never seen a grown man cry that long,” Sortino said.

The $11 billion anti-depressant industry didn’t help Sortino’s friend. He just got worse taking pills before reading about how the anesthesia-turned-party drug ketamine had shown promise as an off-label medication for severe depression.

2599775E00000578-2950409-The_teenager_said_he_was_unable_to_have_sex_or_play_competitive_-m-11_1423736235079
Could the party drug ketamine be the miracle cure for those suffering from clinical depression?

After some hesitation, Sortino ordered the shot and administered it to his friend. His friend’s suicide ideation immediately ceased.

Now Sortino is bringing this alternate cure to South Florida. He says his new depression center, Kismet Clinic in Boca Raton, was the first to offer the treatment in Palm Beach County and is one of two establishments offering ketamine  currently.

Typical drugs for depression take months to work.

“The discovery of ketamine’s ability to effectively treat depression represents the most significant leap in mental health advancements in more than 50 years,” Dr. Sortino states.

Ketamine was used for medical and veterinarian surgery to put patients to sleep before surgery. Then the club scene got a hold of it, dubbed it Special-K. Users would enter a hallucinogenic  “K-Hole” similar to a catatonic state.

And while the use of ketamine for mental illness has its detractors, Sortino has administered more than 300 treatments, seeing varying success in all of them — sometimes within minutes of taking the drug.

kismet-clinic-exterior-01
The Kismet Clinic says it was the first clinic in South Florida to offer ketamine for patients suffering from depression.

The Food & Drug Administration fast-tracked the approval for the use of ketamine for mental illness. He said it is very effective in patients obsessing about suicide.

“Honestly, it was unlike anything I had ever seen when I first saw its effects four years ago,”  Dr. Dawn Ionescu, a staff psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital, told Time earlier this year.

“We were seeing patients who were depressed for years and tried many different medications, sometimes even electroconvulsive therapy, and nothing worked. But a single infusion improved their depression within hours.”

The Kismet Clinic does have a celebrity once removed saying ketamine worked for him.  Michael Lohan,  father of Lindsay Lohan and a Delray Beach resident. is a patient.

“The treatment was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before,” Lohan said. “During the procedure, it felt like the layers of anxiety and pain were being pulled out of me.

While critics say ketamine’s use on depression is usually short lasting, Lohan said he has used the treatment along with meditation to maintain most of the benefit of the drug treatment.

Sortino told the Post that ketamine affects  neurotransmitters in the brain gamma and glutamate, as opposed to popular SSRI medications that target the neurotransmitter serotonin or others that work on norepinephrine or dopamine.

Drug companies are working hard to make a byproduct of ketamine, the doctor said. But for now, Special-K for depression remains something new.

“It is a novel approach to depression. It is not mainstream medicine yet,” he said.

Surgeon General drops historic report on addiction

UPDATE 12:46 p.m. A half-century ago, the office of the U.S. Surgeon General – the country’s top doctor – issued a report on tobacco that started a cultural shift in a Mad Men-era America where cigarettes were ubiquitous to one today where they are shunned and forever connected to lung cancer.

Now that office under U.S. Surgeon Vice Admiral Dr. Vivek H. Murthy hopes to inspire a similar sea change with its first ever report on addiction. It aims to remove the public stigma of the disease by defining once and for all as a neurological brain disorder that needs to be treated as any other chronic condition.

“My hope with this report is that it will galvanize our country to address the addiction crisis,” Murthy said in a press availability today.

Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs and Health, comes the same day as the online release of The Palm Beach Post’s investigation, Heroin: Killer of A Generation, which outlines the scope of an epidemic that killed 216 people from overdose in the county in 2015.

Much of his findings have been accepted in the recovery community for years, even decades. But Murthy wants the public to understand that addiction is a disease, not one of simple self-control.

Murthy said he aims to change the way America views addiction. “I’m calling out country to action,” he said. “I’m calling for a cultural shift in how we think about addiction, that we recognize that it is not a moral failing.”

He said, in fact, addiction is neurological disorder of the brain and “is not a disease of choice.”

The report states the pressing need for an overhaul in the way the country thinks about addiction, stating that almost 22.5 million people reported using an illegal drug in the last year, 20 million have substance abuse issues and 12.5 million abuse prescription pain pills.

Every day, 78 people die in the U.S. from heroin or heroin-related drugs.

Among other findings is that only 10 percent of those now addicted receive treatment and that the economic impact of drug and alcohol misuse and addiction amounts to $442 billion each year.

One in seven Americans will struggle with some type of alcohol or drug addiction, the report states.

What is needed is a multi-pronged approach of medication, counseling and social support, along with evidence-based interventions to prevent addiction in the first place, according to the report.

Murtha will talk about addiction with other experts at an event later today in Los Angeles.

Without being implicit, the report offers an alternative to incarceration for those suffering from addiction and hails a system of recovery support services – or RSS – to keep recovered addicts from relapsing. The most-well known RSS, the report points out, is Alcoholics Anonymous but there are many  resources.

The report also endorses needle-exchange programs and other solutions, including medication to wean addicts off of heroin.

US Surgeon General Vice Admiral (VADM) Vivek H. Murthy, M.D., M.B.A., center, tours FoundCare in West Palm Beach on February 6, 2015. (Thomas Cordy / The Palm Beach Post)
US Surgeon General Vice Admiral (VADM) Vivek H. Murthy,  tours FoundCare  last year (Thomas Cordy / The Palm Beach Post)

For those on the front-lines battling addiction in Palm Beach County, the report was like the bugle call of the cavalry arriving.

James N. Hall, an epidemiologist at Nova Southeastern University, has been watching heroin’s march through the community for five years.

“This is a landmark report from the Surgeon General of the United States,” he said. “It is an open call for key policy shifts making this a No. 1 public health issue rather than a moral or criminal issue.”

Heroin
The new Surgeon General’s report defines addiction as a chronic neurological disorder.

He called on political leaders to “tackle this age-old problem that is more dangerous, more addictive and more deadly in 2016 than any other time in our lives.”

Dr. Anthony Campo is the Medical Director at Caron Renaissance and Ocean Drive. He said the report was “ground-breaking” and “long overdue.”

He thinks the de-stigmatizing of addiction and making treatment more available will go a long way in dealing with the crisis.

“When you look at the figures, overdoses takes a life every 19 minutes,” Campo said. “Criminalizing substance abuse disorders didn’t work. It has to be treatment.”

How Murthy’s report — particularly his call to “invest more” in treatment and prevention – goes over with  President-Elect Donald Trump is unknown.

Trump, though, knows the ravages of addiction.  His brother Freddy, died as an alcoholic in 1981 at the age of 43. As a result, Trump doesn’t drink.

“How we respond to this crisis is a moral test for America,” Murthy said. “Are we a nation willing to take on an epidemic that is causing great human suffering and economic loss? Are we able to live up to that most fundamental obligation we have as human beings: to care for one another?”

Trauma Drama: Tenet, HCA fighting over providing critical care

The hospital wars — readily apparent on practically every other billboard down the interstate — has now bled over into trauma with accusations that expansion by a competitor into the area threatens “the entire care system in our country.”

The fight pits two giants against each other: Tenet Healthcare and HCA Healthcare and puts taxpayers in the middle as the whole system is administered by the Health Care District of Palm Beach County.

Currently, the county’s state-designated Level 1 trauma centers are St. Mary’s Medical Center and Delray Medical Center.

Trauma centers handle the most extreme cases of emergencies, such as car accidents,  gunshot wounds. Life and death hang in the balance with each case that comes through the doors.

TraumaHawk
Tenet and HCA healthcare companies are squaring off over which hospitals will provide trauma in the county.

The current trauma drama stems from Tenet competitor JFK Medical Center in Atlanta filing a letter of intent with the Department of Health on Sept. 30 to upgrade its trauma care services to Level 2 that would cater only to adults.

It is a first step in formerly submitting an application next year.

In a letter sent out today by Mark Bryan and Gabrielle Finley-Hazle – the CEOs of St. Mary’s Medical Center and Delray Medical Center respectively – the Tenet hospitals excoriate the competitor’s plan, saying it would undercut a system in place for 25 years.

“There will be a lack of qualified trauma surgeons to cover an excess center and decrease trauma center staff proficiency,” the letter states.

In the letter addressed to its board members, the community, employees and doctors, the CEOs say that the proposal goes against the five-year plan approved and submitted to the Department of Health and the Health Care District.

The district is an independent taxing district that operates Trauma Hawk and provides a health care safety net for the county.

122611 (Alyssa Orr/The Palm Beach Post) Atlantis--JFK Medical Center off of South Congress Avenue in Atlantis.
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The letter states since JFK is only offering adult trauma services it means if a tragic event occurs involving an entire family, then parents and children will be split up.

The Post plans on interviewing all players in this trauma drama and will update this story as warranted.

Whether its heart surgery or maternity, hospitals are very aggressive in vying for patients in the county.

St. Mary’s closed down its pediatric heart surgery unit last year following criticism that is now being leveled at JFK’s trauma plan: that the program diluted the number of patients and undercut the proficiency of existing programs in South Florida.

In the letter, the Tenet hospitals point to an investigation by the Tampa Bay Times into how HCA is targeting trauma for profit, charging exorbitant fees that pale in comparison to competitors.

“HCA is capitalizing on a marketplace that is unchecked by politicians or regulators. That has allowed one of the nation’s largest for-profit hospital chains to bill injured patients record fees,” according to the March 2014 story.