Stories about: Teen health

Five things about living with Erb’s Palsy that you probably won’t find on Google

Kailyn Looby is 16-years old and has Erb’s Palsy; an injury suffered at birth that resulted in the permanent damage to nerves in her neck and shoulder. Despite the physical limitations of her disability, she enjoys soccer, hiking, swimming, rock climbing and kayaking. She loves music and wants to travel the world someday.

I’m a 16-year-old high school junior with a left brachial plexus injury (BPI). This injury has always been part of my life, and things got rough a few years ago. Here’s what I learned:

1. You need a good support system.

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You also need to surround yourself with supportive friends. I haven’t always had understanding friends, but when I got to high school, I met five of the most amazing, supportive people ever. That support makes all the difference. It makes everything easier knowing that you’ve got someone to back you up.

2. Meeting other kids with BPI is hugely important.

This injury has led me to connect with so many amazing people through organizations like the United Brachial Plexus Network (UBPN). I’ve met Paralympians and a man who summited Mount Everest. The other kids that I’ve met at Camp UBPN are so inspiring. I’ve made some lifelong friends. We compare hair styling techniques or surgery experiences.

It’s important, for me at least, to interact with people like me. No matter how supportive your friends and family are, the only people who can ever truly understand what living with this injury is like are other people who have it.

I’m not afraid to put myself out there when I’m surrounded by people like me. I tried archery at the last UBPN camp. I would have been much more hesitant trying it back at home, because I’d look different. It’s not something I can put into words—how it feels to be around people who get it.

3. Find your outlet.

Unfortunately, you can’t be at UBPN camp 24/7, so there needs to be an outlet. This injury can be frustrating, and it can make you angry, and sometimes it just feels so unfair. Find a way to let all the negative energy out.

My outlets are writing and music. I wrote down everything I was feeling. Getting it on paper helps me sort out what I am feeling. Music is my stress relief. When I have a bad pain day or am just frustrated, I plug in my iPod and jam.

4. Speak up.

I think it’s important that I have input in the decisions made involving my arm and treatment. That can go both ways though. There was a time when I refused to try anything, because I was convinced it wouldn’t work. Everything I had tried thus far had failed and I ended up in pain, and the slight chance that the newest idea would work wasn’t worth it to me.

It was important that I had some say in the decision-making process, but no one could convince me to take another chance. It’s a hard balance to achieve.

Also, don’t be afraid to educate people about the injury. It’s important to advocate for yourself. You’re going to have to explain it a lot—to classmates, to teachers, to coaches. I’ve got the spiel down pat. Speaking up has opened up a lot of doors for me. I’ve had the opportunity to speak for the Understanding Disabilities program in my town for several years. Last year, I had the privilege to speak as part of a panel at the John Hopkins Symposium in Baltimore.

5. The forecast is foggy, but the future is bright.

There is no way to know what this injury will throw at you. It’s bound to not be very fun sometimes. It took me three years to find a solution to my pain, but I found a solution, and so will you. The road to getting to the solution can be frustrating. There will be questions, especially when it comes time to drive, apply for a job or apply to college. You’ll figure it out. I’m going to risk sounding extremely cheesy saying this, but you can do whatever you want to do. This injury won’t hold you back from doing anything, as long as you don’t let it.

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Making sure your children aren’t driving distracted

A new study released by the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine attempts to show just how dangerous distracted driving can be for young people. The report states that drivers, especially young and inexperienced ones, are at a far greater risk to get into a car accident when they get distracted by things like cell phones, looking at roadside scenery or eating while driving.

And while the study’s findings aren’t exactly groundbreaking, it is cold hard proof of just how serious a problem distracted driving has become in the mobile communication era.

So, if we all know that distracted driving is dangerous, what can we do to make sure the message sticks with young drivers, most of whom have grown up with a cell phone always within reach? It’s a question Maria McMahon, MSN, manager of the Trauma Center at Boston Children’s Hospital, has spent a lot of time thinking about. “As a mother, one of my biggest fears was my son getting his license,” she says. “Cars are dangerous machines. When you factor in all the mistakes a young, inexperienced driver can make, even without distractions, it’s more than enough to scare any parent.”

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A year after Sandy Hook, our children aren’t any safer from guns

I still can’t think about the Sandy Hook shooting without starting to cry.

It hit me really hard, because when it happened, I had a first-grader whose classroom was right off the main lobby of his public elementary school. If a shooter like Adam Lanza ever stormed into his school, Liam wouldn’t have a chance.

I can’t imagine life without Liam. If he were to die, I can’t imagine how I would endure the pain—and yet the Newtown parents have done so, day after day. And now they have to endure the anniversary of their children’s brutal, unnecessary death. We should be able to say something meaningful to those parents; we should be able to show them how the deaths of their children moved us to action.

As Dr. McInerny, the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), said: “Every child who dies due to gun violence is someone’s son or daughter, brother or sister.” Every day, around seven children are killed by firearms.  Gun injuries are the second leading cause of death in our youth– they kill twice as many as cancer and fifteen times as many as infections. We owe something to these children—and their devastated families.

There was certainly a lot of talk about action after the Newtown shooting: everything from banning assault rifles to using assault rifles to protect schools.  And there has been some action. There are new gun safety laws in six states—but in most of those states, legal challenges have been mounted.

This isn’t about taking away the right to own and responsibly use a gun—and yet, somehow efforts to keep children safe end up being seen that way. I firmly believe that the vast majority of gun owners are responsible and know how to keep everyone around them safe from their guns. But a gun is different from most possessions: in the wrong hands, or used in the wrong way, it can cause incredible destruction.

Here’s what the AAP recommends:

  • Stronger gun laws, including an effective assault weapons ban (it’s just not necessary for the average citizen to own one), mandatory background checks on all firearm purchases (there are way too many loopholes) and a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines. (Again: there’s no reason for the average citizen to own one).
  • Research into the causes and prevention of gun violence. We know that mental health problems can lead to gun violence, but most people with mental health problems don’t go on shooting rampages. We need to understand better the signs that someone with mental health problems—or anyone–may become violent. We need to understand how we can intervene—and what really works when it comes to preventing gun violence, as opposed to what we think might work.
  • Strengthening the quality of mental health care and access to services for children. Actually, we need better care and access for everyone—which will cost us money, and involve fighting the stigma that can come with getting mental health care. But we need to make it happen.

While we are arguing over laws, there are steps all of us can take to keep our children safe. We can keep guns locked up, with ammunition locked separately. We can teach kids to be safe around guns. When our children go to other people’s homes, we can ask those parents if they have a gun—and if so, how they store it.

Please: let’s not let these children have died in vain. Let’s not let our fears and ideologies get in the way of keeping our children safe. Let’s concentrate on what binds us instead of what separates us.

If anything should bind us, it’s saving the lives of children.

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Emergency Department visits related to Molly narcotic skyrocket

Molly can be in pill or powder form, and can be diluted in a drink

Emergency Department (ED) visits related to the drug MDMA have exploded recently, fueled by the popularity of Molly—a powdered form of the drug often celebrated in popular culture. A recent report from U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration shows that among young people, ED trips for MDMA have increased 128 percent between 2005 and 2011.

Molly, which doubles as both a stimulant and hallucinogen, gives the user a euphoric high but can also dangerously increase the heartbeat, spike blood pressure, constrict blood vessels and disrupt the body’s ability to regulate and recognize temperature.

But despite all its dangers, Molly maintains a soft public image.

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