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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- After multiple train accidents in recent years were linked to sleep apnea, the New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has announced they will be the first public transportation agency to test conductors and engineers on all its train and bus lines for sleep apnea.

Commuter and subway train crashes across the east coast in recent years have drawn attention to the sleep condition. In 2014, four people died after a Metro North train crashed in the Bronx borough of New York City. The cause was later determined to be the the train engineer's sleep apnea.

People with the condition may not realize the effects of being sleep deprived, Dr. Samuel Friedlander, a sleep specialist and assistant clinical professor at UH Cleveland Medical Center, told ABC News.

"I don't think people realize how problematic being tired is because we get used to it," Friedlander said. "I think what the MTA is doing is a win-win for both employee s and the citizens of New York City."

The MTA had already required Metro-North train engineers be screened for the condition. On Monday they announced screening and possible treatment would be expanded system wide to all train engineers and conductors, as well as bus operators.

"Safety is our top priority and MTA is going further than any other transportation agency in the country to prevent the risks of apnea. With this proposal, we are not just working to implement industry best practices, the MTA is defining best practices," MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast said in a statement. "Sleep apnea is a serious illness and treatment will improve the quality of life for those who have it, and help them live longer."

The screenings will include evaluation of a person's body mass index, their neck circumference and a questionnaire about sleep patterns. At-risk employees will undergo further testing and possible treatment.

Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that causes a person to have shallow breaths or pauses in breathing during the night. Depending on the severity of the disease, it can cause symptoms that wreak havoc on normal sleep patterns causing people to feel groggy or tired during the day.

Sleep apnea can occur for multiple reasons. The National Institutes of Health says half of known cases are related to being overweight. Snoring is the most common symptom, but morning headaches, memory or learning problems, feeling irritable and dry or sore mouth are also signs of having the condition.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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Victor Boyko/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- In an in-depth interview for the latest issue of Rolling Stone magazine, Paris Jackson, the 18-year-old daughter of the late Michael Jackson, opened up about her turbulent past.

Paris Jackson said she was 15 years old when she tried to commit suicide, taking 20 Motrin pills and slitting her wrist, she told the magazine.

She said the attempt came from "thinking that I couldn't do anything right, not thinking I was worthy of living anymore." She added that there were "multiple" other attempts.

"I was doing a lot of things that 13-, 14-, 15-year-olds shouldn't do. I tried to grow up too fast," she said. After her father's death in 2009, the fame was too much, she said. She added that she faced online bullying. "The whole freedom-of-speech thing is great. But I don't think that our Founding Fathers predicted social media when they created all of these amendments and stuff."

Jackson also told the magazine that she was sexually assaulted by a stranger at the age of 14.

"I don't wanna give too many details," she said. "But it was not a good experience at all, and it was really hard for me, and, at the time, I didn't tell anybody."

Jackson said she was helped by a therapeutic school she attended in Utah.

"I was crazy. I was actually crazy. I was going through a lot of, like, teen angst. And I was also dealing with my depression and my anxiety without any help," she said. Now, she said, she's sober and "a completely different person."

As for losing her dad when she was just 11 years old, she said, "They always say time heals ... but it really doesn't ... I lost the only thing that has ever been important to me. So going forward, anything bad that happens can't be nearly as bad as what happened before."

As for any rumors or reports that Michael Jackson wasn't her biological father, she has a very simple answer.

"He is my father. He will always be my father. He never wasn't, and he never will not be," she said.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- On President Trump's first Monday in office, he signed an executive order to reinstate the Mexico City Policy, also called the "global gag rule," which bans federal funding for overseas groups that provide access to or counseling about abortions.

What Is the Mexico City Policy or 'Global Gag Rule'?

The policy bars organizations from receiving U.S. foreign aid if they offer abortion-related services, including counseling on abortion, as part of family-planning services.

The History of Policy

First introduced by President Ronald Reagan at a United Nations conference in Mexico City in 1984, the policy was dubbed the "global gag rule" by abortion-rights groups for limiting organizations from "promoting abortion" as a method of family planning.

The policy, which has been heavily criticized by Democrats, has been overturned and reinstated multiple times. Former President Bill Clinton overturned the policy in 1993 before it was reinstated under former President George W. Bush in 2001.

Most recently, former President Barack Obama overturned the policy on his third day in office in 2009.

What Aid Groups Have Said

Dozens of organizations issued a coalition statement on Monday against the policy, arguing that it will not stop abortions, just make it less safe.

Groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and the International Planned Parenthood Federation, have pointed out that organizations have had to close clinics that provide health services as a result of the funding cuts.

"When in place, the negative impacts of the global gag rule have been broad and severe: health services have been dismantled in a number of communities; clinics that provided a range of reproductive, maternal, and child health care, including HIV testing and counseling, were forced to close; outreach efforts to hard-to-reach populations were eliminated; and access to contraceptives was severely limited, resulting in more unintended pregnancies and more unsafe abortions," the coalition said in its statement.

Marie Stopes International, a U.K.-based aid group that provides abortion services and contraception around the world, said that the reinstated policy could lead women to seek unsafe abortion options.

“All the medical evidence, as well as everything we know from our daily interactions with women, is unequivocal: if you take safe abortion services out of the reproductive healthcare package, it exposes women to risk," Marjorie Newman-Williams, director of the group's international operations, said in a statement on Monday.

“Every year, 21.6 million women are so desperate to end their pregnancy they put their lives on the line by risking an unsafe abortion," Newman-Williams added. "Thousands of them die and millions more are left with life altering injuries."

The International Planned Parenthood Federation said it would rather lose U.S. aid rather than abide by the policy restrictions. The group said they estimate they will lose $100 million "for proven programs that provide comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services for millions of women and youth who otherwise go without these vital services, including women suffering the burden of health and humanitarian crises."

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Sahel Anvarinejad(SAN CLEMENTE, Calif.) -- Tabay Atkins is a typical sixth-grade boy. He loves building Legos and counts math, social studies and English as his favorite subjects in school.

The 11-year-old from San Clemente, California, also happens to be an in-demand yoga instructor who teaches classes three days per week.

"I care about people and a lot of people really like taking my classes," Tabay told ABC News. "I think I'm inspiring and a lot of people just like my story."

"And I don’t judge people," he added of his appeal as an instructor.

Tabay’s yoga journey began when he was just 6 years old. His mother, Sahel Anvarinejad, took a yoga teacher training program to help herself recover from non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

“By accident I got into yoga after I ended chemotherapy treatments,” Anvarinejad, 37, told ABC News. “Tabay was with me every step of the way.”

“He went to the trainings and he saw how it changed me,” she said. “I was lighter. I didn’t have the heaviness that cancer brings.”

When Tabay graduated from fifth grade last spring, Anvarinejad gave her son the choice between a trip to Europe or the chance to undergo a 200-hour yoga teacher training program himself.

“He chose training without hesitation,” Anvarinejad, now cancer-free and the owner of her own yoga studio, said of her son. “He said, ‘Mom I want to do this too. I want to teach people so yoga can help them the way that yoga helped you.’”

Tabay began an intensive instructor program that consisted of nearly 12 hours of instruction every day from Los Angeles-based YOGAthetica trainer Shana Meyerson.

“Tabay was nothing short of extraordinary,” Meyerson told ABC News. “He took in all the information, and regularly exhibited a deep and fundamental understanding of the material.”

She added, “Even my toughest questions—that no one else could answer—were consistently and correctly answered by Tabay.”

Tabay was the youngest person ever to complete Meyerson’s 200-hour YOGAthletica Teacher Training, with the closest in age being 24, according to Meyerson.

“The adults in the training, all women, treated him with a unique combination of maternalism and peer respect,” she said. “Somehow he managed to immerse himself in this very grown up world and never lose his childlike innocence and sense of wonder, and fun.”

Tabay now teaches classes two days per week after school and on Saturdays at his mom’s studio. Often by his side in his yoga classes are his mom and dad, former NFL player Larry Atkins.

"Before he started yoga with me he wasn’t flexible because he didn't do yoga when he played football," Tabay said. "And after doing yoga with me a lot he’s becoming a lot more flexible and he’s a lot happier."

Tabay’s classes are donation-only and he gives the proceeds to charities supporting children with cancer, the family said. Their studio, Care4Yoga, also waives the normal $30 per class drop-in fee for all cancer patients and their family members.

“People leave in tears because they’re that touched,” Anvarinejad said of her son’s classes. “There’s just a connection he has with everybody on every level, it’s just something else.”

Tabay has taught yoga classes around the world and also teaches his classmates at school.

"It’s really awesome," he said. "Some of the boys at first when I tell them that they should try yoga, they say no because they think it’s for girls but yoga was actually created by men, for men."

As he gets older, Tabay plans to keep expanding his yoga outreach.

"I want to try to open up as many studios as I can and spread the yoga word," he said. "Yoga helps in a lot of ways...I want to teach yoga to anyone and everyone I can."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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ABC/Eric McCandless(NEW YORK) -- Dancing With the Stars co-host Erin Andrews revealed Tuesday that she battled cervical cancer late last year.

The 38-year-old told Sports Illustrated's MMQB in a new interview that she underwent surgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on Oct. 11.

At the time, Andrews, who is also a sideline reporter on Fox NFL Sunday, missed two tapings of DWTS, but told her oncologist: "I’m not watching any football games at home. This is [Fox’s] Super Bowl year, and I’m not missing the Super Bowl."

Five days later, she was back to work on the sidelines of a Green Bay Packers game.

"Should I have been standing for a full game five days after surgery? Let’s just say the doctor didn’t recommend that," Andrews told SI. "But just as I felt during my trial, sports were my escape. I needed to be with my crew."

Andrews went through a second procedure on Nov. 1 and was later told she wouldn't need radiation or chemotherapy.

The cancer battle came toward the end of an emotional year for Andrews. In March, she was awarded $55 million in her civil lawsuit against a stalker and a hotel owner over a secret recording and release of a video showing her naked during a hotel stay.

"Throughout my career, all I’ve ever wanted is to just fit in," Andrews told Sports Illustrated. "That I had this extra baggage with the scandal, I didn’t want to be any different. I felt that way about being sick too. I don’t want players or coaches to look at me differently."

She ended the year on a happier note. Last month, Andrews got engaged to her longtime boyfriend, hockey player Jarret Stoll.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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Purestock/ThinkstockBy DR. JENNIFER ASHTON, ABC News Senior Medical Contributor

“Drunkorexia” isn’t a new trend but it is increasingly being seen on college campuses around the country as students look to avoid weight gain while still catching a good buzz.

The practice involves restricting food intake -- including through binging or purging -- and then engaging in excessive exercise, while also partaking in increased alcohol consumption.

This extreme form of weight control is dangerous and can lead to alcoholism, vitamin depletion and dehydration.

Learning to find the right balance of responsibility is part of the education process. It’s impossible to do this if you’re always sleeping off a big night of partying. The key is learning  the practice of moderation, not binging or excess.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- About 5 percent more chronically ill people in the U.S. gained health insurance coverage after the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was implemented, increasing from approximately 80 percent to about 85 percent of chronically ill people in a new study published Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Chronically ill people, including people with heart disease, cancer, diabetes, asthma, kidney disease or depression, are at risk for both physical and financial consequences of not having health insurance.

With approximately half of American adults having at least one chronic illness, researchers wanted to examine if the main provisions of the ACA, including Medicaid expansion, insurance mandates and the creation of health care marketplaces, impacted this population's access to health insurance and health care.

"We wanted to focus on the chronic disease population," Dr. Elisabeth Poorman, primary care doctor at Cambridge Hospital Alliance, told ABC News Monday.

"By looking at this population, you can say there are millions of people who now have access for meds for diabetes, for cancer," Poorman said. "Losing coverage is not hypothetical. It means death, it means disability, it means suffering."

The researchers from the University of California San Francisco and Cambridge Health Alliance examined data compiled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state health departments to see how more than 600,000 people between the ages of 18 to 64 with at least one chronic medical condition fared in the two years before and the year after the main provisions of the ACA were implemented in 2014. Those 600,000 people were a nationally representative sample, according to researchers.

They found that insurance coverage for people with at least one chronic condition increased by approximately 5 percent in the year after the ACA was implemented, though it varied from state to state.

Almost 82 percent of the chronically ill people in the study did have insurance before the implementation of the ACA in states that expanded Medicaid, rising to 88.5 percent in the year after the ACA was implemented, according to the study findings. In states that did not expand Medicaid, that number rose from 77 percent of chronically ill people before those main provisions of the ACA were implemented to 81.2 percent after they took effect.

Under the ACA, Medicaid was expanded to include people with annual incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty level. The law originally mandated that states had to expand Medicaid eligibility, but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that the federal government could not force states to expand eligibility. Almost half of the states in the U.S. are not participating in the ACA’s Medicaid expansion.

In addition, after the ACA was implemented, researchers found chronically ill patients reported slightly better access to health care, with 2.7 percent more people getting a routine checkup; and 2.4 percent more of these patients reported they did not have to forgo a doctor's visit due to cost compared to the two years before the ACA was implemented.

However, they did not find that these patients were more likely to have a personal physician after the ACA's passage. The authors acknowledged the study has limitations since the subjects self-reported via a telephone survey and they only have data from 2014 to understand the effects of the ACA's implementation.

"We wanted to evaluate the ACA and its successes and shortcomings," Poorman said. "The main question we looked to evaluate was, 'How close are we to being able to cover the sickest Americans?' And we are actually pretty far off. But there is an obvious increase in coverage in states that have initiated Medicaid expansion."

"Many people assume that a certain income level will qualify you for Medicaid and in fact this was not true prior to the ACA expansion," Poorman explained. "Medicaid eligibility was very restricted in many states, limited to those with conditions such as pregnancy, chronic disability [not chronic disease], and legally blind."

The researchers theorized that more patients did not get coverage for a variety of reasons, including patients finding it hard to afford insurance in states that did not expand Medicaid. Another factor limiting access to health insurance may be immigration status or insurance plans with high co-payments or high deductibles, the researchers said.

Christine Eibner, an economist and professor at the Pardee RAND Graduate School in Santa Monica, California, said the study is significant since it uses actual data and not just hypothetical models for its findings.

"I think one of the strong aspects to the study is that it can zero in and focus [on] patients with chronic conditions," Eibner told ABC News.

More research will be needed to understand why patients aren't getting more care and whether these numbers have continued to improve in the last two years, said Eibner, who was not involved in this study.

"What we don't know is whether how much that lack is due to access constraints," Eibner said, noting that some patients may have difficulty getting a doctor, since some physicians have not taken patients covered by newly expanded Medicaid plans due to lower reimbursements.

John Graves, an assistant professor in the Department of Health Policy at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said new data coming out now about the ACA has given a clearer picture on health coverage after the major law's implementation, and that picture shows that people are continuing to seek out health coverage.

"This piece is in line with a general mosaic of pieces now being placed together on impacts of the ACA on patient access to care," Graves told ABC News.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- A pollution spike in London has caused Mayor Sadiq Khan to issue a "very high" air pollution warning.

People in London can see the warnings at bus stops, street signs, and Tube stations, because Khan said it's "the highest level of alert and everyone - from the most vulnerable to the physically fit - may need to take precautions to protect themselves from the filthy air," according to BBC.

The spike in pollution is the highest level recorded since April 2011, BBC reports.

Current concentrations of coarse dust particles known as PM10 are more than double the legal limit, according to BBC. Experts believe the rise of pollution is due to a lack of wind dispersing pollutants.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- After reviewing more than 20 seasons of major league baseball, researchers have uncovered the greatest advantage in the game- jet lag.

According to a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, teams that travel across at least two time zones east-to-west have a greater negative affect on the home team in both their offensive and defensive play. Visiting teams got off easier with only their defensive game being impacted.

East-to-west travel has been blamed for decades on major jet lag. Humans have a difficult time adjusting their internal clocks to time differences in this direction.

The stat 'home runs allowed,' which measures the number of home runs hit against a pitcher, had the most profound results. When using this measure against the jet lag of either team, both away and home teams were affected.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Federal and state health officials are investigating an outbreak of the dangerous Seoul virus, which has sickened at least eight people after they came into contact with infected pet rats.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control deployed two epidemiologists over the weekend and is working with the Illinois and Wisconsin Departments of Health to respond to the virus, the agency said. The Illinois Department of Health is looking for people who either purchased or were exposed to any infected rats, a spokeswoman said Monday, noting that it is also looking to find out where the infected rats where purchased from.

The Seoul virus is part of the Hantavirus family and can cause fever, severe headache, back and abdominal pain, chills, blurred vision, redness of the eyes, or rash. In rare cases it can cause kidney disease, according to the CDC.

Officials first discovered the outbreak when a home-breeder of pet rats was hospitalized last December with fever, headache and other Seoul virus symptoms in Wisconsin. Blood tests revealed the patient was suffering from the rare virus and during the investigation a close family member, who also worked with pet rats, was found to have the virus as well, according to the CDC.

The patients ultimately recovered from the virus.

Investigators then looked the rat breeders that supplied the rats to the first patient. They found six of those rat breeders also tested positive for the virus. The CDC epidemiologists are now searching to see if any other customers who bought pet rats might be ill and to ensure any infected rats are not sold.

"These efforts will help determine how the two individuals in Wisconsin were initially exposed to Seoul virus and allow public health officials to take actions to prevent future spread of the virus," the CDC said in a statement.

The virus is carried by wild Norway rats throughout the globe and several outbreaks of the virus have been reported in wild rats in the U.S. This is the first time the outbreak has started in pet rats, according to the CDC. The virus was named Seoul virus after it was first reported in the South Korean capital.

The virus cannot be transmitted from person-to-person, but it can be transmitted from an infected rat to a person via bodily fluids or a bite.

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Kids for Peace(NEW YORK) — The founders of the "Great Kindness Challenge," a grassroots campaign aimed at spreading goodwill and happiness in schools across the country, appeared on Good Morning America Monday to share the work they are doing to make the world a better place.

Jill McManigal, 52, from Carlsbad, California, said that she originally started the Great Kindness Challenge in her backyard with her children, who were only seven and four years old at the time, and their neighborhood friends. Together, the group formed what became "Kids for Peace," an international non-profit that spearheaded the Great Kindness Challenge, a challenge taken by schools and youth groups to perform as many acts of kindness from a list 50 acts as possible over the course of the week.

"My inspiration is creating a world where everyone is loved and cared for and happy," McManigal told ABC News. "The mission of the Great Kindness Challenge is to create school environments where all students thrive."

"We want all children and all students to recognize the goodness in others, and this gives them the platform to do that," McManigal said of the challenge.

In 2012, she brought the challenge to three local schools in her community, including the elementary school her children attended. The following year, 263 schools participated in the challenge. This year, more than 12,000 schools, and over 10 million students across the country, are participating in the challenge.

To participate in the Great Kindness Challenge, students receive a checklist of 50 simple, kind, acts that they can accomplish. Students are encouraged to try and complete all 50 random acts of kindness over the course of one week. Some of the items on the list are as simple as smiling at 25 people, while others might encourage students to step out of their comfort zones by sitting with someone new at lunch.

Richard Tubbs, the principal of Hope Elementary School in Carlsbad, Calif., which was one of the first schools to implement the Great Kindness Challenge, said in a statement that he believes "it’s very important that everyone is always thinking about ways to be kind."

"We just want everyone to be able to share that same kindness wherever they go in their community, around the world," Tubbs added.

McManigal said the reaction to the challenge at schools has been overwhelmingly positive.

"I see that everyone is just a bit more or a lot more happier," McManigal said. "There is such a power in doing for others, and also from receiving."

McManigal added that teachers have also been very supportive of the Great Kindness Challenge in their schools because it "because they see their students reaching out to each other and being very conscious of their actions and words, so it makes for a happier and healthier learning environment."

The materials that educators need to implement the Great Kindness Challenge in their schools is all free, according to McManigal, who added that they have over 25,000 volunteers with their organization working to implement the challenge in local schools.

McManigal added that the joy that the program brings to schools and communities is "palpable."

"As the children are given permission to go out there and really exert their kindness," McManigal said. "It creates this joy that is palpable on campuses."

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iStock/ThinkstockBy DR. JENNIFER ASHTON, ABC News Senior Medical Contributor

Not too long ago, the governor of Florida announced that his state was clear of locally-transmitted cases of the Zika virus for the first time since July. But this is no time to drop our guard when it comes to this potentially deadly virus, especially if you are pregnant or are planning to start a family.

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the Zika virus is capable of replicating itself in the placenta, which could explain why it appears to lead to more health complications for a developing fetus, including the birth defect microcephaly.

Here’s my take: Remember that sacrificing a trip can potentially prevent a devastating birth defect or pregnancy loss. Control the things that are in your control, and elective travel is one of those things.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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Darick Mead(HASTINGS, Neb.) -- Darick Mead didn't want to propose to his girlfriend of a year and a half while she was pregnant with their first child.

"I didn't want to do it just because of my son. I wanted to do it because it felt good in my heart," he told ABC News.

Still, the proud father couldn't wait to pop the question to Susan Medina, and in fact, did so in the hospital with the help of his newborn son, Ryder.

Mead, 26, and Medina, 20, met on the social network They later connected on Facebook and after one date, "we've been inseparable," Mead said.

The Hastings, Nebraska, father said he didn't tell anyone -- including his family -- about his proposal, which he planned to do on the same day as his son's birth.

But he did commission the couple's friend, Katie, to help with the planning, including securing a onesie that she decorated with the words, "Mommy, will you marry my daddy?"

The day didn't quite go as planned, however.

"She was in labor for over 17 hours and she pushed for two-and-a-half hours," Mead said. "Three epidurals later and ... Ryder was born via emergency C-section."

It had been a trying day for the couple, so Mead decided to delay his plan by one day to "give her a break."

For the big moment, Mead had to convince his bride-to-be that the nurses wanted to check on their son outside of their hospital room. That's when he placed the miniature onesie on Ryder and carried him back into the room under the ruse that the nurses wanted Medina to practice changing Ryder's diaper.

Friends and family pulled out their cell phones to "capture the baby's first diaper change," and that's when Medina unwrapped Ryder, dressed in the proposal onesie, and Mead dropped down to one knee.

"I don't even remember what exactly I was feeling. I just know that I started crying out of nowhere," Medina told ABC News. "I did not expect that to happen."

"I was even waiting for him to say, 'Oh just kidding,'" she added. "I’m pretty sure I asked him, 'Are you sure?'"

Mead was very sure, and now he says he's looking forward to beginning their new life together as a family.

The two haven't begun wedding planning just yet, they say. For now, they're enjoying all of their milestones.

"I've got everything that I could ever ask for right now," the future groom said.

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iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- A number of governments and charities have committed $460 million to fastrack vaccines to fight Mers, Lassa fever, and the Nipah virus according to BBC News. Scientists say the three relatively little known diseases could potentially cause a global health emergency.

The governments and charities are asking for more assistance, calling on funders at the World Economic Forum Davos to raise another $500 million.

BBC reports new vaccines take around a decade to develop, but The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (Cepi) wants to have two experimental vaccines developed within the next five years.

Jeremy Farrar, director of the Welcome Trust, a biomedical research charity based in London, told the BBC, "In the modern world with urbanisation and travel, 21st Century epidemics could start in a big city and then take off the way Ebola did in West Africa."

Ebola killed more than 11,000 people in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.

Zika, another major virus outbreak in Brazil, has left thousands of children brain-damaged.

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Lauren LaPorta(TEANECK, N.J.) -- For Lauren LaPorta it was tough to lose weight.

The 28-year-old high school guidance counselor spends most of her days in a wheelchair after a diving accident in 2000 left her with a severe spinal cord injury and an initial diagnosis as quadriplegic.

On that day 17 years ago, LaPorta had just come home from a middle school swim meet when she was playing with her friends in her backyard swimming pool.

"I've dove into a pool a thousand times, but this one particular dive, I slipped ... and went directly straight down," she recalled. "My hands hit the bottom and gave way. Everything just went numb."

She was only 11 at the time, but the reality of how serious her injury was started to sink in when when doctors told her that she had shattered her C5 vertebrae in the middle of her spinal cord.

And, she said that she started "grasping the meaning behind it" when doctors told her she'd have to learn how to dress herself again, sit up again and how to stand up again.

After a year and intense physical therapy, LaPorta was able to begin moving her limbs again.

Still, one of the challenges of constantly being in a wheelchair was that she drastically gained weight. At her heaviest, LaPorta was 240 pounds. She blames mostly fast food restaurants.

"When you're in a wheelchair and it’s hard for you to get in and out of your car so many times a day, you're more likely to go to drive-throughs," she said.

But thanks to her trainer, Erica Little of Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck, New Jersey, LaPorta lost more than 40 pounds since August. It's a true feat for a woman who can only walk a couple of steps at a time using a cane, a walker, or by holding someone's hand.

Working out was initially extremely difficult, LaPorta said.

"Our first attempt on getting on a treadmill, walking, I fell off," she recalled. "I tried it again [recently], and was able to step right up and we walked for five minutes."

LaPorta also changed her diet, adding more fruits and vegetables to her daily intake.

Now, with her weight on the decline, LaPorta said she feels even more confident to continue fighting her paralysis.

"I still have my down days. I still have days where I question, 'Why me? I don't feel like doing this today,' or I wake up and don't feel good bodywise," LaPorta admitted. "But you just keep going.

"I have the inner strength to overcome such an injury and keep fighting every single day, and find new ways to motivate myself."

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