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Huntstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Physicians are increasingly prescribing antidepressants for a variety of conditions unrelated directly to depression, including pain, attention deficit disorder and digestive system disorders, according to a new report published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Using electronic medical records to examine data from 100,000 patients and 185 physicians in Quebec, Canada, researchers from McGill University and the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences looked at data from 2006 to 2015 for answers as to why prescriptions for antidepressants have been going up in the last two decades.

They found that 55 percent of antidepressant prescriptions were specifically for depression. Approximately 18 percent was for anxiety disorders, 10 percent was for pain and 4 percent was for panic disorders.

A significant portion of the prescriptions were for off-label uses, including digestive disorder, insomnia and migraine. The findings suggest that antidepressants don't correlate with depression rates, the authors said.

The results "highlight the need to evaluate the evidence supporting off-label antidepressant use," the authors wrote in the study.

Heather Carey, a Clinical Pharmacy Specialist at University Hospitals Case Medical Center, said she did not find the study surprising as some antidepressant medications are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat conditions other than depression, such as fibromyalgia. She also said primary care doctors often prescribe antidepressants for off-label conditions in an attempt to help patients who aren't able or don't want to see a specialist.

"We certainly see that the main dilemma that a lot of folks get into is they don’t have access to specialists," Carey explained, noting that it's very common for primary care doctors to prescribe antidepressants for insomnia and pain to help patients.

While primary care physicians can provide a needed safety net for people unable to get to a specialist to help with sleep disorders or pain management, Carey said it's important that patients at some point see a specialist who can give a definitive diagnosis.

"On the other side of the coin, there are a lot of providers out there who maybe aren't quite as a familiar with diagnosing people," she said of primary care physicians. "We see a lot of people admitted and they were seeing a primary physician in the community and we see the medical regimen might not make sense."

Antidepressants can have side effects that can be serious for patients, especially if they are older or taking many other medications at the same time, Carey noted.

"My opinion is that everyone should try to see a specialist at some point," she said.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Federal health officials on Tuesday said they believe "thousands" of people may have contracted the Zika virus before returning to the U.S. as they remain concerned that the virus might start to have ongoing transmission in the U.S.

Speaking at a panel at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the Zika virus remains "pretty concerning" for experts as they learn how it affects pregnant women.

"The reality is one bite, and if you’re pregnant, your baby might be harmed," Schuchat said at the panel Tuesday. "That’s a phenomenal problem."

Common symptoms of the Zika virus include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis, according to the CDC. Approximately one in five people infected with the virus show symptoms. Severe complications from the virus that require hospitalization are rare, according to the CDC.

The virus has also been linked to the serious birth defect microcephaly. The birth defect is characterized by a malformed or smaller head and brain, and can result in serious developmental delays.

At Tuesday's panel government, health officials said they are concerned about local transmission of the virus if travelers spread the virus to mosquitoes in the U.S., which can then infect other people who have not traveled abroad where Zika transmission is ongoing.

Schuchat said approximately 500 people in the U.S. were found to have likely been infected with Zika. However, since 80 percent of people with a Zika infection do not show symptoms, she estimates that thousands may have arrived in the U.S. unaware they were infected with the Zika virus and potentially able to start an outbreak through the mosquito population.

She explained this number is especially concerning since local mosquito control has diminished in recent years.

"We’re not starting in a good place. We used to have a lot stronger mosquito control and mosquito surveillance," said Schuchat. "We really have a patchwork nation around mosquito capacity. The local governments are really concerned."

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, said at the panel that the Aedes aegypti mosquito, the main type of mosquito that spreads Zika and other diseases, is notoriously difficult to kill. He added that he expects to see some local transmission of the virus in the same way there were limited outbreaks of the Dengue virus and Chickungunya virus.

"History has told us this is a really difficult mosquito to deal with," said Fauci, adding that a mosquito-based outbreak is far different from an outbreak that spreads from person to person. "It’s a whole new venue of transmission."

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iStock/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) -- More Americans seem to be kicking the habit.

A new study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the rate of Americans smoking has dropped to 15 percent, falling two percentage points from 2014 in a large national survey.

It's the largest drop-off in more than 20 years. Typically, the rate falls by about 1 percent a year.

The decrease seems to coincide with increased public awareness of the health risks of smoking. About 50 years ago, 42 percent of American adults smoked.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Parents should beware that predators may be using online gaming to target their children.

“I honestly didn’t think anything like that would ever happen to anybody in my family,” one mother, who requested we not use her real name, told ABC News.

This woman, whom Good Morning America is referring to as Susan, says a stranger approached her son while he was playing “Clash of Clans” online with a group of friends.

Her son, whom Good Morning America is referring to as Simon, was 8 years old at the time, and within a matter of minutes, gave his phone number, last name, and even sent the stranger a picture of himself.

Meanwhile, his mother was at the grocery store and was able to watch this conversation live because her smartphone is synced with the device her son was using at home.

“My son sends a picture, just a goofy little boy picture of his face, and the other person sends a picture of a teenage girl, but it’s a picture of a picture, not a selfie,” she explained of the interaction. “And now I’m starting to realize, OK, this is not good. I think, ‘I have to get him off this game.’ I’m calling my husband at home, just saying, ‘Get the iPad away from him. He’s on with a stranger.’”

And they’re not the only ones. It happened to 10-year-old Olivia, who was playing the popular game “Minecraft.” A person calling himself “Ben” told Olivia he was 12 years old and they texted for weeks.

“He sent me a photo, and it really kind of looked like he was 12,” Olivia explained.

Olivia’s mom, Jessica Stribley, was suspicious that something just wasn’t right, so she took her daughter’s phone one night.

“I said, ‘My mom’s asleep. Send me a picture,’” Stribley recalled. “He said, ‘Well, if I take a picture of every inch of my body, will you do the same?’ And I said, ‘Yes, but I’m running out of time.’ He sent three within 30 seconds.”

According to the FBI’s website, there are 750,000 predators online at any given time and they all could have a virtual key to your house via the Internet.

“A lot of the online games have multiplayer features where you are connected to people all over the world, whether that’s live chat over a microphone or live chat on a keyboard. You can be connected to almost anybody,” child advocate Callahan Walsh of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children said.

“Simon,” who is now 10, says his alarming interaction has changed his gaming experience and how he uses the Internet.

“It just makes me more careful when I’m playing games that can have other people join,” he said. “I always make a code name, like, not a last name or anything that they could find out.”

His mother is grateful for the early warning.

“Whenever I get tired and think, ‘Oh, I can’t figure out another new game or another new way that you’re on,’ I just remind myself we were given a little blessing in a situation that keeps us vigilant,” she said.

The maker of “Clash of Clans,” Supercell, pointed ABC News to the parental guide on its site with tips for families to make sure kids play safely.

Microsoft, which owns “Minecraft,” said in a statement, “Helping keep kids safer online has always been a priority for us at Microsoft. We encourage parents to also play an active role in their children’s online activities.”

ABC News also learned from the Entertainment Software Association that all games come with instructional information from an independent board about how to manage or prevent online game chatting.

Ericka Souter, editor of, outlined her top three rules that parents should use with their kids to police these dangers.

Keep personal information private. No last names, locations, school information, phone numbers or photos.

Online friends should be real friends. Only interact with the people that you know in real life. Anyone can lie about who they are online, making virtual conversations with strangers is dangerous.

Never visit random chat rooms. Refuse to engage strangers in online conversations.

Souter also outlined how parents themselves can help prevent such dangerous online interactions.

  • Turn off the location services.
  • No in-app purchases allowed. Do not give your children your passcode.
  • No posting content without consent. They are not allowed to post anything without your knowing it.

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DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital(PORTLAND, Ore.) — After an adorable Sheltie named Ollie became paralyzed, he was moments away from being put to sleep when a veterinary student found a tick lodged in his fur — leading to the diagnosis that ultimately saved him and a recovery his owner called "miraculous."

About a week after 10-year-old Ollie returned home to Portland, Oregon, from an outdoor trip, his owner Al — who asked that his last name not be used — noticed the usually active dog seemed increasingly lethargic and weak. Ollie's regular veterinarian conducted tests, including blood work and X-rays, but could not figure out what was wrong with the pup, according to the DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital.

Ollie eventually became almost completely paralyzed and was unable to eat.

On May 4, two weeks after the camping trip, Al and his family made the difficult decision to put Ollie to sleep, according to the hospital.

As Neena Golden, a visiting veterinary student, prepared Ollie for the procedure, she took a moment to comfort him — and while scratching behind his ears, she found a tick, the hospital said.

Dr. Adam Stone of the DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital diagnosed Ollie with tick paralysis — a rare condition he had never seen before, but learned about in school.

The hospital said Ollie was wearing a tick collar during the outdoor trip when the tick likely latched on.

Doctors removed the tick, and the staff shaved Ollie to make sure he didn't have any more ticks on him. Then, Dr. Stone sent Ollie home, telling Al that Ollie should show signs of improvement in a few days if indeed he was suffering from tick paralysis.

Ollie was moving again by that night.

Al said he credits the doctor and the student with saving Ollie's life.

"He was one minute away from euthanasia," Al told ABC News Tuesday. "The doctor walked in and remembered that he heard about this in school -- he told me it was just one little thing, one slide, and they mentioned it, and [that] it was rare, and that was it. He had never seen a case before in his career."

Al said Ollie has now made a miraculous comeback.

"He's bright-eyed, active, chasing the squirrels around," Al said. "He has a spring in his step that he hasn't had in quite awhile.

"Our neighbors, our friends and my daughter's youth group all told us after Ollie's miraculous recovery that they were all praying for him," Al said.

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WPVI-TV(WILMINGTON, Del.) — Nearly 17 years after being shot in the face, Dwayne Adams is finally free of the bullet that nearly killed him.

In 1998 he had been sitting on his mother's porch when a stray bullet hit him. The bullet went through his left eye, across his face, and lodged below his right eye, knocking out his sense of smell and stopping just short of his brain. The vision in his left eye was gone and the bullet became stuck in a delicate part of his face.

"If they removed [the bullet] it might hurt some nerves and cause me to lose some vision," Adams of Wilmington, Delaware, told ABC News Tuesday. The injury disrupted his life, but Adams said it unexpectedly spurred him to do the thing he always admired: rowing.

"Believe it or not, I never started rowing in my first race until nine months after my shooting," Adams said, explaining how he always admired the sport during the Olympics. "I rowed three miles and fell in love with it and I just tried to get better."

Adams realized that rowing was an ideal sport since he didn't need good eyesight to take part.

"Your body has to work together to get that boat moving, and with my vision, there’s not a lot of other sports I can really play," he told ABC News. "All in all, this is the perfect sport for me."

In the years since the shooting, Adams even qualified for the U.S. rowing team for the disabled and said the injury spurred him to start the non-profit Breaking Barriers, which aims to introduce Delaware teens to rowing.

"Ninety-five percent of high school and college rowers graduate, so that’s a high percentage. If we can implement those [lessons learned from rowing] a lot of the violence and some of these other ailments will probably be decreased," he said.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Every pet owner should know this list: azaleas, tulips, chocolates, onions and grapes. Any of these items can make your pet sick. But there’s another dangerous item that most pet owners don’t know about -- and in South Carolina, it’s the top call to Animal Poison Control.

It’s the Sago Palm -- an everyday plant that grows in homes across America. Even taking one small bite of the plant is enough to kill a pet, according to veterinarians.

“Many pet owners don’t know that these can actually be toxic to their dogs and cats,” Dr. Tina Wismer, medical director of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ Animal Poison Control Center, told ABC News. “One or two seeds is enough to kill a dog, or even a child.”

A longtime fixture in backyards in the southern U.S., the plant's popularity has spread over the last decade.

“Now you can actually go to your local store or nursery and buy Sago Palms as little potted house plants,” Wismer said. “Many pet owners don't know that these can actually be toxic to their dogs and cats.”

Tiffany and Taylor Smith, of North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, say they lost a piece of their heart when their 4-year-old bulldog, Walter, died just two days before Christmas Day in 2014.

“We never knew what happened to Walter,” Taylor Smith said. “The doctor gave us all kinds of different answers. None of them ever made sense.”

But it all made sense when history repeated itself with their new puppy, Wilbur, who suffered seizures just hours after they saw him chewing on a Sago Palm plant.

Taylor Smith said he immediately did a Google search for the plant.

“And the first thing I saw was, poison control and emergency vet,” Smith said.

The Smiths took their dog to the emergency room, where they were given frightening news.

“The veterinarian came in and he said 'he has a 50-50 chance,'" Tiffany Smith said. “He was already in stage-three liver failure.”

This time, their dog survived. But the Smiths said it was one of the most difficult things they’ve ever dealt with.

“It’s like losing a family member or a child,” Taylor Smith said.

Over the last 10 years, more than 1,400 dogs have been poisoned by Sago Palms, according to the ASPCA. Thirty-four of the dogs died.

“The fronds and the bark and the roots, all of it is toxic,” Wismer said.

People are getting sick, too. ABC's GMA Investigates has learned of at least 130 cases of Sago Palm poisoning in humans in the U.S. since 2009. In Florida, more than a quarter of the cases involved children under 5 years old.

But surprisingly, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission says it does not have a regulation requiring warning labels on house plants.

In a statement to ABC News, the CPSC wrote: “Data provided to CPSC from hospitals across the country and from the National Clearinghouse for Poison Control Centers indicate that ingestion of household plants by children is infrequent.”

ABC News also found that no federal agency is responsible for warning pet owners about this plant either. That means it’s at each store’s discretion to let you know.

GMA Investigates wanted to find out how often Sago Palms were sold without warning labels, so we sent producers to 11 stores across the country on the hunt for those labels.

At one Walmart and one Home Depot, we found warnings on every plant.

But at the five Lowe's stores we visited, we found varied results from store to store. In one New Jersey store, there were no warning labels on any of the Sago Palms we found, but there were warning labels on each such plant we found at a California location of the chain. And at one location in Texas, we found only some Sago Palms for sale had warning labels.

ABC News producers also visited four independent gardening stores, none of which had warning labels on any Sago Palms. We asked a store clerk about it, and she told our producer that the Sago Palm would be harmful to animals if ingested. But when we asked whether the store cautions people if they’re buying the plant, the store clerk replied: “Only if they ask that question.”

That store did not respond to our repeated requests for comment.

According to a statement provided to ABC News, Lowe’s decided last year to start labeling all Sago Palms.

“It’s our intention that every Sago Palm available at Lowe’s be labeled with this information. It’s come to our attention that the tags may be removed or come off before they are purchased, so we are looking into ways the tags can be more consistently affixed,” the store wrote.

ASPCA officials say ultimately, buyers need to beware.

“We have to be able to protect ourselves and our pets by knowing what we're bringing into the house,” Wismer said.

Taylor Smith offered the following advice to Sago Palm owners.

“Remove the plants. Take them out of your yard, out of your house," he said. "They are not worth it."

If you think your pet ingested this plant, contact your local veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435. This call may incur a charge. People who may have ingested the plant should contact the American Association of Poison Control Centers 24/7 at 1-800-222-1222 for a free consultation.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Do you need to eat breakfast every single day?

For decades, the conventional wisdom has been that eating breakfast kick starts one's metabolism.

A new op-ed in The New York Times turns that idea on its head. The author, Aaron E. Carroll, a professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine, writes, “Our belief in the power of breakfast is based on misinterpreted research and biased studies.”

In the column titled, “Sorry, There’s Nothing Magical About Breakfast,” Carroll writes that breakfast has “no mystical powers” and should simply be eaten if a person is hungry after waking up.

ABC News Chief Women’s Health Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton said Tuesday on Good Morning America that Carroll is correct that breakfast is not a one-size-fits-all meal.

“This concept that your body needs to eat as soon as you’re vertical because it’s in a fast, that is a complete myth,” said Ashton, who recently earned a master's degree in nutrition from Columbia University.

“From a medical and nutritional standpoint, we have to understand, the body doesn’t really enter a fasting mode until you’ve been without food for like 36 or more hours,” Ashton said. “Your liver is always supplying glucose into your bloodstream so this is an individual preference.”

Ashton said the studies that have linked breakfast to weight and good health were based on association and not causation -- two different measures in scientific study.

Ashton said her personal preference is to eat in the morning. She usually goes for eggs on Wasa toast, Greek yogurt with Chia seeds or a homemade smoothie.

She has similar advice for her patients.

“I say, ‘Look, if you’re going to make bad choices because you’re ravenous and you don’t eat breakfast, then you should eat breakfast, but it should be smart. It should be simple. It should be sustainable,’” Ashton said.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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

If you can't function without your morning coffee, you might be doing more than perking up your energy.

A new study reveals drinking coffee -- even decaf -- can greatly cut your risk of colorectal cancer.

According to researchers at the University of Southern California, a study of more than 5,000 people proved that drinking coffee boosted the chances of not being diagnosed with a deadly disease -- and the more coffee consumed, the lower the risk.

I've been convinced of the overall health benefits of coffee for years. But it's worth noting that this latest study was based on observation, not cause and effect, so we still need to figure out why and how coffee seems to be good for our health.

On another note: If you're pregnant, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends no more than 200mg of caffeine a day.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald on Monday likened the significance of measuring the amount of time it takes veterans to receive healthcare from the department to waiting for rides at Disney parks, an attempt to downplay the value of the figures, which attracted widespread criticism from department critics and veterans' organizations.

"We should be measuring the veterans' satisfaction. I mean, what really counts is how does the veteran feel about their encounter with the VA," McDonald said to reporters at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. "When you go to Disney, do they measure the number of hours you wait in line? Or what's important?"

"What's important is what's your satisfaction with the experience," he continued. Disney is the parent company of ABC News.

According to department data, as of May 1, patients wait an average of seven days for primary care, 10 days for specialty care and four days for mental health care. The department drew fire two years ago when a whistleblower said that 40 veterans died waiting up to 21 months for care.

The head of the VA at the time, Eric Shinseki, resigned.

The comments were set upon immediately by politicians and advocacy groups.

This is not make-believe, Mr. Secretary. Veterans have died waiting in those lines.

— Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan) May 23, 2016

Obama’s VA Secretary just said we shouldn't measure
wait times. Hillary says VA problems are not ‘widespread.’ I will take care of
our vets!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 23, 2016

"You can’t compare veteran healthcare to a tourist’s experience," House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Florida, said in an interview with ABC News, adding that he still supports McDonald.

"There's no question that Secretary McDonald still has my confidence, but he has got to quit singing the song of the status quo like he has done in many instances on accountability,” Miller continued.

The American Legion also took issue with the comments.

“The American Legion agrees that the VA Secretary’s analogy between Disneyland and VA wait times was an unfortunate comparison because people don’t die while waiting to go on Space Mountain,” National Commander Dale Barnett said in a statement.

McDonald, an Army veteran, was appointed and confirmed in 2014 amid efforts to reform VA care and reduce waiting times after reports that agency officials had doctored waiting time records, replacing Shinseki.

Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nevada, sent a letter to McDonald Monday afternoon, criticizing the secretary for exhibiting "a severe lack of judgement drawing into question your ability to provide accountability within your agency."

The VA said in a statement that it takes the duty of serving veterans "seriously."

"We know that Veterans are still waiting too long for care. In our effort to determine how we can better meet Veterans’ needs, knowing that their satisfaction is our most important measure, we have heard them tell us that wait times alone are not the only indication of their experience with VA and that’s why we must transform the way we do business," the agency said in a statement.

"We have learned that figures measuring the wrong metric can cause unintended consequences and confusion like the 14 day measure back in 2014 that was central to employees managing to a metric rather than to the real need of our patients."

The agency says that it is the only healthcare system that publicly shares wait times.

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DigitalVision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Just a fraction of terminally-ill cancer patients fully understood their prognosis according to a new small study published today in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Researchers from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Cornell University and Weill Cornell Medicine followed 178 cancer patients who were determined to be terminally ill. They interviewed each patient to see if they understood the gravity of their disease and their future prognosis.

Patients were asked what stage cancer they had, their current health status, how long they expected to live and if they had recently had a life-expectancy discussion with their doctor. Just 5 percent of the patients accurately answered all four questions about their disease and prognosis correctly. Additionally 23 percent of patients had a both recent and previous discussion about their life-expectancy with their doctor, according to the study.

Holly Prigerson, co-author and Director of the Center for Research on End of Life Care at Weill Cornell Medical Center, said it was a "shock" to see how few of the patients fully understood their prognoses. Prigerson said in some cases patients may not "hear" a terminal diagnosis if their physician avoids being blunt about their life expectancy or lack of treatment options.

"Our point is a lot of them don’t want to know, but they need to know basic information about the disease and illness and treatment options," said Prigerson told ABC News.

She emphasized that doctors themselves have a hard time telling a patient there's nothing left that can save his or her life, but patients should be given all information so they can make better decisions.

"It’s a difficult topic," said Prigerson. "Have patients understand, if that they are being offered treatment, it’s not a cure. And they really have months not years to live."

Prigerson said previous studies have dispelled the idea that terminal patients who are told the truth fare worse than other patients who aren't given full information about their conditions.

Dr. Barbara Daly, director of our clinical ethics program, at University Hospitals Case Medical Center, explained that these end-of-life conversations are difficult since some patients find the information itself "threatening."

"When you look at how people deal with information, some people deal with it by wanting more and more information," said Daly. "Some people deal with it and they see it as a threat in a sense so they don’t hear it."

Daly also said that some doctors speak in medical terms that can be confusing for a patient.

"It takes a high level of skill to talk to people…to present it in a way where it’s understandable," said Daly. "Doctors...they literally forget how to talk like a normal person."

Daly said some medical centers are now using a designated person, such as a social worker or nurse practitioner, to talk to patients so that they fully understand their diagnosis and can get more time to talk about their disease.

Although the study didn't focus on finding a solution, the authors did come to the unsurprising conclusion that the patients who recently had an end-of-life conversation with the oncologist had a better understanding of their illness than others who didn't have this conversation. Daly said patients can take steps to ensure they understand their overall prognosis by bringing a family member to appointments and asking the doctor point blank questions.

"If the patient him or herself is comfortable saying 'Tell me how long you think I have to live?' or 'Tell me if you think the treatment is going to help?'" they will get better information, Daly said. "If we’re going to help people, it's part of the whole movement to get people to plan for their make their wishes known."

Due to the limited nature of the study the findings may not be generalizable for a larger population.

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Lupe Gonzalez/South Texas Veterans Health Care System(SAN ANTONIO) -- A Vietnam War veteran's last request to see his beloved horses was granted by the Audie L. Murphy Memorial Veterans Hospital in San Antonio.

Roberto Gonzalez, from Premont, Texas, was drafted in 1970 and shot within four months of serving in Vietnam, Lupe Hernandez of the South Texas Veterans Health Care System told ABC News Monday. The resulting injuries left Gonzalez paralyzed.

"That did not stop Mr. Gonzalez from his passions, ranching and horses," Hernandez said. "He was the only paralyzed race horse trainer in Texas. He trained and raced horses for 30-40 years."

Hernandez continued: "Because he knew that the end was near and he would not be going home again, he requested through his wife that he see his horses one last time. His family brought two horses to the Spinal Cord Injury Center at the Audie L. Murphy Memorial Veterans Hospital."

Gonzalez's horses "Sugar" and "Ringo" were able to bring comfort to the vet, who Hernandez said is in very critical condition right now.

Gonzalez was one of the first patients at the VA Hospital when it first opened in 1974, Hernandez said.

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Subscribe To This Feed, Ark.) -- A 19-year-old from Arkansas who has been in a wheelchair since last year stood up and walked at his high school graduation as his classmates, friends and family gave him a standing ovation.

Doug Haynes, of Bearden, Arkansas, set walking at his school’s May 20 graduation ceremony as his top goal after a surgery last November to treat the muscular dystrophy he has had since age 12 left him unable to walk.

“Doug is a very determined guy,” his mom, Robin Doherty, told ABC News. “He faces things head on and just attacks it.”

Haynes has undergone hours of physical and occupational therapy daily since the surgery, all while maintaining his course work so he could graduate on time. He told only his family, one classmate and the school’s principal about his plan to take his first steps to receive his diploma.

“If he got scared or nervous, we didn’t want people expecting it,” Doherty explained. “When they stood him up, I thought, 'Okay, he’s really going to do this.'”

Haynes was helped out of his wheelchair and across the stage to receive his diploma by his physical therapist. A classmate moved his wheelchair to the end of the stage.

The crowd inside the auditorium where the graduation was held gave Haynes a standing ovation. Most of them knew Haynes from when he was a boy and had watched him deal with muscular dystrophy.

“His town has rallied around him and provided so much support and become a big family for him,” said Cheryl Tucker Carlin, a family friend who captured the video of Haynes walking and posted it on Facebook.

Doherty described the moment as a “roller coaster of emotions” and said her son nearly got caught up in the crowd’s reaction as well.

“He said, ‘Mom, when they stood up I almost lost it,’” Doherty recalled of Haynes, who plans to start at a local work program now that he has graduated.

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Courtesy Animal Avengers(NEW YORK) -- A tortoise has a second chance in life after a team of designers in Brazil custom-made a 3D shell for the reptile, who was badly burned in a fire.

The Animal Avengers, the animal rescue group that saved the tortoise, consists of a 3D designer (Cicero Moraes), four veterinarians (Roberto Fecchio, Rodrigo Rabello, Sergio Camargo and Matheus Rabello), and a dental surgeon (Paul Miamoto). The group combines technology with members' love for animals to create innovative ways to help maimed creatures. They have already saved seven animals that would have been euthanized, Moraes told ABC News.

"The tortoise Freddy was found alongside a road in early 2015. It had been the victim of a fire and its hull caught fire, losing 85 percent of its structure," Moraes said.

Freddy was taken to the vet Rodrigo Rabello, part of the Animal Avengers, in Brasilia, Moraes said.

Moraes explained that the tortoise was named Freddy because after the burn her "back looked like the face of Freddy Krueger."

Moraes said the process for printing a 3D tortoise shell is "relatively simple."

The 3D designers took photographs of Freddy and a healthy tortoise, and then used computer programming to design a custom prosthetic hull that was printed out, layer by layer, from a 3D printer. The prosthetic hull was then surgically attached to Freddy. An artist even hand-painted the outside of the shell so that it blended in with nature.

Moraes said his group had previously created a 3D printed toucan beak, goose beak, parrot beak and macaw beak.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Depression is one of the most common mental disorders, yet many people mask their symptoms or isolate themselves rather than share their mental health struggles publicly. But on Twitter, users are aiming to combat that isolation with the new hashtag #MyDepressionLooksLike, which is being used to share stories about depression.

Thousands of users have used the trending hashtag to share powerful stories about how their lives are affected and shaped by depression. It's an issue that remains a problem with an estimated 15.7 million of U.S. adults grappling with a depressive episode in 2014, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Some users write they are incapacitated by deep feelings of depression or anxiety. Others write about painful moments when they masked the depression in a smiling selfie or when they were out among friends.

Mary Alvord, a Maryland-based psychologist and director of the psychotherapy practice Alvord, Baker & Associates, told ABC News social media can be a powerful tool to help combat the stigma of mental illness and to inform people.

"For the most part the message, my message to teens [in treatment] is you’re not alone," Alvord told ABC News Monday. "I think social media platforms, while they can certainly be used in a negative way, they also have the potential to really help."

Alvord said that even though more attention is being paid to mental disorders like depression, many people don't understand what a depressive person looks like.

"I think people assume that depressives go around and talk about how sad they are," said Alvord, who explained that isolation and irritability are major signs of depression that are often overlooked. "Irritability is often a sign with depression that people don’t think about. It’s often associated with agitation and anger."

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