Richard Engel shares heartbreaking story of son's medical journey

Engel and his wife, Mary Forrest, knew early on that something wasn’t right with their son, Henry. Even as the boy approached the second year of his life, he couldn’t talk or clap his hands. He also couldn’t walk or even sit up straight. The boy’s parents took him to every doctor they could think of.
“It was a mystery and we thought, ‘Okay, well there are late bloomers,’” Engel remembered thinking.
Then the results of the full set of genetic tests came back last September, just around his second birthday, revealing Henry had a genetic brain disorder, a variation of Rett syndrome. The condition is caused by a rare genetic mutation that almost exclusively affects girls. It currently does not have a treatment or cure.

Henry has Rett syndrome, which is extremely rare in boys.

Children who have Rett syndrome appear to develop normally at first but then show symptoms at some point during the first year of infancy when they begin to lose their motor and cognitive skills.
“It’s not just delay. It means life long, permanent, untreatable physical and intellectual impairment,” Engel said. “Unfortunately, the more we learned about it the worse the news got.”
Doctors have told Henry’s parents that their son will probably never walk, talk or dress himself. His mental capacity will likely remain at the toddler level. The couple also has been warned to expect future health problems, such as seizures and rigidity. 

 Researchers are using Henry’s cells in the hope it will lead to treatment for Rett syndrome, which currently has no cure.

Rett syndrome is caused by genetic mutations that usually affect boys far more severely than girls because it attacks the X chromosome — of which boys have one but girls have two, with the second one serving as a normal copy of the mutated version.
But Henry has a unique mutation that is being studied with hopes of finding the key to a treatment for him and others. The work is being conducted by Dr. Huda Zoghbi, the same researcher who helped discover the mutation that causes Rett syndrome.
“Henry’s mutation is unique in the world. But because it’s unique is what makes it so valuable,” said Zoghbi, director of the Duncan Neurological Research Institute at Texas Children’s Hospital. “Sometimes from the rarest thing, you can learn the most.”

Zoghbi’s lab has collected and replicated Henry’s cells in the hope they will help find a way to boost a protein called MECP2, which is essential for brain function but which Henry’s body doesn’t produce enough of to control his mind.
Zoghbi says if she can boost the protein safely, it would be a breakthrough for Henry and many other children.
“We know today there are hundreds of genes that can cause autism or can cause intellectual disability or complex psychiatric disorders,” she said. “Using Henry’s cells to study Rett syndrome, when successful, can be applied to any of those diseases.”

Henry with his mom, Mary Forrest.
In the meantime, Henry receives daily physiotherapy and visits the hospital twice a week for appointments to help stimulate his senses. His mom, a former television producer, is now his full time care provider who helps keep him moving whenever possible, with hope that every tiny crawl will make his muscles stronger. She even turns meals into opportunities for Henry to develop motor skills he lacks.
“I’m basically his manager for that and cheerleader,” Forrest said. “It gives me purpose, and it’s important. I see it helping him.”

Even lunch is a chance for Henry to work on fine motor skills.
While she and Engel wait for scientific progress, they try to make Henry’s life as normal as possible.
“It’s hard. Sometimes I really have to gear myself up,” she said. “I see a 9-month-old doing more than him. It’s easy to get lost in this.”
But there continue to be many moments of joy, and making sure Henry knows how much he’s loved.
“It’s made our relationship stronger actually. We’re all we’ve got,” Engel said. “We’re all he’s got right now, so we need to be a team.”

Richard Engel with wife Mary Forrest, and their son, Henry.

Engel said sharing his family’s story has been difficult, but he and his wife feel it’s necessary to help others like themselves.
“It’s not a story that anybody wants to tell. It is very difficult for us, but we wanted to raise awareness, to make other families with special needs children, children who are challenging, know that they’re not alone,” he said.
“It can feel very lonely, when you go down the street and you see other children behaving normally and knowing that his life and our life is never going to be exactly like that.”

Richard Engel with his wife Mary Forrest and son Henry.
Forrest said that the process has been “raw, it’s painful and very personal,” but she and her husband appreciate the chance to help others.
“It’s lonely, so hopefully other people maybe will see this and feel a little less alone — and we will, too,” she said.
The also feel encouraged by the research being conducted daily by Zoghbi and her team.
“It gives us hope. It gets us through every day,” she said.
More information about the research being conducted to find a treatment for Rett syndrome can be found at the Duncan Neurological Research Institute at Texas Children’s Hospital.

How Your Sleeping Position Affects Your Health

On average, we spend 25 years of our life sleeping. This is necessary because getting proper rest is vital to our overall well-being. Sleeping well has many benefits — it not only revitalizes the body but also makes the brain work optimally.
We all realize that time is very precious, so it is of the utmost importance that the time spent sleeping is well spent. Bright Side brings you an in-depth analysis of the various sleeping positions to help you choose the right one for yourself.
 
 

Soldier position

 

Sleeping on your back with your hands at your sides is considered to be the best sleeping posture. This posture is similar to the Savasana pose in yoga. Also known as the soldier position, it is known to have many health benefits.
Pros:

  • Perfect position to rest the spine, neck, and arms.
  • Helps improve the overall posture.
  • Reduces acid reflux.
  • Helps maintain perky breasts.
  • Cures insomnia.
  • Reduces the chances of headaches.
  • Prevents facial wrinkles.

Cons:

  • As gravity pulls down the tongue, this posture may aggravate snoring in people suffering from sleep apnea.
  • Can adversely affect a fetus.
  • Can cause lower back pain.

Solutions:

  • Try sleeping on your back without a pillow. It will keep your body in a neutral position and might help reduce snoring.
  • Using a large pillow under the back of your knees will help support the natural curve of your lower back.

Starfish position

This position is a variation of the back-sleeper position. In this position, a person lies on their back but with their arms up on both sides of their head.
Pros:

  • Perfect position to rest the spine and the neck.
  • Cures insomnia.
  • Reduces the chances of headaches.
  • It helps reduce acid reflux since the head is elevated and the stomach is able to sit below, so substances from the stomach cannot re-enter the esophagus.
  • Prevents facial wrinkles and skin breakouts.

Cons:

  • As gravity pulls down the tongue, this posture may aggravate snoring in people suffering from sleep apnea.
  • The awkward position of the arms can exert pressure on the nerves in the shoulder, causing pain.
  • Can cause lower back pain.

Solution:

  • Avoid using a pillow while sleeping in this position to allow your head, neck, and spine to rest in a natural position.

Log position

While sleeping in this posture, you lie on your side with both arms positioned downward in a straight line. It is advised to sleep on your left side to better rest your vital organs.
Pros:

  • Ideal sleeping position for the spine as it receives complete support in its natural curve.
  • Prevents back and neck pain.
  • Reduces sleep apnea and snoring.
  • This is the best sleeping position for pregnant women.

Cons:

  • As your top leg does not get enough support, the chances are high that you may develop back or hip pain.
  • Side sleeping can lead to skin aging, facial wrinkles, and sagging breasts.
  • In some cases, it can even cause neck pain.

Solutions:

  • As this position can cause neck pain due to improper support to the neck, it is recommended to use a big pillow.
  • Place a pillow between your thighs to support your top leg.

Yearner position

Sleeping on your side with your legs slightly bent, arms outstretched, and head slightly off-center is known as the yearner posture. It is advised to lie on your left side to better rest your vital organs.
Pros:

  • Prevents neck and back pains.
  • Lying on your left side can reduce acid reflux.
  • Helps reduce sleep apnea and snoring.
  • Eases heartburn.
  • Allows the body to clear waste from the brain more efficiently and reduces the risk of developing disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
  • Research shows that people sleeping in this position are less likely to wake up in the middle of the night. This is most likely due to the comfort the body gets.

Cons:

  • Restricts the proper flow of blood and puts pressure on the nerves, which may result in pain in the shoulders and arms.
  • Nerve compression may place a strain on internal organs like the stomach, liver, and lungs.
  • Can cause saggy breasts and premature skin aging.

Solutions:

  • Sleep on a satin pillowcase to reduce the chances of facial wrinkles.
  • Place a pillow between your knees to support your upper leg.

Fetal position

The fetal position involves lying on your side with your knees drawn toward your chest and your chin tilted down. It is the most popular sleeping position among women — over 41% of respondents claim to prefer this posture. It is advised to sleep on your left side to better rest your vital organs.
Pros:

Cons:

  • The extreme curl can put a strain on the neck and back, thereby causing pain.
  • This position, like other side-sleeping positions, can cause skin wrinkles and saggy breasts.

Solutions:

  • Use a firm pillow to support your head.
  • It is recommended that people sleeping in this position alternate sides during the night.

Freefall position

Lying flat on your stomach while sleeping is not the best sleeping position, and most experts advise against it.
Pros:

Cons:

  • Puts a strain on the spine and causes pain in the neck and lower spine.
  • Since the blood circulation is cut off from the face, it leads to the development of wrinkles.
  • Puts unnatural stress on the internal organs.

Solution:

  • Try a little sideways position by putting a pillow between your stomach and the mattress.
Let us know in the comments below what your preferred sleeping position is. If you are following a sleeping position that is detrimental to your health, it is advisable to change your position. But that’s easier said than done. Have you tried doing that? Do you think you can change your sleeping posture? We are curious to know!

 

 

 

 

 

7 Symptoms of Strokes in Women

A stroke can happen to any person at any age. According to statistics, women aged between 18 and 40 years are more prone to strokes than men of the same age.
Bright Side shares some facts about strokes. Strokes kill more women than breast cancer, and that’s why it’s important to recognize them quickly.

Types of stroke

  • Ischemic stroke. Brain tissue damage is caused by a lack of blood supply because of vessels clogging or narrowing.
  • Hemorrhagic stroke. The reason for hemorrhagic stroke is brain vessels rupturing, which causes swelling and pressure.

Risk factors

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Various heart diseases
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • High cholesterol level
  • Alcohol
  • Stress
  • Lack of physical activity

Symptoms that women usually have

One of the consequences of a stroke is facial nerve palsy. That’s why one side droops, and the nasolabial folds almost disappear. Sometimes the arm and leg on the same side suffer too. Statistics say that 80% of women who have had a stroke had such symptoms.
International statistics show that women are more likely to die from a stroke than men. One of the reasons is the nonspecific symptoms that sometimes aren’t treated as stroke symptoms.
What is more, the risk rises during pregnancy, when using birth control pills, when using hormone therapy during menopause, and in cases of other hormone diseases.
  • Visual impairment. A sudden visual impairment caused by a stroke can affect one or both eyes. Blind spots can also appear because of damage to the optic lobes.
  • Acute headache. A headache appears suddenly, and sometimes has the following symptoms: nausea and vomiting.
  • Sudden and acute pain in the chest. This symptom can also accompany a heart attack. But if a person also has the hiccups, it’s more likely to be a stroke.
  • Impaired coordination. A sudden loss of coordination and orientation in space tell about damage to the brain zone that is responsible for movement.
  • Sudden fatigue. An active person can suddenly experience changes in mood, drowsiness, and an unwillingness to do anything. Moreover, women can feel depressed.
  • Loss of consciousness. If a person is going to faint, their face becomes red. Shortness of breath and palpitations can also occur.
  • Pain on one side of the face. One more “women’s” stroke symptom is acute pain on one side of the face, the body, or in one of the limbs.

Stroke test

If you notice one of the symptoms, test the person or yourself (depends on who’s experiencing the symptom). It’ll help to recognize a stroke.
  • Smile. Smile or ask the person to smile. It’ll be asymmetrical in the case of a stroke (one corner of the mouth will stay unmoving).
  • Hands. Lift or ask the person to lift both hands, and hold them for 5 seconds at an angle of 90°. In the case of a stroke, one hand will fall.
  • Speech. Pronounce or ask the person to pronounce a simple phrase or a name. Slow speech or the absence of an answer both are signs of a stroke.
If you notice one of those signs, call an ambulance immediately. Remember! Doctors have only 4.5 hours to rescue a person and return them to normal life.
We hope that you’ll never need to refer back to these tips. But you should definitely remember them. Did we miss any important information about strokes? Share it with us in the comments.

 

 

 

One-Minute Stretching Exercises to Help Reduce Back Pain

Many people who work in an office in front of a computer know well the torment of back pain. Some caring companies organize special areas so their employees can have some rest. But if there is no such place in your company, you have to think about your health on your own.
Bright Side created a list of one-minute exercises that will help to strengthen back muscles and avoid future pain. You can have a workout no matter where you are.
  • Workout zone — any flat and solid surface (the floor, a table)
  • Workout duration — one minute for one exercise
  • Workout time period — morning, day, night
  • Workout frequency — every day

1. Spine strengthening and stretching

Influences: abs and back muscles
If performed correctly, you’ll feel smooth and light stretching in your lower back.
 
Method 1
What to do: Gently put both knees on one side with your head in the opposite direction. Your shoulders should stay motionless, fixed, and pushed to the floor. Freeze in this position for 10 minutes, and repeat the same actions on the other side.
Reps: 4 times
 
Method 2
What to do: From the starting position, stretch your right leg, and bend your left one. Tilt your bended knee outward and your head inward. Your shoulders should stay fixed.
Reps: 20 times
 
 

Method 3
What to do: Gently, one at a time, tilt your knees to one side and then the other. At the same time, turn your head in the opposite direction.
Reps: 10 tilts without pauses

2. Thoracic spine strengthening

Influences: abs and middle back muscles
If performed correctly, you’ll feel smooth stretching in your lower back.
 
Method 1
What to do: From the starting position, breathe freely and deeply. Arch your back, and fix this position for 15 or 30 seconds.
Another variant: From the starting position, bend your back toward the floor. Fix this position for 15 or 30 seconds.
Reps: 2 times for each exercise
 
Method 2
What to do: With your back arched, lift one knee to your chest, and try to touch your forehead. Then straighten this leg, keeping your position parallel to the floor. Return to the starting position.
Reps: 10 times at a slow pace

3. Lumbar spine strengthening

Influences: abdominal muscles. If your abs are weak, your stomach can bulge, and your spine can shift forward.
If performed correctly, you’ll feel light tension in your abdominal muscles.
 
Method 1
What to do: Push your pelvis to the floor, and take a breath. When you exhale, lift your rib cage up.
Reps: 10 times at a slow pace
 
Method 2
What to do: From the starting position, pull one knee to the opposite elbow (the other elbow stays on the floor.) Then straighten your knee, but don’t put it on the floor. At the same time, pull the other knee to the opposite elbow. This exercise resembles cycling.
Reps: 10 times at a slow pace
A healthy back and spine are very important for our body. Don’t forget about these exercises. Or do you already have your own workout list? Share it with us!

 

Illustrated by Daniil Shubin for BrightSide.me

 
 
 
 
 

Scientists Have Developed a Technology That Will Help Cure Blindness

According to the World Health Organization, there are 285 million people in the world who are fully or partially blind. Fortunately, science keeps developing, and scientists have now learned to grow eye tissues with the newly discovered technology of reprogramming cells. The idea itself belongs to Shinya Yamanaka, a professor at Kyoto University. Yamanaka and the British biologist John Gurdon won the Nobel Prize for their work in 2012.

 The essence of this discovery is as follows: Yamanaka, along with his colleagues, discovered the ability of cells with their own roles in the body to return to the embryonic state by reprogramming. These reprogrammed cells, in their turn, can be used to “grow” the necessary organs and tissues for further use in transplantation and regenerative medicine.
That’s how scientists “grow” tissues for eyes to cure blindness. Clinical trials of eye tissue transplantation are currently being held in different countries. Scientists at Cardiff University and Osaka University have transplanted the corneal epithelium to blind rabbits to restore the anterior part of the eye.

Similar tests were conducted at the Russian Federal Scientific Research Institute of Physical-Chemical Medicine, and they learned how to grow the retina of the eye from skin cells. It is expected that clinical studies involving human subjects will be conducted as early as this year. The operation for a retina transplantation will be performed on a family with genetic macular degeneration.
What other inventions would you like to appear? Share in the comments!

Preview photo credit Fraunhofer IAP
Based on materials from Forbes, Daily Mail, Izvestiya