Heath Ledger’s father Kim speaks about his son’s tragic death in 2008

THE night before Heath Ledger died in 2008 from a lethal drug overdose, his sister Kate warned him not to mix prescription medications.

“The last conversation Kate had with him was this discussion about his medications and she warned him, ‘‘You can’t mix drugs that you don’t know anything about’,” Ledger’s father Kim told news.com.au.

“He said ‘Katie, Katie, I’ll be fine’. Well, that’s a cavalier boy’s answer. It just put his whole system to sleep I guess,” Mr Ledger said.

The 28-year-old died from a lethal combination of several different prescription medications in his New York apartment.

The toxicology report found that Ledger’s death was the result of “acute intoxication by the combined effects of oxycodone, hydrocodone, diazepam, temazepam, alprazolam and doxylamine”, and his death was “accident, resulting from the abuse of prescribed medications.”

Heath Ledger died froma drug overdose. Picture: Bob Riha Jr/WireImage

Heath Ledger died froma drug overdose. Picture: Bob Riha Jr/WireImageSource:Supplied

Australians are some of the biggest recreational drug users in the world, according to the United Nations 2014 World Drug Report.

We rank first for ecstasy, second for opioids (painkillers such as codeine or morphine), third for methamphetamines, fourth for cocaine and seventh for cannabis.

In the eight years since his son’s death, Mr Ledger has tried to raise awareness about prescription medication misuse.

Mr Ledger says his son was not addicted to opioids, but simply made the mistake of mixing the wrong drugs.

“It was a one-off thing,” he said. “That’s what killed us, because he was warned by his sister the night before: ‘You shouldn’t mix what you’re taking for pnemonia with your ambien’. But most of Heath’s problems were self-induced.”

His hectic work schedule had begun to take its toll, Mr Ledger said.

“There is pressure on everybody, especially young people, to perform and to keep going.

“He was a young guy that travelled all the time for work. Even as a two-year-old, he hardly ever slept. He was trying to work and travel and do everything in a short space of time.”

Heath Ledger's parents Kim and Sally with his sister Kate (R), outside their home in Perth in 2008, just says after Heath’s death.

Heath Ledger’s parents Kim and Sally with his sister Kate (R), outside their home in Perth in 2008, just says after Heath’s death.Source:News Limited

Mr Ledger says most Australians are unaware of how widespread our opioid abuse problem is.

(Australians) are definitely not up to speed with just how bad these things can be,” he said.

“Heath mixed a couple of drugs together with sleeping tablets and he’s gone forever. That’s something we (himself, wife Sally and sister Kate) just have to deal with.”

Addiction medicine specialist Dr Christian Rowan says our prescription drug addiction problem is one of the biggest in the world; 450 Australians die as a result of prescription opioid misuse every year.

A quarter of Australians admit to using opioid painkillers every month, despite almost half being unaware of their addictive nature, according to a new survey from ScriptWise, an organisation trying to prevent prescription medication misuse.

Many addicts don’t discuss their dependency with others for fear of judgment or being treated differently, the survey found.

Most people become “accidentally” addicted after being prescribed painkillers due to an injury and start to take more than the recommended dosage.

“They might be off work because of the injury,” Dr Rowan said. “They might be depressed and they can get into the cycle of taking more than they need and start to rely on the medication. They can become accidentally dependent on the drug.”

Best Supporting Actor Winner Heath Ledger’s family, mother Sally, father Kim and sister Kate, pose with the Oscar he won for his role in The Dark Knight. Picture: Mark Ralston/AFP

Best Supporting Actor Winner Heath Ledger’s family, mother Sally, father Kim and sister Kate, pose with the Oscar he won for his role in The Dark Knight. Picture: Mark Ralston/AFPSource:AFP

Dr Rowan says medication isn’t the only way to treat pain.

“There are a range of treatments, including physiotherapy and hydrotherapy, which can help with pain relief,” he said. “Sometimes reaching for tablets can be an easy solution, but it’s not always the best solution.”

Reducing the stigma attached to prescription drug addictions is the best way to help reduce the problem, Mr Ledger said.

“We encourage people to start verbalising their problems with close friends or families or other relatives,” he said.

“Losing a child is something that never leaves you. You can live with the pain, but it never leaves you.

“By speaking about Heath and what happened to him, we can send a message to Australians and hopefully we can save someone’s life.”


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Blind after birth: ‘My lights went out and that was my last coloured memory’

“TWELVE months ago today, I had my nine-day-old baby boy asleep on my chest. We were on a hospital trolley bed, my mum on my left, my husband on my right. As the orderlies were wheeling us towards the theatre, I was crying and clutching my baby, wondering if I was ever going to see him again.

“I remember the corridors and the stares of pity we got in the lift. I was about to endure a seven-and-a-half hour-long brain surgery to remove a tumour from my optic nerve.

“My baby was taken away by my husband and we had a teary ‘See you later.’ I was connected to copious amounts of lines and machines and wheeled into surgery. A mask was put over my face and I counted back from 10 staring at the halo of surgery lights.

“My lights went out and that was my last coloured memory.”

Sarah Hocking pictured with her newborn son just after having brain surgery.

Sarah Hocking pictured with her newborn son just after having brain surgery.Source:Supplied

THESE powerful words were written by 29-year-old blogger and teacher, Sarah Hocking.

A year ago, Sarah was on top of the world. As well as teaching at Malmsbury Primary School in Central Victoria, a job she adored, Sarah was pregnant with her first child.

“We were excited to start a new life,” Sarah recalls, “although it was high pressure, we were both newlyweds and happy. And by the end of the year, Cam was going to have his new business and a newborn baby and me.”

Sarah first started to notice there was something wrong in June the same year. In class, she was having trouble reading the whiteboard. Computer screens and books were also difficult to see.

Being heavily pregnant, Sarah “just put it down to tiredness.”

In early July things went from bad to worse. Unbeknown to Sarah, her world was about to change forever.

“On July 11, Cameron and I were sitting down and the news was on and I couldn’t see the features on the newsreader’s face. So I could see her eyes, but I couldn’t see the colour of her eyes [or] whether she had makeup on. There was no nose, it was just all blank,” Sarah says.

Sarah and Cameron headed to hospital.

“We went in and they put bubs on the monitor and everything was tracking fine with Archer,” Sarah says, “then at about midnight, they decided to do a CT scan on me.”

“After dozing on a hospital bed, I was awakened at three o’clock in the morning by a doctor and an entourage. They explained to me that it was actually three clots on the brain, two of which were on the optic nerve, putting pressure on there,” she continues.

After being given a spinal tap to drain some of the fluid on her brain, Sarah was rushed by ambulance to Melbourne for an emergency C-section at the Mercy Hospital.

The birth was hard. Sarah lost a lot of blood and even though Archer was considered full-term at 38 weeks gestation, he ended up in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in a humidicrib for 24 hours.

“I remember feeling quite alone after that. All I wanted to do was see my baby and hold him and have that initial bonding with him and I never got that,” Sarah says.

Nine days later Sarah was taken into theatre to have surgery on her brain at the Austin Hospital. Reflecting back on this moment, she says that even now, it “reminds me of a movie.”

“It’s still so haunting,” she says, “they wheeled me through the corridors with Archer asleep on my chest. I had Mum on one side, Cam on the other and all of us were crying.”

Sarah promised herself she would come through the operation.

“It’s that mother instinct, I guess. You’re just solely focused on your child at the time, and I just wanted to be around for him,” Sarah explains.

What doctors initially thought were blood clots, turned out to be three benign tumours called meningiomas. Two of the tumours were wrapped around Sarah’s optic nerve and doctors worked for seven and a half hours to remove them.

“I woke up legally blind,” Sarah says.

Sarah woke up from the surgery unable to see her son.

Sarah woke up from the surgery unable to see her son.Source:Supplied

And that’s when her journey truly started. Over the past year, Sarah has been learning to live life — and care for her baby son — with only a tiny bit of vision.

At first Sarah was “just shattered with grief” and kept asking herself “How is this going to impact on our son?”

Sometimes she’d have panic attacks when she was alone with Archer and couldn’t find everyday baby items, such as nappies or clothing.

In an attempt to explain how much she can see, Sarah says: “It’s kind of like looking through a stocking or at an overexposed photograph.”

I ask Sarah if she can see her son’s face.

“In the beginning I couldn’t see his face and I missed out on his first smile.

“However, I can see his face close up in daylight. The more light the better. I can see him smile, but I can’t tell the colour of his eyes,” she replies.

The first time Sarah saw her son’s face he was 10 weeks old. She was changing his nappy at 4am under the bathroom’s bright lights.

“I got down really close to him to give him a kiss and I saw his smile. I was so excited, I screamed and woke the whole house,” she says.

Despite the challenges they face, this is one happy family. Picture: Chris Epworth

Despite the challenges they face, this is one happy family. Picture: Chris EpworthSource:Supplied

Straight after Sarah’s operation, she recalls being “smothered by my family and friends, thinking that I’ll never be independent and I’m going to need a carer. I refused to let that happen to me. It made me so angry.”

Fairly quickly, she started having a vision of herself as someone strong and capable.

“I see myself as independent, I see myself as a good mother, and I want to start up a blog and I want to tell my story because it would help others,” she says.

Despite knowing her goal, Sarah didn’t know how to get there. As a newly blind person, she didn’t know how to use her phone or computer — or even find items in the pantry.

“Every time I have to do something for the first time, I am riddled with anxiety and, and I prepare myself in advance,” Sarah says.

“If it wasn’t for Vision Australia, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I was having two or three appointments with them almost every day, until I became independent,” she says.

An occupational therapist helped her arrange the pantry so Sarah could find everything. Household items she used frequently were marked with tactile “bumps.”

“She showed me how to arrange my change table so that I was able to change Archer’s bum when he had a dirty nappy, and feel for the tackiness under the wipe, and giving me skills to change his nappy,” Sarah says.

Technology has also transformed Sarah’s post-operative life. She has talking kitchen scales, a talking baby thermometer and uses Apple Voiceover to work her phone, computer and iPad.

Often people ask Sarah strange questions or make odd comments about her being blind. She relishes the opportunity to answer them on her blog.

New technology has allowed Sarah to become independent. Picture: Chris Epworth

New technology has allowed Sarah to become independent. Picture: Chris EpworthSource:Supplied

One of her favourite wacky comments is: “Oh, you don’t look blind.”

“I’m like, ‘Well, what’s a blind person supposed to look like?” she laughs, “Why can’t I wear makeup or look fashionable?”

Together Cameron and Sarah have spent time over the last week reflecting on the one-year anniversary of both Archer’s birth and Sarah’s operation.

“I was teary actually because it was so overwhelming but I was also proud. We have achieved so much. At the end of the day, I’m still here.

“We have raised our beautiful little baby boy and Cam has got his business. So everything that we imagined before … is still the same, it has just happened in a different way,” Sarah says.

This photo says it all. Picture: Chris Epworth

This photo says it all. Picture: Chris EpworthSource:Supplied

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Devastating consequences of baby’s oxygen tragedy

SEPTEMBER 2008, Bankstown Hospital.

A drained and near hysterical expectant mother has made her way to the western Sydney facility for the fourth time since her contractions began four days ago, and it’s the first time she hasn’t been sent away.

Exhausted, she requests a caesarean only to be told that the theatre is too busy, and later that it is too late.

After five days of pain for his mum, baby Joseph is born but he’s yet to take his first breath as his umbilical cord is tied around his neck. He is quickly whisked away to the intensive care unit and later transferred to another hospital’s ICU before he is allowed to come home.

He suffers reflux and requires an operation, but it’s not until two months later that his mother and father are informed that he was deprived of oxygen at birth, and told by doctors he would have “delayed development”.

A Google search, rather than a doctor’s consultation, informs the parents a condition listed on Joseph’s patient chart could lead to “mental retardation, cerebral palsy, epilepsy or delayed development”, or, “all of these problems”.

Almost eight years later, in a Supreme Court judgment over his parents’ compensation handed down last month, Joseph’s condition was detailed and so was his mother’s.

Joseph is living with cerebral palsy and requires around-the-clock care. He’s had about 50 years shaved off his life expectancy and is considered likely to live only to age 36.

He has limited communication, cannot speak, is incontinent, cannot walk, or control his limbs, has to be fed through a tube to his stomach and will require the constant care by others for his entire life.

His mother is unable to work and suffers a depressive condition resulting from the hospital’s negligence, the judgment says.

Her relationship with Joseph’s father, who has also suffered psychologically, has broken down and ended, and she has struggled financially and physically to care for her son.

Sonya Ghanem and her husband Youssef’s newborn son died at Bankstown-Lidcombe Hospital after being administered nitrous oxide gas instead of oxygen.

Sonya Ghanem and her husband Youssef’s newborn son died at Bankstown-Lidcombe Hospital after being administered nitrous oxide gas instead of oxygen.Source:Channel 9

On Monday, just weeks after the heart-rending descriptions in the judge’s decision were delivered, it was revealed a pair of babies born at the same hospital within the past two months had been denied oxygen.

Again, there was a delay in the parents being informed what had happened to their children.

Instead of being given oxygen the babies’ tiny lungs were pumped with a poisonous gas, nitrous oxide, because a wall unit to administer the gas was incorrectly installed.

The mother of a baby boy born on July 13 woke from anaesthesia to be told her Caesarian-born son had died, while parents of a baby girl, born in June, have been told their daughter will suffer significant brain damage and severe disabilities.

It was a week after the boy died, and up to a month after the girl was born that the parents were informed of the cause.

The first family’s pain is unimaginable — mourning a newborn while awaiting the result of investigations that are expected to point the blame at gas distribution company at the hospital where he was born.

The second family’s is just as difficult to comprehend, but if the similarities continue between baby Joseph and this baby girl that were apparent at the beginning of their lives, it will be incredibly tough.

Liquid oxygen storage tanks at Bankstown Hospital supplied by BOC. Picture: Craig Greenhill

Liquid oxygen storage tanks at Bankstown Hospital supplied by BOC. Picture: Craig GreenhillSource:News Corp Australia

Joseph’s mum’s birthing experience was horrific. Her then husband told a court she was left unattended and bleeding into a bucket after her son was born, her hospital room looking like a “disgusting scene from a horror movie”.

She was described as being in “excruciating pain” and “distressed about her unborn baby”, but it wasn’t going to get any better.

Her son was an unsettled baby, and not knowing fully about his condition his mother worried about his development, vision, and lack of mobility.

He was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at four months and told he would never walk.

He had regular seizures and had to be pulled from kindergarten after suffering a “swallowing disaster” and having to be fed through a tube.

He’s started school but has to have a lot of time off because of his illness.

He is described as “an engaging despite child being so profoundly injured”, but the work involved in his care by his mother, who has lost the support of his dad, was found by the judge to be “unarguably considerable and emotionally difficult”.

The Supreme Court judgment found the South Western Sydney Local Health District had breached a duty of care to Rosemary Sorbello, Joseph’s mother, and her then-husband, Sleiman Sultan. Joseph’s profound disability was found to be due to the hospital’s negligence, which deprived him of oxygen.

Health Minister Jillian Skinner addresses the media at Bankstown-Lidcombe Hospital. Picture: Chris Pavlich

Health Minister Jillian Skinner addresses the media at Bankstown-Lidcombe Hospital. Picture: Chris PavlichSource:News Corp Australia

Another baby born at the hospital in 2014 suffered serious injuries after a portable device ran out of oxygen.

It is unknown if this child’s family was compensated, but NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner said earlier this week she would be “extremely surprised if they were not”.

South Western Sydney Local Health District will again be investigated over the cases of the two children mistakenly given nitrous oxide instead of oxygen at Bankstown hospital.

Along with an internal investigation by NSW Health, the NSW Coroner will conduct an investigation as will BOC, the company that installed the gas tank.

It has been reported that homicide police and the NSW Child Death Review Team have been also been alerted to the baby boy’s death following the mix-up.

Ms Skinner has advised the hospital is safe and expecting mothers should not hesitate to be treated there.

She confirmed the parents of the baby boy will be awarded with a one-off compensation, and the family of the disabled baby girl will also be compensated.

But as baby Joseph and his mother’s story shows, the damage will continue to be felt.


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Zika hits US in Florida after four infections

FOUR people in Florida have been infected with the Zika virus by local mosquitoes, health officials say, making them the first to be infected on the US mainland.

“While no mosquitoes trapped tested positive for the Zika virus, the department believes these cases were likely transmitted through infected mosquitoes in this area,” according to a statement from the Florida Department of Health.

No mosquitoes in the state have tested positive for Zika, but one woman and three men in Florida likely contracted the virus through mosquito bites, Governor Rick Scott said during a news conference in Orlando.

Evaristo Miqueli, a natural resources officer with Broward County Mosquito Control, takes water samples, checking for the presence of mosquito larvae in florida. Picture: AP

Evaristo Miqueli, a natural resources officer with Broward County Mosquito Control, takes water samples, checking for the presence of mosquito larvae in florida. Picture: APSource:AP

More than 1650 Zika infections have been reported in the US, but the four patients in Florida would be the first not linked to travel outside the US mainland.

“This is not just a Florida issue. It’s a national issue — we just happen to be at the forefront,” Scott said.

Health officials believe the infections occurred in a small area just north of downtown Miami, in the popular Wynwood arts district, Gov. Scott said.

It’s the only part of the state currently being tested for potential local transmissions of Zika, Gov. Scott said. Women in the area who are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant are urged to contact their doctors and the county health department for Zika prevention kits.

Federal health officials have not recommended that pregnant women avoid travel to South Florida.

Florida Governor Rick Scott says Zika is now not just a Florida issue. Picture: Getty

Florida Governor Rick Scott says Zika is now not just a Florida issue. Picture: GettySource:AFP

Zika primarily spreads through bites from tropical mosquitoes, but it also can be spread through sex. In most people, the virus causes only mild illness, but infection during pregnancy can lead to severe brain-related birth defects for the foetus. There is no vaccine.

Since February, over 380 Zika cases related to travel have been confirmed in Florida, including 151 cases in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

The tropical mosquito that spreads Zika and other viruses is found in the southern US. While health officials have predicted that mosquitoes in the continental US would begin spreading Zika this summer, they also have said they expect only isolated clusters of infections and not widespread outbreaks.

Florida should be able to contain the virus to an isolated area because its neighbourhoods have better sanitation and living conditions than countries where Zika outbreaks have been widespread, said Adam Putnam, Florida’s commissioner for agriculture and consumer services.

Miami-Dade mosquito control worker Carlos Vargas pointing to the Aedes aegypti mosquito larvae at a home in Miami, Florida. Picture: AFP

Miami-Dade mosquito control worker Carlos Vargas pointing to the Aedes aegypti mosquito larvae at a home in Miami, Florida. Picture: AFPSource:AFP

The US Food and Drug Administration has told blood centres in Miami-Dade and Broward counties to suspend collections until they can screen each unit of blood for the Zika virus with authorised tests.

Neighbouring counties have been urged to implement the same precautions, and visitors to South Florida in the last month are encouraged to defer donations as well.

The FDA previously advised US blood banks to refuse donations from people who recently travelled to areas outside the country that have Zika outbreaks.

Florida’s main supplier of blood, OneBlood, said it was working as quickly as possible to comply with the FDA’s recommendation and would start testing all its collections for Zika overnight.


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Donate Life Week: Australians encouraged to donate their organs, including eyes and heart

CASSIE Hames was 15 years old when her sight started to deteoriate.

She first noticed something was wrong when she couldn’t pick out landmarks or read street signs, and even people’s faces.

“I couldn’t make anything out because I needed contrast to see things. If you put a glass on a table, I wouldn’t be able to see it,” Ms Hames, now 27, from Adelaide, told news.com.au.

“It was really scary to go to the optometrist and realise I couldn’t read half the test card, when previously I could read the whole thing.”

Ms Hames was diagnosed with keratoconus, a disease where the cornea, the clear layer on the outside of the eye, thins and becomes misshapen.

Her doctors said her condition was past the point of treatment and a corneal transplant was the only cure.

She went on the organ donor list in January 2010 and was lucky enough to receive a corneal transplant in her left eye in February. In March 2012, she had another transplant in her right eye.

A corneal transplant is a fairly straightforward procedure and usually patients notice an immediate improvement in their vision.

“There’s this big clock in my mum’s house and before [the transplant] I couldn’t read the numbers, but a couple of days afterwards I could see them again,” Ms Hames said.

She used to walk with a stick and can now see with regular glasses.

“It’s just little things like that which make a big difference,” she said.

The eye before surgery. Picture: Cassie Hames

The eye before surgery. Picture: Cassie HamesSource:Supplied

You can see the faint stitches around the eye. Picture: Cassie Hames

You can see the faint stitches around the eye. Picture: Cassie HamesSource:Supplied

This week is Donate Life Week, and the Organ and Tissue Authority is encouraging Australians to register as organ donors and to discuss our personal views on organ donation with our families.

The Australian Organ Donor Register is the only way to become an organ donor. The old system of ticking a box on your driver’s licence application is no longer available, except for in South Australia.

“We want people to register and to donate all of their organs, even their eyes and heart,” said the Organ and Tissue Authority’s national medical director, Dr Helen Opdam.

“There’s only about 1000 people each year who die in hospital on life support and they’re the only ones who can donate kidneys, hearts, lungs and livers. It’s an infrequent, precious opportunity. But many more people die in circumstances where they can donate their eyes,” she said.

If someone donates their whole eye, it is replaced with a prosthesis and the eye socket is closed. Corneal donors have their corneas replaced with a plastic contact lens.

In a corneal transplant, it’s only the clear front part of the eye being replaced, not the iris — the coloured part — so the eye doesn’t change colour.

“It’s still possible to have an open casket and people wouldn’t know that donation has occurred,” Dr Opdam said.

Ms Hames had the before and after photos of her eyes printed onto canvas, and they are mounted in her living room to remind her of her donor’s generosity.

Ms Hames had the before and after photos of her eyes printed onto canvas, and they are mounted in her living room to remind her of her donor’s generosity.Source:Supplied

She says there are currently 1600 people waiting for an organ transplant in Australia

“It’s a real pity, because if were in their shoes, we would all want one. We’d all want that opportunity for ourselves and our families,” Dr Opdam said.

Telling family members about your organ donation preferences is the best way to ensure your wishes are carried out when you die.

According to the Organ and Tissue Authority, when someone dies and is an organ donor, 91 per cent of the time their family agrees to donate their organs. But this success rate drops to just 52 per cent, if the deceased is not a registered donor and the family does not know about their preferences.

In Australia, organ donation is anonymous, so Ms Hames only knows the age and gender of her two donors.

“Every morning I do a bit of a thank you to them, because it is something that’s with you all the time. I’m very grateful,” she said.

“I ended up getting the before and after photos of my eyes printed onto two canvases and they’re mounted in my living room. It’s a nice reminder of how lucky I am.”

Donate Life Weeks runs from July 31 until August 7. To register to become an organ donor, visit donatelife.gov.au


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The honest conversation we need to have about fat people


WE HAVE an obesity problem in this country and it’s time we started being honest.

Consider that 63 per cent of Australian adults are overweight or obese and growing as rapidly as our waistlines, are the numerous ‘Body Positive’ movements, personalities and bloggers.

Most of them are well intentioned and have correctly helped people to stop wasting their lives, chasing impossible standards of beauty.

However, some in this movement have become dangerous. The obesity issue has become driven by emotion, not the facts. We are being told we can be “healthy at any size.”

This is a lie.

I know that when it comes to talking about your health, I’m about as credible as Pete Evans discussing sunscreen. Unlike Pete, I acknowledge that I’m no expert, but I do tend to trust the advice of scientists, doctors and researchers.

I’m going to ask that you do the same, because I know talking about this is uncomfortable. People are as afraid to talk about obese people as they are sleeping in a bottom bunk beneath them.

Last year I stumbled onto some scales. I was 99kg. I knew I had two choices. Raise my fork and get to 100, or change.

We all remember the reason we decide to check our weight. A bad photo, a torn jacket, a popped button or a challenging set of stairs. For me it was my friends informing me, that in letting myself go, I looked like a fat Jon Snow.

Amos Gill’s friends reckon he looked like a fat Jon Snow. The hair certainly bears a resemblance.

Amos Gill’s friends reckon he looked like a fat Jon Snow. The hair certainly bears a resemblance.Source:News Corp Australia

Add to that the visit to my Croatian grandmother’s house for dinner, where she revealingly did not push me toward seconds.

There is a line between embracing the many shapes and sizes we can be and encouraging medically obese people to continue a self destructive path.

It’s your body and I agree that you should be able to do whatever the hell you want with it, so long as you’re given proper information to base those decisions on.

Ignoring reality leads to bizarre articles like this piece that gives out strategies to make “your doctor’s office into a safe space”. Apparently, if your doctor makes you feel “ashamed of your body,” you should “write a nasty review of them on Yelp and go find a new doctor who isn’t an a**hole.”

A strategy I used as a child to dentists who told me to stop eating Redskins.

Nikolai Petrovsky, the Diabetes and Endocrinology director at Flinders Medical Centre, points out that, “the question is not whether obesity is associated with excess mortality, which it clearly is, but what do we do about it as a society?”

Well, what do we do about it as a society? This is a problem costing us lives and money — around $21 billion a year.

Amos Gill says we need to stop being so politically correct about our obesity crisis.

Amos Gill says we need to stop being so politically correct about our obesity crisis.Source:istock

We should treat obesity for what it is, a behavioural health issue, like smoking. Obesity kills more people in this country than smoking does.

Smokers are ridiculed and encouraged to quit. We make it hard to buy cigarettes and harder to find a place to smoke them.

We don’t accommodate smokers on planes with ashtrays, so why should we accommodate the obese with wider aisles and seats?

We know smoking is bad, we get it. Same goes for obesity, we know it increases the chances of heart disease, cancers and diabetes. Our tendency for sugar coating isn’t the solution, in fact it’s what got us into this problem, in every sense.

I’ve interviewed celebrity personal trainers who have been condemned for unhealthy diet plans and unrealistic body standards. I’ve also interviewed voices for body positivity. What I think links them both, is that they are all selling something. On the one hand you hear, “buy my workout plan and water bottle,” and on the other, “you have been told that you must look a certain way, that’s wrong, accept who you are, read all about it in my third book.”

Maybe both of these types of people do want to increase happiness, beginning with theirs. But I’m starting to think I should listen to the ones who want us to be healthy.

As for me, did I like exercising? No. Did it upset me not trying Dominoes hamburger pizza crust? Yes. But I’m glad I found motivating what others now find insulting.


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Roxy Jacenko scheduled for breast cancer surgery this week

ROXY Jacenko’s difficult year — including the jailing of husband Oliver Curtis for insider trading committed more than a decade ago, a diagnosis of breast cancer at age 36 and her daughter being the target of lewd online photoshopping pranks — is set to be chronicled in a coming episode of 60 Minutes.

The publicist last month revealed to the Daily Telegraph that she had been diagnosed with the potentially deadly illness just three weeks after Curtis was given a two-year sentence for conspiracy to commit insider trading in 2007 and 2008.

Roxy Jacenko and husband Oliver Curtis arrive at the Supreme court in Sydney for his sentence hearing. Pic Renee Nowytarger / The Australian.

Roxy Jacenko and husband Oliver Curtis arrive at the Supreme court in Sydney for his sentence hearing. Pic Renee Nowytarger / The Australian.Source:News Corp Australia

A source close to the mother of two said that surgery is now scheduled for this week, after a planned “partial removal” of the lump in her left breast was delayed last month.

“(The cancer) is larger than first suspected, so more testing is required,” Jacenko told the Telegraph at the time of the diagnosis.

Jacenko spent much of Saturday at the zoo with her children Hunter, 2, and Pixie, 4, with a crew from the flagship Nine current affairs series in tow.

She also posted a video of her children singing ‘happy birthday’ to Curtis, with a caption addressed to her imprisoned husband: “Unlikely you will get this but you might hear about it”.

Despite industry speculation that an interview deal would be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, it is understood that Jacenko isn’t being paid for her appearance on 60 Minutes.


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Deadly chemical that could be hiding in your blood

SCIENTISTS have identified a molecule in the blood that they believe holds the key to the cause of suicide.

This has allowed them to make a breakthrough in identifying suicidal patients, and could lead to a simple blood test to identify at-risk individuals.

When you consider that there are more than seven suicide attempts every hour in Australia, this discovery could have a significant impact on many lives.

The research is of particular interest to Nic Newling.

Nic lost his brother Christopher to suicide when he was a teenager, and battled suicidal thoughts himself through his younger years. He’s now an outspoken advocate for mental health.

“The impact that suicide can have on families is clearly devastating,” Nic says.

Nic Newling (left) and his late brother Christopher. Christopher committed suicide aged 17.

Nic Newling (left) and his late brother Christopher. Christopher committed suicide aged 17.Source:News Corp Australia

“Research around mental illness and suicide prevention is so important and I feel it needs a lot more attention because we’re losing people all the time.

“A huge part of suicide prevention is seeking help and talking about it, but the other part is researching ways to treat these conditions.”

Investigating these conditions is exactly what the collaboration of scientists from Australia, the USA and Sweden have been doing.

Professor Gilles Guillemin from Macquarie University is a key member of the Australian research team and has been developing his findings over the past 19 years.

Professor Gilles Guillemin.

Professor Gilles Guillemin.Source:News Limited

In 2013, Guillemin and his collaborators discovered that the overproduction of a neurotoxin named quinolinic acid is directly associated with suicidal behaviour (an excess of quinolinic acid changes the functions of neurons in areas of the brain that regulate mood and behaviour). It was a discovery that shed light on why some people with no history of depression take their lives.

His research showed that the presence of quinolinic acid at more than two to three times the normal amount in the brain was sufficient to trigger suicidal behaviour.

“Our latest research, published today, provides further evidence of the role of inflammation in a person’s mental state,” he says.

“It shows that suicidal patients have reduced activity of an enzyme called ACMSD that results in lower production of picolinic acid, an important molecule for brain protection. We now have a much clearer indication of the biological mechanics behind people suicidal tendency.

“The next research phase will be to explore whether these changes are present only in those with

suicidal thoughts or if they are also present in individuals with severe depression,” he said.

A detection kit for quinolinic acid could be widely available in the next two to three years and

represents a critical new prognostic tool that should help psychiatrists and psychologists to

confirm their diagnostic for suicide risk.

“We believe that it could be potentially as simple as an annual flu shot to detect whether or not people have an imbalance of this specific chemical in their brains,” Guillemin says.

The discovery could also lead to innovative new treatments. Targeting quinolinic acid production or neutralising its effects with specific drugs could represent promising new therapeutic strategies to decrease suicidal ideation.

“Commonly used antidepressants have only limited effect because they target serotonin rather than quinolinic acid,” he explains.

This breakthrough makes Nic Newling feel “excited … but also a bit sceptical.”

Nic Newling spoke at Vivid Sydney on the topic of suicide prevention.

Nic Newling spoke at Vivid Sydney on the topic of suicide prevention.Source:Supplied

“I think whenever I hear that there’s a magic bullet solution to what is really a complex issue I am always a little bit sceptical as there are many other factors involved,” he says.

“The most effective way to deal with suicide is not a simple one-size-fits-all.

“But developing new technologies and the scientific community understanding the causes that lead up to the suicidal thoughts is so important … it means more lives saved”.


[source :-news]

Salmonella outbreak fears over rockmelon, Food Standards Australia investigates

ROCKMELONS from north Queensland are believed to be the cause behind an outbreak of a rare form of salmonella across New South Wales and South Australia.

Pregnant women, infants and the elderly are being warned not to eat rockmelon — also known as cantaloupe — due to the outbreak.

The Australian Melon Association said an uncommon strain, called salmonella hvittingfoss, had caused a number of people to become ill; a majority of which occurred in the greater Sydney metropolitan area.

SA Health and the New South Wales Food Authority is investigating the cases and believe the likely cause of the contamination came from rockmelons.

The melon association said the rare strain is usually found in parts of northern Queensland.

State and industry authorities are meeting this afternoon to discuss the issue.

“While we wait for further information, the best advice is that consumers, especially infants, the elderly, pregnant women or people with compromised immune systems, should not consume rockmelon,” Food Standards Australia said in a statement.

“FSANZ will continue to work with the state and territory enforcement agencies and the Federal Department of Health and update its advice to consumers.”


[source :-news]

RAAF fleet grounded over cancer risk

THE Royal Australian Air Force’s fleet of B300 King Air planes has been grounded for more than a month after aircrew were exposed to cancer-causing chemicals in the aircrafts’ cabins.

The 16-strong fleet, operated from Townsville by 38 Squadron and from Victoria by 32 Squadron, was suspended from flying operations on June 30 as a precautionary safety measure after strontium chromate was detected.

It is understood the planes were used to fly politicians during the recent federal election campaign immediately before they were grounded.

Medical testing had been carried out on personnel who may have been exposed to the chemical.

A defence source said a maintenance worker at RAAF Base East Sale discovered a “yellow powder” in the air conditioning system about five weeks ago.

“Aircrew were not tested for the highly toxic chemical for over a week due to blunders in the RAAF medical system, and they still have not been given their results following blood and urine testing conducted more than three weeks ago,” the source said.

It is understood further testing revealed that all 16 aircraft — including eight based in Townsville — had varying levels of Strontium Chromate throughout the planes’ cabins.

“An attempt has been made to clean the internal furnishings of the aircraft along with the many pipes that carry the highly toxic chemical into the cockpit and cabin,” the source said.

“Cleaning did not remove all traces of the dust and they now need to complete the process a second time in an effort to remove the highly toxic dust.”

A Civil Aviation Safety Authority spokeswoman said CASA had received reports from the RAAF regarding ­potential defects in King Air 350 craft.

“The maintenance organisation involved have notified the manufacturer Beechcraft,” she said.

“CASA will continue to monitor the situation and work with the manufacturer, RAAF and maintenance provider.”

Number 38 Squadron has a strength of about 60 RAAF personnel as well as 25 aircraft maintenance contractors from Hawker Pacific.

In a statement, the Defence department said the RAAF had approved the progressive recommencement of flying of the B300 King Air fleet from tomorrow.

The department also said results from laboratory tests did not indicate any concerning levels of chromate or cadmium in aircrew.

“Subsequent cleaning of the fleet has been carried out and the aircraft will return to service throughout August,” it read.

“The Royal Australian Air Force remains committed to eliminating or minimising risks to personnel so far as reasonably practicable and will continue to monitor affected aircraft.

“There was minimal impact on operations during the short suspension.”

Originally published as RAAF fleet grounded over cancer risk


[source :-news]