Doctors and Mothers Stress the Importance of Flu Shots

Flu season is officially upon us, and health officials in Grand Rapids and around the country are urging everyone to get their annual vaccine.

This year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has endorsed two types of vaccines: a “regular dose” flu shot for people with healthy immune systems, and a “high dose” shot for older adults whose immune systems may have weakened with age.

Every year, many people are hesitant to get the flu vaccine, either because they don’t think they’ll be affected, they dislike needles, or they’re afraid the shot might actually give them the flu. Dr. Daniel McGee, a pediatrician at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, maintains that those fears are unfounded.

“It will never give you the flu, it doesn’t work that way,” he told NBC News. “You can get muscle aches and a little bit of fever after the flu shot, but that just means it’s working. That doesn’t mean it’s giving you the flu.”

Even in the most mild of years, the influenza virus is said to account for 75 million absences from work and 200 million days of reduced workplace productivity. At its worst, it can be lethal, as some families learn the hard way.

Piper Lowery was just 12 years old when she died of the flu. But her mother, Peggy, is working to make sure that no one else has to suffer the same fate. Peggy is raising awareness with the Fight the Flu Foundation by knitting 100,000 infant hats to be donated to hospitals across the country.

“Believe me, I would take her back within a second,” she said. “But there’s been a lot of good that’s come out of this that’s helped other people. She’s impacted so many lives, I cannot tell you. I can’t go back and rewrite history.”

Like the CDC, Lowery wants to encourage everyone six months of age and older to get a new flu shot every year.

Michigan Men On Trial for Shaken Baby Syndrome to Challenge Diagnosis

Two Michigan men stand separately accused of murdering their partners’ children through violent force that resulted in Shaken Baby Syndrome. But according to their defense attorneys, that diagnosis may not hold up in a court of law.

Shaken Baby Syndrome, also referred to as abusive head trauma, is frequently tied to the presence of three fatal symptoms: bleeding behind the eyes, bleeding along the surface of the brain, and swelling of the brain. Yet the defense teams in both cases argue that those factors alone are not enough to determine physical abuse; they might be caused by falls, accidents, or preexisting injuries. Around 28,000 infants are born with a birth injury every year, for example.

Leo Ackley and Anthony Ball will separately stand trial for first-degree child abuse and murder in Calhoun County Circuit Court. Ackley was previously convicted for the death of his girlfriend’s two-year-old and sentenced to life in prison in 2012, but was granted a retrial next year after the Michigan Supreme Court determined his attorney at the time had neglected to “engage a single expert witness to rebut” testimony from the prosecution’s expert witness.

Ball, meanwhile, is accused of killing his fiancee’s 20-month-old in 2014. His defense attorney, Kimberly Schroder, argues that the injuries may have been caused by a car accident the child was involved in a few days before she died.

In both trials, however, the principal issue in question is whether Shaken Baby Syndrome has enough scientific evidence to be used for legal conviction.

“This case is really about Shaken Baby Syndrome… a highly controversial, unproven hypothesis unfit to serve as the basis for a murder prosecution,” Shcroder wrote in court proceedings.

The prosecution, however, remains unfazed. “This is not a Shaken Baby Syndrome case,” Calhoun County Prosecutor David Gilbert said to the Washington Post. “It implies that if you shake a baby hard enough, injuries occur. That’s not the argument in this case. We’re not claiming that the baby was shaken. We’re claiming the baby was injured.”

Trials will commence this week and next in Calhoun County.

East Grand Rapids Police Now Have Tools to Help Combat Cyber Crime

cyber-crimeCyber crimes such as credit card fraud and identity theft cost the U.S. approximately $8 billion annually. However, East Grand Rapids Public Safety Department now has the tools necessary to combat the growing rate of cyber crimes plaguing citizens.

Officer Jeff DeJonge was among a small number of officers across the country selected for a five-week intensive training program conducted by the United States Secret Service.

After finishing the program, DeJonge received a case of devices and three computers specifically designed to help seek out cyber criminals.

As more and more of the world relies on credit cards and digital shopping, police departments across the country are becoming increasingly focused on preventing and combating these crimes.

Sending a single officer to the course would cost the city approximately $75,000, but it would seem that this is an issue that concerns the government on a national level as well.

Fortunately, the federal government covered the cost for all officers attending this particular training session.

However, the five-week training course isn’t the only method of combating cyber crimes like fraud.

Oberthur Technologies, a UK-based company, is currently attempting to bring a new type of credit card to the market that would replace the static printed three-digit security code on the back of the card with a mini screen, which displays a random code that changes automatically every hour.

The card is powered by a thin lithium battery designed with a lifespan of three years.

According to Alan Woodward, a cybersecurity expert from Surrey University, the technology has existed for a while.

“In some ways, it’s surprising it has taken so long for this to appear,” he said.

He noted that although the technology is there and that this would increase card security, being unable to memorize the security code may be a drawback for some buyers.

Nevertheless, it’s apparent that the world understands just how much of a threat cyber crime is. The more ways there are to fight it, the better.

For the East Grand Rapids Public Safety Department, the fight begins with their new equipment.

Now, the department can track and potentially solve crimes like credit card fraud, child pornography, and online threats without tapping into outside resources.

Bernie Sanders Visits Grand Rapids to Campaign for Hillary Clinton

Image: Gage Skidmore

Image: Gage Skidmore

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders made a recent appearance in Grand Rapids to advocate support for his one-time rival, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

Addressing the crowd at Innovation Central High School in Grand Rapids, Sanders sought to assure his former supporters that the platforms put forth during his bid for the presidential nomination during the Democratic primaries are still alive and well in the Clinton agenda.

“It is by far the most progressive platform in the history of American politics,” Sanders said in a television interview before the event. “It talks about Wall Street’s greed and breaking up the large banks. It talks about transforming our energy system. It talks about raising the minimum wage to a living wage. It talks about health care for all people. It talks about what we have to do to protect a middle class which today is in a lot of trouble.”

During his run for the presidential nomination, Sanders — a self-proclaimed socialist — largely focused on issues of income inequality and the wealth gap. Studies show that household income has grown 26% over the past dozen years, for instance, but the cost of living has also increased 29% during that same period.

Sanders emerged as something of a dark horse during the 2016 primary season, a hitherto obscure Independent senator from a small liberal state who wound up challenging presumptive frontrunner Hillary Clinton until nearly the end of the race. In Michigan, Sanders took a surprise win over Clinton in the March 8 primary with a narrow 49% to 48% vote.

The fervent support Sanders’ campaign garnered from young people in particular has not easily transferred to the Clinton camp. Polls show that only 31% of Millennials support Clinton, prompting Sanders to urge young people to consider their options and their future.

“I would ask young people and all voters to take a hard look at the agenda that Secretary Clinton is bringing forth,” Sanders said. “She is talking about a proposal that I worked with her on to make public colleges and universities tuition-free, which would be of huge help to thousands and thousands of families in Michigan. Raising the minimum wage to a living wage. Pay equity for women. The understanding that climate change is real and we have to protect the planet for our children and our grandchildren.”

Sanders also had strong words of criticisms for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, particularly in light of recent evidence that indicates the billionaire may not have paid any federal income taxes for more than a dozen years because of a declared $916 million business loss in 1995.

“In one day, Donald Trump did more than I did in a year to tell the American people how corrupt the political system is. How corrupt our tax system is, how rigged our economy is,” Sanders said at a speech in Dearborn, just prior to his Grand Rapids visit. “In one day, we learned that this multibillionaire, who owns mansions all over the world… does not pay a nickel in federal income tax, and he’s proud of that. He thinks we can just stiff the middle class.”

Trump also has residences in both New York and Florida, and the move from the former to the latter can save people in high income tax brackets thousands or millions of dollars every year.

Sanders continued: “We’ve got a message for Mr. Trump and the other billionaires: Hillary Clinton is going to be elected president, and they’re all going to start paying their fair share.”

Sanders will continue to campaign throughout several other states in support of Clinton in the coming weeks. Clinton herself is scheduled to attend a rally and fundraiser on October 10 in Detroit.

Childhood Cancer Survivor Uses Her Experience to Help Others as an Oncology Nurse


The average child will get six to 10 colds every year, which can really put a damper on things. However, many children endure much worse. Children are diagnosed with cancer at alarming rates. Every day, approximately 43 children begin fighting for their lives after doctors discover that they have cancer.

While there have been advances in the treatments of childhood cancers over the years — there is a much higher survival rate for these children than there was half a century ago — the number of childhood cancer diagnoses has not dropped in the last 20 years.

A Western Michigan native, Candie Ritsema, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, when she was 12 years old and was treated with six months of chemotherapy, followed by a bone marrow transplant.

Ritsema beat her cancer, and went on to become an oncology nurse in order to help children like her.

“…I’m kind of glad I didn’t know what to expect,” Ritsema said. “When I look back, if I would’ve known how bad things were I think I would’ve mentally broke down.”

She now works in Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, where she meets with patients like Carter Piglowski, a five-year-old boy who has acute lymphoblastic leukemia. He has spinal taps every three months and regular rounds of chemotherapy.

Unlike Ritsema, Carter knows exactly what is going on.

“Immediately after he got diagnosed…we started talking to him about it,” said Amanda Piglowski, Carter’s mother. “We told him that he’s going to beat this he knows he will.”

The advanced treatments available today make Carter’s fight much more promising than her own, which she took on over 20 years ago. She had to travel to a different hospital for her bone marrow transplant, but Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital has all the equipment that kids like Carter need to receive the best possible care.

Ritsema’s desire to take her own unfortunate situation and apply it to helping others has given her great joy and fulfillment, and the empathy she has towards children in the oncology unit has helped many find the strength to keep fighting.

Michigan Glampers Bring a Whole New Spin to Camping

In 2014, campers in the U.S. spent more than $1.5 billion dollars on camping equipment, including backpacks and sleeping bags. Now, those in Northern Michigan are spending their camping budgets on something a little bit different.
Motorhomes at Norwegian campsite
Called “glampers,” Michigan campers are heading on the road in a unique way. A new Pinterest-worthy camping trend is popping up all over the state, taking those old tin can campers from days past and making them into something new and different.

In light of the large RVs that are reminiscent of moving mansions, these creative little tin can campers bring camping aficionados to simpler times. These little guys come with all the necessities and not much else.

The idea behind them is that a camper won’t need much to enjoy their time on the road.

“It’s so simple. It is what it is. You don’t take a lot of stuff because you don’t have room. It’s easy. You just hook it up and go,” Deb Viele, owner of a glamper explained to the Detroit Free Press. “You can basically leave it ready to go and jump on the road.”

But these glampers are a little bit different. They boast retro fittings to make a temporary home much more exciting than the typical RVs one can find on the market. Think turquoise ovens, lemon yellow cabinetry, olive green tables, and hula girls swaying in the windows.

These glampers are around 13-feet-long, and can easily be pulled by any vehicle with a towing hitch. Glampers can range between $700 to $20,000 depending on their quality, size, and interior furnishings.

There is even a resort open in Northern Michigan that will help glampers come together. The 229-acre Bella Solviva resort, located near East Jordan and Traverse City, has been open since April and is open for anyone and everyone who enjoys camping with a glamorous twist.

Don’t have a glamper but would like to enjoy the experience? No worries. Bella Sloviva resort boasts 320 campsites that allow guests to stay in safari tents, tree houses, glampers, and converted airliners. Included in the price is a concierge service and full catered meals.

Glamping? Sign us up.

Trump Makes Surprise Campaign Stop in Grand Rapids

Image: Michael Vadon

Image: Michael Vadon

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump made a surprise stop in Grand Rapids on Friday while campaigning through various parts of Michigan. He and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani paid a visit to the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum before attending a luncheon with donors at the J.W. Marriott hotel downtown.

The Ford Museum was already experiencing higher than average traffic due to visitors attending the ArtPrize exhibition. Trump’s unanticipated arrival caused both excitement and delays among the crowd.

“That was pretty cool,” said Jeff Hearth, a banker from Clarksville who supports Trump. “To me, it just seems scary that people get embedded with the corruption in Washington, and Donald Trump is not part of that.”

The latest Michigan polls show Trump trailing Democratic party nominee Hillary Clinton by an eight-point margin. In West Michigan, however, Trump leads Clinton with 41.2% of support compared to her to 23.6%.

The GOP presidential hopeful has roused controversy within his own party by refusing to release detailed information about his tax returns or personal health. Clinton, too, has had to dispel rumors about her health after a bout of pneumonia put her off the campaign trail for a few days earlier this month. Trump, aged 70, and Clinton, 68, both belong to the Baby Boomer generation — 60% of whom will be managing chronic health conditions by the year 2030.

Trump and Mayor Giuliani offered flowers at the grave sites of former President Gerald Ford and his wife, Betty, outside of the Grand Rapids museum, though not all locals were pleased with the gesture.

“Gerald R. Ford was a Grand Rapids man of sterling character and humble demeanor who would have no truck for Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump,” Tweeted resident Christian Bell.

As Trump continues his tour through Michigan, Clinton is campaigning in Florida this weekend. Her daughter, Chelsea Clinton, will appear at an organizing event in Traverse City on Friday.

Grand Rapids Man Invents Energy Efficient Window Coatings That Are Changing the Way People See Windows

Even though replacing standard windows with those that meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s regulations will lower your energy bills by up to 15%, one Grand Rapids company has found a way to cut costs while keeping your windows exactly where they are.

John Slagter, president of Grand Rapid’s Mackinac Technology Co., was trying to focus on concernWindow with curtainss his customers had over rising energy costs in their home. He was previously focused on developing a vacuum insulation panel that would be installed in walls, when his attention shifted to windows.

This was five years ago. Now Slagter is on his way to commercialize a new energy efficient product that can be easily installed on top of existing windows. These window covering panels are made from a durable polymer pane that feels like a plastic but bends to the touch, and can be custom fit onto any size window frame.

There are even multi-pane units that can increase insulation value and energy savings even more.

How it works is simple. As described in Midwestern Energy News, the transparent polymer panes are resistant to discoloration, and they reflect ultraviolet light entering a home from outdoors. They also have a high R-value, which is a value given to a material based on how well it holds warm and cool air within a building.

To put this in perspective, an R-value of styrofoam is five, and a thick six inches of fiberglass has an R-value of 13. One thin, single pane of Slagter’s invention can have an R-level of as high as 13.

Not only is this window pane becoming increasingly popular in both the residential and commercial construction sectors, the U.S. military is showing interest. Earlier this month, Slagter signed a $1 million dollar contract with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Research and Development Center to develop a product for the U.S. Department of Defense’s facilities.

Michigan Representatives Involved in Sex Scandal Sue State Over Defamation

As established by the 110th Congress, the House of Representatives in Washington D.C. is made up of 435 members elected every two years from among the 50 states. On the state level, Michigan has 110 members in their House of Representatives, but after a scandal last year, there are only 108.

Photo: Michigan Attorney General

Photo: Michigan Attorney General

Former Reps. Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat were involved in a sex scandal last year, after reports of the pair having an affair went viral. These accusations generated two separate lawsuits and multiple criminal charges for the couple.

The affair came to light after Courser sent an anonymous email to lawmakers across Michigan claiming Gamrat was a “sexual deviant”, who paid for sex with men outside gay bars in Lansing, The Detroit Free Press reports.

The email was allegedly used by Courser as a way to portray Gamrat as a victim of a horrid sex scandal, which would then cause the affair between the two to pale in comparison if news of it ever was released.

Courser was then arrested for perjury and misconduct in office and is accused of lying to a legislative committee and forcing officials to forge his signature on false documents. The charges against Gamrat were dropped.

Gamrat was expelled from office on September 11, 2015. He resigned that same morning.

However, the pair, who are Tea Party Republicans, have now filed lawsuits against the state under the claim of defamation and dirty politics. Courser’s lawsuit is 182-pages long requesting $10 million in damages, and claims he was treated as a criminal throughout the entire process.

Gamrat filed a simple 10-page complaint asking for at least $25,000, and cites she suffered from severe anxiety, depression, humiliation, and emotional distress.

Both have specifically named governmental officials who were behind their expulsions from office.

New Implantation Device Could Slow Progression of Breast Cancer

By Think-pink (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Think-pink (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Thousands of people participated in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Grand Rapids earlier this month. Despite the rain, participants walked and ran in honor of those who have lost their lives to breast cancer, and in celebration of those who have survived. Proceeds from the race are used to fund lifesaving programs and research in Michigan.

Meanwhile, about two hours away in Ann Arbor, a study was published by the University of Michigan, reporting on the early success of a new device that can improve breast cancer survival by catching the cancer cells before they spread.

This small “scaffold” device, which is implanted under the skin, slows down the development of metastatic tumors, buying time for surgery and other therapies to intervene.

“This study shows that in the metastatic setting, early detection combined with a therapeutic intervention can improve outcomes,” said study author Lonnie D. Shea, Ph.D.

The scaffold, which was tested on mice, is made of FDA-approved biodegradable material commonly used for wound dressings. It is designed to mimic the environment found in organs before the cancer cells spread there. The scaffold works by attracting immune cells, which draw in the cancer cells.

“Typically, immune cells initially colonize a metastatic site and then pave the way for cancer cells to spread to that organ. Our results suggest that bringing immune cells into the scaffold limits the ability of those immune cells to prepare metastatic sites for the cancer cells,” said Shea.

In the mice, five days after tumor initiation, researchers discovered a significant percentage of tumor cells in the scaffold, but none in the lung, liver, or brain. After 15 days, they found 75% fewer cancer cells in the brains of the mice with scaffolds compared to those without the implantation. Ultimately, the study revealed that the presence of the scaffold slowed down the progression of the disease.

Authors of the study emphasized that the device is not a cure, but rather, an early detection and treatment method. About one in eight women in the U.S. will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime, and researchers hope to use the device to monitor for cancer in these women who are at high risk because of genetics.