Polish authorities have returned a fugitive to Chicago to face reckless homicide charges in a 2004 car crash that killed two people. One of several dozen criminal suspects featured in the Tribune’s 2011 "Fugitives from Justice" investigation, Andrzej Rybka was apprehended several months later in Poland. On Friday he appeared in bond court where Judge Peggy Chiampas denied bail and ordered him to surrender all passports.
Dr. Kim Williams thought he followed a heart-healthy diet: He avoided red meat and fried foods. He ate his chicken breast without the skin. But in 2003, the Chicago cardiologist realized his level of LDL, the so-called “bad” cholesterol, was too high. Inspired by a patient’s success with a plant-based diet, Williams began using “meat substitutes” for protein. Within six weeks, he says, his LDL level plummeted almost by half into the healthy range. Now a firm believer in the vegan way of eating — no meat, fish, eggs or dairy — Williams is about to step into a prominent leadership role as president of the American College of Cardiology. When he wrote an essay on the benefits of a plant-based diet for cardiac patients, it kicked off yet another rancorous debate over how people should eat to best protect their hearts.
For years, Dr. Michael Reinstein was a prolific prescriber of a dangerous antipsychotic drug in nursing homes and mental health facilities, giving it to more than 50 percent of the patients under his care. The psychiatrist’s prescriptions of clozapine, known as a risky drug of last resort, were linked to three patients’ deaths and triggered federal accusations of kickbacks and fraud. Now, the Illinois medical board has indefinitely suspended Reinstein’s license, saying he received $350,000 in illegal payments from the drug’s maker while disregarding its life-threatening effects and alternative treatments. Clozapine can cause seizures, a decrease in white blood cells, inflammation of the heart wall and increased risk of death in elderly patients. The disciplinary action comes more than four years after a joint investigation by the Tribune and ProPublica focused attention on Reinstein’s prescribing habits.
On a recent afternoon, Dr. Evan Lyon of the University of Chicago Hospitals wrapped his stethoscope around his neck, packed a blood pressure cuff and a pulse oxygen meter into his backpack, and set off to see a patient. Katie White, the patient, was not in a clinical setting but in the bedroom of her small South Side home, about 2 miles from the hospital. She is participating in a clinical trial designed to test an old-new system of delivering health care: having the same doctor treat patients both in the hospital and elsewhere, including making house calls when necessary. The $6 million study is one of dozens of research projects made possible by the Affordable Care Act. While the focus of the federal law is to expand access to medical care, it also established the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute to fund comparative effectiveness research. Such studies seek to evaluate the benefits and harms of different treatment options to better inform health care decisions.
One flame retardant is linked to cancer and was voluntarily taken out of children’s pajamas in the 1970s after researchers discovered it mutated DNA. The other was touted as an eco-friendly chemical that would neither escape from household furniture nor show up in people. Signs of both compounds turned up in mothers and children tested for a new study that shows how difficult it is for even the most diligent parents to avoid toxic chemicals added to furniture, toys, electronics and other household products.
A state task force formed in response to a Tribune investigation has recommended sweeping reforms to address absenteeism in Chicago elementary schools, saying the future of the city’s children and its economy are at stake. For one, it said, Chicago Public Schools should bring back its long-disbanded army of truancy officers in an updated form. At schools with the highest rates of missed days, these trained and certified “attendance coordinators” would not only track down absent students but also help their families resolve underlying problems that keep children out of school.
Last year Martha Montalvo-Ariri underwent a routine hysterectomy to help treat painful uterine fibroids. During surgery, her doctor used a morcellator, a device that cuts the tissue into pieces so it can be removed through small incisions. Ten days after the procedure, Montalvo-Ariri was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of uterine cancer called leiomyosarcoma. Even more devastating, the rotating blade of the morcellator had scattered cancerous tissue fragments around her abdomen and pelvic area, accelerating the disease’s progression. Such cases have raised significant concerns over the use of power morcellation to remove a woman’s uterus or fibroids. In April, after reviewing new data, federal regulators urged doctors to stop using morcellators, because if cancer is present the device can spread malignant cells beyond the uterus and worsen a patient’s chance for long-term survival. Now medical providers are wrestling with a difficult decision: Should they offer a procedure that has proven benefits for the majority of patients but also carries a rare but deadly risk for a small number?
Randy Gutzke, a longtime IV drug user who says he struggles daily to stay sober, recently was offered a quick-results test for hepatitis C at a West Side community health center. ”It wouldn’t be shocking, just due to my lifestyle,” said Gutzke. But 20 minutes later, he learned he had tested negative. More than 1,500 people have been screened for hepatitis C since February 2013 at public health “field stations” run through the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Community Outreach Intervention Projects, thanks to a $150,000 grant funded through the Affordable Care Act. While the sweeping federal law is best known for expanding insurance coverage, its authors also hoped to improve health and cut costs by investing upfront in prevention, wellness and public health initiatives. At the COIP centers, that means giving away a $20 test in hopes of detecting infections that can lead to liver failure and expensive organ transplants if not treated.
From the sidewalk in front of her apartment in Cicero, Yolanda Foster can see long freight trains and an endless line of trucks rumbling day and night through the sprawling rail yard across the street. What she can’t see are the clouds of microscopic lung- and heart-damaging particles that drift into the low-income, largely Latino neighborhood overlooking one of the Chicago area’s freight terminals. New research from federal scientists has found that levels of diesel soot in residential areas near the BNSF Intermodal Facility frequently spike higher than the national average for urban areas. The study, the first of its kind in Chicago, sheds light on health hazards posed by freight yards that are concentrated in some of the area’s poorest communities.
By targeting the nation’s biggest sources of heat-trapping pollution, President Barack Obama is seeking to help forestall droughts, floods and other disasters that are projected to become more frequent, intense and expensive as the global climate changes. But federal rules requiring a dramatic cut in carbon dioxide emissions from coal- and gas-fired power plants also could have more immediate effects on public health in Chicago and scores of other U.S. cities with chronically dirty air. Though scientists say it will take years of international efforts to slow climate change, the administration’s plan to curb noxious pollution emitted by U.S. coal and gas plants could have a swift impact — particularly by reducing soot and smog-forming chemicals that trigger asthma attacks, cause heart damage and take years off lives.