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horex/iStock/Thinkstock(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) -- Health officials are investigating a cluster of salmonella cases that’s sickened at least 53 people in nine states.

Health officials in California announced on Thursday that the California Department of Public Health is investigating a cluster of salmonella cases that’s sickened 31 people in six counties.

“As the investigation continues, this is a good reminder to Californians that there are sometimes risks when eating raw or undercooked meats, fish or poultry,” CDPH Director Dr. Karen Smith said in a release on Thursday. “This is particularly true for young children, the elderly, or people with compromised immune systems who may be at an increased risk of severe illness.”
 
Most of the patients reported eating sushi containing raw tuna.

So far, health officials say that ten patients have been hospitalized, but no deaths have been reported.
 
State and local health departments, including the  the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are continuing to investigate the source of the outbreak.

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Ablestock.com/Thinkstock(ORO VALLEY, Ariz.) -- When 18-year-old Skylar Mason survived a car crash that killed her father less than a year ago, the whole left side of her face was smashed and doctors reportedly weren't even sure they could save one of her eyes.

But Mason made a "miraculous recovery", and today, she's in good health, Meta Mason, told ABC News affiliate KGUN-TV.

Skylar isn't even considered legally blind in the eye doctors thought they couldn't save, and she didn't have any brain damage, her mother added.

The resilient teen graduated on Wednesday night with honors from Ironwood Ridge High School in Oro Valley, where she delivered an inspiring speech in memory of her late father, Karl Mason.

"No one tells you that unexpected things are going to happen and there's nothing you can do to prevent them," Skylar told her fellow 450 graduating classmates.

But despite life's sometimes devastating surprises, life does guarantee one great thing, Skylar noted at the end of her speech.

"It can't guarantee your happiness, your success or your safety," she said, "but no matter what life throws at you, it's guaranteed your community will be there to support you."

The young woman received a standing ovation from her class. And though her mom said everything is bittersweet because the two greatly miss Skylar's father, her mom told KGUN-TV she's "so, so thankful for Skylar's miraculous recovery and what's ahead for her."

Skylar, an inspiring journalist, plans to attend Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University, KGUN-TV reported.

"I hope [my dad would] be really proud," Skylar told KGUN-TV. "That's all I want to do -- is be someone that he would be proud of."


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Marzia Giacobbe/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- David "Phil" Shockley was the valedictorian of his high school. He went on to earn a master's degree and run a nursing home. But at 31 years old, listeria changed his life forever, according to court papers, and he's been living with his parents ever since.

Now, he's suing Blue Bell Creameries, which laid off a third of its staff last week amid a massive reboot. The Brenham, Texas-based company voluntarily recalled all products on April 20, after it was linked to a listeria outbreak that killed three people and sent seven others to the hospital, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The earliest case dated back to 2010, according to the CDC.

Shockley, now 32, is not among the official 10 Blue Bell-linked listeria cases reported by the CDC, but according to a suit he filed against the company, the ice cream products he consumed before his illness were the only ones that could have been tainted with the deadly bacteria.

"He fully understands what happened to him," Eric Hageman, one of his lawyers, told ABC News, noting that his client is "a very smart guy."

"While his whole life has obviously changed, he is truly committed to doing everything he can to get back some semblance of the life he used to have," Hageman added.

According to the suit, Shockley regularly consumed Blue Bell products at work. He was taking drugs that suppressed his immune system because he had ulcerative colitis, which made him more vulnerable, according to the suit.

In October 2013, Shockley called 911 because of a severe headache, but he was diagnosed with a migraine and discharged, according to the suit.

"Several hours later, he lost consciousness," it says.

When people realized he was missing, he was found alive but unresponsive and rushed to the hospital, where he was placed in intensive care, according to the suit. His temperature was 106 to 107 degrees, and he was "in acute respiratory failure, septic shock and suffering from seizure encephalopathy." He spent five days on a respirator and regained consciousness on the sixth day, the lawsuit states.

"To his horror, when he did regain consciousness, he was unable to walk, talk, swallow or move much of his body," the suit says, adding that he spent 18 days in the ICU and another few weeks of rehab.

Doctors diagnosed him with listeria meningitis.

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Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images via ABC(NEW YORK) -- Celine Dion has a positive update on how her husband Rene Angelil is doing in his battle with throat cancer.

"Rene's doing really well. We know the path that he's going, the treatments," she told Entertainment Tonight. "I knew he was amazing. He's such a champ. He's working hard on that."

Dion, 47, took almost a year off to be with her husband, 73, of more than 20 years and said being with him and the family was "not hard."

"It's hard because life imposes things on you," she added. "Sickness and you have no choice but to deal with them. I've been with him all my life and he's showed me the way many times."

She said she will be back on stage in August.

"He wants me back. He wants me strong and this is what we're doing together," she said.

Back in March, Dion was candid about how tough her husband's cancer had been.

“He can’t eat so I feed him,” Dion told ABC News. “He’s got a feeding tube. I have to feed him three times a day.”

Angélil, who stepped down as Dion’s manager in June because of his health, has been battling throat cancer for 15 years. Dion said it was in December 2013, just as she was about to appear on national television, that she found out her husband’s cancer had returned.

“I went back in my dressing room and I saw him looking pretty devastated, in shock, and I was like, ‘What’s going on,’” Dion recalled. “He said, ‘I have cancer again. The doctor just called me and I have cancer again.’

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KABC-TV(SAN BERNADINO, Calif) -- An 86-year-old man with Alzheimer's disease told rescuers he was "doing pretty good" after spending nearly three days wandering in the Mojave Desert.

Rollande Towne had been spending a vacation with his family when he went missing, wandering away from his family's campsite early Monday morning, according to his grandson, Jared Weigand.

Weigand told ABC News that Towne didn't remember much about his ordeal outdoors. Soon after he was rescued Wednesday, Towne told ABC News Los Angeles station KABC-TV that he felt fine.

"Well, I'm doing pretty good," Towne told KABC-TV. "I've got a few marks here and there, pretty decent actually."

According to officials, Towne's family saw him outside of their tent before he went missing.

"They woke up, they seen their grandpa outside picking up brass from spent casings, and then they went back inside, they fell back to sleep, they woke back up at 6:30 and noticed that he was gone," San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department Deputy Tommy Dickey told KABC-TV.

Towne, who also has diabetes, was evacuated via helicopter after being given some oxygen and bottled water.

"As I was walking up to him I called his name, 'Ronny,' and he sat up," Steve Depue, a search-and-rescue team member with the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department told KABC-TV. "It was kind of a, 'Wow! We got to get this guy some help now,'"

Towne not only survived plummeting temperatures, but wildlife as well. Officials said they saw seven dangerous rattlesnakes during their search.

Weigand said his grandfather remained hospitalized but was doing well.

"Everybody’s doing OK," said Weigand. "It’s looking good. He’s got a couple health issues."

Dr. Alan Lerner, the director for the Brain Health & Memory Center at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, said it's extremely common for elderly people with dementia to wander away from their families.

"We’ve seen some cases ... where the person is visiting out-of-state or friends or family ... [and] they’ve wandered off or become missing," said Lerner, who said a low percentage -- about 5 percent -- of missing seniors are found deceased.

Lerner said sometimes an elderly person with dementia will feel uncomfortable and try to leave a situation. In other cases, they are trying to go their former homes, not recalling that they are being cared for elsewhere.


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DDB Worldwide/YouTube(BUENOS AIRES, Argentina) -- A new public service announcement out of Argentina is guaranteed to make you teary with the story of a man and his loyal dog.

In the ad, the unnamed man and dog are inseparable, with the dog patiently waiting outside for his owner at different locations as he runs errands.

When the man suddenly falls ill, the trusty pup follows his owner's ambulance to the hospital where he waits patiently for days. But when the doors open again it's not the owner of the dog, but instead a woman seemingly in recovery with a bandage on her chest. And the pooch greets her enthusiastically at the door. The message of the ad is to live on by being an organ donor.

While the ad doesn't feature actual patients, it addresses a critical need for viable organs for sick patients. The lack of available organs for transplant remains a problem worldwide.

According to a 2012 report by the Global Observatory on Donation and Transplantation, less than 10 percent of global needs for organ transplants were met. There were a total of 114,690 solid organ transplants globally in 2012, according to the report. Argentina is ranked as one of the 50 countries with the most transplants.

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KABC-TV(LOS ANGELES) -- A 26-year-old woman was planning her wedding when she began to experience headaches, blurred vision, nausea and other symptoms.

Jordan Ward's fiancé insisted that she go to the hospital, where doctors sent her home, explaining that she had migraines, she recalled.

The next day, Ward was diagnosed with a stroke caused by blood clots. They told her the clots were caused by her birth control.

"When I did get the news, I was in shock," Ward told ABC News’ Los Angeles Station, KABC-TV. "I'm 26 years old."

Dr. Jennifer Ashton, a senior medical contributor for ABC News and practicing OBGYN, said hormonal contraception has been known to increase the risk of developing blood clots for many years.

"Women should always be advised about the risks versus benefits versus alternatives to any form of birth control, and realize that while uncommon, if the worst case scenario happens to them, it is a big deal," Ashton said.

For women who are not on birth control, the risk of developing a blood clot is about 1 in 10,000, Ashton said. Oral contraceptives increase the risk of blood clots to about 8 in 10,000, but pregnancy in general increases the risk to about 50 in 10,000.

This happens because the hormones associated with pregnancy -- estrogen and progesterone -- promote clotting to prevent women from losing too much blood during childbirth, said Dr. Maria Shaker, an OBGYN at U.H. Case Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio. It's these two hormones that are in combination birth control pills to prevent ovulation, which is why the pills, hormone patches and vaginal rings are associated with blood clots as well, she said.

"Other factors that increase risk of a blood clot include smoking, obesity, recent long travel or immobilization, and having a hereditary clotting disorder," Ashton said.

For women with these risk factors -- like Ward, who is a smoker -- Shaker said intrauterine devices are a great alternative with a lower risk of developing clots.

Ward had surgery at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, California, and she said her wedding will go on as planned.

"I'm so thankful for so many things, but especially for the fact that I still get to marry the man of my dreams," Ward told the station.

Ward was not immediately available for further comment to ABC News.


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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Every region has local favorite foods, and now, with the help of data from Foursquare, we know definitively what those are.

By using a mix of data sets such as menus, tips, ratings and more, and normalizing for size against other states, Foursquare editors analyzed the data to determine the winning taste that is “most special and unique to each state." Plus, they put it all into a nifty interactive map.

The resulting tastes are a mix of regional dishes, some more obscure than others. For example, Georgians love Brunswick stew 1,864% more than the rest of America.

Here are some examples of the regional dishes:

Arizona: Prickly Pear
816% more popular than in other states

More commonly known as cactus. Arizonans eat prickly pear raw, sauteed as a side dish or with eggs, in jams and jellies and more. When sautéed, the plant has a similar texture and taste to string beans.

Florida: Conch Fritters

3,870% more popular than in other states

Chances are you’ve held a conch shell up to your ear at some point in your life, claiming you can hear the ocean. Well, turns out in former lives those shells had snails in them, and you can eat those snails. Floridians like to batter and fry them into fritters, usually served with a spicy citrus aioli.

Georgia: Brunswick Stew

1,864% more popular than in other states

This thick tomato-based stew -- sort of like a chili -- typically contains barbecue sauce, beans, corn and smoked meat such as rabbit, chicken, pork or beef.

Hawaii: Poke

1,120% more popular than in other states

Poke is most easily compared to a ceviche, but it typically is made with raw tuna meat, soy sauce, sesame oil, sesame seeds and scallions and often served over rice.

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Alex_Schmidt/iStock/Thinkstock(LAWRENCE, Mass.) -- A Massachusetts police sergeant and an inmate leaped into action together to save a man who had overdosed on heroin -- but little did they know that they both had complicated connections to drug abuse.

Sgt. Dennis Laubner had just finished supervising a work crew of minimum-security inmates along a highway Monday afternoon and were preparing to leave the site when a car pulled up. A woman rushed out of the car asking for help, saying her boyfriend was dying and that he had overdosed, Essex County Sheriff's office spokesman Maurice Pratt told ABC News.

While Laubner told 911 their exact location, the inmates worked to move the unconscious man from the car to the ground. "The inmates were wonderful," Pratt said.

Then Laubner and an inmate named Dennis Dicato worked together to administer CPR until paramedics arrived. "The inmate gave breaths and the sergeant gave sternum rubs and chest compression," Pratt said.

While paramedics worked on the overdosed man, Pratt said the inmates cheered him on and shouted his name to encourage him to wake up.

"When he came to, they were all high-fiving each other," Pratt said. "They were thrilled."

The rescue was particularly emotional because both Laubner and Dicato have personal connections to drug abuse, according to ABC News' Boston affiliate WCVB-TV.

"I lost my son a year ago, and that is a tragedy." Laubner said of losing his son to heroin. "I believe God put me there [Monday] to save a life."

"This really hit home for him," Pratt said.

Dicato told WCVB-TV that he suffers from addiction issues himself, and could understand the suffering.

“At that time, I was not a Correctional Officer and these men were not inmates," Laubner said. "We were just human beings trying to save another human being.”


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Courtesy Addyson's Warriors/Facebook(DENVER) -- An Ohio family moved 1,200 miles to get a medical marijuana derivative for their 3-year-old to give her some relief from her seizures, and they say it's working.

Addyson Benton began having tiny seizures when she was just 9 months old, her mother, Heather Benton, told ABC News. Her eyes would glaze over and she would jerk as if she was catching herself falling asleep. Soon, the seizures got worse, doctors learned that Addyson was having more than 1,000 a day, and they diagnosed her with severe intractable myoclonic epilepsy, Benton said.

"It was just a nightmare," Benton said, adding that the seizure medications didn't work and made Addyson strangely aggressive or sleepy. "We could not find anything to control them and they were getting worse."

The Bentons were watching a documentary about marijuana that prompted them to move to Colorado to get medical marijuana for Addyson in the hopes that it would give her some relief. At the time they moved in March, Addyson, 3, couldn't say her name and was developmentally delayed, Benton said.

In consultation with doctors in Colorado, Benton said, they tried a few marijuana-derived products and found that a patch that they put on Addyson's ankle each morning reduced her seizures. On Monday, Benton only counted three visible seizures all day.

"Six hours after we put it on her, she lit up," Benton said. "She stared mimicking hand gestures, talking, mimicking words on TV," Benton said.

"I was just blown away," Benton added. "I never thought we would be here."

Addyson's doctors were unavailable for comment.

Dr. Max Wiznitzer, a pediatric neurologist at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital in Cleveland, said that while he doesn't doubt that marijuana-based products can have a positive effect for some epileptic patients, there isn't enough data to show that the benefits outweigh the risks. Wiznitzer has not treated Addyson.

He said without good studies, it's impossible to know what such products will do to developing brains.

"Is the use of this product going to have some not-well-recognized-now effect on brain development that might be worse than what the underlying condition was?" he asked. "You're not talking about some 50-year-old person smoking marijuana."

Wiznitzer said it's not clear whether these non-hallucinogenic products truly don't cause hallucinations, and that that a recent study of anecdotal information revealed that parents who moved to Colorado with their epileptic children were more likely to report positive effects from medical marijuana products than parents who lived in Colorado to begin with. But they didn't have the same diagnosis as Addyson, and they weren't using the same products.

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Rod Edmondson(SAN CLEMENTE, Calif.) -- Rachael Farrokh, 37, says she has been fighting a battle with anorexia for 10 long years -- but now, an extreme decline in her health has her determined to seek treatment and share her story with the world.

Prior to her 10-year journey, Farrokh was the girl next door -- beautiful, talented, healthy and smart, according to her husband, Rod Edmondson, 41, of San Clemente, California.

"She was a very active individual growing up," he said. "She was valedictorian, graduated summa cum laude. She's a perfectionist."

However, as her illness took hold, the 5-foot-7 Farrokh went from weighing a healthy 125 pounds to a now-shocking number that she asked not be disclosed. Farrokh, now so thin you can see her bones through her skin, spends her days and nights in a hospital bed inside her home.

"My sister gave me a collage of pictures of when I was acting or doing certain things," Farrokh told ABC News. "I look at that girl, the head shot, it's only a few years old. It's like I know I've wasted this much of my life. I just want to be that person again -- that strong, independent woman that can be herself."

The couple met while Edmondson was working as a personal trainer at the gym where Farrokh was a member for years. He said he is now unemployed and acting as his wife's full-time caregiver -- and both say Farrokh now wants to accept help, but it may be too late.

Edmondson has created a GoFundMe page to help cover Farrokh's medical expenses in hopes that they can get her into a facility that can help her. But because Farrokh's weight does not reach the minimum weight requirement set by certain facilities, she and her husband said, she is unable to go through recovery at a hospital or a treatment center.

Dr. Michael Strober, professor of psychiatry and director at the eating disorder program at the Resnick UCLA Neuropsychiatric Hospital, said the refeeding process can pose potential dangers to a person depending on their age, past treatments and the severity of the illness.

"Refeeding syndrome results from metabolic changes that are associated with feeding an individual who has been calorie-depleted," Strober said. "So, the feeding needs to be carefully monitored. The refeeding syndrome will involve the body’s attempt to adapt to sudden introduction of nutrients. ... Too rapid increase of calories can result in the metabolic adaptation which is associated of a number of hazards, which can be life-threatening."

Farrokh said that the severe drop in her weight has caused her serious health problems, many of which have almost cost her life.

"I've had heart, kidney and liver failure and osteoporosis for the past seven years," she said. "When I went to the hospital in January, they flooded me with fluids and I gained 40 pounds overnight in water weight. That's when my body started shutting down."

Farrokh said her weakened state became more evident after she took a hard fall in her home in September 2014. Since then, she said, she has been unable to walk on her own or do simple tasks without her husband's assistance. Edmondson now carries her, bathes her and attempts to keep up with her sporadic sleep schedule.

"What's funny [is] it doesn’t really sink into your psyche," she said. "You say, 'OK, I'm going to get up and brush my teeth. Oh wait, I can't.' Even in my dreams, I dream as how I used to be."

While she's still able to articulate herself, Farrokh often loses her train of thought. Edmondson will then help her continue conversations.

"At such a low body weight, my brain is a little slower than I would like," Farrokh said. "Sometimes, you'll forget what you said a few seconds ago. You're just not on your game.

"I want other anorexics to hear this," she added. "This is miserable. Everything hurts from my head down to my toes. It’s really hard to distract, so what I try to do is have conversations with Rod and keep in contact with other victims on Facebook to be encouraging and supportive of one another."

Farrokh said she is desperate to make a full recovery and plans on opting for either professional home care or checking herself into a particular out-of-state clinic that may accept her.

"It's one of the options, but now we are getting some news that they want me to do a medical check to see if I can be lifted" to the clinic's location, Farrokh said. "It's one of the only places that will take me."

The clinic declined to comment on any particular case, citing privacy laws.

Both Edmondson and Farrokh said that, at first, they never saw signs that Farrokh was suffering from an eating disorder.

"I was a senior account executive," Farrokh said. "I was this doe-eyed girl that was just graduating college in a failed atmosphere, and I was also going through trauma from my past. It was the perfect storm."

Farrokh believes her anorexia spiraled out of control after she lost her job, she said, and as she continued to deal with a painful memory from her past, which she would not disclose.

“I just felt out of control,” she said. “At first it was innocent, where I wanted to drop a few pounds to get better abs.”

In an effort to expose the unvarnished reality of Farrokh's current state and help her stay on the path to recovery, her husband enlisted the help of a friend to film his wife going about her day-to-day activities.

"Rachael's weight was so low and we had a photographer do some shots," Edmondson said. "She wants to have a purpose, to help people and raise awareness."

The footage reveals how Farrokh's eating disorder has changed her life drastically -- altering her appearance and limiting her mobility.

Farrokh said she sometimes gets backlash for her outward appearance.

"I've had some woman at Target walk by and say, 'I hope you have a disease, looking like that,'" Farrokh said. "But now that I'm in a wheelchair, the looks are more for pity."

Laura Discipio, a licensed clinical social worker and executive director of the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, said such attitudes are unfortunate because anorexics are suffering from a mental illness.

“Something shifts in their brain ... and we are just now working on the resources to really get the research to figure that out,” she said. "Just as you are compelled to go off your diet, they are just compelled to stay on it. Just as you are compelled to eat, they are compelled to restrict. It is a psychiatric, biological illness. It is totally not a choice. Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness."

Should she recover, Farrokh plans on continuing to talk about the dangers of anorexia to those who are going down a similar path.

"To be honest, I live moment by moment, day by day, because my odds aren't very good," she said. "The recovery process for an anorexic, it's ridiculous. If you're going to make it, you're going to have to get out there. You have to go out and meet life. Go to treatment because it's not going to come to you."


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Zoonar/Thinkstock(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) — The California Medical Association, which for decades has been against a law allowing physicians to help patients with terminal illnesses die, announced Wednesday that it has become the first state medical association in the U.S. to change this position.

"As physicians, we want to provide the best care possible for our patients. However, despite the remarkable medical breakthroughs we've made and the world-class hospice or palliative care we can provide, it isn't always enough," said CMA President Dr. Luther Cobb. "The decision to participate in the End of Life Option Act is a very personal one between a doctor and their patient, which is why CMA has removed policy that outright objects to physicians aiding terminally ill patients in end of life options."

The organization in Brittany Maynard's home state is now neutral on aid-in-dying laws and says the decision should be up to the patient and physician to make on a case-by-case basis.

Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old newlywed with a terminal brain tumor, made national news last fall when she announced that she was moving to Oregon where it was legal for a doctor to help her die on her own terms. Since her death on Nov. 1, 2014, the End of Life Option Act has been introduced in California, and at least one terminal patient has sued state officials for the right.

"With deep appreciation, I thank the California Medical Association for showing its leadership and wisdom in adopting its neutral policy stance," Maynard's husband, Dan Diaz, said in a statement to ABC News. "It supports Brittany's position: 'This decision is mine to make, mine alone.'"

Compassion and Choices, the nonprofit aid-in-dying advocacy group, applauded CMA's announcement and called it a "major milestone."

But Californians Against Assisted Suicide continues to oppose the End of Life Option Act, or Senate Bill 128, it said in a statement to ABC News. The coalition said it includes groups such as the Association of Northern California Oncologists, the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers and Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, and that it last week sent an opposition letter to legislators.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Beware of your fellow driver.

According to a new survey released by AT&T Tuesday, drivers are doing more than texting while behind the wheel. They're even checking social media and taking selfies.

The survey, which was commissioned by the telephone company and conducted by Braun Research, said it polled 2,067 people who own a cell phone and who drive at least once per day.

The survey found that 27 percent of drivers between the ages of 16 and 65 said they use Facebook, while 14 percent said they log onto Twitter. And of those who check or post to Twitter, 30 percent said they tweet and drive "all the time." The survey also found that 17 percent said they take selfies, and more than 10 percent of those polled use Instagram and Snapchat.

"One in 10 say they do video chat while driving. I don’t even have words for that," Lori Lee, AT&T’s senior executive vice president for global marketing, said.

It's why AT&T launched the "It Can Wait" campaign to discourage distracted driving.

"When we launched 'It Can Wait' five years ago, we pleaded with people to realize that no text is worth a life," Lee explained. "The same applies to other smartphone activities that people are doing while driving. For the sake of you and those around you, please keep your eyes on the road, not on your phone."
 
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Kyoko Hamada(NEW YORK) — A photographer who dressed up as an elderly woman for a photo project found people would ignore her while she was in her costume.

"I think you are ignored and invisible," photographer Kyoko Hamada told ABC News.

"I mean, a group of girls who are into fashion or something, [an elderly woman] is not even something to look at. It's just, 'Oh, that's an old person,'" she said.

Hamada, who lives in New York and is actually 42 years old, spent nearly two years completing the project, which found her wearing a grey wig and prosthetic make-up to look like the character she created, named Kikuchiyo-san.

"I just kind of wanted to have a unisex name and just an old name," Hamada told ABC News. "There was a Japanese female comedian, Kikuchiyo, and then I put the dash and 'san' you put that after somebody's name as a sign of respect."

She came up with the idea after volunteering with a group that went on home visits to seniors in an effort to keep them company. When she suggested she take pictures of some of the seniors, they all reportedly refused, telling her that, "they're just too old to be photographed, whatever that means," Hamada said.

Instead, she took matters into her own hands and launched her project, titled "I Used to Be You," and she has now launched a Kickstarter campaign in an effort to turn the project into a photo book.

When staging the shoots in her apartment or in places where she was alone, Hamada would use a photo timer. But when she chose public shoot sites in busy places, she had a friend take the shots.

Hamada, who was born in Japan but moved to the U.S. when she was 15 and has lived in New York for more than 15 years, said that the nature of the city had an impact on her project.

"I was very self-conscious, of course, because when you dress up in a disguise and it's not Halloween you are definitely doing something that is rather strange," she said, noting that she had "kind of weird anxiety that was not necessary really in New York because no one really cares what you do."

She said it was hard to determine the extent to which she was being "ignored" because of the costume or ignored simply because everyone is in New York.

"In some way, I think you are left alone -- but again, it's kind of hard to say because if you're riding the subway, you're always left alone," she said.

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Compassion & Choices(SANTA CLARITA, Calif.) -- Christy O'Donnell doesn't want to die, but she doesn't want to spend the rest of her good days fearing the painful death that awaits her as she struggles with terminal cancer, she said.

"The most likely way that I’m going to die with the lung cancer is that my left lung will fill with fluid, I’ll start drowning in my own fluid," she says in a YouTube video posted this week by Compassion and Choices, the nonprofit aid-in-dying group that Brittany Maynard worked with before ending her life last fall. "If I get to a hospital, they'll very painfully put a tube in. They’ll drain the fluid from my lung, only to patch me up, send me home and wait until the next time my lung fills up with fluid. And they'll continue to repeat that process and drowning painfully until I die."

O'Donnell, a 46-year-old single mother from Santa Clarita, California, is fighting for the right to die on her own terms, following in the footsteps of Maynard, 29, who brought death-with-dignity laws to national attention when she moved from California to Oregon after being diagnosed with a terminal brain cancer, in order to legally end her life with a medication prescribed by a doctor.

A right-to-die bill is making its way through the California legislature, but O'Donnell told ABC News's Los Angeles station KABC-TV, that it probably won't be passed in time for her. On Friday, she joined a group of terminal patients in suing California officials in an attempt to get the right to die sooner.

However, there is opposition.

"The question of assisted suicide policy needs to be considered in terms of how it impacts the broader society, particularly the most vulnerable, without economic means or health access, as well as people living with serious disabilities whose options are often diminished," Californians Against Assisted Suicide spokeswoman Marilyn Golden, a senior policy analyst for the Disability Rights Educational and Defense Fund, said in a statement in response to O'Donnell's suit.

"These lawsuits and legislation like California Senate Bill 128 are not simply exercises in autonomy for such individuals," the statement added. "Hopefully our court system and legislators take into account the broader implications, particularly in a state as diverse as California. This latest effort does not change in the least the aggressive opposition from progressives like myself and a diverse range of organizations against assisted suicide."

O'Donnell was diagnosed with adenocarcinoma, a lung cancer she explains is common among non-smokers. She said she's a vegetarian, that she's always exercised and that she's never smoked. According to the lawsuit, she has been given six months to live. The cancer has spread to her brain, liver, rib and spine, and she is morphine intolerant, so it's hard to manage her pain.

The former Los Angeles Police Department detective and practicing lawyer has said that she's lived "10 people's lives" in the last 46 years, and she's not afraid to die.

She called motherhood the greatest joy in her life, but said she doesn't want her 20-year-old daughter to be traumatized by her death. Instead, O'Donnell wants to peacefully die in bed, holding her daughter's hand, with the knowledge that there will be a support system set up for her daughter when it’s over.

"I don't want my daughter to come home and find me dead," O'Donnell told KABC-TV, her voice breaking.

"Every day, when my daughter is coming home from work, she calls me on the phone to talk to me," O'Donnell says in her YouTube video. "You know why? She wants to know before she gets home if I'm still alive."

O'Donnell was not immediately available to speak directly to ABC News.

Even if O'Donnell's lawsuit fails, she said she hopes that one day, her daughter will hear that a death-with-dignity law has passed.

"If it doesn't happen in my lifetime, I will die knowing and believing that it will happen in my daughter's lifetime," she told the station. "At some point in her life, she'll be standing there and she'll hear that the law has passed or changed, and she'll know that from that moment on, that nobody else is going to have to suffer the way she saw me suffer. And then she'll know that it was all worth it."


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