2014’s Top Celebrity Health Stories: Part 2

11.  Joan River dies from complications of a routine surgical procedure

Joan Rivers

Comedic icon and Fashion Police fashionista Joan Rivers was to undergo a simple endoscopic procedure at the Yorktown Endoscopy Center to rule out acid reflux as the cause of recent hoarseness in her voice.

Rivers, 81, had brought along her personal Ears, Nose and Throat (ENT) physician, Gwen Korovin, to observe the procedure, however Dr. Korovin noted something on her vocal cords, and tried to do a biopsy on it. Unfortunately, the vocal cords began to swell and Rivers stopped breathing.

She was taken by ambulance to NYC’s Mount Sinai Hospital, where she was kept in a medically-induced coma for 6 days until she passed away on Sept. 4.

Joan’s funeral was a red-carpet event with scores of celebrities in attendance. Howard Stern gave an emotional eulogy, the New York Gay Mens Choir performed show tunes, and it ended with Hugh Jackman’s rendition of the Peter Allen song, “Quiet Please, There’s a Lady on Stage.”


12.  Celebrities ice themselves over ALS

What would make such a broad range of people such as Matt Lauer, Martha Stewart, Bill Gates, Robert Downey Jr, and even George W. Bush dump buckets of ice water on their head?

It was this summer’s biggest social movement- the Ice Bucket Challenge!

Started by Beverly, MA native Pete Frates and his family on the social sites Facebook and Twitter, the Ice Bucket Challenge’s mission was to increase awareness of ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis/ Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and to raise money for research to cure the disease.

When challenged, participants have 24 hours to either drop a bucket of ice water on themselves or donate money toward ALS research. Participants then challenge 3 friends to do the same.

Most participants did both, and in total, over $115 million was raised.

That number can certainly warm your heart (if not your ice cold body)!

13.  Angelina Jolie gets chickenpox and the NHL gets mumps

angelina-jolie cropped

Although most people think that vaccines have made childhood illnesses a thing of the past, these two stories showed us that they can still rear their ugly heads.

Angelina Jolie had to leave the pre-release publicity tour of her pet projected Unbroken, when she came down with chickenpox.

“I just wanted to be clear and honest about why I would be missing the Unbroken events in the next few days, which is that I found out last night that I have chicken pox. So, I will be home itching and missing everyone and I can’t believe it because this film means so much to me. I just can’t believe it, but such is life.”

Chickenpox is a very contagious disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV). Most cases occur in children under age 15 but older children and adults can get it.

Chickenpox spreads in the air through coughing or sneezing. It can also be spread by touching or breathing in the virus particles that come from chickenpox blisters.  A person with chickenpox can spread the disease from 1 to 2 days before they get the rash until all their chickenpox blisters have formed scabs.

Symptoms include an uncomfortable, itchy rash, fever and headache. The rash is like blisters and usually appears on the face, scalp or trunk. The disease is usually mild and lasts 5 to 10 days, but it sometimes causes serious problems such as dehydration, bacterial infections of the skin, pneumonia, and bone or joint infections. Once a person has chickenpox, it is unlikely they will get it again, although the virus can reactivate years later in the form of shingles.

It can be prevented with two doses of the varicella vaccine.

Meanwhile, over in the National Hockey League, at least 20 players have had confirmed cases of mumps!

Mumps has affected players from the Penguins, Devils, Rangers, Minnesota Wild and Anaheim Ducks.

mumpsMumps is a contagious disease that is caused by the mumps virus. Mumps typically starts with a few days of fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, and loss of appetite, and is followed by swelling of salivary glands (parotitis). Anyone who is not immune from either previous mumps infection or from vaccination can get mumps.

Mumps is spread by droplets of saliva or mucus from the mouth, nose, or throat of an infected person, usually when the person coughs, sneezes or talks. The incubation period is usually 16–18 days, but can range from 12–25 days. People with mumps are usually considered most infectious from a few days before until 5 days after the onset of parotitis.

14.  Another Good Morning America host gets breast cancer

joan lunden balk

Former Good Morning America host Joan Lunden was diagnosed with breast cancer. The sixty-three year old Lunden, who hosted GMA from 1980-1997, made the announcement on GMA in June, talking to current host Robin Roberts,  also a breast cancer survivor. Coincidentally, current GMA news anchor Amy Robach had also been diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2013, after she underwent a screening mammography live on GMA.

Lunden was diagnosed with “triple negative breast cancer” or TNBC, a more aggressive form of breast cancer. Triple negative means that her cancer cells do not carry any of three markers frequently seen on breast cancer cells: ER, which stands for “estrogen receptor,” PR, which stands for “progesterone receptor”, or HER2-positive (or HER2+), which stands for “human epidermal growth factor receptor number 2.” Having one of these markers dictates what kind of treatment is most helpful in attacking those cancer cells.

Lunden has been very public about her breast cancer battle and has been keeping a blog on her website: Joan Lunden: Creating a healthy lifestyle for a better tomorrow.  She’s completed her chemotherapy and showed off her bald head on the cover of People magazine, hoping “to inspire fellow warriors and motivate all of us to take charge of our health. ”

15.  Tracy Morgan suffers traumatic brain injury after horrendous traffic accident


tracy morgan walker30 Rock star Tracy Morgan was one of six injured when a Walmart truck hit his tour bus on the New Jersey Turnpike on June 7. Comedian James McNair, who performed under the name Uncle Jimmy Mack, was killed in the multi-car accident. Morgan not only had a broken leg, a broken femur, a broken nose and several broken ribs, but according to his lawyer, Benedict Morelli, also sustained a traumatic brain injury.

It is uncertain whether Morgan will be able to fully recovery or to return to work as a comedian. Morelli told PEOPLE magazine:

“He’s fighting to get better, and if there’s a chance for him to be back to the Tracy Morgan he once was, he’s going to try to do that. But we just don’t know because of the severity of the injuries that he sustained and the fact that he had such a severe brain injury…. When you have a traumatic brain injury it takes a very long time to find out how you’re going to do and how much you’re going to recover.”

There was a rare sighting of Tracy Morgan in public at the beginning of December. Seen outside a post office, gingerly using a walker, Morgan told the cameraman who asked how is is doing, that he is “fighting everyday.”

Traumatic brain injury (TBI), a form of acquired brain injury, occurs when a sudden trauma causes damage to the brain. TBI can result when the head suddenly and violently hits an object, or when an object pierces the skull and enters brain tissue. In the U.S., an estimated 1.7 million people sustain a traumatic brain injury (TBI) each year.

Disabilities resulting from a TBI depend upon the severity of the injury, the location of the injury, and the age and general health of the patient. Some common disabilities include problems with cognition (thinking, memory, and reasoning), sensory processing (sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell), communication (expression and understanding), and behavior or mental health (depression, anxiety, personality changes, aggression, acting out, and social inappropriateness).

16.  Amanda Bynes gets help for bipolar disorder

amanda bynes smoking

The past few years have been like a roller coaster for former Nickelodeon actress Amanda Bynes. In 2012 Amanda began displaying a series of troublesome behaviors, including signs of delusional behavior and arrests for marijuana possession, driving while intoxicated and two hit and run accidents.

The whole mess culminated in July 2013, when she allegedly set fire to a gasoline can in a stranger’s driveway. This prompted an involuntary psychiatric hold, which in turn lead to an extended stay at a psychiatric/rehab facility. She left the facility at the beginning of December 2013, under a conservatorship by her parents. The whole time, Amanda refused to admit that she was “crazy,” instead citing an overuse of marijuana as the cause of her troubles.

Fast forward to September 2014. After doing well for a year- keeping out of trouble, living at home with her parents and enrolling at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in Orange County, CA, in the hope of one day having her own fashion line- the parental conservatorship ends.

And the trouble starts again.

There’s another DUI arrest, charges of shoplifting, and possibly most disturbing, tweets that she was sexually abused by her father, which she later recanted, saying that the “microchip in my head made me say  those things.” Her parents were able to get her back to California, where she was once again placed on a psychiatric hold.

This time it lasted only 3 weeks, and a court order released her under a temporary conservatorship with her mother. After discharge, Amanda once again took to Twitter, saying that she now has a diagnosis- she has bipolar disorder:

amanda tweet 11_4

Here’s hoping she stays “fine.”

17. Paralympian Amy Purdy Dances with the Stars and is awesome!

Amy Purdy was a promising snowboarder when, at the age of 19, she contracted meningitis, a bacterial infection of the coverings which surround the brain. She deteriorated rapidly and went into septic shock and cardiac arrest. Septic shock caused a decreased blood supply to her legs, which eventually lead to their amputation just below the knee. This drop in blood flow also caused her kidneys to fail. After a year on dialysis, she received a kidney transplant, with her father donating one of his own kidneys.

But this didn’t stop Amy. She got back on her snowboard and became a paralympian. She competed in Sochi in March and won a bronze medal in snowboard cross.

She also became the first double amputee to dance on DWTS, paired with 5-time winner Derek Hough. Donning new “dancing legs” which she partially designed herself, she and Derek were one of the most successful dancers on the show- never receiving any score lower than an 8! Although she ultimately became the runner up to Olympic Ice Dancer Meryl Davis (with partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy) , she frequently had the audience on their feet applauding her dancing.

Do watch the video above to see her finale free-style dance. Spoiler alert- you may want to have a tissue handy.

18. Bono’s high energy bike injuries require intensive therapy

bono on bike cropped_edited-1

In November, U2 arrived in NYC to do a week-long gig on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Unfortunately that was cancelled when  front man Bono took a nasty spill while biking in Central Park. The “high energy bicycle accident:

” caused numerous serious injuries, including a ‘facial fracture involving the orbit of his eye,’ three separate fractures of his left shoulder blade and a fracture of his left humerus bone in his upper arm. The latter injury was particularly damaging, with the bone shattering in six different places and tearing through his skin.”

Orthopedic surgeon Dean Lorich, MD, described the 5 hour procedure, during which Bono’s “elbow was washed out and debrided, a nerve trapped in the break was moved and the bone was repaired with three metal plates and 18 screws..” He underwent a second surgery on Monday to repair a fractured left pinky finger.

Although he is expected to make a full recovery, Bono will have to undergo “intensive and progressive therapy.”

Earlier in the year, we learned that Bono doesn’t wear his signature sunglasses indoors as an added “cool factor.” He wears them all the time because he has glaucoma. The U2 frontman revealed on BBC One ‘s Graham Norton Show that he has suffered from the eye condition for about 20 years, adding:

“I have good treatments and I am going to be fine…. You’re not going to get this out of your head now and you will be saying ‘Ah, poor old blind Bono’.”

Glaucoma patients can be sensitive to light, and the sunglasses help with this.

19. Is “bulletproof coffee” a bad idea?


What was this year’s celebrity health fad? Adding butter to coffee- something often referred to as Bulletproof Coffee.

Members of the LA Lakers, Jeremy Piven, and Ed Sheeran are all proponents of the brew, the brainchild of creator Dave Asprey.

Asprey claims that Bulletproof Coffee will allow you to lose weight, to improve mental alertness, all while avoiding the “afternoon crash.”

Any truth to this? A very good article by Kris Gunnars, a medical student, personal trainer and health enthusiast on his blog Authority Nutrition lays out the pros and cons of bulletproof coffee.  Check it out here.

20. The Year in Celebrity Cancers

In Treatment:

Eric Berry Kansas City Chiefs safety Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
Jason White Green Day guitarist Cancer of the Tonsil
Rob Ford Mayor of Toronto Pleomorphic Liposarcoma
Vivian Campbell Def Leppard guitarist Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
Morrisey The Smiths , lead vocal Esophageal Cancer
René Angélil Husband Celine Dion Throat Cancer

In Remission:

Wilko Johnson Actor “Game of Thrones” Neuroendocrine tumor of pancreas
Tom Brokaw NBC News Anchor Multiple Myeloma
Valerie Harper Actress Leptomeningeal Carcinomatosis

In Memoriam:

Joe Cocker Singer Lung Cancer
Diem Brown MTV Reality Celebrity Ovarian Cancer
Tommy Ramone Ramones drummer Bile Duct Cancer
James Rebhorn Actor “Homeland” Melanoma
Garrick Utley NBC News Prostate
Jan Hooks Comic Saturday Night Live No type given
Mary Ann Mobley Actress, Singer Breast Cancer
Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

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