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LiveOnNY Good-Hearted

Shelby Caban cherishes every moment of her life because she knows how easily she could have lost it.

Shortly after her 10th birthday, she was diagnosed with Restrictive Cardiomyopathy, meaning that the ventricles of her heart were too rigid to expand which made it difficult for her heart to pump blood. While some people who have this disease experience few to no symptoms, Shelby's case was so severe, it put her into end stage heart failure.

Framed pictures of Shelby (left) and her brother (right). Photo via Upworthy.


Even though she was just a child, when the doctors sat her down and explained her diagnosis, she understood how serious it was.

"I felt very sick, so the situation was very real to me even at such a young age," writes Shelby in an email.

She needed a heart transplant, but her condition was so dire, she wasn't allowed to wait for it in the comfort of her own home.

So Shelby's parents moved her into a room at the hospital which became her bedroom for the next 45 days.

In that room, she had nothing to do but wait, which brought up so many different emotions. While she was certainly scared, she never stopped being hopeful that a heart would eventually come to her — though that thought came with even more complicated feelings.

"I always thought about what my life would be like with someone else’s heart inside of me," writes Shelby. "Especially, knowing it would most likely be someone young. It made me sad that someone’s tragedy would ultimately be my blessing."

Finally, in early 2004, the Caban family got the news they'd been hoping for — Shelby had a heart coming to her.

The night she found out, Shelby just started crying uncontrollably. She was overwhelmed with relief, anxiety, and joy, but there were also pangs of grief for the 9-year-old girl whose heart she was going to receive.

Photo via Shelby Caban.

Shelby's transplant operation lasted somewhere between six to eight hours. Afterwards, she had to spend a couple weeks in the hospital, then another five months at home recuperating. She couldn't go outside during that time because the anti-rejection medications she was on suppressed her immune system, making her highly susceptible to infections.

After those months at home, when she was finally allowed to venture out, she initially had to wear a mask as an extra precaution. On top of all this, she was taking 32 pills a day, and was told she'd be on them for life. Needless to say, it was a huge life adjustment.

"You’d think receiving a heart is simple — get the heart, and move on with your life," remarks Shelby. "It’s not."

Shelby will always live a somewhat different life because of her heart transplant, but it's all worth it for her because she's still living it.

Today, she's training to become a Physician's Assistant and is in her last year of a Masters program. Her goal is to one day work in pediatrics and help other children get healthy. Getting to be on the other side of the patient's bed has been an amazing experience for her so far, and she's excited to see what lies ahead.

Photo via Shelby Caban.

However, not a day goes by that she doesn't think about the little girl who gave her a second chance at life.

"I have her picture framed right by my bed in my bedroom," she writes.

Shelby was able to speak to the girl's family about a year after her surgery, and thank them for the incredible gift they helped give her. And two years ago, she actually reconnected with the girl's sister, which has been very meaningful.

"They are incredible people, and being in contact with them makes me feel even closer to the little girl whose heart I now share."

Shelby wishes she could give the girl who saved her life a big hug and say 'thank you' over and over, although she knows that would never be enough to express how grateful she is.

What she can do, however, is tell her story to inspire others to become organ donors so that many more lives can be saved.

Photo via Shelby Caban.

For those who are on the fence about it, she stresses the importance of reading up on organ donation to help dispel any concerns they might have. There are lots of myths surrounding the process, including that you have to be in perfect health to be a donor. Rather than just believing what you've heard, Shelby wants everyone to take it upon themselves to get informed and make an educated decision.

"I had a heart transplant, I had cancer, AND I am also an organ donor," she writes.

On average, 20 people die everyday while waiting for an organ. However, just one organ donor can save up to eight lives like Shelby's. And donors aren't just saving lives of recipients — their donation has a huge impact on entire families as well.

Imagine, just by checking a box, you could give a future back to someone who might not have one otherwise. So what are you waiting for?

Learn more about organ donation at LiveOnNY.org

Photo courtesy of Girls at Work

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14 things that will remain fun no matter how old you get

Your inner child will thank you for doing at least one of these.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Swings can turn 80-year-olds into 8-year-olds in less that two seconds.

When we’re kids, fun comes so easily. You have coloring books and team sports and daily recess … so many opportunities to laugh, play and explore. As we get older, these activities get replaced by routine and responsibility (and yes, at times, survival). Adulthood, yuck.

Many of us want to have more fun, but making time for it still doesn’t come as easily as it did when we were kids—whether that’s because of guilt, a long list of other priorities or because we don’t feel it’s an age-appropriate thing to long for.

Luckily, we’ve come to realize that fun isn’t just a luxury of childhood, but really a vital aspect of living well—like reducing stress, balancing hormone levels and even improving relationships.

More and more people of all ages are letting their inner kids out to play, and the feelings are delightfully infectious.

You might be wanting to instill a little more childlike wonder into your own life, and not sure where to start. Never fear, the internet is here. Reddit user SetsunaSaigami asked people, “What always remains fun no matter how old you get?” People’s (surprisingly profound) answers were great reminders that no matter how complex our lives become, simple joy will always be important.

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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

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Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

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via Lewis Speaks Sr. / Facebook

This article originally appeared on 02.25.21


Middle school has to be the most insecure time in a person's life. Kids in their early teens are incredibly cruel and will make fun of each other for not having the right shoes, listening to the right music, or having the right hairstyle.

As if the social pressure wasn't enough, a child that age has to deal with the intensely awkward psychological and biological changes of puberty at the same time.

Jason Smith, the principal of Stonybrook Intermediate and Middle School in Warren Township, Indiana, had a young student sent to his office recently, and his ability to understand his feelings made all the difference.

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