Stories by Kristen Thometz

Mother Inspires Hope, Raises Awareness of Rare Infant Seizure Disorder

Ellen Wehrman and her son, Charlie, spend his first birthday preparing for an EEG. Wehrman, a former Loyola University Chicago student activities coordinator, will receive an award this week for raising awareness of infantile spasms, a rare disorder. (Courtesy Ellen Wehrman)

Only 2,500 children are diagnosed with infantile spasms in the U.S. each year. Meet one family that is sharing their story to raise awareness of the uncommon disorder.

Chicago Runners: Get Safety, Self-Defense Tips at Upcoming Event

The Chicago Area Runners Association is hosting a free safety and self-defense seminar for runners on Thursday. (Ed Dunens / Flickr)

In light of attacks on runners earlier this fall, the Chicago Area Runners Association is hosting a free safety seminar on Thursday. 

What You Need to Know About Food Allergy Labels

(Hustvedt / Wikimedia Commons)

What does it mean when a food label says it “may contain” peanuts or was “processed in a facility” that also uses peanuts? A local pediatrician explains what these labels mean and why consumers should be wary of them.

Study: Spending on Activities, Not Possessions, Inspires More Gratitude

Tempted to buy yourself a gift this week? Consider buying tickets to a show rather than a new pair of shoes. Not only will you be more grateful for the experience, but that gratitude can lead to more generosity, according to a recent study.

Watch Out for These Recalled Toys, Children’s Products

The Illinois Attorney General’s office is warning parents that hoverboards can overheat and catch fire in the recently released 2016 Safe Shopping Guide.  (Urbanwheel.co / Flickr)

‘Tis the season for holiday shopping. As consumers make their holiday gift lists, they’re being urged to check them twice for toys that have been recalled over the past year. Find out which items should be left on the shelf.

Elderly with Superior Memory Found to Have ‘Hallmarks’ of Alzheimer’s

(Alan Levine / Flickr)

Several 90-year-olds with superior memory were found to have the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease yet never developed dementia in their lifetimes. Scientists are now researching what protected these individuals from acquiring the disease.

O’Hare Airport Workers to Strike After Thanksgiving

Heading to O’Hare International Airport this week? You can breathe a sigh of relief: Airport workers announced Monday they won't walk off the job until Nov. 29.

Bryan Bickell, Former Blackhawk, Diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis

Former Chicago Blackhawks forward Bryan Bickell was recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. (Credit: Chicago Blackhawks / Facebook)

Late last week it was announced that former Chicago Blackhawks forward Bryan Bickell has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. A local neurologist talks about the disease. 

Chicago Poet, Professor Daniel Borzutzky Wins 2016 National Book Award

| Dan Andries
(Courtesy of Brooklyn Arts Press)

Poet Daniel Borzutzky has won the 2016 National Book Award for his collection, “The Performance of Becoming Human.” The awards were announced Wednesday night in New York City.

Newton Minow Named Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipient

President Barack Obama announced Wednesday the former WTTW Chairman and 20 others will receive the nation’s highest civilian honor at a ceremony later this month.

The Microbiome’s Role in Precision Medicine

Pictured are E. coli bacteria, one of the many species of bacteria present in the human gut.

Inside the human body lives a community of microorganisms, bacteria, viruses and fungi known as the microbiome. Local professors talk about the importance of understanding the microbiome and the potential implications it could have on health and disease.

Ed Vrdolyak, Former Alderman, Indicted on Tax Evasion, Impeding IRS

The former Chicago alderman was indicted Tuesday on charges of income tax evasion and impeding the IRS. He is expected to be arraigned before Thanksgiving.

‘PBS NewsHour’ Host Gwen Ifill Dies at age 61

Gwen Ifill

On Monday, the co-anchor and managing editor of “PBS NewsHour” died at the age of 61 following several months of cancer treatment.

Hillary Clinton Concedes, Calls Loss ‘Painful’

Hillary Clinton speaks with supporters in Iowa in January. (Gage Skidmore / Flickr)

“I know how disappointed you feel because I feel it too, and so do tens of millions of Americans who invested their hopes and dreams in this effort,” Hillary Clinton said to supporters Wednesday during her concession speech. “This is painful and it will be for a long time.”

Cubs World Series Parade, Rally Set for Friday

| Brandis Friedman
Cubs fans line Waveland Avenue for a chance to see the World Series champs Friday morning. (Evan Garcia / Chicago Tonight)

The 2016 World Series Champions will celebrate their historic win on Friday. Here's what you need to know. 

Researchers Pinpoint Brain Region Responsible for Placebo Effect

Finding Could Lead to Personalized Treatment of Chronic Pain

“Research studies have shown that the placebo effect has its own biological properties and has a neurological signature,” said  Marwan Baliki, assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Chronic pain affects 100 million Americans, and using drugs to treat patients' pain has been a process of trial and error. New research by local scientists could lead to more personalized treatment of chronic pain.

6 Chicago Hospitals Earn an ‘A’ for Patient Safety

Rush University Medical Center is one of three Chicago hospitals to earn 10 consecutive “A” grades by the Leapfrog Group. (Nathan Hicks / Wikimedia Commons).

A national nonprofit watchdog group gives top grades to six Chicago hospitals in its latest ranking. See which ones made the cut.

Ben Stiller’s Surgeon Explains PSA Test, Controversy

Ben Stiller (Michael Schilling / Wikimedia Commons)

Earlier this month Ben Stiller revealed he was treated for prostate cancer in 2014 and credited the PSA test with saving his life. Stiller’s surgeon talks about prostate cancer testing and the controversy surrounding the PSA test.

Daytime Exercise Could Be More Effective, Study Suggests

Muscles’ Internal Clocks Control Response to Activity

Research by Northwestern Medicine suggests humans may be better suited to exercise during the day. (Pixabay)

Working out during the day may be more effective than cramming in a late-night session, according to a Northwestern Medicine study.

DePaul Professor Discovers New Prehistoric Shark

Species Relative of Great White, Megalodon Sharks

A newly identified species of shark, Megalolamna paradoxodon, lived about 20 million years ago and measured roughly 13 feet in length. (Kenshu Shimada / DePaul University)

About 20 million years ago, a 13-foot predator swam in warm, shallow seas across the globe. This extinct shark was recently discovered by an international team of researchers led by a DePaul University professor.

Paralyzed Man Regains Sense of Touch with Robotic Arm

U of C Research Provided ‘Blueprint’ for Study

Rob Gaunt from the University of Pittsburgh prepares Nathan Copeland, who was paralyzed in 2004, for a brain computer interface sensory test using a robotic arm. (UPMC / Pitt Health Sciences Media Relations)

A paralyzed man is able to experience the sense of touch through the use of a robotic arm controlled by his brain. The breakthrough was made possible, in part, by years of research by a University of Chicago professor.

Field Museum Fossil Identified as Early Relative of Dogs, Bears

Discovery Results in Creation of 2 New Genera

The jawbone of a newly reclassified beardog fossil (Field Museum specimen no. PM423), left, is shown in comparison with the jawbone of a larger beardog (specimen No. P12029) that lived approximately 22 million years later. (© Susumu Tomiya / The Field Museum)

Thanks to an inquisitive Field Museum researcher, a nearly 40-million-year-old fossil housed at the institution has been identified as one of the earliest relatives of dogs, bears and foxes known as a beardog. 

IHSA to Hold Meetings on Pitch Count Limits

Pitch count guidelines for high school athletes aimed at curbing injuries are scheduled to be voted on at the Illinois High School Association’s Dec. 12 Board of Directors meeting. (Pixabay)

The Illinois High School Association wants to hear from school principals and athletic directors before voting on proposed pitch count guidelines.

Local Author Helps Kids Find Voice, Courage to Stand Up to Bullies

Regina McCarthy’s book “Courageous Gilbert the Groundhog” teaches children to understand and express their feelings and offers tips for dealing with a bully. (Illustration by Sue Dettman)

October is national bullying prevention month. Holistic psychotherapist and author Regina E. McCarthy wants to help children of all ages find their voice and the courage to stand up to bullying.

Officials Warn of Rabid Outdoor Cats, Urge Vaccinations of Pets

The Cook County Department of Animal and Rabies Control is urging pet owners to vaccinate their cats, dogs and ferrets against rabies after two outdoor cats tested positive for the virus in Illinois and Missouri.