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Torin Tucker, 20, collapsed during cross country skiing marathon

HANOVER, N.H. — An autopsy has determined that a rare heart defect killed a 20-year-old Dartmouth College cross country skier last weekend.

Torin Tucker, a junior from Sun Valley, Idaho, died while competing at a cross country skiing marathon in Craftsbury, Vt., on Saturday.

His death certificate says he suffered sudden cardiac arrest as a result of a problem in the left coronary artery. Medical research says the condition is rare and is frequently associated with sudden death during intense physical activity.

Girl’s heart surgery delayed after shortage 

BOSTON — The American Red Cross collected 700 units of blood at a drive at the TD Garden Sunday. Organizers say it is a much higher amount than expected and credit a Billerica girl for getting donors out.

Watch NewsCenter 5 report

Eight-year-old Jacqueline Rogers was scheduled for her second open-heart surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital last Friday. The surgery was postponed at the last minute because there was a shortage of her blood type — O negative.

“I guess it’s because the little girl caught me. She needed O negative and I have O negative,” said Jacob Nazarian III, one of Sunday’s donors. “So I decided to take a trip down and see if I could help her.”

Nazarian drove to Boston from Buzzards Bay after he saw Rogers’ story on NewsCenter 5.

“To do a favor for somebody means an awful lot to me and it should mean an awful lot to other people, too,” Nazarian said.

Rogers’ surgery is rescheduled for Wednesday.

Click here for more on how to donate blood.

Young Canton kids lose mom in November, dad in January

Deaths leave family, friends reeling

CANTON, Mass. — Stephen Furbush grilled up a meal of ribs and chicken Saturday night, watched the Patriots game with his young children and a few friends, and went to bed.

He never woke up.

The heart attack that took the life of the 39-year-old father came exactly two months and a day after his wife, Kristen, who had been battling an aggressive brain tumor, died at their home. Their children — Kayley, 6, and Patrick, 3 — were suddenly parentless, the Patriot Ledger reported.

“It’s just surreal,” said Laurice Vallancourt, who met Kristen at age 10 when both were playing basketball in Braintree. “Their kids aren’t going to have a chance to know how awesome they were.”

The two deaths have left friends and family across the South Shore reeling. A fund Stephen Furrush started last year to help put his children through college has taken on new urgency as friends work to make sure Kayley and Patrick are provided for well into the future.

An online fundraising effort had raised more than $83,000 as of early this morning, and friends are meeting this weekend to work on plans for a benefit in the couple’s honor at Dorchester’s Florian Hall on June 7. Kayley and Patrick are staying with their grandparents.

Friends describe Stephen and Kristen Furbush as a quick-witted and generous couple who cherished their children and had many close friends, some since childhood. Kristen, a longtime vice president at State Street, was part of a close-knit group of friends who came together as children in Braintree and stayed close even as they grew up and had children of their own. They called Kristen “Okie,” a nickname drawn from her maiden name of O’Keefe.

“Kristen was just – she was probably the smartest girl I ever met, and with such a fun, awesome sense of humor and so thoughtful,” Vallancourt said.

Stephen, a mortgage processor for Wellesley Bank, met Kristen while she was a student at Providence College and the two eventually married and moved to Canton, where they had lived for about five years. He loved to cook for friends and, like Kristen, had a sharp wit and loved to make people laugh.

“He just really had a unbelievable ability to leave a positive impression on everyone he met,” said Brendan Carr, a longtime friend who met Stephen in seventh grade in Framingham. “He always put everyone at ease.”

Starting last May, Kristen’s vision began to blur and she complained of frequent headaches. After an MRI, doctors found a tumor pressing on an optic nerve and started Kristen on a regiment of radiation and chemotherapy.

Stephen set up a website and kept friends and family updated on Kristen’s progress through several months of grueling but unsuccessful treatment. On Nov. 8, he reported that “the cancer is moving faster than the medical science” and said Kristen would be leaving the hospital to rest “in this house that she has transformed into our little home.”

Kristen died Nov. 11. “She just wanted to come home and get her loving arms around her two beautiful children whom she loved more than any mother ever has,” Stephen wrote that morning. “She said all her goodbyes, made her peace and set her soul free.”

Carr said Stephen was devastated by his wife’s death but focused all his energy on his kids for the next two months.

“He really did just work hard on making sure he got his kids lives back to as normal as possible,” Carr said. “He did a fabulous job of making Kayley and Patrick know that they were loved and cherished.”

Visiting hours will be held at the Dockray & Thomas Funeral Home, 455 Washington St., Canton, from 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday. To donate, go to and search for “Furbush Children’s Fund.”

Maggie Fox NBC News

UNITED STATES - CIRCA 1950s:  Portrait of woman holding cigarettte.  (Photo by George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images)

George Marks / Getty Images
Cigarette companies are still allowed to advertise, but they must now label their products as deadly.

Smoking rates cut in half. Eight million lives saved. More than 800,000 fewer lung cancer deaths. Fifty years after the U.S. Surgeon General first warned about the dangers of smoking, the benefits of quitting have never been clearer.

Yet 18 percent of the population still smokes. Nearly 2,000 teenagers take up the habit every day and tobacco companies advertise candy-flavored tobacco products with impunity. Is it possible this is the best the United States will ever do?

Health experts are convinced it isn’t — and they point to maps that rank states and regions by smoking status as proof. A look at a county-by-county breakdown of who smokes and where makes it clear that there are opportunities to get smoking rates way down, they say.

Kentucky has the most smokers — more than 28 percent of the population smokes there, compared to just 11 percent in Utah, which has the lowest rates, and double the 14 percent in California. And when you overlay those smoking maps with details of rates of heart disease, stroke and cancer, it’s equally clear that there are still plenty of lives to be saved by trying.


“(With) taxes, strong smoke-free laws and fully funding state tobacco prevention programs,” says Dr. Mariell Jessup, president of the American Heart Association. “These measures can reduce the number of adult smokers to less than 10 percent of the population in 10 years.”

Also, raising the legal age to buy tobacco products to 21 would go a long way to stopping kids from ever getting addicted in the first place, the Heart Association, American Lung Association, American Cancer Society, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and other groups agree.

“We do it with booze yet we don’t do it with cigarettes, when cigarettes kill about 10 times more people than alcohol does,” says Dr. Michael Fiore of the University of Wisconsin’s Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention.

Smoking is often just another marker for social and economic disparities, Fiore adds. “Fewer than 10 percent of college graduates smoke,” Fiore points out. But 35 percent of people who never graduated from high school do.

“Two things will solve this issue over time and eliminate tobacco use. One is hard-hitting public policy. At the same time, we need the ready availability of treatments for smokers.”

A 50 year public health battle

It was Jan. 11, 1964 when then-Surgeon General Dr. Luther Terry held a news conference to announce that smoking causes cancer and probably heart disease, too. It was a time when close to half of Americans smoked — including Terry himself — and it set off a 50-year battle between regulators and the tobacco industry.

Video – From the Archives: Smoking Causes Lung CancerThe federal government’s report presented January 11, 1964 on smoking and health was a landmark report spelling out the negative health effects of smoking. NBC’s Frank McGee reports.

Since then, science has proven beyond any doubt that smoking causes most cases of lung cancer, most heart disease and lung disease as well as stroke and a range of cancers from breast to bladder. Researchers have proven that nicotine is one of the most addictive substances known, and that tobacco companies deliberately manipulate nicotine levels in their products to get people hooked on the first cigarette and keep them hooked for life.

In a study published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Theodore Holford of the Yale School of Public Health and colleagues estimated that 17.7 million people died between 1964 and 2012 because of smoking. But they also calculated that tobacco control measures saved 8 million lives. And the average American lives two years longer than they otherwise would have, they said. Smoking rates have plummeted from 42 percent of the population in 1965 to 18 percent today.

Yet smoking still kills 1 in 5 Americans, or 440,000 people a year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. That includes more than 49,000 people who die from the effects of secondhand smoke.

And tobacco companies kept up the fight. When they failed to cast doubt on the health effects of smoking, they re-framed the issue as one of personal choice. When schools, cities and employers completely banned smoking on their premises, companies advertised cigarettes as stress-relievers and subtly encouraged smokers to feel like they were somehow edgy rebels instead of tobacco addicts.

Cigarettes are no longer portrayed as glamorous, and stop-smoking campaigns have saved 8 million lives, a study published this week shows.

Vecchio / Getty Images
Cigarettes are no longer portrayed as glamorous, and stop-smoking campaigns have saved 8 million lives, a study published this week shows.

Shaking a national addiction

Health experts say there are still ways to get smoking rates lower, even as policymakers grapple with new battles over e-cigarettes.One is to stop people from smoking in the first place, says Dr. James Perrin, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“Eighty-eight percent or more of lifetime smokers start before they turn age 18,” he told NBC News. The adolescent brain is particularly susceptible to the addicting effects of nicotine, and just raising the legal age to buy tobacco to 21 would help get kids past the most vulnerable point, he says.

Perrin joins other health experts in urging the Food and Drug Administration to take a firmer hand. “Four years ago, the U.S. stopped sales of candy-flavored cigarettes because they are particularly appealing to children,” Perrin said. Yet little cigars flavored like cotton candy, grape and even gummy bears remain on the market. Such products are not aimed at 40-year-olds, Perrin maintains.

Taxes also have been shown to reduce smoking rates. But they are nowhere as near as high as they should be, argues Dick Woodruff of the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network. “Taxes work,” Woodruff told reporters. But federal taxes are just a dollar a pack. “It’s just ridiculous,” he says. “We need to overcome the anathema Congress has on taxes and revenues and educate them.”

UNITED STATES - CIRCA 1950s:  Couple talking over drinks.  (Photo by George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images)

George Marks / Getty Images
In the 1950s, smoking was considered glamorous. Research now shows it’s deadly.

States add their own taxes, and Kentucky, the state with the highest smoking rates, adds just 60 cents a pack, while New York adds $4.35 a pack and Massachusetts $3.50. Studies show that the people most likely to smoke are also the most sensitive to price.

Experts also argue that states aren’t spending these tax revenues properly in helping people to stop smoking. They’re also not using a big pot of money called the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement from a giant lawsuit settled in 1998 between the attorneys general of 46 states and the four biggest tobacco companies. It provides $206 billion over 25 years — that’s more than $175 million a year per state, or more than $8 billion a year for all the states. Yet states spent just $640 million on tobacco control efforts in 2010.

Warning: Danger inside the pack 

Tobacco companies have fought and lobbied against every measure. But anti-tobacco activists marked a victory on Friday. Tobacco companies and the federal government reached an agreement on a series of “corrective statements” the companies must publish. It comes from a 2006 ruling in which Washington, D.C., federal district judge Gladys Kessler ruled that the cigarette companies conspired for decades to conceal the dangers of smoking.

Under the agreement with the Justice Department , each of the companies must publish full-page ads in the Sunday editions of 35 newspapers and on the newspapers’ websites, as well as air prime-time TV spots on NBC, CBS or ABC five times per week for a year. They’ve been fighting over the wording, says Vince Willmore of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “The companies have appealed every step of the way,” he said.

These ads must say, for instance:

  • “Smoking kills, on average, 1,200 Americans. Every day.”
  • “Philip Morris USA, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, Lorillard, and Altria intentionally designed cigarettes to make them more addictive.”
  • “When you smoke, the nicotine actually changes the brain — that’s why quitting is so hard.”

The companies also must publish the statements on their own websites and affix them to a certain number of cigarette packs three times per year for two years.

Something else — doctors need to nag their patients more, says Fiore. “I would never dream of letting a patient with high blood pressure leave my office without treating it,” Fiore said. “But every day in America, millions of Americans go in and out of a physician’s office and their smoking is not treated.”

Everett heart patient uses Skype to keep up with class

Nicole Olson, 8, stays in school via Skype

BOSTON —It’s hard not to smile around 8-year-old Nicole Olson.

Despite being confined to her room at Boston Children’s Hospital for the past six weeks, she’s usually telling a joke or laughing.

Watch report

And she doesn’t like to wear pajamas. A pink dress, fur vest and pink fedora are more her style.

The Everett girl is used to hospitals after having a heart transplant when she was 6 days old. But this has been her longest hospital stay since then.

“I’m feeling better, much better. So much better that I just want to bust out of here,” Nicole said.

In the meantime, her classmates at the Lafayette School in Everett make sure Nicole knows she’s still an important part of Jared Taylor’s second grade class.

Her teacher is using Skype to bring Nicole back in the classroom.

“It means a lot,” Nicole said. “I really have fun talking to them.”

It’s also given a lot of comfort to Nicole’s family.

“The love and support of the children at the Lafayette School and the teachers and staff — they’ve all been great,” said Lisa Gallagher, Nicole’s mother. “They made her never feel that she was left out.”

Classmates have made signs and cards. And the school’s older students designed pink rubber bracelets that read “Love for Nicole.”

“It’s become a team effort,” said Taylor, Nicole’s teacher. “When they have free choice, it’s not really free choice anymore. It’s Nicole choice. What can we do for Nicole?”

It’s a lesson in compassion that has touched the school community and beyond. All inspired by an 8-year-old’s smile, strength and style.

“You can have all the standards in the world and curriculum. But sometimes what they learn most is from each other,” Taylor said. “In this case, they are learning from Nicole.”


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Personally, I’ve always believed that the smoking age and drinking age should have always been the same “21”. Why would you have two different ages? It never made sense to me. I’ve never understood why people ever wanted to do something that could so drastically change the health of their heart, which in turn changes their total health. Smarten up people. Aspire to “Live long, Live strong”.