Your top stories of 2016

From inspirational to informational, Health Beat delivers you a daily dose of stories you don’t want to miss. Here are the best of the best.

Miracles, courage and hope for tomorrow.

These themes run strong through all the stories that made Health Beat’s 2016 top 50 list.

You, dear reader, decided which stories became the best of the best. How? By reading, liking, commenting and sharing them with loved ones.

They captured your attention and tugged at your heartstrings. Sometimes you laughed, sometimes you cried, and mostly you cheered on daughters, sons, fathers and mothers as they tackled real-life struggles. You rejoiced in their heroic triumphs.

And because you spread the good word about Health Beat, many of these stories reached the right folks at the right time. They sought care for themselves or their loved ones with the trusted experts we feature in these real-life stories.

We’re humbled and honored to document the inspiring journeys of people who want to help others by sharing their personal stories. They’re changing lives.

Your top 10 stories of 2016:

1. ‘We are not walking out of here without her’ 

She spoke in a whisper, but Rylie Whitten wanted the story of her battle with toxic shock syndrome heard far and wide. “Be careful. Be aware,” she said, her voice soft and raspy. “Educate yourself.” The 15-year-old from Greenville surprised her parents with the speed of her recovery after a fierce life-and-death battle that captured the attention of the world.

2. ‘An awesome life’

As Benny Boes battled a devastating brain tumor, he and his wife, Elise, set out to treasure every moment together. They considered life a gift and found grace and joy in Benny’s final months. In his words, “It’s going to be the best year of our lives.” And, even with his very last breath, he and his family have been undeniably awesome. They claim victory over cancer because they didn’t let it define them. Their love defines them.

3. ‘A blessing I didn’t expect’

Just moments after a C-section, Evelise Greene was able to hold her newborn daughter, thanks to a new drape with a baby-sized doorway. “Welcome to the world,” Evelise murmured to her daughter. “We love you so much. You are so beautiful.” This story and accompanying photos captured the beauty of the moment of birth and the innovative doorway that made it especially incredible.

4. A dying child’s spirit shines

In this powerful story about end-of-life decisions, 3-year-old Ethan DeHoek’s parents sought to make life comfortable for their sweet boy, for as long as he had left. It’s as if the light of Heaven itself shined down on this family as they struggled with difficult moments and reveled in the presence of their little boy’s joyous wide smiles.

5. ‘I’m a walking, talking miracle’

At six months pregnant, Anna Weeber appeared to be a glowing picture of health. While considering an afternoon bike ride with her 2-year-old son, a ruptured brain aneurysm sent her world spiraling. After 18 days in the hospital, she returned home to await the birth of a healthy boy. “We give all the glory to God,” Anna said. “I think I’m a walking, talking miracle. For me to have no mental or physical disabilities … it is humbling and overwhelming.”

6. ‘Let’s rock this’

With poignancy, humor and a doctor’s insight, cardiologist Craig Alguire, MD, chronicles his battle with a golf ball-sized brain tumor that threatened to end his 39-year ‘hot streak’ of loving life. He focuses not on the odds, but on the hope that he will survive and emerge from this patient experience as a better doctor.

7. ‘Mighty boy’ defies the odds

Elijah’s family knows him to have the heart of a lion, the fight of a champion. So when his doctors in Atlanta suggested the tiny baby boy go home for his last few days on Earth, the family refused to accept this verdict. They instead took to the Internet, searching for answers. What they found was a story about another baby who defied the odds at Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. The Grand Rapids team rallied to help give ‘Mighty boy Elijah’ a chance at life.

8. Life for Lilly

Ten-now-turned-11-year-old Lilly Vanden Bosch shows us all how to embrace life despite the roller coaster ups and downs encountered along the way. In this special series of stories, Lilly takes us through her bone marrow transplant journey as a way of promoting the gift of life. She shows courage in the face of adversity and strength despite setbacks. She powers through with a smile on her face and joy in her heart when she can finally claim victory.

9. From miracle baby to medical pioneer

Jonathan Koster is a special young man. Despite dire predictions as he grew in his mother’s womb, he surprised everyone. He’s now 22 and has dozens of surgeries behind him and a bright future ahead. And then, earlier this year, he made history by becoming the first in the world to get a custom-designed titanium jaw. In his words: “I am blessed.”

10. ‘Mom, I think I have cancer’

When doctors told Khalique Vialva that he would be fighting a rare form of cancer that affects only four in 1 million kids, the teen wasn’t surprised. He’d had an inkling he had cancer, even told his mom, as he dealt with symptoms they had difficulty explaining. “Mama, I don’t mind,” Khalique told his mother during his battle. “I’m OK. I know I’m going to beat this.”

Wondering what other stories rounded out the top 50? Here you go:

11. ‘No oxygen, no heartbeat, no nothing’

12. ‘You are my sunshine, my only sunshine’

13. Boy’s mystery illness leads to genetic breakthrough

14. ‘This is cancer? It can’t be’

15. ‘No other way for him to get help’

16. ‘I thought we were going to lose her’

17. ‘The very definition of a miracle’

18. ‘I love you, Mommy’

19. Tyler’s new heart

20. Older, stronger, better

21. Identical triplets: A rare and ‘indescribable’ joy

22. ‘It’s not your time’

23. ‘Gracious and grateful’

24. ‘Life’s not done until it’s done’

25. ‘A strong survivor’

26. ‘I can’t spend too much time worrying’

27. Unstoppable: The inspiring journey of Kiden Kee

28. The ‘Princess Warrior’ from England

29. ‘My little USA sunshine’

30. ‘You’re amazing, boy’

31. Misunderstood, undiagnosed

32. Pioneering transplant patient: Life is ahead

33. ‘An amazing, selfless act’

34. Against all odds

35. ‘I had no idea what it was’

36. ‘An all-out war on cancer’

37. Teen’s advice after crash: Stay strong

38. ‘She’ll be high risk forever’

39. ‘I’m looking toward that better eternal life’

40. The harmony of Baby Levi’s heart

41. ‘Extremely lucky to be alive’

42. A ‘life changing’ innovation

43. Na na na na … Batman!

44. Pill-sized pacemaker: ‘It’s mind-boggling’

45. ‘Just being together is enough’

46. ‘She has touched so many lives’

47. ‘This is going to change her life forever’

48. ‘You can never be too careful’

49. ‘A win for everyone’

50. ‘That’s what keeps me going’

Do you have a story to share? Tell us about it. Thanks to all of our Health Beat readers for making Health Beat such a success in its first two years. If you haven’t already, please subscribe to our weekly and monthly e-news and bookmark us on your desktop or cell phone so you can stay up to date on all the great health news you can use. Best wishes to you and yours for a healthy and happy 2017!

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