Monday, Oct. 20, 2008
Tracey was 17 when she got involved in a car accident.
Her body was so badly damaged, doctors described her as “like a rag doll”. They prepared her family for the worst…
She was in a coma for 5 weeks, passed 2 months in intensive care.
She needed more than 2 years of rehabilitation. Experimental surgery on her broken neck saved her from paralysis.
She had to learn to cope with memory problems, taking notes all the time to remember not only what she’s going to do but what she’s doing.
“I had to learn to walk and talk, and everyday things like getting dressed, going to the toilet and everything else we take for granted.”
— Tracey Austin
Now, 16 years later, Tracey has been back to the same hospital that saved here life — this time to give live.
“I always wanted to be a mum but just didn’t think it would be this hard.
They’ve got all my records and the facilities in case anything went wrong.
It’s still all surreal that we are actually a family and at home with baby.”
— Tracey Austin
The couple had been afraid her body would be too badly damaged to ever give birth but fertility experts disagreed.
Monday, Jul. 14, 2008
ANN YORK will soon be making the journey she has always dreamed about – a poignant visit to a Canadian town which has honoured her late father.
She has won the chance to make the trip of a lifetime thanks to a Telegraph competition.
We asked readers to tell us where in the world they would most like to visit and why.
Hundreds of stories came in from across Coventry and Warwickshire, but it was Ann’s moving tale which got the judges’ vote.
The former dinner lady told how she had never been able to see the street named after her father, Frank Woodward, who fought in a famous battle in the Second World War.
Ann, aged 60, of the Hiron, Cheylesmore, Coventry, will now be able to proudly walk down Woodward Crescent in Ajax, Canada.
Her dad was a crew member on the HMS Ajax which, together with HMS Exeter and HMS Achilles, defeated the Graf Spee in the famous Battle of the River Plate in 1939.
The town decided to honour the crews by naming roads after them.
Ann had a letter from the mayor of Ajax six years ago inviting her to attend a tree-planting ceremony in the road.
But she was recovering from cancer at the time and couldn’t make it.
Now she will have that chance thanks to sponsors Birmingham International Airport and its partner airlines and tour operators which will pay for the flights and spending money to cover accommodation and other treats for Ann and a companion.
Ann said she would “jump for joy and probably cry as well” if she won the holiday and that’s exactly what she did.
She added: “I still can’t believe I’ve won – it still feels like a dream.
“I do feel sorry for the other contestants but now I can fulfil the promise to my brother and father which was to walk down that street and pay tribute.
Her father died 17 years ago and mother, Alison, passed away eight years ago. Her brother Howard died three years ago.
Ann said: “Losing my father was like losing my best friend. He meant the world to me and we were so close.
“He would always ask how my children were and see if I was OK and would do anything for me.”
Ann, who is married to Mick and has a son Andrew, 33, will be taking her daughter Alison, 30, on the trip.
Wednesday, Jul. 9, 2008
Little Aisling Richardson never pestered her parents for a new Barbie or a pony. She craved just one thing – a baby brother or sister. And from the moment she could talk, she never stopped asking.
The youngster, who is now nine, little realised that her own existence was a longed-for blessing, and that another addition to the family would be little short of miraculous.
“She was desperate,” says mum Beverley, 39. “It was her one desire in life. She’d put coins in wishing wells, look at shooting stars and tell us she had asked for a brother or sister. It touched our hearts. We so wanted to make her happy.”
But Beverley’s husband Michael, a social worker, had been left infertile following cancer treatment 25 years ago. Aisling had been conceived using his frozen sperm and specialist fertility treatment – but this had failed when they had tried for another baby.
So imagine the family’s surprise and delight to discover that Aisling was to get her wish after all – miracle baby Eliza was on the way.
Astonishingly she was conceived completely naturally – a quarter of a century after doctors said Michael would never have children. “It’s incredible,” says Michael, 47. “Even the doctors are dumbfounded and haven’t heard of it happening before, especially after such a long period of time. I feel like I’ve won the Lottery.”
The Richardsons found out that Eliza, now five months old, was on the way last April, after Beverley, had gone to give blood.
“The nurse thought I had anaemia,” says Beverley, a primary school teacher. “She gave me iron deficiency tablets but they made me feel worse – nauseous and weak.”
Next she saw her GP and was shocked to be asked whether she had taken a pregnancy test.
She says: “I knew there was no way I could be expecting – Michael was infertile. But she needed to do it to rule it out. So I agreed.
“When the test came back positive, I couldn’t take it in.”
Michael was equally stunned by the news: “I thought Bev was joking. I was so surprised, I even joked that it couldn’t possibly be my baby. But obviously, it was.”
Michael from West Yorkshire, was 22 when he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma – a form of cancer. He needed radiotherapy, but was told it would affect his fertility. In all likelihood he would never become a dad.
In 1990, seven years after having radiotherapy, Michael was told the cancer was unlikely to return. It was then he met and fell in love with Beverley.
After they got married in August 1993, Michael felt the true pain of his infertility. “We wanted kids. But even though we had an intimate, loving relationship, and never used precautions, nothing happened. We accepted it was because I was sterile.”
Fortunately, Michael had been advised to freeze some sperm before his cancer treatment. In late 1997, after an assessment at the fertility centre at St James Hospital in Leeds, it was confirmed that using his frozen sperm was their only option.
So the next January, Michael and Beverley embarked on ICSI, a form of fertility treatment where sperm is injected into the egg.
Unfortunately, Beverley had a bad reaction to the drugs. “I suffered Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome,” she says. “My lungs flooded with fluid and I ballooned, putting on two stone in 48 hours. I was kept in hospital for two weeks.”
Yet two months later, Beverley bravely decided to try again. And this time, they were successful.
“We were speechless,” says Michael. “My frozen sperm, which was 17 years old by then, had actually produced a child.
“It had been such an outside shot.
We couldn’t believe it.”
On February 16, 1999, Aisling was born. “Her name is Irish for ‘vision’ or ‘dream,'” says Beverley, “which is exactly what she was to us.”
When Aisling was three, they tried ICSI again. But it cost £4,000 a time, and, after four failed attempts, they had to call it a day.
Michael and Beverley resigned themselves to having an only child.
But Mother Nature had other ideas. And on January 29 this year, Eliza came into the world.
“Eliza’s gorgeous,” says Michael, proudly. “I keep looking at her in awe. It’s phenomenal.
“The doctors can put it down to nothing other than that I’ve taken care of myself. I don’t drink, don’t smoke and I have a good balanceddiet.
I feel like Superman!”
Beverley adds: “Aisling is on cloud nine. She adores her little sister. One day, we’ll tell her. We’ve beaten cancer and infertility. It’s taken 25 years – now our lives are definitely complete!”
It’s incredible. The doctors are dumbfounded and I feel like I’ve won the Lottery
Big sister Aisling, nine, was conceived using sperm Michael had frozen in 1982
21 years Sperm frozen for that length of time was used by a British couple to conceive their first child in 2004
Durga Thangarajah was delivered alive and well in Australia in May after growing in her mother’s ovary instead of the womb.
4 years after her father’s death from cancer Jaimie-Rose Roberts from Chepstow was born in March using his frozen sperm
Thursday, Jun. 5, 2008
Dan and Suzanne Isidor, of State College, were surprised but thrilled to learn almost three years ago that Suzanne was pregnant with twins.
Then came the worrying news. Nineteen weeks into
the pregnancy, they were told it would be a high-risk pregnancy. The fetuses were situated in a way that one of the children might not survive the birth.
The news hit hard. Then, one
evening, they decided to watch the Children’s Miracle Network telethon. And it gave them hope.
“When you hear the news about something like this, you think that you are all alone, but you’re not,” Dan Isidor said. “There is a network of support — financially and emotionally.”
Now the parents of healthy 2-year-old twins, Luke and Evan, and a 4-year-old son, Jackson, the Isidors will be one of the families featured on the Children’s Miracle Network Celebration telethon. It will air from 9 p.m. to midnight today and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday on WTAJ, the local CBS affiliate.
Proceeds from the telethon will benefit Janet Weis Children’s Hospital in Danville, where the Isidor twins were born, and health care providers in State College, Altoona, DuBois and other Pennsylvania locations.
The telethon, the Isidors said, helped them realize they weren’t the only parents dealing with high-risk pregnancies or premature births. It’s also where they saw other parents’ success stories.
“We had never watched it before,” Suzanne Isidor said of the telethon. “The stories were so touching that we even donated money.”
Children’s Miracle Network requests donations annually through fundraisers to help children like the Isidor twins. Since 1984, Children’s Miracle Network has raised more than $36 million throughout the Geisinger Health System.
Telethon donations have helped Geisinger provide state-of-the-art pediatric care by funding support services, programs and pediatric equipment, said Jennifer M. Young, spokeswoman for Geisinger Health System and Children’s Miracle Network at Geisinger.
Types of equipment purchased with telethon donations include tele-echo equipment, used to transmit echo-cardiogram results immediately to a specialist, and Isolette incubators, used to transport neonatal patients by helicopter.
Vital signs monitors were one piece of equipment purchased with telethon funds that were used to help the Isidor twins survive.
Born prematurely in the 30th week of Suzanne Isidor’s pregnancy, the twins were delivered by Caesarean section. Luke weighed 2 pounds, 4 ounces. Evan weighed 3 pounds, 1 ounce.
The babies had to stay in Geisinger’s neonatal unit at the hospital. For weeks after Suzanne Isidor was discharged, she and her husband made countless trips between their State College home and Danville. Much of the time, she made the trip alone while her husband stayed home to go to work and take care of Jackson.
“It was hard when we had to leave them there,” Suzanne Isidor said, recalling the fragile twins as each being about the length of a Barbie doll. “Jackson didn’t understand when I didn’t come home with a baby.”
Family, friends and support groups associated with Children’s Miracle Network helped the Isidors through the rough times.
The Isidors often stayed at the Ronald McDonald House in Danville, sparing them the expense of hotel rooms.
Evan came home after five weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit. Luke came home two weeks later.
The Isidors are now advocates for Children’s Miracle Network, saying the twins are living proof of the good the telethon does.
“The money goes to a great cause,” Suzanne Isidor said, holding Evan in her arms. “Obviously, it’s a cause that goes straight to our hearts.”
Tuesday, Jun. 3, 2008
Confidently feeding and changing her baby daughters, Naomi Kesterton looks as though she was born to be a mother.
But a house full of children was once a distant dream for Naomi, 30, who years before was told she had practically no chance of conceiving naturally.
But she proved the doctors wrong – and just months after meeting her husband-to-be Toby, Naomi was pregnant and went on to have four children in just 16 months.
After daughter Ella was born in September 2006 she got pregnant again nine months later with identical triplets Catherine, Amelia and Sophia.
Incredibly, experts put the chances of natural conception identical triplets at 200million-to-one.
Naomi said: “When I think about how unlikely it was that I’d have children naturally, let alone identical triplets, I realise what a miracle they are.”
Former events organiser Naomi met internet publisher Toby, also 30, when she moved into his house in Bracknell, Berks, as a lodger in January 2005.
She said: “We had both just come out of messy relationships but we got on so well that within a few months we’d fallen for each other.
“Toby wanted a big family but when I was 20, doctors told me there was only a five per cent chance I would conceive naturally.
“It was devastating as I’d always wanted children but I had to resign myself to other options like IVF and adoption.
“Toby and I knew it was something we would have to face when we decided to start a family.”
But on a break to Scotland in November 2005 for Toby’s birthday, Naomi had an unexpected gift.
“We found out I was pregnant,” she remembers.
“It was a huge shock but a lovely one. We hadn’t been that careful with birth control because I assumed I couldn’t conceive. It wasn’t planned at all. We were both very career-minded and planned to get married after a couple of years and then think about a family.”
The couple flew to Naomi’s native Durban in South Africa to marry and, in September 2006, after a six-day labour, Ella, now 20 months, was born.
“I loved being a mum,” says Naomi. “But I warned Toby that I’d never be pregnant twice. Ella was my one miracle.”
Settling into motherhood, Naomi gave up work and starting planning a second wedding in the UK. She explains: “We got married in Durban because we wanted to be married when Ella was born but we still planned a big ceremony in the UK.”
Last summer, just weeks before her big day, Naomi began to suspect she was pregnant again. “I started getting sick and I began to grow,” she says.
A pregnancy test proved her intuition right and Naomi gave Toby the news on their wedding day in July last year. “He grinned like a Cheshire cat,” she says.
After a honeymoon in Cyprus that was ruined by morning sickness, the couple had their first scan.
Naomi explained: “I immediately saw two heads and asked ‘twins?’ Then we saw a third. Toby was grinning from ear to ear but I was thinking more about complications and risks. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, I said, ‘Please don’t find a fourth!’
“I phoned my mum in tears and asked, ‘How do I do this?’ It was so scary. I came home and went on the internet and found statistics like 48 per cent of triplets don’t make it and in many of those cases the mothers don’t make it either.”
Her fears were intensified when another scan discovered that not only were the triplets sharing a placenta, two of them were sharing an amniotic sac and at risk of developing Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome, a potentially fatal condition where one baby takes blood supply and nutrients from the other. The Kestertons were given a stark choice.
Naomi said: “It was explained we could consider elective reduction – terminating one baby to make the pregnancy easier.
“I said to Toby, ‘No, if complications arise and the babies are at risk then maybe, but I am not going to terminate a baby just to make my life easier’.”
As doctors closely monitored the babies to check they were all developing at the same rate, Naomi struggled through a difficult pregnancy. She recalls: “The sickness was incredible. Normal morning sickness is bad but times that by three. I was a mountain. I measured my stomach at five-and-a-half months and it was 50 ins around.
“I was eating eight times a day, grazing on small meals because there wasn’t enough space in my stomach. My hips expanded so much I ended up on crutches. At six months I could hardly move. I would come down the stairs and not go back up all day because the effort was too much. I was immobile. I ended up with diabetes.
“It became a matter of getting as far through pregnancy as possible to give the babies the best chance. First, I had to make 27 weeks, when we got there it was 31 weeks because their lungs would be more developed then.”
In January this year, when the babies were 31 weeks and four days, Naomi felt back twinges and knew there was no space left.
After a steroid injection to allow the tiny babies a final chance to strengthen their lungs the three girls were delivered by caesarean at Basingstoke Hospital on January 9.
Because they were so rare, 15 assembled doctors and nurses supervised the birth. Amelia was born first, followed by Catherine and finally Sophia. They weighed 4lbs, 3lb 7ozs and 3lbs respectively.
They spent three weeks in incubators and two more in hospital before gaining enough weight to be allowed home. Naomi says: “They were so small and adorable. I’d always known they wouldn’t go full term and had to prepare myself not to be able to hold them at first.
“While I was recovering I picked up the winter vomiting bug and so there were days when I couldn’t even see them.
“It was awful to be away from them and breathtaking just to be able to hold them.”
Now the triplets are healthy five-month-olds and Naomi runs her household like clockwork.
She says: “I can tell who is who, but to anyone else they look the same.
“They all have their own distinct personalities. Amelia is the Earth Mother and looks out for her sisters, Catherine smiles the most and Sophia is the laidback one.
“Amelia and Catherine shared the sac and they have kept that bond. They hold hands and look for each other when they are apart.
“It’s not easy but the plus side is that we had our family all in one go. Most people have four children over a decade, we did it in 16 months. And we know how blessed we are to have them.”
Tuesday, May. 13, 2008
Doing police work 24/7 can seem like a never-ending carousel — a revolving door of officers jumping on and off, at all hours of the day, as they serve the public.
It’s a different kind of public service. Different from working at City Hall or working 9 to 5. It’s constant, and often without reward.
It can wear on officers; hurt departmental retention. And, it’s something that not only officers deal with but it affects their families, too.
Sensing a need to find a morale booster and common denominator among his officers, Rolla Police Chief Mark Kearse, last October, sought to instill a more family atmosphere in the department. To accomplish that, Kearse assembled a group of people he knew would have his officers’ ears — their wives.
“It was my job to facilitate their meeting,” Kearse said of gathering spouses. “I got them together, and then I turned it over to them, and it’s been great.”
Now seven months old, the assemblage is a support group — not only for the officers, their wives and their children, but for others in the community as well.
Their commonality and desire to mutually assist led to naming their group “Behind the Badge.” It’s both a description and a motto.
“There is a huge network of spouses at the Police Department. We have answers, solutions and possibilities,” said D’ettra Kearse, who co-founded the group with Christy Moberly, Melinda Lauth and Paula Volkmer. Moberly is a 17-year receptionist whose husband is Sgt. Kenny Moberly. Lauth, who teaches first-grade, is married to Officer Anthony Lauth, and Volkmer is the department’s Director of Communications.
“We started having monthly meetings, and then this thing snowballed into a fantastic success,” said D’ettra Kearse, who said the group is not just about helping and supporting police officers.
“Just this (Tuesday) morning, we helped a woman in need get to Waynesville,” D’ettra Kearse said. “We support each other, but our group is about more than just helping each other.”
An example of that community spirit, was the group’s recent trip to Presbyterian Manor, where the police auxiliary group of wives, police staff members and children helped seniors with a spring planting of seeds.
“It was a great time,” Melinda Lauth said. “I think we enjoyed it as much as (the seniors) did.
“This started out as a group to support one another, but it’s grown to be much more than that,” Lauth said. “It’s not easy being a cop’s wife, and we support each other first. Then comes the outreach.”
Still, the intent of the group, that now numbers 30, is to bring the Police Department together.
“I think by bringing in the spouses, we firmed up the Rolla Police Department family,” said D’ettra Kearse.
It is that sentiment that appeals to Moberly, who is both an officer’s wife and who works as a department receptionist.
“It used to be, he didn’t have anyone but me for emotional support,” Moberly said.
“They don’t always want to bring that home, so they’d put that in a shell. Now, it’s different.”
Still, with officers, their husbands and spouses coming and going at various times, the women “Behind the Badge” strive to bring the department closer.
“We started having ‘shift-change gatherings,’” said D’ettra Kearse, explaining they have informal get-togethers at varied shift changes to include officers who work midnights just as they would include those who work daytime hours.
“It allows people a little exchange among the staff, and we try to do these on all shifts,” she said.
The group also conducts bake and garage sales, and most recently was instrumental in helping Police Department custodian Jim Duncan recover from flood damage to his home located along the Gasconade River.
“I was so proud of these ladies,” Chief Kearse said. “They probably raised $3- to $4,000 to help with his recovery effort. They arranged help from the Police Department and Sheriff’s Department. They probably got $6,000 worth of materials.”
Today, the group is sponsoring a bake sale during the “Get Your Picture with a Cop” benefit from 4 to 7 p.m. at Wal-Mart. The event is a precursor to National Police Week, which begins Sunday.
Another fundraiser later this month, on May 27, the group is doing a “Tip a Cop” benefit from 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, May 27, at Pizza Inn, and they have plans for a concession booth during Summerfest.
During the holidays, when the group was less than two months old, it arranged to help 27 “Little Angels” during the holidays, buying gifts for needy children. They also contributed to the Sheriff’s Department “Shop with a Cop” benefit, which bought Christmas gifts for needy children.
“A lot of what we do is get back to the basics, helping family and friends,” D’ettra Kearse said.
Monday, Aug. 13, 2007
Nancy Iannone recalls always having had a “positive view” of people with Down syndrome.
Now she knows why. Nancy and her husband Vincent are parents of Gabriella, their fourth child, who was born with Down a little over two years ago.
“She’s just a delight,” says Nancy, a Washington Township resident, “but I didn’t realize she’d be delightful in so many ways.”
A former attorney and teacher, Nancy is one of 63 mothers of children with Down who have written chapters in a new book, “Gifts: Mothers Reflect on How Children With Down Syndrome Enrich Their Lives.” Her chapter (No. 30) is titled, appropriately, “The Gift of Delight.”
The book is on sale at Barnes & Noble in Deptford, where Nancy recently took part in a book signing. She also was among six interviewed by Channel 6’s health reporter Anita Brickman.
Nancy admits when she was told her unborn daughter had Down she had difficulty accepting the news: “I slammed the door in my brain to hold back the flood of grief that was threatening to take over, and I shut down to everything but pure logic. Abortion, there it was, right in front of me.”
But a few days later she knew “everything is going to be OK.”
And then Gabriella was born.
“After awhile, I realized that we had moved beyond surviving to truly living. Gabriella was amazing, endearing, loving, and beautiful. My other three girls adored her, and my husband, who originally was nervous for them, saw that Gabriella would only enrich their lives.
“Gabriella continues to amaze us. She loves to sway to music, splash in the bath or the pool, and squeeze her sisters’ faces. We went away this weekend and took Gabriella with us because she is still nursing. When we came home, a near-riot ensued as her sisters fought over her. She is learning sign language at a pace that has amazed her sign teacher.
“Though I delight in her physical and cognitive progress, the true joy I receive is seeing her shining, laughing face, especially when she thinks she is playing a trick on me.”
She closes with this: “My baby is not a diagnosis, not a list of her potential woes. She is a beautiful person, full of laughter and grins. There is a world of possibilities laid before her, and I love exploring those possibilities with her.”
A 1985 WTHS graduate, Nancy married Vincent “during the blizzard of 1993.” They also are the parents of Samantha, 9, Maria, 7, and Elena, 5. She has not practiced law since their birth of their second child. She is a member of the board of trustees of The Sensory Playhouse, an open-play facility for kids with special needs.
Nancy’s goal is to comfort and give hope to parents of children who are diagnosed with Down.
Meanwhile, she is thrilled to witness her own daughter’s rapid development.
Gabriella recently won an award from the Gloucester County Special Services School District for progress in early intervention.
Friday, Jun. 29, 2007
A QUICK-THINKING mother rescued her two young children from a house fire minutes before it engulfed their home.
Jayne Willis, of Windermere Drive, Warndon, Worcester, said: “”I’ve lost everything, but I haven’t lost my babies.”
She was at home with one-year-old Mckenzi and four-year-old Jordan when a smoke alarm alerted her to the fire, which started in the television set in the lounge at about 10.30am yesterday.
The 41-year-old, who was in another room, rushed into the room, and ran outside.
Minutes later, the house was engulfed by flames.
Speaking outside as firefighters investigated, she said tearfully: “I walked in the front room and saw the smoke so grabbed the little ones and ran out of the house.
“There was a small lot of smoke and by the time I came out to get the fire extinguisher and come back in it was everywhere and I couldn’t see. There was black smoke everywhere.
“Everything was so fast. All I know is it went up and went up fast.
“I’m angry and shocked.”
Miss Wallis said her three other children, 10-year-old Reece, nine-year-old Tammi and seven-year-old Conni were thankfully at school when the fire happened.
Firefighters extinguished the fire within an hour, but it caused severe damage to the house.
Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service spokesman Alec Mackie said the family was lucky to escape.
“The fire spread to other combustible materials that burn very quickly and caused a lot of smoke and fire,” he said.
“Had it happened at night it might have been a different tale.
“Thankfully the smoke alarms worked and it alerted her.
“She did very well to do what she did.”
However, Mr Mackie said the service did not recommend people going back into a burning building.
Police were on hand to divert traffic and Red Cross victim support volunteers were also there to assist Miss Wallis.
Monday, May. 14, 2007
It’s a Mother’s Day miracle for one Tucson woman. She is able to celebrate this day, with her family, thanks to a lifesaving organ transplant.
“I’ve been given three chances now to have my life back,” says Annette Jones.
At just 25, doctors diagnosed Annette with kidney failure.
“I was in disbelief for a while because I felt fine and then very slowly, you start feeling sick,” she explains.
In 1990 Annette underwent a kidney transplant. But after just three years, her body rejected it.
“There wasn’t anything they could do except just give it time and see what happened,” says Annette.
Months later, a second miracle. Doctors found another kidney match for Annette. More than a decade passed and her body, once again rejected the transplant. Doctors said Annette’s kidney wouldn’t last long. She would have to wait on the transplant list for up to five years. So in 2004 her family was faced with a harsh reality.
“What if tomorrow comes around and something happens and I don’t have my mom,” says Annette’s son, Michael.
Doctors suggested she search for a living donor. But Annette felt it was too much to ask until a friend stepped in to help. Over dinner one night in 2005, Annette mentioned the situation to her husband’s boss and his wife.
“It never crossed my mind during the dinner that I would donate to her, never,” says Donna Davis.
But that night Donna had a change of heart. She says a spiritual calling inspired her to be tested and find out if she was a match for Annette.
“Sometimes us moms, we just need a cup of sugar. Well, Annette needed something, it wasn’t sugar. It was a kidney but it’s the same principal and I was just there at the right time,” says Donna.
In March 2005, Annette had the transplant that saved her life. A gift from one mom to another.
“Now she can be there for her kids and her kids can have a mom,” says Donna.
Annette was there when her son graduated from high school. Next week, her daughter will be married in Paris. She says Donna is part of every happy moment.
“I’m very, very thankful to her. I think about her everyday, always keep her in my prayers. I don’t think words can express how grateful I am to be here, to be with my kids, my husband on mother’s day,” adds Annette.
Tuesday, Mar. 13, 2007
Single mom, non-traditional student, double major, honors student; all words that can describe a variety of students at UW-Eau Claire. But add USA Today’s Academic All-Star team member to the mix and only one student can use all these words to describe her.
Unlike most traditional students, senior Lori Scardino has to juggle Girl Scout outings and school board meetings with her demanding academic schedule.
The 30-year-old chemistry and biology double-major maintains a nearly perfect GPA while raising her two daughters and participating in numerous clubs and organizations.
A rocky beginning
Scardino said she never planned on the life she has now. Born in Florida, her family moved to Wisconsin when she was very young. At age 12, her parents divorced, and she lived with her father until age 15.
“I was placed in foster care by child protective services when I was in high school, and bounced around to different high schools and foster homes.”
She eventually moved in with her mom and graduated from high school her junior year so she could start college. But during her second semester at UW-La Crosse, she was dealt another blow when her father died and she had to leave school to take care of her brother, who was living with their father in Tomah at the time.
In 1996 Scardino married, something she now says was “not the best decision” she’s ever made. She had two daughters, Alexandra, 10, and Olivia, 8, by 1999 and in 2002 she divorced. That was the same year she said she decided to go back to school.
“I decided to return to school after my divorce. I was working a job full time at a hospital that I really liked but the pay wasn’t that great,” she said, adding she had to work every weekend. “I wanted a career that was more financially beneficial to my family and would allow me to have more time with my family.”
The first time Scardino tried to enroll at Eau Claire she said she wasn’t accepted because her GPA was too low, a fact she now says is ironic. When she left La Crosse she didn’t withdraw from any of her classes, which destroyed her GPA.
After spending a year at Chippewa Valley Technical College, Scardino brought up her grades enough to enroll at Eau Claire in the fall of 2003, where she said she planned on majoring in math education.
Scardino said science had always interested her, but it was an accident that prompted her to major in chemistry. She said she signed up for general chemistry her first semester but almost didn’t take it because her schedule wouldn’t allow her to take the lab and the lecture with the same professor.
“It was the only one that fit into my schedule so I decided to take it anyway, and it was the best thing that ever happened,” she said. That’s when she met chemistry department chair Scott Hartsel, who persuaded her to major in chemistry.
“She knew she loved science, and she knows she always did well in it, but she didn’t really know what she could do with science,” he said.
After Scardino switched her major, she said she figured she would teach high school chemistry after she graduated. Hartsel then tried to convince her that she could go on to become a professional scientist.
“He asked me what my plans were for graduate school, and I sort of laughed at him and said, ‘Are you kidding me? I can’t afford graduate school. I can barely afford to be here,'” Scardino said.
That’s when Hartsel told her that graduate schools pay for students to complete their programs, and everything changed for Scardino.
“It opened a whole new world for me,” she said.
Scardino started working on research projects the summer after her freshman year. Her first big project came when Hartsel had her work on a project he and other professors were collaborating on.
“I put her on a project that I didn’t really think was going anywhere on some new fluorescent molecules that could be used to visualize structures inside cells,” Hartsel said. “She just took that project and ran with it and we got amazing results – better than I ever expected to see. And we started to realize that this was something that could be patentable.”
He said the project gave them some great data and led to some patent applications. He attributes much of the success of the project to Scardino’s hard work.
“Not only is she nearly a 4.0 average (chemistry) major, but she’s a natural in laboratory work, she can see what needs to be done in an experiment, she does it carefully and keeps great notes.”
Right now, she and junior Vinay Rao are working on a project involving methanobactin, a protein-like molecule.
“We’ve been using instruments to analyze its structure,” Rao said.
Along with working on projects, she has even had some of her work published, something students strive for at the graduate level, Hartsel said. She has also already given three presentations at national and international meetings.
“Graduate schools are jumping all over her with offers,” Hartsel said.
Scardino’s hard work paid off in January when she was honored by USA Today as an Academic All-Star and was one of 20 students named to the all-USA College Academic First Team. The honor, Hartsel said, puts her in a very elite group of students.
“In a way it’s as prestigious as a Rhodes scholarship. In fact several of the students on the (team) are also Rhodes scholars and many of them (attend) places like Harvard or Princeton,” he said.
Scardino said she didn’t think she had much of a chance when Hartsel nominated her for the award.
“I honestly didn’t think I would fit the mold or their view of what an undergraduate student was because I’m a non-traditional student and a single mom and I do so many other things,” she said. “Because of those things, I’m limited to doing things here in my community.”
She said the committee judged her on criteria including community involvement, campus involvement and research she had done. She said national presentations and publications were also considered.
She said she was shocked when she received the award, which included a $2,500 award, a trophy and a feature in USA Today.
“I can’t think of a more deserving student,” Hartsel said of Scardino.
A balancing act
Besides her accomplishments in science, Scardino is constantly participating in campus and community organizations. She volunteers at Lakeshore Elementary School, is a troop leader for both her daughters’ Girl Scout troops, is the chemistry department tutoring coordinator and grows her hair out to donate to Locks of Love, to name just a few.
“I don’t know how she does it,” said Rao, who has done research with Scardino over the years. “She’s able to do it all.”
Scardino has an hour-by-hour schedule printed out for every day of the week.
“Time management is crucial,” she said.
“I try to put my children – the time that we have together – as my first priority. I don’t do my own homework or things like that until they’re in bed.
“Sleep deprivation is definitely the key to my life,” she said laughing.
Although she has a busy schedule, Scardino doesn’t complain.
“I’m in college because I want to be here and I want the degree. I’m a double major because I want to be. No one forced me to do any of these things.”
She also stays organized by prioritizing her activities.
“I try to be somewhat selective about the campus organizations I’m involved in so that it’s things I’m really passionate about and that are important to me,” she said, adding she keeps a list of all her activities to remember them.
What the future holds
After she graduates in May, Scardino said she and her daughters will move to Madison where she will begin attending graduate school and hopes to get her doctorate.
“I want to do biomedical research while I’m there,” she said. “I definitely want the work that I do there to have some pragmatic application. I want to help people in some way.”
Ultimately, she said she would like to become a professor at a university such as Eau Claire.
Hartsel said he hopes for the best for her.
“Lori is one of the hardest working students all around that I’ve ever been associated with, especially considering all the extra things she’s dealing with, as a parent and a non-traditional student, that most students don’t have to deal with,” he said.
Rao echoed Hertsel, saying that what he admires most about Scardino is her perseverance and persistence.
“Some of the unique or distinct things I get to see, other than her academics and what other teachers get to see, is who she is as a person,” he said.
One thing that really stands out about her is that she always takes the time to help others before helping herself.”
Of all the things Scardino has accomplished so far, she put it best when telling a story about when the USA Today photographer came to take her photo for the article. He said he wanted a picture of her doing something outside the classroom and asked what some of her proudest moments were.
“When (the photographer) asked me what my proudest accomplishment was, I told him that was an easy answer and it wasn’t on his list,” she said. “I said the thing I’m most proud of is being a mom.”
Friday, Mar. 9, 2007
Brenda Busby calls her mother, Rose Lybrand, her “miracle mother.”
After falling into a coma in 2001 at 83 years old, Lybrand was hospitalized in an intensive care unit, where doctors told her family that the prognosis did not look very good.
“She was very sick; doctors said that she was probably going to die,” recalled Busby, also saying that during her mother’s hospitalization, she was on a respirator and undergoing dialysis.
For Busby, the miracle was in watching her mother pull out of the coma and go on to make a full recovery.
“The lord has brought her through some terrible times,” she said.
Perhaps it was because of Lybrand’s faith, which according to Busby plays a major role in her mother’s life. “She is a very virtuous woman,” she said. Busby said what she admires most about her mother is her giving nature. “She has quite a legacy; after the Lord, she has always put her family and others first,” she said. “She’s just a wonderful woman,” Hailey Cadden said of her great-grandmother. Cadden said that Lybrand had a hand in helping to raise her and her brother.
The love Lybrand has for her family can be seen just by walking into her room at Mattie C. Hall Healthcare, where she now resides. The walls are filled with pictures of her family, which spans five generations on each side. One of her favorites is a picture of her and her late husband William, both all smiles, on their wedding day, Jan. 14, 1945. To this day, Lybrand still remembers vividly how he proposed.
“First he talked to my mom and dad and then he got down on his knees and asked me to marry him,” she said, her eyes shining. Lybrand said that she met her husband while volunteering in a hospital in Virginia during World War II. A solider, William was being treated for injuries sustained during combat.
She said they were married in a small wedding at her brother’s house, moving to Aiken soon after.
These days Lybrand stays pretty busy at Mattie C. Hall. She says she enjoys taking part in games and activities such as Bingo, checkers and puzzles as well as enjoying the company of the residents and the staff whom she says are like family. She also said that she tries to attend services when she can at her church, First Baptist.
“I really love it here,” said Lybrand, who was named Miss Mattie C. Hall in the assisted living center’s beauty pageant several years ago.
Affectionately called “granny” by all of her family members, Lybrand is looking forward to a big day in a couple of months: Her 90th birthday is on April 8. She said her family plans to go all out in celebration this year. “They told me to invite everyone that I know,” she said. “I’m looking forward to it.”
Monday, Feb. 19, 2007
A student was reunited with her stolen bike after her dad made a 360-mile trip to come to the rescue.
Mitali Manuel, a law student at New Hall, Cambridge, lost her treasured Raleigh bike when it was stolen from a cycle rack outside her college in Huntingdon Road.
When she told her father Arnand, 53, what had happened, he offered to drive from Manchester with a replacement bike.
But, in a bizarre twist, as he was dropping it off, he spotted Mitali’s original bike, and ran after the teenager who was riding it to confront him.
He said: “My daughter had called me really stressed and mad, because her bike had been stolen and it had disrupted her studies and routine – she couldn’t get to her faculty and library as easily as she had before.
“I offered to come down with my wife with a new bike for her, but when I was outside New Hall we saw a young man on a bike which looked just like hers.
“He was a good 100 metres away, so I ran after him along Huntingdon Road, and fortunately he stopped at some traffic lights, allowing me to catch up.
“He said he had found the bike in a bush and handed it over straight away – so I was able to return my daughter’s bike, which had a lot of sentimental value to her.”
Mitali, 21, said: “Dad ran through traffic, weaving his way across the road to reach the teenager on my bike, and I couldn’t believe I had got it back.
“It is my bike from my childhood – I did my cycling proficiency on it, and in Cambridge you grow very close to your bike because you spend so much time on it, so I was really pleased to be reunited with it.”
Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2007
A Hamilton father was still emotional yesterday after diving into the Waikato River to save his baby daughter on Wednesday.
Jared Bruning, 26, said he thought five-month-old Holli was dead as he dived into the water after her pram rolled off a river path and plunged down a cliff into the water.
Mr Bruning, a Fonterra worker, said Holli was under water for up to 20 seconds until he was able to free her.
He had been walking on the west side of the river with his wife Alicia and two-year-old Lily at 3.30pm on Wednesday when the incident happened.
The family was taking their usual route along Awatere Ave and Ann St towards the St Andrews Golf Course.
Both children were strapped into the buggy but Lily wanted to walk, so Mr Bruning put her on his shoulders, where she kicked off his hat and sunglasses. He and his wife reached for them at the same time and when Mrs Bruning let go of the pram, it shot off.
They watched it cartwheel several times, throwing their possessions out, before plunging down a 10m cliff into the river.
“It took all of about five seconds and it was in the water,” Mr Bruning said. “I just ran down the hill and just jumped off the edge.”
He swam to the pram, which was upside down.
While they were under water, he managed to unbuckle the straps and get Holli above the water.
“As soon as I got her into the air she started screaming. It was magic,” he said.
“I just held her on my tummy and I started swimming towards the shore.”
From on the other side of the river, Megan Muldowney heard the screams and assumed it was teenagers. Then she saw Mr Bruning in the water. She ran to a house and yelled out to call police.
The current took the pair about 100m downstream.
Mr Bruning said he managed to find a branch sticking out and grabbed it.
“Luckily there was a little rock shelf that was only a foot deep in water.”
Mrs Bruning, who could not see the drama, saw a water bottle floating in the river and thought they were dead.
Mr Bruning yelled that they were okay and sat in the water for 20 minutes “to compose myself”.
Two men reached him with a rope and took Holli.
Police and paramedics arrived on a quad bike borrowed from St Andrews Golf Club and took Holli and Mrs Bruning off the river path.
The family was taken to Waikato Hospital and discharged several hours later. Mr Bruning and Holli had swallowed water but were otherwise fine.
Mr Bruning said he was “pretty emotional”, unable to sleep, and would take a few days off work.
Holli was oblivious, he said.
The incident was similar to the death of Australian triathlete Kerry Lucas’ baby last month.
Her baby died after his pram rolled into Adelaide’s Torrens River when she answered her mobile phone.
Thursday, Jan. 18, 2007
Ricky Rawlins has been blessed.
“It seems like since I’ve been going back to church, things have been falling into place in my life,” he said.
Rawlins’ faith was bolstered by what he and wife of ten years, Gail Rawlins, both of Manning, call a modern miracle. In 2006, Rawlins was able to meet his long lost daughter Danielle for the first time since she was a one-year-old.
The story begins years ago when Rawlins was married to his first wife. One day he returned home from work to find both his wife and daughter Danielle, just an infant, gone.
“My first wife left me,” said Rawlins. “She left while I was at work. I came home and the baby was gone; she took the baby to Pennsylvania.”
Rawlins tried throughout the years to maintain contact with Danielle, trying to track her down through letters.
“I wrote letters, but they always came back ‘Return to Sender,’” he said. “The only picture she (his ex-wife) sent me was when she (Danielle) was one year old. That’s the last one I had seen of her.”
Rawlins’ ex-wife took Danielle to Washington, Pennsylvania before going on to live outside of Atlanta. She left Danielle to be raised by her grandmother, who for many years didn’t even know that Rawlins, Danielle’s father, existed.
“It was a messy deal,” said Rawlins. “I couldn’t find her. Danielle’s grandmother who raised her got all a one-sided story, nobody wanted to hear my half.”
Years passed and Danielle grew up in Pennsylvania. She knew some details about her father, like his full name and date of birth, but she had no idea where he lived or how to get in contact with him.
So she started a letter writing campaign, using the Internet and phone books and registries to track down as many people named Richard Rawlins as she could. She sent them letters asking them to get in contact with her if they knew about her dad.
Flash forward to a scene years later, after Rawlins and Gail were married.
“I was in the shower, and when I came out I saw Ricky was on the couch crying,” said Gail Rawlins, who still gets choked up when she describes the scene. “He was holding a letter and I knew it was from Danielle.”
“I was totally shocked. I was scared to even open it,” said Rawlins. “I kind of figured it was her when I saw ‘Danielle Slesh’ on the letter. I had a feeling she got married and it was her new name. Five minutes later I picked up the phone and called her.”
Tears were shed and greetings extended. Danielle came to Manning for a short visit two weeks before Halloween last year and father and daughter were reunited.
Rawlins has two sons and a daughter besides Danielle, and he always told them through the years, “You have a sister.”
“He was always talking about her,” said Gail Rawlins. “At Christmas time he would always get depressed.”
But this past Christmas was a little different. Rawlins and his sister went to Pennsylvania for three days to visit with Danielle and her family over the holidays.
Danielle is a nurse and is married to husband Corey Slesh, who works for Lens Crafters. The couple has a son, Kyle, and a daughter, Lucy, both of whom Rawlins got to meet for the first time.
Danielle presented her father with the best Christmas present he’s ever received, a photo album of Danielle with pictures from major events in her life throughout the years. He can see pictures of her graduations, her wedding and other moments he missed in her life.
The wounds from the past are healing and both Rawlins and Danielle are looking forward to the future. Rawlins has been accepted by Danielle’s grandmother and he says they’re good friends.
“When she gets some vacation time this year, Danielle’s planning on coming here for a week,” said Rawlins. “She says she loves it down here.
“And I’ll go to Pennsylvania if I have to,” he said. “We want to make up for the time we missed. She’ll come here once a year, I’ll go there once a year.”
Gail Rawlins believes that the story is testimony that miracles happen.
“I just think it’s a feel good story that says prayers can be answered,” she said. “God works in mysterious ways.”
“I definitely think it’s a miracle,” said Rawlins. “That’s what I would call it. I never dreamt that I would see her again.”
Friday, Jan. 12, 2007
On the first day of class in a course at Macon State College, I wanted a short sample of the writing of each student. I picked the subject out of the air: “Write me a few paragraphs about a person you consider a hero.”
The answers turned out to be thought-provoking. A large majority in a class ranging in age from late teens to 40ish selected a close relative. Mothers were the most common, then fathers, sister or brother, a grandparent.
The qualities of a hero? Apparently being helpful, caring, always there when needed and willing to sacrifice one’s own comfort for another. Some were living examples of striving for goals or persistently pushing the writer to do his or her best.
One writer’s hero was his father, a surgeon, who saves lives, prays for his patients and weeps when they die.
Another hero was remembered for a single act: When the writer’s house caught fire, she rescued two of her children but could not get to her baby. A neighbor went back in, climbed burning stairs covered with smoke, and saved her daughter. Today, she said, her former neighbor, a man, is homeless and mentally troubled.
There was only one sports hero, an undersized baseball player from the writer’s home town. He got on a college team only as a walk-on, and the pros weren’t interested. But, said the writer, through determination, belief in himself and trust in God he wound up with two World Series rings, one as MVP. That was 5-foot-7-inch David Eckstein.
By coincidence, I had also been preparing to teach some ancient literature. The adventures of the “heroes” Gilgamesh, Achilles, Odysseus and the like were on my mind. But they were heroes of a very different sort.
According to the Oxford English dictionary, the word “hero” was first used for warriors of noble or royal birth who were especially favored by one god or another, and had superhuman strength. Some came to be regarded as almost-gods themselves.
The Hebrew Bible told of leaders to whom God temporarily gave great strength or wisdom to meet a national crisis. (Sometimes they were called “judges.”)
Later, “hero” came to mean warriors of exceptional – but not superhuman – courage or strength. (It is still used to honor our warriors.)
In time “hero” came to refer to people who led exemplary lives of success and courage. And in our day, it is often used for people, possibly quite ordinary otherwise, who perform some act of strength, courage or sacrifice.
That’s the sense in which New Yorkers Wesley Autrey, Julio Gonzalez and Pedro Nevarez received wide acclaim and publicity as men who took action to save strangers from almost certain death.
Autrey, as everyone knows, jumped onto a subway track and held down a student having a seizure so that the train passed over them harmlessly.
The next day the other two men spotted a diapered infant crawling out on a fire escape four stories above them and positioned themselves to try to catch him. They succeeded.
My students used “hero” for people who performed less spectacular feats, but kept up the long, every day grind of being helping and caring, showing strength, courage and sacrifice in different ways.
Now we also have “superheroes,” people with superhuman powers – like the ancient Greek heroes. They probably began in the comics, with Superman in 1938. Now they dominate comics and Saturday morning cartoons. Unlike the heroes of old, not the gods but some other cause empowered them.
They, too, are supposed to battle the bad guys and prevail. But like the ancient heroes, they are just not like other men and women. They are celebrities and can do things otherwise impossible for human beings.
When we’re kids (and even later), we fantasize about being like these heroes. Then we will be to other people what adults are to children. Beings of superior strength and wisdom can impose their will.
It takes some living to understand who the real heroes are.