Tuesday, Mar. 10, 2009

Adults and 3 Year Old Child Rescued from River

No less than three people were rescued from a river in Tuscaloosa County.

Two were adults, one a three year old child.

The sheriff’s office reported that a car had gotten involved in an accident last Saturday and as a result had plunged into the Sipsey River.

Police officers arriving on the scene noticed that the two adult inhabitants of the card had been able to get out and were sitting on the roof of the car. The adults warned the officers that a three year old child was still trapped in the car.

Approaching the car they didn’t see the child

Emergency services arrived, illuminating the area and the surface of the water to help the officers get to and find the child.

The search was extended in a 300 yard radius when one of the deputies saw the child floating on the water.

He brought the child back to the bank of the river where volunteer firefighters performed CPR. Medics brought the child to the hospital.

The child is said to be out of harm.

Monday, Jul. 21, 2008

In the 1930s, a sweet miracle took place in Whitman, Mass.

Too bad sainthood is not generally conferred on bakers, for there is one who is a possible candidate for canonization.

She fulfills most of the requirements: (1) She’s dead. (2) She demonstrated heroic virtue. (3) Cults have been formed around her work. (4) Her invention is considered by many to be a miracle. The woman: Ruth Graves Wakefield. Her contribution to the world: the chocolate chip cookie.

One day in the 1930s, Wakefield, an owner of the Toll House Inn, in Whitman, Mass., was busy baking in her kitchen. There are many legends of the fateful moment, some crediting accident and some crediting design, but the result – Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookies – became the culinary mother to an august lineage that is still multiplying and, in some cases, mutating.

The humble chocolate chip cookie is the baker’s crucible. So few ingredients, so many possibilities for disaster. What other explanation can there be for the unfortunate misinterpretations that have popped up everywhere – eggless and sugarless renditions; cookies studded with carob, tofu and marijuana; whole-wheat alternatives; and the terribly misguided bacon-topped variety.

Eighty years later, has anyone trumped Ruth Wakefield? To find out, a journey began that included stops at many bakeries as well as conversations with some doyens of baking. The result was a recipe for a consummate cookie, if you will: one built upon decades of acquired knowledge, experience and secrets.

The first visit was to the City Bakery, on West 18th Street in Manhattan, owned by Maury Rubin. When asked about the secret to his cookies, he said, “We bake them in small batches every hour so they’re always fresh.”

Why, in his view, does almost everybody say they prefer homemade to bakery bought?

“It’s the Warm Rule,” he said. “Even a bad cookie straight from the oven has its appeal.”

It’s an opinion expressed by every baker visited. Jacques Torres, who has three branches of his Jacques Torres Chocolate in Manhattan and Brooklyn, has a small warming tray set up near the register so customers can get their cookies soft and gooey.

Given the opportunity to riff on his cookie-making strategies, Rubin revealed two crucial elements home cooks can immediately add to their arsenal of baking tricks. First, he said, he lets the dough rest for 36 hours before baking.

Asked why, he shrugged. “I don’t know,” he said. “They just taste better.”

Why dough resting is key

“Oh, that Maury’s a sly one,” said Shirley O. Corriher, author of “CookWise” (William Morrow, 1997), a book about science in the kitchen.

“What he’s doing is brilliant. He’s allowing the dough and other ingredients to fully soak up the liquid – in this case, the eggs – in order to get a drier and firmer dough, which bakes to a better consistency.”

A long hydration time is important because eggs, unlike, say, water, are gelatinous and slow-moving, she said. Making matters worse, the butter coats the flour, acting, she said, “like border patrol guards,” preventing the liquid from getting through to the dry ingredients. The extra time in the fridge dispatches that problem. Like the Warm Rule, hydration – from overnight to a few days – was a tactic shared by nearly every baker interviewed.

To put the technique to the test, one batch of the cookie dough recipe given here was allowed to rest in the refrigerator. After 12, 24 and 36 hours, a portion was baked, each time on the same sheet pan, lined with the same non-stick sheet in the same oven at the same temperature.

Going the full distance seemed to make the biggest difference. At 36 hours, the dough was significantly drier than the 12-hour batch; it crumbled a bit when poked but held together well when shaped. These cookies baked up the most evenly and were a deeper shade of brown than their predecessors. Surprisingly, they had an even richer, more sophisticated taste, with stronger toffee hints and a definite brown sugar presence.

The second insight Rubin offered had to do with size. His cookies are six-inch affairs because he believes that their larger size allows for three distinct textures.

“First there’s the crunchy outside inch or so,” he said. A nibble revealed a crackle to the bite and a distinct flavor of butter and caramel. “Then there’s the center, which is soft.”

“But the real magic,” he added, “is the 1 1/2-inch ring between them where the two textures and all the flavors mix.”

Testing once again bore out Rubin’s thesis, which might be called the Rule of Thirds. The 24-hour and, especially, the 36-hour cookies developed the ring Rubin enthusiastically described. The crisp edge gave way to a chewy circle, with a flavor similar to penuche fudge, surrounding a center as soft as that of the first batch.

His theory on the impact of size on texture so delighted Corriher that she wanted to include it in her new book, “BakeWise” (Scribner, $40), due out in October.

And what would a chocolate chip cookie be without the wallop of good chocolate? According to most of the bakers, only chocolate with at least 60 percent cacao content has the brio to transform the dough into the Hulk Hogan of cookies.

Many, like Rubin and Torres, have their chocolate made exclusively for them. Others use high-quality imported brands, like Callebaut or Valrhona, and shoot a ratio of chocolate to dough of no less than 40 to 60.

Break apart a Torres cookie and a curious thing happens. Inside aren’t chunks of chocolate, but rather thin, dark strata.

“I use a couverture chocolate, because it melts beautifully,” he explained, something traditional chips don’t do. Couverture is a coating chocolate used, for instance, for covering truffles.

To get his trademark layers, Torres has his chocolate, which is manufactured by the Belgium company Belcolade, made into quarter-size disks – easily five times the volume of a typical commercial chip. Because the disks are flat and melt superbly, the result, he said, is layers of chocolate and cookie in every bite.

Dorie Greenspan, author of several baking books including “Baking: From My Home to Yours” (Houghton Mifflin, 2006), was asked to fill in any blanks left by the master bakers during the quest for the ultimate cookie.

Improving upon a winner

Although unsure she could bring anything new to the party, she went through the usual checklist: read through the recipe first, make sure all the ingredients are at room temperature, use the best-quality ingredients you can find, don’t overmix.

Then she hit upon something everyone else had missed, and some home bakers are nervous about: salt.

“You can’t underestimate the importance of salt in sweet baked goods,” she said. Salt, in the dough and sprinkled on top, adds dimension that can lift even a plebian cookie. To make the point, she referred to her recipe for Sables Korova, a chocolate chocolate-chip cookie with a hefty pinch of fleur de sel, from her book “Paris Sweets” (Broadway Books, 2002).

After weeks of investigating, testing and retesting, the time had come to assemble a new archetypal cookie recipe, one to suit today’s tastes and to integrate what bakers have learned since that fateful day in Whitman, Mass.

The recipe included here is adapted from Torres’ classic cookie, but relies on the discoveries and insights of the other bakers and authors. So, in effect, it’s all their cookie – the consummate chocolate chip cookie.

Wednesday, Jul. 16, 2008

Newspaper carrier rescues senior stuck in bathtub 2 days

The observations of a woman delivering newspapers led to the rescue of an elderly Moncton resident who was stuck in her bathtub for two days.

Bonnie Moore thought it was a little odd to see the elderly woman’s front door wide open at 3 a.m. one morning last week.

But the next morning around 4 a.m., Moore saw the front door still open, with the previous day’s paper lying right where she had dropped it the day before.

She knew something was amiss.

Moore called the RCMP and asked them to check on Lorraine LeBlanc. “I didn’t want to sound paranoid, but it really bothered me,” Moore says.

Her instinct was correct. LeBlanc had been stuck in her bathtub without food or water for two days.

LeBlanc, 85, decided to take a bath last Thursday night after a day working in her garden.

Normally she would give herself a sponge bath because last time she took a bath she got stuck. A hip replacement and bad knee have made it hard for LeBlanc to walk. But last Thursday, she says she wanted to get her “butt in the water.”

While she is still suffering some pain from her ordeal, it hasn’t affected her sense of humour.

LeBlanc laughed when a reporter called about the incident.

“You’re not going to put that in the paper, are you?” she said with a hearty laugh.

She says she tried numerous times throughout the harrowing experience to climb out of the tub, but her legs simply weren’t co-operating.

Monday, Jul. 7, 2008

Stolen pit bull safely returned

Thumbelina, a 9-week-old pit bull who was ripped from her owner’s arms, has been safely returned after a woman walking along the Greenway bike trail off of Paxton Street in Swatara Twp. found the dog abandoned on the Fourth of July.

Angie Shives’ cell phone rang at 3 a.m. Saturday. On the other end was a woman who claimed to have found the puppy, whose plight was reported in The Patriot- News on Friday.

“Someone showed her the article in the newspaper and told her they thought she had the puppy,” Shives said. “I asked her so many times, ‘Are you sure?'”

On Monday, Shives was lured to a home near 17th and Market streets in Harrisburg by two men claiming they wanted to adopt the puppy she’d advertised for sale, she said.

Shives, who runs an informal pit bull rescue out of her Chambersburg home, said she tried to do all the right things before selling the dog, including getting references and conducting a home visit. She was trying to start the visit when the younger of the men grabbed the dog and ran.

Shives notified police, deluged shelters with e-mail, posted flyers and contacted the media.

“I figure with the article in the paper, and then two news crews showing up, he got scared and dumped her,” Shives said. The woman who rescued Thumbelina agreed to meet Shives and her husband at a Swatara Twp. gas station at 4 a.m., where she handed back the puppy.

The woman refused a reward, Shives said.

“She gave me hope,” Shives said. “My trust was down to nothing, and now it’s restored a little.”

For now, Shives said she’s stopping her pit bull rescue effort.

Harrisburg police did not return a call for comment.

As for Thumbelina, she’s rejoined her brother, Mickey, and sister, Patches, in romping around the Shives home.

Wednesday, Jun. 11, 2008

A hero without the paperwork

It was a day of minor miseries. There was a new eight-page form that replaced an old one-page form. Two pharmacies called about patients whose medications had run out but could not be renewed without prior authorization. A social security application required more documentation. We live in a mad land where helping people rests on faxing paperwork.

That night I went to the shelter. I have always thought of it as the last outpost where forms have not taken hold yet. But they had introduced a new form there, too. It involved arrows, decision trees, and subparagraphs. It was dispiriting.

The staff members were in their usual perpetual motion. They work long shifts, turnover is high, and many of them also work second jobs in other shelters, other outposts. The evening supervisor is African and tall as a tree. He wears loose cotton shirts, bone dry in the absence of the African sun, a gold wedding band, a baseball cap. Drunken clients misunderstand his accent, and he has experienced the casual racism of those who, with nothing else to their names, feel entitled to claim the United States as their exclusive property.

The shelter wheels turn smoothly under him. But that night the wheels were falling off. Plumbing had broken in the men’s dorm, there was a fight in the dinner line, something was going on with the ventilation, someone was being taken away to detox. The supervisor was running like a madman with his notebook in his hand.

In the middle of the shift, a woman arrived, in tears, but not for psychiatric reasons. She had been living in the shelter a few months, valiantly sober, managing a full-time job. She was slogging through the necessary steps to self-financing and getting an apartment: paycheck, bank account, first and last month’s rent.

A few days earlier, she thought she had found a place outside of the shelter to stay while accomplishing all this. She had handed in her notice, returned her locker key, and packed her stuff. This meant giving her bed up to someone else.

But her housing situation fell through. Now she had lost her bed and locker. Without a locker, she had no place to keep her uniform; without a uniform, she could not keep her job; without her job, she could not keep her bank account. Entropy was rising all around her.

We clucked helplessly and passed tissues. The bed belonged to someone else now; the shelter was full. At this hour of the night, other shelters were probably also full. She held up her hands in defeat.

The case manager decided to consult the evening supervisor. There was not much anyone could do – numbers were numbers – but it seemed like a supervisor should know the situation. Besides, productive feelings come from sharing a problem without a solution, even though the feelings are usually illusory. As a former boss once said, never suffer alone, and always kick it upstairs. The case manager left, and we sat in silence, listening to noise from the other side of the door.

There was nothing therapeutic to say.

It took a long time to track the supervisor down. That tall, treelike man was in Heisenbergian motion, disappearing between plumbing repairs and ambulances. At last he was located.

His response was prompt. No problem, he said. He would find a bed for her on the floor. This was an executive decision. He would use his authority and arrange the details.

The whole sobriety-saving, future-saving transaction occurred quickly, efficiently, and without a single fax (though there must have been some form to fill out afterward – if it wasn’t recorded, how could it exist?).

Comparisons are irresistible. Paper is self-important and often unhelpful. The supervisor was humble and promptly able to accomplish the necessary. I regret I know nothing of the details of this man’s life – what country in Africa he is from, how many children he has, what second or third job he works. I only know he is flesh instead of paginated sheets or self-addressed stamped envelopes, an unsung hero of whom I sing.

Monday, Jun. 9, 2008

100-year-old man attends his 80th reunion at Bates

There were no classmates to share memories with, but 100-year-old Alfred Webber found plenty of admirers when he returned to Bates College to mark his 80th class reunion this weekend.

“They really make a lot of it,” said the Chadds Ford, Pa., resident, who flew to Maine for the gathering of about 1,000 Bates alumni from classes spanning several decades. Webber is the only member of any of the classes of the 1920s who attended the reunion, the college said. A Lisbon Falls, Maine, native, Webber majored in physics and math at Bates before launching a three-decade career with DuPont Co. that took him to southeastern Pennsylvania.

He stays active and involved in his hobbies, which include astronomy, and drives a car. “My license expires in 2011,” he said during a telephone interview yesterday.

Born on Oct. 10, 1907, when Theodore Roosevelt was president, Webber graduated from high school in his hometown before enrolling at Bates. The private, liberal arts school’s 1928 yearbook makes reference to Webber’s interest in French and music.

His first job after graduation was orchestra director at Franklin High School in Franklin, Mass. Webber became principal at Brookline High School in Brookline, Mass., in 1937, but returned to school for graduate work in physics.

Asked what he credits for his many years, Webber said: “If a woman asks me that, I say I had a good wife.”

Friday, May. 30, 2008

Holocaust survivor reunited with Polish rescuer

More than six decades after the end of World War II, the question still boggles the mind: How did they survive?

After all these years, even the heroes of the story find it hard to believe that they came out alive. It was 1942 in German-occupied Poland.

The Jews of Dubno, then located along the Polish border with Ukraine, were incarcerated in the city’s ghetto.

A Polish family of five offered to hide a Jewish family whom they knew from before the war in their home on the outskirts of the city if they felt their lives were in danger.

As the Germans prepared to liquidate the ghetto that fall, eight members of the Fiszer family and seven other Jews managed to escape the ghetto, and made their way to the Kwarciaks’ backyard.

An army man, Piotr Kwarciak, his wife, Maria, and their three boys, aged 12 to 15, had built a well-camouflaged underground shelter beneath a pig sty nearby.

The shelter was tiny, with only room to sit.

But it was life.

The 15 Jews would remain underground for the next year and a half, only able to stretch, stand and exercise on a small ladder in the shelter.

The Kwarciak family provided the Jews with food and clothing despite the great risk to their own lives.

“We knew that we couldn’t say a single word to our neighbors or closest friends or we would be killed by the Germans,” recalled Alfred Kwarciak, 76, who was the youngest of the family’s boys, during a reunion with the Jewish family he helped save at Yad Vashem on Sunday.

At first, the Jews paid for their food, but when their money ran out the Kwarciaks continued to hide and feed them, motivated by friendship, compassion, love of humanity and fervent Christian beliefs.

The Polish boys stole food from summer camps to feed the 20 people in the household, and were charged with ensuring that no one came to the house.

The worst was yet to come.

In 1944 the Kwarciaks were also forced to take refuge in the shelter, as the front line between the approaching Red Army and the Germans approached their home. Then 12 German soldiers took up residence in the empty house, maintaining it as an observation post and command center for more than three weeks.

Day and night, the house came under constant mortar and gunfire from the Soviet Army, as the 15 Jews and their Polish protectors sat hiding in the shelter and approached starvation. As the families lay huddled in darkness, mortar shells struck nearby.

“Until this very day I do not understand how a mortar did not hit us,” Kwarciak said on Sunday. “They say that a soldier shoots but the Lord carries the bullets. It must have been divine supervision.”

Hungry and exhausted, the mothers of the two families decided to leave the shelter, and came upon the German soldiers who were staying in the home.

Pretending to be Poles from a neighboring house, they were able to get the soldiers’ leftovers by cleaning up for them, and managed to smuggle some of the food back to their families in the shelter. Finally, salvation came.

In March 1944, exhausted, starving and filthy from their stay underground – but all alive – the families were liberated by the Red Army.

After the war, most of the survivors immigrated to Israel, and the Kwarciak family moved to an area within Poland’s new borders.

The families kept in touch.

In 1989, Yad Vashem recognized the Kwarciak family as Righteous Among the Nations.

“You have been in my heart since I was a young boy,” survivor Michael Fisher, 80, from Kiyat Tivon near Haifa, who was a boy of 15 in the shelter, told Kwarciak.

Fighting back tears, Fisher told how Kwarciak gave him an apple one day when he was in hiding.

“Here, eat this,” he recalled the Polish teen telling him, the memory still fresh in his mind.

Fisher, who immigrated to Israel in 1946 and fought in the War of Independence, is the father of the celebrated singer Dudu Fisher.

Sunday’s reunion in Jerusalem, which was organized by Fisher’s family for his 80th birthday, was attended by 60 family members and friends.

“I want you to look around this room,” Dudu Fisher told one his father’s rescuers. “Most of the people sitting here today are here because of you.”

Friday, May. 16, 2008

Hero helps others fight for cancer drug

Kate Spall has become an unlikely hero. A 36-year old housewife from Chester, she’s become a life-saver to cancer patients around the UK.

Kate is not a doctor, she has no medical training at all, but she’s become successful at obtaining new cancer drugs for patients that have yet to be approved for use on the NHS.

Kate’s journey began when her own mother was diagnosed with kidney cancer at the age of 56. Pamela Northcott was told by her hospital that there was a drug which could extend her life, but she couldn’t have it because it hadn’t been assessed by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (Nice).

Nice is an independent body which decides whether many new treatments can be used on the NHS in England and Wales. It was set up in 1999 to give national advice to consultants. It assesses drugs referred to it by the Department of Health and decides on a drug’s clinical and cost-effectiveness.

Kate wasn’t prepared to take no for an answer. She lobbied and harassed and eventually won the drug for her Mum, but too late. Soon after Pamela died. Kate is extremely critical of the process she went through.

Kate told BBC Breakfast: “It’s a system of blocking. They’re not looking at patients and saying “how can we fund it?”, they are saying, “how can we not fund it?””

Spurred on by the guilt and anger she felt at what happened to her Mum, Kate set herself up as a one-stop shop to help other patients get cancer drugs.

Bruce Leverington, who has kidney cancer, approached Kate after he was told a drug called Sutent could prolong his life, but wasn’t allowed it on the NHS. Bruce was told if he wanted the drug he could appeal to an Exceptional Case Review Panel.

“I was just so shocked and humiliated. I had to go and plead for my life,” says Bruce.

“They made me feel inferior and that I wasn’t worthy of this drug.”

Bruce found Kate on the internet and she started work on his case. Kate had to prove Bruce was an exceptional case. She spoke to his consultant, went through his records, looked closely at the hospital’s appeals procedure.

Kate describes the appeals process as complicated, daunting and legalistic. Hard enough to do in normal circumstances, but almost impossible if you’re also fighting cancer.

After weeks of hard work, Kate produced a dossier of evidence and helped Bruce to win his case.

Bruce says without Kate’s help he would not have succeeded. “I believe she has saved my life. She gave us endless hours of help, endless boosting up when I was down. I cannot describe what she has done for us – for me, my wife and my two sons.”

Kate has an astonishing success rate. So far, she’s taken 52 exceptional review cases and won 50. “It’s absolutely outrageous that you will live or die depending on how much you’ve researched, how much information you have, how well you put that across,” she says.

Kate is most critical of the amount of time it often takes for Nice to make its decisions.”How ironic that when we’re paying for all this cancer research, these medicines are licensed and working yet we in Britain aren’t allowed to access them. While we wait for Nice to decide, patients are dying.”

But while some patients complain it takes years for a drug to become available on the NHS, Nice can only consider a drug once it’s been referred to them by the Department of Health. They gave BBC Breakfast this statement:

“The reason it takes time for us to do our job is because we have to make sense of a large amount of complex and sometimes conflicting medical evidence. It also takes time because we make sure the views of healthcare professionals and patients are taken into account when developing our advice.

“We could do our job more quickly but we wouldn’t be able to consider the evidence as carefully or consult with patients and doctors as widely as we do currently. This could mean that we don’t make good decisions which would affect not only patients who currently have cancer but all the cancer patients that will need care and treatment in the future.

“Our job is to make sure taxpayers’ money is only spent on healthcare that works and is good value. Since Nice was set up in 1999 we have said yes to 91% of the cancer drugs we have looked at. The cost to the NHS of providing these cancer drugs to patients is approximately £337.18 million per year.

“NICE multiple appraisals take 12 – 18 months to complete once they have been referred to us by the Department of Health. Our single (rapid appraisals) take an average six months to complete, these appraisals are for newly licensed treatments and we are able to publish guidance to the NHS within months of the new drug getting a licence.”

But until new drugs are made more available more quickly Kate says she will continue to help other patients beat the system.

“It’s bizarre. Here I am, a mum, a wife, sitting in my little office in Chester taking on this huge monster the NHS. I can’t really believe it. But I’ll never give up on a patient, ever. And I think that’s what’s important, that a patient feels like there is somebody there who won’t give up on them, and I won’t give up on them.”

Tuesday, May. 13, 2008

Australia Spends Millions to Rescue Reef

Australia will spend A$3.8 billion ($3.5 billion) to fight climate change, including A$200 million to rescue the Great Barrier Reef, as part of a four-year plan outlined in the government’s budget on Tuesday.

More than A$1 billion would be spent to improve renewable technologies like solar, wind and geothermal energy over six years, as well as clean-up heavy-polluting coal power, centre-left Labor said in its first budget since it last held power in 1995.

“The government is addressing the fundamental environmental and economic challenge of climate change,” Treasurer Wayne Swan told the country’s parliament.

The Great Barrier Reef, Labor budget papers said, was particularly sensitive as the world’s largest coral system to rising sea temperatures and acidification in the oceans.

The government did not give details of any new measures, but Australia is already trialling projects to shade damaged parts of the reef, one of the country’s best-known tourist attractions, as well as to control run-off of coral-harming agricultural chemicals into the sea.

Environment experts have warned Australia is suffering an accelerated form of climate change, with some food growing areas of the country slipping back into drought this week after a brief respite, and with temperatures tipped to soar over the next century.

Already the world’s most parched inhabited continent, the country is responsible for 1.2 percent of global emissions but is the industrial world’s top per-head greenhouse gas emitter.

The 2008-09 budget, which included A$2.3 billion to fight climate change, comes ahead of a June draft report into a carbon trading scheme and recommendations for an interim 2020 greenhouse gas reduction target.

Swan said the government would spend A$300 million on low-interest loans for families to install solar or other green technologies like rain water tanks and water recycling at home.

It would also recruit Aboriginal rangers, equip every school with solar panels and spend A$180 million “to ensure we have parks and reserves as refuges for biodiversity in the face of climate change”, Environment Minister Peter Garrett said.

Currently only 8 percent of Australia’s electricity comes from renewable sources and Labor is aiming to lift that to 20 percent.

With rivers drying in the nation’s south-eastern food bowl, Swan said the government would spend A$1 billion to end water shortages in cities through desalination, while A$12.9 billion would help protect rivers and buy back water from irrigators.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made ratification of the Kyoto climate pact his first act after sweeping aside conservative rule in elections last November.

Rudd’s government has promised to slash greenhouse emissions by 60 percent from 2000 levels by 2050, mostly relying on the new emissions trading scheme.

Veterans Home to replace about 200 worn headstones

The Vermont Veterans Home is planning to replace the worn headstones in its cemetery, some of which are more than 115 years old, with new marble grave markers.

Lewis Bowman, veterans’ liaison at the home, said some of the headstones erected for Civil War veterans date back to 1891. Among the earliest headstones are those for Curtis Hicks, a soldier with the 2nd New Hampshire Regiment, and Patrick Brannon, a member of the 1st Vermont Cavalry.

The cemetery is also the final resting place for soldiers who fought in World War I and World War II. As recently as last week, Thomas Rosetti, a veteran of the Vietnam War was buried on the grounds.

Many of the headstones, some of which are flat and flush with the ground, have become worn and difficult to read.

With the support of state Rep. Joseph Krawczyk Jr., R-Bennington, Bowman said he was able to contact Veterans Affairs about a program that will allow the home to replace about 200 headstones.

The new headstones will be marble and uniformly vertical, according to Bowman. While there will be no charge for the replacement of the headstones, Bowman said the federal government requires proof of the destruction of the old grave markers.

Veterans home administrator Colleen Rundell said the government doesn’t want soldiers’ headstones to be sold online or otherwise trivialized.

Krawczyk said on Saturday that he and Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., who was in Bennington on Friday, discussed the possibility of preserving the headstones as historic objects.

The Wreaths Across America project led to Krawczyk’s involvement in the headstone replacement, he said. The wreaths were first supplied by the Worcester Wreath Company of Harrington, Maine, to Arlington National Cemetery. In 2006, they expanded their donations to military cemeteries across the country.

For two years, Wreaths Across America has made donations to the Vermont Veterans Home cemetery. As people decorated the graves, they noticed the worn appearance of the stones and brought their concerns to Krawczyk, a veteran and chairman of Gov. James Douglas’ Veterans Advisory Council.

“I think this is something that has taken on new significance to Americans,” Krawczyk said. “I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Arlington National Cemetery, but for me it was breathtaking to be on those grounds. It really made me think about the service these men and women have provided to this country, selfless service. It makes you think about our history and how many of them gave their lives protecting the freedoms we have.”

Krawczyk said his father served as the grand marshal of the Veterans Day parade in the early 1950s that ended at the Vermont Veterans Home cemetery. He said he wanted to see the “significance and reverence” the cemetery held for the town at the time restored.

According to Bowman, the headstones that will be restored, primarily from soldiers who served in the Civil War and World Wars I and II, along with some from veterans of wars in Korea and Vietnam, will be ready for an unveiling on Veterans Day on Nov. 11.

Family members of the veterans interred in the cemetery will be invited to the ceremony.

That leaves a lot of work for Bowman and Dick Francis, who is in charge of grounds maintenance at the home. Because of the weight of the headstones, there are only so many that can be delivered and installed at a time.

“We’ll complete it on time. We want to be ready for Veterans Day,” Bowman said.

Tuesday, May. 6, 2008

Donor miracle ends family curse

A MOTHER who lost her husband to kidney disease has saved the life of their son by giving him a kidney.

Devastated by the death of her husband of 32 years, Christine Miller spared their youngest child, Damian, the same fate.

And this week, having recovered from their simultaneous operations for the transplant, they are celebrating the arrival of a new son and grandson.

Damian’s wife, Jenni, gave birth to Beau, the couple’s second child, last weekend.

It was a joyous finale to a remarkable series of events that began with heartbreak for the Miller family.

Damian’s own kidney problems were discovered in 2000, when he and older brother David were tested for kidney compatibility with their father, Peter.

Peter Miller suffered polycystic kidney disease, a condition that required blood dialysis for more than three years and ultimately proved fatal.

He died in September 2003 after years of waiting in vain for a compatible donor.

Damian, now 32, was distraught to learn his kidney was not a match for his dying father.

“It hit me pretty hard,” he said.

“All I wanted was to be able to give Dad my kidney.”

To make a grave situation worse, tests revealed the Miller brothers suffered the same condition as their father – the growth of cysts on their kidneys – and could one day need life-saving kidney transplants themselves.

Both were initially told it would be at least 15 years before the disease affected them.

While David remains in good health, Damian’s condition took a dramatic turn.

“Within a year my kidney function dropped to about 25 per cent,” he said.

When it fell to 11 per cent a year ago, doctors told Damian he also needed a transplant.

But a combination of his mother’s love and improved technology since his father’s death gave Damian a second chance at life.

Last November, one of Christine’s kidneys was successfully transplanted into her son, despite their different blood types.

It was the first time the surgery had been performed at Monash Medical Centre using an “incompatible” donor.

Professor Peter Kerr, director of Monash’s Department of Nephrology, said it was possible by “teaching the recipient’s body to accept other blood types”.

“Just like you can’t give blood from somebody with type A blood to somebody with type B, you can’t transplant a kidney from an A to a B,” he said.

“If you were to do a transplant in that situation, the kidney would go black in about 30 seconds because we all have antibodies that (reject) other blood groups.

“But before this type of transplant, we basically take all the antibodies out of the (recipient’s) blood.”

Knowing her kidney could be made a match for Damian, Christine said she didn’t give the major operation a second thought.

“It was an instant decision,” she said. “I would have been devastated if it hadn’t have been possible to give him one of my kidneys.

“If you go through something like this together, it shows there’s something pretty wonderful there.”

Thursday, Mar. 27, 2008

Ordinary people honored as true heroes

Heroism no longer has the distinction it once did. Athletes are called heroes for tossing a ball through a hoop. Philanthropists are called heroes for signing a check.

On Wednesday, a group of real heroes — people who over the last year put their lives on the line for others they never knew — got their due at the annual American Red Cross Heroes of Mid-Fairfield County Breakfast at the Trumbull Marriott.

Among those honored was Bridgeport City Councilman Angel dePara, who on June 30, 2007, dashed into a burning tenement on Stillman Street to save an elderly woman and a young girl, and returned to the flames to save another man in his 20s. He returned a third time to make sure no one was left behind.

“I still run into him sporadically,” dePara said of the man he led to safety. “I was walking down the street a few weeks after it happened and I hear this guy call out, ‘Hey hero!’ — it turned out to be him.”

He also said that the elderly woman didn’t seem too eager to be rescued. “She thought that I was going to kidnap them or something. I literally had to drag them out.”

Another of the Heroes was Fairfield police Officer James Pauciello, who on Feb. 1, 2007, rescued a 13-year-old girl trying to take her own life by standing on the train tracks. He pulled her to safety just as a 100-mph Acela Express train was bearing down on her. As the train rushed by a few feet away, he had to fight her struggles to throw herself under its wheels. Hero honors also went to Lee Cooper, of Westport, who while vacationing in Palm Beach, Fla., over last Memorial Day weekend, rescued a 12-year-old girl and an older man who got caught in the ocean’s riptide.

“When I got out there, I realized that I could only save one at a time,” he said. “The man said, ‘Well, what about me?’ but I told him, ‘Hey she’s a girl, I have to get her first. But I promise, I’ll come back to get you.’ ” Cooper kept that promise. One of the Red Cross heroes saved a life with her voice.

On July 29, K.C. Duffy, of West Haven, an emergency medical dispatcher with the Southwestern Regional Communications Center in Bridgeport, talked a man through helping his wife deliver their baby. Twenty minutes later, his wife gave birth to a 6-pound, 2-ounce, 19-inch boy. Eleven emergency responders, a radio dispatcher from Fairfield and an American Medical Response ambulance crew were given hero awards for saving the life of bow hunter Neil Champagne, who suffered a heart attack while sitting in his tree blind platform 25 feet up.

“I owe you all venison dinners,” Champagne told his rescuers.

Trumbull lifeguards Cody Hutchinson and Matt Cellini were honored for a rescue July 11, 2007, of a young girl who was pulled, nearly lifeless, from the bottom of the town’s Beaches Pool.

After two minutes that must have seemed like an eternity, the girl coughed up pool water and began crying.

Also receiving the award were Trumbull police Officers Douglas Smith and Jay Leos, who responded to the scene of a horrific accident on the Merritt Parkway on Jan. 26, 2007, in which a Subaru split in two after striking a tree.

The driver, a young woman, is believed to have suffered among the worst injuries ever suffered in a Trumbull car crash and survived.

The two Trumbull rescues prompted Trumbull First Selectman Raymond Baldwin, the ceremony emcee, to remark: “After hearing these stories, it sounds like Trumbull’s a very dangerous place to live.”

Bridgeport Firefighters Eric Levine, John Prusak and Frank McNellis received an award for saving a woman on March 7, 2007, from a burning home, which involved setting up a 28-foot ladder to reach a second-floor porch roof, and another 14-foot ladder to access a third-floor window.

The woman, who was unconscious, had to be revived on the porch roof before she could be brought to the ground.

Also honored were Stratford sisters Caitlin and Rebecca Simon, who collected more than 1,000 Beanie Babies to send to soldiers in Iraq so they could be given to children in that war-torn nation.

The sisters also sold bookmarks to purchase defibrillators for the town of Stratford.

The students of Monroe’s Chalk Hill School were honored for a variety of charitable endeavors, such as organizing a coat drive, collecting food for the hungry, and collecting Halloween costumes for needy children.

Also, George Ciaccio, of Wilton, was cited for spearheading Wilton Commons, a reduced-cost housing complex for the elderly with 77 one- and two-bedroom apartments. It will be completed in 2010.

Friday, Dec. 14, 2007

Strangers help soldier make it home for birth

Tiffanie Joost knew her husband was facing a lot of odds in making it to the birth of their first child.

But she never could have imagined the incredible journey he would eventually take to get there, and the stranger who would make it all possible.

“We’re really blessed and happy, it is like a Christmas story, a Christmas miracle,” she said.

James Joost is an AT3 in the Navy and is stationed in Brunswick, Maine.

But only a few months into the pregnancy, he was deployed to Japan for six months and Tiffanie returned home to central Illinois to be with family for her pregnancy and birth.

James knew he would return sometime at the end of November and Tiffanie’s due date was Dec. 13. So to be safe, he bought his plane ticket from Maine to Illinois for Monday, Dec. 10.

But there is a saying about the best-laid plans – and it seems to hold especially true when babies are involved.

On Monday, as James was getting ready to board a plane to come see his wife, she called him after a routine prenatal appointment that was changing everything – her blood pressure was alarmingly high and her doctors wanted her admitted immediately to induce labor.

But there was a bad winter storm headed for the Midwest, and flights were being canceled everywhere.

“I felt bad for him because he was en route to get here and all the flights were getting canceled,” said Tiffanie. “He was practically helpless. I have family here so I wouldn’t have been alone, but he just would have been stuck.”

With a stroke of good luck, he managed to get a flight to Cincinnati and a connection to Chicago, but he would arrive too late at night for a bus or train.

Frantic about his situation and nervous about the upcoming birth, he struck up a conversation with the woman sitting next to him on the plane to Chicago.

“She starts to read a book and I’m looking out the window and then I just started talking about how my wife’s about to have a baby,” Joost said.

The woman was Cindy Grady, an airline attendant from Wheaton who was returning home after a four-day work stint.

Immediately, she felt compassion for Joost and she called her husband for help.

“She said, ‘I need a favor Š see what you can do about a bus schedule or a train to Peoria or Bloomington, see you later bye,’” said Grady’s husband, David.

Cindy Grady had to hang up quickly, as the flight was getting ready to take off.

“So I’m thinking, ‘Oh my wife, she’s out of her mind again,’” David Grady said. “Right away I was pretty negative because I knew there wouldn’t be anything available.”

Grady contacted Ground Transportation at O’Hare International Airport, and his 17-year old son Trevor scoured the Internet.

By the time Grady left to pick up his wife at the airport, he knew what he would do – and when he finally heard why Joost needed to get to Pekin that night, there was no doubt in his mind.

“You know, I was at every one of our (four) sons’ and daughters’ births and I wasn’t going to let this guy miss his,” he said. “I told him, ‘You know what? We’ve gotta get you to this birth.’”

Joost was stunned.

“I was speechless,” he said. “I didn’t know if I should be thanking him or running!”

“I said are you kidding me? You’re serious?” Tiffanie said of her reaction to the news that James would be arriving soon. “You don’t hear of things like that except in movies or books, you would never expect some stranger to drive three hours to take some stranger home.”

But that is exactly what Grady intended to do, and after a quick stop in Wheaton to drop off Cindy, they headed out for Pekin.

“We have kids that are around this age and I’ve got a real heart for all these guys and gals that are in the military right now Š having a baby is a huge deal so there was no way not to do this,” Cindy Grady said. “My husband loves helping people, I knew he’d be fine with it.”

Grady had promised Joost he’d be in Pekin within three hours, but right away it became clear the trip wouldn’t be easy.

“We went immediately into fog, we weren’t even 10 minutes from the house,” Grady said. “So a couple miles more and it clears, but it starts raining, then it gets into freezing rain, then fog Š the long of it is we did get there by (3 a.m.) and God was with us all the way. It was his plan to have Jim there for his birth.”

David stayed long enough to meet Tiffanie and wish the couple well, and then he turned around and drove straight back home.

James asked how he could possibly repay the favor, and jokingly David told him, “Name your firstborn after me.”

The baby was born by caesarean section late Tuesday night, well after James arrived at Pekin Hospital early Tuesday morning.

He weighed 7 lb. 14-1/2 oz. and was 19.5 inches long.

His parents think he’s “perfect.”

The Joosts named him James Wesley, named after his father and grandfathers.

But as it turns out, David Grady’s full name is actually David James Grady.

And that’s not the only thing he has in common with this couple.

“I can relate to his trying to get home to see a baby,” Grady said. “For our last baby, Trevor (the one who did the Internet research), I was in Boston when Cindy called me and said, ‘My water just broke and we’re going to the hospital.’”

Grady made a quick call to United Airlines – and arrived back in Chicago in time for the birth.

“I can totally relate with having to get to his wife, so I think that’s great that it worked out,” Grady said.

“Our prayers and best wishes are with this couple.”

Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2007

Celebration set for snow angel record

North Dakotans are invited to Bismarck to celebrate North Dakota’s snow angel record of 2007 listed in the Guinness Book of Records.

The celebration reception will take place at noon Dec. 26 in Memorial Hall in the state Capitol building. Gov. John Hoeven and fFirst lady Mikey Hoeven have been invited to host the celebration.

The celebration is the kickoff event for Showcase North Dakota, a two-day festival of entertainment and art displays at the North Dakota Heritage Center, and Memorial Hall.

Visitors are also asked to “be an angel” by bringing non-perishable items to help those in need during both days. Drop spots for the donated items will be at vans parked in front of the Capitol and in boxes at entries to the Capitol building (the south entrance), the North Dakota State Library, and the North Dakota Heritage Center.

Refreshments will be available throughout both days, courtesy of North Dakota state employees.

“We want to make sure North Dakotans have a chance to celebrate this unique and very special world record,” said Marilyn Snyder, curator of education for the State Historical Society of North Dakota, who organized the event on the Capitol grounds on Feb. 17, when 8,962 “angels” beat the previous record of 3,784 set at Michigan Technical University in 2006.

North Dakota was the original record holder when 1,791 people participated in March 2002.

Each participant in the record-breaking snow angel event who attends the Dec. 26 celebration reception will receive a free replica of the Guinness Book of Records certificate as a keepsake of the activity that attracted national and international media coverage.

Monday, Nov. 12, 2007

Remembering our heroes

As a chill wind blew over the veterans and their families at a cemetery in Port Huron on Sunday, Katie Stephens took her audience to Flanders Fields in Belgium.

“In Flanders’ Fields the poppies blow/between the crosses, row on row,” read Katie, 10. “That mark our place; and in the sky/the larks, still bravely singing, fly/Scarce heard amid the guns below.”

The poem – written from the perspective of fallen soldiers – was written about WWI, which ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918 when Germany signed the Armistice treaty agreeing to end the conflict.
Nov. 11 now is recognized as Veterans Day in the United States. Today, government offices and many businesses are closed to observe the holiday and honor all of the veterans who have served for the country.

On Sunday morning, veterans and their families gathered at the St. Clair County Allied Veterans Memorial Cemetery to watch a ceremony that included presentations by the fifth grade students from Howard D Crull Elementary in Port Huron and a performance by the St. Clair County Honor Guard.

All of the students involved in the presentation have family members who are veterans or active duty soldiers.

“I learned that it means a lot to people that their family served,” Katie said.

“We’re grateful to the men who served to keep us free,” said Katie’s mother, Karen Stephens. The two were planning to visit the grave of one of Katie’s uncles, Vietnam veteran Michael Stephens.

Alyssa Barr, 10, read about the history of Veterans Day at the ceremony. She said she was thinking about her father, Sgt. Jason Barr, who is currently serving with the U.S. Army in Iraq.

Fifth-grade students raised the money to buy flowers for a wreath and urn that were added to the veterans memorial, said fifth-grade teacher Marc Polack.

At 1 p.m. Saturday, veterans, soldiers and their supporters gathered at the American Legion Hall in Port Huron to remember the day and listen to a speech by Col. John Theisen, commander of the 127th Maintenance Group (Air Combat Command) at Selfridge Air National Guard Base.

There are 16,500 veterans in St. Clair County, said Raymond Carrier, president of the St. Clair County Allied Veterans Council, who was master of ceremonies.

Theisen, who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan, addressed the current state of the military. He said the military needs more funding and troops to support defense efforts at home and abroad and predicted that cyber attacks would pose a threat to national security in the future.

He also gave thanks to yesterday’s soldiers.

“That’s the greatest you’ll give to any one is yourself,” he said. “I pallor when I look at you. If we didn’t have you, as a country we would not be where we are today.”

Art Boerre, 88, of Marysville, is an Army vet who attended the ceremony to remember those who didn’t return with him from the Pacific Theater in WWII.

“I’m just paying recognition to all the fallen comrades,” he said. “I wouldn’t miss it for anything because they deserve to be honored.”

There were also Veterans Day events Sunday in Peck and Port Sanilac and a ceremony was planned this morning at Fort Gratiot Middle School.

Friday, Nov. 9, 2007

Shark attack surfer friend hailed a hero

THE parents of the Bonza Bay shark attack victim yesterday praised their son’s surfing buddy for his courage during the ordeal with the four-metre Great White shark.

Rob and Carol Mellin, of Dorchester Heights, believe that, had it not been for Leigh Stolworthy’s act of bravery when their son Lee was attacked, “things could have been a lot worse”.

Yesterday, the Mellins called Stolworthy a “hero” and said they felt he deserved the highest possible honour because he displayed the “epitome of courage”.

Mellin said he deserves a mayoral citation for his bravery: “We are certain that if it were not for his selfless act of courage there could have been far more disastrous consequences.”

Stolworthy and Lee were riding the waves at Bonza Bay at about 8.45am on Saturday when they were attacked by the shark, which the East London aquarium yesterday confirmed was a Great White.

Lee escaped with only a 38cm wound down his left thigh as the shark burst through the water, shattering his surfboard..

Stolworthy stayed with Lee throughout the ordeal and helped him to the beach.

Mellin said Stolworthy could have swum away when the shark attacked his son, but instead stayed with him throughout the ordeal, guiding him back to shore and driving him to hospital.

“What a selfless act. He is a hero. He did not say ‘every man for himself’, but instead he kept on assuring Lee that the shark was gone and that everything was going to be OK.”

Stolworthy said he didn’t regard himself as a hero – anyone in his situation would have done the same.

“I don’t think I did anything exceptional,” he said modestly. “At the time we were in it together.”

Reliving the attack, Stolworthy said he felt helpless when it all played out like in a movie. “I went cold when I saw the shark. I knew it was death swimming towards us, but there was nothing we could do. It was really a sickening feeling watching helplessly.”

The only time he experienced fear was when he first saw the shark – after that he was “beyond fear”.

He recalled seeing the shark’s full face when it lunged out of the water and went for Lee instead of him.

The shark was on his side first and then swam around towards Mellin before attacking him. “I think he saw my chicken bones and decided he’d much rather have steak,” joked the 38-year-old transport engineer.

“It wasn’t really a powerful attack; it’s almost as if it was testing what it was biting first.”

But there was no joking at the time: “After it had bitten Lee, it disappeared for a while, resurfaced and then it was gone. It never even crossed my mind to leave Lee.”

Mellin, who was discharged from hospital yesterday and is recovering at home, had earlier also thanked Stolworthy for remaining by his side.

Buffalo City marine services chief Siani Tinley said measurements and tooth patterns indicated a shark around four metres.

Monday, Oct. 22, 2007

Double amputee struggles, succeeds

The Atlanta Ironman kept to his wheelchair this past week. The ends of his amputated legs were blistered, swollen and raw, and showing signs of infection. His muscles felt like they had been doing laps through a pasta maker. The gifts of completing one of the globe’s notorious endurance races just kept giving.

A week ago, on the big island of Hawaii, Scott Rigsby, 39, became the first below-the-knee double amputee to complete an Ironman triathlon. That meant swimming 2.4 miles without legs, then biking 112 miles and running a 26.2-mile marathon with prosthetics. He had 17 hours to complete the task. He made it in 16:42:46 — a little close, but that kind of history didn’t require much margin.

All this was set in motion when the teenaged Rigsby was injured in a south Georgia truck accident. He would begin exiting a long period of depression and pain through physical exertion. Nearly two years ago, he decided to test himself against some of the hardest races, vowing to compete and complete. He lined up sponsors. He began a foundation aimed at enabling physically challenged athletes. He rounded up the people and the technology to make an audacious idea possible.

One catch. He actually had to do this thing.

“We hate to say it,” said Scott Johnson, a friend who is helping organize the Rigsby Foundation, “but if he didn’t finish, he’d be just another person out there on prosthetics trying to do the unthinkable and not being able to do it.”

Rigsby had tried once and failed to complete an Ironman event in Idaho earlier this year when he crashed during the bike segment. He arrived in Hawaii weighed down by the need for credibility.

In the race program, he was heralded as “The Miracle.” Earlier in the week, a wounded veteran approached Rigsby after a practice swim and told him, “You have got to finish this race because you can change the world. Our military men and women need you.”

Those were among the thoughts in his head with about seven miles to go in the final, marathon leg as he was on pace to just miss the cut-off time.

“He’s not going to make it; he’s absolutely not going to make it,” Johnson fretted.

That simple prayer Rigsby offered before the event — “God, if you open up a door, I’ll run through it” — didn’t seem quite so simple now.

Rigsby sailed through the start in the ocean, save for being kicked once in the face. A strong headwind for the last third of the bike course depleted his strength and his wiggle room with the clock. And in the pitch darkness amid some lava fields, he was hitting the infamous “wall.” He struggled through that, picking up his pace.

The last three miles, he said, comprised the worst pain he has felt since he had begun competing.

“I started talking to myself: You have three miles to go; if you can just do three miles, you have an opportunity to really change the world. You can have an impact,” he said.

When he hit the finish, the sound from the crowd, he said, “was like the loudest SEC game you’ve ever heard.”

“I was thinking: I want to cross the finish line, I’m going to smile at everybody, I’m going to strike a pose, and I want to find the first stretcher I can,” Rigsby said.

The accomplishment was

in the bank, and in the what-now stage that follows, Rigsby and his friends are designing ways to draw interest. Rigsby will be featured in the NBC broadcast of the event, to air Dec. 1. In the meantime, he said, there is work to be done in positioning Rigsby, behind his foundation, as a spokesman for physically challenged competitors and the redefining of limits.

When able, Rigsby said he will resume training and plot a schedule of events in 2008.

“There is no beer and chicken wings in my future,” he said.

“The legacy of Scott is not whether he does another Ironman or 500 more,” said Mike Lenhart, Rigsby’s training partner and founder of another organization like his, Getting2Tri.

“[His legacy] is if there are a dozen or so other physically challenged individuals who do a 5K run or do an international distance triathlon or even an

Ironman, and say the reason they did this is because they saw Scott Rigsby do it.”

Friday, Aug. 31, 2007

The world-famous miscarriage clinic that saved our daughter

It took Selma Holmes 10 years to get pregnant. It took her a further five years and four pregnancies to carry a baby to full term. As she now sits cuddling her two-year-old daughter, Ayshe Mae, Selma still finds it difficult to talk about the two babies she lost at 24 and 19 weeks, as well as her two early miscarriages. And she looks back in astonishment at the two needless operations she underwent before her dreams of becoming a mother finally materialised.

In fact, had it not been for the intervention of Professor Lesley Regan and her team at the Recurrent Miscarriage Clinic at St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington, Selma would probably still not be a mother.

“Before I heard of Professor Regan’s clinic, we just felt that no one really knew what was going on. Each time I complained of feeling unwell during my pregnancies I was dismissed and when they investigated they ended up doing two operations, which I didn’t need,” she says.

It took one visit to Professor Regan and a simple blood test to discover that Selma suffers from antiphospholipid, or Hughes’ syndrome. This means her blood becomes sticky during pregnancy and the risk of clots is greatly increased. In addition, the blood cannot pass through the tiny blood vessels in the placenta to reach the baby. The good news is that once diagnosed, it can be controlled with aspirin and heparin. The bad is that it can often pass undetected.

This treatment was discovered by Professor Regan and one of her colleagues 10 years ago through her work at the clinic. Now, women who take these drugs have a 75 per cent chance of having a live take-home baby, as Professor Regan calls it, instead of the 10 per cent chance they would otherwise have had.

Selma had known since her twenties that she might have difficulty conceiving. A blocked fallopian tube and polycystic ovaries meant that she was probably going to need some help. After years of trying, she and her husband, Chas, 45, finally made an an appointment with a fertility specialist. They had decided it was time for IVF. Selma, a jewellery designer, was 36. After booking the appointment, they flew to Bali for a holiday. When they got back she was pregnant.

The couple were understandably thrilled. But looking back, Selma, now 42, says she complained a lot during the pregnancy. “I felt heavy and uncomfortable all the time but everyone told me to stop worrying.”

In August 2001, a routine 20-week scan showed everything was fine. Four weeks later Selma was in labour. Kaya was born at 24 weeks and lived for 28 minutes. “A postmortem was carried out and the doctors couldn’t find anything wrong with her. I was told that my cervix had just opened and that the chances of it happening again were really rare,” says Selma.

“I was told to let my body recover for six months, and as we had already made contact with the IVF clinic before I was pregnant, we made another appointment. It had taken so long to get pregnant and I didn’t want to wait another 10 years. I got pregnant at the first attempt and at 12 weeks was given a cervical stitch in case the same thing happened.”

Once again, Selma found the pregnancy difficult. Once again her fears were dismissed. “I was told to stop trying to medicalise my pregnancy. Everyone just assumed that I was nervous because of what happened last time. I felt like the baby was coming but they told me it couldn’t because of the stitch.”

But the stitch came loose and Fouad, named for her father, was stillborn in February 2003.

The Holmes had now arranged two funerals, but neither of them could bear to give up on the idea of becoming parents. “It was an overwhelming need,” says Selma.

Once again she had to rest. This time she was told she had gone into labour because of an infection caused when the cervical stitch was done. “I do feel angry that when I complained of being uncomfortable, nobody connected the fact that I had had a stitch with my complaints. It could have been cured with a simple course of antibiotics.”

Selma’s consultant suggested a hysteroscopy to see if they could see anything wrong with her uterus. She was told there was a septum, which is like an extra muscle pushing down from the top of the uterus, restricting the baby’s space. Another operation was scheduled for its removal.

In September 2003, two years after Kaya was born, Selma started preparing for IVF once more. In October she was pregnant. In November she miscarried. Despairing of finding a solution, the Holmeses went to Great Portland Street for a second opinion. While they were there a nurse casually mentioned Professor Regan’s clinic at St Mary’s and suggested they might qualify. The couple rushed home and looked up everything they could about the clinic. Of the thousands of referrals it receives each year, only women who have had three or more early miscarriages (before 12 weeks), or one late one, are accepted.

The following March, they arrived for their first appointment. “She was so reassuring from the start and for the first time we really felt that someone wanted to get to the bottom of what was going on,” says Selma.

She had a series of blood tests and was told to go and prepare herself for pregnancy one more time. The results showed that Selma was one of nearly 20 per cent of women who have three or more miscarriages, or 35 per cent of those who have a late one, who have this so-called sticky blood syndrome. While relatively simple to treat, pregnancies have to be carefully monitored.

In July 2004, Selma had IVF once more. Again, she was successful and this time it was twins. Sadly she lost one at eight weeks. But through a rocky few months involving a second cervical stitch, a haemorrhage, a transfusion and weekly scans, the second baby survived in the womb.

At 24 weeks, Selma started to feel a pain in her cervix. She was taken to the delivery room and given steroids to help the baby’s lungs mature. Chas bought a blow-up bed and set it up next to his wife. For the next three weeks Selma lay and concentrated. On Christmas Day, Professor Regan popped into visit them. “I was taking it hour by hour, knowing that the longer she stayed in there the better it would be. I ignored everything else,” Selma says. On 27 December, three weeks after she was admitted, Ayshe Mae was born, weighing just 3lbs. Ten weeks later she was home.

The Holmeses are one of 1,000 couples a year who attend the clinic at St Mary’s. They are also one of the 800 couples who have a successful outcome following treatment there. Professor Regan says its excellent results are down to the close links between the research labs and the clinic. But those links are now under threat as the laboratories, which carry out groundbreaking research into why women repeatedly miscarry, need to be refurbished or they’ll have to close. Professor Regan is trying to raise the £1m needed to stop that happening.

“We have an 80 per cent success rate and part of that is to do with the constant flow of information between our labs and clinic,” she says. “We can do an audit of the tests we carry out and if we find that a test doesn’t change the outcome of the pregnancy then we can stop doing it and use our resources elsewhere. If the lab had to close we would very quickly see a difference in our success rate. We can’t wait for the hospital to be rebuilt over the next seven to 10 years. These woman can’t wait that long. Many don’t get to us until they’re in their late 30s anyway because they have spent so long having miscarriages. They can’t afford to wait years for treatment.”

In addition to the wealth of research that goes on at St Mary’s, there is one strange phenomenon that seems to bear no relation to the scientific facts it gathers. Yet its existence has been written about in medical papers around the world and contributes to the clinic’s amazing results.

It sounds ridiculous but it’s called the Tender Loving Care factor. “Of all the women that come to us, half of them are there because of bad luck. We do the tests and then have to say that there’s nothing wrong with them. Our research, and studies published in Scandinavia and New Zealand, has found that once someone has come to us, the next pregnancy will fare better. It seems that once a woman is part of a programme where she is being looked after and monitored, the pregnancy goes better. So it can be the case that after three miscarriages, the fourth pregnancy results in a take-home baby.”

And that is the other reason why the clinic must raise the money it needs.

Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2007

Man Shocked By Power Lines Survives

Roger Bennet, who was airlifted to Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh after being shocked by power lines, was back home Wednesday and shared what he remembered with NEWS9.

Bennet was on the maintenance crew at Brooke Hills Park for only about a month and his duties included cutting grass and removing branches.

“We…went to the road to fix the limbs,” Bennet said. “I threw it off and that’s all I remember.”

The 26-year-old didn’t remember the 6,900 volts that went through his body.

Bennet’s mother, Laura, got a call that her son was hurt.

“My husband said he was electrocuted,” Laura said. “I got there just in time to give him a kiss and tell him I loved him.”

Then medics rushed Bennet to Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh where doctors in neurotrauma monitored his heartbeat and brain functioning.

“They was in there checking me out, making sure (there were) no burns, kept an eye on my heart,” Bennet said. “I was fine.”

Bennet’s family said it was a miracle that Roger is still alive.

“It’s a miracle,” Laura said. “And you have no idea what it’s like until it happens to you.”

Bennet said he doesn’t plan on going by any power lines anytime soon.

“I ain’t going near power lines again,” Bennet said. “If there’s a branch hanging over a line? I’ll get someone else to get it.”

Laura said she thinks the electricity left her son’s body through his left leg because of a mark left there.

Bennet said he plans on going back to work.

Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2007

Abandoned Dogs Being Rescued By One East Texas Woman

They were found abandoned and starving to death, but now some East Texas dogs have found their saving grace. A month ago KLTV told you about more than a dozen dogs dumped at an East Texas plant. Saturday, they’re being rescued, all thanks to the generosity of East Texans and one in particular.

The dogs were found emaciated and in poor health at the M&H Crate Company on FM 347, just south of Jacksonville, but one East Texas woman is doing all she can to save the dogs. She just needs a little more help from you. Everyday Pat Phlieger of Dialville would drive past the M&H crate-making company and see more than a dozen dogs just dumped, left hungry and homeless.

“It’s unmerciful to drop them here,” said Phlieger. “It’s the worst thing you can do for the dog, it’s the worst thing you could do.” Pat decided to do something about it, and now there are five less dogs scraping by to survive.

“As an animal lover and just as a member of this community, I cannot watch this continue, so I’ve made it my personal mission to make sure that these dogs are taken care of, whatever I have to do,” said Phlieger. She’s done a lot like feeding them and raising a thousand dollars for their medical expenses.

“They are just the sweetest dogs,” said Phlieger. She’s even opened her own home to two of the sick dogs. One puppy was picked up Saturday morning by Phlieger and her husband, and brought to a local veterinarian where it will be saved from what could have been a very painful life.

“He’s pretty wormy,” said local vet Dr. Ira Stephens. “He’s covered in fleas, but otherwise his health looks pretty good.” Stephens is the vet working with Phlieger to get the dogs healthy and up for adoption.

“What we’re trying to do now is find homes for them,” said Stephens. “We sure need someone that would be willing to take some of these dogs.”

Friday, Aug. 17, 2007

Family in Washington to receive award for volunteer work

More than anything, Vicki Jay says representing a city like Midland is what humbles her most.

Midland, after all, is somewhat renowned for its volunteers and philanthropists.

Yet the fact that Jay’s name is now alongside the best and brightest in the generosity circles of this town comes as no surprise to those who know anything about the executive director of Rays of Hope, this year’s Midland honoree at the Jefferson Awards.

Jay is in the nation’s capital this week to be honored along with others receiving similar recognitions from communities nationwide.

She is being accompanied by husband Paul and daughter Julie and admits she and the family will be doing the tourist thing before and after the awards. After sightseeing and attending the Jefferson ceremonies, Jay will head off to the National Alliance for Grieving Children Conference in Atlanta, but the event in Washington has her full attention and honor this week.

“Letting my family see and hear the passion that I get to feel every day is something I’m looking forward to,” Jay said. Her biggest challenge, she says, is compressing the Rays of Hope message into a 60-second verbal presentation, a charge left with all the award winners who will be present at Monday night’s welcome dinner. Tuesday, Jay and the other winners will be treated to a black-tie U.S. Senate reception at the Senate Office Building, which will be followed by the gala awards dinner at Union Station. MyWestTexas.com will provide video of Jay’s presentation Tuesday.

“So many worthy volunteer efforts start on a local level and grow,” she said. “And that’s because they start in the heart. And so many efforts are positive and so needed. Very rarely does an effort start on the national or state level; it starts because there is a need recognized by an individual.”

Jay’s own effort to help children of Iraqi veterans who are grieving would be one example of such a growing effort; another would be Bobby Trimble’s Christmas in Action, another effort born in Midland that is now enjoying nationwide status.

Grief, Jay says, is not “picky and choosy about who it does.”

“Everybody has an understanding about grief,” said Jay, a former kindergarten teacher. “And our children are hurting. Every grieving child deserves a community to support them and our children are lucky they have that in Midland, Texas.”

Rays of Hope, a part of Hospice of Midland, provides grief counseling for children suffering loss. The program recently grew in scope and attention when, in 2006, Jay was asked to take the Rays of Hope curriculum to San Antonio and work with children who have lost a parent in the war. Word about the effort, called Operation Render Comfort, was broadcast on the national news and Jay has received calls from across the country, as well as from Germany and Japan all seeking advice on helping children cope with grief and loss.

The Jefferson Awards for Public Service were created in 1972 by former U.S. first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, U.S. Sen. Robert Taft Jr., and Sam Beard. The mission of the awards is to encourage and honor individuals for their achievements and contributions through public and community service.

Monday, Aug. 13, 2007

Fire department to honor family who rescued twins

The Fairfield Twp. Fire Department plans Tuesday night to recognize a Liberty Twp. family whose actions helped save the lives of two children earlier this month.

Danny and Cheri Webber were at the East Butler County YMCA June 16 when their 5-year-old son Thomas spotted 9-year-old Prince Odai at the bottom of the pool, said Fairfield Twp. Fire Chief Dave Downie.

Thomas alerted his father, who removed the boy from the bottom of the pool and notified the on-duty lifeguards.

The boy’s twin sister, Princess Odai, was discovered motionless in the water and also was removed.

Danny Webber’s wife, Cheri, a registered nurse, opened the airways of the victims and assisted with rescue breathing along with the lifeguards, Downie said.

Cheri Webber and the lifeguards stabilized the twins prior to the arrival of township paramedics.

Told by officials they could not use the facility because they could not swim, the twins somehow got into the pool, Downie said.

Friday, Jun. 29, 2007

Holocaust survivor recalls heroes who saved him

To commemorate Holocaust Martyrs’ Remembrance Day, or Yom HaShoah, a retired Glen Burnie physician who survived the Nazi and Soviet occupations of Poland will speak tomorrow at Temple Beth Shalom in Arnold.

The tale that Dr. Joseph Taler, 84, plans to tell began when Germany invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939, and one group thought it had the right to dominate the others.

Though the number of Holocaust survivors is dwindling fast, the message is still needed, said Ellyn Becker Kaufman, Temple Beth Shalom’s education director.

“If you don’t remember it, it could happen again, and not necessarily to Jewish people, but people anywhere in the world,” she said. “If we allow ourselves to go into such a prejudiced mode as happened in World War II, it could happen again.”

Dr. Taler said earlier this week that another holocaust is taking place today, this time in Darfur, where government-backed militia is exterminating Africans. Dr. Taler, 84, retired in 1991 after practicing medicine in Glen Burnie for 37 years. The Annapolis resident estimated that fewer than 10 Holocaust survivors live in Anne Arundel County now.

“I am the only one who speaks on the subject,” he said.

Dr. Taler’s tale is not only about cruelty, death and destruction, but also about human decency. It is as much about life as it is death, he said.

When German troops marched into Poland, Dr. Taler was a 16-year-old boy living in the comfortable town of Rozwadow, the only child of a pharmacist mother and a lawyer father. He was a straight-A student with lots of friends and a bright future.

Dr. Taler and a small handful of relatives were able to avoid extermination for one simple reason – a few Christians risked everything to save them.

“In my case, I was helped by six different Polish Christians, people who didn’t know each other,” Dr. Taler said of the people who forged documents, smuggled food and hid the Jewish boy.

“They saved my life; they would have been shot or taken to a concentration camp – it was at the discretion of the person who caught them,” Dr. Taler said. “There was no penalty for killing a Jew or a Pole.”

In this strange and dangerous world, even the slightest turn of events could prove deadly, Dr. Taler said.

The Christian underground forged work papers that allowed Dr. Taler to walk the streets and hold a job, instead of being rounded up and taken to a death camp.

“I told them to keep my first name, Joseph, so that I would know to answer when anyone spoke to me,” Dr. Taler said.

Dr. Taler said he quickly realized a deadly possibility: If the forged papers showed his actual age, he likely would be put into the youth labor corps, the junakis. Joining this group would require a physical, and a physical would reveal that Dr. Taler had been circumcised, in a society where only Jews underwent the procedure.

“The man who took me up in the middle of the night told me to step into the courtyard of (a particular) apartment house, and take off my armband that bore the Star of David and showed that I was a Jew,” Dr. Taler said. “He gave me my false identity papers and we crossed the street and were in the Aryan section.”

Dr. Taler disappeared into the darkness as Josef Skwarczynski, a Polish Catholic who was born six years before Joseph Taler the Jew. With these papers, Dr. Taler found work in a train yard, where he shoveled coal and stoked train boilers.

One day, he saw an engineer, a young man who had gone to school with him. The man knew that Dr. Taler was a Jew, and all he had to do was shout out, and Dr. Taler was as good as dead. Each time Dr. Taler saw the man, he would bury his face in a handkerchief as if wiping away sweat, until one day he didn’t see the engineer in time. “He smiled at me and walked on,” Dr. Taler said.

World gone mad

Life under the Nazis was marked by one bit of insanity after another, Dr. Taler said.

Anyone who liked onions “too much” could be revealed as a Jew and carted off, since “everyone knew” that Jews liked onions, Dr. Taler said.

Dr. Taler’s wife, Bronka, whom he met at the end of the war, used fake papers and worked as a maid, all the while hiding her true identity.

Fortunately, she said, she had attended a public school where Catholicism was taught.

“There were 10 Jewish kids,” she said of her childhood. “We were put in the back of the class, but we had to stay (for religious training). We learned a lot about the Catholic religion and Jesus.”

“I had papers during the war that showed me as a Christian,” she said. “They (Nazis) were forever asking me questions about Christianity.”

Then, one day, Mrs. Taler uttered a Yiddish word, and her mistress quickly admonished her to never say that again.

The mistress no doubt knew that Mrs. Taler was a Jew, but chose to look the other way.

Never underestimate the role that luck can play when surviving underground, Dr. Taler advised. While a lot of families were scattered to the four corners of the earth and never reunited, Dr. Taler and his mother ended up in the same town, but she couldn’t acknowledge him as her son. Also by blind luck, Dr. Taler’s father ended up hiding in the same town, and Dr. Taler took him into his room. The father stayed in the son’s 21-foot by 21-foot room day and night for two years, even though there was no toilet or hot water. There was a trap door, where Dr. Taler and his father dug out a place under the floor in case they needed a hiding place.

A strong message

Jews who weren’t fortunate enough to come under the wing of a guardian angle did not fare well. Dr. Taler estimates that as many as 50 of his relatives died at the hands of Nazis.

Bronka Taler said she lost about 20 close family members.

She survived because she was able to escape from a transport train, bound for the Auschwitz extermination camp.

“I had a large family; my mother had eight siblings and I had a lot of cousins,” Mrs. Taler said this week. “Except for my brother and two cousins, nobody survived.”

Mrs. Taler rarely speaks of the Holocaust, and tears ran down her cheek as she talked.

“I have two wonderful children, and for the first 20 years, we didn’t even talk about it,” Mrs. Taler said. “My children didn’t even know; we didn’t want them to know.”

Thursday, Jun. 28, 2007

Woman meets her guardian angel

An 89-year-old great-grandmother shed tears of joy this afternoon when she met the mystery woman who saved her life.

Winifred Lindsay, on her way to a medical appointment on her motorized scooter yesterday afternoon, fell on the tracks and into the path on an oncoming CN Rail train Tuesday.

This afternoon, she hugged 52-year-old Deborah Chiborak, the Good Samaritan who pulled her off the tracks with the train only seconds away.

Chiborak’s mother, Agnes Rosmus, called the Free Press this morning after she read about her unidentified daughter’s heroic.

Chiborak, a restaurant owner and mother of two grown daughters, said any bystander would have done the same brave act.

“I knew I only had a few seconds to do what I had to do,” she said, wiping away tears.

When asked if she would do the same thing again, Chiborak replied: “Who wouldn’t?”

Wednesday, Jun. 27, 2007

Hero emerges: Former soldier stepped up when he saw lives in danger

Eric Fullerton says he didn’t feel his skin being sliced when Curtis Allgier cut his throat, but he did feel the cold steel of the serrated knife and hear his flesh ripping.

Fullerton, a 59-year-old truck driver, was cut several times along the right side of his throat while struggling with Allgier, 27, for control of a pistol.

The fight took place Monday morning after Allgier attempted to take patrons and employees hostage inside a Salt Lake City Arby’s restaurant, Fullerton said Tuesday.

Allgier ran into the Arby’s at the end of a high-speed chase that began after the slaying of corrections officer Stephen Anderson, 60, at a University of Utah medical clinic and Allgier’s escape from custody.

Fullerton, who has been called a hero for his actions, said he was in line at the restaurant when the heavily tattooed prisoner ran inside, pointing a gun.

“I just wanted to get a sandwich,” Fullerton said, smiling. “I didn’t go there for my morning workout.”

When Allgier rushed in, he waved the gun wildly and told customers to get on the ground, Fullerton recalled. The fugitive then ran into the kitchen, grabbed one of the workers around the neck and hollered, “Don’t move or I’ll shoot you.”

But the employee did move and a shot was fired. Somehow, the employee wasn’t hit, Fullerton said. But by then, Fullerton, a Vietnam-era Army paratrooper, knew people were going to die unless he took action.

“I thought, ‘OK, we got a problem here — he’s going to kill somebody,”‘ Fullerton said. “(Allgier) had a grin on his face the whole time, like he was enjoying it or having fun. No remorse whatsoever.”

So the truck driver jumped over the service counter and wrested the gun from Allgier.

“I don’t know where I got the strength,” the 5-foot, 6 1/2-inch Fullerton said. “I just knew I couldn’t let go (of the gun) or I would be dead.”

Allgier, a self-proclaimed white supremacist, stands 6 feet, 1 inch tall and weighs about 200 pounds.

During the struggle, Allgier tried to stop Fullerton by pointing the gun at him and also grabbed a serrated knife and sliced Fullerton’s throat, he said.

Fullerton said he barely noticed the slashes from the knife because he was focused on using the strength of his hands to take control of the gun.

Once he secured the weapon, Fullerton aimed it at Allgier. Moments later, police stormed the Redwood Road Arby’s and arrested Allgier.

When paramedics arrived, Fullerton’s clothes were so drenched in blood that emergency workers thought he had been shot, he said. He was rushed to the hospital and required seven stitches to close one of the gashes in his neck.

Later in the afternoon, Fullerton returned to his job at California Packaging & Display, where his boss told him to go home early. And he did, but only after — finally — buying himself some food.

Tuesday, though he was sore from head to toe, Fullerton returned to work and tried to put the ordeal behind him. He said he forgives Allgier for trying to kill him and hopes he will receive a fair and speedy trial.

The grandfather of six, a Brigham Young University graduate who has always wanted to be an actor, said he doesn’t think of himself as a hero. He just did what had to be done, he said. But if Hollywood decides to put the story on the big screen, Fullerton would be happy to play himself.

Monday, Jun. 18, 2007

Heroes to life

It couldn’t happen.

Ellensburg resident Dave Wakefield found a 1942 Chevrolet World War II truck buried up to its axle in dirt with grass growing around the tires in a field in Ellensburg.

It was old and forgotten, once a symbol of freedom and sacrifice, now just an abandoned work truck. There was no way Wakefield could bring it back to life.

But reviving history is what Dave Wakefield is all about.

After fixing a minor electrical component, Wakefield fired up the engine. It turned over after four tries, but he didn’t have a tractor to haul it out.

He waited for a couple of days, hoping to find a tractor. He couldn’t wait any longer. He returned to the truck with friend Rick Sample and started the engine again. The truck had a full bed of gravel as Wakefield gritted his teeth, popped the clutch and yelled “Holy cow, hang on.”

The truck lurched forward, shedding years of neglect, and ambled onto the highway where Wakefield drove it home. Even the headlights still worked.

For Wakefield, restoring WWII vehicles is more than a hobby, it’s an honor.

“It’s kind of an adventure. Like being an archaeologist and finding a historical treasure you can share with others,” he said.

Wakefield owns an array of WWII military vehicles, all in various stages of restoration. He said he spends hours in research to restore them according to military standards of the day. He looks at pictures, watches military campaign footage and even studies paint color all to honor the heroes who defended America’s freedom.

“Every time you restore one, it’s like going back in time. When you sit and look at it, you can feel what the troops did for our freedom,” he said.

Wakefield is very attuned to the details.

When he enters his 1943 Burma Jeep in parades, he dresses in military uniforms, which he also collects, to match the time period.

“Dave doesn’t believe in doing anything halfway,” said VFW Post Commander and Vietnam veteran Gene Ketzenberg. “He does everything the best he can, that’s the kind of gentleman he is.”

A clean vehicle is out of the question.

“I don’t think there ever was a vehicle that was spotless,” Wakefield said.

In one parade, Wakefield felt uncomfortable because the jeep was too clean. He found a mud puddle and splashed through it for a genuine look. He felt better after that and some veterans got a good chuckle out of it too.

“They never went on patrol in a clean vehicle,” Wakefield defended himself.

His Burma Jeep was used as a troop transporter, Wakefield discovered. It would carry six soldiers on “seats that would beat the reputation right off your back,” Ketzenberg said.

Two sat in front, one driving and one navigating. Two more would pile in the middle row facing the windshield. These soldiers carried ammunition. The last two would climb in the back facing out the back window. They were the first ones out of the vehicle because they carried the machine gun and tripod and needed to set up quickly. The ammunition soldiers followed them out

Wakefield graduated from Central Washington University in 1989 and remembers taking several history classes during his tenure, but it was just words on a page to him then. Since he began restoring WWII vehicles, history has come alive.

“You can read history in a book,” Wakefield said. “But until you get your hands on something people have used 60 years ago, you don’t know the true depth of its impact.”

Wakefield received a real-life history lesson at a Veteran’s Day parade in 2001.

Dressed in his appropriate WWII military uniform, Wakefield drove to pick up five WWII veterans who would ride with him in the jeep through the parade.

When he stopped the jeep, two veterans hopped in back, facing the back and two jumped in the middle facing the windshield without thinking. It was like they had done it a million times, it was right out of the history books.

“Some of these guys have their ghosts, but for others, it brings back a cohesiveness,” Wakefield said. “It reminds them of their buddies, fallen and otherwise and that’s what (the jeep) is supposed to represent.”

For Wakefield, to see history come alive, to see with his own eyes what history books merely told him was reward for all of his hard work.

Tuesday, Jun. 12, 2007

Stem cell first for Parkinson’s

US researchers have for the first time injected human stem cells into monkeys with Parkinson’s symptoms, seen as a key step in the fight to find a cure.

The stem cells, which have been injected into rodents in the past, initially stopped the monkeys’ damaged brain cells from deteriorating.

The primates’ condition did however start to slide after four months, the study in the PNAS journal said.

Stem cells offer great hope for cures, but a breakthrough remains elusive.

“We are still talking about years,” said Dr Richard Sidman, one of the co-authors of the study. “But it’s a start, and we may be looking at applications for a number of diseases other than Parkinson’s.”

Primates v people

It surprised the team that the stem cells – rather than replacing the damaged cells as anticipated – actually worked to protect them, preventing further deterioration.

But while the monkeys fared well in the initial months of the trial, four months in they started once again to show the symptoms of the disease.

The researchers speculate this may be to do with the monkeys beginning to reject foreign tissue, and suggested that further research would need to be done suppressing their immune systems.

Dr Kieran Breen, Director of Research and Development for the Parkinson’s Disease Society, urged caution.

“These results are from a very early stage pre-clinical trial using an animal model of Parkinson’s,” he said.

“Further trials are needed to establish whether similar results are seen in people who have Parkinson’s.”

Dr Stephen Minger, Director of King’s Stem Cell Biology Laboratory, said he welcomed any research which took the search for a cure further but similarly cautioned against great hopes.

Master cells

More than four million people worldwide are estimated to suffer from Parkinson’s disease, making it the most common brain degenerative disease after Alzheimer’s disease.

It is a disease of the nervous system that generally affects both men and women who are more than 40 years old. It is associated with trembling of the arms and legs, stiffness and rigidity of the muscles and slowness of movement.

The progressive decline brought on by the condition is caused by a loss of brain cells which produce a chemical called dopamine.

Stem cells are seen as providing one of the major avenues of hope for a cure.

The body’s “master cells”, stem cells are created shortly after conception. They have the capacity to turn into any kind of tissue in the body.

Friday, Jun. 8, 2007

Man is hero on Boston-bound flight

Next time you take an airplane— you may want to ask Hingham’s Bob Hayden to come along.

In fact, his wife Katie would also be a nice addition.

If Saturday’s Northwest Airlines flight from Minneapolis where Katie attended an ice skating conference is any gauge then they are just the ones you want on your plane if something scary occurs.

Bob assisted the flight attendants with subduing and handcuffing two out-of-control passengers, while Katie remained calm and did not blink an eye.

As the flight was ready to take off one of the two men – whom the couple described as of Pilipino extraction – became highly agitated but was coaxed back to his seat, Bob says. The plane took off as planned; but about 15 minutes into the air, one of the men jumped out and laid down in the aisle while the other man stood over him yelling. At one point one of the men opened the overhead compartment and threw a suitcase on the floor.

The flight attendants spent most of the flight trying to calm them down, he said. In the meantime, Bob did not sit back during the flight and hope for the best. He used the time to confer with the flight attendants, explaining he was a retired Boston police officer and former Lawrence Chief of Police. He also walked up and down the aisle observing other passengers. He was concerned the men’s erratic behavior might have been planned as a distraction, and could potentially be part of a plan for a larger incident.

Things got really “hairy” when the pilot announced the approach into Logan, Bob said. One of the men again jumped up and the other one started yelling. Bob said he then asked the man sitting across the aisle, who turned out to be a retired Marine, for help.

“The flight attendant waived the handcuffs (plastic ties), which was the signal we had agreed on and the Marine and I subdued both men; I cuffed one while he was on the ground,” Bob recalls. The men causing the disturbance were belted tightly into their seats and Bob and the Marine sat next to them until, after the flight landed, the State Police arrived and took them off the plane.

Bob said passengers on the flight were frightened and some were crying.

“One woman asked me, ‘are we going to die?’ I said, ‘someday, but not today,’” he recalled.

According to published reports, State Police are investigating whether to charge the men criminally or treat it as a mental health matter.

Katie, who has been married to Bob for 42 years, says nothing he does surprises her so she remained calm on the Minneapolis flight.

“He has been a cop for most of our marriage,” she says. “I knew he was just going do what he has always done in the past — take care of the situation.”

Once the news surfaced about Bob’s heroic deeds, newspapers and TV shows started calling. Bob, who starred in the 2001 reality TV program “Lost” is comfortable with the media and with tricky situations. In that program, teams of two were taken blindfolded and then dropped off in a remote location with little resources. They had 25 days to find their way back. Bob and his teammate were left in the wilds of Bolivia.

Tuesday, Jun. 5, 2007

Baby Ivie Update: She’s a toddler

Baby Ivie hits another milestone, she’s three years old!

The now toddler Ivie celebrated with family and friends Sunday at the Fortress of Fun playground in Newburgh.

Ivie was born with Gastrocesis and has been in and out of the hospital most of her short life. Her mother, Kara Duncan, donated part of her liver and intestines to Ivie in hopes of nursing her back to health.

Now her mother is thrilled to say Ivie is climbing, walking, and talking like a normal little girl, “Each day with her is pretty amazing, you know cause she sees new things, I mean it’s like everyday she learns something, for her to be here is a miracle, and everyday with her is a miracle.”

Ivie just completed her first steps therapy sessions, and the family is considering enrolling her in pre-school this fall.

Wednesday, May. 30, 2007

Soldier survives, credits comrades

It was May 20, 2006, and Conan Marchi was celebrating his sixth wedding anniversary the same way he had spent the last three — in a foreign country fighting in the war on terrorism.

A sergeant on his second tour of Iraq, the 26-year-old Kittery native was leading his squad through the small city of Hit, northwest of Ramadi, in search of a print shop that produced terrorist propaganda. He said he turned the corner onto a street and suddenly had the feeling something wasn’t right.

“I looked down … and felt my pelvis arch backward and stuff flowing down my back leg. A half-second later, I heard the crack and I hit the ground,” Marchi said. “I just said, ‘Oh God.'”

He immediately lost all feeling in his legs and said he was certain he was paralyzed. He looked up to see if he could get a shot at the sniper who targeted him, but there was no one in sight. As he was being pulled to cover by another soldier, Marchi said, he opened his eyes, cringing in pain, to see a long stream of blood left in his wake.

A medic rushed over and found the entrance wound was through the front in the lower-right side of Marchi’s abdomen. The medic reached around to find the exit wound and muttered, “I don’t like that.”

“Everyone who saw (the wound) said it looked like you could reach right inside of me,” Marchi said. “I immediately started to pray. I don’t think I stopped praying until they put me into a coma.”

On May 21, he awoke to find his prayers had been answered. He was alive and he was not paralyzed. Surgeons took about a foot of intestinal matter and his appendix, his pelvis was shattered, and there was severe nerve damage, but he was alive.

It had been three years since Marchi was first deployed to Iraq after re-enlisting in the U.S. Army infantry in 2002, and having his tour extended once. Finally, he got to call his folks and his wife, Hope, back home in Maine and tell them he was coming home.

“I told my dad, ‘I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is I’m coming home,'” Marchi said. “(Dad) said, ‘What’s the bad news?’ I said, ‘But I had to get shot first.”

Eighteen surgeries and months of rehabilitation later, Marchi is home for good. He originally enlisted in 1998 after high school, with the goal of fulfilling what had been a dream of his since the fifth grade — to become a soldier and serve his country. After Sept. 11, 2001, Marchi decided to re-enlist and fight for his country like he had spent his life hoping to do.

“You train with the team for so long, you might as well play a real game,” he said. “So there was a desire for that, and I re-enlisted.”

His first tour ended in May 2003, after which he was sent to Germany for more training, and in January 2006, he was sent back to Iraq. While it was difficult to be away from his family and his wife for the first tour and even more difficult after he was extended, Marchi said it was “probably the best experience of my life.”

The reason?

“Camaraderie,” he said, the bond created by a group of various personalities willing themselves toward a common goal — survival.

“Those friendships you make in the military, you’ll never find anywhere else,” he said. “I’ve met some amazing people.”

Although he said he’s always had great respect for Memorial Day and what it stands for, his view of it has changed because he knows the men and women who allow him to enjoy his freedom.

“For whatever reason, there are people willing to do the hard job of keeping us free,” he said. “They sacrifice their liberty, their freedom and their lives so we can sit in the nice, air-conditioned room and talk.”

He’s been to hell and back again, then back to hell one more time and is now back home with a new outlook and a deep appreciation for life and everyone who has allowed it to continue.

“I wake up every morning. I hear the birds chirping, I step outside and just the smell of spring in the air. It’s crazy,” he said, smiling. “The leaves have never looked greener. It’s crazy. It’s crazy. I appreciate it all — every bit of it.”

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