Thursday, May. 24, 2007
A DISABLED student who went from rags to riches in seven years has been honoured with a “life-changers” award.
She was the first person in her family to stay in school past the age of 15, and was forced to leave home at the age of 14.
But despite the odds, Cheryl Alexander went on to turn her life around by gaining two masters degrees from the University of York.
The born fighter has also been wheelchair-bound since the age of 18 – when a virus attacked her nervous system and left her barely able to walk.
Now aged 29, the trainee teacher has been recognised for her achievements at a national awards ceremony – where she was named as a runner-up in the University And College Union’s “life-changers award”.
Cheryl, who lives in Heslington, York, with her husband, Andy, said: “I come from a very disadvantaged background. There was no money for anything when I was a kid and we weren’t a very happy family.
“We didn’t have any books in our house and I wasn’t encouraged to go to school. I realised that education was my only way out – my teachers told me I was clever and that I could go to university and so this is what I aimed for.
“By the time I was 14 my mum had had enough and I moved in with the family of a friend, and then when I was 16, I won a scholarship to go to a private school.
“During the school holidays I had to stay with my teachers because I had nowhere else to go.
“University has changed my life. For starters I have money. It’s nice to be able to buy things I want and my husband and I have just bought our first home. I have no regrets about my life. All the things that have happened to me have made me who I am.”
Cheryl now has two masters degrees in chemistry and is just completing a PGCE to become a science teacher.
She said: “I love teaching. If I could save just one kid’s life in the way my teachers saved mine then that would be amazing – it would all be worthwhile.”
Cheryl travelled to London for the presentation ceremony with her wonder-dog Orca. Orca shot to fame in 2003 after saving Cheryl’s life when her wheelchair plummeted down a 20ft water-filled ditch.
Tuesday, May. 22, 2007
The pilgrims keep coming, seeking out the fragile 97-year-old woman in black in her tiny nursing home room filled with pictures and flowers.
The attention tires Irena Sendler sometimes. She never sought credit for smuggling 2,500 Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto anyway. Not for risking execution to save other people’s children, or holding out under torture by the Nazis, or enduring decades as a non-person under the communist regime that followed.
She once dismissed her wartime deeds as merely “the justification of my existence on this Earth, and not a title to glory.” “I’m very tired—it’s too much for me,” Sendler said recently of the incessant visits, during a brief meeting with a reporter. And giving a little laugh, she adds a bit sadly: “I feel my age.”
Sendler in recent years has gained a measure of celebrity amid broader interest in Holocaust heroes stoked by the film Schindler’s List. Poland’s parliament honored her in a March 14 ceremony and the country is pushing her candidacy—mostly symbolic—for the Nobel Peace Prize.
It is late recognition for an extraordinary life.
Sendler, a social worker, began organising financial and material help for Jews after the war began in 1939 with the Nazi invasion.
Posing as a nurse and wearing a Star of David armband—in solidarity and to blend in— Sendler would enter the Warsaw Ghetto, the hellish, hunger-and-disease-stalked prison enclave the Nazis established as a prelude to deporting and murdering Poland’s Jews in death camps.
A Polish doctor forged papers stating she was a nurse. The Nazis, who feared the typhoid fever spreading in the ghetto, were happy to let Polish medical workers handle the sick and the dead.
She persuaded Jewish parents that their children had a better chance to live if she smuggled them out and placed them with Catholic families.
In hopes of reuniting them later with their birth parents, she wrote the children’s names and new addresses, in code, on slips of paper and buried them in two jars in an assistant’s yard in 9 Lekarska Street. That hope never came true; almost all the parents died in Hitler’s camps.
What the jar did save was their true, Jewish names.
Thursday, May. 10, 2007
They’re hung up on, yelled at and sometimes denied the very information they need to do their jobs.
But for the county’s emergency-911 dispatchers, it’s not about getting a “thank you,” from callers whose lives were saved.
“People aren’t calling up to say, ‘Merry Christmas,’” Clarence Sales, a first-year dispatcher, said. “But you get gratification when you get police over there or put out a fire. And that doesn’t have to be verified with words.”
Sales, one of the county’s four recently-hired dispatchers, said though at first glance the job might seem little more than fielding phone calls, such is not the case.
“It is in no way an easy job,” he said.
Being a dispatcher entails monitoring five screens, keeping frantic people calm and acting as liaison to first-responders when a fraction of a second can be the difference between late — and too late.
And because they don’t do it for the praise or the money — the job begins at an annual salary of roughly $30,000 — the common denominator among the county’s emergency-911 dispatchers is their shared pride in knowing they might have helped someone.
But oftentimes, they don’t know how the story ends.
“We only know the beginning of the call,” said Dispatch Supervisor Kathleen Langtad, whose calls have run the gamut from a cat stuck in a tree, to guiding a childbirth, over the past 24 years.
“But it can be very rewarding to have an emergency situation and be able to help the caller,” she said.
Having begun his job in November, Sales has already adopted an individual approach to taking calls: The Golden Rule.
“I try to think of being in their shoes,” Sales said, noting, “but there is nothing easy about this job.”
Kyle Okamura, a dispatcher who was a Kaua‘i police officer for 18 years, said he uses a technique that helps both the caller and those going out to the call.
“Being a dispatcher is like being a doorway of a hotel, where the doorman is the first impression,” Okamura said. “If the doorman is grouchy, (the guest is) going to be the same way.”
Keeping in mind that officers have to respond physically to the caller, Okamura said he keeps a pleasant demeanor on the phone and is sure to get police up to speed on the details while they are enroute.
But getting the public up to speed on how to place emergency-911 calls could help, too, Capt. Ale Quibilan said.
That includes knowing the house numbers of an address, staying on the phone until the dispatcher has received all the information and remaining calm.
It also includes avoiding 911 where applicable and relying on the general police number for administrative calls, police reports and traffic accidents in which no one was harmed, he said.
The combination of better-informed residents and a new power mapping system — slated to roll out in late summer — should further smooth out any kinks in the county’s emergency response system, Langtad said.
The e-911 service will allow dispatchers to know the physical address associated with a wireless phone number.
However, callers should always be prepared to answer basic questions, including the location of the emergency, regardless of what sort of phone they are using.
“We will always have to verify the address,” Langtad said. “Someone calling from Kalaheo could be calling us about their mom in Wailua.”
Friday, May. 4, 2007
Those who meet her are inspired. Those who hear her story are in awe. I would even bet that to hear her tell her amazing journey could make just about anyone into a believer.
Julie Rydlund has been through it all and lived to tell about it. She’s a modest woman, who more than anything loves her family and God.
Julie is “the miracle woman.” She has survived one potentially lethal health complication after another. The odds always seem to be against her, yet she prevails. Her faith has been tested over and over — and God has provided strength for Julie to keep plugging on.
After all, she’s got things to do yet.
“I’m still fighting (to hang onto my life) for my family,” Julie said on Wednesday. “My job here isn’t done.”
Julie wants to spread God’s love. She wants to watch her son Andrew graduate from high school like she did her daughter Katie in 2006. More happy moments are in store for Julie and her husband Jim.
I wrote about Julie in May of 2004, when she returned home for the first time since experiencing anaphylactic shock. Doctors gave her an anti-rejection drug to keep her body from rejecting a pancreas transplanted in 2003. (Julie’s diabetes would have otherwise been fatal.)
The anaphylactic shock burned her from the inside out. Her nerves, skin, eyes, nose, ears, kidneys, liver, even the new pancreas — everything was affected. Doctors gave her a 6 percent chance for survival. She was put on a ventilator.
Her family, glued to her side, never gave up, though they were told no more could be done.
Her husband Jim was hopeful in the face of slim odds.
“I had an inner feeling — I felt like God was going to intervene,” he said.
Incredibly, though badly weakened and charred, her body slowly began to heal. Both her legs had to be amputated to save her life. Amazingly, Julie escaped brain damage.
Ask her doctors, ask the nurses, ask her family and friends. They’ll all tell you that truly, it’s nothing short of a miracle that Julie has lived to tell about her trials and tribulations.
“God’s hand was in it, all the way,” Julie told me in 2004. “God kept me here for a reason. I want to glorify God and give hope to other people.”
Julie finally came home to Jim Falls with her family — husband Jim, son Andrew, and daughter Katie, in May of 2004.
But Julie’s saga isn’t over yet. The road since she came home from the hospital has been anything but smooth.
She’s heading back to Rochester on Tuesday, where doctors will find out if her body is strong enough to receive a new kidney from her sister Pat.
Nowadays, with the advancement of technology, kidney transplants can be routine. But not for Julie. None of Julie’s health complications can be described as routine.
When she came home in May of 2004, it still took another 16 months for all her burns to heal. She had multiple infections. By the summer, she was in the hospital again.
Then finally, things seemed to be sailing along quite well until June of 2006. That’s when Julie dealt with a blood clot that went from her groin to her lungs.
“Doctors said, ‘We’ve done everything we can. If the clot moves it will be fatal,’” Julie remembers. “All we were doing was praying.”
Her husband Jim was diagnosed with Stage 7 cancer during the same time Julie was hospitalized for a blood clot.
“The day my clot broke was the day he had his bone scan,” Julie said. “It really broke my heart that I couldn’t be with him, because he’s been there for me.”
Since then, Jim had surgery in August during which doctors believe they removed all the cancer. He didn’t take any chemotherapy or radiation treatments. Since then, he has lab work done on a monthly basis to keep watch for any changes.
Within that same month, her daughter Katie had some health complications that doctors are still keeping close watch on today.
Since the blood-clot incident, Julie has been taking blood-thinning medication. She’s currently taking 37 different medicines.
Julie went in for another surgery, this time to correct an abdominal problem. In recovery, she went into respiratory arrest. It was shortly thereafter discovered that when Julie was unconscious, her brain didn’t know to tell her body to breathe.
“Everyone was wondering how I ever made it this far,” she said. “I was literally being smothered in my sleep.”
Doctors theorized that during anaphylactic shock in 2004, some of the nerve pathways in Julie’s brain may have been damaged.
Another miracle, it seems. How did Julie survive general anesthesia so many times?
Now, she’s on a special machine to help her breathe while sleeping.
But her saga doesn’t end there.
One Sunday in January, she woke up with excruciating pain — an internal bleed in her left thigh.
“Had that bleed been anywhere but my thigh, I would have died almost instantly,” she said.
But she wasn’t out of the woods yet.
She was admitted to the hospital, where the bleed was looked after. The next morning, she woke up with a headache and feeling nauseous.
“I knew I was going into kidney failure,” she said. “I’d had that before in the hospital.”
The physician on call didn’t think there was reason to believe Julie’s kidneys were in trouble.
So Julie and her friend Diane Horn prayed. Within 10 minutes, her regular doctor called from Florida to check in on her.
“This was God at work, it has to be,” Julie said of his phone call.
Her regular doctor ordered her blood levels to be taken, and her potassium count was near-lethal, indicative of kidney malfunction. When she finally was moved to Mayo clinic, a doctor came in to talk to her.
When Julie heard his words, her faith began to falter for the first time.
“He said, ‘Julie you need a kidney transplant,’” she recalls. “I became hopeless. I was tired at that given moment. I said to him, ‘Get out of my room, now.’”
Feeling alone, Julie looked over at the very same picture of Christ that had hung in her hospital room back in 2004. When Jim was reluctant to leave her bedside, she would remind him by motioning to the picture, “He is with me.”
Things were different this time. Now as she looked at the picture, she cried to God, “What do you want from me? I don’t understand — why this, why now? What do you want me to do?”
“For a full month straight I cried,” Julie said. She had lost hope in God’s miracles. What was in store for her now?
Dialysis wasn’t an option for Julie because of the likelihood that she would throw a clot, and exhibit more potentially fatal allergies to filter and chemicals used in dialysis.
Finding the right kidney to give Julie the best chances of survival was also going to be a big hurdle. Doctors told her it was less than one in a million chance that a suitable donor could be found for her.
Most kidney transplants don’t require exact matches and need only to share a blood type, or a couple of genetic markers. Because of Julie’s potentially lethal reactions to anti-rejection drugs and her body’s overall fragility, it was important she receive a kidney that matched in other ways, too.
In addition to having the same blood type as Julie, the donor couldn’t have antibodies in his or her system that Julie didn’t have in hers. He or she needed to share at least three genetic markers with Julie.
Without meeting these additional requirements, Julie’s chance of surviving the ordeal would be less than 50 percent. If a match was found, however, her chances increased to 65 percent.
Three of her siblings went into have testing done to determine if they could give her a kidney. From December to January, Julie’s kidney function dropped from 41 percent to 26 percent.
The clock was ticking.
Then, on Feb. 14 — Valentine’s Day — her sister Pat called from Florida with some amazing news.
Pat was an exact match to donate a kidney to Julie, in all possible ways, and she shared six out of six genetic markers with Julie.
Julie calls it her Valentine from God himself.
“He pulled through for me when I didn’t ask — I didn’t even know WHAT to ask for,” Julie said.
Julie has overcome some of the most traumatic physical events a person can imagine — a pancreas transplant, bladder infections, a tumor underneath her uterus, internal and external burns covering her body. Now she’s facing yet another big physical hurdle.
But luckily, what really counts is still as strong as can be. Her faith.
On Sunday a benefit will be held for Julie and her family, to help cope with the monetary cost associated with Julie’s upcoming kidney transplant. But the benefit will also help the family meet the spiritual costs of the procedure.
On Tuesday Julie will find out if her body is strong enough to accept the new kidney, and go from there.
“I was not up for this challenge, but I truly believe He carried me and I will come through this surgery with flying colors,” Julie said. “After all, when God gives miracles, he doesn’t take them away.”
I know she’s right. After all, Julie needs to write the sequel to her recently completed book, “Walk On.” Her book title is most meaningful.
Today, now more than ever, Julie is committed to walking steadfast with the Lord. And though Julie is confined to a wheelchair, she walks with Him and manages to stand taller than anyone I know.
Tuesday, May. 1, 2007
Sandra Jackson and her other-half, Paul, are getting ready to open their own motorcycle repair shop in Las Vegas. It’s the beginning of a new chapter in their lives.
Over the past decade, Sandra has lost both breasts to cancer. She recently went through reconstructive surgery. It was painful, but it made her feel whole again.
“Although I never thought, because no one in my family was diagnosed with breast cancer, when the diagnosis came in. Yes, it frightened me at first and I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I’m here today. I’m here today,” she said.
On May 5, after taking part in the Race For The Cure, Sandra will help Paul with the grand opening of Uptown Choppers. The repair shop is at the corner of E Street and Jackson in an historic section of downtown Las Vegas.
“And this is the old, old Vegas,” said Sandra. “The historic area we’re trying to rebuild, to let people know, come on uptown. We’re doing positive things here.”
Sandra’s excited over the opportunity to give Paul a helping hand as he’s done for her over the years of her cancer ordeal.
“And because of him standing by me, with everything I’ve gone through, I am doing my best to see that his dream comes true. This is my thank you to him for standing by me all of these years,” she said.
The road to recovery has been long. But what Sandra has learned about cancer and breast reconstruction, she now shares with others.
“I’m proud of the fact that I’m still here. I’m proud of the fact that I can still speak to women on breast cancer issues. And I’m just, just happy.”
Sandra will join the more than 15,000 runners and walkers expected to turn out for this year’s race for the cure. The Susan G. Komen Race For The Cure is coming up on May 5, at Fremont Ttreet.
Across Canada university students are finishing up their final exams and looking toward a summer of work, or for graduates, a lifetime of it. Tonight’s Everyday Hero is one of them.
At a time of broadening horizons in life, Julia Wilson has discovered hers will be limited. The way in which she has handled that devastating news, has become a symbol of strength to others.
At 6’4, Wilson is quite obviously a big woman on campus who has had a year of incredible highs and lows.
A few weeks ago, a mysterious tingling and numbness in her hands was diagnosed as multiple sclerosis.
For, an accomplished basketball star like Julia, this was a life altering change, because she relies so heavily on her sense of touch.
“It is such a frustrating disease. You’re never sure if what you’re feeling is normal, or MS. That must be frustrating for an elite athlete accustomed to control,” says Wilson.
“I don’t regret or think poorly about anything that has happened. Its part of who I am that makes me stronger. It’s something I’m going to have to live with.”
It’s the harsh reality for Julia, whose expertise at blocking shots helped the Simon Fraser University women’s basketball team win the national championship this year.
Unlike many young people who face a personal battle with a debilitating disease, Julia has at least tasted success and is surrounded by teammates for support.
The inspiring part of the story is how she refuses to let MS defeat her, which is such a source of pride for so many others.
When the MS Society held its walk for the disease in B.C., there were a large number of first-time walkers in red shirts.
Julia and her championship team were there for support – with hand created hearts with the letter JU on their bodies. It means I love Ju, which is what her teammates call her.
Competitive basketball is behind the senior forward, but graduate studies are ahead this fall as Julia Wilson learns what it means to live with MS.
Like many athletes they choose to lead by example, for Julia it’s a simple idea of following her dreams.
“Its kind of cliche and corny,” says Wilson “But it’s true.
THE parents of little Star Regan were today celebrating her first birthday – one they feared she would never see.
She was born with a back-to-front heart and within hours of arriving into the world was taken to the intensive care unit of Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool.
At the age of just ten days, she underwent a major nine-hour operation. But she fought her way through… and today she was opening a huge pile of presents with the help of mum Philippa Iliff and dad Stephen Regan.
Miss Iliff, aged 21, of Beverley Road, Heaton, said: “It’s a huge milestone and a relief.
“We are so proud she has made it this far after everything she has been through.
“With Star getting to her first birthday, we feel like she has made it, and it’s onwards and upwards from here.
“There are bad memories from this time last year but the last 12 months have brought so much happiness.”
When Star was born at the Royal Bolton Hospital, her heart, arteries and veins were the wrong way round, so her blood was not being pumped with oxygen from her lungs.
Just two hours later – without being held or even seen by her mother – she was taken to Alder Hey.
Star’s operation involved doctors carrying out a switch procedure, in which a team of surgeons transferred her veins and arteries to the correct place.
Miss Illif did not see her daughter for the first two days of her life because she had to be kept in the Royal Bolton after having a Caesarean.
Four weeks after her life-saving surgery, little Star – named because her parents wanted her to know how special she was – was discharged and allowed to go home.
Miss Illif said: “She has an amazing personality and she is so quick to pick things up, probably more so than other kids of her age because of everything she has been through. She is walking already and she looks at you as if to say, yeah, what’s the big deal?'”
Miss Iliff, who owned Scowcroft’s Baby Clothes in Bolton Market Hall, and Mr Regan, a salesman for npower, have since been fundraising for the two hospitals that treated Star as a thankyou.
Monday, Apr. 30, 2007
This non-profit organization was created to help the family farmer temporarily sidelined by injury or other disaster by planting up to one thousand acres of crops free of charge.
It`s in its second year now but Farm Rescue experienced a first in Turtle Lake yesterday.
The volunteers helped a couple in which the wife is the one who is recovering.
Spend just a few minutes with Sharon Weible, and you`ll have no doubts that she`s got a big heart.
Even if it isn`t hers.
“Her heart was turning bad, there was nothing to do to fix it, says Wes Weible. “It was just going bad. Eventually she would have just passed away.”
That was one possible ending to the Weible`s story but Wes and Sharon like this one much better.
“I was excited, never scared,” says Sharon. “I just thought I got a second chance.”
Sharon was on a transplant list for nine months before she was flown to Rochester, Minnesota for surgery last November.
“You never knew when you`d get called. We had our suitcase packed, ready to go every night.”
The Weible`s made 13 trips to the hospital before the operation, and they`ve spent the majority of their time commuting between Turtle Lake and Rodchester since.
That means Wes concentrated more on being a support system and less on being a farmer.
The Weible`s received gifts like this prayer blanket from friends and family, but it was an organization of strangers who stepped in and gave the gift of livelihood.
“She has to go, you can`t not go,” says Wes. “You went through all that to get a heart, you can`t give up now.”
You can`t give up, so farm rescue stepped up, and volunteered to plant 600 acres of wheat for the Weible`s so Wes could focus on the more important things in life.
His heart was in the right place. And now so is Sharon`s.
Sharon`s recovery is going very well.
They`ve made the ten hour drive to Rochester seven out of the last eight weeks, but it looks like they`ll be making that trip less and less.
Farm Rescue is planting about six hundred acres of wheat for the Weibles.
Thursday, Apr. 26, 2007
After they get their can of beer or pop open, most people don’t give a second thought to that little tab they had to pull.
But Chuck Hoagland does. He has around half a million of them at his Girard home, along with several hundred thousand canceled stamps. All of them will go to charity.
The pull tabs, for example, benefit the Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Four States in Joplin, Mo.
The home provides housing for parents with newborns in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, mothers who have developed illnesses during pregnancy requiring continuous rest and/or monitoring, and families of children with illnesses requiring extended hospitalization or observation or lengthy outpatient treatment.
The idea of collecting pop tabs for Ronald McDonald Houses started in 1987 in Minneapolis, and the Joplin house began its collection program in 1997.
“I collect the tabs all over town, and sometimes people just give them to me,” Hoagland said. “I get quite a few tabs at church and from the American Legion.”
He said he started collecting in 2002 after he broke his back. “The doctor told me I needed to walk, and I walked up and down the roads,” he said. “I started picking things up.”
He said that many types of cat food cans, as well as canned goods for humans, now have pull tabs. “I wish more people would get involved in collecting them,” he said. “A lot of tabs are going into the trash each day that could be put to good use helping others.”
Hoagland takes other recyclables he finds to Southeast Kansas Recycling Inc. in Pittsburg.
For 25 years he collected canceled stamps for American Legion Post No. 408, St. Paul, Minn. “The man in charge of that project died, so they canceled the project,” Hoagland said.
Now he sends the stamps to the Mosaic program at Bethphage Village, a facility for those with developmental disabilities near Axtell, Neb. Stamps are sold to a collector, with the income shared equally among the clients at the facility.
Hoagland was born in Whindham, N.Y. He enlisted in the U.S. Army on April 2, 1954. “I was just 17 and my mother didn’t want me to go, but she finally let me enlist,” he said. “I spent three years with the army, got out and was home four months, then I joined the Air Force.”
He served in Vietnam from 1968 to 1969.
Hoagland discovered Girard through a friend he met stationed in Wichita. “I came home with him to Girard, and when I met Judy, that was it,” he said. “She graduated from Girard High School in May 1960, and we were married in June 1960. We have two children and six grandchildren.”
He said he worked in printing at Girard for 23 years.
Friday, Apr. 20, 2007
Joe Nuxhall looks around the old Fairfield Central Elementary School gym and likes what he sees.
Instead of rah-rah pep-rally signs for the school team, walls are plastered with positive values promoted by his Joe Nuxhall Character Education Fund.
Respect. Pride. Honesty. Self-control. Kindness. Responsibility.
“This is very rewarding,” says Nuxhall, 78, who played basketball as a kid in the gym built in 1929. “You’d like to feel that you’ve helped kids succeed in some capacity, so they become better citizens.”
For most of his life, Nuxhall has toiled tirelessly behind the scenes to help children throughout his native Butler County and beyond. He has campaigned for school construction and tax issues, and handed out 370 college scholarships valued at $431,000.
With his son, Kim, a physical-education teacher at Fairfield Central, Joe has helped instill strong values in countless students. His Character Education Fund has distributed 12,000 posters and 100,000 baseball cards of Sean Casey, a former Red, with character messages.
While baseball fans know about his 15 years as a Reds pitcher – including his historic debut at age 15 in 1944 – and 31 years of “Marty & Joe” on Reds radio with Hall of Fame broadcaster Marty Brennaman, few know about Nuxhall’s lifelong commitment to kids.
“They don’t know about it because he doesn’t talk about it,” says Brennaman, Nuxhall’s radio partner for 31 seasons (1974-2004).
“He doesn’t do things and then pat himself on the back and make sure everybody in captivity knows what he’s doing. He legitimately would not care if anybody ever knew about it, because he derives enough satisfaction by himself, in doing what he does.
“He’s taught me a helluva lot about humility, because I’ve got a pretty good ego.”
Nuxhall shrugs off such praise.
“It’s for the kids. It’s not about me. I don’t like to blow my own horn. It’s not my nature.”
With the Ol’ Left-hander again battling cancer – four new tumors were found in his left leg in February – Joe and Kim will launch the $7.65 million Joe Nuxhall Project Hope program Thursday. His friends and his son want to establish a permanent legacy for Nuxhall, who will turn 79 July 30.
“Given his health issues of late, we have ratcheted it up for those very reasons,” says Kim, 52, a former Reds minor-league pitcher who has taught for 29 years in Fairfield.
The 7 p.m. dinner Thursday at Jungle Jim’s International Market Oscar Event Center in Fairfield will raise money for five programs:
Building the $2.4 million Joe Nuxhall Children’s Center, a gymnasium for Fairfield’s One Way Farm home for abused children.
Constructing a rubber Miracle League baseball field in Fairfield for wheelchair-bound children throughout the region.
Bringing the Cincinnati Reds’ Rookie Success baseball league for underprivileged youth ages 8-11 to Butler County.
Supporting the Joe Nuxhall Scholarship Fund, which awards scholarships to seniors at all 13 high schools in Butler County.
Establishing a Joe Nuxhall Character Education Fund office to plan seminars and expand the program nationwide. Since 2003, the Character Education Fund’s “world headquarters” has been Kim’s cramped school office off the gymnasium stage.
Monday, Apr. 16, 2007
Miguel Pena peered at his daughter, Miranda, through the protective shell of her isolette.
With the unmistakable amazement of a new parent, Pena watched as she slept peacefully, taking in every inch of her fragile form, including her 10 tiny fingers and 10 tiny toes.
Pena then moved a few feet away to a neighboring isolette — another small being, another 10 fingers, another 10 toes.
He would repeat the process three more times Tuesday afternoon. In all, 50 fingers, 50 toes and five — yes, five — newborn babies.
Pena’s girlfriend, Rosa Gonzalez, gave birth to the Lancaster couple’s quintuplets Sunday afternoon at Lancaster General Women & Babies Hospital.
The set includes Miguel Angel, 2.2 pounds; Angel Miguel, 2.4 pounds; Miranda Angelina, 1.9 pounds; Ashanti Angeliz, 1.9 pounds; and Edward Miguel, 2.5 pounds.
Born 12 weeks premature, all are in stable condition in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit, where they are expected to remain for two months.
Dr. Philip Bayliss, a perinatologist specializing in high-risk pregnancies, said Tuesday the next week will give doctors a better sense of how the babies are doing overall.
He believes the five little Penas, conceived naturally, are the first set of “quints” born in Lancaster County.
To Pena, they’re simply his children.
“It’s wonderful,” he said Tuesday afternoon as Gonzalez rested. “This is the best thing that’s ever happened.”
He said Gonzalez is “happy, too, but exhausted.”
But the new father admitted his initial reaction after learning months ago that Gonzales was carrying five little ones was a bit different.
“I was shocked; we both were,” Pena said. “It was scary at first, and sometimes it still is. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Pena also has a 2-year-old son, Miguel.
When asked if the couple planned to have more children, Pena replied, “No, we’re definitely done.”
Though his children are extremely fragile and require round-the-clock care, he said he’s confident they will continue to thrive and looks forward to the day he can take them home.
“We both have a lot of family here, and I’m sure they’ll be over all the time,” Pena said. “I know they’ll help out.”
Gonzalez had been on bed rest at Women & Babies for two months when she went into labor Sunday, just shy of 28 weeks into her pregnancy. Full-term pregnancies have a gestation of 40 weeks.
Bayliss said it is very common for multiple births to be delivered prematurely and that 28 weeks is considered to be the anticipated length of a multiple pregnancy.
After a failed effort to arrest Gonzalez’s labor Sunday, Bayliss said delivering the babies was the safest thing to do.
He performed a Caesarean section and had all five babies out of the womb in 15 minutes.
Several doctors, nurses and technicians were on hand, with each baby assigned its own team of caretakers.
“It was a vast effort involving so many people and so many different departments in the hospital,” Bayliss said, adding that the staff has been running drills in anticipation of the big day for the past two months.
“You have to plan for anything and everything,” Bayliss said. “In the end, it went better than we had hoped. It couldn’t have been planned any better.”
And you have to wonder if Pena was thinking the same as he quietly watched his children sleep.
“I’m just amazed they’re mine,” he said, gazing at tiny Edward Miguel. “I look at them, and all I can think is, ‘It’s a miracle.’ “
Tuesday, Apr. 10, 2007
A teen cancer survivor from Butner is on the trip of a lifetime. She’s representing North Carolina in a program called Champions Across America – part of the Children’s Miracle Network.
It looks like the Micole Holley, 14, and her South Granville High School classmates are celebrating Micole Holley Day in Creedmoor. “It’s not every day that you get your own day!” Micole’s mother, Mildred said.
Starting with a proclamation from the mayor, Micole visited her school and then flew to Washington, D.C. with her family to meet members of Congress. “Why me?” Micole asked. “What makes me different from all the other kids? And I just really, really, really appreciate this. There’s no words you can say! I just appreciate it.”
Ultimately they’ll all go to Florida with 49 other children who’ve been cancer. Creedmoor Mayor, Darryl Moss explains, “This week we’ve had several large announcements. Senator Edwards’ wife, Tony Snow up in DC, and now we have our own local person who has come through this battle.”
Before their flight they stopped for a reception at Duke’s Children Hospital where she’s had years of cancer treatments.
The very shy teenager is not making a big deal of her good fortune, but she’s got some big plans for her life after high school She could face cameras again! “I’m gonna go to NCCU, and I’m gonna get my judicial degree. I’m gonna become a lawyer. That’s the plan!” Micole said.
This week after her visit to D.C she’s going to Disney World.
Thursday, Apr. 5, 2007
Daniel Cobb, 20, of Allendale had hoped to get a better look at the sunset early Thursday night by venturing out on the ice on Lake Michigan with two others at Grand Haven City Beach; instead, he found out the hard way that ice in mid-March is unstable.
Cobb fell 15 feet into Lake Michigan when the ice gave way and had to be rescued from an ice floe by Grand Haven Department of Public Safety officers. Although Cobb was not injured, officials said he is fortunate the incident happened while there still was light and one of his companions had a cell phone to call for help.
“The water temperature is just above freezing,” said public safety Lt. Mark Reiss. “By the time we got there, he was beginning to lose it on that ice floe. He was having a difficult time hanging on. With water temperatures like that, you have only three or four minutes to survive in the water.”
The incident occurred at 6:36 p.m. as Cobb and two women walked out on ice about quarter of a mile from off the city beach to view the sunset. As Cobb was standing on the edge of a 15-foot drop to the water, the ice let go. Once in the water, Cobb was unable to climb out and instead swam to a nearby ice floe, on which he pulled himself up.
One of the women called Central Dispatch and the public safety department responded with Mustang cold water outfits, floatation devices and ropes. Reiss said an officer wearing the cold water outfit was able to swim to the ice floe and provide Cobb with a roped floatation device. Cobb donned the floatation device, re-entered the water and was pulled to safety by other officers. He was not injured but was examined for hypothermia.
Reiss said the incident graphically shows the dangers of venturing out on the ice.
“I fell through several times myself getting out there,” he said. “It is very unstable and unpredictable.”
Reiss said the victim also was fortunate the public safety department has the proper equipment for ice rescues. He noted the department purchased in 2004 $40,000 worth of cold water rescue equipment through private donations.
He said the equipment has proven its worth on four separate occasions.
“This is as good a time as any to express gratitude to the community for the equipment,” he said. “It makes all the difference.”
Wednesday, Apr. 4, 2007
JESUS turned water into wine. These days, however, some people are more impressed by those who can turn wine into water.
Many grape growers – hit by the triple whammy of the recent wine glut, followed by frost and drought last year – are struggling to make a profit.
But Darren Mazza, a grower near Mildura, has found the solution. He has abandoned his 16 hectares of vines and, instead, sold his water allocation – a resource worth more than the grapes it would have produced.
For the first time in years the 37-year-old has no bank debt.
Mr Mazza declined to say exactly how much he sold his water for. “Let’s just say I got over $2000 per megalitre,” he said, adding that his allocation was “over 100 megalitres a year”.
Mike O’Malley, the Mudgee Wine Grape Growers Association chief executive, said many growers in his region had survived only by relying on alternative incomes. “Others have gone out and hunted markets.”
Lance Smith, who owns Farmer’s Daughter Wines at Mudgee, is one such grower. His just-harvested crop is down 70 per cent. He has a third of his vineyard up for sale, but has no plans to get out. Instead, he is selling 12 hectares to reduce his workload as he focuses on exporting wine to Vietnam.
Mr Smith buffers himself from the fickle economics of grape growing with income from a cellar door on his property, and three bed-and-breakfast cottages. “If you were just selling grapes you could not survive.”
In good times, he sold grapes for $1800 a tonne. That slumped to $400 during the recent wine glut. He estimates this year’s price – about $700 a tonne – would not even cover costs.
So this year he will keep his grapes and turn them into his own brand, which he will market. “The future looks good.”
Mike Stone, chief executive of the Murray Valley Wine Grape Growers Association, said the nation’s wine grape crop could be as little as 1.2 million tonnes this year. “You are talking about a 700,000-tonne reduction,” he said, tipping it would cut heavily into the billion-litre surplus.
But the president of the Hunter Valley Vineyard Association, Patrick Auld, said prices remained low because in the wake of the glut “a lot of wineries have not had to crush as many grapes”.
Mr Stone predicted more growers would, like Mr Mazza, discover their water was more profitable than their grapes.
Danny Lee, chairman of the Sunraysia Irrigator’s Council, agreed. Letting vines wither and selling water would give growers an income without any work.
Mr Mazza, who now operates a fleet of trucks and harvesters, is finished with grapes. “Absolutely,” he said. “The [Murray] river is drying up. I don’t have to rely on the weather any more.”
Wednesday, Mar. 14, 2007
In December, Angel Troyer was told her daughter would never walk again and never breathe on her own.
Now, 2-1/2 months later, her daughter Samantha is home, breathing on her own and, with some effort, able to stand.
“Sam is doing better … eventually she’ll walk,” said Angel.
Samantha’s life changed dramatically when her car was broadsided at Golf Road and Highway 83 on Dec. 18.
Samantha, who will turn 20 Sunday, came back home Feb. 27. Angel is attempting to get her daughter out of the house, including convincing her to attend a fundraiser on her behalf set for March 15 in Hartland.
When Samantha returned home last week, it wasn’t to the same home she had left. Angel had to move from her two-story townhouse in Hartland to a one-story house in Delafield to accommodate her daughter’s needs.
Before the accident, Samantha, an Arrowhead High School graduate, was attending the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee as a journalism student. She was also an artist.
Now, Samantha is confined to a 300-pound wheelchair, undergoes regular physical therapy and needs assistance continually.
Angel, who teaches art classes at Bryan Becker Clay Werks, is a single mother with three other daughters and has hired someone to come to help with Samantha three nights a week.
“Little by little, it gets a wee bit easier,” Angel said. “She’s fighting.”
“Samantha is trying to do some things. She can peck at the computer,” Angel said. And she is able to feed herself, she added.
While Samantha has feeling on the right side of her body, she only has limited feeling on the left side, including in her leg, shoulder and fingers.
While struggling with the long road of therapy, Samantha has a hard time shaking that fateful day.
“She’s down a lot,” Angel said. “This woman has made no attempt to apologize, not a word. That really bothers her. She tends to get focused on that.”
“This woman” is Anna Lewandowska of the City of Pewaukee.
Lewandowska could not be reached for comment.
Samantha was driving west on Golf Road at about 8:30 a.m. when a northbound car on Highway 83, driven by Lewandowska, hit Troyer’s car. Lewandowska drove through a red light, according to the Delafield police report.
Samantha’s car spun around from the impact; she was ejected because she was not wearing a seatbelt, police said.
To help Samantha with her recovery, Angel bought her a kitten, which Samantha named Sophie.
“I saw on television where animals are good therapy,” Angel said.
Though not a cat lover, Angel set aside her feelings because a dog would be too much to handle at this point.
Ironically, Angel said, Sophie has a spinal injury that makes her bag legs weak. The kitten is unable to jump on counters and tables – a good thing says Angel – but she is able to jump on couches and Samantha’s lap, which is also a good thing.
The playful kitten is just the tonic, as it makes her daughter laugh, Angel said.
There is also support for Samantha within the community.
Merilee Shepherd, a student of Angel’s, is organizing a fund-raiser called Support for Samantha. The event will be from 7 to 10 p.m. March 15 at Bin One Eleven, 111 E. Capitol Drive, Hartland.
The event will include wine tasting, raffle prizes and a silent auction of artwork by local artists, including Chuck Weber, Chuck Hajinian, Bryan Becker, Angel Troyer and many others.
Shepherd said she saw Samantha at Froedtert Memorial Hospital and said to herself, “I got to do something.”
Though she has never organized a fundraiser before, she said she wanted to help erase the mounting financial burden on the Troyer family.
“If I raise enough to help pay the grocery bills for the next six months, I will have done my job,” she said.