Monday, December 22, 2008

Story added to my list

I have been doing more editing than writing these days, but the writing will pick up now that I have graduated and I am in the office full-time.

I had one story printed in the Deseret News this week, and will have a couple in the Box Elder News Journal.

I have to figure out how to post my News Journal things here.

Monday, December 8, 2008

New post, old story

We were sitting around the office today talking about the people who donate their bodies for science. It reminded me of a story I wrote at the Deseret News and failed to include on my list, so I have added it today.

This was one of those stories when you can't possibly imagine why this would be a news story, but you come away from it in awe and wonder.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Updated Resume

I have updated my resume today. You can see it HERE

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Resources for treatment of Combat PTSD in Utah

From my Sunday Extra story published in the Deseret News on October 19, 2008

Resources for vets

SUICIDE PREVENTION HOTLINE: 1-800-273-TALK (8255), A 24/7 hotline for veterans in crisis

MILITARY ONE SOURCE: 1-800-342-9647

Veterans may call up to 8 times per issue before a referral is required


A referral service to help veterans find the agency that best fits needs George E. Wahlen Department of Veteran Affairs Medical Center 500 Foothill Dr., SLC, 801-582-1565

PTSD Clinical Team

Steven N. Allen, PhD


VA Salt Lake City Health Care System

(801) 582-1565, ext. 2390

Kitty Roberts, PhD

Veteran & Family Support Groups

VA Salt Lake City Health Care System

(801) 582-1565, ext. 2389

OEF/OIF Support Office 1-800-613-4012

Andrew Kalinen, Transition Patient Advocate, and Outreach, ext. 4264 for help in transition from military to VA

Andrew Wittwer, Combat Case Manager, ext. 2150

Maria Fruin, Program Manager, ext. 5246

Danica Richans, Polytrauma Case Manager, ext. 2038

Bart Davis

Utah National Guard Transition Assistance Officer


**will take calls from any vet requiring assitance, regardless of branch of service

Candi Ackerman, Colleen M. Netzer

Hill Air Force Base, Case Managers & Special Needs Coordinators


**will provide assistance to anyone with a current military ID card

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Horrors of active service plague many vets long after the return home

By Amy Macavinta

Deseret News
Published: October 19, 2008

Ronda huddled in her room crying, and afraid.

Before her husband locked her in, he gave her detailed instructions on how to escape should the intruder find her. Then, with his gun in hand, he methodically cleared each room in their Utah home, only to return and report that nobody had broken in and they were safe.

What he didn't know, however, that she wasn't afraid of the intruder.

She was afraid of him.

The couple married just one week before he was mobilized as an individual reservist with an extensive Special Forces background. He was deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan, and life since his return has been difficult.

Once lighthearted, her husband, B.W. (his full name is not being used at the request of the family), was angry, impatient and often had nightmares. He regularly cleared the house, searching for intruders, covered the windows of their condo with tinfoil on a Hawaiian vacation and decided to sell their house, on impulse, during a trip to Home Depot because he couldn't handle the lights and noise of the city.

"I didn't know if he had an on-off switch, and I couldn't tell if he was awake," Ronda said. She worried about the outcome if someone did break into their home at night, especially if that "intruder" was just one of his adult sons who needed something.

Additionally, her husband is always busy. "He can't sit still; he can't rest," she said. "He tells me that 'if I am idle I can't stand myself."'

This went on for a year and a half. Ronda started doing some research, and believing he was experiencing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, she asked him to get help.

"It was hard to tell him, but I had to try to bring him back to where I was, as a civilian," Ronda said.

Marnee Price had a similar story after her husband, Warren, returned from a 14-month tour of duty in Iraq. Within three or four months, she noticed he was often angry, or tired, and lost all desire to do anything. The couple fought constantly, although she chose to blame the stress at his work.

"For a while, it would just hurt," Marnee said. "We avoided each other because you never knew what was going to come out of his mouth."

Marnee, who has four children and does day care in her home, learned that she had to keep the children as quiet as possible to prevent triggering a burst of anger. He also started to push their friends away with his anger.

"You learn really fast who your friends are when trials come," she said.

For Jaime Taylor in Riverdale, PTSD has completely turned her life upside down. Her husband, Jake, was part of an Army Reserve unit in Logan but deployed for 17 months with an Army unit based in Los Angeles. Some of his symptoms were the same — extreme anger, depression, nightmares — and he doesn't like to be at home, surrounded by the chaos of a houseful of children.

In addition to that, as a gunner, Taylor was in vehicles targeted by improvised explosive devices seven different times and now has seizures and memory problems. Jaime said her husband rarely allows himself to sleep until daylight comes, and even then he doesn't sleep well.

Jake has a traumatic brain injury and continues to have seizures related to repeated subjection to blasts. He can no longer do his job in the Reserves, so he will be medically discharged from service.

"He would go back (to Iraq) in a second, so he is very upset about being discharged," said Jaime. "He's never unpacked his bags. They're still in a corner, ready to go."

Warren, Jake and B.W. are among the thousands of veterans coming home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan only to fight the battle of PTSD. None of these wives was prepared to deal with changes that PTSD has brought to their families.

Marnee said she did attend a National Guard briefing that she said lasted no more than 10 minutes. In that meeting, the wives were told it could take half the length of the deployment to return to normal.

"I felt like I was counting down to seven months," Marnee said, "but it all opened up at six months, and so we never got back to normal."

For Ronda, there was no such briefing. For a year and a half after her husband returned home, there were times when she wasn't sure their marriage was going to make it. He rarely talks about Iraq with her, and one time went so far as to tell her he didn't want to "walk through her mind with his dirty feet."

"I felt like he was shutting me out, and it was really lonely," she said.

His side

Warren Price knew deployment had changed him.

"I see things now in black and white, life or death," he said. "The whole world changed for me."

Price described himself as a man who was outgoing and liked to be the center of attention. He loved Scouting and camping, and he had an active social life with his wife and their friends.

He served in the Utah National Guard's 116th Engineer Co. as a medic, from December 2003 through February 2005. When he came home, he was thrilled to be back with his family and he was eager to take his wife and children to Disneyland.

But within a matter of months, Price found that life wasn't as wonderful as he thought it was.

"I didn't notice I was anxious all the time," he said. "I was alienating my friends."

One of his first wake-up calls came from his three sons and his daughter, who "were cowering around me. They wanted to be around me, but they were afraid of me."

In the three years since he came home from Iraq, he has been plagued by anger, anxiety, depression and nightmares. When he is awake, he carries an enormous guilt for lives he couldn't save. He continually wonders if things would have turned out differently during a particular gunfight where he froze, unable to fire because he thought there might be women in the back of the car coming toward him.

"My opinion of PTSD is 180 degrees different after deployment than it was before," Price said. "I had heard of it — and I thought it was bogus. I thought they (returning servicemen) should just suck it up and get along in society. And then lo and behold, I get home and I can't."

B.W. can't travel with his family because of his paranoia — on planes he insists on making sure that the person next to the emergency exit can operate it — and is plagued by nightmares that force him to relive his combat experiences.

Security at airports, on the other hand, simply disappoints him. He calls security personel "unfriendly" and said they treat passengers "the same way I treated our POWs."

Then there was the night he locked his wife in a room and cleared the house with a pistol, only to return and find her crying.

"I didn't know for six months it was me she was scared of," he said. "I had no clue that I was the source of her tears and that she was afraid of me."

At night, he may get four hours of sleep, with the aid of medication. Night operations require a soldier to be especially keen and alert, he explained, so "it is danger time."

During the day, he tries to keep his brain occupied all the time. "Sitting still is difficult; I am always moving, always thinking, because when I stop, I start .. " He drifted off, unable to complete his thought.

Having PTSD isn't just about the memories. Over time, the body learns to react to perceived danger automatically, without conscious thought. B.W. said the first time it happened to him after deployment, he heard a noise in the room he was working in at the time — a noise that repeated itself in the same cycle as a .50 caliber machine gun. His pulse increased, and he started breathing rapidly. He said he thought he was having a heart attack.

According to the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, behaviors associated with the trauma generally appear as depression, anger, lack of concentration, anxiety, panic and sleep disorders. Memory problems and a lack of concentration are also common. To deal with the problems, it is common for veterans to turn to alcohol or drugs.

"The brain spends so much time and energy scanning for threats that the everyday things become very mundane," explained Dr. Kitty Roberts, from the VA's PTSD Clinical Team.


In the last three years, Warren said he has been suicidal at times and has been in an inpatient psychiatric ward twice. He has been in both individual therapy and group counseling but admitted to just going through the motions. He used and abused prescription medications provided by the VA. He either slept a lot or was zoned out, forgetting conversations and family activities.

"I told myself 'I can function,' but I was lying to myself," he said. "I didn't like the guy who came home, and I didn't like the person I had become."

In January, Warren said his psychiatrist recommended inpatient treatment at the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Palo Alto, Calif. The only catch was he had to be clean. So, he quit all of his medications cold turkey.

"I wanted to keep my family, and it was going to take something drastic," he said. "And this was the 'drastic."'

Warren said his treatment consisted of learning the skills to cope with his anger and depression, followed by a lot of role-play homework.

"I don't know if I have fully mourned the loss of 'me.' I don't like who I am now. I am still coming to terms with the idea that the old guy is dead."

But the effort just might be paying off. He spent the Fourth of July weekend with his family and said that for the first time, he didn't yell as much as he had before. His kids were the same, he said, but he was able to communicate with them better.

While Warren feels optimistic about the skills he learned, he said it has been an adjustment since he returned from treatment. But they are getting along as a family and he is doing everything possible to remove the stress from his life.

He is also reaching out to other vets, using his experiences to help others. He is hosting a Vets4Vets retreat in Midway. He is also working with the VA on vocational rehab that will allow him to go to college and get a degree in recreational therapy, which will allow him to help other returning veterans.

During 2002 and 2003, B.W. served numerous tours in Iraq and Afghanistan with Special Forces Command. On his return, he said, he didn't feel changed, he felt normal. But eventually he realized there had to be something to the things his wife was telling him. He is currently in individual counseling through the PTSD clinic at the George E. Wahlen Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Salt Lake City, but he readily admits that he is still "trying to figure this stuff out."

These men did their service in the Guard or the Reserves. Once they made the decision to seek help, it was there for them. But getting help doesn't always come easily.

Taylor served in the Army Reserves, where most soldiers are attached to an active duty unit for deployment. They remain part of that unit for the period of deployment plus 180 days, and then they are returned to Reserve status.

Claude McKinney, public affairs specialist for the 96th Regional Readiness Command, said that because Army reservists are citizen soldiers, they are only eligible for medical benefits during that time period. At the end of the 180-day period, all medical care then becomes the responsibility of the Veterans Administration.

Because Jake also has shrapnel wounds, he has been working with the VA administration for his medical care since he got home. There are at least two staff members who were provided detailed descriptions of the symptoms her husband encounters on a daily basis, Jaime said. It took the help of state senators to get help with Jake's claims, and not a word was ever said about PTSD.

"No one contacted us; no one told us there was a PTSD clinic," she said. "No one told us he needed to be evaluated for PTSD."

Jaime was later told that the information was not offered because she hadn't asked. But then, she had no idea just what all the right questions were, either.

Dr. Steve Allen, director of the PTSD clinical team, said that soldiers such as Jake Taylor who deploy on an individual basis are harder to reach out to because "they are coming and going without our awareness." And, he said, this is a problem nationwide. There are proposals in place to register all service members with the VA at discharge, rather than the VA trying to identify those soldiers and provide outreach services after the fact. This is a procedure that is currently working very well within the Utah National Guard.

Help available

The veterans who shared their stories here are only three of 300,000 nationwide who have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001.

In April, researchers reported that nearly 20 percent of those service members are experiencing either major depression or post-traumatic stress disorder, yet only half of them are seeking help.

There are any number of reasons why veterans are reluctant to seek treatment for PTSD. For some, they do not want to be viewed as "weak" or they don't want to jeopardize their careers.

B.W. said that even though he works in an environment that one assumes would be helpful, he rarely shares his daily struggles because there is a stereotype associated with veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

"I am intelligent and articulate ... I don't want to be judged by PTSD," he said.

And even though he felt he had embraced a new point of "normal" in his life, he agreed to enter counseling when his wife expressed her concern about him.

"People are afraid of asking for help, but the tragedy is, the more they delay asking for help, the more ingrained those behaviors become," said Allen.

In Utah, there are a number of resources available to help teach veterans how to cope with the myriad afflictions they will experience after combat. And, Allen said, evidence shows that cognitive processing therapy provides a significant reduction in symptoms.

"It can't undo what's happened to a person, but it can help a person function more effectively," Allen said.

At the VA PTSD Clinic, there are both individual and group counseling programs offered to veterans who have been diagnosed with PTSD. But, Allen said, the idea that the veteran is the only one who needs help is "old school." The Veterans Administration as a whole is becoming ever more aware that the spouses and children also need help and the clinic is adding programs to meet those needs.

Twice a month, veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan meet for couples therapy, something that has been helpful for the wives. Warren and Marnee started going six months ago.

"He opened up more in a group setting and then we could have a conversation — sometimes — about what he is feeling," Marnee said.

Not only has this group session helped them talk more, but it has been a tremendous help to Marnee, just to know she is not the only one going through these changes in her marriage.

In addition to couples therapy, Marnee also attends monthly meeting just for the spouses — mostly women, but husbands whose wives served in combat can go — where she learned, most importantly, not to take his behavior personally.

Ronda attends the meetings with her husband as well. She said it isn't easy to spill her guts to strangers, and sometimes the sessions are "brutal." But, she said, without that group, she doubts her marriage would have survived.

Roberts, who is in charge of family programs within the VA's PTSD clinic, said that just because the programs are offered does not means the veterans will come. They also often fail to see the extent of their own problem, and it is not unusual for older veterans to offer to end their counseling so others can get treatment, even when there is room for everyone to be treated.

Sometimes, it is a matter of education, not knowing what is available and where.

Bart Davis works as the transition assistance advisor for the Utah National Guard. His job is to help returning soldiers and their families after deployment. He can answer questions about benefits, education and employment. And he can help identify and access the numerous programs available to service members and their families.

Davis said he makes sure that returning Guardsmen complete their evaluations on their return and sees to it that they are registered in the VA. This is all done within days of getting off the plane. The entire process takes up to 10 days, but if something catches his eye about a soldier's behavior or specific responses on the evaluation, Davis will make arrangements for that individual to be seen at the VA in as few as two or three days, and he has had two soldiers sent to the VA on the same day.

"The ones who say they are 'fine' keep me busy," Davis said.

Davis can spot the ones who need help pretty easily, because he is one of them himself. He is a Vietnam vet who is so soft-spoken that one would never guess he sometimes has difficulties of his own.

His own combat experience gives him the ability to talk to other veterans, brother-to-brother. He knows firsthand what deployment does to a marriage, and how difficult it is to reconnect with children after a long absence.

"There aren't many emotions and transition challenges that you may be facing that I can't identify with and understand," Davis said.

While he is employed by the Utah National Guard, he is committed to offering a hand to any veteran who needs it, no matter in which branch they served.

"My office is open to everybody," said Davis.

That same open-door policy applies at Hill Air Force Base. Candi Ackerman and Colleen M. Netzer are both registered nurses who help coordinate the needs of the veteran and his or her family. Ackerman said they will help anyone who has a military ID card.

Ackerman and Netzer cannot make referrals for counseling, but like Davis, they can help locate the most suitable resources for a service member's needs.

Ronda described life after war, with PTSD, as "a whole new way of life." But it doesn't have to be the end of life.

Patience Mason is an author who is well-known for her works about PTSD. All of her writings stem from experience, since she has been married to a Vietnam veteran for 45 years.

"We lived with PTSD for 14 years during which I felt there was something wrong with me because I couldn't make him happy," she said. "He thought he was crazy. We did not associate any of it with Vietnam."

In her publications, Mason puts a lot of emphasis on how PTSD affects the family. She frequently shares her experiences from her own home. The one thing that was most helpful was realizing she didn't cause her husband's pain, she couldn't cure him, and she couldn't change him.

"To recover, family members need to take the focus off the survivor. By focusing on ourselves we take the burden of 'making us happy' off the survivor," she said. "We also put the focus on what we actually do have the power to do, changing our own actions and reactions. We cannot change others, but we can waste our whole life trying."

Resources for vets

SUICIDE PREVENTION HOTLINE: 1-800-273-TALK (8255), A 24/7 hotline for veterans in crisis

MILITARY ONE SOURCE: 1-800-342-9647

Veterans may call up to 8 times per issue before a referral is required


A referral service to help veterans find the agency that best fits needs George E. Wahlen Department of Veteran Affairs Medical Center 500 Foothill Dr., SLC, 801-582-1565

PTSD Clinical Team

Steven N. Allen, PhD


VA Salt Lake City Health Care System

(801) 582-1565, ext. 2390

Kitty Roberts, PhD

Veteran & Family Support Groups

VA Salt Lake City Health Care System

(801) 582-1565, ext. 2389

OEF/OIF Support Office 1-800-613-4012

Andrew Kalinen, Transition Patient Advocate, and Outreach, ext. 4264 for help in transition from military to VA

Andrew Wittwer, Combat Case Manager, ext. 2150

Maria Fruin, Program Manager, ext. 5246

Danica Richans, Polytrauma Case Manager, ext. 2038

Bart Davis

Utah National Guard Transition Assistance Officer


**will take calls from any vet requiring assitance, regardless of branch of service

Candi Ackerman, Colleen M. Netzer

Hill Air Force Base, Case Managers & Special Needs Coordinators


**will provide assistance to anyone with a current military ID card


Friday, October 3, 2008

Tribe agrees to supply city with power

Millie Garrett dances Thursday during the groundbreaking ceremony in Honeyville, Box Elder County, for geothermal power plant. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

By Amy Macavinta

Deseret News
Published: October 3, 2008

The Northwestern Band of Shoshone has contracted with Riverside, Calif., to supply the city with electricity to be drawn from the ground their forefathers once wintered on.

Tribal council members blessed the ground Wednesday on the site of Shoshone Renaissance, the first geothermal power plant to be built just north of Brigham City, in an area known as Call's Fort.

Bruce Parry, tribal council leader, said the Shoshone used to winter in this area because the heat emanating from the earth made the climate more tolerable and there was more feed for the horses. "It's about time we got back to utilizing these areas," Parry said.

Steam from the earth's interior can be used to generate electricity.

The Northwestern Band of Shoshone Nation Economic Development Corp. has entered into a 30-year contract with Riverside to provide 64 megawatts of electricity, about 20 percent of Riverside's renewable energy. Cities in California are now required by law to have 33 percent renewable energy.

Parry said the tribe has not even begun to allocate future revenues from this contract, but education and health of the tribe are at the top of the list. Those things will be worked out with in the tribe in the next two years, he said.

Steven Morello, deputy assistant secretary for Intergovermental Affairs, United States Department of Energy, said the federal government is thrilled to be involved in a project of this nature, and not just because of the energy creation. It also incorporates the Native American's spiritual relationship with the earth, because it will help clean it up, and it will also help make the reservations self-sufficient.

"Sovereignty means self-determination, it means we have the right to determine our own future and to set the agenda," said Morello. "Unfortunately, if you don't have the resources to implement decisions you make as a sovereign people, you cannot be truly sovereign people. As long as we're shaking the tin cup at Washington and asking for nickels, we cannot make progress."

Drilling for the plant will begin this month, and it is scheduled for completion in 2010. Shoshone Renaissance is one of five plants to be built by the tribe. The four remaining plants will be in southern Idaho, with construction to begin on the next plant in Preston early next year.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Love for Belgians

The Herald Journal, September 21, 2008
Logan, Utah

Story by Amy Macavinta
Photos by Meegan M. Reid

Fred Utton’s father started out using draft horses to work his fields, but after he got a tractor, it made it hard for a 10-year-old boy to convince his dad to buy him a horse.

So Utton, who was raised on a dairy farm in New Mexico, trained a Holstein steer to lead, and then broke him to ride. After that, who could argue?

In the pasture behind his home in Young Ward, there are a few paint horses, and Utton has raised quarter horses as well. But it is the Belgian draft horses that he really likes. He has two at home, and also has some brood mares, a stallion and a couple colts pastured in Wellsville, just off the highway.

“People have known those horses before they even know me,” Utton said. “But that’s OK. Those horses are a lot more important than us people.”

Utton, a native of New Mexico, is spending his retirement raising Belgians and training them for the harness. He retired and moved to Cache Valley three years ago with his wife, Ann, and his horses. He has 17 now, although one has been sold to an outfit in Wyoming where she will haul hay for the elk in the winter and pull wagon trains in the summer.

Maize is a 9-year-old mare who doesn’t know yet that Utton is preparing her for a new home. He purchased her for a brood mare, but she has never conceived. Despite her age, she has never been trained to do more than lead. This fall Utton is training her for use on the harness so she can be used as a work horse.

Belgians are a sturdy draft horse, Utton said, so they are well suited for heavier use, such as pulling wagon trains, hay wagons or farm implements.

Utton placed the harness on her early this week. (She has only had it on eight or nine times.)
“Belgians are a lot gentler than quarterhorses,” Utton said.

Maize stood relatively still as Utton placed the harness on her and fastened all the buckles, then hooked her up to a small, two-wheeled cart. Her ears were only slightly pinned back, a sign that she is wary, but not frightened.

The llamas in the field next to Utton’s home make her a little cautious too, as do hay balers and spots in the road where one patch of asphalt is darker than the rest.

While he is disappointed to see her go — she was a good match with her sister — Utton said he plans to have her ready for a horse sale in November.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Casual Worship

Photo by Eli Lucero, Herald Journal

By Amy Macavinta

The Herald Journal
Logan, Utah

The morning sunlight streamed through the stained glass windows on a Sunday morning as the Rev. David Hiester welcomed his congregation for worship. The small group of worshipers were scattered throughout the sanctuary, seated on the old wooden pews.

While they appeared neat and clean, none were in their “Sunday best.” Some were in pressed dress pants and a polo shirt, while others wore denim shorts and flip-flops. One sipped from a Styrofoam cup of coffee throughout the service.

When they sang their hymns, there was no solemn echo of the organ throughout the World War II era church building. Instead, the sanctuary was filled with the joyous sound of the members of the Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Brigham City — who were being careful not to sing too loudly — accompanied by musicians on a keyboard, a guitar and drums.

Then, when it came time to offer his sermon for the week, “Pastor Dave” took his seat at a small bar-height table where one would normally expect to find some sort of podium. His excitement about his church and his religion are apparent in his rapid-fire way of speaking.

Even his sermon deviates from the traditional, by not completely following the guides set in place by the United Methodist Church. But for Hiester, his church is all about accessibility.

“God just wants us to bring our hearts,” he said. “He has made it possible to be in His presence, but it’s not conditional, it’s not when or if — and if dressing up is a barrier to somebody, it’s a stupid barrier, especially for a (guy) who doesn’t throw out barriers at all.”

Hiester understands all too well the barriers that keep people from attending church. He admits that as a young man he was not the kind of guy a girl could bring home to her parents. But it wasn’t until his marriage “was in the pits” that he reached out for a new way of life.

A friend invited him to attend church, and the reverend there managed to spark Hiester’s interest when he mentioned his love for bikes. This was the key that got him talking, piqued his curiosity, until finally, he had a life-changing moment when he knew he had to give his life to God.

His experience has shaped the way he does things at Aldersgate. But his main purpose is to teach about God.

“The point is not to be a casual church but to be effective in delivering the message,” he said. “But if being a casual church does that, then we’re OK with that — in fact, we encourage it.”

Brigham City resident Susan Ream has been attending Aldersgate for seven years.

“I found it very compelling,” she said. “I enjoyed the music, it is more contemporary. But I really just enjoyed the people there.”

Ream grew up attending a Baptist church in the South, which she said has a similar worship style. The casual setting is definitely more comfortable, she said.

Hiester gets so excited about the message he delivers, he can easily span the width of the stage, pacing back and forth with his delivery. But he recently injured his ankle and was required to offer several of his weekly sermons from a chair.

When his ankle healed, and he resumed his upright position, several members of the congregation revealed that they felt more comfortable with him seated.

“They told me it felt more like me talking with them instead of preaching at them,” he said.

He found there was little understanding of the rituals performed during worship so he stepped away from the more formal, methodical approach of leading the congregation and mixed things up a little bit.

Hiester also posts his sermons online — yet another way of making God’s message more readily available.

“Our mission is to lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ — that’s what lights our fire,” he said.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Orem boy's boss plans to give him a kidney

Sandwich shop owner Marcus Gilbert, left, is helping Juan Delgado get a kidney transplant.
Photo by Stuart Johnson, Deseret News

Deseret News
Published: August 30, 2008

Marcus Gilbert of Roy makes a habit of treating his employees very well. Employment gives them a way of life. But to a 16-year-old Orem boy, Gilbert is giving life itself.
Gilbert owns two sandwich shops, part of the Charley's Grilled Subs franchise. He has owned and operated the Layton Hills Mall location for six years and just acquired the one in Orem early this year.

He was actually asked to purchase the Orem shop last summer. He and his wife, Monica, declined. But when they were asked again in the fall, "something changed," Gilbert said. The purchase became final in February, and in March, he met Juan Delgado.
Juan's sister Esmerelda Delgado, 15, worked for Gilbert at the time.

"She told me her brother needed a job, but he had some health problems that made it hard for him to work," Gilbert said. Juan was given a job, and eventually his mother, Maria, was hired to work part time as well.

Juan Delgado was diagnosed with end-stage renal disease three years ago, resulting in complete and irreversible kidney failure. Gilbert said the boy is going through dialysis three times a week, for three to four hours per day.

Earlier this year, when Gilbert found out that Delgado needed a kidney, he helped start a fundraising effort to raise money. But then, when he learned the teen still needed to find a suitable donor, Gilbert and his wife were both tested.

Gilbert, who has four young children of his own, was a perfect match.

The cost of the kidney has been covered by another organization. However, the boy's family must also have about $100,000 to cover post-operative expenses.

A fund has been established with the Northwest Kidney Transplant Fund, a nonprofit organization that raises money exclusively for noninsured expenses. Donations can be made in Juan Delgado's name by calling 800-642-8399, by visiting, or by sending donations directly to National Transplant Assistance Fund, 150 N. Radnor Chester Road, Suite F-120, Radnor, PA 19087.

In addition, Gilbert is working with another donor on a raffle to be held at Charley's that will help raise funds for the transplant. He is hoping both store locations will be able to participate, but those details have not yet been completed.

According to Gilbert, the transplant should occur sometime next month. Delgado lost weight during a recent illness, so his doctors are waiting for him to gain some weight and the strength to undergo surgery.

© 2008 Deseret News Publishing Company All rights reserved

Monday, August 11, 2008

3R's Project educates about faiths

By Amy Macavinta
Deseret News
Published: August 10, 2008

Fostering a safe environment for students to learn to respect different cultures and religions must start at the top, with the administration, a group of educators said during a conference last week.

Last year, Brighton High School teacher Jodi Ide taught a comparative world religion class, with the blessing of her current administration. But it was only two years ago that a different principal told her he wouldn't touch the class "with a 10-foot pole."

Ide was one of the participants in a three-day seminar at Westminster College, hosted by the Utah 3R's Project, which seeks to incorporate teachings about different religions and cultural diversity in public schools.

Ide's class was offered as an elective, approved by the State Office of Education, and had 60 students enrolled. The class included a guide to religion in public schools, provided by the First Amendment Center in Washington, D.C., that made it clear to students and parents — who were also offered the guide — what was permissible to teach.

"In order for it to really grab hold, it needs to be a school climate," she said. "I can have my own climate, and my kids can talk about the climate in my room, but that doesn't mean that five doors down in another teacher's classroom that they feel safe."

Despite its barriers, the 3R's Project has had an impact on schools, panel members said. Rosemary Baron was principal at Northwest Middle School, where students and their families spoke 27 different languages. One move she made in her school was to create a Religions of the World wall, representing the 12 most common religions, with a description of each.

"Teaching about religion in public schools is what we are about," Baron said. "Teaching religion is not what we're about."

While religion is a frequent topic, rights, responsibility and respect apply to all facets of life.

"I think that part of the 3R's helps us understand that our differences don't have to divide us, completely," Ide said. "Part of being American is being able to move beyond that divide and seek the common ground."

Utah and California offer the most extensive 3R's programs in the nation. School districts in Texas, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma and other states also have implemented the 3R's Project in their schools.

My Resume, Aug. 2008

Amy Macavinta
1580 North 6800 West, Corinne, UT 84307
Cell: 435-225-0049 e-mail:


City Desk Intern Deseret News, Salt Lake City, UT
May 19-Aug. 15, 2008

Cover various beats as assigned, including Police, Religion, Medical, and Military beats. Stories include briefs, news and cover stories.

Staff Writer Box Elder News Journal, Brigham City, UT
Full time: Sept 2002-July 2003

The Leader, Tremonton, UT
Full time: Feb 1999-May 2002

  • Local Government, Features, News, Cops & Courts
  • Attend public meetings – Box Elder County Commission, Box Elder School District, Tremonton City, Brigham City & more
  • Write accurate and timely news stories to keep the public informed about the things that occur in those meetings
  • Be conscious of events and people in the community for potential feature stories
  • Take the lead to come up with new ideas
  • Take digital or film photos and/or gather photos to accompany articles
  • Lay out newspaper pages using Adobe Pagemaker

Box Elder High School graduate, 1990 Brigham City, UT
Utah State University Logan/Brigham City, UT

Presently enrolled at Utah State University with a Print Journalism major
Will complete Bachelor of Science in December 2008
Fall: Enrolled in Beyond the Inverted Pyramid, Online Reporting, and Copy Editing & Design
Recipient of Jay W. Glasmann scholarship

References available upon request

Thursday, July 31, 2008

PHOTOS: Homecoming for 145th FA, Utah National Guard

Just a handful of the photos I took when part of the 145th came home from deployment in Iraq May 2008. They arrived on four different flights over a space of 3 days. See story at

West Valley police kill man who took clerk hostage

Ivana Kobasijevic and her mother reunite after a jewelry
store robbery. Ivana was hiding in a vehicle just feet
away from where police shot and killed the suspect.

photo by Ashley Lowrey, Deseret News

By Amy Macavinta and Aaron Falk

Deseret News
Published: July 2, 2008

WEST VALLEY CITY — Officers shot and killed an armed man who police say had taken a clerk hostage during a jewelry store heist Tuesday evening.

The man, described only as being younger than 30, robbed Pailin Jewelry, 3538 S. Redwood Road, said West Valley Police Capt. Tom McLachlan.

A robbery alarm was triggered inside the store at 5:43 p.m. and officers arrived as the man attempted to leave the store with a clerk. The woman managed to escape on her own before three police officers shot and killed the suspect.

"He made a threatening motion of some kind," McLachlan said. "That's how officers are trained; if they perceive a threat, they take the action necessary."

No one else was injured during the incident, but the shooting left some visibly shaken.

Ivana Kobasijevic, 20, had become bored as she waited for her mother to finish her haircut at Tony's Salon, just south of the jewelry store. Instead, Kobasijevic decided to wait in her car, parked in front of Pailin Jewelry.

Kobasijevic said she saw the suspect came out of the store with his right arm around the clerk. She said the window was rolled down and he looked right at her, then she saw him reach for his gun with his left hand.

"He came out with the hostage and there was a gun in his hand," she said. "I tried to hide in my car the best that I could."

She didn't see any more because she had crouched down in the SUV, thinking she was going to die. She listened to the gunfire. When she felt like it was safe, she sat up in the vehicle and got the attention of a police officer near her — and she said he appeared startled that someone was so close during the shooting.

Her mother, Sonja Kobasijevic, heard the shots from inside the salon.

"I jumped up to see if she is OK, but they locked the doors and wouldn't let me out," she said. "The girl working in the salon wanted me to go in another room, but I said, 'I can't — it's my daughter."'

Ivana Kobasijevic, who was visibly shaken, said her family moved to Utah from the former Yugoslavia 11 years ago. Incidents like this are "nothing new," but the woman said she was frightened just the same.

Just north of the jewelry store, two young parents were about to walk out of Gen X Clothing with their purchases and their 2-month-old son when the shooting started.

"We looked out the window and saw gun shells all over the ground," said Aracely Cedillo of West Valley City.

The Gen X store was robbed at gunpoint last December, and armed robbers fired a shotgun blast into the ceiling of Factory 4 U, a store in the same strip mall, in January.

On the east side of Redwood Road, a man walking to catch his bus heard shots and dropped to the ground to cover himself.

"I was scared," he said. "I just took cover. That's all you can do."

Dinosaur puppet, big donation boost museum groundbreaking

photo by Mike Terry, Deseret News

Story by Amy Macavinta
Deseret News
Published: July 30, 2008

Ground was broken Tuesday with copper-bladed shovels on what Governor Jon M. Huntsman is calling the greatest classroom of all — the land.

After years of planning and fundraising, construction will begin in mid-August on the Museum of Natural History's new facility at the Rio Tinto Center.

"It's a little about people, and it's a little about the land, and it's a little about our heritage," Huntsman said, "and it all comes together very nicely in this new museum."

The new building will be home to more than a million artifacts that tell Utah's story. Located just south of Red Butte Gardens, it will feature eight themed galleries, a children's gallery, and a cafe.

The building takes its name from one of its benefactors — Kennecott Copper. Additionally, portions of the building's exterior will feature copper from the company's Bingham Canyon Mine.

Because the new location is a popular area for hiking, dog-walking and biking, the outside grounds will also include an area for watering dogs, open grassland, and free access areas where hikers can use restrooms and get water or visit the cafe.

"We hope people will see it as a gathering place," said Patti Carpenter, the museum's public relations manager.

Part of the design process included an environmental impact study. Planners for the new site used information gathered in the study to determine the best placement of the building.

"We wanted to leave the areas with the best habitat in place," said museum director Sarah George.

The building will rest on land that is badly eroded, full of bush-whacked trails and non-native, weedy plants, George said. The building will be located above the Bonneville Shoreline Trail and the museum's parking areas will be located below the trail.

People on the trail will be re-routed during business hours, but a construction fence will be put up at night, allowing access to the trail at night and on the weekend.

In addition to beginning construction, the Museum of Natural History will be campaigning for the final sum of money to finance the project. The George S. and Dolores Dore Eccles Foundation announced today they are putting up a $5 million capstone challenge grant to be issued when the museum has successfully raised $12 million of the $17 million remaining.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Fire at Ogden recycling yard razes 4 buildings

Photo by Brian Nicholson
Story by Ben Winslow and Amy Macavinta

Deseret News
Published: June 26, 2008

OGDEN — A cutting torch, sparks and dry brush fueled a raging fire in an industrial area of Ogden today, decimating four buildings at a recycling plant and shutting down one of the northern Utah city's main thoroughfares.

No one was injured in the 10:20 a.m. blaze at Allied Metals, 555 W. 12th St., but it was a close call for one employee.

Ignacio Contreras was using an acetylene torch to cut up an old railroad car when sparks from the task were carried by the wind to a nearby bush.

"There was a spark and then maybe two minutes there was fire," he said, raising his hand to show flames about as tall as him. He said he grabbed a fire extinguisher and tried unsuccessfully to put out the blaze, then ran to notify his boss. He said within 10 minutes, the flames were 25 feet high.

In its most fiercest stage, the fire chewed through wood-constructed military barracks containing scrap metals and other by-products of a salvage yard. The result was huge, billowing plumes of black smoke that could be seen as far away as Davis County.

Ogden Fire Marshal Matt Schwenk said the fire burned at least 500 gallons of fuel and charred numerous chunks of metal on the property. Because of the mix of combustibles, the blaze created a sickening stench in the area and heat popped several burning tires.

Teams of Ogden firefighters quickly surrounded the blaze, which was kept from spreading to neighboring businesses such as Amerigas, a propane company.

Bryan Hawks, Amerigas' manager, said the expanse of property between the two businesses made it so his employees did not have to evacuate.

"We've got a lot of ground between us and the fire so the only thing we've done is quit dispensing propane for awhile."

A large chunk of 12th Street was temporarily closed, creating traffic jams stretching back to Wall Avenue and to I-15. Ogden police officers diverted traffic through the Business Depot Ogden entrance and brought them back out to 12th Street from Stuart Road .

Allied Metals owner Stuart Roper said he was not concerned about the damage or loss to his business.

"The buildings aren't a concern. People's safety is a concern." Roper said.

The businessman did concede that dry grass and brush on the 14-acre property have been a major problem for the company and it has even brought in sheep, goats and llamas to do weed control.

Roper said the animals were in a back pen and not injured in the blaze.

Families eagerly welcome the 145th

photo by Ashley Lowery, Deseret News

130 Utah National Guard soldiers return from Iraq deployment

By Amy Macavinta
Deseret News
Published: May 29, 2008
Austin and Nathanael Grenz, ages 9 and 6, stood on top of a concrete barrier, trying to see above the crowd. They were dressed for the occasion in their kid-size camouflage.

They struggled to maintain their balance as they held a paper "welcome home" sign between them. The youngest of the Grenz boys, Justin, 4, played below them, seemingly oblivious.

Out on the tarmac, the plane rolled to a stop, and the stairs were rolled in place. When the door opened, soldiers got out of the plane, one by one. The boys checked each face, eagerly searching for the right one.

"There he is, there he is!" said Austin. "Oh, that's not him."

And a moment later — "It was him!"

The Grenz boys were looking for Sgt. Shawn Gustaveson. One year ago Gustaveson married their mother, Kristy, on May 19. He took the entire family on a honeymoon to Disneyland, then deployed to Iraq two days later.

Seventeen members of the Curtis family from Layton were also welcoming home a son. They all wore camouflage and T-shirts with a photo of their soldier, Spc. Riley Curtis. His mother, Raelynn, said that while her son was gone some days were better than others, but she is very proud of him.

"We have a lot of respect for these guys and gals who do this so we can have our freedom," she said.

The Curtises will be celebrating tonight with a street party in their neighborhood, where more than 100 people will celebrate with them.

Gustaveson and Curtis are among the 130 soldiers from the First Battalion, 145th Field Artillery Unit, Utah National Guard, who returned home Wednesday, arriving in two flights. The first group returned Monday afternoon, and the final group will return today.

It wasn't just families who were moved by today's homecoming. Col. Jerry Acton commanded many of the soldiers in this unit almost two years ago in an earlier deployment. Soon after they arrived home, Acton was deployed to Afghanistan with another unit, so he has not seen some of the soldiers for almost two years.

"It is exciting to see them today," he said.

A large group of Patriot Guard Riders, each carrying a U.S. flag, lined a walkway from the plane. The motorcyclists have vowed to "support those who support us."

According to a National Guard press release, the 1/145th consists of Alpha Battery (Logan), Alpha Battery, Detachment 1 (Brigham City), Bravo Battery (Manti), Charlie Battery, Detachment 1 (Fillmore) and Service and Headquarters Batteries at Camp Williams. They were deployed last June to Camp Bucca, Iraq, where they performed military police duties.

This was a first deployment for Spc. James Elizondo, Taylorsville, who said the experience was better than he expected.

"I didn't take into account the camaraderie I would feel with the other soldiers, or even my own personal development," he said.

The soldiers landed at the Utah National Guard Air Base just hours before President George W. Bush landed on Air Force One. However, they were instructed to hug their family members, get their bags and head home.

That was one order they were more than happy to obey.

Bomber takes WWII vet down memory lane

(Photos by Amy Macavinta),5587,5029,00.html

By Amy Macavinta
Deseret News
Published: May 30, 2008
OGDEN — Salt Lake City resident Newell "Newt" Moy, 87, swears he's not an emotional man. But Thursday was a different story.

He got a phone call last night from a friend who suggested he might like to go to Ogden to see the B-17 bomber, Aluminum Overcast. Moy's visit ended up being more a like a trip down memory lane.

In 1939, Moy was 18 and had just graduated from high school. He lived in Galaway, N.Y., at the time.

"I was sitting in the back of a combine with all that ragweed and dust — and an airplane flies overhead," he said. "I said to myself, there has to be something better than this."

In September, he decided "better" was enlisting in the U.S. Army Air Corps. Moy went to flight school, and by January 1945, he was a pilot stationed in England during World War II. One of his most memorable missions was a flight into Barth, Germany, to pick up some of the 9,000 American POWs who had just been released from a prison camp there.

Moy had flown a B-17 during the war, so he was excited to see the Aluminum Overcast, but when he saw the large, black triangle with a "W" painted on the tail, he could only say "it was a bit emotional." That insignia represents the 398th Bomb Group with which he served. The triangle represents the 1st Air Division. Each group was marked with a different letter, Moy said.

Boeing designed the B-17 specifically for the military in 1935, and it was first used in combat during 1941. The plane came to be known as the Flying Fortress and had a key role in winning the war.

The aircraft itself weighs about 40,000 pounds. It was designed to carry 8,000 pounds of bombs. It has a capacity for 1,700 gallons of fuel, which would have weighed nearly 12,000 pounds.

It is powered with four large motors that roar so loudly it is nearly impossible to hear another person speaking near the cockpit without special equipment.

The B-17 was armed with 13 Browning M-2 .50-caliber machine guns. Gunners could fire about 13 rounds per second, but none had more than a minute's supply of ammunition.

Almost 13,000 B-17s were built during the war, but only about a dozen remain.

The Aluminum Overcast was a later version, delivered to the Army Air Corps on May 18, 1945. It was sold from Army Air Corps surplus for just $750 in 1946. The original military armament had been removed, and it was used to haul cargo for aerial mapping and crop dusting. It never saw combat.

It was donated to the Experimental Aircraft Association in the 1980s. Bill Hooton is a crew chief and mechanic for EAA. Since they acquired the plane, members and volunteers have restored much of the military equipment with which it was originally fitted.

Hooton said the B-17s are constructed with a tail wheel, making it a challenge to fly. "It doesn't just drive itself like if you had a nose wheel," he said. "It kind of wants to turn itself around."

In addition, Hooton said all controls are manual. Cables to operate the tail run from front to rear.

Sam Bass is one of the pilots flying the Aluminum Overcast this weekend as part of a "Salute to Veterans Tour."

"The reason we do this is for the veterans," said Bass. "They are fast fading away." The EAA takes this tour through the country so that people can catch a glimpse of history. The public can see the Aluminum Overcast at Hinckley Airport in Ogden today through Sunday.

Flights can be purchased if booked in advance. For more information, visit

Matheson seeks funds for water conservation

By Amy Macavinta
Deseret News
Published: June 1, 2008
As the second driest state in the nation, Utahns are well aware of just how dry it can get without water.

However, 36 other states in the nation are expecting to face water shortages of their own in the next five years. To help all of those states, Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, has drafted legislation that would allocate funding for research and development of water conservation plans. If signed into law, this bill would also support demonstration programs that show citizens how they can conserve water in their own homes.

One such program is in West Jordan at the Conservation Garden Park at Jordan Valley. The park, located at 8215 S. 1300 West, was created by the Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District.

Richard Bay, general manager and CEO at Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District, said the average Utahn used about one acre-foot of water per year — the equivalent of 320,000 gallons. Two-thirds of that water is used expressly for landscaping.

This park has been developed to demonstrate the possibilities that allow people to have a pleasant landscape around their home, while still conserving water. Two-and-a-half acres have been fully landscaped in several sections, each highlighting different landscaping themes and comparing the water usage for each.

Bay said there are minimal changes homeowners can make that would almost cut their water use in half — such as adjusting sprinkler settings so areas, such as flower beds, receive only what they need — without changing the landscaping. Smart systems can also be installed that sense when it has rained and water less, if at all.

Just these small changes can save 80,000 to 100,000 gallons per year, he said.

To take it one step further, there are a variety of landscape designs that can reduce or eliminate water use. Those are demonstrated at the park, with signs marking all the plants so that people know what they want to buy when they leave the park.

The second phase of the park is currently under construction. Upon completion this fall, the "how-to" garden will contain 24 educational exhibits that show people how to implement their own conservation gardens. Displays will include detailed help with planning and design, soils and soil amendment, mulches, watering methods and maintenance.

"This garden is a very effective way to educate people," said Matheson. "I think until people actually see this and see what you can accomplish in terms of landscaping with less water use, it is difficult for a lot of us to understand just what can be achieved, so I really commend the JVWCD for having the foresight in establishing this demonstration garden."

In addition to research and demonstration projects like the Conservation Garden Park, Matheson said the bill will also promote methods of sharing of information between entities, both nationally and locally.

"There's no reason to reinvent the wheel," he said. "We have a lot of smart people around the country trying to figure this out ...we should benefit from this as a country as well."

Governor surprises driver license division employees, customers

By Amy Macavinta
Deseret News
Published: June 5, 2008
Chris Child went to get his motorcycle license Wednesday and ended up having an unexpected chat with Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.

They compared notes on bikes and favorite riding places, then Childs went to take his test and Huntsman moved to the next customer. Huntsman spent some time working the counter at the Fairpark Driver License Division as part of Public Employee Appreciation Day.

Employee James Garden, who splits time between the Fairpark and Tooele offices, has a bright smile and very quickly makes his customers feel at ease. Although Garden makes it seem effortless, he said it isn't so easy, especially if they have been waiting for a long time.

Having the governor stop by, even for short time, was nice, Garden said. He was getting ready to photograph a customer when Huntsman came to the office, and the governor even helped with the shot.

"He didn't come to just see what we do, he got involved and learned what we do," Garden said.

Customer Charles Cachoeira was thrilled to see the governor and was quick to introduce himself. He moved to the state from Brazil last month and was getting his driver's license.

"I have never shaken the hand of my governor," he said. Cachoeira was impressed to see that Huntsman, who wore a denim jacket, was "just a normal person."

Melissa Doxey, West Jordan, got married in May and needed to change her name on her license. She had originally started out at another location but became frustrated with the wait, so she left and tried the Fairpark location. Doxey didn't expect to be helped by the governor, but said it was nice.

"They are a lot faster and a lot more friendly here," she said.

Huntsman made the rounds through each work station in the office, introducing himself to the employees there and learning a bit about the service each one was providing to the customer at the counter. He spoke briefly with each person, urging them all to drive safely.

Lisa Roskelley, the governor's spokeswoman, said Huntsman takes any chance he can throughout the year to visit state employees and get an idea of how things work and get their input on making improvements.

"He wants to make sure state employees to know they are appreciated," Roskelley said. "This was a great opportunity for him to go out and spend time with this group of employees."

HIV 'poster child' still learning, coping and sharing

By Amy Macavinta
Deseret News
Published: June 10, 2008
Kim Smith did not want to be the walking poster child for HIV and AIDS.

Even so, it is not uncommon for complete strangers to recognize her on the street and embrace her — not just in the Salt Lake Valley but even as far away as New York City and Washington, D.C.

Smith agreed to share the most difficult part of her life with the world with the production of "The Smith Family." Filmed by Tasha Oldham and premiered on PBS, this documentary zeroes in on the Smiths as they cope with the impact of HIV and AIDS within their family.

In 1987, on their ninth wedding anniversary, Kim learned her husband, Steven, had engaged in sex with a number of men. The punches didn't stop there. Two years later, Kim would learn that she was HIV positive.

"It was like being hit on the head with a crowbar," she said. And ultimately, if she was positive, so was Steve. Anonymous testing confirmed what they already knew.

Kim and Steven were determined to keep their family together. They were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While their religion played a large role in their decision, Kim said they truly loved one another. In sickness and in health.

"We shared a love of so many things," she said. "We just couldn't love each other in a physical way the way we loved each other in an emotional way."

When Steven became seriously ill with AIDS, Kim used her medical background to nurse him herself, so that he could remain at home. But she wanted her two young sons to have a normal life, so she still drove them to ball practice and did all the other things that mothers do. And through it all, she was going through treatments of her own — treatments that left her feeling weak and nauseous. She coped by breaking her life down into five-minute increments.

"There was so much to think about that sometimes I just didn't think," Kim said.

As AIDS destroyed his body, Kim said her husband carried a certain heaviness, knowing he had passed the potential for the full-blown disease on to her.

"He suffered more than I know," she said. "He would sometimes ask me, 'Who is going to do this for you?"'

In 2000, Steven passed away within a week after their son Tony entered the Missionary Training Center in preparation for serving a church mission.

"For a year after, I just wandered around ... I would sleep hours and days away," she said.

Through a lot of tears and a little laughter, Kim shared her story again this week at a roundtable discussion held at University Hospital. Her presentation was offered to a group of students seeking master's degrees in public health. Despite increases in public awareness, the number of HIV diagnoses continues to rise.

There were 32 percent more diagnoses of HIV in Utah during the first quarter of this year, compared to the same time period last year. In 2007, the state listed 91 cases. State health officials recently reported that many people have become complacent about protecting themselves from this disease.

Even though her story gives health professionals an intimate, personal view of what HIV and AIDS can do to a family's life, Kim's story is as much about life lessons as it about an incurable disease. She learned that service to others made her own burdens seem not so bad, although she insists it is easier to be the "do-er" than the "done-for."

One lesson she still struggles with is the ability to let go of judgments and opinions, and at times it makes her angry.

"For all the times I have said 'I will never ... ' — and then I do, and then I remember, and I self-correct," she said.

That isn't to say Kim, who has never developed AIDS, has never been angry about the trials she was given in her life. She joked about being able to tell the class how important it is to have a good attitude but admitted her own isn't always so good.

Kim believes it was a gift to her to have the ability to respond to Steven's confession with compassion. When he first told her about being sexually abused as a teen and his struggle with same-sex attraction afterward, Kim said she was heartbroken for him because this was the first time in his life he had been able to let that anguish out.

"I am grateful I didn't let anger take over my reaction," she said. "When you are angry, all logic flies out the window — you do and say things you can never, ever take back."

She learned that human nature was not as deranged as she thought it was. Over the years, she and Steven slowly began to tell friends and family what they were facing. And one by one, they found acceptance at every turn.

"They didn't let their lack of understanding — or agreement — get in the way of love," she said. "You can love without understanding."

Jordan School District approves budget with 5% raises, no tax boosts

By Amy Macavinta
Deseret News
Published: June 11, 2008
If the pain at the pump and at the grocery store weren't bad enough, some Utahns are facing a double whammy this year as some school districts are passing on those expenses. Not so in the Jordan School District.

The district just approved a budget that includes a 5 percent cost of living increase for staff. Health insurance premiums will remain the same. In addition, the cost of breakfast and lunch for students remains steady. At least for now.

And, the certified tax rate is likely going down, said Superintendent Barry L. Newbold.

The district announced this budget information during a public hearing Tuesday.

One provision of the budget as adopted is the ability to adjust the budget to reflect any funding difference generated by the certified tax rate when it is received from the state. Newbold said it is common for that figure to come within a few days of the public hearing.

Overall, next year's projected revenue is $702.7 million. About 53 percent comes from state allocations, while local property taxes account for 41 percent. The remaining money is received from the federal government.

This year's revenue is actually less than the estimated dollars collected during the 2007-08 school year because there are no bonds to be issued. However, expenses are remaining relatively flat.

Part of the funding that allows the district to offer a 5 percent cost of living increase is received from the Legislature. Certain teachers are eligible for a $1,700 bonus.

Jordan School District has maintained fund balances in the various budget areas that has allowed it to prepare the budget. So, despite the good news about school lunches this year, deputy superintendent D. Burke Jolley said, there could be an increase next year if that fund balance drops too low.

"If the fund balance is in that same area, maybe we won't need (a tax increase) next year," said Jolley. "We'll wait and see."

Health insurance premiums are determined on an entirely different basis. Because the Jordan School District is self-insured, there is no profit margin, and the number of claims can directly impact the amount of premiums. Because utilization is down, Jolley said, premiums will remain where they are. When it is necessary to increase premiums, it is district policy to split that increase with the employees 50/50.

Hotline to focus on making those aching backs better

By Amy Macavinta
Deseret News
Published: June 13, 2008
The saying that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure is never more true than with back pain.

And it is true, Dr. Reed Fogg says, even though the treatment of back pain has seen dramatic changes and improvements in the past 20 years.

Fogg, director of the Intermountain Spine Institute at The Orthopedic Specialty Hospital, believes it is very important for people to maintain a healthy weight, stay in good physical condition and take care when they lift heavy objects.

"It is the angle we lift at, not so much the weight of what we lift," he said.

Back pain — from preventing it to treating it — is the topic of Saturday's Deseret News/Intermountain Healthcare Hotline. From 10 a.m. to noon, Fogg and Dr. Terry Sawchuk, who is board certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation with a strong emphasis in interventional physiatry, will take phoned-in questions. The number is 1-800-925-8177. Or you can e-mail questions to and the experts will answer some of them online Saturday morning at

There are times when back pain begins to intrude on a patient's life and it becomes necessary to seek treatment. There are a number of options. Many cases of back pain can be managed without surgery. However, when non-surgical alternatives fail, or when there is progressive weakness in the legs, Fogg said, it is time to consider surgery.

"I think that surgery, and especially spinal surgery, has a bad reputation," he said. "But the success rate has greatly improved."

There are three primary types of surgery, Fogg said. They are the removal of a herniated disk, correction of spinal stenosis and fusion. Spinal stenosis is the narrowing of the spinal column, which can cause pain in the lower back, buttocks, thighs and legs. This is seen most often in people over the age of 60.

Spinal fusion is used to relieve discogenic pain — pain that does not involve the sciatic nerve and stems from the movement of one or more disks in the back. In this case, surgeons will permanently connect two or more discs, thus preventing the movement.

Some people put off seeking treatment, thinking the pain will go away on its own. However, Fogg said, patients who experience severe back pain paired with motor weakness or the sudden loss of bladder and bowel function should seek treatment as soon as possible.

Magnetic resonance imaging has increased the ability to diagnose back problems and determine if surgery is needed. In addition, surgical techniques have improved immensely, Fogg said. Even the instruments that are used are better, including the use of titanium metals in the screws, rods and spacers that are an integral part of surgically fixing back problems. Not only does this lead to better success, it also decreases the healing time.

"Most people are up the same day," Fogg said.

The typical hospital stay is two days — down from one to three weeks in the past. After surgery, patients can finish healing at home, with limited activity. Physical therapy starts three weeks after surgery, and most patients can resume normal activity after six weeks.

With complications, or for people who work in heavy construction, it may be four to six months before the patient is able to return to work.

Saturday: A non-surgical approach

Back pain has many causes, treatments

By Amy Macavinta
Deseret News
Published: June 14, 2008
Overuse, strain, injury, bone loss, arthritis, aging, illness, wear and tear — they're all among the factors that contribute to make back pain, in some form at some stage of life, nearly as inevitable as death and taxes.

It may be acute, recurrent or chronic. It's always miserable. And although most back pain will go away over time with some basic self-care, there are times when only a professional's help will do.

Back pain in all its forms is the topic of the Deseret News/Intermountain Healthcare Hotline today. From 10 a.m. to noon, Dr. Terry Sawchuk, who is board certified in physical medicine and rehabilitation, with a strong emphasis in interventional physiatry, and Dr. Reed Fogg, director of the Intermountain Spine Institute, both at The Orthopedic Specialty Hospital, will take phoned-in questions at 1-800-925-8177. You can also e-mail questions until 5 p.m. to Answers will be posted Thursday at

Back surgery has come a long way, but by no means is it the only way of relieving chronic back pain, said Sawchuk. He's part of a team of professionals who offer neurological rehabilitation to patients who have suffered stroke, brain or spinal cord injuries, musculoskeletal injuries and pain syndromes.

"Ninety-eight percent of patients do not require surgery," he said.

Non-surgical treatment of back pain utilizes a combination of resources, including physical, occupational or recreational therapists and psychologists.

Treatment might revolve around exercise, physical therapy, activity modification, relaxation techniques and pain modification.

Cortisone injections are another alternative, not only for treatment but for diagnosis, Sawchuk said.

"There are not a lot of reliable and significant things we can do to specifically diagnose the cause of back pain," he said. "But if we inject part of the back and the patient gets relief, then we know we have identified the spot."

If there is still a great deal of pain, or if there is progressive muscle weakness, then a patient can still be referred for surgery.

Sawchuk said the key is taking a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach by a team, rather than just one person.

Married 75 years and still dating

Photo by Laura Seitz, Deseret News

1933 newlyweds felt 'well off' to have $15

By Amy Macavinta
Deseret News
Published: June 20, 2008
Ask LaVon Dea how to get to know your spouse and she will tell you to start a remodeling project. She will also tell you she wishes she had let her husband, Bob, install the tuna fish can.

"It would have made quite the conversation piece," she said, reflecting on one moment in 75 years of marriage that is being celebrated today.

Years ago, the two had a door to the back porch that was continually banging against the wall. LaVon caught Bob getting ready to cut a hole in the wall — he planned to use the tuna can to create a recess for the door knob so it wouldn't punch a hole in the wall.

"Haven't you ever heard of a door stop?" she said to him.

But it was the hallway that led to the biggest argument between them. When their children were small, they had moved their home from Garfield to Magna and planned a complete remodel. LaVon wanted to change an existing doorway to a bedroom into a hallway leading to a bedroom and bathroom.

"I told her she couldn't do it," said Bob.

Bob went to work, and LaVon tore down the wall.

When Bob got back from work, he put the wall back up. The very next day, LaVon took it down again. And the next time Bob put that wall back up, he did it her way.

That disagreement was a huge one, but to their credit, it is the only one their sons can remember in a marriage that has spanned more than seven decades.

The Deas met as teenagers in Magna. LaVon had been going with Bob's best friend. When she was 16, she was in an automobile accident that injured her elbow. Bob, who was also friends with her brother, used to visit each day and massage that elbow.

"She figured out she had something pretty good so she ditched her boyfriend," Bob said. Even at 97, you can hear the pride in his voice of the 19-year-old boy who got his girl.

Bob and LaVon were married in 1933. He had $15 at the time. He bought her a ring, a suit for himself and a marriage license. She rented her temple clothing, and they borrowed a car.

"And we thought we were well off," said LaVon.

They were married in the midst of the Great Depression. Bob worked at the grocery store working six days a week, 12 hours a day, for $30 a month.

"Of course, a loaf of bread was only 5 cents back then, but nobody had a nickel," Bob said.

They had four sons together, and together they mourned the loss of one — a twin boy who died at 17 months. The doctor couldn't tell them for sure what happened, but Bob and LaVon believe his death was the result of a fall the day before he died.

Over the years, they worked together as well. Bob worked at Kennecott during the day, and at night, the two of them went out and did wallpapering to earn extra money. They lived right around the corner from the theater at the time, so they left their boys to enjoy a movie while they went to work.

As soon as they felt like they could afford it, Bob and LaVon made a habit to go out on a date every Friday night —something they have continued to this day. Only these days, they go out together in the daytime because Bob can't drive at night.

They sat beside another in the living room last week, reliving their memories together and sharing these stories with their sons — Bob Jr., Kay and Dennis. But the one thing they would not say one word about was raising teenage boys. The elder Deas gave the younger Deas "the look," and the younger Deas just laughed, because they knew exactly what it was all about.

Kay, dubbed "the professor" by his brothers, finally explained.

"My mother has always emphasized the positive," he said. "She would never say anything bad about us, so she has a reputation for having angels."

"And it wasn't because we were angels," said Bob Jr.

The boys have long since grown up, and their little family now includes three daughters-in-law who Bob and LaVon love like their own; 13 grandchildren, 27 great-grandchildren and 18 great-great grandchildren. At last count, that is.

"You better get on the phone and make sure there weren't any born in the night," Bob told his wife.

Bob and LaVon ordered their sons not to prepare a large celebration of their marriage. Even so, they enjoyed looking back on their early days together. They joke about how she can't hear him real well, but he is afraid to yell at her in case she would think he is angry. He insists the important thing is to always do what she says, and then they all laugh because she can't jump out of the chair and go after him as fast anymore.

"I just feel so lucky that at our age, we can sit here and talk to each other and reminisce; we have our memories, and our health," she said. "We can relive (the memories) and have almost as much fun as we did then."

New system makes heart procedure safer

By Amy Macavinta
Deseret News
Published: June 22, 2008
Hearts are racing with excitement this week because of new technology for cardiac patients with irregular heartbeats.

At least two Salt Lake area hospitals — Intermountain Medical Center and St. Mark's Hospital — are introducing a new procedure they believe to be safer and more effective, combining robotics, a 3-D mapping system and joysticks.

Dr. Peter Weiss, a cardiologist with Intermountain Medical Center, performed "stereotaxis" in Salt Lake City on a patient with multiple arrhythmias in the lower chambers on Tuesday. The walls of the lower chambers are not as smooth and more difficult to treat, so this case was more challenging than most. Even so, he was thrilled with the results. He did two more procedures Friday.

"The more I think about it, the more excited I am about it," he said. "I plan to use it on every case I can get my hands on, but where it is really likely to shine is in these more complex cases."

Stereotaxis is a robotic procedure that utilizes magnetic navigation and a 3-D mapping system to create a map of the heart, giving the cardiologist a detailed view of the inside of the heart, both anatomically and electrically.

A flexible catheter is inserted near the groin. By placing large magnets on the exterior of the patient's body, the doctor is able to use that magnetic field to pull the catheter to the proper location, using less force than the old method of manually pushing a rigid catheter through the body.

This reduces the chance of damaging heart tissue, a rare but possible complication doctors face with manual ablation therapy. And, because the catheter is more flexible, doctors are able to reach areas of the heart that were previously inaccessible.

All of this is done from a computer control room, just a few feet away from where the patient lies. Weiss said one of the key components to this system is the Odyssey, a flat-panel, high-definition monitor that allows the doctor to view the patients vital signs, ultrasounds, X-rays, real-time EKG data and a 3-D image of the interior of the heart — all on one screen. The cardiologist guides the catheter with a joystick, using those images to determine where treatment is needed.

"It is the integration of all the technology in one place that was the most helpful," he said.

The new technology provides an exciting alternative to traditional methods of treating arrythmia.

The heart beats as a result of electrical impulses that cause the heart to contract in a coordinated fashion, according to Dr. Scott Wall, a cardiologist with The Heart Center at St. Mark's Hospital. The impulses begin in the right, upper chamber then move through the other chambers in an orderly manner.

"In broad terms, an arrythmia is any derangement in that whole process," Wall said.

Arrhythmias are quite common — the heart beats in an irregular pattern — too slow, too fast. In some cases, arrythmia can be life-threatening. By entering the heart and cauterizing small lesions in areas where the electrical system is not functioning properly, doctors are able to bring the heart rhythm back to a normal rate.

Wall believes stereotaxis is especially promising for the treatment of atrial fibrillation, which will be an option available in the near future when an open irrigated tip catheter becomes available.

"This new procedure allows us to have the potential of a much more advanced approach" he said, " one that addresses the need for more advanced technology to deal with different anatomic variations of the heart and the different electrical variations."

Because the procedure is so new, it is not widely available. The electrophysiology lab at St. Mark's is under construction, and is expected to open June 30.