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.

Utah National Guard gets chance for competitive fun

By Amy Macavinta
Deseret News
Published: June 22, 2008
CAMP WILLIAMS — In recent years, Utah National Guard soldiers have spent a lot of time training, and many of them have been deployed more than once. But being in the Guard isn't all work.

About 50 soldiers from five states competed this weekend in the Marksmanship Area Competition Region IIV Championships at Camp Williams. Teams from Colorado, California, Arizona, Wyoming and Utah competed this year.

Sgt. 1st Class Keith Cartwright told a soldier Saturday that his primary obligation that day was "mostly, be safe. And then, have fun."

"If they aren't having fun, they aren't going to excel," he said.

Soldiers competed in pistol, light-machine gun, rifle and sniper categories on Saturday. In the 9-mm "patent" match, four-man teams fire at six targets after a 100-yard run that leaves them winded. The most points are given for hitting in the bulls-eye, a diameter about the size of a soccer ball. Shots are fired in three rounds, at 25 yards, 20 yards, then 15 yards. Each person has just 51 rounds, so he will have to change magazines part way through a round.

The POW match is another four-man team where the shooter fires an M240 machine gun at a target. Sgt. 1st Class Sean Miller explained that in this case, two members of the team go after ammunition while the other two shoot at the target. Each must fire in a specific pattern, and each shape on the target represents a soldier, a junior leader, a senior leader or a POW. Points are given accordingly, with the two POWs on each of the four grids being the prize hit.

Dave Hammel and Shane Hagermann are members of the Utah National Guard 19th Special Forces Group who competed in the sniper competition. Hammel has his finger on the trigger, but according to Chief Warrant Officer John Wester, it is the spotter — or Hagermann in this case — who ultimately has control.

"The gunner does exactly what the spotter tells him to do," Wester said.

The spotter collects information about the size of the target, how far away it is and the wind speed. The spotter is trained to use a number of resources to measure wind speed by eye, including a mirage in the heat, or sometimes a wind flag. This, said Wester, with some fancy math — "the angle of the dangle (of the flag) divided by four" allowed the spotter to tell the gunner how to set his rifle accordingly. "As soon as the bullet leaves the muzzle, it is dropping," explained Wester. "So if you don't make adjustments for the wind, it can blow the bullet off course."

For this competition, snipers are firing at 10 different targets, at 300 meters and 800 meters (one half mile). Wester said he knows of a case in Afghanistan where a sniper hit a target at 2,600 meters.

While this weekend's competition is in the spirit of fun, it still has a training element to it.

"Some of us have been deployed, and some of us will be again," Wester said.

Awards were handed out Saturday evening to winners for each category. Competition will continue today with the Excellence in Competition match.

Rescuers get hikers 'out of a pickle'

By Amy Macavinta
Deseret News
Published: June 24, 2008
Marc Thompson sent his son a text message just after 5 p.m. Sunday to find out when he should pick up Taylor and his friends after an afternoon hike. The reply he got back was "not sure yet — we're trying to work ourselves out of a pickle."

Taylor Thompson, 21, had planned to hike near Mount Olympus Sunday with his friend Zach Hatch, 20, and roommates Justin Casteel, 22 and Brent Tello, 21.

They started out at the Neff's Canyon trailhead Sunday about noon and had made arrangements for Taylor's father to pick them up on Wasatch Boulevard. Instead, they spent the night in a crevice and were rescued from the mountain by Salt Lake County Search and Rescue.

"We're not sure how they got up there, but they were in a bad spot," said Salt Lake County Sheriff's Lt. Brent Atkinson.

Thompson said the young men had taken a wrong turn somewhere along the way and then tried to recover. However, they ended up in an area where they could no longer go up but couldn't go down either.

Atkinson said the call went in to dispatch about 8 p.m. A Department of Public Safety helicopter flew into the area to look for them. Using infrared equipment and the LED light from Casteel's cell phone, the hikers' location was spotted by search teams at the trailhead, and a rescue team started out on foot.

With all their skill and expertise, it took nearly two hours for them to hike in to where the young men were waiting.

"There was not an established trail there," said Atkinson.

By 1:30 a.m., the search team was within about 250 feet of the crevice where the boys had found shelter. Although they were within voice range, rescuers made the decision to camp there overnight because it was simply too dangerous to bring them down in the dark.

"I spent the night staring at the mountain," said Taylor's father.

On Monday morning, each of the hikers was rappelled down the mountain and then they walked the remainder of the way. They were hot and tired, and anxious for showers, but uninjured.

Casteel said this experience would not keep them from trying again.

"I'd definitely do it again but do it right," he said.

Taylor and his friends had not gone entirely unprepared. They all packed sandwiches and about a gallon of water for each of them. Casteel even carried a small bag of dog food for his dog, who joined them on the hike.

Corinne celebrates, keeps history alive

By Amy Macavinta
Deseret News
Published: June 27, 2008
CORINNE — The winds of change have blown through Corinne more than once since it was first established in 1869. But the one thing that remains the same is its reputation for being a place where the community knows how to have a good time.

Corinne residents are presenting the fourth annual production of "Corinne: The Gentile City" this weekend. The pageant, which is free to the public, is a humorous look back to the days when this rural, Mormon farming community was not entirely rural and definitely not Mormon.

Throughout the production, reporter Willoughby McGuire chronicles some of the highlights from Corinne's heyday, reciting actual newspaper accounts from that era. Otherwise, co-director Kim Davis said there has been some "artistic license" taken to make the story a fun one.

Diane Harper, 77, is a lifelong resident who has seen all productions since the pageant was started four years ago.

"I am glad they are keeping the history alive," she said. "This has been very good for our community, and it has been very enjoyable for the old-timers."

In 1869, what started as a railroad camp quickly became a booming town. With its proximity to the railroad and to the Bear River, anti-Mormon businessmen saw it as a perfect location to establish a business community to rival the economic hold Mormons had on the territory.

Within a year, the town was thriving. Trains went in and out of Corinne daily, and it was the perfect hub for freight en route to Montana. In July of 1871, the Corinne Daily Reporter listed a number of the local businesses: The Rocky Mountain Female Academy, Mrs. Dwiggins Restaurant on Fifth Street, Hardenbrook Bros. Livery Stable, Gilmer and Salisbury Stageline, D. Conway's furniture store, Wilcox & Gibbs Sewing Machines, the Uintah House Bakery and S. Craner & Co. Dry Good Store are only a small sample.

There were grand hotels, two theaters and the Opera House — the largest recreation center after the Salt Lake Theater. There were churches in Corinne — just not Mormon churches.

There were also dozens of saloons and gaming halls, and as many as 80 "soiled doves" waited for visitors in the fine hotels.

Alexander Toponce, a freighter, described nearby Blue Creek as a rough and rowdy town.

"Drunkenness and gambling were the mildest things they did. It was not uncommon for two or three men to be shot or knifed in a night," he said. "And Corinne was just as bad."

Davis, co-director of "Corinne: The Gentile City," said her grandmother told stories of a Mormon ancestor from Idaho who traveled into Corinne to purchase a cook stove for his wife. He was excommunicated on his return.

But business didn't last and neither did the town's rowdy reputation. As the businessmen closed their shops and moved on to another western town, the Mormons moved in, and Corinne became another small farming community. The saloons and the dance halls are gone, but the community, as evidenced by the pageant, still knows how to have a good time.

One thing that makes this pageant particularly enjoyable for the residents of this town is the people who take part in the event. Corinne is no different from other small towns where community events can often become merged with church activities. But here, everyone is welcome to join the cast, and many do.

"It has been so fun to get to know people we don't ordinarily get involved with," said Davis.

Doctoring your kids

When is a trip to the pediatrician the right prescription?

By Amy Macavinta
Deseret News
Published: June 30, 2008
Parents often wish their children came with an owner's manual. Writing those instructions would be too complicated, but when it comes to childhood illnesses, there are more resources available now than ever before to help inform parents in their decision making.

Is it viral or bacterial? Common illnesses that stem from a virus get better on their own, although they may make kids feel miserable. But illnesses caused by bacteria generally require a visit with the doctor and a course of antibiotics.

And it's difficult for parents to know the difference without seeing the doctor.

Doctors face huge difficulty coming up with clear-cut guidelines to help parents make that decision.

Naturally, the parent's first and most important resource is the family's health-care provider. But trying to decide what warrants medical attention and when is often a difficult task.

"If a parent is truly worried, they need to at least call the doctor," said Bonnie Midget, spokeswoman for Primary Children's Medical Center. "But the more education the parent has, the more information they have access to, the better decision they can make."

According to the Mayo Clinic, the top five infectious illnesses that keep children out of school are colds, gastroenteritis, ear infections, pink eye and sore throats.

Most medical clinics have staff available to take calls and answer questions related to these illnesses and other common complaints. But some have made information available online, as well.

KidsHealth, which can be accessed at, is a comprehensive site that offers links to dozens of topics from the common cold and ear infection to emotional and behavioral issues.

Each section includes information about an illness, what causes it and how long it might last. The sections also include details about what a parent might expect for diagnosis and treatment and specific guidelines about when to call the doctor.

For example, for a child with a sore throat, the site says: Not all sore throats are strep throats. Most episodes of sore throat — which can be accompanied by a runny nose, cough, hoarseness and red eyes — are caused by viruses and usually clear up on their own without medical treatment. A child with strep throat will start to develop other symptoms within about three days, such as:

red and white patches in the throat

difficulty swallowing

tender or swollen glands (lymph nodes) in the neck

red and enlarged tonsils


lower stomach pain


general discomfort, uneasiness, or ill feeling

loss of appetite and nausea


Midget said this information and more is provided in partnership with the Nemours Foundation. Physicians at Primary Children's are on the committee that regularly updates the site and makes sure it contains the most current information.

"It takes the place of the initial triage," she said, "but it certainly doesn't take the place of a health-care provider."

Another example of a local, Web-based resource is that offered by Utah Valley Pediatrics, LC at Administrator Kevin Moffitt said the Web site was put together with two purposes.

"Our doctors were concerned that there are parents who are not calling us and they should be," he said.

In addition, the symptom checker offered on this Web site provides a sense of relief for many parents by providing answers to some common concerns.

The information provided there is based on telephone protocols written by Dr. Barton Schmitt, a pediatrician with The Children's Hospital in Colorado. Moffitt said this is the same information used by nurses who are taking questions over the phone.

At Holladay Pediatrics, Dr. Mark Briesacher said he has often recommended — a site that reports cold symptoms as the No. 1 reason for office and emergency department visits — as a reliable source for parents. However, he also takes every opportunity to educate parents in the clinic.

"The way we look at children's health care is it being a partnership between everyone in our clinic and the family," he said. "I am relying on (the parent) and (the parent) is relying on me, and the end result is the best possible care for the patient."

Clinically speaking, Briesacher agreed that there might be times when doctors see patients who didn't necessarily need to come to the doctor. But, he said, you can never make decisions based on symptoms alone.

Instead, every visit becomes an opportunity for teaching. Briesacher explained that very often, when people call to request an appointment, they are reacting based upon their personal experience. So a parent might ask to see the doctor not just because a child is vomiting, but because they know someone whose child was diagnosed with a serious illness like leukemia — and that child had only been vomiting.

In the clinic, Briesacher is able to talk to the parent, explain what the child is experiencing and teach the caregiver what to look for, creating a new personal experience and expanding on the idea of a partnership between doctor and parent.

The overall goal of such Web sites is to enhance the knowledge and education of parents.

"It gives really good, concrete advice," Midget said of KidsHealth.

But, while the information provided can be very helpful, it does not replace a doctor's examination.

Bosnian family grateful to U.S. for their new life

After Tito's death, life began to deteriorate in their homeland

By Amy Macavinta
Deseret News
Published: July 4, 2008
WEST VALLEY CITY — Eleven years ago, Slavko Kobasijevic brought his wife and two young daughters to the United States.

Even though the war in Bosnia was over, their lives there would never be the same.

They arrived with $200, four bags of old, worn clothing and a few precious belongings.

"But more important than that — we brought our souls and our hearts," Slavko said.

Today, he and his wife, Sonja, will celebrate the Fourth of July like so many other Americans but perhaps with a greater sense of appreciation for what it means to live in America.

The Kobasijevic family lived in central Bosnia and have many happy memories of life there when President Josip Broz Tito was in power. Slavko described his country as a place built for the workers. Everyone had paid vacation; everyone had full insurance coverage at no cost. They lived in a world where everyone worked but still had time for their neighbors. Even after Tito's death, there was a period of peace, an uncertain peace that ended with war.

He said it was like many places in the world today, where one group wants to be in control but no one wants to be controlled.

Slavko was forced to fight in the army, on the frontlines. There were no more jobs and no other way to provide for a family. For each soldier, the military provided a small amount of food and four cigarettes a day. For Slavko, who is not a smoker, those cigarettes were "better than gold" because they could be traded for food.

He sold his and Sonja's wedding rings at a street market for 8 pounds of corn to feed his family.

But as hard as it was to be on the frontlines of the war, Slavko always understood it was harder for his family to wait for his return. He spoke softly of memories he carries still of his oldest daughter, Ivana, clinging to his leg and crying hysterically. She was 6 years old.

"I was so heartbroken to have to take my daughter from my leg and run down the stairs of our apartment," Slavko said.

Painful as it was, Slavko firmly believes that what is difficult today makes you stronger for tomorrow. After five years of war, he was able to return home for good. But it wasn't the same. Many of the people in their town had moved away during the war, and a lot of new people had moved in. Even though the fighting had ended, the lack of religious tolerance made it hard to know who was a friend and who was not.

Sonja's brother had come to the United States, and he asked them to join him. This sparked a series of major disagreements between Slavko and Sonja. He was on board immediately, Sonja was not. She says now that she had an idealist belief that her life would return to normal with the end of the war. The bad guys would be in jail, her friends would move back and life would go on.

At one point, Sonja refused to go and Slavko told his brother-in-law to send papers for him and his daughters. But a few days later, after a stern phone call from her brother, Sonja agreed.

When they arrived in Salt Lake City, their first apartment was small, dirty and smelly. Sonja's family was appalled, but it was all she and Slavko could afford. He made a deal with the landlord — if he provided the materials, then he and Sonja would clean the place up, free. He painted and replaced the carpets. She cleaned the apartment until it was sparkling and shining again.

Slavko got his present job at Palmer Building Co. in much the same way — he told his boss that he would work for a week, again for free. If they liked him, he could stay. And 10 years later, he is still there. This experience was one of the most touching to Slavko.

"They gave me the opportunity to be a human being again," he said.

The one thing that gave him and Sonja the greatest challenge on their arrival to the U. S. was the language barrier. Sonja and their youngest daughter Nada spoke no English at all. Ivana knew three words — yes, no and OK. Slavko knew a few more, mostly from books and movies. He missed a job opportunity once because he didn't know the language well.

"In my very heavy accent, like a robot, I told the secretary, 'I need job.' She said 'OK,' and went about her work," Slavko said. "And then I said, 'I know pain.'" It was much later when he realized there is a difference between knowing pain and knowing how to paint. Ironically, it was this same company that hired him a year later after he offered to work for a free trial period, if they would just give him a chance.

Sonja had a similar experience, when she had been told to go home but return on Monday to fill out paperwork for a permanent position. She went home heartbroken, believing she had been fired, because the only words she understood were "go home." She took another job and later learned, when she ran into a former co-worker, that the "firing" was only her misunderstanding of the conversation. She then returned to the company she had worked for first.

Life is better now for the Kobasijevic family. They have passed their naturalization tests and are simply awaiting the official ceremony to make them U.S. citizens. Today, as they celebrate Independence Day, they are especially grateful to a country that gave them back their lives.

"In Bosnia, a bullet is worth 25 cents," Slavko said. "My neighbors didn't see that I fought for our country, only that I am a different religion. My life there was worth no more than that bullet. But here, I am worth a billion dollars."

Hill airman from Moldova excited for chance to vote

By Amy Macavinta

Deseret News
Published: July 17, 2008
Some Americans have never registered to vote, and some who register don't always make it to the voting booth. And yet Hill Air Force Base Airman 1st Class Elena Dulger's face lights up the room when she talks about her first chance to participate in a democratic election.

Dulger, 21, took her oath of citizenship Wednesday, seven years and one day after meeting her father at JFK International Airport in New York. After becoming an official U.S. citizen, Dulger will get her passport, and she plans on registering to vote.

"A lot of people don't realize how important (voting) is," she said. "It is a privilege."

As an American, with her new passport in hand, Dulger will be traveling to Brussels, Belgium, where she will represent the U.S. Air Force in the NATO Chess Championship in August. She just won second place in the 2008 Armed Forces Inter-Service Chess Tournament in Arizona and will now be the first female player to compete in the NATO competition.

Dulger was born and raised in Moldova, a country that was once part of the USSR. Both of her parents were teachers, but teachers there make $20 to $30 per month, and often less in small towns, she said.

Dulger's father taught her and her brothers to play chess at an early age. But it never was just a way to pass the time. It was a way "to jump over that Iron Curtain." Looking back, Dulger thinks her father had a grand plan for a better life.

It isn't always easy to obtain a visa for work, Dulger said. But a visa to represent Moldova in a competition was a different story. She has competed in France, Spain, Ukraine, Greece and other countries.

She arrived in the United States when she was 14, joining her father and a brother, who had arrived six years earlier. Her mother, who is divorced from her father, only recently immigrated, and another brother remains in Moldova.

In Moldova, poverty was much more than lacking the monetary means for survival. Dulger describes a cultural difference that is so vast it is "like another planet." In her native country, a person could work two jobs and still have a hard time providing for a family. Volunteer work is simply not an option.

"You are so into trying to take care of your family that you don't have time for it," she said.

Dulger said the average life expectancy in Moldova is 50-60 years. In contrast, she stands amazed in a country where people can return to school to get a second degree and start a whole new life at 50.

Even education is entirely different, with options available here that are not even career fields in Moldova.

"You don't have to be what anyone expects you to be," Dulger said. "You can be anything you want to be."

That wasn't an easy choice for Dulger. She had gone through high school and enrolled in college. But she dropped her classes before the term had even begun.

"I wanted to do everything but was passionate about nothing," she said. "I didn't want to get a degree that I wasn't passionate about."

Dulger enlisted in the U.S. Air Force two years ago. Immigrants into the United States are allowed to join the military on a temporary basis, under certain restrictions. One is a provision that they become citizens before they are allowed to re-enlist. While military service is required in Moldova, it is an option in the United States — one that also gives her an alternate means of completing her education and a sense of accomplishment.

Becoming a U.S. citizen is something Dulger has waited a long time for. "I can do more," she said. "It opens a lot of doors for me, even in the military."

Warrior Project helps veterans heal

Juan Arredondo, top, lost his hand to an IED explosion in Iraq. Bottom, Otis Rutter, US Marines.
Photos by Jeff Allred, Deseret News

By Amy Macavinta

Deseret News
Published: July 17, 2008
At a glance, the group of young men boating at Jordanelle Reservoir on Tuesday were just your average guys, out for a good time. But they all know it was so much more than that.

This particular group was made up of veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They all carry some mark that notes their willing service in the U.S. military on their bodies — and on their hearts and souls.

The Wounded Warrior Project brought nearly two dozen veterans to Park City this week as a Project Odyssey event, where they spent several days at the National Ability Center. They spent the days hiking, horseback riding, boating and water skiing. And at night, they gathered around a campfire, in a "circle of trust," sharing the kind of ghost stories that only they would understand.

Juan Arredondo, San Antonio, is working with Wounded Warrior Project now, but there was a day when he was the one lying in a hospital bed after being injured in Iraq. He lost his left hand to the blast of an improvised explosive and had severe flesh wounds on both legs.

While he was in the hospital, he received a backpack full of clothing, toiletries and other items that brought a bit of comfort at what was perhaps the lowest point of his life.

"It made me feel more at ease," Arredondo said.

Since then, Arredondo has gone on to mentor his fellow soldiers.

John Roberts, one of the founders of Wounded Warrior Project, is himself a veteran who survived a helicopter crash in Somalia in 1992.

He said the organization's mission is best signified by its logo — one warrior, carrying an injured warrior over his shoulder. Veterans have mentors who help them through the healing process, with hopes that they will in turn reach out to another veteran in need, just as Arredondo did.

Wounded Warrior Project is a nonprofit organization based in Jacksonville, Fla. Roberts said that soldiers injured in combat are flown to hospitals with nothing but what they had on them, if that.

However, as the word spread and donations kept pouring in, Wounded Warrior Project has grown to include programs like Project Odyssey and Warriors to Work, a program to help veterans seek employment outside of the military. And the organization has also been able to obtain funding for a disability insurance program to help families cover expenses while their loved one is hospitalized.

"It is the American public that makes this happen," Roberts said.

This week's event is the second time Project Odyssey has been to Park City. The National Ability Center's basic belief is that recreation is as important to people who have disabilities as it is for anyone else. Outreach manager Ryan Jensen said the NAC supports a wide variety of veterans' organizations.

National park leaders dream at Snowbird

By Amy Macavinta
Deseret News
Published: July 17, 2008

SNOWBIRD — In what is only their third such meeting in 20 years, National Park Service superintendents from across the nation met Wednesday at Snowbird to develop a vision for the country's parks for the next 100 years.

"The challenge facing the National Park Service is to keep pace with the modern needs of Americans while conserving what needs to remain timeless," Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne told the group. He encouraged the superintendents to, on occasion, visit their national parks as tourists, to see things with fresh eyes. And, he said, be open to innovative, creative and practical ideas.

"Would we allow the construction of a 500-foot-tall tower in a national park today? Would we issue a permit for someone to significantly change the face of a mountain?" Kempthorne asked. "I have just described the Washington Monument and Mount Rushmore."

As with all things, funding is a primary concern. Park Service Director Mary A. Bomar said the national parks just received their largest budget increase in history, with $25 million in new funding from Congress and another $26 million from partners. This appropriation ends a 10-year decline in funding,

With this new funding, the parks were able to increase seasonal employees by 3,000 across the country. In Utah, that equates to 93 new employees in 10 national parks. Many parks across the nation saw increases to their base budgets, including $1.144 million in Utah. And, to date, Cedar Breaks National Monument and Zion National Park have received funding for their programs in stewardship and education, respectively.

The NPS will continue to seek more funding from Congress for Centennial projects that will help prepare the national parks for their 100th year of service. And as far as Kempthorne is concerned, the national parks are a logical place for Congress to spend the taxpayers' money.

He noted a number of examples where national monuments are represented — Independence Hall on the $100 bill, the Lincoln Memorial on the $5 bill, and a number of others on coins.

"Clearly, money is minted and printed to fund national parks," he said.

With additional staff and money, national park superintendents will be moving forward on three primary goals under Bomar's guidance. They are to re-engage the American people with their parks, increase the capacity of the park system and prepare the next generation of park leaders.

"We welcomed 275 million visitors last year, an increase of 3 million people — more than pro football, baseball, basketball, NASCAR and Disney combined," said Bomar. "But now is not the time to rest on our laurels ... we are still significantly down from our peak visitation in the mid-1990s."

The NPS Superintendents' Summit continues Thursday with meetings throughout the day. Many of them have expressed a desire to hold more frequent national meetings like this one, but Bomar said typically, they hold regional meetings instead.

A number of other meetings were canceled led to make this summit possible, and the agenda was kept to a two-day maximum to be the most cost-effective.

"You do it when you need to," she said. "Ultimately, I am responsible to the public for their money."

Utahn still pushing organ donations

By Amy Macavinta
Deseret News
Published: July 21, 2008

Short of donating one of his own kidneys, Ryan Tripp has already done more to promote organ and tissue donation than most people twice his age.

He raised $15,000 for a baby's liver transplant. He visited every capital in the nation to carry a message about the need for donors. And he set two Guinness world records in the process. Now, at 23, "the lawn-mower boy" is once again spreading the word as a student at University of Utah.

Tripp is currently interning with Intermountain Donor Services, where he is working — of course — to educate the public on the importance of organ and tissue donation. According to Tripp, the number of registered donors in Utah recently topped 1.1 million.

"Everyone deserves to pat themselves on the back, but there is still a great need for donors," he said.

Tripp first started promoting organ donation in 1997, at the age of 12. Up to that point, lawn mowers were for cutting grass, and "organ" donors gave away large musical instruments.

One summer day, Tripp and his father, whom he describes as "a dreamer and a schemer," drove a lawn mower to town — a 10-mile trip — because the truck had broken down while they were out mowing lawns. And on the way, they joked about driving one all the way across the country.

But soon after, they learned about Whitnie Pender, a 4-month-old girl in his hometown of Beaver who needed a liver transplant. Suddenly, that joke took on a more serious tone. The Tripps put their heads together and soon they were headed east. Ryan rode a lawn mower 3,116 miles across the nation, collecting money along the way.

"It was good to travel the nation at 10 mph ... to see the goodness of America," he said. He added that the people he encountered were very generous, and it was not uncommon for people to bring him $100 bills. The trip took 42 days, and it rained five of those. He got sunburned, and his sandy hair was bleached blond by the sun. When it was all said and done, Ryan collected $15,000 for Whitnie's liver transplant, and he earned the 1997 Guinness world record for the longest lawn-mower ride. And in the process, people started calling him "the lawn-mower boy."

During the summer of 1999, Tripp decided to fire up the lawn mower again to make another plug for organ and tissue donation. This time though, the lawn mower was hauled by truck and trailer to all 50 states. In each state, the Tripp family visited the capital, where Ryan mowed 1,000 square feet of grass to make his point, encouraging people everywhere to become organ and tissue donors.

When he started college, he didn't immediately know what career he wanted to pursue. "I knew I didn't want to mow lawns for the rest of my life," he said. Tripp finally decided on a communications major, with an emphasis on public relations, which ultimately led to his internship with Intermountain Donor Services.

While he is with IDS, Tripp is working with area schools to teach the public about how it can affect a family to receive the gift of life. In his case, Whitnie Pender is now a happy, healthy 11-year-old girl living a perfectly normal life.

One aspect he has enjoyed during his internship is learning about the behind-the-scenes processes involved in organ donation. He is currently on a list of people who will be called to fly by helicopter to retrieve an organ as soon as one becomes available.

"It has been really awesome to gain all this PR and marketing experience while promoting something that's really important to me," he said.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A face with the name

My photo is more than a little outdated (2006), but I generally prefer to be the one taking the photos -- not IN the photos.