Monthly Archives: October 2009

A heritage of fishing

A heritage of fishing

Towamensing resident harvests 20,000 pounds of salmon in two weeks

By ELSA KERSCHNER ekerschner@]

For some people, fishing is more than a casual hobby. It’s in their blood, or part of their constitution.

Lorrie Cockrell, an Alaskan Aleut, moved to Towamensing Township to find specialized medical care for her daughter who has reflex sympathetic dystrophy, a difficult and hard-to-treat lifetime disease.

In July, she returned to Alaska for the two-week salmon fishing season. Cockrell is very familiar with the fishing industry.

She said her grandfather, Carl Aspelund, was Swedish. When he went to Alaska he told his family he “was going and not coming back.” Cockrell still has the letter he sent his family.

He settled in Naknek and married Anna, an Aleutian native and lived at Libbysville, one of the major salmon canneries, which was built in the early 1900s.

Her maternal grandfather was Oloe Peterson, a Norwegian, who also married a native.

“In my grandpa’s day they used sailboats,” said Cockrell. She thinks motorboats were not used until the 1950s and 60s. They are made of fiberglass and are not damaged by being pulled up on the shore for much of the year as wooden ones would.

Fishing became a family tradition.

“My mother said we can do everything as a family,” said Cockrell. “It’s wet, cold and dark. My brother started fishing at 6. My father, Alvin, was a boat operator versus fishing on the beach.

“Mom, Freda, was an orphan and just loved kids. She had a high heart for kids teaching us to work,” said Cockrell.

“Mom and the children were set netters.”

Cockrell said by fishing the hard way they found easier ways to do things. A person could carry six or eight salmon at five-to-eight pounds each from the nets to the truck that came to pick up the catch. They made it a goal to see how many they could carry.

It was round-the-clock work because the fish came in on the morning and evening tides. By the time one catch was brought out of the water the next tide filled the nets again.

“Mom gave us positive reinforcement that we could move a lot of fish,” Cockrell said.

They had two to three weeks to earn a year’s income. Although a few fish come earlier or later and can be fished, the busy season is short.

The government’s Department of Fish and Wildlife decided it wanted to manage the fish, Cockrell said.

Her dad still thinks fishing should be open to any person. All they would have to do is lower the amount of gear that can be used and anyone could be allowed to do commercial fishing, in his opinion, and that it would remain sustainable.

A boat permit costs $150,000 and the cost for a set net permit is from $40,000 to $65,000. However, the annual renewal is only $100 to $150 for set netters.

To qualify for a permit you had to have points that were gained by justifying every year you fished. She had enough points that she earned her permit by right, not the high fee.

“My dad felt as soon as you were old enough to work, we worked. We got a crew license when I was 13. When there was a limited entry I could prove I fished and had enough points to get a permit. I thank my father for making it possible,” Cockrell said.

“We moved so much fish in a short period, which is why we could get a crew member license. It was my Mom’s and Dad’s main income,” she added.

When boat fishing, the boat should remain idle in one spot. When someone is caught drift fishing, there is a fine of $1,000. If a boat operator receives three tickets, they lose their license.

The catch for a boat fisherman would be anything from 100,000 to 500,000 pounds of fish.

Cockrell’s mother told her you can’t chase the fish, you have to be where you know they will be so it’s best to be in the channel when they are coming. She said her mother always knew where and when that would be.

When Cockrell was 16 she started her own site for beach fishing or set netting. The sites a person can fish are set by the state shore fishery.

She will bring in between 20,000 and 25,000 pounds per season, but has caught as much as 50,000 pounds.

This past year the price for fish was 70 cents a pound but it has brought as much as $2.25.

“You set the nets at low tide and the tide brings the fish in. Now, many use set-net skiffs. The nets are brought closer to shore to empty,” said Cockrell.

She has since received the legacy of her mother’s site.

Natives are allowed to do sustainable fishing for their own use, for barter or to sell with a limit of $700. Some are going beyond that point and illegally sell their catch which puts them in competition with legal commercial fishermen.

Cockrell smokes and cans fish for her own use, and provided fish for her daughter’s recent wedding.

The Naknek River, the salmons’ destination, is a mile wide at the coast. Naknek is a fishing camp. The natives live upriver at Old Naknek except during fishing season.

Many of the fishermen begin the season in Alaska and follow the fish south as far as California.

Cockrell said her family did ice fishing for food and did a lot of hiking for recreation. In winter, recreation was ice skating and sledding, although she also played basketball in school.

Her parents ran a movie theater that they built by hand, with hammer and saw. Her father wanted a place for children to go.

Her mom was generous, giving things to local kids. If youngsters didn’t have money, they were allowed to go to the movie without paying.

“My generation thinks of them (her parents) as angels because, thanks to them, they could do the things people with money could do,” said Cockrell, who is the mother of four Kreistal, Robert, Samantha and James.

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Alpharetta student awarded ‘Very Best in Youth’

Alpharetta student awarded ‘Very Best in Youth’

October 07, 2009
GLENDALE, Calif. – After a nationwide search spanning nearly a thousand entries, Nestlé USA is proud to announce the winners of the 2009 Nestlé Very Best In Youth Competition, including local winner Mackenzie Bearup, 16, from Alpharetta.

“I’m so thrilled to have been named as one of the 2009 Nestle Very Best In Youth” said Bearup. “It’s a great way for teens to see the various ways award winners across the country have made a difference, and hopefully be inspired to get involved and find their calling. Being active and helping others can really make you feel good about yourself.”

Hailing from 18 states, each winner represents a driving force for change in their local community and wins a donation of $1,000 to the charity of their choice.

Honoring young people between the ages of 13 to 18 for achievements in local community service and academic excellence, the biannual Nestlé Very Best In Youth Competition is now in its twelfth year.

Bearup caught the judges’ eye because of her fundraising and community spirit as well as the courage she has shown in overcoming physical difficulties.

Diagnosed a few years ago with Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, a painful neurological disorder, and unable to attend school, Bearup found comfort in reading and wanted to ensure that every child in her community had access to books.

With that goal in mind, she set up a book drive that to date has donated more than 22,000 children’s books to homeless shelters and residential treatment centers throughout Georgia and Kentucky.

Currently, Bearup is opening reading rooms in 15 shelters throughout Georgia.

“Mackenzie and the rest of our 2009 Nestlé Very Best In Youth winners truly represent the best and brightest of our future leaders,” said Ken Bentley, vice president of community affairs/educational programs at Nestlé USA.

“These winners reflect not only the best in youth, but set an example for us all of how to change and improve the lives of those around us. We at Nestlé are excited to play a supporting role in Mackenzie’s story and to bring attention to the young people making a difference in our local communities.”

Bearup and the other 23 honorees will each receive a four-day trip to Los Angeles for an awards ceremony in July 2009 and a donation of $1,000 to the charity of their choice.

The winners will also be featured in the 2009 Nestlé Very Best In Youth book, a publication with complimentary distribution to schools and libraries nationwide.

Nestlé’s judging panel looked for a combination of academic achievement and special contributions to school, church or community groups from entrants.

Following a call for entries in spring 2008, the panel reviewed hundreds of letters of recommendation for applicants nationwide before naming this year’s honorees.
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Solace from the streets: Ministry helps comfort the homeless, disadvantaged

Solace from the streets: Ministry helps comfort the homeless, disadvantaged

Auburn Reporter Editor

Oct 21 2009, 5:53 PM ·

Through his tireless work, the Rev. Jerry Larson has seen the sorrow and felt the despair of the human struggle – of those living and dying on Auburn’s lonely streets.

At times, it is too difficult to describe, let alone comprehend the anguish of the homeless and the plight of the disadvantaged.

“It is almost animalistic,” Larson said bluntly. “People fight among themselves, steal from each other. … They live in their cars.

“When you live on the streets, you don’t have a lot of support. There’s not a lot to hold onto,” Larson added. “You see, you don’t live for very long on the streets.”

Larson understands this all too well. Of the thousands he has tried to reach, Larson knows of 31 homeless people who have died on local backstreets and alleyways in 12 years of work with his ministry.

In almost every case, those who died were racked by alcoholism and drug abuse. For these homeless, both young and old, there was no turning back.

Despite the struggles and what happens to too many he tries to help, Larson remains undaunted and committed to his cause today. He continues to offer hope and a helping hand.

He and his wife, Jan, persevere as unheralded shepherds of God’s work – as they best describe it. They are passionate stewards of a non-profit, Bible-based ministry that is fighting to survive financially to help those caught in the pincers of homelessness, alcoholism, drug abuse and domestic violence.

Such a difficult mission keeps the Larsons determined to provide a forgiving means to a promising end for the many who need a hot meal, a warm place to sleep, counseling, medical treatment and recovery. It is a bold, comprehensive program, all in the spirit and purpose of sharing the Gospel.

“We like to lead them to Jesus, but we don’t cram (religion) down their throats,” said Jerry Larson, 63, a lifelong South King County resident and ordained minister for more than 20 years. “We work with the problem. We don’t just disguise it. We want them to discover the Lord and change their lives for the better.

“We get them to shoot for the moon. We might not reach it, but you will be better off than most people when you are reintegrated into society.”

Since His Ministry was established in 1998, the Larsons and their volunteer staff have supplied food, clothing and shelter to thousands of Auburn-area homeless and disadvantaged people. It is one of the few ministries of its kind in Auburn.

The Larsons say they are making a difference and point to ministry’s 92-percent success rate of those who complete the recovery program.

“It’s rewarding, but it’s a tough ministry to be involved in,” said Jan Larson, who has helped cook about 70,000 meals in her 12 years with the ministry. “But there’s nothing we would rather be doing.”

The work is gratifying and at times, thankless. The Larsons don’t earn a wage, but consider influencing and changing lives the ultimate payoff.

Even more challenging is the fact that Jerry Larson goes about his work despite battling health problems. He has undergone 17 surgeries and suffers from complex regional pain syndrome that has diminished the use of his arm and affects his legs.

For the most part, the ministry’s work goes almost unnoticed.

“I certainly respect what they have done,” said Pat O’Leary, pastor of Lifegate Auburn Foursquare Church. “(Jerry’s) been a great fixture in Auburn in reaching the needy. He’s made a real difference in the community and being a great example of loving the unlovely. He inspires the rest of us … to get up and get going.”

Lifetime leaders

The Larsons are personified as difference-makers.

Jerry Larson, an experienced counselor and former sports coach, was a successful homebuilder who employed the disadvantaged. Jan, who was in the insurance business before retiring, was an agent and training coordinator. Together, they raised three sons.

As a senior pastor at a nearby church, Jerry Larson wanted to make more of an impact by reaching beyond his own congregation. It was a gamble, but he insists the ministry was God’s calling.

The Larsons began serving meals out of Les Gove Park and Grace Community Church. The mobile ministry bounced around a few locations before the Larsons secured more permanent grounds by leasing office space on Auburn Way South earlier this year.

The new center provides room for consultation and counseling. A volunteer-staffed kitchen serves hot meals twice a week, feeding about 40 each seating. There also is storage for a clothing bank, and when the weather turns colder, limited shelter to accommodate homeless overnight.

The ministry works with other organizations to provide referrals for drug and alcohol rehabilitation, transitional housing, spiritual guidance and counseling, computer training and other educational opportunities.

“People are on the street because they made bad decisions, and Jan and Jerry are there to help them make good decisions,” said Dennis Brooke, a ministry volunteer. “Unlike some groups, they’re not interested in enabling them to continue to live a homeless lifestyle. They provide resources to help them become productive members of society.”

As effective as the ministry has been, the problem remains just as chronic and challenging, especially in these trying and desperate times.

“And it has changed a lot,” said Katherine See, who has worked as an active volunteer since the ministry’s inception, “We are seeing families, couples and the working poor.”

Many of the today’s homeless might be working poor, living in cars. Many remain hidden, preferring anonymity, the Larsons observed. A vast majority of homeless people exist out of sight in refuges, squats and unsatisfactory or overcrowded accommodations, or on the floors or sofas of friends and families.

The Larsons have seen the gamut. While they have witnessed tragedy, they have been a part of many inspirational stories and successful recoveries.

Yet more homeless victims appear at the ministry’s doorstep each day. Some stay, some go.

Through donations of supplies and money, the Larsons hope the ministry will continue to serve in these uncertain times.

“I think we are making a difference,” Jerry Larson said. “We have to open their eyes and see that their lives can be better.

“This is what needs to be done,” he said. “I’m not going to walk away and turn my back on these people who need help.”


Note: For those wishing to donate food, clothing and money, contact Jerry Larson at 253-315-9570. Checks may be mailed to: His Ministry Fellowship,

P.O. Box 221, Auburn, WA 98071-0221. For more information, visit

Auburn Reporter Editor Mark Klaas can be reached at or 253-833-0218, ext. 5050.

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Jefferson Forest cashes in on home course

Jefferson Forest cashes in on home course

Jefferson Forest cashes in on home course

Elizabeth Vernon, of the Peaks View Pacers, finishes first in Wednesday’s high school girls cross country at Jefferson Forest’s Wolf Branch Farm course. Jefferson Forest took home the team titles for boys and girls at the meet.

FOREST — On a spectacular opening day at Jefferson Forest’s panoramic Wolf Branch Farm course, it came as little surprise that the Cavaliers’ varsity girls and boys cross country teams cruised to first-place finishes against Seminole District rivals Brookville, E.C. Glass and Rustburg and the Peaks View Pacers, a team made up of home-schoolers.

What should have turned a few more heads was seeing Forest freshman Katie Vann cross the finish line in second place in the girls JV race, finishing runner-up to Carsen Wilkerson in 24 minutes, 35 seconds in a 1-2-3-4 JF sweep.

Vann, who broke her ankle at a travel soccer tournament at Virginia Tech in January of 2008, was diagnosed with Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, also known as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, on her 15th birthday, last Feb. 11.

“It’s been a nightmare ever since,” Katie’s mother Kristi Vann said.

After dealing with RSD for more than a year, she went through four weeks of intensive therapy at Children’s Hospital Boston over the summer and was cleared to start running cross country again just three weeks ago.

Wednesday was her first race.

“I was hoping I could just finish,” Vann said. “It was tough, but it was worth it.”

“She’s been working so hard in unbelievable pain every day,” Kristi Vann added. “God’s been with us and it’s been incredible. He does the healing and Katie does the work.”

Forest’s boys team had a somewhat inspirational 1-2-3 finish in the varsity race, with Justin Resendes, who has battled acute asthma throughout his career with the Cavaliers, coming in third in 18:01 behind teammates Todd tenPas (17:31) and Robert Deis (17:50).

“He’s so competitive when he runs he wants to be up with the leaders, and every time he does that, he doesn’t finish the race,” JF coach Jerome Loy said. “He gets so anxious. Today, he came by with 800 meters left and he wasn’t even breathing hard. He looked so strong.”

tenPas set a fast pace and led from start to finish.

“That was the best race I’ve had on this course ever,” said tenPas, who was beaten by Deis in the past three meets. “My strategy was to go out pretty fast the first mile and see if I could leave anybody. I went out a lot faster than I expected. My first mile was 5:02 and I normally aim for a 5:20.”

Peaks View sophomore Elizabeth Vernon took the lead midway through the girls varsity race and won in 20:35, taking nearly a minute off her time from last fall’s Runnin’ with the Wolves Invitational, when she finished seventh in 21:31.

“That was a PR for her,” Peaks View coach Sue Jones said. “She’s concentrating on going faster.”

Mary Deis and Leigha Schimmoeller came in second and third, respectively, for the Cavaliers.

“Leigha and I are good at pacing off each other and pushing each other,” Deis said, noting Brewer didn’t surprise her. “She’s a great runner. I tried to keep her in my sight.”

JF held off Brookville 40-30 in the team competition.

The youthful Bees were paced by a freshman, (McKenna Coalson, fourth in 21:41), a junior (Cathleen McCarron, fifth in 21:50) and a sophomore (Kaitlyn Brown, sixth in 22:03.)

“I was very pleased with how we ran today,” Brookville coach Cory Morris said. “We’re into the home stretch and we’re just looking forward to districts. I’m hoping for them to peak right at the right time.”

Forest will host the Seminole District championships at Wolf Branch Farm on Sept. 29. Next Wednesday, most Seminole squads will compete in a Region III preview meet hosted by Lord Botetourt at Greenfield Park.

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Family in need

Family in need

Mary Ellen Green
Staff writer

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Fern Kwantes has felt intense pain every second of every day for the last six years.

She was diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (also known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy or RSD) after a long search to explain her relentless pain, which began spontaneously in her left knee, spread throughout her body and never went away.
“In six years, she has gone from an active, vibrant woman who was a school administrator, homemaker and mother of three, to someone for whom walking around the block is about as much physical activity as she can do in a day. In fact, when she goes out, it’s usually in a wheelchair,” explains Fern’s husband, LS Theo Kwantes, who works as a clerk at Canadian Fleet Pacific Headquarters in Dockyard.

The pain is so bad, she can no longer hug her three children, ages 14, 17, and 20.

The Kwantes family have exhausted every pain-reducing treatment option available in Canada, and are now turning south of the border for a remedy.

Fern has been accepted into a five-day ketamine coma study being conducted at a world-renowned medical facility in Monterrey, Mexico. The cost to the Kwantes family is about $75,000.

The ketamine coma is designed to reset the nerves in the body, which have been kept on for such a long time. “If it works she will be almost entirely free of pain,” LS Kwantes said.

“Right now she lives in constant, unrelenting pain. From her waist down, and to a lesser extent in other parts of her body, it feels like she’s on fire, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and the pain just continues to spread. There is no respite from the pain, ever.”
Stitching on the top of a shoe can be unbearable. Wearing blue jeans feels like wearing razor blades, he says.

Fern’s twin sister Faith, has started a fundraising campaign to cover the cost of treatment in Mexico. So far, half the $75,000 total needed has been raised, and Fern needs to make a payment when she arrives for treatment in Mexico on Sept. 10.

“This is Fern’s last and only hope for a normal life,” LS Kwantes said. “We need all the help we can get.”

A website has been set up at where visitors can learn more about CRPS/RSD, meet Fern and her sister Faith, watch videos of Fern’s treatments and donate to the cause.
“It’s been really incredible. We’re so extremely grateful for the response we’ve received from the people we know, and those we don’t,” LS Kwantes said.

“It really means a lot that people whom we’ve never met have opened their hearts and their wallets to help Fern and our family. I’m really hoping we can reach a few more because we are only half way there.”

All monies donated go directly into a trust fund in Calgary at Stewart and McCullough law firm. Cheques can be mailed to: Faith Wood, 117 5 Avenue NW, Airdrie, AB Canada, T4B 1C9.

Donations can also be made to LS Kwantes in building D70 until he leaves for Mexico with Fern Sept. 9.

Any donations in excess of Fern’s medical treatments and directly-related costs will be held in trust for other victims of CRPS/RSD who seek to undergo coma therapy, says LS Kwantes.

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Couple ready to hit road in customized van

Couple ready to hit road in customized van

By Wayne Laepple
The Daily Item

NORTHUMBERLAND — If you happen to see a large white van parked outside Paul and Barbara Schaffer’s King Street home, you’re looking at Harvey.

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Harvey is actually a

Sprinter van that’s been customized to accommodate Barbara’s wheelchair.

“We named it Harvey after the big white rabbit in the movie,” Barbara said with a chuckle. “Maybe we’ll paint a pink nose and whiskers on it some day.”

Actor James Stewart starred in the 1950 movie, “Harvey,” about a man who befriends an invisible six-foot tall rabbit, or pooka.

The Schaffers never thought they’d ever be interested in a recreational vehicle or a second home, but after a visit to Arches National Park in Utah a couple of years ago, they changed their minds.

“We really wanted to sleep out under the stars,” said Barbara, “but we just couldn’t do that.”

Since 2001, the couple has enjoyed attending half a dozen music festivals every year, and they wanted to be able to join friends who camp at the events and take part in the after-hours jams they’ve only heard about.

“We started thinking about it, but no one builds any that are handicapped-accessible,” Paul said. “What we wanted just didn’t exist.”

Barbara, 60, who suffers from reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome, a debilitating nerve condition, has been using a battery-powered wheelchair for a number of years as her condition has changed. Paul, 63, took early retirement to care for her following her 1987 injury.

They did see a few motor homes that could have been adapted, he said, but they were all very large luxury units, so large that they would have had to tow their Dodge Caravan behind to transport Barbara from the campground to an event. Besides, those units were way outside their price range. Even an Internet search for a used vehicle came up dry, since their particular needs couldn’t be met in a used vehicle without extensive modifications.

“We decided we had to start fresh,” Barbara said.

She decided they should find the right lift unit to get her and her wheelchair into the vehicle. However, they didn’t want a unit that would occupy space inside the vehicle. She finally found a company, Creative Controls, in Madison Heights, Mich., that assured them they could mount their lift beneath whatever vehicle they chose for their motor home.

Next they found a custom builder of motor homes, Sportsmobile, in Huntingdon, Ind.

“They make custom vans, not RVs,” said Paul. “These are the people who, in 1961, modified the first Volkswagen vans into campers.”

The Schaffers found a perfect ally in Sportsmobile. The company provided an online floor plan that allowed the couple to develop a floor plan using the components the needed where they needed them. For example, instead of a right-hand front seat, a power-operated tie-down for Barbara’s wheelchair was specified.

Because Barbara cannot step over the entrance to the bathroom, they changed the layout so the commode is next to the doorway. She can sit on the commode, then lift her legs and pivot into the space. To make that change work, the hot water heater had to be downsized and relocated.

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Working closely with the design team at Sportsmobile, it took nearly two months to get the interior layout completed.

“There was a lot of problem-solving by phone.” Barbara said.

They had already settled on the Sprinter, a vehicle designed by Mercedes and sold by Chrysler in this country, but it took some time to locate a 24-footer, the largest one made, and then have the necessary windows installed. The vans are shipped into the U.S. with only the windshield and door windows, so other doors and windows had to be installed after they purchased it.

The truck was purchased in Michigan and delivered to Creative Controls for installation of the wheelchair lift, then taken to Indiana for the rest of the work. The Schaffers went to the Sportsmobile plant to be present as workers installed the bathroom and kitchen modules to be certain the wheelchair would fit where it was supposed to.

“They were wonderful to work with,” Barbara said. “They wanted to be sure everything was right.”

At one point, the locking mechanism to hold her wheelchair would not work correctly, and a technician from Creative Controls came to Indiana to correct the problem. They wound up having to take the vehicle back to the plant to get it right, which held up work at Sportsmobile for a day or so.

The results, the couple agree, have exceeded their expectations.

They demonstrated the lift, which folds out from beneath the vehicle. Barbara backed her wheelchair onto it, and it hoisted her up to floor level. She backed in and turned around near the folding table where they can take meals. Then she moved forward and the electronic lock snapped into place. She pulled on her seat belt and was ready to go.

In the middle of the unit, the compact kitchen, complete with stove, refrigerator, microwave and sink, faces the lavatory, which features a sink, shower and commode. Behind them are two couches that quickly convert to beds.

“We’ve also got air-conditioning and a furnace,” Paul said, as he swung the rear doors wide to reveal a fabric screen across the doorway that will let them indeed sleep outdoors. There’s also a generator for lights, and they will be able to use it to charge the batteries on Barbara’s wheelchair.

“People told us we couldn’t do this,” she said. “We were persistent, and we found the right people to help.”

The couple drove the unit back from Indiana, and Paul said the 5-cylinder, three-liter diesel engine with a five-speed automatic transmission gave them better than 20 miles per gallon.

“A piece of you asks why you’re doing this,” he said, as he contemplated the cost of Harvey. He wouldn’t say exactly how much it cost them. “This cost more than either of the homes we’ve owned, but will let us do something together that we both enjoy.”

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Lindsay Spengler happy to be on the field again

Lindsay Spengler happy to be on the field again

By Jennifer Hetrick
Times Writer

After several years spent dealing with the effects of RSD—Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, Lindsay Spengler of Gilbertsville is finally enjoying the perks of a normal life, which for her is bound to involve the sport of softball.

Spengler, 25, first experienced symptoms of RSD, also known as Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome, when she injured her thumb at age 13.

“RSD is a central nervous system problem,” Spengler said. “It often comes out after the onset of an injury.”

Instead of the body healing, pain signals continue to be sent. In RSD patients, the nervous system goes haywire and over-responds, Spengler said.

“If you would touch something, your nerves would fire once or twice,” Spengler said. “A person with RSD touches something, and their nervous system fires 20, 30, 40 times, which causes a burning pain.”

Spengler’s onset of RSD was relieved with physical therapy but returned to an even more serious extent after an ankle injury.

By her junior year in high school, she was forced to stop playing softball and could only take a few classes after the condition began to affect her balance and concentration.

She endured nervous system complications, headaches, nausea, and eventually respiratory failure all linked directly to the RSD.

The problems worsened considerably after Spengler graduated from high school in 2002.

By spring of 2007, Spengler said her doctor decided the best option for her would be a ketamine coma.

With inducing a ketamine coma, “the idea is to shut the nervous system down, allow it to rest, and then start to wake you back up,” Spengler said. “It’s a lot like you’ve rebooted a computer.”

Due to the controversy surrounding the use of this treatment in the global medical community, it is only performed at special facilities in Germany and Mexico.

Originally, Spengler planned to visit Germany for the treatment after residents of the Boyertown area and surrounding communities fundraised to help pay for the high costs involved, which totaled around $250,000.

Spengler said her doctor later decided to send her to Florida for a consultation with a physician who was working on a study at the San José Hospital in Monterrey, Mexico.

“After the coma, a lot of retraining is involved—learning how to sit up again, how to walk again,” Spengler said.

“There were drastic marked improvements,” she said.

Spengler stayed in Mexico for nearly three and a half months and was eating full meals after two months, which her doctor said was miraculous, as she had not eaten solid food in five years due to the RSD’s complications.

“I am considered in partial remission at this point,” she said. “I still have very slight pain in my right ankle where it originally started. I don’t have pain anywhere else.”

Much to Spengler’s happiness, her improved circumstances meant she could finally do many things she couldn’t while limited physically because of the RSD.

During the 2009 season, Spengler served as a volunteer coach for the varsity and JV softball teams at Boyertown Area Senior High.

“Now with my illness, I really can’t play competitively anymore,” Spengler said. “It’s just too risky if I would get injured, so coaching is a great way to still be a part of the game that I’ve loved for so many years.”

“I enjoyed spending time with them so much,” Spengler said about the girls on the softball teams. “They were just always excited to be there, and they were great working together as a team.”

“If at all possible, it would be my pleasure to do it again,” Spengler said regarding volunteer coaching next season.

As she plans to start college in the spring, Spengler said she doesn’t know yet if coaching will work with her schedule.

“The biggest thing I want people to know is how grateful I am—how grateful my family is,” Spengler said about the local community’s fundraising efforts for her medical expenses, which helped her to be where she is today. “We always feel like no matter how much we say, it’s just not enough.”

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