Saturday, August 23, 2008

Don and Kinslee: Courageous winners in the game of life

8/20/08 Chatterbox Betty Kaiser In the game of life, good health is more important than winning a gold medal at the Olympics. Fighting and winning the battle of serious health challenges is a daily affair. Life is the reward. Don Burke is one tough dude. Ordinarily a healthy guy, he developed a skin problem eight years ago that defied diagnosis. It took four long years to be diagnosed with Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma (CTCL). Malignant T-Cells were circulating in his blood and had made their way to his skin irritating it exponentially. This lymphoma is so rare that one specialist told him he had never seen a case of it in 30 years. The disease manifested itself with relentless head-to-toe itching, peeling, swelling and orange skin that would fall off. An upbeat kind of guy and facing the unknown, Don said, “Some days are hard and real discouraging but faith and hope keep me going. It’s just a matter of time before I beat it.” Many treatments were tried and all were unsuccessful. A bone marrow transplant was his only hope. Two matched family members were unable to donate but an anonymous donor was found through the Worldwide Database. Don received the life giving transplant on November 17-18, 2005, at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. Don’s battle continued as he suffered from the chemotherapy side effects and other debilitating situations. In 2006 he was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia, renal failure and sepsis. He was put on a ventilator, spent five weeks in the hospital and then rehab to get strong enough to return home. Later, cataracts developed. Ann Burke (Don’s wife) was close by his side at all times. Thanks to an understanding employer she was able to continue to work while spending time by his bedside. “I think we were as blessed as we could possibly be in such a situation. We had support from family, insurance, our church and my employer who willing accommodated my time away from the office,” she said. As of today, Don is 1,005 days post bone marrow transplant and the Burkes are happy to report that this spring he finally started to feel human again. His skin is less fragile with light and dark patches and no more itching! He showers and dresses on his own; spends days tinkering in his shop and precious time on his riding lawnmower. Current goals are twofold. First, to get off immunosuppressant drugs that are used to control his new immune system. The new immune system can be over-zealous which leads to graph vs. host disease. The second is to get him off pain medicine. This will be difficult as long term steroid use has broken down his bone mass, causing pain. The doctors are also on the lookout for graph vs. host disease and secondary cancers. I asked what kept them going all these years and if they were ever tempted to give up. “Faith kept us going,” Ann said. “What other choice did we have? We had to do (something) to get rid of that incessant itching. We never worried that everything wouldn’t be okay.” The couple credits much of his post-transplant success to regular contact with Don's follow-up team in Seattle and to Dr Gary Lee, their Eugene oncologist who recently lost his life in an accident on Mt Hood. Their advice for others in similar situations: “Pray. Be your own healthcare advocate. Know your options. Ask a ton of questions. Talk to anyone you think can help. Use the Internet for research and be assertive. No one knows (the patient) like you do.” Little Kinslee Rounsaville is another warrior. She has been fighting severe health issues for all of her nine years. This summer she was looking forward to her last open heart surgery. Her chest has been opened three times and she has faced down nearly 50 surgeries for a myriad of other ailments due to VATER Syndrome. Her entire family was ready to breathe a sigh of relief and on July 5, everyone headed to Doernbechers in Portland. Optimism prevailed. Parents Lisa and Eric, sister Kaiden and all the grandparents had been through this before. Grandmother Tracey Peterson said, “We should be home free after this.” Unfortunately, the surgery didn’t go as hoped or planned. In fact, it didn’t go well at all. Kinslee’s organs are not connected or positioned in her body like the average person’s and she has scar tissue to boot. Sadly, when the surgeon opened her chest, her bowel was cut, allowing bacteria to enter her chest cavity. The actual heart surgery only had a two-percent chance of not working but it was never started. Kinslee spent the next 16 days tethered to tubes and machines recovering from other problems. She was very weak. Her bruised chest was constantly drained and her problematic esophagus wouldn’t allow her to eat. Family and visitors came and went during this recuperation phase, bringing cards, flowers, gifts, comfort and good cheer. Twin sister Kaiden was the “go to” kid, running errands and helping everyone. Finally, Kinslee was released on July 21 to gain strength for yet another operation. The family joyfully headed home. In the meantime, doctors are looking into other hospitals that deal with children’s serious medical issues. Next month she has a cardiologist appointment that hopefully will give them some direction. Stanford or Michigan are both possibilities and have received her chart notes. This month, in spite of serious recuperative challenges, the girls are enjoying a bit of summer fun. Grammy Tracey is scurrying to get the pool ready after the doctor released Kinslee for swimming. Last week, Kaiden decided to cheer her sister up with a Hawaiian party. And just in case you’re looking to buy some eggs next year, the girls have 25 chicks about ready to hatch! Life on the edge of pain and setbacks takes courage. Don and Kinslee are courage personified. They are winners in this game of life. Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart. Contact her at 942-1317 or via e-mail —

Friday, August 15, 2008

Chocolate Zucchini and other delicacies

8/13/08 Cook’s Corner
Betty Kaiser

 Squash. You either love it or you hate it. At our house, one of us (me) loves summer squash and zucchini. My beloved husband, however, doesn’t like squash in any way, shape or form. So, every summer we have a dilemma: to plant or not to plant. And every summer I promise myself that I will not plant anything in the prolific squash family.

Do I keep that promise? No. Come June I throw caution to the winds and trot down to the Bookmine’s enticing vegetable starts section. There I buy just two itsy bitsy, teeny weenie little plants. I know, it’s wrong but I’m weak. Subconsciously I’m hoping that this will be the year that Chuck will fall madly in love with zucchini. Wrong, wrong, wrong. It never happens. But I keep trying.

This year, our plants have outdone themselves. The bounty of green and yellow squash has once again sent me in search of new recipes to entice my husband. Thanks to my voluminous recipe file and “Cooking in the Grange,” a cookbook of great family recipes compiled by the National Grange, I hit pay dirt.

The Grange is a fraternal, grass-roots organization located in more than 30 states. Locally we have three active granges. They are located in Dorena, Lorane and London. Each one offers a range of activities and programs for all ages. Programs cover a variety of subjects from gardening and police reports to nonpartisan positions on legislation. Wildlife was recently the subject in Lorane after a cougar was seen prowling near the local school.

Thousands of Grange suppers are held every year. Just this last weekend the Lorane Grange held their annual Community Picnic and Ice Cream Social at the Fire Hall. Member Berneda McDonald reminded me that everyone is invited so be sure and mark the second Sunday in August on your 2009 calendar to enjoy next year’s event.

Well, back to squash. I didn’t find any zucchini ice cream recipes but there are lots of nice things to be done with this prolific green vegetable. Today I’m offering a variety of ideas for you to try beginning with a tasty appetizer, moving on to a multi-meal pancake and finishing with a rich, moist chocolate cake dessert. Enjoy!

Zucchini Squares
A quiche-like recipe made with eggs and zucchini.

 3 cups grated zucchini, unpeeled
1 cup biscuit mix
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 teaspoon dried leaf oregano
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Dash garlic powder
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs, lightly beaten

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl; mix well. Pour mixture into a 13 x 9-inch baking dish. Bake at 350° for about 30 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cut into small 1-inch squares and serve as an appetizer or side dish. If desired, garnish with sour cream or salsa.

Organic Zucchini/Cornbread Pancakes Recipe
Recipes from the Garden” Rosalind Creasy

3/4 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
2 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/4 cups yellow cornmeal
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup grated yellow or green zucchini
3 tablespoons onion, chopped fine
3 tablespoons yellow or red bell pepper, chopped fine
1 cup of your favorite salsa

In a medium bowl put flour, baking powder, sugar, cornmeal, and salt. Blend with a spoon. In another small bowl put the egg, milk, oil, squash, onion, and pepper. Mix the wet ingredients with a spoon and pour over the dry ingredients and lightly stir until just barely moist.

Heat a frying pan or griddle, grease it, then cook 2 or 3 pancakes at a time over medium heat until both sides are golden brown and the insides are firm. Keep pancakes warm in a low oven until all are cooked.

Makes 8 to 10 3-inch pancakes. Serve these pancakes with salsa (homemade or bottled) for a light dinner or a weekend breakfast.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake
Donna Bulger, Vermont Grange

2-1/2 cups flour
¼ cup baking cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1-3/4 cups sugar
½ cup (1 stick) margarine, softened
½ cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
½ cup sour milk (or buttermilk)
2 cups grated zucchini
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowl and mix well. Beat sugar, margarine and oil in a mixer bowl until creamy. Add the eggs and beat until blended. Add the flour mixture alternately with the sour milk, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the zucchini and vanilla. Spoon the batter into a greased bundt pan or 9X13-inch cake pan. Sprinkle with chocolate chips. Bake 40-45 min. or until the cake tests done. Invert onto a serving plate.

Betty’s note: To serve, dust with sifted powder sugar or drizzle with:

Chocolate  Glaze:
Put ¾ cup chocolate chips, 3 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon light corn syrup in a heat safe bowl. Microwave 45 seconds; stir until melted and smooth; add ¼ teaspoon vanilla. Spread warm glaze over cake, letting it drizzle down sides.

Keep it simple and keep it seasonal! 
Betty Kaiser’s Cook’s Corner is dedicated to sharing a variety of recipes 
that are delicious, family oriented and easy to prepare. 

Friday, August 8, 2008

Midnight Meadow Murder

August 6, 2008 The Chatterbox Betty Kaiser “Murder in the meadow by moonlight” is a summer avian mystery taking place on our property at Wilson Creek Meadows. The victims appear to be ravens. Their only remains are large coal black feathers completely pulled from their bodies and found strewn around the meadow at daybreak. A deadly predator obviously has invaded our previously peaceful bird population. After my husband and I moved from the city to the country in 1989, we discovered a fascinating new world in the treetops. Living where we do, in the middle of a meadow, across from a lake and a creek, there is no shortage of winged creatures. As city dwellers we had never heard Screech Owls hunting by the full moon or had a house finch knock on the window to fill the bird feeder! We quickly became fascinated observers of this new kingdom. Shortly after moving onto the property we noticed a parade of cars stopping across the street from us. Individuals would get out, train their binoculars on a fir tree where a huge nest rested atop a snag. Officious looking people from fish and game organizations would periodically stop, jot down notes and leave. Tourists and campers would often look up and take photos. Our neighborhood tourist attraction turned out to be an osprey nest. We had previously observed ospreys in Alaska where we were fascinated with their fish carrying techniques. Their modus operandi is to swoop down into the water, grab a fish with their long claws and position it with the head forward to cut wind resistance. The fish is then carried off to the nest to be eaten. Our favorite local osprey experience was the day we heard a tussle in the skies over the creek. Mom and dad were anxiously circling the nest. Newly hatched chicks were loudly squawking to be fed. Overhead was an Eagle looking for lunch. Suddenly the osprey parents dive bombed the Eagle, flanked him and escorted him down the creek away from the nest. The chicks were safe to grow another day. Amazing. After years of raising sometimes multiple noisy broods, our ospreys are suspiciously quiet this year. In fact, this is the first time in our 20 summers on the lake, that they are no-shows. This is a cause for concern because ospreys often return to breed in the area they were born. We wonder what happened. Where are they? Eagles suddenly seem rather plentiful. Early one morning we were walking our dogs at a nearby park when we sensed something watching us. Suddenly we heard a large swoosh! A Bald Eagle rose from the branches of a tall fir, checked out our dogs and flew out over the lake. No doubt he was looking for smaller prey. An immense variety of smaller birds congregate at our place. Recently, a visiting friend, formerly with the Audubon Society, identified nearly 40 varieties in and around our property. We have an amazing community of colorful finches, chickadees, geese, juncos, grosbeaks, mallards, nuthatches, purple martins, tanagers, spotted towhees, red-breasted sapsuckers, flickers and my personal favorite — the red-winged blackbird. Stellar Jays also populate our little corner of the bird world. One evening last month, a pair of jays was harassing me on the way to the compost pile. Jumping up and down tree branches, they seemed to be trying to head me away from something. Suddenly, our doxie puppy flushed one of our cats out from under a ladder propped under the eaves of our storage shed. Aha! The jays weren’t worried about me; it was the cats they were watching. Closer inspection revealed that the jays had constructed a nest high atop an aluminum ladder. The nest was about 18-inches across and mom was sitting on eggs. I quickly boarded up the ladder to detract predators and give the family some security. Large ravens, black birds and crows populate the towering firs along the creek. They sound as if they are incessantly squabbling amongst themselves. Caw. Caw. Caaaw! Their shrill penetrating voices are not to be ignored. One can only assume that they command a great deal of respect in the bird community. But something has been stalking and killing them at night. (And no, it’s not our cats. They are inside.) So back to our mystery: what is killing these large birds? An eagle or large hawk? Ground predators are certainly a possibility. Raccoons? We have many. Jeff, our visiting son (a self-professed night owl) has added another twist to the mystery. A professional musician who needs to “keep his chops up,” he often practices his trumpet outside in the evening (with a heavy-duty mute). His audience is an interesting mix of cats, dogs, birds and bats flying out of the nearby trees. Thanks to his late night concerts, he observes a wide variety of nightlife. About 2 a.m. one morning, a large owl flew slowly (and closely) overhead to check him out! Jeff said that it looked suspiciously like a Great Horned Owl and had a distinctive ho hoo hoo sound. “Sorry, mom, I couldn’t pick him out of a lineup.” I looked up our visiting owl in Sibley’s Field Guide to Birds” and it says that Great Horned Owls “at night forage in woods, fields and forest edges for medium size mammals…” It also says that Screech Owls kill blackbirds. Hmm. The plot thickens. But hey! I’m a hybrid city girl living in the country. I can’t solve this mystery. Drop me a line or give me a call and let me know what you think. We can use a little help out here. Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart. Read her weekly columns in the Cottage Grove Sentinel.