Doddridge couple find they’re a perfect match
by Paul Leakan
STAFF WRITER
    WEST UNION — Twenty-five years ago, they became soulmates. Last month, doctors found they were made for each other in more ways than one. Dianne Knight, 47, could barely watch her husband suffer through the pain. Andy Knight, 52, spent most of the last two years inside a hospital. His kidneys were failing.
    Knight underwent dialysis treatment three times a week for two years. During each trip, doctors ran his blood through a machine almost 20 times to filter out toxins and poisons. It wasn’t much of a life.
    The four-hour treatment left him nauseous and drained. Sometimes he was bound to a wheelchair.
“It seems like I was either sick or getting over being sick,” he said. “Every part of my life revolved around it.”
Mrs. Knight gave up her full-time teaching job at Doddridge County High School so she could take care of her husband.
The dialysis still sapped his energy. And he wasn’t getting better.
    “It was like a full-time job for me to get him to his appointments and stuff,” Mrs. Knight said. “It kept him alive, but it’s far from any cure. They told him that would be his life unless he gets a transplant.”
That life was too painful.
    For Mrs. Knight, the answer was clear. She would try to ease her husband’s daily battle with his failing kidneys by donating one of her own.
    “When you see someone you care about sick like that all the time, you want to do something,” she said.
The odds were stacked against them.
    Kidney donors are usually close relatives of the intended recipient, according to Pamela Bishop Fauls of the National Kidney Foundation. The donor must have blood and tissue types compatible with the recipient.
    After performing tests on the couple, doctors could hardly believe the results. It was a one in a million chance. It was Andy Knight’s chance at a life without the daily pain. It was practically a perfect match.
“She was better matched than most siblings would have been,” said Michelle Privett, a registered nurse and kidney transplant coordinator at West Virginia University Hospital.
I    n kidney transplants, doctors study six small markers that are located in every cell in the body. The markers, called antigens, determine everything that makes up who people are, such as hair type and the immune system.
    Mrs. Knight’s antigens are a four out of six match with her husband. That means her organs are more compatible with her husband than his blood brothers or sisters. His brothers and sisters may only have been a three out of six match, Privett said.
“It could be fate, or good luck,” Privett said. “The incident is probably a million to one that she would be that good of a match.” The discovery astonished the Knights. They sought to go forward with the transplant.
Another obstacle stood in their path.
    Doctors discovered that Mr. Knight had four major blockages of his arteries in his heart. Doctors said he was on his way to a heart attack.
    Knight was rushed for immediate heart surgery. The surgery was a success. Doctors then made preparations for the kidney transplant.
    His wife was ready and willing to undergo the surgery. Mr. Knight wasn’t so sure. He worried about what might happen to his wife. He had to cope with the possibility that the transplant might fail. He had to weigh all of this knowing that he may not have to feel sick every minute of every day.
    Even if he was able to accept the organ physically, his doubts mentally could cause his body to reject the organ, Privett said. Knight chose to go forward with the transplant.
    Doctors removed Mrs. Knight’s 11th rib to free up space to take out one of her kidneys. With the kidney removed, her other kidney would eventually enlarge and do the work of two kidneys.
    Hours later, the surgery was complete. Mr. Knight awoke feeling strange. He didn’t feel sick. “I went from being sick every second of every day to not being sick at all,” he said.
Mrs. Knight was now the one in pain.
    Kidney donors generally go through much more pain than recipients, Privett said. Doctors made a 10 to 12-inch incision on the Mrs. Knight’s side to remove the kidney.
    “Every time you cough, laugh, move or breathe, it hurts,” Privett said. “So she went through quite a bit of pain for him.”
Mrs. Knight believes the pain was worth it. Both of them can now enjoy their retirement. They can look forward to growing old together.
They already feel closer.
    “It’s funny, but it’s like I’m thinking something and he says it,” Mrs. Knight said. “I’ll start to say something and he’ll say, I was just thinking that. It’s starting to get almost weird.”
There have been some surprising changes, however.
    “He’s even been doing dishes for me,” Mrs. Knight said. “How much better can you get than that?”
The Knights hope they can continue to stay healthy.
    Kidney transplants from living donors are highly successful, Privett said. More than 98 percent of the patients have a functioning kidney after one year. The success rate drops to 80 percent after five years.
The couple is optimistic about their chances.
    “Life is full of chances,” Mrs. Knight said. “We’re both Christians, and we feel God’s in control and that we’re just along for the ride.”


Area kids scramble to
find their share of eggs
by Paul Leakan
STAFF WRITER
Some ran as fast as their little legs could take them.
The race was on. The stakes were high.
One egg. Two eggs. Three eggs. Red eggs. Blue eggs. Green eggs. So many eggs. So little time.
    Some came prepared for the hunt, sporting all the essential Easter Bunny-related clothing. Some toted along wicker baskets. Others brought brown paper grocery bags.
A few parents even let their children hunt and peck all by themselves.
    Granted, it was wasn’t exactly difficult for many of the children, aged 3 to 8, to uncover the plastic eggs from beneath the thin mounds of hay. But this wasn’t really about the challenge. It was about the candy. And the toys. And — yes — the chance to play with other children.
    Dozens of area children got themselves into the Easter spirit at Salem-Teikyo University’s Easter egg hunt Saturday.
The event, sponsored by the university’s Humanics Student Association and the Salem Park Board, helped children, parents and a few students at the university bring their community a little closer.
    Lorina Shinsato, a senior molecular biology major, said the event is a part of the Humanics Association’s goals of developing students’ professional leadership qualities and contributing to the community.
    Shinsato believes the event strengthened her organization skills because she and others in the Humanics Association had to put the event together.
    Aside from that, the event was a good way for people in the community to meet each other, said Sabine Yost.
“It’s important because you can meet people,” said Yost, who is originally from Mannheim, Germany and now lives with her husband and children in Shinnston.
    The children could potentially meet new playmates, Yost said. Of course, did we mention there was also candy? Gabrielle Price, 7, gathered some serious sugary loot. “I got 23 eggs,” she said. “I counted ’em.” Price said that she can count to 200, if she wants to.
    But she had no idea she would rake in that many eggs. The eggs were filled with candy or small slips of paper that could be turned in for prizes such as squirt guns and stuffed toys. It didn’t matter who got the most eggs.
Tiara Freeman, 7, estimated that she found 19 eggs.
    Freeman wasn’t afraid to predict the arrival of a certain furry, floppy-eared creature Saturday night. “The Easter Bunny’s coming,” she said, twisting her hair. How can she be so sure? “Because my mommy told me.”


Alum Bridge school has
strong community support
by Torie Knight
STAFF WRITER
    ALUM BRIDGE — A third grade student walks into the library of the elementary school here. She sits down with parent volunteer Barbara Winans and begins to read aloud.
    She’s become a good reader who rarely needs the help of the volunteer. Today, it is chapter nine of “No Room for Francie” by Mary Ann MacDonald.
    Sierra Cole of Churchville opens the book and reads about Francie, a girl who wants to make a club with her friends.
Francie plans to have the first club meeting at her house but is having trouble getting the house and shed cleaned. One friend tries to help. Then, a girl at school tells Francie they don’t need her “crummy house” for the club meeting because they can use her house. “That’s as far as I got,” Sierra said.
    She has one chapter left in the book. Sierra and many other students go to the school library each day to read aloud with a parent volunteer.
    It’s part of a parent-run accelerated reading program that encourages kids to read as many books as possible. The program keeps the students boasting about just how many books they read and the principal boasting about how well the school is doing.
    Principal Jim Hoover believes parental involvement is what keeps Alum Bridge Elementary School, with only 80 students in five grades, open.
    Parents play a big role in the school, which is the largest employer in the small Lewis County community. They distribute a newsletter, run the library and help in the classroom. They raised $13,000 last year through the local Parent Teacher Association. Most of the money went to book and computer purchases. “There’s a lot of community spirit and support for the school,” Hoover said. The 1929 school building has been the mainstay of the community for years.
    Alum Bridge has little industry. The former convenience store is now vacant with a for sale sign in the window.
A few self-employed folks make a living off pottery, organic farming and as a locksmith. Mostly, it’s a farming and timber community. Of the five teachers,  two attended the school as children.
    Ric Carder teaches fourth grade. If you ask him what has changed since he was in school, he slyly responds, “I’m a little older.”
    Sheila Davis works at the school every Thursday and helps with the newsletter. Her son is in first grade. “I think it makes a difference to have parents here,” Davis said.
    The community members also devote time to the Alum Bridge Neighborhood Watch. Nearly every house has a neighborhood watch sign.
    It’s a community that does its best to protect and support itself, Hoover said.


Wal-Mart for
Grafton not
a done deal
Taylor development officials say land transactions need to be finished first
by Troy Graham and Torie Knight
STAFF WRITERS
    Wal-Mart company officials may have been premature and a bit optimistic when they announced last week that a new store would be opening in the Taylor County Industrial Park.
    A complicated set of land deals involving several companies will have to be completed before the newest Wal-Mart in North Central West Virginia, officials said this week. In other words, a deal with North Carolina developers who are attempting to bring in the Wal-Mart is actually far from complete.
    “When someone jumps the gun like Wal-Mart and makes a pre-announcement it makes my job tougher,” said Bruce Miller, who is heading up the Wal-Mart project for the Tygart Valley Development Authority.
    In addition, with the complex and uncertain nature of the deal, rumors and speculation have swirled around Taylor County, as residents wonder if the promise of hundreds of jobs will become a reality.
    A question also has been raised about whether a retail store can locate in the Taylor County Industrial Park, because a federal grant used to install water and sewer lines there several years ago may have stipulated that the infrastructure be used to lure industrial-type businesses.
    The industrial park will be just one of the issues which private developers, who are the primary players in bringing in the Wal-Mart store, will have to examine, Miller said. The developers, whom Miller would not identify, and the county have not yet struck a deal on the 20-acre site where the Wal-Mart is to be located.
    In addition, the 20 acres is owned by Grafton Homes. In February 1995, the Taylor County Development Authority sold 11.8 acres to Grafton Truss and Panel for $62,650 and 8.02 acres to Grafton Homes for $40,000, according to records in the Taylor County Courthouse. Grafton Homes recently bought out Grafton Truss and Panel.
    The Tygart Valley Development Authority, which absorbed the Taylor County authority several years ago, must buy back that property before it can sell it to the developers.
    So, the development authority has an option to buy the property back from the two companies, and the Wal-Mart developers have an option to buy the property from the development authority. Miller said he could not discuss the prices he is negotiating with Grafton Homes and the Wal-Mart developers.
    Thrown into the mix is the fact that the development authority is searching for a new location for Grafton Homes, which is looking to expand its manufacturing business.
    The development authority is optioning a 59-acre site on AFG Road next to the Fourco Glass plant, Miller said. Ideally, the development authority would like to buy that property from its three out-of-state owners and allow Grafton Homes and two other businesses to locate on that site. Miller would not identify the other businesses that could potentially locate there, but he said one is a heating company and the other is a gas-hauling company.
    The three companies could create 30 new jobs, Miller estimated, while Wal-Mart promises 200 jobs. That many new jobs “hasn’t happened in Taylor County in years, and I mean a lot of years,” Miller said. “We hope that it keeps on going, that this is the spark that starts the fire,” he said.
    Even if the deal on the 59-acre site falls through, the development authority plans to buy the industrial park property and find a new location for Grafton Homes, Miller said. But first the Wal-Mart developers must commit to that property.
“If this other option comes through and they say, ‘Yes we want it,’ then we’ll exercise our option,” Miller said. “It’s a complicated process.”
    The process may be more intricate considering the Federal Economic Development Administration grant that was used to install water and sewer infrastructure in the industrial park. The infrastructure was put in the park years ago and the grant has now expired.
    Miller said any grant restrictions on the use of the property have probably expired or were satisfied by the original sales to Grafton Homes and Grafton Truss and Panel.
    However, that is another issue that must be scrutinized by both the development authority and the Wal-Mart developers, Miller said. If the restrictions are in place “we’d be up the creek,” he said. The Wal-Mart developer “isn’t going to buy the property if he can’t use it,” Miller said.
    Richard Wood, the executive director of the Region VI Planning and Development Council, said he doubted there would be problems with the grant, although he was out of the office Friday and said he could not be sure until he looked at the grant. Wood estimated the grant was issued eight to 10 years ago.
    “EDA used to have pretty tight restrictions on industrial parks,” he said. “But over the years, as economic development has broadened, EDA has also broadened its definitions.”


Program gets local kids
‘sky high’ without drugs
by Paul Leakan
STAFF WRITER
    Randy Childers has no problem admitting it: His “Get Sky High on Model Aviation, Not Drugs” program was tailored after the “Get Hooked on Fishing, Not on Drugs” program in Harrison County.
    Both programs aim to steer youth away from negative influences such as violence, drug abuse and other crimes.
Both programs want to ease the seemingly mind-numbing boredom that many youth experience by giving them hobbies that could last a lifetime.
    And both programs seek to reach out to young minds, hoping to teach them skills that could eventually start them on a career.
    Childers, president of the Clarksburg Model Aviation Club, doesn’t care what people think about the name. He’s simply proud of the program’s goals. “We don’t care what it’s called — just as long as it gets kids interested in something,” he said. “There’s just so much for kids to do on the negative side. If they get involved with their hands and their minds, and use their hands and minds, we’re all ahead of the game.”
    The program helps teach children about model aviation and how airplanes work. The Clarksburg Model Aviation Club, founded in 1930, has visited several schools in Harrison County and around the state.
    The club demonstrates to students how the planes work, shows them blueprints of the planes and teaches them about airplane lift, gravity, thrust and force — all of which make up aviation theory.
    The club was stationed at the Meadowbrook Mall nearly all day Saturday. Members of the model aviation club gave out model airplane magazines, showed off miniature airplanes and urged parents and children to join in the fun of model aviation.
    The aviation club flies the planes every Thursday, weather permitting, at Clarksburg Model Aviation Field on U.S. Route 19 near Sand Hill Road. Members invited both the young and old to come and try out the planes.
J.R. Nicholson, a Bridgeport resident who’s been in the club since the beginning of World War II, said that flying model airplanes is a challenging sport regardless of your age. “It’s something you put together yourself, and then fly. You have to be very precise. By the time you think you’re good, the ground comes up and smites ya.”
    An average model airplane can fly anywhere from 30 to 70 miles per hour, Childers said. The world record is about 300 mph, he said.
    An average plane weighs about five pounds, but there are several planes that can reach up to 55 pounds, Childers said.
The planes cost anywhere from $250 to $300 and up.
    Considering the cost and the difficulty of flying the planes, Nicholson recommends that anyone who wants to take up the hobby get instructions from the club.
    Nicholson believes that model aviation truly is a good way to give youth a means to have fun while learning about humility. “It’s very humbling to see you’re not a B-51 pilot,” he said. “It’s all eye-hand coordination. It’s something you have to practice, practice, practice.”


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