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Small steps, big victories

When it comes to heart health, it’s the smallest of changes that can bring the biggest of victories — that was the theme of the 12th Wear Red event, a “Ladies After Hours” event in the Ellis Ballroom at Juniata College Thursday evening, sponsored by the Auxiliary to J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital and the staff of the J.C. Blair Cardiac Rehabilitation Center.

Denise Sheffield, registered nurse and service leader of J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital’s Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Program, along with several graduates of the cardiac rehab program, shared their wisdom and inspiration with those in attendance.

Sheffield shared that women will likely experience four types of heart disease, including coronary artery disease, valvular disease, arrhythmias and cardio myopathy, and the likely risk factors for women to get heart disease.

The first include genetics, Sheffield said people who have a history of heart disease in their families are already at risk for heart disease.

“With genetics, if parents have had some form of heart disease before the age of 50, the chances of you having heart disease are more likely,” she said.

Aging is another risk factor, and Sheffield said women age, the heart tends to weaken naturally.

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is also another risk factor.

“To check blood pressure properly, you need to be seated and completely relaxed for at least five minutes,” said Sheffield. “Most people prefer to have a blood pressure of 130/80, but the ideal blood pressure if 115/75.”

Having diabetes is another risk factor, said Sheffield, noting a consequence of diabetes includes plaque buildup in the arteries of the heart.

Smoking, another risk factor, is the number one thing to quit if diagnosed with a form of heart disease, to stop the progression of the disease.

The last two risk factors Sheffield touched on are lack of physical activity and stress.

“The Centers for Disease Control recommends we take 10,000 steps per day, and 30 minutes of activity should be in an intensity that makes you sweat,” she said. “For stress, as women, that’s one of the biggest things we’re not always able to control. But, with stress, that’s just as bad as hypertension.”

Sheffield also touted the benefits of cardiac rehab and allowed women who are graduates or going through the program to share their stories.

“Cardiac rehab increases your survival rate by 51 percent,” she said. “But, only 20 percent of those who go through it are women, and they usually have lots of reasons why they can’t, but we tell women that we expect progress, not perfection.”

Donna Deamer, someone going through the cardiac rehab program currently, said she has a family history of heart disease.

“Some people say you are what you eat,” said Deamer. “I like to say you are what you inherit.”

After Deamer had a heart attack, she looked at having bypass surgery as an option, but after also being diagnosed with breast cancer, she later learned that bypass surgery wasn’t in the cards for her, so she turned to cardiac rehab and has thrived through the program.

“I tell people that you don’t give up, keep the faith and God will pull you through,” she said.

Sandy Scott had a heart attack Dec. 13, 2018. After exhibiting symptoms for a few days, she was taken to the hospital.

“I would get up at night with heartburn frequently, so I thought it was that,” said Scott. “But, I got up one morning and had severe pain where my chest felt heavy. My husband eventually called 911.”

She was taken to the heart catheterization lab at J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital, where they discovered she had suffered a heart attack.

“They saved my life at the cath lab,” she said. “My daughter told me my legs were turning gray, and she also saw another patient in the hospital whose legs were gray with similar issues as I had, and she ended up passing away. My daughter told me I was the lucky one.”

Joan Garber is a cardiac rehab graduate who now volunteers at the cardiac rehabilitation center, as her goal is to give back to those who gave so willingly to her after her heart attack.

“I was an avid runner, I ate right, my cholesterol was below 150 and I had no excess weight,” she said. “My parents both had heart disease, but I never gave it a thought that it would happen to me.”

Garber said she was training for a marathon when she felt a pain near her heart, but she never thought it could be a heart attack.

“I went to the emergency room, and I was hooked up to an EKG, where they said I was having a heart attack,” she said. “I asked God why, when I’ve done everything right.”

After she was sent home from the hospital, five days later, she had another heart attack. After that experience, she went into the cardiac rehab program defeated.

“It was there that I found my journey to healing,” she said, speaking of her experience. “Now, I have faith in God, and instead of asking God why me, I ask why not me.”

Patty Hockenberry said she switched family doctors in 2013, and when she got a physical, her new doctor discovered she had a heart murmur.

“I set up an appointment for a heart catheterization, and I was told I had a leaky and clogged valve,” she said. “But, I was also told that I would be in my 70s or 80s before that would become a problem.”

After a few months, Hockenberry said she wasn’t feeling right, and she told her doctors she could hear what sounded like someone washing clothes on a washboard in her ear. Another catheterization would show her issues were getting worse, and surgery was needed.

Hockenberry said she had cardiac rehabilitation after her surgery, with hopes of never returning after she completed her program, but she was also diagnosed with COPD, which brought her back to the program again.

“But, thanks to the program, I’ve lost 16 pounds and I’m off my blood pressure medicine, which I’ve taken for years,” she said.

Sue Dodson was fitted for a pacemaker after being diagnosed with an arrhythmia in April 2017, but continued to have symptoms. She went back to her surgeon who said everything looked fine, but her symptoms persisted. She turned to cardiac rehab, where Sheffield encouraged her to listen to her body.

“She worked with me and did research, because she knew that I shouldn’t have been experiencing what I was,” said Dodson. “After I finished the rehab, I came back to visit, and Denise encouraged me to get another opinion. I ended up going to four more doctors. I had no quality of life.

“I went to the fifth doctor, who spent two hours with me, and told me I needed to have my pacemaker removed and another fitted,” she added. “So, I had that done. The one was removed on my left side, and they put another in on my right side. As soon as I woke up, my symptoms had stopped.”

Sheffield added that it’s important for women to be their own advocates and to know their bodies.

She also ended the discussion by encouraging women to find their own “yud.”

“The yud is the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet, but it’s at the beginning of the most important words in Hebrew, like God and Israel,” she said. “You need to apply the secret of yud in your own life. I want you to start taking yud steps, the smallest of steps toward the greatest of changes. You begin the greatest of things with the smallest of strokes. You begin by applying the secret of the yud.”

Insurance claims filed due to wind

Last weekend’s windstorm has resulted in heavy accumulation of insurance claims this week for area agents.

Gales between 40-60 miles per hour besieged the region Sunday into Monday bringing trees and wires down onto roadways, structures and cars.

“We certainly did see a number of claims from the wind,” said Clay McMath, an insurance agent with Brown and Walters Insurance Agency, Inc., Orbisonia. “There was a lot of roof damage, damage from trees up against the house and those types of things.”

While the duration and severity of the weather phenomenon was somewhat unusual, wind damage-related claims this time of year are not.

“Some of the stronger winds we tend to get occur in February and March — that time frame,” McMath said. “So, it’s not uncommon, although these sustained winds were about as strong as we’ve seen in this area.”

He speculated that the ground saturation from heavy rains throughout the year may have increased the number of trees brought down by the winds.

“Normally, the ground is frozen this time of year,” he said. “This year, it’s not and the ground is completely saturated.”

The high volume of claims also took place across a large area.

“We normally get more isolated cases, but this was pretty widespread,” said McMath.

Insurance adjusters were largely able to keep up with the number of claims, but had to “triage” somewhat.

“The availability of adjusters to get out to each claim depends on what location the person is in. When you have extensive amounts of damage across the state, you have to prioritize,” he said. “They try to prioritize in order to get someone back up to regular living conditions as soon as possible, which means you have to gauge the severity of the damage. Overall, we’ve not seen a delay with adjusters getting out to people.”

McMath added that another seasonal source of insurance claims can be attributed to frozen pipes from extreme cold temperatures.

“So far, we’ve not seen anything different from any other year with these short duration cold snaps,” he said. “It’s the longer ones where extreme cold sticks around where you start to see more damage.”

He encouraged all property owners to be familiar with the insurance policies to ensure the coverage is adequate and suits their individual needs.

Crews respond to fire at SCI Huntingdon

Emergency crews from multiple departments responded to a reported a commercial fire at SCI Huntingdon at 11 a.m. Thursday.

“Welders were working in the kitchen,” said Connie Green, SCI Huntingdon superintendent assistant. “A spark flew behind the flashing in back of one of the coolers and caught fire.”

Huntingdon County 911 was called immediately as staff members worked to extinguish the fire, which caused a great deal of smoke.

“Staff mainly had it contained and put out, but we did call to have Smithfield come in to check because there was a lot of smoke,” Green said.

Volunteers from Smithfield Volunteer Fire Co. were joined at the scene by Huntingdon Regional Fire & Rescue, Mill Creek, Marklesburg, Alexandria and Petersburg volunteer fire companies, Huntingdon Ambulance and state police.

“We had several staff members who went to the emergency room to be treated for smoke inhalation,” she said. “No one was admitted and there were no other injuries.”

The institution was placed in lockdown status as per protocol whenever an incident occurs.

“It is standard practice to lock down and do a count whenever an incident happens,” said Green.

The lock down continued through this morning to allow for cleanup of the kitchen and surrounding areas.

“There was no major damage,” she said. “We feel we can clean up (Thursday night) and be ready to open up again (Friday morning) as long as cleanup goes as we think it should.”

Bagged lunches were prepared by staff at SCI Smithfield for the SCI Huntingdon inmates during lunch Thursday and Green anticipated that bagged meals would be prepared in house for the inmates Thursday evening.

She expressed her appreciation for the quick response to the incident by area firefighters.

“We are very appreciative for the support we received as soon as we asked,” said Green. “It was outstanding.”

The scene was cleared at 12:40 p.m.

Mother opts for state prison treatment program

A woman accused of endangering her child through opioid exposure is seeking enrollment in a state prison program that provides comprehensive treatment for drug addiction.

Nicole Renea Kelly, 31, of Shade Gap, entered “no contest” pleas Thursday afternoon to the felony 3 offense of endangering the welfare of children and the misdemeanor 2 offense of recklessly endangering another person. In exchange, Kelly is hoping for acceptance into the State Intermediate Punishment program which incorporates extensive drug and alcohol treatment.

State police at Huntingdon report that while incarcerated in Jefferson County, Kelly gave birth Dec. 20 at Punxsutawney Hospital where medical staff diagnosed her baby as suffering from opioid withdrawal and showed signs of other health concerns.

Police say Huntingdon County Children and Youth Services notified police of the situation and informed them that another child of Kelly’s born Aug. 30, 2017, was also drug-dependent at birth.

Huntingdon County District Attorney David Smith described the plea as “the right choice,” given a recent state Supreme Court ruling that came down one week after charges were filed against Kelly.

“Essentially, there is a Pennsylvania Supreme Court Case which held that a pregnant woman who ingests drugs does not meet the definition of child abuse,” Smith said.

The 5-2 Supreme Court ruling reversed an earlier state Superior Court decision in a CYS case which originated out of Clinton County. That case, too, centered on a mother whose child was born suffering from withdrawal due to exposure to opioids in-utero.

Dec. 28, eight days after Huntingdon County’s case against Kelly launched, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania wrote: “Labeling a woman as a perpetrator of child abuse does not prevent her from becoming pregnant or provide any protection for a later conceived child while in-utero. It also does not ensure that the same woman will not use illegal drugs if she does again become pregnant.”

The court continued: “Moreover, once labeled as a perpetrator of child abuse, the likelihood that a new mother will be able to assimilate into the workforce and participate in activities of the child’s life would be diminished. This would contravene the laudatory goal of preserving family unity and a supportive environment for the child.”

When filing charges against Kelly, Smith said his office took the position, “If a mom knowingly and repeatedly uses drugs while pregnant and has a history of doing this to other children, we are going to prosecute.”

During investigation, state police were advised by the Huntingdon County Probation Department that Kelly tested positive for oxycodone and benzodiazepines when she was committed to the Huntingdon County Jail Dec. 7 on a warrant in another case. She was later moved to Jefferson County’s jail for maternity care. Police report they also learned that Kelly’s child who was born in 2017 and now a year old is currently prescribed phenobarbital for ongoing issues.

Smith said Thursday’s plea agreement is a good resolution considering the facts of the case plus the appellate court ruling which, although pertaining specifically to the state’s Child Protective Services Law, could have implications in the state’s criminal courts.

“We’re satisfied in light of everything we know and hopefully this gives the defendant the opportunity to get intensive alcohol and drug treatment,” he said.

Kelly’s attorney, chief public defender Fred Gutshall, did prepare a challenge to the charges based on the state Supreme Court’s decision and said Thursday he was ready to present his arguments to Huntingdon County President Judge George Zanic.

As she offered her pleas in court, Zanic reminded Kelly of her rights, including the pursuit of Gutshall’s petition, and explained she was putting those particular rights aside by pleading in the case.

“Your attorney is challenging whether the commonwealth can proceed with charges,” Zanic said, noting the original intent of Kelly’s appearance Thursday was for a hearing on Gusthall’s petition.

Kelly told Zanic she wanted to go ahead with the plea and apply to the SIP program.

State Intermediate Punishment is a 24-month prison program in which inmates progress through incarceration, outpatient treatment and supervised reintegration into the community, according to information provided by the state Department of Corrections. The program provides individualized treatment plans to inmates.

For now, Kelly will submit to a program evaluation to determine her eligibility and will return to court for final sentencing at a later date. In addition to accepting Kelly’s pleas, Zanic issued orders vacating her probation on a 2018 resisting arrest charge and revoking her parole on a DUI dating from 2016.

As Kelly heads for her evaluation, Smith said he’d like lawmakers to make further study of addiction’s impact on infants and children and whether current definitions are consistent with other existing laws regarding unborn and very young children. For example, he said under Pennsylvania law an individual who assaults a pregnant woman thus causing injury or death to an unborn child is subject to criminal charges.

“Legislators need to take a hard look and figure it out,” Smith said. “I realize it can spark a ton of controversy but is it asking too much that, if you are abusing a child with drugs, there’s a consequence?”

Rebecca can be reached at

New ticketing process begins

Huntingdon Borough’s enforcement of parking procedures will move into the 21st century beginning Monday, March 4, with the implementation of a new ticketing system.

“What we have been using is hand-written tickets with a carbon copy receipt,” said Huntingdon Borough Police Chief Jeff Buckley. “None of the process, from a ticket to a late notice to a citation, is automated. It’s all hand-written. We’re updating that whole system.”

The system, which is likely similar to what has been used since parking tickets originated, proved cumbersome and prone to human error.

“The whole process of bookkeeping for all of those records once the ticket was issued is antiquated,” Buckley said. “It’s always been in need of updating. There is new technology that streamlines the whole process.”

Buckley and Huntingdon Borough Mayor Dave Wessels began exploring various systems and adopted one developed by a Pennsylvania-based company, United Public Safety.

Wessels said the new system will offer better checks and balances.

“This way we can see the whole picture, money in and money out, and what status the ticket is in,” he said. “This gives us much better manipulation over the ticket system itself. We can see the ticket at all phases and all stages.”

Implementation of the ticketing system will only impact actions taken on the officers’ side of enforcement.

“This is strictly for the citation portion of enforcement,” Buckley said. “The officers will now carry a handheld device. When they see that a violation has occurred, they fill in the required information including the violation or violations. That populates the fine and we can also take pictures of the vehicle and the surroundings.”

From the data entered into the device, a yellow parking ticket is generated and attached to the windshield of the vehicle in question. The information is also uploaded via Cloud technology for use by Huntingdon Borough Police Department (HPD) and the mayor.

“It’s as simple as logging into the Cloud-based server, so if there is a dispute, we can go in and see all of the information pertaining to that ticket,” said Wessels. “We couldn’t do that before. We’re also able to see the photographs, which eliminates the argument that the car wasn’t parked there. It eliminates people trying to get out of their tickets.”

The durable material upon which the citation is printed will withstand any weather conditions, holds up to crinkling and is extremely tear-resistant.

“You can still pay the fines the same way. You can stop at the station and pay those at either of the windows and, if you want, you can still put it in an envelope and deposit it in the box across the street,” said Buckley. “Now, you can also pay it online for a small fee.”

Huntingdon Borough Council has also amended the fine progression to allow tickets to be paid at face value within seven days, with the fine doubling after that point. Should the fine go unpaid after 14 days, that amount will triple. Tickets which are unpaid after 30 days will be forwarded to the district court.

“People are going to appreciate the friendlier, kinder guidelines established now and the ease in which they are going to be able to pay now,” Wessels said. “They are not going to have to run into the office to pay if they don’t want to or if they live out of town.”

The subject of the necessity of parking meters within the borough has been a much-debated topic spanning more than a decade.

“The need for parking meters is a conversation that comes up pretty regularly. There have been at least three iterations of ‘put them in’ and ‘take them out,’” said Wessels. “The need is really borne out of the fact that, within the downtown section, where we are trying to establish shopping and merchants, is still mixed in with residents of the apartments. If it weren’t for the meters, residents would park as close as possible and there wouldn’t be parking available for downtown merchants to have people come in and shop.”

Updates to the metering system are also under discussion, with plans to allow for parking payment through a smartphone while continuing to accept cash payment as well.

UGI gas prices rise 2.1 percent

Effective today, UGI customers will see an increase in their bills as a result of an increase in the cost of natural gas. As a result, the average residential heating customer’s bill will rise by 2.1 percent, increasing from $93.67 per month to $95.64 per month.

“While this increase reflects increases related to wholesale gas purchasing costs, natural gas continues to be an economical, reliable and environmentally responsible source of energy for our customers and our communities,” said Paul Szykman, UGI chief regulatory officer.

According to Joseph Swope, manager of media relations for UGI Utilities Inc., by law, utilities are required to pass the cost of natural gas directly through to the customer without any markup. However, the price is subject to change throughout the year.

“The purchase cost can change quarterly: March, June, September and December. I believe there was a slight decrease in December, and of course a small increase here in March. We don’t make any profit off of the natural gas, it’s a pass-through that encompasses the cost of gas and the cost of transporting the gas to our customers through interstate pipelines and other means of transportation,” said Swope. “It basically sort of reflects the overall wholesale market, which tends to fluctuate somewhat throughout the year.”

Swope stated that the increase is partially due to supply and demand, but also rising costs from the pipeline that services UGI.

“In the winter months, you will sometimes see and increase in the price of natural gas because of greater usage. Also one of our major interstate pipelines, that serves as one of our major supplies, has filed for some price increases on their systems, so the increase reflects partly that as well,” said Swope.

With the increase, UGI recognizes that some customers may have difficulty paying their heating bills, and encourages them to sign up for the budget billing program, which spreads billing amounts out evenly over a 12-month period.

“If a customer is having trouble paying their bill, and obviously in the winter is when a customer will see higher bills because of higher usage, one of the things I always stress is, if a customer is having trouble paying their bills, the worst thing they can do is ignore it and just not pay their bill,” said Swope. “If they call us, we can work with them on payment arrangements, and we can work with them on a budget billing program, and based on income they may qualify for some of our assistance programs. It’s always much better to call us and find out if they’re eligible for assistance or if there is some other ways that they can better manage their bill, than just not paying their bill and falling into that cycle.”

UGI customers that have a limited or fixed income should call UGI at 1-800-UGI-WARM to determine their eligibility for one of several energy assistance programs. UGI can also assist eligible customers in applying for the federally-funded low-income home energy assistance program (LIHEAP).

Additional information on energy efficiency and customer assistance programs is available at