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Geisinger Holy Spirit to host ‘World Day of the Sick’ retreat for healthcare professionals

CAMP HILL – Geisinger Holy Spirit will host a “World Day of the Sick” retreat for healthcare professionals on Saturday, March 17. The retreat will begin at 9 a.m. in the hospital auditorium, 503 N. 21st St., Camp Hill.

The retreat is designed for doctors, nurses, therapists, pharmacists, social workers, and other healthcare providers, offering an opportunity to reflect on Pope Francis’ annual message to healthcare providers, listen to reflections by others in the field, and share personal experiences. Geisinger Holy Spirit is offering the retreat as a part of its mission integration initiatives to incorporate caring, faith, solidarity, and respect for human dignity in the delivery of healthcare.

The schedule is as follows:

8:30 a.m. Registration

9 a.m. Opening prayer

9:05 a.m. Remarks on the theme of the retreat by Arlene Bobonich, M.D., Geisinger Holy Spirit Palliative and Supportive Medicine

9:10 a.m. “The Life of Blessed Mother Pauline” by Sister Mary Joseph Albright, SCC, mission integration director, Geisinger Holy Spirit

9:45 a.m. Discussion: “The Message of His Holiness Pope Francis for the 26th World Day of the Sick”

10:15 a.m. “Drawn Near to a Hidden Divine Presence” by Michael Brescia, M.D. (video presentation)

10:45 a.m. Personal reflection time

11:30 a.m. “Caring for a Loved One” by Maureen Asper, RN

11:50 a.m. Closing remarks

12:15 p.m. Liturgy in the hospital chapel (for those wishing to participate)

12:45 p.m. Lunch

There is no cost to attend the retreat and lunch will be provided to all attendees. Registration is requested at abobonich@geisinger.edu, cnpham@geisinger.edu, or kmccormack2@geisinger.edu.

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My Vision Is Blurry, But Eyeglasses Don’t Help

(NAPS)—Some eye conditions cannot be corrected with eyeglasses—but they can be helped. If you have a cataract, a condition in which the lens in your eye has become cloudy and vision becomes blurry—as if you’re looking through a foggy windshield—you need to see an ophthalmologist.

As physicians who specialize in medical and surgical eye care, ophthalmologists treat all diseases and conditions that affect the eye. You will first need a comprehensive dilated eye exam. The ophthalmologist will dilate your pupil to see the back of your eye to make the cataract diagnosis.

Here are some vision changes you might notice if you have a cataract:

• Difficulty seeing clearly or sharply

• Seeing two images instead of one

• Being extra sensitive to light, needing to shield eyes to prevent eye pain

• Trouble seeing well at night or needing increased light to read

• Seeing bright colors as faded.

EyeCare America May Be Able To Help

If you are concerned about the cost of the exam, the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s EyeCare America program may be able to help. This national public service provides eye care through volunteer ophthalmologists for eligible seniors 65 and older, and those at increased risk for eye disease. To see if you or your loved ones are eligible, visit www.aao.org/eyecareamerica.

I Have Cataracts, What’s Next?

You and your ophthalmologist should discuss your cataract symptoms. Together, you can decide whether you are ready for cataract surgery.

Surgery is the only way to remove a cataract. During surgery, your ophthalmologist will remove your eye’s cloudy lens and replace it with an artificial lens. If you decide to have cataract surgery, your doctor will discuss several options with you.

Check to see if you are eligible for EyeCare America by completing a simple online questionnaire. There are more than 5,500 volunteer ophthalmologists across the U.S. waiting to assist you.

Since 1985, EyeCare America has helped nearly 2 million people with sight-saving eye care and resources. More than 90 percent of the care provided is at no out-of-pocket cost to the patient. Grateful patient Connie, from Toledo, OH, said, “Thank you for the chance to get help. I went 20 years without checking my eyes.” EyeCare America is co-sponsored by the Knights Templar Eye Foundation, with additional support from Alcon.

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A High School Senior is College Shopping Thanks to His Mom’s Kidney

March is National Kidney Month, which is a month-long, awareness-raising grassroots effort to spread the word across the country about the importance of kidney health. An East Coast transplant family knows all too well the life-saving difference a healthy kidney can make.

The Hoover family of Redding, Connecticut, assumed the role of transplant family with absolutely no warning. Theirs is the type of story that strikes fear in all parents’ hearts. Wyatt Hoover was born to his adoring first-time parents in April 2000. He was the light of their lives. His baby sister, Josie, was born a year later. Their family’s daily routines were much like those of their neighbors and friends. Wyatt soon fell in love with scouting and theater, which became passions for parents Herb and Jeanmarie as well. The Hoover Four had many great years of watching Wyatt and Josie grow up and become close as siblings. They played hard and they all loved each other ‘to the moon and back.’

But the Hoover family’s lives literally turned upside down in early June 2016 during Wyatt’s Boy Scouts’ summer camp physical. Wyatt’s mom, Jeanmarie, recently looked back and wrote a first-person narrative of their family’s transplant journey, and some of her thoughts are shared here:

It was June 2016 – the end of the school year. It is always such a busy time in the Hoover house. On top of the usual bustle, we were getting ready to move. At the same time we had to get Wyatt ready to go to his first real summer job as a residential camp counselor at Boy Scout Camp. Wyatt is an Eagle Scout. I picked Wyatt up from his high school finals and we drove to his camp physical at the pediatrician’s office. We had no idea our lives were about to change forever.

At the appointment we started realizing something was wrong. Wyatt’s hemoglobin came up way too low and he had lost over 20 pounds since the previous fall. Later Wyatt’s theatre costumer would tell me she had to special order a child’s size for Wyatt (for the spring production) as he had gotten so thin. Had we noticed anything else? Yes. Wyatt was utterly exhausted all the time and having trouble focusing in his classes. We had always thought he just was not a morning person. He always made the honor roll so we did not pay much attention to his tiredness. When Wyatt’s urine test came back hundreds over normal for protein our pediatrician told us it could be mono or Lyme disease or maybe even nephrotic syndrome and sent us to Hartford to the children’s hospital ER.

            Truly unbelievable but within 24 hours of entering that ER our Wyatt, who had never had so much as a cavity, was having surgery to implant two dialysis catheters. We were told he would soon need a life-saving kidney transplant and a lifetime of immunosuppression.

Within the month we left the children’s hospital behind and transferred to Yale for Wyatt’s dialysis care while researching Boston Children’s Hospital for his kidney transplant. We spent the summer adjusting to dialysis and taking turns breaking down emotionally over the incredible loss we were feeling. Instead of camp and hiking Wyatt and I spent many warm summer days driving to Yale. We passed the time singing in the car to the soundtrack of “Hamilton” and it became a joyous escape for both of us.

In mid-July, upon a transplant social worker’s urging, Jeanmarie called the Children’s Organ Transplant Association (COTA) to learn more about fundraising for transplant-related expenses. COTA uniquely understands that parents who care for a child or young adult before, during and after a life-saving transplant have enough to deal with, so COTA’s model shifts the responsibility for fundraising to a community team of trained volunteers. COTA is a 501(c)3 charity so all contributions to COTA are tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law, and these COTA funds are available for the patient’s lifetime. On July 19th the Hoovers called COTA’s 800 number to learn more and they signed the paperwork and became an official COTA family soon after.

At the beginning of Wyatt’s transplant journey, COTA’s support was invaluable.  Learning that we were not alone as a transplant family was a huge relief for us. COTA gave us guidance in choosing a team of volunteers to help with fundraising. COTA worked individually with our chosen team members to discuss ideas and fundraising guidelines. COTA gave a great deal of support to our team members and volunteers throughout the COTA in honor of Wyatt H fundraising efforts. They answered questions, helped with troubleshooting solutions, and provided easy-to-follow guidelines to assure the fundraising complied with all regulations.

Because Wyatt’s transplant was unexpected and completely unplanned for, the COTA in honor of Wyatt H team of volunteers quickly got to work planning fundraisers for transplant-related expenses. The Redding theater community and Boy Scouts all got involved to creatively raise funds for COTA in honor of Wyatt H. As Jeanmarie told COTA recently, the fundraising gave so many of their friends, family members and colleagues something tangible they could do to help. In very little time, the COTA team of volunteers raised nearly $75,000 for transplant-related expenses.

COTA also gave the team a fundraising website at no charge. Wyatt was even able to submit blog entries to tell his story in his own words. The blog provided a really positive and cathartic outlet for Wyatt. Through the website, supporters were able to contribute online after reading Wyatt’s blogs. Many contributors told us how excited they were to take part in such a wonderful community effort with such amazing momentum. Seeing loved ones, friends, colleagues, acquaintances and even people we have never met come together to support COTA for Wyatt H truly renewed our faith in the goodness of humanity.

Also critical to us is that contributors to COTA for Wyatt H knew they were giving to a legitimate and trusted 501(c)3 charity that is fiscally responsible. We never worried that people were going to ask us how their donation is being spent because it can only be used for transplant-related expenses. Many contributors have told us they feel completely confident donating to COTA — unlike when they are asked to donate to internet fundraising sites. They pointed out how some internet fundraising sites collect fees from both donors and the recipients while COTA does not charge any fees.

It gives us tremendous peace of mind to know that COTA will always be there for Wyatt.

By the end of August 2016 it was time for Wyatt to return to school to begin his junior year of studies. He was excited to receive his driver’s license on September 16th but a trip to the hospital four days later due to an emergency catheter breach brought his dialysis reality and eventual transplant back into focus. Amazingly through all of his health hurdles, Wyatt managed to play the role of the Narrator in the Joel Barlow High School’s production of “Into the Woods” during mid-November.

Wyatt worked at his junior year classes (two AP classes and an honors class no less) as I worked through testing to be his kidney donor. We were healing with the help of the love and support we felt from our community. During this challenging time, our friends came through for us and we will be forever grateful. Wyatt’s theatre group held a comedy improv night COTA fundraiser, his Boy Scout Troup held a Fright Night COTA fundraiser, and Wyatt’s old school (where Herb and I met in eighth grade) held a volleyball tournament COTA fundraiser. It all meant the world to us. We can never thank everyone enough for their support for our family and for COTA in honor of Wyatt H.

Once Wyatt’s first semester was over it was time for the transplant in Boston. With COTA’s help we stayed at the hotel next door and it became our home base. Wyatt was very scared but also very courageous. He went through the grueling process of bringing his immune system down so his body could accept my kidney. We were in it together and stayed with him until it was time for Herb to take me to my surgery. The team at Boston Children’s Hospital was amazing.

Because of our transplant team and COTA, we did not have to worry about having the proper care or how to pay for everything. Having those concerns taken care of allowed us to focus on Wyatt’s healing and mine.

On December 29, 2016, Wyatt received his Mom’s life-saving kidney at Boston Children’s Hospital. On New Year’s Eve, Jeanmarie was released from her hospital a few blocks away to visit Wyatt just three days after their surgeries. She was discharged on January 2, 2017, and went to sit at Wyatt’s bedside. On January 13th the Hoover family was able to return to Redding for their first weekend visit – Wyatt’s post-transplant surgical recovery was truly text book.

Today, Wyatt is in his senior year of high school trying to decide what is next for him. He still loves theater and being an Eagle Scout. Wyatt is contemplating pursuing a college degree in school psychology because he would love to help high school students in need of assistance while working with the high school’s theater program. Since his transplant Wyatt has had good days and bad days due to his many post-transplant medications. But as his family likes to point out, Wyatt is not only a survivor … he is a thriver and he will most definitely find his way.

According to Jeanmarie and Herb, “When we first heard our son was going to need a transplant, we were overwhelmed and had many questions. We wanted to get him the best possible care, but how could we afford it? From our first conversation with the Children’s Organ Transplant Association (COTA) we felt a huge sense of relief. Throughout our transplant journey to date, COTA has encouraged and inspired us. We always had great hope that Wyatt would have a bright and healthy future.”

“Having COTA by our side has helped us hold onto that hope.”

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Breakfast Buffet


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Mechanicsburg Resident Recognized with Commendation Medal, Sets Example of Courage, Determination

by Jeffrey Landis, Naval Supply Systems Command, Weapons Systems Support 

MECHANICSBURG, Pa. – A Navy lieutenant assigned to Naval Supply Systems Command Weapon Systems Support (NAVSUP WSS) in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, was recently recognized in an award ceremony, but this Guinea native’s life example is what garnered greater praise.
Lt. Ismael Tounkara, a Metropolitan State University in Minneapolis, Minnesota graduate, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, resident and Republic of Guinea, Africa, native is a Navy Acquisition Contracting Officer (NACO) intern and contracting officer for the Common Electronics Integrated Weapon Systems Team with NAVSUP WSS, was awarded the Navy-Marine Corps Commendation Medal for his service to NAVSUP WSS from February 2016 to present. Tounkara came from humble beginnings, however.
Originally a native of the Republic of Guinea, he fled west toward the United States in 2004 during a period of great turmoil under a 24-year military dictatorship and violent ethnic clashes. He was homeless, living on the mean streets of New York City and peddling CDs just to survive. Tounkara was not scared, however, and he did not waver. 
Tounkara considered himself a troubled youth without much direction, and being surrounded by violence, ethnic strife and economic and political instability in Guinea, he knew he needed to make a drastic change from that life and what would follow. 
“Leaving Guinea was both difficult and exciting,” he explained. “It was difficult in the sense that I did not know if I would be able to go back and see my family and friends again. I was very involved in politics during my two years of college in Guinea. Being born poor, I knew education and politics were my only segue into a better life and leaving those two passions behind tore me apart. It was exciting, because I had always read about the opportunities in the U.S., especially the opportunity to be who you want to be based on merits and hard work.”
His mother reminds him almost daily of the sacrifice he made to give their family a better life.
Tounkara recalled her words, “How would our lives have been had you not fled to the U.S.? God knows best, but I certainly think we would still be living in extreme poverty, eating only one meal a day.”
Tounkara, who came to America with a dream but barely spoke a word of English, is an example of courage, determination and ambition.
After his arrival to the United States in 2004, Tounkara was awarded a one-semester grant to attend the Intensive English Language Center at Wichita State, where he learned English. With no money to pay for college and no access to federal or private student loan programs, Tounkara came back to New York City where he lived in the shadows as an illegal alien. He continued to informally study English until he was referred to the New York Human Rights First organization that eventually referred him to The Advocates for Human Rights – another nonprofit organization that assists low-income asylum seekers, in Minneapolis – a city he would eventually claim as home. Tounkara credits The Advocate organization for fighting on his behalf to apply for political asylum, to legally stay in the States and eventually become an American citizen.
While staying at a Minneapolis homeless shelter while his immigration case was pending, he would walk for several miles each day to the nearest library, collecting all of the English grammar and books on word enunciation he could find, trying to learn and master English.
“I used to be the first one in the library when the doors opened and the last one to be kicked out when the library closed,” said the eight-year Navy veteran. “Learning the alphabet and the English language at the age of 22 was very difficult. I doubt I could ever master the English language, especially English spoken in Harlem and the Bronx; it sounded so fast and so well cadenced that I thought it was like music.”
Back then, studying and learning English was hard,” he continued, “but in order to go to college and make a better life for me, it was the only way.”
He continued to study hard and his efforts paid off – he passed the Metropolitan State University (Minneapolis) college entrance exam and was accepted into the university. Three years later, in 2009, he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Finance. A feat not many can claim, Tounkara came to the U.S., with English being a foreign language, and in five years achieved a college degree. Tounkara’s train of success does not end there – for him, it’s “full steam ahead.”
After college graduation, he joined the United States Navy in 2010 and at his first duty station in Norfolk, Va., Tounkara became an American citizen, passing his naturalization test to join what he calls, “the lucky ones.” Tounkara credits the Advocates for Human Rights, the pro bono law school students, and professors of the University of Minnesota for giving him hope and the strength of resolve.
In Norfolk, Tounkara was stationed aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) and deployed for Operations ENDURING FREEDOM and INHERENT RESOLVE during the U.S. military’s intervention against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Tounkara spent a mere two years as an enlisted Sailor, quickly achieving the rank of petty officer second class, and again his strength and determination paid off. In 2012, Tounkara was accepted to the Navy Officer Candidates School. Raising his hand proudly as an American, Tounkara took the Oath of Office to join the United States Navy officer corps, and later a member of the Navy Supply Corps.
Tounkara’s journey as a Supply Corps Officer led him to see and experience new adventures, such as a two-year assignment and deployment aboard the multi-purpose amphibious assault ship USS KEARSARGE (LHD-3) as the Disbursing, Sales and Wardroom Officer. While supporting the campaign against ISIS, Tounkara also visited Israel, Jordan, Spain and Cyprus. Later, he served as the Coalition Logistics Officer (CLO) with U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, Manama, Bahrain from January 2015 to January 2016 and completed a 75-day individual augmentee assignment with the Office of Military Cooperation at the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait before arriving to NAVSUP WSS Mechanicsburg.
For his service with NAVSUP WSS in Mechanicsburg, Tounkara was awarded the Navy-Marine Corps Commendation Medal – his medal citation emphasized his expert administration, management and professionalism as the key to executing more than 112 contract actions valued at more than $2.4 million, among other achievements.
“At my award ceremony, I thanked the command and the admiral for giving me the opportunity – including being able to run five miles before I come to work every day,” said Tounkara, who recently received orders to U.S. Africa Command for his FAO program duties in February. “I have been incredibly lucky beyond words in this country, and I am a firm believer in the phrase, ‘I am entitled to nothing, and grateful for everything.’”
For those who know Tounkara, he is the quintessential example of how hard work, dedication, ambition, and effort can pay big dividends and change your life.
Tounkara’s mother, sisters, brothers, and in-laws still live in Conakry, Guinea today, and Tounkara credits much of his resilience and hard work to his parents.
He recalled his father, who passed away at the age of 55 in 2006, reminding him about education and the pursuit of a better life. He credits his mother for his will to succeed – it was her energy, resilience, tireless work ethic and “never give up, no matter how tough life gets” attitude that drove him to succeed. Tounkara, after establishing his first savings in the Navy, used the money to buy his mother a duplex and a new car.
“She displays my enlistment and commissioning pictures in her living room and keeps a four-by-six photo of me under her pillow,” said Tounkara proudly. “She is immensely grateful for the opportunity afforded to me and gets very emotional whenever talking about it. And I am very thankful and proud of her.”
To be thankful is to recognize and be grateful – to look at things with great concern and care – to embrace things much larger than yourself,” he added. “We all have the ability to succeed in life, to do the right thing and to make choices to make our world a better place.”
A field activity of the Naval Supply Systems Command, NAVSUP WSS is the U.S. Navy’s supply chain manager providing worldwide support to the aviation, surface ship, and submarine communities. NAVSUP WSS provides Navy, Marine Corps, joint and allied forces with products and services that deliver combat capability through logistics. There are more than 2,000 civilian and military personnel employed at its two Pennsylvania sites, and one site in Norfolk, Virginia.

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