DANVILLE — Geisinger Medical Center has determined the source of the pseudomonas bacteria exposure in the neonatal intensive care unit to a process used to prepare donor breast milk.
Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Edward Hartle stated in press release Friday that the hospital’s infection control team, in collaboration with the state Department of Health, traced the exposure to equipment used in measuring breast milk, which helps premature infants with their nutritional needs.
The bacteria exposure affected eight premature infants — three who died earlier this year.
Since September 30, the hospital changed this process and is instead using single-use equipment to measure and administer donor breast milk.
“We have had no new cases of infants becoming ill from pseudomonas in the neonatal intensive care unit since making this change,” Hartle was quoted in the release.
According to Hartle, pseudomonas bacteria is present throughout the environment, and only presents a health risk in extremely fragile patients.
The Department of Health visited the hospital on Oct. 18 to review hospital practices and cited the Danville campus for not having a written policy for cleaning equipment used to measure donor breast milk, Hartle said.
“We immediately corrected the citation and drafted a new policy,” Hartle added.
Hartle apologized to the families who were affected by the incident, noting that mothers should have “no concerns” about the safety of their own breast milks for their babies.
“We know that the public holds us to the highest standards, and we will continue to strive to live up to those expectations as we have throughout our history, constantly improving on what we do and how we do it,” he said. “It is important to emphasize that the donor breast milk at Geisinger is safe and we are certain the milk itself was not the cause of the exposure.”
Geisinger Medical Center will remain on diversion for mothers delivering at less than 32 weeks and babies born prematurely at less than 32 weeks while hospital officials consult with the Department of Health on the appropriate time to resume normal operations.
Hartle concluded, “Geisinger is committed to doing all that we can to support the infants and families affected and ask the community to join us in keeping them in our thoughts.”
DEN-MAR GARDENS — The Shedleski family, of Den-Mar Gardens, burst with exhilaration when Hallmark Home and Family television personality Ken Wingard unveiled their holiday-decorated home Friday night.
Standing in front of hundreds of area residents and flanked by a production crew, the family was brought to tears as they viewed thousands of dollars worth of lights and Christmas decorations beaming from the exterior of the home at 202 Montana Drive.
The Mount Carmel Township family — Brian, his wife, Carisa, and their daughters, Lauren, 16, and Leah, 14 — were announced Friday as the winners of Hallmark Channel’s Home Holiday Decoration Sweepstakes, presented by Balsam Hill.
The contest culminated Friday evening with the family and Wingard leading a countdown to the big reveal. The unique moment was filmed by a production crew for a segment to air on the Hallmark Channel.
The crowd, which spontaneously began singing Christmas music just moments before, cheered and applauded when the decorations were turned on at around 5:30 p.m.
Bright, white lights attached to the ridge and fascia of the roof, bushes, lampposts and several large trees illuminated onlookers. Giants wreaths added to the Christmas spirit.
Although access to the interior of the home was initially restricted to allow for filming, the reaction of family entering their home for the first time in several days was a clear indication that the decorations inside were just as extravagant.
“They are the perfect family for this to happen,” said Jeff Witkoski, Brian’s neighbor of 19 years. “I am just happy for them because they are a great family.”
Witkoski, whose children, Rachel, Katie, Reed and Madelyn, grew up with the Shedleski family, said the event was an opportunity for the whole community to come together.
Prior to and after the unveiling, the public was invited to attend a “Christmas Village,” featuring a Hallmark movie, hot chocolate and cookies. Hallmark cards and Christmas bulb necklaces were also provided by Hallmark officials at no cost.
Witkoski complimented the professionalism of the production crew, who had been on location since about Sunday and had stored some items in his garage.
The Home Holiday Decoration promotion was comprised of two-parts — a sweepstakes and a contest. The initial sweepstakes saw 25 entries selected at random to advance to the contest, which was open to residents of the 48 contiguous United States and Washington, D.C., who are 21 years of age or older. The second stage saw judges review the entries and choose a final four.
Carissa Shedleski entered the contest on the persistence of Leah Shedleski, who wanted a Balsam Hill Christmas tree to adorn her family’s home.
Witkoski said he knew the family would win when he saw Brian Shedleski throw out their old Christmas tree several months ago.
The long-time neighbor said of Leah, “She is a wonderful girl. She really enjoys the holidays.”
The contest was judged based on 30% outside-the-home decoration, 30% inside-the-home decorations, 30% the family’s answers to different Christmas-related questions and public voting.
Erin Bossler, a senior at Mount Carmel Area who plays soccer with Leah, said she voted for the family “about 500 times.”
“They’re all really sweet people. Lauren is an amazing person. She is the type of person that would do anything for anybody,” Bossler said of her classmate. “They are all like that.”
Brian Shedleski was thankful for the kind words and encouragement from those in the area and, although his family was thrilled to win, his family wanted the event to benefit everyone in the community.
According to Hallmark officials, the segment will air either later this month or early December. They encouraged attendees of Friday’s unveiling to refrain from posting the event on social media until after it airs.
SUNBURY — Happy parents and children displayed their collective smiles throughout Judge Charles Saylor’s courtroom at the Northumberland County Courthouse Friday morning during the county’s 10th annual Adoption Day.
A spirit of love, celebration and togetherness permeated every part of the normally quiet and somber courtroom as children were officially welcomed into their new homes.
Prior to the ceremony, it was clearly a family affair as the adopted children were treated to a lot of fun and games with the staff of Northumberland County Children and Youth Services (CYS) and their new families. They shared hugs, laughs, group photos, made crafts, played games and even got a free face painting here and there, if so desired.
The event began at 11:30 a.m. with Saylor offering his opening remarks.
“The adoptions took a little longer than expected this morning. I’m proud of each of you for stepping up and being a hero for these children who need a forever family,” he stated.
The guest speaker was Jeanette Gill, of Northumberland, a mother of six children — three biological and three adopted. Hill jokingly pointed out that while the adoption process is not always easy, she feels that it’s well worth it.
“We’ve learned that through structure, love and stability our children have been able to grow and develop,” Gill explained. “Our motto has always been that children can never receive too much love. Congratulations to all those involved with the adoption of these children here today and may we all be blessed and supported.”
CYS administrator Katrina Gownley expressed her appreciation toward everyone who made the special day happen and said that she couldn’t be happier with the proceedings.
“This year our county had 56 adoptions, a record number for us. I want to thank the courts and our agency staff. Today we had a total of 12 children and seven families,” she remarked. “This is the most rewarding day of the year for us. It is the culmination of all the hard work by our employees in finding permanency of a home for these dear children. I want to express my gratitude toward all of these families who are willing to give these children a home.”
Gownley also thanked her staff and everyone present for making a difference in the lives of the children.
Judge Hugh Jones, who along with Saylor also presided over the ceremony, offered a brief but direct comment on the proceedings.
“I’ve been part of this process for about four years now and I can tell everyone involved that we appreciate all that you do. This is the largest adoption day I’ve witnessed since 2016,” said Jones.
Following Jones’ remarks, a “banging of the gavel” took place in which the adopted children were called forward to the bench, along with their families, and allowed to bang the judge’s gavel as a symbolic gesture that they are now officially adopted.
COAL TOWNSHIP — Honor and respect were on full display Friday morning at Shamokin Area Middle-High School as a group of U.S. veterans sat in front of the student body to hear expressions of appreciation for their military service to our country.
The Veterans Day assembly program, which featured a combination of heartfelt words and stirring music, lasted approximately 45 minutes. Following the singing of the national anthem and Pledge of Allegiance the veterans were introduced.
Veterans present were U.S. Army E-4 Edwin Griffiths (Vietnam and Cuban Crisis), U.S. Army E-4 Rich Stryeski (Korea), USMC Lance Cpl. Thomas Duke (Vietnam), USAF Staff Sgt. Dennis Smith (Vietnam), USMC Jarrod Scandle (Afghanistan), USMC Nate Rhodes (Afghanistan) and U.S. Army Medic Sgt. Matthew Marcheski (Afghanistan and Kuwait).
Marcheski, a former SAHS wrestler, offered a brief but powerful keynote address to the students on the value of tough love.
“Let people be hard on you and learn from it,” said Marcheski. “I want to thank everyone who made it hard on me and prepared me for real life. Once you’ve wrestled, everything else in life seems easy. I want to thank my family and all of the faculty here at Shamokin Area who were hard on me and for the valuable instruction which I’ve received from them.”
Students Hannah Hess, Julia Scandle and Zak Zanella, read their essays on “What it Means to be a veteran.”
All three spoke of the tremendous sacrifices which veterans make while serving the nation.
“Imagine having a family and having to leave everything behind. Crazy right? That is what veterans have done and risked losing everything they once knew,” said Hess.
“I never really took the time to think about what a veteran truly went through and had sacrificed for me to be able to live freely. This essay has been a eye opening experience for me and I hope it has been for you as well. Freedom should never be taken for granted. Each day each and every one of us should take a few moments to appreciate and remember what the word truly means. If you ever come in contact with a veteran, take the time to thank them,” adding, “A thank you goes along way and can make anyone’s day better.”
Scandle spoke of her own uncle, who currently serves in the military.
“A few years ago, he was deployed while his wife was pregnant. She ended up giving birth to their first-born child, and he was forced to miss it. In fact, he wasn’t able to meet his son for weeks after his birth. This was such an important and life-changing occasion, and he wasn’t able to be there,” she recounted.
“I have many other various relatives in the military, and it is difficult for all of us in some way, as it is for millions all over the country. Being away from the people that you love is extremely difficult, and a lot of people all over the world experience this. With so much sacrifice, it would seem necessary to treat veterans with the respect that they deserve upon their homecoming.”
The third and most emotional speech was delivered by Zanella.
“Veterans have been such a significant part of our American culture and history, that they have made people like you and me advocates of justice and democracy, and are always on hand, no matter what, to protect the American freedom and enlist a responsibility that has stood the test of time. They are ready to promote peace and prosperity, aid the needy when disaster strikes, and provide food to the poor. I think it’s very important that we all take a moment together, and honor them every day, whether it’s Veterans Day, or not, to take a moment out of our hectic lives, and honor the brave men and women out there, who have risked everything,” he concluded.
Shamokin Area Middle-High School principal and head wrestling coach Todd Hockenbroch offered his closing remarks to the student body.
“We at Shamokin Area would like to once again thank all of our veterans for serving our country and protecting our country’s freedoms,” said Hockenbroch. “We realize today, perhaps more than ever before, how very much we are indebted to those people who have sacrificed their time and, in some cases, even given their lives to protect the freedoms that we continue to enjoy today here in the United States. On this Veterans Day we would like to say thank you. Remember – it doesn’t have to be Veterans Day to remember why we have our freedom.”
Outside the school on a cold morning, former Shamokin Area teacher Bernie Romanoski, shared his thoughts on Veterans Day.
“My father was a World War II veteran and coordinated the Veterans Day program at the high school for many years. Our family was proud of his service in Africa and Italy, along with his efforts to recognize our veterans. This country owes a huge debt of gratitude to all who served and continue to fight to preserve our way of life,” he said.