Saturday, December 23, 2006

A Lesson in Ocular Trouble

My father-in-law has been battling some serious eye problems of late, which began this summer while they were back home visiting Idaho and their grandkids. I've never even worn glasses, so I thankfully don't relate to eye problems.

He sent an email to my wife to describe what he's experiencing. I'm reprinting it here (with his permission) mainly because I was amazed at the level of detail, I winced at the description, and I immediately searched for a bag of carrots in hopes of never being in the same situation.



This is your anatomy lesson.

The retina lines the back two-thirds of the eye. It is composed of millions of nerve endings that receives light signals and sends electical impluses to the brain - which translates an image. My retina peeled completly off the back wall of the eye and was lying in a puddle in the bottom of my eyeball. A good metaphor is like wall paper that doesn't stick and just slides down the wall into a heap on the floor. Because the retina receives light...and mine was in heap at the bottom of my brain wasn't receiving any light signals. So my right eye simply faded to black...nothing!

To fix this the Doc goes in with little tiny gardening tools and picks the retina back up and uses lasers to tack it onto the back of my eyeball. When it fell off, it also tore. So the Doc had to also use lasers to staple the retina back into one piece. The technique used to hold the retina in place so it will heal is to drain the vitreous out of the eyeball and pump a gas bubble into the eye. That is why I couldn't fly. My eye was filled with gas. As I would rise in elevation the gas bubble would expand and either blow the eyeball out or my brains out. Neither option was appealing.

The gas bubble begins to naturally dissipate into the body after about three weeks. The body's healing processes will naturally backfill the vitreous as the bubble dissapates. Because the gas bubble fills the eye it rubs agains the back of the lens. One of the common side effects of having your eye filled with gas is a cataract, a clouding of the lens. Once the lens gets scratched and cloudy it needs to be replaced. Similar to a camera lens. About 8 weeks after my retina surgery the doctor determined that my lens was very cloudy and couldn't be treated with drops or other polishing compounds and it needed to be replaced. On Thursday my cloudy lens was surgerically removed and a nice shiny new one was inserted. Doctors really get a kick out of this. I was supposed to immediately notice improvement. Small problem developed. The cornea (covers the lens) ruptured and blood began seeping down between the cornea and retina. If the blood breaks thru the already weakened retina in could cause serious damage and probably permanent sight loss. Fortunately they were able to stop the bleeding and I am now stable. The blood will naturally dissapate after a couple of weeks.

The second major side effect of retina surgery is that the retina sometimes dries out. The bubble doesn't always dissipate at a standard rate and the vitreous doesn't always replenish at the same rate. In my case I developed a little dry spot on the back of my eyeball where the Macula resides. The retina pulled apart just like wall paper when you don't have a good seal. A very small perforation exists. The Macula is the center of the retina and is where most of the nerves come together to send messages to the brain. It is absolutely necessary for reading and straight ahead sight. I have a hole there and cannot read out of my right eye. In fact, my right eye is really not functioning. I can see shawdows and some light, but that is all.

The repair for the Macula Hole is basically the same thing. The doc is going to go into the eye with his gardening tools and gently close up the hole using glue, spit, and lasers. He will fold the retina back over the hole and tack it down. He drains my eye and pumps it back up with gas which will hold the retina in place over the hole. Because the macula is dead center in back of the eye, I must lie on my stomach for 7 to 10 days so that the bubble will constantly push up on the retina, holding it in place, while it heals. This operation will probably take place in Mid - February.

I asked whether the gas would ruin my brand new, shiny lens. He doesn't think so because it is made out of artificial space age materials that should not cloud over due to the gas bubble.
That's all. please look at the picture below to see all these cool places.

I should have sent this to you earlier.


Friday, December 15, 2006

Windstorm in the Northwest

There were lots of amazing stories about immense wind damage and power outages for people numbering well over a million in the Northwest. I actually think that number was underreported since there were tens of thousands of residences and businesses without power in North Idaho alone that never made the national wires that I saw.

Regardless, it was an opportunity for me to see what local governments deal with in a crisis mode. The following is part of an email update that I received tonight about the state of affairs in our city alone after a storm of this magnitude.

Lots of activity and kudos to the many many staff people that were out and about tending to the damage here.

From Jon Ingalls: DAMAGE ASSESSMENT. Today's major wind storm brought a number of challenges to citizens and city staff. Some of the more significant city challenges and damage sites that I am aware of included (by department):

- Water: Numerous water wells were without power this morning, but Water staff quickly mobilized a plan for transfer of excess capacity from elsewhere in the city where power was still on. Status: As of 2pm, the Elm Street booster pump is without power and it in uncertain if Avista will have it back on line soon. This booster station is critical in serving Stanley Hill. However, Water has a generator in route from Spokane to power the booster station if necessary. All other water systems are fully operational.

- Wastewater: Six of our eight lift stations were without power this morning, and our access to one lift station in Indian Meadows was blocked by a downed power line. Wastewater worked with Avista to gain access to the Indian Meadows lift station, and they went door-to-door in efforts to ensure the lift station was restored before it reached a threatening level. Status: All lift stations are now fully operational.

- Fire: Fire responded to trees down in the Tamarack Mobile Home Park (the one north of Costco on Government Way) when downed trees damaged a number of trailer homes. Status: Fire is working with Red Cross to find alternative housing for displaced residents.

- Streets: Streets responded to about a dozen trees across the roads. Some of the locations with larger street trees and/or significant property damage included: 10th & Mullan, 6th & Spruce, 11th and Harrison, Government Way island, 3rd & Harrison, 3rd & Annie, Hubbard & College, and Garden & Lincoln. Perhaps as many as 8 cars were damaged or destroyed from falling trees. Also, numerous signals required resetting. Status: All streets open and passable.

- Parks: Parks responded to damage at 1) the City Park: one large pine tree down, one maple down and a street light pole downed, 2) Forest Cemetery: three large pines down damaging a street light pole and a fence and 3) trees downed over the Centennial Trail at Hubbard and Old Atlas Road (with fence damage). Also, Parks is assisting with clean up of several trees at the 4th Street and Wilbur well sites. Status: Tree clean-up continuing, trails clear, no imminent hazards remain.

Monday, December 11, 2006

R.I.P. - Marine Major Joseph Trane McCloud

I never met Major Joseph Trane McCloud. But my friend Meghan Johnson knows him.

In fact, to my knowledge I don't personally know any of the nearly 3000 American soldiers who have been killed in Iraq. But today's email from Meghan stopped me in my tracks to remember, again, just exactly what's happening a world away from my safe, secure family.

This year many families will experience Christmas minus the joy that normally accompanies it because they have lost a loved one in a war zone thousands of miles away. And many children won't have their Dad or Mom around to take pictures of them opening presents, as we will in our home.

Read Meghan's simple but powerful email below, and then read the story about Major McCloud, who gave the last full measure of service to his country last week.

I never met Major McCloud. But through my friend Meghan, he is being remembered, and thanked, by people he's served but never met. Keep the McCloud family, and the families of all of our troops, in your prayers this Christmas season.

This is supposed to be the season of peace. Pray for peace, and sanity and responsible leadership, in our world.


Dear friends,

My friend Maggie McCloud lost her husband last week in Iraq. This is the first person that I know who has died in Iraq. Trane's death has has really made me think about what is going on in Iraq and has made me even more angry about the whole mess.

Before Trane's death I was at the point that when I heard on the news in the mornings that we had lost more soldiers Iraq, it had no impact at all. It was just apart of the morning news, like traffic and weather. Now I can put a life with the loss. I knew Trane but more importantly, I know his wife and kids that he leaves behind. I am so worried for my sweet friend Maggie and her three precious children. Who will play ball with Hayden who is 7, who will help these kids with their math problems now? I know Maggie must be asking all these same questions just times 10,000.

I wanted to pass this along to you because I want you to think about the war in Iraq as well. I hope having a human connection to this war will make you appreciate all that you have. This morning when I was getting dressed for work, I heard another soldier was killed by a roadside bomb and it made me think about who that soldier leaves behind.

I decided this year not to give gifts to people for Christmas, but to give to a fund that was set up for the McCloud children. I said to myself "how many $50 candles can I buy my friends and does it really matter if I give them a gift or not"? We all know that it doesn't matter how many $50 candles I give or receive because it won't bring Trane back to his family nor will it bring back the nearly 3,000 soldiers we have lost in Iraq.

Just something to think about and remember in this holiday season.



Joseph Trane McCloud


Marine Major Joseph Trane McCloud lost his life on a mission in Iraq on Monday, December 4, 2006. Trane was born on December 14, 1966 in Elizabethton, Tennessee. He is survived by his wife, Maggie (formerly of Sayville, New York) and their children, Hayden (7), Grace (5) and Meghan (2); his mother and step-father, Roma and Carl J. Anderson; father, Ron McCloud; brother, Richmond McCloud; sister, Dawn Fattore (John); in-laws, Ann and the late Jack Hayden; Jack Hayden (brother in law) and Kelly Fallon (sister in law).

After graduating from the University of Tennessee in 1989, he served 17 dedicated years in the Marine Corps. He was serving in Iraq, with 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, when he paid the ultimate sacrifice; the helicopter he was flying on, crash landed in a lake in the Anbar Province, near Baghdad. Trane was a devoted husband, father, son, and a Marine's Marine, who believed freedom is precious and well worth protecting. Mission accomplished Trane...farewell in peace.

Friends may call at the DEMAINE FUNERAL HOME, 520 S. Washington Street, Alexandria, VA, where the family will be present on Thursday, December 14, 2006 from 5 to 8 p.m. Funeral services will be held on Friday, December 15, 10 a.m. at Good Shepherd Catholic Church, 8710 Mt. Vernon Highway, Alexandria, VA 22309. Interment to follow at Arlington National Cemetery with Full Military Honors.

By John Thompson
Elizabethton Bureau Chief

ELIZABETHTON — “He was a good Marine, he loved the military,” Ron McCloud said Monday about his son. The proud father had learned just hours earlier that Maj. Trane McCloud had been killed in Iraq over the weekend when the helicopter he was riding in lost power.

“I know I am talking like a father, but I never saw a more talented person in my life. He could do anything, he could restore cars, he could do crown molding, he was good at everything.”

A close examination of Trane McCloud’s life demonstrates that his father was not boasting. While excelling as a military officer, McCloud also found time to make a difference for schoolteachers across the nation who teach in low-income neighborhoods. He played a key role in a loan forgiveness program for those teachers.

The McCloud family got the bad news late Sunday evening when two Marines in uniform came to their door. Details are still sketchy, but a twin-rotor CH-46 helicopter from the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing experienced mechanical problems immediately after taking off from Haditha Dam in Anbar province on Sunday.

Ron McCloud said he understands the helicopter was losing altitude. The 12 Marine passengers were told to jump out into Lake Qadasiyah.

“Eight of them made it and four of them didn’t,” McCloud said. When the Marines talked with him Sunday night they told him his body had not yet been recovered from the lake, but it was now “a recovery effort rather than a rescue effort.”

Trane McCloud was born in Elizabethton but his family moved away when he was only 2 years old. The family first went to Atlanta and later to the Detroit area, where he graduated from Grosse Pointe High School.

His father remembered him as an outstanding athlete even as a young boy. He made the All-City team in football in Detroit, playing linebacker for the Grosse Pointe team. He also stood out as a center fielder in Colt League baseball for teenagers. As a 14-year-old he told his father he was going to catch someone loafing to first after making a solid hit. He was true to his word, throwing the ball to first base from center field in time to make the out.

After graduating, McCloud went to the University of Tennessee, where he studied liberal arts and history. He graduated in 1989 and enlisted in the Marine Corps just in time for Desert Storm, during which he served on the U.S.S. Missouri. His crew fired a 5-inch gun on the starboard side during the bombardment of the Kuwaiti coastline. He also served on the ship during action in Somalia.

During his time on the ship, Ron McCloud said the ship’s captain grew fond of the young Marine and encouraged him to attend Officer Candidate School. He was accepted.

His most memorable moment on board the Missouri came at Pearl Harbor, when the captain selected him to escort the first President Bush on the 50th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

The captain told Bush that his Secret Service agents could stand down because the Marines would handle his security on board the ship. McCloud told his father that Bush told him he had heard he was going to OCS and he thought McCloud would be a fine officer.

After obtaining his commission, McCloud was assigned as an infantry officer. He was a reservist serving on active duty.

One of his assignments was with the Navy and Marine Corps News, where he produced a weekly television program that was broadcast weekly to sailors and Marines around the world.

After the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, McCloud served in the Philippines, which was also fighting an Islamic extremist insurgency.

In 2003, McCloud was assigned as a military fellow to Rep. Joe Wilson, who serves on the House Committee on Armed Services.

“He really was a Marine’s Marine,” Wilson said after hearing about McCloud’s death. “He really lived the Marine Corps (motto) of semper fidelis, which means always faithful.”

Wilson’s district includes the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island, S.C.

McCloud worked in the congressman’s office for only a year, but during that time Wilson said “he was a trusted adviser to me as a member of the Armed Forces Committee. Wilson is also a member of the Education and Workforce Committee and found that McCloud was also helpful in that decidedly non-military area.

One of the major projects Wilson’s office was working on was a teacher loan forgiveness bill for teachers in schools in low-income neighborhoods.

“The person who worked on that the hardest in 2003 was Trane McCloud,” Wilson said. The bill has since become law.

Wilson also remembers the athlete. “He organized a Wilson Running Team for the 2003 Marine Corps Marathon,” Wilson said. The team included office staffers and Wilson’s son Julian, who is a lieutenant in the Army National Guard.

“Our whole family loved him,” Wilson said. “He was truly a family member for us and we will always remember him. He is a hero. My thoughts and prayers go out to his wife, Maggie, and their three children.”

Ron McCloud said his son also had an impact on the city of Elizabethton last summer. Ron does public relations for the Carter County Car Club. While his son was stationed in Washington last year, Ron said Trane invited him up for the Washington Autorama. Dennis Gates of the “My Classic Car” television show was filming the event.

On the spur of the moment, Ron said Trane decided to ask Gates to bring his show to the weekly Carter County car shows. Using the public relations skills he acquired with the Navy and Marine Corps News, Trane soon had an information packet about the weekly shows and scenes of nearby attractions like Watauga Lake.

They presented the packet to Gates, who was so impressed he decided to come to Elizabethton for a show. The result was the biggest car show in Elizabethton’s history, with car buffs coming from several surrounding states.

“He really could do anything,” McCloud said of his son.

McCloud said details for the funeral are not yet decided but his son had told him he wanted to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Wilson said he would help the family with that request.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Rails to Trails Success in Coeur d'Alene!


December 6, 2006


The North Idaho Centennial Trail Foundation (NICTF) and the Lake City Development Corporation (LCDC) announced today a funding arrangement that enables NICTF to acquire the abandoned 5.25 mile long Union Pacific rail line in Coeur d’Alene. The Foundation plans to partner with public and private entities to create a trail that will connect to the existing Centennial Trail in Riverstone and extend northwest to near Meyer Road on the Rathdrum Prairie.

“This is a great day for the citizens of Coeur d’Alene and North Idaho” said NICTF Chairman Matt Snow. “By partnering with LCDC we were able to obtain funding to purchase the Union Pacific right of way. This is the first step towards creating a world class trail that will link our community and be an asset forever”.

Tentatively called the “Prairie Trail”, the new paved trail will be approximately 5.25 miles long and will link neighborhoods and schools with the new Kroc Community Center, Ramsey Park, Riverstone and downtown Coeur d’Alene.

“Kids and adults will be able to safely ride, run or walk from neighborhoods to schools, parks, Riverstone, Downtown and beyond” said NICTF Executive Director Kim Stearns. “The Foundation could not have done this without the support of LCDC”.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to create a trail that will provide recreation and alternative transportation for our community. The LCDC Board recognized that this is an asset with huge potential benefit for the public. We are pleased to be able to partner in the Foundation’s vision" said Tony Berns, Executive Director of LCDC.

NICTF filed an application with the Surface Transportation Board to “railbank” the corridor and has been negotiating with Union Pacific to purchase the abandoned line for almost 3 years. Elected officials from the City of Coeur d’Alene and Kootenai County as well as U.S. Senator Larry Craig have written letters of support for the purchase by the NICTF. NICTF hopes to close on the purchase of the property by the end of the year. Actual construction of the trail will proceed in phases as funds are raised and will involve close planning with neighborhoods, schools, private developers and public entities. NICTF will begin actively fund raising, planning and designing the trail after closing on the purchase.

"We are thrilled that the Centennial Trail Foundation's dream of a community trail will become a reality" said Coeur d'Alene Mayor Sandi Bloem. "I know that the proximity of the proposed trail to the Kroc Community Center site was one of the reasons why Coeur d'Alene was selected to receive the $60+ million dollar grant."

The NICFT acquisition of the UP right of way is the first enabling step in a longer-term property transfer/acquisition process involving the United States Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad (BNSF) and LCDC. Once the Spokane River stretch of the BNSF rail line is abandoned following the closure of the Stimson DeArmond mill, a portion of the BNSF right of way will revert to BLM ownership. The next step in the proposed process would be BLM trading their BNSF rail line corridor ownership to the NICTF for the UP rail line corridor. Following the trade, NICTF will transfer their newly acquired BNSF/BLM right of way to the LCDC for use in creating the "Education Corridor" in downtown Coeur d'Alene. At the end of the proposed property transfer/acquisition process, LCDC will own the BNSF/BLM right of way and the BLM will hold title to the former UP corridor with the new "Prairie Trail" being managed by the City of Coeur d'Alene.

Local BLM officials are supportive of the proposed property transfer/acquisition process as well as Coeur d'Alene's vision for the Educational Corridor. "There is a rigorous process that must be gone through to obtain approval for any land transfer involving BLM" said BLM Field Manager Eric Thomson, "but we support the project and will do everything we can to see that it succeeds."

NICTF is a private, non-profit 501(c)(3) foundation whose mission is to support and promote trail development in North Idaho. The Foundation welcomes people who are interested in contributing to the Foundation or serving on its Board of Directors. Please contact Executive Director Kim Stearns at 208-651-6271 or for more information about contributing to the Foundation or applying to serve on the Board. For further information on the Prairie Trail project please contact Vice-Chairman Mike Gridley at 208-769-2330.

LCDC is the City of Coeur d'Alene's urban renewal agency. For further information regarding LCDC please contact Executive Director Tony Berns at 208-769-2331.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Coeur d'Alene Housing Assessment Released

Preserving Our Sense of Place: A Housing Needs Assessment in Coeur d'Alene

This report is the starting point for what needs to be a deep and thorough project to improve the housing situation in Coeur d'Alene.