The walnuts, peapods, red peppers and string beans Pam Wright stir-fried in olive oil didn't interest Joe Herbert as much as the cucumber he sliced over romaine lettuce. Still, he ate the stir-fry over brown rice amiably and encouraged Wright to eat some herself.
It pains Lidwin Dirne that thousands of her neighbors in Kootenai County have no health insurance and no access to medical care. Her relentless energy helped start a volunteer-run free clinic in Coeur d'Alene 16 years ago to serve the uninsured. For 15 years, the clinic turned away patients on Medicaid or Medicare and accepted people with insurance only if their deductible was ridiculously high, for instance $5,000. Nearly every patient who walked through the clinic's doors had no insurance.
Sean Thornton, general manager of Borders Books Music and Café in Coeur d'Alene, wouldn't replace the two 50-something women stocking the store shelves with anyone, not even younger workers with more energy. "They're the best," he said. "I like their philosophy, work ethic. They don't mind working hard and they don't look for excuses."
More than 230 children showed up for the start of the summer reading program at the Hayden branch of the Kootenai Shoshone Libraries last month and left little room for any other library patrons. "There was a solid wall of bodies from the door to the fireplace," said John Hartung, library district co-director. "People couldn't get to the computers. The parking lot was full. We're victims of our own success."
A federally funded community health clinic developing in Bonner County will start operations this month in a mobile clinic that resembles a bloodmobile. The clinic will travel throughout Bonner and Boundary counties while a permanent health clinic takes shape in Ponderay just south of the Bonner Mall. Andrew Bolton, director of the Boundary Community Health Center, said Bonner's permanent clinic most likely will open in early fall. The Bonner clinic is an extension of the Boundary health center, which opened in December 2002.
The little boy stared at U.S. Army Spc. Rick Roush as if the man in desert camouflage were a living GI Joe. "I taught Iraqis infantry tactics. I had six Iraqis under me," Roush said, then reminded the boy at the Army recruiting booth in Riverfront Park on Monday that he'd paint the boy's face in camouflage colors in return for some quality push-ups.
Lead exposure may be questionable in most of Idaho, but not in Shoshone County, where fallout from a lead smelter was measured in tons per square mile in the 1970s. The Panhandle Health District has screened children annually for high levels of lead in their blood since 1974. Tested children averaged a level of 65 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood in 1974 – more than six times the current level of concern, which is 10. In 2002, 368 children up to 9 years old were screened. Two of those children had levels greater than 20, three fell between 15 and 20, and the rest had levels lower than 10.
Two years of testing the blood of hundreds of children indicate elevated lead levels are not a significant problem in most of Idaho, and the problem had diminished in Shoshone County where removal and replacement of lead-contaminated soil is continuing into its third decade. "Since 2003, we've tested a few hundred kids and have not found one case of elevated blood lead level," said Dr. Terence Neff of Coeur d'Alene Pediatrics. "It's a big expense, and if we find children not at risk we need to accept that and put tax dollars toward bigger needs."
Idaho's seniors are falling like pushed dominoes, and too many aren't standing up again. They're falling at nearly twice the national rate, according to the state Department of Health and Welfare. About one-third of the state's over-65 age group fall at least once a year.
You don't have to scratch your head when someone asks if there's a League of Women Voters in Kootenai County. Pull out your North Idaho Community Resource Directory, an inch-thick book that lists nonprofit and government services available in the five northern counties. The League is on page 189, and its entry includes contact names and phone numbers as well as a description of what the league does. It's one of more than 1,000 services listed.
The bearded man at Unseen Ministries soup kitchen in Coeur d'Alene's First Presbyterian Church gym spooned three-bean casserole into his mouth and glowered at Scott Gittel. "Yeah, I own a tent, but it's at a campground under someone else's name and they're in it," the man said, dipping his head enough to show the Playboy logo on his ball cap. "I don't know where I'll go. I guess I'll go into the woods."
The tote bag next to Bonnie Held's desk at the Panhandle Health District in Coeur d'Alene brims with food, and Held keeps it close. There are dishes of applesauce, cereal and corn, servings of spaghetti, even a medium-size apple. The food is fake, but that doesn't matter. It's the size that's important.
Aaron Scheidies registered for his first triathlon as a high school student in Detroit a few years ago and neglected to mention his limited sight. He was legally blind, but he could see a little. "It wasn't safe to do it alone, but I did it anyway," he said Thursday as he prepared for his first Ironman competition. "In the swim I could see splashes I would follow."
Habitat for Humanity can build more homes in Kootenai and Shoshone counties and Sandpoint's Panida Theater can take productions on the road now, thanks to the Idaho Community Foundation. The charitable foundation approved $176,686 this spring for projects that will improve the quality of life in Idaho's 10 northern counties. Projects include the preservation of historic photos in Post Falls, medical assistance for financially struggling people in Shoshone County and audiovisual equipment for Bonners Ferry High.
A day after school let out for summer last year, Amy Hood, 16, hit the road with her dad, Ron Hood, for some precious father-daughter time.For eight days, the pair panted, sweated, and fought bugs, heat and dehydration. They feasted on nature's wonders, slept under the stars and cherished their priceless closeness. "I wanted to spend time with Dad, get him all to myself," Amy, now 17, said from her home in Edmonds, near Seattle. "And I thought it'd be a good chance to tell my friends I'd done this crazy thing."
North Idaho's developmentally disabled community will lose an influential advocate at the end of this month, but Ken Korczyk believes he's leaving TESH Inc. in good hands. Russell Doumas, 56, will become TESH's new executive director July 1.
A brain injury slowed Kristi Laney's development, but it didn't incapacitate her. With her mother's help, Laney attended Coeur d'Alene High and graduated in 1991. She served nine years on the Idaho Council on Developmental Disabilities."I liked being around people, learning about legislation," Laney said Wednesday. Laney, 33, needs help with her everyday living, but she doesn't need someone thinking, choosing and deciding for her. That's why she supports a new program through the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare that offers people with developmental disabilities the freedom to run their own lives.
KELLOGG – Radioactivity doesn't scare Dr. Tom Heston; in fact he likes injecting it into people. "It's the best non-invasive way to test for coronary heart disease," Heston, a nuclear medicine specialist, said Monday. "It helps with early diagnosis of heart disease and cancer."
An informal Coeur d'Alene clinic that has helped hundreds of people understand the root of their memory problems is in such demand that it's moving into a permanent home and may triple its service. A doctor, several therapists and social workers became known as Kootenai Medical Center's memory clinic during the past five years because they analyzed people with fading memories and linked their problems to such sources as medications, dementia and even low oxygen levels.
North Idaho organizations that help victims of domestic violence are rethinking their futures after taking serious losses to their budgets for this year. The Idaho Council on Domestic Violence and Victim Assistance distributed $125,000 less to North Idaho organizations this year than last and a total of $630,000 less statewide. The money it distributes through grants comes to Idaho from the Federal Victims of Crime grant, Federal Family Violence and Prevention grant, Idaho State Domestic Violence Account and the Idaho Batterer Treatment grant.
PLUMMER, Idaho – Like most people, Shelly Sweet doesn't want to wait when she needs her doctor. At the Coeur d'Alene Tribe's Benewah Medical Center, she doesn't have to. The clinic finds time for Sweet with her doctor the same day she calls. The Emida woman usually arrives to an empty waiting room and is ushered into an exam room within minutes.
KELLOGG – The need was apparent in 2003 even though no senior citizen stood in Shoshone Medical Center's lobby and asked for mental health counseling. Everywhere hospital administrators looked, they saw the faces of grandparents. Statistics backed up their observations. North Idaho's senior population – people older than 59 – had grown by 43 percent since 1990. And it is expected to explode by 200 percent by 2020.
SANDPOINT – Clearcutting, owl habitats and fire dangers were far from Danielle Nieman's mind Saturday as she stirred water and wood pulp in a tub at the Bonner County Fairgrounds. "I think it's real interesting," Nieman, 8, said shyly as kids of all sizes crowded around her waiting their turn at making paper. "I'm going to put it in my room and tell people I made it at Timberfest."
Pollen is pouring from grasses and trees, covering Lake Coeur d'Alene in yellow streaks and swirls, stuffing noses and irritating eyes more than it did last year. "I just eyeballed the data and compared it to last year, and we're worse," Dr. John Strimas, Coeur d'Alene's only allergy specialist, said Friday. "We're way ahead of the curve."
Thousands of North Idaho seniors and disabled people received envelopes in the mail this week that could save them hundreds of dollars every year if they just have the patience to decipher the contents. The letters are from the Social Security Administration, and they contain six pages of questions that most likely will prompt many recipients to drop them in the trash, said Mary Dusek, a training coordinator with the state Department of Insurance's Senior Health Insurance Benefits Assistance (SHIBA) program in Coeur d'Alene.