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Injured teen will be flown to area

January 09, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

A 16-year-old from Falling Waters, W.Va., who has been hospitalized in Canada for nearly two weeks is to be flown to the Tri-State area today to continue his recovery from injuries sustained in a snowmobile crash.

For many members of Seth Hahn's family in Washington County and Berkeley County, W.Va., it will be their first chance to speak with the teenager since he left for the vacation early on Dec. 26.

One relative said he hopes Washington County Hospital, which has been on red alert intermittently because of a shortage of monitored beds, has room for Seth once he gets to Hagerstown.

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Hagerstown resident Todd Hahn, Seth Hahn's uncle, said Seth suffered a partially collapsed lung and other injuries during a Dec. 28 snowmobile wreck in Joliette, Quebec, about 40 minutes outside of Montreal.

Hahn said Seth was unable to avoid a large branch while riding on a snowmobile with cousins and another uncle. The trip was a Christmas gift for the teenager.

The day after the accident, Seth was rushed into surgery, Hahn said. Since then, he has had a bout with pneumonia and has run into obstacles including health insurance/bill payment issues and the language barrier in an area where French is the primary spoken language, he said.

"He's certainly not in the best of shape, but he's OK," Todd Hahn said. "He's been through all kinds of medical problems."

Seth is scheduled be driven by ambulance from Joliette to northern New York, and is to fly out of an airport there at noon. The plane is to land at Hagerstown Regional Airport.

Hahn said Seth's mother, Suzette Hahn, and his great aunt, Sharon Kline, will be with Seth on the flight.

Hahn said the flight was made possible because of a nonprofit group, Pilots For Christ International, which the family contacted.

Pilots For Christ International is a nondenominational ministry of pilots and aviation enthusiasts who perform "missions" that include flying ill children who cannot afford to pay for air transport to other facilities and terminally ill people to see family members.

Pilots for Christ contacted Williamsport, Pa., pilot Scott Welch, of an affiliated group called His Wings Aviation Ministry, who volunteered to fly Seth to Washington County at no cost, Hahn said.

"We've just been trying to find a way to get him home as fast as we can because he'll probably heal a lot quicker if he can have all his friends and family around," Hahn said.

When the plane lands this afternoon, an ambulance from the Volunteer Fire Company of Halfway is to transport Seth to Washington County Hospital.

Fire company member Les Adelsberger, who has known members of the Hahn family through church and school organizations for decades, will drive the ambulance.

Adelsberger, also a volunteer with the county's air unit, said he was told to be at the airport by 2 p.m.

"I was called and asked to do it. It's the least you can do for a friend," Adelsberger said. "Why not do it? That's what volunteering is all about."

Hahn said a Washington County Hospital representative told the family and Canadian hospital employees Thursday morning that the facility would not be able to take Seth because it is operating under red alert status, meaning there are no monitored beds available.

Hospital spokeswoman Maureen Theriault said she would not have any way of finding out if that conversation took place Thursday. Theriault said the hospital has not, to her knowledge, been under a red alert since Tuesday.

Theriault said she would not be able to provide any specifics about the hospital's knowledge of Seth's case.

"Since he is not yet a patient, I wouldn't have any information to release," Theriault said.

Barry Nickelsberg, the hospital's executive director of development, public relations and marketing, said he could not comment because he was unfamiliar with the case.

Hahn said the family hopes Washington County Hospital does have a bed open for Seth this afternoon because it is the closest facility to the airport and to most of his family and friends.

"We're going to have to keep our fingers crossed," he said. "We'll take him to Frederick or Martinsburg if they turn us away."

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