After a difficult heart operation, Baby Alivia may soon be home

April 07, 2004|by BOB MAGINNIS

When Alivia May Koontz went into surgery on March 30, doctors at the Nemours Cardiac Center told the family they were uncertain about the outcome.

Doctors knew before she was born that her heart was malformed, but after delivery they found that one lung was undersized as well - and that both lungs were filling with fluid.

But the surgery - one of three she faces to deal with the heart defect - was successful and child could be home within 10 days, according to her grandmother, Nevalene Uzelac.

I interviewed Uzelac's daughter Angela Koontz and her husband Jimmy back in January, after the Hagerstown couple's unborn child was diagnosed with a condition called hypoplastic left heart syndrome, or HLHS for short.


For the parents of a child facing so many problems, they've remained remarkably upbeat, in part, they say, because of the prayers and support they've received from co-workers and members of the Shiloh United Methodist Church.

On Monday I got an update from Uzelac, who traveled to Delaware this past weekend to see the baby.

"She's out of the ICU and in the room with Angela and Jimmy. They're still giving her a little bit of oxygen," Uzelac said.

Alivia, who was fed intravenously for the first few days of her life, is now learning to drink from a bottle, her grandmother said.

Angela and Jimmy are "doing quite well. They're happy to have her in the room with them now."

The baby could be home within two weeks, she said.

With the baby will undoubtedly come some bills, including the cost of going back and forth to Delaware for follow-up care. Both Angela and jimmy have health insurance, but it's not clear how much either policy will pay.

If you can help, please consider sending a check to Shiloh United Methodist Church, 19731 Shiloh Church Road, Hagerstown, MD 21742.

After a March 22 Herald-Mail editorial on the need for a "destination attraction" like a museum in downtown Hagerstown, I got a call from Darce Easton, of the Washington County Association of Museums and Historical Sites.

There's more in Washington County than most people are aware of, Easton said.

To get the word out, her group will sponsor a "Museum Ramble" on Saturday, May 1 and Sunday, May 2, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

It's a self-guided tour of 16 of the more than 30 sites in the county and information on exact locations is available at the Visitors Center at 16 Public Square in downtown Hagerstown and either of the county's Interstate 70 information centers.

For more, call Gigi Yelton at the Convention and Visitors Bureau, at 301-791-2601, or visit

Tom Lowman, chairman of the Downtown "We Care" Neighborhood Watch, contacted me recently to say that the group now covers 90 percent of the downtown area.

Lowman, who said the group was involved in the battle to sanction the Mulberry Street Tavern for the actions of some of its rowdy patrons, said the group reports all suspicious activities.

"We figure better safe than sorry," he said.

He said the group's goals for this year include installing more "watch" signs, continuing to watch for prostitution and drug dealing and encouraging landlords to screen tenants.

Lowman said the group also hopes to work with the city's Public Works Department to plant flowers on Washington and Franklin streets, hold a "cleanup day" in April to clear streets and alleys of weeds and trash and raise funds for equipment for the Police Athletic League's BMX track.

If you're interested in participating, write to "We Care" Neighborhood Watch group., P.O. Box 805, Hagerstown, Md., 21741.

If you're e-mailing your letter to the editor, please put "To the editor" in the subject line. This will help us find your letter in the deluge of junk e-mails we receive every day.

Bob Maginnis is editorial page editor of The Herald-Mail newspapers.

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