Praise your candidate, win a bear

October 06, 2004|by BOB MAGINNIS

Most of the catalogs I get at work feature things I can't use or have no authority to buy - industrial trash containers, office furniture and the like.

But two weeks ago, I got one from an outfit called The Lighter Side, which features a variety of novelties and oddball items, some of which are a little on the risque side.

But as I leafed through it, what got my attention was its small assortment of campaign-related merchandise, including Halloween masks for George Bush and John Kerry and Bush and Kerry "bop bags," those inflatable toys that tip over when you slug them, then jump back up again.

But what really caught my eye were a pair of campaign commemorative teddy bears featuring pictures of the respective candidates for president.


They're pictured above, but they're not as big as the illustration suggests. In terms of size, they're more like Beanie Babies.

If you would like one of your own, there are two ways to get one.

The first is to go to and look for Bush Bear (NP-61273) or Kerry Bear (NP-61274.) Or call 1-800-232-0963 to order by phone.

But that would cost you money. I'd like to give away two of these bears as prizes in our latest letter-writing contest.

The rules are simple: Tell us, in 50 words or less, why either George W. Bush or John F. Kerry should be elected president of the United States.

You can e-mail entries to, but if you do, please put "Bear Contest" in the subject line. If you'd like to mail your entry, send it to "Bear Contest," c/o Editorial Page, The Herald-Mail, 100 Summit Ave., Hagerstown, MD 21740.

And there's a final catch: To win, you must be a registered voter.

Entries must be received by Tuesday, Oct. 12 at 5 p.m. We'll print the winning letter and a selection of others on Tuesday, Oct. 13.

Six-month-old Alivia Koontz of Hagerstown has had the second of three heart surgeries she will need to correct a birth defect that caused one side of her heart to be much smaller than normal.

According to reports I've received from family members, she's had a tough time, but is such a fighter, prone to pulling out tubes and needles, that the nurses at the Nemours Cardiac Center in Delaware affectionately nicknamed her "Wild Woman."

Based on e-mails from Alivia's grandparents, Cindy and Jim Koontz, this is what has happened so far.

When Alivia's parents, Angela and Jimmy Koontz, arrived at the Ronald McDonald House, the crib they'd been promised would be available wasn't there. They ended up borrowing a "pack 'n' play" from friends who live nearby.

It took almost six hours to do the catherization procedure Alivia needed to undergo prior to sugery, leaving her tiny leg bruised. Using that and other disagnostic tools, hospital staff determined the underdeveloped parts of her heart and her right lung have not grown as doctors hoped they would.

Doctors talked about not operating, the Koontzes said, but then Alivia's parents met with a surgeon who said he would deal with her anatomy as it was. He did express concern about the disparity in size between her two lungs. Blood will apparently have a tougher time getting through the smaller lung.

Alivia had surgery on Friday, Oct. 1. Her parents walked her to the operating room at 8:15 a.m. and the operation began at 9 a.m. By noon, the procedure was done and Alivia's patients got to take a peek at her.

The next day, Jimmy and Angela spent an hour in the intensive care unit, listening to baby Alivia moan from the pain, After throwing up, she managed to keep two bottles of formula down.

By Sunday, stomach gas was getting the better of Alivia and she didn't want to take her bottle, so she had to be fed by tube. Her grandparents said the baby had become frustrated because she was unable to grasp things, or play with favorite toys.

Tammy Frey, Alivia's great aunt, said Tuesday she had talked to Angela Koontz Monday night. Frey said Angela told her that the baby had been moved out of intensive care and into a room with her parents.

"She's pretty content. She's even giggling and laughing," Frey said, adding that despite the surgery, the baby hasn't lost weight.

"She's up to 11 pounds now," Frey said.

On the down side, doctors fear that because of the long session in the catheritization lab, Alivia may have a blood clot in her leg. For that, Frey said Angela and Jimmy will need to administer two shots of blood thinner daily for the next six weeks, Frey said.

On a more positive note, Frey said Alivia has been given the OK to begin eating baby food and "just can't seem to get enough of it."

Asked when the family will return to Maryland, Frey said no one has told the parents anything.

"And even if they do, Angela said she's not going to believe it until they come in and tell them to start packing," Frey said.

I'll share additional updates as they become available.

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

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