Saturday, September 18, 2010

HINA’S DREAM: Raise public awareness of sickle cell disease

Hina Patel, right, and is shown with her mother, Bhavana, in Bakersfield Memorial Hospital shortly before her death.

Hina Patel lost her battle with sickle cell disease, but her family has not given up the fight.

Bhavana and Sanjay Patel, Hina’s parents, are forming a support group in their daughter’s honor and held a Sickle Cell Awareness Fair on Saturday, Sept. 18, in the parking lot in front of their pharmacy, Hina’s Homecare and Compounding Pharmacy.

No doubt the huge turnout for the event would have pleased the young woman, who died in May of complications from the disease.

The Patels estimate about 250 people in Kern County, Calif., have the inherited blood disorder, sickle cell disease. They hope to alert “at risk” people to the need to receive genetic counseling before they conceive a child. People whose ancestry is from Asia, Africa, South America and Mediterranean countries are “at risk” for carrying genes that allow sickle cell disease to be passed to their children.

And while couples may not realize they are “at risk,” families and health care providers also may not recognize the symptoms of the disease, resulting in treatment delays and increased pain for victims, said Bhavana Patel.

Creation of an awareness campaign and network of support was Hina’s dream. It was the project that earned Hina the Girl Scout’s coveted “Gold Award” when she was a Stockdale High School student. Her family is committed to making Hina’s dream come true.

The 20-year-old died on May 5 after developing complications from a bone marrow transplant performed in hopes of curing Hina’s disease.

Just three months earlier, Hina was the keynote speaker during Houchin Community Blood Bank’s recognition dinner in Bakersfield for blood platelet donors.

“Sometimes I ask, ‘Why me?’ But I know everyone faces bumps in the road,” Hina told donors that night. “I try to keep positive mentally and have hope. I have faith in God. ... Finding my match for platelets is difficult. Houchin has been able to do that.”

Hina received more than 80 units of platelets from Houchin donors during her years-long struggle with sickle cell disease and in the aftermath of the unsuccessful bone marrow transplant.

As her condition deteriorated and she was confined to an isolation room at Bakersfield Memorial Hospital, just weeks before her death, Hina agreed to an interview to talk about her disease, her struggle and the need for better services. Hina was later transferred to the hospital at the University of California, Los Angeles, where she died.

More than 600 people attended Hina’s services at Hillcrest Memorial Park. They included her high school, Bakersfield College and Girl Scout friends, as well as the many people she touched and inspired. Accepted into the University of Pacific’s pharmacy program, she hoped her condition would improve to allow her to attend.

Although both are pharmacists, with extensive knowledge of medicine, Sanjay and Bhavana Patel were stunned when a routine blood test revealed their baby girl, Hina, was born with sickle cell disease.

“I thought there had to be a mistake,” Bhavana recalled during an earlier interview. “We thought that was mostly an African American disease.”

But the young couple, who are both of Indian descent, learned that the hereditary disease also is found in people from many regions. Neither Sanjay, nor Bhavana knew they carried genes that could combine to inflict their baby with a potentially deadly disease.

“At first we were in denial,” Bhavana said, explaining that Hina appeared and behaved as a healthy, normal baby. But as Hina approached her first birthday, she had her first “pain crisis.” Her feet and hands swelled up. “It was very painful. All she did was cry. Then we knew it was real.”

As the years passed and Hina’s condition worsened, Sanjay and Bhavana began investigating the option of a bone marrow transplant for their daughter. Her severe and repeated pain episodes and the availability of a matching donor qualified her for the procedure, which was performed in 2008.

Despite her medical struggles, Hina did well in school. New medicines provided periods when her pain was controlled and she could join in activities with classmates. As a teenager, she excelled in her classes. But medical complications in her senior year required her to finish her studies at home.

Improving the quality of care and support for people with sickle cell disease was Hina’s reason for wanting to become a pharmacist, her mother said. Hina’s dream was to help the hundreds of people in Bakersfield who are suffering in silence.

A version of this story written by Bakersfield freelance writer Dianne Hardisty appeared in The Bakersfield Californian on Sept. 16, 2010.

Bakersfield Pastor Answers Call To Serve

Horn named rear admiral, Deputy Chief of Naval Chaplains

Daughter Jessica ordained minister, joins Naval Chaplain Corps

Gregory Horn poses with daughter, Jessica, and wife, Katherine, at Jessica's 2008 graduation from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena. 

Every church needs a pastor. But what if the need is greater somewhere else?

The congregation of Westminster Presbyterian Church has confronted that question for years. When Minister Gregory C. Horn, whose sense of patriotism, long-held admiration for the Navy and desire to help defend his country, was called to minister to the spiritual needs of Americans fighting overseas, his Bakersfield church had a unified response: Go. They need you.

Those years of sacrifice are being honored Sunday when Chief of Naval Chaplains, Rear Adm. Mark L. Tidd, will travel to Bakersfield to thank Horn's family and church members for the 22 years they have supported their pastor and for their continued support after he is promoted next month to rear admiral in ceremonies conducted at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. He will become the Deputy Chief of Naval Chaplains (Reserve Matters) on Oct. 7 and discharge his new duties for three years, until his retirement in 2013.

When the newly minted Presbyterian minister became a U.S. Navy Reserve chaplain in 1988, the Pasadena native had just been named pastor at Westminster two years before.

Horn, who entered the Navy as a reserve lieutenant, knew it would be tricky to add two weeks of annual active military duty and monthly reserve drills to his already busy schedule, which included running a growing church and helping his wife, Katherine, raise their two young children -- daughter Jessica and son Evans.

But the balancing act became more than "tricky" after 2001, when terrorists attacked New York and the Pentagon on Sept. 11. It became a sacrifice for Horn, his family and the members of Westminster Presbyterian Church, who pulled together to support the U.S. military, including one of their own.

Horn's two-week annual military obligation stretched into months away from his family and church, as he was given increasing responsibilities and rose in rank. He was called to full-time military duty -- in response to the 2001 terrorists' attacks and again in 2003, when the U.S. invaded Iraq and he was named wing chaplain at the Marine Corps Air Station at Miramar, near San Diego.

His responsibilities at Miramar included managing casualty assistance programs and supporting military families as the dead and injured returned from the Iraqi battle field. He somberly recalls the many military funerals he conducted during his nearly a year of active duty.

Horn, 57, who credits the support of his family and church members for his ability to serve America as a Navy chaplain, has been assigned diverse tours of duty aboard ships, at the Naval Hospital in San Diego, with a naval mobile construction battalion, submarine fleet, armored reconnaissance battalion, and various Marine regiments.

Horn expects his increased responsibilities will require him to be away from his Bakersfield church occasionally, but said church members and staff generously step forward and pick up his duties when he is gone.

Following Dad's example

Sunday also will be the time another member of the Horn family steps forward to serve. The pastor's 28-year-old daughter, Jessica, a graduate of West High School and California State University, Northridge, will be ordained a Presbyterian minister. Like her father, Jessica completed graduate studies at the Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena.

And on Oct. 7, when her father is named to his new command post at the Pentagon, the Rev. Jessica Horn will be by his side. Horn's first official act as a rear admiral will be to swear his daughter into the Navy as a lieutenant (junior grade) in the Chaplain Corps. Gregory Horn predicts it will be "a bright moment for Navy chaplain recruiting, Westminster Presbyterian and Bakersfield."

"Growing up as the daughter of a pastor, who is also a Navy chaplain, I have always dreamed that I, too, could pursue a career with such a positive influence on individuals and on our country as a whole," said Jessica Horn, who now works as a resource teacher in a Compton school district.

"I am especially energized by the opportunity to serve servicemen and servicewomen of diverse faith backgrounds," she said.

Horn's wife, Katherine, concedes merging family, church and Navy life has been "a roller coaster." The demands of a rear admiral's wife will likely greatly increase the length of her "to do" list, she joked.

Adm. Tidd is scheduled to speak at Westminster Presbyterian Church on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. Jessica Horn will be ordained at 1:30 p.m. The church is located at 2080 Stine Road.

This article written by Dianne Hardisty appeared first in The Bakersfield Californian on Sept. 18, 2010. 

Monday, September 13, 2010

BC Professor Takes Entry Level 'Real World' Job

Steve Hageman says his job is to make his students’ dreams come true. For most of Hageman’s Bakersfield College students, the dream is to become a craftsman, whose skills are coveted by businesses. It is to have a rewarding, creative, steady job.

Making those dreams come true is why Hageman, a woodworking professor, packed his bags last summer and headed to Montana.

“I kept seeing ‘help wanted’ signs wherever I went,” Hageman recalled during a recent interview. But when he asked business owners about their vacancies, he was repeatedly told they could not find skilled workers.

What were businesses looking for? Was he preparing his students for “real jobs?” Hageman decided to find out.

Hageman, who holds numerous college degrees and educational certificates, and whose impressive career includes being an administrator in area school districts, writing a special education textbook and working as an oilfield engineer, downplayed his resume and called a man he had met while fishing earlier in Montana. He asked Ray Plante to give him a summer job as an entry level cabinetmaker.

Plante recalled during a telephone interview that Hageman told him he was a teacher in California and needed practical experience for a course he would be teaching.

When Hageman pushed his last student through his classroom door in mid-May, he pointed his pickup truck toward Montana, where his parents, Ed and Carol Hageman, are living in retirement. Plante, a 62-year-old Vietnam War veteran, put Hageman to work at Plante Custom Cabinets in Ennis, Mont.

“I became just Steve Hageman in Montana. No one knew me. I lived with my parents. I was a 54-year-old guy in an entry level job. It was a humbling experience,” Hageman said, recalling that “I almost got fired the first week.”

Hageman’s first assignment was to build face frames for cabinets. He was given no instructions. He was just pointed to his work area and left on his own.

As the days of the first week went by, Hageman said Plante seemed to grow more angry. He found no fault with Hageman’s work. Instead, he was angry that Hageman’s near perfect results were achieved in a “different” way; not Plante’s way.

“When he came up to me on Friday, he was red in the face and was sweating,” Hageman recalled. “He told me, ‘Steve, this is my business. It has taken me 30 years to get this far. You are very good at what you do, but I want you to do it my way.’”

Hageman asked Plante if he was going to fire him. He said the shop owner admitted he was thinking about it.

Plante now says Hageman wasn’t in danger of being fired. He contends he was just offering constructive criticism. “I was just showing him other ways to do things. He took it personal. But we got past that.”

“Creative people, like Ray, are sometimes tough people to work for. You can’t understand all the stress a person who owns a business can be under,” said Hageman.

The first week rolled into a second. During the day, Hageman built cabinets. At night in his parents’ home, he tapped out his observations on a laptop computer. The college professor was writing a manual for his students that included the procedures Plante so prized, as well as tips for satisfying a demanding boss.

Hageman wrote in his manual, “Ray states that one of the elements of his craft that gets him up in the morning and into his cabinet shop is the reward at the end of a long day to not only see a project come together, but to witness the smiles on the faces of his clients when the job has been completed.”

A friendship developed between the men. They took breaks to go fly fishing. They ate lunch with Plante’s wife, Bernice, who manages the shop’s office. And when work was finished on Friday afternoons, the two men would share a couple of cold beers and talk about the week.

Eight Fridays after he was hired, Hageman gave notice that he was quitting and told Plante he needed to show him something important. He gave him a copy of the manual he had been writing about his experience working for Plante. He asked the shop owner for permission to share it with his students.

“He was surprised, and then he got choked up and had to leave,” Hageman recalled. “When he returned a few minutes later, he hardly had words. But he managed to say that he would be honored.”

“I couldn’t believe the things that he wrote,” Plante recalled. “Some of it was so personal. I hope I showed him some things that helped.”

Plante said he would gladly hire Hageman back. He said he was sorry to see him leave because he was a big help. “He worked 110 percent.”

Hageman used his Plante Custom Cabinets manual in last year’s BC woodworking classes. And he plans to do so again this year.

“I know that Ray and his crew wish you well in your career pathway,” Hageman writes as he introduces his students to the more technical parts of the manual. “Take the knowledge that you gain and expand upon it. Demand the most of yourself and respect the craft. Remember that the tradition continues with you.”

This story written by Dianne Hardisty appeared first in The Bakersfield Californian on Sept. 7, 2010.

Whittling Away Your Time

When Keith Turner retired from his job as a lineman for the telephone company, he thought retirement was going to be a blast. It wasn’t. Turner had nothing to do.

Steve Hageman’s long-time buddy was bored and depressed. Turner’s wife was concerned. She called the Bakersfield College woodworking professor for help.

Hageman and Turner go way back. Fresh out of Fresno State University with a degree in industrial arts, Hageman landed his first teaching job in Le Grand. To earn extra money, he taught an evening woodworking course at Merced College. Turner was in his class.

The men struck up a friendship and began carving duck hunting decoys. They became obsessive over their carvings, spending hours making the decoys look “real.” Hageman moved on to teaching jobs in Bakersfield. But the men stayed in touch.

Hageman continued to carve, but less intensively and mostly creating tiny Santa’s for relaxation. Turner stopped carving altogether.

When Hageman received the distress signal from Turner’s wife, he packed a knife, a couple of basic tools, a leather finger protector and a block of bass wood into a cigar box and drove to Merced County to see his friend.

“Keith, I want you to carve this and I am going to come back and check on your progress,” Hageman remembers telling Keith.

Turner resisted at first, but eventually picked up the knife and started to scrape away at the block. That was six years ago. He now makes little characters for gifts for his family, primarily for his granddaughter.

Hageman is inviting Turner to speak to students enrolled in his four-session “Introduction to Woodcarving” class that he is giving through the Levan Institute for Lifelong Learning at Bakersfield College in October.

“Anyone can carve,” Hageman said, offering his wife, Tracy, as an example. Tracy took up carving about a year ago when she encountered a health problem. Hageman and his wife carve and talk, finding it a good way to relax, have fun and socialize. His wife’s project, a pelican, is nearly complete.

“We will sit in the backyard or at Starbucks and catch up on her day and my day,” he said.

Hageman assumes most of his Levan Institute students will be looking for a hobby or an outlet to relax.

“Carving gives you one-on-one time, without something else interfering. As you are talking away about life, you will see the conversation reflected in your carving. You can set it aside for a while, and then pick it up again.

“Carving is a tangible object of a good time,” Hageman said.

This story written by Dianne Hardisty appeared first in The Bakersfield Californian.


What: Introduction to Woodcarving

Where: Levan Institute for Lifelong Learning

Bakersfield College

When: Fridays, 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Oct. 8, 15, 22 and 29, 2010

Cost: $50 (includes fee and materials)

Enroll: Go online to

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Beating Bakersfield’s heat and ‘global warming’ with $1 draft beer at Ethel’s

John Hayes is served lunch at Ethel’s in Bakersfield by waitress Lauren Evans.

The joke around dusty, dry, hot Bakersfield, Calif., is that folks should be grateful that it’s a “dry heat,” not like other muggy places in the U.S. “Yes, it might be hot today, but it’s a dry heat!”

Well, from the grumbling heard around town on most summer days, this Chamber of Commerce spin on Bakersfield’s “heat” isn’t working. Hot is hot, and folks aren’t happy. That is, unless you hang out at Ethel’s Old Corral on Alfred Harrell Highway, in the northeast part of the city.

You won’t find a lot of moaning and groaning at Ethel’s when the temperatures climb over the triple digit mark. In fact, you will find people cheering the thermometer in hopes it climbs over 105 degrees.

That’s because the homey restaurant and bar drops the price of its draft beer as the temperatures climb. When they reach 100 degrees, draft beer drop to $2 a glass. When they hit 105 degrees, the price drops to $1 a glass. The regular price of draft beer at Ethel’s runs from $2.50 to $3 a glass.

“It gives people a reason to be glad it’s hot, rather that just complain about it,” said Natalie Mears, the restaurant’s owner. As Bakersfield’s “dry heat” got hotter in July, Mears cooked up her “beat global warming” idea. She has made good on her offer at least six times this summer, including last week, when temperatures crested the 110 degree mark. While they have dipped again this weekend, if history tells us anything, there will be another heat wave before Bakersfield settles into the late fall and winter cold fog.

“One dollar beer tones down the heat. It’s not so much a drudgery,” said Mears, who has owned Ethel’s for about six years. She bought the business from the estate of Ethel Beeson, who ran it for about four decades until she died.

“It’s a fun thing,” said John Hayes, a lifelong Bakersfield resident, who retired from Chevron. Hayes stops by Ethel’s for lunch nearly every day. Hayes and other “regulars” said they have been eating at the restaurant since they were kids with their parents.

Ethel’s is northeast Bakersfield’s equivalent to “Cheers,” the television bar, where regulars hang out and everyone seems to know your name. But even “newcomers,” like Mike and Loretta Schield, who moved to Bakersfield in 1996, find Ethel’s enduring.

“It’s one of Loretta’s and my very favorite places,” Mike wrote in a recent e-mail alerting customers to the $1 a beer offer. “On a Sunday afternoon (and lots of other times, too) you will find Lexuses, Caddies, horses, tall pickups, bikes and lots of us commoners’ cars in the parking lot. [There are] lots of regulars and old-timers and young folks and kids, too.

“The place has a lot atmosphere and a lot of history,” he wrote. “You can just feel it when the country music cranks up.”

The discount beer offer is based on the readings from a simple thermometer hung on Ethel’s patio.

“There’s nothing fancy at Ethel’s,” Mears said.

Author: A version of this story by freelance writer Dianne Hardisty appeared in The Bakersfield Californian.

Friday, August 27, 2010

FCIC takes economic meltdown inquiry to Bakersfield, Calif.

Phil Angelides, left, and Bill Thomas at recent FCIC hearing.

The pain just doesn’t go away as the nation’s economic problems continue to devastate millions of American families. Members of the Fiscal Crisis Inquiry Commission will listen to real people’s pain on Sept. 7, when they hold their first “field hearing” in Bakersfield, Calif., in the heart of the foreclosure crisis.

The 10-member bipartisan commission was created by Congress last year to examine the causes of the financial meltdown. Its chairman is former California Treasurer Phil Angelides, a Democrat, and retired Bakersfield Rep. Bill Thomas, a Republican.

Wall Street financial giants, economists and federal regulators have been hauled before the commission during a series of often contentious hearings held this year in Washington, D.C., and New York. Commissioners have a Dec. 15 deadline to present their findings to Congress.

Commissioners announced Thursday that they intend to take their inquiry on the road, with their first stop being in Bakersfield, Thomas’ home town. Three additional field hearings have been scheduled: Las Vegas, Nev., on Sept. 8; Miami, Fla., on Sept. 21; and Sacramento, Calif., on Sept. 23. Sacramento is chairman Angelides’ home town.

The focus of the hearings and list of witnesses who will be called has not yet been announced. However, the hearings are intended to highlight how actions on Wall Street have affected life on Main Street. Plummeting property values, a persistently high unemployment rate, record-setting foreclosures and community bank failures are effects that are evident on the streets of Bakersfield, the city that will host the commission’s first field hearing.

The one-day hearing is expected to be filled with testimony from witnesses representing the financial and real estate industries. People who are victims of the financial crisis also will have an opportunity to testify and present written comment.

This article written by Dianne Hardisty appeared first on Hardisty's Examiner page.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Good old boys and Cesar Chavez farm worker advocates line lunch counter at Keene, Calif., café

Kirk Roper, left, and Jackie Palik stand in front of the Keene cafe.

A peeling, weather-beaten sign that shouts “Keene…Eat…Deli…Gas” looms over what at first glance appears to be a small wooden shack.

If you have ever traveled on Highway 58, between Bakersfield and Tehachapi, you have seen the sign and likely just kept driving.

But mountain residents and travelers adventurous enough to pull off the highway at Woodford-Tehachapi Road have discovered the shack-looking Keene Café is a treasure trove of good food and local lore.

“It’s our country club,” said Margaret Miller, a wiry woman who doesn’t stand still long enough to answer a reporter’s questions. She can’t. She’s too busy taking orders and slinging food onto tables, while cooks Huberto Chavez and Christian Gutierrez are flipping “loop burgers” in the kitchen.

Miller has worked at the restaurant for only a year. But a 20-year resident of the area, she has been a long-time customer.

The Keene café is where everyone comes to eat, talk and just hang out, said Miller, who lives in Hart Flat. “I love it here.”

There’s the “men’s club,” a group of local “guys” who eat together every week at the cafe. A framed, yellowing Tehachapi News story hanging from the café’s wall also calls the group the “Swat Team,” for the men’s commitment to swatting flies at the diner.

And then there is the “women’s club,” a group of local women who call the Keene café their home away from home once a week.

Located next to a Kern County Fire Department station and Helitak pad, the café is the weekly gathering place for area firefighters.

Open seven days a week, from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., the Keene café is a magnet for just about anyone who passes by. Customers arrive on horses and Hogs, in sedans and pickup trucks. The point is: They just keep coming, with the big attraction being breakfast, which is served until 11 a.m. on weekdays and until noon on weekends.

“Their omelets are awesome,” said customer Jackie Palik, on a recent Saturday, as she and her friend, Kirk Roper, were climbing onto their motorcycles and getting ready to head back to their Tehachapi homes.

With the Union Pacific railroad tracks and famed “Tehachapi Loop” in spittin’ distance from the café, the menu’s trademark hamburger is called a “loop burger.” Customers also can find fancy entrees, like healthy salads, or gourmet dishes, like mushroom burgers, as well as hearty steaks and Mexican food on the menu.

Pies made by Tehachapi baker Charles Lewis using local fruit -- one pie with the intriguing name of Tehachaberry -- are encased in old-fashioned glass displays on the café’s counter. Miller insists that before customers can leave the café, they must cap off their meal with a slice of fresh pie.

Palik and Roper have been eating at the restaurant for around 15 years.

“It’s friendly and old-fashioned,” said Palik.

Roper, who also likes that it is “small and out of the way,” said he looks forward to the barbecues held on the patio out back in the summers.

Miller said she has had customers tell her that they have driven by the café for 20 years without stopping. And when they finally decide to stop, they become “regulars.”

One of the café’s regulars was the late Cesar Chavez. In 1971, Chavez’s farm workers organization bought 187 acres up the road from the café. The land was formerly Kern County’s tuberculosis sanitarium. It is now the National Chavez Center and the headquarters for the United Farm Workers union.

Monica Parra, conference and event manager for the National Chavez Center, recalled that Chavez and the café’s owner, Ruby Wood, would tease each other. She would ask Chavez when he was going to sell his land to her, and he would ask Wood when she was going to sell her café to him.

Chavez died suddenly at the age of 66 in 1993. A few years later, Wood’s health failed. As she planned to move to Oregon to be near family, Parra said she contacted the Chavez family. Remembering Chavez’s interest in buying the restaurant, she gave the UFW the right of first refusal before she put the café up for sale.

The UFW took Wood up on her offer, becoming the owners and operators of a refuge for bikers, good old boys and country folk.

“It’s a wonderful, cozy diner,” said Parra. “There are people who are in there every day. We have tweaked the menu and added some Mexican food, but we have kept it the way it has been for years.”

This article written by Dianne Hardisty was published first in The Bakersfield Californian on July 25, 2010.