Cloudy
56°
Cloudy
Hi 65° | Lo 51°

Ray Duckler: A look back at some unfinished business

  • Parker Bolton, 5, plays the board game Operation, which he received as a Christmas present, with his parents Keith and Casey Bolton at their home in Pittsfield on Sunday, December 29, 2013. Parker is the namesake of Parker's Law, which requires New Hampshire hospitals to search for congenital heart defects.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    Parker Bolton, 5, plays the board game Operation, which he received as a Christmas present, with his parents Keith and Casey Bolton at their home in Pittsfield on Sunday, December 29, 2013. Parker is the namesake of Parker's Law, which requires New Hampshire hospitals to search for congenital heart defects.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • Parker Bolton, 5, plays the board game Operation, which he received as a Christmas present, with his parents Keith and Casey Bolton at their home in Pittsfield on Sunday, December 29, 2013. Parker is the namesake of Parker's Law, which requires New Hampshire hospitals to search for congenital heart defects.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    Parker Bolton, 5, plays the board game Operation, which he received as a Christmas present, with his parents Keith and Casey Bolton at their home in Pittsfield on Sunday, December 29, 2013. Parker is the namesake of Parker's Law, which requires New Hampshire hospitals to search for congenital heart defects.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • Parker Bolton, 5, plays the board game Operation, which he received as a Christmas present, with his parents Keith and Casey Bolton at their home in Pittsfield on Sunday, December 29, 2013. Parker is the namesake of Parker's Law, which requires New Hampshire hospitals to search for congenital heart defects.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
  • Parker Bolton, 5, plays the board game Operation, which he received as a Christmas present, with his parents Keith and Casey Bolton at their home in Pittsfield on Sunday, December 29, 2013. Parker is the namesake of Parker's Law, which requires New Hampshire hospitals to search for congenital heart defects.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

A little boy’s family wonders when he’ll need a new heart, and how many years of life that heart will give him.

A young single mother wonders when her new car will be delivered after a talk show hostess introduced her to the nation.

Three adults wonder where they’ll live after circumstances left them out in the cold.

And a senior citizen wonders what path this country might have taken had her husband not noticed a pattern more than five decades ago.

The new year begins tomorrow, but before we move forward, I thought it might be a good idea to check on some unfinished business.

Here are six people I met in 2013, and what they’re doing today.

Parker Bolton

I visited the boy from Pittsfield, now 5, last January.

His his parents, ironically, were waiting for his congenital heart defect to worsen so they could add his name to a list and move ahead with the heart transplant he’d need one day.

They’re still waiting, because Parker is doing too well right now to undergo the procedure. His parents don’t want to disrupt the joy he’s feeling.

“We’re still waiting for him to deteriorate,” said Parker’s mother, Casey Bolton. “We’re happy with things now, but we realize he will need a full heart transplant. We know it’s going to happen, but that doesn’t make it any easier.”

Nothing’s been easy for this family, beyond the smiles they greet you with when they answer their front door.

Parker, born without a left ventricle, has undergone three major open-heart surgeries since birth. Each time his heart had to be stopped, and each time Casey and her husband, Keith, prayed it would beat again once the procedure had ended.

Recently, extensive oral surgery – six caps, four extractions and two fillings – was needed to minimize the chance of infection as the family prepared for the inevitable.

“He’s got a great hockey smile,” Casey said. “He asked for his teeth back until the pain subsided. He tried to eat corn on the cob this summer. He rolls up his sleeves and does what he needs to do.”

Meanwhile, Parker waits for the heart surgery that may give him 10 more years of life, and his parents continue to lead an effort to better protect newborns against heart defects.

They pushed Parker’s Law through the Legislature 18 months ago, so now it’s mandatory for hospitals to screen for the seven most critical congenital heart defects before newborns can go home.

Last week Casey wrote to Gov. Maggie Hassan, asking her to declare Feb. 7-14 Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week for the fifth straight year.

She’s also working on Parker’s Heart Foundation, a nonprofit that will channel money into education and awareness, and, she hopes, lead to better treatment plans.

For people like Parker.

“Our only prayer is for a lifetime getting to know this amazing miracle who calls us mom and dad,” Casey said. “We’re truly blessed he chose us.”

Sarah Hoidahl

One day last October, the 22-year-old single mom from Henniker served lunch to a pair of National Guardswomen, fully dressed in their Guard uniforms, during her waitressing shift at the Concord Ruby Tuesday restaurant.

Hoidahl then picked up their tab, knowing the women were not getting paid because of the government shutdown.

For that gesture – paying the $27.75 it cost the women to enjoy the salad bar – Hoidahl was invited to join Ellen DeGeneres on her daytime talk show.

Ellen gave Hoidahl $10,000 and, a short time later, surprised her with an exact car model of what she’ll get soon, delivering it to the restaurant parking lot while Ellen’s producer, posing as a journalist, staged a mock interview inside.

“They’re factory making it,” said Hoidahl, who, along with her 17-month-old son, Ashton, lives with her mother, Linda Hoidahl. “It should take six to eight weeks. Maybe by the end of January.”

Meanwhile, the check was in the mail, and now it’s in Hoidahl’s bank.

She’s donating $1,000 to the state Chaplain’s Emergency Relief Fund. She’ll use $2,000 to pay off the knee surgery she underwent in 2011, a year after graduating from Concord High.

And some of the money, of course, went toward Christmas gifts for Ashton. “A mini tool set and clothes,” Hoidahl said.

A photo of Hoidahl and Ellen, holding the giant $10,000 check, hangs in the stairway in Linda’s home, while customers at Ruby continue to eat and ask.

“At least once a day there are people saying, ‘You’re the girl from Ellen, right?’ ” Hoidahl said. “Facebook messages have calmed down, but sometimes I feel like it was all a dream.”

Deke Morris

The Vietnam veteran contacted me in desperation, hoping his story would shed light on what he saw as unfair treatment.

And nothing has changed since our story ran, despite conciliatory statements from a local lawyer.

Morris lived in Holiday Acres Mobile Home Park in Allenstown until a huge tree fell on his trailer and destroyed it.

That was late last month, and Morris has spent the holiday season seeking answers from the local management crew whose office sits on the grounds.

Morris claimed the tree’s roots had been cut during a construction project, which he said weakened the tree before a big wind blew it down on his home.

Through emails sent to Morris and the Monitor, the management team said the roots had not been cut, and Morris should have protected himself with insurance, as was required by law.

After I left a message seeking comment from the Hynes Group, the Vancouver-based company that owns the park’s land, a Concord lawyer representing Hynes called back and said his client was open to discussing the matter with Morris.

“The last thing we want to do is get into an argument with this man,” said the lawyer, Jim Bianco. “He’s gone through enough; there’s always hope.”

Yesterday, though, Morris said no one has called him and nothing has changed.

He remains in a tiny apartment in Milford, unsure where to turn and worried he’ll receive no compensation for an accident he did nothing to cause.

“From the way I read your article, I expected them to at least talk to me,” Morris said, “but I’ve heard nothing.”

Pamela Smith and Beth Dooley

Things aren’t much better for the Hillsboro couple who moved into their dream home 22 months ago, then saw their annual flood insurance premium rise from $2,000 annually to $4,600.

They called last month looking for help, worried they’d have to move because the sudden increase was too much for their budget.

“I have got it for sale and I have two people coming to look at it,” Smith said last week, “and then I’ll go from there.”

It started with a price the couple could afford for a house built in a floodplain, and an insurance rate that, with proper fiscal restraint, was also manageable.

But Smith failed to inquire about the potential increase in future rates for her flood insurance, which are re-established each year by FEMA, based on a constant flow of information, such as how particular structures hold up against flooding of varying degrees.

Plus, no one in town could explain why the house had a basement, built 7 feet below ground, and 10 years after Hillsboro had passed an ordinance forbidding the building of basements in the floodplain.

“I don’t have the time and energy to continue fighting,” Smith said. “Doing the story with you was my last effort. My priority now is to buy a house that will not have flood insurance problems.”

Polly Murphy

Her late husband, Belmont’s postmaster more than 50 years ago, sniffed out a plot to kill president-elect John Kennedy before anyone had heard of Lee Harvey Oswald.

And so, as the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination approached last month, Polly Murphy began receiving calls from media outlets looking for a story that few had heard about.

Including me.

“It’s been surprising because so many people don’t recall it at all,” said Murphy, who still lives in Belmont. “They said they never knew any of that.”

That’s because Murphy doesn’t talk about what Tom Murphy did late in 1960. Modest, she’s never felt the need to brag how her husband helped save JFK’s life.

He did it by alerting part-time Belmont cop Earl Sweeney, telling him that Richard Pavlick, the former Belmont resident who scared everyone with his rants at town meetings, and who had already expressed his hatred for Kennedy, had sent him cards from places where JFK had been shortly after the November election.

The cards told Murphy to watch the news, read the papers, because something big was in the works.

Sweeney told the FBI, placing Pavlick on law enforcement’s radar. Thankfully, Pavlick did not drive his dynamite-laden car into the Kennedy limo outside the family compound Dec. 11, 1960, choosing to wait because Jackie and the couple’s children were out front as well.

Four days later, Pavlick was arrested, with the dynamite in his car. The media covered the story, of course, but Kennedy’s desire to keep it quiet over fears of a copycat plan, plus the deadliest commercial aviation disaster in history that same day in Brooklyn, kept the story from receiving the headlines it otherwise would have gotten.

Tom was lauded as a hero, by the postmaster general, the U.S. Post Office, even the House of Representatives.

And over the last few months, TV networks and newspapers contacted Polly, asking about the role her husband played in saving the president and changing history.

Polly and four of her daughters gathered at her house Christmas morning. Some had not seen the major production that resulted from the media inquiries that poured into Belmont.

“We were given the documentary made by the Smithsonian Channel,” Polly said. “We watched it together after opening presents.”

(Ray Duckler can be reached at 369-3304 or rduckler@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @rayduckler.)

There are no comments yet. Be the first!
Post a Comment

You must be registered to comment on stories. Click here to register.