May 6, 2013

Video by Daniel Pickard

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May 6, 2013

Pinching pennies while living in a car

Video by Chris Jespersen

May 6, 2013
Editor’s Note

Dear Reader,

I sometimes like to think of myself as clever. Yet I still find it nearly impossible to come up with a witty answer when asked, “If your house was burning down, what’s one thing would you save from the fire?”

Trying to imagine the walls ablaze around me, I close my eyes and scan the eternal mess that is my bedroom. My line of vision crosses my bike, heap of clothes in the corner, musical instruments and laptop, as I evaluate which of these things I wouldn’t be able to live without.

“Assuming my family is safe, I would throw my mandolin on my back, grab my copy of “The Great Gatsby” and the Bible my grandma gave me, and then hop on my bike and jump it through the flames like Evel Knievel,” I would answer. But that’s cheating.

As I listen to others answer the same question, I realize the items I find vital are drastically different from what the people around me would save, and none of their items are similar to each other. As we start to hear about the family photos, laptops, cameras and cats that people would save, we start to see what each person values the most.

In this issue of Klipsun, we get a glimpse into the vital things in life, such as the Olympic hopeful’s decision to ensure his path to the podium, and the  adopted woman finding closure in search of her birth parents. We  also sweat along with a wrestler who has to lose 10 pounds in fewer than 24 hours.

In this issue, we see vitals in a new way. We give up our own idea of the things that are necessary, and we start to think about what the people around us might hold while leaping through the flames.

Branden Griffith

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May 6, 2013
Artificial Touch

Home-Engineered Prosthetics

Story by Patrick Downing

Photo courtesy of Ivan Owen 

Unbearable pain shot up Richard Van As’ arm into his neck. It felt like an electrical current surging through his upper body. In a matter of seconds, the smell of burnt flesh filled the air. He looked at his hand. Two of his fingers lay on the saw table.

Van As says his brain blocked out most of his experience. He does remember the resistance of the saw against his fingers and how it eventually lost power and shut down; it was struggling to cut through bone.

Van As, a South African carpenter, removed his fingers from the saw, and placed them into his apron pocket. He then wrapped his injured hand in the apron — the most painful sensation he has ever experienced. Quickly he realized he was missing two more fingers. He looked down at the saw’s dust collector and saw his ring finger, but decided it would take too long to retrieve. At that moment, he decided he could live without his ring and pinkie fingers.

By the time Van As arrived at the hospital with his amputated fingers, they were turning blue, he says. Doctors told him there was only a 30 percent chance of successful reattachment.

Forgoing attempts at reattachment, the ordeal motivated him to develop a device to regain some of his hand’s functionality, Van As says.

“I was told I was a crazy man and a fool,” he says, “and that made me more determined than ever.”

Six months after his accident, Van As discovered a mechanical-hand prop on YouTube that piqued his interest. He emailed creator Ivan Owen, an inventor who lived 10,000 miles away in Bellingham, and invited him to collaborate on his own device. After eight months, countless emails and Skype sessions, the pair successfully engineered Van As’ robotic hand.

The success of the robotic hand inspired Van As and Owen to share their low-cost prosthetic design with people around the world. Medical-grade prosthetics cost more than $50,000, which makes them unaffordable to many in need. With donations, Van As and Owen now build devices for individuals at no cost to themselves.

The first challenge in teaming up was overcoming long-distance communication. Working so many miles apart on a project like this would not have been possible 20 years ago, Owen says.

To aid in the design process, Van As sent Owen a precise replica of his hand cast from plastic, giving him the exact dimensions for Van As’ prosthetic fingers.

“We had been doing as much as we could up to that point, but holding an exact model of his hand with its missing digits made it even more real,” Owen says. “This was happening, and it needed to happen faster.”

Using 3D printers donated by the company Makerbot, Owen produced fingers for Van As’ robotic hand. The printer operates using computer-aided design, constructing a physical representation of the designs, Owen says.

The addition of the 3D printer accelerated their design efforts and they built two functional prototypes, bringing them closer to a final device for production.

After working collaboratively for almost a year, Owen flew to Johannesburg, South Africa, where he met Van As for the first time. They worked in Van As’ home workshop, where they finalized his robotic hand.

“Our ideas flew back and forth,” Owen says. “We built like madmen.”

For the first time in more than a year, Van As regained vital functionality in his right hand — he can even use a keyboard with his robotic hand, Owen says.

The men had accomplished what doctors said would not be possible. Van As’ device cost a total of $500, 40 times less than a comparable prosthetic hand, which would cost $20,000, Owen says.

“If you’re dissatisfied with the way the game is played, you change the game, one piece at a time,” Owen says. “That’s what we did with Richard’s device.”

After they completed Van As’ device, the pair received an email from a parent whose 5-year-old son, Liam, was born with Ambiotic Band Syndrome, and did not have fingers on his right hand. Soon after, they began the building process for Liam’s own robotic hand. Building the devices for children like Liam really puts the entire project in perspective, Owen says.

“[Richard and I] only facilitate in helping kids like Liam with the vital ability to continue living life unhindered,” he says. “The device only does as much as the person who is wearing it; it’s up to them be their own [advocate] for change.”

The experience of building Van As’ robotic hand exponentially accelerated the build time of Liam’s device. The process was shaved down from eight months to three weeks, Owen says.

The devices Owen and Van As build are mechanically simple, focusing on functionality and the ease of repair, Owen says. Their designs have no electrical components of any kind.

To continue this story click here.

May 6, 2013
Treasure in the Trash

Looking in all the right places

Story by Sam Shaprio

Photo by Brooke Warren


Erica Reed and Clara Thomas drive around downtown Bellingham at 9 p.m. on a Saturday on a mission. Black beanies cover their long blond hair and both wear dark jeans and old hooded sweatshirts. Reed parks her red 1994 Chrysler New Yorker and the women walk into the dark alleyway between Railroad Avenue and Cornwall Avenue. They have arrived at the Dumpsters they visit weekly. Dinner is served.

Reed and Thomas dumpster dive in businesses’ trash in hopes of finding relatively clean, expired food that has been thrown out.

Reed and Thomas’ first stop of the night is Espresso Avellino’s trashcans on Railroad Avenue. Reed flips the lid open and uses her pointer finger and thumb to pull trash bags to the surface and rip them open. Reed has been Dumpster diving before, but is noticeably disgusted by most of the trash.

“Someone else has been here already,” Reed says. “Look, some of these trash bags have already been ripped apart.”

Looking through trash that is not your own is illegal, University Police Sgt. David Garcia says.

To continue this story click here.

May 6, 2013
Passion for Words

Writing without credit

Story by Suzanne White

Photo Illustration by Mindon Win

She manages a team that puts books on the New York Times Best Seller list. She earns thousands of dollars for her editing help. She has worked on books selected for the Library of Congress. But people will never know they are her words because she puts other people’s names on her finished products.

“I have to restrain myself forcibly sometimes from telling the world about something really good that I wrote under someone else’s name,” she says. “But over time, the rewards of the job have overcome my need to boast.”

Karen Cole is a freelance ghostwriter. She also proofreads, reworks, copy edits and writes books. She is the founder, owner and executive director of Ghost Writer, Inc., a Seattle-based company. Cole manages a team of more than 100 writers, editors, illustrators, marketers and promoters for books, manuscripts, screenplays and music lyrics. Each team member assists her on projects.

Slipping into the shadows, as Cole has done, seems to be a puzzling choice. If writers can produce publishable work, why not take credit for it with their own names?

One of Cole’s college English professors had an answer for this.

“The professor said that women make the best editors, and should leave upper level writing to the men,” Cole says. “I frowned, but [I] did start a copy editing business based on that assumption.”

She says she learned this stereotype did not necessarily hold true in the writing field, and she yearned for more than a life of copy-editing work.

In the 1980s, Cole signed on with Harlequin Romance and had her first taste of ghost writing when she worked on a romance series and helped authors write their books for the company. It was during this time she realized she could make a career out of ghost writing.

“I enjoy the anonymity,” Cole says. “It can be hard to [develop] your own ideas, so it’s nice to be able to write while using other people’s ideas.”

To continue this story click here.

May 6, 2013
Bearing the Burden of Stress

Hidden danger of saving lives

Story by Sam Shapiro

Photos by Samantha Heim 

A 4-year-old girl is eating a snack when she feels her throat begin to tighten. She can’t breathe. Her parents rush to her and frantically try to dislodge the food from her throat. They can’t, and they call 911. It takes four minutes for the emergency responders to arrive.

Veteran paramedic JW Foster and a team of emergency medical technicians arrive to find the little girl unconscious, turning blue, and her pulse slowing — all signs pointing toward the unthinkable. She has been unconscious for nearly five minutes and is moments away from dying right in front of her parents.

Foster takes out two tools — one that helps him locate where the obstruction is in her throat and another that removes the obstruction.

Her parents stand feet away, watching in shock. Foster tilts the girl’s head back and guides the forceps down her trachea. He spears the obstruction and pulls the tool out of her throat — a grape is clasped between the forceps’ tongs. The girl begins to breathe.

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May 6, 2013
Just A Drop

Healing the body with essential oils

Story by Elizabeth Midgorden

Photo by Samantha Heim


Behind a tall wooden counter, dim lights illuminate Michele Schulman Sanger as she inhales deeply, smelling Bulgarian lavender oil from a tiny brown vile. She carefully replaces the lid and picks up another vile filled with Spanish lavender oil.

While both are lavender oils, Schulman Sanger says each has its own distinct smell.

“Essential oils are like an artist’s palette,” Schulman Sanger says. “There are so many choices and so much you can create.”

Essential oils are the concentrated extracts of the plants they are derived from. They are used to add scents to beauty products and flavor to food and drink.

In 2011, the United States imported more than 5 million kilograms of essential oils, according to the United Nations Commodity Trade Statistics Division.

“It’s driving individuals to do more self education and try harder on their own to become more educated and empowered around issues of their own health,” Schulman Sanger says.

Schulman Sanger says she sells essential oils to everyone, like people who are interested in reclaiming a healthier state, no matter what their generation or political leanings.

To continue story click here.

May 6, 2013
Chasing Gold

Olympic dreams take a path less traveled

Story by McKenna Moe

Photos by Brooke Warren


Donn Cabral’s heart races as he walks toward the end of the nearly pitch-black tunnel leading into the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics. He follows a long line of Olympians into the arena, flooded with the sound of 80,000 people from across the globe cheering in support of their respective countries.

“I’ve never felt something so significant before,” Cabral says.

At the height of his Olympic dreams, Cabral would have never imagined living in a small Pacific Northwest town just a few months later.

After competing in the steeplechase event in London, Cabral moved to Bellingham to begin training with his former coach Peter Oviatt. Since his move, Oviatt has created a vigorous training schedule to prepare Cabral for future races and the next summer Olympics. Cabral’s training with Oviatt is essential to bettering his skills.

During Oviatt’s second year as a high school track coach, Cabral joined his team as a freshman, Oviatt says. After becoming a professional runner, Cabral had discussions with coaches from Nike, but decided to work with Oviatt instead.

“There are a lot of athletes who think that the reason they’re great is because of themselves…I don’t think so much like that,” Cabral says. “What makes me great is largely the coaching and direction I’ve received. If I were left to my own devices, I probably wouldn’t have gotten here.”

To continue this story click here.

May 6, 2013
Preserving Life

Morticians and their dying art

Story and photos by Samantha Heim

Sig Aase approaches the deceased woman lying on the table. A blue gown protects his black slacks and collared shirt. He wears blue latex gloves and a clear protective facemask for additional protection as he lifts up her arms and head gently. He slides a shirt around her head, pulls each arm through the holes, and then lays her head back onto the table. After dressing the woman with pants, socks and shoes, he applies color to her closed eyes and a soft pink to her lips.

These are the final touches Aase, a funeral director, will make in the embalming process. Embalming is a common technique, used by funeral homes, to preserve bodies after death. The process often involves formaldehyde injected in the arteries, while the other bodily fluids leave the veins.

“I hear it all,” says Erin Wilcox, faculty and program director of the Funeral Services education department at the Lake Washington Institute of Technology. “‘Do you cut the body open and stuff it with sawdust?’”

To continue story click here.

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Filed under: mortician klipsun death 
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