Swedish’s ‘Heart Surgeon for a Day’ event educates & inspires

  • Written by Shannon Michael

Sue Barrows ECGPhoto by Shannon Michael. BHS science teacher Sue Barrows, as part of the Swedish Heart & Vascular Institute’s “Heart Surgeon for a Day” event, watches as David Diedrick, right, a registered diagnostic cardiac sonographer, explains how electrocardiograms are used in examining the heart and vascular system.Sue Barrows, a 35-year veteran science teacher, 24 of them at Bothell High School, and Brandi Aubrey, of Bothell, were two of 20 people selected to participate in the Swedish Heart & Vascular Institute’s inaugural “Heart Surgeon for a Day” event held February 26 at the Seattle Science Foundation in Seattle.

As part of February’s American Heart Month, the event was intended to inspire both the participants who attended and the individuals who joined the conversation online on Twitter to learn more about heart disease prevention and treatment.

Over 200 applications to participate were received by Swedish, with the lucky 20 attendees picked randomly. The attendees were a fascinating group: a science teacher with a family history of heart disease, a TV reporter, pre-med college students, three who’d had heart surgery, a young woman whose mother had been a cardiac care nurse at Swedish over 20 years ago, and others.  

Dr. Glenn Barnhart, chief and executive director of Swedish’s Cardiac Surgical Services, explained the purpose of the day’s event, “This is an important issue. Heart health today is still very much underappreciated.”

Heart disease affects one in four Americans and is the leading cause of death for both men and women. More than half of all men and women who die from heart disease have no noticeable symptoms, Barnhart shared with the group.

Barrows, Aubrey, and their fellow “surgeons” were treated to a brief lesson on the anatomy of a heart before heading into the BioSkills Lab where four stations were set up to rotate through, along with three of Swedish’s four cardiac surgeons and a couple of cardiologists.

“We have over 150 years of collective experience working on the heart here today,” said Dr. Barnhart, as he introduced the handful of cardiac specialists on hand to share their expertise.
In the BioSkills lab, participants were given the opportunity to dissect pig hearts, try their hand at performing an aortic valve replacement on a pig heart using the surgical tools of the trade, and use the da Vinci robot to perform surgery on a pig heart.

The group also saw a demonstration on some of the special materials produced to repair hearts, demonstrations of electrocardiogram (ECG) procedures, toured an operating room set up for open heart surgery, and toured the Hybrid operating room which is filled with the latest technology to help surgeons at the operating table. The Hybrid OR is considered one of the most advanced operating rooms in the world.

It was a fascinating day for Barrows, who teaches biology, marine biology and zoology.
“I loved all the hands-on activities and being able to do the heart dissections and actually do a heart valve replacement with the real tools and the replacement parts they actually use,” she said, adding, “It was amazing!”

After getting to try her hand at using the da Vinci robotics to perform surgery, she had newfound respect for the skills of the cardiac surgeons. “It was hard! The 3-D spatial was hard to get used to and getting the probe to pick up the needle was difficult to do,” she said.

Dr. Eric Lehr, a master at doing groundbreaking surgeries using the da Vinci robot, was there to guide each participant through their turn at using the robot. Lehr, along with his surgical partner Dr. Johannes Bonatti, were the first in the world to successfully perform a quadruple bypass surgery on a patient a few years ago using the da Vinci robot.

“The use of the da Vinci robot helps cut down recovery time for heart surgery patients from three to four months for open heart surgery to just three to four weeks,” Dr. Lehr said.
Practice using the machine was important for Lehr. “I practiced suturing arteries about 200 times before actually operating on a human heart,” he said.

The da Vinci robot is used for coronary artery bypass, grafting, mitral valve repair and a variety of other surgeries, according to Lehr.

For Aubrey, this event was very personal to her. Dr. Barnhart had been her surgeon when she had an aortic valve replaced five years ago at Swedish.

“I was born with a heart condition we found out about when I was a toddler, so my entire life I was obsessed with anything having to do with the heart,” she said.

“Everybody here at Swedish was so great about preparing me going into the surgery with what to expect with recovery. That was fantastic, but to look at it from the other side of the table was really impressive,” she said, adding that it was mind blowing to look at it from the surgeon’s angle.  
The group finished the day having lunch with the cardiac surgeons and cardiologists and a question-and-answer session. The event was considered such a success that Barnhart and event organizers plan to offer the opportunity to the public again sometime later this year. To see more photos from the event, visit the Swedish Facebook page or search for #SwedishDoc4Day on Twitter.

Bandon-by-the-Sea: Oregon coast’s best-kept secret

  • Written by Shannon Michael Features Writer

BandonDrive down the coast through Washington and Oregon, and it quickly becomes apparent where the hot spots are for tourist destinations.

Ocean Shores, Westport and Long Beach in Washington; while Seaside, Cannon Beach, Lincoln City and Newport in Oregon are known for their perfect locations to take a long weekend or a week’s vacation at the beach.

However, for those who continue the journey further down the Oregon coastline along Highway 101, the off-the-radar coastal town of Bandon is an unspoiled jewel worthy of the nine-hour drive from the Seattle area to visit.

Sure, golfers seeking the best courses are knowledgeable about Bandon Dunes Golf Resort with its St. Andrews inspired course located about five miles north of the town along the ocean’s shore.

Many choose to fly into Bandon for a golfing excursion, as evidenced by the line of private planes and jets parked at the small airport when the weather is favorable.

For those who crave finding a beach that offers a little bit of everything, if that everything includes ample tide pools teeming with sea anemone, hermit crabs and starfish, rocks to climb or perch yourself upon to watch stunning sunsets, driftwood and agates to discover and explore, then Bandon should be tops on your list of destination beach vacations if swimming and getting a tan are not your highest priorities. 

The best view beach in Bandon is located along Beach Loop Drive where the Oregon Islands Wildlife Refuge and the iconic Face Rock are located just offshore. There, visitors can find numerous hotels overlooking the beaches and cabins for rent year-round.

Nearer to the small town’s Old Town, are other hotels and small cabins for rent that face out toward the Coquille River, the jetty and the historic lighthouse across the river.

When the tides are too high for long strolls on the beach, there are plenty of things to do in and around Bandon, starting with the Old Town section where visitors will enjoy a variety of shops from candy stores like Cranberry Sweets to Second Street Gallery, an excellent art gallery featuring local artists’ works.

Those needing their daily espresso coffee fix won’t be disappointed there’s no Starbucks when they visit Bandon Coffee Cafe, where their specialty mochas all have names that remind you where you are: the Beachcomber, the Coastal or the Lighthouse Mocha.

Also located in Old Town are several restaurants offering a variety of cuisines from Italian, or old-fashioned American diner food, to classic coastal seafood fare. Some restaurants close down during the slow times of late December to early February, but those that remain open still offer plenty of choices for diners.

If it’s fresh, off-the-boat Dungeness crab you’re looking for to bring back to your room or cabin for dinner, then stop by Tony’s Crab Shack located near the marina.

Or visit Face Rock Creamery, home of award- winning locally made cheeses you can enjoy with a glass of wine while you watch the sunset.

The historic Coquille River Lighthouse can be explored from the outside after just a short road trip north of town and across the river, as well as numerous state and county parks and lighthouses that dot the coastline both north and south of Bandon.

One state park well worth the 25-mile curvy road drive to get there is Shore Acres State Park in Charleston, north of Bandon.

This park, located along a rocky bluff with some of the coolest geological formations caused from tectonic plates pushing against each other, is best visited during a very high tide, and it’s even better to visit when you add a stormy day to the mix.

That’s when the waves come crashing into the bluff causing spray to shoot up 75 feet or more into the air.

The park is also home to almost five acres of stunning gardens as it used to be the property of pioneer lumberman and shipbuilder Louis J. Simpson. While his mansion is long gone, the gardens have remained and been maintained.

Over 8,000 tulips put on a showy display in spring, while over 300,000 LED lights are used to illuminate the gardens between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The annual Holiday Lights Festival draws over 45,000 visitors annually.

About an hour north of Bandon is the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, perfect for hiking, photography, horseback riding or renting a dune buggy.

During the winter months, gray whales can be seen migrating south the last week of December, and then returning north the last week of March.

Volunteers count whales through the Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department’s "Whale Watching is Spoken Here" program and help visitors at state parks along the Oregon coast, including the Face Rock Scenic Viewpoint on Beach Loop Road in Bandon, to spot them as they pass by.

If Bandon is a destination you want to try for your next vacation but you’d also love to add wine tasting to your adventure, consider breaking up the nine-hour drive into two days, stopping after seven hours driving in Roseburg, Ore., along Interstate 5 overnight.

Located in the heart of the Umpqua Valley, the Roseburg area is home to the 2013 Oregon Winery of the Year, Abacela Winery, plus several other award-winning wineries.

From Roseburg, head west on Highway 42, then south on Highway 101 to Bandon for the remaining two hour drive to reach the beach.


Photo courtesy of Shannon Michael. The many rocks dotting the coastline in Bandon, Ore., include those that can be explored during low tides, and the iconic Face Rock, to the left in the photo above.

Fond memories remain for former Woodinville School principal

  • Written by Shannon Michael Features Writer

John ValentaHe may be almost 98 years old, but that doesn’t stop John Valenta from recalling his time in the 1940s when he was the principal at what is now the Old Woodinville School.

I visited John and his wife of 74 years, Dorothy (or Dot as he likes to call her), the younger of the two at age 95, at their retirement community in Redmond last week to find out what life was like in Woodinville and at the school way back then.

But first I wanted to know a little about each of them. John was born in 1916 and grew up near Edgewood, in Pierce County, one of six children of parents who had come from Czechoslovakia. He grew up speaking both Czech and English, working on the farm and watching everyone around him working with their hands.

His father was a machinist, but it was a talented football player who played in college who was a friend of one of his older brothers who encouraged John to go to college after he graduated high school. The friend had become a teacher and principal.

"I thought I’d like to be like him," John said. He was the first in his family to consider going to college.

He went to Western Washington University after graduating from high school in 1934. It’s where he met Dot, who grew up in Arlington in Snohomish County, and was studying to become a teacher after she’d graduated high school in 1936. They met at a dance.

"She was one hell of a good dancer when I saw her there," he said with a chuckle.

They’ve been dancing together ever since, not even letting a recent fall by Dot slow them down when it made use of a walker necessary. "I sit in the wheelchair and he pushes me around on the dance floor," she said.

They were inseparable at Western, to the point that John realized he’d never finish school unless he took his studies more seriously. He made the decision to leave Dot and Western to go to Pacific Lutheran University to finish his degree. Meanwhile, Dot finished her teaching degree, too. In the late 1930s, a teaching certificate only took three years to earn.

They married in 1940 and spent some time teaching in Algona and Coalfield before Dot gave birth to the first of their three sons in 1942. By then the country was involved in World War II, and they knew John could be called to action. He got a notice that his enrollment would be deferred, so then John needed a job. Luckily, there was a notice for a position of principal at the Woodinville School, which he got.  

The family moved into the "teacherage" next door to the school. "It was a little house that went with the job," Dot explained. "You got free rent to stay in the house while working at the school."

John worked for a year at the school before being called up to serve in the war.

"I was in counter- intelligence for the C.I.A., but I stayed in the United States and didn’t do anything," John said. "I was to mix with people wherever there was a crowd and observe people, particularly if there were military guys there."

John’s ability to speak Czech was of value for counter-intelligence, he explained.

He served for about three years. "It was the craziest assignment!" he said.

When the war ended, he returned to Woodinville where his job had been kept for him. Dot had moved back to Arlington to be near family and found a job as a teacher while John was serving, but now the family could return to the teacherage. John worked as the Woodinville School principal for three years after the war.

"While he was gone in the service, the school hired a relief principal who was a woman. She moved into the teacherage, and she didn’t want to give up her job or move out when John came back for his job," Dot recalled.

"The school board had to tell her John was entitled to his job after returning from the service, that he’d been promised his job back when he returned, so they made her move out," Dot said. They lived there for three more years while John was principal in Woodinville.

Their twin boys, Fred and Frank, were born in 1947 while they were living in Woodinville. Both are 66 now and are retired teachers.

While their time at Woodinville School was only four years total, there’s quite a bit the Valentas remember about the school and the community in the 1940s.

The town of Woodinville was such a rural community at the time, John explained, with many people being farmers. They didn’t think they had anything in common with an educated man like himself, but John felt it was important to relate to the families of the children of which he was in charge. "I would start asking them about their farm and their cows or horses, had they been hunting or fishing, and I became a human being to them," John said.

There were eight grades in the Woodinville School, starting with first grade. John can’t quite recall the number of students or teachers at the school, understandable considering it’s been over 70 years since he served there. But, he does recall the town continuing to grow in population and the classrooms becoming overflowing.

"I would spend a lot of time out on the playground when I was there. I’d have the kitchen make me a sandwich before lunch recess so I could enjoy being out there with the kids," John fondly remembered.

Besides the usual core classes, the older boys had a shop class and the girls had a home economics class.

John successfully recommended the seventh and eighth graders be separated from the younger students and be sent on to Bothell Junior High, what now sits vacant as the W.A. Anderson School awaiting conversion into a McMenamins, thus making Woodinville School just for elementary students. That relieved the overcrowding at the school.

The couple’s love of dancing never waned even when in Woodinville. "We would go dancing at the local grange or even in the old schoolhouse building that stood next door to the Woodinville School," Dot recalled.

John was offered prominent positions in education across the country, but turned down many offers so he could remain close to the children throughout his career. He did serve as president of the Association of Washington School Principals for several years during his career.

After Woodinville, John moved on to a new principal position at West Mercer Elementary on Mercer Island, where he worked until retiring in 1973 after 32 years of service to youth. After leaving Woodinville and the teacherage, he moved the family to Kirkland because it was too expensive to live on a principal’s salary on Mercer Island. 

They adopted their daughter, Virginia, in 1961 when she was 5 years old, about the same time as they bought 20 acres and a home on Hollywood Hill, past The Farm. They lived there for 27 years until the late 1980s. After selling, they traveled to Europe.

John and Dot’s bodies may have slowed down and some of the dates they recall may be off a bit, but they still share a love of life, dancing and each other – and fond memories of their time spent in Woodinville.


Photo by Shannon Michael . John Valenta was the principal of the old Woodinville School for four years in the 1940s. Now almost 98 years old and living in a retirement community in Redmond,he’s shown here with a painting of the 20-acre property he and his wife, Dot, owned for 27 years on Hollywood Hill.

Inglemoor teacher recognized for ‘hands-on, brain-on’ classes

  • Written by Briana Gerdeman

Engineering 631"I’m trying to just create the class I wish I’d had in high school," Mike Wierusz explains. "I left high school with a full ride scholarship to UW for engineering, but I had no clue what engineering was. I just don’t think that’s fair, with the cost of higher ed now. I think it’s a huge benefit for students to have an idea of why they’re going to do what they’re going to do."

Wierusz teaches the sustainable engineering and design program at Inglemoor High School, and was one of seven teachers on the West Coast chosen as an Allen Distinguished Educator. The ADE program, sponsored by the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, recognizes innovative teachers who give their students opportunities to learn engineering and entrepreneurship in creative ways.

Hands-on, real-world learning is the central theme of Wierusz’s classes, IB Design and Technology and Sustainable Engineering and Design. (The classes are open to high schoolers at any school in the Northshore School District.)

"The idea behind IB Design and Technology is to introduce students to the design process and the tools that we use to do design," he said. "That includes understanding how the market works, the product life cycle, and all of the elements that go into decision-making for product design."

Engineering 647After students complete IB Design and Technology, they can further their skills in Sustainable Engineering and Design. Students learn how humans affect the environment and society; then, Wierusz said, he asks them to use that knowledge to "do good."

In groups, the students plan projects, submit grants and spend the rest of the year making their projects.

This year, for example, one group is trying to design a more sustainable snowboard.

Another group is developing an off-the-grid refrigeration system to store vaccines in developing countries.

Several groups are working with professional architects and designers on NSD’s new high school. One group is focusing on the wetlands on the site. Another is making a touch screen kiosk that will show students how much energy and water the school is saving.

There’s a "huge emphasis" on students working with industry partners — local businesses and organizations — who serve as technical experts for the students, Wierusz said.

For example, the group who’s making the sustainable snowboard is working with K2 Sports in Seattle to understand snowboard design and the market for snowboard.

Most students come in to the class with an interest in engineering, business orenvironmental science, Wierusz said. His class draws on those skills and others, requiring students to use both their strengths and weaknesses. Students must explain their project goals in writing and figure out how much money they need for their project before they can begin coding or building.

"The reality is, problem solving cannot be done with just one skill set. Real problem solving involves science, it involves art, it involves communication, it involves math, it involves writing," Wierusz said.

He added, "We try to spread these skills sets among the projects, so that way you’ve got somebody who’s interested in the environment, somebody who’s interested in engineering,

somebody who’s interested in business in each of the projects, so that way they understand that it does take all of the skill sets to bring something to fruition."

The classroom is equipped with 3D printers, a laser cutter, wood shop tools and soldering equipment for students to make prototypes of their designs.

The program is both "hands-on" and "brain-on," Wierusz said.

Students are effusive in their praise for Wierusz’s classes. Student Chloe Pearson is part of the class’s "green communications team," which lets her combine her love for design and environmental science with her interest in marketing.

By working with real-world companies, she said, she’s learned how to patiently navigate the many levels of authority within a company.

"I’ve also learned a lot about the freedom of design, because I had a misconception that they would give me a project and I would do it," she said. "But they gave me a problem."

Another student, Spencer Lane, took the Sustainable Engineering and Design class last year and again this year. His group is working on the "green machine," a mobile learning lab in a trailer that the students use to teach elementary schoolers about energy and sustainability.

The hands-on approach of Wierusz’s class makes it easy to be excited about the work, Lane said.

"It was unlike any class I’ve had before. It was super hands-on," Lane said. "We always had cool field trips or people come in and talk to us….It was stuff like that that brought me back this year."


Photo by Briana Gerdeman

Mike Wierusz, who teaches the Sustainable Engineering and Design program at Inglemoor High School, answers students’ questions. Wierusz is one of seven teachers nationwide who won an award for teaching entrepreneurship and engineering in creative ways.

Lena Bandulin, a student in Mike Wierusz’s IB Design and Technology class, creates a model of one of her designs. For an assignment to improve a household object, she’s making a paper towel holder with a rubber stopper that lets you tear off paper towels with one hand.

BHS’ Edgecomb wins best junior dog handler in U.S.; Westminster next

  • Written by Shannon Michael Features Writer

Katelynn EdgecombBy school day, she’s Katelynn Edgecomb, just another sophomore walking the halls at Bothell High School and attending classes. Outside of school, she recently became the best junior dog show handler in the nation, winning the title on her first try at the 2013 American Kennel Club’s Eukanuba National Championship Dog Show held December 14-15 in Orlando, Florida.

Edgecomb, who lives in Snohomish, was one of 148 junior dog handlers between the ages of nine and 18 who competed in the national competition. She edged out Emma Echols of Watkinsville, Georgia, who was attempting a third consecutive win as national junior showmanship champion with her Yorkshire terrier. Mary Ann Alston of Maryland judged the 12 handlers who made it to the finalist round.

Before she could reach the finals, Edgecomb and her fellow junior handlers had to maintain a 3.0 grade point average in school and have at least five wins in open competitions.

Edgecomb got involved in dog showmanship when she was encouraged to join a 4-H club in Snohomish County about seven years ago even though she didn’t own a show dog. She used her 4-H leader’s bullmastiff to learn how to handle a dog in the showmanship ring, and she quickly started winning first place in junior novice competitions. She eventually transitioned to a show quality Australian shepherd in order to become more competitive in open class competitions.

And then three years ago a short, stout pug full of personality named Lara entered her life. Lara, whose full name is CH Luna’s Timeliss Lara Croft Of Cantu, and Edgecomb became a team.

"Our first time out we got best junior, and I knew it was a match made in heaven. She loves to show and we have fun together; she is a character!" Edgecomb wrote in an online interview she posted on a website set up to receive donations toward her travel expenses to show at the Crufts Dog Show.

Billed as the largest dog show in the world, the Crufts competition will be held in Birmingham, England March 6-9. Edgecomb’s victory in Orlando qualified her to show at Crufts.

Between now and the Crufts show, though, is America’s favorite and most famous dog show, the Westminster Kennel Club’s 138th annual Westminster Dog Show February 10-11 in New York City. Edgecomb and Lara’s victory at the Eukanuba National Championships also qualified them to participate at this prestigious dog show.

The Westminster show’s evening competition will be televised live on CNBC from 8-11 p.m. on Monday, and on USA from 8-11 p.m. on Tuesday. Should Edgecomb qualify for the junior showmanship finals, she would compete Tuesday evening.

Besides winning the title at the Eukanuba show and qualifying to compete at Westminster and Crufts, Edgecomb also was awarded a $2,000 college scholarship.

While practicing and participating in dog shows takes up most of her spare time, Edgecomb still makes time for two other activities in her life. She is very active as a 4-H member not only in Snohomish County, but also has taken on mentorship and leadership roles by becoming a teen leader and State 4-H Ambassador. At school she’s participated in choir for almost eight years because she loves to sing.

Edgecomb gives a lot of credit for her success to her mom, Dena Edgecomb, a single mother who has supported her daughter’s efforts every step of the way. Edgecomb’s mom has worked hard to save enough money for her daughter to travel to various dog shows around the country, but after winning the Eukanuba competition and suddenly being qualified to travel to New York City and England to compete makes covering the costs of travel a bit harder for her mom.

Thankfully, Edgecomb has friends and family who are helping to support her dream, and it was one of her friends who set up the website so fans and supporters could have an easy way to make a donation to cover travel expenses. Visitors to the website will also find a link to the video of the junior showmanship finals at the Eukanuba National Championship.


Photo by Robert Young © AKC

Katelynn Edgecomb, a Bothell High School sophomore, recently won the best junior handler showmanship championship at the AKC Eukanuba National Championship held in Orlando, Florida in December. She is shown here with her pug, Lara. Next up for the pair is the Westminster Kennel Club show in New York City.