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News

LA Council race adds 3 new faces to city politics

LA Council race adds 3 new faces to city politics


The Town Crier chronicled the first election of Los Altos City Council incumbent Jarrett Fishpaw in 2010 and documented the Los Altos candidacy of Jean Mordo, who volunteered as a longtime public servant in Los Altos Hills before moving to the flat...

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Schools

St. Simon launches web-based learning management system

St. Simon launches web-based learning management system


Courtesy of St. Simon Parish School
St. Simon fifth-grader Matthew Cummins uses a laptop in class last week. The school’s cloud-based Schoology system boosts organization and collaboration.

Families at St. Simon Parish School in Los Altos laun...

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Community

Los Altos to celebrate 100 years of library use with 'Centennial Faire'

Los Altos to celebrate 100 years of library use with 'Centennial Faire'


Town Crier File Photo
The Los Altos main library is among the more popular branches in the county library district system, set to celebrate 100 years.

In 1914, Babe Ruth made his debut with the Boston Red Sox, wages hit $5 per day, the first ste...

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Sports

Eagles eye another stellar season

Eagles eye another stellar season


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Los Altos High outside hitter Carmen Annevelink, right, goes for the kill Thursday against Palo Alto, as teammates Sarah Tritschler, left, and Lulu Kishton prepare to play defense. The Eagles won the match in straight ga...

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Comment

Torok, Walter, Dave for MVLA board: Editorial

There’s really nothing major you can criticize about the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District. It offers a diverse array of effective programs for all types of students. Its instructors, with few exceptions, are outstanding.

Howe...

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Special Sections

'Funabout' Fiat

'Funabout' Fiat


Photos courtesy of Fiat
The 2014 Fiat 500e uses 29 kilowatt-hours per 100 miles, which the engineers claim is the equivalent of 116 mpg of gas use. It has a sticker price of $33,095.

If you believe in climate change, would love to see alternat...

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Business

App developer eyes First Friday as testing ground

App developer eyes First Friday as testing ground


Ted Fagenson

An East Bay app developer is testing his newest creation in downtown Los Altos.

Ted Fagenson, co-founder of Skrownge (pronounced “scrounge”), told the Town Crier that he’s beta testing his mobile gaming app this week ...

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Books

From story to bookstore: Local journey highlights Halloween

From story to bookstore: Local journey highlights Halloween


Courtesy of Dee Ellmann
Jenny Hurwick self-published her picture book last month after decades of storytelling.

During her years working as a teacher and a Los Altos mom, Jenny Hurwick loved to tell stories. One tale she crafted for her son just se...

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People

VINCENT (TIM) MURPHY JR.

VINCENT (TIM) MURPHY JR.

July 27, 1953 – August 12, 2014

Native Los Altan died Medford, OR. Graduated Bellarmine Prep. Married Josephine Domino, 1950. Licensed Auto Mechanic, Private Pilot, skilled Computer Scientist. Tim “could fix anything”. Afflicted with cancer 2001. ...

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Travel

Taking a Turkey trek: Winging it during the World Cup

Taking a Turkey trek: Winging it during the World Cup


Rich Robertson/Special to the Town Crier
The sun sets over the Aegean Sea in Bodrum, Turkey, left.

Tours that whisk you from Istanbul to Bodrum in 11 days are as plentiful as souvenir hawkers in Turkey, but traveling from the Blue Mosque to Topkapi ...

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Stepping Out

'Gypsy' on its way out

'Gypsy' on its way out


Chris Berger/Special to the Town Crier
Alison Koch of Los Altos plays Dainty June in “Gypsy.”

This is the final weekend to catch the Sunnyvale Community Players production of “Gypsy” at the Sunnyvale Theatre. The musical is slated to close Sund...

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Spiritual Life

Ugandan pastor visits U.S. to raise support for children's ministry

Ugandan pastor visits U.S. to raise support for children's ministry


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Herman Lukwago educates children in Uganda.

Imagine life if your father had 25 children and you were raised in poverty in rural Uganda.

Now imagine that you and your siblings were orphaned at an early age and you ass...

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Magazine

Local events add color to autumn calendar

Local events add color to autumn calendar


Van Houtte/town crier Visitors make their way through the Children’s Alley.

As Los Altos’ signature Chinese Pistache trees exchange their summer green for vibrant hues of yellow, orange and red in the fall, an abundance of local events also ad...

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A celebration of survival for parents of ECH neonatal graduates

Photo Mary Beth Hislop/Town CrierAt nearly 9 months of age, Drew Cutler celebrated survival with family and his away-from-home family, El Camino Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit medical staff. Pictured, from left, are Drews mom, Carolyn Cutler, Drews brother Ty, grandparents Audrey and Bill Cutler, father Thomas and Drew, in his fathers arms.

It’s all the stuff that makes a great party – balloons and streamers, clowns, cake and ice cream, and the joyful squeals of young children having a good time. But what made this celebration extra special for many of the children is the “Once upon a time” – the story that begins in El Camino Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Mountain View resident Carolyn Cutler was just 26 weeks pregnant with her second child when she went into labor and delivered Drew, a 2-pound, 1-ounce baby boy 14 weeks shy of reaching full-term. Drew spent his first three months of life in El Camino’s NICU, attached to machines that helped him live as his little body fought off the complications common to premature newborns – a lung infection, problems with digestion and sepsis.

“We just really didn’t know in our heart of hearts what was going to happen,” Cutler said of her son. “These little guys – when they’re born this early, it’s critical.”

Cutler and her family went through a roller-coaster ride of emotions over the next few weeks after the birth – elated that Drew was here, but worried about the challenges he faced.

At a time when most families are bonding with their babies – feeding, changing, holding and cooing at their budding bundles of joy – Drew rested behind the walls of his isolette, barely visible among the numerous wires attached to his little body. Cutler said she couldn’t touch or hold Drew in those first few weeks as his weight dipped to 1 pound, 7 ounces.

“At that point, he belonged to the machines,” she said.

Cutler said she knew Drew was improving with each machine that disappeared from his side.

“His hurdles were measured by the equipment,” Cutler said. “It gave us milestones along the way.”

Cutler couldn’t say enough about the professionalism, care and attention Drew received in the NICU nursery – or about the emotional support she received from the nurses.

“The nurses kept our spirits up,” she said.

So, a week shy of his 9-month birthday, Drew and his family returned to El Camino Hospital June 27 for the NICU’s yearly reunion of Level III babies, a celebration for the graduates, their families and medical staff.

“It’s great – we really look forward to seeing them annually,” said Yvonne Chu, a nurse in the neonatal unit.

And with the technological advances Chu has seen in the 17 years she’s been a NICU nurse, outcomes for premature babies are improving all the time.

“This is what we work for,” she said. “I would have to say that 99.5 percent of our babies go home.”

Normal gestation for infants is 40 weeks – births between 37 and 42 weeks are considered full-term, and births before 37 weeks are considered premature. Approximately 12.8 percent of all births in the United States are premature – more than half a million yearly – according to information from the March of Dimes.

Neonatologist Dharshi Sivakumar, M.D., said El Camino’s NICU treats 450-500 premature babies each year and has witnessed vast technological improvements for the infants in the past 10 years.

“You want to have the right level of care,” Sivakumar said. “I’m so proud of what we have done here.”

Treating premature infants doesn’t start at birth, she said. Mothers at risk for premature delivery are given steroids to help babies’ lungs mature.

“That makes a big difference how they do respirator-wise,” Chu said.

Drug therapies keep the lungs from collapsing while oscillators pump tiny puffs of air into undeveloped lungs to keep them inflated, a high-frequency ventilating system introduced in 2002.

“It ventilates without the pressure and prevents lung disease,” Sivakumar said. “In the last six to seven years, we have come a long way.”

Two decades ago, a child born at 28 weeks would have had a higher mortality risk than a child born today and treated in a neonatal unit.

“At 28 weeks, we really have hardly any problem,” Sivakumar said. “Between 24 and 27 (weeks), we really have to work very hard.”

Premature births have increased 36 percent since the early 1980s, according to March of Dimes statistics, although there is no one specific explanation for the jump.

Many mothers with no obvious risk factors give birth prematurely, Sivakumar said.

“Nobody knows why,” she said.

What is important to know or understand is the level of intervention a premature baby will require. Infants with immediate surgical needs should be born at a hospital with a Level IV neonatal unit, such as Stanford Hospital. Sivakumar said transporting premature infants is difficult and should be avoided.

“You want to have the right level of care from the start,” she said.

Kristine Festa of San Jose knew her baby needed extra help from almost the beginning. Festa was carrying twins when she discovered one of them would be stillborn. Festa gave birth to son Ian five weeks early, at 4 pounds, 5 ounces. She and Ian returned June 27 for the second year to visit with their doctor, Sivakumar.

“We’re close to Good Samaritan,” Festa said, “but all of our doctors and nurses are here.”

Despite the medical advances for the country’s youngest patients, not all stories that begin “Once upon a time” have a happy ending.

“We all cry with the parents,” Chu said of fellow nurses. “It’s absolutely OK to cry with them.”

Nurses also work extensively with their tiny patients’ families, teaching them skills to care for their babies and instilling the confidence they need to trust themselves once they get home.

Cutler said she worried about bringing Drew home after three months in the NICU, but as he continues to grow and thrive, his earlier problems fade into distant memories.

“My child is happy – he’s eating, he’s healthy,” Cutler said. “You just remember you have a little, little baby you love and adore.”

For more information, visit www.elcaminohospital.org.

Contact Mary Beth Hislop at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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