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'Rail bike' business bounced from operating on tracks

JOHNSBURG — The company that has run a “rail bike” operation on railroad tracks in Johnsburg during the past two years has been told it will not be able to use the rails next year.

Several Warren County officials said Revolution Rail Co.’s founder notified them last week that Iowa Pacific Holdings has terminated the rail bike company’s contract for 2019.

An effort has begun to find a new section of rails where the company could operate locally.

Revolution Rail co-owner Michael Dupee said Friday that the situation was “fluid” and his company was reviewing its options.

“We want to be back and we are doing everything we can to make sure it’s possible,” he said. “We are aware of and super appreciative of everybody’s support.”

The company ended its season late last month. It has drawn thousands of people to North Creek, North River and Minerva over the past two years to ride pedal-powered, four-wheeled cars on a picturesque stretch of rails that crosses the Hudson River.

Revolution Rail operated from an office at the North Creek train depot, which is owned by Warren County. But the tracks on which customers ride are owned by Iowa Pacific Holdings, which operated Saratoga & North Creek Railway for more than six years before shutting down last spring amid financial issues.

Iowa Pacific has been negotiating to sell the rail line, which runs between North Creek and the former NL Industries mines in Tahawus.

Calls to Revolution Rail Co. were not returned Thursday or Friday. Iowa Pacific’s president, Ed Ellis, did not respond to an inquiry for comment, either.

Warren County Public Works Superintendent Kevin Hajos and Johnsburg Supervisor Andrea Hogan said they received notification from Revolution Rail about the contract termination, but no explanation was offered by Iowa Pacific.

Warren County leaders were working to figure out if the company could instead use a section of rails owned by Warren County between North Creek and Hadley next spring, if its contract with Iowa Pacific is not reinstated.

Bolton Supervisor Ronald Conover, chairman of the county Board of Supervisors, said county Administrator Ryan Moore is looking at the county’s potential options to assist the company.

“It’s private property. We don’t own it,” he said.

Lake Luzerne Supervisor Gene Merlino said a section of rails in Hadley, just across the Hudson River from Lake Luzerne, had been under consideration by the company before it settled in North Creek.

Merlino said a crossing on the famed Bow Bridge over the Sacandaga River would make for a scenic ride.

“We want to try to do something for them,” he said.

“Whatever we can do for them, we should be cognizant and move something forward,” Glens Falls 3rd Ward Supervisor Claudia Braymer said.

In the holiday spirit

Hundreds of paraders took to the streets Sunday during the 2018 South Glens Falls Fire Company Holiday Parade in the village. Spectators lined the sidewalks of Route 9, catching glimpses of the Grinch, Santa Claus, festive parade floats and lots of decked-out firetrucks. Local marching bands filled the air with holiday music, too, kicking off the season. The Moreau Community Center and Marine Corps Detachment’s Toys for Girls and Boys also led the parade, collecting donated food items as well as toys.

View a gallery of photos from the parade at .

Iraqi war victims turn to social media to find medical help

BAGHDAD — It was spring 2007 in northern Iraq when 6-year-old Saja Saleem raced home from school with the good news about her excellent grades, hoping to receive the gift her father had promised her.

“All of a sudden, I found myself spinning into the air with fire trailing from my school uniform after a loud boom,” Saleem, now 17, recounted to The Associated Press.

Saleem lost her eyesight, right arm and an ear in the explosion, set off by a roadside bomb. Months later, her disfiguring injuries forced her to drop out of school after other students complained about her “scary face.”

Feeling helpless, Saleem recently turned to social media to find help. Eventually, her appeal grabbed the attention of a surgeon who offered free treatment.

Others have reached out on social media.

Emotional videos and photographs of Iraqis with war wounds and disabilities have overwhelmed social media platforms, mainly Facebook, widely used in Iraq.

The widespread violence unleashed by the 2003 toppling of Saddam Hussein and the 2014-2017 battle against the Islamic State group has wounded hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. Many are maimed and scarred, their suffering lingering long after the violence subsides.

Poor medical services, scarcity of specialized staff and medical centers, and poverty have exacerbated the suffering. Those who cannot get treatment at state-run hospitals and cannot afford private clinics are looking to social media platforms to make appeals.

Appeals are posted on the personal Facebook pages of patients or on the pages of aid organizations and public figures with tens of thousands of followers. Patients describe their condition along with contact details. Messages are also distributed on platforms like WhatsApp and Viber.

Saleem and her family recall the explosion that upended her life, and the years that followed as they struggled financially to get her treatment.

“When I hit the ground, I felt severe pain all over my body ... I was bleeding, a pool of blood around me ... everything turned dark and I lost consciousness,” she recalled from her bed at a Baghdad hospital where she is undergoing free reconstructive and plastic surgeries.

Saleem’s mother, Khawla Omar Hussein, remembers her daughter’s screams when three weeks later, she regained consciousness and realized she had lost her right arm and ear.

“She woke up screaming, crying: ‘Mammy, mammy’,” Hussein recalled. “Then she asked: ‘Why can’t I see and why is everything dark?’”

They told her it was the bandages over her eyes and that she would see after they were removed. When that day came, the doctors told her she had lost both eyes.

Nearly two years later, Saleem’s family tried to send her back to school where she was accepted only as a “listener” in class, accompanying her brothers. But that arrangement ended soon as other students and teachers complained that her disfigured face was bothering them.

“I was crying day and night and became a very reclusive person,” Saleem said.

After the state-run hospital couldn’t go beyond the necessary treatment to save her life, Saleem’s family looked for plastic and reconstructive surgery for her at a private clinic, but they couldn’t afford the doctor’s $7,500 fee.

Then, late last year, her mother made an appeal, posting photographs of Saleem and details about her ordeal in a public group on Viber. Days later, Baghdad-based Dr. Abbas al-Sahan, one of Iraq’s best plastic surgeons, offered to do free surgeries.

Since January, Saleem has undergone four surgeries — first so her face could accommodate the two glass eyes, or ocular prostheses, then a procedure to reduce some of the scars. She also had a surgery to adjust to a prosthetic arm and is due to have plastic surgery to reconstruct her missing ear, al-Sahan said.

Al-Sahan runs the only state-run specialized hospital for reconstructive and plastic surgery in Iraq. He said that about 40 percent of the monthly surgeries his hospital preforms — between 600 to 850 — are for victims of bombings and other war-related explosions, as well as for casualties of military operations.

Saleem’s family feels she is lucky. Not everyone gets the help they need through social media.

Iraqi army Capt. Salar al-Jaff was shot by a sniper in January 2017, during the height of the fight to recapture the northern city of Mosul from the Islamic State group. The bullet hit him in the head and left him paralyzed in one side of his body.

Since then, he has been treated for the head wound and for complications from lying in bed all the time, but not for the paralysis. He sold his car and all his possessions to be able to afford three injections a day, each costing $100, to overcome the pain.

He also appeared in a video, posted on social media, alongside a cleric who asks that someone help al-Jaff.

But so far, there have been no offers for free treatment.

File photo by Lisa Lehman, for The Post-Star  

From left, Lake Luzerne Supervisor Gene Merlino, Warren County Tourism Department Group Tour Promoter Tanya Brand, Warren County Tourism Director Joanne Conley and Gore Mountain Marketing Manager Emily Stanton ride a Revolution Rail Co. rail bike on July 26, 2017.

Moses-Ludington Hospital unveils $9.1 million renovation

TICONDEROGA — The $9.1 million renovation of Moses-Ludington Hospital into a modern, state-of-the art facility is complete.

The Ticonderoga medical facility, now known as University of Vermont Health Network, Elizabethtown Community Hospital Ticonderoga Campus, held a dedication on Wednesday with tours for the public.

Earlier this year, the hospital completed renovations to its emergency, pharmacy and laboratory departments. Now, renovated radiology and physical therapy departments, as well dedicated specialty clinic space, have been completed.

High-quality care

As the celebration began, Elizabethtown Community Hospital President John Remillard said the project took 18 months to complete.

“This is working to improve people’s lives,” he told a crowd of about 30. “All five spaces are complete. Our goal as we embarked on this project was to ensure continued local access to high-quality care in a modern, efficient facility.”

Funding for the renovations came from the State Department of Health, with assistance from Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury.

Little said she remembers working with the hospital when she was in the State Assembly in 1995.

“This (hospital) is magnificent,” she said. “This will serve this community well. Moses-Ludington Hospital has been through a lot of changes. We have an awful lot to be thankful for.”

Saving lives

The hospital, which opened in 1981 to replace a 1920s facility that has since been torn down for a senior living complex, became part of Elizabethtown Community Hospital in April, and, like Elizabethtown, administered by the University of Vermont Health Network.

The Charles R. Wood Foundation and the Moses-Ludington Auxiliary were recognized at the event for their donations enabling the hospital to purchase a state-of-art 3D mammography unit and improved ultrasound equipment for the radiology department.

The Wood Foundation presented a $254,000 grant to purchase a Selenia Dimensions Hologic 3D mammography machine, and the auxiliary contributed $16,500 for the ultrasound device.

The foundation previously gave the hospital $185,000 for cancer screening equipment.

Foundation Chair Charlene Wood said they were glad to provide support for purchase of an important piece of medical equipment.

“We’re committed to providing assistance in health care, especially in the North Country, where they are fewer (medical) resources.”

Hospital Medical Imaging Director Molly Thompson said the renovations improve patient care, comfort and access.

“(This) compliments that goal by helping us detect breast cancer earlier and more accurately,” she said. “It’s saving lives and reducing stress and the financial costs that come with unnecessary followups.”

Efficient space

The final phase of the transformation was redoing the Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Department with a spacious gym and four private exam rooms.

The department specializes in physical, occupational and speech therapy and sports injury rehabilitation.

“Our department has always been staffed by skilled and knowledgeable therapists,” hospital Physical Therapy Director William Doherty said. “The difference now is that they have a well-designed, efficient space to provide that high-quality care and ensure successful outcomes.”

The renovations created a larger, more efficient and well-lit space, with radiology and imaging in their own central area with a dedicated waiting area, two X-ray rooms, a CT scan room, ultrasound, mammography and bone density scanning rooms and mobile MRI unit access.

ER improved

The emergency department also got larger and brighter space, with more treatment and observation rooms, a family waiting room and renovated lab and pharmacy space in an adjacent area.

“It (the project) was an ambitious goal, which required us to look at how we deliver health care in our community, but with the support of the University of Vermont Health Network, New York State Department of Health, Senator Betty Little and many others, I’m proud to say we’ve more than met that goal,” Remillard said.