Paying forward one step at a time: Raising funds for epilepsy in McHenry County

When your life suddenly is hit with a serious medical lightning bolt you look everywhere for answers. You look for a way to fix it. You cry, yell, scream, hate, even mourn the life you had before. You anxiously look for a way to get your previous life back – the life with the petty things you once fretted over.

This happened to my family five years ago when our 13-year-old daughter was diagnosed with epilepsy.

Epilepsy, the fourth most common neurological disorder, is non-curable. There is no magic pill or surgery.

My daughter and our family embarked on a journey of mystery and sometimes misery.

The disorder, we quickly learned, causes spontaneous electrical surges in the brain resulting in seizures. Seizures are sometimes seen as blank stares or sudden jerking and unconsciousness.

Like in many families, there is no reason what-so-ever for my child to have become afflicted with this. Yet, she is.

Once we pulled ourselves together and accepted the shock of this villain in our home, we got to work, researching, finding the best anti-seizure medicines and the best team of neurologists at Rush Epilepsy Center.

Our daughter, in the midst of just trying to be a normal teen, underwent any and every test possible to locate the source of the seizures. Through a series of CAT scans, MRIs, EEGs and sleep studies we learned that her seizures begin in her left temporal lobe then spread throughout her brain.

Her personal triggers, which vary for all afflicted with epilepsy, are lack of sleep, stress, illness – the perfect storm of stressors on her body. The weekend of her first two seizures, February of 2013, these conditions were all perfectly aligned.

We are blessed today that she celebrates three-plus years seizure free.

We are also fortunate that we are able to pay for all the tests, the best doctors and her daily dose of anti-seizure medicines that have allowed her to get her life back. And, by that I mean the simple things we all take for granted – she can be left alone without worry, shower, drive, go to school, hold down a job and be with friends.

For so many finding the cause of the epilepsy then affording the medications to control them is tricky – and expensive.

Medicines can cost hundreds, even thousands of dollars per month. Many do not have insurance.

Someone living with uncontrolled seizures often battles depression, isolation, anxiety, thoughts of suicide.

Uncontrolled seizures can lead to death due to a seizure causing a tragic fall, car accident or fatal heart attack.

However, epilepsy receives little to no funding. In fact, it is the least funded disease out there yet it claims more lives annually than breast cancer and traffic accidents. Epilepsy affects twice as many people as Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Cerebral Palsy, and Autism COMBINED. Many patients go through an average of three medications before finding one to control the seizures. For some, their epilepsy remains uncontrolled indefinitely.
Here in McHenry County, I along with a few moms whose children also have epilepsy, are trying to help those who cannot afford their medicine or who many need transportation.

Please come out and join our heartfelt efforts at the first annual LouBird 5K stepping off at 8 a.m. Saturday Nov. 3. at Betsy Warrington Park in Huntley Il. All funds raised will stay in McHenry County and go to the Epilepsy Foundation office in Crystal Lake.

There are more than 3,000 people in our county living with epilepsy who are underinsured or have no insurance at all who receive important services through this local foundation.

The run is named after a little local 3-year-old girl named Larkin who was recently diagnosed with epilepsy. Her parents, like my own family, were disheartened and felt lost after their daughter’s sudden diagnosis. They, like many, have gone through a string of medicines to help Larkin and today are on their 6th. While it is a difficult and scary journey, they at least can afford all that it takes to help their daughter, but many cannot.

Please help us help them.

Please visit our website to learn more about LouBird and to sign up to run. https://loubird.org/

Feel free to contact me for further information on volunteering, sponsorship, or any other way you want to help our little, mom-driven grassroots effort.

I appreciate you visiting our story. Thank you to those who have already signed up to sponsor us. Your support means so much to so many.

Our Mission
To provide awareness and raise funds for medications and transportation for McHenry County residents living with Epilepsy
Thank you to our generous sponsors: Penske Truck Leasing, REDFIN Realty, Kumon, Kosta’s, Dynamic Auto, Cedar Preservation Specialists, CTI Technology, Wanda Lee Wombacher Inc., Beth Armstrong Berkshire Hathaway Starck Realty

Man charged with beating toy poodle

A McHenry man accused of beating a small dog causing fractured ribs, multiple contusions and bleeding, was denied bond reduction this week after a judge said he was concerned for his mental health.

Elijah D. Washington, 21, of the 4000 block of Savoy Lane, is charged with aggravated animal cruelty. He is being held in McHenry County jail on $20,000 bond.

According to a complaint filed in the McHenry County courthouse, on Aug. 20 Washington “knowingly and unlawfully struck a companion animal (toy poodle mix dog) numerous times with his fists, leash and blunt objects as to cause great bodily harm …”

At Wednesday’s bond hearing, Assistant State’s Atty. Mary Ann Scholl said McHenry Police went to the home in response to a call requesting a welfare check.

When police arrived they located the four-year-old male toy poodle, which weighed between 10 and 13 pounds, in a back bedroom “frightened and hemorrhaging. ”

Scholl said police reported the dog “had blood all over his face.”

 Scholl said Washington admitted to becoming enraged after the dog bit his niece. Police said the girl had a small red mark on her hand but the skin was not broken.

“He admitted to striking the dog numerous times with its leash and continuing to beat the dog with a closed fist and a plastic scratcher,” Scholl said.

The dog had three fractured ribs, pulmonary contusions in the lungs, contusions all over the body, hemorrhaging  and swelling in both eyes, according to the doctors who evaluated the dog, Scholl said.

Judge James Cowlin denied the bond reduction saying he was concerned for Washington’s mental health. He also did not know whether the dog was still going to be in the home should Washington return.

Washington is due back in court Sept. 20.

Woman previously incarcerated for the death of a man she injected heroin with in 2009 headed back to prison on new drug charges

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A Wauconda woman who had done a stint in prison for giving a man a fatal dose of heroin in 2009 then leaving him to die in a McHenry motel was sent back to prison Thursday for nine years on new drug charges.

Amanda Coots, 35, pleaded guilty in June to the manufacturing and delivery of between 1 and 15 grams of heroin. She also was re-sentenced Thursday to serve another three years on a 2015 drug-related charge for which she was on probation at the time of her arrest in October of 2017. That sentence will be served concurrent to the current judgement.

Coots asked McHenry County Judge Sharon Prather for probation and promised to get treatment for her drug addiction.

“I made a mistake that day,” she said. “I did what I did to support my habit.”

She promised Prather “you won’t ever see me in this courtroom again.”

Prather acknowledged Coots’ addiction but said she had been given multiple chances to recover, but has failed.

“I don’t buy or except the fact you haven’t been given proper tools,” Prather said. “I see what heroin does … I lose a defendant about once a month. You had many chances to get help, you chose not to.”

Her attorney Henry Sugden said Coots’ actions are a result of her own addiction for which she has never received proper treatment. He asked that she be sentenced to probation involving 30 days in treatment then six months in a halfway house.

In asking for the maximum sentence of 15 years in prison, Assistant State’s Attorney Randi Freese cited Coots’ multiple arrests and incarcerations since she was 18 years old.

“The fact that we are here again with this defendant is absolutely sickening,” Freese said.

Freese said Coots has “literally seen first-hand” what heroin can do to someone and she still chooses to sell “that poison.”

On June 6, 2009 Coots gave a fatal dose of heroin to Rustin “Rusty” Cawthon, of McHenry, authorities said.

Freese read from a statement Thursday given by Cawthon’s family at the time of her sentencing for his death.

The family wrote that Coots “… knew he was dying, but did nothing to try to help him. … She simply called a cab and took what was important to her, her syringes and drugs, and left what was not important to her, Rusty. As he struggled to breathe she simply drew the shades, turned off the lights and closed the door.”

The coroner said Cawthon, 36, likely suffered from one to four hours before dying, the family wrote.

Freese said “by the grace of God”  Coots “got a second chance” and uses it to sell heroin to other addicts. … She deserves no empathy.”

In the Cawthon case, Coots was convicted by a jury of drug-induced homicide and sentenced to 10 years in prison. That conviction was later overturned by an appellate court. In 2012, she pleaded guilty to an amended charge of involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to 7 1/2 years.

Another take on the disappearance of Brian Carrick – new podcast retells the mystery

Amanda Marrazzo

On the evening of Dec. 20, 2002 in a small Illinois town near the Wisconsin border a 17-year-old boy went missing.Carrick Poster

To many this first sentence will spark a complicated web of details, names, courtroom testimony, rumors and alleged lies in the yet unsolved disappearance and presumed murder of Brian Carrick.

The story has been a part of my life since 2007 when I first sat down with Brian’s mother, Terry. Brian was one of her 14 children. She and her husband raised their large Catholic family in a white house that set across the street from Val’s grocery store. Many of the Carrick children had worked at Val’s at one time or another. Val’s is where her son Brian, 11th of her 14 children, was last seen alive.

Though his blood was found in and around a produce cooler at Val’s, her son’s body has never been found. Authorities…

View original post 406 more words

Another take on the disappearance of Brian Carrick – new podcast retells the mystery

On the evening of Dec. 20, 2002 in a small Illinois town near the Wisconsin border a 17-year-old boy went missing.Carrick Poster

To many this first sentence will spark a complicated web of details, names, courtroom testimony, rumors and alleged lies in the yet unsolved disappearance and presumed murder of Brian Carrick.

The story has been a part of my life since 2007 when I first sat down with Brian’s mother, Terry. Brian was one of her 14 children. She and her husband raised their large Catholic family in a white house that set across the street from Val’s grocery store. Many of the Carrick children had worked at Val’s at one time or another. Val’s is where her son Brian, 11th of her 14 children, was last seen alive.

Though his blood was found in and around a produce cooler at Val’s, her son’s body has never been found. Authorities say a fight over a drug debt led to the young man’s death.

Today, nearly 16 years later, there is no one serving prison time for Brian’s murder and lawyers are wrangling hoping to settle big dollar lawsuits.

The story has been the topic of many newspaper articles and TV news reports, as well as an hourlong episode of ABC’s 2020 entitled “Mystery on Johnsburg Road.”

And with each report of Brian’s story comes more confusion, a myriad of characters and perpetrators (depending on whose story you believe), but no definite answers. Stories change, memories fade, and still the family waits to learn the truth. The story has divided the small town of Johnsburg, in some cases pitting local families against each other.

Well yet another storyteller is investigating Brian’s case.

Just last week a 10-part podcast entitled “Framed” was released on iTunes. The producers gathered details from police reports, court testimony and other sources and created the podcast in the hopes of telling the story in a fair and complete way.

They tell the story by using voice actors to recreate actual moments in police interrogation rooms and courtrooms.

They ask the listener to keep close attention to detail and to consider all the evidence before deciding who to believe.

I admit when I first learned about the existence of this podcast I was skeptical about its purpose. But as I listen I am beginning to feel the producers are genuine and striving to tell the story without leaning the listener one way or another.

Knowing the story as well as I think I do I was surprised by a couple details I heard in the podcast. I do not feel the producers are trying to manipulate or sway me and I appreciate that.

I won’t rehash the confusing details of the crime and its aftermath here as many of you reading this know much of what I have written about Brian and all the others whose lives have been made so public. I do encourage you to reread past stories here on my blog, but I also encourage you to listen to Framed.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/framed-an-investigative-story/id1422906504?mt=2

I do hope that this new approach brings about something positive for the family of Brian Carrick. Sadly, his parents have each died, but I can’t help but believe they are with their son and they now know the truth.

Please leave a comment and review of the podcast here.

Judge to decide if man who killed wife and left her body in their home for two days before attempting suicide is guilty of first-degree murder

Judge to decide if man who killed wife and left her body in their home for two days before attempting suicide is guilty of first-degree murder

Amanda Marrazzo

A McHenry man who admitted to fatally stabbing his wife in 2016 and leaving her body in the basement of their home for two days was a “freeloader” who didn’t want to lose his “meal ticket,” prosecutors said Tuesday in closing arguments at the trial of Anthony Harrison.

“It is hard to imagine anyone more guilty of first-degree murder,” Assistant State’s Attorney Robert Zalud told Judge James Cowlin who will rule on the case Sept. 12.

Zalud said Harrison, 33, was unemployed and facing domestic battery charges stemming from an incident just a few months prior to her death on June 4.

He described Laura Harrison as a friend, daughter and co-worker who should have lived a long, happy life instead “she got butchered in her own home.”

He said her husband likely stabbed her to death in the kitchen sometime June 4, then drug her body to the basement…

View original post 751 more words

Judge to decide if man who killed wife and left her body in their home for two days before attempting suicide is guilty of first-degree murder

Judge to decide if man who killed wife and left her body in their home for two days before attempting suicide is guilty of first-degree murder

A McHenry man who admitted to fatally stabbing his wife in 2016 and leaving her body in the basement of their home for two days was a “freeloader” who didn’t want to lose his “meal ticket,” prosecutors said Tuesday in closing arguments at the trial of Anthony Harrison.

“It is hard to imagine anyone more guilty of first-degree murder,” Assistant State’s Attorney Robert Zalud told Judge James Cowlin who will rule on the case Sept. 12.

Zalud said Harrison, 33, was unemployed and facing domestic battery charges stemming from an incident just a few months prior to her death on June 4.

He described Laura Harrison as a friend, daughter and co-worker who should have lived a long, happy life instead “she got butchered in her own home.”

He said her husband likely stabbed her to death in the kitchen sometime June 4, then drug her body to the basement. He then drove her car to area stores and bought items such as a shovel, wheelbarrow, bleach, a 31-gallon garbage can, wood and fire starter, scrambling to find the way to get rid of her body and hide his crime.

Two days later he attempted to slash his own throat then called 911 for help and reported that his wife’s dead body was in the basement and that he had killed her.

Some evidence pointed to the possibility that over those two days he was planning on burning down the house and her with it, while other details of the crime scene – such as a deep hole freshly dug in the backyard – suggested he planned to bury her body.

Seasoned police officers called the crime scene – her graying remains covered in dried blood, deep stab wounds to her neck, lying in a basement laundry room covered in firewood with a gas can nearby – as “horrific.”

And it was “all because she wanted to leave an abusive life, she wanted the opportunity to be happy,” Zalud said.

But Harrison’s attorney, assistant public defender Kim Messer, said it was Laura Harrison who was in control of the situation in the days leading to her death.

She said the 30-year-old woman was the provocateur in a situation that led to her death. Messer asked the judge to find Harrison not guilty of first-degree murder, but guilty of second-degree murder.

During the trial hundreds of photos and pieces of evidence, such as receipts, store surveillance videos, internet searches and text messages were presented. Messer acknowledged the sheer “volume of evidence” but said that “is not indicative of the strength of the evidence.” She urged Cowlin to take his time and look at the “small things.”

She said Harrison was calm around his wife in the days prior to her death as she texted a family member saying she wanted him out of the house and threatened to call the police on him. Laura Harrison also called the McHenry County Crisis Center and the non-emergency McHenry police line and asked how to have him put out of the house. She was told he could not be removed from the house unless he was violent.

“Laura Harrison (was) in control of the relationship,” Messer said. “Anthony Harrison (was) trying to follow the rules.”

After he killed her he felt guilty and “between June 4 and 6 he was trying to figure out how to kill himself,” Messer said noting all the blood evidence from his self-inflicted neck wounds. “(Harrison) couldn’t believe it once he realized what he did,” Messer said.

She pointed to statements Harrison made to Dr. Richard Dilger, a clinical social worker at Advocate Condell Hospital in Libertyville, that “things were getting out of control” when he killed his wife.

Messer then read texts between Laura Harrison and her sister from June 3 where she is saying: “I just want him gone, he causes me too much stress.”
Messer also noted Dilger’s testimony when he said Harrison was suicidal and said he wanted to set himself on fire.

And this all occurred, Messer said, as “mutual combat” that led to her death “and him spending two days trying to figure out what to do.”

In earlier testimony city of McHenry Police Sgt. Nicholas Clesen said the last text message sent from Laura Harrison’s cell phone was at 6:33 p.m. Saturday June 4. Authorities believe she was killed between 6 and 10 p.m. that evening.

Her last text was sent to Anthony’s grandmother saying “He can only stay here if he leaves me alone.” At 8:20 p.m. that same evening, her cell phone received a text from a woman saying “Thinking of you and hoping you are OK.” This and three other texts received on her cell that evening were never opened, Clesen said.

Clesen also went through searches Anthony Harrison made on his cell phone beginning at 10:04 p.m. that same evening and continuing until Monday morning.

He searched: ”What happens if you cut the juggler vein” several times in various wording. He also searched “How quickly can someone bleed to death from a cut artery” and “can you buy a firearm while on trial for battery in Illinois?”

His last search inquiring how long it would take to die after cutting a jugular vein was about 7:20 a.m. that Monday. Clesen said he then called 911 reporting his attempted suicide and alleged murder about an our and a half later.