Holiday events

Posted on December 4th in News


Harney County’s Holiday Happenings

by Samantha White
Burns Times-Herald

This year, Harney Countians won’t have to go far for a holly-jolly holiday season, as an array of events have been planned to add some “fa-la-la-la-la” to your festivities. Some of these activities are as follows:

Christmas Jamboree

The Harney County Chamber of Commerce and the city of Burns, with special help from Linda Whiting, will host the community Christmas Jamboree Saturday, Dec. 14. The jamboree will feature a variety of events that should be fun for “elves” of all ages.

Breakfast with Santa will be held at Burns Elks Lodge No. 1680, 118 N. Broadway Ave. in Burns, from 8-10 a.m.

Vendors will be set up at the Harney County Community Center, 484 N. Broadway Ave. in Burns, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. A variety of items, including jewelry, designer bags, Western and wildlife art, silver work, Mary Kay ® and Scentsy ® products, herbs, honey and beeswax products, handmade soaps, baked goods, religious materials and homemade hats, scarves and hair bows will be available for purchase.

Outdoor vendors will be set up along North Broadway Avenue in Burns from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. These vendors will be offering soups, hot chocolate, hot dogs and other treats. Also, P.E.O. will be selling cards and calendars at Burns Ford Garage at this time.

Broadway Deli, located at 530 N. Broadway Ave. in Burns, will be hosting a kid’s coloring contest from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The deli will also offer hot cider and mulled wines.

Gingerbread house contest voting will open at 10 a.m. at the Harney County Community Center. Contest entries are due at the chamber office, 484 N. Broadway Ave. in Burns, by 5 p.m. Dec. 13. There will be both adult and youth categories this year, and prizes will be awarded to the winners who will be selected by popular vote. Contest winners will be announced at 4 p.m. Dec. 14.

Cookie decorating and an ‘Elf’s Workshop’ will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Country Lane Quilts, 325 N. Broadway Ave. in Burns. The workshop will give children the opportunity to make and take home craft projects.

Martial Arts America, located at 405 N. Broadway Ave. in Burns, will be hosting games from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The Old Bakery Open House, featuring cookies, candles and trains, will be held at 255 N. Broadway Ave. in Burns (second floor), from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Face painting will be held at The Children’s Barn, 253 N. Broadway Ave. in Burns, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

A hayride and bonfire will take place at  Washington City Park in Burns from 12 to 2 p.m. The  hayride wagon will be drawn by two Clydesdale horses owned by Stacey Davies.

Pictures with Santa will be taken at Ruthie’s In His Image Photography, 380 N. Broadway Ave. in Burns, from 12 to 4 p.m.

A Can Food Movie will take place at the Desert Historic Theatre, 68 N. Broadway Ave. in Burns, at 2 p.m. Admission is free with the donation of three or more canned food items.

The lighted Christmas parade down North Broadway Ave. begins at 6 p.m. This year’s theme is “Jingle Bell Rock.” Those wishing to enter a float in the parade are asked to submit a registration form to the Harney County Chamber of Commerce by Friday, Dec. 13 at 5 p.m. This will be a “snow or shine” event.

A community bonfire and Christmas tree lighting will take place in the lot between Bike Burns and Sage Country Inn (across from Safeway) at 6:30 p.m. Free hot dogs and hot chocolate will be provided by Burns Four Square Church. The Chamber Music Society of Harney County and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints chorus will sing Christmas carols. The Clemens family will put up a nativity scene next to Bike Burns, which is located at 353 N. Monroe in Burns.

An Ugly Sweater Social will be held at The Book Parlor, 433 N. Broadway Ave. in Burns, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. The event will feature wine tasting, drawings, discounts, prizes, and a contest for the ugliest Christmas sweater.

For more information about jamboree events and times, contact the Harney County Chamber of Commerce at 541-573-2636. Schedules will be placed on the side of trash receptacles in front of businesses on North Broadway Avenue during the jamboree. Schedules may also be picked up during the jamboree at Linda Whiting’s booth in the Harney County Community Center from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Christmas Concerts
Perhaps you prefer to celebrate the season by “jingling your bells” or playing “pa-rum-pum-pum-pum” on your “little drum.” If that’s the case, a Christmas concert may be more your pace.

The Chamber Music Society of Harney County Christmas Concert will be held Sunday, Dec. 8 at 3 p.m. at Harney County Church of the Nazarene. The event will feature local musicians who will perform in the orchestra, chorus and bell choir. Donations will be accepted, and a reception will follow.

Carols by Candlelight, featuring soloists Ann Beal, Bettina Bowman, Connie Robbins and Michelle Yunker, will be held Sunday, Dec. 15, at 7 p.m. at Harney County Church of the Nazarene. Admission is free, and a reception will follow.


‘Shop ‘til you drop’
Those wishing to say “bye bye” to “big-box” superstores can look to local  merchants, Christmas bazaars and craft fairs to complete their Christmas shopping.

Home Spun Craft Fair will be held Dec. 7 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Memorial Building at the Harney County Fairgrounds. A variety of vendors will be selling items such as jewelry, holiday decorations, ornaments, quilted items, pine furniture, gourds, tole paintings, pottery and much more. Lunch, dinner and espresso will be available.

Holy Catholic Church Christmas Bazaar will be held Dec. 7 at the Holy Family Parish, 678 N. Egan Ave. in Burns, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Vendors will be selling baked goods, wood crafts, handmade ornaments, knit and hand-sewn items, swags, wreaths, and much more. Lunch can be ordered from the parish hall kitchen.

First Evangelical Lutheran Church, located at 394 S. Egan Ave. in Burns, will hold its annual Christmas bazaar Dec. 7 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. There will be a selection of crafts and baked goods, as well as Rada Cutlery.

Last Chance Christmas Bazaar will be held Saturday, Dec. 14 at 9 a.m. at Hines City Hall, 101 E. Barnes Ave. in Hines.

Santa’s Last Stop Burns Paiute Tribe Christmas Bazaar will be held Dec. 21 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Gathering Center.


• Winners of the Merchants Christmas Giveaway will be drawn Dec. 20 at 5 p.m. Anyone who makes a purchase of $15 or more from one of the 37 participating local businesses between Dec. 2 and noon Dec. 20 can enter to win the giveaway. Multiple gift certificates from participating merchants, worth a combined total of $1,000, will be awarded. Participating merchants will also be entered for a chance to win a chamber membership.


‘The spirit of giving’
There are ample opportunities to show some “Christmas spirit” by giving to members of the community who might not otherwise be able to enjoy the holidays.

• Donations of non-perishable food items for Elks Christmas Baskets are now being accepted at Burns Elks Lodge, Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monetary donations may be delivered to the lodge or mailed to Burns Elks Lodge, 188 N. Broadway Ave., Burns, OR 97720. People who are in need of baskets may sign up at the Elks Lodge or call 541-573-6170 to be added to the list.

Tree of Joy trees are located at Big R, Kings, The Children’s Barn, Ericksons Thriftway and Rite Aid. Those wishing to participate can pick a tag from one of the trees and purchase the gifts requested. For more information, call Nadine at 541-573-3003.

• The Burns High School (BHS) Leadership program and Central Oregon Marine Corps Reserve are collecting donations of toys, or money to purchase toys, for the Toys for Tots campaign. All of the toys will remain in the community and be given to children in need in Harney County through the local Tree of Joy program and the Burns Elks Lodge. To participate, donate a new toy to one of the drop off boxes by Dec. 11. Boxes will be located at BHS, Slater Elementary School, Hines Middle School, Big R, Rite Aid and the chamber office. Additional locations may be forthcoming. Monetary donations can be dropped off at BHS. Checks can be made payable to “Marine Toys for Tots Foundation.”

Letters to Santa
The city of Hines is helping out the post office and Santa Claus by receiving letters addressed to the North Pole in a special mailbox outside Hines City Hall, by the flagpole. Letters to Santa will receive a written reply if legible return addresses are provided. Hines Mayor Nikki Morgan said she “has a special connection with the North Pole elves that allows very timely responses.”

‘Deck the Halls’
Oregon Trail Electric Co-Op (OTEC) will be sponsoring holiday lighting contests in the cities of Burns and Hines. Additional information will be provided at a later date.


Something for everyone
Whether your plan to become “pen pals” or “breakfast buddies” with Saint Nicholas, warm yourself by the community bonfire, sport your ugliest Christmas sweater, cross names off your shopping list, or help bring Christmas cheer to a child or community member in need, you might say there is a little something for everyone to enjoy in Harney County this holiday season.


Due to scheduling conflicts, the Harney County Court held its meeting Tuesday, Nov. 26.

The unapproved minutes are as follows:

Harney County Commissioner Pete Runnels made a motion to approve the Nov. 6, county court minutes as mailed. Harney County Commissioner Dan Nichols seconded the motion, and it carried unanimously.

Financial reports and accounts payable were reviewed and approved by signatures of the court.

Herb Vloedman (who attended the meeting as a member of the public) complimented Harney County Assessor Ted Tiller and his staff for their timeliness in posting tax payments, and stated they were far more efficient than other counties he dealt with.

Karen Moon, watershed council coordinator, presented a recommendation to fill a vacancy on the watershed council.  The council recommends that Brenda Smith be appointed to the council.  Nichols moved to appoint  Smith to the watershed council, Runnels second, and the motion carried unanimously.

The court discussed a potential land transfer with the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) regarding the current shooting range, with Harney County Roads Supervisor Eric Drushella. No action was taken, as it will be discussed at the next court meeting.

Nichols updated the court briefly on a meeting he hosted yesterday (Nov. 25) with representatives from ESD (Educational Service District) and Early Learning.

The court planned to discuss sage grouse for the rest of the morning, and take no further action. The business meeting adjourned at 11:11 a.m.

The next regularly-scheduled meeting of the county court will be held Wednesday, Dec. 4 at 10 a.m. in Harney County Judge Steve Grasty’s office at the courthouse.

Dealing with the ‘town deer’

Posted on November 27th in News


Deer population not surveyed

by Samantha White
Burns Times-Herald

A number of deer can be found foraging for food in Burns and Hines. (Photo by RANDY PARKS)

A number of deer can be found foraging for food in Burns and Hines. (Photo by RANDY PARKS)

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) District Wildlife Biologist Rod Klus said there is a percentage of people who like that deer live within the cities of Burns and Hines, but there is probably an equal percentage of people who don’t. And, yet,  others remain neutral on the subject. Regardless of how you may feel about the four-legged foragers, their presence within the cities is hard to ignore.

Klus said abundant forage (such as green lawns, bountiful gardens and apple trees) draws deer to the cities in the summertime. Most deer decide to leave once the snow covers the ground. But, because some people started feeding and caring for them, a portion of the deer decided to stay. And this is how the population of deer living within the city got started.

Klus said, like all populations, the deer population in the cities fluctuates, depending on the group’s rates of mortality and production. For example, if mortality is low and production is high, the number of deer will increase.

Klus said ODFW does not survey the cities’ deer population, so it is hard to say for certain whether the population has increased. However, he suspects that there are probably more deer living in the cities today than there were 10 years ago. But he said he doesn’t know how this year’s numbers compare with last year’s.

Klus said, in general, the population of deer living within the cities is doing well, as deer are protected from predators, and they have an abundance of food. However, he warned that a high concentration of deer in a small area can contribute to the spread of disease.

Klus said some of the deer living in Burns and Hines have disease issues. For example, some deer have been infected with Adenovirus Hemorrhagic Disease (AHD) of deer.

AHD of deer

According to ODFW’s website, the AHD virus of deer was first identified in California in 1994. Chronic symptoms of the virus include ulcers and abscesses in the mouth and throat, while acute symptoms include rapid or open-mouth breathing, foaming or drooling at the mouth, diarrhea (possibly bloody), weakness, and copious amounts of fluid in the body cavity. Death can occur within 3-5 days from the time the deer is exposed to the virus.

Klus said the virus causes internal bleeding, and infected deer can bleed out internally within days.

According to the ODFW website, the virus is transmitted by direct contact between deer, contact with bodily fluids, and possibly through airborne routes.

However, Klus said AHD of deer is species specific. In other words, people don’t need to worry about the virus spreading to humans or other animals.

According to the website, there are no known health risks associated with eating meat from a deer infected with AHD, but experts recommend thoroughly cooking meat from deer that are harvested from an infected area. ODFW also suggests that people wear rubber gloves when handling the carcasses.

There is no treatment for individual deer infected with AHD, but monitoring, proper carcass disposal and avoiding moving infected live deer can prevent the virus from spreading to new areas.

Klus said ODFW certainly does not want the virus to spread to wild deer.

Klus said ODFW is “not set up to collect town deer,” but the department works with the cities of Burns and Hines to address issues concerning deer that are sick or deceased. Klus said deer that are suffering and have no chance of recovering will be euthanized.

Although there have been some disease issues, Klus said most deer living within the cities are healthy. He explained that the population would decrease if the deer were unhealthy.

People can avoid contributing to the spread of AHD by abstaining from feeding deer, as feed or water stations can ease the spread of the virus.

“There are very few cases where feeding deer is the appropriate thing to do,” Klus said.

Don’t feed the deer

In addition to easing the spread of disease, feeding deer can actually cause them to starve to death.

Klus explained that deer’s digestive systems change with the seasons, as their bodies are designed to process the foods that would naturally be available to them.

Feeding deer foods that are too rich for their seasonal diets (such as alfalfa in the winter) can lead to dehydration and diarrhea, which can eventually cause starvation.

“Basically, [the deer] are eating all they want, but starving to death,” Klus said.

Feeding deer can also contribute to the development of aggressive behavior toward dogs.

Klus explained that feeding deer, especially from the hand, can cause them to lose their fear of humans. But deer, especially does, remain suspicious of dogs because they see them as a threat to their fawns. As a result, Klus said a person could be out walking his or her dog, and a doe would not pay any attention to the person, but have a “close eye” on the dog. If the doe sees the dog as a threat, it can be bad news for “Fido.”

“An adult doe in good shape can beat the heck out of a good-sized dog,” Klus said.

Breaking the cycle

Klus said, regardless of whether you love or hate having deer around, it’s important to be considerate of your neighbors who may not want them in their backyard.

“If you don’t want deer around, don’t do anything to encourage them,” he said. “Feeding them keeps them around,” he added, stating that people can help break the cycle of deer inhabiting the cities by abstaining from feeding them.

He added that people can discourage deer by “shooing them away” and  reminding them that they are not welcome.

Klus also suggested growing deer-resistant plants and building fences at least six feet in height. He said, although deer are capable of jumping a six-foot fence, they will probably avoid it because it is dangerous for them.

Greater Sage Grouse EIS draft released

Posted on November 27th in News


Public comment sought on six management alternatives

As part of a joint effort with the U.S. Forest Service to conserve the Greater Sage Grouse and its habitat across 10 Western states, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) Friday, Nov. 22, for a 90-day public comment period.

The draft Oregon Sub-Regional Greater Sage Grouse Resource Management Plan (RMP) Amendment/EIS would amend the BLM land management plans covering the Andrews, Baker, Lakeview, Steens, Three Rivers, Brothers La Pine (east), Southeastern Oregon, and Upper Deschutes RMPs in Oregon. It considers six possible management alternatives for maintaining and increasing habitat for Greater Sage Grouse on BLM-administered lands. The decisions in this RMP Amendment apply only to BLM-administered lands in Oregon. They do not apply to private land.

“We are considering a range of alternatives designed to conserve and protect Greater Sage Grouse habitat,” said Joan Suther, Oregon Sub-Regional Greater Sage Grouse project manager. “We have been working closely with our cooperating agencies to develop a plan. Public review and comment on the draft EIS is the next important step in the process.”

In 2010, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) determined that the Greater Sage Grouse warranted protection under the Endangered Species Act, but that listing the species was precluded by the need to address other species first. One reason for the FWS determination was the need for “improved regulatory mechanisms” to ensure species conservation. The principal regulatory mechanisms for the BLM and the Forest Service are resource decisions in land management plans. The BLM and Forest Service are stewards of more than half of all Greater Sage Grouse habitat in the United States.

In 2011, the BLM and Forest Service joined forces to develop, analyze and incorporate coordinated, long-term conservation measures and actions for the Greater Sage Grouse in their land management plans. These land-use planning measures must be completed by the end of 2014 to give FWS time to evaluate them before the agency must make a court-ordered, final listing decision in 2015. For additional information about the Greater Sage Grouse conservation, visit

The draft EIS, released Nov. 22, is one of more than a dozen coordinated environmental documents developed to provide a consistent approach to sustaining the species and its habitat across the West. The drafts are being released for public comment as they are completed.

The six alternatives include:

• Alternative A, a no-action alternative which would retain the management goals, objectives, and direction specified in the current Resource Management Plans for the state.

• Alternative B, that analyzes management actions outlined in the multi-agency National Technical Team (NTT) report, which includes such protections as right-of-way exclusion areas and a fluid mineral leasing closure.

• Alternative C, that analyzes management recommendations by conservation groups, which includes the creation of an Area of Critical Environmental Concern covering approximately 4,547,043 acres of Greater Sage Grouse habitat and removal of grazing in the planning area.

• Alternative D, the Oregon sub-regional alternative that incorporates local adjustments to the NTT report which were developed with cooperating agencies. The BLM has identified Alternative D as its preferred alternative. Although the BLM has identified a preferred alternative, it will consider the entire range of alternatives when developing the proposed plan.

• Alternative E is based on recommendations included in the ODFW Sage Grouse Conservation and Assessment Strategy (2011), which includes an emphasis of protecting core areas with no development permissible for major surface disturbing activities.

• Alternative F, that analyzes other management recommendations submitted by conservation groups, which includes creation of an Area of Critical Environmental Concern covering approximately 4,040,202 acres of Greater Sage Grouse habitat and reduced grazing in the planning area.

The draft Oregon Sub-Regional Greater Sage Grouse RMP Amendment/EIS is available at or

Tiny dancers learn the moves

Posted on November 20th in News


Ballet studio will perform Friday, Nov. 22

by Samantha White
Burns Times-Herald


The class of young ballerinas lines up for practice. (Photo by Samantha White)

The class of young ballerinas lines up for practice. (Photo by Samantha White)

In preparation for their debut performance, a garden of “Rosebuds” glided gracefully (for the most part) across the Steens Mountain Ballet studio on a crisp, but sunny November morning. The “Rosebuds,” ages 3 and 4, are the youngest group taught by Steens Mountain Ballet Director Rebecca Madsen at her studio in Hines.

Madsen teaches a total of 60 dancers who range in age from 3 to 17. There are 57 girls and three boys enrolled this semester, and all will be dancing in Act II from The Nutcracker Friday, Nov. 22 at 7 p.m. at the Lincoln Auditorium.

The 3- and 4-year-old ballerinas will be dancing as “Rosebuds” in the “Waltz of the Flowers.” They will be accompanied by ballerinas playing the part of “Flowers” and Demi Soloists Annabelle Johnson and Sayge Root.

The “Waltz of the Flowers” is just one of the dances that will be performed, as the dancers tell the story of when “Clara,” played by Sayge Shelman, and the “Nutcracker Prince,” played by Eli Ward, travel to the beautiful “Land of Sweets,” which is ruled by the “Sugar Plum Fairy” who will be played by Mackenzie Moulton.

The performance is free, and the public is invited to attend. Donations will be accepted to start a scholarship fund for dancers and help defray the cost of performances.

Ballet classes
Steens Mountain Ballet classes are divided into age categories. Ages 3-4 take Creative Movement, 5-6 are in Pre-Ballet, 7-8 take Ballet I, 9-10 are in Ballet II, and Ballet III is for dancers ages 11 through teen. But Madsen said skilled dancers may be placed in more advanced classes, regardless of their ages.

Madsen plans to teach three, 12-week semesters and one, three-day camp annually. Semesters are divided into seasons. Winter semester takes place January through March; spring semester is held April through June; and the three-day summer camp is scheduled for July 23-25. The current, fall semester began in September, and will conclude with The Nutcracker performance on Friday.

Madsen said she tries to keep class costs affordable, so participants can take classes continuously without creating a financial burden on their parents.

About Madsen
Madsen and her husband, Matt, moved here from Utah about three-and-a-half years ago when Matt was offered a job as a research scientist for the Agricultural Research Service.

The couple has four children (two boys and two girls), and Madsen, who took her first class at the age of 9, said she wanted to create an opportunity for her daughters and other children in the community to learn ballet.

“The arts are so important for children,” Madsen said. “Ballet, and the arts in general, help youth. I loved it when I was a teenager. It was kind of my ‘out.’ It’s just a neat thing to do.”

Madsen’s background in dance is extensive. She trained with the Central Utah Ballet/Kosan Youth Ballet for eight years. In high school, Madsen was a member of the Untouchables dance team. She studied modern dance, ballet and lyrical jazz dance on a two-year scholarship at Snow College in Ephraim, Utah, and has performed in a variety of classical productions, concerts and competitions. She was a student teacher with Central Utah Ballet. And, when she was in college, she taught private dance lessons.

Madsen said living in a small community granted her the opportunity to continue teaching. She explained that, if she lived in a larger city, she probably would have just enrolled her oldest daughter (Cora, age 4) in ballet classes. But, because there weren’t any classes available in this area, Madsen  decided to convert her shop into a studio and share her knowledge and skills with the community.   She began teaching classes locally in April, and the decision seems to be paying off.

“The kids are amazing,” Madsen said. “They try so hard. They are grateful for the opportunity. They love it and eat it up.”
Madsen said the most rewarding thing about directing the Steens Mountain Ballet is “seeing the kids love it” and “seeing their eyes light up when they figure something out.”

Dancers’ debut
Madsen’s dancers have been preparing for their upcoming performance for about two months.

Act II from The Nutcracker will be the first performance for Steens Mountain Ballet, but Madsen said she hopes to put on two performances  a year.

She said she is both excited and nervous about the upcoming performance, but said she is mostly excited that the children will have an opportunity to perform.

“It will be a fun community event, and I hope people will support it,” she added.

Next semester
Depending upon the number of participants who elect to continue, Madsen may accept new dancers next semester. She said she has also been “playing with the idea” of adding adult classes.

For more information about Steens Mountain Ballet, visit

Counties receive Frontier Hub status

Posted on November 20th in News


Selected for one-year pilot project

by Patty Dorroh
for the Burns Times-Herald

The Frontier Oregon Services Hub (Frontier Hub), a partnership of collaborative work between Harney and Grant counties, was selected as an apparent successful applicant to be awarded designation as an Oregon Early Learning Hub. To quote the Oregon Early Learning Council Chair, “We are pleased to let you know that we have chosen your application as ready to move forward.”

This selection means the Frontier Hub will be participating in a one-year pilot project to help define and refine work toward increasing kindergarten readiness, increasing stable and attached families, and coordinating services effectively and efficiently.

Among the 15 applications, the following apparent successful applicants were selected:

• Early Learning Hub, Inc. (Marion County)

• Early Learning Multnomah


• Frontier Oregon Services Hub (Harney and Grant counties)


• South-Central Oregon Early Learning Hub (Douglas & Lake Counties)


• United Way of Lane County

• Yamhill Early Learning Hub

Further communications and negotiations between the Frontier Hub and the Oregon Early Learning Division will take place in the near future to meet and determine any supplemental work that may need to be completed prior to final contract award.

As an Oregon Early Learning Hub, Harney and Grant counties will ensure that their frontier communities focus on: 1) working across traditional programs and sectors for collective community accountability for kindergarten readiness, 2) finding the children in each community that need help the most, 3) working with families to identify their unique and specific needs, 4) linking families with services and providers who can best address their needs, and 5) accounting for outcomes collectively and cost effectively.

Under the community-based leadership of Early Learning Hubs, Oregon will bring public schools, early learning providers, health care, social services and the private sector together locally, around shared outcomes, for better results for children.

The Harney and Grant county courts were strong supporters of this effort. Their leadership and backing were instrumental in forging the partnership. Additional support came from community partners in both counties who added their expertise and input; continued support from both will be needed as the Frontier Hub moves forward for better outcomes for children.

Beating the Gata-2 mutation

Posted on November 13th in News


Youngest sister a match for bone marrow transplant

by Randy Parks
Burns Times-Herald


Lizz (right) and Shelby Duhn sporting the T-shirts that are for sale as a fundraiser. (Photo by Randy Parks)

Lizz (right) and Shelby Duhn sporting the T-shirts that are for sale as a fundraiser. (Photo by Randy Parks)

On Dec. 2, Elizabeth “Lizz”  Duhn, 16, will travel to Seattle, Wash., for the start of what she hopes will close the chapter of her life that she refers to as “The Gata-2 mutation.”

The trip to Seattle will begin with rigorous testing to make sure Lizz is completely healthy. She will then undergo chemotherapy to kill her bone marrow and have a bone marrow transplant, with Lizz’s youngest sister, Shelby, being the donor.

The start
It was the 2008-2009 school year, and Lizz was in sixth grade in Prineville, when she began to have pain coming and going in her right side and stomach area.

The first diagnosis was that she had appendicitis, but tests ruled that out.  “They told me I was having ‘abdominal migraines,’ ” Lizz said.


The pain soon subsided, and Lizz got back to the business of being a sixth-grader. On New Year’s Eve, Lizz broke out with a rash from the shoulders down and began running a fever. As a precaution, Lizz was taken to the emergency room, where a blood test showed she had a low white blood cell count.

With the possibility that Lizz had leukemia, Lizz was referred first to Bend, then to Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) in Portland for a bone marrow biopsy.

The biopsy showed no sign of cancer, but there was little cellularity in the marrow.

“I didn’t have all the cells, and there were weird-looking cells,” Lizz said. “Blood cells are usually little round cells, but mine looked all crumpled up.”

With no immediate answers, doctors began to run a battery of tests. “They did a million and one tests, testing for everything,” Lizz said.

After all the testing, there was still no definitive answer. “I was home-schooled during middle school because I had very little energy, and would spike fevers and get rashes,” she said.

Finally, she was diagnosed with aplastic anemia, or bone marrow failure, with an unknown origin. Because she wasn’t getting any worse, the doctor told her to go out and keep being a teenager, and her condition would either get better or it would get worse.

In December 2010, the Duhns moved to Burns, not expecting what was to follow.

Blood transfusions
Except for what she called “little things,” Lizz was doing well until Thanksgiving weekend 2012. She was at a friend’s house when she noticed she had swollen lymph nodes, and she felt, “so tired.”

Tests showed her complete blood count (CBC) had dropped, and it was decided she should go to Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland, a division of OHSU.

There, it was discovered that her liver was inflamed, all lines of her blood cells were failing, and she was experiencing migraines.

She was hospitalized for eight days, during which time she had three blood transfusions, another bone marrow biopsy, and a peripherally inserted central catheter, or PICC line, inserted for additional transfusions to come. (A PICC line is a small, slender tube inserted into the upper arm, and moved through a vein until it is near the heart.)

There was still no definite diagnosis for her condition, but doctors knew her bone marrow was failing, and recommended weekly blood draws and transfusions if her blood levels dropped again. Meanwhile, the doctors would continue to look for an answer.

So began weekly trips to the local hospital for blood draws and dressing changes.

In January 2013, her blood count was again low, and she went to Harney District Hospital for a transfusion of two pints of blood. Just about the time the first pint was done, Lizz began to run a fever, and things went downhill in a hurry.

The fever got to 105 degrees and was still rising. Lizz began to vomit, her digestive system was failing, and her body was beginning to shut down. Nurses packed her in ice to reduce her body temperature, and a CBC showed no increase in blood. “It was like my body was destroying the blood they were giving me,” Lizz said.

With the fever down, but still in need of blood, another transfusion was started the following day. Once again, her fever began to spike, and at 102 degrees, Lizz was again packed in ice. At the same time, OHSU was contacted to provide air ambulance transport to Portland.


“It was terrifying,” Lizz said. “They stopped giving me blood, and I was freezing, from both the fever and the ice.”

As the fixed-wing aircraft was coming in to pick Lizz up, the power was knocked out in a good portion of Harney County, including the Burns airport.

Unable to land, the plane turned back, and a helicopter was sent from Bend for the transport. With not enough room for her father, Frank, in the helicopter, he started the drive to Portland, while the helicopter headed for Bend with Lizz aboard.

Once in Bend, Lizz was transferred to a fixed-wing aircraft, pointed toward Portland. The Portland airport was fogged in, however, and the plane had to land in Hillsboro, where Lizz was again transferred to ground ambulance and taken to Doernbecher. The trip lasted about three hours, and her father arrived just one hour later.

Once in Portland, Lizz said she was “drowned with antibiotics, and her vital signs were checked every two hours.”

Doctors determined that there was a gram rod negative infection in her PICC line, and when the transfusion was started, the blood flushed the bacteria  into Lizz’s system. “It was a bacteria that is normally found in your stomach, and it somehow got into the PICC line,” Lizz said. “Once it got in my body, the immune system began to fight it.”

Lizz spent five days in the hospital, and when she had four bacteria tests come back negative, she was released. The first PICC line was also removed, and a second one put in. Lizz said she got to watch the insertion of the PICC line on a screen as it was happening, and added, “I love that kind of stuff.”


Lizz returned to Harney County with instructions to continue blood draws and transfusions every four to six weeks.

In the spring of this year, Lizz made a trip to Seattle to see an immunologist. During the visit, the immunologist told Lizz and her parents, the problem wasn’t her immune system.

Doctors at OHSU decided Lizz should meet with a bone marrow failure specialist (non-malignant),  and an appointment was made with Dr. Akiko Shimamura at Seattle Children’s Hospital.

Another bone marrow biopsy was performed at the request of Shimamura, as well as a number of blood draws. “They took 18 vials of blood,” Lizz said. “My blood was sent to Boston, Cincinnati, all over the country. I’m definitely in the research bank.”


Gata-2 mutation
Through the efforts of Shimamura, on Aug. 9, it was determined that it was a Gata-2 mutation that was causing Lizz’s bone marrow failure.

Gata-2 is a human gene located on the third chromosome, and expressed in the formation of blood’s cellular components, which is derived from bone marrow.

“You have 26 chromosomes, and they copy each other. But I only have one third chromosome, the one that’s associated with bone marrow and making blood. It doesn’t have a ‘partner in crime,’ ” Lizz said. “So, all the percentages of the blood components, red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and so on, are OK, I just don’t have enough blood in my body.”

Left unchecked, Gata-2 mutation will likely result in leukemia. “We’re glad it was caught before the leukemia grew,”  her mother, Dena, said.

The Duhns were told a bone marrow transplant was needed to correct the problem, and Lizz would need a donor.

Tests were conducted on Lizz’s two sisters, Rachel and Shelby, and Shelby’s test showed enough of a match to qualify her as a donor.


“You have to have at least six chromosomes match so there’s less chance of rejection,” Dena said. “If a person doesn’t have sibling match, they can go down to three, but that increases the chance of rejection.”

When the Duhns arrive at the Cancer Center in Seattle Dec. 2, Lizz will undergo a battery of tests. “There’s tests on the heart, lungs, dental, eye, kidney, liver, everything, to make sure all organs are healthy,” Lizz said.

She’ll undergo 10 days of chemotherapy to rid her body of her bone marrow, and prepare it for the transplant.

Shelby, 11, will be put on iron supplements and a high-nutrient diet to boost her bone marrow, as well.

Lizz said doctors will use four skin punctures, and about 100 harvest samples, from the lower back and pelvic area to get the bone marrow from Shelby. The marrow will then be filtered and implanted into Lizz.

“After the transplant, if you were to check my DNA from a swab or the skin, it would be mine, but if you check the blood, it’ll be Shelby’s,” Lizz said. “I’ll be me, but I’ll be part Shelby too.”

Once the transplant is completed, Lizz will be taking 20 to 25 pills a day to combat any side effects. “One pill might make me sick, so I take another to correct that. Any time you disrupt something in the body, it’s so in sync with itself that it can knock everything out of whack,” Lizz said. She could be on the medication for up to two years.

She will also have a feeder tube put in to make sure she gets all the nutrition she needs, and the transfusions will continue.

For 30 days after the transplant, Lizz will be monitored closely for any infection, rejection or complications, and for the first 100 days she must remain within 30 minutes of the cancer center.

When asked about the emotional part of the process, Dena said, “We’ve run the gamut of emotions. We had the ‘madness,’ the ‘Why me?’ But now we know what it is, and we know we have a long road ahead of us.”

“It’s OK,” Lizz added. “I want to go to medical school, so I’m learning a lot.”


The transplant means that Lizz and Dena will be staying in Seattle for four to five months, with regular visits from Frank, Rachel and Shelby, so a number of fundraisers have been established or planned to help with medical expenses, travel, lodging, food and other costs.

Gata-2 T-shirts are available for $15 each at Ribbons and Roses, Bodywise Sports Center and Burns High School.

An account has been set up at Sterling Bank for donations (Elizabeth Duhn Medical Benefit), Jitters RevOlution will be donating a portion of the cost of every latte sold to Lizz’s benefit account, and refundable cans and bottles can be dropped off at the tan trailer at the front of Glory Days’ parking lot. There are also plans for a benefit dinner, silent auction and dance in February.

To help with fundraising efforts, call Zoe Thompson at 541-647-4540.


The next chapter
Doctors have only been aware of the Gata-2 mutation for the past two years, and Lizz will be the seventh person to undergo the bone marrow transplant for the mutation at the Seattle Cancer Center.

Lizz is a junior at Burns High School, and has been active in Key Club, Young Life and cheerleading. The transplant will mean a year off from everything, but once it’s done, look for Lizz to begin the next chapter of her life.

‘Magic Planet’ on display

Posted on November 13th in News


OMSI’s creation placed at Harney County Library throughout November


The Magic Planet shows a number of different conditions on the Earth’s surface. (Photo by Randy Parks)

The Magic Planet shows a number of different conditions on the Earth’s surface. (Photo by Randy Parks)

A lighted globe that spins colorful windstorms, tsunamis, ocean currents and more across oceans and continents on Earth’s surface is on loan from the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) to the Harney County Library.

The “Magic Planet” globe from OMSI is part of a NASA exhibit that is touring throughout Eastern Oregon. It will be available for Harney County residents to view from this week through the first week of December.

The Magic Planet sits on top of a projector that sends images to its inside, the Earth’s surface, and is connected to a laptop programmed by NASA to show dozens of moving images and programs as our planet lights up and spins.

The Magic Planet features brilliantly-colored displays such as Earth’s city lights, climate change, tsunamis, wind streams, ocean currents, geographic and topographic features and much more – including 7-minute videos about Earth that are projected onto the globe’s surface.


“The Magic Planet is amazing. It captivates the senses. The one we’re bringing out to Eastern Oregon is a smaller version of the huge Science on a Sphere exhibit we’ve had here at the museum in Portland,” said Nate Lesiuk, program developer for OMSI’s Earth From Space program.

“People are fascinated by it. Here at the museum we call it ‘eye candy’,” Lesiuk added.

The Magic Planet is brought to public libraries in the region through a NASA grant provided to OMSI in collaboration with Libraries of Eastern Oregon (LEO).  The exhibit will be rotated among public libraries in Eastern Oregon throughout 2014.

For further information, contact Lesiuk at 503-239-7817 or library director Cheryl Hancock at 541-573-6670. To learn more about OMSI and its NASA exhibits, please see


One of only three Critical Access Hospitals to receive awards in two or more measures

Jim Bishop, chief executive officer (CEO) of Harney District Hospital, announced Nov. 4 that earlier this month, the Oregon Rural Healthcare Quality Network (ORHQN), a network comprised of Oregon’s Critical Access Hospitals, recognized Harney District Hospital as a “Best Practices Top Performer” in a multi-state Quality Health Indicators (QHi) performance benchmarking program.

Harney District Hospital was recognized as a “top performer” for exemplary performance in minimizing “Hospital Acquired Infections” and for providing “Discharge Instructions for Patients Admitted with a Diagnosis of Heart Failure.”

Eric Buckland, executive director of the ORHQN, announced the awards at the ORHQN annual membership meeting  earlier this month, and he noted that Harney District Hospital was one of only three participating Critical Access Hospitals to score as a top performer in two or more measures. He further complimented Harney District Hospital for its commitment to quality and demonstrated leadership.

QHi is a web-based, clinical quality benchmarking tool utilized by small, rural hospitals to evaluate internal processes of care. It provides participating hospitals opportunities to improve practices by comparing specific measures of quality with like hospitals. More than 310 small, rural hospitals in 15 states utilize QHi.

“Our participation in the Quality Health Indicator benchmarking program underscores our commitment to providing the best care to our patients and our community,” said Shirley Gillespie Harney District’s quality coordinator. “We joined the web-based, multi-state benchmarking project because it allows us to compare our hospital’s quality data with other small, rural hospitals on a monthly basis. The opportunity to compare our practices with those of so many other small, rural hospitals is extremely valuable.”

Each month, participating hospitals enter their quality measure data. To be designated by the ORHQN as a QHi Best Practices Top Performer for a particular quality measure, a hospital must be one of the top five hospital performers in the entire QHi 310-hospital database for three of the past four quarters.

“It’s an impressive achievement to be named a ‘Best Practices Top Performer’ because we know it’s based on our own performance, and compared to other small, rural hospitals who are working just as hard as we are to deliver quality care to their patients and community,” Bishop added.

Trout restoration under way

Posted on November 6th in News


Rainbow and brook trout illegally released

This Lahontan cutthroat trout released into Sage Creek will help boost the native Lahontan population there. (Photo courtesy of ODFW)

This Lahontan cutthroat trout released into Sage Creek will help boost the native Lahontan population there. (Photo courtesy of ODFW)

During the week of Nov. 4, biologists with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) will be surveying 18 miles of McDermitt Creek looking for and removing non-native rainbow and brook trout — part of an eight-year effort to restore native Lahontan cutthroat trout to this remote watershed in Southeast Oregon.

This will not be the first time ODFW has taken aim at non-native trout in McDermitt Creek, said Shannon Hurn, district fish biologist in Hines. Between 2006 and 2009, biologists methodically treated the creek with rotenone, a plant-based fish toxicant, in order to remove non-native rainbow trout, brown trout and brook trout. The agency’s goal is to restore the native population of Lahontan cutthroat trout that has been pushed out by brown and brook trout or genetically comprised by hybridizing with rainbow trout.

According to Hurn, the restoration effort was complicated this spring when it appears someone illegally released rainbow and brook trout back into McDermitt Creek. The fish were discovered in late summer when biologists were preparing to re-introduce about 70 native Lahontan cutthroat trout into the creek.

Hurn said the illegal release may have been an effort to re-create fishing opportunities in the creek.

“The creek was closed to all fishing after the Holloway Fire in 2012, and our plan was to re-open fishing once the Lahontan trout population was viable,” she said. “Perhaps, someone got tired of waiting.”

Biologists will conduct blood, genetic and scale tests on the rainbow and brook trout removed from McDermitt Creek to try to find out how old the fish are and whether they are from a hatchery stock. It is illegal in Oregon to transport and release live fish without a permit.

The discovery of the non-native trout will slow recovery efforts in the creek, as well as the possibility of any future fishery, Hurn added.

In the meantime, the Lahontan cutthroat trout destined for McDermitt Creek were released into nearby Sage Creek in September to help boost the population there. Biologists hope to borrow from the Sage Creek population for the McDermitt Creek re-introduction.

The trout that went into Sage Creek were from a Nevada population that was restored in the 1980s using Lahontan cutthroat trout from McDermitt Creek.

Lahontan cutthroat trout can grow to be the largest of all cutthroat trout, and were once found throughout desert basins in parts of California, Nevada and Southeast Oregon. In recent decades, many populations have disappeared due to dam construction, habitat loss and the introduction of non-native brown, brook and rainbow trout.

The species has been protected since 1973 and is currently listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act. In 2006, it was identified in the Oregon Conservation Strategy as a species in need of conservation.

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