Lorelai Priest's family has nothing but gratitude

lorelai dadLorelai Priest and her dad, Joe. (COURTESY PHOTO)

Lorelai and her sister JoyceLorelai Priest and her sister, Joyce. (COURTESY PHOTO)

priest family The Priest family, Joseph, Libby, Lorelai and Joyce with their parents Joe and Trisha. (COURTESY PHOTO)


BERLIN — For a little girl in Berlin with a rare muscular disorder, a new kind of chair gives her mobility and a way to develop coordination.

Lorelai Priest is an 18-month-old child from Berlin with genetic muscular myelopathy, which causes severe mobility challenges.

Trisha and Joe Priest met in college. They fell in love, married, and had three children. When their fourth child was born, they were given surprising news. They found out that they both carried a rare gene. In fact, it had been a one in a million chance that either of them would meet and marry another person who carried that gene. And then there was a one in four chance that a child of theirs would get the combination of both those genes and the physical challenges associated with it.

Lorelai is Trisha and Joe’s fourth child, and she got the gene. Lorelai wasn’t breathing or moving at birth and needed to be airlifted to Dartmouth Hospital. She was treated there for a full month before she could go home.

Now 18 months old, Lorelai’s condition has improved with each day since, but she still has extremely limited muscular control. Lorelai was given a Bella’s Bumbas chair last month to help her get around, after Trisha heard about the special chairs through Lorelai’s physical therapist.

A couple in New York, Rebecca Orr and Marty Parzynski, make the Bella’s Bumbas chairs. They donate them free of charge to children who suffer from spina bifida or conditions like Lorelai’s. This can be vital to their development.

Traditional wheelchairs are generally not covered by insurance for very young children, because they grow out of the chairs too quickly. The Bella’s Bumbas chair enables children who might otherwise be immobile to have a mobility device that can enhance the development of their hand-eye coordination and socialization skills.

Lorelai is fortunate to have doting parents and three loving siblings, Libby (10), Joseph (7) and Joyce (4). Two pet cats round out the family.

After Lorelai was born, Trisha began homeschooling the older children to minimize the amount of time she needed to get them to and from school. Caring for Lorelai requires constant vigilance. There is extra care needed for everyday activities. In addition, Lorelai needs frequent intervention to help her breathe, a function which is sometimes hampered by her muscular response.

But in this family, there is nothing but gratitude. Joe, a policeman with both the Berlin and Littleton Police Departments, looks adoringly at his family and says, “I don’t know what I did right in my life, but I’m glad I did it.”


Vision clinic to provide free vision screenings in Berlin

BERLIN — Ambetter from N.H. Healthy Families is continuing it’s initiative of making eye health more accessible through its vision clinic by partnering with Coos County Family Health Services to offer free vision screenings and prescriptive eyewear to Berlin residents.

The vision clinic helps identify potential vision problems such as nearsightedness, farsightedness and more. If the screenings identify the need for corrective eyewear, then N.H. Healthy Families will cover the full cost of the glasses.

The vision clinic is free and open to all residents, and participants do not need to be members of N.H. Healthy Families. In October, N.H. Healthy Families provided free vision screenings across 10 cities and distributed almost 500 pairs of prescription glasses.

N.H. Healthy Families has a commitment to improving the health of the community one individual at a time through a variety of affordable and reliable health plans. Ambetter from N.H. Healthy Families health plans provide affordable and accessible coverage on the health insurance marketplace, and New Hampshire residents can enroll during open enrollment until Dec. 15.

The clinic will take place at Coos County Family Health Services, 54 Willow St., on Thursday, Dec. 14, and Friday, Dec. 15, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

N.H. Healthy Families is a managed care organization contracted to provide services through the New Hampshire Medicaid Care Management program. N.H. Healthy Families is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Centene Corporation, a diversified, multi-national health-care enterprise. Information is available at


Most senior motorists not using features that can extend their driving years

Nearly 90 percent of older drivers do not make inexpensive adaptations to their vehicles that can improve safety and extend their time behind the wheel, according to new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Common vehicle adaptations like pedal extensions, seat cushions and steering wheel covers can help to improve safety by reducing a senior driver’s crash risk. Seniors aged 65 and over are more than twice as likely as younger drivers to be killed when involved in a crash.

“While many seniors are considered to be safe drivers, they are also the most vulnerable,” said Dr. David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “Our research suggests that most senior drivers are not taking advantage of simple and inexpensive features like steering wheel covers that can greatly improve their safety and the safety of others on the road.”

Some of the inexpensive devices that can be purchased and put to use in new or existing vehicles are:

• Cushions and seat pads: Improve line of sight and can help alleviate back or hip pain.

• Convex/multifaceted mirrors: Improve visibility and minimizes blind spots

• Pedal Extension: Help drivers obtain safe distance from the steering wheel/airbag and optimize visibility.

• Steering wheel covers: Improve grip for drivers with arthritic hand joints.

• Hand controls: Allow the driver to perform all vehicle maneuvers and functions without the use of lower extremities.                                       

Choosing the right features and working with a trained technician is imperative to safety behind the wheel. Of those drivers who have a device, almost 90 percent reported that they did not work with a trained professional to install the modification, a key recommendation by both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the American Occupational Therapy Association. AAA urges drivers to consult with a trained technician to guide them in making adjustments to their vehicle.

"Driving represents freedom and independence. As drivers age, they experience changes that can impact their physical, visual and cognitive functioning, sometimes significantly,” says Susie Kelley, certified driving instructor, driver rehabilitation specialist at New England Rehabilitation Hospital of Portland. “An occupational therapist, specializing in driver rehabilitation, can be a worthwhile resource in working with the older driver to modify driving habits, recommend compensatory strategies and adaptive equipment needs, and assist with accessing the community.

Vehicle adaptations also benefit seniors’ mental health by extending their time on the road. Previous research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety shows that seniors who have stopped driving are almost two times more likely to suffer from depression and nearly five times more likely to enter a long-term care facility than those who remain behind the wheel.

“It’s surprising that more seniors are not utilizing simple and inexpensive vehicle adaptations when you consider the large number who are dealing with muscle and joint conditions,” said Pat Moody, director of traffic safety for AAA Northern New England. “Knowledge is power when it comes to extending time behind the wheel, and AAA is committed to providing seniors with the information they need to make sound decisions.”


Coos County Family Health Sends Medical Supplies to Puerto Rico

Relief Supplies for Puerto RicoEmployees from Coos County Family Health Services in Berlin and Gorham donated more than $500 to purchase supplies for health center patients in Puerto Rico who were affected by the recent hurricanes there. Blood pressure cuffs, diabetic testing supplies and other medical equipment was purchased with the donations. Pictured are Nurse Manager David Dubey, RN, and staff nurse, Jen Cloutier, RN.

Red Cross Calls For Nominations For “Everyday Heroes” Award


Everyday Heroes Awards

CONCORD — Every day, ordinary people make extraordinary contributions by putting their own needs aside to help others in our community. The American Red Cross is calling on New Hampshire residents to nominate someone for the “Everyday Heroes Awards,” an annual event that salutes these often unsung heroes.

This year,  Red Cross, along with our Unitil Corporation, is asking the residents of New Hampshire to nominate a friend, a co-worker or someone they know for the “Everyday Heroes Awards” so that people who have done something extraordinary can be honored for their selfless acts. A hero might be someone simply lending a helping hand or someone who’s saved a life.

The following are nomination category suggestions. It is possible that a category may not be awarded.

• Good Samaritan (over 18 or under 18) — Citizen responsible for an extraordinary act of heroism or courage

• Military member — Member of the armed forces (active or retired, commissioned or non-commissioned) whose lifesaving action went above and beyond the call of duty — this award may be awarded posthumously

• Fire Fighter - Professional or volunteer fire fighter or emergency dispatch operator whose lifesaving action went above and beyond the call of duty.

• Law Enforcement — Law enforcement agent whose lifesaving actions went above and beyond the call of duty.

• International Services — Individual, group or company in recognition of their commitment to humanitarian efforts in other parts of the world.

• Animal Rescue — An animal that saved the life of a human, an ordinary citizen who used lifesaving skills to save the life of an animal or animals, or to an individual involved in the care of animals.

• Aquatics — Lifeguard or ordinary citizen whose lifesaving action was able to prevent a serious water-related injury or drowning.

• Medical professional — Doctor, nurse or EMT whose lifesaving actions went above and beyond the call of duty.

• Community Impact — Presented to a community group, neighborhood organization or local company that consistently demonstrates a commitment to making their community a safer and more compassionate community.

• Community Service — Individual in recognition of volunteering their time to help others in the community.

• Lifetime Achievement Award — Individual in recognition of lifelong dedication and consistent support to further a cause that benefits the community.

Everyday Heroes nominees must meet the following criteria:

1. Nominee must be a resident of New Hampshire.

2. The heroic act/rescue must have taken place between Dec. 1, 2016, and Nov. 30, 2017.

Nominations are being accepted now through Dec. 15. To nominate a hero, go to the nomination

The winners will be honored at the Everyday Heroes Awards event on Wednesday, April 18, 2018, at the Grappone Conference Center, 70 Constitution Ave., Concord.

The American Red Cross established the everyday Heroes Awards in an effort to raise public awareness of local heroes who reflect the mission of the Red Cross by responding in time of need with selfless acts of courage and compassion. The awards are presented by the New Hampshire / Vermont Region of the American Red Cross, Unitil and our community sponsors.