Clark family keeps vigil with son who has cystic fibrosis

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Janet Clark was headed back to Denver on Monday. It was her turn.
She and husband Roger switch off staying with their son, Clem, who is a patient at Kindred Hospital.
“My husband is there one week, and I’m there one week,” Janet Clark said. “Because we stay with him 24/7.”
Kindred is a “long-term acute care hospital … that specializes in the treatment and rehabilitation of medically complex patients who require an extended stay in a hospital setting.”
Clem Clark has been a patient there since Jan. 4. He was moved into intensive care Sunday.
Clem knows all about hospitals. He’s had medical issues his entire life.
Clem Clark has cystic fibrosis. He was born with the disease. So was his younger sister, Mary, who died in 2008. She was 21.
Clem will be 25 on March 9.
“When they were born, the lifespan (for someone with cystic fibrosis) was 12 years old,” Janet Clark said. “Now, the lifespan average is up in the 30s.
“They mapped the whole genetic system of people and they finally figured out what gene it is that’s causing the problem,” Janet said. “Once they knew that, they can try correcting it.”
Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease that causes thick, sticky mucus to build up in the lungs and digestive tract.
In 2008, Clem had a double lung transplant.
“He’ll probably have to have another lung transplant, because his lungs are rejecting,” Janet Clark said. “If they can find a match … it all depends on a lot of things. That’s the big thing, to get people to donate.”
The community has been giving in many ways, Janet Clark said.
“People have been great,” she said. “We are grateful for their generosity and kindness.”
Clem and Mary both graduated from Meeker High School and both graduated from college. Clem went to Denver Automotive and Diesel College, while his sister went to Pikes Peak Community College in Colorado Springs and studied zoo-keeping technology.
“She was trying to get on at a zoo, but her health really prevented it,” Janet Clark said of her daughter.
Janet said the community always treated her kids like they were, well, healthy kids.
“The kids grew up, and everybody treated them as normal,” Janet Clark. “They didn’t treat them like they had any problems. Their lung function was always lower than everybody else’s, so they weren’t great in sports.”
And until recently, Clem had been doing well. He was working as a mechanic for Rio Blanco County.
“We thought everything was going good,” Janet Clark said. “We thought, boy, we’re over the hump. But he took a turn for the worse (Saturday). They put him back on a ventilator to help him breathe.”
Janet Clark, a former first- and second-grade teacher in Meeker for nearly 30 years, said her son is anxious to leave the hospital.
“He just wants to come home,” Janet said. “Their job (at the rehabilitation hospital) is to get people back on their feet and living as normal a life as possible. We can only pray that things work the way they are supposed to work.”
• • • • •
I received this from Dolly Viscardi, who writes the “Loose Ends” column for the paper. It is taken from a message sent out by Dolly’s daughter-in-law, Liz Winfield Viscardi.
This was the preface to the message …
Dear friends and family,
I am sure you all know the story of my brother and his encounter with the Denver Police Department. It is currently in the federal courts and is awaiting trial, which is scheduled for the first week of May. My family crafted the letter below and has started sending it out to people to help gain support. I have sent this to Gov. Ritter, (Denver) Mayor Hickenlooper as well as the entire Denver City Council and various staff members. In addition, I have sent a press release with this same information to various local media outlets. I am enclosing the letter below in the hopes that you will help us spread the word to individuals who would be interested in this story.
Here’s a copy of the message …
Do you remember when the Rockies went to the World Series in 2007? How about the third game when the Rockies lost at home? Well, for my brother, this night was memorable but not for the hype of a baseball game but instead for a terrifying event that he remembers daily.
On Oct. 28, 2007, Denver police officers severely beat Eric Winfield as he and two others walked to their car in lower downtown at 1:45 a.m., after the third game of the World Series. Eric and his friends bypassed a fight that erupted outside of Le Rouge nightclub, now Lavish nightclub, at 14th and Market streets, when Eric was pushed from behind into a parked car, forced to the ground and repeatedly hit in the face, kicked in the ribs and crotch, and kneed in the back. He was then handcuffed to the gurney of the Denver Health ambulance and left in the hallway of the hospital for seven hours without any medical attention.
Following the trip to the hospital, Eric was then placed in the felony ward of the Denver Police station until the afternoon of Monday, Oct. 29. He was charged with second-degree assault on a peace officer and resisting arrest. He left jail with a broken nose, cuts above his eye and on the bridge of his nose, a burst blood vessel in his eye, bruised ribs, cracked and chipped teeth and permanent, documented nerve damage to both hands. As a result of this ordeal, Eric has also paid criminal lawyer fees and medical fees, not to mention taking time off work repeatedly to attend depositions, meetings with the lawyers and settlement proceedings.
In March 2008, the criminal charges were dropped without any apology or justification. Eric was just expected to just fall to the wayside and be grateful that his record was still clean. But not one of his family members or friends is about to let that happen.
Eric has filed a lawsuit against the Denver Police Department, the city and county of Denver and the three officers involved. The case is currently in federal court for a civil trial. The lawsuit isn’t about the money, it is about justice. This ordeal has been going on for over two years and DPD has yet to apologize for beating an innocent person and causing permanent injuries.
Instead, we have pulled together for this cause. We created a Facebook page called Justice for Eric Winfield to help raise awareness and put a stop to unwarranted police brutality on innocent people. Eric has set up a blog at, to help share the facts of this incident.
We know this isn’t an isolated incident. We are doing this not just for Eric Winfield; but for anyone who has been affected by police brutality.
For more information about the case, visit and
We need your support for this cause and hope that you will help us share Eric’s story.
— Liz Viscardi, sister of the victim
• • • • •
A sampling of Ellen Robinson’s photographs from last September’s Smoking River Pow Wow are on display at the Meeker Public Library.
“Every two months, roughly, we’ve been replacing one artist’s work with another,” said library director Mike Bartlett. “We’ve had Dale Hallebach’s photography and Sondra Garcia’s paintings.”
Robinson is a Meeker photographer, whose work is regularly on display in the front window at Wendll’s Wondrous Things.
• • • • •
Mary Strang, president of the Meeker School Board, offered her observations after a joint meeting of the Meeker and Rangely school boards Feb. 6 in Meeker.
Also on hand for the joint meeting were Sen. Al White, R-Hayden, and Rep. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, who presented legislative updates and took questions from members of the county’s two school boards.
“We host this meeting with the Rangely School Board each year, in hopes of making our concerns understood by our legislators — and to more fully appreciate theirs,” Strang said.
As expected, the state’s budget woes and, particularly, school funding were among the hot topics of discussion.
“Sen. Al White’s comments on the state’s budget shortfall were what we expected,” Strang said. “There is not a lot of good news on this subject, and the impact on school districts will be a 6.5 percent to possibly a 10 percent reduction in funding for this coming year. We’re preparing for a 10 percent reduction, but continue to hope it will be less in the final analysis. As you know, a 10 percent reduction in our budget amounts to approximately $600,000.
“Of the many pieces of legislation referenced (during the joint meeting with the two school boards), one which concerns us is the inevitable resurgence of SB-085 (the bill introduced in 2009 to exempt business personal property from taxation). We pointed out to Sen. White that were this legislation passed, property valuation in our school district would drop by 52 percent. The fiscal ramifications understandably are horrendous. The state has no money with which to backfill the School Finance Act, and the impact on county government would be significant.”
Strang went on to say, “Given the reality of the state’s fiscal condition, we asked, at the very least, if some of the increasing and redundant layers of accountability and reporting, which the state requires of school districts, could be retracted. They take an inordinate amount of time, time is money, and these are monies that don’t benefit our kids in the classroom. We suggested we come up with a list of specific requirements we deemed unnecessary and pass it on to the Rural School Caucus in hopes of garnering additional support from other rural school districts. If we can submit such a list with the endorsement of multiple districts, the issue will have more credibility. (Sen. White) was very receptive to this idea and felt something could be accomplished.
“You heard Sen. White say there are some efforts in the making to effect some constitutional reform in our state and that, hopefully, there will be some sort of a ballot issue this fall. One goal of such reform is to make it more difficult to get a question on the ballot. Other groups in the state are working on constitutional reform and will, hopefully, come up with some viable proposals as well. Sen. White also speculated that the constitutionality of the TABOR (Taxpayer Bill of Rights) Amendment will be challenged — because of its direct conflict with our republican form of democracy and representative government. We’ll watch with interest as this issue has been around for a long time.”
• • • • •
Peggy Rector, whose granddaughter is serving in the U.S. Army in Iraq, passed along this Internet site:
“We continually send our granddaughter money to buy calling cards,” Rector said. “We will continue to do just that. However, I am sure there are many families who cannot afford to send money for cards. So we also have many young people from our county overseas fighting for us. I believe this is the least we can do. I would love to have all of Rio Blanco County involved in a big program supporting this effort. As I read the information, we would need drop-off sites in both Rangely and Meeker. I can do that in Rangely if someone in Meeker could take up the cause there. I am going to get our Chamber involved. I believe this is truly a worthy effort. I very much want to coordinate this effort with both towns.”
You can contact Rector at
• • • • •
Shawn Bolton, owner of Bolton Construction, has added his name to the list of candidates for Joe Collins’ seat on the county commissioner. Others who had previously filed were Wendy Gutierrez and Pat Hughes. All three are Republicans.
Also, Nancy Richardson has added her name to the list of county coroner candidates, along with Robin Baughman, Sherri Halandras and Dr. Albert Krueger.
And, according to the Colorado secretary of state’s Web site, Neil Joy has withdrawn as a candidate for county surveyor, and his brother Leif Joy has filed.
• • • • •
Speaking of the county commission, chairman Ken Parsons of Rangely said the county is moving ahead with plans to add a new justice center on to the existing courthouse.
“I think you can say the commissioners have a preference for the existing courthouse location, because the infrastructure that is already in place and available. It is by far the most cost-effective location,” Parsons said. “We have asked him (the architect) to work up a preliminary design, based on that location.”
The county’s initial choice for a site for building a new justice center was on the location of the Meeker Elementary School — across from the courthouse — which will be vacated at the end of the school year. However, a neighborhood group opposed the idea. So the county began considering other possible sites.
• • • • •
The trial for John Wix of Meeker, who has pleaded not guilty to felony charges of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, has been rescheduled to start June 9.
The case has not been dismissed, said deputy district attorney Jay Barasch.
• • • • •
Allan Jones of Meeker has been nominated to serve a four-year term on the nine-member Colorado Wildlife Commission, announced by Gov. Ritter.
“I hope I can do a good job,” said Jones, a retired veterinarian. He is also a former Rio Blanco County commissioner and Meeker School Board member.
• • • • •
The Meeker Recreation District had a free family swim day and a soup and dessert cook-off Feb. 13.
“We had great participation for the soup and dessert cook-off,” said recreation manager Nicole Dupire. “We had 22 entries, eight soup and 14 desserts. The winners of the Judge’s Choice awards were Joe Beck with his tortellini soup and Amy Que with her orange joy dessert. The Judge’s Choice was judged by Kris and Henry Arcolesse from Ma Famiglia. The People’s Choice winners were Michelle Weston with her chicken enchilada soup and Jacqui Foster with her chocolate marshmallow pillows.”
• • • • •
My dog Layla — she’s a husky/black lab mix — has started losing her winter coat. Hopefully that’s a sign spring is getting closer.
• • • • •
When checking out a library book Monday I reached into my wallet for my library card, but instead I pulled out my bank card and handed it to Meeker Library director Mike Bartlett.
“You don’t have to pay to check out a book, unless you really want to,” Mike said.
• • • • •
I had committed to go on the snowmobile ride Sunday with the White River Snowmobile Club, but the ride was canceled due to the weather.
Maybe it was for the best. As a friend in Kansas told me, “I can’t imagine you snowmobiling. That sounds like an accident waiting to happen.”
• • • • •
Lastly, on a personal note, the past several weeks have been excruciating at times, because of some of the stories and controversies circulating around town and in the paper.
However, based on the supportive comments and messages received, I’ve discovered this about Rio Blanco County and its people: I’ve never felt more at home here than I do now.
Thank you.

Jeff Burkhead is editor at the Herald Times. You may e-mail him at the