Cortland woman awaits liver transplant

liverBob Ellis/staff photographer
Amanda Burgdoff, of 42 Church Street, stands by her window overlooking Courthouse Park Thursday afternoon. Burgdoff has been on a waiting list for a liver transplant for nearly a year. She suffers from cirrhosis of the liver.

Staff Reporter

Amanda Burgdoff would love to marry the man who has helped her get through the last nine months, but she is not sure how long she has left to live.
“We just want to wait until everything gets done, when I’m going to be good and healthy,” said Burgdoff, 63.
Instead of counting down the days until her wedding, Burgdoff is counting down the days until a future liver transplant.
But Burgdoff, who has cirrhosis of the liver, is not sure that day will ever come. She is still on a transplant waiting list and no one has offered her half of his or her liver, she said.
Doctors tell her she will die unless she gets a new liver within the next couple of months, said Burgdoff, who lives at 42 Church St. and used to work as a packer at Rubbermaid.
Burgdoff said she was first diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver about three years ago. Her belly had filled with fluid and had to be drained at the hospital. About three gallons of liquid were drained out of her stomach, she said.
Abdominal swelling is one of the symptoms of cirrhosis of the liver. With the disease, scar tissue replaces normal, healthy tissue, blocking the flow of blood and preventing the liver from working as it should.
Burgdoff said her case of cirrhosis was most likely set off by a drinking bout following her second husband’s death about seven years ago.
She had never really consumed much alcohol prior to his death, she said, but when he died unexpectedly from heart failure, she couldn’t control herself, she said. Burgdoff said she blamed herself for his death.
She received psychological help and was able to stop drinking after six months, she said. And ever since she’s been sober, she said.
But Burgdoff’s genetic predisposition to liver problems — she said her dad had drinking and liver problems — combined with her drinking ruined her liver for life, she said.
Burgdoff said since she was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver, her stomach has had to be drained seven times.
Despite her illness, Burgdoff has rebounded from her dark drinking days, she said. She keeps herself busy, whether it is by going to church, having lunch at the senior center or by crocheting.
“I do that to get (my illness) out of my mind,” she said.
Burgdoff said she has also fallen in love again. After losing two husbands to death, she has found another man who takes care of her, she said.
“He’s very loving,” she said.
James Smith, 62, lives in her apartment building. Smith said when he first met Burgdoff nine months ago, he was taken by her good looks and personality.
“The first time I saw her, I thought to myself, ‘You know, I’d like to get to know her,’” he said.
Smith said he makes sure Burgdoff takes her medicine, which amounts to three pills and liquid medicine every day. If she didn’t take her medicine daily she might not be alive today, he said.
“She’d probably be gone a while ago,” he said.
In March, Burgdoff received a beeper from   Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester. When she’s at the top of the hospital’s liver transplant waiting list, her beeper will go off, she said.
Then she’ll need to drop everything and get to the hospital, she said. Linda Cornell, a nurse at the hospital, said she couldn’t say how high up on the list Burgdoff’s name is. She said a person’s spot on the list depends on the severity of his or her case.
Compared to other people, Burgdoff’s case is not too severe, she said. She’s not at the level where she has days to live, she said.
According to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, 420 people are on Strong Memorial Hospital’s liver transplant waiting list. About 60 percent of those candidates are between ages 50 and 64. Based on previous data, about 40 percent of those candidates should receive transplants.
Burgdoff’s other option is to receive half a liver from someone she knows. By federal law that person must be a family member, friend or someone else she shares an emotional bond with.
Burgdoff said some people close to her have offered up half of their liver, but then pulled out at the last minute.
“I couldn’t blame them,” she said.
A donor would have to share Burgdoff’s blood type — Type O positive.



Standoff suspect pleads not guilty

Staff Reporter

A city man involved in a weekend standoff with police pleaded not guilty to two felonies and three misdemeanors Monday afternoon in City Court.
Philip Curtis, 31, of 78 Elm St., was arraigned with his lawyer, Mark Suben.
Suben told Judge Thomas A. Meldrim that he believes his client was contemplating “suicide by cop,” or prompting police to shoot him, but never intended to injure his five-week-old child, who was inside the house with Curtis and unharmed during the ordeal, which ended peacefully.
Curtis, armed with a semiautomatic AR-15 rifle, refused Saturday to come out of his house for more than two hours.
City police said when they arrived at Curtis’ home at around 1:19 p.m., his wife was at the bottom of a staircase and Curtis was at the top with the gun. Officers quickly led the woman out of the house before they found out the infant was still in the home, police said. A neighbor had called police.
Police called in backup from their Tactical Response Unit, State Police and the Cortland County Sheriff’s Department before Curtis finally came out of the house at 3:30 p.m.
Curtis was charged with two counts of menacing a police officer, a felony, second-degree menacing, fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon and endangering the welfare of a child, all misdemeanors.
Assistant District Attorney Robert McGraw asked Meldrim to set bail at $30,000 cash or $50,000 bond for the felony charges, calling Curtis a flight risk based on the possible 2 1/3 to 7 years in state prison that the crimes could bring.
Meldrim set bail at $1,000 cash or $2,500 bond for the misdemeanor charges, but set no bail for the felony charges.
Meldrim said he would revisit bail for the felonies after Curtis undergoes a psychological evaluation.
The District Attorney’s Office does not comment on ongoing cases.
Suben argued his client “certainly went haywire,” but was neither a flight risk nor a danger to the community.
“This was an unfortunate situation. The product of extraordinarily volatile circumstances regarding his wife,” he said.
Suben told Meldrim that Curtis has no criminal record and has been an employee at The William George Agency for Children’s Services in Freeville for the last eight years.
Suben declined to comment further after the arraignment, but did say his client was honorably discharged from the Army in the mid-1990s after an injury damaged both legs and forced doctors to remove his right kneecap.
Suben added Curtis had recently been seeking psychological care from the Veterans’ _Services.
Curtis is due back Nov. 1 in City Court.



Dec. vote set for $14.4M Groton schools project

Staff Reporter

GROTON — In a unanimous vote, the Groton Board of Education decided Monday to put a $14.4 million renovation plan up for a Dec. 12 referendum.
The plan, which will receive 90.3 percent of its funding from state aid, includes security improvements following recent violence in schools around the country. It will cover the elementary, middle and high school buildings, athletic facilities and district bus garage.
“I am very supportive of the project,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brenda Meyers. “It is something that the district needs.”
The project’s cost is expected to come largely at the expense of the state, with an anticipated 9.7 percent from the pockets of local taxpayers. Meyers said that for a taxpayer who owns a home assessed for $100,000 and receives the STAR program tax break, the cost will be about $38 more per year over 16 years.
Before voting in favor of the project Monday night, the board held a special work session, during which Meyers laid out some highlights of the plan for community members.
In a PowerPoint presentation, Meyers explained the plan will allocate money for nearly every aspect of the two campuses; including what she called “functionality and safety” features such as lights and heat, “efficiency” improvements to lower maintenance costs and necessary compliances with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
With architect Nicholas Signorelli from Ashley McGraw on hand, Meyers explained which areas of each campus are expected to see improvements from the project, which will take two summers to complete, giving a completion date of fall 2009.
While both schools will have asbestos floors replaced with linoleum, the elementary school will receive a new partition, wall padding and lighting in the gym, fix drainage and roofing around the building and heighten security.
Meyers said the district also plans to put an extra security door and sliding window in the front entrance of the building for “an extra layer of security,” as well as cameras, door sensors and increased exterior lighting, all features she feels are particularly necessary in light of recent national outbreaks of school violence.




Virgil amends zoning proposal

Staff Reporter

VIRGIL — The Town Board finalized revisions to a proposed zoning plan Monday, changing some areas deemed too restrictive while retaining a disputed minimum lot size requirement.
The changes followed a Sept. 28 public hearing at which about 85 residents outlined their specific concerns about the document. The majority of concerns related to minimum lot sizes, minimum frontage, recreational vehicles and ponds.
The zoning plan is the result of a 12-year process to update the town’s 1979 zoning law and plan for anticipated town growth. It stemmed from a comprehensive plan, subdivision regulations and a transportation management use report.
The board voted against changing two relatively controversial clauses of the proposed zoning plan: the lot size and frontage requirements, and zoning on a small part of Webb Road just south of the Cortlandville town line.
The board decided to stay with the proposed minimum lot size of 3 acres and 350 feet of road frontage. Board member David Denniston and Town Supervisor Jim Murphy had proposed reducing the minimum lot size to 2 1/2 acres and minimum road frontage to 300 feet, which is more in line with the current minimums of 1 acre and 150 feet of road frontage.
Denniston said smaller lot sizes would better promote the town’s growth. The change was defeated 3-2.
Board members Suzanne Lumsden, Mary Beth Wright and Dale Taylor voted to leave the proposed minimums unchanged.
“I don’t know if I’m really comfortable to keep whittling away at that,” Taylor said about the minimum requirements.
The board voted unanimously to keep the proposed zoning for a small part of Webb Road just south of the Cortlandville town line both commercial and residential, despite the county Planning Board’s interpretation that it constitutes “spot zoning.” To override the county, the board had to vote at least 4-1.
Lumsden said after the meeting she hesitated to vote “yes” because of the way the proposed zoning change had been made. Murphy had just sprung the change on the board at its July 13 meeting, she said. The property is owned by John McGee, of Tully.
But in principle, she liked the idea of both commercial and residential zoning in that area, she said.
Rick Schmidt, who lives on Webb Road, said he favored the board’s decision. The board could have decided to keep the whole area commercial, he said.
“I’m fairly happy for myself,” he said. “I can’t speak for the people on my street.”
In regard to the storage of recreational vehicles, the board clarified Monday that only people parking the vehicles on properties with nonpermanent structures are required to have a permit to store the vehicle.
The town also extended the number of days the permit is good for from 90 to 180 days. The permit fee would likely be $30, Murphy said.
After the meeting, Craig Umbehauer, chairman of the committee to update zoning, said he was happy the town changed the language to more accurately mirror what the committee originally proposed.
People who bring up their RVs from Florida deserve to be able to stay on their property for up to six months with a permit, he said.



Psychologist charged with endangerment

Staff Reporter

McGRAW — A psychologist for McGraw and Cincinnatus schools was charged with a misdemeanor Monday after a parent complained that a child was roughly removed from a classroom, police said.
Marcia L. Rutledge, 50, of 112 Hillcrest Road, Syracuse, turned herself in to the Cortland County Sheriff’s Department Monday afternoon and was charged with endangering the welfare of a child.
Sgt. Jason Newcomb said he arrested Rutledge after a parent of a McGraw Elementary School student filed a complaint.
Newcomb said on Oct. 4 Rutledge physically restrained a 9-year-old boy at McGraw Elementary School by grabbing him and dragging him from a classroom when he was not causing a threat to himself or others.
Rutledge could not be reached for comment.
McGraw Superintendent of Schools Maria S. Fragnoli-Ryan said this morning that Rutledge is a Cincinnatus employee who the two districts have been sharing for the past three years.
Fragnoli-Ryan added that Rutledge is on paid leave with McGraw and that neither school has had any problems with her in the past.
“This is an isolated incident,” the superintendent said. “She will have no contact with students until the investigation is finished.”
Cincinnatus Superintendent of Schools Steven Hubbard did not return phone calls seeking comment.
Rutledge is due Oct. 30 in Cortlandville Town Court.