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Hilltowns Archives —The Altamont Enterprise, March 29, 2007

Cass workers face uncertain future

By Tyler Schuling

RENSSELAERVILLE — After announcements were made that Cass Residential is changing from a state juvenile detention center to a training facility for state workers, Cass employees are speculating about their future.

Darcy Wells, spokeswoman for the Public Employees Federation, said this week Cass employees were unofficially asked where they would prefer to be redeployed.

The facility employs 33 employees, State Assemblyman John McEneny said last month.

Cass’s mission change violates the state’s labor law, which requires a state agency to give a 12-month notice when making significant service or public staffing changes, Wells told The Enterprise earlier this month. The law was enacted last year.

"We have a lot of concerns and a lot of questions," Wells said this week.

"Our biggest concern," she said, "is that half of [the employees] are from the area".They live there, have families there, and shop there, and that’s where they want to stay," she said. The agency, she said, has been sending mixed messages since changing from a juvenile detention center to a training facility.

"Everyone is perplexed," she said.

Brian Marchetti, spokesman for the Office of Children and Family Services, the state agency that runs Cass, said earlier that Cass employees would remain on site and be "canvassed for voluntary redeployments."

Following the escape of a 15-year-old from the facility in November, area residents circulated a petition, which calls for the facility to close. Seven youths escaped in two years, and a Cass kitchen worker was raped at knifepoint.

Prior to Cass’s mission change, OCFS Deputy Commission Ed Ausborn and Cass’s director, Tim Kelso, attended Rensselaerville’s February town board meeting and outlined planned security measures, which included a perimeter security fence.

"The reasons for the decision [to change] included the need for another training site," Marchetti said earlier, adding, "We currently have an excess bed count in our facilities. As well as the savings that can be achieved by not putting up the fence."

Mother mourns son, wants to stop steroids

By Tyler Schuling

ALBANY COUNTY — The day after her son’s funeral, Barbara Kennedy sat at her kitchen table in East Berne and fought back tears.

"I miss him," she said. "I keep waiting for the door to open".He’s not gone yet to me."

Kennedy’s son, Peter Kennedy, died Friday at Albany Medical Center Hospital from suspected steroid-use complications. He was 27.

Barbara Kennedy decided not to allow an autopsy. "I wouldn’t let them," she said. "I’m not into cutting up people"I’m not against it if they have to find out, but I knew what happened. It was the steroids because he was perfectly healthy," she said.

She related the events leading up to her son’s death.

Peter Kennedy was hospitalized on March 2 after complaining about cold symptoms. He had difficulty breathing and was coughing, Barbara Kennedy said. Shortly after, x-rays were taken, which revealed he had fluid in his lungs. His heart was enlarged, she said, and his kidneys and lungs were failing. He was admitted to the hospital’s intensive-care unit, and went into an induced coma the morning of March 4, she said.

"He just laid there like he was sleeping," she said.

After he went into the coma, she said, one of her son’s friends told her that, eight months ago, Peter had asked questions about steroids — "‘Where do you get them" Who can you get them from" And: How much do they cost"’"

Somewhere along the line, Barbara Kennedy said, he got steroids. Following an arrest for drunk driving, Barbara Kennedy said, her son couldn’t spend time with his friends. He built a gym in the garage basement.

"All of his friends swear up and down that they didn’t know he was on them because he was drinking body-building shakes"and taking vitamins", which are all legal and FDA-approved," she said of the Food and Drug Administration.

While Peter Kennedy was hospitalized, Barbara Kennedy was contacted by one of her son’s friends, who told her that her son may have been using steroids. Peter Kennedy’s sister, Jamie, then found eight bottles of steroids hidden in his bedroom.
The drugs found in Peter Kennedy’s bedroom were Testosterone, Nandrolone Decanoate, and Testosterone Adanatedepo, said Heather Orth, spokeswoman for the Albany County District Attorney’s office.

Jamie Kennedy told her mother what she had found, and Barbara Kennedy then told his doctors. Doctors told her of the drug’s various effects: Some users are not affected until they are older; some die; with some, their lives are shortened; and some can take them and handle them.

"I think my son abused them. He didn’t know"The bottles didn’t have directions"They were just bottles. Not getting them from a doctor, he didn’t know how to take them," Barbara Kennedy said. "Four of the bottles had labels that looked like they had been printed off of a computer."

Four of the bottles, she said, had "RX" written on the labels; none had been prescribed by a doctor.

"It’s not an aspirin. It’s not a cold capsule. It’s a drug that will kill your system," she said.

On Tuesday, the night of her son’s funeral, Barbara Kennedy walked home from her son’s favorite bar, the Maple Inn, in East Berne. She said there was a soft breeze blowing. She stopped and said, "You left behind so many friends that loved you. You had a lot of people come to your viewing, and you don’t know how much you’re missed and how much people loved you"."

"It was like he was with me. I felt him near, but I couldn’t touch him, and he’ll always be with me," she said.


Nearly one year ago, Peter Kennedy was arrested for driving while intoxicated, his mother said. Shortly after, he bought weight-training equipment and built a gym in the basement of their garage. He had a treadmill, a Bow-Flex, a speed ball, and a punching bag, Barbara Kennedy said. He kept a strict schedule, kept track of his training and progress, and "hardly ever missed a day," she said.

"He stuck right to that room three to four hours a day, and, because his friends were all out drinking and having fun, he had to find something to do," she said.

Her son, a Berne-Knox-Westerlo graduate, "was not a jock," she said. "He used to be as thin as me," Barbara Kennedy said; Peter and his mother used to fit into the same pants. His friends, she said, often joked with him that his arms were the same size as hers.

"He got bigger and bigger," she said, "and eventually his clothes sizes changed."

He went to the refrigerator, she said, immediately upon entering the house.

"I just figured: He’s weight-lifting. He’s body-building. He’s working up an appetite. He’s not just sitting around being a couch potato," Barbara Kennedy said. "He started to look really good," she said.

Both she and her daughter, Jamie, had asked him whether he was taking steroids.

"He said he would never do steroids," Barbara Kennedy said. "He would say, ‘I hate needles.’"

In December, she said, her son was "always tired." When asked why he was tired, he would say, "I had a bad day," she said.

"There were signs all the way, but I didn’t see them," she said.

He showed her weight-training vitamins and drinks, approved by the FDA, that he had purchased at GNC (General Nutrition Companies), an international chain that sells dietary supplements.

"And I said, ‘Well, if the FDA approves, it can’t hurt him,’" Barbara Kennedy said.

While on probation, she said, her son was required to provide urine samples; she said she thought that the urine tests, randomly administered by his probation officer, would have shown whether he was using. She said she later discovered that only specialized tests can determine whether someone is using steroids.

"I was angry at first with him," Barbara Kennedy said. "I was real mad at him for putting himself in that position and taking the steroids"He had so much to live for. He was only 27."

She went on about being angry, "I guess I still am because he left me" but can I continue to be mad at him" No," she said.

The day he died, Barbara Kennedy said, she said to her son, "‘Pete, I know you did something that was wrong, but I just pray to God that you find rest. And I’ll always love you no matter what happens.’ And then, four hours later, he died."

Seeking prosecution

In response to Peter Kennedy’s death Friday, Albany County District Attorney David Soares released a statement.

"Today we mourn the loss of a hard-working and loved 27-year-old young man who led a full and productive life. On this day, our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends who are struggling with the untimely death of Peter Kennedy," the statement said.

"The use of illegal steroids is a major public health concern, and I urge anyone who is in possession of these drugs, or knows of anyone using these particular drugs, to contact the New York State Department of Health or the District Attorney’s Office to surrender them."

Soares is leading a national investigation and narcotics raid, which involves the improper use of medical authority by licensed doctors in New York. The raid follows a New York investigation into drug sales, including steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs, on the Internet.

Spokeswoman Orth said the Kennedy family contacted the district attorney’s office, which is currently investigating. She would not comment on the investigation.

Soares attended Peter Kennedy’s funeral Tuesday at the Fredendall Funeral Home in Altamont.

"The DA has been helping me out phenomenally, saying they will catch whoever sold them," Barbara Kennedy said of the steroids. "They cannot guarantee it, but they’re doing their best."

One of her friends contacted Soares’s office, she said. Within half-an-hour, four officials from the office called and arrived at the hospital.

"I’m looking to find out who sold [the steroids] to my son and put a stop to it so that no mother ever has to go through what I went through," she said.

Community support

Barbara Kennedy said the community reaction has been "phenomenal." She took a leave of absence from her jobs.

Arriving home from the hospital, she would find food in the refrigerator. It cost $100 a week for gas to travel to and from the hospital. She said she didn’t have any money, and someone paid her gas bill at Superior Oil. She works at Jersey’s, an East Berne eatery. Jersey’s owner, Dan Marshall, she said, brought food to her house for her daughter.

Tuesday night, after the funeral, she said, everyone at the Maple Inn was drinking Miller Lite beer, Peter’s favorite beer, though some do not prefer it.

April 2, a spaghetti dinner will be held at the East Berne firehouse, with all proceeds going toward her son’s bills. Marshall will be cooking, and the firemen and ladies’ auxiliary will be waiting on tables.

On April 21, her son’s favorite band, Mid-Life Crisis, will be performing at the Maple Inn, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in memoriam. All proceeds from the event will go toward her son’s expenses.

Also on the 21st, Barbara Kennedy said, there will be a four-wheeler ride from the Maple Inn to High Point, Peter’s "thinking spot."

A floral cross, donated by Bob and Cheryl Kerr, sits now in her front yard. It will be taken to High Point on April 21, where she and her son’s friends and family will scatter her son’s ashes.

Best buddies: Perry prepared to give himself, stymied

By Tyler Schuling

Brian Perry arrived early at Albany Medical Center the morning of March 13. He knew the score. He had two healthy kidneys. His friend did not.

Perry, who decided in the fall of 2004 to give one of his kidneys to David Salzer, his friend of nearly 25 years, was ready. The operation was less than one week away.

Showing up before Salzer, Perry had mapped out the day. Salzer arrived later. The two then began pre-admittance blood tests and tissue-typing. March 19, the day of the surgery, was approaching, and they were excited, kidding around with doctors and surgeons.

"We were psyched"We were having a blast," Perry said. "Everything was a go."

Nearly two weeks later, the two sat at the Salzers’ kitchen table in East Greenbush. Salzer opened his cell phone and listened to messages from concerned friends, family members, and customers.

Perry sat quietly, stared at a pencil and twirled it between his fingers.

"Keep your chin up. Don’t get down on things. These things happen for a reason," one of the messages said.

Doctors, after closely re-examining Perry’s CAT scan results from weeks earlier, found Perry has an internal injury — a diaphragmatic hernia — which Perry believes he sustained in a 1980 car accident. Surgeons then called a halt to the transplant operation.

Since his accident 27 years ago, Perry has had bronchitis, pneumonia, sarcoidosis, acid reflux, and heartburn — symptoms, doctors said, possibly stemming from the herniation.

"Can I have my diaphragm fixed and then become a donor"" Perry asked surgeons. They replied that he could not since there would be too much scar tissue. "I would have signed a waiver, but they wouldn’t let me," he said.

"They will not take a kidney if it puts the donor at any risk at all," Salzer said.

"I was"I can’t even describe how I felt. I was so upset. I was mad, and then I cried. I just couldn’t believe it," he said.

Perry had rearranged his life for the donation. He married a friend of Salzer’s wife last year; the couple expedited the marriage, he said, because donating his kidney was "a heavy-duty decision."

"How can you fathom finding out you were going to be a donor, and then you were rejected as being a donor, and you find out that you have this problem, and you’ve been carrying it for about 27 years"" Perry asked.

"Even though it didn’t work out, where do you get a friend like that"" Salzer said. "Not too many people are lucky enough to get a friend like that in their life."

Perry said finding out he couldn’t donate was "a major disappointment."

"We all cried, and I don’t think there was a dry eye in the room," he said.

"It does happen a lot," said Salzer. "I’m glad they did find [the herniation] because we could have lost Brian on the operating table," he said.

It took Perry about a week to recoup from the news, he said, and, during that time, he stared out the window in disbelief.

Living and working

In preparation for the operation, Salzer’s gall bladder, which had polyps and gall stones, was removed. A shunt was later installed in his right arm.

After his gall bladder was removed, Salzer did not work for four weeks. He got a little compensation, he said, from combined-life insurance.

Salzer, who grew up in Westerlo, works as a plumber and heating technician and frequently makes repairs in the area.

Perry is also a self-employed plumber and heating technician. After discovering Perry could not donate, both have had difficulty getting back to work. As they approached the surgery date, they said, they put their customers on hold. Now, their motivation is sporadic.

Salzer said that, in the past two weeks, he has done a few jobs but hasn’t scheduled any work.

"As soon as I got that news on Tuesday, I had no desire to do a thing," Perry said. "It was like my life-plug was pulled out."
"It’s like a roller-coaster," Salzer said of living with his disease. "You’ve got good days, and you’ve got bad days. It used to be the good days outweighed the bad days, but now, the bad days are starting to outweigh the good days."

Some days, he’s very fatigued, he said. "Some weeks, I don’t go anywhere," he said.

Salzer, 42, said he discovered he has kidney disease 10 years ago, after he had been in an automobile accident. Following the car crash, blood and protein were in his urine. After multiple tests and doctor visits, he had a kidney biopsy administered at Albany Medical Center.

His disease, he said, is hereditary, passed from mothers to their male offspring. He has two daughters, he said, who cannot get the disease but could pass it on to their sons. Of his four brothers and one sister, none have the disease that he knows of, he said.

Salzer has high blood pressure, but does not have diabetes, a disease commonly found in kidney disease patients. His diet consists of low-potassium foods.

"Over the years, I’ve had a lot of kidney infections, and they’re very painful," Salzer said.

Salzer’s doctor placed him on the national waiting list for donated organs five weeks ago, a precautionary measure in case Perry was unable to donate. To remain on the list, Salzer is required to have his blood tested monthly.

According to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, 70,682 people are waiting for a kidney transplant. In New York, 3,152 people with Type O blood — the same blood-type as Salzer — are on the waiting list, according to the network.

To be eligible, a living donor must be 18 to 60 years old, with no high blood pressure or diabetes. Donations from living donors, Salzer said, are the most successful.

If you donate after you die, Salzer said, you can still have an open casket. Organs from one human body, he said, can help 50 people.

"That’s a lot of people," he said.

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