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Pembroke district informs parents of student who passed away Thursday

By Howard B. Owens

Officials of the Pembroke Central School district announced on the district Web site this morning that a student died late Thursday afternoon (pdf).

The notification informs parents that tests for influenza came back negative and that the Genesee County Health Department determined it was safe for children to attend school today.

Counselors are available for students who need to talk about their friend's passing.

No further details were given.

Superintendent Gary Mix is currently meeting with district staff and not immediately available for comment.

UPDATE 10:36 a.m.: Superintendent Gary Mix just issued a written statement to the media, but included no new information apart from the prior statement.  It says, "It is out of respect for the family of our student that we cannot release any additional information at this time."

UPDATE 10:59 a.m.: Randy Garney, interim health director for Genesee County, said he can't legally release any information. A source tells me the death occurred in Erie County.  A woman I spoke to at the Erie Couny Health Department said that department isn't likely to release any information, and that nobody would even be able to return my call until late this afternoon.

UPDATE 2:50 p.m.: A spokesman for the Erie County Health Department just called. He referred me back to Gensee County, saying that even though the death occurred in Erie County, "it's Genesee County public health case."

UPDATE 3:10 p.m.: Gary Mix just released this statement: "As an update, in our most recent consultation with the Genesee County Health Department and the New York State Department of Health, the District has been informed that the cause of death for the Pembroke Central School student is still to be determined."

UPDATE 3:30 p.m.: I e-mailed Randy Garney asking for more information.  Here is his response: "This is a pending investigation.  Due to HIPPA Act, by Federal Law, I can not share any patient medical information.  However I will tell you that the NYSDOH or the GCHD has never ruled out influenza as a cause. "

Full announcement after the jump:

It is with a great deal of sadness and sympathy that we are notifying you that one of our
students passed away late Thursday afternoon.

Medical tests did indicate that the influenza screen came back negative, therefore ruling
out the flu.

In consultation with the school district’s physician, who in turn consulted with the
Genesee County Health Department, it was determined that it is safe and appropriate to
have school in session today.

The student’s principal, Mr. Calderon did personally contact the parents of the child’s
immediate classmates to inform them of the loss of a dear friend on Thursday evening.

Plans have been made to provide counseling services for our students who may wish to
talk with a counselor.

If you should have questions please feel free to contact your building principal or school

Please keep this family in your thoughts and prayers.

Bea McManis

This is heartbreaking. How many children have passed away in the GLOW area in the past three months? My thoughts and prayers are with the families of those suffering through this horrible loss.

Oct 23, 2009, 8:32pm Permalink
Lori Ann Santini

Too many Bea. My prayers also are for the childs' classmates who are struggling on a very personal level to comprehend the loss. Just as with adults, they are going through the many stages of grief. The only problem they face is the lack of experience and reason. We often brush off their feelings because we feel "They are young, they will adjust." How wrong we are. My heart is heavy over this loss. It has hit home as I hold my ten year old and try to explain what has happened. The one thing that I learned is that we can never hold our children too much. Life can be far too short.

To the family of our student, I cannot imagine your pain. I hope that time will soften the edges. May you be blessed with the realization that your child did touch the hearts many kids including mine.

Oct 23, 2009, 11:39pm Permalink
brenda schneider

oh my god in the past few month so many children have been dieing and yet there is "a cause to be determined" should we believe that there is something out there more severe than the h1n1? what is taking these childrens lives?don't we have a right to know if our families too are at sake?........................I pray to the familes and send my heart and thoughts out ot you.

Oct 24, 2009, 5:26am Permalink
Bea McManis

I'm sure those of you with a medical background can give us a rational explanation for why the medical examiners are not forthcoming with more information. Is it the length of time it takes for tests to be completed? Is it that there is no common thread between the recent deaths?

Whatever the reason the streets of heaven are crowded with children taken from our area. While I respect the wishes of the parents who want privacy as they grieve, I do believe that there has to be more information other than, "it is safe to send your children to school".

Genesee Co. lost a great number of children in the influenza pandemic of 1918-1919. There is somthing eerie when reading the stories of that era and what is occurring today. Children were healthy one day and gone the next. If the flu is not the cause of death, then what is taking these young children?

Oct 24, 2009, 6:47am Permalink
Howard B. Owens

There have been three deaths that I know of. One in Batavia/Le Roy, one in Albion and now this one in Erie County/Pembroke.

In the case of Marcus Peters, no cause of death has been determined yet and toxicology results won't be available for another three weeks or so.

It takes five or six weeks for toxicology reports to come back.

Oct 24, 2009, 8:24am Permalink
Lori Ann Santini

I cannot speak for the cause of death for any of the children from our area however I would like to pose a few thoughts. First, children can often have an undiagnosed congenital condition that can cause sudden death. They can include but are not limited to cardiac, respiratory and neurological defects. Those children you see dying of Influenza usually have another underlying illness that weakens their immune system prior to the Influenza exposure. Children can also have the same types of drug related issues that adults can. Children have been known to take medications not prescribed to them. Sometimes the medication they are prescribed is too much of a dosage for their body to properly metabolize. There are hundreds of ways people could die that would be very hard to detect.

The Health Department and the school districts that have been hit with these untimely and sad deaths are making information know as quickly as they can. Influenza tests take minutes. Cultures however take 72 hours give or take the bug the lab is looking for. Toxicology reports as Howard noted can take 6 weeks or more. Believe me that as a parent that I too hope there is an answer. I however have faith that ever stone that can be turned is being. Obviously HIPPA is a huge concern. The officials can only release so much information before they violate law. It is a thin line but one they have to honour.

I have to applaud the staff of the Pembroke Intermediate School for all the info that they have already given us. It makes the wait a little bit easier when we know that they are being forthcoming with the information.

Oct 24, 2009, 3:26pm Permalink

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