Charlottesville Breaking News

Only 30: In America… and she needs a kidney

By Brittany Gamble

It’s 11am, and Tihana Macakanja has just spent two and a half hours hooked to a machine; and even after the procedure ends, she's facing a 15-minute drive home. It's an arduous cycle that she repeats three times a week, but with her closest relatives ruled out as kidney donors, dialysis is something she could be stuck with for a long time.

A native Croat, Macakanja, along with her mother, father, and a sister, came to America in 1999. They left behind her older sister– and the bombs that were falling during the Croatian War for Independence.

In 2005, on Charlottesville's Downtown Mall, the two sisters founded a Yugoslavian food store called X-Yuga. After two years, however, the duo closed the store. Macakanja, now living in Fluvanna, makes a thrice-weekly trek to a UVA-affiliated medical facility in Zion Crossroads for her dialysis.

First learned of her failing kidneys when she became pregnant in 2003, Macakanja lost most of her kidney function in 2010.

“Almost two years ago, I started with dialysis,” she says. “It’s supposed to b...

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The week in review

Biggest contract: Ryan Zimmerman, the star UVA baseball shortstop turned star third-baseman for the Washington Nationals, has reportedly inked a deal that could be worth as much as $150 million. NBC Washington has the story.

Boldest call for eminent domain: Fisherville resident Starke Smith calls for Augusta to take over the primo, yet dilapidated real estate on Afton Mountain owned by Phil Dulaney, NBC29 reports. What some call the "Afton Slums" stand as an eyesore entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive, and the former gas station, motel, and restaurant are empty shells of could-be tourist services.

More likely target of eminent domain: Camp Holiday Trails, a facility for special-needs children and neighbor to the Ragged Mountain reservoir, complains that it feels shortchanged in negotiations with the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority and by the $35K it received for half an acre– under threat of eminent domain, ...

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GPS prevails: Hogshire decision delays rapist's stalking trial

Edward Hogshire, the judge who presided over the recent second-degree murder conviction of George W. Huguely V, made a last-minute decision about electronic evidence in another criminal trial that plunged the defense into such a quandary that despite the assembly of victim, witnesses, and potential jurors at the Charlottesville Circuit Courthouse, the defense won permission to continue the case.

On February 29, Hogshire was slated to launch a new trial for Jeffrey Kitze, the so-called "graduation day rapist," on the stalking charge for which he was convicted last year in General District Court. However, Hogshire's day-earlier decision to allow Global Positioning System, or GPS, data into evidence delayed the trial because, according to courthouse sources, the defense now has to formulate new strategies.

Kitze is the man convicted of the notorious rape of his sister's roommate, a crime that involved bashing the woman's head with a tire iron both before and after the rape, which biza...

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Melted dream: Simpson's snowmobile race hopes dashed

Russ Simpson, the Nelson County man who vowed to race a snowmobile across the icy wilds of Alaska in search of adventure for himself and money for charity, has returned from more than two weeks in the 49th state with more questions than snow in his teeth.

"I'm not quite sure what happened up there," says Simpson, who'd planned on making a 1,100-mile journey in the Iron Dog race across the Alaskan wilderness. The subject of a recent Hook profile, he returned to Virginia in late February after race officials, having told him he had insufficient equipment, then proceeded to transfer him among teams where the roadside apple merchant-turned-racer says he just didn't feel welcome.

Race organizers ended up refunding his entry fee, but the travel cost of a 16-day journey to Alaska is something Simpson will have to absorb. Along with some positives to temper his disappointment.

"I can't look back on this and say it was a nightmare," says the middle-aged Simpson, reveling in the newfound health that he got from near-daily bicycle training atop the Blue Ridge and the over $5,000 he raised for a UVA team fighting melanoma.

"I'm definitely 100 percent glad I made the effort," says Simpson, who hasn't yet decided whether to try again...

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