Bethlehem Press

Sunday, September 22, 2019
CONTRIBUTED PHOTOPress correspondent Paul Cmil presents a Keystone Award won posthumously by Mark Reccek to Donna Kukor, of Bath, Reccek’s sister, during a special ceremony Dec. 10 at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Muhlenberg, Bethlehem. Reccek wrote columns on his cancer diagnosis and treatment as well as the therapy he received from Sirius, here with his handler, Charlene Piskula of Coplay. CONTRIBUTED PHOTOPress correspondent Paul Cmil presents a Keystone Award won posthumously by Mark Reccek to Donna Kukor, of Bath, Reccek’s sister, during a special ceremony Dec. 10 at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Muhlenberg, Bethlehem. Reccek wrote columns on his cancer diagnosis and treatment as well as the therapy he received from Sirius, here with his handler, Charlene Piskula of Coplay.
PRESS PHOTO BY PAUL CMILTherapy dog Sirius receives a blessing from Lehigh Valley Hospital-Muhlenberg Chaplain Russell Blair. Sirius’ long service career helping others is winding down. Pictured with them is Sirius’ handler, Charlene Piskula, of Coplay. PRESS PHOTO BY PAUL CMILTherapy dog Sirius receives a blessing from Lehigh Valley Hospital-Muhlenberg Chaplain Russell Blair. Sirius’ long service career helping others is winding down. Pictured with them is Sirius’ handler, Charlene Piskula, of Coplay.

Writer’s words memorialized at hospital

Monday, December 24, 2018 by PAUL CMIL Special to The Press in Opinion

Mark Reccek’s columns to hang in LVH-Muhlenberg oncology department

When Mark Reccek was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, he began his treatment in the oncology department at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Muhlenberg, Bethlehem. The Marine was a fighter and wrote regularly for The Press newspapers.

While he was undergoing treatment, he was being cared for by his sister, Donna Kukor, of Bath. During his stints in the hospital, Reccek continued to write columns on the experiences he had during his treatment.

Reccek was impressed by the work of a therapy dog named Sirius, who was trained by Charlene Piskula, of Coplay. Sirius was adopted by Lehigh Valley Hospital for many of its patients and proved to be valuable “medicine” in the fight against this ravaging disease.

With his handler, Sirius roamed the halls of the various buildings in the hospital complex. Reccek and Sirius bonded.

Reccek saw the effect the therapy dog had on autistic children, as well as the cancer patients and those recovering from heart problems. As he noted in his columns, Sirius helped him survive the stress of the cancer treatments.

The fight against the cancer was long and arduous. Amy Levan, director of the LVH Infusion Center, worked with Reccek, using the latest technologies. His sister kept him going with chicken soup and kind words.

Reccek succumbed to his illness Dec. 17, 2017, at the age of 42. His life was short, but his insight would continue to live on.

His columns were submitted posthumously for a Pennsylvania Newspaper Award by Press staff. Reccek received a first-place recognition at the annual Keystone Awards ceremony.

Piskula was instrumental in preserving some of Reccek’s columns on his treatment and the role of therapy dogs in the healing process. With the help of Press staff, she gathered portions of his columns into a collage that was dedicated Dec. 10 to the oncology department at LVH-Muhlenberg.

The dedication was attended by Kukor; Keith Weinhold, senior vice president of operations at Lehigh Valley Health Network; Levan; Robert Begliomini, president of LVH-Muhlenberg; and, importantly, Sirius.