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Advice and Thoughts on Human Interest/Feature Piece

Discussion in 'Writers' Workshop' started by CAA_Beat, Mar 5, 2014.

  1. CAA_Beat

    CAA_Beat New Member

    Hi Everyone, most of my media work is on the radio with a weekly segment covering CAA Basketball. But I am also writing for the stations website as well. Most recaps and previews.

    This is a feature/human interest piece I wrote this week, and would like to do more. I'm welcoming thoughts both critical and positive, I have thick skin.ha.

    Thanks to anyone who takes time to read it and pass on any thoughts.


    Or if it's easier it's posted below:

    McGlynn Brothers Both Biggest Battles Not On The Court
    Older brothers are supposed to give their younger brothers advice on girls, sports, music and other areas of interest to teenagers, not brain surgery. However, that is exactly what Four McGlynn has been doing for his 14 year old brother Brandon.
    McGlynn 21, a sophomore shooting guard for Towson University men’s basketball team has been dealing with Brandon’s surgery and recovery for the past couple of weeks. As for the advice part of it, Four can speak from firsthand experience as he had brain surgery during the summer between his sophomore and junior years of high school.
    Brandon underwent surgery last week at Penn State Hershey Medical Center. “The surgery for Brandon was to enlarge his skull, his brain was too large for it,” described Pat McGlynn, father to both Brandon and Four. “Four had to have a growth removed from his brain, that was affecting the flow of spinal fluid.”
    McGlynn added, In addition to the surgery on the skull, Brandon also had surgery done on the neck, “They had to separate two nerves in his neck in order to perform the brain surgery, so that made it much more involved.”
    What are the odds that one healthy basketball playing son would need brain surgery, let alone a second one, for a completely different reason, probably too high to calculate. Whatever the odds, the news was hard for Four to hear, “It’s really kind of shocking. You don’t expect it to happen to you, and then you really don’t expect it to happen to someone else you know or in your family. But he’s had a great support system a lot of people to talk to.”
    Of course one of those people was Four, “Brandon goes to Four with all his questions about the surgery, the recovery the whole process. He really dug into researching it and anytime he had a question he would go to Four. He has used Four as a crutch for the surgery,” explained Pat.
    Four had to worry not only about Brandon, but his parents. “I know it was really tough on them, having gone through it once already, now having to go through it again. I know my dad said he didn’t sleep a lot leading up to Brandon’s surgery.”
    One thing that helped ease the concern for the McGlynn household, is the fact the surgery was performed by Dr. Mark Iantosca, the same surgeon who operated on Four, just over 4.5 years ago. “He had a great surgeon, so it made it easier knowing he was in his hands, “ said Four. Most concerns and worries on everyone’s part were greatly alleviated when Brandon’s surgery was completed.
    “The Doctor told us the surgery couldn’t have gone any better, everything went perfectly and that he was confident Brandon would be fine,” recalled Pat. While both surgeries were successful, with Four having recovered completely and Brandon already at home and moving around, the circumstances that led to them were completely different.
    “With mine, I was just tired a lot and had some headaches, but not a lot of other symptoms,” said Four. During a summer (2009) basketball camp, McGlynn had a collision with another player and was a bit dizzy when he got up, and he began repeating himself, according to a story written about Four in the Daily (PA) Record Sunday News, at the time.
    Thinking immediately that it might be a concussion, the coach conducting the camp had Four taken to the hospital, the cyst was discovered during the CT Scans.
    Pat remembered getting the news, “I was in shock. It was about 2 pm and I was literally on my way to pick him up at the gym. I got a call from one of his good friends that that he had a bad fall in practice and they thought maybe he had a concussion and they were taking him to the hospital. About 15 minutes later I learned he was being taken to the ER at Hershey Hospital and that something was wrong.”
    That something was the growth that required two holes be drilled in his head in order to remove the cyst. They not only needed to create room for the flow of spinal fluid, but also wanted to test the cyst for cancer. One hole was drilled just above his left eyebrow and the other was in the back of his head. Once inside the skull and the cyst was removed the fluid began flowing immediately, and the Dr. considered it a success. There were also no signs of cancer in the cyst.
    The recovery from his surgery was very quick, “I was back playing about 3 to 4 weeks afterward, we had the AAU Nationals in Florida, I played in.” said Four.
    “He was back to playing in four weeks, but we had to watch his fatigue. He was restricted to every other game, “ explained Pat.
    The McGlynns are a basketball family, Pat III (Four gets his nickname as he is Patrick McGlynn IV) played at Shippensburg University and Brandon plays for the York Ballers U15 AAU team run by his father.
    “We have a basketball court at our house, and the first day home [from surgery], Four took one shot and was dizzy. After that he didn’t have any other setbacks and played in the Nationals,” said Pat.
    While Four’s surgery came less than 18 hours from the time he arrived at the hospital, the family has known for a while Brandon would need surgery. “Brandon had a lot more symptoms than I did. His neck had been hurting a lot, and he had gone to several different doctors and hospitals for test during the past year before they finally realized he was going to need the surgery, “ explained Four.
    While his parents were worrying and preparing for the surgery, Four recalled a visit with Brandon when he came to Towson to watch the Delaware game. “He came down here for a game two days before the surgery. He was really concerned about it. So it’s been tough. It’s really tough to see someone go through something like that, having such extensive surgery at such a young age. But in one aspect it’s made it easier to help him, knowing that I went through it and the surgeon did such a great job on mine.
    As for being able to focus on the games, McGlynn said, “It’s kind of hard to put something like that aside and not think about it. But it eased my mind a lot [during the week of surgery when the Tigers played two road games]knowing he was in the hospital and getting good treatment.
    Four spoke about his and his brothers surgeries after Towson’s final regular season practice. Despite all he has dealt with this season. The 6’2” three-point specialist feels the season has been a success for him and the team to this point. “I think the season has gone really well, I’ve gotten the chance to get on the court more. I’ve hit a bit of a cold spell lately [before making 2-3 three-pointers in the season finale against William and Mary] but the most important thing is we’re winning. Personally I’ve done a lot of things well I feel, but I’d rather win than do well personally, and we are winning right now.”
    According to Pat, Brandon is at home and is facing a three to six month recovery. “He is moving around slowly and moving his neck slowly as well.” Brandon looks to have the same promising future in college basketball that Four has. “He’s got a bunch of Division 1 coaches that have already been recruiting him. A couple of those coaches along with family and friends, have reached out to us about Brandon and that has been very reassuring.”
    Four transferred to Towson from the University of Vermont during the summer of 2012. His was voted Rookie Of The Year in the America East conference as he led the team in scoring with 12 points a game while coming off the bench. Mike Lonergan, the coach who recruited Four to Vermont, left the school before the season started to take the head coaching job at George Washington University and wanted McGlynn to follow him to GW.
    McGlynn felt he needed to honor his commitment to Vermont. However, he decided after that freshman year that he wanted to move somewhere closer to home. So after looking at a few options he decided on Towson. He could not have possibly seen what was ahead for Brandon, but it has made it easier for him to get home and visit during breaks from basketball.
    Four and his teammates are preparing for the CAA tournament in Baltimore this weekend and Pat hopes that Brandon will be well enough to make the trip. “Brandon walks around the house with a ball in his hands. He can’t do anything with it, just holds it and talks about going to the CAA.”
    If he does, he most likely will see Four knock down many three pointers during the tournament. That’s not surprising as both brothers are shooting 100% on conquering brain surgery, so how tough can a 21 footer be after that.
  2. Point of Order

    Point of Order Active Member

    1. You cannot call him Four on first reference. Your first reference needs to call him Patrick McGlynn IV. If he really, really insists on being call Four by everyone all the time, well, whatever. But it's annoying and distracting wondering whether that is his real name until midway through your story.

    2. Why not lead with something like this:

    Coach John Doe thought Patrick McGlynn IV might have a concussion after he collided with another player during a summer basketball camp drill in 2009. He had no his decision to send McGlynn to the hospital would be life-changing for the entire McGlynn family.

    Less than 18 hours later Dr. Mark Iantosca, a brain surgeon at Penn State Hershey Medical Center, began drilling two holes through McGynn's skull -- one just above the left eyebrow and the other in the back of the head -- to create room for the flow of spinal fluid and biopsy the cyst on McGlynn's brain to test for cancer.

    “I was in shock," McGlynn's father Patrick McGlynn III said.

    [And here you go on and on with the dramatic narrative of the surgery until you milk all the interesting details and reactions]

    Patrick made a speedy and full recovery. Unfortunately, it was not the last brain surgery for a member of the McGlynn family. Last week, Dr. Iantosca performed surgery on another McGlynn -- Patrick's younger brother Brandon.

    “It’s really kind of shocking," Patrick said. "You don’t expect it to happen to you, and then you really don’t expect it to happen to someone else you know or in your family."

    [Then you talk about Brandon's surgery.]


    I really grimaced at this part. There's probably someone you can call who would be more than happy to talk to you and tell you what the odds are.

    I'm guessing there's something hereditary with these kids that caused their need for brain surgery. Just a little more digging would've probably revealed something you could use to say they have such and such disease, or such and such chromosome defect, or whatever the hereditary medical condition that makes both of these brothers need brain surgery. It is not plausible that both these brothers needed brain surgery out of sheer coincidence, which is what you are suggesting. And if that is in fact the case, that it's just a freak coincidence and not hereditary or something common in their environment that caused this, then I would like to hear a more than one brain surgeon explain how that could be. Regardless, you need some sort of expert to explain the possibilities here (or, if no expert and the family can give you a name for the condition/disease/whatever, you can then take that detail and look it up on WebMD to flesh it out for your readers).

    You've got good material to work with here. You need to work on spotting the drama within the story that makes it a good human interest story, and craft your narrative around that. That's all I got for now. Good luck.
  3. CAA_Beat

    CAA_Beat New Member

    Thanks so much for the detailed comments.

    He really does go by Four, he's listed as Four in the Media guide with no mention at all of his given name. Maybe similar to Eldrick (Tiger) Woods, but I understand the point.

    I reallys struggled to reference both him and his father by first name throughout the story, but continually saying McGlynn said, would have been very confusing to me, which McGlyn said it?

    I liked my lede, but I loved yours. I actually thought of something along those lines, but the story I referenced in the PA newspaper from several years ago had a somewhat similar lede, but not exactly, so I went the direction I did.

    I also hated the paragraph about the odds being too high. I started to delete it and should have stuck with my first instinct.

    He (Four) said the surgeriers were not related and it wasn't genetic. But you're right, more research on my part with an expert would have been better.

    Thanks again,wanted to see how it could have been done better.

    I want to improve my writing if I'm going to continue, and know I have a ways to go.

    Thanks again for you time and thoughts.
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