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Blue ridge energy donates N95 masks to ARHS

Blue ridge energy donates N95 masks to ARHS

Blue Ridge Energy Building On Monday March 23, 2020, Blue Ridge Energy donated hundreds of N95 masks to ARHS in an effort to help ARHS protect its caregivers.

An N95 mask is a special type of mask used among health care workers to protect against dangerous airborne particles. As the coronavirus continues to spread, supplies of such masks may become limited, and many companies are donating from their own supplies. At this time there are no shortages of needed medical supplies at Watauga Medical Center or Cannon Memorial Hospital.

“Having enough personal protective equipment to ensure that our dedicated caregivers are appropriately safeguarded is one of our highest priorities, and we can’t thank Blue Ridge Energy and our community partners enough for their generous contribution to that cause,” said Chuck Mantooth, ARHS President and CEO.

Blue Ridge Energy is a member-owned electric cooperative serving some 77,000 members in northwest North Carolina. Its propane and fuels subsidiary also serves customers in the cooperative’s service area and beyond, including parts of Virginia, Catawba and Burke counties in North Carolina.

If You Would Like to Donate Supplies

Organizations or community members that are interested in donating PPE supplies to ARHS should contact Brian Whitfield at (828) 262-9105 or Thank you for your generosity in helping to support our organization and the patients we serve.

At this time we are accepting gifts of personal protective equipment to include:

  • Medical grade surgical and procedure masks
  • N95 respirator masks
  • Face Shields
  • Gloves
  • Gowns
  • Hand Sanitizer

If you would like to receive a tax receipt letter, please contact Brian Whitfield at or 828-262-9105.


Learn more about ways you can help >

Cannon Memorial Hospital nurse donates kidney to save a teacher’s life

Cannon Memorial Hospital nurse donates kidney to save a teacher’s life

Photo: Audra Wiseman kidney donor

Nurse and kidney donor Adura Wiseman

March 4, 2020

If you’ve lost confidence in humanity, this story might just change your way of thinking. It’s a testament of faith, hope, compassion and selflessness.

In December, 2019, Audra Wiseman, a medical surgical nurse at Charles A. Cannon Jr. Memorial Hospital in Linville, NC was at home one evening scrolling through Facebook, as she does on most days.

She came across a somewhat familiar name, Shannon Perdue, and the plight of the local 47-year-old high school teacher suffering from kidney disease. “I remembered her. She was my daughter’s 9th grade English teacher at Avery County High School,” Audra said.

Audra recalled traveling to London with her on a school trip in 2015. “I just remembered how wonderful she was,” she said. But Audra didn’t really know Shannon much beyond that experience. In fact, she described their relationship as a “casual acquaintance,” saying, “we hadn’t talked since the trip.”

Upon reading social media and talking to others in the close-knit Avery County community, Audra learned that Shannon’s kidney disease prognosis was not good.


Treatment Options for Kidney Disease


According to the National Institutes of Health, kidney disease means your kidneys are damaged and can’t filter blood the way they should. This damage can cause wastes to build up in your body and cause problems, such as swelling, nausea, weakness, poor sleep and shortness of breath. Kidney disease can lead to other health problems, such as heart disease. If you have kidney disease, it increases your chances of having a stroke or heart attack.

Shannon Perdue’s type of kidney disease is a genetic condition called Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD). Several of Shannon’s relatives have had PKD, including her grandmother, her aunt and her father — who died from the disease at the young age of 59.

In May of 2019 nephrologists told Shannon that she would need to start thinking about undergoing nightly peritoneal dialysis, which cleans the blood of impurities.

While peritoneal dialysis has many advantages over other types of treatment, it still presents many difficulties for patients. For most people it must be done seven days per week and requires a permanent catheter outside the body. Patients run the risk of infection and weight gain. They also need ample storage space in their homes for supplies, equipment and the dialysis machine. Finally, patients must receive intensive training on what the procedure involves and how to use the equipment safely.

The other option for treating Shannon’s kidney disease is through kidney transplant — a surgical procedure to place a kidney from a living or deceased donor into a person whose kidneys no longer function properly.

Currently, more than 100,000 people in the United States are on the national transplant waiting list for a donor kidney.

Unfortunately, many may never get the call saying that a suitable donor organ — and a second chance at life — has been found. It’s estimated that every day in the United States, 20 patients die because of the lack of donor organs.

Shannon went on the transplant list in October, 2019, not knowing how long she would have to wait.

On a positive note more than 6,000 healthy people in the U.S. donate a kidney to someone they know each year. About half are blood relatives of the kidney recipient. The other half are spouses, friends or acquaintances. About 100 come forward wishing to anonymously give the gift to someone they’ve never met.


The Decision to Donate


Shannon Perdue

Avery County High School teacher, and kidney recipient, Shannon Perdue

As Audra Wiseman learned more about Shannon, she felt a strong sense of wanting to help. “As a nurse, taking care of others just comes natural. I have seen what people with kidney disease have to go through and it’s not a good situation,” she said. Audra knew that if Shannon had to wait for a kidney from the transplant waiting list, it would take far too long. She knew the best way to help Shannon would be to donate one of her own kidneys.

But Audra’s decision was not made lightly. “I just started praying about it,” she said. In December, Audra contacted Shannon through Facebook to ask for contact information for the Center for Transplant Services University of Tennessee Medical Center (UTMC) in Knoxville. “I wanted to learn more,” she said. Ashley Dennis, the Living Donor Coordinator for the Organ Donor Council in the UTMC Center for Transplant Services answered every question for her.

There were a number of conditions that Audra had to meet prior to donating. First and foremost her blood type had to match and she had to have healthy kidney function. “They also performed lots of tests…CTs of my abdomen, mammograms and 28 different blood tests,” she said. While Audra underwent all of the testing she did not keep in touch with Shannon.

Audra also realized that she had to think about the impact it would have on her own life: What are the health risks? How long is the recovery? How would it impact her family? What bearing would it have on her ability to work and make a living?

Regarding her family’s response Audra said, “My husband was obviously concerned, but very supportive.”

When asked how having only one kidney might jeopardize her health, Audra shared a personal detail that few people know, “Well, my daughter has one kidney. She’s living proof that you can live with just one.” That moment seemed to crystallize why she would donate a kidney to someone she barely knew.

Then the question arose, what if your daughter needs a kidney one day? She responded, “Then someone will give her one. It’s easy enough that everyone should donate.” She continued by saying, “Our body is God’s body. He has just loaned it to us while we’re here on earth.” From this comment it was clear that Audra’s selflessness arises from a combination of unique personal experience and a strong Christian faith.

While Audra understands there are risks with any surgery, a review of data seems to support her assertion that after donating a kidney, a person can live exactly the way they lived before donating—a long, healthy, active life with virtually no restrictions.

Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine studied mortality among 80,000 kidney donors over the past 15 years, comparing them to healthy people with both kidneys. The study, published March 10, 2010 in JAMA, The Journal of the American Medical Association—60 years after the first documented kidney transplant in the U.S.—shows the procedure carries little long-term medical risk for the donor.

After numerous visits to UTMC, Audra was fully convinced that donating her kidney to Shannon Perdue was something she wanted to do.


A Big Celebration


Thursday, January 30, is a day that Shannon Perdue will never forget. “I was in my classroom trying to implement a new technology and Penny Ward (another teacher) came in and said, ‘they need you in the front office right away,’” Shannon said. When Penny and Shannon walked into the office they were met by Bev Baird and Audra Wiseman.

Right then, with just the four of them in the room, Audra Wiseman uttered the words, “Ms. Shannon, I’m going to give you a kidney.”

Shannon was overwhelmed by the moment. “We all hugged…Everybody cried…It was beautiful…Audra was giving me the greatest gift,” she said. Shannon said the good news filtered out at school very quickly. For the next hour, people kept coming by Shannon’s classroom. “A little while later the school made an announcement over the intercom and everyone celebrated with me,” she said.

When Audra Wiseman was asked about the moment she told Shannon, she humbly replied, “There was a lot of crying, a lot of happiness.” Audra quickly added, “My daughter loved Shannon Perdue. I can’t imagine our community losing that resource…when the kids at the high school learned about her, they were lining up to do it, too.”

And there, in that instance, Audra selflessly deflected the praise away from her heroic act, to instead celebrate Shannon.


Transplant Day and Beyond


On the evening of March 3, Audra Wiseman and her husband arrived at UTMC and spent the night in preparation for the transplant surgery the next day, March 4.

The procedure, a robotic nephrectomy, took three hours. Audra and Shannon had adjoining rooms to expedite the handoff of the life-saving organ.
Audra recovered in the hospital for three days after surgery. She will not be able to drive for a few weeks. Because she won’t be able to lift more than a few pounds at a time, she will need some assistance with activities of daily living.

Audra will go back to UTMC for evaluation at one week, one month, six months and then at the one-year anniversary of her organ donation. She will also miss eight weeks of work.

While the procedure only took a few hours, Audra’s gift to Shannon will bind them for life.

Avery Community Paramedicine Program established with $290,000 grant from The Duke Endowment

Avery Community Paramedicine Program established with $290,000 grant from The Duke Endowment

Cannon Memorial Hospital

Charles A. Cannon, Jr. Memorial Hospital recently received a three year grant from The Duke Endowment totaling $290,000. These grant funds will allow Cannon Memorial Hospital and Avery Emergency Medical Services (EMS) to establish a Community Paramedicine Program to serve Avery County.

Community Paramedicine is an innovative new healthcare model that seeks to provide underserved patients with improved access to public health and preventative healthcare services. Through the program, specially trained Community Paramedics visit patients in their homes to assess their overall health, living conditions, support structure and other social determinants of health. Avery EMS and Cannon Memorial Hospital will identify potential program participants through primary care referrals and by analyzing the highest utilizers of emergency services. By improving this populations’ health, the program will also reduce unnecessary EMS calls and emergency department visits, freeing up these services for true emergencies.

Cannon Memorial Hospital’s president, Carmen Lacey stated, “We are very excited to work with Avery EMS to bring a community paramedicine program to Avery County, and we appreciate this opportunity given to us by The Duke Endowment.” Mike Edmisten, Avery EMS Director, added: “This will be a very important program for the county. It will not only improve the health status of hundreds of individuals, but it will allow Avery EMS to free up resources to better respond to emergencies.”

“With growing concerns about healthcare costs and overcrowded emergency departments, community paramedicine is proving to be a promising way to connect vulnerable patients to the support and care that can keep them healthier,” says Lin Hollowell, director of the Endowment’s healthcare program area.

The Duke Endowment

Based in Charlotte and established in 1924 by industrialist and philanthropist James B. Duke, The Duke Endowment is a private foundation that strengthens communities in North Carolina and South Carolina by nurturing children, promoting health, educating minds and enriching spirits. Since its founding, it has distributed more than $3.7 billion in grants. The Endowment shares a name with Duke University and Duke Energy, but all are separate organizations.

Avery County Emergency Medical Services

Owned and operated by the county, Avery County Emergency Medical Services began operations on October 1, 1994. We currently operate at the EMT-Paramedic level with twenty four full time employees and approximately twenty part time employees. We are staffed twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week with at least two crews and a field supervisor. Monday through Friday, we operate and schedule a day crew from part time employees in addition to three full time crews. The day crew is staffed from 8:30 am – 6:00 pm and responds from the main station in Newland. One twenty-four hour crew is assigned to the Newland base, one is assigned to the Banner Elk base, and one is assigned to the Green Valley Community.

Bras for a Cause: A seriously uplifting fundraiser

Bras for a Cause: A seriously uplifting fundraiser

Photo: Gardening Theme Bras for a Cause Help support Breast Cancer Services in the High Country! Seby B. Jones Regional Cancer Center invites local businesses, and community organizations to design and create a themed bra that celebrates the stories of the survivors and the spirit of those working to promote breast health!

  • September 16: Registration form due
  • September 30: Completed bra creation due
  • November 4: Deadline to pick up your bra

Local businesses and community organizations will have their creations displayed at Together We Fight events.

  • Doc’s Rocks Mining for a Purpose
  • Kilograms for Mammograms Crossfit Competition
  • High Country Breast Cancer Foundation Walk/Run
  • Patients Night Out at Chetola


Download Registration Form


Photo: Flower theme Bras for a Cause Submission Guidelines


  • All entries are to be created on a new 38C back-closure, underwire bra. The front, back and sides should be completely decorated. Strapless bras cannot be accepted. Please do not sew the bra closed.
  • The inside does not need to be decorated.
  • Bras should be well constructed, as they will be moved and mounted in various locations. Appliques and other applied objects should be firmly attached. Sewing is preferable, but strong glues and other mechanical fastening methods are acceptable. Tape is not acceptable.
  • Bras are to be constructed of materials that are not soiled, perishable, or in any way inherently dangerous or offensive. Please do not use food or food products.
  • Bras must be constructed in a manner that allows for mounting or transfer to a display mannequin/hanger. No backing panels or plaques.
  • Each entry must include a registration form, name tag with the designer’s name/business and bra name. Bra entries may include a short paragraph of 500 characters or less describing the inspiration for the piece.




  • If the bra fails to meet submission rules and guidelines or is offensive and/or disrespectful, we reserve the right to remove the bra from display and judging.
  • All bras that meet submission guidelines will be posted on Appalachian Regional Healthcare System’s Facebook page. The bra that gets the most “likes” will be the winner. Be sure to share your creation with friends, family, and patrons.


Submitting your entry


  • Please drop off (and pick up) your creation with Angie Del Nero, Social Worker at Seby B. Jones Regional Cancer Center by September 30th. Feel free to display your creation at your business or organization until Sept. 30th to help raise awareness.


Howard E. Covington Jr.’s new book brings to life ‘The People and Hospitals that Became Appalachian Regional Healthcare System’

Howard E. Covington Jr.’s new book brings to life ‘The People and Hospitals that Became Appalachian Regional Healthcare System’

Covington Book Photo For generations the mountainous region of Western North Carolina was referred to as the Lost Province. Due to The Great Depression, World War I and the natural geographic barriers that prevented the development of connecting roads and infrastructure, lowlanders in the state often joked that the only way to reach the mountains of North Carolina was to be born in them.

But being born safely in the High Country in the first half of the twentieth century was no joking matter. As author Howard E. Covington Jr. points out in his book “Caring for One Another,” through the efforts of selfless and dedicated individuals, access to quality healthcare in the landlocked High Country became a reality.

In 1897, Rev. Edgar Tufts’ mission field brought him to Avery County where he found a dire need for education and medical access. He recruited Dr. William C. Tate to Banner Elk and eventually Grace Hospital, which was built on the campus of Lees-McCrae Institute (now Lees-McCrae College) opened in 1924. Inspired by Tufts’ work, Drs. Eustace and Mary Sloop opened Garrett Memorial Hospital just 20 miles away in Crossnore five years later. Both Avery County hospitals received Duke Endowment funding and were bustling places as they served neighboring counties as well as their own.

In Boone, Blanford B. Dougherty cobbled together money and land from the State of North Carolina and a grant from The Duke Endowment to erect Watauga Hospital on the campus of the Appalachian State Teachers College (later Appalachian State University) in 1938. It was there that students could receive rudimentary nursing care, which was paid for by a $1.50 health fee collected at the beginning of the school year. The hospital also served as a place for local patients to deliver babies or to recuperate from illness. In place of payment, compensation for said services often consisted of a basket full of fresh produce or a ham.

During the 1930s and 40s, Dr. Mary Cabel Warfield was making house calls and maintaining a modest clinic in Blowing Rock for the year-round and seasonal residents. Building her practice on free, well-baby clinics, she was ahead of her time and educated her patients about preventive medicine and prenatal care. When her medical career ended due to an automobile accident in 1948, Dr. Charles Davant, Jr. stepped in as a replacement. Shortly after, the community rallied to gather the resources to build the 20-bed Blowing Rock Hospital, which opened in 1952.

In captivating detail, Covington goes on to reveal the innermost thoughts, dreams and struggles of the High Country’s most influential healthcare visionaries. Thanks to people like Isaac “Ike” Garfield Greer, Richard Sparks, Dougherty, Tufts, and countless others, patients no longer need to leave the mountain for their healthcare needs. These brave men and women laid the foundation for what is today the Appalachian Regional Healthcare System.

To receive a free copy of “Caring for One Another” by the award-winning North Carolina native and history author, Howard E. Covington Jr., visit the lobby at Watauga Medical Center, Cannon Memorial Hospital or send an email to  Books must be picked up and cannot be mailed. 

“Wish Upon a Cure” Tournament Benefits Cancer Patient Emergency Fund

“Wish Upon a Cure” Tournament Benefits Cancer Patient Emergency Fund

Land Harbor Golf Tournament


A cloudy day on the Linville Land Harbor Golf Course seemed to energize the 27 foursomes who played in the “Wish Upon a Cure” annual cancer charity golf tournament. Co-sponsored by the 18 Hole and 9 Hole Ladies Golf Associations, this year’s tournament generated more than $18,000 in donations for the Appalachian Regional Healthcare Foundation’s Avery County Cancer Patient Emergency Fund. These funds are used for cancer patients throughout Avery County who are facing cancer treatment and recovery.

Myra’s Catering donated a delicious luncheon enjoyed by more than 120 players and guests. Three large gift baskets were raffled off as well as over 25 smaller gift baskets with a very broad, sometimes surprising, selection of items! Area businesses supported this charity event by providing gift certificates, bottled water and monetary donations that added significantly to the total. We thank you!!!

Format for the tournament was a step-aside scramble using “magic puts” as an added feature in the contest. Tournament winners were: Flight A: Sheila Divvens, Pamela Patrick, Gary McCormick and Mercere Collins with a gross score of 54; Flight B: Anne Lynch, Randy Lynch, Kellie Pearson and John Pearson with a gross score of 53; Flight C: Sondra Schimmoller, Jack Hannon, Randy King and Victor Grassman with a gross score of 59; and in Flight D, Sherry Steber, Ron Steber, Kathleen Reed and Michael Reed won with a gross score of 65. Closest to the pin for ladies on hole #7 was Julie Flowers (3 feet 2 inches) and for the men on hole #3, Roger Ciske (5 feet 10 inches).

The outstanding success of the “Wish Upon A Cure” cancer charity tournament depends on the many volunteers who give of their time, creativity, generosity, hard work and attention to detail. Special thanks go out to Michael Hayes, Golf Operations Manager and Dexter Bentley, Golf Course Manager, Along with their respective “crews”, the golf course was in excellent condition. Volunteers from the 18 Hole and 9 Hole Men’s Golf Associations, and a long list of other volunteers too numerous to list, ensured that the Tournament achieved its important goal: to provide support and assistance to those receiving cancer treatment or those progressing through the often challenging stages of cancer recovery.

To learn more about Appalachian Regional Healthcare Foundation, call (828) 262-4391 or visit