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David Jackson is pain-free and thriving after a rare lifelong hip condition

David Jackson is pain-free and thriving after a rare lifelong hip condition

David Jackson Hiking Flatrock

Most people know David Jackson as the former “Voice of the Mountaineers” who called the historic Appalachian State University football win against Michigan, or the President and CEO of the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce.

But they may not be aware that this dynamic local celebrity recently overcame a lifelong struggle with a rare condition and chronic hip pain that threatened to destroy his active lifestyle and consume his family life.  Through the help of Dr. Steven Anderson of AppOrtho, he got his life back.

 

Run, David, Run

 

Jackson as a first grader Introducing his father as guest speaker at Bessemer Elementary School In Greensboro

Jackson as a first grader introducing his father as guest speaker at Bessemer Elementary School In Greensboro

In 1982, five-year-old Jackson was a carefree child in Greensboro, NC. His dad was a TV meteorologist, and his mom was a nurse. In true “80’s kid” fashion, he would play all day with the other neighborhood kids, only going home for dinner by the soft glow of the streetlights at dusk.

Jackson spent that summer with his grandmother in Chicago, and it was then that she first noticed his limp. After countless tests and doctor visits, he was finally diagnosed with the rare Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease (LCPD). LCPD occurs when blood supply to the ball of the thigh bone in the hip is disrupted. Without an adequate blood supply, the bone cells die and the bone can become malformed. People with LCPD live with a limp; constant pain in the hip, thigh or knee; and reduced range of hip motion.

One of the first people in North Carolina to ever be diagnosed with this condition, Jackson knew at age five that he would one day need hip replacement surgery.

The redheaded, sports-loving, adventurous child heard the word “never” associated with so many of the activities he loved. He should never play basketball, soccer, football or baseball. He should not run or jump. He could play golf or swim – those were his choices. He went home with a shiny new leg brace he was instructed to wear for the next 18 months.

Jackson playing baseball with his leg brace

Jackson playing baseball with his leg brace

But there was no stopping little David Jackson.

One of the first things he did when he could walk again was play baseball. He also played any other sport and did every activity the other kids were doing. “I would play so hard that my brace would come loose. They gave me an Allen wrench to carry in my backpack so I could fix it on my own,” Jackson remembers.

There was no stopping grown-up David Jackson either. In the spring of 2017 he defied the odds and ran a half-marathon, his last big hoorah, as he knew his long-distance running days would soon draw to a close. In 2018 he ran a 10K in Greensboro, and it was then that his pain and hip problems became much worse.

 

A fork in the road

 

After turning 40, Jackson’s life was plagued with even more pain in his hip, but also in the knee and lower leg, back, and even his opposite leg. The deep muscle and joint pain kept him up at night and affected his mood. “I was irritable all the time, and I began to think I just couldn’t live like this anymore.”

Jackson, his wife Leila, and their two children loved to be active, whether hiking, biking, or going on trips. It got to the point where the family would have to “budget” their activity dependent on Jackson’s pain level. Hearing his daughters ask him to join them on a hike, and having to say no, was heartbreaking. Soon they stopped asking because they knew what the answer would be.

After a softball injury, desperate for some relief, he went to AppOrtho and met Dr. Anderson. Anderson and Jackson had met years earlier on an App State Football bus, as the team sportscaster and orthopedic doctor. During that long bus ride, Anderson wanted to hear all about “what made Jackson limp.”

But this meeting was different. Physical therapy, personal training, and non-surgical interventions were no longer giving him reprieve. Jackson was ready for surgery.

Anderson was matter-of-fact in that meeting, and confident that he could provide lasting relief and better quality of life. “You are a prime candidate for anterior hip replacement surgery, and this procedure would change your life,” he said.

“OK, let’s do this,” Jackson finally said.

  

The journey to surgery day

 

Jackson started with “prehab,” to make sure he was in the best shape possible before the surgery. Tiffany Norman, personal trainer at the Paul H. Broyhill Wellness Center, designed a custom program to get him to the right weight, strengthen muscles, and maintain flexibility and range of motion. Jackson says he benefited greatly from the pre-surgery conditioning.

Dr. Anderson performed the anterior hip replacement surgery on Tuesday, December 3 at Watauga Medical Center’s specialized orthopedic wing, and Jackson had worked out with Tiffany the day before. Still, laying in the bed recovering, he thought, “There’s no way I’m going home tomorrow.” With help from the hospital’s rehabilitation staff, he was amazed at how quickly he progressed.

Four days after surgery, Jackson was at the Appalachian Theater in downtown Boone watching his daughter perform with the Appalachian Youth Chorale in “A Carolina Snowbelles Christmas.” In just a short time working with The Rehabilitation Center, he was driving again by Christmas.

Jackson working out post-surgery while trainer Tiffany coaches

Jackson working out while trainer Tiffany Norman coaches

 

 

 

“I cannot believe this doesn’t hurt”

 

For Jackson, thoughts of surgery had been suppressed over and over again, partly because he couldn’t imagine life any other way. Pain had been a constant ever since Jackson could remember – it had shaped his very personality, and been a part of his identity as an overcomer. “I had a hard time imagining what life would be like without that,” he said.

After the surgery, he remembered what Dr. Anderson had told him, “Thoughts of what you can’t do will be immediately replaced by thoughts of what you CAN do.” And Jackson sat in disbelief that this part of himself that he had dealt with for so long would just go away – but that’s exactly what it had done.

“Stories like David’s are the reason I love joint replacement surgery,” Anderson said. “I truly feel blessed every day that I’ve been given the skills to help so many patients in this way. Joint replacement, and particularly anterior hip replacement, can truly change a patient’s life and I just love being a part of that.”

Jackson’s life after surgery is vastly different. He can now go hiking on the Mountains to Sea Trail with his family without pain. Long drives don’t bother him; bring on the road trips! He sleeps at night. He says YES to all his family activities. “I can do it all. I no longer have to budget my activity to avoid pain.”

When asked what advice or thoughts he would share with those contemplating orthopedic surgery, he shared, “Don’t hesitate to do it right here in Boone. Everything you need is available in our own community. I always thought I would have to travel off the mountain that it would severely put my life on hold. But to have this level of care – surgery, rehab, and follow-up – within a five-mile radius was priceless. The level of patient care and service far exceeded anything I would have hoped for. You don’t typically think of having surgery as a positive experience, but for me, that’s what it was.

And so, it came to be that David Jackson, once defined by the words “persevering through pain,” became defined by new words: “pain free and thriving.”

Hiking at Flat Top Trail with wife, Leila Jackson Hiking with Familt

Don’t suffer with joint pain! Call one of the locations below or request an appointment online today.

AppOrtho - Boone

194 Doctors Drive, Boone
Boone, NC 28607
Phone: (828) 386-2663
Fax: (828) 386-2664
Visit Website

Paul H. Broyhill Wellness Center

Broyhill Wellness Center

232 Boone Heights Drive
Boone, NC 28607
Phone: (828) 266-1060
Fax: (828) 386-2664
Visit Website

The Rehabilitation Center Boone

232 Boone Heights Drive, Suite A
Boone, NC 28607
Phone (828) 268-9043
Fax (828) 268-9045
Visit website

Roy Krege’s story: Life-saving heart care for a servant’s heart

Roy Krege’s story: Life-saving heart care for a servant’s heart

Roy and Marion Krege

Roughly the size of a fist and weighing less than a pound, the human heart affects every part of the body. While its host is totally unaware, this vital organ stays busy pumping 2,000 gallons of blood and beating 115,000 times every day. It’s something no one ever thinks about until it stops working like it should.

When this happens – and it happens every 40 seconds in America – every second is crucial. Having a local healthcare team that is experienced in cardiovascular care is not just a convenience; it is imperative. And having a local healthcare team that is nationally ranked for Coronary Intervention is not just impressive; it is the standard of care for the Heart & Vascular Service Line at Watauga Medical Center. 

The same group was also awarded the 5-Star for Treatment of Heart Attack for 2 Years in a Row (2019-2020) and 5-Star for Treatment of Heart Failure in 2020 by Healthgrades. But accolades aside, Appalachian Regional Healthcare System has an entire multi-disciplined team invested in keeping cardiac patients on the right track—from cardiologists at the Heart & Vascular Center (formerly known as The Cardiology Center) to registered nurses in Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation at Watauga Medical Center and Cannon Memorial Hospital, and every service in between.

For ARHS, cardiovascular care is a priority and access to comprehensive cardiovascular services in the High Country is steadily expanding with the newly renovated cardiovascular wing at Watauga Medical Center. This also includes a partnership between CardioSolution and Watauga Medical Center to implement 24/7 coverage in the Catheterization Lab, which began on July 1st. This means around the clock access to catheterization services.

That is good news for people like Avery County resident Roy Krege.

 

A servant’s heart

 

Roy Krege as Mr. Woolly Worm

Roy Krege as Mr. Wooly Worm with his grandson, Cameron Burnop. (Photo Courtesy of Roy and Marion Krege)

Roy Krege is one of those rare people who was born with a servant’s heart. He found his perfect match in his wife Marion when they met as students at Carson-Newman University and married in 1963. On a plea to join their friend, Dr. H.C. Evans, at Lees McCrae, the Kreges packed up and moved to Avery County in 1968.

For 52 years, they have not only called Avery County home, but together they have selflessly given countless hours to make a positive difference in the lives of their friends, neighbors and church family. Dedicated and passionate about serving others, the Kreges have even gone so far as to hand out business cards highlighting their volunteering interests to include: Emcee, Auctioneer, Santa, Square Dancing and Woolly Worm.

Yes, Woolly Worm. For those not familiar with events in the High Country, this is a reference to the Woolly Worm Festival held in Avery County each October. The Kreges have been part of that since it began in 1978.

And for 39 years Roy was known far and wide as Mr. Woolly Worm. It was at the 39th Woolly Worm Festival in 2016, where he first collapsed.

 

The beginning of heart trouble

 

Krege was first taken to Watauga Medical Center for a heart catheterization and then on to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center for a triple bypass. After his bypass surgery, he began Cardiac Rehabilitation at Cannon Memorial Hospital, continued regular check-ups with Dr. David Kimmel at Elk River Medical Associates and added a Cardiologist, Dr. Joseph Helak, to his healthcare team.

Despite the fact that he was recovering from a serious medical procedure, his memories of Cardiac Rehabilitation are fond ones. “They were just great. They are extremely dedicated to their job. They never pushed but encouraged,” he remembers.

Roy graduated from Cardiac Rehabilitation, and even validated the occasion by wearing his own cap and gown, which he left there so that others can use it to celebrate their accomplishment.

 

A nurse’s life-saving instinct

 

After returning for another round of rehabilitation in the summer of 2019, Roy says he thought he was doing fine, but Stephanie Platt, an RN who works with the program, noticed something was wrong. “She took some readings. The next thing I knew she was on the phone talking with my doctor. Thankfully she did – it could’ve been a whole lot worse for me. Dr. Kimmel knew something was wrong,” he remembers.

Roy was admitted to Watauga Medical Center where they discovered he had congestive heart failure, a leaky heart valve, bronchitis, asthma and spots on his lungs.

Today, he says, “I have my days.” And though that first episode at the Wooly Worm Festival was only the beginning of Roy’s ongoing health concerns, he and Marion remain grateful to have a team of trusted professionals in their community and in their corner.

“That’s the kind of care we have here. We’re thankful for this hospital (Cannon Memorial Hospital) and Watauga (Medical Center),” he said.  “I’ve been very pleased. When you get here they don’t waste time to get you where you need to be.”

The Kreges have finally slowed down and are now focused on their health and spending time with family. Though he’s had a triple bypass, four catheterizations, two stents and a pacemaker, Roy still has a heart for his community and the place he has called home for 52 years.

And true to his selfless character, when he learned of the expanded services being offered by the Heart & Vascular Center, Roy was thrilled – not necessarily for his own needs, but for his community and for his wife.

Mike Miller’s wake up call: sleep problems took his breath away

Mike Miller’s wake up call: sleep problems took his breath away

We have all been told that restful sleep is necessary for a healthy lifestyle. But how many of us know that lack of sleep has been linked to a number of chronic diseases and conditions?

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, most adults should get seven to nine hours of sleep each night to promote optimal health.

Photo: Mike Miller Sleep Study

Miller with Matt Smith, Registered Polysomnographic Technologist

 

Struggling to stay awake

 

For local businessman Mike Miller, it took a wake-up call, literally, to help him understand the importance of adequate sleep. Without the help and guidance of The Sleep Center of Watauga Medical Center (WMC), Miller might still be thinking a few restless hours of sleep each night was enough. He might still be fighting the urge to sleep during working hours — even while driving — or he might not even realize he had a common sleep disorder that could be easily corrected.

“My wife began to notice that I would stop breathing during the night,” Miller said. “I thought it might be related to carrying extra weight, so I tried to work on losing some weight, but that didn’t really help.”

It was during an appointment with his cardiologist at The Heart & Vascular Center of Watauga Medical Center, whom Miller saw for atrial fibrillation (AFib), that he was asked if he’d ever had a sleep study.

“There is a theory that AFib and sleep apnea might be connected, so while I had not had the study before, I agreed to do it last May,” Miller said.

The results were astounding.

 

Breathless rest

 

“It concluded that I was averaging 68 ‘events’ an hour, for at least 10 seconds each. Basically, this discovery meant that for about 11 minutes each hour, I wasn’t breathing. I was diagnosed with extreme sleep apnea.”

Following a second sleep study earlier this year, Miller was advised to begin using a continuous positive airway pressure machine at night, more commonly known as a CPAP.

“Now, my sleep interruptions are basically nonexistent. I can tell a big difference. I am sleeping great at night and entering into a deep sleep like I’ve not had in years. It’s made a huge difference. I no longer doze off during the day, which is something I didn’t even realize I was doing. I not only feel better, but my mind is clearer. I’m able to think better than I did before.”

Miller’s overall experience with the Sleep Center, from the study to the diagnosis and subsequent treatment, has been a life-changer, he said. “It was as positive as it could be. During the study, the rooms were very comfortable. The technician was very attentive. It can seem a little intrusive with all those leads and wires coming off your body, but it’s all necessary for them to obtain the information they need. “

Miller said he would “absolutely recommend” that anyone with symptoms of sleep apnea, AFib, or other sleep disorder talk to their primary care provider or cardiologist and follow through with a sleep study. “You will be glad you did.”

[click_to_tweet tweet=”Now, my sleep interruptions are basically nonexistent. I can tell a big difference. I am sleeping great at night and entering into a deep sleep like I’ve not had in years. -Mike” quote=”Now, my sleep interruptions are basically nonexistent. I can tell a big difference. I am sleeping great at night and entering into a deep sleep like I’ve not had in years. -Mike”]

A Simple Process to Correct A Frustrating Situation

 

As the most comprehensive sleep health program in the High Country, The Sleep Center of Watauga Medical Center is having a positive impact on people of all ages, through helping them identify the cause for their restless nights, and discover ways to improve their sleeping habits.

The Sleep Center is open seven days a week with highly trained staff working closely with the referring provider and with local neurologist, Jeffrey Crittenden, the Sleep Center’s medical director. “Dr. Crittenden is the only local physician who is board certified in sleep services,” said Matt Smith, Registered Polysomnographic Technologist at the Sleep Center. “He receives the report in the mornings, reads the studies and makes a formal diagnosis from the information we’ve provided. Either he or the primary care provider will follow up with the patient.”

Click to learn more about The Sleep Center of Watauga Medical Center or call 828-266-1179.

Getting to the heart of the matter: cardiopulmonary staff credited for saving patient’s life

Getting to the heart of the matter: cardiopulmonary staff credited for saving patient’s life

Photo: Betty Redman

It has been said that timing is everything. Fortunately for Betty Redman, she has been in the right place at the right time, not just once, but at least twice – at least where her heart health is concerned.

Despite a family history of heart problems, Redman had been healthy most of her adult life. “My father died at age 52 with a heart attack, and my mother, although she lived to be 84, was paralyzed from a stroke at the age of 62. She received good therapy, and was able to retain her mobility to a point.”

However, things began to change for Redman in the last decade when she was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation; she responded well to medication, but had occasional mini-strokes.

Still, she said, it wasn’t too serious — until last year.

 

Uncovering hidden heart conditions

 

While in physical therapy at The Rehabilitation Center of Cannon Memorial Hospital (CMH) due to a shoulder injury, an observant and compassionate therapist, Day Watson, was concerned when Redman had pain in her left arm and back following her treatment. Her vital signs were erratic, which was alarming to Watson.

“Day told me I needed to call my cardiologist right away. By the time I got home, after we had stopped for lunch, Day had already called Dr. Helak, who was my cardiologist in Boone at the time,” said Redman. “I went in and he began running tests. We discovered that I had more of a problem than I thought.”

Photo: Fred Fance, Betty Redman, Stephanie Platt

Left to right: Fred France, Betty Redman, and Stephanie Platt

Redman had major blockages, which required extensive interventions, so she was transferred to Asheville for stents. That was May 10, 2019. After that, she was referred back to CMH, where she began cardiac rehab and met Stephanie Platt.

A registered nurse with Appalachian Regional Healthcare System since 2012, Platt has a passion for caring for cardiac patients. And it was this passion along with her instinct that led to Redman’s next intervention.

After several sessions of her recommended therapy, Redman was “working away” on one of the machines one day when Platt told her and her husband, Fred France, that Redman’s heart was pausing.

“I was watching the telemetry monitor and began noticing pauses,” Platt related. “They were less than two seconds, initially, but the fact that she was having them at all concerned me.” At the same time, Redman recalled with a chuckle, “I didn’t know what my heart was doing – I was not feeling any of it. I was on the machines going 90 miles an hour.”

At that point, Platt contacted Redman’s cardiologist in Asheville, who asked about her symptoms: was she dizzy or light headed? “No, but she is very fatigued, you can see it when she walks in the door,” Platt replied.

Platt was frustrated that her observation wasn’t taken seriously.

 

A nurse’s intuition, observation, and tenacity

 

“That was difficult,” she said. “But, we continued to monitor her. I sat down with Betty and Fred the next session and told them that she was still having some pauses.”

Upon Platt’s recommendation, Redman followed up with Dr. David Kimmel, her primary physician locally, who agreed that she needed to wear a heart monitor.

“Once we touched base with Dr. Kimmel, I felt better,” Platt said. “He understood. We were on the same team, caring for this patient together and figuring out what was going on.”

Redman received the heart monitor, wore it for two weeks as suggested and mailed it back in. “I still thought I was fine – and kept going to rehab.”

But, she was still having pauses, Platt recalled. “And, I continued to send strips of the pauses to her cardiologist in Asheville. I was certain that something was wrong with her, but was told it was okay; they did not express concern.”

At this point Platt was adamant. “You have to listen to what you know, and trust what you know, and continue to fight for your patients.”

[click_to_tweet tweet=”“You have to listen to what you know, and trust what you know, and continue to fight for your patients.” – Stephanie Platt, RN ” quote=”“You have to listen to what you know, and trust what you know, and continue to fight for your patients.” – Stephanie Platt, RN “]

Two and a half weeks after she had returned her monitor, Redman said, she and her husband were coming home from grocery shopping when her cell phone rang.

“It was my local cardiologist, Dr. Helak. He said, ‘you’ve got to go to the hospital in Boone right now.’ That was a shock to me. I told him I couldn’t do that, that we had $300 worth of groceries in the car and I had to go home to put them up.”

The two agreed that she would go to the hospital the next morning, a Saturday,  to have a pacemaker procedure performed by Dr. Andrew Hordes. “I went to the hospital at 8 a.m., and five minutes later, I was in a hospital gown with a heart monitor on,” she said. “I needed a pacemaker, they told me, but I had to be weaned off of my blood thinners, first. So, they monitored me until it was safe, and on Monday afternoon, I got my pacemaker. I came home on Tuesday afternoon and went back to cardiac rehab as soon as they cleared me. And now I’m doing fine and going to physical therapy two days a week.”

Redman and France, who have been permanent High Country residents since 2000, can’t say enough about the compassionate care they have experienced through this situation.

“I’m a great believer in therapy — and the fine folks in this local hospital system are the best,” she said.

[click_to_tweet tweet=”“I went to the hospital at 8 a.m., and five minutes later, I was in a hospital gown with a heart monitor on.” – Betty Redman” quote=”“I went to the hospital at 8 a.m., and five minutes later, I was in a hospital gown with a heart monitor on.” – Betty Redman”]

 

The road to recovery and “graduation”

 

“I’m doing well now and will always be grateful for the care that I have received at Cannon Hospital, and most recently, by Stephanie, Beth Ann Scott (Exercise Physiologist) and Velma Greene (Respiratory Therapist) who monitored me very carefully to make sure I was ok,” she said. “I credit Stephanie for saving my life, and Drs. Kimmel and Helak, for listening to Stephanie’s concerns. Those people are very good. I can’t say enough for them.”

For Platt, the situation was just as pleasant. “Betty and Fred are one of the sweetest couples I’ve ever met. They are so supportive of each other. When we discovered that she was having these (new) problems, we did our best to encourage her. We reassured her that she was in the right place and that we would take care of her.”

Platt said she is “truly blessed” to be working in a position that affords her the opportunity to build a strong rapport with her patients and to advocate for them.

“I consider my patients as family, even after they complete our program,” she said. “It’s people like Betty and Fred who make it all worthwhile. I am thankful that they allowed me to care for Betty during her cardiac rehab.”

In February 2017, Platt was presented with the opportunity to become the Cardiopulmonary Rehab Nurse at Cannon. “I truly feel that God knew where I needed to be and led me to this position,” Platt continued. “I am thankful and blessed to be the nurse for this program and to be able to care for each patient that comes through the program.”

Platt said, she never thinks about it as going above and beyond. “I’ve been given the tools and ability to help someone and that’s just what I do.” But, she’s also quick to say, it’s not just one single person who deserves the credit for these great outcomes. “It’s everybody working together and we do work very well together. I am thankful for the personal care that our staff gives to our patients.”

[click_to_tweet tweet=”“It’s everybody working together and we do work very well together. I am thankful for the personal care that our staff gives to our patients.” – Stephanie Platt, RN” quote=”“It’s everybody working together and we do work very well together. I am thankful for the personal care that our staff gives to our patients.” Stephanie Platt, RN”]

Betty's Graduation

Left to right: Stephanie Platt, Betty, and Beth Ann Scott on Betty’s “graduation” day.

Beth Ann Scott, Exercise Physiologist and site supervisor for the program at Cannon Memorial Hospital, had this to say: “We are fortunate to have staff at both of our rehab programs who are invested in working in cardiopulmonary rehab. We have well-educated and professionally qualified individuals who all have their heart in truly caring for our patients. We all keep the best interest of our patients as top priority.”

Patients may be in cardiac rehab at least three months and staff get to know them really well. “Our patients become part of our rehab family,” Scott added.

Redman “graduated” from cardiac rehab in January, 2020, and she is doing well. She will continue to follow up with her providers to ensure she stays active for many years to come.

 

More About Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation

 

The Appalachian Regional Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program is a physician-referred medically supervised exercise program. Each patient is provided with multidisciplinary care from several healthcare professionals which include a medical doctor, exercise physiologist, registered nurse, respiratory therapist, behavioral health specialist and clinical dietician.

Cardiac Rehabilitation is designed to help restore cardiac patients to an optimal physical, vocational, recreational and emotional status with the ultimate goal of preventing further disease progression. Patients are strongly encouraged to make various lifestyle changes for the purpose of reducing coronary risk and improving quality of life.

Pulmonary Rehabilitation is designed to improve lung function, reduce symptom severity, and improve quality of life. It plays an important role in helping patients with chronic respiratory disease who remain symptomatic or continue to have decreased function despite standard medical treatment.

 

What to Expect At Cardiac Rehab

 

A “typical” patient is referred to Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation usually by his or her primary care provider, cardiologist, pulmonologist or surgeon after experiencing heart or lung- related issues.

Patients complete an initial orientation appointment with a registered nurse to discuss and review their medical history, medications and goals for the program. The patient will also have a blood pressure assessment and EKG performed at this interview. Next, a ‘new start appointment,’ is scheduled for the patient to work one-on-one with an exercise physiologist to begin their program.

The program consists of 36 sessions, lasting about three months and including a focus on exercise, education, nutrition and mental wellness, while being medically supervised by the clinical staff.

Care plans are customized for each patient, based on their health history, current health status and the event/diagnosis that resulted in the need for cardiac or pulmonary rehab. Rehab staff also work with patients to develop an exercise plan to use once they have completed rehab.

“We develop strong rapport with each one of them, and at times, with their family members, as well,” Platt continued. “When they graduate, they are encouraged to reach out to us if they ever need anything. We have numerous graduates who come back to visit and keep us updated on how they are doing.”

Appalachian Regional Healthcare System has two cardiac and pulmonary rehab locations, one at Cannon Memorial Hospital in Linville in the Sloop Medical Building and one at the Paul H. Broyhill Wellness Center in Boone.

Seeing me and not my cancer – Donna Sluder’s Story

Seeing me and not my cancer – Donna Sluder’s Story

Photo: Donna Sluder, daughters Katie and Jenny

Donna and daughters Katie and Jenny [left to right]

October 24, 2019

Nearly a year ago, Donna Sluder got some exciting news. She was going to be a grandmother. Her youngest daughter was visiting from California, so the family decided to have a baby shower even though it was early in the pregnancy. It snowed that day, and Sluder remembers thinking that despite the snow, the baby shower was wonderful.

“I couldn’t believe how blessed I was to have so many amazing people in my life already, with a new one on the way,” she recounts.

Life was good. And then a few months later, that changed.

 

A life-changing diagnosis

“It all started with a suspicious red spot on my breast. I went to the doctor believing that it couldn’t be anything serious, and that I was just being careful. I was wrong. I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. I ended up going straight from the doctor to the surgeon to get a biopsy, then to get a mammogram.

When they tell you that you have cancer, it’s like you switch to autopilot mode. A fog settles over you, and you just go through the motions. You do what the doctors tell you to do, but for me it didn’t really click until they told me that I needed to have chemotherapy,” she said.

Sluder, whose three children lost their father when they were young, did not want them to go through the trauma and heartbreak of losing another parent.

“I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to them. I wasn’t ready to believe that I wouldn’t be there to see my grandchild grow up. I wasn’t ready to lose myself to all the harsh treatments that cancer required.”

 

Anticipating the side effects of chemotherapy

As if cancer itself isn’t enough of a trial to endure, one of the cruelest side effects of chemotherapy is hair loss. 

Chemotherapy drugs used to treat solid tumor cancer work by targeting all of the body’s rapidly dividing cells. Since hair is the second fastest dividing cell in the body, hair-loss is an inevitable side effect of chemotherapy.

After a meeting with Medical Oncologist Dr. Anna Sobol at the Seby B. Jones Regional Cancer Center, Sluder learned about the new PAXMAN Scalp Cooling System that would be arriving around the time she was scheduled to receive her first chemotherapy treatment.

This technology allows some chemotherapy patients to keep most or all of their hair, and Dr. Sobol’s news gave her a measure of hope. 

Administered through an inner and outer scalp cap during each chemotherapy treatment, Paxman technology lowers the temperature of the scalp by a few degrees before, during, and after treatment. As a result, the three-stage cooling process reduces the blood flow to the hair follicles, minimizing hair loss.

 

Holding on to her confidence, and her privacy

Photo: Donna and grandson Wyatt

Donna and grandson Wyatt

“I wanted to feel like I could hold onto some part of me through all of this,” she said.

Electing to try the new technology, Sluder arrived 30 minutes early to each of her chemotherapy treatments to allow time for the cap to be applied and the cooling to take effect. She also spent an extra hour and a half wearing the cap at the end of the treatment. Though she admits there was some discomfort in the first 15 minutes while adjusting to the cold and the tightness of the silicon cap, her body adapted.

The results were what she had hoped for. She was able to keep 75% of her hair throughout chemotherapy. And she was able to keep her privacy.

“I retained the confidence to walk into a room and not have strangers know something so personal and intimate about myself. If someone knows I have had chemo, it’s because I have shared that with them. They don’t automatically know because I don’t have hair,” she said. “Countless people have told me that if they didn’t know I was going through chemo, they never would have guessed it.

[click_to_tweet tweet=”Donna Sluder was able to keep 75% of her hair throughout chemotherapy. And she was able to keep her privacy.” quote=”She was able to keep 75% of her hair throughout chemotherapy. And she was able to keep her privacy.”]

They say I look the same now as I did before hand, and I’m very thankful for that. Of course, I can see some differences, but I feel like I can still be seen for me, and not for my cancer.”

 

The next chapter

A year later, Sluder is moving forward and feeling hopeful as she completes her radiation treatments. She says she’s thankful for the doctors and nurses at the Cancer Center for their support and care, and for telling her about the PAXMAN scalp cooling technology. She is also grateful to her kids and her boyfriend for supporting and loving her through the whole ordeal and giving her something to fight for every day.

“And the biggest thanks of all goes to Jesus for giving me peace and all the other things that I’m so thankful for,” she said.

She has another amazing person in her life now, her new grandson Wyatt. And she is looking forward to watching him grow up.


 

When considering a new treatment, patients should evaluate the risks and benefits with their doctor. PAXMAN Scalp Cooling is not recommended for some patients.

For questions or to learn more about the PAXMAN Scalp Cooling treatments, call Seby B. Jones Regional Cancer Center at (828) 262-4332 or visit paxmanusa.com.

 

The Tony Weaver Story: Local man brought back to life after heart stops

The Tony Weaver Story: Local man brought back to life after heart stops

Photo: Tony Weaver outside of the Cardiovascular lab at WMC

 

Are you prepared to die today? Perhaps no question in life is more sobering than the one that causes us to consider our own mortality. Most of us, if given the opportunity, will avoid death and dying conversations like the plague – pun intended. But if faced head on, tough questions can also challenge us to make the most out of every opportunity.

Tony Weaver, an adventure loving Ashe County resident, knows firsthand the danger of taking life for granted. After experiencing chest pains, he made an appointment at The Heart & Vascular Center(formerly The Cardiology Center) in Boone, NC, part of Watauga Medical Center (WMC). It was there, during his appointment, that he went into cardiac arrest and his heart stopped beating for nearly five minutes. When it counted most, his medical team responded with what Tony can only describe as “divine intervention” to save his life.

 

Raisin’ Cain

 

Photo: Tony Weaver with his motorcycleTony got his first motorcycle when he turned six years old. Much to his mother’s chagrin, his father proudly encouraged his son to race his older brother, Billy, up and down the country road in front of their home. And so it was a thunderous transition from boyhood to manhood– an unspoken acknowledgement from father to son that the young buck has what it takes.

Tony idolized his father, Reggie, a highly decorated World War II veteran with a purple heart. Together they would hunt, work on their bikes in the garage, and go to church with his grandmother on Sunday.

“Early on I was a wild man on that bike,” he said. “I used to outrun the highway patrol. I guess I was just trying to prove my place in the world. It took me awhile to realize that dad was tough not on account of his war stories, but because he knew what he stood for in life. He used to say, ‘You never know what’s going to happen and it’s a good thing you don’t.’ I guess his point was that none of us are guaranteed tomorrow, so why worry about it. Instead, he was a lot more interested in making sure we made the most out of today.”

 

Two Rules

 

Tony went on to have a successful career in plant operations. After he completed his degree in applied engineering, he worked for 38 years as a supervisor in various automobile and electronic factories. During that time, he hired, trained and mentored hundreds of employees and today he still manages a team of 30.

“I have two rules when it comes to leading people,” he shared. “Be fair and be honest. People may not always like you as a supervisor, but they will still respect you if you are fair and honest with them.”

Perhaps his best hire took place in 1997. On that day, he hired his future wife, Brenda Weaver. “I tried to stay objective during the interview, but truth be told, I was pretty distracted by her good looks and personality. Well, as fate would have it, we eventually determined that we would be a better suited as husband and wife than as supervisor and employee. So she quit and I married her. That was the best business decision I’ve ever made.”

 

The Heart of the Matter

 

Tony was concerned earlier this year when several employees around the plant told him that his face was pale. During that time, he also remembers that he felt unusually tired and that his heart rate had slowed down to 44 beats a minute. A healthy heart ranges between 60 – 100 beats per minute.

The very next day, on January 24, 2019, he scheduled an appointment at The Heart & Vascular Center. It was there that Dr. George Hanna, a board certified cardiologist, ran a diagnostic test known as an electrocardiogram (EKG). The results confirmed what Dr. Hanna had suspected. He had an abnormally slow heart rate that would require a pacemaker.

Tony then unexpectedly went into cardiac arrest and collapsed in the office. Eager to restart his heart, Dr. Hanna called for help and his team responded without missing a beat.

Kim Denny, RN, a pacemaker device nurse at The Heart & Vascular Center literally jumped on top of the exam room table to start performing CPR. Her colleague Carly Blevins then charged the defibrillator and applied the single shock needed to save his life.

“Every three months we are required to complete an in-service CPR training class at the hospital,” said Denny. “In that moment, all of my training came back to me. I also cannot say enough about Carly, as she charged the defibrillator I noticed her praying for Mr. Weaver. They just so happen to be friends outside of the hospital.”

 

Plumbing and Electrical

 

Now that their patient was revived and stable, the cardiology team needed to determine if Tony’s low cardiac output was a result of a plumbing issue (coronary blockage) or an electrical issue (communication malfunction) within the heart or a combination of the two.

To find out, Tony was then transported to Watauga Medical Center for an emergency cardiac catheterization. The diagnostic procedure was performed by WMC’s new Interventional Cardiologist, Dr. Steve Filby. Fortunately, the test revealed no blockage and thus ruled out a plumbing issue. Had there been a coronary blockage, Dr. Filby could have then performed a minimally invasive artery widening procedure known as an angioplasty to improve blood flow to the heart.

Thanks to the catheterization it was then determined that Tony’s heart problem was in fact caused by an electrical issue. For Tony, that meant that the top part of his heart and the bottom part of his heart were no longer communicating with each other. To correct this disorder Dr. Andrew Hordes, a cardiologist and device specialist at WMC, inserted a two wire pacemaker that same day. The pacemaker puts one wire in the top part of the heart (atrium) and another wire in the bottom part of the heart (ventricle) and then uses the signals from the atrium to tell the pacemaker when to pace or reestablish the timing between both parts of the heart. Essentially, the pacemaker will now ensure that both his heart rate and heart rhythm stay in normal healthy ranges.

“Mr. Weaver was fortunate enough to be in the right place, at the right time, with the right people,” said Dr. Hordes. “After the team resuscitated him, and it was determined that he had no coronary blockage, we were able to put in a pacemaker. By putting in a pacemaker, we not only fixed the electrical problem with his heart, but we prolonged his life.”

 

Guardian Angel

 

Tony was cleared to return home two days later. When asked about his experience he said, “It is clear to see that God had no intention of taking me that day. He put all the right people, with all the right training in my path to save my life.”

Kim Denny, the quick thinking nurse that performed CPR in the office now serves as one of Tony’s pacemaker device nurses. Denny and her fellow device nurse, Leslie Wilson, RN, remotely monitor thousands of pacemakers every day from The Heart & Vascular Center.

“On the Saturday he went back to work, I remember we were curious to see if all of the equipment he works with at the factory would interfere with his pacemaker,” said Denny. “So, I asked him to send me a transmission after he walked through the entire plant just to make sure it was safe and it was. I think he takes comfort in the fact that we are always monitoring and ready to help if he needs us.”

Pacemakers have come a long way over the years. Like Tony, the majority of patients do require the dual chamber two-wire system. Fortunately, this state-of-the-art pacemaker is small, MRI safe and Bluetooth compatible, which allows for remote monitoring and as needed heart rhythm adjustments. Watauga Medical Center also recently started offering what is referred to as the world’s smallest pacemaker, a wireless system, for patients who qualify.

 

Wild at Heart

 

Outside of his pacemaker, Tony admits that nothing makes his heart beat with more vigor than riding his motorcycle. “I have been riding motorcycles for 52 years now,” he said with a grin. “And thanks to God and the medical team at Watauga Medical Center, I’ll keep riding till the day I die, which is hopefully a long time from now.”

At work, he has become an outspoken ambassador for intentional living. “I try to remind my team that none of us are guaranteed tomorrow,” he said. “I feel a responsibility to always point people toward the things that matter in life. I believe that is why I am still here. And I’m going to live the rest of my life by the scripture verse Joshua 24:15, ‘…As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.’”