By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
Dr. David Lang was born and raised in North Alabama, and graduated from Logan Chiropractic University in 2008. Immediately after graduation he started practicing in Decatur, and since then has been a sole proprietor, as well as a partner in several chiropractic practices. Earlier this past winter when the opportunity to open a beautiful new clinic in the Publix Shopping Center presented itself, he said yes. Lang Chiropractic officially opened on April 10, and had their Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting ceremony on July 27.

“We have a phenomenal team, and we couldn’t have done this without them as well as our families,” Dr. Lang said at the ribbon cutting. His wife Heather is the office manager and does the accounting, Kristie Townsend is the Chiropractic Tech, and Becky Mitchell is the front desk receptionist.

After Dr. Lang got out of school, he became familiar with a technique that was considerably more successful in correcting unwanted curves than what was being offered with standard chiropractic care, and it was not being taught in chiropractic school. “I learned that the restoration of normal curves was in fact possible,” he said, and no other practitioner in our area offers it. As a post-doctorate student, David trained for two years under Dr. Mark Barry, D.C., who was in Birmingham, AL, and is now with the Clear Institute.

Dr. Lang found that his “special chiropractic passion” was to fix the back problem known as scoliosis, the condition of the spine that looks like an S-curve rather than straight with a few appropriate curves. In addition to the sideways curve, new imaging technology has helped uncover the fact that with scoliosis, it is common to have the spine also be twisted. Dr. Lang told me that interestingly, “Scoliosis begins in the brain, and causes the spine to twist at its weakest point. It is also tied to hormonal changes, which is why scoliosis is more common in females, and often starts at the onset of puberty.” Curve correction can take care of both conditions.

The idea of “the normal restoration of curves” through this new technique caused my ears to perk up, as I managed to completely reverse the curve of my neck when I was three years old from falling off a log bridge and breaking my collar bone. My own curve reversal is so great that it looks like my neck is sitting at the top of my spine facing backwards, and while I am not in pain, it causes my shoulder muscles to be continually pulled up and tight. Due to my age, it is entirely possible that there has been too much “settling” of the injury, but Dr. Lang is going to take a state-of-the-art, multi-faceted look at it, and give me a realistic idea of what can be done. He showed me sample x-ray pictures of before and after treatment, and I was highly impressed as well as encouraged. Of course, if this technology and treatment option had existed when I was three, there would be no question that the problem could have been completely alleviated.

Speaking of children, one of the things that is causing Dr. Lang great concern is the number of kids whose necks look like mine from continually looking at the screen of their cell phones or tablets. Because they are not outside playing and moving their whole body (including their spine/neck) around, but rather are holding it in place at a downward angle sometimes for hours at a time, they are causing themselves harm in more ways than one. “We can correct it,” Dr. Lang told me, and added, “but this is something we haven’t seen before.”

As illustrated by the photo, one of the most powerful correction tools is the wall-mounted cervical traction unit, which is utilized under careful supervision at the clinic. The patient places their neck in the unit and does repetitive traction exercises, with around 80% of their weight being supported by their thighs and 20% on their necks. Some protocols call for longer single actions, and some with more repetitions, depending on the need. Each patient’s therapeutic routine is custom designed and monitored in-house.

Dr. Lang has trained additionally with the Pettibon Institute as well as the Clear Scoliosis Institute. Pettibon produces the wall-mounted traction devices described above and shown in the photo, and Clear Scoliosis Institute specializes in treating scoliosis. That protocol uses a phased approach which Clear calls, “mix, fix, and set.” Briefly described, the first phase is designed to get the body ready to be treated, and includes warm-up exercises, some massage, as well as other therapies to help the spine and the rest of the body to relax. “Fix” refers to the actual adjustment, which utilizes precision instruments, and “Set” is the system of therapies designed to keep the “fix” in place. “Set” also includes neuro-exercises which help teach the brain to tell the spine and the rest of the body how to keep in place the new, desired and more natural position.

Dr. Lang also understands the role of nutrition, vitamin D therapy, and essential oils in building your total health, and he and his staff are waiting and willing to help you or your child get “straightened out.” Call today for an appointment!
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
It is hard to believe that ten years have passed since 15-year-old Jessica Elkins died suddenly from meningitis. Her death was a shock to her family, friends, and this community—literally one day this lovely and loving Athens High School cheerleader “who was friends with everybody” was fine, and within a few days she was gone. I spoke with Jessica’s mom, Michelle, and her older sister, Emilee Elkins Daws, at length about their ordeal, as well as what they have done since then to heal, to reach out to other bereaved families, and to raise awareness about meningitis.

“This community has helped us so much, and supported us through this,” Michelle said through tears. She continued, “There have been many events—Chick-fil-A sponsored runs, there have been beauty pageants, tea parties, luncheons, you name it, the support we have received has been unbelievable.” Michelle was candid about her grief, and said that for the first few years their family was simply in shock. Nothing can prepare anyone for the loss of a child, and anyone who has experienced it knows it’s not something you ever get over, you just do your best with God’s help to get through it. Michelle also spoke of the signs that she and others have received that Jessica is in heaven, as well as the fact that Jessica confided with youth group friends not long before she passed that she “could not wait to get to heaven.” Michelle said, “God prepared her, and God took her.” Perhaps the best way to express it is through the Celine Dion song, “Fly,” which is on the Meningitis Angels Jessica Elkins website:

Fly, fly little wing
Fly beyond imagining
The softest cloud, the whitest dove
Upon the wind of heaven’s love
Past the planets and the stars
Leave this lonely world of ours
Escape the sorrow and the pain
And fly again

Fly, fly precious one
Your endless journey has begun
Take your gentle happiness
Far too beautiful for this
Cross over to the other shore
There is peace forevermore
But hold this mem’ry bittersweet
Until we meet

Fly, fly do not fear
Don’t waste a breath, don’t shed a tear
Your heart is pure, your soul is free
Be on your way, don’t wait for me
Above the universe you’ll climb
On beyond the hands of time
The moon will rise, the sun will set
But I won’t forget

Fly, fly little wing
Fly where only angels sing
Fly away, the time is right
Go now, find the light

Part of Michelle’s beginning to “get through it” was to go to work at Athens-Limestone Hospital just a few months after Jessica’s death. It was there that the support of the whole hospital staff strengthened Michelle when her loss was fresh, and they have continued to provide support in the fight against meningitis. The Elkins’ church family at First Baptist has been right there, too, as well as Jessica’s former classmates, many of whom are still in touch with the Elkins family. The family has been very active in raising awareness about this mysterious disease that can be viral, bacterial or fungal, and takes about 80 lives per year in the United States. As a result of their work, the State of Alabama passed a law called the Jessica Elkins Act requiring schools to provide specific information about meningitis in the infectious disease packet given to students beginning in the sixth grade.

For several years there has been a scholarship in Jessica’s memory for students from Athens High School. They have given away thousands of dollars, and this year’s award was in the amount of $2500. There is also an organization known as the Limestone Area Community Foundation which has been of great help, and Michelle wanted to be sure to thank Martha Jo Leonard for all that she has done to help with the scholarship fund.

This year Jessica would have turned 25, and the 5K is going to be on her actual birthday, September 23, 2017. “We are going to have a balloon release, and are hoping to have the race serve as a kind of class reunion for the kids she went to school with,” Michelle told me. She has already heard from several of Jessica’s classmates, and they are getting the word out. The proceeds from the 5K will go to Athens High School, Athens State University, and Limestone County School scholarships, as well as continue to raise awareness and fight meningitis.

The 5K will start at 8 a.m. on the Athens Courthouse Square, and the race route is laid out on the ArcGIS Jessica Elkins Forever Fighting Meningitis 5K website. For more information, go to www.tinyurl.com/jessicaelkins5k. The Elkins family sincerely hopes you will come and join them, both in the fight as well as the celebration.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
You read it right; famed NFL quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow’s mom Pam is going to be here in Athens on Saturday, August 12. Why? She is here to help the WRC celebrate its 30 years of saving lives by helping women to choose life, and to make sure the WRC can continue to do so for the next 30 years.

The entire Tebow family is known for their faith, closeness, and transparency, and in particular Tim (who is known as “Timmy” in his family) and Pam who have been on the national stage for several years for a variety of reasons. Tim was the first homeschooled student to win the Heisman and did so when he was a sophomore and Florida Gator. He was the first round draft pick for the Broncos, had a stellar football career in college as well as pro, is now playing minor league baseball, and has taken serious heat for his purity. Tim has been a sportscaster, and in particular has a heart for disabled and terminally ill children. He is recognized for his charitable work and being what I call “the real deal,” the kind of guy who knows he’s imperfect, forgiven, blessed, and just a regular Joe.

Pam and Tim inadvertently created feminist furor when he appeared to tackle her in a light-hearted “choose life” advertisement sponsored by Focus On The Family during the 2010 Super Bowl. Although Tim lost all of his sponsors, pollster George Barna has determined that over 5 million viewers changed their views on abortion as a result of the ad. However, did you know that if it had not been for his mom’s faith and passion to choose life over self, there would have been no Timmy?

The family was in the mission field in the Philippines, and Pam became gravely ill while pregnant. The doctors told her that she needed to have an abortion in order to live, and she refused. Pam was told that Tim was like a “tumor,” and while it’s hard to imagine anything much more insulting or less supportive to say to a patient, the family to this day turned it around and teasingly calls him “Timmy the Tumor.” For her part, what Pam says is, “Well, we chose to trust God. At the time, it didn’t seem like a courageous choice. It was the only thing that we knew to do, and we wanted to trust God with that little boy we had prayed for.” The result was a young man who will no doubt be a household name for decades to come long after he is not able to make a living through sports, either on or off the field.

The Tebows have had a specific effect on more than one Athenian. I know of one business which has been an Athens Now client for many years whose owner received the same abortion recommendation as did Pam for the same medical condition. Thankfully, that couple chose life and have been blessed with a precious baby girl. Joe Carlucci, owner of Joe’s World Famous Pizzeria and member of Lindsay Lane Baptist Church was fascinated with Tim Tebow for years and watched Tim’s life closely. He even went so far as to make a pizza with a picture of Tim on it, which became a local phenomenon on social media. Joe will be the first to tell you that at the time he made his Tebow pizza, he was not a born-again believer; it was Tim Tebow’s life, example and testimony that were powerfully used in Joe’s life to cause him to give his life to the Lord. “That guy gets hit every day, whether it’s by the media or other players, and he keeps going, and keeps giving,” Joe said. If Joe ever gets a chance to meet Tim face to face, he is planning on telling him, “God used you to get me saved.”

The Women’s Resource Center hopes you will come for an evening of inspiration, fellowship, and delicious food, and that you will help them continue to protect the lives of women and their pre-born babies for many years to come.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

When futurist and horticulturist Tim Blank was still in high school in Western North Dakota, his family saved up and took a vacation to Disney World. The trip would serve to change the trajectory of Tim’s whole life, because of all the theme parks that they saw, the one that grabbed him was Epcot. He said, “Epcot was the place of the future, and it was very inspirational to see all the various nationalities working together, and all the technologies. What stood out the most to me was a special ride at Epcot called ‘The Land.’” From that point on, Tim knew he wanted to be involved in technology that could feed people. He got his degree in horticulture, went to work at Epcot as an intern, and eventually became their head horticulturist and green house operations manager. While working for Disney, he also did research for NASA and the US Department of Energy.

In 2005, Tim left Epcot, and formed Future Growing, LLC, a company that took the things that Tim learned at Disney World, combined them with some ideas of his own, and would serve to make it possible for people to grow their own food just about anywhere. “This dream I had that was rooted all the way back in my childhood, about doing something for humanity, finding a better way of growing food, it’s finally coming to fruition,” Tim stated. Some of the early projects include the first roof top garden-to-table farm for a restaurant in Manhattan, as well as an indoor growing system inside O’Hare International Airport that supplies produce for the 67 restaurants throughout the facility.

Tim knows full well that there are people like me who do not possess a very green thumb nor a great deal of time, and would nonetheless like to garden. So he contacted the Juice Plus company to see if they would be interested in producing the Tower Garden for the consumer. In 2011 the Juice Plus Company began production, and I purchased my Tower Garden in February of 2013. It was a match made in heaven, and I can now say with confidence that I am a happy and successful gardener, growing everything from Bok Choy to more personal confidence to baby eggplants. I watch with delight as my little seedlings turn my Tower into something reminiscent of Jurassic Park.

Because of the aeroponic/hydroponic technology, things grow three times faster with over 98% less water, 90 % less land, and with 30% greater yields. You can actually start to harvest some vegetables (such as lettuce) in as little as three weeks! Tower Garden produce is nutrient dense, better tasting, and better smelling. Researchers at the University of Mississippi found that the yields of plants grown with aeroponic/hydroponic technology were more than 30% bigger on average compared to organic soil-based produce.

Here’s the breakdown by crop:

  • Basil – 19% increase
  • Chard – 8% increase
  • Red kale – 65% increase
  • Parsley – 21% increase
  • Bell pepper – 53% increase
  • Cherry tomatoes – 35% increase
  • Cucumber – 7% increase
  • Squash – 50% increase

Looking further, the study also measured total phenolics, flavonoids, and antioxidants in the produce grown. Phenolics are compounds that the plant produces to protect itself from insects. Flavonoids are also involved in a plant’s defense system as well part of its communication system, and antioxidants repair free radical damage in the human body. It turns out aeroponic and soil methods yield produce with comparable nutritional value.

So, how does it work? There is a pump in the middle of the 20 gallon reservoir that sends water and the organic, patented Tower Tonic whole mineral solution up the center of the tower, and the solution bathes the roots on the way back down. Normally this is done in 15 minute increments, with 15 minutes of bath followed by 15 minutes of air set to a timer. The sound of the water is so soothing that it is like having a personal fountain in addition to a personal farmer’s market. My neighbor likes the sound of it so much that I told him he could come over and listen any time he wanted to. I also gave him permission to harvest anything he wanted to while we were on vacation recently. I had plenty to share, and things grow back quickly.
There are over 155 types of vegetables, herbs, and fruits that can be grown using the Tower Garden system, including melons, cucumbers, tomatoes, marigolds, calendulas, edible pansies, nasturtiums, and so much more. At present, it is not possible to grow root vegetables, but I would not be at all surprised if they don’t come up with a way to do that, too.

Another Athens Now client who is a raving fan of the Tower Garden is John McGrew, who along with his wife Amanda owns Homeland Trading on Hwy 31 near CVS. They have a perky little miss by the name of Katy, herself quite enamored with their Tower Garden, and shown throughout this article. “She loves it,” John says, “and she eats everything we grow on it.” Research also shows that kids who are involved in growing vegetables are far more prone to eating the fruits of their labors. The Tower Garden serves as a fine backdrop for some quality daddy-daughter time.

You can grow your “market” on your patio, in your house with grow lights, and on the deck of your city apartment. There are 19 Tower Gardens in Los Angeles accessible to homeless people, and Tower Gardens have become the basis of several urban community garden projects. Boys and Girls Clubs across America have them, as do long term care facilities, which use them as part of their activities and therapy platforms. There is a Boys and Girls Club Tower Garden-based culinary school and catering service in Memphis, an extensive school Tower Garden project in the Bronx, and there are even Tower Gardens in the White House.

The possibilities are nearly endless, and if you want to learn more, go to www.towergarden.com. Your thumb will be greener, your body will be happier, and your wallet will be thicker with what you save.
Tower Garden—it’s truly and totally grand!
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

Every two weeks I get in my ’93 Sierra pickup truck and drive to Florence to pick up the latest “run” of Athens Now. Working my way back to Athens, I have two deliveries in Rogersville—one is an outdoor box on Lee Street, right next to a restaurant in the historical section of town. That café, located at 1609 Lee Street, had always felt to me like the “heart” of Rogersville, much like a kitchen being the heart of a home. Then its owners decided to retire, and boy, could you feel the absence of a place that served “Southern comfort food.” Well, happily, those days are now over, and I am pleased to announce that the Honeysuckle Café is up and hummin’!

OK, you say, this is good news, but how’s the food? In a word, “worth the drive from Athens, or anyplace else for that matter.” Before Honeysuckle opened, I was told there was a good chance that they would be interested in advertising. Once open, I hopped in the truck, headed west, and decided to have lunch. I have eaten a cold lunch there, as well as a hot supper; I expect that the Honeysuckle Café is going to get Rogersville revvin’ because both meals, while being completely different from each other, were truly delicious. There are homemade potato chips with a queso dipping sauce, and chicken salad. There are daily specials along the lines of a “Meat-and-three,” with Southern classics such as “hoecakes,” fried green tomatoes, black-eyed peas, pimento cheese, and hash brown casserole. Signature sandwiches include “the Paw Paw,” a classic grilled cheese named for Honeysuckle owner Beverly Scott’s dad, and the Angry Rooster, a shredded buffalo chicken and American cheese grilled sandwich. Desserts include Mama’s Best Banana Pudding, the chocolate chip mug cookie, and special daily desserts. They can hardly keep up with the demand for the banana pudding.

Beverly has cooked for family, friends and co-workers all her life. She also spent more than 30 years as a nurse at Athens-Limestone Hospital. She worked in the ER, has had supervisory positions, and genuinely loved what she did. However, there came a time when she and her husband just knew it was time to make a change, take a risk, and open a restaurant, which has always been her dream. They looked “everywhere,” and finally ended up in Rogersville, ironically, not all that far from Beverly’s ancestors’ homestead farm. They opened on April 18, and on both of my visits they have been happily busy. “We have always loved LuVici’s in Athens, and wanted to do something similar in Rogersville,” Beverly said.

As someone who spent years working in the hospitality business, one of the first things I notice when I go to a restaurant is the staff. Are they happy? Does it show? How do they treat the guests and each other? The Honeysuckle Café staff is mostly young, Beverly allows “no cussin’ or fussin’,” and you can tell that they genuinely enjoy working there. I also appreciated learning that they gather together for prayer at the beginning of the shift, although it’s not mandatory. This certainly gets things off to a good start, now that “putting love in the food” is no longer thought of as something corny. “I wanted people to come in here and feel like they were eating a meal I made for them in my own kitchen, and that they were welcome here,” she said.

One of the most enjoyable features of the Honeysuckle is the wall art. All of the walls and down the service hall are covered with sayings, maxims, scriptures and just plain common sense observations and admonitions, and they are literally a “conversation piece.” Beverly told me that her “son has a saying for everything, and I started writing them down.” The wall art is recorded on every imaginable type of surface, and most are framed. Then they are hung with care, and even decorate the restrooms! People from out-of-state who are staying at Joe Wheeler State Park have come to the Honeysuckle Café for the food as well as a cultural immersion experience, and it’s not unusual to see someone read a saying on the wall and chuckle.

Beverly wanted Athens Now readers to know that she is indebted to her family for all the hard work they put into getting the Honeysuckle transformed into a cozy café. “It took about five months, and there were times I thought we would never get it done, but here we are because of them,” she said. Come and taste her time honored recipes in an environment where “the secret ingredient is always love.”
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

Nearly every day we are subjected to negative reports about the state of our health care system as well as skyrocketing costs, and most of them have at least a measure of validity. Thankfully, Athens-Limestone Hospital and Valley Internal Medicine have been involved in a pilot program designed to cut costs while insuring quality of care, and just recently it garnered them some industry distinction from the Center for Medicare/Medicaid Services at an awards ceremony held last week in Baltimore, MD.

The purpose of the program is to reduce the 30-day readmission rate of Medicare patients to the ER for the same chronic condition. It is the brain-child of Athens-Limestone Hospital COO/CFO Randy Comer, has had Valley Internal Medicine’s Dr. Sasha Acelajado functioning as the pilot physician, and ALH’s Helen McWhorter as Care Coordinator (a role that involves being a combination of coach, accountability partner, and patient liaison). “Because ER visits are the most expensive, and some Medicare patients look upon the ER in the same way as a regular doctor’s office, this has been a way to reach out to patients with chronic care and transitional care needs, and it has been effective. We have been able to reduce their ER visits by 50%, from 24% to 12%, which is huge,” said Dr. Acelajado. Athens-Limestone Hospital was the first in the Huntsville Hospital system to try the program, and the plan is to implement it throughout the system.

Here’s how it works. “Dr. A.” (which is what her patients call her) comes up with an individualized plan for a patient with a chronic condition such as diabetes or heart disease. It could involve any number of things such as the timing of medication, diet, exercise, keeping a compliance log, etc., and she makes sure the patient understands what their responsibilities are. Then Helen McWhorter will give regularly scheduled calls to provide patient support as well as answer any questions. Ms. McWhorter went through a coaching certification program, and as far as Dr. A. is concerned, Helen is the heartbeat of the program, and the biggest reason it has been such a success. The patients also have access to a nurse hotline 24 hours a day. “Just today, we were able to squeeze in an appointment for a patient who is in the program, and without it she would have ended up in the ER,” said Dr. A.

One of the supporting organizations for the program is the National Rural Accountable Care Consortium, which helps member hospital systems achieve the Medicare goals of having 85% of payments being tied to quality and value. In addition to providing training, the NRACC provides data to identify cost-saving opportunities, implement the necessary IT structure, modify clinic workflow to address care gaps, promote evidence-based medicine, and measure patient satisfaction at the point of care. Essentially, if you have a person who can be the well-organized link between the patient, the physician, and the hospital, you have better outcomes, lower costs, less red tape, and everybody wins.

Valley Internal Medicine has two physicians: Dr. Shanna Ndong and Dr. A. They have been at their practice here in Athens for about a year, and have extensive experience both here in the states, and Dr. A. has previously practiced in the Philippines. Their clinic is located just north and east of the main hospital entrance, and the address is 710 W. Hobbs, which is the corner Sanders and W. Hobbs.

Recently we chatted at lunch, and with regard to how the clinic is run, Dr. Ndong said, “We do things a bit differently. If at all possible, we’ll squeeze in a patient for an urgent care situation on the same day, and usually we are able schedule a normal appointment within a week. We don’t want to turn anyone away.” They have adult patients of all ages, and while they have a number of female patients, Dr. A. said, “We also have our fair share of men.”

Both doctors like the challenge of helping patients with complicated medical situations, and routinely get referrals from other physicians. This means that they may need to take more time with each patient, but in doing so they are able to solve some long-standing problems and give better care. They also enjoy helping patients reduce the number of medications they are taking, if at all possible, and the pilot program has helped with that.

Congratulations to Athens-Limestone Hospital and Valley Internal Medicine, and may this partnership flourish for many years to come.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

It was over 50 years ago that Doug Maund, founder of Athens Pharmacy, and the late Dr. William Pennington, a well known and beloved “country doc” in the truest sense teamed up to found the long-term and rehabilitation facility at 611 Market Street now known as Athens Health And Rehabilitation LLC. The place has been remodeled, added on to, and has gone through a number of name changes to reflect the changes in the industry; this past April broke ground on a new facility on the east side of AHR that will be known as the Restore Therapy Pavilion.

I spoke with Lory Walmsley, Admissions Coordinator at Athens Health and Rehab, who told me that the old concept of “nursing home” has been replaced with more of an emphasis on rehab. So whether people are able to return to their homes outside the facility, or end up making AHR their home, they are functioning at their best, and their quality of life is the highest possible. AHR does its best to be the best possible long-term and/or rehab facility anywhere in the Tennessee Valley. “People don’t understand that the importance of therapy is greater than just about anything else in this type of facility. There is speech therapy, occupational, physical and memory therapy, and more. Those are what make it possible for people to go home, and live well if they stay,” she emphasized.

Since Northport Health Services took over the center, a lot of hard work and re-vamping has gone into making the place essentially brand new. “It really is a total change, and we want to get away from the old stigmas,” said Lory. “People don’t realize that ‘convalescing’ is no longer our goal, rehab is, and we have a new rating and essentially a whole new facility,” she said. AHR now has a four-star rating with CMS, the Centers for Medicare/Medicaid Services, a government agency, as well as five stars with Quality Measures, the system of reporting and performance standards with CMS. She gave AHR an insider’s thumbs up by saying, “If I could no longer take care of myself and needed to be in a long-term facility for the rest of my life, this is where I would want to be. I wouldn’t change a thing. The residents are so much our family that our kids come here on holidays to be with their ‘other grandparents.’”

Linda Sams, who is the Administrator of Athens Health and Rehab echoed Lory’s sentiments. “We have such caring, compassionate staff who are really committed to the patients. I have had people walk in, and their first response is, ‘You can feel the love when you watch the interaction between residents.’” Linda is a RN, and her official certification is LNHA, Licensed Nurse Hospital Administrator. She further underscored her statement by saying, “Our director of nursing has been here over 30 years.”
Still, I had to ask them, “Why should I come to you, either for my own care or on the behalf of a parent?” “We are the closest facility to the hospital, if there is an urgent need,” said Linda. She added, “The nursing staff has the backing of a corporation to manage any kind of acuity. We have a physician on site two times a week who is also on-call 24/7. We have a nurse practitioner here 40 hours a week, and that is unusual. We have also upgraded the written procedures and protocols, so there’s more accountability.”

Linda and Lory went on to tell me about the new rehab center, the Restore Therapy Pavilion. It is going to have its own entry and exit, and will essentially be closed off from the long-term facility. There will be a 1200-square-foot gym, offices, a conference room, and a large commons. “This is strictly short-term, where the average stay will be from 20-30 days,” said Linda. Additionally, Lory mentioned that “[t]he equipment will be state of the art, and there will be room for all of it. Depending on the weather, the new building should be ready in 8-10 months.”

The next day I spoke at length with Nathan McGriff, who is the Rehabilitation Director at Athens Health. Nathan’s parents are both nurses, and he grew up in Sulligent. “I was always around the medical profession,” he said, “and at first I thought I would do high-level sports rehab and therapy.” He has a bachelor’s degree in exercise science from Jacksonville State, and then received his PTA certification from Wallace State. He has 11 years of experience with everything from athletes to geriatrics, and says that his favorite thing to witness and be a part of is “to see someone come in not very responsive, and then see them be able to function again.” Most of those who come to the Rehab part of AHR are either stroke victims or have had knee or hip replacements.

Nathan told the story of a “graduation” that was just held in the rehab wing whose description brought a lump to my throat. “A stroke patient came in who was in such poor shape that at first we met with the family to discuss the possibility of only keeping their loved one comfortable, and not pursue treatment, due to a nearly complete inability to swallow. We all decided to wait a week and then make a definitive plan. That patient responded so well in a week, and after 100 days of treatment, that when they “graduated,” they walked out to the car (with a walker), and were able to speak.” The staff and other patients lined the hall, and Nathan said, “Someone even provided a cap and gown for the ceremony.”

He told of the individualized care plan that each patient receives, including a “how to” manual for when they go home. He also makes a point of spending one-on-one time with each rehab patient within 24 hours of their arrival. Nathan is always available by phone to discharged patients and their families. “While they are with us, we find out what makes them ‘tick,’ including likes, dislikes, interests and goals, and use that to motivate them.” There are often so many things to address, such as swallowing, cognition issues, medicine management, the need for a consistent routine, and more. Those who have had joint replacements work on strengthening, stabilizing, and balance. Those with occupational therapy needs to learn to feed themselves again, get dressed, bathe, etc. and can’t go home until they do. It’s important to know that if a patient cannot, for example, re-learn to turn over in bed, their caregiver will receive all the training that they need to do it for them prior to discharge.

An exciting feature of the new Therapy Pavilion will be a full kitchen and bathroom. This will be the testing ground for those that are good candidates to return to unassisted living, and it’s a fun one. “They might make brownies,” said Nathan, and have the satisfaction of creating something delicious, as well as demonstrate the level of their recovery. Most likely in the new gym there will be a suspension system and harness that can be a part of learning to walk again. Because the system is attached to the ceiling, the patient literally cannot fall, and gets to experience the satisfaction of being able to walk unaided at a much earlier point in their rehabilitation.

I asked Nathan why I should come to the Pavilion myself, or have a needy parent receive care there. He said, “I treat everyone like they are my grandmother or grandfather. We pay close attention to the level of care, make sure there are proper progressions, and that there is good communication between staff, patients, and families. I rely heavily on my team, and we all feel that it is our team.” If this is the kind of care for which you are looking, either for yourself or a loved one, then call Athens Health and Rehabilitation LLC today at 256-232-1620 to schedule a tour, and be on the lookout for more announcements regarding special summer activities to come.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

May 14-19 has been National Nursing Home Week, and at Limestone Health Facility’s Senior Rehab and Recovery Center, every day has been a celebration. Mary Nelle Clem, who is the activities director, along with her team of assistants, Kenisha Anderson, Teresa Moore, and Savannah Wise came up with a series of activities based on the iconic 1974 Chevy commercial jingle entitled, “Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie and Chevrolet.” If you are not familiar with the catchy, award-winning ad, the lyrics go like this:

“Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet, they go together in the good ol’ USA.” The jingle was repeated over and over, and is etched forever in the memories of all who heard it. So, here’s what they did to bring up fond remembrances of Mays and Memorial Days gone by.

  • Monday put the “baseball in baseball.” Any resident could participate, whether or not they were ambulatory, and they played Nerf baseball in the dining room. Mini-hotdogs were also the order of the day.
  • Tuesday was the “apple pie and Chevrolet” part. Clem Auto loaned their famous blue and yellow 1951 Chevy truck, and Veda Webb stood up in the bed of the truck and handed out apple pies from McDonald’s. Nonstop Beach Boys played, a few residents danced around either in their chairs or on their feet. “Surfin’ USA,” baby! There had also been an auction with a real auctioneer; play money used for hats, jewelry, teddy bears, food items; and plenty of freshly popped popcorn.
  • Wednesday the choir from Birdie Thornton came to sing. They are a real favorite with the residents, especially a man named Neal who is quite the singer. Wednesday was also Banana Split Day.
  • Thursday was a pancake breakfast in the morning, and Coke floats in the afternoon. Kenisha and I laughed about the fact that the best part of Coke floats is the stuff that crystallizes on the top.
  • Friday is the showing of one of the all-time great baseball movies, “A League Of Their Own,” starring Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Madonna, Rosie O’Donnell, Bill Pullman, David Straithairn, Jon Lovitz, and Tea Leoni. It’s the mostly true story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League during WWII.

I had so much fun at the Tuesday event that it was hard to get back to work. I sang Beach Boys songs, passed on the apple pie, danced a bit, and enjoyed the residents enjoying themselves as well as the staff enjoying the residents. It is always important to me to see that residents in any long-term care facility are well cared for by the staff, and that the staff members truly love and respect the residents. That was certainly the case on this day. I was so glad that Mary Nelle and her crew invited me to come and kick off the month of May and prepare for Memorial Day with something as American as “Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie and Chevrolet.”
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

2017 is a year that is proving to be rich with heritage, history, and celebration. Athens is 200 years old, as is Round Island Baptist Church, (RIBC) and you are invited to come to “their house” on Saturday and Sunday, June 3 and 4 to enjoy a bicentennial birthday party! On Saturday, June 3, there will be an open house from 12-5 p.m., and refreshments will be served. The focus of the open house will be a time-line with artifacts and photos, as well as tours of the facility. There will be a military display, which should be especially interesting seeing as RIBC has been around since shortly after the War of 1812. There will be a display of wedding photos going back decades, and RIBC members will be on hand to answer any questions and give tours. On Sunday, June 4th, there will be a 10 am worship service during which former pastor Dr. Bill Bailey will preach. After the morning service, there will be a dinner held on the grounds, which are located at 14790 Brownsferry Road, Athens, AL 35611. Please call the church at 256-233-1230 to let them know if you are coming for the dinner, or you can go online to info@roundisland.org.

Mike Green is the pastor at Round Island and a native of Athens. He is a graduate of Athens High, has pastored RIBC since 2004, and his love for his historically unique flock is engaging. I was intrigued by the story of Round Island, and the impact it has had on the church and community that has come to be known as Athens-Limestone County.

A few miles from Round Island Baptist Church is a creek that empties into the Tennessee River. The story is that in the middle of the creek was a round island, which served as the inspiration for the church’s name. Members began to meet in 1816, when this area was still part of the Mississippi Territory. The church was officially “born” on June 17, 1817, and Jeremiah Tucker was the founding pastor. The exact location of the original building is no longer known, but RIBC has been on the present site since 1822. The land was donated by John Favor, a Revolutionary War veteran, and it is one of the oldest churches in Alabama. Mike found it significant that RIBC was one of 5 Baptist churches in 1817; by 1820 there were nearly 50, and by 1830, there were nearly 130! Anyone who has studied church planting and church growth will realize this was nothing short of miraculous, especially considering that word of mouth would have been almost the only means in a rugged land of letting people know there was a place to worship according to the dictates of one’s conscience. “Every major historical event from the Civil War on—we’ve been here,” said Pastor Mike.

One of the results of Round Island’s ministry has been the birth of other churches in the area. “First Baptist in Athens grew out of this congregation, and many other Baptist churches in the area can trace their roots either directly or indirectly back to Round Island,” said Mike.

Pastor Mike’s understanding that the enduring stability of Round Island is one of its gifts to the community keeps him and the rest of the members focused on their mission. He told me, “What is unique about us is that you have history, as well as a lot of space and facilities to be used. The challenge is to keep growing. We have to hang on to our history, but move forward.” Speaking of history, RIBI’s is fascinating. The church is older than the state and the county. The 12 founding members’ names are ones that many natives of Limestone County would recognize or actually possess: Tucker, Lambert, Morgan, Ables, McWilliams, Stamps and Barclay. The church also ordained black ministers as early as 1825, and members included slaves and freemen. Mike says he would describe Round Island as a “multi-racial church.” He added, “We are wanting to reach out to every demographic in our rural area.”

Round Island also has a passion to minister to young people, and their youth room, which uses the hardwood flooring from the 1957 sanctuary, is named S.W.A.G.G., which stands for Students Who Are Glorifying God. Over the centuries there have been several buildings on the current property, the most recent sanctuary having been completed in 2003, and which seats 600 people. Pastor Mike finished our time together by saying, “We’re hoping that people in the community who have a tie to Round Island will come and celebrate,” and he wants everyone to know that the rest of the community is invited, too.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

April 29 marked yet another Gala sponsored by the Athens Limestone Hospital Foundation, and when I stopped by for the interview, I think it is safe to say that everyone at the Foundation was thrilled with how it went, understandably a bit tuckered out, and deeply grateful for all of the support from many sectors of the community to make Puttin’ On The Glitz a roaring success. There were about 300 people in attendance, mostly from Athens, and mostly medical professionals, as well as other businesses and private citizens who understand the value of the Foundation’s mission.

The fund-raising focus for this year’s Gala was to purchase what was described as “the most recent, advanced equipment for the Athens-Limestone Hospital Outpatient Surgery Department.” Hospital President David Pryor said the project will be a “medical office building, include a surgery department with six operating rooms, imaging and laboratory services, and physician office space spread across 75,000 square feet. Construction is expected to take about 1.5 years to complete. The project is considered an expansion of the Athens-Limestone Hospital surgery department.”

This was Leah Beth McNutt’s first year to chair the event, and she told me her story about the evening from the perspective of working the event as well as simply enjoying the evening. “People LOVED having the Red Carpet photo shoot, and they were smilin’ big and feelin’ famous for a minute.” She mentioned that the backdrop for the photo op was designed well, and showcased the logos of the sponsors, which pleased them. The ticket price also included a photo booth so attendees could capture the evening just like an A-lister, and it was one of the more popular features of the event.

The Gala Committee members helped with centerpieces, which were created by Dugger’s Florist, the black and white Hollywood style linens, the tea lights, and the logistics of getting the auction items placed so the room would look stunning. “I could go on all night about the auction items,” she said. “Jewelry, bags, trips, and more. It was amazing. And, Gracie found a home.” Gracie is a shelter dog who had been rescued and placed in a loving home, and her adoptive owner needed to find a new home for her. Mission accomplished, and everyone benefitted.

Some of the “hot items” of the evening were the trip to Ireland, as well as the trip to Napa Valley, California. Osborne’s Jewelers had a game that involved each guest having a puzzle piece to a large puzzle. The person with the missing piece won either a bracelet or a watch.

Prior to the auction, just from tickets and sponsor donations, the Gala grossed over 73,000 dollars. They have not finished tallying up the final results of the evening, but the Foundation did not want to wait to express their gratitude for all that made the evening a success.

Leah said the food was “gorgeous. The guests had their choice of Beef Wellington, snapper or chicken, and the desserts were a sampler plate. All of it was delicious.”

Other things that Leah Beth enjoyed were the Erik Blue Band, which provided what she described as “cool music during dinner and for the dance.” She told me they are an outstanding cover band from Nashville. She enjoyed the fact that the people attending felt comfortable either getting really dressed up, “puttin’ on the Glitz, if you will,” or dressed a bit more casually. “I enjoyed watching everyone else enjoy the evening. Some people were there for ‘date night.’ Some were there representing their corporation, and everyone had fun. Radio personality Abby Kay from 96.5 FM was the emcee for the evening, and she was a GREAT emcee,” said Leah Beth.

Of course in this digital social media age there was coverage on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. The “hashtag handle” for the evening was #ALFHGala2017, and there were selfies galore invading cyber-space from the Rocket City. You can check them out on any of those platforms.

At the Gala it was announced, “Because of generous donors like you, our 2016 event fundraisers provided Athens-Limestone Hospital with advanced technology and helped further our women’s health programs. Our three events grossed a total of $131,040. Thank you. Thank you Thank you!”

Leah Beth finished our interview with a happy sigh and the following comment: “It was, I guess the best word is ‘heartwarming’ to see people being so generous and supporting our mission,” and she along with the rest of the Foundation members want everyone to know that they are glad to be “puttin’ forth the gratitude.”
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner