Mackenzie Short: Portrayal of Courage
By Shirley Shuman
Six months ago, she rushed from class to class, chatting with friends on the way. She sat attentively—for the most part—in class, completed class work promptly and well. She ate lunch with her pals at the same table in the commons area. After school, she either attended cheerleading practice, or she led, always enthusiastic and energetic, the cheerleading squad at boys’ basketball games. Suddenly, for Mackenzie Short—a senior at Braxton County High School——all of that changed.
Today, Short sits in Keith Greene’s room at the high school, where she completes her school work under the watchful eye of her stepfather. She doesn’t join her friends for lunch anymore since she must avoid crowded situations. After school, she goes home because she is tired; she no longer has the energy to participate in after-school activities. This young woman suffers from anca positive vasculitis, an extremely rare auto-immune disease, and she is truly fortunate to be alive today.
Her problems began on January16. As she was cheering at a basketball game, she began having what she thought were simply leg cramps. What happened after the game proved the beginning of a series of nightmarish events. She described what happened. “I went home and watched a thirty-minute tv program,” she said, “but when I tried to stand up, the pain [in her legs] was so severe I couldn’t move.” Her mother Marcy and stepfather immediately took her to the emergency room.
Emergency room personnel determined, through blood tests and x-rays, that Short had double pneumonia as well as a blood clot in her left leg. “They sent me home after giving me shots of blood-thinner and told me to return the next day,” she said. Her mother, however, decided to take her to her pediatrician in Weston. Noting the severity of what was apparently happening, her physician told the family he felt this was beyond his range of expertise. He promptly called Ruby Memorial, and the teenager was admitted as soon as she arrived at the hospital.
During her six-day stay at Ruby, “three different hematologists treated [her] with a new medication for blood clotting.” She explained, “They were afraid the clot would move.” More chest x-rays showed that she still suffered from double pneumonia, but her physicians decided the pneumonia “just needed to run its course.”
After six days, she was released from the hospital and went home. However, instead of recovering, she “kept getting worse.” This once highly independent individual explained, “I couldn’t take care of myself. I couldn’t take a shower by myself; I couldn’t do anything without help. It was bad, and I was scared.” She added, I kept trying to push myself, but that didn’t do any good.”
Then came a traumatizing experience. Short related what happened after she had been home for eighteen days. “Mom and Keith were at a ball game, and I was at Granny’s and Pap’s [Rita and Danny Cogar] when I started throwing up blood. Then my tongue started swelling…really swelling. They took me to the ER in Weston.” At Stonewall Jackson Hospital, the ER personnel immediately gave her antihistamine to stop the swelling of her tongue. The blood tests they ran showed her hemoglobin level “was down to seven, but they didn’t know why.” After running the tests and obtaining permission to give her blood, they gave her transfusions. Her chest x-rays showed what the doctors called “the worst case of pneumonia [they’d] ever seen.” Following the emergency treatment, the physician in charge sent her to Ruby Memorial.
At Ruby they ran more tests, took more x-rays, and sent me to ICU since I was bleeding in my lungs,” Short said. “They were desperate to find the source of the bleeding, and finally they put a scope down my throat to cauterize. That stopped the bleeding.” However, her problems were not limited to her lungs. “They learned my kidneys were bad, and they told me I might have to have dialysis,” she explained. Still somewhat awed at the attention she received during that five-day stay at Ruby, she said, “I saw ten different teams of doctors. They were all interested in working on my case because they said they had never seen anything like that.” During all of this, she insists she remained positive. “There was nothing I could do,” she noted.
On the fifth day, after technicians had taken “over forty tubes of blood” for analysis, the doctors came into her room “with all of these papers from the research they had been doing, and said I had this auto-immune disease, anca positive vasculitis. They told [her] that [her] body attacks itself.” They explained to the seventeen-year old that there is no known cause, no cure, and that there are fifteen different types of this disease.
Next, her doctors explained the treatment options and recommended what seemed to have helped others. Then began a life of taking steroids—in her case, prednisone, along with a series of once-a-month chemotherapy treatments. “I’ve had four and still need two more. Each one takes eight hours,” she explained. Her reactions to the chemo treatments have been less severe than what some people experience. “The first time, I was really, really sick and they always make me tired,” she commented, adding, “Since I have returned to school, I stay home the day after the chemo treatment because I feel so tired.”
A current problem is her prednisone intake. In addition to causing weight gain—she has gained 26 pounds——she has “been having bad headaches lately.” Also, she realizes that she has “been hateful,” and thinks that is a reaction to the prednisone. Her original intake has been reduced, and doctors “plan to put me on even lower doses of steroids.” On the down side, however, the most recent urinalysis showed protein in her urine, which means “they may have to ‘bump’ up the prednisone again.” She hopes not, of course.
So, where does Mackenzie Short go now? She attended Prom, and she even went to an after-Prom party with some of her friends. However, she didn’t stay long. Here, her determination shows, as she told of her going to the party. “I was too tired to stay for long, but at least I went, and I felt good about that,” she said. Here, too, some of her frustration is evident. Asked whether she feels excluded because of her illness, her response was “Yes,” and she explained, “I know my friends can’t stop what they’re doing because I’m sick. I don’t feel like asking them to come and just sit at my house when they could be out and doing something more interesting, but of course I can’t join them—yet.”
She will graduate from Braxton County High School on May 31, and that can be considered a major accomplishment. Another indication that she may be returning to her “normal” self involves a trip to the beach. Smiling, she described the situation. “At the start of the year, we had planned to have a beach trip after graduation. Since I have been so sick and still get really tired, I had decided not to go. My doctors, though, gave me permission, and finally, Mom said I can go,” she said. She continued, “This will be the first time I’ve been away from Mom since I got sick. I did go to Virginia to visit Dad, and I spent three days down there, but that was different. She didn’t worry about me because I was with Dad.”
Short plans to enter college this fall. “I’ve changed my college plans a little,” she explained. “I’m going to go to Glenville State this fall and try to get my general studies. Then, if things have gone well, I’ll probably transfer for the next year.”
She has also become highly involved in the attempt to make others aware of this horrible disease from which she and others suffer. Her doctor at Ruby Memorial told her, on Short’s last visit, that she plans to ask other doctors to let this young woman describe her experience to WVU medical students. The Rotary Club in Summersville has also asked her to speak, and she shares her story online. Currently she, along with members of her family and others, is trying to organize support for other victims. One plan is to have a walk, similar to Relay for Life, next spring.
To those with whom she comes in contact at school and to others whom she meets, Mackenzie Short immediately makes eye contact and offers what appears to be the same smile everyone saw six months ago. Underneath, however, this young woman realizes what many do not know: The disease, currently in remission, may return at any time. There is no cure, and there is no guarantee she will not face the same trauma which she has survived.
She admits, quite frankly, “I’m scared.” Even so, here is an extremely determined eighteen-year old. Here is an individual who, along with the help of doctors who still e-mail her just to find out how she is doing and even ask for pictures of her at Prom, has faced and beaten—at least for now—a deadly disease. Here is a young woman whose prognosis is not only survival but also success.
Larry Clifton resigns,
Judges appoint new magistrate
After more than 4 years as a magistrate, Larry Clifton announced his retirement to Judge Richard A. Facemire last week. Clifton stated that it was with some regret that he leaves the post, “the people of Braxton County have been good to me. I appreciate the support of the public, the judicial system and those I have worked with and for. However, I believe everyone reaches a time in their life when they should retire and I feel this is mine.” Clifton has over 21 years invested as a public servant as assessor and as magistrate.
On Friday, Judges Facemire and Jack Alsop announced the appointment of Rob Hamil to fill the vacancy until the next election. “I believe Rob will do an excellent job. He is in touch with the average citizen of Braxton County and I am confident that he will fulfill the duties of the office in a fair and impartial manner,” said Chief Judge of the 14th Judicial District Facemire.
Clifton’s retirement is effective May 31. Hamil will assume his new position on June 1. “I am excited and nervous all at the same time,” explained the appointee. “This is a new direction for me and I am extremely pleased that Judge Facemire and Judge Alsop have faith in me. I have always tried to be of service to my fellow man and I believe this new position will open up a host of opportunities to continue that work.”
Hamil has spent the past 6 years as County Dog Warden. He also manages the Animal Shelter which boasts one of the highest adoption rates in the state. Prior to taking that position, Hamil ran the Wellness Center in Sutton.
Hamil will serve as Braxton County Magistrate until the 2014 election when voters will choose who will serve the remaining two years of Clifton’s unexpired term.
Commission hears citizens' concerns
at regular meeting
Several citizens voiced their concerns at last Friday’s regular meeting of the Braxton County Commission. Darren Hunter requested permission to close a portion of an alley adjacent to his home on Second Street between Lots 20 & 30 in Stewart Addition in Gassaway. After hearing the request, President Gary Ellyson explained the procedures of such a move and set a public hearing regarding the closure for June 7 beginning at 11:00 a.m.
Larry Hutchison outlined his concerns regarding voting procedures. He stated that he had voted for “none of the above” in past elections but his votes were not counted. He felt that dissatisfaction with all the candidates on the ballot should be counted. He asked the Commission to support a resolution to make more room on the ballot for such a statement and count the same. The Commissioner told Hutchison that they were following state and federal guidelines regarding the appearance of ballots and what could be counted and that it would take a change in state law to accommodate his request.
Dot Gioulis spoke to the Council regarding the Sutton Community Development Corporations request for funding to help purchase additional signage for an exercise trail that was being constructed in Sutton with an $8,300 grant. The request was tabled at the previous meeting. Terry Frame made a motion to allocate $2,500 from the Hotel Motel tax for the project.
Attorney Tracey Weber appeared before the Commission representing Frederick S. Furst in the estate of his father Frederick E. Furst. The attorney asked for clarification as to the Commissions position on the matter. Commissioner Ellyson explained that the Commission did not oppose his client being appointed administrator of the estate, but believed, based on evidence presented by the deceased’s daughter at the previous meeting, that Mr. Furst was a resident of West Virginia at the time of his death and not Pennsylvania were the son was attempting to probate the will. On a motion by Terry Frame, the documents presented by Mr. Weber were placed into the record.
Luke Sanson of Liberty Mutual Insurance appeared before the Commission to thank them for giving him permission to discuss his insurance products with county employees. He further requested that the county sign a hold harmless agreement so he could begin. The Commission by consent, stated that they were not willing to sign such an agreement, but would review it, if the representative would provide them a copy.
Mike Baker, EMS/9-1-1 Director requested permission to hire Nicholas Ian Long and Mary Dale Sears as part-time dispatchers in the 9-1-1 Center. He stated they would be paid $7.25 per hour during training with no county benefits. Permission was granted on a motion by Terry Frame.
In other business, the short form settlements were approved as presented.
A motion by Ron Facemire authorized the correction of erroneous assessment for Ricky L. Drake and Gregory & Robin Bragg. A second motion consolidated contiguous tracts of land for tax purposes belonging to Lilly Goff.
Two purchase orders were approved. The Sheriff’s tax office was authorized to purchase 3 part tax statements and envelopes from Casto & Harris at a cost of $1,764. The County Clerk’s office will purchase new furniture for the voter’s registration office from James Law Associates at a cost of $2,074.
Terry Frame introduced action to approve an invoice for Covey Engineering for the Braxton County Recreational Development Authority. The funds were part of a grant administered by the Commission.
A request to purchase an air conditioning unit for the Burnsville Community Building at a cost of $3,816 was tabled.
Terry Frame made a motion to approve the resolution for the COPS Grant.
It was also Frame who made a motion to approve the name of Walker’s Way as a private road name.
County Clerk Susan Lunceford requested permission to use the county credit card to attend a training seminar on June 11-14. Permission was granted on a motion by Terry Frame.
Sheriff Eddie Williams’ list of deputies approved for Dam Patrol was approved, as was an estimate for repair on one of his cruisers.
Following a review the county and EMS invoices were approved for payment.
The minutes of the last regular meeting and an “emergency” meeting held on the same day were approved on a motion by Terry Frame. A media representative questioned the need of the emergency meeting. (See editorial comment on Page 2)
The next regular meeting of the Braxton County Commission will be held on June 7 beginning at 9:00 a.m.
WV Health Care Association elects new officers for 2013
Gene Alfonzi (second from left) will serve as the WVHCA’s vice president for the coming year.
Local facility owner to serve as V-president
The West Virginia Health Care Association (WVHCA) has elected officers and Board of Directors for 2013-2014. The Board of Directors consists of individuals who work in the long term care profession in West Virginia. The newly elected members will join five existing Board members.
Gene Alfonsi, owner of Braxton Health Care and Rehabilitation Center in Sutton, will serve the coming year as WVHCA vice president.
In addition to Alfonzi the WVHCA newly elected officers who will serve one year in their respective positions are: President –Roger Topping of Princeton Health Care Center in Princeton; Secretary –Todd Jones of AMFM, LLC in Charleston; and Treasurer –Larry Pack of Stonerise Healthcare in South Charleston.
The newly elected Board of Directors who will be serving a two-year term include: Deatra Adkins of Stonerise Healthcare in South Charleston; Michael Gore of Lincoln Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Hamlin; Kathy Haddon of Genesis HealthCare of Morgantown; Rodney Hannah of United Transitional Care Center in Bridgeport; Michael Herald of Heartland of Charleston in Charleston; Barbara Sisarcick of Peterson Rehabilitation Hospital & Geriatric Center in Wheeling; and Drema Thompson of Dunbar Center in Dunbar.
Individuals who are currently serving on the Board of Directors include: Rosalene Black of Midland Meadows Senior Living in Ona; Denise Campbell of Elkins Rehabilitation and Care Center in Elkins, Greg Elliot of AMFM, LLC in Charleston, Traci Henderson of Meadowview Manor Health Care Center in Bridgeport; and Greg Stephens of Eagle Pointe in Parkersburg. Kathy Haddon will also serve as the Board Member at Large to the Executive Committee, and Mary Ferrell of Genesis HealthCare in Morgantown will serve as the Immediate Past President.
The WVHCA, headquartered in Charleston, is a statewide nonprofit organization representing long term facilities providing care for approximately 12,000 residents. Members include licensed nursing facilities, hospital based skilled nursing units and assisted living communities. Associate members are persons and organizations involved with the long term care profession or have a related business or professional interest. For more information about long term care, contact WVHCA at (304) 346-4575 or visit www.wvseniorcare.com for a list of senior services available in West Virginia.
BCHS Top Ten Senior Countdown
By Allison Nettles
Sharing the coveted Valedictorian honor with Trey Keplinger is Nathaniel Nicholas. Nathaniel is the 18 year old son of Rupert and Valerie Nicholas of Duck.
Nathaniel will be attending West Virginia University in the fall, to double major in aerospace and mechanical engineering. His future plans include pursuing a master’s degree in aerospace engineering in hopes of gaining employment with NASA.
Nathaniel credits one teacher with the greatest impact on his academic life, Mrs. Shirley Shuman. “Mrs. Shuman taught me skills that have helped me throughout life. Her influence inspired me to excel in my academic studies,” Nathaniel stated.
Nathaniel is also very involved in activities outside of his academics. “I am an Eagle Scout of Boy Scout Troop 135 and through this I have volunteered in Scouting for Food and Adopt-A-Highway,” Nathaniel added. He has also participated in the Elk River Cleanup several years. In addition he is a team captian for the Braxton County Phantoms soccer team. In his spare time, Nathaniel prefers the outdoors, he enjoys hunting, kayaking, snowboarding, camping, mountain biking and spending time with friends and family.
Nathaniel shared his favorite and worst school memories. He fondly recalled a memory from his junior year. “I built a stockade and placed students and faculty in it for the Shakespearean Festival,” Nathaniel added. “My worst memory was when my desk broke in the middle of geometry class my freshman year. It was really embarrassing in front of all the upper classman,” he said.
“I want to thank my parents for their love and support. I would like to also thank my family and friends for their constant support,” Nathaniel commented. He went on to say, “I would like to thank my teachers that have pushed me to become the student I am today.”
New book honoring veterans released by Burnsville native
Ultramarathoner and Marine Corps veteran Jamie Summerlin will present his new book Freedom Run: A 100-Day, 3,452-Mile Journey Across America to Benefit Wounded Veterans during the upcoming Burnsville School Alumni Weekend festivities. Summerlin, a native of Burnsville, will be selling signed copies of Freedom Run at Burnsville School from 6-10 p.m. on Friday, May 24 and throughout the day until 8 p.m. on Saturday, May 25. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the book will benefit veteran-focused charitable organizations.
Freedom Run tells of Summerlin’s 2012 transcontinental run across America and the heartfelt stories of courage and determination from the U.S. veterans he met along the way. Throughout the book, not a detail is spared. With light humor and great emotion, Summerlin provides the many elements involved in preparing for and accomplishing his journey, as well as some of the milestones and people who shared the experience with him. While many have attempted to run across the country, few have completed it; Summerlin became just the 48th person known to have finished a true coast-to-coast run in America.
Summerlin had another motivation for making his way across the country on foot. As Marine Corps veterans, both he and his wife wanted to recognize the men and women who defend our country. Summerlin captured the attention of individual and corporate sponsors to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project and other veteran-based charitable organizations during his run.
Running an average of 34.5 miles per day, Summerlin began in Coos Bay, Oregon, the hometown of his wife, Tiffany, and collected stories of veterans he met all throughout his 100-day trek to the Atlantic Ocean. Summerlin capped off the adventure with a 100-mile home stretch from Annapolis, Maryland, to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, in less than 24 hours. Overall, he ran the equivalent of 132 marathons during his span from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean, energized by the unique experience, the people who supported him, the veterans he met, and their stories. Though countless media interviews and informal chats with bystanders added a bit of time to his pace, Summerlin relished any opportunity to speak to others along his run.
“Any chance I had to share the story of what we were doing also enabled me to give thanks and attention to the veterans that this run was all about,” says Summerlin in Freedom Run.