"I have people ask me all the time how I am and I just say good because it's easier," McKinsey Ingle said, as she explained her diagnosis. "Most of the time when people say 'Hey, how are you?' they want a short answer and I don't have enough time to explain everything."
When McKinsey Ingle was growing up, she thought having frequent migraines was normal – after all, she didn't know anything different. But when the headaches started getting severely worse in August of 2017, she went to Children's Hospital in Atlanta and discovered what was causing the headaches.
Dr. Barunashish Brahma diagnosed McKinsey Ingle with chiari I malformation and syringomyelia on February 12, 2018 and sixteen days later, the Calhoun student was preparing for surgery. McKinsey Ingle's first decompression surgery, which took place on Feb. 28 of last year, was meant to help reduce the size of a cyst on her spinal cord that could cause permanent nerve damage.
So, in line with typical procedure, Brahma
performed a decompression surgery and estimated McKinsey Ingle would be cleared to play softball in four to six months. Yet, in August following the surgery, McKinsey Ingle noticed her recovery was taking longer than expected.
Out of her frustration and still-existing pain, as well as the fact that she shares a diagnosis with two of her cousins, McKinsey Ingle and her family decided to host an event to raise awareness about chiari and syringomyelia, but to also raise funds to contribute to cure research.
Diagnosis and treatment
Chiari malfunction is a condition where the lower part of the brain pushes through the skull and presses upon the spinal canal, according to McKinsey Ingle's mother, Myra Ingle. One possible result of chiari is a cyst is formed on the spinal cord, or syringomyelia, which threatens the nervous system and can cause permanent damage if it goes untreated.
Chiari doesn't always lead to syringomyelia, but the two conditions are often found paired together. And when McKinsey Ingle was diagnosed with both, the most pressing need was to take care of the cyst and prevent further damage to her nervous system.
When Brahma diagnosed McKinsey Ingle, she was vaguely familiar with the condition, as her cousins Beau Ross, 5, and Greer Matthews, 3, also have been diagnosed with Chiari. But mostly, she said it was nice to put a name with the constant pain she had experienced for so many years.
As Brahma suggested, she underwent a decompression surgery to reduce the size of the cyst on her spinal cord. Throughout the course of his career, Brahma has conducted several decompression surgeries and typically, a year after he operates, cysts reduce by about 93 percent.
But a year after McKinsey Ingle's surgery, her cyst had only reduced by about 1 millimeter, according to McKinsey Ingle's father, Ryan Ingle, which is nowhere close to 93 percent of its total mass.
"It's been really hard because my friends think that since I had the surgery, I'm good now, they think I'm fine," McKinsey Ingle said when asked about her recovery. "I just didn't understand why my (healing process) has been slower."
Brahma was confused about the process as well, as he predicted to be able to clear her to play softball by August. After several appointments with Brahma and a few MRI's, the Ingles have spent months considering their next plan of action, especially since there is not a developed cure for Chiari yet.
"Our 15-year old has to live with this, there's no cure yet," said Myra Ingle. "She can live with this, but unfortunately, she has to live with it. She just wants to play softball, that's what she wants to do, and she can't do it the way she wants to."
Despite the frustration they've experienced, the Ingles want to do something productive and make a difference, not only for McKinsey, but for all chiari malformation and syringomyelia patients.
When Ryan Ingle was thinking about his daughter's diagnosis, he knew he wanted to do something to help McKinsey. Myra Ingle said it has been hard for both her and Ryan to see their daughter experience recurring headaches and physical pain, but about three months ago, Ryan Ingle discovered a way to contribute to the cause.
"It started eating at me probably worse than I realized, and I was really getting down about things," Ryan Ingle said. "I just started thinking is there any event anywhere, and honestly, the ASAP group was the first one to respond to me."
The American Syringomyelia & Chiari Alliance Project (ASAP) is a nonprofit organization that was founded in 1988 to raise awareness and funds for researching a cure. To date, the organization has raised more than $1 million for research, education and improving the lives of those who have chiari and/or syringomyelia, according to their official website.
When the organization responded to Ryan Ingle, he jumped at the opportunity to host an event in Calhoun to raise awareness for his daughter's diagnosis. His plan is to at least host a walk annually, depending on how Saturday's festivities turn out.
The walk, though it's not a race, begins at 2:30 p.m. and is aimed to primarily educate the public on chiari and syringomyelia. Besides the walk, there will be a corn hole competition, face painting, dunking booth, live music, a silent auction and food, with the hosts of the event being McKinsey Ingle, Beau Ross and Greer Matthews.
Myra Ingle said there will be cheap concessions and barbecue plates for $7, and the Ingles designed the event to be family-friendly and open for anybody to come.
"That's what we want to do," said Myra Ingle. "It's just a walk to generate awareness to Chiari and other symptoms that go along with it."
The first annual "ASAP Walk and Roll of Georgia" will be held on Saturday at the Cherokee Capital Fairgrounds, 1060 Liberty Road, from 1 p.m. to around 5:30 p.m. All funds raised will be donated to researching, raising awareness and increasing support for those diagnosed with Chiari Malformation, Syringomyelia and related disorders.
For more information on the ASAP Walk and Roll of Georgia, contact Ryan Ingle at 706-591-0073, Myra Ingle at 706-979-5405 or visit wizathon.com/georgia-asapwalknroll/?id=3932.
Departing from its traditional breakfast format, the Gordon County Chamber of Commerce will present a Booster Lunch on Friday, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Belmont Baptist Church. The event will be sponsored by the Calhoun-Gordon Council for a Literate Community. Arianne Weldon, director of the Get Georgia Reading Campaign with Georgia Family Connection Partnership, will be the featured speaker.
Weldon's work includes connecting decision-makers across Georgia to create the conditions essential for all children to succeed. In this role, she applies her background in epidemiology to help leaders across the state use data and research to employ new — many times unexpected — solutions. She serves by appointment as a board member for the Sandra Deal Center for Early Language and Literacy, as a member of the Medical Care Advisory Committee for the Georgia Department of Community Health, and as a member of the Georgia Children's Cabinet. Ms. Weldon is the recipient of the Georgia Association of School Nurses Hero Award and the Georgia Senate's Yellow Rose Nikki T. Randall Servant Leader Award. She holds a master's degree in public health from Emory University and a bachelor's degree in sociology from Georgia State University.
"My ask is that you remember the biggest threat to having a 21st century workforce is the fact that only 37 (percent) of children can read proficiently by the end of third grade. We need your help achieving the expectations
defined by the four pillars so that all children are on a path to learn to read by third grade and can read to learn throughout life," said Weldon in December 2018 while at the 31st Biennial Institute for Georgia Legislators in Athens.
The Calhoun-Gordon Council for a Literate Community was organized in 1991 and has remained an active presence in both school systems and the business community since its formation. In 2001, it was successful in accomplishing the arduous process of certifying Gordon County as a literate community. Today, the council supports adult learners at Georgia Northwestern Technical College as well as young learners throughout both school systems. It works to create and maintain positive attitudes about education, literacy and the value of a high school credential.
The council is managed by a board of directors: President Alice Mashburn, with Gordon County Schools; Secretary Julie Stephens, with Precision Service; Chief Financial Officer Mendy Goble, with Gordon County Schools; Treasurer Cindy Nelson, with Georgia Northwestern Technical College; Executive Adviser Anne Vaughn, retired educator; Melissa Blevins with Georgia Northwestern Technical College; Michelle Doane-Beeler with Calhoun City Schools; Nyala Edwards with the Calhoun-Gordon County Library; Allison Eubanks with Calhoun City Schools; Jaime Garrett with Calhoun City Schools; Beth Herod with Gordon County Schools; Beth Holcomb with Calhoun City Schools; David McLeod, retired educator; Phyllis Purdy, retired educator; Jane Rierson with Mannington Mills, Deidre Ross with Calhoun City Schools; and Michele Taylor with Calhoun City. Joni Harbin is the agency's executive director.
During the event, the Chamber will acknowledge Star Students and Star Teachers from each public high school. Calhoun High School Star Student is Matthew Turner and he chose Sean McKenzie as his Star Teacher. Gordon Central High School has two Star Students this year, with both having accomplished identical grade point averages: Bryce Bussert with his Star Teacher Ashli Hall, and Cole Wilson with his Star Teacher Brian Hall. Payton Baker is the Star Student from Sonoraville High School and she chose Ashley Brookshire as her Star Teacher.
Justin Lindsey was named Teacher of the Year for Calhoun City Schools. He is a 2009 graduate of Calhoun High School and a 2013 graduate of Shorter College. He completed his MS in Education with a Special Education specialization and currently is pursuing an Ed.D. in School Improvement. This school year marks his sixth with Calhoun City Schools, where he teaches all "core four" subjects at the middle school.
Nikki Hampton was named Teacher of the Year for Gordon County Schools. She teaches at W.L. Swain Elementary and has been with the county school system for thirteen years. Hampton graduated from the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga in 1994 with a degree in music education and holds a Master of Education degree as well. She is well known in the community for her work with the Coulter Hampton Foundation.
Calhoun-Gordon Council for a Literate Community is a member agency of United Way of Gordon County. The mission of the Gordon County Chamber of Commerce is to connect members and the community to promote economic development.
"My ask is that you remember the biggest threat to having a 21st century workforce is the fact that only 37 (percent) of children can read proficiently by the end of third grade.
Donald White's memory whirs away inside his head like the fine-toothed gears of an antique Rolex. He's precise, and he's consistent.
He can rattle off the original land lot numbers for a good many of the privatelyheld parcels that line the valley where he spent his boyhood fishing and swimming in John's Creek in the northern reaches of Floyd County. He remembers the names of the principals of the old Everett Springs Schools, along with the order in which they appeared. He remembers first and last names of all his grade school teachers and which instructor he had for which grade.
He recalls the days when anything east of the Oostanaula was "a foreign land" on account of the fact that to negotiate the area's many waterways, travelers had to go all the way to Bells Ferry to find a crossing.
"It was the horse and buggy days, so going to Rome, it took you a day to go down there," he says. "My daddy, it took him all day to get a load of lumber on a wagon to Rome. He spent the night and came back the next day."
White, now 92, spent nearly 30 years away from his native Everett Springs working for the Georgia Department of Transportation's Office of Materials and Research. He returned to his childhood home in 1991 to take over the family farm, bringing it back from overgrowth, and this is where he's been since.
Growing up and working
White, who recently celebrated a birthday, was born in 1927 to Dennis and Clara White in a four-room wooden house that still stands very near Everett Springs Road.
The family, which included his sisters, Eleanor and Avis, and his brother, Evyn, farmed for a living.
"The money crop was cotton, and we had a small sawmill that we used to cut saw logs in the wintertime to make a living with," Donald says.
Meanwhile, World War II began, and in 1945, the Navy drafted Donald. An injured knee kept him from completing basic training, and he returned home after the Navy placed him on medical
holdover. By the time his knee healed, the war was over.
The family began a dairy farm in 1958, and Donald ended up in his state job in 1962. He left Everett Springs at that time and settled in Rockdale County. He saw most of the state as he collected information for the construction of bridges and roadways.
"We left on Monday morning, and we stayed out all week," he says. "I've been to every county in the state except for one or two down near the Florida swamps."
The traveling went on for seven years, and then Donald moved to overseeing a department building and a vehicle fleet. He supervised mechanics and maintenance personnel in their efforts to keep the facility and 200-vehicle fleet running smoothly.
With his characteristic clarity, he recalls the exact date when he made the decision to take over the family farm in Everett Springs and make it habitable for cattle. It was New Year's Day 1980. His father had become unable to take care of the place, so Donald set about getting the pastures back in working order on weekends when he drove up from Atlanta.
"We cleared it up and put fences around it," he recalls.
He also began enjoying John's Creek again, just like when he was a boy.
"We did a lot of fishing, and I had beagles," he says. "We loved to hunt rabbits and run those beagles."
A gradual shift
When he thinks back to his early years, Donald recalls details about the community that few others were alive to see. He tells a story about drinking an RC Cola that a salesman gave him. He and a friend each got one from a company rep hoping to begin delivering to the small general store in Everett Springs, and they drank the seemingly bottomless bottles on the store steps.
He recalls the blacksmith shop that still stands across from the community spring. The building had a gristmill attached at the back, and there was a one-room doctor's office just down the road. He can describe the hotel that stood where Everett Springs Baptist Church is now — there were eight rooms with a hallway and a separate kitchen and dining area. He remembers when the old Moore Seminary housed the community courthouse and when a minister visited Mount Tabor Methodist Church on a rotating basis.
"We'd only have pastoral services once a month," he says. "Mount Tabor was the fourth Sunday."
Part of growing up in Everett Springs meant watching activities like shopping and education gradually shift toward Rome. Like many other small, rural communities, this one experienced a mid-century consolidation that took its students out of the old brick school building and into the Armuchee system. Donald remembers the community's mixed feelings about the latter development.
"All of us had a little bit of dissension about it, but it's just part of the way the system changes," he says.
He still attends Mount Tabor, regularly — he's been a member there since 1939. At the church's most recent Halloween celebration, he was the oldest attendee, and he had the trunk popped on his Mercury town car as he handed out candy.
His ability to roll with the changes time brings is perhaps one of his greatest strengths, and he's vocal about the necessity for adjustment. He has taken over the majority of the household cooking in order to care for his wife, Peggy, and he hasn't shied from innovations like the Instant Pot, which he cooks with quite frequently.
He's seen a good many neighbors pass away over the years. He's attended their funerals at Mount Tabor United Methodist Church, and he has kept a record of these events. He remembers his father teaching him from a young age to face life's changes head-on, and those changes included the inevitable passing of loved ones. Dennis would hold his young son up so he could see a deceased person in a coffin during a wake.
"Time goes on. That's the way it is," Donald remembers learning from his father. "I understood the thing about dying. We're not here permanently. We're only promised to be here for a short while, and we're going on."
While looking forward, he maintains strong ties to the past. Visitors might get a chance to page through his "birthday book," a volume of photos a niece made for him, which chronicle his life from age three to his 80th birthday. His love for his community and careful mental documentation of his experiences there are well-known treasures among his neighbors. Although his work led him away from Everett Springs for nearly three decades, he says he knew he'd return permanently.
"When I started working on this farm, it was the long range plan," he says. "This was home to me."