"She was so sweet," Charlene Threats said of her daughter Jazzmyne Ashworth, who died in a June wreck in Calhoun, Tennessee, when a train collided with the car she was the passenger in. "She did so much in the 17 years she had with me. She made sure I knew I was loved."
Nearly six months after the death of the Sonoraville High School student, family members are still mourning the loss of Ashworth, who would have graduated in May. Yet, despite her grieving, Ashworth's mother has decided to try to make something good of this tragic death, starting a nonprofit in honor of her daughter.
According to reports from the Tennessee State Patrol, around 5:30 p.m. on June 21, a 2009 Ford Fusion, driven by Wendy M. Humphreys, 45, of Chattanooga, was traveling northbound on U.S. 11 in Calhoun, Tennessee, and made a right turn onto a private road. The road did not have warning lights or crossing arms, and the car traveled directly in the path of a Norfolk Southern train that was running along the highway.
The train struck the car on the right side near the center of the vehicle. The report stated that the car then rolled down an embankment where it came to a rest upside down. Ashworth, 17, was a passenger in the vehicle; her father, Johnny Ashworth, 46, also from Chattanooga, was also a passenger in the vehicle. All three were pronounced dead at the scene.
"You go through a period of shock, and you go through a period of asking why. Then you start to research and see how this happened," Threats said of the crash. "It took me going to the site several times for me to realize there was nothing the driver could have done, so I can't be mad. There was nothing that could have been done."
Reflecting on her daughter's life, Threats said Ashworth was loved by her friends and community, and was very involved in Gordon County.
"Her passion was agriculture, and she was a part of FFA She also worked with Tuskegee University for three years, researching and participating in their summer programs, and she planned to go to Tuskegee for college," Threats said.
And though at times Threats is tempted to say that she missed out on special moments due to her daughter's early death, she is always reminded that she was able to see Ashworth accomplish quite a lot in her 17 years, thanks to her participation in the Disney Dreamers Academy.
Early last year, Ashworth was announced as a winner in the "2018 Disney Dreamers Academy Essay Contest," where she was invited to attend the special academy. Walt Disney World, in partnership with Steve Harvey and ESSENCE Magazine, created Disney Dreamers Academy in 2008 to encourage young people along their paths to success and to convey that the power of dreaming is the first step to achieving their goals.
The Academy is a four-day, power-packed event in which only 100 select high school students across the country are inspired, motivated and prepared to dream big. Ashworth attended the event last March, where Disney paid for her and Threats to travel to Orlando, Florida, for the prestigious program.
"She didn't graduate high school, but I got to see her graduate at the Disney Dreamers Academy ceremony. I also wanted to see a Broadway play with her, and at the end of the academy, they did a production of the lion King," Threats said. "I got to see her in her field of work. I got to see who she would have become."
She was also among 200 students chosen nationwide to attend the esteemed three-day 24th annual Global Youth Institute late last year, where she interacted with young leaders from around the United States as well as nine other countries.
The Jazzmyne Ashworth Project
Approaching Jan. 11, the date that would have been Ashworth's 18th birthday, Threats is in the works of starting a nonprofit organization called the Jazzmyne Ashworth Project, which she has initiated to raise railroad safety awareness. Threats' goal is to increase the amount of lights, safety devices, and warning signs at intersections where a railroad crosses with a road to notify oncoming traffic and pedestrians of nearby trains.
"For Jazzmyne's case, nothing was there. There was nothing at that site to alarm them that a train was approaching," Threats said. "The nonprofit is to bring awareness to railroad safety."
Threats said there have been two other crashes at the location of her daughter's collision, and she wants to work to get safety signs and lights up at locations like this one.
Her catch phrase for her new organization is "Pause and think Jazzmyne," a phrase she encourages others to think of before crossing a railroad. Because of Ashworth's collision, she realized that without a warning, a loved one can be gone.
"A part of this (nonprofit) might be her purpose," Threats said. "If there's one other life that can be saved, it would make this all worth it. It would make her life count."
Speaking up after this devastating event, Threats hopes to prevent other lives from being taken by train wrecks.
To read a letter Charlene Threats wrote to remember and celebrate her daughter's joyful yet short life, go to calhountimes.com for the online version of this report.
Editor's Note: This report is a follow-up to a piece which ran in Saturday's Calhoun Times.
The anterior approach was not a new invention when it began to be more widely used by orthopedic surgeons, explained Dr. Adam Land.
"It's something that trauma surgeons had used forever, for complex pelvic fractures," said the orthopedic surgeons with Northwest Georgia Orthopedics and Sports Medicine.
But the in early 2000s, trauma surgeons who also did total hip re-placements began to consider incorporating the anterior approach. And over the last 10 to 15 years it has gained acceptance, Land said.
Now, most medical residents are being trained on this approach, just as he exclusively did in his own residency. As well, Land completed his fellowship — from 2016 to 2017 — at Emory University Hospital, training on the approach under a doctor who was the first to do the procedure in Georgia.
There s always fad type things," he said. "Part of the trick of being an orthopedic surgeon is you have to figure out what's going to be fleeting thing versus what's here to stay."
And for Dr. Stephen King, an orthopedic surgeon with Land at Northwest Georgia Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, he saw that the anterior approach was here to stay.
"I did hundreds of hips through the anterior-lateral approach for 10 years when I got here," he said. "I saw the writing on the wall and was always looking to stay up to date."
So several years ago, King attended courses on anterior hip replacements and observed Gainesville-based Dr. Charles DeCook perform the procedure. Over the last four years, he said he has performed more than 200 on patients in Northwest Georgia.
"It isn't like we're learning a whole new operation. Ninety percent of the operation is the same as it always was. It's just that we're making the incision in a different
place," King said, adding that the "muscle-sparring procedure" avoids having to detach muscles by going in through the front of the hip. "The main thing for a surgeon to get used to is seeing things from a different perspective. Putting the components in is pretty much the same. It's just really getting used to the muscle interval that you're going in between and get-ling used to the approach."
King believes that with time, as older orthopedic surgeons, who have utilized the traditional approaches in their practices, head toward retirement, the anterior approach will become even more popular with incoming surgeons.
But Land is quick to say, repeating what he tells patients, that "a well done hip is a well done hip."
It doesn't matter if you have an anterior approach, a posterior approach, a lateral approach. If you have a good surgeon you're going to do well," Land said. "To me the difference is how quickly can you begin to see the benefits of your surgery. With the anterior approach you see it the most quickly."
An additional advantage to the anterior approach is that there is lower likelihood of a patient suffering a dislocated hip after surgery, by avoiding going in through the back of the hip for the procedure, Land said.
Also, with the anterior approach, patients can lie down on their back for the surgery. This means patients can be put off in a "twilight sleep" by anesthesia through the spine, making the surgery safer for those with lung or cardiac issues, Land explained.
"If you can avoid having to be put all the way to sleep then it's a little bit safer," he said.
Even with the benefits of the anterior approach, Land still sees it as something that will be offered "fairly selectively" in the future.
"The anterior approach takes a long time to learn well and it's a very specific skill," he said.
For residents in orthopedics to learn all they need to know in five years, they may not have as much time as required to focus in on this one approach and practice it at length, Land said. And learning the traditional approaches offers residents the ability to apply what's learned to many aspects of the field, he said.
As for the future of hip replacements, "Unless you can figure out some way for a patient to swallow a hip replacement and all of a sudden it ends up in their hip, there is going to have to be an incision," Land said. "This is the best we've got right now as far as getting to the hip."
King added that the elements of the surgery are not likely to change anytime soon, but what the future will bring arc developments in the components used in hip replacements. He said that over the next decade, the plastic or metal used in hip replacements will be so hard and so durable that if a surgery is performed on someone in their 40s, their hip will last the rest of their life.
The state House District 5 special election race was whittled down to two candidates Tuesday, as Republicans Matt Barton and Jesse Vaughn are now set to face off in a Feb. 5 runoff to decide who will fill the seat formerly held by the late Rep. John Meadows.
Vaughn, a local attorney, was the top vote getter, finishing with 33.72 percent of the 3,520 votes cast. Barton, a self-employed businessman who previously served on the Calhoun Board of Education and City Council, came in second with 23.15 percent.
Since neither candidate secured the more than 50 percent of the vote required to win outright, the top two finishers now head to a runoff.
Right behind Barton for much of the night as election results came in was Republican Scott Tidwell, who had 20.99 percent. Tidwell, who pastors Prayer Baptist Church in Chatsworth, was 76 votes behind Barton's count of 815. Tidwell jumped ahead of Barton when the single Murray County precinct results came in, but Barton climbed back ahead as Gordon County precincts began to report Election Day results.
"It was like a rollercoaster as the results came in," Barton said Tuesday night.
Finishing in fourth place was Larry Massey Jr., a former Gordon County Board of Education member, with 14.89 percent. He was followed by Democrat Brian Rosser with 4.63 percent and Republican Steve Cochran with 2.61 percent.
Both Barton and Vaughn said on Tuesday night that with a six-candidate field Ihey knew a runoff was likely, and thanked voters for pushing them into the top two. And with four weeks before their runoff date, they plan on continuing to press their messages in the community and interacting with voters.
"We'll just keep on keeping on ... and hope that's what will put us on top in a couple weeks," said Vaughn.
"We'll go back to the drawing board," Barton said, finding ways to improve his campaign while continuing what they did well.
Both candidates encouraged voters to attend a forum hosted by the Gordon County Republican Party on Thursday night. The forum will be a part of the regular monthly GOP meeting at the Calhoun Depot, starting at 6 p.m.
Sarah Burks was driving her husband's customized Chevrolet Corvette shortly after his death in 2017 when she felt the call to return to the horse show world after three decades away.
Albert Burks passed away in May of that year shortly after his lung cancer diagnosis.
"When I heard that big block engine roar, I heard my late husband's voice: 'Honey, you've done everything that you need to do. Now, it's time to do something you love,'" she recalls. "That's when I decided to celebrate his life rather than mourn his death."
Three months after Albert's death, she attended the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration in Shelbyville, Tennessee, to watch a friend's show. It was there that she met Alan and Nick Price, a father/son horse training team based in Gordon County.
She remembers Alan encouraging her to get back into the sport she had loved since she was a young girl.
"The first words he said to me were, 'I want to be the one to put you back in the show ring,'" she says.
Her response: "That's never going to happen."
Life circumstances, including a divorce years earlier had led her away from the horse world, and she was hesitant about jumping back in. But she trusted the Prices, and by the end of 2018, she was
was the proud owner of 21 Tennessee Walking Horses and 20 high-stakes blue ribbons that she had earned within the year.
Sarah started riding horses almost before she could talk.
"My daddy put me on my first pony when I was 2, and it was, 'Horse, horse, horse!' ever since then," she says.
She wanted to ride hunter jumpers as she got older, but her father thought it was too dangerous. Instead, at the recommendation of a friend, he got her into Walking Horses, a breed known for its smooth, specialized gaits, when she was an adolescent.
Sarah's father was actually her adoptive parent, and unbeknownst to her for a long time, her biological father was an avid rider. He sustained head injuries jumping horses, which was why her adoptive father refused to let her ride hunters. Sarah found out about her birth father's affinity for horses when she was 30 years old. That was the same year she won a world championship and a world grand championship aboard "Senator's Delight R&R" at the Celebration, the be-all and end-all of Walking Horse shows that takes place in Shelbyville, Tennessee, each year.
It wasn't long after winning that first title that she made what she thought might be a permanent break from the show ring. Her adoptive father died a short time later.
"It meant the world to him to see me win that," she recalls.
'We just went gangbusters'
She credits Alan and Nick Price with bringing her back into the sport and helping her rekindle the love of horses that never really fizzled. Nick does the training, and Sarah says his talent surpasses that of much older trainers. The communication he brings to his training through his hands, she says, makes all the difference when it comes to creating horses that outshine the others.
"I have never had anybody put me in the ring on such consistently great horses," she said.
Her show season took her all over the South this year: Crystal, Franklin and Chestnut Hill, Tennessee; Conyers, Georgia; Tunica, Mississippi.
The year began with a win for her stallion, "Cowboy Casanova," at the National Walking Horse Trainers' Show in Shelbyville. She and the Prices decided to pursue other serious titles after that.
"We just went gangbusters," she says.
The year included a world grand championship win at the Celebration with a young horse in the 3-year-old amateur division.
"Winning the world championship and world grand championship on 'Dobie Gra/was, of course, the highlight of this year for me," Sarah says.
Only 25 show barns took home this accolade, she says. Horses who attain this level of success must first qualify to compete for the title by winning a world championship against horses of the same gender within their divisions. Mares, geldings and stallions then compete against each other for the world grand championship title.
The fact that Sarah had only owned "Dobic Gray" for about six weeks before winning the grand championship augmented the win significantiy. She credits Nick with elevating the horse's way of going in a short time with solid training.
At the end of the year, her mare, "Ruby Lipstick," had taken home the Walking Horse Trainers Association Ladies Amateur Horse of the Year award, and "A Classic Action" had come in second place overall for the year in the association's 4-year-old amateur stallion category. Sarah has enjoyed every second of it.
"I promised myself I wouldn't pressure myself... I thought I was having fun (showing before) but not like I'm having now," she says. "My goal is to represent the Walking Horse industry, Price Stables and this wonderful breed as best I possibly can and to have a lot of fun doing that. And I've certainly had the time of my life."
Sarah moved here from Knoxville in early 2017 after realizing where her partnership with the Prices was headed.
"It's like we've known each other in a previous life," she says.
She has a big year planned for 2019 with the National Walking Horse Trainers Show up first in March. She has a lot to live up to in defending her 2018 titles, but she's ready.
"We've got some great horses to do it with," she says.