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'It hurts. And we live with that 365 days a year'
• The death of a young woman who couldn't live with her pain sparks a local support group and a memorial procession set for Friday.

A candlelight procession down Broad Street on Friday night is expected to be small but powerful

Just showing up may sap all the strength from participants, who live with gastroparesis daily. But organizers think it's important to raise awareness of the painful and incurable condition that claims lives through both its physical effects and suicide.

"Imagine having the worst of the worst morning sickness, plus the feeling after you've eaten so much at Thanksgiving dinner you don't want to move. Then add a bad flu virus and multiply it by 10," said Anitra Duke, a former nurse whose career was ended almost overnight by the chronic illness.

"It hurts. And we live with that 365 days a year."

Gastroparesis essentially paralyzes the stomach muscles. Complications can include malnutrition; severe dehydration from ongoing vomiting; unpredictable blood sugar changes; acid reflux; and undigested food hardening in the stomach, blocking the small intestine.

There's a spectrum of severity, and some symptoms can be managed individually. But sufferers — who can often end up at emergency rooms as their symptoms converge — are

sometimes viewed with suspicion because there's little research and no real cure.

"When you're coming in all the time with nausea, pain and vomiting that won't stop, you can easily get labeled as a drugseeker," Duke said.

Friday's gathering, which is open to the community, will be a chance to memorialize those who have died and to share the stories of those who still live. Participants will meet at 6 p.m. in Kaleido-Sno, 414 Broad St., and go from there.

"We thought that would be a good place because everybody can suck on a little ice, even if they can't eat," Duke said. "We'll talk a little ... then light our candles and walk down to the levee for a short ceremony."

The catalyst came a few months ago, with the death of a 27-year-old woman with gastroparesis that Duke's not naming because the family wants privacy.

"She started feeling short of breath and began vomiting, so she went to the emergency room but the doctor sent her home. And when she got home she killed herself," Duke said.

A friend set up the Faces of GP Alliance website at facesofgp.org so people would have a forum to connect, share experiences and advocate for changes. There's also the Faces of GP Facebook page, which is just getting started.

Another friend, Nancy Damrow, also asked the Rome City Commission to bring attention to the often-misunderstood condition. Damrow said she's had it since 2005 but doctors didn't identify it until 2014.

"At one point they thought it was anorexia ... and the hospital still doesn't know much about it," she said.

Commissioner Wendy Davis presented a proclamation from the board during last week's meeting that names August as Gastropareisis Month in Rome.

"Thank you for raising awareness of something you can't always see," Davis said.

The condition can have ripple effects on different parts of the body, and many people with gastroparesis have other medical problems as well. The meeting on Friday is an outreach to anyone dealing with the frustrations of managing a life-changing sickness, including their loved ones and caretakers.

"You're going to have issues. You need to talk to people who understand it," Duke said. "This is not just for us. It's for everyone in the chronic illness community who have to go to the hospital all the time."

ON THE WEB

See this story online for links to the GP Alliance Facebook page and website.


Just keep running
• Jerry Ledford completes his 20th Gary Tillman Memorial Clocktower 5K Road Race on Saturday, just weeks from his 81st birthday.

Gary Tillman Memorial Clocktower 5K Road Race

It was not until later in life when Jerry Ledford started running.

As a 40-year-old who just quit smoking, he knew he had to do something to deal with nicotine withdrawals. So in needing something to occupy himself with, he took to running. And 40 years later, Ledford is still running.

Just weeks away from his 81st birthday, Ledford hit the downtown course of the Gary Tillman Memorial Clocktower 5K Road Race on Saturday, joining more than 300 on the run to benefit the Exchange Club Family Resource Center.

"She'll probably call my name as the oldest runner," he said after finishing.

He was the oldest runner, but that did not stop him from beating out a number of other, younger racers. But for the longtime runner, who traveled the Southeast competing with a box of medals and trophies

at home to show for it, he is quick to admit he is not as fast as he once was. With a time of about 35:35.02, he says at one time he could have done it in the mid 20s.

Saturday's race was the 20th for Ledford, who always tries to make it each year. He missed last year to attend his sister's wedding anniversary back in his home state of North Carolina, something he supposes he had to attend.

Ledford grew up in Kings Mountain, at a time when running as a sport had no place in high school. For work, he traveled around selling textile machinery for a company out of Charlotte, near his hometown. His job led him to Rome on occasion, and it was here where he decided to stay 40 years ago.

Though he keeps to a regiment of running and walking three to four times a week, going about six miles each time, Ledford said he is definitely more selective in the events he attends.

"I've really enjoyed running," he said.

For the second year in a row, Oscar Ogwaro was the overall winner, with a time of 16:30.24. The 28-year-old, who was an All-American at Shorter University for track and cross country, also won the race in 2014.

The top female was Jill Bradley, 39, with a time of 20:14.47.

Established to prevent child abuse, the center offers free help for local families in crisis through a parent aide program, supervised visitation and life-skill classes. For more information, visit the website at ExchangeClubFRC.org.

OTHER WINNERS WERE:

• Top female masters: Nan Marie Cash, 24:32.60

• Top male masters: Paul Deaton, 18.35.57

• Top female grandmasters: Michele Penny, 25:33.27

• Top male grandmasters: Scott Smith, 21:54.34

• 10 and under: Sarah Beth Bushnell, 28:21.02; Paul Schlitz, 22:27.65

• 11-14: Evelyn Schlitz, 22:52.22; Simon Schabort, 18:43.82

• 15-19: McKinsey Spinks, 22:46.68; Chaney Holder, 17:47.77

• 20-24: Elizabeth Evans, 26:47.81; Charles Wright, 25:55.85

• 25-29: Ali Patrick, 25:42.22; Chase Babineaux, 19:48.46

• 30-34: Tanaya Larsen, 22:59.69; Jeff Holloway, 20:20.07

• 35-39: Kate Barron, 21:27.58; Nicholas Lehman, 18:42.13

• 40-44: Lauren Brewster, 26:24.64; Brian Cross, 19:56.68

• 45-49: Cecily Abernathy, 26:43.20; Keith Long, 19:38.69

• 50-54: Paige Shaw, 28:15.97; Thomas Mende, 24:38.13

• 55-59: Julie McAlister, 30:39.20; Ken Pharoah, 22:41.60

• 60-64: Vicki Knight, 29:59.55; Robert Forrest, 26:27.19

• 65-69: Diana Hamer, 38:31.02; Wayne Benefield, 26:59.15

• 70-74: Ola Caldwell, 38:31.93; Larry Kuglar, 27:59.16

• 75 and up: (no female); Jerry Ledford, 35:35.02

ON THE WEB

To see the full results, see this story online at rn-t.com.


A coming home for Freemantown descendants
• The descendants of the five families of Freemantown, a 19th-century settlement of African-Americans on what is now Berry College Mountain Campus, return to the burial place of their ancestors.

With descendants of the five families of Freemantown coming together at Berry College on Saturday, the legacy they represent is now being carried on through the creation of a historical society.

The Freemantown Historical Society aims to keep the memory of the post-Civil War, African-American settlement alive.

"Though this is Berry College," said Cheryl Freeman Snipes, the president of the newly created historical society, "this was once Freemantown's home."

Snipes, who organized the Freemantown celebration, which happens every five years, is the great-granddaughter of Samuel Freeman, who was the brother of Thomas Freeman, an emancipated slave who settled the land on what is now the Berry College Mountain Campus. The Jones, Montgomery, Sanford and Rogers families also lived on the land with the Freemans.

A recent project of the historical society was having a ground penetrating survey done of the Freemantown

Cemetery, which is the last remnant of the settlement, by the Historic Preservation Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. The survey was conducted in April.

Snipes told the group gathered in the Krannert Center on Saturday morning that she hoped to have the results of the survey ready to share with them, but they will have to wait.

D.L. Henderson, a historian for the Historic South-View Cemetery Preservation Foundation in Atlanta, said the fact there are only a few grave markings in the cemetery speaks to the culture of Freemantown. Instead of gravestones, plants were used to mark graves, a practice rooted in the residents' African heritage, she said. So it is not that the dead of Freemantown were buried wrong, she continued, rather they were buried in the form of their own tradition.

The Freemantown families went to the site of the cemetery as part of a communal ceremony, pouring libations out on the ground for their ancestors.

"That is sacred ground," said Henderson, who gave the keynote address during the luncheon at Berry.

Henderson spoke of the social significance the Freemantown Cemetery represents, and what it says of the time it was created, when cemeteries, like society, was segregated based on the color of a person's skin.

"Cemeteries are microcosms of our society," Henderson said, adding that how the dead are treated reflects how those living are.

Cemeteries can often be the last remaining piece of a community, a connecting piece to another time when nothing else of it is left, Henderson said.


Health Initiative provides free care
• Hundreds show up for the 17th annual Health Initiative hosted by 100 Black Men of Northwest Georgia on Saturday for health screenings and education.

The 17th annual Health Initiative put on by 100 Black Men of Northwest Georgia brought around 300 people to the Floyd County Health Department on Saturday to receive free health screenings and education.

Rayford Horne, the president of the organization, said the participation of the women and children increased once again this year for the event, which up until three years ago mainly targeted men.

"The event was more personable in that doctors and health educators enjoyed talking (to) participants about health education, nutrition and healthy living," Horne said.

Rome High students in the HOSA: Future Health Professional program participated again this year, assisting in checking blood pressure and conducting measurements of body mass index. Also, 32 players on the Rome Wolves football team helped out this year.

Horne said 70 men received prostate exams, and 36 women had PAP smears and breast exams, respectively. Other available screenings included glucose, testosterone and cholesterol checks. There was also HIV testing, dental and vision checkups, and skin cancer exams.

On the education side, Christy Hall, who works with Morrison Healthcare which operates the cafeteria at Floyd Medical Center, cooked up a balanced meal for attendees to eat. The meal included teriyaki salmon, grains and vegetables. She answered questions about preparing the meal for those at the event.

Also, booths were set up by different health and wellness providers to share information about community resources.

Overall, 40 different vendors participated in the event this year.


TODAY'S YOUNG ARTIST

Today's artwork is by Artist Alexis Johnson, a student at Pepperell School.