Congressman Phil Roe is cancer-free

Congressman Roe underwent a successful medical procedure in East Tennessee late last month. At his follow-up appointment, Congressman Roe’s scans were clear and he is cancer-free. He looks forward to finishing his recovery and returning to a full schedule soon. The Congressman thanks East Tennesseans for the outpouring of support and prayers he has received through his treatment and his medical team for the excellent care he received.


Significant visitation expected in Cherokee National Forest for August 21st solar eclipse

U.S. Forest Service officials at the Cherokee National Forest are preparing for an increase in visitation for the total solar eclipse occurring in late August. National forest campgrounds and other facilities, as well as certain high elevation locations are expected to be at capacity prior to and during the August 21 eclipse.
On August 21 a total solar eclipse will pass over 12 states, including Tennessee. The eclipse (partial) will be visible throughout the United Sates. A 70 mile wide path of totality begins in Oregon and exits the nation at South Carolina. Areas within the path of totality will experience total darkness for up to 2 mins 40 seconds. In east Tennessee the path of totality will extend from south of Knoxville to Cleveland as it moves southeastward. The southern portion of the Cherokee National Forest (Ocoee Ranger District & Tellico Ranger District) is within the path of totality. Areas outside of the path of totality will experience a partial eclipse without total darkness.

Some people may wish to view the eclipse in a more natural setting. Much of the Cherokee National Forest is remote and rugged, and the environment is much different than in urban areas. High clearance vehicles are recommended for many roads in the national forest. Planning your visit ahead of time may help make it safer and more enjoyable.Various locations outside of developed recreation areas that may seem suitable for viewing the eclipse in the Cherokee National Forest may have environmental or road access concerns associated with them. Many of these locations have rough dirt/gravel roads leading to them with limited access, parking, crowd capacity, restricted traffic flow and no sanitation facilities or water. National forest visitors should expect many locations to be heavily visited and congested.

Vanderbilt testing new system to keep donor hearts viable longer

For decades the miracle of organ donation has relied on an ice cooler.

Until now.

Vanderbilt University Medical Center is one of nine centers across the United States to participate in the EXPAND Heart Pivotal Trial, which has the potential to change the way donor hearts are preserved and transported to recipients.

The trial will use a device by TransMedics called the Organ Care System (OCS) to keep the heart beating and metabolically alive during transport from the donor to the recipient. The machine is designed to keep the heart beating outside of the body (ex-vivo).

Currently, surgeons work to transplant a heart within four hours after it has been harvested from the donor’s body. OCS can extend that time frame, allowing the heart to withstand longer periods of time outside of the body.

“Traditionally, transplantation was built upon the premise that we can take an organ out, put it on ice, leave it in this metabolic quiescent state allowing you to transport that organ to the appropriate recipient,” said Ashish Shah, M.D., chair of the Department of Cardiac Surgery and director of Heart Transplant and Mechanical Circulatory Support at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC).

“Every minute counts during cold ischemic storage, when there is no blood circulation. After three hours, the initial heart function can be compromised. It appears that the longer a heart is on ice the higher the risk that it will be impacted.

“But what if we removed the time element?” asked Shah. “The concept of leaving the organ beating, working and accessible is the next step in heart transplantation. The possibilities are wide open.”

OCS is a portable perfusion and monitoring console that pumps warm, oxygenated, nutrient-enriched donor blood into the heart to optimize the function and also allows for continuous clinical evaluation by the medical team. The console is equipped with a wireless monitor, disposable perfusion module and a heart solution set to keep the heart in a living state until time for transplantation.

While the use of standard cold storage for preservation and transportation reduces the metabolic demands of the heart as well as slows the rate damage, there is no blood circulation and subsequently, some damage does occur, Shah said.

OCS has the ability to increase the amount of time that a heart can be maintained outside the body in a condition suitable for transplantation, providing surgeons the opportunity to assess the heart’s function outside the body and allow for resuscitation, which could potentially improve function after removal from the donor.

In earlier trials, called PROCEED and PROCEED II, OCS outcomes were similar to outcomes of hearts preserved with standard cold storage.

Now the EXPAND trial will allow centers to further broaden the device’s use to include donor hearts that did not meet the current standard criteria for donation. Hearts falling into that category include those that would require longer than four hours on ice, hearts that have reduced function, as well as hearts with coronary artery disease.

Vanderbilt, the only heart transplant program in the region using the novel perfusion technique, expects to begin the trial later this year with its first recipient.

Other EXPAND trial centers include Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, University of California Medical Center, Los Angeles, University of Michigan, Duke Medical Center, University of Washington, Spectrum Health, Grand Rapids, University of Minnesota Medical Center and Massachusetts General Hospital.

“The idea is to expand the donor pool,” said Shah. “Opening up the criteria for heart donors will do two things: get people transplanted faster because the geographical area has increased with the removal of the time constraints; and secondly, it allows us to create new knowledge in this innovative field of organ reconditioning and resuscitation.

“Vanderbilt is uniquely positioned to contribute to this endeavor because of our collaborative scientific and clinical environment. We have the infrastructure to embark on this novel approach to heart transplantations.”

He expects the new technique to revolutionize heart transplantation.

“What if we could use this platform to repair hearts?” asked Shah. “When I look at this technology I am inspired by the extraordinary possibilities of what this holds for the future of transplantation.

“We are putting our intellectual muscle behind this and playing a role in inventing the future instead of following the crowd.”

While OCS is still experimental in the United States, it has been approved for use in other countries.

Illustration:  The Organ Care System has two principal components — a portable platform and an organ-specific perfusion set. The console houses all of the necessary elements to operate the system including oxygen supply and a pump that is used to perfuse blood to the heart to keep it beating. (image courtesy TransMedics)

Kody Norris to receive ‘Bluegrass CD of the Year’ award at Old Time Music Festival in Iowa

The Rural Roots Music Commission was formed a number of years ago, in Iowa, to find a way to honor excelling recording artists who deal with traditional old-time music, and many other traditional rural musical art forms.  Since most traditional music genres have now been locked out of participation at the national level in America, the Rural Roots folks found a way to honor these gifted musicians, vocalists, songwriters, recording artists and small production companies, by honoring them with ‘CD of the Year’ awards.  One of the participants in this rather large ‘gathering’ of musical genres is Kody Norris of Mountain City, Tennessee. This area of Tennessee is the extreme northeastern mountains where Kody grew up listening to an abundance of old-time mountain music.  He began his musical journey at the age of nine singing in local churches. By his teens, he was offered the opportunity to fill in as lead singer and guitarist with Dr. Ralph Stanley and The Clinch Mountain Boys.  By the time he was eighteen, he had established his own blend of traditional hard driving high lonesome bluegrass music.  It wasn’t long before he was a regular on the Cumberland Highlanders RFD-TV national television show.  The RRMC are constantly looking for music very unlike the music called ‘country’ today, and hope to restore the original intent of the genre.
The Rural Roots Music Commission will be awarding Kody Norris his “Bluegrass CD of the Year” award for his CD “When I Get The Money Made” on the main stage during the 42nd annual National Old Time Music Festival in LeMars, Iowa, which runs Aug. 28-Sept. 3 at the Plymouth County Fairgrounds in LeMars, Iowa.  That same stage will also enjoy the presence of Dave Berg, the executive producer of NBC’s national television program The Tonight Show, featuring Jay Leno.  Berg will be emceeing main stage programs at the festival on both Friday and Saturday evenings.  He is a strong supporter of advancing America’s rural music through the Rural Roots Music Commission and the NTCMA.  The RRMC is part of the National Traditional Country Music Association, which has been in existence since 1976.  This is their 42nd year recognizing deserving individuals and groups that have continued the tradition of old-time and traditional music no matter where they may be located.
The NTCMA created a festival of old-time music in 1976, called simply the “National Old Time Music Festival.”  From small beginnings, today it is an event that lasts seven days and has ten stages to accommodate the more than 500 artists and performers that come from around the world. It is acoustic in nature, meaning no electric guitars, drums, or any kind of loud amplified music that normally drowns out a milder, older, and certainly a more down-home style of entertainment. The ‘Fiddler’s Jubilee’ the ‘Harmonica Howl’ the ‘Guitar Pull’ the ‘Band Scramble’ the ‘Mandolin Jamboree’ the ‘Autoharp Gathering’ and the ‘Jamming’ gatherings were created for those performers who are not scheduled for any of the stages.  Anyone can participate.  There are also workshops for beginners. It’s a celebration of America’s rural music heritage.
America’s Old Time Country Music Hall of Fame make their annual inductions during this event, and the Rural Roots Music Commission make their “CD of the Year” awards.  There are six nights of old-time dances in the dance hall, and there are also arts, crafts, antiques, and a flea-market on the grounds.  The motto for the NTCMA Board of Directors is “Pick one day or pick em’ all, just keep pickin’ and we’ll see you at the festival.”

Tennessee state parks offer rewards through Healthy Parks Healthy Person program

Being active outdoors is not only good for your health – it can earn you Tennessee State Parks merchandise, golf rounds, free camping or even cabin stays thanks to a new program.

Tennessee State Parks and the Tennessee Department of Health have partnered to develop a web application called Healthy Parks Healthy Person, which allows Tennesseans to log their activities at Tennessee State Parks in exchange for points that can be redeemed for rewards. The program also includes a Park Prescription feature where healthcare providers can prescribe outdoor activity as part of a healthcare regimen for patients. Talk to your healthcare provider about your options for engaging in outdoor activities to further your health goals.

“Tennessee State Parks offer thousands of miles of walkways, trails and waterways for visitors to engage in healthy exercise at no cost,” said Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Deputy Commissioner of Parks and Conservation Brock Hill. “The Healthy Parks Healthy Person program offers additional incentive for residents to engage in healthy activities at any of Tennessee’s 56 State Parks.”

To participate, you can visit on your mobile device where you can log your activities and collect points for hiking, biking, running, swimming, paddling and rock climbing. Points can be earned at any park – including local, state and national parks – and redeemed at any Tennessee State Park. There is no fee to use the Healthy Parks Healthy Person app.

“We are excited to have a new way to encourage people in Tennessee to be active and enjoy our beautiful and award-winning Tennessee State Parks,” said Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH. “Our parks are wonderful restorative places for our bodies, minds and souls. Go for a walk down a beautiful trail, paddle a creek or enjoy any active fun in our great outdoors for great preventive medicine.”

Numerous public health organizations and studies have proven the benefits of outdoor exercise on mental and physical health. People tend to engage in more strenuous and varied exercise outdoors than they do inside. People have also reported significantly higher feelings of enthusiasm, pleasure and self-esteem when exercising outdoors in a natural setting.

To date, nearly 1,000 people are using the Healthy Parks Healthy Person app. The app is web-based, with users saving the web page as a favorite on their electronic devices to access the program.

Learn more about the Healthy Parks Healthy Person program in this video: To get started, visit or


2017 Tennessee Senior Brain Games call for teams: time to compete!

The Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability, in partnership with the nine Area Agencies on Aging and Disability, proudly announces the upcoming season of the Tennessee Senior Brain Games, now in its fifth year. This is an annual, statewide, team-based trivia competition designed to increase public awareness of brain health and its impact on one’s quality of life.
Interest and participation continues to grow every year. If an older adult organization wants to participate, this is still anyone’s—any team’s–competition. The only teams without a chance of winning are those that choose not to play.
For the next several months, teams will compete within their districts to reach the East, Middle, and West Tennessee semi-finals. The winners of those semi-final rounds will then proceed to Jonesborough, Tennessee on Thursday, October 19, 2017 to take on the Olde Towners from the Jonesborough Senior Center, last year’s champions. The winning team takes home the cup for a year, earns $2000 for its organization, and gets to host the 2018 championship in their hometown.
We all want to stay healthy and independent as we age. To do that, we need to exercise both our bodies and our minds. Ongoing research is helping us learn more about maintaining a healthy brain. While age and family history are risk factors, other things such as diet, exercise, and lifestyle are also believed to have an influence. You can make a difference in the quality of your life by making healthy choices and remaining active.
Visit for more information about the competition and to register your team for this year’s Tennessee Senior Brain Games. If you have questions, call Annalea Cothron at 615-770-3901 or email her at

Legislation sponsored by Rep. Timothy Hill creates additional pet protections during summer

During the first half of the 110th Tennessee General Assembly, Representative Timothy Hill (R-Blountville) sponsored legislation that creates additional pet protections which are especially critical for animals during the summer months.
House Bill 1103 strengthens existing law by requiring agencies that take in lost, stray or abandoned pets with some form of identification or notification information to contact the pet’s owner within 48 hours. The law helps expedite the animal’s return to a safe environment so they can receive proper care and also avoid prolonged exposure to extreme temperatures.
The combination of heat and humidity that Tennessee experiences during the summer months can be extremely dangerous to pets. Missing or abandoned animals usually become dehydrated more quickly because they do not have access to water or to cool environments. These factors often lead to an increased risk of overheating, heat stroke, or death.
“Heat and humidity can be very dangerous for us, but sometimes we don’t realize the impact these extreme conditions can also have on our pets,” said Representative Hill. “This is especially true when pets accidentally wander away or become lost. House Bill 1103 speeds up the search process for owners, cuts down on the potential for heat-related health risks, and may also streamline the adoption process for abandoned pets that are in need of a new home, as well as additional medical treatment.”
House Bill 1103 is the latest in a series of initiatives designed to protect the health and safety of Tennessee’s pets. In 2015, Republican lawmakers also passed House Bill 537, which extends the state’s Good Samaritan law to include pets. The legislation relieves all civil penalties associated with forcibly entering a motor vehicle for the purpose of removing a child or animal locked or trapped inside a vehicle if the individual believes that child or animal is in imminent danger of suffering harm.
For more information about House Bill 1103/Public Chapter No. 206, please visit the Tennessee General Assembly website at:
Timothy Hill serves as House Majority Whip. He is also a member of the House Calendar & Rules, House Transportation and House Insurance & Banking Committees, as well as the House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee. Hill lives in Blountville and represents House District 3, which includes Johnson and part of Carter and Sullivan Counties. He can be reached by email at: or by calling (615) 741-2050.

Mountain City awarded $500,000 HOME grant from THDA

Representatives of the contributing agencies (on each end) with Jerry Jordan, Mountain City Mayor Kevin Parsons, Sen. Jon Lundberg and Rep. Timothy Hill.

Tennessee Housing Development Agency has awarded a $500,000 HOME Program grant to the Town of Mountain City that will be used to bring substandard homes back up to code.
The HOME program is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and administered in part in Tennessee by THDA. During the most recent funding round, THDA awarded 16 competitive grants statewide totaling nearly $7.3 million.
“This HOME Program funding is important because it goes to the people that need it most,” THDA Executive Director Ralph M. Perrey said. “This money will allow these homeowners in Mountain City make much needed repairs that would have gone undone without it.”
Mountain City plans to use the funds to renovate or rebuild at least six single-family homes located within the city limits. The project will benefit very low and low income individuals that do not have the financial resources to make much needed improvements to their residences.
The town will hold a public meeting to outline application procedures and grant guidelines. Once applications are received, a priority list will be formed based on the level of rehabilitation work required, as well as each applicant’s socioeconomic factors. Homes that cannot be brought up to code will not be considered for the project.
Each home selected under the program will receive a per-unit subsidy for rehabilitation that will bring it up to code. Efficiency-sized dwellings can receive up to $58,378, while one-bedroom homes can receive up to $66,923, two-bedrooms to $81,377, three-bedrooms up to $105,276 and four or more bedrooms up to $115,560.
Financial assistance for home repairs will be provided in the form of a deferred grant that is forgivable at 20 percent per year if the family remains in compliance.
Johnson City-based First Tennessee Development District will administer the grant on behalf of the town.
THDA previously awarded a HOME grant to Johnson County totaling $500,000 during the 2016 grant round. Those grant funds are being used to provide up to $40,000 to make repairs on substandard housing located within the county.
HOME grants must be used for the production, preservation, or rehabilitation of affordable housing for low and very low income families and individuals.

Heritage Hall news from Mountain City

Saturday, July 29, Carson Peters and the Iron Mountain Band, sponsored by Redden Realty and Humphrey Masonry Supply. Young East TN native Carson Peters has carved a reputation for himself in the area, the state, and even on national TV stages as a brilliantly talented fiddler. His parents’ Jamie & Robin Peters from Carter County, realized their son was a prodigy when at four, Carson was playing at musical competitions and jamming at festivals. The July show will be Carson’s third gig at HH, and he continues to grow and blossom as a musician and entertainer. Carson has impressed audiences from the David Letterman show, the Carter Family Fold, the Grand Ole Opry, and the Tennessee State Senate. He is a true Tennessee/National treasure whom we are looking forward to following as his star rises higher and brighter each year, and we feel truly honored to have him and his band Iron Mountain grace our stage once again.

Saturday, Aug. 12, The Piano Magic of Floyd Cramer, a tribute event featuring the magic by Floyd’s grandson, pianist Jason Coleman and Chet’s great-niece, guitarist Meagan Taylor. Be transported to a different time and place, a cherished memory, an unforgettable feeling. Floyd Cramer’s unique “slip note” piano style was an essential part of countless country, pop, and rock hits in the 1950s and ‘60s. Jason brings new life to the “Nashville Sound” pioneered by his legendary forerunner with songs like Floyd’s “Last Date” as well as by singing the music of the Everly Brothers and Elvis Presley whose careers were impacted by Floyd. Adv $20/ Door $23. Sponsored by Amedysis Home Health, GSC Electronics & Security, Johnson County Community Hospital, and Unique Boutique

Next up at Heritage Hall: Tues., Renowned Story Tellers Carmen Deedy and John McCutcheon, a benefit performance for the new JC Arts Center/Workshop/Gallery

Heritage Hall is a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving the area with great shows at good prices. Most evening shows start at 7pm; unless otherwise noted, advance tickets are $10; gate tickets are $12 & youth tickets are $5. For tickets, or reservations, call 423-727-7444 and leave a message. The Box Office is normally open on Tuesday – Friday, 12 – 2 pm at 126 College Street. Also, please see

Sunflower Festival draws big crowd

Summer storms have often hampered the annual Sunflower Festival in Mountain City. That was not the case this year with beautiful blue skies and temperatures in the 90’s. A record crowd strolled the downtown area enjoying the crafts, food and games.

Viral photo of soldier saluting funeral procession identified

Colonel Jack Usrey stands and salutes a passing funeral procession in a small town in Kentucky. The photo, taken by Erin Hester and posted to Facebook and Instagram, has been shared more than 130,000 times, garnered more than 187,000 “Likes”, and generated more than 8,600 comments on social media. (Photo by Erin Hester).

NASHVILLE – The viral photo of a Soldier saluting a funeral procession while standing in the rain has been identified. Colonel Jack L. Usrey is the Senior Army Advisor to the Adjutant General at Tennessee National Guard Headquarters in Nashville. While driving from Ft. Knox, KY last week, Col. Usrey met a funeral procession, stopped, got out of his vehicle and paid his respects to the deceased.

“I didn’t really think,” said Usrey. “I just did what my parents taught me to do growing up.”

“I stopped, got out, saluted the police escort and held my salute as the hearse and family passed by, then went on my way and didn’t give it a second thought.”

The photo, that has since gone viral, was taken and shared on Facebook and Instagram by Erin Hester of Vine Grove, KY on Thursday, July 6th. Since that time, the photo has garnered more than 187,000 “Likes”, been shared nearly 130,000 times and generated more than 8,600 comments.

In her Facebook post, Ms. Hester said, “I was so completely touched by this today. A funeral procession was passing by and this soldier got out of his jeep to stand at attention in the pouring rain. I always get frustrated when I see cars that don’t pull to the side and stop for a procession, but this gentleman went above and beyond. I feel pretty confident that there isn’t a military rule that soldiers have to do this. This made my heart happy to see the amount of respect that this gentleman showed a family that he doesn’t even know.”

“Two days later, I saw the photo hit Facebook – since then it’s exploded,” Usrey said. “It’s baffling to me that something so simple caused so much attention. I guess it goes to show how simple it would be for our Nation to be more united if we just treated each other using the Golden Rule.”

A mutual friend at Ft. Knox contacted Ms.Hester and said they were sure they knew the Soldier in the photo and contacted Col. Usrey. The photographer and the subject of the photo connected by phone today and Ms. Hester was able to express her appreciation personally.

Col. Usrey started his career in the Tennessee Army National Guard in1988 as an enlisted Soldier in Union City, TN. After graduating as a distinguished military graduate from the University of Tennessee at Martin ROTC program, Col. Usrey served on active duty as an Armor and Adjutant General officer for 25 years. His assignments ranged from tank platoon leader to the Executive Officer to the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Manpower and Reserve Affairs).

He has served in the 82nd Airborne Division, United States Army Recruiting Command, 1st Armored Division, Special Operations Command Pacific, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, 1st Cavalry Division, III Corps, and the Combined Arms Support Command. Col. Usrey’s operational and combat deployments include Operation (RESTORE) UPHOLD DEMOCRACY, Joint Task Force-Bravo, Operation JOINT GUARDIAN, Operation IRAQI FREEDOM I, Operation IRAQI FREEDOM 07-09, Operation ENDURING FREEDOM XII, and Operation ENDURING FREEDOM XIV.

Col. Usrey is a native of Martin, Tenn. and has more than 29 years of military service.

Johnson County Bank a generous supporter of the Johnson County Center for the Arts

Bonnie Reece, Vice-President of Johnson County Bank presents a donation of $5,000 to the Johnson County Arts Council for the new Center for the Arts. Pictured are Cristy Dunn, Executive Director of the Center for the Arts; Evelyn Cook, Center for the Arts Board; Bonnie Reece; Nancy Garrick, Arts Council President; and Temple Reece, Center for the Arts Financial Director.
JCB has been a long time supporter of the Arts in Johnson County. Long Journey Home, the Mural Project, JAM, Magic of Christmas in a Small Mountain Town, art displays at the bank, juried shows, children’s programs and so many other projects within the Arts Council have been made better because of their support and encouragement.
The Center for the Arts is scheduled to open the weekend of Long Journey Home (Labor Day weekend).

Watauga Lake Winery wins silver and gold medals

The results are in and your local Watauga Lake Winery has again made Johnson County proud.  Watauga Lake Winery has won a double gold for their “Duncan Hollow” a port-style wine, a gold for “Barely Peach” a fruit wine and a silver for “Tart-N-Blue” a blueberry limoncello wine in the Asheville International Wine Festival Competition.
Watauga Lake Winery is an estate winery within the newly designated “Appalachian High Country American Viticulture Area.”  The grapes used in the production of Watauga Lake Winery wines are grown right here in Johnson County, TN, at Villa Nove Vineyards on Dry Hill Road.

Niswonger Children’s Hospital encourages kangaroo care for babies, logs 250 hours in May in honor of International Kangaroo Care Awareness Day

Brittani Hirschy demonstrates skin-to-skin “kangaroo care” for her son, Jaxton. The skin-to-skin contact helps regulate the baby’s body temperature, breathing and heart rate. It also calms the baby and decreases crying.

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. – Born at only 28 weeks gestation, Jaxton Hirschy weighed 3 pounds, 9 ounces when he was welcomed into the world at Niswonger Children’s Hospital on May 1.

Since his birth, the tiny preemie from Greeneville has spent hours each day on his mother’s chest, wrapped in a blanket. The skin-to-skin contact – commonly called kangaroo care – is credited by Jaxton’s mom as helping him immensely.

“He’s very content when we do kangaroo care with him,” said Brittani Hirschy. “He calms quickly and sleeps so well. Jaxton’s growing really well and gaining weight, and they feel that the amount of kangaroo care we’ve done with him is a major factor. It’s been so amazing to bond with him and know that what we’re doing is helping him so much.”

Kangaroo care is extremely beneficial for all babies, especially those born prematurely, like Jaxton. The practice – which continues to gain attention for its benefits – involves direct skin-to-skin contact. During kangaroo care, the baby – wearing only a diaper – is placed on the parent or caregiver’s bare chest, and then covered with a blanket. Like a baby kangaroo in its mother’s pouch, the infant doing kangaroo care receives many benefits from the close contact.

“It’s amazing what kangaroo care does for babies,” said Dr. Shawn Hollinger, neonatologist at Niswonger Children’s Hospital. “Studies have shown that it’s incredibly important for NICU babies. They’re more stable when they’re on mom or dad’s chest.”

The skin-to-skin contact helps regulate the baby’s body temperature, breathing and heart rate. It also calms the baby and decreases crying. Kangaroo care helps the mother too by encouraging bonding with her child and increasing her milk supply.

“As a physician, I know the benefits of kangaroo care, and as a father, I experienced them firsthand,” said Dr. Hollinger. “My son was born prematurely at 31 weeks, and for the first week of his life, he really struggled with breathing. His most stable time was when he was either on me or my wife doing kangaroo care. It decreased his oxygen needs. It was very impressive.”

His son Will is now a healthy one-year-old.

To raise awareness for kangaroo care and its benefits, the team at Niswonger Children’s Hospital challenged themselves to log over 200 hours of kangaroo time during May in honor of International Kangaroo Care Awareness Day, which took place on May 15. As a fun way to get everyone motivated, Dr. Hollinger agreed to dress up as a kangaroo and get a matching kangaroo suit for his little joey, Will, to show his patients and their families.

The team logged over 250 hours.

“I had moms telling me they were going to do extra kangaroo care with their baby so they could see me dressed up as a kangaroo,” said Hollinger with a laugh. “I’m happy to do it to encourage such a wonderful practice that has such great benefits.”

March of Dimes promotes smoking cessation

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (May 31, 2017)March of Dimes has announced a $60,870 grant from Amerigroup Foundation to help prevent premature birth and improve the health of moms and babies across the state of Tennessee.  This recent grant from Amerigroup coincides with World No Tobacco Day and aligns with March of Dimes efforts to curb smoking in Tennessee, which ranks among the top states in the nation with the highest prevalence of pregnant smokers. Smoking among pregnant woman has been proven to increase the chance of premature births and other adverse birth outcomes.

Prematurity is the #1 killer of babies in the U.S., and babies born even a few weeks early have higher rates of illness and hospitalization compared to full-term newborns. In addition to the toll on families, economic costs for prematurity are estimated at more than $26 billion annually by the National Academy of Medicine.

The Amerigroup Foundation grant will enable the March of Dimes to make smoking cessation available to additional women in Tennessee by supporting programs throughout the state. The grant will provide smoking cessation services to pregnant women and help improve health outcomes. Research has shown that babies born to women who smoke during pregnancy are more likely than babies born to nonsmokers to have birth defects, have a low birthweight or be born too soon.

“This grant allows the March of Dimes to provide much-needed support and services for thousands of moms, to help them have healthy, full-term pregnancies and healthy babies,” said Paul E. Jarris, MD, MBA, senior vice president and chief medical officer of the March of Dimes. “The March of Dimes applauds Amerigroup Foundation for its dedication to better health for American families and their continued support of our mission to help give every baby a fighting chance.”

The March of Dimes Prematurity Campaign, launched in 2003, seeks to raise awareness of the problem and to lower the rate of premature birth to 8.1 percent of births by 2020 and to 5.5 percent by 2030. The $60,870 grant to the March of Dimes is part of Amerigroup Foundation’s ongoing commitment to addressing health disparities and improving public health in Tennessee. Through its Healthy Generations program, the Amerigroup Foundation is working to address some of the nation’s most complex health issues, among them, reducing the incidence of low birthweight babies and engaging mothers in prenatal care.

The new grant continues a longstanding relationship between Amerigroup Foundation and March of Dimes to improve maternal and infant health. Most recently, in 2015-2016, a $1 million grant from Amerigroup Foundation’s parent foundation, helped the March of Dimes provide prevention services to 6,600 women, including those reached by smoking cessation programs in three states.  To learn more about the Foundation, visit
About the March of Dimes

The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. For more than 75 years, moms and babies have benefited from March of Dimes research, education, vaccines, and breakthroughs. For the latest resources and health information, visit our websites and To participate in our annual signature fundraising event, visit If you have been affected by prematurity or birth defects, visit our community to find comfort and support. You can also find us on Facebook or follow us on Instagram and Twitter.

UT Gardens’ June 2017 Plant of the Month: Foamy Bells

Submitted by Natalie R. Bumgarner, Assistant Professor of Residential and Consumer Horticulture and Tennessee Extension Master Gardener Coordinator

 One of the joys of shade gardening is the opportunity to have a taste of Tennessee woodlands in our own backyards. Two common forest flowers found in Tennessee are Heuchera and Tiarella. Better known as coral bells or alum root, Heuchera has several species that vary in distribution across the state and are more common in Middle and East Tennessee. Tiarella, or foamflower, is most common in East Tennessee. Many selections of these and other species not native to Tennessee can be found in nurseries; however, as close members of the Saxifragaceae family, some of their respective, distinct attributes can be found in the intergeneric cross x Heucherella. This hybrid commonly goes by the name foamy bells in the U.S., which gets a nod for logic, but receives no naming bonus points for creativity.
As a general statement, foamy bells bring together the flowering look of coral bells and some of leaf patterns and shapes of foamflower. Often you’ll see these crosses with dark patterns in the center of the leaves or a more deeply cut or lobed leaf than most coral bells. In reality, this is an oversimplification. You can now find bronze and purple leaves and even silver tones in foamy bells (like ‘Cracked Ice’) and a range of flower colors and characteristics. We tend to focus on plant color and shape for obvious reasons, but the diversity in native species in both of these parents provides the opportunity for crosses that thrive in a range of conditions.
Site selection and management are important to enjoying foamy bells over the long term. When selecting a site, keep in mind that often these plants reside natively in the understory of forests.

Foamflower, more than coral bells, tends to prefer very moist locations and is found on stream banks with higher levels of organic matter. Some coral bells have more ability to thrive in more stressful environments. So, such parents can be chosen to bring to the cross better tolerance of hot and humid summer conditions, which were often lacking in early Heucherella introductions.  Recent breeding efforts have used Heuchera villosa as a parent, which was an important step in delivering foamy bells that perform better in Tennessee-type climates. Cultivar names, such as ‘Alabama Sunrise’ and ‘Sweet Tea’ are some examples of these crosses, and their names give clues as to potential adaptation to our types of summers. Light shade to part sun is going to be a good choice for most Tennessee gardens, and moderate rather than high light levels may increase foliage color contrasts for these late spring to early summer bloomers. Dividing the plants every few years will also maintain their longevity in the garden.
Good soil drainage, though, is essential whichever of these species or cultivars you are growing. Poor drainage, especially in the winter, can damage these plants. So, avoid sites where heavy soils retain water around the plant. Raised beds can increase drainage, and container growing can be an excellent option for some of these beautiful specimens. In fact, some of the most impressive displays I have seen were on porches in containers where moisture and light can be tailored.
Foamy bells and their cousins can be found at all three locations of the UT Gardens. Stroll from the main entrance of the Knoxville gardens toward the Children’s Garden and you’ll find some in those shady plantings along the path, while they are can be found in some slightly protected sites around the building in Crossville. In Jackson, you can find Heucherella and many other shade options around the gazebo.

So, select a welcoming spot in your garden (or porch), ensure good drainage and bring a bit of the hills home with a Heucherella.
The UT Gardens includes plant collections located in Knoxville, Jackson and Crossville. Designated as the official botanical garden for the State of Tennessee, the collections are part of the UT Institute of Agriculture. The Gardens’ mission is to foster appreciation, education and stewardship of plants through garden displays, educational programs and research trials. The Gardens are open during all seasons and free to the public. For more information, see the Gardens website:

Safeguard your summer sizzle with tips from the U.S. Fire Administration

It’s tough to beat a burger hot off the grill in your own backyard. But are you ready?

Grills, hibachis, and barbecues can increase your risk of having a fire according to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA). Every year, grill fires cause about $37 million in property damage. Prepare your grill for the summer season with fire safety in mind.

Grills should only be used outdoors where there is plenty of space around them. Place the grill away from your home, at least three feet from siding, railings, or anything else that can burn.

Follow these USFA safety tips to keep your backyard sizzling but safe:

  • Stay close to your grill whenever it is lit.
  • Keep children and pets at least three feet away. The grill exterior gets very hot and stays hot enough to burn skin after the fire is out.
  • Clean the grill often to remove grease and burned food.
  • If you cook with charcoal, put the cooled coals into a metal can with a lid. Store the can at least three feet from your home and anything that can burn.

If you use a gas grill, check the gas tank and hose for leaks before using it the first time each year. Put a soap and water mixture on the hose and connection. If there are leaks, you will see little bubbles. If you see bubbles, turn off the gas and grill. Have your grill checked by a professional. When you use your gas grill, remember the following tips:

  • Open the gas grill lid before you light it.
  • Don’t use a grill or gas tank that isn’t working properly.

For more home fire safety information, visit USFA online at Follow USFA on Twitter at @USfire and on Facebook at


Flag at half-staff

In accordance with Flag Code section 7(m) the United States flag is to be displayed at half-staff until noon on Memorial Day, Monday, May 29, 2017.

Local seniors enjoy trip to New Orleans

By Paula Walter

Members of the Johnson County Senior Center recently returned from a fun-filled adventure to New Orleans.  This seven day adventure began on Sunday, April 23rd and the group rolled back into our mountains the following Saturday.
The trip was orchestrated by Sue Shupe, who has organized quite a few trips in the past. Over 40 people signed up quickly for the Diamond Tour excursion that was surprisingly reasonably priced at $585 per person.  This includes the cost of the bus ride round trip, hotels costs, breakfast each morning and five evening meals.
The group stopped for their first night in Birmingham, Alabama before heading out the following morning.  Their first outing was to Merrehope Manor in Meridian, Mississippi where they toured two Victorian mansion estates that still had all the original furnishings from the late 1800s time period, including clothing, quilt and furniture.
The group stopped at Harrah’s Casino, the only casino in the United States not on a river.  While everyone had a good time, there were no big winners, with the exception of one lucky person who won $100.  In addition to gambling, there was a lot of shopping to do and a steamboat ride on the S.S. Natchez as they viewed the historical sites along the river.
The next destination was to New Orleans where the group too a motor coach tour through the city.  According to John Mast, carriage rides pulled by mules were available to tour the city. It was explained to the travelers that they use mules because they eat less, make less of a mess, are one-third stronger than horses, and the heat doesn’t seem to bother them as much as it does the horses.
After the organized tours for the day, the group was free to go off on their own and explore. Mast found  graveyards in the city to be interesting as they are above ground.  There are burial crypts that can hold two to four bodies.  According to Mast, the bodies are lightly embalmed.  After approximately one year, the body has turned to dust and ashes, which are placed in a family crypt. In the past, a string was attached to a bell and placed in an opening where someone who had recently died was placed.  The string was tied to a foot or a hand.  People were stationed to see if the bell rang.  If it did, the person inside had not died.
The group had time to explore on their own, and although Bourbon Street didn’t seem to be in the best area of the city, it was hoping with activity at night time, including street performers and dancers.
According to Mast, the group also toured a World War II museum where all branches of the military were represented.  They toured the inside of the Destrehan Plantation that dates back to 1790. According to Mast, it was once an indigo plantation before they began to grow sugar.  Some of the Creole houses were painted in vibrant, bright colors.  Back in the day, a brightly colored house represented prosperity.  The brighter the color, the more well off the owners were.  The homes were built close together were long and narrow.  Front doors were painted red if the owners had a daughter eligible for marriage.  “We saw several red door,” said Shupe.
That last night, the group had dinner in a casino, along with 17 other busloads of people who had come to visit the area.  Early Friday morning, they were back on the road again.
If you are interested in joining the group on one of their adventures, check in at the Johnson County Senior Center for more information.  As of now, they are looking at a trip to Mackinac Island in September.  It has become a favorite for many seniors who have gone on several bus tours.  The group is also looking at the possibility of a Charleston/ Savannah trip in the spring.