Two sisters, two babies, two hours apart at Marshall North

Talk about coincidences – Two sisters having two babies two hours apart. Grandma will never be the same.

“This is God’s way of giving her twins and sparing us,” says sister Samantha Reeves of her mother. “She always wanted twins.”

Grandmother Tammy Parsley couldn’t be more thrilled.

“It’s a miracle,” she says.

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Younger sister Kristen Gillen delivered first, giving birth to Graham Lee on Wednesday, Jan. 6. Her sister was there visiting when her doctor – Dr. Lance Justice, the same doctor as her sister – sent her to a room for observation. The next thing they know, here they go again.

“As soon as Graham was cleaned up and ready for us to see, the whole thing starts all over again,” Parsley says. “It’s going to be fun.”

About two hours after Graham, Audrey Elizabeth was born to Will and Samantha Reeves. The sisters were in delivery rooms next door to each other. They did their best to stay in touch through everything. They sent videos on their cell phones back and forth when they could no longer move around.

“I yelled, ‘We did it, Sam,’ through the wall,” Kristen says.

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The baby cousins’ weight was just three ounces different – Graham is heavier – and both are 20 inches long.

The sisters had their own coincidence when they were born. Samantha, who is 29, was born on June 9. Four years later, Kristen was born on June 10. Their birthdays are just one day apart.

The babies are part of a recent boom at Marshall Medical North. Head OB Nurse Betsy Washington said 26 babies have been delivered since Dec. 28. And two more are expected to arrive any time.

“We’ve really had a boom here lately,” said Washington.

Kristen and husband Denton Gillen live in Guntersville. She is a nurse for Marshall County Pediatrics. Graham is their first child.

Samantha and Will also live in Guntersville. She is a dental hygienist for Dr. John Rutland. They have a three-year-old son Joe, who was watched by all the relatives in the waiting room while the babies were being delivered.

Grandma Tammy also lives in Guntersville where she sells real estate.

Ironically, the girls recall that it was on Mother’s Day weekend they found out they were expecting babies.

“We laughed at this possibly happening,” Parsley remembers.

The newborns’ Dads agreed that no one could ever have planned it to work out like it did.

Both families plan to go home Friday.

“The whole herd,” says Samantha.

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Seniors: Find a fun form of exercise and stick with it

Seniors should find a fun way to get in shape and stick with it so they feel good and are less likely to get injured, according to Marshall Medical’s wellness guru.

“Find something that makes it fun, that challenges you or you won’t do it,” said Marsha Chadwick, wellness director for TherapyPlus, speaking at a GoldCare55+ monthly lunch n’ learn.

Chadwick had most folks out of their chairs, lifting their legs and stretching their arms overhead. She took them through an entire workout anyone can do at home anytime. She encouraged them to warm up, do what doesn’t hurt and then cool down.

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“Don’t do all these every day,” she warned. “You’ll never get out of bed the next day.”

More than two million seniors across the country go the emergency room every year as a result of falling. Balance is the issue, Chadwick said. She urged seniors to improve balance by practicing standing on one foot while holding to the back of a chair. Walk heel-to-toe, practice getting down in the floor and getting up again and try strengthening ankles and feet.

“A flexible muscle will not injure as easily as a tight muscle,” she said.

Make it fun by teaming up with a friend to exercise together. Choose something fun such as dancing, walking, swimming or yoga, and stick with it.

“If you don’t enjoy it, you won’t do it,” she said.

GoldCare 55+ is a program for seniors offered by Marshall Medical Centers. Next month’s lunch n’ learn program is February 11 at the Guntersville Senior Center. The speaker is one of Marshall Medical’s cardiologists, Dr. Kathleen Evans. To register, call (256)571-8025 or (256)753-8025 for Arab residents.


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This month celebrate lifesavers who donate blood

In January we honor those who literally give of themselves to save the lives of others. They are blood donors.

Blood donors are not decorated heroes, like veterans and soldiers. They are not recognized and compensated for their accomplishments, like doctors and scientists. They are not revered as are great philanthropists, like Bill Gates.

Event to mark World Blood Donor Day 2011 at WHO HQ in Geneva, Switzerland.

No, blood donors are a quiet army marching to makeshift blood drives set up in a Wal-Mart parking lot or in a school classroom. For literally sharing their lifeblood, donors typically are rewarded with juice, cookies, a T-shirt and maybe their name in a hat for a prize.

Still they come because the need is never fulfilled. Each year, nearly 5 million Americans need a blood transfusion. That requires 266,000 blood donations a year. That’s 728 donors every day.

In Marshall County alone, the two hospitals use more than 2,300 units of blood a year and 180 platelet products annually.

A healthy donor may donate red blood cells every 56 days. Sadly, although about 38 percent of the population is eligible to give blood, only about 3 percent do. The fact is that most people will need blood at some time in their lives.

Community blood center born

In 2002, at the request of 15 hospitals in North Alabama, including Marshall Medical Centers, LifeSouth Community Blood Centers began collecting and supplying blood in our community. LifeSouth is a 501(c)(3) non-profit community blood supplier for more than 100 hospitals in AlabamaFlorida and Georgia.

LifeSouth opened a main processing center in Huntsville and has established blood donation sites in Albertville, Decatur, Florence, Cullman and Sheffield.

Blood donated through LifeSouth is processed into different blood components and stored at the Huntsville site, allowing LifeSouth to respond quickly to requests for blood from area hospitals. Establishing a local operation reduces the chances of blood supply shortages during emergencies and holidays.

LifeSouth is a community blood center, meaning the blood supply collected from local donors directly serves the needs of patients in our community. The blood donated here will stay here for local patients. Only after the local needs are met will LifeSouth share our blood supply with other communities.

“You’re not just giving blood, you’re giving blood to a neighbor,” said Jason Hodges, LifeSouth district director for North Alabama. “You’re giving to someone you know – a friend, family member or neighbor – even though you don’t know it.”

LifeSouth considers itself partners with Marshall Medical. With two buses in Marshall County, 14 employees plus couriers who transport blood to hospitals, the company tries to meet the needs of the hospitals. In addition to being the community blood provider, LifeSouth picks up blood samples for testing and couriers are available 24/7 for blood deliveries. It conducts educational programs in schools to teach youngsters the importance of being a blood donor.

“We want to be part of the community,” Hodges said.

Growth at Marshall Medical means more demand for blood. The Marshall Cancer Care Center has increased the need for platelets, while red blood cells are essential for surgery.

LifeSouth created after government halted paying donors

In 1974, hospitals were in critical need of volunteer blood donors after the FDA curtailed the practice of paying donors for blood donations. Hospitals in Gainesville, Fla., agreed that a non-profit community blood center was the answer and made an appeal to their local civic organizations. The Gainesville Civitan Club was the only organization that agreed to take on the task. Members backed a loan with their own money to start what they called Civitan Regional Blood Center – today known as LifeSouth Community Blood Centers. LifeSouth is the fifth largest blood center in the country.

For the past 40 years, LifeSouth has grown at the request of hospitals in need of a community blood supplier. With close to 800 employees and an annual budget of nearly $80 million, the blood bank that started with humble beginnings has collected 4.4 million blood donations.

Please support LifeSouth, Marshall Medical Centers and North Alabama’s blood supply by becoming a blood donor and encouraging others to give blood. LifeSouth representatives are available to speak to social or civic clubs, churches or other organizations about sponsoring a blood drive. Call 256-533-8201 for information.

Rose Myers is a journalist working in Marshall Medical Centers’ marketing department.

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Doctors give MCYL students a peek inside the world of medicine

Juniors from high schools all over Marshall County were treated to a glimpse into a doctor’s world as they toured a local hospital and chatted with physicians.

Wednesday was Healthcare and Social Services Day for Marshall County Youth Leadership, where students get to explore the business world around them. The 36 students from eight high schools in the county toured Marshall South in the morning and spent the afternoon touring Hospice of Marshall County.

MCYL Jan. 13

MCYL is a cooperative effort between Marshall Medical Centers, Citizens Bank & Trust, Snead State Community College and the Marshall County Leadership Challenge Alumni Association.

At the hospital, doctors shared some funny experiences and practical advice with teens.

Dr. Kathleen Evans is one of three cardiologists at Marshall South. She said she loves working with cardiac patients but she didn’t know that in college, where she changed her focus three times.

“Choose something you are interested in,” she advised students. “If you don’t, you’ll be lost.”

Rather than a traditional medical doctor, Evans is a doctor of osteopathic medicine, which takes a more holistic approach to healing. She worked in cardiac rehab in college, where she helped heart patients get back on their feet and to learn a healthier lifestyle.

“I wanted to see that in my patients,” she said. “I wanted to teach them how to lead a healthy life. It’s hard. You have to really work on it.”

Evans urged students to get as much experience in high school and college as possible with internships and volunteer work, which pays off when applying for highly competitive slots.

“I’m the first person in my family to go to college, much less medical school,” she said. “My parents didn’t know anybody. I had to put myself out there.”

Dr. Andrew Vann proved to students that being a doctor of emergency medicine is never boring. He described a young patient who came in to the ER at Marshall South complaining that her tongue ring had become lodged inside her tongue. An x-ray showed it had moved deep inside near the back of her tongue, where it had to be painfully removed.

Another patient came in with a catfish head attached to his arm. The fisherman was trying to clean a catfish that wasn’t quite dead. It got two barbs into his fingers, forcing him to cut off the head in order to get to the hospital. Vann said he used a bone saw to remove the head and then push the barbs the rest of the way through the fingers.

“I like that part,” he said. “We’re solving puzzles. We have to think. I don’t get tired of coming to work. It’s not the same thing over and over. It’s what I love about the ER. I think it’s the perfect job for me.”

Vann advised the students to find something they love to do and then develop good habits in order to accomplish it.

“To be a doctor, you have to want to help patients,” he said. “If you’re doing it for the money or for the prestige, it gets old.”


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Lose weight, break world record

How’s this for a New Year’s resolution: lose weight and help break a Guinness World Record? That’s exactly what Scale Back Alabama would like to happen in its 2016 annual weight loss challenge.

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Since 2016 is the 10th Anniversary of Scale Back Alabama, organizers decided to make it fun by making history with a humorous attempt to break the Guinness World Record for “Most People on One Scale.” Two hundred brave souls are invited for the massive weigh-in Jan. 8 in Montgomery. Attendees will earn a light breakfast and a long sleeved t-shirt, as well as a chance to win a $50 Visa gift cards and other door prizes. You can register for the event at

Scale Back Alabama is a free statewide weight-loss program designed to encourage Alabamians to get healthy and to have fun while doing it. Since the first competition in 2007, Alabamians have lost more than one million pounds! Scale Back Alabama is designed to address the state’s challenge with obesity, which now ranks it sixth highest in the nation.

Both North and South locations of TherapyPlus in Marshall County have a coordinator to register and weigh starting Jan. 25 through the 31st. Don’t wait. Get signed up and start working toward a prize!

Here’s how the contest works. Scale Back Alabama participants must:

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Live in Alabama or work for an Alabama-based company
  • Be on a team of two individuals (no more, no less)
  • Register online or visit an official weigh-in site

Scale Back Alabama teams must be made up of two people. Both team members will be asked to weigh in (and weigh out) together at the same weigh-in site at the same time. If someone on your team is from another part of the state, make sure they can be with your team at those times.

Teams must begin and end the contest with the same members – no substitution is allowed. If a team member drops out for any reason, the team will be disqualified from the grand prize drawing. However, individuals who lose at least 10 pounds will be eligible for individual prizes.

Scale Back Alabama is geared toward adults and is primarily operated with the help of local employers, hospitals and health departments. Each organization appoints one person to serve as the program coordinator, and individuals compete on teams of two to win the chance at cash prizes.

Starting and ending weights will be kept confidential, and will only be shared with Scale Back Alabama staff members for the purposes of determining prize eligibility.

Here’s how the contest did last year:

2015 Numbers

  • Total number of teams participating: 14,288
  • Number of individuals participating: 28,576
  • Number of teams on which each team member lost 10 pounds: 1,154
  • Number of individuals who lost at least 10 pounds: 4,140
  • Total pounds lost: 79,942

2016 Dates

  • Kick-Off: January 8
  • Weigh-In Week: January 25-31
  • Weigh-Out Week: April 11-17
  • Final Event: April 29

Team Prizes

  • To be eligible for team prizes, each team member must lose at least 10 pounds during the 10-week contest, as recorded by a coordinator at an official Scale Back Alabama weigh-in site.
  • Winning teams are determined by a random drawing from all eligible teams.
  • The first 3 teams drawn win $1,000 per team member, or a total of $2,000 for the entire team.
  • The second 3 teams drawn win $500 per team member, or a total of $1,000 for the entire team.
  • The final 3 teams drawn win $250 per team member, or a total of $500 for the entire team.

Individual Prizes

  • All individuals who lose at least 10 pounds, as recorded by a coordinator at an official Scale Back Alabama weigh-in site, are eligible for an individual prize, regardless of their team’s achievement. However, individuals that are drawn for a team prize are not eligible to win the individual prizes.
  • From the pool of eligible contestants, 40 individuals drawn win one of 40 achievement prizes of $100 per person.
  • The individual prize drawings are conducted following the April 29 webcast announcing team prizes and are posted on the Scale Back Alabama website approximately two hours after the conclusion of the webcast.

Scale Back Alabama is a public awareness campaign hosted by the Alabama Hospital Association and Alabama Department of Public Health, with support from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama.


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Project SEARCH student goes from intern to employee

Cheyenne Tarbox got a big surprise Friday. To celebrate her new job at Marshall North, her family and co-workers threw her a party.

When she starts the position next week, it will be the first job for Cheyenne, 19, who has Asberger’s Syndrome. After she graduated from Brindlee Mountain High School, her mother persuaded her to take an internship with Project SEARCH, which links special needs students with employers, such as Marshall Medical Centers. It has changed the teen’s life.


“She was iffy in the beginning,” said Patty Tarbox. “It was out of her comfort zone. Her comfort zone is in her room with her computer and her art.”

After Project SEARCH helped her get an intern position in the hospital’s environmental services department, Cheyenne bloomed, according to her mother. She smiles and talks much more than she did. Patty told Cheyenne’s co-workers that she talks about them all the time, especially about their Dirty Santa party.

“She’s never done anything like that before,” Patty said. “She had fun.”

Cheyenne’s co-workers feel the same way about her.

“She works hard,’’ said Lori Hayes. “She’s a good person. We have a good time.”

Cheyenne is one of 10 high school students working as interns at Marshall Medical Centers through Project SEARCH, a national program that targets students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The program is a partnership between ADRS, the state and county boards of education and ARC of Jackson County. The county school system provides job coaches to supervise students on the job. Job coaches stay with students until they become skilled enough to work independently. Students were selected from DAR, Albertville, Brindlee Mountain, Asbury and Douglas high schools.

Job Coach Ann Kennamer was very proud of her student.

“She will be a great representative of Project SEARCH at the hospital and out in the world,” she said.

Cheyenne’s first 10-week rotation was in environmental services. She stayed into her second rotation and was hired.

“She just fell into it and did great,” Kennamer said.

Cheyenne could do nothing but smile when she saw the party and cake with “Congratulations Cheyenne” written in purple frosting. When asked how she feels about her new job, she said, “Mostly nervous.”

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Looking forward to even better healthcare

As another year approaches its end we tend to reflect on the past and to ponder the future, especially the coming new year.

At Marshall Medical Centers we are very grateful and appreciative of our past – a lot of history is built into the two hospitals that provide healthcare to this county. As important as that history is, though, we spend more time looking forward than back. With medical advancements moving along at lightning speed, we can’t sit still for a moment.
In order to offer the very best medical care, we continually hire new doctors, buy the latest equipment and make improvements to our facilities.

The mission of Marshall Medical Centers – as you’ve seen on billboards, ads and brochures – is to provide world-class healthcare with a personal touch. That’s not just a slogan; the hospitals and the employees are evidence of the absolute truth of that statement.

We also have a specific vision to guide us to where we want to be in the future. Marshall Medical Centers will continue to apply the broad-based healthcare fundamentals that our organization was founded upon.

We are dedicated to providing the best technology possible, a wide range of services and specialty options, the finest physicians and highly-trained staff to meet the needs of the people we serve. We will:

  • Be the nucleus of healthcare in our community, promoting health and ensuring access.
  • Be recognized for outstanding patient satisfaction and quality.
  • Treat each customer as an individual, recognizing the differing needs of those we serve.
  • Grow by offering services that improve the health and well-being of our community and that contribute to the financial health of the organization.
    Maintain an environment that attracts and retains top-quality physicians, nurses and other healthcare workers.
  • Remain flexible in our planning so we may respond quickly to a changing environment.
  • Partner with physicians and other providers in ways that will align our interests.
  • Proactively adopt best practices and technology in order to enhance quality, productivity and safety.Now, as always, Marshall Medical Centers is here to deliver enhanced medical services and compassionate care closer to home – to broaden our horizons and seek a healthier tomorrow for the individuals and families we serve.As evidenced by our recent HealthConnections issue that spotlighted new medical equipment in the hospitals, digital updates and renovations, we are working all the time toward this goal.

    Our job is to improve the quality of life for residents of Marshall County, as well as to take the best of care of them and their loved ones. That’s the reason we continue these improvements and advancements in technology.

    As your community-owned, not-for-profit healthcare system, we’re re-investing every dollar into providing the very best staff, equipment and facilities possible. We are committed to being good stewards of the resources entrusted to us.

    Marshall Medical is involved in many other areas in our community that have nothing to do with the bottom line.

    They do, however, have everything to do with serving those who live here in ways other than just reliable healthcare.

    Additional areas where we offer support include:

  • The Foundation for Marshall Medical Centers;
  • Marshall County Youth Leadership;
  • SmartStart for fifth grade girls;
  • HOSA scholarships;
  • Mammography Assistance Program;
  • GoldCare55+;
  • L.I.F.E. cancer support group.With the creation of Marshall Health System in 1997, people in the Marshall County area were the beneficiaries of better access to the best possible healthcare available.Today, we remain dedicated to providing the best technology possible, a wide range of services and specialty options, the finest physicians and highly trained staff to meet the needs of the people we serve.

    Furthermore, we pledge to continue working with our physicians to make more health and wellness opportunities available to the people of our community.

    Now, as always, Marshall Medical Centers is here to deliver enhanced medical services and compassionate care closer to home – to broaden our horizons and seek a healthier tomorrow for the people of Northeast Alabama.

    We are grateful to be the healthcare provider of choice for Marshall County and surrounding areas.

    It’s a role we take seriously, and we’ll continue to make the investments in technology, facilities and staff to earn your trust.

Rose Myers, a former journalist, is the marketing coordinator for Marshall Medical Centers.

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