The OK -- The Oklahoman's Lifestyle Magazine - Aug. 5, 2018

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AUGUST 5, 2018

The Oklahoman’s Lifestyle Magazine

ON BALANCE Gymnast Averie Mitchell inspires

AIRBORNE AID Ambulances of the sky

MISSING MOMENTS Living with Alzheimer’s




U.S. $5.99


Oklahomans reflect 1






Averie Mitchell isn’t letting anything hold her back in gymnastics or in life.




CBD oil is growing ever more popular as a medical supplement. But is it safe?





1968 was a pivotal year, including in Oklahoma.


Early onset Alzheimer’s is stealing Lori Nelson’s past.


Averie Mitchell from Hugo. Photo by Doug Hoke.

Emergency helicoptors play vital health role in Oklahoma.



A Q&A with Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation leader Stephen Prescott.


Lady-about-town Helen Ford Wallace seeks out the latest party-theme trends.



Richard Mize, our man in real estate, looks at the latest trends in homes designed to grow old in.



Catching up with the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon winners.


New medical facilities are going up across the metropolitan area.


Rachel Lyon’s Black Cat food truck is just about purrrfect.


Fashion writer Linda Miller looks at cool season offerings.


Two new doctors will expand the services offered at the Dean McGee Eye Institute.


Oklahoman columnist Ken Raymond has had his ups and downs with felines, including memorable encounters with a cat named Doug.


The latest in stylish shades


Oklahoma health by the numbers.


How many are in the state’s official meal?


A uniquely Oklahoman photo.


A front page pulled from The Oklahoman archives. 5


The Oklahoman’s Lifestyle Magazine This magazine is published with the Aug. 5 edition of The Oklahoman.© 2018. All rights reserved. No part of this magazine may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher. The OK is published quarterly by

Memories from 1968

FROM THE EDITOR I turned seven in 1968, the youngest of four, but old enough to remember the dinner table disagreements that sometimes grew heated. My dad, a combat veteran of World War II, at that point, still supported America’s involvement in Vietnam. My mom, with her oldest child, my brother Gerry, then approaching draft age, most certainly did not. Nor did Gerry. Like the nation, we were a family divided, the debate playing out between the servings of meat and potatoes. Gerry would go on to college. He never went to Vietnam. My dad, too, would eventually sour on the war. I really don’t remember the day Martin was shot. Or Bobby. But years later, I still carry the vivid memories of those long-ago dinners. In this issue of The OK, Josh Dulaney takes us back to that most volatile year, one of the most tumultuous in American history, through the eyes of Oklahomans who lived through it. Elsewhere in the magazine we focus on health, including our cover story by Matt Patterson about an inspirational young gymnast from Hugo. And we’ve got food, fashion, technology, real estate and plenty more. We hope you enjoy. Peace and love.

President and Publisher: Christopher P. Reen Editor, VP of News: Kelly Dyer Fry Magazine Editor: Phillip O’Connor Creative Art Director and Lead Designer: Todd Pendleton Design/Layout: Chris Schoelen and Michelle Pennza Photo Editors: Doug Hoke and Chris Landsberger Additional copies of The OK can be purchased for $5.95 plus tax at the front office of The Oklahoman, online at or by calling 405-478-7171. Phone or online orders will incur an additional $1 shipping charge. For bulk sales (26 or more copies) and rates, call 405-478-7171. Advertise in The OK. To advertise, contact Vicki Thomas at 405-475-3338 or Want more of The OK? Get every issue by subscribing to The Oklahoman at subscribe.

Phillip O’Connor The editor circa 1968


100 W Main St., Suite 100 Oklahoma City, OK., 73102-9025



Here’s what readers of The OK wrote: Like anyone else, The OK likes to get mail. Following our May issue, we heard from an old friend and, hopefully, a new one. One wrote about our story on the revived Artesian Hotel in Sulphur the other about Berry Tramel's tips for traveling to watch Big 12 football.

Dear Sir: The OK is more than OK. It is a pleasure to read a well written magazine. Now a few questions. While I’m not much on urban vacations, I do have a question about why the professional baseball team, the Dodgers, did not even get a mention in the magazine? I prefer my vacations to be in a natural setting. Beavers Bend State Park in McCurtain County is my favorite. Why did the writers focus on football and basketball when both sports are played in the cool and cold weather and we are entering the warm weather period and summer vacations? Baseball is played now, not the aforementioned other sports. The upcoming Big 12 baseball tournament has been played in the Bricktown Ballpark many times and surely will be in the future. Yet, again, no mention of baseball at all. Congratulations on your magazine. There is much to be proud of. I just thought the glaring omission of the baseball facilities around this area ought to be pointed out. Bill Garrison, Mustang

Thanks for your thoughts, Bill. Some might argue that football is never out of season in Oklahoma, but you’re right – the Dodgers, Bricktown and Big 12 baseball are all great stories. Unfortunately, we have too many good stories to tell

and not enough pages in the magazine to tell them. The good news is now I’ve got several great ideas for our next travel issue!

Another great issue of The OK. I do have one question. The top cutline on page 25 reads: “Built in 1905 at the World’s Fair at St. Louis, the Artesian Hotel ...” Wasn’t the St. Louis World’s Fair held in 1904?” An item in Missouri Digital History has: “The Louisiana Purchase Exposition, commonly known as the Saint Louis World’s Fair of 1904, was the last great international exposition before World War I.” Too bad Columbia, Mo., is no longer part of the Big 12. Tom Maupin, Mizzou 1973 and former resident of Ferguson, St. Louis County, Mo.

Once a copy editor, always a copy editor. (Tom spent decades on The Oklahoman’s copy desk preventing such egregious errors.) Thanks for pointing that one out, Tom. We’ll try to do better.

Like what you see? Want to comment? Submit a story idea? Offer suggestions? We want to hear from you. Send correspondence to

KEEPING OKLAHOMANS MOVING OU Medicine’s orthopedic surgeons specialize in diagnosing, preventing and

treating disorders that affect muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones, joints and other connective tissues. Our board-certified orthopedic physicians confer with Oklahoma’s largest team of specialists to provide comprehensive care for those experiencing orthopedic problems. Our board-certified pediatric orthopedic surgeons specialize in diagnosing, preventing and treating disorders that affect muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones, joints and other connective tissues in children and adolescents. We use the newest technology and innovations in pediatric orthopedic surgery and rehabilitation that aren’t widely available elsewhere in Oklahoma. OU Physicians orthopedic surgeons see patients in Oklahoma City, Edmond and Midwest City. 7

For adults needing appointments, call: 405-271-BONE (2663) For children needing appointments, call: 405-271-BONZ (2669)







Dr. Stephen Prescott, president of the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation. Photo by Nate Billings

A Q&A with Dr. Stephen Prescott, President, Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation For more than a dozen years, Dr. Stephen Prescott has headed the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, an internationally acclaimed institute that employs more than 460 scientists, researchers and other staff dedicated to understanding and developing more effective treatments for human disease. In 2017, Prescott himself was diagnosed with a rare form cancer that had spread. He faced a grim prognosis. In December, he wrote about the crucial role medical research played in his treatment. “I know that I have not “beat” my cancer. But my doctors have managed my disease more effectively than I imagined possible. As a result, I’m now looking at a much brighter future than the one I faced six months ago.” We recently caught up with 70-year-old Texas native who opened up about his job, his family and what’s most needed in the state he now calls home.

Q: Best part of the job?

Q: Favorite OMRF discovery or breakthrough?

A: Doing something that matters. Everything we do at OMRF has one long-term goal: to improve human health.

A: This is like picking a favorite child. But the seismic discoveries are the ones where we’ve changed how people thought about things. For instance, when people only considered how blood coagulates, Dr. Chuck Esmon discovered anti-coagulation pathways. Or Dr. Dean Dawson finding that chromosomes are segregated differently than the textbooks all said. And then there’s a second, equally important category: Breakthroughs that led to treatments for patients.

Q: Worst part of the job? A: Dealing with the rare cases of misbehavior Q: What’s the most important quality for a leader? 8

A: Integrity


Q: What book are you reading? A: A new translation of The Odyssey is gathering dust on my bedside table, but I will eventually get to it. In the meantime, I’m listening to The Road to Character by David Brooks, who’s extremely smart. And I’m reading Everybody’s Fool by Richard Russo. It’s hilarious. Q: Where are you happiest? A: Sitting on our patio — or the deck of our family vacation home near Moab, Utah—with a good book, a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. Q: The one thing Oklahoma needs right now is …? A: A shared vision of excellence in education. We need leadership to get everyone on the same page about what to do with our schools from start to finish. Q: Which living person do you most admire? A: My father. He was professionally successful and a great family guy. He taught my brother and me how to live. Q: Toughest class you took in medical school? A: Depends on your definition. I least enjoyed public health. Q: If I you weren’t a doctor, you’d be…?

A: I’d like to say a Hall of Fame baseball player, but I couldn’t hit college curveballs. So, I guess working in the biotech industry is more realistic. Q: What do you do to relax? A: Read, cook and play golf. Q: What do you consider your greatest achievement? A: A successful marriage and children who are launched in life on their own. Q: What don’t people know or understand about OMRF? A: Our scientists have made multiple discoveries that have improved health and saved thousands of lives worldwide. Q: Toughest thing about running an operation filled with so many smart people? A: In a roomful of smart people, when you give them an issue to tackle, you have to put boundaries on their problem-solving. Scientists tend to take a first-principle, let’s-go-back-to-the-beginning approach. But that doesn’t work for everything. Take government regulation. When a new statute is enacted, the solution can’t be to tell Congress to reconsider the law they’ve passed. You have to accept reality and work from there.



Helen Ford Wallace, OK’s lady about town, asked some friends ...

How do you think of new themes for your parties?

lee allan smith Chairman of Oklahoma Events

Party/event themes come to me and I do my best to implement the ideas. They are all fun and important stories to tell. I have lots of help and volunteers to make these ideas happen. From the Stars & Stripes Show, the Dome Dedication, Centennial Celebration and 75th Anniversary of the State, to the Bob Stoops Salute, the events hold a special place in my heart. My team liked the Centennial event a lot because we took it to New York City for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and to Pasadena for the Rose Parade. 10


genea vallion

President of Trochta’s Flowers and Garden Center

When we are picking themes for events/parties, we have meetings with the people and try to figure out what they like and what their vision of the party is. If they already have a theme in mind, we stay with the colors and style of the theme. An example of that is when Allied Arts brought a Chihuly -themed event to the table and we made a replica out of flowers and other products. Some of our favorites have been the Chihuly event, the Venetian theme, Egyptian- themed party, the seasonal Winter Wonderful, Back- to- Nature events and weddings. Some of the flower styles were color- blocking, adding succulents. There are so many more themes that our customers give to us. We make them come alive.

angie sanger IT Program Manager and Mother of two

Planning your children’s birthday party is such a fun event. Each year my children’s birthday theme is narrowed down based on their current interests and likes. When my son was 3, he was really into trains so a full- on train theme was in order. This year my daughter is really into unicorns so rainbows and unicorns, here we come! If you can incorporate their current interests into the party theme it will give you a meaningful reminder of their little interests when you look back on pictures many years later.

judy love

Executive Secretary and Treasurer of Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores

I decorate for every holiday, so over the years I have amassed quite a collection of various decors– Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s, Easter, July 4th, Halloween, Thanksgiving, of course Christmas. I have some beautiful wedding dolls and baby dolls for showers. And, of course, a multitude of Thunder accessories that can be used at watch parties. Lately, the only ones I use however are “In Russ we Trust.” If it is an away Thunder game TV watching party, I put out all my Thunder decor – which is considerable. Russell is the centerpiece. 11


oliver bouldin CCM CCE, Chief Executive Officer, Oklahoma City Golf & Country Club

I use my travel experience and sense of observation to piecemeal the larger picture of an event. I have to admit that coming up with a theme or color theme is the easy part of it and usually starts with a small element of the event, like a fountain, a tree, or even a color of an umbrella (yes, it happens). As we move forward other details start to come up and usually snowball to something that was never part of the original vision if even a vision was there to start with. Many of those ideas will never come to life without the talent we have surrounding us and their ability to bring to life a drawing from a paper napkin or erasing board. The idea of the Country Club’s Speakeasy came

to me, (which our staff built, and I decorated), when I went to one last year while I was in Europe. (His executive assistant, Linda Dowling, says he’s like a sponge, he sees everything and absorbs everything. “He is amazingly creative. His right brain and his left brain both work,” she said.)

nikki craven Administrative Investigator, Federal Government

Being involved in fundraising for non-profits, a party theme gets picked according to several answered questions – who is my target audience, will the audience participate in the theme (wearing masks for masquerade, wearing hats for derby, etc.), will it elicit an excitement from potential guests, and most importantly, how can we make it fun? My favorite themes have been Masquerade (mysterious yet exciting) and Western (rustic decor and lots of cowboys)!

susan davis jordan CCIM Senior Associate CBRE | Advisory & Transaction Services

One thing I do when trying to come up with a party theme is to look at current trends and try to play off the trend. For example, a popular song, a new fashion trend, or a catchy trending phase. Trends usually start on the coasts and move into the center of the country. To be on the forefront of the trends, I follow what is popular on the East and West coasts. Parties seem to be moving more to a glamorous theme, especially for fundraising parties. People like to get dressed up to go out and celebrate. 12

illustrations by todd pendleton


10 great medical TV shows:


by brandy mcdonnell Since the 1950s, television writers have been finding suspense and laughs, mystery and romance in field hospitals, on operating tables and in exam rooms. Medical dramas and comedies have often proven reliable prescriptions for addressing sociopolitical issues, launching actors into the movie star ranks and supplying networks with solid ratings. My top 10 favorite medical shows of all time range from a black-and-white classic to a promising newcomer with a sophomore season planned for fall: 1. “M.A.S.H.” (1972-1983) 2. “Scrubs” (2001-2010) 3. “House” (2004-2012) 4. “The Good Doctor” (2017-present) 5. “ER” (1994-2009) 6. “St. Elsewhere” (1982-1988) 7. “Grey’s Anatomy” (2005-present) 8. “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman” (1993-1993) Ellen Pompeo stars in “Grey’s Anatomy.” 9. “Doogie Howser, M.D.” (1989-1993) ABC PHOTO 10. “Dr. Kildare” (1961-1966) Alan Alda as Capt. Hawkeye Pierce in “M.A.S.H.” AP Photo


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Leading causes of death in A look at the rate of mortality for Oklahoma Oklahomans in 2016. 1. HEART DISEASE

2nd highest in the nation, totaling 10,209 deaths.

1 38

death every seconds in the US




6th Female breast cancer still has highest in the nation


the highest number of new reported cases. 3. CHRONIC LOWER RESPIRATORY DISEASE Is preventable by staying clear of tobacco smoke and air pollutents inside and outside.

8.9 million adults were diagnosed in the US.

A decrease in the rate of unintentional injury death went from 60.0 (2013) to 51.0 (2017) per 100,000!

4. UNINTENTIONAL ACCIDENTS Including but not limited to: unintentional falls, motor vehicle accidents and unintentional poisonings.

(MCL, ACL, PCL OR LCL Sprains or Tears)

• Arthritis/ Osteoarthritis Bone on Bone

• Hip or Labral Tears • Shoulder Damage (Rotor cuff or Tendinitis)

• Chronic Back Pain • Wrist or Elbow • Achilles Tendon • Ankle Pain, Foot Pain or Plantar Fasciitis • Lower Back Pain




1,800 1 Oklahomans died from stroke in 2014.



stroke every seconds in the US


4215 N Classen Blvd, Oklahoma City, OK 73118 (405) 320-9431 Walk-ins Welcome! PATIENTS ARE SEEING REAL, LONG-TERM RELIEF FROM PAIN


Roaring to go

Chef Beth Lyon talks to a customer at the window of The Black Cat food trailer as she makes chipotle chicken tacos. Photo by Nate Billings

Beth Lyon’s Black Cat food trailer offers gourmet flavors with your health in mind by dave cathey


eth Lyon isn’t a doctor, therapist or professional nutritionist, but she is a chef trained in classic French cuisine, medicine woman and mother who is becoming culinary yogi to a growing number of Oklahomans who embrace a healthy lifestyle that doesn’t exclude the occasional trip to Kaiser’s Grateful Bean. On a hot July Oklahoma afternoon, Lyon arrives at Pete Schaeffer’s iconic downtown ice cream shop with a pair of towheads named Wyatt, 7, and Arlo, 4, for ice cream while she shares her mindful nourishment gospel with a reporter. Four days earlier, she started the conversation from inside her new food trailer, the Black Cat.


“Who else has organic, pasture-raised fried chicken?” Lyon asked rhetorically, dodging a pair of guests she’d invited in from the heat. “My whole family can come here and eat. I eat mostly plant based, my husband (Gerald) eats Keto, but my dad can come in and have his meatloaf sandwich.” Before she could finish telling about the time she told the Whole30 girls “I got you,” Lyon produced three chipotle chicken tacos, three mushroom tacos and two sorely needed Magic Teas. When the conversation continued over root beer floats on Monday, Lyon shared her spiritually steeped, batter-fried, vegetable-based, grass-fed, organically grown worldview and the business it inspired.


But first she spun a yarn about a girl who followed her brother’s girlfriend to a summer job that still hasn’t ended. At age 15, she went by Beth Ann McFarland and took a job at the old Coit’s Drive-In near NW 36 on Penn where the most important culinary skill she learned was remembering to drop a fresh batch of onion rings in the fryer before hopping out to a car. Beth Ann was an adorable Southern charmer with a mile-wide maternal streak, who never backed down from an opportunity to live it up. Now 38, Beth Lyon is the sleek, bad-ass chef and mom chiseled by triumph and tragedy from the original McFarland mold and tattooed for posterity. Among her many fans is mentor chef Kurt Fleischfresser, whom she first met while working the line at Sushi Neko and joined at The Coach House. “I’m so proud of what Beth has accomplished,” Fleischfresser said. “She faced some challenges no one ever went through during her time at The Coach House. We had several tearful, heart-toheart type conversations, but she stuck with it.” Lyon was one of only three women to complete the intensive two and a half year Coach House apprenticeship program, but the only one who had a baby in the middle of it.

She mixed childbearing with jobs at Republic Gastropub and Kitchen No. 324 before helping Hungry Town Concepts founders Joey Morris, Cody Rowan, and John Harris with The Mule, Anchor Down and The Press. When Whitney McClendon opened farm-driven Provision Kitchen, she hired Lyon as her executive chef, but the toll was heavy. “I was working 70 hours a week,” she said. “I missed two years of my boys growing up and didn’t feel good about it, so I had to make a move.” She returned to consulting, but the struggle got real after the last of four potential gigs cratered at the eleventh hour. That’s when Lyon said she emotionally hit rock bottom. She surrendered her anxiety to the universe. An ayurvedic cleanse of mung beans and jasmine rice buttressed by plenty of yoga got her in spiritual alignment. “I knew if I followed my joy, if I followed my bliss something good had to come out of it.” Suddenly the yellow food trailer parked across the street appeared to her in a way she said felt like it was manifested by a higher power. The trailer belonged to Tommy Hand, who had been friends with Beth’s husband Gerald Lyon for years. Thanks to Hand’s background managing

Chef Beth Lyon with her sons, Arlo, left, and Wyatt, enjoying ice cream at Kaiser’s Grateful Bean in Midtown. Photo by Jim Beckel



A blackened meatloaf po-boy. Photos by Nate Billings

mobile catering events for Big Truck Tacos, a partnership was forged to open the Black Cat. Beth features a seasonal menu where plant-based foods get equal real estate on the menu as traditional proteins. “I know my market. I know that I can’t throw a 100-percent vegan menu out there and expect my animal-eating friends to come see me,” she said. “I want people to get a juicy cheeseburger from me, but they know if it’s coming from me it’s gonna be grass-fed from a local ranch. I use pasture-raised, organic local chicken and my greens are organic. If I know your cheese comes from happy cows, I am going to indulge in that.” Lyon has this disclaimer on her website: “I am not a licensed doctor, therapist, or nutritionist. Everything I do is to provide space, and insight through my own perception, for you to find answers within yourself. We all have the ability to heal through positive energy we generate ourselves. Maintaining Spiritual, Emotional, and Physical wellness is how I navigate through this life. I am here to share MY truth.” Her philosophy is built as much on her life’s highs as its lows, believing sometimes it takes fixing a problem to recognize opportunity. Concerns she was facing postpartum depression following Arlo’s


Magic tea.

birth inspired Lyon to rededicate herself to yoga, which she first took up as a young gymnast. “I was 200 pounds in there rolling around on the mat, you know, trying to find my spiritual center,” she laughed. “But I did it, you know. I did it. And that was the first step of releasing self-hatred, self-judgment, self-everything! “I started to try to care of myself, love myself.


That’s when I understood my cup has to be full before I could take care of anybody.” Finally, she recognized what she had to offer. “I find joy nourishing people on a physical level, on a mental level, on a spiritual level,” she said. “I want people to know your whole life isn’t tied to what’s on their plate. I knew if there was some way to stay in that alignment, stay in my service, it had to come to pass.” Sustaining herself with plant medicines, whole foods, and the spiritual writings of Eckhart Tolle, Lyon offers clients a variety of ways to manage their health, without giving undue attention to one aspect of the mind, body or spirit over another. “It’s knowing what brings you joy. If you can eat food in a joyful way and not feel guilty about it, that’s OK,” she said. “You can eat healthy and go to the gym 4 or 5 days a week but if you’re not happy, you’re not living a mindful way.” Her holistic approach to managing anxiety includes what she calls a kit for folks looking to avoid anti-depressants. “You’d be surprised how much a good bath clears the mind,” she laughed. Happiness in her work is sifting through dried flowers she conjures into Magic Tea, rose vinaigrette and hibiscus syrup but still having time to guide Arlo through his first root beer float and follow through on a promise to feed Wyatt “Italian pizza” for dinner. For now, the Black Cat and the consulting services she offers are her stage. “Food is a tool,” she said before stopping to consider how to continue. “I understand God gave me this gift, and I understand how to use it serve the highest purpose right now. Whatever that manifests into, I’m free. My hands are off the wheel, and right now it’s this food trailer.” If the human condition were distilled into binary code that depicted Ones as anxiety and zeros relief, Lyon is in service of the zeros. Track her down, and you’ll see she offers more than chicken soup for the soul. “I’m just here to offer healing to people,” she said. “Right now, it’s plant medicines and hibiscus tea — sometimes its chicken tacos.”

Grilled peach salad.

The Black Cat food trailer.




YA black leather and cognac separates from Balliets. OPPOSITE: Worth New York black one-shoulder jumpsuit from Cindi Shelby.





Fashions by linda miller

It is not too early to start thinking about a new season.


Especially when it promises clothes with bold colors, interesting prints, Western influences and statement details. All that and more is starting to roll into stores, tempting shoppers who are tired of the hot summer and look forward to trading sandals for boots and sleeveless tops for coats.



Tory Burch navy and white gingham smocked top, $128, and bikini bottom, $99, at CK & Co.

FAR RIGHT: Tanya Taylor plaid pants and jean jacket and plaid dress from Balliets. BELOW: Worth New York red coat from Cindi Shelby.



Some trends worth mentioning: Menswear prints and plaids in all colors; oversize outerwear, especially faux furs; florals, often mixed and matched for added interest; ‘80s revisited; high shine fabrics and metallics; and a color palette that pops with red, fuchsia, yellow and rust. Oh, but fall fashion delivers even more enticing choices. Get ready for big bows, large pockets, ruffles and sequins; contrasting piping and sleeve emphasis (yes, still); bustier bodices; and classic animal prints, mainly leopard. In footwear, it’s all about the white cowboy boot, block heels and Mary Janes. Cool weather can’t come fast enough.

Lafayette 148 New York leopard print dress from CK & Co.




Worth New York portrait collar black zip jacket from Cindi Shelby.

Isabelle de Borchgrave: Fashioning Art from Paper features the lifesize, trompe I’oeil paper costumes of Belgian artist Isabelle de Borchgrave (born 1946).

Four exciting collections will be presented together, for the first time, in a survey of de Borchgrave’s innovative work. Along with these pieces, a series of kaftans highlighting Silk Road textiles will be included, as well as a newly commissioned costume inspired by a painting by Peter Paul Rubens, Portrait of Charlotte-Marguerite de Montmorency, Princess of Condé, c. 1610. Rubens’ royal portrait will also be featured in the exhibition. This exhibition is organized by Dixon Gallery and Gardens, Society of the Four Arts, Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Frick Art and Historical Center, and Artis–Naples, the Baker Museum.






Our Official State Meal There are 13 total foods that make up Oklahoma’s state meal, state fruit and state vegetable. Here is a portion of the many foods Oklahoma claims, along with their calorie counts.






A new oil boom

CBD oil shops proliferate in OKC, but has enthusiasm outrun evidence?

A worker holds a jar of a cannabis extract in the compounding area of Can-Tek labs in Oklahoma City. Photo by Steve Sisney

by meg wingerter 26


few years ago, Organics OKC started offering straws of honey mixed with hemp oil alongside its selection of plants and chemical-free solutions for garden pests. Now, it has what looks like a jeweler’s case with a selection of creams, liquid drops and sweet treats filled with cannabidiol oil – when it can keep the stuff in stock. Oklahoma legalized the selling of CBD oil, which is made from hemp but doesn’t produce the high associated with marijuana, in 2017, and sellers say the market has grown astronomically since. Bud Scott, executive director of New Health Solutions Oklahoma, estimated the retail market for CBD oil has grown about 300 percent in the last year. New Health Solutions is a trade group representing businesses purveying CBD and those that hope to sell medical marijuana. Marc Bradley, owner of Organics OKC, said most of their customers are older, but some are young people with chronic pain conditions. He


said he expects most of them will continue using CBD oil, even after Oklahoma legalized medical marijuana in June. “A lot of people don’t want to get high, they don’t want to feel the buzz and they’ve got jobs,” he said. Even at slow times, like a warm, quiet afternoon in May, a steady stream of customers came looking for the hemp-based oil. One woman wanted to find out if CBD oil might relieve her cat’s pain, another was looking to treat her anxiety, and a man stopped in to snap up the last oil-enhanced gummy candies in stock. The candies are particularly popular among people trying to calm older relatives who have agitation resulting from dementia, said Steph Urquhart, an Organics OKC employee. Sugar covers the bitter taste of the oil, she said – and it’s easier to convince a person who doesn’t know he’s sick to eat candy than to take medicine. Urquhart fielded questions from customers as she cleaned up the glass case and arranged the polished rocks that sit next to the extracts. Most

Organics OKC owners Marc Bradley and his wife, Janine, work behind one of their display counters, unpacking a new arrival of merchandise. Photo by Jim Beckel



Organics OKC primarily offers organic gardening supplies, but they’ve recently expanded their CBD oil selection. Photo by Jim Beckel



of her advice tended more toward the practical than the medical, like cautioning the woman with the cat that she’d have better luck putting the oil on a pet treat than trying to squirt it into a wriggling feline’s mouth. That’s by design. Urquhart, like most people working the counters at shops selling CBD, doesn’t have a medical or pharmaceutical degree, and cautions people to do their own research and to look out for drug interactions. CBD oil sold over the counter is considered a supplement, so the U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn’t regulate it, but sellers are forbidden from claiming it can treat or cure any condition. “You’re selling them a supplement, but you try to be informative,” she said. “You shouldn’t take it until you’re sure it’s something you want to put in your body, and talk to your doctor or pharmacist.” Some studies have raised tantalizing possibilities that CBD oil could be used to improve inflammation, anxiety, pain control and drug cravings, and that it might kill cancer cells. Most of these studies were conducted in only small numbers of people, however, and others used only mice or cells in a petri dish. Scientists still are testing whether those same results will pan out in larger groups of people. Research that looks promising in mice often proves disappointing, and tests in small numbers of humans can easily be thrown off by fluke responses. The only use for CBD oil with convincing evidence is reducing seizures in people who haven’t been helped by other drugs. In June, the FDA approved Epidiolex, a drug made from CBD oil, to treat two rare seizure disorders. Patients may not get it any time soon, though, because the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency doesn’t recognize any medical use for CBD oil, meaning drugmaker GW Pharmaceutical would face legal risks from selling it. Customers rave about the oil, though. Rachel Baker, an Oklahoma City resident, said she was skeptical that CBD could help with her anxiety, but tried it because she was worried about becoming physically dependent on conventional anxiety medications. A puff of inhalable CBD before work generally calms the anxiety, and she said she hasn’t experienced side effects.

“Throughout a day, it just keeps me at the same level” of calm, she said. Some people come in looking for an alternative to opioids for their pain, especially nerve pain, Urquhart said. Others use it to block drug cravings, she said. “It was mostly people who were weaning themselves off opioids” who first sought CBD oil, she said.

Legal limbo Despite the enthusiasm, it’s still not entirely clear how CBD oil might work. The brain has two receptors that cannabinoids can bind to: CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors also are scattered among other organs, but CB2 receptors are concentrated in the immune system and the tissues that make blood, according to a 2008 article in Pharmacological Review. CBD doesn’t appear to interact with either receptor,

A CLOSER LOOK CANNABIDIOL: Marijuana extract that most states allow to be sold over the counter. One prescription medication made from CBD has been approved for seizure disorders. CBD lacks the psychotropic properties of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the component of marijuana that gives users a “high.” RECREATIONAL MARIJUANA: Possession and use of marijuana is authorized in nine states, without a physician’s recommendation. MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Thirty states have passed laws that permit marijuana use when recommended by a physician. NEARLY $250 MILLION: 2017 Colorado taxes, licenses and fees from marijuana.

$1.5 BILLION Colorado’s total marijuana sales in 2017



but some research suggests it keeps the body from breaking down anandamide, a chemical produced in the body that seems to be linked to feelings of well-being, and may have anti-cancer properties. Regardless of how it works, Jimmy Shannon is a believer, based on his own experience. Shannon opened Vapour Kingdom to sell nicotine liquid in 2013, but later added CBD oil after trying it when a near-deadly medical experience left him with post-traumatic stress disorder. Using CBD got rid of his panic attacks, he said. At the time, CBD oil wasn’t legal in Oklahoma, but he decided it was worth the risk to feel better. After Oklahoma legalized CBD, Shannon started Ambary Health to make and ship CBD oil products. He expects good times ahead for the CBD oil market, because a new state law legalizing hemp growing could lower the price of the oil by cutting out the cost of shipping it from other states. “Once we really are able to process it in Oklahoma, we’ll be able to make our products at a lower rate,” he said. Shannon also hopes Oklahoma’s universities will lead research into how different chemicals in cannabis could be used, laying a solid scientific foundation to what he and others have experienced. Scott, the head of the CBD and medical marijuana

You’re selling them a supplement, but you try to be informative. You shouldn’t take it until you’re sure it’s something you want to put in your body, and talk to your doctor or pharmacist.”

Steph Urquhart, Organics OKC employee.

Jimmy Shannon owns Ambary Health, 11122 N. Rockwell Ave., in Oklahoma City, which manufactures and distributes CBD products. Photo by Chris Landsberger


trade group, has similar hopes. Different cannabinoids may work better for different people, and both the medical community and the cannabis industry can benefit from learning more about how to serve patients, he said. “There is absolutely no reason that cannabis should continue to be treated as a Schedule I narcotic,” he said.


Reasonable or not, however – and that question still is a matter of serious debate – marijuana is a Schedule I drug, meaning the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration doesn’t recognize any legitimate medical use for it. In practice, that means medical marijuana businesses have been largely shut out of the banking system and left vulnerable to the changing enforcement priorities of presidential administrations. The DEA also considers CBD a Schedule I drug, but most states allow it to be sold. A spokesperson for the national DEA said local offices have to prioritize use of their resources to target the greatest threats in their communities, especially during the opioid epidemic. Shannon, the owner of Ambary Health, said Norman police confiscated some of his products last year, but he hasn’t had trouble since they didn’t contain THC, the chemical that produces a high. Oklahoma only allows retail sales of products that contain no tetrahydrocannabinol, though patients in clinical trials can receive oils that contain up to 0.3 percent THC. Mark Woodward, spokesman for the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, said the bureau regularly gets calls from confused business owners. He urges them to check that products have been tested for THC, but said the bureau only investigates if it receives a complaint about possible illegal sales. “If it has no detectable THC, it doesn’t contain anything controlled and it can be sold,” he said. “We’re trying to help customers and we’re trying to help stores.” Bradley, who owns Organics OKC, said law enforcement officers have come in and bought the products undercover, but that hasn’t caused him any trouble. “I had a lab tech come in and say, ‘I tested some of your stuff, and that’s why I’m coming in and buying it,’” he said. Selling CBD products isn’t as simple as ordering some and putting up a sign, Bradley said. You need a reliable supplier and third-party testing to ensure the product includes the amount of CBD that it’s supposed to and doesn’t contain THC. He isn’t confident that every outlet selling CBD is following those rules, and urged customers to research products before buying. “Every Tom, Dick and Harry has opened a CBD store,” he said. “Every week, I see a new one.”

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What’s ahead? Though growth has been impressive so far, Ryan Early thinks the best days for CBD business are yet to come. Early owns Can-Tek Labs and several related companies, and he’s planning a significant expansion. Can-Tek’s facility, in a strip mall that looks like it’s seen better days off Interstate 35 in south Oklahoma City, already has a compounding lab. In it, workers put oils and other ingredients into what look like oversized blenders to produce tinctures and balms for packaging and shipping. What Early’s excited about, though, is what will go into the bare concrete rooms at the back of the building. It didn’t look like much on a tour in late June, but he’s got plans for a hemp plant nursery under ultraviolet light and a room to extract CBD, with two greenhouses out back where the plants can grow in between. All of that work had to be done in Colorado until Oklahoma legalized hemp cultivation, Early said. Now, he’s bringing his operations under one roof in Oklahoma City, and has plans to expand the work even more with research into developing better strains of hemp. “We now just have the technology and the legality to do more research,” he said. “We get to bring our genetics and our operations home.”

Adult and medical-use regulated laws Comprehensive medical marijuana law CBD/low THC product law SOURCE: DEEPDIVE No marijuana access law

CBD effects Strong evidence • Reducing seizures in people not helped by other drugs Inconclusive evidence • Reducing inflammation • Reducing anxiety symptoms • Reducing spasms in multiple sclerosis

• Pain control • Reducing drug cravings • Killing cancer cells • Improving blood sugar control

Claims with no evidence in humans • Mad Cow disease (a study found mice lived one week longer with the infection before succumbing)

• Heart disease • Colon problems • Killing infections • Promoting bone healing

Ryan Early shows some of his products in front of the compounding area of his Can-Tek labs. Photo by Steve Sisney



Janine Bradley, center, visits with a customer in her Organics OKC store. Photo by Jim Beckel

CBD OIL Sounds good, but does it work? While writing this article about the growth in cannabidiol sales, I got curious and decided to give it a try (after checking that nothing else I was taking had known drug interactions). I have a history of anxiety, which is one of the more common reasons why people use CBD oil. I waited for a day when I was feeling anxious about the amount of work I had to get done before leaving town on vacation (and about a half-dozen other things, to be honest) and cracked open a bottle of CBD oillaced water. It tasted about the same as other bottled waters. I took two sips (one with an Excedrin for my tension headache) and almost immediately felt my anx-

iety abate. Which could well have been because I was focusing on what would happen next, rather than on all the things I had been worrying about. As I sipped it throughout the day, I felt calmer than usual, but I have absolutely no proof whether the difference

was the CBD, or the way my thoughts ran. That’s the problem with experimenting on yourself, and it’s why the Food and Drug Administration requires studies comparing new drugs with a placebo before it will approve them. CBD oil isn’t considered a drug, and sellers can’t legally claim that it will treat or cure any disease (though plenty of people on the Internet do so). Some researchers are testing CBD for medical applications, including anxiety, so it’s possible in the future that we’ll get a clear answer on what it actually can do. I know I’ll be watching for results, if only to find out just how susceptible my brain is to the placebo effect. 33



Dr. Annie Moreau, left, assisted by Dr. Christina Lippe, performs a lid retraction and levator plication at the McGee Eye Surgery Center in Oklahoma City. Photos by Anya Magnuson

Surgeons help patients see well and look good by k.s. mcnutt




New Year’s Eve car wreck that sent a patient through a windshield left him without a nose and frayed eyelids, but amazingly no abrasions on his eyes. Dr. Jeremy Tan said he spent hours removing shards of glass, cleaning and stitching. As the swelling went down, Tan repaired the man’s fractured left eye socket. Another surgery lifted the left eyelid into proper position. In the end the patient had 20-20 vision in both eyes. Trauma cases sometimes require creativity. “You get what you get, and you have to figure it out when it falls in your lap,” said Tan, one of two doctors soon to join the medical staff at Dean McGee Eye Institute. The two new surgeons will triple patients’ access to oculoplastics services. Oculoplastic surgery encompasses a variety of procedures that involve the eyelids, tear ducts, orbit (bony eye socket) and face. The work includes both medically necessary and cosmetic surgical services, and frequently blends the two. Tan and Dr. Nathan Blessing will join Dr. Annie Moreau, who has been the only full-time oculoplatic physician at Dean McGee. “The addition of Drs. Jeremy Tan and Nathan Blessing this summer will expand the range of ophthalmic plastic and reconstructive surgery options available to our patients, including cosmetic eyelid surgery, while strengthening our ability to serve trauma patients and others who come to us with conditions related to the tissues and structures surrounding the eye,” said Dr. Gregory Skuta, president and CEO. Blessing’s first day in the clinic is Aug. 6, and Tan will come on board Sept. 17. It’s a homecoming for Blessing, a Tulsa native who earned his medical degree from the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine. He recently completed a two-year fellowship at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami, Florida, where he also completed his residency.

Dr. Jeremy Tan

Dr. Annie Moreau, left, focuses in ophthalmic plastic and reconstructive surgery.

Oculoplastic surgery encompasses a variety of procedures that involve the eyelids, tear ducts, orbit (bony eye socket) and face. The work includes both medically necessary and cosmetic surgical services, and frequently blends the two.

Dr. Nathan Blessing

Dr. Annie Moreau



Moreau has been the only full-time oculoplastic physician at the McGee Eye Surgery Center in Oklahoma City. She will soon be joined by two new surgeons.


Tan and Blessing met during a rotation as medical students. “We’re really excited to join Dean McGee,” said Tan, a New Jersey native who is completing a twoyear fellowship with Ophthalmic Surgeons and Consultants of Ohio. “It feels like going home.” After earning his medical degree from Temple University in Philadelphia, Tan completed his ophthalmology residency at Dean McGee/OU. “Ophthalmologists perform surgery on the eye. We focus on surgery outside the eye,” Blessing said. It requires a complete understanding of the eye and all the structures in the orbit. “We can deal with a variety of different situations,” he said. Some situations involve working with surgeons in other specialties. “We’re the bridge a lot of times from the ophthalmologist to everyone who works with the head, neck and brain.” Blessing and Tan said the primary goal in every case is to protect the patient’s vision. “But at the same time we want to make sure it looks good. My favorite thing is trying to get someone back to a baseline of normal appearance,” Tan said. “It’s a journey, not a one-and-done.” Other patients require surgery because of disease or tumors. And some are referred by other doctors who do eyelid surgeries if complications arise, Blessing said. It helps when only one eye is involved, Blessing

said, because “the normal healthy side” give the surgeon a blueprint for reconstructing something similar. Both doctors counsel patients to keep their expectations realistic. In children, a common condition surgeons encounter is congenital ptosis, or drooping eyelids, Tan said. The eyelid must be repaired so the child’s eyesight develops properly. Left untreated, it can result in permanent loss of vision, he said. Children with excessive tearing, or epiphora, also can require surgery to achieve the proper balance of tear production, movement across the eye and drainage through the nose, Tan said. Infections can occur if tears don’t drain properly. One pediatric patient that stands out in Tan’s experience was an 8-year-old girl who suffered a sinus infection that quickly moved into the eye socket. In a span of eight hours, her entire face was swollen, the eye was being pushed out of the socket and she had no light perception, he said. Successful surgery restored both her eye and her eyesight. “It’s amazing that kids have that resiliency to bounce back to normal,” Tan said. Beyond helping patients, Tan and Blessing will be clinical assistant professors in OU’s department of ophthalmology, which will benefit residents studying these procedures.






Medical helicopters are becoming more common in Oklahoma skies 38


by justin wingerter

Something has gone terribly wrong. As you return to a state of semi-consciousness, you’re strapped to a stretcher. The whap, whap, whap of helicopter rotors has filled your ears. A pilot, Jack Windes, is hollering commands as the Sikorsky SK-76 you’ve somehow found yourself in lifts straight up and tilts forward, toward Oklahoma City. You’re in Texarkana, or maybe it’s Boise City, or maybe it’s Idabel. There’s a nurse on one side, a paramedic on the other and a cardiovascular surgeon sitting across from you, Doctor Somethingor-the-other. It’s your heart, he says. You’re going to be OK, he says. You’ve never been less sure of anything. It is, quite possibly, the worst day of your life, a stretch of time that passes in a terrifying blur of anxiety, fear and pain. But for Amanda Marlen, the flight nurse to your right, it’s a Tuesday. For Jeni Gettysbourke, a paramedic sitting to your left, it’s a dream job. “I cannot imagine not doing this,” Marlen says on a recent summer morning outside Integris Baptist Medical Center. She works eight 24-hour shifts a month here, arriving and leaving at 8 a.m. “But I’d do it 28 days a month if they’d let me. I love it.” These are the thrill-seekers of modern medicine, its airborne experts, the sawbones of the sky. They’re a rare breed, their hours and work conditions more extreme than those of other nurses and paramedics. Their patients are some of the worst of the worst, clinging to life a thousand feet above ground. “You get used to it, you learn to calm your nerves,” says Christy Schwalbach, flight coordinator at the OU Children’s Hospital. “But there are things you do in a helicopter that take practice to do.” Johnny Burns has been flying helicopters since 1970, when he flew them over the dense jungles of Vietnam. There were stints in Alaska and off the coast of southern Louisiana before he landed in

Oklahoma in ’86. Back then, there were four medical helicopters in the state. “Now there’s 29,” he says in a gruff inflection one day as he stands on the roof of the Children’s Hospital. “We don’t need 29 helicopters.” But we do need this one, he says. The passengers Burns picks up are the state’s smallest humans: sickly infants, many born far too soon. He travels primarily to other hospitals, rural stops without the equipment and expertise to breathe life into babies who may weigh less than a pound. They become VIP passengers on Air Kids One, the state’s only neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU, in the sky. Fourteen nurses and nurse practitioners staff Air Kids One in 12-hour shifts that cover every minute of every day of the year. They transport about one baby per shift, an average of two per day, more than 600 per year and about 5,300 since the program started a decade ago. The crew’s patients are smaller and so, too, is its helicopter. The EC130 T2 is a single-engine aircraft, a considerably tighter fit than the dual-engine Sikorsky that flies in and out of Integris Baptist. Family members of the patient are sometimes flown on the Sikorsky but never on Air Kids One. “Breathing problems shortly after birth are the number one reason we are called,” said Sarah Storie, a nurse with the Air Kids One crew. “If a mom is unexpectedly going to deliver a baby prematurely, they will call us and we can go out and help with the delivery — plus stabilization — of the baby.” The neonatal nurses aboard Air Kids One find the public often has a profound misunderstanding of what they do, believing much of their time is spent rocking and feeding adorable newborns. In reality, they are landing at small hospitals, stabilizing critically ill infants who have never seen the world outside of a hospital and transporting them to Oklahoma City for further care, often surgery. “I can’t remember the last time I even held a

photos by jim beckel



Flight nurse Amanda Marlen, left, and paramedic Jeni Gettysbourke load a stretcher and medical equipment onto a Survival Flight helicopter on the helipad at Integris Baptist Health Center. BELOW: Checking gear before flight.

Photo by Sarah Phipps



baby,” Storie said. “That’s not what these NICU babies are here for. If we’re going to get them, they’re oftentimes very sick.” The Air Kids One crew, like that at Integris, covers all of Oklahoma, along with southern Kansas, western Arkansas and the northernmost regions of Texas. Both helicopters must dodge the heavy fog and rain but can fly around storms in their path. Children’s also has a neonatal intensive care ambulance, Ground Kids One, ready and waiting for its use when weather renders flights impossible. “Doing nighttime scene work — going to car wrecks and stuff like that in the middle of the night out in the middle of nowhere; narrow roads, little wires, trees and stuff — that’s the most challenging thing we do,” says Burns, the pilot. “We always have more babies to pick up when the moon gets full,” he adds in his usual dry tone, making it impossible to know the extent to which he’s joking. “We see a spike every month.” As he parks his helicopter on the roof of Children’s Hospital, shuts down its single engine and walks away from the helipad on a cloudy morning in mid-

June, the charmingly old-school Burns is asked how long a test flight lasted. He looks down at his right hand, where he has written, in black ink, the liftoff and landing times. “We were up exactly … 16 minutes! I have it here on my Palm Pilot.” With a short shout, Jack Windes announces he is starting the engines while Jeni Gettysbourke, a paramedic, is standing outside to ensure all goes as planned and nothing is on fire. After a few minutes, she climbs inside and the helicopter lifts, hovers at a couple hundred feet, then darts north. It tilts left as it circles Lake Hefner, an unexpectedly smooth ride at 150 mph. This is Survival Flight, the Integris-based crew and new kids on the medical helicopter block — flights began in early May. On a Wednesday in June, that 24-hour crew consists of Windes, a former Army pilot with black cowboy boots and a black flight suit, Gettysbourke and Amanda Marlen, a flight nurse with a Southern accent and aviator sunglasses dark enough to watch an eclipse through.

Johnny Burns, pilot for Air Kids One and Kristi Cagle, flight nurse and member of the medical crew, talk outside the medical helicopter at Children’s Hospital.





Johnny Burns, pilot for Air Kids One, and Kristi Cagle, flight nurse.



The Air Kids One crew, from left to right: Jamie Lewis, Johnny Burns, Christy Schwalbach, Sarah Storie and Kristi Cagle, stand outside the helicopter at Children’s Hospital, on June 20, 2018.

Before each flight, the three stand in front of their helicopter and survey the skies above. “If it’s not a safe situation — say, we’ve taken three flights that day and we’re just wiped out — we’ll talk about it,” Marlen says. “We don’t have to take any flight we’re not comfortable taking.” “We have a rule,” Gettysbourke adds. “If one person doesn’t want to do it, we won’t do it.” Like the Air Kids One crew, they fly to considerably smaller hospitals, load patients and bring them to Oklahoma City for extensive treatment. In some cases, a cardiovascular surgeon will fly with them and perform an operation at the rural hospital while they wait. Survival Flight patients are often undergoing extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO. Their vital organs have failed to such an extent that blood must be pumped out of their body — where a machine adds oxygen and removes carbon dioxide — then recirculated through their body. That requires, as you might imagine, a large amount of equipment. The Sikorsky SK-76 is up to the task, capable of holding 1,200 pounds of people and fuel to fly 300 miles. When they’re not transporting patients, Gettysbourke and Marlen are at a house two miles down 44

Northwest Expressway — a home base where they can eat and sleep, if they’re lucky. “You eat when you can, you sleep when you can and you go to the bathroom when you can,” Marlen said. After just three months in Oklahoma City, Survival Flight is looking to expand. They would like to house their crews at the hospital full-time and fly to severe vehicle accidents or other mass traumas — “scene flights” in industry lingo. If crews are stationed at the hospital, they can shorten their takeoff time by performing so-called hot loads, the straight-out-of-Hollywood technique where nurses run under spinning rotors and climb into the helicopter just before it takes off. For now, they await the next call. It comes not in the form of a blaring siren but in a generic ringtone jingle. It sounds one day as they await the test flight over Lake Hefner. They stop what the are doing, what they are saying, what they are thinking, to listen in but it is only a false alarm. “One of the guys at the base, that was his personal ringtone,” Marlen says. “It freaked us out,” Gettysbourke adds. “Freaked. Us. Out.”





FOOTING Eleven-year-old Hugo gymnast Averie Mitchell is an inspirational story by matt patterson Averie Mitchell sometimes wonders what all the fuss is about. She’s an 11-year-old kid who loves gymnastics, her dog Hattie and hunting and fishing in rural southeastern Oklahoma. In that sense, she’s not much different from a lot of kids she’s growing up with in Hugo. The difference comes when you look at Averie’s right leg, which looks more machine than flesh and bone, the result of an amputation of her leg below the knee at age two. Today, she wears a high-tech prosthetic, and is so confident and comfortable with it, she likes to make her artificial limb a source of humor. “When people ask me about it sometimes I’ll say I was swimming in the ocean and a shark bit my leg off,” Averie Mitchell said. Her mom Kim interjects, “What’s your latest one?” she asks. “That I sneezed and my leg popped off,” Averie responds with a big grin. At a recent gymnastics practice, Averie even removed her prosthetic so two other girls could


use it to kill a spider. Averie was born with pseudarthrosis, a condition that caused her leg to have a false joint. Often the legs of children born with the condition are curved, break easily and don’t work the way they should. Nine years ago, Kim Mitchell and her husband, John, opted to have Averie’s leg amputated below the knee. “We told her that her leg was sick and we were going to get her a leg that would allow her to run, jump and play,” Kim Mitchell said. Nearly a decade later, it’s clear the decision was the correct one. The operation proved an immediate success. “Six weeks after her leg was amputated she got her first prosthetic,” Kim Mitchell said. “Within 30 or 45 minutes she was pushing the therapist out of the way because she couldn’t get where she wanted to go.” Averie walked. Then she ran. That led to an interest in gymnastics. She probably couldn’t have picked a more challenging way to spend her spare time. Gymnastics requires physical fitness, extreme levels of muscle coordination and hours upon hours of practice. She trains three




hours a day, four days a week. In June, Averie traveled to Tampa, Florida for the AAU National Gymnastic Championship, a competition that draws the best five to 18-year-old gymnasts from around the country. Averie is one of 14 girls from her gym who made the trip. “Your job is to make it look easy,” Averie said. “That’s what all the practice is for. If we don’t practice we wouldn’t be completing the job.” Averie competes in bars, beam and floor events. Her favorite is tumbling. But the most challenging might be the beam. Imagine doing a back handspring on a balance beam, with no feeling in one of your legs. “It becomes a habit,” she said. “I make it land in the same place every time.” Every little detail matters. Averie recently broke

her foot. For most gymnasts that means time in a cast and a long time on the shelf. For Averie it meant going to Celerity Prosthetics in Oklahoma City for a new one. It weighs more than her old one, which requires some adjustments. “To other people they think, ‘oh, it’s just three ounces, it’s nothing,’” Averie said. “But when you’re tumbling, it’s a lot.” Her mom sometimes cringes watching Averie on the beam. “Back handsprings,” Kim Mitchell said with a hint of parental dread. “She’s learning how to do them on the beam, and that’s terrifying for me to watch. But she does it ... and makes it look easy. Like anyone could get out there and do it.” Making sure Averie has her most important tool to compete is Andy Anders’ business. He’s been

Averie Mitchell talks with fellow members of her gymnastics team in their gym in Hugo. Mitchell practices at least four days every week and this summer competed in a national event in Florida. Photo by Anya Magnuson



Averie Mitchell, 11, of Hugo, practices on the uneven bars. Mitchell had her right leg amputated below the knee at age two because of a birth defect. Since then, she’s become active in gymnastics and hopes to attend the University of Oklahoma someday. Photo by Anya Magnuson

a prosthetist for 15 years. The key to a useful prosthetic lies in its ability to exist in harmony with the person wearing it. “Sockets are considered static systems and the body is considered a dynamic system,” Anders said. “It’s always changing. It’s always a challenge ... how do you make a static system that can live with a dynamic system?” Averie’s prosthetic leg allows her to compete, but isn’t any more advanced than the others he makes. “There’s a different alignment for someone who is doing sports versus someone who is walking,” he said. “The key thing is making sure they fit good all the time. That’s the number one challenge.” When it all comes together it’s life changing. For Anders, seeing his work help people lead normal lives is rewarding. “It’s an awesome feeling,” he said. “The fear is you’ll make something for someone and they say it’s great and then it ends up in a closet and they

don’t use it. Fortunately, that hasn’t happened to me yet.”

A loyal friend Averie isn’t alone in her march through life. She has her mom and dad, two grown sisters, friends, teammates and a dog who’s endured her own struggles. Hattie is a black Labrador mix with a sweet face, easygoing nature and half a right leg. The connection between canine and kid was instant. “I said ‘Mom, she’s just like me,’” Averie said. “It was obviously meant to be,” Kim Mitchell said. The family adopted Hattie, and she’s shadowed Averie ever since. “She’s fun and rambunctious,” Averie said. “If she wants something she gets it, so she’s kind of spoiled.” Though Averie has found success in the gym and 49




Averie Mitchell (sitting, far left) watches as her teammates use her prosthetic leg to kill a spider during a recent practice. Photo by Anya Magnuson

in school, where she is an honor roll student, not everything comes easy. Averie has bad days. Like when she wasn’t allowed to go down the slide at a waterpark because of her prosthetic. Or when things aren’t going well in the gym. “We have had some setbacks, and downtimes,” Kim Mitchell said. “She has troubles just like any other kid would.” Watching her navigate through those troubles with a smile on her face and a can-do attitude is perhaps Kim and John Mitchell’s greatest parental accomplishment. In the end, it’s the idea that the leg doesn’t really matter that has fueled her success in many ways. “We do the normal southeastern

Oklahoma things,” John Mitchell said. “We hunt together, we fish together, we ride ATVs on the weekend. Anything anyone else would do, she does it just as well or better.” Athletic ability and accomplishment would make any parent proud, but for John Mitchell it’s those quiet moments in the gym where Averie lends a hand to another kid that reveal what she’s really all about. “She’s really outgoing,” John Mitchell said. “She doesn’t meet many strangers. And she’s caring. That’s one thing I’m probably prouder about than anything. I’ve watched her work with people having trouble. She wants everyone to do good.” It’s easy to call Averie an



8625 S Walker Ave Oklahoma City, OK 73139 (405) 605-3030 celerityprosthetics.com51




Averie Mitchell runs with her dog, Hattie, in a field near their home in Hugo. Mitchell and her family adopted the lab mix several years ago. Like Averie, Hattie is missing a leg. Photo by Doug Hoke

inspiration. NBC and ABC both have aired news stories about Averie centered on that theme. It’s a lot to take in for an 11-year-old, but Kim Mitchell doesn’t mind. “I love it,” she said. “If she can make another amputee get up and walk that’s great.” “Not everyone’s situation is the same. Some people have lost limbs because of war, or from motorcycle accidents or some other tragic way, but if they look at Averie put her leg on every day and she has a smile and she gets out there, and it helps them, I think it’s great.” Averie really doesn’t see herself that way.

“I don’t consider myself an inspiration,” she said. “I just don’t feel like it. But it’s OK if people want to look at me that way.” Averie has her own dreams. She wants to go to the University of Oklahoma and be on its wildly successful gymnastics team. After that, she wants to help people just like her as a physical therapist. “I want to give back because so many people have helped me,” she said. “If I have people who don’t want to get out of bed and I happen to be their physical therapist, maybe that will boost their confidence.” 53




Oklahomans recall a year of trial and turmoil by josh dulaney


n New Year’s Day in 1968, Oklahomans woke up to below-freezing temperatures, with fingers crossed for a Sooner victory in the Orange Bowl, and hopes that a blank calendar would be filled with needed endings and new beginnings. While the previous year was marked by notable achievements — interracial marriage became legal across the nation, NASA launched the Saturn V rocket carrying the unmanned Apollo 4 test spacecraft, and U.S. phone connections hit 100 million — America endured the ongoing war in Vietnam, race riots at home and a counterculture breaking society’s mores with acid, free love and electric guitars. On that Monday morning in 1968, Oklahomans woke up to a world that, instead of retreating from the brink of chaos, would plunge headlong into

turmoil that transformed America for the next 50 years. The lead editorial in The Daily Oklahoman, which was headlined “Best and Worst of Times,” offered a dim view for the new year: “The present frustrations and anxieties differ in one ominous respect from the big national problems of the past. Not only do they remain unsolved, but increasingly they appear to defy solutions.” The top front page headline read “Johnson’s Popularity Key to State Political Races in 1968.” Another front page story included an interview with 24-year-old Jim Pence from Norman, an Army 1st Lieutenant and platoon leader, home from the war in Vietnam and a freshman in law school at OU. Meanwhile, the Sooners were in Miami preparing to take on the Tennessee Volunteers. They won 26-24. In Oklahoma City, “To Sir with Love” showed on one of


1968 timeline January 5 Dr. Benjamin Spock is among a group indicted for encouraging Americans to violate draft laws.

January 18 The Oklahoma City Schools Board’s advisory committee on race and human relations urges a “speed up” of a federal court-ordered plan for integration. Part of the plan includes shifting attendance boundaries so that schools have 70 white students per 30 black students.

January 31 The North Vietnamese launch the Tet offensive.

February 1 The world sees the image of a south Vietnamese security official executing a Viet Cong prisoner. Later, claims were made that the prisoner was accused of murdering a Saigon police officer and his family.



February 2 Richard Nixon declares his presidential candidacy.

February 7 Nixon arrives at the Skirvin Hotel in Oklahoma City for a reception, then goes to the Oklahoma City Civic Center Music Hall for a fundraiser.

February 18 American officials announce the highest U.S. casualty toll of the Vietnam War, with 543 Americans killed in action, and 2,547 wounded during the previous week.

February 27 Millions of Americans watch Walter Cronkite issue a report on Vietnam titled “Who, What, When, Where, Why?”

two screens at the still new Shepherd Mall at NW 23 and Villa. “Cool Hand Luke” played at the Will Rogers Theater on Western, and “Valley of the Dolls” at the Criterion on Main Street downtown. Sporting and cinematic distractions provided little respite from the turbulence of 1968. The Tet offensive, which would tip the balance of American support of the war at home, began at the end of January, and 313 Oklahomans would die that year in Vietnam. It was the war’s deadliest year for American forces. More than 16,500 troops were killed. By the end of 1968, riots across the country left Americans dead in the streets. Political and cultural leaders were cut down. Jim Troxel graduated Oklahoma State that year. A leader of the free speech movement on campus who went on to a career in organizational development, Troxel considers 1968 the most pivotal year for the Baby Boomer generation. “I think the double whammy of King and Kennedy was really heartbreaking to the sensitive and responsive people of this country, and including those in the state of Oklahoma,” Troxel said. “People were realizing there is something going on here that’s way outside our understanding to be able to make sense of. The dominant paradigm that got birthed after WWII, the 50s, early 60s, was just gone. And everything you stood for, everything you thought was important — it was a shaking of the foundations. It was traumatic.”

Great Cause Uniting GOP, Nixon Says In 1968, Oklahomans frequently found themselves in the center of events that drew national attention. On Feb. 7, Richard Nixon arrived at the Skirvin Hotel for a reception, then went to the Oklahoma City Civic Center Music Hall, where he spoke to 3,100 cheering Republicans who paid $10 a plate for hamhock-and-beans, and waved red, white and blue pompoms as they cheered him on. On the campaign trail for the 1968 Republican presidential nomination, Nixon told Oklahoma members of the GOP that “Never before have we had more trouble in more places.” The following day, The Daily Oklahoman ran the story as its top news item, under which fell an article about North Vietnamese troops launching h eavy artillery and ground attacks against Marines at Khe Sanh. Later in February, news anchor Walter Cronkite delivered an editorial on the Vietnam War that would repudiate the U.S. government’s narrative. “To say we are mired in a stalemate seems the most realistic and unsatisfactory conclusion,” Cronkite told millions of Americans. Some suggested that Cronkite’s editori-

March 16 New York Sen. Robert Kennedy announces his campaign for president. March 16 American troops commit the “My Lai Massacre,” killing more than 500 Vietnamese civilians.


AP timeline photos



als on Vietnam, and the media’s coverage in general, turned America’s views of the war. But across the country, and here in Oklahoma, the questions about U.S. involvement had been asked for some time. Carmen Eppler was a blooming flower child at Bethany Nazarene College in 1968. She recalls fierce debates between her mother and her mother’s siblings, over hot-button political issues of the day, including Vietnam. “You begin to question where are your loyalties,” Eppler said. “And you’re going to be steadfast in some. But how far can your loyalties be stretched to acknowledge this other side? We all got cracked open, but we handled it in different ways. How right was it? How wrong was it? What were we going to allow?” In March, New York Sen. Robert F. Kennedy announced he was running for the Democratic presidential nomination. Two weeks later, with anti-war sentiment boiling, President Lyndon B. Johnson announced he wasn’t running for re-election.

MARTIN LUTHER KING SLAIN State Rep. George Young, D-Oklahoma City, was an eighth-grade student in Memphis, Tennessee, when a rifle shot rang out and the leader of the civil rights movement took a bullet to his neck. About 6 p.m. April 4, James Earl Ray shot Martin Luther King Jr. when the civil rights icon stepped onto the balcony of his second-floor room at the Lorraine Motel. King died an hour later. “The civil rights movement was an internal struggle to determine who America would become,” Young said. “What kind of nation are we really going to be? It tore America apart, because we had to see ourselves for who we are. When people saw the images on TV, many said we cannot continue to be this way. We have to be the great nation we say we are.” The day after King’s assassination, George Henderson, a newly arrived professor of education and sociology at the University of Oklahoma, delivered a speech in honor of King for a campus memorial. Henderson had been on campus less than a year, was among just three black

March 28 Martin Luther King Jr. leads a march in Memphis. A black teenage boy is killed. Sixty people are injured and more than 100 are arrested. Braum’s debuts in Oklahoma City

April 3 “2001: A Space Odyssey” debuts in movie theaters

April 4 Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. Riots break out in several American cities. April 8 Oklahoma State students overwhelmingly vote against the university’s public speaker policy, which prohibits the use of OSU facilities by “speakers who might advocate lawlessness, violent overthrow of the government or changes in laws by other than peaceful means.” April 29 The musical “Hair” opens on Broadway.

Aides of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. point in the direction from which they believe his assailant fired as he lies dying on a Memphis motel balcony. AP photo



May 6 Tinker officials announce the addition of 1,200 new employees and $7 million in annual payroll to meet demands for jet engine overhauls.

May 11 Ralph Abernathy, a confidant of King, along with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, receives permission for Resurrection City, an encampment of more than 2,500 people in Washington, D.C. Police would later raid and demolish the encampment. June 5 Kennedy is shot at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. He died from injuries at the age of 42.

June 27 The Oklahoma City School Board approves a voluntary busing plan, which subsidizes transportation for those who wish to participate in the program calling for students to transfer from schools where their race is the majority to schools where they are the minority. July 20

faculty members, and had recently helped charter the Afro-American Student Union. “It was a very, very difficult time for us,” Henderson said. “It was a traumatic time for me. I wrote a speech on reconciliation and forgiveness, and a determination to honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and keeping alive the civil rights struggle. That’s the speech I wrote. That’s not the speech I gave.” As he surveyed the crowd, Henderson was overcome with emotion. “I looked out on that memorial service on the oval,” he said. “1,500 people. And in one corner were the black students, huddled together, crying. White people were crying too, but I saw my black students. And instead of giving a speech of reconciliation, I said ‘We are tired of you white people killing us.’ All of my anxiety and all of my unresolved feelings about race relations, I just let out in words I regretted the moment I uttered them. I did what Martin would’ve admonished me not to do. Don’t lump all white people into a single category. And I have spent the rest of my life trying to make amends for that impetuous moment, for that unforgivable moment. I cleansed myself of that in 1968 and I said ‘never again.’” After living through the civil rights era, Henderson and Young forged their own paths, each paving their way with the reconciliation King preached. Henderson became a force for interracial understanding at OU. For three decades, Young served as a minister of the Christian gospel in Oklahoma. Each have heard the comparisons be-

tween 1968 and 2018, in terms of the racial divide in America. Each suggests that Americans need to be careful when drawing such analogies. “I think they have translated the civil rights movement into something other than the actual pain, heartache and sorrow that it really was,” Young said. “They’ve made it into something other than dogs being sicced on you, hoses being turned on folks, people trying to vote and being told they can’t unless they recite the Declaration of Independence. People have made it into something else other than the horror it really was.” Henderson suggested that some in the modern protest movement look back longingly at the civil rights era, but miss the point. “Many of the young people today, they’ve read about it, they’ve heard about the civil rights movement, and they didn’t have an opportunity to participate in it, and I think deep down inside they would’ve loved to have been there,” Henderson said. “But when they think about that, they think mostly about the negative side of it. They don’t understand our major goal was reconciliation, it wasn’t separation. And it wasn’t blaming. It was calling people out, but then saying, ‘what can we do about it?’ Now young people call people out and say ‘go your own separate way, you deserve it.’”

Blacks at OU Snub Dinner for ‘O’ Club As the year wore on, college students across

Approximately 300 students are arrested during sit-ins at Columbia University, April 30, 1968. AP photo

The first Special Olympics is held in Chicago.



the United States and the world besieged campuses and streets with protest. In New York on April 23, students at Columbia University overtook five campus buildings and held a dean hostage for 24 hours. They protested the Vietnam War and Columbia University’s effort to expand into nearby black neighborhoods. In May, violent student protests erupted in Paris, as young people seized universities and clashed with police on the streets. Coupled with a general labor strike, the demonstrations pushed France to the edge of revolution. These clashes garnered international headlines. Locally, on May 8, the The Daily Oklahoman ran a story headlined ‘OU Negroes Snub Dinner for ‘O’ Club.’ The black athletes stood silently outside the ballroom of the Oklahoma Memorial Union building, then quietly left after the banquet’s invocation. The athletes presented to Athletic Director Gomer Jones a list of grievances, including the lack of black counselors, coaches and trainers; segregated dorms, different rules and discipline for black athletes; and coaches discouraging interracial dating. Such protests were common in Oklahoma in 1968, said Sara Eppler Janda, professor of history at Cameron University in Lawton. “There’s a lot going on on a much smaller scale,” she said. “It is young people reacting to the same kinds of events all over the country. The students are more affluent than their parents’ generation, growing up in comfort, and they start questioning things.” Earlier this year, Janda published a book titled “Prairie Power: Student Activism, Counterculture, and Backlash in Oklahoma, 1962-1972.” The protests ranged from early dorm curfews and compulsory ROTC programs to racism and inequality on college campuses. “States in the middle section of the country were heavily influenced by what

they saw in the civil rights movement,” Janda said. In Stillwater, that meant OSU students fighting for free speech, and battling administrators who did not want speakers promulgating counterculture views on the Vietnam War, drug use and other controversial topics. In Norman, that meant Henderson and his students fighting to overturn segregation. “Almost immediately, the black students sought me out and said ‘we need you Dr. Henderson,’” he said. “We need you to help fight racism at the University of Oklahoma. The Afro-American Student Union was created by students, run by students, and most of the activities were student-driven. As mentors, we helped them strategize.” Henderson is retired, while Janda continues to teach and research. Each observe the culture of modern college campuses. They share similar concerns when considering 2018 against the backdrop of 1968. “The free speech issue has become really complicated,” Janda said. “I think a big concern right now is we’re seeing more stories of people on the political right not being allowed to come to universities. In some of the instances, they are not allowed because of the violence. There’s not enough time to put protections in place. A larger concern for me is the trigger-word culture that has emerged, where students want to be given a warning before you talk about something controversial or unsettling. That creates this perception that leads over to free speech, where I really only want to hear things I agree with.” Decades after he gave his speech during the King memorial at OU, Henderson laments what he sees as a regression into The 330-feet Space Tower was introduced at the 1968 State Fair of Oklahoma.

July 30 The Justice Department asks for a court injunction to end segregation in Tulsa schools. August 8 Republicans nominate Nixon as their presidential candidate. August 11 Authorities arrest John Milton Ratliff, a 20-yearold OU student, in California. The Daily Oklahoman refers to Ratliff as “a leftwing” student suspected of being a drug peddler by federal authorities, and “an ultra liberal and former leader for Students for Democratic Society.”

August 26 In Chicago, the Democratic National Convention starts. The convention is marked by violence as protesters clash with police. Delegates nominate Hubert H. Humphrey for president. September 6 Oklahoma City police complain about being mired in paperwork. There were 133 untyped police reports dating back a week.

September 7 Feminists protest the Miss America contest in Atlantic City.


September 24 The TV news magazine show “60 minutes” debuts. October 2 Officials announce that more than 100,000 students are enrolled in Oklahoma’s colleges and universities, marking the first time the Sooner State has eclipsed six-figure enrollment. October 16 After winning medals in the 200-meter sprint at the Summer Olympic Games in Mexico City, American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos raise their fists in a black power salute.

October 20 Jacqueline Kennedy, widow of former President John F. Kennedy, marries Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis.

October 31 President Johnson announces a bombing halt in North Vietnam.

segregation on college campuses, one that is self-induced by various groups. “We didn’t have things like micro-aggressions and political correctness,” Henderson said. “I guess we were too busy trying to come together than to focus on the things that are keeping us apart. We focused on the activities that brought us together.” Here, Henderson draws another distinction between 2018 and 1968. “I see people talking about their safe space, and ‘safe space’ is a code word for ‘people just like us,’” he said. “A safe space for (our generation) meant a place for us to come together and put aside the hostility and the negativity. We did not want to segregate ourselves. We could have gone to the historically black colleges and universities. So what was the point of coming to Oklahoma, and the Michigans and the other predominantly white universities? What was that all about? We had safe spaces. Do you want to go back to that? If so, that’s an option. You have that right.” Another difference Henderson sees is a lack of cross-cultural engagement on college campuses. In the ’60s and into the ’70s and ’80s, it was common for a black intellectual to speak in a room filled mostly with white students, he said. “I don’t see much of that any more,” Henderson said. “I see mostly black students having individuals coming, and they speak about black things. And there’s little crossover between communities. In the ’60s, we were tearing the walls down. I fear now in the 21st century there’s a growing number of individuals who want to rebuild those walls

bigger and better. I guess the metaphor is now the president wants to build walls. And some students find those walls reprehensible and undemocratic, but they don’t find the segregation they are perpetuating in our universities reprehensible and undemocratic.”

‘Kennedy is Dead’ On June 6, readers of The Daily Oklahoman front page learned of a tornado funnel spotted the previous night, four miles north of Verden in Grady County. It didn’t touch the ground. They also read about former Oklahoma City Mayor George Shirk fretting over the loss of his vintage Rolls Royce Phantom, which caught fire as he drove the Northwest Expressway. Above the fold was the three-word headline: ‘Kennedy is Dead.’ As Americans mourned the assassination of King, the would-be heir to a political dynasty was murdered. Just after midnight June 5, having won the Democratic primary in California, Robert Kennedy was leaving through the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles when several gunshots erupted. Fired by Sirhan Bishara Sirhan, a Jordanian-born Arab, the fatal bullet from a .22-caliber pistol lodged in Kennedy’s

November 1 The Motion Picture Association of America introduces it’s ratings system — G, M, R, and X.

November 5 Nixon wins the presidential election.




brain. He died 25 hours later after surgery. Two days after Kennedy died, King’s assassin was arrested in London.

Daley, Officers defended In August, Sooner State native Anita Bryant, the 1958 Miss Oklahoma, performed at both the Republican and Democratic national conventions. The former is known as the convention in which Nixon received the GOP presidential nomination. The latter is known for mayhem. An Aug. 31 headline in The Daily Oklahoman read: “Daley, Officers Defended.” In the story, then-Lt. Gov. George Nigh had returned to Oklahoma from the Democratic National Convention, and defended Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and law enforcement officers for their handling of riots that marred the nominating ceremonies. At 91 years old, Nigh recalled the frightening experience, after he and several Oklahoma delegates first went out on the town in Chicago. “We got up the next day and got on a bus to go to the convention center, and there was a huge crowd in the park and in the street, blocking access to your car, blocking access to the buses,” Nigh said. “As we were walking in line with security separating the crowds so we could get on the bus, they were spitting on us, yelling obscenities and

everything. And you looked over in the park and they started camping out at night, so all during the convention, there were campers by the thousands over in this park, and when you came back from the convention, trying to get off the bus, trying to get in the hotel, you had the same problem. It was just really upsetting. They were hollering obscenities, with all the women there, and spitting on you. We never went out of the hotel another night while we were there. We were afraid to go out.” Convention delegates, including the majority of those from Oklahoma, nominated Hubert H. Humphrey, then President Lyndon Johnson’s vice president, as the Democratic presidential candidate. “What a wonderful opportunity,” Nigh said of the convention. “Here I am, interested in politics, and I’m the head delegate from Oklahoma. It was just a political dream come true. And lo and behold, I felt like my life was in danger. I want people to have a right to hold a sign up. I want people to have a right to yell. But I don’t want demonstrators to have the right to keep the other people from being able to do what they’re supposed to be doing, as long as they are within their legal rights. That’s just not what this country is about.” Later that year, a report titled “Rights in Conflict” and prepared at the request of President Johnson’s National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence,

November 14 College students across the country participate in National Turn in Your Draft Card Day.

November 22 The Beatles release “The White Album” November 24 Oklahoma City clergymen plea for leniency in the sentencing of those convicted of violating the Selective Service Act by Oklahoma federal judges.

December 3 Elvis Presley appears on national television in what would become known as his great comeback special. December 21 Apollo 8 orbits the moon.

TOP: Anita Bryant. BELOW: Protesters at The Democratic National Convention. AP photos



said police were the targets of provocation by both word and act. However, the report continued: “The nature of the response was unrestrained and indiscriminate police violence on many occasions, particularly at night. That violence was made all the more shocking by the fact that it was often inflicted upon persons who had broken no law, disobeyed no order, made no threat. These included peaceful demonstrators, onlookers, and large numbers of residents who were simply passing through, or happened to live in, the areas where confrontations were occurring. Newsmen and photographers were singled out for assault, and their equipment deliberately damaged. Fundamental police training was ignored; and officers, when on the scene, were often unable to control their men. As one police officer put it: ‘What happened didn’t have anything to do with police work.’” As the national conventions were taking place, Gary Long was heading home from Vietnam, where the Watonga native and Marine took shrapnel from a mortar round set in a booby trap. Long wasn’t a fan of war protesters. “I took it as anti-America rallies, when you’re burning draft cards and flags and all that,” I was disgusted and upset with all the protests, with the big names that were actually draft dodgers. I’m glad I did everything I did, but I wouldn’t want to do it again.”

Peace, National Unity, First Goals For Nixon Americans continued to protest in various and sundry ways. Feminists protested the Miss America Pageant. Jimi Hendrix. AP photo

In Mexico City, Tommie Smith and John Carlos earned the Olympic gold and bronze medals in the 200-meter dash. During the national anthem, they raised gloved fists in what would become a defining image of black power protest. The International Olympic Committee stripped them of their medals. In American homes, Baby Boomers protested against their parents, in the form of Rock ‘n’ Roll rebellion. “For my family and many other families in Oklahoma, that had these kids coming out, acting like hoodlums, listening to ‘that Rock ‘n’ Roll, the devil’s music,’ I think there was a concern about status in the community,” said Eppler, the eternal flower child. “We were an embarrassment to them, and we threatened their status in the community, and that did not go over well. They kicked us out of their families. A lot of that. A lot of people started feeling the heat with their families. Over time, you kind of have to forgive your parents their lameness, so you’ll be forgiven.” On Oct. 31, President Johnson called a bombing halt in Vietnam, which some considered a political stunt to appease protesters and push Humphrey to victory. Instead, Americans elected as president a Republican from Orange County, California. On Nov. 5, Nixon defeated Humphrey, earning 301 electoral votes, but topping the Minnesota Democrat by just 0.7 percent of the popular vote. George Wallace, the former Alabama governor running as an American Independent, but who later went on again to win the state’s top office as a Democrat, peeled off 46 electoral votes in the deep south, and more than 13 percent of the popular vote, touting segregationist policies and mocking war protesters. Near the end of the year, some looked to the heavens

Apollo 8 launches. AP photo

Tommie Smith and John Carlos raise their fists in a black power salute. AP photo



Downtown Oklahoma City, 1968. The Oklahoman Archives



Steve Owens fights for yards against Texas in the Cotton Bowl. Texas won 26-20. The Oklahoman Archives

for hope. In December, Apollo 8 became the first manned spacecraft to orbit the moon. The craft’s three astronauts — Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and William Anders — broadcasted live from lunar orbit, showing pictures of Earth as the planet rose above the lunar horizon. The astronauts ended the broadcast by reading from the book of Genesis. “You had this year sort of bookended,” said Troxel, the OSU graduate. “On the one hand, it started off as just chaos, and then at the end you had this iconic image where we were looking at the planet as one. And as majestic as that photograph was, it was also rather unsettling. It was saying ‘you’ve got a new world on your hands.’”

‘Year of Paradoxes’ On New Year’s Day in 1969, Oklahomans woke up to below-freezing temperatures, and the agony of OU losing 28-27 to Southern Methodist in the Astro-Blue64

bonnet Bowl. The Daily Oklahoman memorialized 1968 with an editorial headlined “Year of Paradoxes.” “Departed 1968 was a year of unprecedented national achievement,” the piece began. “But it was a year also of multiplying national failures, bitter disillusionment and even degradation. The paradoxes which abound as the nation pays its respects to a departing year are nothing new. Always there has been hunger in the midst of plenty, poverty in the midst of prosperity and evil in the presence of good. But the paradoxes of recent years are so pronounced that they invite endless repetitions of this quotation from Charles Dickens in “A Tale of Two Cities”: ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times . . .’” Janda, the professor, can turn her researcher’s eye to the year 1968. But she also hears first-hand stories from her Baby Boomer parents — Carmen and Ray Eppler. There are lessons to learn, and hope to keep. “When I was in line to vote in the last election, there


were people in front of me, older people who voted in the ’68 election, who were talking about the parallels. But it was interesting. I’m looking around a very diverse crowd of race, ethnicity and gender, and I was by myself. Nobody threatened me or asked who I was going to vote for. I don’t think that was true for a lot of people in 1968.” In other ways, the nation has grown more divided, Janda said. “The tension between the mainstream media and the White House is far worse today,” she said. “Nixon’s relationship with the media laid the groundwork for the Trump era. The unique thing about politics is this notion of creating your own narrative of facts. That’s frightening. That was not happening in 1968. You have to remember in every red state there are a lot of blue voters and in every blue state there are a lot of red voters. We need to remind people that Democrats are not evil, Republicans are not evil. We seem to have less tolerance and appreciation for that right now.” For some who lived through 1968, familiar storm clouds have not only gathered, but they are beginning to break. “I think Trump has split us in ways that I’m not sure all of the pieces will be put back together again,” Henderson said. “The damage that he’s doing, by being anything except humane and caring and trying to unite us, will have residual effects for many, many generations . . . we are becoming more divisive. We are becoming more distrustful. And gradually we are becoming more indifferent to each other. And the one thing I

learned in the ’60s is that the opposite of love isn’t hate. It’s indifference. And we’re becoming indifferent to one another.” Henderson recalled when his “brothers and sisters” included white students and faculty on campus who came alongside black students to bring about change. “Now, I don’t hear individuals talking about being brothers and sisters,” he said. “They talk more about adversaries, and that distorts the whole meaning of what we were about. It was ‘our’ movement and ‘our’ was inclusive. We talk about common ground, but I don’t see people looking for it. We talk about reconciliation, but I don’t see individuals calling meetings to do that. We usually have meetings and workshops on campus to talk about, once again, us versus them, and what they have done to us. And if I dismiss you before we get to how we can be better people together, that’s not a conversation, it’s a repetition of more grievances.” At 86 years old, Henderson joked that he wouldn’t live long enough to see how this American moment turns out. But just as one senses a tone of hopelessness, he quotes a John Lennon lyric:

You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one “The dreamers are still here,” Henderson said. “I honestly believe still in the dream of liberty for all. Call us kooks, call us weirdos, but we’re not going to give up the dream.”

Gov. Dewey Bartlett, center, looks on as NAACP youth council adviser Clara Luper accepts a donation for the Freedom Center. The Oklahoman Archives RIGHT: Oklahoman artist Jim Lange illustrates the struggles of 1968. The Oklahoman Archives



“We were part of a milieu of dramatic

social change. ” –JIM TROXEL

Photo by Chris Landsberger66

Jim Troxel



By the summer of 1968, Jim Troxel would be a graduate of Oklahoma State, with a sociology degree in-hand and his eyes fixed on Chicago, where he embarked on a career in organizational development. As a Cowboy, he led freshman orientation for arts and sciences students, and served as president of the Sociology Students Association. But there was another group Troxel was a part of, one less formal yet perhaps more impactful. The Friday Afternoon Tea and Glee Society clashed with school administration, holding rallies and demanding that OSU leadership open the door to public speakers whose counter-culture views on war, civil rights and religion were anathema to a university steeped in traditional values. “It was during that time the Vietnam War was getting hot,” Troxel said. “The Jim Troxel, 1968 intent was to get speakers of various opinions. For OSU, which was considered the more conservative of the two biggest universities, that was something. It was because we had not been given an opportunity to hear a diverse set of opinions.” Troxel and many of his fellow rabble rousers gradu-

ated in 1968. But they had uncorked the free speech movement on campus. By 1971, OSU administration relented on the public speaker policy. “It was a genuine, bottom-up, organically grown concern,” Troxel said. “We were part of a milieu of dramatic social change. It was more in the air that we were breathing rather than any pamphlet we were reading. In ’68, we were fighting our individual battles. Today, issues have a rather dramatic globalness to them. In 2017 at OSU, The Friday Afternoon Tea and Glee Society held a 50-year reunion. Troxel called it a seminal moment for himself, as he realized so many of his college friends had gone into teaching, nonprofit work, the Peace Corps and other public service endeavors. Though they graduated at different times and set out for different parts of the country, one year in particular bound them together. “It was as if 1968 birthed in them a social concern that was manifested in many, many different, exciting ways,” Troxel said. “In a way, when we came back and had our reunion, we were celebrating the consciousness that 1968 had awakened in us.”




Civil War was being fought right here on



Photo by Chris Landsberger



George Henderson


n 1967, George Henderson moved from Detroit to Norman, leaving behind a city still smoldering from race riots and looking forward to living in a town where he and his wife, Barbara, would be the first black homeowners. In the rearview mirror was his job as assistant to the superintendent of Detroit Public Schools. Ahead were decades of racial reconciliation work in Sooner State higher education. When he started teaching sociology and education at the University of Oklahoma, Henderson was one of just three black faculty members. By the end of the year, Henderson helped 90 students form the Afro-American Student Union. The move would prove pivotal as the calendar turned and the impending social turmoil shaped a generation and changed the nation.

Norman was a microcosm of American society’s transformation.

“In 1968, the black students and their white allies said ‘enough,’” Henderson said. “‘We are not going to be passive. We will be nonviolent and that will be our form of activism. We will protest, we will picket, we will write letters to the editor, we will challenge you in our classes.’ And they did all of those things.” At the time, white students didn’t room with black students. Every morning, Henderson said, black students would discover racial slurs scribed on restroom walls. Some white fraternities would throw parties where it was common to mimic black slaves. Confederate flags were flown in some Greek houses. Henderson recalled black students reporting that some professors would joke about “the good ’ol days” of


slavery. “The Civil War was being fought right here on campus,” he said. “It was the integrationists versus the segregationists. We did have white students, a few community members and faculty members who really believed in racial equality. But their voices were muted, to a great extent, by the predominant environment in which that was not on the agenda for most people.” As tensions stewed on campus, OU’s black students endured a year of watching many of their peers and heroes across the country die. During a civil rights protest in February, white highway patrolmen killed three students from the historically black South Carolina State University. In April, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis. King’s death sparked riots among blacks across the country, with dozens of people dying. In Norman, Henderson piloted a group that could have split apart over ideology.

“I made it very clear at the outset that I was committed to nonviolence,” he said. “But I also made it very clear that I understand, without hesitation or reservation, that without the possibility of violence, we’re not likely to be an effective force on this campus. We didn’t advocate it, but there were students who did, and that worked to our advantage because I told the administrators ‘you can either deal with us or you can deal with them.’ They were one step away, many of them said, from throwing a rock or getting a gas can and getting a match and burning the whole damn thing down. But they did not out of respect to us. They were going to give it a chance with the nonviolence and all that stuff.” Now retired, Henderson often reflects on those times, those students and those changes that were swirling in Norman. “We had white students at Oklahoma, these were the hippies, the frat kids also, who indeed became the allies of the Afro-American students,” he said. “I was their mentor also. So I’m able to work with two groups — committed white students who challenge racism on the campus and black students who challenged racism in the university, and together they were a force to be reckoned with. They changed forever the racial climate of the University of Oklahoma.” 69


“It was the worst

example of political

democracy that I believe I’ve ever seen.”


Photo by Chris Landsberger



George NIGH


n Aug. 31, 1968, page 6 of The Daily Oklahoman featured a story with the headline “Daley, Officers Defended.” The first sentence read: “Lt. Gov. George Nigh returned to Oklahoma from the Democratic National Convention Friday and defended Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and law enforcement officers for their handling of yippies and hippies.” Thousands of anti-war demonstrators had descended on Chicago, with the protests growing violent throughout the convention as police, Army troops, Illinois National Guardsmen and Secret Service agents fought to maintain control of the streets. Nigh, a McAlester native who would go on to serve four terms as governor of the Sooner State, was a delegate to the riotous convention. Arriving as the highest elected Democratic state official in Oklahoma, he and his wife, Donna, along with other Sooner State delegates, dined out in the Windy City. For the rest of their time in Chicago, they barely made it from the hotel to the convention, as large groups of protesters spit at them and yelled obscenities.

Law enforcement escorted the delegates. “It was the worst example of political democracy that I believe I’ve ever seen,” said Nigh, now 91 years old. “That delegates to a national convention could not freely get back and forth to attend the convention because of protesters. And the fear that the delegates had. And the fact that the law had to be called out. I was a delegate to several Democratic conventions and I had never

THE POLITICIAN seen anything like that in my life.” A presidential commission later blamed “unrestrained and indiscriminate police violence,” as a major factor in the riots. “That violence was made all the more shocking by the fact that it was often inflicted upon persons who had broken no law, disobeyed no order, made no threat,” the report said. “These included peaceful demonstrators, onlookers, and large numbers of residents who were simply passing through, or happened to live in, the areas where confrontations were occurring.” Democratic delegates nominated Hubert H. Humphrey, then President Lyndon Johnson’s vice president, as their presidential nominee. In its 1968 article, The Daily Oklahoman quoted Nigh as saying it was the duty of all National Guard troops and other law enforcement personnel to protect Humphrey and all other citizens from “thousands of thugs who descended on Chicago with the intent of taking over.” Nigh said he still remembers a time when “there was more fellowship in government and politics.” At the convention, police reportedly arrested roughly 600 people; 119 police were injured. 100 protesters were injured. Nigh shook his head as he remembered. “In comparing it with today, I don’t think I’ve seen anything that threatening to people,” he said.

Hubert H. Humphrey acknowledges the cheers of Democratic National Convention delegates at the 1968 Democratic Convention. AP photo



The old ‘semper fi’ is true. There’s a certain


you pay to live in this place...” –GARY LONG


Photo by Doug Hoke





ary Long spent 12 months and 25 days in Vietnam. In August of 1968, he finally got out, thanks to nine pieces of shrapnel from a mortar round. One of Long’s fellow Marines walked through a restricted area with bamboo on both sides and hit a tripwire. “It knocked the crap out of me,” Long said. Born in Watonga, the 74-year-old veteran attended high school in Stillwater before graduating from Oklahoma State. After he turned his tassel in 1966, Long signed up for the Marine Corps. “Back then, there was no lottery to the draft,” Long said. “You were just drafted, if you were of draft age. But I was married, so the policy at the time was we won’t draft married people. Then they changed that to where we’ll draft married people, but not married people with children. Well that wasn’t a good enough reason for me to have a kid. It was emotional. I hated to leave my wife and the rest of my family here in Oklahoma. And probably the scariest part is the unknown. You don’t know what you’re getting into.” Long served as a platoon commander in the 1st Marine Division, southwest of Da Nang, where American troops first landed in March 1965. The troops spent days at a time isolated and controlling a hill without any electricity or a portable generator. They ate rations and girded themselves for battle. The fear was palpable. “There were many times that I was afraid,” Long said. “In fact, often I would have to consciously control my fear. But when things really started happening, the

Gary Long in Vietnam. Photo Provided

fear would subside and it was time to do what we were trained to do. Normally the first shot is from the enemy because he’s hidden. You can’t see him. I just got kind of a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach and thought ‘oh hell, here it goes.’ But then after that initial sound, my personal experience was you’re too busy with things to do. It’s just depending on the circumstances. You may be coordinating air support, artillery. You gotta maneuver your men. The only time I got mad — it happened twice — is when a sniper singled me out. He wasn’t just shooting at a Marine, he was shooting at me. That ticked me off. One died trying to kill me. I’m proud of that. My machine gunner got him.” Because of his injuries from the shrapnel, Long spent time on a ship hospital. He missed a show by Bob Hope and Raquel Welch. The Marine Corps later stationed him at Camp Pendleton in California. Long discharged from the Marine Corps in 1969. He and his wife, Sandy, reared two sons, and Long’s work life included radio, academia, pharmaceuticals and the oil industry. Fifty years after leaving Vietnam, there remains a bond unbroken among those with whom he served. They count themselves as patriots, counter to those who chose to hide from the fight. “I really enjoyed the camaraderie in the Marine Corps,” he said. “The old ‘semper fi’ is true. I think that people my age, there’s a certain price you pay to live in this place and one of them is military duty. And I pretty much dislike the people that went to Canada and things like that.”



“It was almost an unimaginable


You didn’t know what was going to happen next.” –GEORGE YOUNG

Photo by Doug Hoke



GEORGE YOUNG On the evening of April 4, 1968, George Young was playing basketball in front of his home in Memphis, Tennessee. The second youngest of nine children, he was an eighth-grade student, reared by both parents in a God-fearing family. With relatives from Tennessee and Mississippi, he had heard stories of the segregated south, slavery and abuse at the hands of white authorities. A boy still, Young was just becoming aware of the the social upheaval taking place across the nation. His mother called him to the back door of the house. That’s where she told him that Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated. “She had tears in her eyes,” Young said. “I was old enough to know from my parents’ reaction that it was not something good. I was worried because they were worried. I was bothered because they were bothered. It was almost an unimaginable fear. You didn’t know what was going to happen next.” King had returned to Memphis to back striking sanitation workers, after a previous visit in support of them led to street violence and police killing a 16-year-old suspected looter. On April 3, the day before he was assassinated as he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, King delivered his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech at the Mason Temple. As his speech neared its climax, King proclaimed: “I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you.

THE INNOCENT But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land.” Raucous applause followed. “And so I’m happy, tonight,” King thundered. “I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.” Two days after King died, Young and a couple of friends were walking to a neighborhood gym to play basketball, as the city reeled and troops were called in to maintain order. Memphis police and the National Guard pulled up to the boys. A guardsman got of his jeep, pointed a rifle at them, asked where they were going, and demanded they show identification. “They let us go,” Young said. “I’m laughing about it now, but it was one of the most fearful moments of my life. That stayed with me, because it did represent what was happening in the state and the country.” Young eventually became a preacher, and ministered in Oklahoma churches for 30 years. He currently represents District 99 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, as a Democrat. “My generation was the first to benefit from the sacrifice of Dr. King and the civil rights movement,” Young said. “We still have people who remember quite clearly how things were, and some of us are not willing to say things are better. And they are better. We have made it better. Are we there? No. We still have a lot of work to do. Dr. King’s sacrifice represents who we are and where we are going.”

Striking Memphis sanitation workers march past Tennessee National Guard troops with fixed bayonets during a 20-block march to City Hall, one day after a similar march erupted in violence, leaving one person dead and several injured. AP photo



“And you’d see it on the news — those hippies. And you immediately started dressing like them, because clearly, they were the




Photo by Doug Hoke


CARMEN EPPLER Talk to Carmen Eppler for any length of time and you can hear the music of a generation. Bob Dylan lyrics flow as easily as references to Joni Mitchell and The Mamas & the Papas. “You can’t underestimate the power music has had in helping us shape our thinking and our identities and our dress,” Eppler said. At Northwest Classen High School in the 1960s, she dabbled in the counterculture, not only absorbing its music, but taking on the dress, and having discussions about LSD, as the United States endured the birth pangs of dramatic societal change. In 1968, Eppler was a freshman at Bethany Nazarene College, now Southern Nazarene University. The year would be marked by the ongoing war in Vietnam, the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy, and riots at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. “My little egg of consciousness got cracked by all of those events,” said Eppler, now a Noble resident. “I had a pretty little perfect world, I thought. Those things cracked my consciousness, and that’s where I personally began to ooze outside my little egg and realize there’s this whole other world out there, and it was not the peaches and cream I had grown up in.” Oklahoma was a sleepy place, cocooned from the coasts, where the counterculture thrived, Eppler said. But she and many of her peers in the Sooner State paid attention. “I think the impetus was the music, and people still

Hippies in the Haight-Ashbury district. AP photo


THE FLOWER CHILD travelled,” she said. “And you’d see it on the news — those hippies. And you immediately started dressing like them, because clearly, they were the smarter ones. Here in Oklahoma around ’68 or ’69, if you had a pair of bell-bottoms, you were pretty cool. If you couldn’t afford bell-bottoms, then you went to the fabric store, picked out some paisley print and ripped an outside seam to make your pants be bell-bottoms. For women, you rolled the waistband down so they could be hip-huggers, so you could continue to be cool and do your own thing.” By the end of 1968, Eppler’s own thing would blossom fully into flower child consciousness. Around Thanksgiving, she met a man named Ray Eppler at a beatnik friend’s home. He had just returned to Oklahoma from his travels, having free-spirited his way through Israel and Europe. “He had long hair below his shoulders, and Beatle boots,” Carmen Eppler said. “And he had one earring. These things are little, but at the time, they were just huge. We were a couple by April 6 of 1969.” That year, they travelled to Northern California, including time in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, a mecca for hippies who “turned on, tuned in and dropped out.” True to the flower power ethic, they later would live in a commune in Piedmont, Oklahoma. But their lives were forever changed by a year that also changed the nation. “It broke the innocence of Oklahoma — the national news of ’68,” she said.






Doing life with

Alzheimer’s by meg wingerter

Lori Nelson does things deliberately, even when she’s just heating up a bite to eat. Get out a plate. Set it on the counter. Take the leftovers from the refrigerator. Scoop them onto the plate. Take the plate to the microwave. Put it in. Set the time. “It’s like a bad cooking show,” she said. Humor is just one way the Nelson family has coped with a diagnosis that upended their plans for the future. Lori, 55, learned she has Alzheimer’s disease in October. She’s part of an unlucky minority. About 96 percent of the 5.7 million people in the United States who have Alzheimer’s disease are at least 65 when they are diagnosed. The remaining 200,000 people developed symptoms when they were younger – some so young that they still had children in elementary school. Researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles estimated that by 2060, as many as 15 million people could have Alzheimer’s disease as the Baby-Boom generation continues to age. Alzheimer’s is already the sixth-leading cause of death nationwide, and killed about 1,600 people in Oklahoma in 2016. 79

photos by chris landsberger



Alzheimer’s is universally fatal, and in its late stages, it can take a person’s ability to communicate, care for themself, or even recognize loved ones. Many people who have Alzheimer’s disease are embarrassed to speak about it, or aren’t physically able to get out and talk about what they need, Lori said. After the first shock of the diagnosis was over, she was determined not to lose her voice. In March, Lori spoke at the Oklahoma Capitol as part of Alzheimer’s Advocacy Day. She urged patients to tell their stories and lawmakers to consider the need to fund Alzheimer’s disease research. “I know the day is coming when I’ll be unable to tell the story, so I’m telling it now, to you,” she said in a speech posted on YouTube. “I’m sharing my story to let other patients know, it’s okay to talk about it. It’s not something to be ashamed of, or embarrassed about.” Her husband, former state Rep. Jason Nelson, said they worked together on the speech so Lori could tell everyone at the same time, instead of having to stretch out the process over months. It was important for her to tell the story, so their friends would understand that she still was mentally present and able to speak for herself, he said. “If Lori wants to go to lunch with you, she can tell you,” he said. “She can tell you what she wants to eat. She’s just not very good with the schedule.” Three years ago, the Nelsons were facing a different medical crisis. Their daughter, Grace, had been diagnosed with stage 4 kidney cancer at age 8 and was going through the grueling treatments. Lori was having trouble remembering the details of Grace’s treatments, but she and Jason attributed it to the stress of caring for a sick child, and then of helping her transition back to school.


Thankfully, Grace, now 12, is in remission, but her mother’s struggles didn’t let up. For a while, Lori found ways to compensate, and her family and friends brushed off the occasional odd remark or forgotten detail. It became clear in May 2017 that something was wrong, though, when she went to pick up the kids from school and couldn’t find the car again. Jason said he drove over to pick them up and look around for the car, which he was sure had been stolen. They found it on a side street, where Lori wouldn’t normally park. It seemed strange, but they didn’t think too much of it. Then the same thing happened a few days later – the car was in the same unusual spot, and Lori didn’t remember parking it there. Jason started looking for answers, though he never seriously considered that the problem could be serious enough to affect their plans to go into business together.

“I feel like I’m in a different world.”

“I started doing research on everything from menopause to post-traumatic stress in parents” after a child’s illness, he said. “I thought, ‘We’ve got to get this addressed so we can move in that direction.’” The only way to conclusively diagnose Alzheimer’s disease is a brain exam after death, so doctors arrive at a diagnosis mostly by ruling out anything else likely to cause a patient’s symptoms. Treatable conditions like


thyroid problems, depression and vitamin deficiencies can cause confusion and other symptoms that look like dementia, so doctors will test for those problems and order brain imaging to look for a tumor or some other cause they can address. Lori’s gynecologist ordered blood tests to look for an explanation, but Lori got lost on the way to the lab. That was when they went to a neurologist, Jason said. Lori said she wasn’t entirely sure why the neurologist was asking her questions, like the date, and to perform commands like repeating words or doing simple math problems. She had a sense it wasn’t a good sign, but

Benjamin Nelson, 15, talks to his mother Lori, 55, about the family dog, Travis, at their home in Bethany,


never thought she could have Alzheimer’s. “When I found out, I was horrified. I felt like I was losing my mind,” she said. “I didn’t know what to do.” Lori’s doctor prescribed Memantine, one of a handful of drugs that can slow down, though never stop, the rate of brain cell death, and another medication for depression and anxiety. She still cries most days, particularly when people talk casually about a future she may not see. “I feel like I’m in a different world from the rest of the crowd,” she said. “We’re all going to die someday, but I know it’s coming a lot quicker.” The first months were particularly difficult, because Lori was constantly worried about what she might forget, Jason said. For example, she was so worried about being late that they would leave much too early, he said. “She was just constantly hovering and worrying about things to try to compensate,” he said. Few signs would point to that terrible struggle on a sultry Monday in early July, when the Nelsons welcomed visitors to their Bethany home. Lori laughed off an apology for a latecomer who got lost – she knows how that goes. The symptoms are there, but still small enough that a person who didn’t know could dismiss them. Not quite finding the word she wanted. Wondering what she planned to do when she came in a room. Having to focus on each letter as she writes a note – some of them in cursive that a teacher would hang up as an example, some block-printed. The family has adapted. They moved closer to their children’s schools so the kids could walk to and from activities. Jason Nelson has taken over more of the day-today responsibilities, especially scheduling. Benjamin, 15, has stepped up to help with driving since his mother gave up her keys after a series of fender-benders. And Grace keeps things light, trying to teach their rescue dog that



“roll over” isn’t the only command worth learning. Fortunately, they have good friends who take Lori out, offer to give Grace a lift to activities and ask if they need anything when the friends run errands, Jason said. “Even a little something you can do is a huge help to a family,” he said. Their friends and the kids make it easier to face down an illness where death is certain, but everything in between is unsure, Lori said. Some people rapidly undergo personality changes and lose abilities after an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Others remain basically themselves for years. The average person lives six to eight years with the disease, but some live as long as 20. There’s no way for any family to know where they will fall on the spectrum

“I’m doing whatever it takes to stay here.”


of experiences. So Lori does what she can to make herself one of the lucky ones. She reads, to keep her mind sharp, and goes for walks to keep her body healthy. She prays and meets with friends, because she knows faith and community will help sustain her now, and do the same for her kids when she’s not around. “I’m doing whatever it takes to stay here,” she said. There’s no good answer to why Lori developed Alzheimer’s so early. A handful of people with early-onset Alzheimer’s have a gene that causes anyone who inherits it to develop the disease. For the rest, science hasn’t found an explanation. It isn’t clear if the risk factors for late-life Alzheimer’s,


Grace Nelson, 12, with her parents, Jason and Lori. Lori Nelson and her family are adjusting to a new way of life after she was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's disease in October 2017.

like head injuries, diabetes and high blood pressure, matter for early-onset patients. Even if they do in some cases, they don’t explain why the disease would hit Lori, who always had a healthy lifestyle, including almost never drinking. “I wanted to always be in control of what was going on around me,” she said, and drinking would threaten that. “It’s not too late to start,” her husband quipped. She laughed. Control is no longer a realistic possibility. But joy


can be. The Nelsons eat dinner as a family more often. They spend less time planning for the future. “You don’t cheat today for what you hope might happen tomorrow,” Jason Nelson said. And while it might surprise some people, Nelson said her relationship with her husband has only gotten stronger. Before, they might overlook the good-night or goodbye kiss, and what busy middle-aged couple hasn’t? Now, when growing old together no longer seems certain, those moments become precious. Something to remember.



Start doing your homework on long-term care early, experts say by meg wingerter About two-thirds of people who live past age 65 are going to need long-term care, according to AARP, but relatively few of them have made plans for nursing and help with their daily activities. While many of us would rather not think about eventually losing some of our ability to care for ourselves, senior groups urge everyone to think ahead about the complicated decisions that surround long-term care. Waiting until you become incapacitated decreases the odds that you’ll get care that matches your preferences. “They need to start looking sooner rather than later, because the worst thing is Mom has a fall and goes into the hospital, and the doctor says she can’t go home” but the family doesn’t know where else she could go, said Melissa Holland, executive director of the Oklahoma Assisted Living Association. In Oklahoma, residents have choices of three types of long-term facilities, as well as home care, said Bill Whited, the state’s long-term care ombudsman. His office takes complaints related to long-term care facilities and 84

attempts to work with the facilities to resolve them. Nursing homes provide the highest level of longterm care, have a nurse on duty at all times and provide a minimum ratio of staff to residents, Whited said. Assisted living facilities don’t have the same staffing requirements, because they are designed for people who don’t need the level of care a nurse provides every day, he said. “Nursing homes are there to provide care for individuals who need regularly scheduled nursing care,” he said. “Assisted living is for people who need only intermittent nursing care.” For example, a person who has diabetes and needs a nurse to test his blood sugar and give him insulin multiple times a day would need nursing-home level care, or home health care. A person who has the same condition, but is able to manage her own care could be served in an assisted living facility, he said. In another example, a person who uses a wheelchair could live in either type of facility, Whited said, but the


person would have to be able to transfer himself from wheelchair to bed to be able to stay in most assisted-living facilities. Assisted living facilities don’t provide 24-hour nursing care, but they vary in what they can offer, Holland said. Some have memory care units, for example, and others bring in home health or hospice services so residents can stay in the same place as their needs increase, she said. Nursing aides are available at all times, and can phone the on-call nurse if a resident needs help outside normal hours, Holland said. They must have training in first aid and CPR. Still, not every facility will be right for every person, she said. “We’ve got to make sure we have things in place to provide the care they need,” she said. “If you don’t have the staff to help them, they’re not appropriate” to have as a resident. While nursing homes are licensed to provide extensive care, they aren’t identical in the services they can offer, said Nico Gomez, president and CEO of the Oklahoma Association of Health Care Providers. For example, some facilities specialize in caring for residents with dementia, while others do best with cognitively intact residents, and it may be difficult to find a facility whose staff are trained on certain specialized equipment, he said. “There’s only a handful of facilities that can care for someone who requires a ventilator,” he said. “It really comes down for all of us to ensure that individual’s well-being” in a facility. The third option, a residential care facility, doesn’t offer medical care beyond passing out medications and “prompting” residents to complete self-care, Whited said. For example, staff can remind residents to brush their teeth, but can’t do it for them. Typically, they serve people who have serious mental illnesses or cognitive decline, but who are physically healthy, he said. Under Oklahoma law, a person who develops more extensive needs after going into assisted living is allowed to “age in place,” but the facility isn’t licensed to provide a higher level of care, Whited said. The person

would have to hire home health workers who would come in and provide care – not a financially feasible option for everyone, he said. The same guarantee doesn’t apply to residential care facilities. “It’s true, technically a person can stay there to the end of their life,” he said. “But that can be misleading to people.” Companies also offer varying levels of home-based services. Some people without significant medical needs may be able to live at home as long as they can hire someone to handle errands and chores, while others need a nurse to come in and perform complex care.

Costs, health matter

Your choices, of course, are constrained by what’s available where you live. Oklahoma has only about 81.4 home health and personal care aides for every 1,000 people older than 75, according to the United Health Foundation’s annual Senior Report. That ranks the state 37th out of 50. The low ratio of aides to people with disabilities could be one reason that a relatively high percentage of Oklahomans live in nursing homes despite having low care needs, said Dr. Rhonda Randall, an adviser for the Senior Report. About 23 percent of Oklahoma nursing home residents need little help with basic self-care, compared to about 12 percent of nursing home residents nationwide, she said. Other factors are Oklahomans’ high rates of hip fractures and general poor health, which put people at an increased risk of needing nursing home care, Randall said. 85


“That is absolutely going to have an effect,” she said. Financial factors also may be an issue. If you can’t afford to pay for long-term care out of pocket and don’t have an insurance policy covering it, your options narrow. Medicare only covers stays of less than 100 days for rehabilitation after a recipient has been hospitalized. Medicaid will cover nursing home care for people who qualify based on their income and care needs, but only helps pay for assisted living under a few circumstances. It also can cover home care for some people. Kathleen Kelley, interim programs administrator for the Medicaid Advantage program at the Department of Human Services, said Advantage is an option to cover care for some people who have serious medical needs but want to stay in their homes. Advantage is a home- and community-based services waiver through Medicaid, so people who want to use it have to

person’s mobility declined after an injury, she said. “Any time there’s a change in the member’s living situation, they can pull the team together,” she said. Some people can stay in their homes with support from Advantage until they die, and others eventually need to move to a facility. A person’s “informal supports,” like family members who are willing to help out with tasks not covered by the program, can make the difference, Kelley said. For example, Advantage doesn’t cover 24-hour observation for a person who has dementia and is prone to wander, so participants in that situation would have to move to a nursing home unless their families can stay with them or hire additional help, she said. Once you’ve determined what type of care will meet your family’s needs, you still have to choose among possible providers. Medicare offers an online Nursing Home Compare tool, but Whited

meet strict medical requirements. The first step is to apply through your local Department of Human Services office, Kelley said. If a person qualifies based on income, a nurse will then assess his or her care needs. If the person’s needs are severe enough to qualify for a nursing home, he or she can receive home care through Advantage. Participants can choose among a list of Advantage case managers and home care providers, or allow DHS to choose, Kelley said. The case manager and a representative from the home care provider will then visit the participant at home to discuss care needs and develop a plan. They reassess the participant’s needs at least annually and after a significant change in condition, such as if the

cautioned against relying too heavily on it. The information could be out of date, and it doesn’t give a sense of what it’s like to live in that facility, he said. “I tell people to use it as a tool and a tool only,” he said. “It’s a way to start your search.” The best thing to do is to make multiple visits to the facility so you can observe how it runs, talk to residents and try the food, Whited said. While it’s natural to want to place a loved one nearby, for ease of visiting, sometimes broadening your search can lead to a better fit, he said. “There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all nursing facility,” he said. “You’ve got to look at it on an individual basis.”





Mass poliio immunization day at Oklahoma County Municipal Auditorium, May 7, 1957. Caption in The Daily Oklahoman read “Dr. C.G. Coin almost had to do a headstand, but Glenda got a polio shot with the aid of her mother, Lucille Wonycott.”


Illustration by Todd Pendleton





How the world’s meanest cat unintentionally saved columnist’s life. by ken raymond I’ve never been a big fan of dogs, which makes the fact that my wife and I have four dogs surprising. My family had some when I was growing up. I liked Scotty, our German shepherd; he was my pal who’d be there waiting for me when I got off the school bus each day. But Scotty bit someone and had to be chained up for the rest of his life. He lived in an old chicken coop not far from our house. Captivity changes everyone, and Scotty immediately became a different, angry, bitter dog. He wasn’t meant for imprisonment. He was a free range dog, and it might’ve been better if we’d had him put to sleep. My oldest sibling, Janet, had a tiny dog named Cheetah. I think she was part dachshund, as that’s still Janet’s favorite breed today. Cheetah was generally inoffensive except when Janet’s husband, Mike, riled her up. “Andale!” he’d shout at her. “Andale, Cheetah! Andale!” The dog would react with snarls, barks and grimaces, her lips curling back to expose her tiny white teeth. Her eyes gleamed with hatred. Maybe she didn’t like being told to hurry, but what drove her mad was more likely the repetition and Mike’s raised voice. I didn’t like it very much, either. What I did like was our cats. We lived in the country and had an outside cat whose name I can’t remember. I know it was related to her long, multicolored fur. Something like Tutti-Frutti, although I’m sure that isn’t it. The cat, whom I shall call Color Palette, mothered a nation of kittens, turning out litter after litter throughout her life. Like all cats, she sought secret places to birth and tend to her babies. Our property possessed so many strange nooks and awkward spaces that it became a game to hunt her down when she vanished in the late stages of pregnancy. Once she delivered her litter in an inaccessible location beneath our ragged wooden porch, which was missing portions of planks. The porch was almost as much of a hodgepodge as Color Palette’s fur; bright new boards gleamed next to old ones so gray and distressed that they seemed incapable of bearing weight. We could see the new litter through one of the holes in the floor, but we were unable to reach them. 89

Another time she birthed a litter in a small space she’d dug out of the hayloft. My mother continually advised my sister Becky and I not to touch them, but we spied on them several times a day. Soon they grew more independent and spread across our property. They never had names. Too many to keep up with. My favorite childhood cat was gray and white striped and bore the unimaginative name of Tiger. All cats loved me back then, but Tiger and I had a special connection. As the youngest of five children, I was often the subject of ridicule by my siblings, who were witty and sharp-tongued. When they left me feeling blue, I’d sit in a metal chair on the porch and Tiger would find me immediately. If I was crying, he’d rub his head against my face, purring loudly. I found comfort in petting him and listening to that sound until he’d fall asleep in my lap. I’d stay there for hours, not wanting to awaken him, feeling protective and protected. Tiger always had my back. My mind has a way of hiding trauma, or at least it did when I was a kid. I don’t recall the apparently horrific months that my grandmother lived at our house, possessed of a sort of violent dementia, before dying at our supper table. I blocked any memory of Tiger’s death, although I suspect he met his end on our dirt road. Some people drove on it as if it was the Autobahn. I know that’s how Snowball died. She and I didn’t have long to bond. One day I came home from elementary school and couldn’t find my mother. Usually she’d be cooking dinner for the family, cleaning or watching television game shows. This afternoon I called out for her, searching through every room, before finding her in bed, her back turned toward me. I asked why she didn’t answer me, and she said she didn’t want to ruin my surprise. What surprise? She rolled over and a snow white cat came into view. It was love at first sight. It blew me away that my parents got me a house cat. It seemed beyond the realm of possibility. My family just didn’t do things like that. Decisions were made laboriously, with much discussion. If I wanted a pet, generally I had to plead for weeks or months. But here, like a bolt from the blue, was a cat just for me. Mainly I remember that fantastic reveal and her predilection for jumping onto the pool table and scattering white hair all over the felt, driving my father mad. I doubt if she lived two months with us before being hit by a car. My next cat was Muffin. My aunt and uncle lived a couple miles down the road from us. They also had


sprawling property. On one of our fairly frequent visits, my aunt told me that there was a litter of kittens in the garage. That’s where I spent our entire time there. There were many kittens to choose from, but the one that caught my eye was a muted orange and white color. We tend to anthropomorphize animals, and so I decided that she had chosen me. We played. She scraped me with her needlelike claws and rolled over so I’d scratch her belly. I begged my parents to let me bring her home with me, but it took a couple more visits before Muffin got in our car for the short journey to our house. Muffin stayed with me for a long time. Generally I’d call to her before going to bed, and she’d race up the stairs to my room. She slept with me every night, and on the evenings when I forgot to bring her along, she’d fill the house with piteous moaning until I went downstairs to get her. One Sunday night when my siblings and parents were watching the broadcast TV edit of “The Exorcist,” a movie I was deemed too young to watch, Muffin’s presence helped calm me. I could clearly hear the TV from my doorless bedroom, and somehow the sound without the pictures was even scarier. At some point we got a cat named Barney, and he’s the real point of this story. I think he belonged to one of my sisters who’d gotten married, and the cat wasn’t allowed in their apartment. He came to live with me at my parents’ house.

They say that some people are born bad. Barney was born evil. He was an orange cat with baleful eyes that only softened when he was luring us into a trap. Sometimes he would offer no resistance to being picked up and cradled like a baby. He’d even purr as if he enjoyed it. Then as suddenly as lightning, his good humor would vanish and he’d go on the attack, scratching and gnawing. I’d toss him to the floor, but he’d stalk anyone who offended him. My mother and I grew used to long, ugly scratches on our arms and legs, proof of his psychosis. Part of what made him so diabolical was his memory. If I angered him in the morning, he’d wait for me to come home from school. He had all day to stew about his aggrievement and plot his revenge. He would chase me from room to room, not moving quickly but with the ominous, implacable pace of Arnold Schwarzenegger in the “Terminator” movies. Sometimes I’d lock myself in the bathroom — our house didn’t have many interior doors — and peek out from time to time. He’d be staring at me hatefully, immobile, knowing I’d eventually have to emerge. His wanton aggression led to his name change. Sometimes I’d pick up the cat and offer it to my mother. “Here,” I’d say. “Why don’t you hold Barney for a while?” My Mom was no fool. Her stock reply became, “I don’t want dug.” By that she meant she didn’t want Barney to dig his claws into her skin and draw long

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lines of blood. She said it so often that we decided that was a better name for him: Dug or, for the sake of using a real name, Doug. As evil as he was, Doug was funny, too. He reminded me of the killer in the “Halloween” movie series, comically deliberate and unforgiving. As horrible as it was to get stalked by him, it was amusing, too, this relatively tiny cat backing teenagers and adults into corners and out of rooms. One summer day, two of my friends from church showed up at our house unannounced. Nobody we knew locked their doors back then, and we didn’t stand on ceremony. People generally knocked on the door as they opened it and came inside. I was in the living room. Niles and Sam came in the back door, walked through the laundry room and kitchen, then headed toward me. The geometry of the room was such that the closest piece of furniture to the living room entrance was a blue cloth couch. As they said their hellos, Niles kind of threw himself over the near edge of the couch. Sam stood beside him. Sam started to say something; I don’t even know if it was a whole word or if everything went wrong for him before that. What I do know is that Doug, who hadn’t even been on my radar, flew through the room in an orange blur, jumped onto the couch, bypassed Niles, planted his feet on the armrest and then leapt onto Sam’s arm. The cat


dug in with all four sets of claws and started biting, too, shredding his arm as whatever he’d been trying to say turned into a shout of anguish, surprise and pain. He shook his arm, trying to dislodge Doug, but the cat had a firm grip. It only pressed its claws in deeper, its jaws moving rapidly as it bit and bit Sam’s exposed flesh. One of my least appealing traits is my response to other people’s calamity. When I was in high school, our French teacher, who always wore tight clothes and 19-inch high heels, minced across the floor in front of me, acting out the French terms for answering the door. My seat was in the front row, adjacent to that door; the intercom was beside my right ear. As the teacher repeated her demonstration, those towering heels slipped on the recently waxed floor, and she fell backward in front of me. It was like a pratfall from a TV comedy — Chevy Chase pretending to stumble like President Gerald Ford — and I burst out laughing, literally pointing at her at the same time. I couldn’t stop. As others raced to her aid — it turned out she had broken her wrist — I still guffawed, and it was hard to stifle my laughter even when my classmates urged me to get on the intercom and call for help. That’s exactly how I reacted to Sam’s predicament. I didn’t make any move to help. I laughed and laughed until he eventually succeeded in prying the cat from his arm. Doug immediately rushed back toward him, intent


on another assault. I managed to get up then and move toward Doug, as did Niles. Faced with three enemies, the cat stared us down and slowly walked out of the room. Sam’s arm was a bloody mess. There were puncture wounds, as well as long, straight lacerations, which probably occurred as he tried to shake Doug off. The cat’s claws traced a path down Sam’s forearm. He needed immediate help, and we set to work finding medical supplies — me occasionally lapsing into inappropriate, uncontrollable laughter. Sam would have been within his rights to call for euthanasia, but he didn’t ... which turned out to be a good thing for me. By that point, I had moved from my upstairs bedroom to my brother’s old room on the ground floor. That room had the only interior access to the basement, where our antique furnace coughed and sputtered like an old man with emphysema. I was probably 15 when I suddenly lost all energy and was gripped by fatigue. I couldn’t get out of bed. I lingered there for a couple days, my parents entirely confused by my symptoms. Then they came to check on me and found Doug unmoving on my bedroom’s floor. They took him to the vet, where he died, and discovered that the furnace had killed him and was killing me. Carbon monoxide poisoning. Doug inadvertently saved my life, something that I have to believe would’ve made him even angrier. Only one more cat entered my life. Her name was Snit. There’s a photograph somewhere of my father sitting at the dinner table with a kitten perched on top of his head. Snit had climbed him like a mountain from the foothills (foot heels?) to his bald head. Dad wears a silly grin in the photo. He died not long after. Snit became my mother’s solace, her baby. With an empty nest of real children, missing her husband, she

lavished attention on the cat, which grew increasingly overweight. Snit loved my mother dearly, and she also loved me. There was no room in her heart for any other humans. I’ll say this quickly because I don’t want to be caught up in one of the sadder moments of my life. When my mother died, many years later, Snit was still alive. Since she wouldn’t tolerate anyone else, I inherited her. She flew with me from Pennsylvania to Oklahoma, where she slept in my bed and would awaken me by trying to put her (disgusting) paw in my mouth. I felt very close to that cat. She was a daily reminder of my Mom. So when she stopped eating and her bathroom habits changed, I took her to the vet and was told she had to be put to sleep. Some vital organs were failing. I asked if I could be alone with her for a little while. I petted her. She purred. I cried. I talked to her as if she were my mother. And when I left the room, gazing over my shoulder for one last look, I felt as if my Mom had died all over again. Thinking about it now, my eyes are again filled with tears. But I have happy memories of Snit and all the cats that came before her, just as I have many beautiful memories of my mother. Truth is, part of pet ownership is learning to deal with loss; often children’s first experiences with death involve animals they love and care about. Now this cat man’s dogs are growing old. One is half blind. Another can’t control her bowel movements. Still another has cancer. When the time comes, I’ll mourn them, too, but I’ll recall their funny, loving, annoying idiosyncrasies, and I’ll be better for having known them. Pets change our lives for the better. Even Doug.




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ENGAGING in place by richard mize

Jeri McKenzie shows the sweater stretcher cabinet she designed in her utility room in Ardmore. Photos by Steve Sisney


hink “aging in place.” If you think cold, crude or clinical, or patched-up old house, or, God forbid, “old folks home,” think some more. Better yet, look. Look at these elegant spaces. Behold: Engaging in place.


Let these rooms, by Home Mods by Therapists and aging-in-place specialists Kendra Orcutt and Jeri McKenzie, stir your imagination for what’s possible when deliberate upscale form follows naturally limited human function. If you haven’t seen it, it might be hard to imagine, with so much concern over nuts and bolts


McKenzie’s Ardmore home has a flat entry sidewalk.

like ramps, and thresholds, and faucets, and door handles, and grab bars, and toilets, and bidets, and height, and width, and even actual nuts and bolts. But aging-in-place space can be beautiful after the construction or remodeling is done and all those nuts and bolts fade into the woodwork — and tile, ceiling texture, window treatments, and

the usual kind of amenities that make a house a luxury home. Five years Orcutt and McKenzie have been at this, transforming space that obstructs into space that welcomes everyone as they age. It was a natural extension of Orcutt’s business, Rely on Rehab PC. 95


McKenzie’s home includes elegant spaces and furnishings.

Since 2013, they’ve seen aging-in-place move from the margins into remodeling and building contractors’, Realtors’ and everyday people’s consciousness, if not quite the mainstream. Give it time. Boomers are aging fast. Builders are starting to get it. Tony Foust is one. His Da Vinci Homes in Norman builds in flexibility for agingin-place such as extra-wide doors and mixed tile 96

lines to create depth of field for aging eyes. It takes someone who knows and loves someone to think of that. In the meantime, look into these photos of aging-in-place space, still a narrow slice of what’s out there in homebuilding and remodeling — and think. They are portals into the yawning, not-toodistant future. Imagine.


McKenzie’s kitchen features a waist-level microwave.



The wheelchair-accessible vanity of a bathroom designed by Kendra Orcutt in Tuttle, Okla.

McKenzie’s walk-in closet has few obstructions.

ENGAGING in place



The walk-in shower of a bathroom designed by Kendra Orcutt in Tuttle.

The single-handle faucet of a bathroom designed by Kendra Orcutt in a Tuttle home. A lever on a door at a home remodeled for Deborah Brewer to be able to age in place in central Norman. Photo by Nate Billings




A matter of degrees by richard hall One of the most frustrating things a new parent can experience is realizing the baby thermometer you have isn’t nearly as accurate as its price tag made you believe it was. And when the kiddo feels feverish and all you want to know is if he/she actually has a fever or not, the last thing you want to deal with is a lackluster product. While there are a few different kinds of thermometers, this list focuses on forehead (temporal artery thermometer, for the laymen) and ear thermometers. All that said, here are 5 baby thermometers worth your dough:

Metene medical forehead and ear thermometer | $30 As the name implies, this thermometer pulls double duty with its ability to read the forehead and ear temperatures. But the big selling point is the color-coded LCD screen, which turns green if the child’s temperature is healthy, or red if it’s higher than it should be. It’s also accurate, and one we keep in our house and trust for use with our girls.

Exergen TAT-2000C forehead thermometer | $25 Another thermometer we keep on hand (you know, just in case) is the Exergen TAT-2000C. For about $25, it’s a very dependable and accurate forehead thermometer that spits out fast readings and has a generous battery life.

Braun FHT1000 forehead thermometer | $45 The most expensive thermometer on this list, the 101

Braun FHT1000 is a great choice that can be found at any big box store. While it only reads forehead temperatures, it does offer a quick read and an easy-to-read LCD screen.

Kinsa KET-001 smart ear thermometer | $30 We’ve got smartphones, smart cars and smart homes, so why not smart thermometers? The Kinsa KET-001 works on individuals of all ages and syncs up with an app on your phone to help keep records of temperature readings. The app also shares tips on how to treat a moderate fever without overstepping into proper medical advice. Combine that with a literal 1-second read, and the Kinsa is a solid choice for those who don’t mind missing out on being able to read foreheads.

Braun ThermoScan5 ear thermometer | $35 Another ear-only thermometer, this Braun gets the job done. It’s incredibly accurate and its availability makes this a good choice for parents looking for their first (or a better) baby thermometer.




Nathan Chamer jumps across the finish line as he wins the men’s division of the Oklahoma City Marathon on April 29. Photo by Chris Landsberger

One step at a time Meet the 2018 Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon winners

by josh dulaney A native of Kenya who walked on to college in Oklahoma and earned a scholarship. A Panhandle daughter whose training in the hot winds helped forge her into a winner. Nathan Chamer won this year’s Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon men’s race, with a time of 2 102

hours, 33 minutes and 44 seconds. Kristen Radcliff crossed the finish line of the women’s race at 2 hours, 54 minutes and 52 seconds. The OK caught up with Chamer and Radcliff to learn what it’s like to prepare for a long and grueling race, and win.




Kristen Radcliff crosses the finish line to win the women’s division of the Oklahoma City Marathon on April 29. Photo by Chris Landsberger



Nathan Chamer Age: 40 Hometown: Kapsait, Kenya Residence: Choctaw

College: Southern Nazarene University Occupation: Registered nurse

How long have you been running marathons? I came here to America and figured out I wasn’t going to be able to pay for school, so I walked on to Southern Nazarene University and ran from there on. This was my first full marathon. I ran the half a few times and a couple of relays, but this was the year I decided I was going to run a marathon. What drew you to the sport? After I walked on at school, I just fell in love with it. It’s given me an identity, friends. Some of my best friends are runners. It’s a good support group. Having not known many people — I don’t have a lot of family here — all the runners that I knew, they became a part of my family. Those guys are some of the most wonderful people. How do you prepare for the long-distance races? I just get up in the evening (he works at night), before I go to work, and go run. I do my long runs over the weekend whenever I can, within family life. My wife is very supportive of that. Before a marathon, for the most part I eat a sandwich or maybe a granola bar. What is it like to win a marathon? I didn’t even know I was going to win. I didn’t give myself much of a chance to win because of the field. There were too many good runners in the race. It was anybody’s race. Coming up the last four or five miles, I didn’t lose hope, because I always had a kick in college. I had a race strategy and really executed it. Coming up to the finish line, that was exhilarating. When you are not running, what activities do you enjoy? Spending time with my family. Sometimes I go golfing, when I can. We go camping. I love the outdoors. Gardening.

Photo by Chris Landsberger



Kristen Radcliff Age: 30 Hometown: Forgan, Oklahoma Residence: Oklahoma City

College: Oral Roberts University Occupation: Business development consultant

How long have you been running marathons? I was living in Dallas and it was kind of a dare. On a work trip in Boston, where our headquarters was, somebody told me that I couldn’t qualify for the Boston Marathon. And I said ‘oh, I will,’ and I went and ran the Dallas Marathon. It was 2014. I qualified in Dallas to run Boston. And then I ran Oklahoma City last year and this year. What drew you to the sport? I started running when I was in fifth grade. It kinda clicked. I ran throughout high school. I played other sports in high school. Once I got to college, I focused solely on running — 1500s, steeplechase, 5k, 6k. And then out of college, I kind of stopped running for a while, until “the dare.” How do you prepare for the long-distance races? The older I get, it changes. Everybody tells you to carbload. I try to eat things that balance my blood sugar really well. And then maybe before I do a run or a hard workout have some type of carbs, like a banana. I don’t just chow down on bread. My favorite meal the night before a marathon is prime rib and a baked potato. It is very daunting and your training only carries you so long. When you hit (mile) 20 and 22, it really is a mental thing where you have to will yourself to the finish line. Distance running in general requires a lot of mental discipline. You feel like you’re on this island alone sometimes. What is it like to win a marathon? What running means to me has changed throughout my life. In high school it’s the thing you’re good at, the thing you represent your town for. You go to college and it’s kind of your job. When you get out of college, it’s this leftover habit that you don’t do on a daily basis, but you still have goals. It’s humbling. It is a great accomplishment to see your hard work pay off. When you are not running, what activities do you enjoy? I like to read a lot. I like spending time with family and friends. The first thing after the marathon, all the friends that I had neglected for about four months — other than my running friends — I made it a point to drive to Tulsa, call up my friends in California. I like to travel.

Photo by Chris Landsberger



Expanding options THE OKLAHOMAN

Construction is underway at Integris Arcadia Trails Center for Addiction Recovery in Edmond. Photo provided

Metro medical centers add emergency service sites, a new hospital in south Oklahoma City, addiction recovery center and more by paula burkes Terri White, Oklahoma’s commissioner of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services; Dr. Murali Krishna, co-founder of the James L. Hall Center for Mind Body and Spirit; Kelly Dyer Fry, editor of The Oklahoman; and Oklahoma lawyer Reggie Whitten worked for years toward building Arcadia Trails.




hile some hospitals across rural Oklahoma struggle to stay open, there’s an expansion boom going on among Oklahoma City’s leading health systems. Here’s what’s on tap, including the strategy behind those cranes you may have spied across the metro. INTEGRIS — last November, broke ground on four metro area micro-hospital facilities, which will begin opening as soon as February and will be known as Integris Community Hospitals. Each micro hospital will include emergency room services, as well as rooms for inpatient care. Upper floors will include physician and specialty clinics. The four sites are NW Expressway and Council Road, I-35 and S 34 in Moore, I-40 and Sooner Road in Del City, and in northwest Oklahoma City near west Reno and Rockwell. In June, Integris announced plans to buy nearby, 238-bed Deaconess Hospital, 5501 N Portland, and associated clinics in Bethany and Oklahoma City from an affiliate of Franklin, Tenn.-based Community Health Systems Inc. The transaction is expected to close during the third quarter of this year. The affiliation will give Integris much needed additional capacity and its patients greater access to care, said Integris Baptist Medical Center President Tim Johnsen. Baptist turns away as many as 1,200 patients annually because its critical care beds are full, Johnsen said. Meanwhile, construction is underway on an

Integris Arcadia Trails Center for Addiction Recovery on the Integris Health Edmond campus near the I-35 and I-44 interchange. The center, which will treat addiction, mental illness and trauma, is expected to open in June. Kelly Dyer Fry, editor of The Oklahoman, is campaign chairman for the $35 million project. Currently, some 600 Oklahomans are on a statewide waiting list for residential substance abuse treatment services, according to state officials. MERCY — broke ground in January on a new split-level facility, including an emergency department and primary care clinic, due to open this spring alongside its Mercy Edmond I-35 wellness center, diagnostics and physician Mercy is building a full-service hospital at I-240 and Sooner Road on the campus of Oklahoma Heart Hospital South. The $150-million project includes a six-story, 228,000-square-foot patient tower, 72 beds, an intensive care unit, surgery and endoscopy unit and outpatient imaging, as well as cancer and infusion services. Photos provided

Mercy-Edmond I-35 features a wellness center, diagnostics and physician offices.



An artist’s rendering shows the patient tower under construction next to the OU Medical Center building. Photo provided

offices. Mercy Clinic also is adding primary care locations in Edmond, while Mercy is adding multiple urgent care locations across the metro area in a partnership with Go Health Urgent Care. Mercy-Go Health locations will offer the latest technology for adults and children needing treatment for non-life threatening illnesses and injuries such as minor skin conditions, sprains and strains, cuts, and animal or insect bites. The first two locations will open in the fall in northwest Oklahoma City and Edmond. “We are committed to listening to our neighbors and community partners, and they have told us they prefer to have access to emergency and primary care in convenient locations closer to their homes,” said Jim Gebhart, regional strategy officer for Mercy and president of Mercy Hospital Oklahoma City. Mercy also is expanding services on the south side of Oklahoma City with a second full-service hospital. The new Mercy Hospital, targeted for completion in 2020, is under construction at I-240 and Sooner Road on the campus of Oklahoma Heart Hospital South. The $150-million project includes a six-story, 228,000-squarefoot patient tower, 72 beds, an intensive care unit, surgery and endoscopy unit and outpatient imaging, as well as cancer and infusion services. 108

OU MEDICINE — broke ground in November on a 550,000-square-foot tower on the north side of its adult hospital at 700 NE 13. The new facility, which is expected to be complete in 2020, will include 144 patient beds with spacious rooms for families and 32 operating rooms. “For years, OU Medicine has seen a growing demand for our numerous medical specialties and diversified patient population,” said Jennifer Schultz, vice president of marketing. “As rural hospitals close and as access to health care services continue to diminish, OU Medicine’s role as the state’s medical safety net becomes even more crucial to our underserved population,” Schultz said. “The patient tower project not only responds to the needs for our specialties and subspecialties, but also complements our expanding and coordinated access to outpatient services,” she said. SSM HEALTH ST. ANTHONY — in November added a new neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) service to reduce the number of babies who need to transfer to other hospitals. “Patients will receive a continuity of care from admission to discharge by having this new service,” president Tammy Powell said. In June 2016, the hospital added The Pavilion


to its main campus. “The emergency room, intensive care units and progressive care unit expanded our capacity to accommodate the growth of patients seeking care through our statewide rural affiliate network and four SSM Health St. Anthony Healthplex campuses in Oklahoma City,” Powell said. “The facility features many medical care advancements to improve upon the exceptional care we provide as well as improve the patient and visitor experience,” she said. Added SSM Health Regional President Joe Hodges, “Patients are becoming more involved in making decisions about where they receive care. We find that patients prefer upscale, soothing environments that are more conducive to healing like those offered in our four SSM Health St. Anthony Healthplex locations (which opened between 2012 and 2015 in east, south and north Oklahoma City and in Mustang). These facilities also respond to patient needs for convenient access to emergency and outpatient services in the same location where they may also take their families for primary care and specialty care physician appointments,” Hodges said. Right: In November, SSM Health St. Anthony Hospital added a neonatal intensive care service. Below: The Pavilion, an expansion that SSM Health St. Anthony-Midtown opened in June 2016, features an emergency room, intensive care units and progressive care unit.





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don mecoy Martin Luther King Jr., leader of the U.S. civil rights movement from the mid-1950s until his death in 1968, was gunned down as he stood on the balcony of his motel room in Memphis, Tennessee. He had traveled to Memphis to lead a protest march in sympathy with striking garbage workers. 111



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