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IN WHITE COUNTY

Jennifer Christiansen of Pangburn decided to pursue her dream of becoming a model instead of continuing to be afraid because of her epilepsy. Article, Page 4. Photo by Tara Thomas

A publication of The Daily Citizen

FREE u November/December


PHOTO FEATURE: Fair gets hike from 5th Quarter PAGE 6

Contents 4 8 9 12 14 16

FEATURE: Becoming model ‘Epileptic Warrior’ SPOTLIGHT: Black House THE PLAYGROUND: Puzzles and games for children FEATURES: Going from holiday low to ho ho ho

PHOTO FEATURE: Reaching maximum capacity FEATURE: Instant connection through telemedicine

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BALANCE November/December

NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2018 VOLUME 3/ISSUE 6 Balance is published bimonthly by The Daily Citizen, 723 W. BeebeCapps Expressway, Searcy, AR 72143, (501) 268-8621. The contents of Balance are copyrighted and may not be copied or reproduced in any manner without written permission from the publisher. Any articles in Balance that give advice should not be considered specific as individual circumstances may vary. Products and services advertised in the magazine are not necessarily endorsed by Balance.


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BECOMING MODEL ‘EPILEPTIC WARRIOR’ BY TARA THOMAS Enduring seizures for more than half of her life, Jennifer Christiansen of Pangburn pushed her goals aside in fear of judgment. Now a fashion model and homemaker, Christiansen said she decided she would no longer be a “victim” and chose to fight against fear of epilepsy, pursuing her “dream” at 39 years old by attending modeling school. “I actually decided that I wanted to do it [modeling] at about 16 years old, but I’ve just been too scared because of my epilepsy,” Christiansen said.  “I was scared it was going to stop me, like if I was to ever make it in modeling, being up there on the big stage, walking and if I were to have a seizure and fall, that would be embarrassing and I would never have wanted to get back up there again. It was a big fear.” Since earning her diploma from Excel Models and Talent in 2016, with the encouragement of her husband David, she has been selected to walk the runway in numerous fashion shows for such companies as David’s Bridal, Old Navy and JCPenney, as well as posing for calendar photographs. Christiansen additionally works frequently with area professional photographers to build her modeling portfolio.  “It’s such a privilege to do this … and I’ll never let epilepsy take me over,” Christiansen said. “I would love to go around and talk to other people who have experienced what I have [with epilepsy] and give them some advice and maybe inspire them.” She said she would tell those struggling with the disorder, “Don’t let it take over. Don’t let it win. It’s a battle and sometimes it’s hard to fight, I know.” “I have my days that I just want to go in there and curl up in the bed and cry and just say, ‘Hurry up, let this day be over,’” she said. “You can do that, but don’t. Just get up and fight. Be a warrior.” Christiansen began to have seizures as a little girl, when her mother died. “My granny raised me,” she said. “My mother died of brain cancer and she was growing her fifth tumor when she passed away, and I was 11 years old.” She said her epilepsy developed at that time. “I had my very first seizure when I fell

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Jennifer Christiansen, 40, says she had wanted to go into modeling since she was around 16 years old, but she had been “too scared because of my epilepsy.” and hit my head. … I was diagnosed in the fifth grade with epilepsy, ...” Christiansen said. “My mother gave up after fighting so hard, because I guess she didn’t think that she could fight anymore. … I’ll never give up like that. Never. “There are so many people out there who I know that have epilepsy, cancer, diabetes and other things and I want to show them that you don’t have to let it take you over. It’s a battle and you don’t have to throw up the white flag.” With the onset of epilepsy, Christiansen’s childhood grew increasingly difficult socially. “I got made fun of a lot,” she said. “My feelings were so hurt. They [her peers in school] didn’t want to be around me. They were like ‘I don’t want to catch your disease.’ “But I did have friends that stuck by me. One of my friends who always stuck by me and who is passed away now [was] Amy Hamilton and I will always remember her. She called me ‘Jen-Jen.’ “Another one who majorly stuck by me and still sticks by me … her name is Dana Sexton Kimbriel. She is from Texas and we went to school together; I have known her since we were in diapers. … There were a few others.” Seizures came and went daily without warning and the frequency varied. 

“They happened every day and there would be days that I would have maybe five per day,” she said. “The frequency varied and it depended on my mood, the lighting, which both affected it.” Through years of rigorous medical testing with numerous physicians and through trial and error with medications, Christiansen said she is able to somewhat better manage her episodes of seizures.  “I feel like a medicine cabinet,” she said, laughing. “I have been on every single medication [designed] for epilepsy. But it’s OK; it’s really been worth it because I have actually found the right doctor, thanks to my husband David.” She and David have been in a relationship for 13 years and married for 11. They have two sons Jonathan, 20, and Mark, 16.  “He helped me,” Christiansen said of David. “We grew up together and actually, when I got with him in 2004, he actually helped me look for a good neurologist because the neurologist that I had been going to … she was just packing me full of pills and he didn’t get a good vibe from her, [as she was always] saying take this and this one and this will help you; just not really paying attention to what I really needed or what she was doing.  “David looked and looked [for a neurologist] and I was a worrywart. I said, ‘Oh no,


what if we have to go all the way to Memphis,’ and he said, ‘I don’t care if we have to; I’m going to get you a good doctor.’” Their hopeful journey in search of the “right” help came to a long-anticipated end in central Arkansas. “He finally found Dr. Victor Biton in Little Rock,” she said. “He is at the epileptic clinic [Arkansas Epilepsy Program] there and he specializes only in epilepsy. I have participated in two drug studies with him and they went really great.” In addition to the proper medication, specific to Christiansen’s needs, she undergoes lengthy clinic testing so that doctors can better understand her episodes. “With me, it’s like at least 52 wires at a time and it’s a brainwave test and they make you go to sleep,” she said. “They made me lay down on a table and hook the wires up to my head. Then they’ll have you blink your eyes at least 20 times, with the the flash of light and they’ll put a strobe light in front of you and make you watch it, to try to make you go into a seizure to [capture] the waves of your brain through the wires and they’ll watch it on a screen. “On the screen, they’ll be able to see the

area in your brain which the seizures are coming from. They have found out from me that my seizures are coming from the right side of my brain, but what they couldn’t understand at first was that mine were zigzagging. It was like they were coming from both. When one started to occur, my brain was just all going crazy. “I’ve also received several CT scans,” she added. “That’s where they lay you down on a table a put you in that big ol’ tunnel thing.” Another outlet of strength for Christiansen in her new-found courage and pursuit has been engagement through digital platforms with others who also experience epilepsy. “I am a member of the Epilepsy Warriors group,” she said. “They have a page on Facebook. … There are kids on there and men and women. I’ll sometimes see that their heads are wrapped up with bandages and EEGs, which I’ve Please see MODEL | 18

Photo by Tara Thomas

Jennifer Christiansen of Pangburn decided to attend modeling school in 2016 at 39 years old instead of being a “victim” of her epilepsy.

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PHOTOS BY TRACY WHITAKER

FAIR GETS HIKE FROM 5TH QUARTER The White County Fair’s attendance increased this year thanks to a change made to attract the Friday night football crowd, according to Gail Snyder, secretary of the fair board. For the annual September event, the White County Fair board added what it called the 5th Quarter, which gave those attending high

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school football games, among others, the opportunity to go to the White County Fairgrounds afterward and purchase armbands for “unlimited rides” from 10 p.m.-1 a.m. “That had a big attendance,” Snyder said. “It was definitely a hit.” White County Fair Chairwoman Debra Lang said that Friday is “usually a slow night”

because of the football games. Snyder said the actual attendance for the weeklong event was unavailable because “we don’t count the amount who come in,” but the numbers were “up overall” and the fair ran smoothly. “We didn’t really hear a lot of complaints,” she said.


Photos by Wendy Jones of mixed media show with art from Megan Nolte.

Photo by Terri L. Brannon

Searcy Art Gallery at Black House This two-story historic home features exhibits of area artists that change every two months. There is a gift shop upstairs with area artists’ work for sale.  Where: 300 E. Race Ave., Searcy Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, noon to 4 p.m. Admission: Free Information: (501) 279-1094 Upcoming show: Nov. 1-December, “Searcy Arts Council Artists” History: A two-room structure was built on the present site in 1858. The house was purchased by Benjamin Clayton Black along with three surrounding lots in 1866. Capt. Black married Molly

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Rosamond Jones in March 1866. Their honeymoon trip to New Orleans influenced the Blacks on the architectural style of the future home. Enlargement and remodeling occurred in 1872, including the addition of the staircase ordered from France and shipped to New Orleans, where it traveled up three rivers to be delivered. In 1874, the historic Black House, a Searcy landmark, was completed. The house was purchased and restored by Dr. and Mrs. Porter Rodgers Jr. in 1980. They donated the house to the city of Searcy in 2009. It is listed on the Arkansas Historic Preservation website, arkansaspreservation. com.


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Going from holiday low to ho ho ho BY TARYN A. BROWN The lights are glowing on the Christmas tree, the smell of hot cider and burning firewood fills the house, all the gifts are wrapped and outside is a blanket of fresh snow. The holidays are here. That may not sound like the reality of the holidays to you. Instead, the holiday season can cause more stress than cheer. It can look like last-minute shopping trips to find that the new toy is sold out, having to juggle invites to Christmas parties and longClements ing for Jan. 2. This is normal for many, if not most, but it does not have to be how the holidays are spent. All that stress can take a toll on your mental health. Instead of trying to get through it and cope, here are several tips and ways Unity Health-Clarity and Wellness Psychiatrist Dr. Herman Clements says you can keep calm and enjoy the holiday season. • Make and stay on a budget. “Have a realistic understanding of what finances are,” Clements says.

Decide how much you can afford to spend, and stick to it. Break it down and try spending the same amount on each person, or make a gift. Also, look for free holiday activities like Christmas church services, watching Christmas movies or looking at Christmas lights. “Remember that giving gifts during the holiday season is just one way of expressing one’s affection for another,” Clements says. • It’s OK to feel lonely. The holidays can be difficult when a loved one has passed away recently, if it is the first holiday without them, or a divorce has recently happened. Clements suggests finding your group of friends who lift you up and provide emotional health to you. Try to resist the urge to say no and isolate yourself from the holiday festivities. Allow yourself some time to grieve, but also allow time to enjoy celebrations with others who encourage you. • Plan ahead. Planning saves loads of time, especially during the holiday season. If you have multiple events to attend, pick the ones you do not want to miss and get them on the calendar first. “Managing the stress of shopping and plan-

ning dinners is crucial to avoid increased stress or depression during the holidays,” Clements says. Pick a day or days and check Christmas shopping off your list. Decide on menus ahead of time if Christmas dinner is at your house this year. This makes last-minute headaches a thing of the past. • Keep up healthy habits. Just because the most wonderful time of the year is here, does not mean it does wonderful things to your diet. The holidays are filled with sweet treats and savory snacks. Clements says to remember moderation. Overeating and excessive drinking can contribute to feeling stress and guilt. Continue to incorporate healthy snacks and meals throughout the holiday season so you do not overindulge at the office Christmas party. • Make time for yourself. If you need to step back and hand the reins over to someone else for a moment, do it. Read a book, listen to your favorite music, take a walk or enjoy a cup of hot cocoa by yourself. This will allow you to regroup and restart your mind. Please see GOING | 19

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PHOTOS BY BRAYDEN MELVILLE

Reaching maximum capacity Great weather and good music brought out “definitely more than 25,000” for Get Down Downtown in Searcy, according to Amy Burton, executive director of Main Street Searcy. The two-day festival is held annually in the downtown area. Burton estimated attendance as “exceeding 6,000 on Saturday night for the Restless Heart concert. ... We’ve kind of reached our maximum capacity on the square.” “We’ve reached an attendance where we’ve actually been ranked in some different types of professional music organizations that rate festivals, as far as small festivals, midsize festivals,” Burton said. “So we’ve reached that midsized national

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festival level, which allows us to have access to different types of bands.” Burton said the closeout concert, which was by Restless Heart this year, is one of her favorite moments every year. “That Saturday night concert, when I see everybody out there, and I see people that help to make the festival possible, people that just come in to enjoy the concert, I see lawn chairs, and families on blankets on the courthouse square, it truly does warm my heart,” she said. “It makes me so proud to be part of this community. I gush about it every year, but it really is rewarding to see it when it’s near the end.”


Instant connection through telemedicine BY PAIGE CUSHMAN Michael Taylor has lived at the Oakdale Nursing Home in Judsonia for more than six months and is being treated for anxiety, bipolar, pulmonary fibrosis and dementia. Thanks to a new telemedicine system, he has been able to meet with a Little Rockbased neuropsychologist when needed without having to leave the facility. “It’s kind of weird the first time, I have an anxiety disorder and I do get awfully nervous, and the first time I was pretty nervous,” Taylor said. He said that Dr. James Stanley has been able to make necessary adjustments to his treatment more efficiently as it has been easy to monitor reactions to different medications via the telemedicine system rather than making hours-long trips to adjust prescriptions. “I think he’s wonderful; he really does good,” Taylor said. “I had [a neuropsychologist] here that I was seeing and I just didn’t like them so I prefer to use the system.” Oakdale is the first nursing home in White County to implement the system through Blum Telehealth, a telemedicine provider with headquarters in central Arkansas. Telemedicine is defined by Arkansas Code Annotated 17-60-402 as “the use of electronic information and communication technology to deliver health-care services, including without limitation the assessment, diagnosis, consultation, treatment, education, care management and self-management of a patient.” This past spring, a representative from Blum and Oakdale Director of Nursing Amanda Danberry set up the telemedicine system in a private room that includes a couple of chairs, a TV, video camera, monitors and scopes. BlumTelehealth.com states “During the online call, the physician sees the patient’s vital signs in real time. Same as in the office, the doc can monitor blood pressure and temperature, even look into ears and eyes.” “It allows the doctor to see the patient immediately instead of waiting around for a couple weeks because he has multiple patients to see,” Danberry said. “The residents really like it, they get excited seeing themselves on television; it’s funny. At first, they didn’t understand it but most of the residents understand it now.” In order to set up an appointment,

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Photo by Paige Cushman

Oakdale Nursing Home in Judsonia is the first nursing home in White County to implement a telemedicine system through Blum Telehealth, a provider with headquarters in central Arkansas. The system “allows the doctor to see the patient immediately instead of waiting around for a couple weeks because he has multiple patients to see,” Oakdale Director of Nursing Amanda Danberry says. Danberry books an e-visit on the system’s homepage where she includes the time, patient and doctor. When it comes time for the appointment, the system connects both parties via webcam after, what Danberry considers, a very streamlined and userfriendly process. On its website, Blum states that the system not only reduces health-care costs by limiting hospital visits and appointments but can expand patient reach in rural areas. “For people living in remote areas, it’s often the only way they can consult a doctor without a long commute. ... Almost all facilities can expand reach to underserved populations very cost-efficiently.” While residents can speak privately to their doctor, Danberry said she is usually there for a part, if not all, of the appointment in order to supply medical information and behavioral reports. Since she is normally unable to accompany patients to their appointments in Little Rock and surrounding areas, Danberry said the system limits miscommunication between doctors, patients and the nursing home. “Honestly, I’m the advocate for [the patients] at the end of the day and if I can’t be

there with their doctor — we’re dealing with dementia here — there’s not much telling what the patient could tell the physician that might not even be true,” she said. “It’s really best to have somebody that takes care of them day to day right there to communicate and receive those doctor’s orders and the physician can get a better understanding of that patient’s care.” With just over 100 residents, Danberry estimated that 50 percent of patients have used or are regularly using the telemedicine system. Normally, patients meet with Stanley face to face once a month, but they meet via telemedicine for medication changes, check-ins and special cases. While Oakdale patients are only able to work with Stanley right now, Danberry hopes more doctors in Little Rock and surrounding areas start to incorporate telemedicine into their practice. “If they saw it, I think they’d really enjoy this. Dr. Stanley is able to work from home,” she said. “I’d love to be able to show different physicians how great it can be. It would increase their revenue at the end of the day. You can bill for the doctor’s visits so it’s a win-win situation for the facilities.”


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MODEL CONTINUED FROM PAGE 5

had to, and wires hooked to their head and sometimes I’m like ‘God, there in so much worse shape than I’m in.’ “There are so many members. There’s just so many. It’s worldwide.” Earlier this year, Christiansen designed and received a special tattoo on her arm: a purple ribbon symbolic of her battle and strength. “I got this tattoo of the epileptic ribbon and it says ‘Epileptic Warrior,’” she said. “I got this because I believe that I am a warrior because I have had it [epilepsy] as of 30 years this past February and I’ll never give up.  “I took a picture of this tattoo the day that I got it and I sent it to them [the Epilepsy Warriors group] and there were so, so many ‘likes’ and ‘hearts’ [on Facebook].” “While Christiansen said the newly developed medication she takes is “amazing and it works,” there are some things she can’t do because of her seizures. “I still of course can’t drive, because I do

have them, but they’ve gone down,” she said of her seizures. “I still can’t work and I have to be very careful, but this [medication] is like a miracle that was waiting to happen for me.” Her husband’s support, especially with transportation, helped Christiansen during her course of studying modeling and acting for around eight months. “I went during the week about three nights a week and sometimes on weekends; it just had to fit into her [the instructor’s] schedule and with David’s schedule because I can’t drive,” she said. She said it was her husband who “kind of pushed me to go with my goal of modeling, which was my biggest dream.” “He [David] saw this ad on Facebook and it was for Excel Models and Talent. … Melissa Moody [who was] really nice and was the teacher up there and he got to talking with her,” Christiansen said. “She said that there was a big open house where they were going to have their new building and he said to me, ‘How about we go up there and see

Photo by James Loyde Blackwell, Cronas Photography

Since Jennifer Christiansen earned her diploma from Excel Models and Talent in 2016, she has been selected to walk the runway in numerous fashion shows for such companies as David’s Bridal, Old Navy and JCPenney, as well as posing for calendar photographs. Christiansen additionally works frequently with area professional photographers to build her modeling portfolio.

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what’s going on?” I got nervous, but I said ‘OK, sure. Why not? Let’s give it a chance.’ “We went up there [to Excel] and met Miss Melissa. She’s Christian and really sweet. She talked to us and got a little bit of information about me and stuff and what I want to do. … The last thing I told her, though, was about my epilepsy because it embarrassed me. David told me not to be embarrassed about, but naturally I was… because I always thought it was going to stop me.” She said Moody asked Christiansen why she decided she wanted to model at her age. “I said, ‘I had always wanted to. My husband brought me up here and said let’s give it a shot,’” Christiansen said. “I graduated in October of 2016. I got my diploma in modeling and acting. I was 39 [years old] … and turned 40 in November. I celebrated it all together because I was excited. I am now a certified Arkansas model, which is really exciting.” She said her jobs have included modeling “the Victoria’s Secret Pink [line] once, but never the lingerie. …”

“They said I was too old to be a Victoria’s Secret Angel,” Christiansen added, laughing. “I am often told I don’t look my age, which is really nice to hear. … I know that I’m not a Barbie doll figure, but I’ve had a kid, so that’s just how it goes.” Most recently, Christiansen modeled wedding gowns for David’s Bridal.  “Every three months they [David’s Bridal] does one [a fashion show and photo shoot] and they choose me and I always get a text

message from a Mr. Kirk Houston,” she said. “He’s the one who does it in Mississippi, which is where I have to go to get sized and then I’ll go back and do the show. “While I don’t get paid for that either, it’s just an honor to do it and to be chosen, because I love it.” Christiansen is eagerly awaiting her next calendar and as a tattoo enthusiast, she endeavors to be featured in an “ink magazine,” she said.

GOING CONTINUED FROM PAGE 12

“Making time to rejuvenate and to spend time with yourself and loved ones is of primary importance,” Clements says. • Be realistic. There can be plenty of pressure to make the holiday season perfect. From the perfect tree and decorations to the perfect Christmas card photo. This causes unnecessary pressure and sets unrealistic expectations. “Allowing yourself to not be perfect is important,” Clements says. “Negative selfnarratives cause us to have increased feelings of guilt and shame. Making a list of all the positive things you do, and a gratitude list for all the wonderful things you receive is also a helpful technique.” Do the holidays how you and your family want to, not what you think will outshine last year’s celebrations. The holidays are a time to slow down and enjoy being around loved ones. Yes, there are gifts to be bought, parties to attend and food to be made, but enjoy it. The rest of the year does not bring others together quite like the holidays.

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The Daily Citizen: 2018 Balance Nov/Dec  

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