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SOUTHERN MIDDLE TENNESSEE TODAY 1/30/2023

All news stories are aggregated from various sources and modified for time and content. Original sources are cited.



We start with local news…

Culleoka Woman Struggles Post-Covid (CDH)

A racing 160 beats per minute heart rate, a stomach rippling with nausea and fatigue that is accompanied by heightened anxiety are just some of the symptoms that Culleoka resident and medical professional Megan Heichelbech has experienced over the past two years.

“I could not stand light,” Heichelbech said. “I would even wear sunglasses in my house and sit in the dark; that’s how sensitive my eyes were to the light.”

Her legs ached and her whole body shook with tremors. Passing out felt a likely possibility much of the time for the wife and mother of two.

“Until I knew what it was, it was very scary,” said Heichelbech, who today, still suffers but adapts to life with a condition known as “POTS” – an acronym for postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome.

POTS is a heart condition defined by its reduced volume of blood returned to the heart, following a person moving from the lying down to standing position.

Many who have endured COVID-19 have had to deal with the extended experience of POTS as well, and recent reports from around the country show that more and more patients are seeing life impacts from the hard to diagnose illness. 

Tachycardia as a main symptom, has its own medical classification and is defined as a rapid and irregular heartbeat faster than 100 beats per minute, but that is far from the only symptom of POTS.

Symptoms were bad enough to send the former Maury Regional Medical Center technician, Megan Heichelbech to the emergency room four times last year.

Life is more challenging today than it was before she first contracted COVID-19 a year ago and later developed this illness that often has medical professionals stumped, according to various news and journal reports.

In fact, Heichelbech said she endured a long wait for answers to questions about an illness that seems to ride quietly on the coattails of COVID-19.

But she says she wouldn't trade it for the journey to healing, despite the valleys that have caused her to adjust life to her own new normal.

Today, she credits her faith in Jesus, her family and her doctors for a new outlook – a changed perspective; and while her health is far from back to normal, she has persevered and found ways to adapt.

“I really don’t think I would be this far on my journey to healing without God and my family,” Heichelbech said. “Family is my motivation to get better and God is my strength and comfort.”

Her hopeful outlook sparked a motivation to inform, inspire and share her story in the form of a small book that she self-published on Amazon, called “Overcome by Grace.”

Heichelbech would not tell you she is naturally a writer, but she felt compelled to share the story, and said it was as if God had given her the words she needed, when she needed them.

Surprised by the inspirational moment, she said words just poured out of her onto the page, but the debilitating illness would force her to put her career on hold.

After Heichelbech recovered from COVID, she went back to work but found lingering symptoms – symptoms that despite best efforts, always came back.

Experiencing the effects of “long COVID” put a strain on her life that she first thought was simply a matter of patience in healing until she could get back to normal.

But her illness, her symptoms and her frustration would continue to return – making it a day-by-day ordeal that many are dealing with following COVID-19.

“I’m still on that roller coaster,” Heichelbech said, as she shared her story. “But it doesn’t go up and down as much.”

After attempts by doctors and hospital visits to find what was causing her continued symptoms, one doctor was finally able to determine the likely source of her life-altering diagnosis.

A November 2022 article about POTS was published in the National Institute of Health showing between 2-14% of COVID-19 survivors develop the syndrome, with a greater presence in younger women.

An even greater number, 9-61%, of post-COVID patients suffer symptoms of POTS.

POTS is characterized by a long list of indicators that can cause significant impact to a person’s daily life, and as the report states, 70% of POTS sufferers have experienced loss of income with 21% having a job loss. Dysautonomia is another name for the disorder which can mimic “long COVID.”

According to the NIH report, in addition to a rapid increase in heart rate, patients can experience a whole host of other symptoms that co-occur with other illnesses, making it difficult to diagnose. These include:

Irregular heartbeat

Shortness of breath

Fainting

Brain fog

Lightheadedness

Blurred/tunnel vision

Tremulousness

Fatigue and weakness

Chronic pain (eg, headache, temporomandibular joint disorder, and fibromyalgia)

Gastrointestinal issues (eg, abdominal pain, bloating, gastroparesis, and nausea)

Sleep disturbances

As for causes of POTS, medical professionals are still learning conditions that lead to the illness but the NIH report states that a possible effect of SARS-CoV-2 on the autonomic nervous system or “tissue injury” due to the effect of the virus on particular cells within the body.

The disorder is described as a “multisystem” illness that affects various parts of the body.

Heichelbech’s usual work in imaging required her to move patients around in addition to other physical tasks.

Once POTS had fully taken hold, she was no longer able to perform these tasks, as heart rate increases and “crippling” anxiety stonewalled her ability to move patients.

Heichelbech said she didn’t experience anxiety prior to POTS, but this symptom was particularly pronounced for her in the past year, and while her doctor tried to treat symptoms, her work suffered and eventually, she was forced to file for medical disability.

At its worst, Heichelbech said POTS left her feeling hopeless, without answers and experiencing some depression from her limited activities with her two daughters and the strain she saw it put on her husband Ryan.

“I couldn’t even make a sandwich,” Heichelbech said of her time at home, where a reclining chair was her usual spot.

Though Heichelbech shared the discouraging aspects of her last year, today she does not dwell on the negatives.

Sharing her story has been something she hopes will provide encouragement and hope to others, not bring her attention or recognition.

The book contains questions for reflection and functions as a workbook so others can read and engage with their own healing journey.

Mostly, the journey has served to remind of her of the important things in life and deepened her faith.

Recently, she was thankful for being able to feel well enough to enjoy seeing her two daughters get baptized.

“I’ve always been a follower of God, but this has brought me much, much closer to him,” Heichelbech said.

An important Bible verse from the Book of Corinthians is printed on the back of the book and carries the reasoning behind telling her story:

“Who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any troubles with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”

Those interested in reading Megan’s entire story can find her book on Amazon and around the waiting rooms and offices of Maury Regional Medical Center.


Columbia Academy Ribbon Cutting (WKOM Radio :58)

On Friday, Columbia Academy held a ribbon cutting for their new Spring Hill facility. WKOM/WKRM’S Delk Kennedy attended the event and spoke to CA’s President James Thomas to learn more…


Education and CTE Luncheon Recap (CDH)

Members of Maury Alliance packed the Memorial Building in Columbia for the annual education luncheon with county and city educators, leaders, and community allies, discussing strides in engaging students to make early career plans — and the strong push for STEM education.

Moderated by Maury Chamber & Economic Alliance president Wil Evans, the panel included MCPS Superintendent Lisa Ventura, Columbia State Community College President Janet Smith and educators from both institutions.

Panelist Amy Roberts, supervisor for Maury schools CTE, said while some believe middle school students might not give much thought to their future career, most can answer the question ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’

Such was the sentiment at the luncheon, which explored how educators can help direct students toward future career goals, especially STEM careers.

Preparing students to enter a STEM-focused workforce, educators made clear their intent to ready the next generation for careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Other panelists included Keith Stacey, MCPS Assistant Superintendent of Instruction; Amy Roberts, MCPS CTE Supervisor; Terri Thornton, CTE Workforce Development / Career Coach; Melody Murphy, Columbia State Director of Workforce and Continuing Education and Mehran Mostajir, Director of Engineering Systems Technology at Columbia State.

Ventura, along with Roberts, explained how the district is assessing, measuring and engaging the student population to consider career paths as early as middle school.

Ventura stressed the district’s focus on CTE and its partnership with CSCC in those efforts.

“We are giving CSCC what they need for the student that is prepared,” she said.

Efforts are not to deny the necessity of a four-year institution, Ventura said, but to step up to the needs of an industry steeped in STEM careers.

Maury County has become a hub of manufacturing as home to the General Motors plant since the 1980s, Ultium Cells car batteries and the site of numerous manufacturing headquarters like JC Ford tortilla maker, which announced its relocation from California in 2021.

According to Evans, such manufacturers will need strong future workers in Maury County.

Maury County is also the fastest growing county in Tennessee determined by the most recent census data, bringing more families and 836 new students to MCPS over the past three years, according to Ventura.

CSCC and MCPS staff are working together to ensure students are getting STEM experience and dual credit with various programs.

Smith praised programs like Manufacturing Day and STEM Girls, aimed at giving students a look at several manufacturing facilities around the area. Other programs like the recent robotics competition at Mount Pleasant Middle School also gives students early experience in coding, building robots and strategizing with technology.

“We want to set up students to be contributing, taxpaying members of society,” Ventura said.


Challenge at the Mount (CDH)

Mount Pleasant Middle School hosted area teams for the VEX Robotics Challenge last week, or “Challenge at the Mount,” with a total of 11 Mount Pleasant Middle School students competing for a chance to advance to the state competition in March.  A couple of the home teams walked away with state-qualifying wins for Mt. Pleasant Middle students for the year, said MPMS teacher Audrey Bryant, who hosted the event and is a Teacher of the Year winner at the school.


STEM schools place a sharp focus on subjects that prepare students for the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, Bryant said. Mt. Pleasant elementary, middle and high schools were the first designated STEM schools in the county.


Bryant, who has helped prepare students for the contest for multiple years said she won a grant for her school in 2018 to allow students to pursue robotics. But at the time, she was new to the subject.

Her work with students established the middle school as an event partner with VEX Robotics, Bryant said, the only event of its kind in this part of the state.


With a previous competition in October and the qualifiers last week, Bryant said Mt. Pleasant students are in the midst of their “biggest season yet.”

Taking top recognition for the academic year is Mt. Pleasant’s team 38474B, which secured its third qualifier for the season that will send them to the state competition in March. The team won a Design Award on Jan. 14, excelling them in key markers during the competition.

“It always feels good to have a successful tournament day, but it’s even more special to know you did a good job at your own tournament, Mt. Pleasant sixth grader,” Tollan Anteau said.


The students have a goal of continuing to improve before the state championship and perhaps qualify for the world championship in May.

“I’m most proud of how we’ve improved our robot’s ability to shoot discs into the scoring zones,” Mt. Pleasant seventh grader Max White said. “It’s not perfect yet, but we’ve come a long way. I enjoy robotics because I love problem solving and trying new things.”

Students must design a robot that can score points based on disc placements around the board, which is dependent on writing effective code that controls the robots’ ability to project discs.


“Collaboration is a key component of the robotics experience,” Bryant said. “Within a team, students have to assign roles and communicate constantly to bring their working robot together.”


Another of the three Mt. Pleasant teams – 38474A, finished Challenge at the Mount, ranking third in Robot Skills.

“Robotics teaches teamwork, leadership, and communication,” said Mt. Pleasant sixth grader with the A team, Elijah Wisniewski. “It’s a great way for people to come together and challenge themselves to gain new skills.”


The emphasis on teamwork during the competitions is apparent and pairs with other skills such as critical thinking, problem solving and creativity.


“Brainstorming design concepts, building, coding, troubleshooting, driving, documenting their design process in their engineering notebook, and developing game strategies are all tasks that team members must delegate to each other throughout the process,” Bryant said.


If students qualify at the state competitions in March, they will advance to world championships in May.


Maury Alliance Annual Meeting (Press Release)


Join Maury Alliance on January 31st at 5pm for their most anticipated event of the year as they celebrate their 2022 accomplishments and recognize the transition of their volunteer leadership.


This will be a lively night of entertainment and networking celebrating business and industry in Maury County with dinner and beverages by Puckett's and live music featuring Austin Tyler Jones. 


In addition to our normal programming, we are excited to use this year’s event as an opportunity to unveil a brand new, uniquely branded, talent attraction campaign for Maury County, which you will not want to miss!


Purchase tickets now to guarantee a seat at Maury Alliance’s biggest event of the year!!


Visit www.mauryalliance.com for more information and for tickets.


And now, Your Hometown Memorials, Sponsored by Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home…


Gerald Ray Walters, 79, retired conductor for CSX Railroad and resident of Columbia, died Saturday, January 28, 2023 at St. Thomas Mid Town.

 Funeral services are incomplete and will be announced later by Oakes & Nichols Funeral Directors and condolences may be extended online at www.oakesandnichols.com.


…And now, news from around the state…

State Legislature on Metro Tourism (Tennessean)

Tennessee Senate Republicans last week proposed new legislation that could effectively defund Nashville's convention center, an aggressive escalation from legislative leadership against the Metro Council after it blocked a bid to host the Republican National Convention last year.

Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, sponsored the bill. SB 648 would end previously authorized privilege taxes, taxes over a base tax, in the Tourism Development Zone around the convention center, which are used to fund the center.

In a statement, Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, said Nashville no longer requires a special tax authority if it "has no interest in properly promoting convention tourism."

"Nashville has been afforded certain tools for the express purpose of encouraging convention tourism to the city. Over the last year, Metro has made it clear they are no longer interested in aggressively recruiting top-tier conventions to Nashville. That message has been received loud and clear by the General Assembly," McNally said. "If Nashville wants to prioritize political posturing over prosperity for its people, that's their prerogative. But the state does not have to participate."

The convention center is a powerful economic engine in the city, generating enough revenue that the Music City Center's Convention Center Authority now grants funds for other Metro projects, such as affordable housing initiatives.

Sen. Heidi Campbell, D-Nashville, sharply criticized the bill in a Friday statement.

"Half of Tennesseans can't afford housing, health coverage or child care, but instead of solving real problems, the controlling party spends time inventing ways to punish Nashville," Campbell said. "We were elected to work together for the good of all Tennesseans. Let's cease this petty race to the bottom before we crash the entire state economy."

Metro Legal is reviewing the bill. A spokesperson for Mayor John Cooper declined to comment.

Speculation of retaliation from state legislators emerged after Nashville's council blocked a deal last year that could have brought the 2024 Republican National Convention to Nashville. Council members who voted against the deal framework cited risks of political vitriol and concerns over security, cost and potential strain on city resources.

The Republican Party ultimately selected Milwaukee, the only other final contender.

A separate bill introduced earlier this month by Republican lawmakers would effectively cut Nashville's 40-member council in half — a proposal Nashville Legal Director Wallace Dietz said poses an "existential threat" to Nashville's self-governance. That bill is awaiting committee hearings.

At two speaking stops in Nashville this week, House Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, framed the council bill as an efficiency move. Sexton said local business leaders had requested it, though he didn't say who, while members of the Rotary and Econ clubs questioned if the legislation was unnecessary interference with local government.

Sexton on Friday said he was "sure there will be other legislation filed that will cause the mayor and the council grave concern, like the legislation filed by the Senate."

"Metro may want to meet with the Lieutenant Governor sooner rather than later," Sexton said.

At-Large Council member Bob Mendes said Friday he didn't think the Tennessee General Assembly would stop with the Metro Council bill, and he anticipates other retaliatory measures could be coming down the pike.

"Ever since the supermajority was achieved 10 years ago, the only common thread is the punishments get more severe," Mendes said.

After taking a major financial hit during the peak of the COVID pandemic, the decade-old convention center brought in about $150 million in tourism taxes during the previous fiscal year ending June 30. About $55 million came in the downtown core's Tourism Development Zone and $95 million in hotel room and related taxes.

The TDZ was established to help fund the $623-million facility through repaying bond loans. A 2010 plan to fund the center cobbled together six taxes to help cover the center's debt, including ahotel occupancy tax, a flat $2 hotel room night fee, an airport ground transportation tax, a rental car tax, sales tax from the center and nearby hotels, and the sales tax collected in the TDZ.

Johnson's bill would repeal the city's authority to impose the extra sales taxes in the TDZ beginning on July 1.


Final Story of the Day (MauryCountySource)

The Nashville Sounds have announced a new all-inclusive season ticket membership for the Club seats for the upcoming 2023 season.

Full-season (75 games), half-season (38 games) and partial-season (18 games) memberships are available for purchase. Members get access to a chef-inspired rotating menu in the Brauer Lounge. Access begins when gates open and runs for two hours.

“Our team is always looking for ways to constantly improve the gameday experience, and this premium all-inclusive ticket membership reflects that,” said Nashville Sounds General Manager Adam English. “We are thrilled to introduce a membership that creates value for fans and gives them access to the first-class amenities that First Horizon Park has to offer.”

Membership plans start at just $1,250 per seat for a partial season, $2,500 per seat for a half season and $4,500 per seat for a full season.

The Nashville Sounds are the Triple-A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers and play at First Horizon Park. Season ticket memberships for the 2023 season are on sale now. For more information call 615-690-4487 or e-mail tickets@nashvillesounds.com.


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