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June 11, 2015 Issue

Grand Jury to choose BOE seat replacement
Gladin will not be defined by illness
New county insurance lowers deductible

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Grand Jury to choose BOE seat replacement

By
Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

Anyone interested in serving the remainder of Charlie Brown’s term as a member of the Jefferson County School Board should come to the county courthouse in Louisville Monday, June 22, at 10 a.m. to speak before the Grand Jury.

The Grand Jury will select the candidate who will fill Brown’s position as the District 2 school board member.

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In order to be considered, an applicant must be 21 or older, a citizen of the United States and a resident of Jefferson County Education District 2.

The election being held in 2016 will open the District 2 seat. That will be for a full term beginning Jan. 1, 2017.

Brown died in April, a month after being diagnosed with cancer.

He had served on the county’s school board since January 1984. At the time of his death, he was the board’s vice-chairman.

Brown’s district includes portions of northeast Wrens, the Rufus Wren Subdivision near Louisville and south towards Wadley. School board superintendent Dr. Molly Howard said Brown was dedicated to serving all the children of the county.




Gladin will not be defined by illness

By Parish Howard
Editor/Pubisher

Even after all the hubbub, after getting attention on such international websites as 17 Magazine and the Huffington Post, Abby Gladin said she was just another girl going to the prom.

Her makeup and hair were perfect, her corsage immaculate and she and her date were second in line to walk out in front of everyone at Jefferson County High School’s grand march.

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“Just before we went to walk out I realized my bag was leaking,” Abby said. “So I had a moment of freakout and crying. Everyone was like ‘just put your flowers in front of it and walk and we’ll get your dad.’ So I walked and everything and after that I calmed down. I just had a moment of temporary freakout. There was a stain on my dress and later we dropped it with the cleaners. But I changed my bag and other than that it was fun.”

Her dad, Allen Gladin, said it has happened before.

“She’s been in beauty pageants and right before she’s gone out we’ve had to change it,” he said.

“There’s something about those dresses,” Abby said and shook her head.

“We don’t worry about stuff. We just cross those bridges when we get to them,” her dad said.

Abby has been living with the complications of Crohn’s Disease for more than 10 years. It has had its impact on her health, resulted in multiple surgeries and treatments that have left her wiped out for days. She has missed school and there have been some embarrassing moments that have led to her “temporary freakouts,” but since she was diagnosed at age 7, living with Crohn’s Disease is all the life she has ever known. And she says, despite it all, or perhaps because of it, she actually feels blessed.

•••

“When I was little I started having a lot of stomach pain and I was throwing up a lot,” she said. “When it lasted more than a regular virus would Dr. (Suraj) Sukumaran thought it might be Crohn’s.”

Tests confirmed it.

Crohn’s causes chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, most commonly affecting the end of the small bowel and the beginning of the colon. Symptoms include cramps and pain, urgent need to move the bowels, persistent diarrhea and/or constipation.

“It’s kind of a hard subject to talk about because of what it is,” her dad said. “It’s the bowel so you have to be careful with the words you use.”

“I don’t really care, to be honest,” Abby responds. “Everybody goes to the bathroom.”

As with most chronic illnesses, Crohn’s flares up but then subsides for periods of remission in which those living with the disease can experience little to no symptoms. In severe cases, Crohn’s can affect the thickness of the bowel wall, sometimes weakening it and sometimes causing strictures that cause blockages that can result in tissue damage.

Abby says she’s not a typical Crohn’s patient because she also has ITP. Both are auto immune disorders. Her body makes platelets but then it destroys them faster than she can make them. She’s on medicine that tells her body to make more platelets. But when her Crohn’s flares up her body forgets about destroying her platelets and so her family has to really watch her medicine and take her off some of it.

“In other words, my diseases cannot multitask,” she said.

Mr. Gladin said Abby did well with medicines that controlled it until she turned 11 when the disease started causing her colon to close and she had to get an ostomy. Surgeons removed a portion of her colon and brought the end of the organ to the abdominal wall so that wastes can move into a pouch or bag.

“I was sick all the time and had to be in and out of the hospital,” Abby said. “When I got the colostomy, I was better for a while.”

She says that having an ostomy, at least for her, is nothing like it has been portrayed on a recent anti-smoking campaign. It has given her a freedom the disease had threatened.

"I feel like having an ostomy saved my life, if we’re being dramatic,” Abby said. “Now, I can actually be more active. Sure it leaks sometimes and everything, and it’s aggravating with dresses but that’s what cleaners are for. I just don’t want people to think that it’s more of a burden than it is.”

For the longest time, most of her classmates had no idea she even had one. It was earlier this year when her story was picked up and broadcast across the web that many found out.

“Since then I’ve had kids at school come up to me and ask me about Crohn’s Disease,” Abby said.

•••

And it all goes back to prom.

“It was a prom discussion that led to all this,” her father said. “She came out of surgery and her surgeon was visiting with her. He was in there about an hour and he talked for maybe 15 minutes about medical stuff and the rest of the time those two talked about prom. He has two daughters.”

Mr. Gladin said a child life specialist overheard Abby and her surgeon discussing the prom and sent an email to the hospital’s marketing coordinator and it went from there.

Weeks later, when she returned for a checkup, hospital staff had a video camera.

“They told me they wanted to get some footage for publicity and I thought, ‘OK, whatever,’” Abby said. “Then they acted so surprised when we were talking about prom and I was like, yeah, I talk to my doctor about everything.”

She thought it was weird that they wanted footage of her walking to her car, but she agreed to that as well.

“We were checking out and I saw my cousin, Brooke, and I was like what is she doing here,” Abby said. “We were supposed to go dress shopping but it was just going to be me and daddy. So I thought aww, daddy got Brooke to go shopping with us. Then I walk out and it’s my mama and Granny, Pa and the whole squad and an Uber car. I was shocked.”

They told her that she would be going to a dress shop and she would be able to pick out any dress they had in stock and she would get it free.

“I didn’t think it should be happening to me,” Abby said. “You see that kind of stuff on Say Yes To the Dress but not in real life. We went into this really cool place and there were dresses everywhere.”

She picked out several she liked and was trying one on when in walked Miss Georgia and Miss Colorado.

“I had a flip out moment,” she said. “I follow them on Instagram and so recognized Miss Georgia immediately. And then she let me wear her crown and now I have this obsession with crowns where I really need one.”

Abby says she was blown away by the whole experience.

When people started telling her they had read the news report of her shopping spree it was surprising.

“Then it was in 17 Magazine online,” she said. “That was my favorite.”

•••

Despite having had nearly 15 surgeries, all the experimental medicines and other complications, many of her fellow students say Abby is remarkably positive. If they didn’t know her or hadn’t read the stories online, they never would have known she struggled with a chronic disease.

"I really just think I’m crazy and it comes off as I’m positive,” Abby laughs. “I guess when you are feeling better and you are at school you just can’t just think about the next time you’re going to be sick. You just have to make the best of it when you feel good. You want to try to do as much as you can.

“I mean, sure, I would like to not have Crohns, but if I didn’t have it I feel like I’d be missing out on all the things I get to do. Like dress shopping and talking to you fine people and doing that walk and stuff. I won’t say I’m glad I have it, but I don’t regret it.”

She said the recent media exposure has been good and she is getting more and more comfortable talking to people about Crohn’s. She wants to help educate the public about what has been a very private disease.

She has been featured in a video the Atlanta children’s hospital produced that is shown to other young people who are facing ostomy surgery.

And recently her doctors introduced her to a little girl there who was about to get an ostomy for the first time.

“We talked and mostly I just let her ask me questions,” Abby said.

She says she wants to one day work at Children’s Health Care of Atlanta on the fourth floor with the GI patients.

“Whenever I’m there I know all the nurses by name,” Abby said. “They’re always great nurses and they always put up with me, even when I’m hurting and ill. I just want to be that for another little boy or girl that’s going through the same thing.”

She says she wants them to see their ostomy as more of a blessing than a curse.

“You’ll have times when it leaks and it messes up your favorite shirt or your favorite jeans, but you can’t have the peace of mind knowing you won’t have to be looking for the nearest toilet every two seconds. Or worrying about making it to the next rest stop on a road trip,” she said. “Stay as active as you can and don’t worry so much about your bag messing up. Just make sure you take stuff with you to work on it and stay prepared.”

She understands that there are a lot of people out there who are living with this disease and she wants to reassure them.

“If you don’t want to share it, you don’t have to,” she said. “But if you do want to share it with the right people, they shouldn’t be judging you. Now, I just tell anybody. Like if they hear a strange noise coming from my stomach, I’ll just tell them that was my bag. If it is somebody who is going to judge you for something you can’t help, then you don’t need to be around that person and they have some growing up to do.

“You can have Crohn’s, or you can have a colostomy or you can have any other type of chronic illness, but it doesn’t necessarily have to have you. So you can still try your best to do what you want to do. Trust your doctors and trust in God.”

She feels that living with Crohn’s has certainly changed her life, but it has in no way ruined it. She thinks of herself as pretty carefree.

“She’s a 17-year girl with regular 17-year-old issues,” her dad says.

She’s a 17-year-old girl living with Crohns, and her prom was as full of magic and minor freakouts as anyone’s.




New county insurance lowers deductible

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

Jefferson County employees should be optimistic about a change in their health insurance commissioners expect will save them money.

Commissioners recently selected a health insurance plan for county employees after several months of discussion.

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The current plan, which expires June 30, has a proposed 5 percent increase to renew.

Jefferson County Administrator Adam Mestres said the current plan has a total annual cost of $1,015,851. Of that, the county pays more than $900,000. The exact figure fluctuates as employees leave and others are hired. Additionally, an employee may change coverage or drop the insurance altogher.

Renewing the same plan will have a total annual cost of $1,066,652. Employees pay only a small percentage of those costs.

“Everything is 90/10. The county pays 90 percent; and, the employee pays 10 percent,” Mestres said.

Commissioners held a called meeting Wednesday, May 27, to discuss several options and make a decision.

The main point was the amount employees pay for their deductible. Currently, the deductible is $2,000. A deductible is an amount deducted from patient bills before an insurance company pays benefits for hospitalizations.

Several commissioners stated county employees have told them the deductible has kept them from going to the hospital or having surgery.

“All employees I’ve talked to, and I’ve called a lot of them, say the $2,000 deductible is too high. And I’m the one who proposed the $2,000 deductible last year; because, we had to protect the budget,” said Commissioner Wayne Davis.

“A lot of employees last year put off going to the hospital,” said Commissioner Gonice Davis. “We need to make the best decision for our employees.”

Presented during the meeting were one from Blue Cross and Blue Shield and two different plans from United Healthcare. The Blue Cross plan is offered through the county’s membership in ACCG.

This will bring the deductible from $2,000 to $500, which commissioners believe will help employees better afford health care.

Commissioner Tommy New, the only commissioner who voted against the plan said, “I didn’t vote against the $500 plan. I voted against Blue Cross and Blue Shield.”

Besides the change in the deductible, employees will see other differences, including a reduction in what the employee pays for insurance, although not much. The current plan costs employees $630.29 a year in premiums.

If the commission had decided to renew the current policy, that figure for individual coverage would have increased about $31.52 over a year.

The plan accepted this week will cost the employee with single coverage $633.49 for a year, an increase from the current plan of $3.20.

Employees with coverage other than single will see a yearly increase of $7.12 to add a spouse, a yearly increase of $6 to add children and a yearly increase of $9.36 for family coverage.

Another significant change will be for those employees with family coverage. That deductible will change from $4,000 a year to $1,500 a year.

Currently, this maximum for in-network services is $4,000 for the employee and $8,000 for coverage other than single.

The new plan has an out-of-pocket maximum of $6,600 for the employee and $13,200 for coverage other than single.

As with the current plan, the cost sharing is for only the employee’s coverage. Employees pay the full cost of adding one or more family members.

At least one employee is hopeful.

“I like the lower deductible,” he said of the change from a $2,000- to $500 deductible.

"We have people who don’t have access to $2,000. It’s like not having any insurance.

“I like the lower deductible. I just hope our hospital will take (the insurance).”

The new insurance plan will take effect July 1.







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