Couples are joined on their wedding day, two hearts becoming one. For Arthur and Karen Churchill, after nearly 60 years of marriage, their hearts have become united in an entirely different way. Both have survived cardiac episodes and are thriving in their home of Searcy, practicing heart-healthy habits together each day.
Karen has undergone a triple bypass surgery and Arthur has experienced both a heart attack and stroke in recent years. Seeing one another endure these physical and emotional hardships has strengthened their marriage and taught them the importance of wellness and support.
The couples’ experiences led them to truly ‘get in gear’ and they converted their sunroom into a workout area in their home. Taking turns on the treadmill, caring for their dogs, Samantha and Max, and traveling to see their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, keeps the couple active.
Karen also keeps herself busy by devoting much of her time to volunteering at Unity Health.
After her experience of heart surgery and cardiac rehabilitation, she wanted an opportunity to contribute to the hospital. Karen has been an Auxiliary member for nearly seven years and serves the units where she received her treatment. She is also a Unity Health Ambassador, using her story to inspire others.
“We can’t say one bad word about our hospital,” Karen said. “I started volunteering after bypass surgery, I felt so blessed to have had the care and I wanted to give back.”
Arthur and Karen are also involved with their church and its programs, they spend their time serving the community they have grown to love and more importantly, they spend time continuing to care for one another. Whether it’s treating the dogs or treating themselves to heart-healthy oatmeal cookies, Karen and Arthur love one another’s company even if they enjoy separate activities.
Keeping their minds sharp and their hands at work, Karen loves to tackles daily crossword puzzles and Sudoku. Arthur prefers fishing and working with model trains. She watches classic love stories and he enjoys action films.
For others dealing with heart dilemmas and disorders, the couple encourages seeking support and hometown physicians for appointments and check-ups. They have both learned the lesson of listening to their bodies and knowing there is no time to waste when it comes to matters of the heart. Arthur believes everything is about attitude. Approaching a heart-healthy lifestyle requires optimism, dedication and diligence, and it is a path worth pursuing.
Arthur and Karen can be found throughout the city walking their dogs, volunteering at the hospital or visiting the Unity Health Cardiology Clinic.
How does a hospital staff become a family? How does the loss of a loved one inspire the rebirth of a talent? How does a woman from Germany end up with a man from Indiana?
Charles Gilpin of Searcy, a retired veteran who served in the U.S. Army, has an unlikely story that has led to an unbelievable life. During his time in the service, Gilpin was based in Germany for 16 years. In the small city of Baunach, Gilpin met his wife Rosalinde, kindling a love for her and celebrating life among the beautiful scenery of Europe.
Later in life, the Gilpins moved to Searcy to care for Charles’ parents. It was after their move to Arkansas that Rosalinde was diagnosed with breast cancer. Throughout seasons of on and off remission, she was treated at Unity Health Oncology inside the Cancer Center of Excellence and through the Advanced Care Hospital.
Having enjoyed art since childhood, Charles spent periods in and out of painting and even built a studio attached to their home in Searcy. In the process of finishing the homebuilding project, Rosalinde received her diagnosis, and his hobby experienced a halt. When times were tough, she would always encourage him to escape to the studio to express his emotions. “She would say, ‘go paint,’” Charles said. “It takes you away from the reality going on around you.”
When Charles lost Rosalinde Nov. 1, 2013, he decided to redesign his own life. In the time following her passing, he was unable to return to his passion. “I went months without picking up a paintbrush,” Charles said. Rosalinde desired to be buried in her homeland, and Charles’ return to Germany brought a resurgence to his art.
“I knew I had to go to her hometown,” he said. Charles chose to depict a piece of the German city, placing immense emotion into a rendition of her beloved home, Baunach. “I felt it was what I needed to do to show appreciation to the staff who took such good care of her. Since then, I have not stopped painting.”
Associates of Unity Health became a safe haven for Charles. He donated the painting of his wife’s hometown to Dr. Stacie McCord at Unity Health Oncology, and it hangs in the facility today. “They are my family, that’s the only way to describe it,” Charles said. “Their care was unbelievable. I love every one of them. The compassion they have is overwhelming, and the service they provide is just fabulous.” Charles still keeps in touch with his Unity family when he is home in Searcy, visiting them multiple times a year.
Art is proven to help improve one’s physical, emotional and mental health. Charles experiences the healing abilities of his talent and allows his canvases to provide transformation and expression. He loves to portray landscape scenes of fall, filled with vibrancy and life.
His art continues to bring him a sense of solace since Rosalinde’s passing.
Picking up his paintbrush again has led him to pursue numerous adventures, presenting his pieces in shows and selling them in both America and Europe. Through “experimentation” as he calls it, Charles has explored working with his paintings in watercolors, oils and acrylics. “As I work more, I have learned I can paint differently and make my paintings come alive. Everything we do in life is a learning experience, and that is one of my major motivations. We are learning something new every day.”
Though life changed drastically for Charles, he never lets his passion fade for sharing his love of art and painting. “Expose yourself to different types of art and styles,” he reminds artists and observers alike. “You will be able to create your own style. You can’t make it, it just happens.”
He knows that every painting is distinct and no two that he creates are identical. His pieces mirror life. “You can’t copy, but you can get inspired by what someone else does.” Charles Gilpin experienced encouragement and inspiration from unique sources, but has found a home and family in nurses, painters, places and his own gift of art.
As a young child, you scuff them. You might get down on one to propose, and you may even kneel on them in prayer or to tote your grandchild around the living room. Imagine a life without your knees. How would you walk, drive or even function without this essential joint? Steven Bowen of Vilonia has learned what it means to suffer severe pain and learn the process of knee replacement surgery, therapy and overcoming.
From Waldenburg (Poinsett County), Bowen joined the Air Force on May 4, 1982. He was first stationed at Sheppard Air Force Base (AFB) in Texas and later transferred to Blytheville AFB. He finished his active duty Air Force career in 1992 at Andrews AFB, Maryland, with Presidential Support Group, 89 AGS as crew chief on Air Force One and Air Force Two.
After a short break in service, Bowen re-joined the Air National Guard (ANG) with the 123rd Intelligence Squadron at Little Rock AFB in Jacksonville and continued to serve his country as an Intel analyst. While still serving in the ANG, he deployed in 2011 as a civilian to Kandahar, Afghanistan, where he flew on C-12 and Dash-8 aircraft as an Intel analyst.
Bowen deployed several more times over the next few years to Kandahar and Bagram AFB, Afghanistan. In January 2013, he retired from the 123rd Intelligence Squadron at LRAFB but continued to deploy to Afghanistan. During one of his deployments in 2014, Bowen recalls a Sunday where his world was shaken, and it would soon be much harder to walk through life.
While deployed to Bagram, Bowen usually requested Sundays off to go to chapel. “There were a few paved roads on the base, the main perimeter road and some intersecting roads, but to walk from one location to another where there were no paved roads, which was most of the base, was like walking in a field of rocks that were like miniature boulders. Rocket attacks were normal. When the siren went off on that Sunday, I was walking from the BX to my quarters. I rolled, hit the rocks, slammed down and that was it.”
Bowen recalls an Afghan citizen coming to his aid. After further examination, the knee that Bowen had fallen on appeared to be a sprain, and others found ice packs for him to reduce the swelling. He awoke the next morning, and while putting on his flight suit, he realized how taut the fabric surrounding his knee was. He recalled the knee would not work, regardless of his efforts.
The site lead and his flight crew assured him he could not fly in his current condition, and he was forced to see the base flight surgeon. The flight surgeon determined the problem was not a simple sprain, but he did not have the proper equipment to make an accurate diagnosis. He recommended that Bowen travel to the U.S. for proper care.
Bowen returned to the U.S. in 2014, and from a list of options, he chose Unity Health Orthopaedic and Spine to determine the ultimate injury his knee had undergone. Before surgery was an option, other methods of treatment, including medication and therapy, were used to help reduce the pain. With no signs of improvement after the other options, an MRI indicated that Bowen’s knee was barely being held together. On Veterans Day, Nov. 12, 2014, Bowen received a total knee replacement on his right knee.
Through his time of recovery and physical therapy, one of the toughest burdens for Bowen was being unable to drive. He had a “toy” — as he called it — and wanted to show his therapists one of his favorite possessions when he would finally have the opportunity again. After he regained enough strength and mobility in his leg to drive a manual transmission, he made sure to go by the physical therapy office to show Connie Harvey, his physical therapist, his Stingray Corvette, complete with the license plate “BUKTLST.” After his hardships and hard work, he said, “It was time I finally got something for myself.”
Though his mobility is not what it once was, Bowen is grateful for his knee replacement. “It barely limits me,” he said. Now at his home in Vilonia, he and his wife, Pamela, spend their time working on their most recent project together: growing grapes.
Two years ago, Bowen said he kept looking at his land that he loved and decided to bulldoze three acres of woods to create a field. There, he, Pamela and a few friends and family, planted 500 Petit Manseng grapevines last spring. “The world could have never prepared us for how much work is involved,” Bowen said. But he claims “it’s not work if you’re having fun doing it.”
The two work very hard in their efforts and plan to have a full business up and running in the next few years. They travel when they can to relax and rejuvenate. “We have to get away some or we’ll just keep working,” he said.
His times of serving his country may be over, but with more years of working in the fields and some leisure ahead, Bowen laughs at how everything worked out. Though it may have been from an “unheroic cause” as he calls it, or maybe from divine intervention, one injury brought both pain and purpose for Bowen, and he is certain to not let anything slow him down.
One of the worst fears of an active athlete is the experience of tearing the anterior cruciate ligament, better known as the ACL. Whether it requires therapy or surgery, this event can cause pain and debilitation. For Unity Health Ambassador Matt LaForce, not only has he suffered one torn ACL, he has endured two.
LaForce, born and raised in Searcy, tore his left ACL while playing in a men’s soccer league. Later, LaForce again felt the familiar pain as he tore his right knee, but he contemplated other forms of treatment before undergoing another operation.
While coaching his son’s soccer team and warming up, he stepped backward into a hole and immediately felt a twist, further damaging the already torn ACL. At this point LaForce considered a consultation with a fellow parent, athlete and friend, orthopaedic surgeon Justin Franz, M.D.
“We had our consultation and everything was right, before my surgery,” he said. “He’s amazing, and we immediately clicked. We knew each other, so we were able to talk on the same level. We both had kids the same ages, we were athletic and active, and he gave me a really good comfort level. I felt like he took a great amount of time to help me feel comfortable with the process, and he was open to my preferences.”
LaForce quickly regained his strength and mobility shortly after his surgery, in which he received tendons from a donor graft. “It went better than I imagined and was the best experience I’ve had in a surgery situation ever,” he said. “Dr. Franz and his nurse, Angie, were always involved in my recovery, and I felt that they truly cared that I got better.”
More than anything, LaForce is grateful to have his full range of motion back in order to coach his kids and their teams in a number of sports. He now has no difficulties participating with them and helping them to prepare their minds and bodies for practices and games.
“There are absolutely no holds on what I can do,” LaForce said. One of the driving factors in his decision to have the knee operated on was for a family ski trip planned in January. His wife, Fran, and sons Cannon (9) and Colt (5) were able to hit the slopes with him fearlessly. “I could do everything I could have done had I not torn my ACL. I know that it was done right, and I am confident in the work that was done on my knee, if something ever happens again I am not scared to go back and have it fixed because I know how good of a job Dr. Franz would do.”
LaForce’s sons and their teams are what bring some of the greatest joy to his life. “By far, my favorite thing to do is coach soccer and my boys,” LaForce said. “When I get out there with them, I am able to play, demonstrate and be active with them, rather than be on the sidelines. Before then, I had to take it easy, I couldn’t be a part of practice and now I can. That is what most of my free time is spent doing.”
He loves watching them and being a part of them trying new things, LaForce said. “It teaches them how to be a good person and allows me to be influential in their development, athletically, mentally and spiritually.”
LaForce said his biggest fear through all of this was having to be a spectator on the sidelines, versus being a part of the action and getting involved. Though the process may have been painful, he knows it was a good decision with a great outcome. He even says he would have surgery again tomorrow. “It was a recipe for success. It was all perfect. It gives me the confidence to go out and do whatever I want to do. I live with no worries.”
Improve your health by being grateful. Gratitude helps people experience positive emotions, deal with adversity and build strong relationships.
Unity Health Ambassador - Ticia Covington and family
Listening to our bodies can be a difficult lesson to learn, but Ticia Covington has accepted the importance of being in tune with what her body is telling her. In August 2010, at the age of 25, Ticia began her morning as usual, preparing for teaching and getting her family ready for the day. Attempting to put her contacts in, then requesting her glasses, she realized her vision was out of focus and she felt tingling in her arms and legs. Ticia’s husband, Reagan, was bringing her glasses to her when he found she had fallen into the doorframe. He sat her upright and knew something was out of order as her speech was slurred, her right side was unable to move, and her face was drooping.
Recognizing these symptoms, Reagan immediately rushed Ticia to the ER at Unity Health. Ticia explained she began to realize the intensity of the situation as she was wheeled in, bypassed triage and was admitted to a room upon their entrance. Unaware of how serious her circumstances were, Ticia said her greatest concern was getting back to school. “The scariest moment for me, and I know this sounds really small, was when I found out that I wasn’t going to make it back for half a day,” Ticia said. “Because this was my first year teaching, I kept telling my mom and my husband to call my principal and let him know I just needed half a day.” Her family quickly informed her she would not be able to make it back to school by lunchtime.
Ticia was diagnosed with an acute stroke to the left hemisphere. Through the Arkansas SAVES program, Stroke Assistance through Virtual Emergency Support, Ticia was viewed through video communication by Margaret Tremwel, M.D., at Sparks Regional Health System in Fort Smith, Ark. After the analysis, assessments revealed the need to administer the blood thinner tPA, tissue plasminogen activator. Reversing the effects of a stroke, this medication was given within the hour, halting the life-altering effects of the episode. She was the first patient to receive the medication at Unity Health, as the hospital had adopted the program earlier that year.
When Reagan received the news that his wife was to be transported by helicopter to University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Ticia remembered him “falling apart” at the severity of the situation. “That rocked my world for an instant, but I have to say I was very childlike and extremely excited about riding in a helicopter,” Ticia said in an attempt to lift his spirits with her enthusiasm to fly.
The source of Ticia’s stroke was discovered to have been the oral contraceptive she was using for birth control. Her mission is to share with others the importance of health, knowing your body and being aware of the signs that something may be wrong. “I just hope that people will be in tune with their bodies and listen, “Ticia said. “Especially when we’re young, we like to brush off something. Fortunately for me, I had every stroke symptom possible. If something doesn’t feel right, have it checked out, because time is of the essence.”
Not only was Ticia’s physical being shaken by the stroke, but she also experienced a resurgence in her spiritual life. Always living in fear of what could happen, Ticia realized that through this event, God brought her through the stroke and back to full health. “I think God used the people at Unity Health and put me in the right place at the right time, because that was what I needed,” she said. “He used those people and the medicine to heal me and for that I am forever grateful to God and want to give him all the glory.”
In the years since her stroke, Ticia and Reagan have added another child to their number and are now a family of five. Their daughters Elliette and Sawyer and son Rooke are able to lead a life with their parents in Hickory Plains, where they enjoy a home complete with a 20-acre farm and their furry friends, Daisy, Maggie and Hoss. Their favorite pastimes include riding through the fields on their Ranger, swinging in the front yard, cooking meals, restoring furniture and building farmhouse tables.
“I realized that in life, anything and anybody is fair game, you never know from day to day what may happen and how your life may change,” Ticia said. “I am just so grateful for the opportunity to be here and raise my children, to play with them, and talk to them. My life could have changed so drastically and because of the grace of God it didn’t and I am getting to live life to the fullest.”
People often quote Philippians 4:13 as their favorite verse, but for Linda Ingram of Searcy, it’s more than a favorite passage. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” is Linda’s anchor and sentiment for life.
In 2006, Linda realized something was wrong when she noticed a spot on her right breast that had been swollen for more than a month. No one wants to be diagnosed with breast cancer, but after an appointment with her physician and an ordered ultrasound and biopsy, her fear was confirmed. It was breast cancer, and it was quickly spreading.
With a diagnosis of HER2-positive breast cancer, an aggressive form, treatments started with four chemotherapy sessions three weeks apart at the Cancer Center of Excellence in Searcy.
“HER2-positive is a type of breast cancer that contains a protein that promotes cancer cell production,” Linda said. “With this form of cancer, the cells look like they have little fingers growing off of them, and if those little fingers break off, they can spread the cancer. With the first set of chemo treatment, I lost my hair, which was the most traumatic side effect for me because it was the most outward change. After chemo, I then had a mastectomy surgery taking out eight lymph glands, five being cancerous; followed by more chemo and radiation.”
Linda said looking back on the diagnosis and entire cancer battle, God took care of her the entire way.
“God was with me through it all,” Linda said. “When I found out I had cancer, my husband Gordan and I prayed about it. We felt like whatever happened was His will, and in return, God gave me peace. I can’t imagine having gone through this if I hadn’t had my faith to rely on.
“We lived in West Memphis before we moved to Searcy. So when I was diagnosed with cancer shortly after moving here, I thought I would go somewhere else for my treatment; however, several people recommended going to the Unity Health Oncology Clinic inside the Cancer Center of Excellence. Being so close to home made such a huge difference, and I feel like it was another way God took care of me.”
Through the support of church, her physical family and especially her husband Gordan, Linda received constant encouragement throughout the battle. Having received such support through her difficult time inspired her to find a way to bless others and give back. As a talented seamstress, Linda chooses to give through her volunteer work with the Gentle Hugs program at Unity Health by sewing and smocking baby gowns, tunics and baby bonnets for stillborn babies.
As a cancer survivor, she also embroiders “breast cancer angels” and “cancer angels” to encourage others going through the same battle. They are small tokens that Linda hopes remind people that others are praying for them through their difficult time.
“God lets you go through times, but He brings you through them. He strengthens your faith through those times,” Linda said. “I now look at everything differently and I’m more thankful for the little things in life.”
Linda Ingram is proud to share her story about the Cancer Center of Excellence through Unity Health’s Ambassador Program. If you have had a good experience at Unity Health and would like to share your health-centered story, please contact the Unity Health Marketing Department at 501. 278.3230 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about cancer treatments available at the Cancer Center of Excellence and Unity Health Oncology Clinic, please visit Unity-Health.org/cancer-center or call 501.278.3297.
Make quiet time to focus on spiritual health. Through her faith in God, along with an outstanding medical team at Unity Health, Linda rejoices that her cancer is in remission.
Fresh fruits and veggies are rich in vitamins and minerals that keep your body healthy. Choose a variety of colors and textures to maximize nutritional benefits.
“Flowers always make people better, happier and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul,” American botanist Luther Burbank once said.
For Juanita “Toy” Goodwin, gardening started as something to pass the time, but soon developed into a hobby that turned into a passion — a “medicine for the soul.”
“My favorite flowers are hydrangeas and tulips,” Goodwin said. “I like getting new plants that I’ve never had before and then researching them and learning how to take care of them. My mother, sister and aunts have always enjoyed doing something with flowers including gardening, and I’ve enjoyed it for many years; however, my knees had hurt for so long, I just wasn’t able to get out in my garden anymore.”
In May 2015, Goodwin required a full-knee replacement surgery, which was followed by three and half weeks of strict attention, focus and physical therapy at Unity Health – Orthopaedic and Spine Center. When she found out she would need therapy, she did not expect it to be an encouraging and positive experience, but before her surgery, she had given up simple activities that she had once enjoyed, such as spending time in her flower garden and walking her pet shih tzu. She wanted her life back.
Goodwin said the positive atmosphere in therapy helped renew her spirit in what would have been a challenging recovery time. With a full agenda of recovery and therapeutic treatment, she worked with physical therapists and staff to gain back the activities that had once brought her joy before her surgery. After only a few weeks of hard work, Goodwin said she felt like a completely new person.
“I not only felt like a new person — I was new,” Goodwin said. “Every step I made, everything I did, the therapy team was there for me. If I wanted to do less, they would push me a little further and they did it in such a way, it felt more like exercise than therapy. They would tell me how to do things at home and gave me a lot of encouragement. That is why I enjoyed my experience there. After therapy, I was able to plant two flower gardens with new bulbs and was absolutely amazed that I was able to do so much so soon after therapy.”
Now, she is able to enjoy the activities that make her happy and bring her joy — without the pain.
“It has given me a new life,” Goodwin said. “It hurt for years and it has been great to be able to do the simple things in life again like work outside in my flowerbeds and even just walk to the neighbors. What I am looking forward to now is having the ability to go to my grandson’s graduation without using a cane, and enjoy all the activities, like having my family home on that special day.”
Relieve stress by taking time to do what you love. After seeing excellent Physical Therapy results at Unity Health, Toy is able to pursue her passion of gardening.
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The goal of the Ambassadors of Unity Health Program is to educate and inspire our communities by sharing inspiration stories of health.
If you would like an Ambassador to speak at an event or meeting, please contact the Marketing Department by filling out this form. A representative will be in touch for additional information.