Saturday, September 24, 2011

Community Gardens Growing

Photo by Joe McGarity


The community garden movement continues to grow and thrive in the Northstate.  Shirley Straub, a volunteer, told the Fantom Penguin about one such garden.

“This wonderful garden is from Anderson Community.  We’re a church.  Our pastor is Les Baugh and this was his idea.  Mercy Medical sponsored us for the first two years.  We’ve had this for two years.  And now next year we’re on our own.  So, we have to raise our own money.  So, on October 1st, this is just a week or so away we’re going to have an Artisan and Harvest Faire.”

“We’ll have lots of vendors and fun and games for kids.”

“The festival is October 1st; that’s a Saturday, from 10:00 - 4:00.”

“We’re going to have lots of vendors selling everything from Avon, Pampered Chef, metal art, t-shirts, jewelry, and we’re hoping to have some produce vendors as well, but people will be allowed to come into the garden if they need to and pick what they need.”

“We hope it raises money to plant our garden next year.”

Chester Dodge, another garden volunteer, told the Fantom Penguin that much of the garden’s produce goes to the Anderson Cottonwood Christian Assistance food program which has an office on East Center Street in Anderson.

“I take it over to ACCA twice a week on Tuesdays and Fridays and we bag it up and give it to needy people.  And stuff that’s too big we put on a table out front that people are more than welcome to bag up their own and take as much as they want off that table.”

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Shirley:  “There’s so many hungry people out there and needy people.  With the prices and the economy the way it is now people can’t afford to go to the grocery store and these fill the bill for them.”

Chester:  “Some people that can’t afford maybe to buy fresh cucumbers can come here and pick as many as they want and it’s no charge. “

Shirley:  “And tomatoes and squash.  What else?  What are those things, the purple things?”

Chester:  “Eggplant.”

Shirley:   “Eggplant, yes!  Lots of eggplant, okra and different kinds of squash.”

Chester:   “We’ve got, like, five kinds of tomatoes grown in this garden.”

Shirley:   “And watermelon.”

Chester:   “And watermelon should be ready by the harvest festival.”

Shirley:   “And that Hubbard Squash, it’s this big around, no kidding!  It’s huge!”


The Fantom Penguin asked if one has to work in the garden in order to receive food.

“Oh, they don’t need to do anything, but we appreciate the help.  But if they just want to come here and pick themselves some produce, it would be wonderful.”

“So many of these little tomatoes . . .  Look at these guys.  We’ll have bucket loads of them and the little yellow ones.  Lots of tomatoes, so they’re rotting on the vine.  We do need people to take them.”

So all you have to do is ask?

“And if nobody is here, they can come in as long as they’re gentle with the plants and help themselves.”



Saturday, September 17, 2011

Joe Takes a Picture of Himself Every Day for Six Months



Photo by Joe McGarity

Watch this on YouTube




Watch this on YouTube

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Local Clinic not Shy about Colon Health

Photo by Joe McGarity



When it comes to our health, some topics are so personal that patients are uncomfortable discussing them even with their doctors, but that is not the case at the National Colon Health Center in Redding.  The Fantom Penguin interviewed Sharon Hughes (who is this reporter’s aunt) in her office on Churn Creek Road.

“I am a durable medical equipment provider specializing in colon health and what I offer is a device used in the home for patients that have neurogenic bowel.  And what that means is, people who have a spinal cord injury generally do not have the nerve function for their colon to operate normally and so it needs to be irrigated on a regular basis to keep them healthy and I sell the device that achieves that goal.  What we have been able to accomplish is getting the device recognized by numerous insurance companies, the V.A., MediCal and other insurance agencies that actually pay for it.”

What was that process like?

“Long and many, many obstacles in the path, but most of those have been cleared away.  I’ve been doing this now for almost ten years and initially I just wanted it for my daughter.  She has spina bifida and my goal was to get the machine for my house so I could take care of my daughter at home.  She is able to walk even though she has spina bifida, but the bowel and bladder issues were a lot more tenuous to deal with than the orthopedic issues.  So, I discovered the device online.  It’s called Pulsed Irrigation Evacuation and I advocated to get the device paid for by MediCal in the year 2000 and it took about a year, but I finally did get MediCal to pay for it.  After I was able to get that accomplished, I began to help other people in the area that had spina bifida that also wanted the machine.  So I became a licensed durable medical equipment provider.  And at the time I applied for that licensing, I was told that the state had a moratorium and they’d had a moratorium for four years and they never made an exception.  That was the first obstacle.  Well, I wrote a letter explaining the situation, ‘This machine is not offered by any other company right now,’ and so they made an exception and I was licensed to sell the device in California.”


How old is that daughter now?  The Fantom Penguin asked June Hughes herself.

“I am a junior at Shasta High School and I’m sixteen and a half.”

What is high school like with spina bifida?

“I have not had one single person be mean to me at all because of my disability.  I have so many friends at Shasta.  Everyone at Shasta High School is absolutely the friendliest people I have ever met, or it could be just because of the people I hang out with.  I don’t hang out with very many people.  I hang out with the same group.  But all the friends that I know and the people that I see, you know and stuff, they’re always friendly with me.  They never give me dirty looks.  They never judge me.  They never point fingers.  If I need help, they’ll help me, you know.  I have never had a bad experience at Shasta High School since I’ve been going there.”

What exactly is spina bifida? 

“I actually have a lot of friends who don’t know what that is and teachers and I did a Power Point project on that, about my disability and what I’ve done throughout my life and how it’s helped other people and I tell them that the easy way to describe it is that my spine was out of my skin; it wasn’t covered and that it ruined those nerves in my spine and I had to get surgery to close that and that’s where the spina bifida came from is an opening in my spine, in my lower back.”

“I’m paralyzed from the knees down and I can’t feel and it’s hard for me to walk.  And I actually used to walk with a walker and braces up to my hips.  I don’t know when I started walking, but it was a long, long time before I learned how to walk normal and also I had to have surgery to walk normal without braces from my hips.”

“A doctor when I was little, when I was a newborn, told my mom that there’s no way your daughter will be able to walk because she’s paralyzed from the knees down and the spinal cord injury from when she was born will never, you know,  recover.  She’ll never walk, so just get a wheelchair for her.  And my mom said, ‘No, we’re not going to do that.  I’ll find a way for her to learn how to walk.’  And they did.  I had braces up to my waist again and I had a walker and I used it until I had a surgery on my ankle, on both ankles and it turned my feet around to where they were straight and I could walk on them.  I didn’t need the hip braces all the way to my hips.  Now I just have them to my knees down.”

Sharon Hughes continues, “When your bowels do not function properly, it can cause so many other ailments.  For example, children with spina bifida usually have a shunt; it’s called a V.P. shunt in their head for hydrocephalus.  It actually drains into the abdominal cavity and the fluid, the CSF fluid is reabsorbed by the body.  But if your bowels are impacted, it can impair the tube and then it does not flow properly and they could end up having a brain surgery when what really needs to happen is they need to have their bowels irrigated and the tube would start flowing again.  So, it surprises me that there is so much misinformation in the medical community about what can be done that’s least invasive to try before you proceed with any major surgeries.”

June told us, “I like the PIE machine because it makes me feel better and I don’t get headaches.  Because I’ve noticed when I don’t do the PIE, I get really mucusy and sick and then I get really headachy and throbbing pain in the back of my head and tremors and I just don’t feel like myself and I just feel really bloated in my stomach.  And then right after I do the PIE a few times I feel like I’ve lost like tons and tons of things I don’t need in my stomach, you know.”

What makes this device different from other forms of colonic irrigation?

Sharon Hughes answered, “Well, the key word is portable.  It can be used in the home.  It has two tanks.  One is the freshwater tank that you fill up.  The other one is the wastewater tank.  It has the tubings in order to do the procedure so that you are able to do it at home in a very clean, safe environment and it’s a very sterile way to process and manage the bowels.  And the nice about it is that you can do it at home.  You don’t have to go out to a specialist and have this done.  It’s very basic, but yet it’s got a lot of controls on it that allow you to manage the water system yourself.”

 “It’s very satisfying when I can help somebody feel better in their life, feel the gratitude that they have that they now have a solution and they have a better life and a better lifestyle because of it.  The appreciation that I get from my clients is so satisfying.  It just makes me feel that I can really help people in a positive way and that’s what I love about doing this.”