Appalachian Regional Healthcare System

AppOrtho to serve as Presenting Sponsor of the 17th Annual Blood, Sweat & Gears Bike Ride

Excitement is building for the highly anticipated 17th annual Blood, Sweat and Gears (BSG) bike ride. The ride, which causes thousands of cyclists to flock to the High County on an annual basis, is scheduled for June 27, 2015.

AROSMC_logo2This year, Appalachian Regional Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Center (AppOrtho), a member of Appalachian Regional Healthcare System, will serve as the presenting sponsor for the prestigious ride.

AppOrtho, which is located on State Farm Road in Boone, serves as the official sports medicine provider of Appalachian State University Athletics. Since opening in 2013, AppOrtho has worked diligently to provide exceptional orthopaedic care for local residents and visitors to the High Country, as well as Appalachian State University athletes. The practice, which is home to two orthopaedic surgeons, Drs. Evan Ekman and Bill DeVault, as well as Elyse Adams PA, is proud to support the healthy and active spirit of the High Country.

Cycling is a dynamic sport that reduces stress and body fat levels while improving muscle strength and cardiovascular fitness. The sport, which appeals to the whole family, has enjoyed an up tick in popularity over the last decade across the mountain community. This up tick can be attributed in part to interest generated by bike rides like Blood, Sweat and Gears and its recently added sister ride the Beech Mountain Metric. AppOrtho is pleased to also serve as the presenting sponsor for the 2nd Annual Beech Mountain Metric, to be held on May 16, 2015.

AppOrtho is proud to partner with Blood, Sweat and Gears and the Beech Mountain Metric as these rides continue to promote health, community and interest in the High Country.

To learn more about Blood, Sweat and Gears visit To learn more about the 2nd annual Beech Mountain Metric, which will be held on May 17, 2015, visit

For more information on AppOrtho or Appalachian Regional Healthcare System visit

The Wound Care Center heals leg after tractor injury

To Joanne Kemp, 62, the 60 acre farm that she and her brother grew up on can only be described as God’s Country. Nestled within the mountains of West Jefferson, Kemp can fondly recall countless summer days spent raking hay and putting up fields with her father and brother Jerry. Today, more than 40 years later, the siblings still live and occasionally work on the family farm together.

Due to excessive rain last summer, Jerry asked his sister if she would assist him in raking hay before the next storm. Kemp agreed to help and met her brother early that afternoon.

“I remember that Jerry was already on the tractor raking hay when I got to the field,” said Kemp with a smile. “Since the baler was on the other side of the field he offered to drive me over to it so I could start raking and he could bale. In hindsight, I should have just walked.”

While attempting to mount the tractor, the vehicle unexpectedly lunged forward and Kemp’s leg was run over. Jerry called for help and shielded his sister from the afternoon sun while they waited for the ambulance to arrive.

Joanne Kemp, center, pictured with June Smith, WOC, Shelly Smith, PA and Allison Brown, RN.

Joanne Kemp, (center) shares a laugh with June Smith, WOC (left) Shelly Smith, PA (back) and Allison Brown, RN (right).

After Kemp was stabilized, it was determined that she had suffered a significant amount of tissue damage and swelling in her injured leg. In need of a specialist, she was referred to The Wound Care Center in Boone. Due to unhealthy tissue, The Wound Care Center’s Medical Director, Dr. Paul Dagher of Watauga Surgical Group explained that without surgery to remove the dead tissue, she would be in danger of losing her leg. With no more convincing required, the surgery was scheduled and completed successfully the following day at Watauga Medical Center.

Post surgery, Kemp was referred back to The Wound Care Center to treat her open wound which stretched from her upper thigh to the middle of her shin. The Wound Care team, consisting of Shelly Smith, a wound-educated PA-C, June Smith, a certified Wound Ostomy Continence Nurse and Allison Brown, a wound educated RN worked together to address the wound. The team provided weekly debridement (cleaning non-viable tissue from the wound) and redressing to the wound. In addition, Kemp was supplied with a wound vac, a lightweight machine that funnels drainage away from the wound and accelerates healing. Skin grafts were finally placed by Dr. Dagher to help with wound healing.

“I was blown away by the staff at The Wound Care Center,” said Kemp. “They quickly became like family to me and provided me with focused, individualized care.”

Due to the severity of her condition, Kemp’s road to recovery required 10 months of treatment at The Wound Care Center. However, at the conclusion of her treatment, her wound was completely healed.

“Each patient and each wound are different and we take a customizable approach to meet each patients needs,” said Shelly Smith. “With Joanne, we marveled at how despite her large wound she was able stay positive and never complain throughout the entire course of her treatment.”

To celebrate her last appointment, The Wound Care Center team drove to West Jefferson to take Kemp out for dinner. This act was outside of typical protocol for the wound care team but they wanted to honor their patient who had become a friend. At dinner, they asked Kemp if she would offer to help her brother in the fields again next summer. Kemp replied, “If he needs my help I’ll do it. But I’m staying clear of the tractor.”

For more information about The Wound Care Center, call 828-262-9520 or visit

Girl with cerebral palsy bonds with pet therapy dog at The Rehabilitation Center

Ann Winkler is an 8-year-old, third-grade student at Hardin Park Elementary School, in Boone, N.C. She has an infectious smile, a playful spirit and a hunger for learning new things in the classroom. At home, her favorite activities include planting seeds in the garden with dad and assisting mom with the baking in the kitchen. Ann’s familiar and feel good story is only possible, however, thanks to her adoptive parents who selflessly agreed to adopt her after she suffered a prenatal stroke that left her with cerebral palsy.

Ann and Leo have become good friends.

Ann and Leo have become good friends.

Before signing the papers to adopt Ann through the Children’s Home Society of North Carolina, her doctors cautioned William and Janta Winkler that their would-be daughter would never develop beyond the cognitive understanding and physical ability of a baby.

“We thanked the doctors for sharing their professional assessment with us, but told them that the future is not for us to know,” said Janta. “We felt that the Lord was bringing the three of us together for a reason and we acted on faith.”

For the Winkler’s, who were unable to have children of their own, adopting Ann was a dream come true. “We could not wait to bring her home and provide her with an over abundance of love, family and support,” said William.

Fortunately, despite her doctor’s fears, Ann’s cognitive ability did progress beyond infancy in a healthy proportion to her age. However, in order for her to combat her motor deficiencies and still function in a traditional classroom, she began weekly after school physical therapy sessions at The Rehabilitation Center, in Boone.

Ann, who normally operates out of a specialized wheelchair, struggles to do basic motor functions like sitting up or walking without assistance. As a result, her physical therapist, Melia Pinnix, PT, NCS, uses a variety of tools such as a harnessed treadmill to help develop Ann’s limited physical functionality.

“I admire her willingness to come in here after a long day at school and work hard,” said Pinnix. “She always has a positive attitude but on occasion she needs a little extra motivation.”

Ann’s extra motivation comes in the canine form. Leo, a 110-pound Bernese Mountain Dog, recently went through the certification process with the help of his owners Steve Coleman and Ellie Austin to become a Pet Therapy volunteer at Appalachian Regional Healthcare System.

Steve Coleman, Leo, William and Janta Winkler and Melia Pinnix surround Ann Winkler in love and support.

Steve Coleman, Leo, William and Janta Winkler and Melia Pinnix, PT surround Ann Winkler in love and support.

The PAWS Pet Therapy Program reminds patients that it’s okay to “paw-se” and experience joy throughout the treatment process. The program, which currently includes eight active pet therapy dogs and their handlers, was established earlier this year. Each volunteer pet and handler must be licensed pet therapists and vetted by the healthcare system before visiting with patients. Once approved, the volunteers are provided with their own hospital badges to wear on their respective collars while on duty.

Leo began visiting Ann at The Rehabilitation Center a few months ago and they bonded quickly. During therapy, he stays by her side, ready at a moment’s notice to provide a hug or a sloppy wet kiss of encouragement. Pinnix has also found ways to incorporate Leo into her therapy. On occasion, she will ask Ann to walk across the room to Leo, who is patiently waiting and wagging his tail in approval. On other instances, Leo and Ann have sitting contests to see who can sit-up straight the longest. Ann always wins.

“Ann talks about Leo at home and she looks forward to going to physical therapy now because of him,” said Janta with a grin. “As a parent, to know that there are people like Steve and Ellie and dogs like Leo who are willing to volunteer their time to bring this much joy to my little girl’s heart is unbelievable.”

Since starting her physical therapy at The Rehabilitation Center in 2013, her doctors have marveled at her steady improvement. She can now sit on the floor, without assistance, for up to five minutes at a time. She can also walk with trunk assistance over short distances.

“A few years ago we started sending an annual Christmas card to Ann’s birth doctors with a description of her progress,” said William. “Each year, they are blown away by her strides of improvement. She is truly a miracle and we feel blessed to have so much local support from The Rehabilitation Center and The PAWS Pet Therapy Program at Appalachian Regional Healthcare System.”

For Ann, the future is uncertain. Her ultimate potential is hard to predict as she continues to exceed the expectations set before her. Although, she has a host of challenges to still overcome her prayerful parents feel more resolved than ever. With their love, Pinnix’s help and the encouragement of her four-legged accountability partner, Ann feels well-equipped to continue to defy the odds.

To learn more about The PAWS Pet Therapy Program visit To learn more about The Rehabilitation Center at Appalachian Regional Healthcare System visit

AngioScreen® Available at Watauga Medical Center

On Tuesday, February 24th, Watauga Medical Center (WMC) will offer AngioScreen® – a simple, non-invasive vascular screening designed to provide men and women with information about heart rhythm, neck and leg artery blockage, blood pressure, and body mass index in addition to an overall fitness assessment.

AngioScreen® vascular screening to be held at Watauga Medical Center on Tuesday, February 24.

AngioScreen® vascular screening to be held at Watauga Medical Center on Tuesday, February 24.

The cost of the screening is $20 and vouchers may be purchased by calling (828) 268-8960. A limited number of appointments are available for the one-day screening on February 24th. Patients with abnormal screening results may be referred to a specialized physician in cardiology or vascular disease, if needed.

Vascular disease may occur when calcium deposits or fats build up in the arteries. This build up narrows the vessels to the point where blood can no longer pass through. The screening reveals information about the patient’s circulation health and may help determine their risk for heart attack or stroke.

“Our goal is to provide our patients with the best cardiovascular services available at a location close to home,” said Lesley Hastings, Director of Cardiovascular Services at Appalachian Regional Healthcare System.

Watauga Medical Center recently added a peripheral vascular lab to complement the existing cardiovascular services. The lab allows Watauga Medical Center to treat patients with Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) via angioplasty, stents and atherectomy procedures.

To schedule an AngioScreen® vascular screening appointment, call 828-268-8960. To learn more about Cardiac Services at Watauga Medical Center visit

Father able to walk daughter down the aisle after graduating from cardiopulmonary rehab

In life, few memories are more cherished than the ones formed when a father is able walk his daughter down the aisle for marriage. The custom, which symbolizes a lifetime of love, support and blessing between a doting dad and his little girl, makes for an emotional and highly anticipated day. This day seemed to be at hand for Dick Sloop, 66, of Wilkesboro when his daughter Maggie got engaged last fall.

Dick Sloop walks daughter Maggie down the aisle on her wedding day.

Dick Sloop walks daughter Maggie down the aisle on her wedding day.

As expected, Maggie, with her mother at her side, instantly sprung into wedding planning mode. Sloop joked afterward that his opinion mattered little when it came to decorating but his assistance was requested when it was time to pay the bill.

The fairy tale wedding preparations were well underway when tragedy struck early in the summer. After doing some yard work, Sloop complained to his wife, Sherry, of a pain in his chest and arm. Fearing the worst, Sherry raced her husband to the Emergency Room where it was determined that he had suffered a heart attack.

“It was pretty scary and unexpected,” said the retired serviceman who prides himself on staying in good shape. “After my successful surgery, I was cleared to go home but I was unable to function like normal.”

Hindered by his weakened heart condition, Sloop worried that he would be unable to escort his daughter on her wedding day. Disappointed by the timing and severity of the situation, he was pleased to learn from his doctor that there is an excellent cardiopulmonary rehabilitation program located in Boone.

Hopeful to return to full strength in time for the wedding he enrolled in the Appalachian Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Program (ACRP) offered at The Wellness Center in Boone. ACRP is a collaborative effort between Appalachian Regional Healthcare System and Appalachian State University’s Department of Health, Leisure and Exercise Science. The 12-week, 36-session program is designed to utilize exercise, nutrition, and clinical support to help its participants achieve their highest level of functionality while improving their quality of life.

Dick Sloop with the Appalachian Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Team.

Dick Sloop with the Appalachian Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Team.

During his first session, Sloop was greeted by the ACRP team which consists of Exercise Physiologist and Appalachian State University professor, Dr. Jeff Soukup, an on-site physician, a respiratory therapist, a registered nurse, a registered dietitian and a handful of Dr. Soukup’s graduate assistants.

“I was blown away to see how many medical staff would be taking care of me,” said Sloop. “I told them that I viewed my heart attack as a one day unfortunate event. And, since I was able to live through it, I was not going to allow it to ruin the rest of my life.”

After conducting a Metabolic Exercise Study to determine his fitness capability and anaerobic threshold, the team constructed a unique upper and lower body exercise program for their patient. Throughout the entire course, the staff closely monitored and documented his day-to-day progress as he engaged the treadmill, recumbent bike and NuStep machine.

In addition, the programs registered dietitian assessed his eating habits and recommended, when necessary, some healthy alternatives. After only a few sessions, Sloop noticed a significant improvement in his ability to perform basic exercises without complication. A feat he had been unable to accomplish just a few days prior.

“He was stellar,” said Kathleen Collins, RN, who monitored his progress from the beginning. “He always had a good attitude and he wanted to improve. Having a goal to work for (his daughter’s wedding) served as a good motivator, too.”

Perhaps no one was more pleased with his steady progress than Maggie. When August rolled around she was elated to find that her father was healthy enough to still deliver her in marriage.

“As a girl, you dream about that moment,” said Maggie with a grin. “I will always remember how hard my dad worked in rehab to be at my side on the biggest day of my life.”

For more information about the Appalachian Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Program offered in both Boone and Linville, call 828-268-9043 or visit