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‘We Were Pat’s Boys’

In the early 1980’s,  University of Tennessee head basketball coach Pat Summitt realized that the harder her Lady Vols practiced against each other, the more their injuries increased before the game clock even began. So she came up with a plan that would allow her team to practice at a high level of intensity without beating up on one another. Instead, they would practice against the best UT’s Men’s Intramural Basketball League had to offer, the Tuppers, featuring Manchester’s own Tony Clayborne, Keith Duke, and Robbie Swain, Billy Heath of Fayetteville and Ricky Smith of Shelbyville. Little did they know, their hard work and excellent play would lead to an opportunity to help the Lady Vols reach the NCAA National Championship game and to share in the making of history. For before all the National Championships, there were “Pat’s boys.”

Clayborne, Duke and Swain played together at Coffee County Central High School during the 1978-79 season. After graduating high school, Clayborne and Swain joined Heath and Smith and played basketball the next two years for Motlow State Community College. After graduating from Motlow, the four enrolled at UT and wanting to continue the sports they loved, they picked up fellow Raider Keith Duke and formed the Tuppers. As it turned out, the Tuppers were a force to be reckoned with throughout the different I-M sport leagues on campus and they had the wins prove it.

In a recent interview with CCN – Coffee County News, Clayborne, Duke, Swain and UT Lady Vol stand out player Pat Hatmaker recall those early days on the court during the 1983-84 season, playing together under legendary coach Pat Summitt.

After the Tuppers won the pre-season intramural basketball tournament, Deane Edlemen who worked with the UT Women’s Athletic program, met with them and asked if they would like to practice against the Lady Vols, saying they had the right temperament for what was needed.

“We were just so excited,” said Clayborne. “I asked if we were to go straight to the court and we were told no, first you’ve got to meet the coach. I don’t think she was going to bring us to the court until we passed the Pat Summitt test. In 1983, Pat Summitt was not yet ‘Pat’ but she was still very direct and looked you in the eye. She was intimidating in a nice way.”

When they arrived at Coach Summitt’s office, Tony remembers her saying to them, “There are three things I will demand of you or you won’t be out there. I know y’all are a little bigger, (but we weren’t that much bigger, but we were a little bigger),” he said with a laugh.

Tony Clayborne as a CHS Raider. CHS Yearbook Photo

“One, I don’t want you blocking any shots. Two, I don’t want you taking any charges and three, most of all, don’t hurt my girls,” Tony said quoting Summitt.

“To be candid, we sort of took the Lady Vols for granted going in,” said Swain, “but quickly learned to respect their physicality, effort and talent, which exceeded many of the male players we had competed against.”

The Tuppers were put to work their first day on the Stokely basketball court. At this time, the Lady Vols were playing exhibition games because the season had not yet begun and they played at Stokely because the new arena had yet to be built.

“We didn’t play games against them,” said Clayborne. “We would get with the assistant coaches when we got there and they would go over the opponent offense and then we would run that and then we would run that half-court against them, over and over and over and over. Then, we would run their defense and the Lady Vols would be on the offense.”

“Because most of us had played together in good high school and college programs, Coach Summitt appreciated that we could run any number of concise offensive and defensive schemes to help her team prepare for the game plans of upcoming opponents,” added Swain.

Robbie Swain as a CHS Raider. CHS Yearbook Photo.

“They had two teams, their starting team and their subs. And there were times they would wear us down. That is true,” said Clayborne. “But, we were in the best shape of our lives.”

“The biggest thing I noticed about Pat was she was so meticulous about every detail,” added Clayborne. They (the team) could run everything perfect for 45 seconds or a minute but one little mistake would ruin it all. Remember in those days, they didn’t have a 3 point line or a 30 second shot clock, but in one minute, one little thing could ruin it all,” he echoed.

“She (Summitt) was as demanding of hard-nosed play and perfecting of the fine details as any coach I’ve demonstrated on the court in crunch time. Many talk a good game about coaching, but the true indicator of superior coaching is displayed by the performance and teamwork of their players executing their coach’s instructions on the floor. No teams did that better than UT under Coach Summitt.”

“We got to see her wrath at the ladies almost every day,” said Duke. “And when she yelled ‘everybody on the line’ it meant that we could get a drink of water and take a break.”

Clayborne remembers a day when the team experienced the consequences of breaking team rules.

Keith Duke as a CHS Raider. CHS Yearbook Photo

“Pat said, ‘Boys, I’m not going to need you today, but you’re welcome to stay.’ So, we were curious and we stayed. She put garbage cans at the four corners of the gym and they ran until they all threw up.”

Pat Hatmaker played for the Lady Vols from 1980-1984 and she remembers when the team started practicing against the Tuppers.

“The guys really helped us tremendously with helping us to become stronger and helping us to play at a faster pace. Playing against different people each day instead of ourselves made a big improvement also,” said Hatmaker.

Coach Summitt expected the Tuppers to give their best effort for them to truly help her team.

“Trust me, Pat treated the practice guys just like she did her players and held them to the same standards so we always had really good practice guys on the floor who were really dedicated to helping us get better,” added Hatmaker. “And, we really appreciated the effort and hard work they put in to helping us succeed.”

Pat Hatmaker was a team leader and stand out player for the Lady Vols. She helped lead the team to the NCAA National Championship Finals. UT Athletics Photo

Duke remembers playing against Hatmaker and what a talented player and asset she was to the team.

“She worked alongside Lea Henry at guard in 1982-83 (her junior year) and then she basically ran the team in 83-84 when the Lady Vols went all the way to the championship game,” said Duke. “I remember how confident she was at directing and setting the offense. She was great at getting the ball to the scorers like Mary O’ (Ostrowski) and Tanya Haave. She was a steady leader for a great team her senior year.”

The Tuppers matched up by size when deciding who guarded whom. Tony was matched with Mary Ostrowski, one of the best players on the team.

“Why I was guarding her I don’t know. I was the worst defense player on our intramural team,” said Clayborne.

The practices were demanding and although injuries were avoided at all cost, at that level of intense play, unexpected things happen.

“I remember one practice where the team star, Mary Ostrowski, was knocked down hard by one of us practice guys on a rebound and the place got quiet while she laid there in pain,” said Duke. “I remember thinking, ‘what are we going to do if we broke her hip?’. Thankfully, Mary was fine.”

Asking Hatmaker if she remembered that tense time she replied, “I saw it myself. But that’s part of it and it made us tougher. So, when we played against women, we were ready for anything. We all got knocked down pretty hard,” she replied laughingly. “Even the guys at times.”

“When you play against stronger, bigger guys, you feel like you can play better against anybody. Because, you’re so much better prepared.”

Mary Ostrowski was instrumental in helping to lead the Lady Vols to the NCAA National Championship Finals. UT Athletics Photo

Coach Summitt treated the Tuppers as though they were part of her team. When the Lady Vols played in the Stokely Center, the Tuppers were seated right behind the bench where they could hear what was being said in the huddle and share in the excitement of the games.

“You know what, going over there to practices, I guess was some of the most memorable times I had at UT. I enjoyed heading over there, knowing that we were going to get beat up knowing that we couldn’t block shots, we couldn’t take charges, and we couldn’t hurt her girls, but obviously she didn’t give that same speech to them,” said Clayborne with a smile. “We worked them hard. We would steal balls from them if we could, and we did anything that we could that didn’t go against Pat’s rules. It was some of the best times, knowing that we were going to practice with the Lady Vols.”

The Lady Vols made it to the National Championship game that season but were defeated by University of Southern California 72-61 as USC had Cheryl Miller leading the Lady Trojans to their second straight championship.

“It was great to play a part in one of Pat’s first Final 4 teams,” said Duke.

“Pat tried to get us to go with them to the Final 4, but the school wouldn’t allow it due to liability, and I couldn’t afford to go to Southern California,” said Clayborne.

The 1983-84 Tennessee Lady Vols Basketball Team. Pictured from front left are Amy Gamble, Shelia Collins, Lisa Webb, Pat Hatmaker, Sonya Cannon, Shelly Sexton, Kristie Snyder and Pam Marr. Pictured from back left are Linda Ray, Paula Towns, Cheryl Littlejohn, Tanya Haave, Mary Ostrowski, Lynne Collins and Valerie Freeman. UT Athletics Photo

Not only did the Tuppers enjoy the Lady Vols winning season, all their hard work also contributed to them winning the UT overall I-M title and Clayborne being named the men’s Most Valuable Player of the Year in I-M athletics.

With a winning season behind her, Summitt spent the summer coaching the USA Women’s Basketball Team in the 1984 Summer Olympics including Lady Vol 1983 graduates Lea Henry and Cindy Noble. Henry and Noble had spent time on the practice squad trying to keep their skills fresh and stay in shape in preparation for the Olympic Games. Coach Summitt and her team did not disappoint as they won the gold medal that summer.

Though Duke’s Tupper days were over when he graduated in the spring of 1984, he still had occasion to see Summitt.

“I was blessed to be in Los Angeles in the summer of 1984 on a Campus Crusade for Christ summer project and I attended a couple of the Team USA women’s games and was able to reconnect with both Cindy and Lea after one of their easy victories early in the tournament,” said Duke. “I saw Pat Summitt several times over the years and would remind her of those early practice squads. She was always so gracious and nice to me.”

Clayborne and the rest of the Tuppers were asked to stay on for the upcoming 1984-85 season.

“She kept us the second year so we must have done pretty good,” said Clayborne. “She didn’t go out and find another team while we were there,” he said with a smile. “It was fun. We had a blast!”

Clayborne graduated in 1985 and stopped by Coach Summitt’s office to say good-bye before leaving.

“She was so kind and she said if there was ever anything she could do for me to let her know and if there was anything she could ever do or influence, to let her know.”

CHS Lady Raider Basketball Team pictured with UT Coach Pat Summitt. Photo by Gail Clayborne

Clayborne echoes Duke’s sentiment on the graciousness of Summitt. He especially remembers the day he was able to introduce his wife, daughter and the rest of the CHS Lady Raider Basketball Team to Summitt when they attended the UT vs Stanford game in December of 2010.

“Ginny’s basketball team at the high school was going to watch UT play Stanford. Over the Christmas holidays, I called up (UT) and tried to get a hold of Pat. Of course, 30 years later, she’s not going to remember me. I finally got to talk with somebody and she was really nice. I told her I was one of Pat’s boys back then. She said for me to bring the girls to the court and the Lady Vols will be having a shoot around before the game and they can watch. The girls were happy with that, so we did. While we were there, the lady came up and took the girls and gave them a tour of the locker room. All the team pictures were on the walls from when they first started. The National Championship team picture there stays up until another team wins the championship. Then we went back to our seats. We didn’t see Pat anywhere. Later, my wife Gail and I were heading to the restrooms and there comes Pat walking toward us. I smiled and told her ‘I was one of your boys way back then’. I don’t know if she remembered me but she was nice. I told her we had our basketball team and they would love to meet her. She said after the game if I would get the team together, she would take a picture with them if she had time, and she did.”

‘Pat’s boys’ have many fond memories of the time she made them part of her Lady Vol family; lasting memories they will never forget of the team, practices, games, coaching staff and of everything that made Coach Summitt “Pat”.

“Anybody that Pat Summitt touched, she had an impact on you,” said Clayborne. “We spent a lot of time with her in practice, but I think you could have gotten the same feeling even if you had just been with her one day. You would have had the same love and respect for her, even after just being with her one day.”

University of Tennessee head basketball coach Pat Summitt often said her players were her family. UT Athletics Photo

“It wasn’t just a job; it was my life, my home, and my family, and the players were the second-deepest love of my life.” Pat Summitt, Sum It Up: 1,098 Victories, a Couple of Irrelevant Losses and a Life in Perspective.

April 1, 2017 CCN Article by Rebekah Hurst, Special thanks to Eric Trainer, Associate Director of UT Athletics Media Relations for his assistance with the article. Photos courtesy UT Athletics, CHS Yearbook and Gail Clayborne – Reposted with permission







Traveling 48 States in 3 Weeks on a Budget: Jared Chandler’s Cross County Adventure

Jared Chandler found some unexpected time on his hands this summer so he set out to accomplish an amazing task, driving to every capital in the lower 48 states in just three weeks, on a limited budget and alone. Thomas Jefferson had said, “One travels more usefully alone, because he reflects more.” Perhaps that can be said for this cross country journey as well. Read more…

Danielle and Whitney Conquer More than Trail Miles on their Roadtrip Out West

Danielle Hall and her friend, Whitney Yeldell, had for themselves quite the adventure this past summer when after months of planning, they headed west on a three-week roadtrip to see the incredible sights of six of our National Parks as well as other National Landmarks and beautiful landscapes found along their itinerary.  The Coffee County Central High School Class of 2006 graduate and daughter of DJ and Teresa Hall of Manchester had taken a break from her public relations career in Nashville to realize a dream that many only fantasize about.

Bryce 2

Whitney and Danielle Hall hike through Bryce Canyon National Park located in southwestern Utah while on their three-week western adventure. Photo provided by Danielle Hall

President Theodore Roosevelt, who is well known of his passion of the great outdoors, once said, “The beauty and charm of the wilderness are his for the asking, for the edges of the wilderness lie close beside the beaten roads of the present travel.” Danielle and Whitney certainly found this to be true as they traveled over 5,200 road miles and hiked more than 118 trail miles through magnificent mountains and colorful terrain to see and experience firsthand the wonders and beauty of our country’s western wilderness. Their trip turned out to be so much more than expected as their journey allowed them to see not only parts of the country unknown to them, but to discover from within their strengths that allowed them to reach new heights, and endure and overcome challenges to achieve all they had set out to accomplish.

The two began their trek in Nashville, stopping in the Badlands and Mount Rushmore on their way west before visiting Glacier, Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Bryce Canyon, Zion and the Grand Canyon.

Mt. Rushmore

Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a sculpture carved into the granite face of Mount Rushmore, a batholith in the Black Hills in Keystone, South Dakota, United States. Photo provided by Danielle Hall

In a recent interview with Coffee County News, Danielle speaks in depth about her trip, from the planning stages to the experiences and then reflection about life lessons learned through her travels.

CCN: What inspired you to do this trip and how did you plan for your journey?

Danielle: We actually saw an article last fall about how there were several national parks all along the same highway. We talked about it some, but I never dreamed it would become a reality so quickly. Thankfully, I’ve backpacked a good bit with my brother and sister-in-law (Brandan and Kate Hall), so I had most of the gear already and felt I at least sort-of knew what we were signing up for. But the trip really exceeded all expectations!

We started planning in early 2017, and I’m a huge planner by nature, so it took a good bit of time to plan every detail. We started by mapping out our route, and then got together five or so weekends to research and plan what we wanted to do in each park. We mostly camped in the parks, but also wanted a shower and real bed every three to four days, so we needed to book both the campsites and airBNBs/hotels in advance. We asked friends who had visited the parks before for their advice because we didn’t just want to do the most well-known trails in each park.

Tetons 2

The peaks of the Teton Range stand nearly 7,000 feet above the valley floor and make one of the boldest geologic statements in the Rockies. Pictured hiking is Danielle Hall. Photo provided by Danielle Hall

Once we had our hikes, camping and other accommodations booked, we knew we also needed at least one backpacking trip before our three-week journey to be sure we had all the gear we needed. Whitney had never been backpacking before, so we spent a weekend in Joyce Kilmer National Park backpacking and camping about a month before our trip. We were so thankful we did – we were able to make gear adjustments that were necessary for our trip.

Zion_The Narrow

The Narrows is the narrowest section of Zion Canyon. This gorge, with walls a thousand feet tall and the river sometimes twenty to thirty feet wide, is one of the most popular areas in Zion National Park, Utah’s first National Park. Danielle Hall is pictured in the midst of The Narrows. Photo provided by Danielle Hall

CCN: What were some of your most rewarding experiences?

Danielle: This is a tough one to answer because there were SO MANY rewarding things about this trip. Just figuring out each day as we went was a cool reality – it was awesome to wake up to a new adventure each day.

My favorite experience from the trip was hiking The Narrows in Zion. It’s a huge canyon with a river running through it, and you can hike 5 miles in from the bottom up without a permit. We got up early and had the canyon mostly to ourselves – it was so quiet and peaceful.

Grand Canyon_North Rim

The North Rim offers a serene and enthralling Grand Canyon experience. It is more remote and less developed than the South Rim, and so it attracts far fewer tourists. Many people think its viewpoints are the most spectacular, since they are located at a higher elevation. Pictured is Danielle, amazed at the view. Photo provided by Danielle Hall

Obviously, the Grand Canyon was rewarding – it was also our last stop, and we completely changed our plans once we got down in the canyon. We had planned to only hike trails on the North Rim but ended up hiking rim-to-rim. Our last day we had to wake up at 1:30 a.m. to pack up and hit the trail by 2 a.m. so we could catch an 8 a.m. shuttle back to our car. Hiking out of the canyon just as the sun was rising was an unforgettable feeling. We were both crying – just overwhelmed with so many emotions and a sense of accomplishment.

Grand Canyon_South Rim

The South Rim is the most visited rim at the Grand Canyon. Danielle and Whitney are pictured at a scenic view site at the end of their rim-to-rim hike. Of the Grand Canyon, Theodore Roosevelt once said “In the Grand Canyon, Arizona has a natural wonder which is in kind absolutely unparalleled throughout the rest of the world. I want to ask you to keep this great wonder of nature as it now is. I hope you will not have a building of any kind, not a summer cottage, a hotel or anything else, to mar the wonderful grandeur, the sublimity, the great loneliness and beauty of the canyon. Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it.” Photo provided by Danielle Hall

We also met some really cool people along the way, from other hikers to rock climbers to rangers in several of the parks who took the time to really chat with us.

This trip made me so, so incredibly thankful for my health and the ability to hit the trails day after day to see breathtaking views. It was rewarding to keep getting up and pushing your body to put in more miles.

CCN: What were some of the challenges you had to overcome?

Danielle: While we had a very detailed plan of what our trip would look like, we definitely had to be flexible. Some of the trails we’d planned to hike were closed because of snow (in Glacier) or other reasons (problems with no trail maintenance in Bryce Canyon’s backcountry), so we had to adjust some of that as we went. Campsites can be pretty difficult to secure if you don’t already have reservations, so we had a lot of early mornings (4:30 a.m. a few times!) to get in line to book a campsite for the following night.

We were fortunate that we had mostly fantastic weather, but honestly the heat and elevation changes were a bit of a challenge. In several of the parks, it was 100+ degrees during the day. Thankfully, it was dry heat, but we still had to be sure we were listening to our bodies and not only drinking enough water, but also enough electrolytes. Once we got to the parks where the heat was so high, we hiked early in the morning or early evening and took a break mid-day. The mid-day naps were really nice! We both had a constant minor headache every day for the last week or so of the trip, and we were told it was likely from the elevation. We also got caught on a mountain ridge in the middle of a thunder and lightning storm in Bryce Canyon National Park and we were less than halfway in to an 8-mile hike. We hiked fast and even ran part of the trail, and ended up hiking the eight miles in three hours to get out of the weather.

Bryce 5

Bryce Canyon National Park is located in southwestern Utah. Photo provided by Danielle Hall

Starting fires was a challenge. Even with fire starters and matches, there were a few nights we ate only semi-warm hotdogs. But anything tastes good after a long day of hiking!

Not showering for a few days after hiking and sweating was more of an inconvenience than a challenge, but we jumped in almost every body of water we saw! Some of the lakes we jumped in took your breath away because they were so cold, but it was refreshing.

One of Whitney’s knees also started really hurting her about halfway through our trip. She bought a knee brace, but this meant slower hiking in the last few parks, particularly if we were hiking downhill. Some mornings this meant we had to start our hikes even earlier to beat the mid-day heat.

Glacier_Iceburg Lake

Whitney and Danielle are pictured at Glacier Iceburg Lake, known as being one of the most rewarding hikes in all of Glacier. Photo provided by Danielle Hall

CCN: What advice would you give others who would like to do a similar trip?

Danielle: Plan ahead for the experiences you don’t want to miss and book your campsites as early as you can! We knew in Glacier we REALLY wanted to camp overnight at Cracker Lake, but there are only three campsites there, and only two of those are reservable (the other is first-come, first-served). We sent in our application for the backcountry site the very first day you could (more than 3 months before our trip) and were lucky enough to get a spot!

Glacier_cracker lake campsite

Pictured is Danielle and Whitney’s Glacier Cracker Lake campsite. They were fortunate to get a campsite at Cracker Lake by planning ahead and sending in their application for the backcountry site more than three months before their trip. Photo provided by Danielle Hall

Be flexible. Things will change, especially when you’re dealing with Mother Nature every day.

Just pack your things and go do it! Get outside and enjoy nature…the rest will work itself out. If I’m being honest, when we finally got right outside of Glacier (after three days of driving), I was incredibly nervous. I thought maybe what we were about to do was a little outrageous – it made me particularly nervous to have bear spray that I’d never used before and to think about flash floods and the other weather we may face. But it all ended up being so easy and so worth it! It’s smart to prepare for your trip, but there’s really no way to really plan for every detail.

Glacier Danielle Hall

Danielle is pictured hiking in the beauty of Glacier National Park, located in Montana. The park was established on May 11, 1910, to preserve and protect the natural and cultural resources for future generations. Photo provided by Danielle Hall

One final piece of advice: we should all make an effort to take care of our earth in every way possible so that those who come after us can enjoy it in the same way get to:

“If future generations are to remember us more with gratitude than with sorrow, we must achieve more than just the miracle of technology. We must also leave them a glimpse of the world as God really made it, not just as it looked when we got through with it.” – President Lyndon B. Johnson

Yellowstone 2, Danielle Hall pic

Yellowstone National Park is a national park located in the U.S. states of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. It was established by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant on March 1, 1872. Photo provided by Danielle Hall

July 21, 2017 CCN article by Rebekah Hurst, Photos provided by Danielle Hall, reposted with permission


Our Heroes, Our Patriots

The masses try and flee the terror that besieges them as flood waters rise in Texas while others escape the mighty flames burning out of control throughout the west. In Florida, many evacuate so as to be removed from the rage of the massive Irma threatening to destroy all who lay in her path of destruction, and yet, the patriots rush in. Read more…

Living Through a Traumatic Brain Injury: Macie Norrod’s Story

It was a Wednesday like many others when Macie Norrod was at her high school talking with friends when she passed out while walking down a flight of stairs, falling headfirst over 15 steps. April 8, 2015 was the beginning of a journey into discovery as to what can happen to a person when they experience a concussion and/or a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and find themselves for a time with more questions than answers, more frustration than hope.

According to the Center for Disease Control, concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury—or TBI—caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or by a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth. This sudden movement can cause the brain to bounce around or twist in the skull, creating chemical changes in the brain and sometimes stretching and damaging brain cells. Medical providers may describe a concussion as a “mild” brain injury because concussions are usually not life-threatening. Even so, the effects of a concussion can be serious. In 2012, an estimated 329,290 children (age 19 or younger) were treated in United States emergency departments for sports and recreation-related injuries that included a diagnosis of concussion or TBI.

In 2013, falls were the leading cause of TBI and accounted for 47 percent of all TBI-related emergency department visits, hospitalizations, and deaths in the United States. Macie has become a statistic and her road to recovery has been long, discouraging, frustrating and emotionally exhausting for her and her family. But through it all, she preserves exclaiming, “I like to say that I didn’t choose to be a patient, but I did choose to be a survivor.”

Gina Norrod, left, and her daughter Macie have been on a medical journey for over two years searching for the correct diagnosis and treatment for Macie’s injury after a fall down her high school stairs April 8, 2015. Photo provided

The daughter of Kevin and Gina Norrod of Knoxville, Tenn., Macie was an incredibly outgoing young lady before her fall. She was a cheerleader and very active in her school, church and community. In a recent interview with Coffee County News – CCN, Macie and Gina describe the incredible process they went through for Macie to receive the correct diagnosis and the treatment that followed and continues still. They share their story in the hopes that it may someday help others who find themselves in a similar situation.

CCN: What caused Macie to pass out?

Macie: Doctors are still very unsure. At times, they have wondered if it could have been my heart rate and blood pressure, but no definite diagnosis has been given.

CCN: What happened afterward?

Macie: Immediately after I fell, I thought I was fine besides the scuffed up knees and embarrassment, of course. I texted my mom and told her, and she came to pick me up from school, and we proceeded to have a normal night. I went to my brother’s baseball game, and sat through two games without a problem. My mom made me a doctor’s appointment for that Friday.

Gina: Macie DID NOT have any bruising or pain on her head. Her legs and feet were bruised. I wasn’t really concerned the day it happened. I called the doctor the following day. On Friday, with Macie fasting, she had a lot of blood work completed, and had her first, of many, doctor appointments. During this appointment, Macie had an EKG and weighed 104 pounds. The doctor was concerned with Macie passing out more than anything. She had to wear a 48 hour heart monitor. We had to go buy a cordless home phone in order for her to be able to call in through the heart monitor for results every day. Macie`s doctor thought that her blood sugar may have been low, but she had drank a water bottle, ate cheese cubes, a cutie, and goldfish throughout the morning. So the low blood sugar was not the case.

All tests performed that day came back with normal results.

By Saturday, Symptoms Manifested Throughout Macie’s Body

The following Saturday morning Macie began having undeniable symptoms that something was wrong.

Macie: I was unable to get out of bed on my own, I could hardly walk, and I had to be carried up the stairs because my body was too weak to hardly move. I became both mentally and physically fatigue. I felt brain dead. I was constantly confused, tired, and unable to finish my sentences, or think for the most part. My mom got me back into the doctor first thing on Monday, and the doctor ordered a CAT scan for the following day.

Gina: Before Macie was diagnosed with the concussion, we had warnings (that I am able to see now). Macie and I got in a fight at Kroger over her miscounting bananas. It took her three times to get it correct. That same day she read a banner wrong. When we asked her to count fingers it took her two times to get it correctly. Macie also would not be able to get her sentences completed. It was like she was tonged tied. It happened when ordering food, answering questions at the doctor, and at home in general.

Macie: My scan came back normal (which was a blessing), but we were getting really upset that we couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. At that time, it hadn’t even been a week after my accident, and we had no idea what we were fixing to go through.

Gina: Before Macie`s concussion was diagnosed, the doctor thought it could be an inner ear/ vertigo problem. She went to a specialist for this. After this was negative, and the CT scan came back negative, Macie was diagnosed with the concussion.

CCN: How many doctors did you see and what were they telling you?

Macie: Besides my regular health doctor, the first doctor I went to (Dr. Amber Luhn) was a Concussion Specialist at Knoxville Orthopedics (KOC). She referred me to a Cardiologist at Children`s Hospital. He ordered another EKG and an echocardiogram. While for the most part everything seemed normal, we were still very confused as to why I passed out. The next new doctor I saw was a Neurologist at Children`s Hospital. He proceeded to tell us that my problem was nothing due to a neurological problem. He ordered an EEG that once again, came back normal. For the next eight months, I continued to see Dr. Luhn at KOC. She told me for a few months that my injury was not healing because of the “anxiety and depression I had”. I know myself better than anyone, and I knew that I was sick. I was losing hope.

Seeking Help from Vanderbilt

Macie: Finally my mom ask to have me sent to the Children`s Hospital at Vanderbilt. There I saw a Neurologist. The Neurologist at Vanderbilt gave me hope. She told me that she had not seen very many cases similar to mine, but the ones that she had seen, began disappearing at the one-year mark. She sent me to a Sports Neurosurgeon Psychologist. He proceeded to tell me everything that my Concussion Specialist had been telling me. That “everything is due to anxiety and depression, and you are no longer sick with a concussion. You should resume school this Monday.”

Gina: I was so disappointed in him. He said we were blaming every little thing on the concussion (ex. headaches, sleep patterns, dizziness, head fog, fatigue). There was absolutely no way Macie could attend school at that time, but according to the doctor, she should get back to school the following week.

Frustration Grows With Mixed Diagnosis’s

Macie: As my mom, grandma, and I stormed out of his office, I began to start second guessing myself. I started to wonder if everything they have been saying is true. “Am I really making this up? Is all of this my fault?” I wondered. I also saw a Pediatric Cardiologist in Kentucky that proceeded to repeat everything my other doctors were saying. From there, I went to see several therapists whom all seemed to think the doctors are crazy because according to them, I do have “some anxiety from all of this (because who wouldn’t?), but no signs of depression.”

The Set Back

During May and June of 2015 Macie began to get better. Although she wasn’t back to normal cognitively and physically, she was healing. June of 2015, she was able to go with her church youth group to South Dakota on a mission trip and by July, she had been released for light exercise. But what she had hoped was a turn for the better ended up being a turn for the worse.

Macie: July 15, I went for a jog mid-day and I blacked out when I got back home and from then on, it has been a rollercoaster. I began to not be able to sleep at all through the night. I went night after night without being able to close my eyes at all. It wasn’t until October when I developed an ulcer in my tummy that caused me to constantly be nauseous. I lost 7 pounds in 20 days. I became very weak. By December of 2015, I got down to my all-time low, weighing 89 pounds. Starting out weighing 104 pounds, my mom and grandma were really concerned. The majority of the weight that was lost, was muscle.

The Diagnosis

In October, Gina and Macie met with Dr. Luhn again for further examination and consultation.

Gina: Dr. Luhn said that she had helped Macie as much as possible. She got Macie on Patricia Neal`s (Patricial Neal Rehab Center) waiting list for a neuropsych exam with Dr. Klitzke. Macie did not get an appointment until March 2016 because of the long waiting list. I thought Dr. Luhn was crazy because I did not know what a neuropsych exam was, but thank goodness she put us on the waiting list. She also could not get Macie into Dr. Naramore, a psychiatrist, until February 2016. There again, I thought she was crazy. I did not understand exactly what a psychiatrist did. From October of 2015 to March 2016, I really felt like Macie had fallen through the crack until we were finally able to see Dr. Klitzke. If Macie had of been able to see either Dr. Klitzke or Dr. Naramore in October 2015, I think present day would be extremely different.

Gina: In the 9 hour test with Dr. Klitzke, he was able to observe Macie really well. During those nine hours, Dr. Klitzke saw Macie engage in the Q&A, she fell asleep, had panic attacks, and zoned out. As a parent, I was educated greatly in terminology and sleeping information and how it affects the brain. How powerful sleep is to your brain should really be taught in health class at school. Sleep is SO important, and Macie herself will be the first to tell you that you cannot function without sleep. She went almost a full year with sleeping maybe 2-3 hours a night (with no naps). Anytime Dr. Klitzke said a word that I was not clear on, I would interrupt him and ask. I am so glad I did that. Macie and I had not realized she had panic attacks hourly until the visit.

Macie: Dr. Klitske diagnosed me with the following: 1.) post concussive syndrome, 2.) mild neurocognitive disorder, 3.) memory disorder, 4.) insomnia, and 5.) panic disorder. All of these were strictly due from my concussion.

Treatment and Prognosis

CCN: What was the treatment plan and how long were you treated?

Macie: From the day I was diagnosed in March of 2016, our plan was to get my sleep fixed and to see some sleep doctors. The doctor said that as soon as my sleep was fixed, I would start healing cognitively. As of right now, my sleep schedule at night is normal. I am still under medication nightly for that, but with meds, it is normal. As for the treatment ending, that will unfortunately never stop. My doctor just told me a few months ago, that at this point I may not be getting any better cognitively and that I will have to learn to work around my daily struggles.

CCN: What is the doctor’s prognosis?

Macie: I will never be fully recovered. Unfortunately with a brain injury like mine, things are permanent, but compared to how I have been at times, I’ve improved greatly. I like to say that I didn’t choose to be a patient, but I did choose to be a survivor. I have to work so hard to continue to survive each day.

CCN: How are you now?

Macie: Currently my physical strength is back! I am now able to eat without getting nauseous, and I have gained my weight back.

CCN: What life changes have occurred since the accident?

Gina: I had to be careful for Macie to not get depressed. Dr. Luhn said that social media and getting Macie out of the house was a MUST to prevent depression. Not being around friends, social media was very important in keeping Macie connected socially.

Macie: My whole life has changed completely. I have had to get used to my new normal. Not being able to be with my friends at school on a regular basis has probably been my biggest struggle. I`ve struggled with “friends” questioning if I am really sick. Since I look normal on the outside, people assume I’m normal on the inside. People often make fun of me for things that I can`t control due to my disorders. I never thought that going to church would do harm to my body. I can barely sit through a service without having a panic attack, or feeling like my head is going to explode. Going to the doctor weekly, has definitely been different for me. I used to be so scared to go to the doctor, and now it feels like my second home. There have been so many life changes that I could never state them all. My brain injury doesn’t define who I am, it is just a part of me.

Macie’s New Normal

It’s been over two years now since Macie’s fall down the high school stairs. She is still under a doctor’s supervision and continues to take several daily medications as part of her treatment. But on the positive side, she has been released from her Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center counseling sessions. As for school, until recently Macie was able to only attend one class at school and stay about 20 minutes, which she considered a blessing. The rest of the time, she was on homebound. Macie will soon begin her senior year and her schedule at this time is for her to attend school for one regular class and one elective class. She will have a homebound teacher for her other two classes. In the past few weeks, Macie has also started working some at a law firm and she says, “It is going absolutely awesome!”

Moving Forward with a Positive Attitude

CCN: What have you learned from this life changing event?

Macie: I have learned so much over the past two years. I have learned to not take the little things so seriously, to stay positive through anything life throws at you, and to never lose your faith. This might sound weird, but I am thankful for my brain injury. I would not be the person I am today without it. I try to inspire people every day that even in the lowest times of your life, to not give up. In January, when my life had hit an all-time low, I signed with a modeling and acting manager. Since then, I have signed with one state agent, and one national agency. This journey has really showed me that just because God closes off a few parts of your life, that doesn’t mean He doesn’t have something even greater planned for you.

CCN: What role has your faith played through all of this?

Macie: I have talked to God so much through this time. He has literally been the only person that can actually understand what I`m going through. He`s blessed me in so many aspects.

A Parent’s Advice

CCN: Gina, what would you have done differently from when you first got Macie’s text?

Gina: I would have told the school office when I signed her out early that day what had happened. I would have had Macie go straight to sleep in a dark room with no phone, (having learned that when someone sustains a blow to the head, the best way to recover safely and more quickly is to shut your brain off and have no stimulation, such as light, conversation, TV, etc.) I would have thought to ask for definitions for certain medical terminology. I would have also researched more for support groups. I really felt totally alone. I would have also researched more cases similar to Macie’s.

CCN: What advice would you give parents who may find themselves in a similar situation.

Gina: Parents, do not ignore, if in doubt go to the doctor even without soreness and bruising to the head. Concussions are not visible. Listen to the doctor with an open mind. Ask any terminology you are not clear on. If you have doubts with your doctor, keep searching. Also, ask for doctor referrals. After Knoxville, we went to Vanderbilt to a Children’s Neurologist and Sports Neuropsychologist. From there, we went to Kentucky to another cardiologist. Listen to your instinct. Even though we had multiple doctors begin to say that Macie`s continued problem was depression and anxiety, I knew she had something wrong.

Macie Norrod shares her story of life with a traumatic brain injury in the hope that she may be an encouragement to others. Photo provided

Macie Shares Her Story

Though Macie still has a long way to go in her recovery and management of her TBI, she has chosen to share her story in the hope that she may be an encouragement to others. She has recently begun public speaking and was invited to speak at a Knoxville hospital and addressed Knox County teachers during their in-service as well. For anyone who has questions for Macie about her journey with TBI, she welcomes your emails. She can be contacted at

At some time during the past two years, Macie has exhibited all of the following signs and symptoms that the Center for Disease Control says are possible indictors of a concussion.

Concussion Signs Observed

Can’t recall events prior to or after a hit or fall.
Appears dazed or stunned.
Forgets an instruction, is confused about an assignment or position, or is unsure of the game, score, or opponent.
Moves clumsily.
Answers questions slowly.
Loses consciousness (even briefly).
Shows mood, behavior, or personality changes.

Concussion Symptoms Reported

Headache or “pressure” in head.
Nausea or vomiting.
Balance problems or dizziness, or double or blurry vision.
Bothered by light or noise.
Feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy, or groggy.
Confusion, or concentration or memory problems.
Just not “feeling right,” or “feeling down”.
The CDC also states that, “Signs and symptoms generally show up soon after the injury. However, you may not know how serious the injury is at first and some symptoms may not show up for hours or days. For example, in the first few minutes your child or teen might be a little confused or a bit dazed, but an hour later your child might not be able to remember how he or she got hurt. You should continue to check for signs of concussion right after the injury and a few days after the injury. If your child or teen’s concussion signs or symptoms get worse, you should take him or her to the emergency department right away.”

For more information on concussions or traumatic brain injury (TBI) visit the Center for Disease Control website, section Heads Up at or visit the Sports Concussion Institute website with resources for athletes, coaches, parents and teachers at

July 21, 2017 CCN Article by Rebekah Hurst, Photos provided by Macie Norrod, reposted with permission


Love, Laughter and Tears in the Terminal

I’ve always enjoyed people watching in airports. I often wonder where they’re flying to or from and I try to guess by the clothes they’re wearing or their carry-ons. It’s easy to spot the ones coming from warm climates, their skin aglow and tan. Spending time in the Nashville International Airport (BNA) often affords sightings of musicians and entertainers, some famous and some not, usually the guitars they carry are a sure give away that they will be playing music somewhere while they’re in town. It’s also reassuring to find that though I have notably little fashion sense, it does appear I have a little more than some I’ve seen traversing the terminals, though it’s just my opinion and quite possibly others would disagree. Read more…

So thankful for this man of mine

David and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary Aug. 10. Thirty years. Sometimes it’s hard to image it’s been that long and sometimes it feels like yesterday I was walking down the aisle. I am so thankful for David. I am so thankful that we hung in there together, we’ll actually, I’m thankful that he hung in there with me. Often times I say that my parents raised me for the first 23 years and David’s been raising me ever since. I’m only half joking.

David and I met in Sunday School soon after I had graduated from Ole Miss. He being a Mississippi State man offered both of us occasions for playful insults to make their way into conversations. He proposed two months later. My engagement ring he mischievously hid under a State ball cap. If I hadn’t been willing to touch the thing, (it ranks down there with that awful, clanking cow bell), I may have never seen my sparkling ring and that twinkle in his eye as well.

God knew what I needed when he placed David in my life. I on the other hand, didn’t have a clue what I needed; only what I wanted. God knew I had grown shallow, looking for Mr. Right from outside appearances; someone tall (so I could wear high heels), handsome, athletic, smart and a church going man. I did get all those things in David, but also, so much more. His outward appearance got me interested in knowing him for who he really was. Although I had only known him a short amount of time, I knew he was a good man by the way he treated me and others. Kindness, generosity and unconditional love rank very high with me. And in God’s infinite wisdom, He caused David to fall in love and marry me before he had time to change his mind. We married just seven months after that first Sunday introduction.  And then, I saw in David what God see’s in him; and it wasn’t just a man who knew how to sit on the church pew and say the right things. God knew David’s heart and David knew God well, they both do still.

Though together we went to church, we approached our relationship with God differently. I went because I knew I should as someone who was a believer, who knew about Jesus.  But David, he knew Jesus and His love, and he demonstrated that love to me. I couldn’t have asked for anyone better to be my husband and the father of my daughters, Allison and Katelyn. What a difference it has made in our lives for David to be the spiritual head of our household these 30 years, a responsibility he takes seriously, knowing it is the Lord’s Will.  He prays for us, speaks blessings and God’s Word over us, leads us as we seek the Lord’s guidance in decisions, security and provision, and he loves unconditionally, always.

He’s also a lot of fun and I love this journey we are on together; that God of ours, He always has the best plans. And now that we’ve got this marriage thing figured out, for the most part anyway, I’m looking forward to the next 70 years with this man of mine. Oh, how I do love him so.

“For whenever two or more of you are gathered in His name, there is love, there is love.” The Wedding Song, performed in an evening, candlelit wedding ceremony, thirty years ago.

Why are we surprised? Who is your kid’s role model?

Today I watched my first episode of a certain famous family reality TV show whose personalities are famous now for being famous, and actually, I thought what a total waste of my time. But then I realized it has given me some valuable insight into why many school teens, and possibly younger, talk and act the way they do. Both scenarios are a poor reflection of our society to say the least, especially if this is what we find entertaining.

Personally, I found it shocking that grown children cuss their mother, using the f word even. And if disrespect and dishonor shown to her wasn’t bad enough, they do it for the whole world to see. What are we teaching our children if our television networks deem this reality show and others like it, quality TV? What message are we sending our children if we allow them to watch it, or if we allow them to watch it without explaining to them that this is not God’s best for His children.

From God’s Word we know that living a totally self-consumed life is not the life for which we were created. We know that we are to honor our mother and father and to love our neighbors as ourselves. We know that with our many blessings we are to be a blessing to those in need, and not just during the holiday season. We know that for those much has been given, much is expected.

If young people today are allowed to be deceived into thinking that this family and others like them on TV are the example they are to follow then there is no doubt that our society is sinking farther into the pit of destruction. Parents need to be aware as to what their children are watching and the possible effect it can have on them and their view of the world.

And to this family and others like them on TV, think of the wonderful opportunity they have been given to have a positive effect on their viewers and thus, the world. What if they realized the opportunity they have to set an example of living lives that honor God and that of blessing others through what has been given to them. And what if the world would then want to be like them?

Choosing to make a difference

     Make a Difference Day is a great idea. Sponsored by USA WEEKEND in partnership with Points of Light and Newman’s Own, the very idea of Make a Difference Day has indeed prompted people of all ages to reach out to those in need in their communities and across America. For the past 23 years, the annual event has encouraged people to not only be aware of the hardships of others but has also encouraged individuals to be creative in pulling people together to help meet those needs.

     In a special April 4th, 2014 USA WEEKEND issue, many of the 2013 honorees were recognized for their efforts. Proving that age does not limit one’s ability to accomplish amazing things Jessica Collins, now 14, is featured for her ministry that began after being inspired at age 10 by a scene in The Blind Side. What follows is quoted from the USA WEEKEND feature article, Making a Difference.

     “That year, for Christmas, instead of doing a Salvation Army angel, I wanted to help a child get a bed,” Jessica says. She brokered a deal with a local furniture store to get beds at cost and started raising money. Four years later, her foundation, A Place to Sleep, has become an official ministry of the First Presbyterian Church and is an annual participant in Make a Difference Day. This past year, 85 volunteers made quilts and blankets, tie-dyed pillow cases, donated $2,000 for supplies and delivered 27 beds to kids in need.”

     As incredible as that sounds, the number of those she has helped through her efforts is actually much higher. In the past four years, Jessica has produced beds for 349 children in Shelby County, Ky. Clearly, she did not allow her age to limit her ability in having a positive impact on the lives of so many.

     What if elementary age children across the earth learned by example from the mentors in their lives that we each have an opportunity, if not duty, to be charitable and to do what we can to help others?  What if they truly understood that it is, in fact, better to give than receive and that any act of kindness regardless of how large or small, has a major impact in helping to ease the suffering of someone else? And what if we each did this for one another? As the song says, “What a wonderful world this would be.”

     The fourth Saturday every October, all people, young and old alike, organizations and even cities are invited to participate in Make a Difference Day. Yearly, 10 National Honorees and three City Awardees are each bestowed $10,000 to be given to their favorite charity. Cleveland, Tennessee, one of the 2013 award winners, united 800 volunteers in its goal of making a difference in the Cleveland community.  Volunteers worked on dozens of activities, including having a YMCA job fair where 64 people found employment to nearly 75 Lee University students packing 10,000 backpacks with toiletries, snacks and other necessities to be given away. This is an excellent example of a community taking care of its own.

     Over the past two decades, Make a Difference Day has truly been a spark that has ignited a fire of compassion throughout our country. Keep the flame burning and make a difference in the life of someone else.

     For more information on how to participate in Make a Difference Day please see


“…..remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:25






If only they knew

Though my passion is writing one of my other great loves is working with teenagers. Whether youth ministry at my church or substitute teaching at our local high school, many of my days are surrounded by youth. I have such a heart for these young people. Often, as I’m walking the halls at school or in the classroom, I can look in the eyes of a student and suspect what they are feeling, after all, I was there once too.

 Young people have this desire to be noticed and then at the same time, not noticed at all. They can also be so cruel to one another. Their words fly out of their mouths without giving any thought to the lasting memory a two second sentence can make, after all, hurting people hurt others. In their desire to fit in, sometimes kids float from one group to another, searching for the one that will accept them for who they are or who they think they want to be. Yet sometimes, when desperate to be accepted by anyone, kids change their behavior and imitate others just to be included. That usually ends up badly.  

It is so sad to watch because I know that the root of so much of this behavior is just a desire to be loved and accepted for who they are at this stage of their lives. No, I’m not a therapist or other career professional with initials behind my name. But I do know the characteristics of one who doesn’t truly know how much they are loved by their creator. I know because I’ve been there. I was raised in a Christian home with loving parents and I was in church every time the doors opened with youth leaders who cared about me. I knew about God but I didn’t know God. I prayed every night before bed. As I got older I included prayers begging for forgiveness, carrying the world on my shoulders. I never got it that I could be in relationship with Jesus all the time and that He would direct my steps and do His best to help me make good decisions. I didn’t know that I could actually feel His comfort during hard times. And, I didn’t knowingly have a relationship with the Holy Spirit at all, yet looking back, I remember hearing His still small voice. Sometimes I listened, often times I didn’t. I wish I had every time.

 Maybe it was living my teen years in the 70’s but somewhere through it all, I missed it.  Though I believed in God and that His Son Jesus died for me, I never really knew Him, only about Him.  I didn’t know how much I was loved and who I truly was in Christ. And I for sure didn’t know what it meant to be a child of the Most High God and to be a part of His Kingdom. I had such a void within me that needed to be filled, but I just didn’t know how. I didn’t know that I was created with that void to be filled with and by God Himself. Oh, how life changed once I finally got hold of this truth!

If these students today truly knew how very precious they are to God they would live each day differently. They would be excited to know who they are in Christ and all He will do through them. They would respect themselves and others and make different choices. They wouldn’t care so much what others thought of them because they would know that they are wonderfully and fearfully made. They wouldn’t fear their future because they would trust that God has a good plan for their life and has given them gifts and talents that will be a blessing not only to them but to those around them as well. They would know that, Yes!, there is something that they are good at and will enjoy spending their life doing. They wouldn’t spend so much time feeling guilty about bad choices because they would know about forgiveness and unconditional love. They wouldn’t feel like that there is no hope for their future because of where and how they were raised, or even bad choices they made, because they would know the Redeemer Who brings beauty from ashes. They would live like those who have no doubt they are perfectly loved and that God is working things out for good, whatever it is.  If only they knew, their lives would never be the same.