writing

“Manatee families learn rare ‘children’s Alzheimer’s’ is closer to home than they imagined”

Published Aug. 11, 2017

wo families, one river apart, were simultaneously railroaded by diagnoses of a rare genetic disease in their 8-year-old children.

Trenton Greer and Fiona Humphrey won’t outlive childhood. A buildup of old cells along their vital organs has slowly degenerated their motor skills and speech. Around their third birthdays would be the best times of their lives.

Sanfilippo syndrome. It’s known as “children’s Alzheimer’s.” It’s fatal and there is no cure.

It’s a disease that is said to afflict one in 70,000 children worldwide, but it could be more because it’s often misdiagnosed as autism.

These two families, whose paths never crossed, would soon learn that they weren’t alone.

Read more at Bradenton.com.


“Sarasota teen strives for equal rights for transgender youth”

Published March 6, 2017

SARASOTA “Don’t use that as a noun,” Emma said to her mother.

Sitting cross-legged on a velvety floral couch next to her parents, Gabrielle and Rick, Emma’s long, light-brown hair that she’s had most of her 13 years fell in front of her face as she spoke. Her mother adoringly pushed her daughter’s hair back behind her ear.

“What, honey?”

“Transgender people,” Emma said. “It’s, like, it’s just a thing. You said ‘transgender’ as a noun.”

“Oh, OK.”

“It’s about the people,” Emma said.

While relentlessly supportive of their two children, it’s been a learning process for the Sarasota family after Emma — whose real name is not being used at the request of her parents — came out as transgender more than a year ago.

There are 1.4 million trans adults in the U.S. whose lives have been caught up in uncertain policy decisions. And trans youth like Emma are now subject to each state deciding which bathroom they can use in school, after the Trump administration last month retracted federal protections for trans students that had broadly allowed them to use the bathroom of their identifying gender.

Read more at Bradenton.com.


“Opioid antidote: an addict’s temporary fix, rarely a cure”

Published Dec. 17, 2016

MANATEE The needle poked through the skin on Denise Johnson’s arm, and it was the last thing she remembered before she overdosed on heroin.

Her memory was wiped clean. When she woke up after being injected with naloxone, the life-saving opioid antidote, she didn’t know where she was or what she was doing.

She urinated on herself. Her skin prickled like needles attacking every inch of her body. It felt like a bad dream.

She remembered first responders screaming in her face, trying to determine if she was actually waking up and what drug she was on.

“I’m clean! I’m clean!” she pleaded.

She forgot she had just relapsed from rehab.

Johnson, 39, and Krystal Bostick, 26, are recovering from their addictions at Beauty for Ashes, a relatively new faith-based women’s home in Bradenton.

Naloxone would bring both back from the brink of death.

Bostick overdosed six times in three years. Throughout her addiction, Johnson overdosed three times, but it once took six doses of naloxone to get her breathing.

In Manatee County this year, EMS and the county’s fire districts together have administered more than 3,200 doses of naloxone.

Heroin and fentanyl have taken a costly toll on the county for the past few years. Overdoses and deaths are on the rise, putting a strain on resources, the medical examiner’s officefuneral homes and even newborns. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., met with county leaders at Manatee Memorial Hospital in October and was visibly surprised to hear the hospital treats 15 to 20 overdose patients per day.

Read more at Bradenton.com.

 


“Under the oaks, conservation ideas flood to new Triangle Ranch owner”

Published Feb. 17, 2017

MYAKKA CITY Elizabeth Moore isn’t your typical rancher.

Sure, she’s got the cowboy hat and the land to prove it. But at first glance, the part-time Massachusetts resident’s trendy Hunter-brand rain boots and her white Tesla Model X might stick out like a sore thumb on the 1,143-acre Carlton Triangle Ranch.

She didn’t think she’d be a ranch owner, either.

But Moore — having purchased Triangle Ranch in part with the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast and the Forever Florida Trust Fund for nearly $5 million in October — is learning the language of Old Miakka and how to best preserve the historic cattle-ranch-turned-conservation easement. So, she’s getting by with a little help from her friends.

Triangle Ranch is a quiet sanctuary, save for the intermittent moos. You can hear the wind coming from a half mile away as it flows through the oak trees. During the rainy season, the three miles of the tannin-stained Myakka River that snakes through the land spills over the edge, making it a lush, green paradise.

When Moore, a Bradenton conservationist, first visited the property more than a year prior, she saw the for sale sign, hoping whoever bought the land would be an environmentalist.

That person would be her, helping to put a close to the Conservation Foundation’s three-year journey to save the property from development.

“This land will be preserved beyond my lifetime, and frankly I wouldn’t have bought the property if it didn’t have a conservation easement on it,” Moore said.

Read more at Bradenton.com.


“Obama commutes Sarasota woman’s life prison sentence for drug crimes”

Published Dec. 20, 2016

On Dec. 19, 2018, 48-year-old Cheryl Howard’s life sentence will expire.

Lavithia, her only daughter, has had three children who have only known their grandmother through a computer screen. She has been worried about her mother’s health since she had an aneurysm in prison early last year. She’s even delayed her wedding so her mother can walk her down the aisle.

For 22 years, Howard has been behind bars for a nonviolent drug offense. For 22 years, her daughter lived without a mother.

On Monday, Howard was one of 231 people to which President Barack Obama granted clemency, which the most any president has ever granted in a single day.

The news came to Lavithia the day after her 34th birthday. When she spoke to her mother, Howard cried nonstop.

“I can’t believe it, V,” Lavithia said her mother told her Monday, calling her by her nickname. “I’m getting out.”

Read more at Bradenton.com.


The Independent Florida Alligator, April 14, 2015.


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SRQ Magazine, Sept. 2012


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 Highlighting Japan, August 2013


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