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  • Heartbeats and Hope: From Seizures to Strength

    Unity Health saving lives one heart at a time By Jennifer Webb Photos by Searcy Living Photography Jacque set her alarm before she went to bed at cheer camp. She was a high school junior, and she wanted to be sure she was up in time for the next day. When her alarm went off the next morning, that was the last thing she remembered. All the other girls were clustered around her, concern all over their faces. She felt foggy and confused. Why was everyone staring at her? “You had a seizure and were out of it,” one of the girls told her. That explained all the looks of concern and the crowd. They called her grandparents, who were closest to the cheer camp, and her parents. Both came quickly and took her to the hospital. They weren’t exactly sure what happened but shortly thereafter, it happened again. They diagnosed her with a seizure disorder. Since it occurred while she was talking on the phone, they hypothesized that the phone call might have been a trigger and told the teenage girl to stay off her phone. The EEG, which is the tracing of the electrical waves of the brain, had been normal, but it was the best cause they could ascertain. After a third episode, they started Jacque on a medication for seizures called Keppra. She took the Keppra for a while but couldn’t tell that it was doing any good. She stopped taking it (and thank goodness she did). Time went on, and she could go six months or more without having a spell. She started noticing that they were much more likely when she was startled. She graduated, married Austin Thomas, the love of her life, and they welcomed the birth of a beautiful baby boy. Jacque was now in her twenties and living a life she had always dreamed of, but there was always a fear in the back of her mind of the seizures. There was still no good answer as to what was causing them. One came while she was at the house alone with the baby. She felt foggy and couldn’t remember things. Baby? Why was there a baby in the house? Was it her sister’s baby? It must be her sister’s baby. Austin . . . where was Austin? She called him. “Where are you, Austin?” she asked. Her voice sounded abnormal to him. “I’m at work. Are you ok?” he asked. “Oh, ok,” she replied, still sounding dazed. “I just couldn’t remember when you left for work.” It slowly started to come back to her. The baby . . . that was HER baby crying, not her sister’s! She must have had another seizure. The next one came when Austin was home. Again, she heard the baby cry, but she knew by this time that she needed to get up slowly and not rush. She got up and started to walk, but then fell out on the floor with another seizure. “Jacque was now in her twenties and living a life she had always dreamed of, but there was always a fear in the back of her mind of the seizures.” Austin watched in horror, waiting for it to end, but it seemed to go on and on. She was still unresponsive. Then he realized she wasn’t breathing! Did his young wife just die in front of him? He called 911 and sprang into action, starting chest compressions and CPR. He wasn’t going to lose her if he could help it! Breathing into her mouth, compressing her chest, and desperately praying to God, it seemed like an eternity, but EMS arrived, and he was able to step back. He called her dad and stepmom. They had to shock her heart multiple times. She was in an atypical rhythm. It didn’t seem real. He could NOT lose his precious wife. She started breathing again, and they loaded her up in the ambulance to rush her to the emergency department. Her stepmom came and got the baby, and her dad accompanied them to the hospital. They kept her in a medically induced coma hooked up to all sorts of wires and beeping machines. The EKG, which is the tracing of heartbeats and the heart’s electrical signals, showed a prolonged QT interval. Her heart muscle was taking longer to contract and relax than usual, affecting her heart rhythm. Could this have something to do with her seizures? When they took her out of the medically induced coma, she knew her husband and could talk to her dad, but every six hours seemed to be a “reset.” She was confused. She didn’t know where she was and couldn’t remember what had happened. They started to worry about what the seizures might have done to her brain. They still could not find any apparent cause and were about to move her to the medical floor when she had another episode. She was still hooked up to all the monitors so they were able to record exactly what happened in her body when she had a seizure. “She no longer has to live her life in fear of having a seizure in the middle of whatever she’s doing.” Cardiologist Dr. Katherine Durham, looked at the data. There had to be a clue somewhere and some way to help this young mother. Those were “Torsades de Pointes,” a specific type of atypical heart rhythm that can lead to sudden cardiac death. Jacque had “Long QT syndrome.” The problem was not in her brain but in her heart! Patients with Long QT syndrome can develop atypical heart rhythms. They don’t get the blood flow to the brain that they need, and if it lasts long enough, it causes death. That’s what had been causing Jacque’s seizures! She had an atypical electrical circuit in her heart. With that vital piece of information in hand, the next step was finding out how to treat it. The first thing she did was thank God for revealing the problem and that Jacque had stopped the Keppra medication, which could have made the QT interval worse. Dr. Durham ordered another medication called propranolol which helps lower the occurrence of the Torsades de Pointes. That helped some, but for most patients, the ultimate treatment was to put in a defibrillator. Since Jacque was so young, it wasn’t an ideal solution to have leads that live in the heart and have to be changed out. She consulted her partner, Dr. Eric Robinson, who does all the implanting of devices at Unity Health and he consulted electrophysiologist, Dr. Tom Wallace at St. Vincent’s. An electrophysiologist is a specialized cardiologist who can be thought of as an “electrician of the heart.” They came up with a solution and put in a defibrillator but outside of her heart. The leads sit in the center of her chest but don’t live in her heart. That’s her life insurance policy. If the device detects that she has an atypical rhythm, it first tries to pace her out of it, and if that doesn’t work, it will shock her. No more waiting for EMS to come while doing CPR. The device will get her heart back to its regular rhythm. Jacque now lives a fairly normal life. The propranolol has worked beautifully and so far, she has not had to be shocked. She no longer has to live her life in fear of having a seizure in the middle of whatever she’s doing. She can drive and hold her son (who is now a healthy 3-year-old). She’s not scared of being alone with him. Before, she was always scared - scared to go to sleep at night, afraid to be alone, afraid that a seizure would strike if she got startled. Since there are different types of Long QT syndrome, she opted to go through genetic testing, along with her son. Hers is inherited, so she wondered if she had passed it to her son. He does not have the genetic markers for the disease. She has Type 2 Long QT syndrome which is often triggered by something that startles a person - a phone ring, a baby crying, an alarm, anything. Many people don’t know they have Long QT syndrome, and it has been suggested that it might account for sudden unexplained faintings, seizures, and deaths. According to the National Library of Medicine, it is estimated to account for 12% of SIDS deaths in infants. Jacque is a survivor, and she has been blessed with a tremendously supportive family. She is an advocate for genetic screening of infants that could detect Long QT syndrome. She hopes that sharing her story of being a young lady living a good life with heart disease will inspire and educate others. Dr. Katherine Durham Read the full issue below.

  • Issue 3 2024 Answers

    Across 4. RED 5. FLYING 7. GREATEST Down 1. HARDING 2. JIMMIES 3. BORZOI 6. HENSON 8. EKG Riddles 1. Coffee Break 2. Excuse Me 3. An Afterthought

  • Searcy Living Issue 3 2024

    Download the issue here!

  • Recognizing Patrolman Cruz Dillard

    By Jennifer Webb Photos by Searcy Living Photography Officer Cruz Dillard had been training for this. He could feel the adrenaline pumping in his veins, but he had it under control. He was hyper-focused on the task at hand. It had started off ordinary enough, but here he was with his team in the middle of Beebe Capps, traffic whizzing past on both sides. The plan had been to serve an arrest warrant, but the suspect left his home. When the suspect began returning home, he did a U-turn in the middle of the road, heading away from his house. They loaded up into the SWAT van and locked him up in the middle of traffic. It was tense, but no one got hurt and the suspect was apprehended safely. Moments like this captured the excitement he thought he would have when he joined the SRT at the Searcy Police Department. Police work was in his blood. Growing up, his mom, Laurel, worked in law enforcement, first as a dispatcher, then as an officer in 1999, and as a detective with the Searcy Police Department since 2003. After he graduated from Searcy High School in 2016, he went to Ohio for a year to pursue other career fields but found it was not for him. He came home to Searcy, secure in the knowledge that law enforcement was the right professional route for him. His wife’s cousin worked as a sergeant for the Newport correctional facility and got him hired on when he turned 20. It wasn’t where he wanted to be, but it got his foot in the door. He worked there for two and a half years, but when an opening at the Searcy Police Department came up, he jumped. He loved being able to supervise others at the correctional facility but knew that ultimately, he wanted to join his mom, and stepdad, Adam Sexton, at the Searcy Police Department. Not long after his sister, Alyson Slaughter, also joined in the “family business.” Cruz’s career may just be getting started, but he’s found one he loves with the Searcy Police. D shift feels like an extended family. He looks forward to the Sunday “family dinners” where everyone working that day sits down and shares a meal. It allows them to talk and get to know one another. They are not just coworkers but friends, as well. “D Shift works well together. It’s never really mattered who came to the shift; we look after each other and have each other’s backs on anything and everything. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you are; we’ll treat you like family.” - Patrolman Cruz Dillard He currently serves as a patrolman on D shift under Corporal Brian Fritts and is a member of the SRT (Special Response Team) and loves everything about it. Cruz loves that each day is different and knew from the moment he started with the Searcy Police Department, he wanted to be a part of the SRT. He believes that his greatest strength is his adaptability and willingness to learn. Ultimately, his goal is to work his way up from patrolman to chief of police, so he anticipates a long career with Searcy PD. He and his wife, Nakiah, have been married for four years. On the weekends he’s off, they can be found riding their motorcycles with the Titan Chapter of the Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club based out of Jacksonville. He rides a 2014 Heritage Softtail, and she rides a 2019 Can-Am Spyder. They raise money for different charitable causes such as scholarships, Christmas 4 Kids, and other organizations that benefit kids and the community. They sponsor events such as trap shooting competitions, gun raffles, car and bike shows, carwashes, and chili cookoffs to fundraise. One of his most memorable charitable events was getting to participate in “Christmas with a Cop.” An underprivileged boy was given a budget of $100 to spend on toys for himself for Christmas. Cruz accompanied him as they went through the toy store and helped him decide which toys to spend his money on. The boy’s enthusiasm was infectious, and the joy in his heart lasted long after the event. For Officer Cruz Dillard, being a police officer is not just a career, it’s a calling. He looks forward to learning everything he can to do it better and to eventually being in a place where he can pass that knowledge on to others. Read the full issue below.

  • They Don't Have A Mrs. Barker

    Guest Contributor Arkansas History Day is an educational program that is part of National History Day, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. 6-12th grade students learn a love of history and boost research skills, working on a project that aligns with Arkansas literacy standards. History Day students compete in one of five categories. There are interpretive exhibits similar to science fairs, 10-minute documentary films, historical websites, research papers, and dramatic performances. Projects can be done individually or in a group. Winners from area school contests sent their top six projects per type to a Regional Competition hosted at Harding University. NHD Arkansas holds six regional contests in February and March and the state contest in April. From the state contest about 60 student winners are competitively selected to attend the national contest in June, outside Washington D.C. There they compete against the other 50 states, US Territories, and several countries. Years ago, students in advanced history at AHLF were part of History Day, but few in the building remember that. The program was restarted last year and is led by Melanie Barker. Those who know Mrs. Barker know her energy and love for History. Those close to her also know how competitive she is. She has volunteered her time Thursdays after school to help students with their projects. She was also enrolled in a National History Day Historical Argumentation Series in the fall to increase her skills. Last year she had two students who went to Nationals, and this year she aimed to expand that number. About 3500 Arkansas students started the project, and by the time winners at State were announced, that number had gone down to 60 students, meaning about 98% don’t make it to Nationals. Many schools are from wealthier areas, and some have done the project for decades. Her students knew there would be strong competition, but they also knew they had a dedicated coach and cheerleader in their corner in the form of Mrs. Barker. She is driven and helps the students believe in themselves. This year she has six students who qualified for Nationals, which means 10% of the Arkansas delegation are Mrs. Barker’s students. One of her students said of the win over some of the usual powerhouses, “They have all the money and resources, but they don’t have a Mrs. Barker.” Her dedication to students was recognized last year when she won the program’s Best New Teacher Award for the State. Mrs. Barker is still working to help students improve their projects for Nationals. Student winners can receive a $600 travel grant from AR Heritage, but that will not cover the full cost, so Mrs. Barker is also working to secure donations to match those funds. The future of History Day at AHLF Junior High is strong in her capable, competitive, and loving hands. Read the full issue below.

  • Ping-Pong Pat

    By Jennifer Webb “Hey Calm!” She shouted across the room as the young man and his friend made their way down the hallway. He didn’t hear her, so she raised her voice again. This time, he turned, recognizing the voice and searching for her. When he saw her, sitting on the couch in the far corner of the lobby, his face lit up, and he came to her in bounding leaps, not quite running. “There you are!” he told her. “I was hoping to see you today!” he said with a grin stretching from one ear to the other. His friend, Coulee, behind him, wore a matching grin. “Sit down here on the couch and take a picture with me,” she told him. Unquestioning, both young men sat down and Calm put his arm around her with friendly affection, sporting a thumbs-up on the other side of her shoulder. After a brief exchange, he told her with obvious enthusiasm, “I’m going to go play ping-pong!” “Ok, I’ll be there in a minute,” she replied. It may sound like an unusual scene with an 84-year-old lady, who comes twice a week to Keller Hall to play ping-pong with the college kids, but then again, Pat Rice is no ordinary 84-year-old lady. You might think she’d be out of place in such a setting, but to the Harding students, she’s a steadfast adult figure whom they all love. As the college students pass the ping-pong room, she calls to them saying, “Hey! You want to play some ping-pong?” Its followed by, “What’s your name? Where are you from?” It gives many of the students from out of state an instant feeling of belonging. It doesn’t matter how good you are; she welcomes all skill levels. She’s a patient teacher, but also a worthy opponent and a good sport in wins, as well as losses. She, David Goff, Sherrill Bennet, Milo Hadwin, and a few other senior friends frequent the ping-pong room on Monday and Thursday afternoons. The young men who reside in the hall have come to think of her as “one of them,” even persuading her to pose with them in the 2019 yearbook picture for the residence hall. She loves God, ping-pong, swimming, and young people. It’s a good way for her to stay young and connect all four. Mrs. Rice is the former director of Harding’s Student Health Services and a former nurse. She and her friends have won seven medals at the Senior Olympics in Hot Springs, five of which were gold. But as much fun as she has with ping-pong, she will be the first to tell you that the real treasure is the relationships she forms with the students. Certain students stand out to her, such as Rysper, who asked her for a swimming lesson. “Have you ever been swimming before?” Mrs. Rice asked her. “Only once, and I just stayed on the steps,” Rysper replied clinging tight to the handrail of the pool. Pat knew she had her work cut out for her. Rysper was terrified of the water! They started with blowing bubbles in the water, gradually getting Rysper more comfortable, until she could put her whole face in. By the end of the 90-minute lesson, Rysper could shove off and swim herself about five feet. “Well,” Pat thought to herself, “I guess that’s more than she could do before.” But Rysper was beside herself with excitement and glee. “I have wanted to be baptized for two years now,” she confided with shining eyes, “but I couldn’t because I was so scared of the water. Now I can!” Pat was there the following Sunday to watch, humbled at how God had used her in this young lady’s story without her realizing it at the time. There was another student named Easton, who tried to beat her at ping- pong for six years. She made him work for it. When he finally did, she had a shirt custom made for him that said, “Keller Dorm Ping-Pong. Easton defeats Mrs. Rice” including the winning score and date. Aiichiro (from Japan) spent twelve Christmases and several summers with her and her husband, Guilford. He was shy at first and barely talked, but Mrs. Rice is a very hard person to be quiet around! She made him talk, and when he went back to school after the first Christmas break, she told him, “Tell them you got candy, games, clothes.” “. . . and vocabulary,” he quickly added. “That was most important!” Her husband, Guilford, also taught him how to drive a car so he could get his driver’s license. Aiichiro went on to get a doctorate in biochemistry and is now a research scientist in Boston. These are just a few of the many students who she remembers fondly. She knows each of their names, where they are from, their majors, and ping-pong game by ping-pong game builds relationships with them. She’s an adult they know is in their corner to encourage them, guide them, and support them. They keep her young, challenge her to stay in good shape physically, keep her mind active and her heart full. As much as she cares about their friendship, they care about hers as well. Read the full issue below.

  • Recognizing Sergeant Todd DeWitt

    By Jennifer Webb “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.” The familiar words echoed in Sgt. Todd DeWitt’s head as he started his walk down the halls. His footsteps echoed off the tiles and concrete walls. All was quiet. Then, a bell rang, doors popped open, and the hall bustled with conversations from all directions as teens walked to their next classes with hurried footsteps. Sgt. DeWitt smiled. For him, there was no better assignment than being the SRO (School Resource Officer) at Searcy High School. He was the Sergeant over all the School Resource Officers, but his main and most important job was to be here for these young men and women. They need hope. They need to know who Jesus is, how much he loves them, and what he’s done for them. In the bustle, he saw a familiar head going down the hallway - his youngest daughter, Brylee. She didn’t speak to him then, but he would talk to her later tonight at home. It was Friday, family dinner night. Brylee was the only one of his and Sharen’s children still at home, but they all made it a point to come over for Friday night dinner. “Get to class,” he kindly but firmly told a few stragglers. “Why are you always telling us to get to class?” the reluctant student complained. “There are two things that no one can ever take from you,” Sgt DeWitt countered, “Your faith and your education.” Sgt. DeWitt remembered a police officer whom he had known growing up in McCrory, Arkansas. He saw how people respected him and how he was involved with the community and able to give back. That’s what had first planted the seed of “I want to be a police officer.” He attended college at Harding University. At first, he thought he wanted to be a basketball coach, but the call to be in law enforcement was too strong. Looking back now, he could clearly see that it had been God’s hand guiding him and watching over him. He’s been with the Searcy Police Department since 2007 and during his time, he has found that law enforcement is where God has called him to be. He said, “I may not ever see all of the fruit from seeds I’ve planted, but I will continue to plant seeds no matter what.” “A police officer is not a job, it’s a calling. You have to be cut out for it.” - Sgt. Todd DeWitt He worked several positions within the department, including patrol, crimes against children, misdemeanor investigations, and public information officer. But the SRO position is the best spot he’s ever been in during his career. He doesn’t see himself doing anything else until he retires and would love to stay right where he’s at. “Christ says he’s the hope of Glory. I have the opportunity to share that the best that I can and help the kids along the way. The kids are the next generation. They need hope.” - Sgt. Todd DeWitt, SRO, Searcy High School He keeps an open-door policy in his office. The students know they are welcome and encouraged to come talk to him. Many of them take advantage of that. They know they can say what they want in his office as long as they are not hurting anyone, no one is hurting them, or there isn’t something else going on that he is required to report. They know that he has their best interests at heart. The advice he gives may not be what they want to hear, but it will always be the truth. He wants to be there for the struggling kids - to help guide them, direct their path, and give them hope. The SRO position puts him in a unique place to be able to do that. “There is a big federal push for mental health and the only answer that I know is Jesus Christ. He’s been my hope where there seemed to be no hope.” - Sgt. Todd DeWitt, SRO, Searcy High School Later that afternoon, he knows that he will watch his Platinum F250, lifted 7 inches with 37-inch tires pull out of the school parking lot, with Brylee at the wheel. It catches as many admiring glances in the school parking lot as it does in the car shows they attend on the weekends. Dinner time tonight will be an event. Sharen will cook, and all the kids will be there. Darren, now 26 years old wearing his game warden uniform, Hailee, who is about to turn 21 in June, Tyla who is 18, and 16-year-old Brylee will fill the seats around the table. It’s something that they share and look forward to every Friday night. “When you’re growing up as a kid, family is not that important, but as you get older, family is the most important thing that you have. Those people will always be there when you fall to dust your pants off and help you get back on track.” - Sgt. Todd DeWitt, SRO, Searcy High School They will all bow their heads and ask God to bless the food before them. They will talk of God’s grace, mercy, hope, and all the good things that He’s doing in their lives. They will laugh, joke, tell stories, sharpen one another as iron sharpens iron, and remind each other that Jesus is the great physician and the great counselor. Read the full issue below.

  • Partners In Crisis

    By Martha Duncan Overby Last issue I had the privilege to write about Pastor Randall Beaty of the Searcy Church of the Nazarene and Police Department Chaplain for Searcy. In this issue that privilege is expanded to chronicle 75 years of service to our community by writing about the chaplains for our police, fire, and sheriff’s departments. Along with Randall, the first responder chaplains in our city and county are Chaplain Tom Martin of the Searcy Fire Department and Chaplain David Copeland of the White County Sheriff’s Department. All three of these men have served our community for around 25 years each. That is amazing! Pastor David Copeland, White Co. Sheriff Chaplain White County Sheriff Department Chaplain David Copeland had a leaning toward law enforcement already. He had an uncle in southern California who was a sheriff. In younger years he was interested in joining the military, until he received a definite call into the ministry. He was raised in Ft. Smith, Arkansas, attended school for the ministry, was a youth minister in Oklahoma for a time before coming back to Arkansas, eventually ending up pastoring Chapel Lane Free Will Baptist Church here in Searcy in 1986. In 1999, Pastor David Copeland was called to the home of one of his church members’ relatives that was found deceased, and Police Chaplain Randall Beaty had also been called to the situation by the department. Just two weeks before this, Randall had taken the position as Chaplain at Searcy Police Department. Randall called David, asking to meet for coffee. He told David that the Searcy Police Department was wanting three chaplains instead of one and asked if he would be interested in the position. It did not take David long to make this decision. After three years at Searcy PD, he moved to the White County Sheriff’s office as a Chaplain in 2002. From 2007 to 2022 David served as a part-time deputy in a judicial capacity. He would serve subpoenas and warrants, but mostly served as a court bailiff or transporting prisoners. He has helped on patrol at times. It was a common occurrence for him to be assigned to court and be called away for chaplain duties. He shares, “This position has made me deal with people I would not normally deal with, and I am glad of that. I’ve come across people others may not want to deal with, and I’ve learned we all need to be treated like human beings, with a certain level of respect. It’s made me a better person.” In one instance a female murder suspect asked to speak with a chaplain. When he went back into the jail to speak with her, he explained, “Yes, I am wearing a uniform, but right now I’m here as a chaplain and whatever you share with me is confidential.” A major duty for law enforcement chaplains is to assist an officer in making death notifications. Once the family is notified, the officer can leave, but David stays to help the family. He will contact their pastor and hopefully get more family and friends around them so when he leaves the home, they are not alone. David has made close, long-term relationships with people he has met during crisis events. Although they may have met during a difficult time, they are glad to be in each other’s lives. He shared a saying he found years ago, “Everyone wants to be the sunshine in someone’s life. Why not be the moon to shine on someone’s darkest hour?” Not everyone feels called to that role. David does; in fact, he views it as part of his calling. Chaplains must also provide support for our officers. David explained, “If you view society as a large, multi-story building, our officers must “ride the elevator”, so to speak. They must learn to deal with people on all levels of society.” Officers see, hear, and smell things most of us will never encounter. It’s especially hard on officers when a crisis situation involves children. An officer may carry the weight of what they have to do long after the situation is over. We really have no idea what our officers must contend with in their capacity to “keep the peace” and enforce the law. They tend to have a higher suicide rate and stress-related health issues. In past times, officers were more likely to bottle things up. David tells me the newest generation of officers is more likely to see the wisdom of dealing with these job stresses by seeking help. David is that listening ear to help “let the air out of the balloon before it pops.” All three chaplains will work a Critical Incident Debriefing together. After an unusually bad situation, all the first responders are brought together with this three-man team to help them process what has happened. They need to know the sleepless nights and lack of eating are a normal reaction to an abnormal situation. Tom Martin, the Fire Department Chaplain, usually leads these debriefings with Randall and David. Those attending are there on a volunteer basis. It is not required, and they can participate at whatever level they are comfortable. Sometimes those in the debriefing are not handling the meeting well and walk out. David is the one who follows them out to see if he can help them deal with the debriefing process. The value of these chaplains’ training and years of experience is acknowledged by departments outside of White County, as they are called to do debriefing meetings for other departments. David shares, “I appreciate Randall and Tom; we cover for each other if one of us is out of town. I believe we are a good team.” Pastor Randall Beaty, Searcy Police Dept. Chaplain Pastor Randall Beaty has been the Chaplain for Searcy Police department through five police chiefs. In 1994 a rookie Searcy police officer had the difficult job of coming to the Beaty house to tell them that Diana Beaty’s parents had died in an auto accident. In 1999 when Randall had taken the position as a Chaplain, that same officer told him that he had been that rookie, and he was glad to have Randall on board as a chaplain. This officer told Randall that after he left the house that night, he drove by their home four times later that evening. I thought about that. Cooks cook, writers write, and police officers watch and protect. I believe that officer wanted to do more for the Beaty family, but what he knew best was to watch and protect. It was what he could do. With a chaplain to accompany an officer to a death notification, he knows when he leaves the house Randall will stay to do more, the more he cannot do. As David had stated, after the officer leaves, the Chaplain stays to call the family’s pastor or get family around them. That officer can go about his job without that pull on him or her to do more, because someone is in place to do that. Not every officer requests his assistance for these calls, but they know he is there if needed. Assisting officers with these notifications is just one aspect of a chaplain’s job. I asked Randall about the Crisis Incident Debriefings that David talked about. Randall explained that this team of three chaplains have done these for Searcy Police and Fire Departments several times for our local ambulance service, most nearby volunteer fire departments in White County, and have even held these for Cleburne County. This team of three chaplains is not really there as counselors but as facilitators to allow those who choose to attend, to open up and talk. The group is just asked, “What was your role in the incident?” As each person shares of his or her involvement in a crisis incident, the team becomes aware of who will need follow-up or who is not “getting past” the incident. This is extremely important. The goal is to “move past” the incident and not “get stuck” in their own reaction to the crisis. If they can’t, it may result in a later or long-term negative response in their lives. Even their families can become unhealthy if a first responder cannot “move past” that incident in their heart and mind. These Crisis Incident Debriefings last as long as the participants want to talk. They include all involved--police, fire, ambulance, and dispatchers. To prepare themselves to offer this service to departments, all three chaplains have attended Crisis Incident Classes and have been certified in this training. Those classes can be intense, and they are graded. Also, in the summer of 2001, both David and Randall attended a twelve-week class offered by the White County Sheriff’s Office to be a Reserve Officer. This was done at the Searcy campus of ASU Beebe, known at that time as Foothills Vocational Technical School. Randall talked about what he found challenging in the position of Police Chaplain. Since he has been with the department for twenty-five years, each time there is a change of chief he must meet the challenge of learning how the new chief sees his role of chaplain for the department. There is a need to flow with the chief’s vision of the department, and learn how the position of chaplain fits into that vision. Over time, one set of officers will retire, and there is a new group to reach out to and create fresh relationships. These days, it’s more difficult to find that time for riding along with officers. There are new techniques to learn with law enforcement support. What worked ten years ago may not work today. Another challenge is finding the balance between family, church, and the department. In the last few years Randall has joined (and served as chairman for a time) the White County Domestic Violence Prevention Board. There was an eight-year span of time where all but one of the Beaty family vacations were cut short by the need to return home for a church member or police officer’s crisis situation. Randall shares if anything happens to a church member or officer, “My world stops; I will be there for them.” While all this sounds exhausting to me, the most rewarding aspect of these responsibilities for Randall is the relationships he forms. He is all about connecting with people and meeting whatever need he can. If you have not created a connection in everyday life, people may not be open to you during that time of crisis. The consistency of being there day in and day out builds trust. I asked Randall what he would like people to know specifically about chaplains. “Just know that chaplains want to be there to help people in crisis, to help the community, and step up in any way possible. These are not paid positions. There is no ‘hey, look at me’ attitude here, but a heart to help. If somebody is going to get bad news, I want to be there to give support at the time of their loss.” Tom Martin, Searcy Fire Dept. Chaplain Fire department Chaplain Tom Martin met his wife at Camp Wyldewood, and they married in 1974. They will celebrate 50 years of marriage this August. He has forty-five years in ministry at the Cloverdale Church of Christ and the Downtown Church of Christ. He calls Poplar Bluff, MO home, because he graduated from high school there but lived in many places in the US. He and his mother lived with her parents, as his father was in the Air Force and often stationed out of the country. His grandfather was a Church of Christ minister for sixty-five years. He came to Harding College in 1970, married, and stayed in Searcy. Two daughters and five grandsons later, he retired from full-time ministry at the end of 2020. Beginning in 1982, Tom served on the Center Hill Fire Department not only as a firefighter, but later as chief for a total of twenty-three years. In 2000 Searcy Fire Chief, Bill Baldridge, asked Tom if he would serve as chaplain. Chief Baldridge said, “I want these men and women to know they can come to you with anything and have complete confidentiality in what they share with you.” He was willing to send Tom to any training classes he needed. I asked Tom about his participation in the Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) debriefing sessions. Tom, like Randall and David, has attended training for this, and each describes the training as intense. One of the things the team has learned over time--if anyone says they are “fine” in regard to a critical incident, it is a red flag. They’ve come up with an acronym of the word “fine” as: Fouled up, Insecure, Needy, and Emotion. In other words, a “fine” response when asked how you are handling having to do your job through a critical incident, means you are not really dealing with it in a manner that will lead to “moving past the incident.” Tom tells me David Copeland has come up with an additional question for this response, “How are you doing, really?”. This question frequently opens the door for communication. Death notifications and incidents involving fatalities are challenging. Sometimes it is hard to find out who to contact in the case of a fatality or injury. Once again, as David and Randall have shared, in a time of loss, you want to contact someone’s pastor, friend, or family member. The hardest crisis events for everyone are those involving a child. Most of the fire, law enforcement officers, and EMT staff have families and children, so they have great empathy for a family that loses a child. This team of chaplains is also the unofficial chaplain team for NorthStar EMS, our local ambulance service. Tom and his family have great empathy for those who lose their home by fire, as they went through that loss themselves. In December of 1984, their family’s home, west of Searcy, was lost in a fire. They had great support from church, friends in town, and the fire department family. When there is no such support for an individual or family, they refer them to the Red Cross or 100 Families here in Searcy. The experience of that loss has helped Tom tremendously to understand how to be there for others. Tom says, “Sometimes just being there is all you can do, but it can make a difference. We can’t always “fix” things for others, but you can stay by their sides as they walk through their challenge.” These three chaplains cover for each other. If Tom is out of town and a fire occurs, it may be David or Randall that shows up to the incident instead of Tom, and vice versa. Someone asked him, “As you work to support others, who supports you?” Actually, there is an Arkansas Fire Chaplains Organization, where peers can listen to you and help advise about situations they may have gone through and what worked in the way of providing help to others. Tom spoke about the support of his wife, a retired Arkansas Children’s Hospital APRN cardiology nurse. Honestly, with these three chaplains being on call 24/7, it’s like being in the military - to some degree, their whole family serves, because all their lives may be impacted by the chaplains’ responsibilities. Like David and Randall, Tom’s great enjoyment serving as chaplain is the relationships he has formed. When new hires come aboard, Tom introduces himself, gives them his number and lets them know as they go through their schooling and learning the department, he is there as they may need him. He is in his office each Thursday but also makes the rounds of the stations just to “check everyone’s pulse.” It’s a family thing. Tom has known some of the SFD firefighters since they were infants, or since they were in his youth group, or in school with his daughters years ago. He sees them marry, start families, watches their children grow, play sports, graduate, and go on to college. He has married them, and buried them, and their family members. In Summary The camaraderie of shared experience and long-term commitment makes for a unique bonding in this group of firefighters, law enforcement, and their chaplains. Tom explained, “As chaplains, we want to be present for all who may need us.” This is what struck me as a common attitude of the heart with these men. They feel called to be there for people through the hard, sometimes unbearable events and situations. Whether it be for the departments they are assigned to, or the public in general, they feel called to areas most of us would choose to avoid. Maybe it’s because we don’t have their training, but personally, I think it’s because we don’t have their hearts. Read the full issue below.

  • Searcy Living Issue 2 2024

    Download the issue here!

  • Issue 2 2024 Answers

    Across 1. CHAPLAINS 5. WHEELS 7. HOPE Down 2. HIGHER 3. PAT 4. NICOLE 6. GOAL Riddles 1. A Shadow of a Doubt 2. Trail Mix 3. 24/7

  • Searcy Living Issue 1 2024

    Download the issue here!

  • Issue 1 2024 Answers

    Across 4. ECLIPSE 7. CHAPLAIN Down 1. POWER 2. MYLES 3. OPTIONS 5. EARLY 6. GRACE Riddles 1. Partly Cloudy 2. No Doubt About It 3. Stand By Me

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