At 91, John Ferguson still entertains generations young and old.

by Bobby Anderson, Staff Writer

he beauty of John Ferguson is that at 91 years of age he’s still finding ways to entertain others.
And after delighting generations growing up in Oklahoma City, Ferguson – best known as Count Gregore – will take a shot at the big screen
Ferguson is shooting a movie this month.
That’s right. At 91, Ferguson is starring in Lady Usher, based on Edgar Allan Poe’s short story Fall of the House of Usher.
He makes sure to point out he’s still a little young for the role of Mr. Usher, who is 100.
“I’m only nine short in actuality,” Ferguson chuckles, noting his onscreen wife will be 40 years his junior.
Strange, mysterious characters and murder should combine for an entertaining film written, produced and directed by George Adams.
Ferguson, who spun a television career around introducing classic Universal Horror films, should be right at home.
Count Gregore, the Duke of Mukeden and a host of other characters portrayed by Ferguson were staples in Oklahoma City’s Shock Theater.
He was a household name. Pretty good for a kid born and raised in Clinton, Indiana.
“I was always the smallest runt in the school. I went to high school a year early, and I was a freshman at 14. I was barely five feet tall and weighed 90 pounds. I was a target no matter what,” Ferguson said.
He managed to get through high school
He was small, he was short, but with his mother’s permission, he enlisted in the Navy prior to his 18th birthday.
He was quickly rejected due to vision issues.
He tried again and was rejected again – or so he thought.
He was sent back to the recruiting station for another quick eye exam, which he passed.
So in May 1945 he became a Navy man for 15 months.
“I joined the Navy to see the world but spent my entire career 70 miles from home,” Ferguson said.
He was shipped 70 miles away to Great Lakes, Illinois where he spent his entire career doing clerical duty before the war ended.
Ferguson would later try the college and acting routes.
He still remembers meeting with Joe Fox of the William Morris Agency. He’ll never forget while sitting outside of Fox’s office the two men walking by and asking him how he was.
The men were Charlton Heston and Milburn Stone.
He had just met Moses and Doc from Gunsmoke.
Inside, Fox told him what he already knew.
“Well, you’ll never be a leading man,” Fox said, sizing Ferguson up.
“You’re not telling me anything I don’t already know,” Ferguson shot back. “But I just want to be an actor.”
The big screen may not have been calling at the time but it wasn’t for a lot of Hollywood A-listers either as this new thing known as live television was coming into its own.
September of 1953 was when Ferguson found his way to Tulsa.
Local TV and radio legend Danny Williams needed a villain to play opposite his hero character, Dan D. Dynamo on WKY-TV in Oklahoma City.
Ferguson came up with the character Duke of Mukeden and eventually many others including Redbear, Bazark the Robot, Dr. Person and Ubick.
But it’s Count Gregore he’s remembered for the most.
The station’s operations manager asked Ferguson to come up with a character to host the late-night horror movie series.
Shock Theater needed a host and Count Gregore was it.
At 11:30 every Saturday night Count Gregore would haunt the airwaves.
Think Dracula meets a sinister Mr. Rogers and you have your man.
But the station didn’t realize it at first. They actually let Ferguson go.
At the time, he moved over to Frontier City to work in the gunfights, until one day when the station went over to get him back.
Calls and letters had flooded in. People had actually come to the station to inquire why Count Gregore was no longer on the air.
They needed Ferguson back and he would spend the next few decades delighting viewers.
Ferguson’s persona would go on to host Nightmare Theater, Sleepwalkers Matinee, Creature Features and Horror Theater.
He changed with the times and even joined Williams for more than a few sock hops and personal appearances.
Ferguson still makes personal appearances as Count Gregore. It never ceases to amaze him how people light up when they see him.
Halloween is his busy season. He laughs when a visitor compares his call to Christmas for Santa Claus.
“Yeah, but I get a lot more mileage out of it,” he laughs.
Living in Moore, there’s always an opportunity for people to recognize him.
He’ll make an appearance at SoonerCon later this month and at HorrorCon July 20.

At 98, Raymond Duncan still recalls his experiences as a bomber mechanic during World War II.

story and photos by Bobby Anderson, Staff Writer

A couple months ago, Raymond Duncan drove up to El Reno to accept a hand-made-quilt commemorating his military service.
Membership in three difference veterans organizations makes Duncan well known in World War II circles.
And even at 98, he remembers much of what he did like it was yesterday.
Duncan entered into the service in 1942, the year before 5.1 million American young men were drafted.
“No, I volunteered,” he said.
Living in Oklahoma City and working at an auto salvage company, Duncan heard the news that Pearl Harbor had been bombed.
“They were fighting on both sides of this country. I knew I had to be in it,” he said of his later enlistment.
He spent 18 months to the day in the aerial warfare service branch, which would later become the U.S. Air Force.
From Ft. Still to Florida then to Tulsa for aircraft mechanic school he eventually found himself in the 487th Heavy Bombardment Group.
After three months of training in New Mexico his unit was shipped to Europe and Lavenham Air Force Base.
The British vessel the Duchess of Bedford took Duncan and his unit across the pond.
“We led the largest air raid during World War II,” he smiled of the Dec. 24, 1944 air raid that included more than 1,400 B-24s.
That raid – targeting the airfields at Babenhausen, Germany – was led by Brigadier Gen. Frederick Castle.
Castle was air commander and leader of more than 2,000 heavy bombers in the strike. En route to the target, the failure of one engine forced him to relinquish his place at the head of the formation.
In order not to endanger friendly troops on the ground below, he refused to jettison his bombs to gain speed and maneuverability. His lagging, unescorted aircraft became the target of numerous enemy fighters which ripped the left wing with cannon shells, set the oxygen system afire, and wounded 2 members of the crew.
Repeated attacks started fires in 2 engines, leaving the Flying Fortress in imminent danger of exploding. Realizing the hopelessness of the situation, the bail-out order was given. Without regard for his personal safety he remained alone at the controls to afford all other crewmembers an opportunity to escape.
The raid would earn Castle the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Duncan’s days were spent on the ground working on B-24s and B-17s, the latter he still wears an emblem to commemorate on his belt buckle.
He built himself a hut a few feet away from the airplane he would be working on. The accommodations – made out of plywood boxes that carried bombs or tools – were better than the barracks he figured.
The bombers would go out, deliver their payload and come back.
Sometimes they wouldn’t.
“It was more of a solemn situation,” he said. “I never knew who was going to fly my airplane. I didn’t have any idea what would happen. I never knew the 15 months I worked there that I lost a B-24.”
“They were shot down 60 miles southwest of Brussels. I just found out a few years ago on the Internet.”
When he exited the service he arrived in Florida and grabbed the last bus headed home.
“When I got on the bus it was already loaded. I stood up on that bus all night long until we got to Mississippi or Alabama until I finally got a seat,” he said.
Back in Oklahoma, he found a job at Tinker Air Force and eventually rose to the position of supervisor of maintenance and the task of unofficially leading 11,000 workers since he only had a business college degree and not a four-year college degree.
Nevertheless, he spent 27 years at Tinker as a civilian.
Along the way he married and had two girls.
Looking back, he still struggles with wrapping his head around what happened.
“Indirectly, I can say truthfully that I was responsible for killing more people in the war than anybody in Oklahoma,” he says. “Now the Bible says ‘thou shall not kill.’ I don’t know how to feel about that.”
“It’s hard, but there’s nothing I can do about it.”
It was nearly a decade ago that Duncan received a package in the mail with a Presidential citation and a box full of medals his service had earned him.
“I’ve tried to write down a lot of this history I’ve got stitched here and there,” he said.
Most days you’ll find him at the Warr Acres Senior Center.
“This is my home away from home,” Duncan said of his morning domino and coffee stop.
But no matter where he’s at, he’ll never forget what brought him to this point.

Bill and Barbara Hubbard stand in front of the 360-gallon fish aquarium that they generously donated to The Veranden memory care community. Complete with beautiful fish, it is a sight to behold.

Bill and Barbara Hubbard Donate Fish Aquarium to The Veraden

by Vickie JenkIns, Staff Writer

Edmond, Oklahoma is where you will find The Veraden, a home for retirees and their families; assisted living, independent living and memory care. Greeted by a friendly staff member, I was led back to speak with Danna Johnson, RN, Executive Director.
Danna was excited to tell me some news. “The Veraden has a new memory care director, Patty James, as of April 2019 and she is definitely a God sent,” said Danna. “I can’t tell you what a blessing she has been to us. Up until now, it was as though our three levels of care have been like three different communities, but now, we are one big family community. Patty brought life back to The Veraden and the residents seem to be drawn together,” she added. “I can’t believe how much of a difference Patty has made.”
Two people entered the room. “I want to introduce you to a very special couple,” Danna said. “This is Bill and Barbara Hubbard. The couple shook my hand and sat down. “They have lived here for almost two years now,” Danna commented. Bill is always willing to help us in any situation. In fact, did you see all of the pretty flowers and hanging plants in front of the Veraden? He is the one responsible for them,” Danna said with a smile.
“We have a lot of volunteers from the assisted living and independent living come in and help with the memory care residents,” Danna said. “We have volunteers that help plant the gardens, plant tomatoes, make arts and crafts, bingo, singing in the choir, playing a musical instrument…the list could go on and on. Bill does a little bit of everything,” Danna commented. “Bill and Barbara are such a blessing to us,” she said.
It wasn’t that long ago that Patty James got together with Bill and Barbara to arrange for a special donation for the memory care to The Veraden. Bill had heard that fish aquariums help dementia patients, (Dementia-A severe impairment or loss of intellectual capacity and personality integration due to the loss of or damage to neurons in the brain.) Barbara is one of the residents that suffer from dementia. Bill, being the kind-hearted person he is, decided to donate a 360-gallon aquarium, measuring 8 foot by 2 foot to the memory care community. Complete with beautiful fish and tiny blue lights surrounding the aquarium, it is a sight to behold! The fish in the aquarium are beautiful; it is very relaxing to all of the residents. There are chairs close to the aquarium so the residents can sit and look at the fish for as long as they want to.
When I asked Bill what his overview of The Veraden was he didn’t hold back his feelings. “Oh, this place is great. We couldn’t ask for better care than we get here. Everyone is so friendly and we consider the others here as our family. I think this is an excellent place to be for this stage of our lives. We have plenty of space, there are always activities going on, we have it all here,” he said.
Bill and Barbara have five children and 7 grandchildren. Through their many acts of kindness, the love shines through in so many ways. “I want to help others in any way that I can,” Bill said. “I will continue to do so as long as I am able.” Bill took Barbara’s hand and walked out of the room hand-in-hand.
A special ceremony for Bill and Barbara Hubbard was given in honor of the donation of the beautiful fish aquarium to The Veraden Memory Care Community. What a loving and thoughtful gift!
The Advantages of a fish aquarium for people with dementia……
The colors, motion and sounds associated with an aquarium can serve as a form of therapy to relax residents of the long-term care facility. The aquarium is a piece of living furniture that provides a window into the watery world of aquatic creatures. Aquariums can bring a wonderful aesthetic to the decor of a nursing home, helping to replicate the more soothing, less sterile environment that the resident formerly experienced in a home setting. It can also help induce conversation between residents and between residents and staff, stimulating the mind and curiosity of the viewer. -DeSchriver and Riddick-

Pam Hart, director nutrition for Moore Public Schools, is helping feed children in the community through the summer nutrition program.

by Bobby Anderson
Staff Writer

Pam Hart has spent the better part of the last three decades ensuring when children come to school a hot meal will be there waiting for them.
For many children, it’s the only meals they can count on.
And when the school doors close for the summertime that doesn’t mean the need goes away.
That’s why the director of child nutrition for Moore Public Schools and directors like her across the metro participate in the Summer Food Service program.
Hart says the Moore Public Schools program is going strong after nearly a decade.
“We felt like it was a win-win on both sides,” Hart explained. “We had some employees who needed money in the summertime and we were able to take advantage of the government program where all kids could eat for free.”
The program is simple: those 18 and under can come to designated locations and eat breakfast and lunch for free. No questions asked.
That means parents and grandparents with limited incomes can ensure their child will have at least two nutritious meals Monday through Friday.
Adults can eat as well for $3.75 per meal.
In Moore, breakfast is served from 8-9 a.m. with lunch following from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Lunch includes the options of a peanut butter and jelly or ham and cheese sandwich, a fresh fruit, fresh vegetable chips and a treat.
Juice or milk are also included.
Hart has spent the last 30 years working at Moore Public Schools. The bulk of that has been as the director of child nutrition.
She’s seen the program change and evolve.
The summer nutrition program will travel around the district, usually coinciding with a summer school program at the site.
A couple summers ago the program went out into the local parks.
The outreach was a big success, so much so that the district decided to use bond funds to invest in a food truck.
Hart said the kitchen on wheels could triple or quadruple the number of sites meals may be offered in the future.
“They’re usually pretty good at being lined up and ready to go by the time we get there,” Hart said of the park sites. “It’s convenient when they’re waiting on us.”
Last June, Moore Public Schools served 16,307 lunches and 4,422 breakfasts.
June school nutrition sites in Moore include Plaza Towers, Sky Ranch, Central Elementary and Southmoore. Park sites will include Fairmoore, Veteran’s Memorial Park, Buck Thomas Park and Central Park.
Sites will rotate in July. You can contact the district directly at 405-7030.
Around the metro
The larger districts around the metro participate in the Summer Food Service Program, a federally-funded program administered in Oklahoma by Child Nutrition Programs, Oklahoma State Department of Education.
Federal regulations require that SFSP sponsors notify local health departments of their intention to provide a food service during a specific period at specific sites and arrange for prompt and regular trash removal.
All SFSP sites must meet proper sanitation and health standards which conform to all applicable state and local laws and regulations in the storage, preparation and service of food. You can contact Oklahoma City Public Schools child nutrition at 587-0000.
Edmond Public Schools can be reached at 340-2800.
Regional Food Bank
Through the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma’s Summer Feeding Program, any child 18 and under can receive free, nutritious meals at 132 sites across central and western Oklahoma.
“One in four Oklahoma children are food insecure. As schools close for the summer, many children are left without their primary source of healthy food,” said Katie Fitzgerald, chief executive officer of the Regional Food Bank. “No one, especially children, should ever have to worry about where their next meal will come from. Our partner agencies across the state are ready to fill the summer break gap.”
Through the program, community-based partner agencies distribute freshly packed meals and snacks prepared by the Regional Food Bank to students. The program is offered at sites in 31 counties across the Regional Food Bank’s service area.
In Oklahoma County alone, meals and snacks are offered at 73 different sites. A full list of sites participating in the Summer Feeding Program and when they offer meals and snacks can be found by visiting
Volunteers are needed to help pack fresh meals in the Regional Food Bank’s production kitchen, Hope’s Kitchen, throughout the summer. Multiple shifts per day are offered Tuesday through Saturday. Volunteer by visiting or calling 405-600-3160.
For Hart, the summer program has just been common sense.
“A lot of these kiddos from low-income families the meals they get from school are the only hot meal they get in some cases,” Hart said. “In a lot of cases it may be so bad that they may not have those meals available in the summertime. We’re glad to be able to support this so those kids don’t have to go without during summer.”

Debi Sims, RN, BSN, BF-CMT, Memory Care Manager, helps prepare for the Luau that the residents will enjoy at Touchmark at Coffee Creek Retirement Community in Edmond, OK.

by Vickie Jenkins
Staff Writer

Touchmark is the premier retirement community in north Edmond where they offer elegant independent and assisted living plus memory care. Their mission is to enrich people’s lives.
This is where you will meet Debi K. Sims, RN, BSN, BF-CMT, and Touchmark’s Memory Care Manager where she has been working for the last four years. Debi has been a nurse for a total of 23 years and loves every minute of it. “I can’t imagine doing anything else,” she said.
Growing up in the bay area of California, she moved here with her parents in the mid 60’s and has lived here ever since. Attending nursing school, she received her BSN at East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma. “My first job as a nurse was at Rolling Hills Psychiatric center in Ada, OK. I worked with adolescent boys. I still have a lot of friends from those days and it remains one of my favorite jobs. I never would have seen myself as a nurse manager if Brian McCoun hadn’t pushed me in that direction. Now, I can’t image doing anything else,” she commented. Unless, I had followed my childhood dream of being an artist,” she said with a laugh. “Doesn’t everyone want to grow up and be an artist?” she asked.
There are several special people from Debi’s life that influenced her to be a nurse. “That would be my mother, Patsy Marie Penrod, and her patient-my sister, Kellie Marie and my friend, Tom Hunt, RN at Bellevue.”
Debi explains how she became a nurse a little later in life. “My decision to be a nurse came because of a divorce. I had three children to raise and nursing was a way of life for me. I watched my mother take care of my dying sister for years. My mother is my nursing inspiration. My gifts have always been encouragement and teaching and both of those worked out well in the field of nursing,” Debi commented.
Asking Debi what qualities make a good nurse, she replied, “Compassion is good, but a nurse has to be tough, gritty and stand in the gap for the patients or residents that they serve. Many times, you will be the one voice.”
What is your biggest reward as a nurse? “Being a nurse is a daily blessing. I have peace knowing that my hands have worthy work to do and that my life is invested in something that makes a difference in people’s lives; in the patients, families, coworkers and my immediate family,” Debi replied.
What is your biggest challenge? “Protecting my time. I have to balance a demanding schedule and obligations with my chief priorities in life; God, family and career,” she said.
Asking Debi if she had any mentors while she was in school, she said, “Dr. G. Black was my greatest mentor. The first day of class at 34 years old, I sat on the front row of his Zoology class and tears silently streamed down my face as I listened to him discuss the building blocks of all living things. I slowly gathered my books and walked out of the science hall and sat under a tree in absolute shock. I couldn’t do this, I was in over my head, I heard a voice above and looked up and it was Dr. Black.”
“Here, read this chapter that I copied from an old text book, know the material and you will be fine, he said. Then he slowly walked away. I read it and after a few weeks with a big grin on his face he let me know that I had been setting the curve in his class. Sometimes, your whole life can be traced back to one person who encouraged you.”
Debi’s hobbies include her first love of traveling. I also enjoy writing, poetry and scrapbooking. “I love spending time with my greatest blessings of all; my three children: Jillian, April and Hunter, and my two grandsons, Luke and John. Not to forget my faithful dog, Lexi, my long haired mini dachshund.”
As far as encouraging words go, Debi has a poster in her office that has traveled with her from her DON days at Epworth Villa, “The poster is Rosie the Riveter. ‘We can do it!’ Cause we can! As a nurse manager, we are just a part of the team. We never lose sight of the team. No one is more important from the other.”
Summing up her life in one word: “That word is: CHALLENGING.
TOUCHMARK AT COFFEE CREEK is located at 2801 Shortgrass Rd in Edmond. Call (405) 259-4102 or visit for more information.

The Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden recently welcomed Isla, a California sea lion pup rescued from the Santa Barbara Harbor in Santa Barbara, California, by Channel Islands Marine & Wildlife Institute (CIMWI). The pup who is approximately 11-months-old arrived at the OKC Zoo in mid-May.
Born off the California coast, Isla was found malnourished and emaciated at the Santa Barbara Harbor in November 2018. When concerned citizens called the CIMWI Rescue Hotline, volunteers with the nonprofit organization responded and rescued the pup. The sea lion was transported to CIMWI’s facility to be rehabilitated in hopes of returning her back to the wild. Isla was CIMWI’s 100th marine mammal rescued in 2018. After 90 days of rehabilitation, which included medication, increased fish intake, and daily health checks, she was deemed releasable by the Institute’s veterinarian. Isla, known then as number 100, was released 25 miles offshore, near Santa Cruz Island around other wild sea lions.
Nine days later, Isla returned to the Santa Barbara Harbor and walked into the lobby of the nearby Alma Mar Motel. In the 9 days she was back in the wild, she had lost 9 pounds, which indicated to CIMWI staff that she was unable to forage for herself in the wild. When they brought Isla back to the center, it became clear, after weeks of observation, that Isla was more habituated to humans than she was to the other marine mammals in the institute’s care. From this assessment and Isla’s weight loss when she was back in the open ocean, CIMWI caretakers were certain that Isla would not thrive in the wild, so for her safety and well-being, she was deemed non-releasable.
Once it was decided that Isla could not return to the wild, CIMWI contacted National Marine Fisheries Service (a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or NOAA) to locate a zoo or aquarium, accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), that could become Isla’s permanent home, and the OKC Zoo was selected. The OKC Zoo then began making preparations to send two team members, Lead Marine Mammal Trainer, Sierra Chappell, and Social Media Coordinator, Sabrina Heise, to California to bring Isla from Santa Barbara to Oklahoma City.
“By becoming a forever home for Isla and providing her with care, veterinary monitoring and an enriching environment, not only are we ensuring her survival, but we are also safeguarding the future of her species,” said Sierra Chappell, lead marine mammal trainer. “Her energetic spirit and inspiring story will resonate with Zoo guests and create a connection that will last a lifetime.”
On Tuesday, May 14, 2019, Isla entered a temperature-controlled crate and was loaded into a van bound for the Los Angeles International Airport. At 6 a.m., she was boarded on a FedEx cargo plane with Chappell nearby to ensure she was comfortable during the flight.
Once Isla arrived at the OKC Zoo, she was introduced to her new habitat at the OKC Zoo, where she will stay throughout her 30-day quarantine before she begins interacting with the Zoo’s other six California sea lions. The sea lion habitat, located near the Sea Lion Presentation Stadium, is 10-feet-deep, and Isla is currently viewable to Zoo guests. When she has cleared her quarantine period, Isla will begin meeting her sea lion family.
Considered to be highly intelligent animals, California sea lions’ survival is based on the health of the ocean’s ecosystem. Sea lions are threatened by plastic pollution and are vulnerable to the effects of climate change on ocean currents, which impact their fish prey abundance. They are also victims of bycatch in fisheries. The OKC Zoo participates in AZA’s Species Survival Plan for California sea lions.
Tis the sea-sun to make a splash this spring with a trip to the OKC Zoo to meet Isla! Located at the crossroads of I-44 and I-35, the Oklahoma City Zoo is a proud member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the American Alliance of Museums, Oklahoma City’s Adventure District and an Adventure Road partner. Hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Regular admission is $11 for adults and $8 for children ages 3-11 and seniors ages 65 and over. Children two and under are admitted free. Stay up-to-date with the Zoo on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and by visiting Our Stories. Zoo fans can support the OKC Zoo by becoming Oklahoma Zoological Society members at or in-person at the Zoo! To learn more about these and other happenings, call (405) 424-3344 or visit

Welcome To Tealridge!

Ruby Pearl Doolin was born in 1916 and will celebrate her 103 birthday June 30.

Ruby Pearl Doolin was born in 1916, and on June 30th she will turn 103! Ruby Moved in to Legend at Jefferson’s Garden in April of 2018; we were immediately taken with her charm, her sense of humor, her energy and her appetite! Come in to this quaint Legend Community on any day and you will find Ruby walking the building chatting up the staff and Resident’s, teaching us how to do the Charleston whenever she hears music, or rearranging furniture! Ruby was a career interior decorator at a time when everything was done by hand; she would do her own upholstery work and sew custom curtains for her clients. She eventually became part of the Pete Locke custom home design team and is credited to have decorated practically every home in Nichols Hills at some time throughout the years. Ruby is also a natural care giver and cared for her older sister who was quadriplegic; as a result of that care, love and compassion she lived to be 87 years old! It is a common sight to observe Ruby offering care and help to her friends and neighbors in the community.
By the time Ruby was 18 years old she was a beauty queen, winning a home town beauty pageant, she also sang on the radio before TV was even invented! While she was still 18 Ruby was offered a recording contract in Los Angeles which her mother vehemently turned down on her behalf. Besides having a career and taking care of her sister, Ruby would marry and raise four children, two sons who are 80 and 81 years old as well as two step children who cherish her!
When Ruby first arrived at Legend at Jefferson’s Garden we were so amazed by her vitality that we decided to ask her what her secret was? She responded, “well, I just don’t think about it”. I think we should all take that as advise from Ruby! We adore Ruby and look forward to many more years of life, love and laughter from this precious senior.
Legend at Jefferson’s Garden is located at 15401 N Pennsylvania Avenue in Edmond. Visit for more information.

Thomas Hill Trauma Survivor.

Trauma survivor defies the odds twice with help of OU MEDICINE husband and wife surgeons

by Caroline Rykard, OU Medicine

Alisa Cross, M.D. and Brian Cross, M.D. with OU Medicine Trauma One Center.

It was a beautiful weekend when a routine commute to work almost ended an Edmond resident’s life and ultimately led to another medical discovery.
Around 5:30 a.m., July 23, 2016, personal trainer Thomas Hill was on his way to see a client when he was involved in a freak accident that left him in a ditch off Interstate 44 and fighting for his life. An eyewitness called the paramedics, and Hill was rushed to the OU Medicine Trauma One Center. He saw more than 15 doctors, including Alisa Cross, M.D., a trauma surgeon who helped to stabilize him and performed life-saving surgery.
“Thomas came in at the highest level of activation we have here at the OU Medicine Trauma One Center and was taken immediately to the operating room,” Cross said.
The Trauma One Center at OU Medical Center is the only Level One Trauma Center in Oklahoma as verified by the American College of Surgeons. This is the highest national rating a trauma center can receive.
Because his complex injuries required multiple surgeries, Hill was put in an induced coma for two months. It wasn’t until he woke up from the coma that he discovered the frightening details of his accident and realized that his left leg had been amputated. His once-muscular and fit body was now weak and foreign to him. He was angry and frustrated, but he worked hard to change his mindset.
“My focus right now is just getting better, living a better life and focusing on what I can do,” Hill said. “I was always telling my clients to ‘push through, push through. Don’t let anything stop you, don’t let anything break you.’ But now, I’m telling myself those words and motivating myself to change my ‘cant’s’ into ‘cans’.”
Hill stayed at OU Medical Center for six months. He had just begun thinking about returning to his gym when he received shocking news.
While doctors were conducting a CT scan to check his progress, they noticed something unusual in his kidneys. Shortly after, Hill was diagnosed with Birt-Hogg-Dubé syndrome, a rare hereditary condition associated with kidney cancer. A year after Hill’s trauma, Brian Cross, M.D., a urologic oncologist at Stephenson Cancer Center, and husband to Alisa Cross, removed 11 tumors from his right kidney and six months later, removed seven from his left kidney.
“His attitude throughout this whole thing has been remarkable,” Brian Cross said. “It would be more than many people could handle, but Thomas has handled it with amazing perseverance and his prognosis is excellent.”
Although Hill still needs assistance to move around, he is back at his gym, Next Level Fitness, training and motivating his clients and himself. He believes the car accident saved his life.
“If the accident hadn’t happened, the cancer was eventually going to get me,” Hill said.
Many people have taken note of Hill’s courage. For his determination and positive attitude, he was presented an award this month during OU Medical Center’s Trauma Survivors Reception.

Photography and Text by Terry “Travels with Terry” Zinn

In the Oklahoma region many of us over the years have visited Wichita Kansas, whether for a theatrical event at Century Two or to see the Chisholm Trail, or to just get a bit of Western atmosphere. I too have, over the years, visited Wichita and on a recent visit was surprised at the additions to this vibrant city.
My home base was the new Ambassador Hotel, an Autograph Collection Hotel, ( where the modern black and gray and chrome atmosphere welcomes the well-worn traveler seeking a step up from the ordinary. Located downtown with convenient self-parking and an expansive room with courteous attendants and city views, the Ambassador promises a surprise upscale experience. While I requested long in advance for one of their ADA rooms, there was no bench or chair in the walk-in shower. I re-requested such from the front desk, and by the next day, with some bumps in the road, was happily accommodated.
The hotel staff was very good in following through with requests. I only wish the food and beverage side of the hotel had not disappointed. The steak and unique charred Caesar salad were exceptional at the Siena Tuscan Steakhouse, however they did not honor a coupon, they gave me for a drink at the downstairs pseudo speak easy. Even after talking to the Food and Beverage manager and crew it was not accepted, even though my server agreed the coupon was misleading – almost a bait and switch situation. I did not mind paying for my drink, but the experience left a bad farewell feeling for the hotel, as I was leaving the next day. Just a heads up, as I tell it like I experience in all my travel articles. So when I say “I’m impressed,” you know it.
About a block from the hotel is the Roxy Theater, ( with a disguised rear entrance for the uninitiated, to a funky building housing a dinner theater. The food was acceptable for Dinner Theater fare and their production of Avenue Q, was one of the best I have seen. The wait staff had more tables than they could easily accommodate. I’d recommend the Roxy, now you know what to expect.
A pleasant unexpected surprise is the Tanganyika Wildlife Park ( where wild animals including a plethora of giraffes, a Rhino, a variety of primates are among the surprises. Roaming the expansive grounds, even during a rain shower is a recommended experience where you can slow down and enjoy nature and its creations.
Who’d think that there was a goat farm in Kansas that also served adult beverages and farm to table gourmet lunches which is Elderslie Farm.
( Being a family owned operation from chef to owner tour guide, the home-grown sincerity rang throughout the farm, from goat milking and cheese making to the wood working of heritage wood into tables, shelves and doors. Admiration goes out to Elderslie Farm for their preservation of tender loving care and investment in preservation. They even have a large blackberry patch that is a community pick and share in June. The season for blackberries is brief – influenced heavily by the unpredictable spring weather. Reserve a tour and luncheon here – you will be surprised.
Talk about surprises, two dining establishments blew my critical socks off. Georges, a true French bistro, ( located in an unprepossessing strip mall, will delight your taste buds. My luncheon Martini and Prosciutto Eggs Benedict with truffle frites, was accented by the continental waiter and the chatter of the accompanying “ladies who lunch,” who find this their congenial gathering place.
6Steakhouse, ( located out near the Zoo and offering lake front views, is an upscale dining experience not to be passed by. An aged steak prepared to my specification, even with a second “more heat” request, was memorable. What they call creamed corn is a unique roasted corn medley, from which you could make an entire meal. A relatively new establishment promises many years of good times with their sleek upscale interior dining and even an added education into the ageing of fine beef, I found enlightening. (if you say “6S” fast enough it can sound like, success.)
Of course, Wichita is known for its Keeper or the Plains symbolic statue with its reflections in the river, is still an attraction to be viewed anytime.

The veteran The Museum of World Treasures, warehouse style building   is a long-time Wichita resident. It offers mainly replicas of world history documents and artifacts, (including Custer’s button up fly underwear). Seeing many letters of world figures and artifacts can be quite educational for the youth, along with the ever-popular T-Rex skeleton. Also you can enjoy the gardens of Botanica ( and the restored WWII B29 bomber at B-29 Doc Hangar and Educational Center ( .
The best surprise of all was the Wichita Art Museum’s ( limited showing of what could be called the most comprehensive overview of the Works and Life of Georgia O’Keeffe. Having seen many exhibitions of her work, I was delighted to see her paintings and timeline juxtaposed with her actual artifacts and many of her dresses. Hurry to see this unique collection as it closes June 23rd!
To help with your Wichita surprises contact them at:

Every year, 800,000 new strokes are reported in the U.S.
Strokes happen all the time, and yes, it can happen to you. Approximately 20 percent of stroke victims are between the ages of 20 and 55. Knowing the signs of stroke and acting quickly can make the difference between saving a life and a tragic outcome.
Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death and the leading cause of adult disability in the U.S. Unfortunately, few people know what a stroke is and how to recognize when a stroke is happening, according to the National Stroke Association.
But what medical professionals call the “Golden Hour” when someone is having a stroke can make all the difference in the world. The reason the first hour is golden is because stroke patients have a much greater chance of surviving and avoiding long-term brain damage if they arrive at the hospital and receive treatment with a clot-busting drug called TPA within that first hour.
“Time saved is brain saved,” says Mary Pinzon, who is a stroke education nurse at INTEGRIS. “Time lost is brain lost. That’s why recognizing the signs of stroke is so important. Immediately knowing what to do when someone is having a stroke can save someone’s life and help them avoid brain damage. If you suspect someone is having a stroke, the absolute first thing to do is call 9-1-1,” she says.
According to a study from the American Heart Association, every minute in which a stroke is untreated, the average patient loses 1.9 million neurons, 13.8 billion synapses, and seven miles of axonal fibers. With each hour in which treatment fails to occur, the brain loses as many neurons as it does in almost 3.6 years of normal aging.
“Time is of the essence. I can’t stress that enough,” says Pinzon.
Pinzon’s favorite saying is “Each One, Teach One.” In that spirit, after you read this, learn the signs of stroke and what to do in those precious first minutes, pass it on. You just might save someone’s life.
What is considered a stroke?
A stroke occurs when blood flow to an area of the brain is cut off, causing brain cells to be deprived of oxygen and die. A stroke can cause life-altering, devastating changes like loss of speech, movement and memory.
“Stroke is a SUDDEN onset of symptoms when just a minute ago a person was fine,” Pinzon says. There are two major types of strokes, but each one is treated differently.
The most common type of stroke is an Ischemic Stroke, which causes a loss of oxygen to the brain due to a blockage of a vessel in the brain. Roughly 85 to 88 percent of strokes fall under this category.
“It’s so important to get treatment immediately for Ischemic Stroke because we now have a clot-buster called TPA (Tissue Plasminogen Activator). It’s an enzyme drug that can dissolve clots, and any stroke-ready hospital can administer it,” says Pinzon.
A hemorrhagic stroke is rarer but is caused when a blood vessel ruptures in the brain. High blood pressure is the number one cause of hemorrhagic strokes.
“When you arrive at the hospital, the ER will immediately order a CAT scan to see what type of stroke you are having,” Pinzon says. “That’s why you shouldn’t give someone having a stroke an aspirin. If they are having a brain bleed, it could make it worse.”
BE FAST with signs of stroke
Each year, about 185,000 people die from a stroke, but if you know the warning signs, you can help save a life. “Any one of these symptoms could indicate a stroke, which is still more reason to know the signs and why time is so important,” Pinzon says.
Pinzon says the best way to identify stroke symptoms is the acronym BE FAST.
B – Balance. A loss of balance or the sudden inability to stand or walk.
E – Eyes. A sudden loss of vision, changes in vision and blurred vision are symptoms of a stroke.
F – Face. Ask the patient to “show your teeth” and smile. A crooked smile is an indicator of stroke.
A – Arms. Ask the victim to hold up both arms with palms facing skyward. Look to see if one arm drifts down or cannot be lifted.
S – Speech. Slurred or garbled speech indicates a stroke, as does a strange giggle while talking.
T – Terrible headache. An explosive headache is the hallmark of a bleeding stroke.
Remember, time is the key to surviving a stroke. Again, call 9-1-1 first.
One other very important tip: never give a suspected stroke victim anything by mouth. Says Pinzon, “Not a sip of water. Not an aspirin. Nothing. Many stroke victims have trouble swallowing and may choke to death.”
Though stroke remains a killer, recent and ever-changing medical advances are improving survival rates every year. The right care, if done right away, can save lives and quality of life. For more information about stroke and how to recognize the signs, visit the INTEGRIS James R. Daniel Stroke Center.
To have a free stroke education training at your workplace, call Mary Pinzon, RN, CPE, M.Ed., at 405-644-6867.