Gardner, Wright recognized for service
DENTON — The Caroline County Commissioners and Caroline County Environmental Health Department recognized Dr. Hilliard E. Gardner, DVM, and Karen “Kay” D. Wright, veterinary technician, of Tuckahoe Animal Clinic, with a special commendation for many years of dedicated service to the county’s rabies prevention efforts at the commission’s Jan. 12 meeting.
Environmental Health Director Don Wilson said Gardner and Wright have been working with the rabies vaccination clinics for as long as he could remember. Environmental health specialists Ashley Baxter and Martha Mcmahon did some research and discovered the pair have been administering vaccinations for the health department at multiple clinics every year since 1971.
Wilson said his department investigates more than 200 rabies reports and animal bites a year, which pose a risk to both pet and human health.
The state requires the county to hold at least two rabies clinics a year, but they usually host three or four, Wilson said.
They determined the Caroline
County rabies clinics have successfully administered over 18,000 vaccinations
over the last 41 years with Gardner’s and Wright’s help.
“It is safe to say, Caroline County’s pets and citizens are safer today because of them,” Wilson said.
Commission Vice President Dan Franklin said he was an animal person and Gardner and Wright “get my gold star for the day,” adding his thanks.
Commissioner Wilbur Levengood reflected on his many interactions with Gardner over the years. He told Gardner and Wright, “I greatly appreciate what you do for the community.”
Commission President Larry Porter said the special commendation was “well deser ved.”
He said Gardner sets the standard when it comes to veterinarians, and he praised Wright’s dedication to her profession and family (while warning people not to be on her wrong side on the soccer field).
Porter said recognizing “two very special people” is one of the fun things the commissioners get to do.
Wright and Gardner thanked the commissioners.
Wright said, “I appreciate the opportunity to serve.”
Gardner seconded Wright’s sentiments and left them with a final thought, “Do not follow where the path may lead; make your own path.”
DENTON — Shannon Pinder Hannawald is among the one in 10. She is among the one in 10 who has been diagnosed with endometriosis — a disorder that can cause intense ureteral and abdominal pain.
“When I was around 15, I started having horrible lower abdominal pain and the first diagnosis I received was ovarian cysts that were rupturing. I had surgery to remove my appendix so that if it happened again, we would know exactly what the pain was. However, it wasn’t that easy because the pain got worse and spread to more areas just not the one spot. My parents would take me to the doctor and the emergency room,” Hannawald said. “Every time they would say they couldn’t find anything. I lost count of the number of ultrasounds and CAT scans I had. The doctors kept telling my parents there was nothing wrong. I felt so alone because I knew I was in excruciating pain; pain that cost me living the life of a teenager like my friends. It affected my mental health because at this point nobody believed me and my parents thought I was just making it up to get out of school.”
The Caroline County native said the experience was one of the lowest points of her life. Hannawald said, not only because she was in so much pain, but because her family didn’t believe her. She spent five years living with the emotional, mental and physical pain before seeking out a different doctor at the age of 20.
Finding a doctor knowledgeable of her condition was a turning point for Hannawald, but also the beginning of an intensive process for definitive diagnosis and treatment. The only way to diagnose endometriosis is through laparoscopic surgery.
Hannawald began researching the condition and realized she had every single symptom of this ”horrible disease”.
“I also realized I was not alone,” Hannawald said. “It takes years for most women with this disease to get diagnosed. I had the first of 12 surgeries and was diagnosed with Stage 4 endometriosis. I was so thankful I finally had an answer and could hopefully begin treating it.”
During the first surgery Hannawald said they burned off the endometriosis that they could see; and at first the surgery would help, but then the pain would return. “The pain feels like someone is carving out your insides while stabbing you with thousands of knives in your ovaries,” she said.
In addition to the physical pain, Hannawald was also dealing with infertility, one of the other painful side effects of endometriosis. “I always wanted to be a mom, Hannawald said, “and by the grace of God I was able to have my first son in 2006.”
Her doctors told her endometriosis symptoms generally improve after a successful pregnancy, but in Hannawald’s case that didn’t happen, instead the pain only worsened.
Over the next 10 years she would seek out so many different doctors tr ying to find an answer to her pain, that she began to lose count. “Nothing seemed to help, Hannawald said, “It was 10 times worse during my menstrual cycle as it is for most women. This disease took so much from me during that time. I lost friends, I missed important events for my family and best friends because I couldn’t get out of bed.”
In 2015, Hannawald married and they decided to tr y to conceive, “We knew this was not going to be easy because of the endometriosis and because the older you are with this disease the harder it is to get pregnant.” After seeking treatment from a fertility specialist they were pregnant in October o 2016, only to lose the pregnancy nine weeks later. “I was devastated and again this disease had taken something from me,” said Hannawald. They tried again and got pregnant in April 2017 with their baby born in November
2017, seven weeks early.
On her doctors advice, Hannawald chose to have a hysterectomy following her last pregnancy. The doctors said if we tried to have another one, they didn’t know what they outcome would be and I would be extremely high risk, she said. There are still days, she said, when she when is in so much pain it breaks her heart to feel like her family and friends have to pay for what the disease has caused.
“I was angry for a long time that it took so long to get a diagnosis because maybe the outcome would be different,”hannawald said. “Maybe I wouldn’t have all of the other health issues I have that are related to my endometriosis. There are days that I sit and cry because I want to have a normal life. I want to be able to get out of bed everyday and play with my kids and go to work and do normal things that everyone else does but I can’t.”
Often Hannawald said she has difficulty standing for long periods of time, it makes it hard to do normal tasks such as cleaning the house all in one day. When the pain is unbearable, Hannawald said she still ends up in the hospital and has had on multiple occasions had doctors come in and ask her questions about endometriosis. This is unacceptable, Hannawald said, “I should not know more than someone in the medical field when it comes to a disease that so many women have.” She said she has made herself a promise to raise awareness, education and support to make sure that no other girl or woman has to go through what she’s suffered through over the last 20 years.
Hannawald is now an ambassador for the Endometriosis Association so she can help spread awareness and education about this disease. “If you have any of these symptoms please talk to your doctor, Hannawald urged, “If they wont listen find another doctor because you are your best and only advocate. I know some of these subjects are hard to talk about but they need to be discussed and they need to be understood better by those suffering and those affected by endometriosis.”
It can be incredibly challenging to live with an “invisible” disease, said Hannawald. Partners, family and friends need to be supportive. The best thing anyone can do is research, listen and ask questions. “My husband has been amazing,” Hannawald said, lightly joking that he may know more about endo than most doctors. “On days that I can’t function because of pain,” she said, “he is there so I can rest.
The person with endo must be honest with themselves and everyone around them. Your family and friends can’t be supportive if they don’t know what is going on or how you feel.”
“I think women try and mask pain because if you look okay on the outside you must be fine on the inside,” Hannawald said, most people think period pain is normal but it is not normal. Once you go to multiple doctors and they dismiss your complaints then you get tired of being told nothing is wrong. So you keep it to yourself it seems easier that way.
It can also be hard because most women don’t want pity and it seems when you share health concerns that’s what happens. We just want understanding and awareness.”
“People need to know they are not alone,” Hannwald said, “The only way to spread awareness and open conversations up about women’s health is to educate people about conditions that are important. We must talk about things even if they are hard because women need to know they are not alone and there are people ready and willing to help.”
She recommends the Endometriosis Association as a good resource for women and their families. Hannawald also created a Facebook page called Endo Warriors of the Eastern Shore. Please feel free to join our group and ask questions or just vent if you need someone who understands how you feel and
what you are going through, Hannawald said. This disease has no cure only treatments so we have to fight for education, awareness and acceptance.
“I may be 1 in 10 who has endometriosis but I am going to be the first to help raise awareness on the Eastern Shore to help as many girls and women as possible,” Hannawald said.
In her effort to raise awareness, Hannawald has gathered the support of towns: Denton, Ridgely, and Greensboro to light up their town halls or other local spaces, the color yellow for endometriosis. She has also reached out to the governor’s office in hopes they will do the same.