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Women to Know

A Lesson On Life

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Maddie Urhahn is a typical college freshman at Missouri State University – she studies, joined a sorority, is getting involved in campus ministry, exercises and hopes to find a few other extra curriculars as time goes by. But she possesses an a typical college freshman attitude of “don’t take anything for granted,” because of the life-threatening experience she had in high school.

Maddie was a year-round high school athlete at Notre Dame Regional High School in Springfield, MO, having played softball, basketball and soccer from a very young age. Then during soccer season her freshman year, she fainted on the field.

Although she had been seeing doctors about dizzy spells, this fainting episode took things to the next level of testing. “I had to wear a heart monitor and they figured out that my heart would just stop beating sometimes,” she says.

The monitor revealed that Maddie’s abnormality involved some kind of electrical problem in Maddie’s heart and it would stop beating for as long as nine seconds with no apparent explanation. She was told she would need surgery to implant a pacemaker – at 14. “It was a shock,” she says. ‘It freaked me out, mainly because I didn’t know if I would be able to keep playing sports. That was my main concern.”

But true to her competitor’s nature, she continued to play summer softball on a traveling team in the months leading up to her surgery, even participating in a game the day prior to the operation at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

Her doctors would not confirm whether she’d be released to play sports again until after the surgery, but things went well enough and she was released with no restrictions to play again when her sophomore year commenced.

“Those weeks when I was sitting out, waiting to hear if I’d get to play again, I realized that I shouldn’t ever take anything for granted,” Maddie says. “I decided to always give my absolute best to everything.”

Maddie had a great sophomore year in all three sports and was ready to be a starter her junior year when a blood clot in her shoulder sidelined her again.
Blood thinners to break up the clot meant she had to sit the bench – a position for which she was unaccustomed.

“Having that happen to me again, watching my team play without me – the only thing that kept me going was that I had told myself I wouldn’t take anything for granted, that I would remember how lucky I was to be here.”

The blood thinners dissolved the clot, but it returned, so her doctors decided to leave it place and her body created pathways around it. Leaving it meant Maddie would have be very aware of any signs and symptoms of a pulmonary embolism, but it was a risk she was willing to take to remain a competitor. Once again, her doctors gave their blessing and she returned to sports.

When Maddie graduated from Notre Dame in 2016, she had played all three sports all four years of high school.

“I guess when all that started, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to say that, so looking back, I’m grateful,” she says. “My teammates and coaches were really supportive and it turned out to be a really good life lesson.”

Today, Maddie continues to have annual checkups with her heart doctor and bi-annual checkups with the technician to make sure her pacemaker is still working properly. She is an athletic training major at Missouri State with plans to attend graduate school for a degree in physical therapy.

“I want to help people and I certainly know what it’s like to be the patient and I think I’ll be able to be an encouragement to patients because of that,” she says.

Molly Deimeke

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Hair stylist Molly Deimeke was ecstatic in February 2015 when she passed a certified educator test for John Paul Mitchell Systems. Although she has aced the yearly certification exam many times, the 2015 test marked a milestone because it was her first test after a traumatic brain injury in May 2014.

“I lost my ability to read,” Deimeke said. “I had to start over, at the kindergarten level. The test was harder for me than it’s ever been. Before the accident, I would cram a week before. This time, I studied every day, beginning in December and all the way through January.”

Kristel Kronk, MS, CCC-SLP, speech language pathologist at Mizzou Therapy Services, helped Deimeke, 32, of Martinsburg, Missouri, regain her ability to read and speak coherently. It took a team of experts in speech therapy, physical therapy and occupational therapy to help Deimeke recover motor skills and cognitive function that she took for granted before her accident. Deimeke attended appointments twice weekly for four months before her physician cleared her to drive again. She then returned to styling hair and teaching other hair stylists.

“Speech therapy was the hardest for me,” Deimeke said. “Physical therapy was the easiest for me because I enjoyed it but balance was the hard part.”

Becky Edwards, MPT, MHA, clinical supervisor and Rock Steady Boxing Coach of Mizzou Therapy Services-Business Loop, said difficulty with balance is a common problem for those who have sustained a traumatic brain injury or have been diagnosed with a neurological condition such as Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis.

 

“When you hit your head, it can cause damage to the inner ear and affect your balance, known as vestibular dysfunction,” Edwards said.

A self-described risk taker who loves to travel, Deimeke was overseas in Laos when she fell off a double-decker truck serving as a taxi. She fell approximately 10 feet onto the street and then rolled 20 feet down a hill, witnesses later told her. Deimeke injured the left temporal lobe, which controls language and memory.

 

Deimeke doesn’t remember her injury or much of her early treatment, which included surgery in Thailand to stop her brain bleed and a long hospital stay in St. Louis before returning to her family home in Martinsburg, Missouri. Deimeke does recall, however, all of her experiences in Columbia at Mizzou Therapy Services and the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinic with her physician, Peter Hwang, MD.

 

“If I wouldn’t have done the therapy, I would have stayed in a weird childhood place,” she said. “I didn’t know at that time I had to go through all of these steps to heal me but they guided me through the steps I needed to take here.”

Deimeke joined a support group for brain injury survivors and said it helped her move forward. At a support group meeting, she became fast friends with the group’s facilitator, Dina McPherson, a fellow brain injury survivor. They chat like old high school friends about their lingering TBI effects, such as losing their sense of smell and tricks to spice up foods since their sense of taste is diminished.

Molly Deimke, of Laddonia, Missouri recovered from a traumatic brain injury with the help of Mizzou Therapy Services.

Molly Deimke, of Laddonia, Missouri recovered from a traumatic brain injury with the help of Mizzou Therapy Services.

“You never heal 100 percent from a brain injury,” McPherson said. “People learn to adjust as best they can, but both the brain and the person will never be exactly as they were before the injury.”

Deimeke said she is grateful to be alive and is thankful for her outstanding rehabilitation care and ongoing support through the brain injury support group.

“Hearing someone else has struggled with something that you are struggling with really helps you to see that you are not alone and gives you hope,” Deimeke said. “Now I want to teach other people by telling my story.”

It’s been two years since the accident, which led to brain surgery, six weeks of in-patient hospital care, four months of outpatient physical, occupational and speech therapy and two years of natural brain healing, but Deimeke’s dedication and hard work never wavered.

She is a now a national color educator for John Paul Mitchell Systems and a traveling hair and make-up artist. Deimeke is taking her talents and creativity mobile — giving her the opportunity to do the work she loves all while sharing her story and educating others about traumatic brain injuries.

Influential Voice – Emily Edgington Andrews unites mid-Missourians of all ages around choral music

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Plenty of factors keep people at odds, but music is among the few that brings them together. That observation has led Emily Edgington Andrews to unite men and women of all ages and backgrounds, some of whom have never sung a single note, around choral music for the past 12 years.

“It is about the people, not the performance” says Andrews, 35, a Columbia resident whose work as artistic director of Choral Arts Alliance of Missouri has grown the organization to include more than 350 singers and 10 choral ensembles. “I use music as a vehicle to bring people together.”

Ever since graduating with two music-oriented master’s degrees—one from Truman State, the other from the University of Missouri—Andrews has made a mark on budding vocal talent in mid-Missouri. She teaches at Columbia Independent School and MU. She also conducts the Columbia Chorale; leads Columbia Youth Choirs (CYC), a youth choir program for students in grades 2 through 12; has served as conductor at Sacred Heart Catholic Church for the past decade; and directs the professional ensemble Prometheus: An American Vocal Concert as assistant conductor.

Andrews faces a demanding schedule of rehearsals, study sessions, classes and outreach on any given week. It might be daunting to some, but Andrews finds it exhilarating. The mother of two—Braydon, 21 months, and Brynn, 3 months—says her husband, Bryan, has provided an abundance of support to pursue her dreams and goals as a musician.

Turning Point. Andrews never expected to begin her career teaching students in middle school and early high school, but the opportunity proved transformative. In her first syllabus, she articulated for students the values she expected them to embrace as musicians.

“Kindness, respect and professionalism are the three keys to success I wrote,” Andrews recalls. She knew middle school could be tough developmentally and emotionally for kids, so she made an effort to model those principles.

She realized she had made a difference when students wrote letters to her at the end of that first school year expressing their appreciation for her class and for music. One letter from a ninth-grade boy stood out.

“He felt so safe in the classroom,” Andrews says. “It was OK for him to express the way he was feeling if he was having a bad day. He didn’t have to have this façade, this wall up. For me, it was really eye-opening the powerful effect music can have on an individual.”

Unity In Diversity. An overarching focus on bringing people together to break down barriers and promote social justice has guided Andrews in her career. It’s one of the reasons she is drawn to vocal performance.

“Choral music is accessible.” Andrews says, “Anyone can participate. It’s not something you have to buy, like an instrument. It brings many different people together.”

She is moved by music that teaches a lesson, such as music written about the Holocaust because of its capacity to teach tolerance against the backdrop of a tragic history of genocide. She once raised money to host a Truman State special performance by Robert Convery. The New York composer’s nine-part “Songs of Children” guides the listener through a boy’s experience in the Terezin concentration camp using poems written by real children who experienced it.

Pieces such as that one underscore the ability of music to cut through the noise of everyday life and create a lasting effect.

In January this year, Andrews had the opportunity to bring almost 1,000 people together through a unity concert she organized starting in 2014. The purpose of the concert was to work toward bridging the gap between two cultures, she says. Thematically, she showed this by creating a community gospel choir that sang African American gospel music. She involved Columbia Chorale, which sings music primarily from the Western European choral tradition, used some of the youth from CYC and brought the various groups together. It just so happened the university experienced tension this fall, she says, making the concert even timelier.

A Place Of Change. Andrews plans to continue her career working alongside other musicians and community members to transform Columbia and the surrounding area into a place where people of all ages and experience levels can come together to sing.

“I have a vision that we can continue making a positive impact on our community by creating a culture of choral music that rivals that of any metropolitan area,” she says. “By working side-by-side with both arts and non-arts groups in the community, there is potential for reaching countless individuals. To me, being a part of this is exciting and humbling.”

Jackie Bulgin

Jackie Bulgin – Emerging Victorious

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JACKIE BULGIN LEADS ONE OF THE MOST SUCCESSFUL real estate teams in central Missouri – Jackie Bulgin & Associates in Columbia, MO. Her clients and colleagues know her as an effective, smart, action-oriented real-estate agent and leader in the business community. But Jackie’s determination and inclination toward success also served her well in her personal life, carrying her through not one, but three personal battles with cancer.

Having grown up at the Lake of the Ozarks, Jackie first came to Columbia, MO, to attend college at the University of Missouri. She received her undergraduate degree in mathematics and psychology education and taught at Columbia Hickman High School and Quincy, Illinois High School for 10 years.

Eventually, Jackie returned to college to work on her graduate degree and she was teaching mathematics at the university when she met her second husband, Lawrence Bulgin. Lawrence was a builder and developer and he wanted his wife to work with him, so he encouraged to obtain her realtors license.

“He had a construction company and already had his realtor’s license, so I got my license in 1979 and we started Bulgin Real Estate, which was a ‘mom and pop’ construction company and development company,” Jackie says. “We built houses, developed land and the real estate company to market the properties.”

 

Cancer Makes Its Appearance

The couple expanded the business in the years following their marriage, adding a condo development, office park, mini warehouse and a car wash. Jackie faced her first bout with cancer during this time, which involved cancer of the cheek in 1984.

 

In 1990, she and Lawrence decided to merge their real estate company with House of Brokers Realty, which is a locally-owned real estate brokerage company that had been in business since 1981. Jackie is one of six owners of the company along with Bev Curtis, Carol Denninghoff, Gary Meyer, Wanda Northway and Jeff Radel.

 

About 10 years after the merger, Jackie learned that she would follow in the footsteps of her mother, a breast cancer survivor, and her late aunt, who died of breast cancer when Jackie was young. Jackie’s cancer was discovered in 2001.

 

“My mother was a breast cancer survivor and she had a very aggressive form of cancer, so that put me into early mammograms,” Jackie says. “I went for my yearly checkup and the cancer did not show up on the mammogram or on the sonogram, but a very observant nurse saved my life.”

 

The nurse noticed some dimpling on Jackie’s left breast and she ordered a biopsy. The biopsy showed cancer, and Jackie opted for a double mastectomy.

 

She underwent chemotherapy and radiation, and then did re-construction in 2002. All the while, she kept her cancer battle very private. Thanks to her team, she would schedule her chemotherapy treatments on Fridays so that she could suffer the worst effects of the treatment over the weekend and be back on her feet and back at work by Tuesday.

 

“At the time, I didn’t want people to know what was going on because I didn’t want them to ask me how I was feeling. I just thought that would be a negative for me, so I didn’t tell anyone about it until I was completely done with treatment.”

 

Sadly, in October of 2003, Lawrence was diagnosed with Glioblastoma brain cancer. He underwent radiation treatment and was scheduled to start chemotherapy after the first of the year, but he collapsed and died suddenly in December.

 

“When he died, my whole world turned upside down and my work became extremely important to me,” Jackie says. “I had always been very involved in work, but it was even more important to me then – it’s where I put all my energies.”

 

Jackie and Lawrence had closed the building company a couple of years before he died, and she sold off some of the other parts of their business so she could focus more on real estate.

 

Unfortunately, in 2012, Jackie faced cancer yet again. She was diagnosed with cancer inside her mouth on the jaw bone. The required extensive radiation which resulted in the removal of a portion of her jaw. Her jaw was reconstructed in a two-step process; first by taking some bone from her leg and moving it to her jaw, then by placing a titanium plate in her jaw. In addition to all this, the extensive radiation burned the inside of her mouth, her taste buds and salivary glands.

 

“I couldn’t talk very well and it was a very rough five months,” she says. “I had wonderful support from my family and physicians, and my team again, picked up work for me and kept things going during that time. I couldn’t have done it without all that support.”

 

Jackie said that when she first learned of her jaw cancer, she felt alone. “I thought , ‘I’m the only one in the world who has this.’ But then I found out the surgeon in Columbia does 60 to 70 of these surgeries a year. Now I’m very grateful to be a three-time cancer survivor.”

 

Passionate About Business

Through it all, Jackie remained committed to her business and her clients. “I really love my job and working with people,” Jackie says. “I look forward to work everyday. It’s just fascinating because there are never two days that are the same, never two clients that are same.”

 

Jackie says it’s a joy to help people select a home. “You become a part of their lives because it is one of the biggest investments they will make in a lifetime. Whether someone is buying their first home, upsizing or downsizing, it’s exciting to be a part of a milestone in their lives.”

 

Not surprisingly, Jackie is surrounded by others who are similarly passionate about the business. The House of Brokers continued to grow, and currently has 85 agents. Jackie’s team has three agents in addition to her partner, Shannon O’Brien and associates, Nicole Waldschlager and Debbie Fischer.

 

Jackie says her passion for real estate and her entrepreneurial spirit come from her parents. Her father was a builder at the Lake of the Ozarks, and her mother led a craft novelty business. “They were always self-employed and had a great work ethic,” she says.

 

 

Family and Community

In addition to a passion for her work, Jackie considers herself blessed on the family front. She has a daughter, Paula Elam, and a stepson and daughter-in-law, Trevor and Denise Bulgin, all of Columbia. Her stepdaughter, Melinda Schumacher and her husband Rick, and their four children live in Olathe, KS.

 

During her spare time, Jackie is active in her community. She has been extensively involved in and was a charter member of the Regional Economic Development Inc., and she served on the Columbia Planning & Zoning Commission from 1979 to 1984. She also served on the Governor’s Council for Affordable Housing and as a past treasurer, secretary, vice president and on the Board of Directors of the Columbia Board of Realtors.

 

She continues to do some volunteer work for Phoenix Programs, a organization that serves individuals suffering from addiction. And she contributes to Honor Flight Network because her father was a World War II veteran.

 

Remaining Vigilant

Because Jackie’s mother and aunt had experienced breast cancer, she was vigilant from a young age about getting checkups.

 

Her daughter, Paula, has regular check-ups and recently had something show up that required an MRI. For now, her doctors are watching it. And her step-daughter, Melinda, lost her mother to breast cancer and her father to the brain tumor, so she’s also dedicated to getting screened.

 

My family and I are eternally grateful to my nurse and for her skills and expertise in finding my “needle in a haystack” tumor. Please tell everyone you know, breast exams can save a woman’s life, I know because it saved mine.

 


About the Author

Michelle Cox is a wife, mother and professional freelance writer/communications specialist in St. Louis, MO. She’s a regular contributor to stlouismag.com and an author for fiftiness.com (launching in September 2016) as well as their social media director. She also writes short stories and is working on her first novel, and she writes about writing on her website, michellecoxwriter.com, where she encourages other midlifers (not young, never “old”) to pick up a pen or keyboard.