Healing Charlotte Podcast: Shannon Routh, Teal Diva

Today’s podcast guest is Shannon Routh, the founder and Executive Director of Teal Diva. This non-profit organization supports women with ovarian and other types of gynecological cancer in Charlotte. Shannon got the idea to start the group during her 3rd chemotherapy appointment at age 32 when she realized there were no other support groups and she wanted to meet someone else going through ovarian cancer like herself. Previously, she knew one other woman who was much older and in a different stage of life. She knew if it happened to her, there had to be other woman in similar life stages to her.

Teal Diva supports the mental and emotional health of women diagnosed with gynecological cancers as well as those who have completed their treatment. Before Teal Diva was created, there wasn’t any local support for women with ovarian cancer. As time went by, Shannon learned of other types of gynecological cancers such as vulva and uterine that also did not have support locally, so they began to accept them as well.

Some challenges in the ovarian cancer space is that there is no early screening tool. Most women don’t know this and believe that during their annual visit, they are being checked for it. The symptoms are also vague which leaves many women undiagnosed until it is much further down the line. Some of the symptoms are bloating, feeling full quickly, back pain, changes in bowel habits, etc. Shannon recommends being your own advocate and if these symptoms come on or change and it doesn’t feel right to you, get checked by a specialist.

Shannon and Teal Diva originally used their fundraising efforts to fund research but shifted to supporting women locally as they felt it had the greatest impact and would go further to improve women’s lives here in Charlotte. Money raised and donated goes towards their custom infusion shirts, supporting the “honey-do lists,” and the sisterhood retreats. The Dignity Shirt program was inspired by one local woman who lost her life to ovarian cancer and her husband wanted to create a legacy. These custom shirts are teal for recognition and have zipper openings for the ports instead of stretching out the shirt. The “Yes Girl” program is help women with household projects that they are unable to complete. Teal Diva recruits volunteers to come together on one day and complete the list of projects. The idea of the “Sisterhood Retreats” came from Shannon’s love of retreats that she had been on. They will have group members apply for the retreats and will select 20 women to go. The women usually don’t know each other beforehand and spend a weekend immersed together for support, creativity, and relaxation. Another program that Teal Diva has came during covid isolation. They recruit volunteers to send encouragement cards to women who need support.

“For us to be able to provide this “life-changing” experience {sisterhood retreats} to someone, there are many women who have attended our retreat who pass away 3-6 months or a year later and we were able to touch them. We were able to provide for them in their final time a better experience at the life they had left.”

The elephant mascot came from a story originally told by Jen Hatmaker that was read at Shannon’s remission party. The story goes that when a female elephant is going through labor or a difficult time, the other female elephants circle around her, stomp, and kick up dust to protect her. The story stuck with Shannon and with the help of some professionals became the official mascot with a hidden set of ovaries in it as well.

“When our sisters are vulnerable, when they are under attack and they need their people to surround them so they can heal, and create, and recover, we all get in formation and close our ranks and we have each other’s backs.”

For self-care, Shannon enjoys taking weekends away, being in nature, with her dog. She has learned through the years that she needs to separate from being the leader at times to being the survivor. Shannon also knows the importance of therapy especially with the losses and hardships the group members go through.

If you would like to support Teal Diva, they are accepting of volunteers for events, the “Yes Girl” program, and card writing, and financial donations and company sponsorships will help support all programming and the Dignity Shirts.

Shannon wanted to Heal Charlotte as she was born and raised here and wanted to make a difference in her community.

“I wanted to make a difference and I wanted to get involved and I wanted to be a voice and I feel like if there is a need, then why not.”

You can connect with Teal Diva on the website, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, TikTok, and Pinterest.

Healing Charlotte Podcast: Charlie Petrizzo, Project 2 Heal

This episode features Charlie Petrizzo the Founder and CEO of Project 2 Heal. His organization is the only non-profit in the United States that focuses on expert animal husbandry and rearing of outstanding pedigree Labrador Retrievers to serve the service dog industry. Charlie’s path leading up to starting Project 2 Heal was marked by tragedy and triumph during his childhood. He suffered from two accidents in his childhood; one was when he was 4 years old and was struck by a car and suffered a traumatic brain injury and paralyzed on the left side of his body ~1 year, and electrocuted at age 16 that burned 70% of his body. Charlie understood the support dogs can provide as his childhood dog was by his side during his recovery as a teenager. As an adult, he moved to Charlotte for a job and shortly thereafter lost his father in law and mother. This gave him an opportunity to rethink his own life as he went through a depression, and came out on the other side with a call to serve others. Charlie and his wife Sandy started to narrow their focus on using dogs as healers. He read an article about service dog organizations that don’t have a breeding program will use dogs from the shelter and only about 1/12 dogs will make it to service work. From there Charlie found his calling. In 2006, Charlie and his wife Sandy decided that they would run a breeding program for Labrador Retrievers to donate to service dog organizations where they would train the dogs to give to military vets in need of support.

The most recent shift in the service dog industry is the decline in “puppy raisers.” These are volunteers who keep puppies in their home that are in line for service work from 12 weeks to 1 year old. They are a vital piece of raising a service animal. Before the pandemic, a majority of puppy raisers were in the prison population and on college campuses. These sources dried up during the pandemic. Charlie has decided to start his own puppy raising at Project 2 Heal by keeping the puppies and providing all of the necessary tasks in the first year before turning them over for the professional service dog training. He knows this will reduce costs and shorten the length of time to getting the dog to the vet. K9s for Warriors has a 4-year wait for dogs to get to their vets. Purdue University which is the leading researcher of the canine-human bond, found that Vets with a service dog vs Vets without a service dog had decreased episodes of hyper-vigilance, night tremors, outbursts of anger, and irrational outbursts, and lower waking levels of cortisol. All of these symptoms are contributing factors that lead to death by suicide.

“They{military vets} said yes to their country and they’re coming back now and it’s really hard for them to pay $30k for a service dog. So we have to find it in our non-profit work to get these dogs to these guys quicker so we don’t lose as many.”

Labs are used in this work because they were originally breed to be working dogs. They started in Canada helping retrieve nets and fishing gear out of the water, then to England as hunting dogs, and in America were used historically for bird and duck hunting.

“They{labrador retrievers} are as comfortable laying down at the feet of their owner as they are out working or retrieving in the field.”

Charlie and his team’s work at Project 2 Heal is to breed dogs that have the right demeanor and desire to work. They do hip, elbow, heart, and eye tests as well as 8 genetic test to make sure they are donating top notch dogs free from as many health issues as possible. Before the puppies are 12-weeks old, Project 2 Heal engages them in as many activities to prepare them for this work. Early Neurological Stimulation starts at 48 hours which helps jump start further brain development and creates a stronger cardiovascular and adrenal gland system as well as makes them less reactive to novel stimulus. Puppy Prodigy works starts at 3 weeks where they learn to move their bodies which gets them ready for obedience training. At 8-weeks old, puppies start positive reinforcement for obedience. During this time, the puppies also have a puppy experience room to visit which exposes them to different objects and sounds.

Service dogs for Psychiatric work take about 1.5 years of training before they are ready and Service dogs trained for mobility task work take a few months longer. Costs for training vary between $25k and $40k. Charlie’s work is to lower the costs and time of getting these dogs to vets who need them.

Outside of breeding dogs for service work, Project 2 Heal has several other programs. The school based program brings his dogs into Union County schools to help special needs, lower socioeconomic, and talent development students. The mental health program is for businesses to schedule time for the puppies to be on-site for employees to engage with them. The chaperone home program is for people who are willing to house a dog who may be used in the breeding program for up to 3x and then keep the dog after that. Their volunteer program is for anyone who would like to help out with puppy parties and taking the dogs to places and events.

“We think that we are called to serve others and this is our community and we are trying to build a community of dog lovers who want to use that love and understanding of their own relationship with a dog and who understand how it can help someone who is really hurting to join us in whatever way they can.”

Ways to support Project 2 Heal are through volunteering your time, talent, and/or treasure. Charlie wants to heal Charlotte as he loves it and wishes he was born here. You can watch “Charlie’s Scars”, a movie about his life and work. Contact Project 2 Heal through their website or call the office, 704-256-4056.

Healing Charlotte Podcast: Heather Siblik, Dish Course

Heather Siblik the founder of Dish Course is on this episode of the podcast. Her journey in creating Dish Course really began 5 years ago when she moved to Charlotte from Wisconsin for a relationship that ended shortly after. She remembers how much effort, courage, and time it took to meet people and make friends. This is what sparked the idea for Dish Course, a dinner party with strangers organized by categories. The categories have ranged from “Must Love Sushi” to “Starting Over” to “New in Town.” Heather has found that even within the categories, there is still a lot of diversity in ages, stages of life, and situations.

“Instead of getting too ahead of myself and diving in head first. I really took the time to think about it and grow it, and think about how I wanted it to look, what I wanted the process to look like to build these table of strangers for dinner parties.”

Heather believes it is harder to make friends as an adult due to lower confidence compared to childhood, fear from past experiences, and reduced amount of times around people to connect with. Heather wants to assume the burden of labor for getting people together, and help spark conversation between guests. Dinner parties are limited to 6 guests total including Heather. The connection doesn’t stop after the dinner is over. Guests will join a group text and build their connections further. Previous guests are already planning a Dish Course Reunion for all dinner guests.

“You would be surprised how quickly you open up to a group of strangers because you have nothing to lose and these people are just dumping their souls and it’s just so beautiful because 30-minutes ago they didn’t know each other and now they are talking about their divorce all of these super heavy emotionally driven moments in their lives and it’s very beautiful.”

Heather wants to heal Charlotte as this has become her home, where she built her social world, and the place that healed her.

“How can we make Charlotte happier healthier, more social, and more connected?”

You can find more about Dish Course on their website, emailing Heather(hello@dish-course.com), Facebook, and Instagram.

Healing Charlotte Podcast: Austin Buergermeister, Live Well Chiropractic

Austin Buergermeister a Chiropractor from Live Well Chiropractic in Lake Norman is the latest guest on the podcast. His journey started out while in school at UNCC where he majored in Exercise Science and minored in Public Health. He knew he wanted to help people but had not found in what way yet. A Chiropractor came to speak at one of his classes and his interest was piqued. About the same time, he hurt his back lifting in the gym and decided to give Chiropractic a try. He felt 85% better after his first session and continued to heal quicker than he had in the past. From there, he was hooked. He attended Palmer College of Chiropractic and returned to the Charlotte area. Live Well Chiropractic has been opened since November 2022. Austin knew he wanted to go out on his own so he could try to reach as many people as possible.

Austin describes Chiropractic as a licensed healthcare profession based on diagnosis and treatment of the cause of the condition by using holistic methods to treat. These treatments may be adjustments of the spine and extremities, dry-needling, cupping, as well as exercise and stretches. Proper alignment helps the body in that the Central Nervous System which is made up of the brain and spine connects to all other functions in the body such as organs, sensory input, and motor output. A misalignment of a vertebrae can create a kink in the flow of the CNS. The 3 causes of subluzations(misalignments) are thoughts(stressors in life), traumas(sitting, accidents, etc), and toxins(what we put in our body).

“If you wait for symptoms to appear, it takes even longer to get out of that acute phase and back to your wellness picture that you really want and to function optimally.”

Austin encourages Chiropractic to be the first outlet of care due to the conservative nature. Intake sessions look like a range of motion testing, neurologic and orthopedic examinations, development of a working diagnosis, and creation of a treatment plan. This work focus on mobility as well as stability in the body.

“A Chiropractor is similar to a mechanic but for the body. You wouldn’t just let your car start breaking down before you bring it in for routine oil changes so why would you let your body start breaking down before you went to a Chiropractor?”

Austin patients are usually dealing with back pain, shoulder problems, vertigo, knees, ankles, foot, and muscle issues. He enjoys working with everyone from newborns to the elderly and gravitates towards a more active population. He wants to heal Charlotte by helping everyone gain the knowledge of Chiropractic and different ways to keep the body healthy.

You can find Live Well Chiropractic on the internet, Instagram, Facebook, Tik Tok, and Youtube or by calling 704-912-5050.

Healing Charlotte Podcast: Daisha Williams, CleanAire NC

Today’s guest is Daisha Williams who is the Environmental Justice Manager for CleanAIRE NC. CleanAIRE NC utilizes action, education, and innovation in their partnerships to restore the environment. They started in 2003 as CleanAIRE Carolina where volunteers banded together to improve air quality and noticed the link between that and climate change and public health. Their focus today is on climate change and air quality; addressing it through advocacy, education, and community-driven research and programs. CleanAIRE NC has 4 programs; health, policy, citizen science, and environmental justice. The Health program provides information to help health professionals talk to their patients about climate change, air pollution, and how it is affecting their health. The Policy program advocates for strengthening environmental policies to limit the factors that contribute to air pollution and climate change. The Citizen Science program uses air monitors in impacted communities to translate data for actions and improvements. The Environmental Justice program incorporates all of the other programs to make sure those who have been affected the most by climate change concerns are being included in efforts and decisions as well as empowered with knowledge. While CleanAIRE NC is based in Charlotte, NC, they assist communities all over North Carolina and have offices in Greensboro and Durham as well.

Before landing at CleanAIRE NC, Daisha received her Bachelor’s of Science in Sustainable Development from Appalachian State University and was interested in animals so she joined the Woodland Park Zoo in Washington. From there she learned she was more interested in working with people, so she got a job as a Legislative Assistant at the Washington Environmental Council where she worked with students in Title I schools in the Seattle area on the legislative process, who their representatives are, and how to use their voice for change. She was also part of a team that helped create a policy strategy that was passed to safeguard the environment. Next, she decided to get a graduate degree in Policy at John’s Hopkins University, and moved back to Charlotte where she got a job working with the Americorps’ Regional Stormwater Partnership of the Carolinas and began her work in the Historic West End. Because of her strong work in the community, it made sense to be involved with CleanAIRE NC as the new Environmental Justice Manager. She also has a graduate certificate in Geographic Information Science and Technology.

The Historic West End in Charlotte was subjected to red lining back in the 1930s which caused this area to have a lot of pollution due to the nearby highways and industries. Three highway systems cross through this neighborhood. The Airkeepers program through CleanAIRE NC was launched in 2017 which was the first one in the state. This system measured particulate matter. This is important as our lungs cannot remove certain sizes of particulate matter as it reaches deep into the lungs and bloodstream. The intention for this program was to arm the community of how much particulate matter is present and when it’s at the highest concentration. In 2018, community members and CleanAIRE NC created a report on pollution and health concerns to present to the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioner’s in order to advocate for a federal EPA monitor which they received. The importance of the federal EPA monitor is that now the government is responsible for implementing programs to address the present issues. This also helped them formalize a Historic West End Green District which is designed to improve air quality, reduce emissions, and improve overall health. The community-led program started with 3 volunteers and now has 13. The health impacts of poor air quality are great and include issues such as inflammation, imbalanced nervous systems, can exacerbate diabetes, heart disease, and asthma. Recent studies have even found that poor air quality has a strong link to death by COVID.

“It really disheartens me that pollution touches this community and many communities like it in a cumulative way; it’s not just water quality concerns, it’s not just air quality concerns, it’s also a concern of a lack of resources, whether that’s lack of access to fresh and healthy food, lack of access to medical services, you also have concerns of displacement as Charlotte expands and grows rapidly and these communities are getting pushed out of their neighborhoods.”

The Historic West End Green District’s projects are chosen by the residents and have 3 main goals; strategic tree planting and maintaining of current trees as well as installing green walls and roofs, advocating for electric car charging stations and increasing access to more clean transit, and education on sustainability and solutions for clean air. The Historic West End Green District is working on Community Benefits Agreements which would work with industries in the area to help cut down particulate matter and pollutants.

“So building up those relationships because that’s where you start is just listening and building up trust and expanding this work and even connecting other environmental justice communities to each other because there is power in numbers and there’s also a lot of solidarity in listening and creating solutions with those that are experiencing the same things.”

If you would like to support CleanAIRE NC, Daisha recommends educating yourself first on the historical inequities, environmental justice, and the legacy it has left behind. From there you can speak out against it and vote for people who will support efforts. You can join their Advocacy program or donate to support them.

For self-care, Daisha enjoys spending time in nature, walks with her dog, and baking.

To connect with CleanAIRE NC you can visit their website here or email Daisha at daisha@cleanaire.org.

Healing Charlotte Podcast: Amanda Jones, QC Hydrate

Amanda Jones from QC Hydrate joins us on the podcast to discuss her mobile hydration infusion company. The idea came to her 3 years ago and was pushed forward with the pandemic. Amanda recognized people’s discomfort in going into clinical settings unless absolutely necessary so she decided to take her idea into people’s homes. Amanda has been a nurse for 10 years and the last 6 were spent as an oncology nurse where she fell in love with the work. The day after chemotherapy is given, typically patients come back in for “replacements” which is an infusion of micronutrients such as magnesium, potassium, among others, and basic hydration and possibly zofran for nausea. Many times, patients aren’t able to come back into the hospital the next day for many reasons. Amanda had the idea of being able to travel to patients homes and give them what they need to recover. She has now stepped back from the oncology world to focus on the growth of her business.

Infusions have to be given by a licensed medical professional and Amanda’s nurses all have a strong infusion background of at least 5 years. QC Hydrate contracts with a physician to oversee policies, procedures, safety, and efficacy and works with a specialty pharmacy to create the infusions. QC Hydrate is the only Board Certified Hydration Company in Charlotte.

By offering this service in the home, people feel pampered, and can receive the treatment in their own space for a short amount of time. Amanda can help develop an individualized treatment plan with her client’s goals in mind. They can provide infusions to individuals, couples, or a group of people. Some have set up for bridal parties, golf events, or ladies night.

“One of the most common feedbacks that I get is ‘oh I feel so pampered, this is so luxurious, or I feel like a star’ and that’s what we want.”

At QC Hydrate, they have tried to create something that everyone can benefit from. They have immunity, athletic, beauty, and hangover blends to name a few. Infusions are not recommended for those under 18 or anyone with congestive heart failure, or liver or kidney disease.

Intravenous supplements are more effective than oral because when taking one orally, the gastric acid in the stomach breaks down the nutrients and therefore lose 50-60% of the efficacy. Infusions bypass the digestive system so that 100% of the micronutrients enter the bloodstream. Many people especially in the winter months are deficient in vitamins such as B and D. QC Hydrate has a 6-session package to get your levels balanced with a blood test before and after to.

According to the NIH, dehydration affects 75% of the population. Most people aren’t drinking enough water through the day to get hydrated and are also getting dehydrated in the sun or by drinking caffeine or alcohol. When people are properly hydrated, they feel better in their bodies, have less inflammation, and sleep better. QC Hydrate recommends infusions at least 2x a month to be within the therapeutic range of hydration.

“We are going to do everything we can to make sure that we are providing a safe, comfortable environment for you.”

By her 3 year mark, QC Hydrate wants to have a bus to provide mobile infusions to people in the community, and provide infusions to those in the community who can not access it through charitable donations.

Amanda loves reading as self-care and loves “Vitamized Health” by Dr. Stephen Petteruti. She wants to heal Charlotte by giving everyone an opportunity to feel the benefits of hydration.

Find QC Hydrate on their website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.