Music To Warm Your Heart

By Fred Mills

There is plenty to love about the local music scene in this month of love. We’ve got some excellent tributes coupled with a few excellent original artists to cap off the month.

There are a couple of professional tribute acts in the area this month with the first being Markell Williams paying homage to the legendary crooner Sam Cooke. When this moving tribute comes to Earl Strand Theatre on Feb. 14, your sweetheart will sure be in for a treat. The “Sam Cooke Experience” is peppered with stories from the iconic singer’s childhood and rise to fame.

On Feb. 17 Jane Powell, “The Goddess of Soul” takes the stage of the Roswell Cultural Arts center as she performs a blend of classic R&B songs, blues tunes, jazz standards, and gospel anthems. Jane has worked with some of the best in the business including the legendary Ray Charles. Powell will captivate you with her playful personality, spicy sense of humor, and soulful style.

If you’re craving some jazz, then our friends at The Velvet Note in Alpharetta have you covered. On Feb. 17 they welcome multi Grammy winning drummer Ulysses Owens Jr. and his trio to the intimate Velvet Note stage. Owens has established himself as a leader in his generation of jazz artists, admired for his sensitive, fiery and complex playing, vivid display of textural nuance, and gift for propelling a band with charisma and integrity. Both humble in person and imposing behind a kit, he is a graduate of the inaugural Jazz Studies Program at The Juilliard School and a two-time Grammy Award winner. He earned his stripes as a member of bassist Christian McBride’s acclaimed trio and was the driving force of McBride’s big band.

Singer songwriter Sarah Partridge performs on Feb. 24. After graduating college at Northwestern University in 1982, she worked around Chicago, and landed her first feature role in Tom Cruise’s 1983 hit Risky Business. She spent years honing her technique in Los Angeles and New York City, where she moved in 1994, and instantly bonded with trumpet legend Doc Cheatham. Partridge released her debut I’ll Be Easy to Find in 1998, a widely acclaimed album and has grown exponentially with each new recording. It would not be surprising if a few of her songs became standards in the future. And now, Bright Lights & Promises: Redefining Janis Ian, her latest release, captures an artist fully in command of her craft. Surrounded by an enviably sympathetic cast of collaborators, Partridge has expanded the possibilities for fellow vocalists, bringing the work of an American original firmly into the jazz fold. For info and tickets visit The Velvet Note site at www.thevelvetnote.com.

36th Annual Great American Cover-Up Quilt Show

To Be Held March 9–18

Admittedly we’re early on this but in March there is a unique quilt show coming to Bulloch Hall in Roswell called The 36th Annual Great American Cover-Up Quilt Show. Bulloch Hall Quilt Guild has a unique opportunity to host this special exhibit of quilted art, which represents the 59 designated National Parks in the United States. There are 177 pieces in the collection and each National Park is represented by three originally designed quilted illustrations. The exhibit will replace the traditional guild quilt show at Bulloch Hall. You can see more about the project at npscentennialquilts.com and for specific info on the local show visit bullochhall.org.

When Two Great Concepts Collide

By Frank Mack

Drinking and food go together. Both are social activities that need spaces and involve people with all our inherent peculiarities. Thus a buck to be made and the hospitality industry was born.
You can argue endlessly about which is more important to the business… the drinking or the food. But you’ll not find a person with a kitchen and liquor license that won’t tell you which one is more profitable. It’s the drinks… the soda, the booze, the beer, and the wine. Hands down no contest.

To that end, there is a new restaurant in downtown Alpharetta (30 Milton Ave.) the whole industry needs to take a look at called Truck & Tap. These guys have shredded the old business plan by outsourcing the kitchen and the associated costs to a growing band of talented roving restaurateurs we all know and love… the food trucks.

At Truck & Tap, they do have a small built-in kitchen mind you, but it only operates after the truck leaves, doing an okay easy bar food thing. That kitchen is perfect for late night munchies if the drinking is making you spin a bit. But the heart of the day and mealtimes is all about the truck on site. Which truck you ask? Ahhh, there’s the beauty. It’ll always change. This model gives you the option of just enjoying the beer, music and overall vibe or discovering something from a roving kitchen out back. It’s a street party feel.

Overall the place is sweet. I love the look and everything from owner all the way down the line. The beer list has a local first mentality but to be clear, offers something for a wide variety of tastes. They also feature a nice selection of wines and get this, even craft sodas for the kids.

 

Truck & Tap co-founder Zack Yurchuck brings passion to the table. He’s not just riding the cutting edge of a cultural shift in drinking, he’s evolving local economics into the heart of the hottest local restaurant scene in Georgia, which is now Alpharetta. A 26-year-old kid just landed some kind of restaurant industry moon shot.
All of this works so nicely together. Downtown Alpharetta has overtaken Canton Street as the “hot” place to be… especially in the food scene. So it only makes sense that this business model thrives here. This ambience is the perfect drinking environment and couple that with a revolving food truck provided by PREP, featuring lobster rolls, loaded burgers, BBQ, Binh Mi Sandwiches… you get it. Due to the continuing moving parts, a menu list is not possible here, so checkout their site at truckandtap.com. Connect with their social media and you can keep up with the current offerings.

I’m floored by the simplicity and perfection of it all. This is the second of three Truck & Tap locations. The very first has already been humming along in Woodstock for two years now. Still, I can I see it raising some hackles as well. Those folks don’t matter, because you have to break the eggs to make an omelet. If any industry has the crazy geniuses and talent required to re-invent itself decade by decade it’s this one, as always being led by the American restaurateur.

Restaurant notes
I have a couple of new guys to put on your radar. The first is Meating Street BBQ at 1294 Alpharetta St. in Roswell. I’m going to get into this more next month but I’ll just say we lost Bill Greenwood’s Swallow at the Hollow last month, but just down the street this place is looking like a new winner.

Another new place that just opened is Wild Slice Pizzeria at 580 Crossville Road in the Kroger center. This is everything you want… locally owned by Mike and Cristy Thomas. Mike is an industry vet who does a mean pie with a classic taste I would describe as upscale NY style with several house specialties. They also do baked sandwiches and paninis. Overall, this is a great place for families. These guys are a true family business and they are striving for that neighborhood feel. I write this because many places I normally touch on are more adult oriented but for those of you with kids who want to get a good meal in a family environment this is your place. They offer a lot of specials and weekly promos so visit them at
www.wildslicepizzeria.com.

Get outside this winter and explore nature

By Jon Copsey

Winter is the perfect time to be outside. The plants have all gone dormant and reveal amazing hidden secrets behind them. What does winter divulge?

One thing you can see is plenty of nests and the animals that live in them. Squirrels bound along the ground and birds fly through the air. Just like people, animals bundle up in the winter; they have fur and feathers that help them get through the cold nights.
Kathryn Dudeck, wildlife director at the Chattahoochee Nature Center, said birds of prey—called “raptors”—can deal with cold by puffing themselves up.

“Raptor feathers weigh more than the entire bird skeleton, so you will often see the birds fluffy in cold weather,” Dudeck said. “They can control each feather individually so they raise their feathers to trap the warm body heat, creating an insulated ‘parka’ for them. This is why down jackets are so popular with people.”

But what else can be seen in the winter woods? Fairy houses and gnome homes. At CNC, the wooded trails have dozens of secretive tiny homes dotted throughout, made by the tiny fairies and gnomes (with some human help).

Children can explore nature while they search for the houses made by the fairies, there’s even a small book shop and a fairy hospital. In the free play area, children can make their own fairy houses.
If the weather is steering you indoors, CNC’s Nature Exchange is a great place to start. As the only one of its kind in the Southeast, it is filled with kid-friendly storybooks, field guides, and activities. Parent and child can be engaged with one another for quite a long time as they learn indoors. Parents may also want to encourage their child to begin exploring the outdoors with a bit more freedom. At home or on a nature hike (not at CNC), encourage them to find one object they really like. Together, you can discover what it is,
perhaps help your child learn what colors are on their object, what shapes they see, or perhaps where it came from. Sharing this information and their object with the Nature Exchange Naturalist can help them earn points to start their own trading account. Nature Exchange encourages nature study and builds math, science, language skills, and much more.

Nature Exchange also offers scavenger hunts, usually most are suitable for young children with parent assistance. The more things you find, the more points you can earn.

The Chattahoochee Nature Center connects people with nature. Daily indoor and outdoor activities encourage exploration and a connection with the plants and wildlife that call the Chattahoochee River home. From now until the end of February, see the Enchanted Woodland Trail, full of fairy houses and gnome homes in the woods. For more information on this program and others, visit
www.chattnaturecenter.org.

The Great Myth of Dying Retail

During my research for this article, I asked 43 local residents, business people, and elected officials the following question: What percentage of all U.S. retail sales go to online merchants versus brick and mortar?

The average answer given was close to 30% for online sales. Not one single respondent came close to the real answer of 9.1%. Read that carefully, it’s not 91% but just nine point one percent…that’s right, less than 10% of all U.S. retail sales are e-commerce related. Those are the stats according to the most recent report from the U.S. Department of Commerce that covered the first three quarters of 2017.

I bet you, like many others, believe the hype that Amazon and other e-retailers are taking every dollar from the brick and mortar businesses. To be clear, Amazon is doing very nicely but in fact, in-store retail sales are growing more than online. In 2016, retail sales grew $128B excluding items like fuel and autos. Online sales added a healthy $53B, but in-store sales added an even healthier $75B.

The simple fact remains that business for the brick and mortar folks is robust. That doesn’t apply to everyone. There are big brands, like Sears and K-Mart, which have major problems. Those issues have everything to do with the fact that their brands are not relevant to a new generation. To those of us who grew up with those iconic brands, watching them die seems terrible and makes it easy to believe the myth that retail is dying. But in fact those brands are dying due to poor business practices. Unfortunately many of the old brands are stuck in outdated strip centers and large shopping malls whose time has come and gone.

It is important to note these things because the retail market around us is continually evolving and what is going to be successful in the future has to do with how and where retail is built. The strategy to succeeding in today’s retail world is a matter of improving the customer experience.

THE TRANSFORMATION
There is no better example in the changing landscape than what is happening in Alpharetta. The North Point Mall was once the crown jewel of the area and now the sexy new beast is Avalon, which is practically a stone’s throw away. Most of you have probably been to both and it’s not hard to see that the experience at each location is completely different. Avalon has what people want, which is connectivity. Simply put, the mixed-use concept is the way forward, but that oftentimes gets complicated in local politics.

Downtown Alpharetta continues to grow.

As our outdated shopping centers age, they will need to transform or die a slow death. Roswell in particular has a bad problem with outdated shopping models. The city is full of them but the fixes are not easy.

In speaking with area developers there was a continual theme of not wanting to deal with Roswell politics. I spoke to one developer who stated that they looked at several area investment opportunities but decided against investing because any purchase of existing retail real estate would certainly require a mixed-use component. That leads to much higher density requirements and that’s where things get derailed in local politics. The “anti” crowd is against everything and when a developer is looking at investment that sometimes goes well north of $100m they tend to avoid communities who demonize them. So the strip centers sit.

I get it. Nobody likes construction and the headaches associated with it, but we live in a capitalist society and property owners have every right to maximize value. If our local economy is going to hold it’s own, or better yet grow, then there needs to be an adjustment in thinking in Roswell. Every decision on construction can’t hinge on density but rather it must be judged on total value and what it brings to the market place.

The irony here is that two age groups agree that the experience is the key to successful retail. A higher percentage of young (less than 35 years) and old shoppers (older than 65) cite the need to see, touch, feel, and yes, even live near the shops they frequent. This appears to be indicative of age groups that have more time on their hands to go to stores and shop around. They are also less likely to have kids in the house so that cool condo sitting in the middle of Avalon looks pretty sweet when you don’t have a stroller in tow.

Alpharetta is a city where decisions have been a little easier due to several exits on GA400 that were ripe for growth. But their downtown has been transformed; yes with some political handwringing, but in the end it is moving into the 21st century. There is a new parking deck, a new mixed-use project going up right in front of the new City Hall complex and their economy is booming as a result.

Roswell on the other hand, had some success nearly a decade ago with the transformation of Canton Street but that energy is dying and while there is a new mixed-use concept opening this spring there is a disjointed feel to the whole area that is not quite sure what it wants to be.

Tax dollars at work. The citizens of Roswell purchased this property several years ago… in that time Alpharetta has debated, voted on and built a parking deck and a new mixed use concept at the new city plaza.

Roswell has what is essentially a new government in place, with a rookie mayor and six council members that have little government experience among them. It will be interesting to see where things go as they face several projects that require bold decisions. Among them is the old Southern Skillet location near city hall. As she recently stated in her address to local business leaders, mayor Lori Henry said, “It’s the number one question I get asked almost every day… What’s happening with the Southern Skillet location?”
Time will tell, but a much larger project will be the only profitable way forward and mixed-use will have to be part of the equation. Roswell does have one new project that was surprisingly approved last year in the form of a new mixed-use project at the corner of Alpharetta Hwy. and Sun Valley Drive. The Fuqua Development project is taking the place of an outdated strip mall and will contain a grocery store, office, retail, restaurant space and up to 300 apartment units in a four-story complex. In total it’s an $80M project that brings approximately 400 jobs. Only time will tell if that is an outlier or a sign of things to come.

THE SHOPPERS
Beyond their physical location, a retailer these days must provide more that just product. Consumers want to experience something and the “touch” factor is key, especially amongst women. According to a consumer survey by Retail Dive last year the female shopper wants the ability to see, touch, and feel items. Two-thirds (66%) of female shoppers say trying-it-out is a deciding factor for shopping in stores versus online. Shopping for products with a high fashion quotient—think apparel and accessories or home furnishing—is a likely driver.

“Take furniture as an example. The consumer wants to sit on it, touch it, feel it. If they are looking for a new Nikon camera? They’re going for the lowest price online. The cameras aren’t different but the price is,” said David Bercaw of City Antiques in Roswell. “We’re unique, we provide an experience to shopping, if all you’re looking for is a product number and the cheapest price then you’re probably going online. We’re big on repurposing here and that makes our product unique.”

Retailers must also have the right store strategy. A compelling experience is key to shoppers’ demands and that becomes an easier task when the retail complex is a close-knit community with a shared interest. The ability to see, touch, feel, and try out items is the top reason why consumers choose to shop in physical stores versus online. With 62% of shoppers wanting to kick the tires, retailers must take full advantage and up their game to create compelling shopping experiences.

This is the main reason why developers seek mixed-use concepts. It’s the most popular concept they can lease, and consumers, especially those who are opposed to such development, need to understand these vital aspects to the local economy.

To that end Roswell INC, the public-private partnership that serves as the economic arm for the city is in the process of a three-year study to find out what does work locally. With one Super Target location recently closed in east Roswell, many residents are unsure where the future is headed.

Steve Stroud,
Executive Director of Roswell Inc.

“We’re excited about this three-year opportunity because we’re going to be able to know where people are shopping and in what shopping centers. We’re going to know that the tale of two Targets in Roswell is so drastically different in the city of Roswell,” said Steve Stroud, president of Roswell INC. “How do we change that? How do we recruit the right kind of retail for Roswell? This survey will help provide answers.”

These are vital issues we’re dealing with as the economy continues to grow our micro economy must keep up. The retail sector is huge to our economy. Last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, locally we spent over $525M on apparel and services and over $800M in local restaurants. By any standard that’s a lot of money. So the next time a development is proposed, let’s try to see the whole picture. A healthy economy is in all of our shared interests.

Art With Heart

The Art of Love Exhibit February 14-17

The Wild Hope Art Gallery, 8560 Holcomb Bridge Road, Alpharetta, has assembled the perfect romantic interlude for Valentine’s Day. The Art of Love Exhibit will feature the work of Victoria Jackson and Aziz Kadmiri, a married couple, both professional artists with international followings.  The artists’ personal story is a classical romance, highlighting how the magic of true love can endure even when tested by thousands of miles and many years of separation. The show will open with a reception from 4 to 7 p.m. on Valentine’s Day, February 14 and will hang through February 17. Those attending the Art of Love Event can register to win dinner for two at di Paolo restaurant as well as several gift certificates for Thompson’s Frame and Gallery. For more information on the exhibit, call the Wild Hope Art Gallery at 678-580-0493.

Great Art Comes In Threes

By Michael Harris

Muse and Co. Fine Art of Roswell, which has a long history of presenting female and abstract works mostly of local artists, is introducing three dynamic artists in conjunction with the Roswell Roots Festival.

The show, which is titled Abstracted Visions, will showcase the works of three African American women artists Lillian Blades, Tracey Murrell, and Charlotte Riley-Webb. All three have won numerous awards and recognition for their work and they have all had significant exhibitions nationwide.

Blades (pictured) is known mostly for her multilayered 3D assemblage and is a native of the Bahamas. Much of her work deals with ideas and abstracted images of womanhood, the sea, and memories of her childhood and home. Her paintings, assemblages, and prints are included in numerous museum, public, and private collections.

Murrell is an Atlanta-based artist and curator. Her bold, minimal artwork explores the use of silhouettes by re-contextualizing images from popular culture to use as entry points for conversations on gender, race, and beauty. Her use of positive/negative space and high-key color are reminiscent of pop and post pop masters such as Lichtenstein, Katz, and Hume—prompting viewers to question their own beliefs about race and gender, as well as what is high and low art.

“Music” by Tracey Murrell

Riley-Webb is an Atlanta native who grew up and was educated in Ohio. She is a painter, illustrator, and print maker who was known for most of her career for her vibrant color palette and images of beautiful, graceful, and strong women and girls. Her foray into abstraction over the past decade carries forward the vibrant coloration and story-telling of her figurative work. Riley-Webb has won numerous awards including one from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation and the John T. Biggers Award.

This exhibitionopens Feb. 2 with an artists’ talk and reception on Feb. 22 at 7 p.m. Muse and Co. Fine Art is located at 31B Oak St. in Roswell. For more information on the gallery visit their site at www.musecofineart.com.

Great Events On Tap This Month

By Tripp Liles

I’m going to start this month with big congratulations to local guys Pat Rains and Brian Borngesser of Gate City Brewing Company in Historic Roswell on their 3rd anniversary. Now to be clear they aren’t married… well to each other anyway. Rather, this anniversary marks their 3 years of making world-class beer right in the heart of Roswell in a repurposed garage. And to celebrate that fact they will have a weekend of festivity on Feb.10 and 11.

The Gate City tap list is always on point and they will be offering a special release packaged beer just for this occasion. There is no entry fee for either day, which gives you unfettered access to the best beer around and from what I was told, some of this has been aging for years in preparation for this celebration. Beyond the world-class brew they will feature wicked good music and food on-site. If you have not been to Gate City then this is a great opportunity to see and taste great beer made right.

As I’m sure you heard, the Ringling Brother’s Circus stopped operating last year. Like many of you I grew up going to that annually whenever the circus was in town. Don’t fret because there is still the Big Apple Circus, which is going on now through Feb. 25 in the parking lot at Verizon Amphitheatre. I’ve been to this show several times and it is a great classic take on a circus done with professional performances. They feature a one-ring setting coupled with an artistic style that creates an intimate setting and no bad seats.

This is the Big Apple Circus’ 40th Anniversary that features a seven-person pyramid on the high wire with Nik Wallenda and the Fabulous Wallendas. They will also feature a daring quadruple somersault on the trapeze by The Flying Tunzianis. This is the first time these guys have performed together, and in the setting provided, it promises to be a great time for the whole family. For tickets and specific show times visit the Verizon Amphitheatre site at www.vzwamp.com.

While we’re on the “old school” theme, let me mention that the Harlem Globetrotters are in the area on Mar. 3 at the Infinite Energy Center in Duluth and at Philips Arena on Mar. 10. The Harlem Globetrotters have been around since the 1920s, but their heyday was in the 70s with the great Fred “Curly” Neal. And who could forget that TV special when the Harlem Globetrotters were on Gilligan’s Island… ah the good old days of just three TV channels to watch.

These days the Globetrotters have a new generation of athletes who live up to the same showmanship from years past. The Globetrotters’ show features even more amazing basketball skills and wizardry, with a continued focus on family entertainment. During their 2017 tour, the Globetrotters unveiled basketball’s first ever four-point line, 30 feet away from the basket… over six feet beyond the NBA’s current three-point line. It’s a move that came six years after the team unveiled the first four-point shot in the history of the sport against those pesky Washington Generals, the ever present opponent for the Globetrotters. For tickets, show times, and more information, visit www.harlemglobetrotters.com.

For those who have visited my home, you know that I do not in fact have a green thumb or a green lawn. For those of you who don’t have the touch of death in the garden, might I recommend the Atlanta Botanical Garden Flower Show to be held Feb. 23–25. This event has a somewhat long history that started as the Atlanta Flower Show in the 1930s, then bloomed into the Southeastern Flower Show, which wilted in 2013 and went away. This new event held at the Atlanta Botanical Garden focuses on competitions in floral design, horticulture, and photography. For more info, free of puns, visit atlantabg.org.

In case you haven’t noticed, we’re actually having a winter this year. Even my Yankee friends are complaining. Well if you’re saying I’m a winter wimp, and I am, then how about you take the Acworth Polar Plunge on Feb. 24. This event is to support and spread awareness for the Special Olympic athletes in Georgia and serves as their largest fundraiser. Anyone with a lot of guts and little common sense can jump into the icy waters. All proceeds will benefit the Special Olympics Georgia and to register visit their site at www.specialolympicsga.org. The Polar Plunge takes place at Acworth Beach at Cauble Park. See when you started this article you had no idea Acworth had a beach… now you do.

Happy heart, happy life

Preventive screenings help patients assess risk factors and have a healthy heart

Along with Valentine’s Day, February marks American Heart Month, a great time to give your heart some love.
Every 42 seconds someone has a heart attack in the United States. In a year, 610,000 Americans die from heart disease, according to the American Heart Association. But many heart conditions are preventable through early heart screenings.

WellStar North Fulton Hospital offers Know Your Heart, a screening that can help determine patients’ risk for heart disease, stroke and other serious conditions.

The WellStar Know Your Heart program is a preventive, self-pay screening program that offers two levels of testing performed at North Fulton Hospital. Patients can get basic or advanced screenings depending on their age, symptoms and risk factors.

“This is a very successful program offered by WellStar Health System and we’re excited to offer it here at North Fulton,” said Hunt Anderson, M.D., medical director of North Fulton’s cardiology program. “Oftentimes we know that big events like heart attacks or strokes could have been prevented if risk factors had been addressed, so it is important to take a proactive approach.”

The screening uses a combination of basic labs and a cardiac CT scans to identify heart disease before someone shows any signs or symptoms. Each screening includes a consultation where the patient receives education on how to improve risk factors going forward and if there is any risk that needs to be addressed immediately the patient gets referred to a cardiologist.

During the consultation patients receive risk factor education, diet, weight and exercise recommendations, as well as a personalized report to take home.

Prevention is key
Because heart disease can be silent, adults should have regular well checkups with their primary care physician starting as early as 20 years old. Basic tests should include checking blood pressure, cholesterol, signs of diabetes and body weight. The patient also has an electrocardiogram, where the heart’s electrical activities are translated into waves, revealing specific information about the heart’s health.
If necessary, a patient can also have a coronary calcium scan to check for any buildup in the arteries as well as more advanced cholesterol testing. When results reveal a problem, the primary care physician directs the patient to a cardiologist.

While you’re spending time honoring the special people in your life, remember the importance of keeping your hearts healthy too.
To determine eligibility and to schedule an appointment for a Know Your Heart screening call 770-756-STAR (7827).

To see a cardiologist at WellStar Cardiovascular Medicine in Roswell, call
770-410-4520. The office is located at 4500 Hospital Boulevard, Suite 230.

A life changed

Hyperbaric oxygen treatment at WellStar North Fulton Hospital changed outcome for double amputee

In less than 18 months Alex Hearn went from being a trauma patient at WellStar North Fulton Hospital to being a double amputee swimming at the Iron Man triathlon in Augusta, Georgia.
Alex, 49, credits the treatment he received at North Fulton’s Wound Care & Hyperbaric Center for being able to adapt prosthetics to his legs and live an active life.

“I hate to think what it would have been if I had not received hyperbaric treatment,” said Hearn.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a medical treatment that enhances the body’s natural healing process by breathing pure oxygen in a pressurized room or tube. In a hyperbaric chamber the pressure is increased up to three times higher than normal air pressure. Under these conditions, the body can gather more oxygen than would be possible breathing pure oxygen at normal air pressure.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is used to treat serious infections, bubbles of air in the blood vessels and wounds that won’t heal as a result of diabetes or radiation injury to name a few.

Alex had a car accident on May 6, 2016 not far from North Fulton Hospital, a Level II trauma center. Due to the gravity of his injuries, his legs had to be amputated below the knee.

“I have no recollection of the accident. My last memory is getting in the car after having lunch with my coworkers,” said Alex. He woke up a week later and his life had changed.

“I wasn’t angry, bitter or depressed. I was very serene and excited to be alive,” he said.

After spending some time at the Intensive Care Unit he was transferred to North Fulton Hospital’s Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit, where he did physical, occupational and speech therapy. His left leg started to get stronger, but his right leg was giving him trouble. He had extensive wounds that were not healing. That is when hyperbaric treatment was suggested.

“When we first saw Alex his lower legs were not in good shape. Our main focus was to save his knee joints so he would be able to use prosthetics and have a better outcome,” explained Debra Gonzalez, Director of the Wound Care & Hyperbaric Center at North Fulton.

He started inpatient treatment five days a week, 90 minutes per day. He was released from the hospital on July 1 and continued to get into the chamber every day until he completed 40 sessions of 90 minutes.
“It was almost like getting into a spaceship,” remembered Alex. “It is awesome technology that is available right here.”

Debra Gonzalez, director of the Wound Care & Hyperbaric Center at WellStar North Fulton Hospital; Alex Hearn; and Matthew Kanouse, one of the techs who treated Alex during his time at the Center.

His knees were saved and by November of 2016 and was able to start using prosthetics on his left leg. Five months later he started using prosthetics on his right leg.

“From the nurses on the second floor, to my therapists in rehab and the team in wound care and hyperbarics, everyone was phenomenal and helped me through this process. My wife was by my side all the time and we ended up becoming friends with many of them,” he said.

Alex continued his recovery process and after months of therapy he decided he wanted to something special.

“There are so many things you take for granted, like walking, jumping or running. It’s pretty tough when you realize you can’t do those things. But then when I started to see that I could do some of those things again I thought I wanted to do something I’ve never done before,” he said.
Encouraged by his physical therapist he signed up for the swim portion of the Iron Man triathlon as a physically challenged athlete. He completed the 1.2-mile swim in 43 minutes and 55 seconds.

“When they were taking me out of the water and people saw that I was missing my legs from below the knees there was a change in the mood. The cow bells were louder and people couldn’t stop cheering,” Alex recounted.

This year he plans to compete again. He’s also very active in support groups for amputees, where he shares his message of hope. “I like to share my story with amputees or physically challenged individuals, I want to tell them this is not a death sentence. If you put your mind and heart in the right place you can accomplish more than what you think.”
Alex recently started a blog to share his progress as he trains for Iron Man 2018 and invite others to share their stories. Visit his blog at www.ampuletenation.blog. To schedule an appointment at the Wound Care & Hyperbaric Center please call 770-751-2832.