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She scheduled a mastectomy and the next day her doctor told her she didn’t have breast cancer

Josh Moon

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The card came in the mail on June 1, and Beth Rhea knows it was June 1, because the day before was one she’ll never forget.

The day before, May 30, Rhea scheduled a mastectomy with her surgeon — a procedure she hoped would cure her breast cancer. That’s a hard day to forget.

It was, for Rhea, the end of one of the longest months of her life. On May 2, she had gone to her OB/GYN for a checkup, after noticing clear signs of possible breast cancer. She was sent for a mammogram that afternoon.

The evidence of the cancer was so clear on that scan that the imaging center at Helen Keller Memorial Hospital in Sheffield called later that day and helped Rhea set up an appointment for a biopsy.

Two weeks later, she had the biopsy performed. A week after that, there was another test to determine the extent of the cancer and the best treatment options. And then, finally, when the test and biopsy results clearly showed the presence of cancer, the appointment on the 30th to set up the mastectomy.

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A truly awful month.

A day later, Rhea went to her mailbox and found a card from that OB/GYN she visited on May 2, Dr. Larry Stutts, who is also a state senator.

The card informed Rhea that Stutts’ office had received the results from her mammogram, and they were normal. No cancer detected.

“I was … I was just stunned,” said Rhea, who posted copies of the card and her mammogram results on Facebook shortly after.

That would not be the most disappointing part, however.

Rhea said Stutts has been her doctor for over 20 years. While she isn’t what she would call a “doctor person” — meaning that she, like many people, hate going to the doctor — she had been to see Stutts numerous times over the years.

But May 2, before leaving for the mammogram, was the last conversation she’s had with him.

“Not a phone call. Not a letter. Not a text message. Nothing,” Rhea said.

Despite serving as her doctor for more than two decades, and despite Stutts’ office being aware that Rhea had received the card saying her mammogram results were normal, she said Stutts has never bothered to call her.

Despite his office receiving electronically every subsequent test result and notifications of procedures and outcomes, no one has bothered to call and check. No one, including Stutts, has reached out to help Rhea navigate the cancer treatment process — which would be normal for an OB/GYN.

And that is the most egregious part of this, as far as Rhea is concerned.

Mistakes happen in health care, just as in any profession. Rhea said she could understand how a mixup might’ve occurred, and she possibly could have forgiven it.

But the lack of compassion and responsibility from Stutts make that impossible now.

“The only person who reached out to me from that office was (an administrative assistant) who sent me a message on Facebook,” Rhea said. “She explained it was a mistake made by a nurse in the office.

“But what that tells me is that the people in that office know a mistake was made, and that (Stutts) knows a mistake was made, and not one of them has called me to see if I’m OK, to see if they can help with anything. What kind of a person does that?”

Well, Larry Stutts.

This isn’t, exactly, Stutts’ first time in the spotlight for an egregious act. He has been, essentially, a pariah in the Alabama Senate thanks to self-indulging bills that embarrassed and angered his colleagues.

The most notorious, of course, was his attempt to repeal a law that was passed after one of his patients died. Without telling his Republican colleagues, Stutts attempted to repeal Rose’s Law — a law named after Rose Church, who was Stutts’ patient, required insurance companies to cover a 48-hour hospital stay after childbirth.

Church, who died in 1998, was released just 36 hours after giving birth to a baby girl. The Church family sued Stutts. Their local state senator at the time took up the cause to get Rose’s Law passed.

The stunt gained national attention for Stutts, who was shamed on multiple national tv shows.

But it didn’t stop him.

He also tried to repeal a law that requires doctors to notify their patients if a mammogram reveals dense breast tissue — often a sign that the patient could be at increased risk for breast cancer. That law was sponsored by the senator Stutts defeated for his seat — a senator whose wife was a breast cancer survivor.

Stutts has also been sued multiple times for medical malpractice, including an awful case that was filed last December over the death of twin babies. That case is still ongoing.

And there could be one more coming.

Rhea signed an official complaint against Stutts last week with the Alabama Board of Medical Examiners, often the first step in the legal process.

She’s doing much better these days. The mastectomy was a success and she’s cancer free at the moment. She’s planning to start a support group in Franklin County for breast cancer survivors — she’s currently having to drive to Decatur for a group there — and is busy following her daughter around to band competitions.

Rhea’s life was upended by the cancer diagnosis, and she’s just now getting things back to a state somewhere near normal. But the hurt from what happened, and the way it was handled by Stutts, remains.

“I just want others to know what he did and what sort of a person he is,” Rhea said. “When I think about what he did — you know, I could have died if I just got his card and went on about life for a year. He has to know that. And to not call me or acknowledge this …. I want to make sure others know about this.”

 

Elections

Elton Dean will run for mayor of Montgomery

Brandon Moseley

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Montgomery County Commission President Elton Dean announced his candidacy for the office of mayor of Montgomery.

“I’m Elton Dean and I’m proud to announce that I’m running to be Montgomery’s next Mayor. 2019 is going to be the year that we come together to make all of Montgomery a better place to live, work and pray together,” Dean said in a video release. “I want to be the mayor that works to move all of Montgomery forward. No more West Montgomery and East Montgomery. Just all of us working with one goal; to better our entire community, as one team. With your support, we can improve Montgomery.”

Chairman Elton N. Dean, Sr. was first elected to the Montgomery County Commission in 2000. He was elected Vice Chairman in 2004 and has been Commission Chairman since 2009. Dean is married to the former Lillie Hardy and they have three children.

“This city has its share of problems,” Dean said. “I am no stranger to the obstacles we face but this city has a historical foundation built on overcoming obstacles. Montgomery has a history and a spirit of overcoming and moving forward. This is the city where Dr. King gave his Sunday sermons. This is the place where Rosa Parks took her historical stand against injustice.”

“Now, we must all stand together and use that same passion and commitment to build on that foundation for better jobs, better education and a better life for every Montgomery man, woman and child,” Dean continued. “We will work together to build a first-class education system because that is what our students, our teachers and our citizens deserve. I want to work with educators and parents to navigate a path to excellence in our schools. It won’t be easy but we can and we must do it together.”

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Dean said the government must put in a plan of action to protect its most vulnerable citizens.

“Our children, our elderly and disabled, and especially our veterans,” Dean said. “Working within our government and with community groups, charities, churches and community service organizations, we can ensure that our most precious citizens are well take care of. I’m Elton Dean and I am asking you to join me in making a better Montgomery together.”

Dean has a diploma from George Washington Carver High School; an associates degree from Selma University; and a bachelor’s degree in business from Alabama State University. Dean also attended the American Real Estate Institute and Western Electric/AT&T/Lucent Technologies Corporate Education Center.
Dean is retired as the manager of Western Electric/AT&T/Lucent technologies; is a former manager of Firestone Tire and Rubber Company and the owner of Dean Realty and 21st Century Hair Studio.

Dean has served as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees at Alabama State University; an executive board member of the South Central Alabama Boys and Girls Club; a board bember of the Montgomery Improvement Association; a board member of the Cleveland Avenue YMCA; a board Member of the Kershaw YMCA; a board Member of the Alabama Shakespeare Festival; a member of the Montgomery Chamber Committee of 100; a member of the Central Alabama Community Foundation; the Chairman of Trustee Board and mass choir member at Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church; the Commissioner of the Central Alabama Amateur Baseball League; and the Commissioner of the Southern League Dixie Youth Baseball.

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Elections

Moore restarts Twitter feed, promises new “details” about social media antics in Senate race

Chip Brownlee

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Former Republican candidate Roy Moore posted on his Twitter feed Wednesday for the first since his failed Senate bid, promising new “details” about media reports that a group used potentially illegal social media tactics to influence the 2017 special election.

The last time Moore tweeted before two tweets he sent on Wednesday was Dec. 30, 2017, in the days following his loss to Democrat Doug Jones.

Moore’s promises of new details come after Attorney General Steve Marshall told reporters late last month that the disinformation campaign targeting Moore’s Senate bid may have violated the law. The New York Times first reported the news of the limited influence campaign.

“There are many false and misleading accounts on social media about me, it is about time I speak for myself!” Moore tweeted Wednesday. “Come join the growing Conservative movement in Alabama and follow @RealJudgeMoore for more details about how the Dem’s hacked my race! #staytuned”

The first tweeted was followed up hours later with a second tweet.

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“‘Social media operations using Russian tactics, as reported,” Moore tweeted. “It appears immorality of our society has seeped into our political system to corrupt our election process and destroy our country. Only an appeal to God and our Constitution will preserve our republic.”

Moore was twice elected to the state’s Supreme Court as chief justice before being removed twice. His campaign for Senate last year was marred by allegations of sexual misconduct, which are unrelated to the social media campaign uncovered by the New York Times.

The report from The New York Times said the social media project — which involved deceptive posting methods on Facebook and Twitter intended to divide Republicans and draw votes from Moore — had a comparably minuscule budget of $100,000 and was likely too small to have an effect on the race but was more likely an experiment to determine the potential effectiveness of any future social media interference.

More than $40 million was spent during the course of the 2017 election.

The project was designed to help Jones, but Jones said last month that he was angry about the so-called experiment even if it had no effect and called on federal and state authorities to investigate.

“I can tell you very simply, hell, I’m as outraged as everybody else about it,” Jones said. “I have railed about Russian interference in our election process ever since I started campaigning and during this first year in the Senate, and I think we’ve all kind of focused too much on just the Russians and not picked up on the fact that, you know what, some nefarious groups, whether they’re right or left, could take those same playbooks and start interfering with the elections for their own damn benefit. And I gotta tell you, I’m not happy about it.”

Jones “outraged” about Russian-style social media experiment during US Senate race

Much of the social media influence campaign involved creating a Facebook page that presented itself as a conservative Alabama group that was criticizing Moore. Jones narrowly defeated Moore by nearly 22,000 votes in a race in which more than 1.3 million votes were cast.

Another part of the tactics used by the group included bolstering write-in candidates and trying to link Moore’s campaign to thousands of Russian accounts that quickly began following Moore shortly before the election, which drew national attention. The mass Twitter following was reported by numerous local and national outlets.

Jones said his team had “no idea” about any of the social media antics being played during the election.

Billionaire Reid Hoffman has apologized for donating $750,000 to the group, American Engagement Technologies, which is tied to the effort to discredit Moore and bolster Jones. Hoffman said he did not know that the money was used for an illicit disinformation campaign.

Moore has also called for an investigation.

 

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Courts

Ivey appoints two women to Jefferson County judgeships

Chip Brownlee

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District Judge Shanta Owens (left) and Circuit Judge Teresa Pulliam (right) have been appointed to open circuit court judgeships in Jefferson County. (via campaign websites).

Gov. Kay Ivey has appointed two women to fill open circuit court judgeships in Jefferson County.

Ivey appointed Circuit Court Judge Teresa Pulliam and District Court Judge Shanta Owens to the county’s criminal court bench. Pulliam, a Republican, already serves as a circuit judge in the county’s criminal court division, but lost re-election to a Democratic challenger in November.

The two women will fill open seats on the court that became vacant when Circuit Judge Bill Cole, a Republican, won election to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals in November and Circuit Court Judge Laura Petro, a Democrat, announced her retirement.

Pulliam will fill the Place 3 seat held by Cole, and Owens, a Democrat, will fill the Place 2 seat held by Petro. Ivey’s appointment won’t shift the partisan makeup of Jefferson County’s Circuit Court.

Pulliam’s Democratic opponent, Linda Hall, who won her old seat, was disqualified based on residency requirements. That seat hasn’t been filled yet and candidates are being considered for that Place 16 seat, but Pulliam had already applied for the Place 3 seat.

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Ivey will fill the Place 16 seat once Pulliam’s term officially ends in January, at which time she’ll become the Place 3 judge.

Owens, who was first elected to the bench in 2008, currently runs the county’s drug court as a district court judge. Her twin sister, Shera Grant, is also a district court judge in Jefferson County.

Pulliam will assume the Place 3 seat on Jan. 15, and Owens will assume the Place 2 judgeship on Jan. 31.

The Jefferson County Judicial Commission reviewed 13 applications for the two vacant spots on the circuit court before submitting recommendations to Ivey earlier in December, AL.com reported.

 

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Elections

Q&A | Countryman speaks about new directions for Democrats in 2019

Brandon Moseley

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Democratic 2018 gubernatorial primary candidate Chris Countryman recently agreed to a lengthy interview in writing with the Alabama Political Reporter about where progressives went wrong in Alabama in the 2018 election and how they can build in 2019 and beyond.

Alabama Political Reporter: You were the only Democratic gubernatorial candidate who refused to support Mayor Maddox as the nominee and instead ran as a write-in. Why was that?

Countryman: “Well to be honest I felt that it was the right thing to do. After Judge Roy Moore was accused of sexual misconduct the people of Alabama started seeking out leaders of integrity and character. Because of this the phrase ‘People Before Party’ literally became a motto for many of those in the Alabama Democratic Party. As time went on I discovered a deep web of corruption under Walt Maddox’s boy next door facade. Due to Walt Maddox’s ties to Former Governor Robert Bentley and Sally Albright I was deeply concerned. This is due to Sally Albright’s heavy involvement in the 2016 Presidential Election scandals through her use of fake social media accounts used to unethically influence public opinion and that she worked on Robert Bentley’s gubernatorial campaign shortly before going to work for the Alabama Democratic Party as a field agent. Then when I factored in Maddox’s unethical campaign strategies that he used as part of his campaign in order to suppress key opponents during the primaries I knew there was no way I could back Maddox because I would be turning my back on the people who demanded leaders who had integrity and character. I just couldn’t do that. It went against my values and I refused to compromise those values and the values of my party in order to back a candidate who I felt didn’t have the people’s best interest at heart and didn’t uphold the fundamental principles of the Democratic Party.”

APR asked: Maddox ran as a pro-life pro-gun Democrat who would never tell a lie. Why did that tack not work with Alabama voters?

Countryman: “For years the vast majority of Democrats have supported a woman’s right to choose, and have supported common sense gun laws that aim to protect the citizens while trying not to infringe on a citizens 2nd amendment rights. Because of this, I believe, many voters were turned off by Maddox when he openly embraced his feelings on the subject matter in a television commercial just weeks before the election. To many voters, some who were on the fence as to who to vote for, saw Maddox’s commercial as an attempt to pick up swing votes from the Republican base. Because of this many Democrats, as well as Republicans, felt that they were possibly lied to or that Maddox wasn’t being true to the people or his party, so they voted against him.”

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APR: Nancy Worley, Joe Reed, and the Alabama Democratic Party banked hundreds of thousands of dollars instead of using it to get out the vote or support candidates. Was that a mistake?

Countryman: “You bet your bottom dollar it was a mistake. Simply putting up a sign that says ‘Vote Democrat’ isn’t helping in the least bit. The people don’t want to see another sign with just a candidate’s name on it, or worst yet a sign with vague wording that loosely instructs them to vote for a political party. The people want to know about the candidates, hear how the candidates plan to address the issues and how the candidate can improve the people’s quality of life. A good leader would use that money responsibly to educate the people about the candidates and the issues through a series of commercials and targeted ad campaigns along with other cost effective ways to inform the voters about the candidates.”

APR: Mallory Hagan has been very critical of Reed and Worley’s leadership. Is she right or as Joe Reed has said the candidates were just too weak?

Countryman: “I stand with Mallory Hagan on this one 100 percent. We would be here for days talking if I were to pinpoint every instance of corruption that our party heads had been involved with, and that goes for the heads of the Republican Party as well. On top of that a good leader understands that at times resourcefulness is key. There were countless ways that Nancy Worley and Joe Reed could have supported the candidates, provided assistance and offered resources that could have helped tremendously in this election. Many of them not costing the party hardly anything.”

“It all boils down to showing the candidates that you appreciate them, that you care if they succeed, and that you’re willing to take an honest interest in building upon the leadership skills they already have to ensure they become stronger more successful leaders within our government.” Countryman continued, “Our party leadership was willing to pay Sally Albright, to come work for the Alabama Democratic Party shortly after she had worked in Robert Bentley’s gubernatorial campaign; but they still can’t come up with any resourceful ideas of how to help our candidates or even cough up a couple of hundred dollars for some more informative commercials or literature. That’s wrong on so many levels, and it’s a great example of the monumental failure of leadership. Joe Reed has had his good moments, but those are gone in the past. He doesn’t represent the majority of Democrats in the party, he doesn’t put all the people’s needs before his own and he’s just not who we need heading our party right now.”

APR: Is Alabama just a conservative state and liberals and progressives are just doomed to forever be a minority which the rest of the state scorns and no true progressive candidate will ever win here?

Countryman: “I don’t believe that the state is locked into a conservative electorate any more than I believe that it’s locked in a liberal electorate. However, I do believe that our state is very much made up of citizens who believe that ‘People Come Before Party.’ The corruption, budget shortfalls and suffering of the people has to end and the people are speaking out. This is where Alabama is right now, and this is when you will see progressives start winning and moving our state forward. It should always be about putting the people first, and doing what’s best for all the people in Alabama.”

“Also an interesting point is that if you look at a poll done by the ‘Pew Research Institute,’ who’s known for their extremely high poll numbers that favor the conservative political base, you’ll find that last year 41 percent of Alabama’s citizens supported same-sex marriage and 51 percent opposed it with 8 percent having no preference,” Countryman continued. “That’s a huge difference from the 2010 poll that reported only 32 percent who supported same-sex marriage. So after looking at that poll and taking into account that ‘The Pew Research Institute’ usually only polls specific demographics that favor conservative political parties, the high poll numbers within those demographics, and the poll numbers among Democrats and other groups that support progressive policies I would say there is high probability that we’ll see a Progressive Democrat win statewide office in the next statewide election. That’s to say if we don’t see the emergence of a progressive third party, that can actually give the Alabama GOP and Democratic Party a run for their money.”

APR: It seemed like Terry Lathan and the Alabama GOP out thought, out fought, and out worked Alabama Democrats. What are Republicans doing so right that seems beyond the ability of Alabama Democrats?

Countryman: “The Republicans have not been afraid to tackle the tough issues during debates and forums, by challenging their opponents, and demanding answers. The people want to know what the candidate believes, what issues are important to them, and how the candidate can improve the voters quality of life. The Republicans, for the most part, do this very well. However, a lot of Democrats have become more passive, and choose not to engage their opposition. Plus you have to take into account the money that is backing the Alabama GOP. The huge sums of money that the Alabama GOP brings in does allow for more targeted campaign strategies, more commercials, and more effective GOTV campaigns. So the bottom line is that more money usually means better results. The only way to combat the money machine of the Alabama GOP is by out smarting them and utilizing every available resource you can.”

APR: Black candidates like Dr. Will Boyd, Miranda Joseph, and Kara McClure struggled to raise any money at all for their campaigns. James Fields similarly struggled to raise money in the Democratic primary. White male candidates Walt Maddox and Judge Robert Vance on the other hand easily raised over a $million each for their campaigns. Is there a racism problem with Alabama Democratic donors and the Alabama Democratic Party even though Blacks were over three quarters of the Democrats voters on election day?

Countryman: “I don’t believe that there is as much of a racism problem as some might think. You have to take into account the vast majority of donations that Walt Maddox brought in came from special interest groups and PAC’S, that many of the candidates that you mentioned, who struggled with fundraising, made the choice not to receive donations from PACs or special interest groups that they felt went against the voters best interest.”

APR: Your new campaign is called “Rethink Alabama”. Is there really anything to rethink. Voters liked the path 60:40 up and down the ballot in November?

Countryman: “I am glad you asked that Brandon. The Rethink Alabama Movement is more than just political ideologies. It is a citizen led advocacy group that does what Alabama’s two leading political parties have failed to do for a long time now. It puts the people first, challenges our government to always strive to do better, holds our elected officials accountable and strives to come up with new ways that we can bridge the gap between the citizens and their government. So by rethinking one can say we’re constantly reviewing the way we’re doing things in Alabama, the way we did things in the past and deciding if those ways are working to benefit all the people of Alabama. If they aren’t, then we start finding new ways to do things within our government so that we can better serve all the people in our state and not just a select few.”

APR: What should the GOP dominated legislature focus its priorities on when it comes back in March?

Countryman: “Healthcare, Jobs and Education. All Alabama citizens should have access to healthcare, its as simple as that. Studies show that utilizing preventive medicine and having early detection screenings saves lives as well as money by being a more cost-effective healthcare option and has many other advantages as well beyond that of just providing healthcare to Alabama citizens.”

APR: Is it inevitable that Donald Trump will carry Alabama in a landslide like he did in 2016?

Countryman: “I believe at this point no. With so many accusations against him, the mounting evidence that his campaign had conspired with Russian operatives attempting to influence the US elections, and growing evidence that shows the multiple ethics violations and corruption charges I believe Trump will either be impeached or resign before the next presidential election.”

APR: Rural communities that had voted Democrats for 140 years have completely switched to the Republican Party (outside of the Black Belt) why did the Alabama Democratic Party lose rural people and the small towns? is there anything Democrats can do to get back rural voters?

Countryman: “I think that a lot of people within the rural communities have felt that the Democratic Party has let them down. In the past the Democratic Party has been known for their commitment to human and civil rights, as well as social and economic justice. However recently some within the Democratic Party have forgotten the foundational principals which have come to define our party’s commitment to the people, and because of this they have struggled to secure votes within our state government due to the voters being forced to choose what many may view as having to choose ‘the lesser of two evils.’ Simply put when a voter looks at the candidates, they need to have a reason to vote for the Democratic candidate or else they will vote for someone whom they are already familiar with. To them it’s like the old saying goes “better the liar you know than the con-artist you don’t.”

“What the Democrats in Alabama need to do is to look at the foundational principals of the Democratic Party, and start putting the people first again, and they need to let it show big time,” Countryman continued. “The Democrats need to dive in head first as hard as they can on a local level and tackle the issues that matter most to the citizens. But more than all that we need real citizens running for office within the Democratic Party and not the smooth talking politicians who are just looking for a career at the expense of the citizens. The Democratic Party needs to start finding candidates to run for office who legitimately care about the people of Alabama. Once they start doing that, we will start seeing the voters returning to the polls to proudly cast their votes for Democratic candidates.”

APR: What advice would you give to Governor Ivey?

Countryman: “The biggest piece of advice I would give to Kay Ivey can be summed up with four simple commitments, many of our elected officials, from both parties have failed to live up to these commitments after being elected to office. These commitments are; Always put the people first whenever considering policies or legislation, always be transparent and honest with the voters while maintaining the highest ethical standards and character, fight corruption at every turn even when it means bucking your own party sometimes and always remember that those elected to public office don’t work for themselves but rather work for the people of Alabama.”

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She scheduled a mastectomy and the next day her doctor told her she didn’t have breast cancer

by Josh Moon Read Time: 5 min
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