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Gainesville, GA News Feed

Cancer patients get heart assessment in hospital program

If having advanced cancer isn’t enough of a health worry, intense treatment can bring about another serious medical problem — heart disease.

It’s a scenario Jorene Pilcher of Gainesville knows too well.

She was diagnosed 12 years ago with stage 4 breast cancer.

Pilcher, 73, fought it into remission, but “when it came back … I suffered heart failure and a mild heart attack” four years ago, Pilcher said during a doctor's visit last week.

“We have very strong medicines that are able to combat cancer and patients are living much longer,” said Dr. Abhishek Gaur, Pilcher’s cardiologist and medical director of echocardiography at Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville.

“That’s wonderful, but many of these medications … can be damaging to the heart muscle. So, the whole idea, as a heart doctor, is we want patients to have a healthy heart while they go through the chemotherapy.”

It’s an emerging health concern that has spurred the hospital to assemble a multidisciplinary team to provide specialized heart care to patients with cancer before, during and after treatment.

“The goal of our cardio-oncology program is to help patients beat cancer while maintaining a healthy heart,” Gaur said.

“We combine state-of-the-art cardiac imaging with best practices for early diagnosis, prevention and treatment of heart problems associated with cancer therapy to improve the quality of life for cancer survivors.”

Cardiologists in the program collaborate with oncologists, radiologists and other specialists to gather information on the patient’s heart health before cancer treatment begins.

Part of the process is assessing each patient’s individual risk for heart disease.

During cancer treatment, doctors monitor the heart for signs the muscle is weakening, and help patients control their risk factors for heart disease after cancer therapy is complete.

“Cancer therapies are critical to destroying cancer cells, but some of those therapies can also produce toxins that decrease heart function or cause heart damage in the long run,” Gaur said.

Cardio-oncology physicians from The Heart Center of NGMC work closely with the hospital’s cardiac imaging and radiation oncology departments, Northeast Georgia Diagnostic Clinic’s oncology department and The Longstreet Clinic Cancer Center.

“I appreciate this program so much,” Pilcher said. “It really takes a load off my mind.”

Gaur said Pilcher had developed advanced heart failure “we think … was secondary to the medication she was taking.”

Unfortunately, the medication was the most effective drug in combatting her cancer.

“Eventually, she got convinced to take the medicine again, but a different compound that can cause the same type of side effects,” Gaur said. “This time, she’s on preventive medications, and we’re measuring the heart function with sophisticated techniques that can pick up damage very early.”

If there’s damage, “we can postpone the chemotherapy,” he said. “So far, we have not needed to do that.”

Overall, Pilcher said of her health, “It’s going all right. Age really does affect you, but I’m doing good. I have good days and bad days. It’s just part of chemotherapy, especially when you get older.”

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2 hearings set Monday for Hall school budget

Residents will have two final chances Monday to make comments on a proposed 2017-18 Hall County Schools budget before the school board takes a final vote.

Public hearings are scheduled at 11:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday at the school district offices located at 711 Green St.

Superintendent Will Schofield has proposed a $265.15 million general fund budget that raises salaries for all employees by 2.5 percent, as well as including mandated increases for employee benefits. The state legislature is requiring a 2 percent pay increase for teachers, but school officials have proposed a 2.5 percent hike across the board.

A teacher who made the average teacher salary in Hall County of $54,919 in 2017 would get a 3.84 percent pay increase to $57,025.88 in the proposed budget when the step increase for another year of experience is factored in, according to Jonathan Boykin, financial officer for Hall County Schools.

The state has increased costs school districts pay for both the teacher retirement system and the employer contribution for health insurance for classified or non-teacher employees.

Schofield said earlier in the budget process that the costs for the pay raises and increased benefits for employees would cost the district more than $11 million in additional resources.

An additional $102,796 is budgeted for 1.5 teacher positions that are being added for the English language learners program. The district is also adding $50,000 for efforts to keep drugs out of the school district. An estimated $15,000 of that would be used for the purchase of a drug-sniffing dog trained to find drugs in schools.

The budget also drops the tax rate from 18.8 mills to 18.5 mills, but would still be an increase for some taxpayers who had increases in their property tax reassessment in 2017. The value of property subject to Hall County school taxes increased by 5.61 percent, according to Boykin.

School officials have said the school district would collect 2.33 percent more taxes than it would under the rollback rate.

The rollback rate is computed as the tax rate that would produce the same total revenue as the current year had there not been a reassessment. The rollback rate for school taxes in 2017 is 18.079 mills. While the tax rate is lower than the current millage rate, it is .421 mills higher than the rollback rate.

The millage rate equals $1 of taxes on every $1,000 of taxable value. Properties in Hall County are assessed at 40 percent of their value for tax purposes. For instance, a home worth $100,000 would pay $740 in school taxes under the proposed millage rate.

Boykin said a vote would likely take place on both the budget and the tax rate after the second public hearing.

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El Capote offers fruit, ice cream in family business

Varieties of fruit cups, ice cream and warm, freshly made waffle cones are among the desserts offered at a business that opened last week in Gainesville

El Capote Fruit & Ice Cream Lovers celebrated with a grand opening at its location in Northlake Plaza located at 1705 Cleveland Highway in Gainesville.

Fernando Barajas, the owner, is working with his family in this new shop that takes its name from the small town of about 400 people where he and his family lived before moving to the United States about 14 years ago. Barajas and his wife, Esperanza, are working there along with his mom, Analine Silva, and brothers, Brian and Kevin Barajas. His sister, Zulema Martinez, is the manager and her husband, Jesus, is also working in this family business.

“This started as a longtime project for our family,” he said. “We’re planning on taking it as far as we can go with it.”

The fruit cups are traditional Mexican dishes that include fruit such as apples, strawberries, pineapples, pears, bananas, watermelons and cantaloupes mixed with peanuts and spices that give it a sweet or spicy taste.

The ice cream includes a variety of flavors provided by Hershey’s. There are also milk shakes, juices and other drinks.

Barajas said the business is starting with serving fruit and ice cream separately, but added, “we will get a little crazy with the mixes later.”

“I guess what makes it different from other ice cream places is we are trying to combine things — fruit, ice cream and milk shakes,” he said. “We also do waffle cones. The cone is made when you order, with our mixture. We put it in the waffle maker and it is served nice and warm.”

Martinez has run fruit stands before and her brother was also looking for way to do ice cream, so they decided to go into business together and bring the family together.

“I have that entrepreneurial spirit and wanted to work myself,” Barajas said. “She (Martinez) wanted to do fruit and I wanted to do ice cream, so we decided to bring them together.”

El Capote’s first customer at the grand opening was Gail Sargent, a retired public school teacher, who taught Esperanza Barajas in kindergarten and first grade at Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy. Sargent came after seeing a Facebook post by her former student and excitedly referred to Esperanza as “one of my babies.”

Jafet Coronel, 15, was on the way to another store in Northlake Plaza with his mother, Alicia Salazar, and sisters Crystal and Celeste Salazar.

“We usually come to the store, and we saw the people were going in and out of here and wanted to see what is going on,” Coronel said Friday. “Then we saw the sign said there’s going to be a grand opening of a new ice cream store, so we decided to come.”

As he and Celeste enjoyed cups of cookies and cream, Crystal had a cup of strawberry cheesecake ice cream. He said his family lives nearby, and he said they are glad to have ice cream in the neighborhood.

“It’s pretty good,” he said. “It will be good with this hot weather.”

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Kitchen Inspections: June 13-20


Levy Restaurants at Atlanta Falcons Training Facility

4400 Falcon Parkway, Flowery Branch

Score: 91, Grade: A

No sanitizer being dispensed at chemical sanitizing dish machine. Consumer advisory is on the menu board above the expo station but items offered cooked to customer request are not marked (eggs). Trash dumpster in use by kitchen is missing drain plug.

Inspector: Laurie Wentworth


Steak ‘N Shake

3525 Thurmon Tanner Parkway, Oakwood

Score: 83, Grade: B

Manager was unaware of procedures for the cleanup of any human waste events that may occur. One-door sandwich unit at cook line holding time and temperature control for safety foods above required 41 degrees or below. Many of the cooler, freezer gaskets are damaged (ripped) which can compromise the units ability to maintain foods at the required temperature as well as allow for the accumulation of food, water inside the gaskets that cannot be cleaned easily or properly. Mixers with finishes peeling off of motors sit above the food product when in-use. Inside dish machine with heavy buildup of grease, sump of dishwasher with accumulation of grease, food hanging on side and above sump. Outsides, handles of coolers, freezers, shelving under prep tables, inside bottoms of freezers, outside of milk dispenser, wheels of equipment, mixer motors and unit with food spills, splatters, food debris and grease. Trash dumpster missing drain plug.

Inspector: Laurie Wentworth



Marisqueria Playa Azul

1736 Atlanta Highway,
Suite 500-700, Gainesville

Score: 67, Grade: U

Designated person in charge not able to demonstrate knowledge in areas of employee health, protection from contamination, proper temperature of holding TCS foods, and date marking. No certified food safety manager on staff. Phones on prep surfaces while employee preparing food nearby. Opened can of employee cola stored among other foods in sliding door cooler. Hand washing sink storing dirty utensils and with built-up grease along sink basin. Establishment does not have established procedures for employees to follow when responding to human waste events. Foods left uncovered in coolers, freezers and on counters. Knives stored on rack above meat prep sink found with dried food debris.

Inspector: Evan Biles



Arby’s No. 5421

3652 Mundy Mill Road, Gainesville

Score: 84, Grade: B

Observed wiping-cloth quaternary solution for front-of-house staff at an inadequate concentration; consulted with PIC on ensuring all sanitizing solutions meet the required provisions. Observed potentially hazardous food cold held at greater than 41 degrees Fahrenheit. Observed food employee wearing jewelry other than a plain ring on hands or arms while preparing food; an employee was observed wearing a bracelet while prepping food on the countertop in the main kitchen.

Inspector: Marcus Hall


Deli Max

150 Pearl Nix Parkway, Suite B-10, Gainesville

Score: 96, Grade: A

Containers of wing salt, spices stored on shelf with degreaser cleaner and a toolbox located under hanging dirty brooms, brushes, a wet mophead. Foods must be stored in a clean dry location where they are not exposed to splash, dust or other sources of contamination. Clean cutting boards stored on chemical rack under three-compartment sink. Clean food tubs and buckets stored on shelves below holster clip used for hanging dirty brooms, brushes and mop-type cleaning tools.

Inspector: Linda Hoffhines


Firehouse Subs No. 409

333 Shallowford Road, Suite D, Gainesville

Score: 91, Grade: A

Observed potentially hazardous food cold held at greater than 41 degrees Fahrenheit; various deli meats on the prep-top unit exceeded the required parameters.

Inspector: Marcus Hall


McDonald’s Restaurant No. 11113

965 Dawsonville Highway, Gainesville

Score: 98, Grade: A

Observed leaking pipe at plumbing fixture; hand-washing sink in the women’s restroom emanated dripping at the plumbing site.

Inspector: Marcus Hall


The Kitchen

984 Athens St. SE, Gainesville

Score: 99, Grade: A

Inspector: Evan Biles


Wang’s Chinese Restaurant

4211 McEver Road, Suite 201, Oakwood

Score: 87, Grade: B

Buildup of black mold residue along interior of ice machine. Egg rolls beginning cooling process at start of inspection failed to drop to 70 F or below within two hours. Cooling was monitored during inspection and changes were made throughout to expedite cooling.

Inspector: Evan Biles



Fajitas Mexican Restaurant

1210 Thompson Bridge Road,
Suite F, Gainesville

Score: 84, Grade: B

Containers of pork fat used for cooking carnitas and chicken broth in walk-in stored uncovered and directly underneath condenser unit. Salsa prepared from room temperature ingredients around 10 a.m. per CFSM found at 47 F and 46 F within merchandiser cooler. Hot water faucet at hand sink used by food handlers and dish washers was found to be leaking, so faucet was shut off.

Inspector: Evan Biles


Kentucky Fried Chicken No. 10

1904 Browns Bridge Road, Gainesville

Score: 89, Grade: B

All time and temperature control for safety foods founds in walk in cooler recorded at above 47 degree Fahrenheit (see log). Cardboard dumpster with lids open.

Inspector: Evan Biles



Burger King No. 13983

4778 Lanier Islands Parkway, Buford

Score: 97, Grade: A

Population of insects appearing to be cicada killers seen swarming around ground near drive through order station. Insects, rodents, and other pests need to be controlled by routinely inspecting the premises and taking the necessary steps to rid them from the establishment.

Inspector: Evan Biles


Chick-Fil-A No. 3548

805 Dawsonville Highway NW, Gainesville

Score: 96, Grade: A

Large cambros of leaf lettuce and chopped romaine lettuce with tight fitting lids cooling in walk-in from 76 F to 74 F and 75 F to 71 F in 40 minutes, respectively.

Inspector: Linda Hoffhines


Crossroads Deli Inc.

2888 Browns Bridge Road, Suite B, Gainesville

Score: 100, Grade: A

Inspector: Laurie Wentworth


Great American Cookies

150 Pearl Nix Parkway, Suite D-3, Gainesville

Score: 92, Grade: A

Back room hand sink not accessible due to bucket stack placed directly on top of sink. Drink nozzles for soda machine found with an accumulation of mildew along the food contact portion. Food contact surfaces must be clean to sight and touch.

Inspector: Evan Biles

Longhorn Steakhouse No. 5054

1709 Browns Bridge Road, Gainesville

Score: 88, Grade: B

Pan of raw fish was stored on top of pan of raw onion (for salads) and above cooked beef. Raw seafood was stored above boxed salad dressing. Raw beef was stored beside salad, with no physical partition. Foods must be protected from cross contamination by separating raw animal foods during storage, preparation and holding. Clean dishes were wet-stacked on shelf across from warewashing machine. Utensils stored on new racks behind the vegetable prep sink were subject to contamination. Preptop cooler in the main kitchen had ice accumulations on the top portion and pooled water in the RI portion.

Inspector: Holly Cochran


Señor Fiesta

4110 Cleveland Highway, Suite A-B, Gainesville

Score: 85, Grade: B

No soap provided at bar hand sink or main kitchen hand sink. All handwashing stations must be supplied with cleanser to ensure hands are thoroughly cleaned. Mold, rust on interior baffle of ice machine. Homemade wooden shelf used to store dirty dishes is untreated and porous, allowing food and water to accumulate on the equipment. Bins holding clean lids and clean knives had heavy accumulations of food debris. Grease trap lid was entirely off, leaving the grease trap completely exposed at the time of inspection. Provide cover for trashcan in women’s restroom. Coving is missing at the fry-line, allowing water to pool between the stainless wall and tile floor. Flies are present throughout the facility.

Inspector: Holly Cochran



4930 Friendship Road, Buford

Score: 82, Grade: B

No paper towels available at hand sink in drive thru. Lowboy cooler at drive thru struggling to maintain time and temperature control for safety foods at required 41 degrees or below. Half-pints of milk and individual butters with cold holding temperatures of 46 F, 47 F. Cooler top felt hot and cooler shoved to wall under shelf at drive-thru. Meat cooler keeping raw burgers over required 41 F or below. Hamburgers held in warming drawer if not prepared off flat top within required time frame and used to prepare chili not held at required 135 F or above; some held at 118 F. Food handler (cook) wearing bracelets and a ring with a raised setting. Pass-through cooler under makeline and back front counter with condensate dripping from evaporator inside and water accumulating in bottom of unit. Appears evaporator is frozen up. Door gaskets on many of the reach-in coolers ripped along tops. Three-compartment sink rinse compartment with buildup of grease in compartment. Accumulation of spilled tea and sugar under self-serve condiment area, accumulation of spills inside back of cabinet under self-serve tea area, accumulation of water on shelf under hand sink at drive thru. Hand sink off front line with accumulation of grease in bowl and around faucet assembly. Trash dumpster with large buildup of grease down left side and front of the dumpster and dripping and accumulating on ground on left side of dumpster.

Inspector: Laurie Wentworth


Zaxby’s No. 00-304

995 Riverside Drive, Gainesville

Score: 92, Grade: A

Better awareness of the internal food temperatures of TCS foods: cooling, being transferred to different cooling units, and being placed on ice is needed. Air conditioning vent directly above salad makeline cooler and cutting board accumulating droplets of condensation that can potentially drip non-potable water onto foods being prepared below. Air conditioning unit not working in cookline area per CFSM. Foods stored on rack below evaporator fan walk-in cooler where condensate drips. Broken equipment and items no longer used stored in outside area behind kitchens back door. Accumulation of trash and debris located behind walk-in cooler and freezer. Accumulated grease and residues on walk-way surfaces in area behind back kitchen door.

Inspector: Linda Hoffhines



Chef Wang II Chinese Restaurant

4995 E. Friendship Road, Buford

Score: 80, Grade: B

No paper towels supplied to solo handsink in main kitchen. Solo handsink in main kitchen found holding frying pan during start of inspection. Containers found stored with clean dishes above three-compartment sink, used to store sauces, sugars, spices, nuts and crispy noodles, with heavy buildup of food residue and grease. Dishes placed in dirty stack and later washed and sanitized during inspection. Knives on magnetic rack all had dried food debris on them after cleaning and storage for use. Cream cheese and egg rolls in three-door cooler without date label. Tub of fried wantans stored in mechanical closest housing hot water heater. Coiled up hose found with connection end that had heavy buildup of grease and dirt resting on top of food prep surface. Chef in main kitchen not wearing any form of hair restraint at start of inspection. Cloths for wiping surfaces not stored in sanitizer solution between uses. Several scoops found in bulk product supply stored with handle portion contacting the food. Shelving of steam table in main kitchen tacky with grime and dirt; two-door freezer with heavy buildup of grease and food residue among bottom of unit.

Inspector: Evan Biles


Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt

5857 Spout Springs Road, Suite A305,
Flowery Branch

Score: 99, Grade: A

Dumpster enclosure was littered with trash, standing water.

Inspector: Holly Cochran


Subway No. 17563

5840 Spout Springs Road,
Flowery Branch

Score: 99, Grade: A

Both dumpster doors were open. Employee beverage and employee cellphone stored on prep table.

Inspector: Holly Cochran

Subway No. 26703

2120 Friendship Road, Buford

Score: 93, Grade: A

Employee beverages were stored on prep surface with no lid or straw. No procedures for human waste cleanup. Women’s restroom toilet needs detailed cleaning.

Inspector: Holly Cochran


Road Atlanta remembers beloved ‘Turn 7 Girl’

BRASELTON — With a mixture of tears and laughter, the Road Atlanta racing family remembered their “Turn 7 Girl,” Hazel Harrell, in a memorial service Saturday at the same location where Harrell died in an accident three weeks ago.

Harrell, 60, of Gainesville died June 3 when she was attempting to cross the track at Turn 7 to help an injured motorcyclist during an event she was working for the Western Eastern Racing Association’s Motorcycle Roadracing.

Harrell was struck by a another rider in the competition. She had worked events at Road Atlanta for about 20 years and was known for her work at the track’s Turn 7.

More than 300 people attended the service and watched as Harrell’s son, James, and daughter, DeeDee Harrell Shelton, spread a portion of their mother’s ashes on the grass next to the track at Turn 7.

“It was her wish; she wanted some of (the ashes) left here at her second home,” Shelton said. “We spread some on the grass, so she’ll always be here. It’s amazing how many people she touched from all over the place. I’ve never seen anything this big before.”

James Harrell said he was not surprised by the crowd.

“I’m not going to lie to you; I was actually expecting this many people here,” he said. “It is very overwhelming. It means the world to me and my sister to know that Mama touched, not just us and our family, but basically everybody you see here, she’s had something to do with them at one point or another.”

He was on Facebook Live during the service providing video for those who could not get to Road Atlanta on Saturday.

“All of her other workers and riders were somewhere else; they could not be here,” Harrell said. “That was the easiest way for everybody to be here because everybody wanted to be here. She spent more time with everybody that is here than she did with me and my sister. We are her blood family, but this is her family also. I wouldn’t have left no one out at all.”

A stone marker was set up as a permanent memorial to Harrell at Turn 7 and most of the attendees Saturday were wearing a green sticker that said “Turn 7 Girl.”

Many of those at the service wore purple shirts, hats or ribbons — Hazel’s favorite color — in her memory. People were also writing messages on purple helium balloons and then letting them go into the sky.

“She loved purple,” said her friend and coworker, Sandy Lewis, who was with Harrell on Turn 7 June 3. “She was one loved lady. It has been tough. It has taken three of us do her job.”

Lewis let her balloon go about a half hour before the service started.

“I wrote on the balloon that Hazel was my co-worker and my friend and I miss her and I love her,” Lewis said.

Gary Cummings, Road Atlanta manager for event operations, facilities and maintenance, was not at the service, but gave written words to Ken Grogan, head of security at the track, to read on his behalf.

“There are those who run from danger and there are those who run to danger,” Cummings wrote. “Hazel was running to try to protect a life when she lost hers. Her ultimate sacrifice through this tragic accident shows us how she lived her life.”

Her granddaughter, Shelby Pizano, called the woman she knew as Nana, “one of the strongest, most independent woman I have known.”

“You helped our family stay together,” she said. “You were like the glue that held us together.”

Another granddaughter, Shayla Harrell, remembered her smile.

“Nana is always with us; no matter where we are, our Turn 7 Girl will always be with us,” she said. “She was always there to cheer us up with that big bright smile of hers. I swear that smile lit up the whole world. She was nice, but don’t get me wrong, she could snap on you in a heartbeat.”

Tony Pentecost, a race chaplain for 25 years, admitted the service was difficult for him.

“I would rather be anywhere than Road Atlanta today,” he told the crowd. “But, I know where she is today. She is in heaven.”

He remembered Harrell as a unique person who had a “raceroom” that contained all things related to the sport.

“She’s been putting stuff in that room for years,” Pentecost said. “If it involved racing, it was in that room.”

He encouraged those at the service to remember and celebrate their friend.

“I’ve seen some faces that look really somber,” Pentecost said. “Today is a day for tears; today is a day for laughter. Share tears, laugh laughs, share memories. That’s what we have left. We are all Hazel’s, friends — better word,  family. Hazel loved this place, but she loved us more.”

He challenged the group to find someone after the service they didn’t know and share a memory of Hazel Harrell.

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