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Utah Valley Everyday Hero
Highland man delivers 7,800 babies over career

Many people go about doing good deeds in their families, neighborhoods, organizations and church congregations. “Utah Valley’s Everyday Heroes” celebrates these unsung community members and brings to light their quiet contributions.

In March, the American Fork Hospital added Dr. E. William Parker to their Wall of Honor. He was a member of the hospital staff for over 30 years, and delivered 7,800 babies over the course of his career as an OB-GYN.

Both patients and colleagues remember Parker most for his kindness.

“There’s nobody like Dr. Parker. He ruled as much with his heart, if not more, than he did with his head,” said Mary Ellen Jackman, a registered nurse who works in labor and delivery at American Fork Hospital. “He treated with his heart — his heart is so big — as much as the skills that he had. That in and of itself embodied the whole world of his practice.”

Sheryl Fowler shared on Facebook that Parker left the Stadium of Fire to come deliver her twins, Quincy and Sidney, in 1983. Fowler was referred to Parker for the pregnancy, her third, because it was high-risk. She said she spent months in bed “trying not to have them,” but they came anyway, two months early.

“I felt really bad that he had to leave the Stadium of Fire,” Fowler said. “But he was just really nice ... You could tell that he really cared about his patients.”

Parker didn’t grow up intending to go into medicine, and certainly didn’t plan to become an obstetrician. He graduated high school in 1963 with the intent of becoming a physicist. But looking back, there were certain things in his childhood as well as during his first year of college at Stanford University that seemed to be leading him down that path.

Parker is the oldest of six children, with five younger sisters. However, his mother also gave birth to another boy, who was stillborn.

“I still remember his casket on my grandmother’s dining room table,” Parker said. They buried him alongside Parker’s grandfather at a family grave site.

Years later at Stanford, Parker shared a room with a pre-med student, and subsequently got a “D” in physics. Still, it wasn’t until after he had served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that he determined to study medicine, and it would still be a couple of years before he settled on becoming an obstetrician. He attended the University of Utah and graduated with a degree in biology.

In the meantime, Parker was finally in a position to be on active duty for the Army Reserve. He had signed up with a few friends while he was a senior in high school, but received deferments for both his freshman year of college and his mission.

It was while serving his active duty that Parker reconnected with a sister missionary he had met in Germany, Ruth Ann Marcroft, known as “Rusty” for her red hair. He took her out on a date a few weeks later, proposed to her on her birthday a few months after that, and they were married in the Salt Lake Temple on April 1, 1969. They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary this year.

After they married, Parker was accepted into the University of Utah School of Medicine, he ended up funding his tuition with a naval scholarship. Working for the navy, Parker traveled to and worked at naval bases in Virginia and California, completing his residency and delivering the first thousand babies of his career. Meanwhile, his and Rusty’s family was growing — altogether, they had 10 children, the last three of which Parker delivered himself.

They finally settled down in Highland, which at the time only had a handful of OB-GYNs. One of Parker’s proudest accomplishments from that time is the work he did with midwives, working with a group of them at Orem Community Hospital and bringing them to the American Fork area, eventually making them part of his own practice.

“It was just a very rewarding part of the practice for me, working with the midwives and their patients, because (the patients) didn’t necessarily like doctors, but they liked what was being provided by the midwives,” Parker said.

And, it allowed the midwives to have the backup of a physician if it became necessary during childbirth. However, it wasn’t necessarily a move many medicine practitioners supported. Parker recalled one incident in particular where the American Fork Hospital was forced to put him on probation because of their own policies on midwifery.

“I had a patient once who had twins, and she was very much into home deliveries. She was seeing us but she wanted to have a home delivery and I said, ‘I think you’re crazy to try and deliver twins at home. There’s just so many things that can go wrong, I think you need to be monitored very closely in the hospital,’” Parker recalled. He struck a deal with the patient: she could have her own midwife deliver the babies, but she had to have them at the hospital.

Having a “lay midwife” deliver a baby at the hospital was against hospital policy, but Parker said the patient continued to maintain she would either have the babies delivered by the midwife or go home and have them there. The midwife was able to deliver the twin babies safely, and the hospital put Parker on probation for a year.

“I don’t blame the hospital, I think they needed to do that. I didn’t disagree with it at all. I didn’t make a habit out of doing this, that was the only time it happened, but I thought it was in the patient’s best interest,” Parker said.

Besides his work with midwives, Parker’s other “specialty” and something he became known for was being a proponent of VBAC — vaginal birth after cesarean sections. Common beliefs at the time, Parker said, dictated that once a woman gave birth via c-section, any following births would also have to be c-sections. Parker disagreed, and over the course of his practice, he said more and more studies proved what he believed all along, that women can have vaginal births after having c-sections.

“My definite feeling was that cesarean sections were performed way too often,” Parker said. “I just thought, (vaginal births) are safer all the way around.”

Parker’s dedication to helping mothers have vaginal births even after c-sections is something Jackman remembers as very significant in his practice.

“Multiple times, moms that had had previous c-sections and really wanted to have a vaginal delivery, he would spend however long it took, even sitting with them, to see if that could happen for them, and multiple times they did,” Jackman said. “I feel like, perhaps if they had another provider, that wouldn’t have happened for them.”

Jackman said Parker’s c-section rate was really low, which she credits to his patience. She said mothers would come from all over the state to have him deliver their baby, especially if they had c-sections previously, and that Parker “multiple times ... made those wishes come true, that they had vaginal deliveries after that.”

Every delivery was important to him, Jackman said, and he leaves a legacy of patience and kindness at the American Fork Hospital.

“There will never be anyone that will replace him,” she said.

Springville Art City Days derives new growth in crowds, activities

Art City Days kicked off with an unprecedented crowd at the June 1 rodeo. “I don’t know if we could’ve fit another person in there,” said Corey Merideth, recreation director and festival troubleshooter.

Merideth estimated there were 2,500 people in the audience and attributed the success to new pricing, networking through new sponsors and a specialty act, “The Wild Child.”

This year’s Art City Days certainly celebrated what most think of as the arts with a senior art show, a children’s arts festival and a resident artist highlight at the parade; but no one was left behind in this city’s celebration with its range of activities.

Festivities also included a free outdoor movie, family pop concert and the rodeo. In addition to visual arts and performances, there was a basketball competition, regatta, carnival rides, hot air balloon rides, a market of independent vendors and food vendors.

New networking and participants at the event reflect Springville’s recent growth and influx of residents and visitors, but longtime residents still benefited from the inside scoop on Art City Day traditions. They knew the Kiwanis scones are worth the wait and were able to spot Corey Meredith at the festival, which results in a prize.

New food vendors included Capitol Burgers and Kia Gra Kiwi, a New Zealand food truck that had sold out of its meat pies, fish and chips and pavlova by 9 p.m. Wednesday. New market vendors included Whipsy Stitch, featuring felt applique, and Davey Jane’s Locker, a Comic-Con vendor featuring false firearms and mermaid paraphernalia.

Krista and TJ Schmitz, proprietors of Davey Jane’s Locker, have found their eclectic fare appealing to teenagers and the young-at-heart. Their booth included prop guns made by TJ Schmitz with a 3D printer, and mermaid paraphernalia and hand-stitched jean jackets featuring references to David Bowie and Princess Leah made by Krista Schmitz.

TJ Schmitz also makes unicorn head trophies with the printer, and Krista Schmitz makes Ita bags with fun cloth inserts under plastic so kids can put pins on their backpacks without worrying that they’ll lose their accessories.

The couple is originally from the Salt Lake area, but after a stint in Ohio they moved to Springville about a decade ago. Krista Schmitz said she’d done several craft fairs before paying for her son’s mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints motivated her to take her business to the next level.

“My oldest son said, ‘Why don’t we try comic-con … and we sold everything on our table in three hours,” she said. “We found our tribe.”

In addition to doing that market every year, where she said booths cost about $1500 but enable her to sell to 50 people in an hour, she has an Etsy site and her own Three Penny Market website, named after her first booth where she sold plush vegetables.

Her comic-con wares have more of a British steampunk theme, but she said that market comes and goes and mermaids’ rising popularity inspired her to rebrand with a nautical theme this year in time for the Springville Art Days booth, a venture that appealed to her as an affordable, local way to encourage her son and his friend who wanted to join in the vendor industry (he and his friend sold vintage clothes in the next tent over).

Natalie Behring, Special to the Herald 

Drake Soper competes in the bareback riding event at the Utah High School Rodeo Finals on Saturday, June 8, 2019, at the Wasatch County Event Complex in Heber City. (Photo by Natalie Behring for the Daily Herald)

Schools reckon with social stress: 'I'm on my phone so much'

BUFFALO, N.Y. — High school biology teacher Kelly Chavis knew smartphones were a distraction in her class. But not even her students realized the psychological toll of their devices until an in-class experiment that, of course, was then spreading on social media.

For one class period, students used a whiteboard to tally every Snapchat, Instagram, text, call or other notification that popped up. Teachers around the country have run similar experiments, typically recording dozens of trips to the board.

“One girl, just during the one hour, got close to 150 Snapchat notifications. 150!” marveled Chavis, who teaches honors-level courses at Rock Hill Schools in South Carolina.

She’s among a growing number of teachers, parents, medical professionals and researchers convinced that smartphones are now playing a major role in accelerating student anxiety — a trend so pervasive that a National Education Association newsletter labelled anxiety a “mental health tsunami.”

Testing, extracurricular-packed schedules, and perpetual stressors like poverty can all weigh on students. But research now points to smartphone-driven social media as one of the biggest drivers of stress. After all, that’s where college acceptance letters fill Instagram, everyone knows where everyone else is going for spring break, and athletic failures and awkward social moments can live forever.

Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State who has studied the issue, said it’s no coincidence that youth mental health issues have risen with the number of phones. “What a lot of teens told me is that social media and their phones feel mandatory,” she said.

Last year, an editorial in the American Academy of Pediatrics’ flagship journal recommended that doctors ask adolescent patients about their social media use as part of routine screening, alongside older questions about home life and drug and sexual activity. “Aberrant and/or excessive social media usage” could contribute to teenage “feelings of isolation, depressive symptoms, and anxiety,” three researchers wrote in the journal Pediatrics.

Researchers are still arguing whether phones drive student depression or depression drives phone use. But 70% of teens view anxiety and depression as major problems among their peers , according to a February Pew Research Center report. Nearly 60% of parents said they worry about the influence of social media on their child’s physical and mental health in the American Psychological Association’s 2017 Stress in America survey.

Schools are starting to react. Many districts now hire outside companies to monitor students’ social media postings for signs of distress. Others invite in yoga instructors and comfort dogs to teach even the youngest kids to keep technology from putting them on edge.

Belfast Area High School in Maine even staged an #unplugged event day in April — but it served to underline the technology’s pull when less than 20% of students and staff took part.

When she first got a smartphone around seventh grade, all the posting, messaging and liking pushed Nia Coates’ anxiety level to “probably a 10,” she said. Now a high school junior, the Buffalo, New York, teen has figured out to manage the distractions.

She’ll completely log out of her Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter, and sometimes will delete an app altogether for a while.

Anxiety has taken over as the most significant obstacle to learning among Chris Doyle’s high school students at Avon Old Farms School in Connecticut. Some rack up absences because they feel overwhelmed by the day ahead, Doyle said. A teacher for 30 years, he has seen a profound shift toward constant self-evaluation that he associates with social media, YouTube, and even school grade portals sometimes checked dozens of times a day — things students have never before had to manage.

Awareness of other people’s lives, even their private lives, is “kind of hyper right now,” Doyle said. “And I don’t think that usually leaves most people feeling good, because nobody’s perfect and most kids feel very imperfect.”

But putting the genie back in the bottle isn’t easy. In Illinois, Glenbrook High Schools District 225 experimented with limiting teens’ access to their grades on a digital portal. But for every student who said the grade book caused them anxiety, there was another who said losing regular access created even more stress, said instructional innovation director Ryan Bretag.

“I definitely feel stress with online profiles, social media, to keep up, maintain my profiles and stuff,” said Emily Mogavero, a 17-year-old student in Buffalo, New York. “It kind of worries me that I’m on my phone so much.” Mogavero said she sometimes puts her phone out of reach or powers it down so she doesn’t hear notifications.

Teaching limits at an earlier age might help. Deirdre Birmingham of Montclair, New Jersey, signed onto a campaign called “Wait Until Eighth “ because she didn’t think her video game-loving 10-year-old son was ready to manage a smartphone’s pull.

The idea, which got its start in Texas two years ago, is to lessen the peer pressure of being the only kid without a phone by enlisting parents of classmates to agree to hold off until at least eighth grade. So far, almost 20,000 people have signed on, founder Brooke Shannon said.

“I had a gut level that it would be difficult for my child to manage,” Birmingham said. “As a grown-up, I find it difficult sometimes to manage.”

Lovingly, a family raises an intersex child - again

OGDEN — When doctors said her youngest child would be a girl, Amie Schofield chose the name Victoria. Then they said the child would be a boy, so she switched to Victor.

It turned out neither was exactly right. The blue-eyed baby was intersex, with both male and female traits.

And so she and her husband decided to call the infant Victory. The name is a hope for triumph over the secrecy and shame, the pain and discrimination suffered by intersex people.

Amie Schofield knows those sufferings better than most: This was not her first intersex child.

Some two decades earlier, she gave birth to another child whose body did not align with common expectations of boys or girls. Schofield agreed to have that child undergo surgery that tipped the scales of gender to masculine. But the operation did not settle the issue of gender in the child’s mind, or protect them from a savage beating decades later.

Now, with Victory, Schofield has been given an opportunity to try again. Her parents want Victory to be accepted for who she is; instead of changing Victory, they are intent on changing the world so it is more accepting of intersex people.

“What I hope is what every parent hopes for their kid,” Schofield said. “We don’t want her to look at herself and think there’s something wrong just because she’s different.”

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Amie first married when she was young, and had her first child more than 20 years ago. Instead of having one X chromosome and one Y chromosome, as men have, or two X chromosomes, as is typically female, the child had two X’s and a Y.

Intersex people are not to be confused with transgender. Intersex is an umbrella term for a number of conditions where internal or external sex characteristics aren’t exactly like typical male or female bodies. They are a larger group than is commonly acknowledged; estimates range from about 3 in every 200 births to 1 in 2,000.

“I’m convinced every single person on this planet has met someone who’s intersex,” said Georgiann Davis, a sociologist at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas who is intersex and is the board president of interACT: Advocates for Intersex Youth.

Some intersex conditions are known to run in families, though that’s rare for XXY chromosomes, said Dr. Adrian Dobs, director of the Klinefelter Center at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Not everyone with the disorder is considered intersex.

Doctors have long performed surgery and administered hormones to intersex kids to make their bodies more like typical boys or girls, but there’s a growing pushback. Five states have considered banning surgery until they’re old enough to consent, citing serious potential side effects, but most bills have stalled amid pushback from doctors’ groups who say the proposals go too far.

Amie took doctors’ advice and raised her first baby as a boy, agreeing to surgery to bring down undescended testicles.

But the onset of puberty brought hips and breasts, something that didn’t go unnoticed by other teenagers in the small Idaho town where mother and child lived at the time.

“It’s not something I really thought about until they started making fun of me,” said Amie’s eldest, speaking on condition of anonymity because of fear of violence.

The teenager developed a kind of armor: binders and sports bras, then layers of shirts for bulk, followed by a jacket that never came off, all in a goth style to create a distraction. There were beatings, and the teen developed a strategy: Keep a straight face. Don’t scream. Don’t say anything. The startled bully might just back off.

Amie Schofield allowed her child to experiment with nail polish and dresses at home, but in the years after the fatal beating of gay man Matthew Shepard in nearby Wyoming, she was terrified to go public. She aches when she thinks about those years.

“I wish that we could have been open,” she said. “I wish I had understood more so that maybe I could have made it easier.”

The move to Utah put the teenager in touch with other LGBTQ people, and for the first time exploring femininity publicly seemed possible. Instead of a beating, wearing a dress might earn supportive shouts like “keep doing you!”

That all changed one night in 2014. When they (the pronoun preferred by this person) walked into a Salt Lake City bar wearing a favorite tie-dye dress, a man shouted, “Where you going mama? You’re looking pretty good in that dress!”

Never having been hit on before, they turned to say thank you. But the man’s face changed when he heard a deep voice that didn’t match that female body. He blew up, spewing gay slurs, and charged, weighted pipe in hand.

He landed a number of powerful blows. Blood sprayed everywhere before he fled, leaving the young person for dead.

A large gash to the head was treated with staples at a hospital. Police investigated, but couldn’t catch the assailant, according to officials.

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Amie was in the hospital after giving birth to Victory when she heard about the attack on her eldest child. She felt angry, helpless — and determined to protect her baby. She didn’t want her youngest child to live with the secrecy and fear that colored her first child’s teenage years.

“I don’t want her to live that kind of life,” she said.

Like her half-sibling, Victory has XXY chromosomes. She also has a separate condition that means her body doesn’t fully respond to male hormones. Her genitalia are ambiguous, but due to the Y chromosome doctors marked the birth certificate as male, and encouraged Victory’s parents to raise the baby as a boy.

Amie and her husband took newborn Victory home. The family lives north of Salt Lake City on a plot of land ringed by mountains where they raise chickens, goats and pigs along with Victory and her two brothers.

They decided to raise the baby without pushing either gender. There would be no surgery. At 18 months, Victory began gravitating toward dresses and bows, and loudly insisting on wearing her hair long. Their then-pediatrician Nisha Baur said Victory’s parents took things as they came during her earliest years. “They were very open to just accepting whatever was going to happen,” she said.

Today, Victory is a vivacious 5-year-old with a toothy grin, blond hair and a quick mind. She’s mostly deaf due to a separate genetic condition, but communicates clearly with signs, some words and sheer force of personality. She runs around the house at top speed, cradling a reluctant kitten, perching next to her great-grandmother to read a book or running for the bus in a sparkling silver backpack with butterfly wings.

Victory knows her body is different from those of her mother, father or brothers, but it doesn’t seem to bother her, Amie Schofield said.

Her eldest child lives outside the state. They recovered physically from the attack, but for months afterward there was a constant sense of deep fear. They retreated into masculine clothing, affecting as deep a voice as possible, attempting to grow out what little facial hair they have.

Knowing Victory was born intersex brought a sense of comradeship but also fear for her. “I’m scared of how society will treat her,” they said.

Victory’s parents share that apprehension. There are so many hazards ahead.

Victory’s father, Michael Schofield, formally left the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints shortly after she was born. The faith doesn’t have an official position on intersex people, but is doctrinally opposed to same-sex marriage and intimacy.

“Will she marry a boy or a girl? Which one is right? Which one is wrong?” said Schofield, a federal worker. “I don’t want to do that ... she’s free to make her own choices.”

Her parents would like to change the designation on her birth certificate from boy to girl, but Utah law requires a court order and some judges in their area won’t approve the changes. Amie Schofield and Victory have gone to the capitol to speak out in favor of changing the law, so far unsuccessfully.

The deaf school she attends has single-user, non-gendered restrooms, but what happens if she changes schools? What will dating be like one day? Will she have trouble as she applies for jobs, or apartments, or schools? Could she also be targeted by violence? How will she feel about not being able to have children?

Her mother can only hope to teach her to handle these dilemmas herself. “It’s not something I can save her from,” Amie Schofield said.

But whatever comes, the family isn’t going to hide.

“I hate the secrecy,” she said. “She’s just so smart, so full of life. She’s just a normal girl.”