Feature: Cochran’s Pop-Tart Lovin’, Skydiving Nurse


COCHRAN, GEORGIA: Twenty-three years ago, Gina Howell had something happen to her she never expected. She was 23-years-old, and she was diagnosed with eclampsia.

She experienced two Grand Mal seizures, swelling of the brain and a questionable stroke. “I woke up with very little memory recall, and a sweet three pound baby,” Gina told The Murphy Gazette.

“It’s a horrible feeling to have loved ones standing over you that you can’t remember,” she said. “I had to relearn quite a few things like people, driving and locations. I also lost a lot of nursing skills. I wasn’t able to work for a couple of years.”

“My sweet husband was my caregiver and my mom too,” Gina stated. “I wasn’t total care by any means, but my memory pretty much was. When I did venture out to find a job, I was really concerned because I had lost so much nursing recall.”

She said, “One of the kindest directors of nursing, Sue Delong, after hearing my story, took me under her wing, as did other nurses and, retaught me a lot of what I had forgotten.”

Gina added, “This is how I began my career in long term care. I will always have empathy for dementia, Alzheimer’s and brain injury patients because I know what it’s like to try your best to remember and just can’t.”

Gina Howell and Marley (Howell Photos)

Married to her “sweet baby” Gene Howell – “my soulmate for 33 years,” Gina is mother to their four “sweet” daughters. “One resides in Heaven, and three reside here.”

The Howells also have “two puppy-daughters, Marley Belle and Bella Sue, and a Conure named Sunny. “He never lets you forget he’s in the house.”

After a successful tenure in long-term care nursing, Gina made a change. “There was a lot of soul searching and prayer, then I went skydiving at 50, and walked away from my career of 25 years. It was a monumental moment in my life.”

“I realized I might have less time ahead of me than behind me. Money wasn’t as important as it used to be,” she said. “I asked myself did I want to continue and carry the weight of a high stress job at my age and the answer was no.”

Gina took a year off “thanks to my sweet husband, helped my mom get situated in her new home and created and sold stained glass for extra income.”

She said, “Don’t get me wrong … I loved long-term care, and all of the people who crossed my path while I journeyed there.”

“There comes a time in your life when you have to take a good long look at yourself and what’s best for you, walk out of your comfort zone and take a leap of faith. I’ve never regretted my decision,” Gina stated. “I now work in public health, and will always be thankful for this opportunity.”

She added, “I’ve made some amazing friends in this field. I leave my job each day with a smile on my face. Public health is exactly the job I had hoped it would be. It’s the bomb.”

“Every morning I wake up and thank God for allowing me to see this day. There will not be another day quite like the one you’re waking up to,” Gina said.

She stated, “Once it’s gone, it can’t be recalled. What you’ve done and said can’t be taken back. You have a big responsibility for this day. The people you meet aren’t by accident, but a divine plan of Almighty God. Don’t take it lightly. A merry heart really does do good like a medicine.”

In her spare time, Gina has a variety of hobbies. “I am a plant hoarder. I can never have to many plants, from my eight foot cactus that stands proudly in our living room to my dainty string of pearls plant.”

She exclaimed, “I love them all! I rarely go to Home Depot that I’m not bringing one home. They say house plants improve your air quality. I have approximately 70 house plants.”

Gina chuckled, “I think we’re probably breathing pretty good over here on Ole’ Chicken Road.”

She also has an interesting collection of cookie jars. “It all started with little Milton the Toaster cookie jar. I had seen him on Pinterest®, and it took me back to a happy time when the Pop Tart ® commercials came on as a child.”

Gina remembered. “There was nothing better than getting up early, getting a Pop Tart ® and watching Bugs Bunny ® and all the gang. Back then cartoons aired from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m.”

“I loved those frosted Pop Tarts®, and what Milton represented to me, so I began my quest to find him. I was told that people didn’t usually sell him because they loved him as well, and he was a rare find.”

She added, “My sweet husband was on his own Milton quest, and eventually, Gene found him. After that, I just started collecting vintage ones. I now have 33. Maybe I’m a cookie jar hoarder as well?”

When asked if she had words of wisdom to share, Gina said, “There’s always someone who can help lead you in the right direction. When you’re in a valley, you feel like you’re all alone.”

She paused, and continued, “You feel there’s no one who understands … even small problems seem bigger in the valley.”

“Never be embarrassed or afraid to reach out to someone. If that someone didn’t help you or can’t help you, reach out to someone else,” Gina concluded. “Don’t give up. We’re all in this together. We’ve all been in a valley.”


Author: rlhwrites

Curator of prose and such.

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