My heart and soul hurts for the profound season of grief and loss we see all around us from COVID. But even in the darkest of places, joy can be all around us. It gives me great pride (and joy) to celebrate Cherokee Nation citizen Johnnilyn Kutten and introduce her on this platform.

She is a Nurse Practioner (NP) in an acute inpatient rehabilitation hospital and she was born in Bartlesville. She came to healthcare later in life, becaming a registered nurse at 45 and a NP at 49. I love her for her service, along with all our other frontline healthcare professionals. The term “heroes” is so overused. But our healers really are heroes. And we need them now more than ever. Even if that healer is us, just healing for our selves.

Not surprisingly, she has other healers and nurturers in her family, too. Her beautiful great-great-great-grandma Ann Rider is pictured above just because it’s a gem of a photo that was too awesome not to share. In the next generation, Rose Rider was a midwife and also a Cherokee citizen. Folks would come to see her in Bartlesville for advice on which plants and herbs to eat.

Like most of us, Johnnilyn’s Granny looms large in her thinking and lived to be almost 100. Although people might assume that someone of that era just ate whatever she wanted and still lived that long, she apparently made it a point to eat healthy and would say “that stuff will kill you” when she saw folks eating fatty foods.

Like me and some of our other contributors to come, Johnnilyn had a health wake-up call of her own and is doing something about it. For that story, I’ll leave this post in her own words, with her picture below:

“I was watching my weight go up and I was on my way to being a diabetic like my father’s family. I felt weak, sluggish. And everything I tried like low carb or exercise on my recumbent bike was not helping much.Then I read the book Vegan Before Six and decided maybe I’d try to change what I ate. So I did.

Now, I’m not totally vegan or totally vegetarian. Usually breakfast and lunch I eat healthy. Veggies, grains, nuts. Then dinner time I come home and eat a “regular” dinner which usually means some meat, at least as much as I can tolerate.

I eat meat in moderation and have salads on hand. Strangely enough my Hgb A1c has been going down more than when I was trying to exercise only. I guess eating the right foods has helped. I even have kale with nutritional yeast for breakfast. Or lentils. Discovered I love pumpkin seeds too much. And learned about oyster mushrooms, discovered how to make black bean burgers and learned to cook beans like lentils in an Instapot. 

My favorite food was fried chicken wings. Now I feel ill trying to eat one. I keep thinking of the animal it came from and now my favorite food is a vegan or vegetarian salad. I have more energy. I lost inches in my abdomen, and my arms. I plan to keep it up. And I enjoy encouraging my patients to eat their veggies.”

Johnnilyn Kutten
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