Jan. 18, 2005
The Rev. Leigh Ann Raynor
By Alice M. Smith*
(UMNS) — The Rev. Leigh Ann Raynor, senior pastor of the 1,200-member
Thomasville First United Methodist Church, is used to being in the
limelight within her congregation, but now she is taking center stage on
a much larger platform – the worldwide cable network of CNN.
is one of five people selected to participate in the "New You
Revolution," a project of CNN senior medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay
Gupta to help people get fit and manage their health situations. Some
4,000 people applied by writing a letter to cnn.com.
49, has an unusual heart problem in that she needs to keep her heart
rate slow, while the goal of most heart patients is to get their heart
rate up. She suffers from hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy, an
excessive thickening of the septum, which separates the two chambers of
struggled with the problem since her first appointment in 1981, but it
was misdiagnosed, first as stress and then acid reflux. She suffered
from dizziness and recurrent pain, and a year ago, the pain became
constant. Her doctor finally uncovered the real cause.
subsequently underwent surgery, and while she is still at risk, she is
pain-free. "I don’t know if the progression has been stopped, but I feel
100 percent better," she says.
As part of the CNN program, a crew filmed her every move for three days in December for an introductory "before" segment.
was embarrassing," she says. "They filmed me at a buffet and what I was
putting on my plate, going through the drive-through at Dairy Queen
(for a salad) and preaching at both the contemporary and traditional
that for a two-minute segment that aired Jan. 18 on CNN’s "American
Morning." For eight weeks, she will work with a personal trainer, attend
36 sessions of cardiac rehab, work with a hypnotist to stop smoking,
and learn from a nutritionist – all at no charge and in her hometown.
Her progress will be charted and updated each week on "American
Her long-term goal, she says, "is to live long enough to retire in 2019. The way I’m going now, I won’t live that long.
short-term goal is to have a shape other than SpongeBob," she added,
referring to the cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants. She wants to
lose 50 pounds.
At Thomasville First, everyone is excited and supportive, she says.
have a real advantage in that so many people love me and want to take
care of me," she says. "I’ve had many people say how much they love me
just the way I am, whether (or not) I lose the weight. It’s touching."
*Smith is editor of the Wesleyan Christian Advocate, the newspaper of the North and South Georgia annual conferences.
News media contact: Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.