YH FILM: Bham CEO almost lost his life, family — until a tough choice turned his worst year into his best

Birmingham-based marketing expert Corbitt Chandler says he used to think 2016 was the worst year of his life.

It was the year an addiction threatened his marriage, an infection threatened his life, and a showdown with his personal demons threatened his faith.

“I was just mad at life,” said the founder and CEO of Apex Current. “I didn’t really want to live anymore. …I was like, I’m just going to blow up my life and lose everything. I got kicked out of my house, and the whole thing just destroyed me. It destroyed me to start thinking about legacy and how I wanted my daughters to grow up.”

The father of two girls, ages 4 years old and 2 years old, said he made an extremely difficult decision that led to a surprising revelation … and a powerful turning point that turned the worst year of his life into his best.

WATCH the inspiring Yellowhammer Film created by editor and director Aaron Spigner:

Q & A with Corbitt Chandler:

What is your connection to Birmingham?

CC: I grew up here so it’s my hometown. I moved out to Los Angeles after graduating college and lived there for more than a decade working before being recruited back for a vice president of marketing role at Iron Tribe Fitness.

What was life like in California?

CC: Living in L.A. was crazy. I worked in sports marketing and pretty much traveled the world. I went through a ton as well, but ultimately it all led to me meeting my wife Michelle, who’s from California, and having our first daughter born out there.

What are your wife’s interests?

CC: Michelle is a full-time rock-star mom, wife and interior designer. She runs her own independent design firm called Harper James Design and she also runs a charity called Flower Child Project.

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How did you realize you had contracted meningitis?

CC: I felt a little sick with a headache during the week. I took some Benadryl to sleep. When I woke up the next morning, I just remember feeling out of it and I just thought the meds were still kicking in, so I decided to workout — brilliant, I know. Then, driving to work, I had to cover one eye because my vision was impaired. I was at the office and had chills and finally was told to go home. When I got home and my wife saw me, she was pretty worried. We went to the doc and my fever was right at 104 degrees. They pumped me full of liquids with an IV, gave me meds and then ultimately sent me home, but said if I worsened to go straight to the hospital. I took a nap, woke up, ran into the door trying to go to the bathroom, and then nausea kicked in and we went to the ER. They did the spinal tap there and saw it was meningitis and sent me to the ICU.

What was it like for you in the ICU?

CC: I was in ICU for 7 days. They wanted me to stay longer so I literally had to muster everything in me to try and walk so they’d let me leave. I went in on August 11th, 2016. It was super weird being there. They took great care of me, but I realized how bad it was when I first got there and laid down and asked where the bathroom was and they handed me a bottle telling me you’re not allowed to get out of your bed in ICU. They had those things on my legs that every certain amount of minutes inflate to keep blood circulating. I had tons of needles stuck in me because veins collapse over time and they need to reposition the IV. I did a bunch of scans. The first few days were tough because they didn’t know if it was bacterial or viral. Bacterial is bad news bears and super contagious so I didn’t even know if I could see my kids again if I didn’t get better. Ultimately, after a few days, the results came back saying that it’s viral and it’s sort of a celebration, but you still feel like you’re dying so there’s that.

What was recovery like?

CC: As bad as ICU was, leaving was far worse. I get home thinking I’m going to be down for a couple weeks and it took me four or five months to start feeling close to normal. I could barely walk up the stairs or get in and out of my car. It’s hard to explain that to people especially when you’re in it. I went from being physically the strongest I had ever been to not being able to hold my kids. It was super weird. The funny thing is now I don’t work out nearly as hard. Really, I don’t work out hard at all. Physically, I’m much weaker. Part of what I do these days has more to do with discipline so I’m more focused on a very specific diet since I can’t train like I used to. My left arm never quite recovered from the nerve damage that was done so it still to this day has some deficiencies and coordination issues. Which used to frustrate the crap out of me, but now I just deal with it and it’s part of life. Which I, now, realize how crazy I sound doing those upside down push up things in the video. But, if you look closely, my left shoulder is wanting to collapse and I can only do like two now where I could do like 15 before.

(YH/YouTube)

What is your advice to anyone who is struggling, maybe fighting their own epic battle or feeling hopeless?

CC: A good plan executed violently today is better than the perfect plan next week! Just go and move forward. Other than physical dependency or illness, there really is not a good excuse for not taking control of your life. It’s in your hands, but no one’s going to give you permission. It’s up to you.

(YH/YouTube)

What is your advice to someone contemplating taking a risk like starting their own business?

That’s a great question! I’m still learning. I think the hard part as always is thinking about scale. I am passionate about the work. I love what I do, but as we grow it involves creating that scale and working on the business, not in it. That’s not my favorite so I really have to use my “why” to drive that.

What are some of your goals for Apex Current?

I think ultimately, it’s our mission: “Connecting Businesses with Their Audiences”. We run performance-driven ads utilizing data and analytics. Ultimately, we’re about getting our clients trackable results, but it goes both ways. To the buyer, we want to serve them ads they want to see when they want to see them. That creates a very positive environment for both parties. So, growing Apex to that end is the goal and that feeds my why of creating an amazing life for my girls and being able to give. So, from a giving perspective, that’s something that keeps me centered. It’s like: This is not about me. So, I’m doing that personally right now, but working on a plan for that to be an essential part of the business structure.

Editor’s note: Yellowhammer Multimedia recently became an Apex Current client.

Rachel Blackmon Bryars is managing editor of Yellowhammer News

7 hours ago

Livingston, Whatley elected to lead Alabama Space Authority

The Alabama Space Authority this week held a meeting, respectively electing State Senators Steve Livingston (R-Scottsboro) and Tom Whatley (R-Auburn) as chair and vice-chair of the body.

Both senators, who were appointed by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) to the authority, plan to work diligently towards making Alabama a leader in the space industry, according to a joint release.

The Alabama Space Authority was created in 2017 to promote research and development of new space exploration and spaceport technology; to sponsor conference and business roundtables within the aerospace, aviation and related industries; and to promote activities and industries related to exploration.

The authority includes representatives of the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), the Alabama Department of Commerce, the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, the Alabama Department of Transportation, the governor, the State legislature and other stakeholders and experts.

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Livingston, who recently played a leading role in the creation of the legislature’s Aerospace and Defense Caucus and serves as its chair, stated that the Alabama Space Authority will be looking into how the Yellowhammer State can further improve this industry.

“We are looking into the possibility of the Dream Chaser being able to land in Huntsville,” Livingston said. “This is going to be a great opportunity to look into how the legislature can aide in supporting the aerospace and defense industry in Alabama.”

Whatley added that he was honored to be selected as vice-chair and that space is a growing industry in Alabama.

“I’m proud to be a member … because this is a big deal for our entire state, from Huntsville to Auburn’s aerospace programs and to the robust aircraft manufacturing on the coast. Aerospace is a $12 billion industry and a key component to Alabama’s economy,” Whatley commented.

Livingston concluded by advising he expects to receive an update from the U.S. Space Command and is looking forward to bringing more space industry projects to Alabama.

RELATED: Ainsworth in Huntsville: Alabama is ‘the aerospace capital of the world’

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

9 hours ago

Lewis touts McCutcheon; Brooks touts Trump, his record with space and defense

Alabama Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) this week endorsed Chris Lewis in the GOP primary race in the Fifth Congressional District.

The surprise endorsement by McCutcheon caught many in the state off-guard because this race has flown under the radar and polling shows this race, like all of U.S. Representative Mo Brooks’ (R-Huntsville) previous primaries, handily in the bag.

But McCutcheon’s endorsement rightly got the attention of multiple media outlets and observers of Alabama politics with many wondering what this was really all about.

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So when Brooks saw the endorsement and a hostage-style video promoting it by McCutcheon, Brooks responded by highlighting the most coveted endorsement a Republican candidate for any office could get: President Donald Trump.

Brooks told Yellowhammer News:

I have the strong endorsement of President Trump, a man I worked hard with to CUT TAXES on American families and secure America’s borders! In contrast, Chris Lewis has the endorsement of legislator Mac McCutcheon, whose greatest expertise has been RAISING TAXES on struggling Alabama families!

While speaking to WVNN on Friday, Brooks noted that the endorsement on the bounds of support from the space and defense industry is laughable.

“If Mac McCutcheon is saying that Chris Lewis has more support in Research Park, that is categorically false. We have received more support from the state and defense community, vastly, vastly, vastly, vastly more support from the state and defense community than Chris Lewis has,” he told “The Dale Jackson Show.”

Brooks also touted his seniority, and how that plays into serving his district in Washington, D.C.

“The people who engage in space and defense know that my growing seniority on science, space, and technology and on House Armed Services, coupled with more than a hundred occasions in which I’ve been able to get favorable language into legislation that they’ve wanted me to get for the benefit of our country and what we do in the Tennessee Valley,” he added. “They’re my primary support base in Congress: space and defense.”​

My takeaway:

This is all pretty interesting, but the idea that a McCutcheon endorsement on these grounds can overcome the booming North Alabama economy that Brooks has been a part of since being part of the Tea Party-wave in 2010 is false.

The Trump endorsement might make better television and radio spots, and it will definitely help Brooks, but the real issue is that Lewis and McCutcheon can’t point to how Brooks hasn’t served his district well — because he has.

Barring some massive bombshell to follow up this endorsement, a battle of endorsements between Trump and McCutcheon seems like a fight that was over before it started, much like the Brooks/Lewis race.

Listen:

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN.

10 hours ago

Human clinical study begins at UAB for groundbreaking brain tumor treatment

The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) continues to evolve as a worldwide leader in biomedicine, research and innovation.

Incysus Therapeutics, Inc., a Birmingham-based biopharmaceutical company, has now announced the initiation of a Phase 1 clinical study of a novel Drug Resistant Immunotherapy (DRI) technology for the treatment of patients with newly-diagnosed glioblastoma.

This trial is being conducted at UAB and is now active and open for enrollment.

Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM or glioblastoma) is a devastating and fast-growing brain tumor that typically results in death within the first 15 months after diagnosis. GBM is inherently resistant to conventional therapy and accounts for approximately 52% of all primary brain tumors.

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A release from the company outlined Incysus’ innovative DRI approach, which seeks to combine conventional chemotherapies with a γδ T cell-based immunotherapy to modify the tumor microenvironment and drive the immune system. By using alkylating agents such as temozolomide, chemotherapy can activate immunity through the upregulation of the DNA damage response (DDR) pathway. A significant challenge is that such chemotherapies also kill the white blood cells needed to drive an immune response. Incysus’ technology “chemo-protects” immune cells to allow them to remain functional while DDR activation creates an immune signal that allows directed killing activity against cancer cells.

Incysus is the first company to use this type of therapy in patients, and the research marks a landmark moment for Incysus, the overall biotech industry in Birmingham and anti-cancer research across the globe.

Dr. L. Burt Nabors, MD, the co-head of neuro-oncology at UAB and the study’s principal investigator, stated, “The initiation of this clinical trial represents a significant milestone towards developing effective immune-based therapies for the treatment of GBM. We are pleased to work with … the team at Incysus to bring this innovative therapy to patients for the first time.”

Further information on the clinical trial is available here.

Incysus is a UAB spinoff company. Its success in the Magic City — and this kind of potentially revolutionary research spearheaded by UAB — is a prime example of why many legislative and industry leaders in the state, especially in the Birmingham area, are calling on Governor Kay Ivey to fund a world-class genomics facility at the university. They argue that the project could make Birmingham the “Silicon Valley of Biomedicine.”

RELATED: Planned UAB genomics project could make Birmingham the ‘Silicon Valley of Biomedicine’

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

10 hours ago

Amendment One puts kids first, politicians last

When Alabamians take the to the polls on Super Tuesday, they will either be concerned with the Democratic nominee for President of the United States or the Republican nominee for the United States Senate. More important to the future of Alabama is a constitutional amendment that would end our current model of a popularly elected state school board in favor of one appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state senate.

Supporters of Amendment 1 argue that this would be a major step in improving Alabama’s permanent residence at the bottom of the education barrel. As it is currently designed and managed, the state board of education is doing very little to improve the quality of education in the state. Board members are trying, but clearly nothing is working very well. Supporters of the amendment argue a shake up is the best hope for improving education in Alabama. In some respects the argument does not go far enough. That is because the current process creates negative incentives for board members; because they hold their office at the behest of voters, there is every incentive for them to avoid upsetting their constituents.

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That is the chief problem with the board as it is currently construed. Board members are not uncaring or ignorant or irresponsible. Instead, they respond to the whims and wishes of voters or other powerful political interests. No matter what politicians say, they are inevitably swayed by the whispers of voters and donors. Not because they are corrupt, but because they are human. All people are prone to this, which is why the framers of the Constitution created a system that checked and balanced one human tendency against another. It’s true that voters can provide a check on board members, but that argument does not account for an additional problem.

The second problem with the current system is that voters have limits to their knowledge about education in our state. Committed parents and citizens can often learn a lot about their own schools and school districts, but rarely does even the most passionate citizen have the time and mental energy to devote beyond that. Should Amendment 1 pass, the state Senate would have a direct responsibility to ensure that the governor appoints quality people to the board, but also to make certain that the Board is making progress in evaluating and improving the quality of education in our state.

Critics argue that an appointed board would lend itself to cronyism. That’s possible, but the executive and legislative branch often have competing interests, even when they share the same partisan and ideological commitments. Those competing concerns would help smooth over concerns about patronage and cronyism. Still, the amendment will not be an easy transition given the natural tendency of politicians towards vanity and self-promotion. The current system is of a worse nature, however, as it leaves the governor and senate almost powerless to impact education policy, which is instead run by another group of politicians with little incentive to do anything that might upset the voters who put them there.

But shouldn’t voters have a say in these matters? No, at least not directly. This is because education policy is a difficult matter, and it is hard for voters to adjudicate the success or failures of these policies beyond the very narrow window of their own experience. It’s fine that we elect local school boards; they are indeed local, and voters often see those board members at church or line at Piggly Wiggly. Only the most politically involved voters are likely to have any encounter with their board members, who are busy juggling very difficult conflicts within their own districts. Each district contains such a variety of constituents that it is almost impossible for board members to adequately address those concerns, instead pandering to the one or two constituencies most likely to keep the member in office.

There is a final reason to support Amendment 1. A central feature of modern politics is the tendency of politicians to see themselves as mouthpieces instead of statesmen. Some of that is natural but other parts of it are due to the incentive structure within our own government. This is as true in Montgomery as it is in Washington D.C., and Alabamians should care far more about the goings-on in our state capital than in our nation’s capital. Since our legislature is stripped of any real influence in state education policy and therefore little accountability to voters, it leaves them free to demagogue and pander on the issue without really having to stand before the voters and take account for their time in office. The same is true for the governor. By making the governor and the state senate responsible for staffing the state school board as part of an ongoing process of appointment and confirmation, these branches of our government would finally have real skin in the game. The success of our schools would be their success, and the failure of our schools would be theirs, also.

Matthew Stokes, a widely published opinion writer and instructor in the core texts program at Samford University, is a Resident Fellow of the Alabama Policy Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit educational organization based in Birmingham; learn more at alabamapolicy.org.

10 hours ago

Gary Palmer honors the late NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson on House floor

U.S. Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Hoover) honored Katherine Johnson with a speech in the House chamber on Thursday.

Johnson, who passed away recently at the age of 101, was one of America’s most important mathematicians in the space race. She pioneered a place for African-American women at NASA and was portrayed in the Oscar-nominated film Hidden Figures.

“Despite intense discrimination throughout her years at NASA she remained committed to advancing America’s space program,” said Palmer during his speech in her honor.

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“She hand-calculated the flight path for America’s first crewed space mission in 1961, and also helped calculate the trajectory for the famed 1969 moon landing,” continued Palmer.

Palmer also recounted the famous anecdote when astronaut John Glenn was about to become the first American to orbit Earth and he demanded that Johnson do the calculations for his mission. Glenn trusted Johnson more than he trusted NASA’s new computer system.

Watch:

“I stand with my colleagues in the House and with countless other Americans in gratitude for Mrs. Johnson’s hard work and pioneering spirit that have undoubtedly made our country a better place,” Palmer concluded.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.