Blake Farmer

Updated May 17, 2019, 6 p.m. ET

A lawsuit over how to distribute donated livers to dying patients took some startling turns this week.

The United Network for Organ Sharing is returning for the moment to an earlier system for distributing donated livers which it had changed on Tuesday, after a federal court in Atlanta threatened to hold the agency in contempt.

The new anti-abortion tilt of the U.S. Supreme Court has inspired some states to further restrict the procedure during the first trimester of pregnancy and move to outlaw abortion entirely if Roe v. Wade ever falls. But the rush to regulate has exposed division among groups and lawmakers who consider themselves staunch abortion opponents.

When a rural community loses its hospital, health care becomes harder to come by in an instant. But a hospital closure also shocks a small town's economy. It shuts down one of its largest employers. It scares off heavy industry that needs an emergency room nearby. And in one Tennessee town, a lost hospital means lost hope of attracting more retirees.

Nursing requires hands-on training. But research has found that university curriculum often goes light on one of life's universal experiences — dying. So some colleges have gone to new lengths to make the training more meaningful.

There's a sound near the end — the death rattle. People stop swallowing. The lungs fill up. There can be involuntary moaning.

"So you get all that noise. And that's really distressing for family members," Professor Sara Camp of Nashville's Belmont University says.

Rural hospitals close when they don't have enough paying patients to care for, but they're also dinged when the same patients show up over and over again. That puts outlying medical facilities in the precarious position of needing to avoid repeat customers.

Charlotte Potts is the type of patient some hospitals try to avoid. She lives in Livingston, Tenn. — a town of 4,000, tucked between rolling hills of the Cumberland Plateau.

In the operating room, surgical masks and matching scrubs can make it hard to tell who's whom — at least for outsiders.

Patients getting wheeled in might not realize that salespeople working on commission are frequently present and sometimes even advise the clinical team during surgery.

Who are these salespeople, and why are they there?

Vicki Bartholomew started a support group for wives who are caring for a husband with Alzheimer's disease because she needed that sort of group herself.

They meet every month in a conference room at a new memory care facility in Nashville, Tenn., called Abe's Garden, where Bartholomew's husband was one of the first residents — a Vietnam veteran and prominent attorney in Nashville.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ELISE HU, HOST:

Country star Mel Tillis died yesterday after a long illness. He was 85. Blake Farmer of member station WPLN says the prolific songwriter's road to fame wasn't an easy one.

This season's massive hurricanes will force communities in Texas and Florida to ask a tough question: How do you make sure homes and businesses never flood again? Since its own devastating flood in 2010, Nashville has embraced one answer: offer to tear them down.

It would seem a welcome way out of disaster, but it's not always an easy sell.

Historians in Nashville have been on the hunt for a prominent man named Fred Douglas. But they are happy to report that no one by the name has been found. Because they had a pretty good hunch that a park bought in the 1930s was named after the famed abolitionist and statesman Frederick Douglass. The name just wasn't spelled correctly.

Reading isn't usually a competitive sport. But it's become one for Braille readers because of a lack of excitement about Braille.

Right now, the Los Angeles-based Braille Institute is putting on regional competitions like this one in a classroom at the Tennessee School for the Blind.

A braille reading competition actually looks more like a typing contest.

As competition begins, students flip through their packets. Their spread fingers sweep over the square pages.

About a third of Tennessee students who graduated from high school in 2015 did so without earning the necessary credits. That revelation came late last month in a report by the state's education department — a report meant to explore why so many Tennessee students are having trouble in college. For the first time, state officials led an audit to see whether graduates were fulfilling the state's graduation requirements. One in three was not.

Copyright 2017 Nashville Public Radio. To see more, visit Nashville Public Radio.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Jean Shepard, one of the first women to find success in country music as a solo act, died Sunday at age 82. Shepard was a feisty, straight-shooting singer who created a career in an industry where she had few female role models.

Jack Daniel's is a historic brand built on stories and legend. To this day, all of the whiskey is made in the hills of little Lynchburg, Tenn. And as part of its 150th anniversary, the company is highlighting a lesser-known part of its story: how a slave played a key role in its founding.

It's an estate sale for the ages. Stuff belonging to Bill Monroe, the "Father of Bluegrass," is on sale this weekend just outside of Nashville. As the patriarch of a genre and of a passionate musical family, artifacts from his rise to prominence are in high demand.

It's the afternoon lull at Bongo Java East, and five students from KIPP Academy are tripping over each other behind the counter of this hip Nashville coffee joint, trying to show off what they've learned. They're grinding espresso beans. They're packing the grounds. They're steaming milk.

"Let's see how this goes," 10th-grader Ayanna Holder says as she knocks a steel pot of scalding milk on the counter to keep foam from forming. She takes a freshly pulled espresso and begins pouring the latte, aiming for a quintessential leaf design on top.

It doesn't quite go as planned.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Tens of thousands of Tennessee students steadied their clammy, test-day hands over a keyboard several days ago. And, for many, nothing happened.

It was the state's first time giving standardized exams on computers, but the rollout couldn't have gone much worse.

In lots of places, the testing platform slowed to a crawl or appeared to shut down entirely. Within hours, Tennessee scrapped online testing for the year.

The move comes after schools spent millions of dollars to buy additional PCs and to improve their wi-fi networks.

There's a school bus driver shortage in districts from Indiana to Florida, and Nashville, Tenn., has one of the most pressing. Nearly a quarter of the city's 550 slots for drivers are unfilled — and that's when no one is sick.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Opioids have a stranglehold on parts of the U.S. And where addictive pain medicines are the drug of choice, clinics for addiction treatment often follow.

Sometime these are doctor's offices where patients can get painkiller-replacement drugs, such as Subutex and Suboxone.

Ninety percent of students at Hobgood Elementary in Murfreesboro, Tenn., come from low-income households. Most of the school's teachers don't. And that's a challenge, says principal Tammy Garrett.

"If you only know middle-class families, you may not understand at times why they don't have their homework or why they're tired," Garrett says.

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