Ancient Awakenings: How a Personal Tragedy Led to a Life’s Work

Steven and Dana Rankin with their daughters Eve and Kaiya. Photo courtesy of Coleen Verner Photography.

Need a little kick in the pants to take charge of your life and your health? Check out Steven Rankin’s story. While serving as a sheriff’s deputy in south Georgia in 2006, he made what he thought was a routine traffic stop late at night. While simply trying to tell a driver to turn his music down, Steven was shot point blank in the face, the bullet destroying the right side of his jaw and fracturing his C1 vertebrae. It remained lodged in his spine for four years and led to a whole slew of health problems that his doctors wouldn’t acknowledge could be attributed to, you know, a bullet being stuck in his neck.

Fed up with his doctors and a lack of real solutions, Steven decided to listen to his gut and take matters into his own hands. He eventually left the police force and moved to Atlanta, where health and fitness not only became his way of life, it became his life’s work. Even in the midst of all the chaos, at no point did he feel like his life and his health were out of his control, because he became his own advocate. He questioned things, he got his hands on as much information as he could. He stayed as healthy as he could by caring for his ailing body, eating healthy and working out. Then an encounter with a client of his led him to an awakening of sorts. From that moment on, he made it his mission to help Atlanta grow into a community of knowledgeable, health conscious people.

You had a past life that looks quite a bit different than the one you’re leading now. Tell us about it and the unbelievable event that led you to where you are now.

My life before now was quite different. I grew up about 1 and 1/2 hours south of Macon. Organic foods weren’t even even of knowledge at the time. Food was food, that’s all we knew. I was in the police force for about 5 years or so, and towards the beginning of my career on the patrol, I made a traffic stop late at night and ended up getting shot point blank in the face in the traffic stop. The incident itself was tumultuous but it went by fast, and I got back on my feet and back on the road, but then I started getting sick. I started experiencing flulike symptoms, I couldn’t eat or drink, had muscles cramps and severe fatigue, and basically my immune system was just shut down. I eventually realized I was receiving lead poisoning from the bullet lodged in my neck, so I kept getting sick with these flulike symptoms. Doctors kept checking me for cancer and stuff.  They would ever really acknowledge the bullet was causing issues so, long story short, I had to fight for workers’ compensation, we went to an outside doctor and I was able to get help paying for doctor visits and eventually have the bullet removed so I could start working to get the lead out of my system. I started to look into alternative medicine.

You eventually said, ‘That’s it. I’m doing this my way.’ What brought you to that moment?

My final breaking point was about three or four years after the shooting. I was in prime physical shape, training for a fitness competition while working at Lifetime Fitness in Atlanta—I was the team fitness coach teaching weight loss, bootcamp classes, health and nutrition. I was up to about 212 pounds and six or seven percent body fat. Then I had a little vacation and I got sick and thought maybe I just ate something bad, but it kept on for six days straight, just throwing up all the time. Even water was making me throw up, smelling anything made me throw up. I lost almost 32 pounds in six days. It was dramatic. And when I went back to Lifetime people looked at me as if I was a totally different person. Luckily I was at the fitness level I was, otherwise I don’t know if I would’ve been able to come out of that, and that’s when I knew we have to make a change.

What inspired you to try fermented foods to try and turn your health around?

Brenda Hafer, a colon hydrotherapist and one of the ladies I trained at the time, saw me [during the time I became severely ill] and she was appalled by how sickly I looked. She took me to see one of her best friends, Dr. Susan Russell at Turning Point Healing Center in Marietta, who was an acupuncturist. She did a session with me and it was a complete turnaround, I felt 200 percent better, and she told me that I needed to start eating live foods and fermented foods. So my girlfriend at the time (now wife) started researching how to make fermented foods and found out which ones would be best for us to start making and consuming. They were the two that inspired us to look into fermented foods, and it changed my health and my life tremendously. My wife and I don’t really get sick anymore. We now have two young girls, one who is five years old and another almost two years old, and their bodies are able to handle sickness because we feed them well and we feed them cultured vegetables.


Photos courtesy of Coleen Verner Photography.

Kombucha brewing at the Ancient Awakenings shop. Photo courtesy of Coleen Verner Photography.

At what point did you realize you guys were onto something that you knew you had to share with others? When was the idea for Ancient Awakenings born?

Our idea for Ancient Awakenings basically came out because I was training a lot of clients that were having health issues or stubborn weight problems, and we had seen all the results with the probiotics, the kefir and cultured vegetables for me and my wife and our family and friends. So we decided to start selling it to my clients, and they started seeing great results. So we started doing a couple small farmers markets around the Woodstock area and we just saw how great it was working for everybody, how they were seeing the difference, how they were feeling better. [People told us] their bloating was gone, digestive issues gone, skin issues, just multiple various issues were being alleviated through eating our fermented foods. So we just kept going with it and started doing more farmers markets. We wanted to help people be healthy and this was just providing a great opportunity for us to do it in a natural way that people could appreciate and grow to love. Nutrition is everything, it’s our whole lives, it’s what we’ve built our family and our business on. Our whole lives are based upon trying to be healthy and teach others how to be truly healthy.

Fermented goodies at the Ancient Awakenings shop. Photo courtesy of Coleen Verner Photography.

Fermented goodies at the Ancient Awakenings shop. Photo courtesy of Coleen Verner Photography.

What advice would you give to someone who maybe didn’t go through quite as dramatic a life-altering event as you, but just knows that they could feel better but they don’t really know where to start?

My advice is to not wait for something dramatic to happen to feel like you need to make changes. I was into health well before the shooting and getting so sick is what kept driving me to make sure I stayed healthy, trying to figure out what was wrong, not just giving in and going by whatever the doctors were telling me. I feel like you have to be productive from the start, you have to provide good to the body in order to get good out. I truly believe you get out of it what you put in.

For more information about Steven and Dana Rankin and their full offerings and health services, and to find out where to purchase Ancient Awakenings products, visit