{Go Red} For Women’s Health 

The  Go Red campaign focuses on women’s heart health which is the number one killer of women. I suffered a stroke, a stroke that came after my pulmonary embolism was discovered. Sure a blood clot is not a cardiac event, but it still is an event. An event that only 1 out of 5 survive.

If you ask me those odds are shitty. Fuck only one out of five people who have a P.E. will survive. That statistic is one I cannot escape and it haunts me to this day. I am the ONE out of FIVE. I’ve lived seven borrowed years on this earth and I’ve done my best to make every second count. I cannot undo the events of October 2009, I can only move past them. 

Five days before my 27th birthday I drove myself to the ER. My chest felt like it was being split open and I could barely breathe. I collapsed as soon as I got inside and woke up to a nurse telling me “well you are not having a heart attack and you can either help me take your clothes off or I can cut them off.” I opted to help. I was confused and gasping for air. Every breath I took ripped through my body. I’ve never been in labor but I imagine the pain I was feeling is on that level. The ER doctor told me that my oxygen level was below 50% and he was leaning towards an infection in my lungs. He was going to run some tests. As he headed toward the door he stopped and asked “are you on a birth control?” 

I uttered yes and he explained about the d-dimer test and that it checked for possible blood clots. He was certain it wasn’t that, he just wanted to check to be sure. The lab came in and took my blood. It would be a bit before the results came back. As I was being taken to x-ray the Doctor stopped us and stated “put her back in her room she doesn’t need an x-ray.” I thought this meant it wasn’t serious and I was on my way home. He calmly explained “the d-dimer came back positive. We need to do a CT scan to look at your chest to check for any blood clots. The contrast dye if you are allergic to it it could kill you. But it’s your best option.” 

I looked at him and said “I might die either way right?” And signed my name to the consent form. The Radiology Tech said it would take about an hour for the results to come back. I waited and listened to the clock tick the minutes away. Thirty minutes went by, I heard a phone ring and the doors voice in the hall. I only made out “shit! You have to be kidding me!” Followed by a page for extra staff to the ER. Then I heard foot steps, lots of them running towards my little room. The doctor popped in and explained “you have a pulmonary embolis.” I stared at him blankly and he explained “you have a blood clot the size of a ten cent gumball blocking the valve from your left lung to your heart. Blood and oxygen can’t get through.” 

Those words were a lot to process. In that moment I did not fully comprehend the shit I was in and how bad it was. He explained I needed blood thinners and that I would be in the hospital for a while. He stepped out for a moment to put in RX orders. And that is when I lost my words. My body felt strange, it felt like I was sinking and I couldn’t get my words out. The heart monitor started beeping and everyone was frantically moving around. My blood pressure was well above 200 and I was fading. Clot busters, TPA to be exact were ordered and given, my stroke was stopped right in it’s tracks and my life was spared. I live with the knowledge that I almost died 5 days before my birthday.

I became accustomed to my new life. A life of blood thinners, scans, diet change, and never ending doctors appointments. I was angry and bitter. I wanted to put a why behind the how. I wanted to know why this happened to me and how I could prevent others from enduring my fate. To this day the answer is still hard to swallow. 

Truth: my pulmonary embolism and stroke were 100% preventable. The blood clot was caused by the progesterone in the Nuvaring, my birth control. One week before this occurred I had my annual check up and I told my doctor that I was feeling unusually tired, had redness and warmth on my upper leg. She ignored my symptoms and told me “oh just go home drink some water and walk more.” Since she didn’t think anything of it, I didn’t either. Boy was I wrong. I now know I had all of the classic signs of a potential blood clot and that a simple d-dimer test could have caught the clot before it reached my lung and brain. My whole ordeal could have been prevented if only my doctor had truly listened to me that day. 

I go Red for women’s health. All of us need to realize that we know our bodies better than anyone. We know when something isn’t right and we need to listen to our guts. It’s time we put our health first and push for the answers that we need. Our symptoms are and will always be different from men, because hello we are not men. It breaks my heart to know that young women are often dismissed. We shouldn’t be, blood clots, heart disease and stroke do not know age and they can occur at anytime. Love yourself! Make a doctors appointment and make sure you are being heard. If one doctor won’t listen keep on pressing until you find someone who does. You only have one life, one heart, and you deserve the very best. 

Don’t be like AJ, she didn’t push for answers and almost died 5 days before her 27th birthday. 

{2016} Life Found Its Way In 

2016 was about learning to let go of my single girl shoes so that I could walk comfortably in my relationship shoes. I no longer buy groceries for one, I actually buy vegetables and things that I have no intention of eating but I know Jay will. It’s about yelling “Cully stop trying to hump your brother (Dexter the bitchy cat) while making dinner for two. Doing laundry for two, watching Netflix while eating Chinese, and walking out to a light house because why not. Sharing thoughts and feelings before you drift off to sleep only to be awakened by the snorasours who is inhabiting the left side of the bed. Coming home to surprises and finding the kitchen to be spotless when you open the door after a long day. It’s the little things in relationships that matter. The little things are what allow us as humans to smoosh two big lives into one life. 

2016 was the year the “mass engine failure” light popped up on the 2002 Prius dash board. The Prius barely made it to the shop. I was hopeful that my trusty sidekick could be fixed. I wanted it to be fixed because I am simply not me without a Prius to drive. Then the call came “its in the hybrid system and it will be expensive to fix.” Those words broke my heart. I called my dad about twenty times that day, we weighed out the options and he said “maybe it’s time for a new one?” I gasped at those words. A new one! A new one! I want mine, I haven’t hit my 300,000 mile goal yet. We still have some road trips left! My dad replied “it’s time.” Capital one sent me an email earlier in the week saying I was approved  for an auto loan. Though I’ve never had a car loan in my life or such a big responsibility. I window shopped online. I need a Prius, not a new one, but a new to me Prius. A used one. As luck would have it a 2013 seaglass pearl Prius popped up. The shade was just a tad darker than my original Prius. It was meant to be mine, I bought her, and she is amazing. 

What happened to the old one you ask? It sat at the shop for almost a month when I decided to throw in the towel and have them impound it. The title was in the ex-husbands name and well I wasn’t going to get the fine and fees so I didn’t care. But then my phone rang, the mechanic, his name is Fred asked if he could have it. Knowing I would get practically nothing for a trade in or resale, I handed him the keys. I gave him my beloved well dented old Prius for free. Fred is smart and good at what he does, he breathed life into my old Prius and got it running again. I wave at it every time I drive by the shop and see it in the parking lot. Seriously people I do! It’s like seeing an old friend. 

Sophia turned four and Jack turned one. Being an auntie is a gift. I get to watch this two Little’s grow into tiny humans with heart and guts. Also Sophia loves riding in auntie’s new car, mainly because she thinks it talks. She doesn’t realize the voice she hears is Siri being projected through the speakers to tell me where to go. One day she will figure it out and my car will loose its magic. 

Jay and I took the kids to the county fair and watched their faces light up as we walked around looking at animals while noshing  on funnel cake and hot dogs. Sophia found her brave shoes at the fair. She and I road down the big slide. As we climbed up steeper and steeper she said “auntie I don’t think I can do this.” I said, we are going to do this tongeher Sophia. She happily sat on my lap as we raced down the slide. When we hit the bottom she immediately wanted to go again and we did. 

Kids have been on my mind a lot this year. We tried with no luck. In the fall I finally put my big girl pants on and sat down with a reproductive enocrnologist. We made a plan. Our plan didn’t work and now we move on to level two. I am still trying to wrap my head around sperm washing and inter uterine injection. I picture the nurses picking up the little sperm to wash their bellies and putting them back in a tub. I know this isn’t exactly what happens, it’s science. In away I’ll kind of be like the Virgin Mary, I’ll get pregnant without bumping the uglies. Stay tuned for further updates in 2017. I think 2017 is totally going to be my year. I can feel it in my soul. Fingers crossed! 

In 2016 I found my travel shoes again. In the spring I took my Dad to Southwestern Iowa and Omaha Nebraska. We spent the weekend looking at World War I era planes and touring distilleries. Jay and I returned to Wisconsin Dells and took a trip to the north shore in September. My mom for years has been bugging me to take her to Madison County Iowa. We went in October and spent the weekend touring the covered bridges and drove down to Omaha for a day. In December I took a work trip to Ohio and Kentucky. It felt good to travel again, to explore, and tick of miles on the new to me Prius. 

2016 had a little red in it to. In February I was invited to walk in the Hearts For Fashion Show at the Mall of America during the Go Red Expo. I didn’t trip and I owned that run way! Well I feel apart a little inside when I looked over to see the misty eyes of my parents and Jay. Sherri was there too! Did I ever mention that I have the worlds greatest best friend!? Truly I do! Every survivor needs a confidant in life and she is mine. We’ve been friends for almost 10 years. The show was fun and I had a blast walking in it. Sharing my story allows me to heal. 

2016 is the year my life actually felt like a life. I have a career that I love and I admit I think riding the bus to work is fun. I have a boss who appreciates me. I’ve changed zip codes. I’ve settled into relationshiphood and our home in the burbs. Though my crap is still hap hazardly stacked in the garage, I’ll unpack one day. Motherhood is no longer a mystical thing, but an actual tangible thing that is within my reach. It’s just going to take a little work. Life feels good, I have the life that was always waiting for me and I am never looking back. 

{Go Red for Women} Being an Auntie Is Why 

 One out of three women will die of heart disease. One out of five women will be impacted by heart disease in their lifetimes. If you ask me one, is one woman to many. Many believe that heart disease and stroke only affect the elderly, sadly this isn’t the case. The thing about Storkes is this: “they are a thing, they have no idea how old you are, or the color of your skin or your weight, they strike when you least expect it.” Stroke is not an elderly thing, it’s an every woman thing and they are 80% preventable. 

My stroke was the direct result of a hormonal contraceptive. I had gone to my annual exam and displayed all the signs and symptoms of a blood clot and my doctor ignored me…….. Yes you read that right, she ignored the signs and told me to drink some water and walk more. Her medical advice seemed half hearted and rushed. Something in my gut told me to get a second opinion, I never sought that second opinion, instead one week to the day I drove myself to the ER. 

I drove myself through rush hour traffic to the ER and that is where my second story began. I was fighting for every breath I could muster and fading fast. The CT scan revealed a clot the size of a 10cent gumball blocking the main valve that connects the left lung to my heart. Blood was barely getting past the clot, my heart was in sinus tachycardia, and my blood pressure was rising, all ingredients for a perfect storm. A storm that lead me to have a stroke right in the ER, clot busters were given to me and blood thinners were started, and I walked out of the hospital four days later.

I survived the unthinkable, only 1 out of 5 survive a pulmonary embolism and walking away unscathed from a stroke is a miracle in itself. What hurts the most is that all of this could have been prevented, there was no need for me to die almost five days before my 27th birthday. My pulmonary embolism and stroke were 100% preventable. All the doctor had to do that day was listen to me, a simple test called d-dimer could have identified the clot before it reached my lungs and my stroke would never have happened. Yet, I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world, in a moment of disaster my purpose was born.

I fight for all of the women who were asked to leave the table. For those women who never got a chance to say I do. For those women who never got to watch their children grow up. For those women who never got to become mothers and for the survivors who will never hold a baby of their own. For those who never got to hold their nieces and nephews. 

Thousands of women’s lives are being cut to short. Thousands of children are being cheated out of there mothers, aunties and grandmas. Not to mention think of all the men who never got a chance to meet their soulmate. We can change this! You and I can change this, by simply going Red. When we go Red we raise awareness of heart disease and stroke in women. When we go red we raise funds for life saving research. Mostly when we go red we save lives. Life is why and no woman deserves to fight alone.

If you need proof that “Go Red” matters, look at Sophia and Jack, they will tell you “it matters.” My family will tell you “it matters!” My story could have ended diffrently, Sharon would have picked out an urn instead of a 27th themed Halloween birthday cake for her daughter. Jammie’s children would be learning about their auntie through photographs and stories. Because of the American Heart Association’s life saving mission I got that 27th themed birthday cake and I get to be Super Auntie! 

So yes Go Red does matter and it does make a difference! Please join us and go red for the women in your lives on Friday February 5, 2016. 

Being an Auntie is Why I Go Red 

{Go Red} Barbara Ann Is Why I Go Red

In 1987 my mama met Barb on the night shift at the Seminary Home and they became fast friends. Barb supported my mama during my childhood illness, lifted her up and gave her hope that my surgery would go well. Barb was rooting for me.

Barb followed my mama to Rem Park Heights, together they worked side by side on the night shift for 15 years. Barb took care of the ladies, my mama the men. They had each others backs and kept each other company though the quiet nights. Well mostly quiet, my mama and Barb have some pretty great stories from the night shift.

Barb had a huge heart, she loved on all of the babies and I was lucky enough to be one of them. She has been apart of my life for as long as I can remember. Barb sold Avon and my mama loved her some Avon products. I loved going with my mama to pick up our order, mostly because Barb always had a hug and a treat for me.

Chocolate bars are like the go to Halloween candy choice, and I trick or treated for a bag of candy I couldn’t eat. My mama would always have us trick or treat at Barb’s house and she would always put a huge bag of gummy bears or sweet tarts into my bag. Ms. Barb didn’t want me to be left out, so she always made sure I had something to enjoy too. Barb went out of her way to make me feel special.

When my mama got stuck at work doing paper work Barb would pick me up and take me to school. The oldies station was always on and Barb greeted me with a smile and “morning doll face!”

Doll face, she always call my Doll face. When I was ready to start using makeup my mama brought me to Barb. I remember sitting on her living room floor as she explained lipstick, eyeshadows, mascara, foundation and skin tone to me. She told me “girl you’ve got pale skin, stick with pinks!” Barb told me “a pretty girl always washes her face before bed.” I took her advice and always wash my face. I bought my makeup from Barb up until the day she stopped selling it. Avon was my brand and she will forever be my Avon lady.

I would give anything to hear “Doll face” right now. Barb passed away from complications of an enlarged heart on January 2, 2015. My mama couldn’t believe that her best friend was gone. She called Barb’s brother Greg and he confirmed that she was really gone. My mama lost her best friend of 28 years and I lost my second mom. Barb was one heck of a friend to my Mama and together we are navigating a world with out her. Barb had so much love for all the babies, dogs (especially George), and the people she took care of. Maybe that is why her heart was so large. So large because she loved with every ounce of her heart.

Barbara Ann is why I go red

{Go Red For Women} When A Doctor Fails

We have talked about the statistics. We talked about the warning signs and about what to do when someone is having a stroke. What we have yet to talk about is that sometimes doctors fail.

On October 14, 2009 I went to the Alina clinic in Woodbury for my yearly exam and birth control prescription renewal. The doctor was more concerned about whether or not my insurance would pay for the pap because I was a few weeks early. She said “Ya know they only pay for one per year. Your last exams was in November 2008. So they might not pay and you will get a bill.” The doctor actually left the room for a few minutes so I could think about whether or not I wanted my exam. Still to this day I can’t believe she did that.

When she came back in the room she was rushing and barely listening to anything I was saying. I was getting annoyed so I changed my tone and said “look I am really tired, my right leg has been throbbing, I have redness and swelling in my calf and upper thigh. This isn’t normal for me.” The doctor looked me in the eye and said “well you said you haven’t been walking as much. Go home walk and drink more water. Here’s your script. Bye.”

With those words she left the room and I got dressed. If she wasn’t concerned then I shouldn’t be. So I didn’t give it a second though and I went on about my day. As the days went by I wasn’t getting any better. I had shooting pains and major swelling in my leg. Again I brushed it off, drank some water, and walked a little more. I had bigger things to tackle. I finished out my last few days at the pharmacy benefit management company and looked forward to staring my new job that Monday. I didn’t have the time to be sick, so my health it was shoved to the side. After all the doctor she wasn’t worried so I wasn’t going to worry either.

Monday came and I was super pumped for my new job. By the end of the day I did not feel well. The shooting pain was moving up my leg into my stomach and I had this massive head ache. When I got home I took some Tylenol and went to bed. I woke up fine on Tuesday and set out to conquer day 2 of my new job. I felt fine all day Tuesday. Wednesday afternoon would prove to be difficult. I had this pain it felt like someone was dragging a knife up and down my right side. My leg was so swollen it barely fit in my pants and I just felt sick. When I got home I took some Tylenol and went to sleep.

Thursday October 22, 2009 I woke up feeling fine. I had slight pains in my chest, I chalked it up to a cold and headed out to work. Fuck me, the freeway was bumper to bumper and I was worried about being late. I continued on I94, as I drove the pain in my chest kept on getting worse. It felt like thousands of knives poking me and when I tried to take a deep breath it felt like trying to inflate a tiny balloon. Again I said to myself “don’t worry you will be fine, all you need to do is make it to work, take some Tylenol and drink some water. My condition worsened, by the time I reached Saint Paul I could barely breath, my arms were going numb, my heart was racing, and I, I was fighting. Lexington Parkway, I made it there and took the exit. I drove all the way back to Woodbury. I remember thinking do I go home or do I go straight to the Hospital.

I chose the hospital and that is where my morning unraveled. The doctor ruled out a heart attack and he was leaning towards a respiratory infection. I apologized profusely for taking up their time. My blood oxygen level was below 50% and the doctor paused for a moment and asked if I was on a birth control I told him “yes, Yes I am. I am on the Nuva Ring.” The Doctor explained the risks of blood clots and the D-Dimer test to me. He told me, its most likely not that, but we want to be safe. The results came back and the results were not good. I was in trouble. I was sent off to CT and with in forty minutes the blood clot was found. I had a blood clot the size of a ten cent gumball in my left lung. It was wedged in the main valve leading from my left lung to my heart. My lung had signs of infarction, I had 20% tissue death in the lower portion of my left lung. My heart was barely getting any blood nor was my body getting the vital amount of oxygen it needed.

The Doctor ordered the highest dose of Heparin possible. He talked to me and tried to explain everything that was going on. A nurse he noticed that my blood pressure was climbing. I remember looking at the nurse and saying “I feel really light headed, like I am sinking, and and……..” In that moment I lost my words. In that moment I had a stroke. The staff gave me clot busters and started the Heparin drip. I was not going home for a while. At 26 years old, just five days shy of my 27th birthday I almost died. My life was forever changed and I was left to chart my course as a survivor.

In the coming days I would learn that my stroke was 100% preventable. On October 14, 2009 I described the tell tale signs of a possible blood clot in the leg. She knew I was on the Nuva Ring which was known to cause blood clots. All my doctor had to do that day was listen to me. She had the ability to order a D-Dimer, that test would have signified that I had a clot somewhere in my body, instead she dismissed my concerns and sent me home. Preventable was the hardest pill I had to swallow. I went through hell because a doctor didn’t give a fuck about me, she was more concerned about my insurance company paying than my health.

I had to endure three weeks of Lovenox injections, seven months of INR checks and take warfarin sodium in an attempt to keep my blood thin. Worst of all because of her oversight that day, I can no longer carry a child. OBGYN’s are suppose to bring babies into this world, not take away a woman’s fertility. They are suppose to advocates for women’s health and not be the reason a woman’s health fails. I was on a birth control, so as I told her “Hey my leg hurts, its swollen, red, and warm to the touch.” A red flag should of went up and she should have done her duty and ordered the D-Dimer. Her lack of concern made me dismiss a shit ton of red flags. I thought “the doctor wasn’t concerned, so why should I be concerned?”

The beautiful thing about a woman’s body is that, it never steers her wrong. I should have listened to my gut and pushed for a second opinion. That one doctor changed my perspective and now I fight for my own health. I am not afraid to ask for a second, third, or forth opinion. I will not give up or in until I find someone who is just as passionate about health as I am. I will be damned if I ever get dismissed by a doctor again. To be honest I don’t trust doctors anymore. They are only as smart as the paper their license is printed on.

The OBGYN I saw that day is fully aware of what happened to me. She actually called me and apologized. I said to her “Your apology cannot bring my lung function back, it will not restore my ability to have a baby, and it will not make your lack of concern OK. You can shove your apology up your ass. What’s done is done.” I cannot undo what she did to me, but I sure as hell can make sure no other woman endures my fate. If my story saves one woman or makes one woman pause and ask her doctor “what is my risk.” Then the hell I went through on that day was worth it, because I was able to make a difference in another woman’s life.

{Thankful} 1 day out of 365

Giving thanks for one day out of three-sixty-five just seems plain old silly to me. I wake up each morning with a thankful surviving heart and give props when they are due.

I am thankful for:

The American Heart Association – Minnesota
Without the American Heart Association my Father and I would not be standing. Because of their dedication to a world without heart disease and stroke, we were saved. The AHA is lobbying for heart healthy policies, raising funds for life saving research, and giving all of us a chance at tomorrow. The American Heart Association #IsWhy. The AHA gave me a platform to share my story and by using my voice I am changing our tomorrow for the better.

Earlier in the year I was diagnosed with an autoimmune/auto inflammatory disease. I am sick with a disease that doesn’t even have a name. My immune system no longer has an off switch and my body has declared war on itself. Test showed that I had high C-Reactive Protein and with my family history I am destined for Congestive Heart Failure. I have a 95% chance of following in my Daddy’s footsteps. My Pulmonary Embolism and stroke were a fluke, but this, this was all ready written in the cards. I am not worried nor am I scared, because I know the American Heart Association is fighting for my tomorrow. They are raising funds for critical research that will one day save my life. And for that I am incredibly thankful.

“My Mama and Pete aka my Dad”

Photo by: Stephanie Ryan Photography

Photo by: Stephanie Ryan Photography

My Parents are my greatest cheerleaders. Together we faced the unknown, fought the good fight, and with faith in our hearts we saw a better day. My Father is a 13 year congestive heart failure survivor and my Mama is one tough cookie. She takes care of my dad, sets up his pills, drives him to the Mayo, and without her he would not be alive. She puts her needs aside to care for the man that fathered her daughters. My Mama does it without question, she is an extremely giving soul that doesn’t know how to quit. Because she cared, because she loves him, my Dad got to see his daughters graduate college, get married and divorced, he stood by my side as I recovered from a stroke, he said hello and goodbye to his first grandchild, and got to hold his second in his arms. Because of My Mama, my Daddy is living the life that dreams are made of.


Photo by: Stephanie Ryan Photography

Photo by: Stephanie Ryan Photography

There are no words to describe my love for this little girl. I fell in love with Sophia the moment I laid eyes on her. Connected our souls are and she will always be a light in my life. Watching her grow and come into her own has been a great joy. Hearing her voice whisper into my ear, her I love yous, and her “Hi Auntie Mannies” never get old. Sophia has my heart and I have hers. Auntie is the greatest title I have ever been given and everything I do is for her healthy tomorrow.

Cullen aka The Muppet Like Dog

Photo by: Stephanie Ryan Photography

Photo by: Stephanie Ryan Photography

Those who say “a dog cannot bring you happiness,” have never owned a dog. This little white ball of muppet like fur has brought so much joy, love, and laughter into my life. Cullen has been my trusty little side kick, my confidant, my fashion critic, and mostly the best four legged friend a girl could ever ask for. He and I are as thick as thieves. Mama and Muppet together forever and ever.

Divorced Life
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Yes, I am thankful for my crazy Divorced Life that is a beautiful disaster that even I could never have imagined. Life, it didn’t pass me by, instead it was patiently waiting for me. Waiting for me to find my way and to come into my own. My life, it has been far from easy. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Because in the end it is my beautiful story and no one else can live my words. No one else can love the way I do, fall flat like I do, and no one, no one can contain my passion for living like I do.

I have fallen in and out of love and said goodbye more times than I care to count. It seems that God needs my friends more than I do. They are now apart of the stars that I place my wishes on. All of the women who lost their lives due to complications from the Nuva Ring are the reason I do what I do, Because I know if they were given the chance they would gladly take my seat on earth and continue the good fight. I owe every moment of my messy divorced life to the four people who died so I could be the one to live another day.

To live another day on my never ending quest to find love. Love is a dream that I have been chasing. I want a second chance to prove to the world that I AmandaJean can have a successful marriage. For a little while Charlie made that dream come true. God he had other plans for him and I was left with a broken heart. I gave myself time, breathed in the loss, and looked to the stars. Those stars lit my way and I can finally say I have found someone who loves my kind of crazy. Who appreciates my honesty, my ability to live in the emotionally raw and one who is intrigued by my wit. For the first time in four years, I am truly happy. I feel like my old self and my heart is bursting with more joy than one soul can handle.

I am thankful for fate, for she has finally smiled upon me.