{Nuva Ring} She Had to Break, Before She Could Shine

Its-Okay-To-Be-A-Glowstick-Motivational-Quotes-Unique-Originality-500x500

One email told me that my settlement check had been cut and mailed out. I knew that the post office closed at 5PM, so today wasn’t going to be my ending. I got home at 5:10, breezed past my Birchbox and opened the mail box to find the all important “we missed you card.” The back of the card said the post office was open til 5:30 PM, it was 5:10, I knew I could make it and I did with 8 minutes to spare. Damn it door is locked, I show the man looking out the window my card. He opens it a crack to tell me they are closed, I explained “sir the back of the card says 5:30.” He points to the hours on the door, the door says Close 5:00 PM and 3:30 PM on Saturdays, again I pointed to what the card said. He explained he was the supervisor and they were closed. I had come so close, yet so far from being done.

I could feel the tears fighting through, I looked at the man and said “Sir, I have been waiting six years for this letter, I know waiting one more day won’t hurt, but you see Sir that letter is my closure, its a settlement check, a check I’ve been waiting six years to see. He started to notice the tear rolling down my cheek, he said “here let me look at that, I don’t normally make exceptions, just wait here ok. He closed the door and disappeared inside, he emerged a few minutes later and told me to come in. In his hand was the letter with a logo I have seen dozens of times, but today it meant it was all over, I just needed to sign and closure would finally be mine. I tearfully thanked him for making the exception, explaining he has no idea what his kindness meant to me.

The tears began to fall, I sat in the drivers seat holding the envelope in my hands, quickly realizing that my tears were staining the envelope, I figured I should probably open it. I did, never in a million years did I think I would see this day. Never in a million years did I think I would see a check. It was just this distant far away untouchable thing, that was never meant to be mine. Yet, there it was in my hands, my name was spelled correctly, its mine and mine alone. I was never in this for the money, I am humbled by what I received. The check doesn’t take away what happened or undo the past six years or bring back my son, but in some way it validates that what happened to me was wrong. Merck never had to admit wrong doing, they will not be held accountable for the deaths or thousands of injuries that the Nuva Ring caused, they simply just had to payout and walk away to operate another day.

I never signed up to get rich, I wanted to stand up for myself and to prevent this from happening to anyone else. Having your life change in seconds scars you, it changes you in ways words cannot begin to describe. If I would have known that this little plastic ring would bring me to the brink of death, I would have left it on the prescription pad and asked my doctor for something else. We as humans cannot see into the future nor can we relive the past, we are in this haze called the here and now, it holds us and comforts us, in away it protects us from the journey ahead. Because if we knew our road was going to be lined with pot holes, tears, and fear, we would stop traveling and stay just as we are. October 22, 2009 taught me more lessons than I could ever begin to explain, it taught me to fight for myself and to always listen to my body, because she will never steer me wrong. It taught me to love my friends like sisters, to cherish my family, to dance on the good days and to fight on the bad. Faith is something I always have, as long as she is at my back, I will face the wind and sail the angry seas.

Survival is a funny thing, you go through phases and it is an ever changing sea, no wave nor current is the same. There are moments where I feel guilty because I lived and someone else’s daughter died. One out of five people will survive a pulmonary embolism with infarction, one out of five is a shitty equation if you ask me. I feel guilty that I have no long term physical or cognitive side affects from my Stroke. I see other stroke survivors struggling and my heart breaks, I know why my out come was different than there’s and it kills me inside to know that if they had received TPA there outcome most likely would have been like mine. I am forever in debt to my Woodwinds care team, One question saved me, if the doctor never paused to ask “are you on a birth control,” my mom would have picked out my urn instead of my 27th Halloween themed birthday cake. Woodwinds will always have a place in my heart, because its where my second story began.

Blog 1

Looking back my second story has been a beautiful disaster. A disaster that is mine and mine alone, I would not trade this journey for anything in the world. On October 22, 2009 I had no idea that one moment would lead me to give a speech on the capital steps in front of members of congress. I had no idea that I would be come a You’re the Cure Advocate and lobby in Washington D.C., I had no idea that I would be a voice that would help get the MN Stroke System of Care passed and funded. I had no Idea that I would be a Go Red Spokeswoman who shined on billboards and a public service announcement. Money doesn’t matter, using your story to make a difference is how you fight back, fighting back is what matters. Merck may never have to admit their wrong doing, but I can tell the world what happened to me, through my story I can save another woman’s life. I can get her to think about her heart health, her risks, and get her to ask her doctor questions, questions that will lead to answers that will improve her quality of care and ultimately her quality of life.

I am who I am because of Merck and the Nuva Ring, they will always be apart of me. In one moment of disaster I found my purpose and I am never leaving my soap box. But the thing is behind every thriving survivor is an amazing village of supporters. I am so grateful to have the worlds greatest best friends, Sherri, Jilliann, Lisa, and Tara never left my side, on the bad days they picked me up and pushed me to go a little bit further. My parents, they are the rock in which I build my house upon, they gave me strength when I had none. My Mama always looked over my INR numbers and medication lists to make sure the doctors were treating me correctly. My Dad and I are like two little old men sitting on a porch discussing chest pain and the days gone by where we could run and fight to live another day. Now we just sit in our rockers and watch the world go by, running is for the young folks and well neither of us would win a fight. My dad has rescued me from more tight spots than I can count, he’s never seen the ocean, he made damn sure that I traveled the globe not once but twice, so I am paying it forward, I am taking my Dad to the seashore, I want him to feel the mist and to stand on the edge of the world.

I got a chance to be the Auntie that I was always meant to be. Sophia and Jack could be learning about me from old photos and their mama’s memories. Because of early intervention and research their Auntie was saved, they get to hold her hand. The day I became an Auntie is the day my heart healed, Sophia and I have been bonded since day one, little Jack is learning all about super Auntie. Those two have my heart and there will always be a surprise for them in my purse. Sophia and Jack are why, there tomorrows are what I am fighting for. Both of them deserve to grow up in a world free of heart disease and stroke.

Blog 2

Second Chances are far from perfect. Lucia was to be the sun after my storm. Instead God had other plans and just as before the winds of change blew through and I had to sail the waves of grief. Losing Lucia allowed me to put myself first, I called it quits and walked out of my loveless marriage. Divorce was not an end, it was merely a beginning. I traded the ex-husband in for a little muppet like dog, which is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. You can never go wrong with a dog. On a hot August day a small white dog with a big gray nose rescued a human and he never looked back. Cullen became the glue that kept me together, as long as I had him at my side, I was never alone. Together we took on uptown, strolled through the parks and picked up glass on the beach. Cullen has provided me with endless laughter, he makes the bad days brighter and life is more fun with a muppet like dog at my side. Cullen was the love that my heart needed.

blog4

Love found its way in, Charlie will always be apart of me, I think that in away Charlie knew that he was not my forever, only a mere moment. He allowed me to be, to heal, and to find myself. Charlie allowed me to believe in love again and when he died, my heart broke. Yet I knew Charlie wanted me to carry on with living and not be stuck in the land of what if. I had to break before I could shine. Jay fell into my in box at the perfect time, my heart it was ready to love again. Jay’s love was the glue that my heart needed. With each date I began to fall for him. In Jay I found home, he has my heart and I have his. Jay joined me on the tail end of the Nuva Ring law suit journey, I am glad that he is at the end, because together we can turn the page and walk away to start a new chapter. Because this is only the beginning the best is yet to come.

Blog 3

There were moments where I wanted to throw in the towel and give up this fight. But then I looked in the mirror, I faced a woman who lived through the worst day possible. She never thought the birth control she took would almost take her life. She was weary and weathered, yet she still faced the sun. Her womb carried children she never met, yet she still has faith that one day she will hold a baby in her arms. Her heart was broken and jaded, yet she still manages to love. Little did she know, she just had to break before I could shine. I am living on borrowed time, my life it is a beautiful disaster and each day I am standing above ground means that the best is yet to come.

Merck you may have won this battle, but the war, it rages on. I will not give up until there are none, because no woman deserves to fight alone.

{Nuva Ring} Claim Approval and Alligators 

´╗┐Late last night I fired of an email asking for an update on the Nuva Ring Claims process. Morning came and I was wrapped up in prepping for a work party, that email was long forgotten. By 2pm I had a chance to look at my email and there is was the update that I had asked for.

I read that email a few times and it took a while for the following scentance to sink in “We have been notified that your case did qualify for settlement under the injury of pulmonary embolism.” Wow, Merk was going to be putting a dollar sign on my injury and calling their payment fair compensation. I called my parents and together we did a happy dance. 

For me, this case was never about the money. No amount of money can undo the harm that was done, it cannot restore me whole, and mostly it will never bring my fertility back. Complications from the Nuva ring have hindered my ability to carry a child. Alucious will be my only baby and that sweet boy rests with God. 

Alucious would be 5 this year. Five years ago I bought a tiny baby alligator for him and it sat in the nursery waiting for him to arrive. Alucious never met the alligator instead a crown was placed upon his head and he rests with the angles. I hung on to the alligator in hopes that one day I would be able to give it to a second child. I still hold out a shit ton of hope that I will have a baby of my own. For now the little alligator hangs out in my kitchen and watches the world go by while waiting for Alucious. 

The Nuva Ring changed my life in more ways than I ever thought possible. There are days where I want to give Merck a high five because in their failure I found purpose. I am more confident in myself and I am determined to make this word a better place. The Nuva Ring  was my slingshot and I have never looked back. I turned a shitty situation into a life lesson for all of us and I use my story to create change. I cannot undo what happened to me, but I sure as hell can do everything in my power to prevent a woman from enduring my fate. If I can prevent one PE, then the hell I went throught was worth it. 

Yes, Merck I will take your check, but just know that your failure of a product launched my purpose in life and I will not give up or in until it is no longer prescribed in this country. 


{Go Red For Women} When A Doctor Fails

survival
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.
IMG_6769

{Hearts On 22} Five Borrowed Years

Top right photo was taken one month after my PE and Stroke

Top right photo was taken one month after my PE and Stroke

I honestly cannot believe that it’s been five years. It seems just like yesterday when I set out to work oblivious to what this day would hold. I still remember what I wore and that I was upset because I forgot to buy creamer the night before. It was a free jeans day and I wore a gray cardigan with a white eyelet button down peasant style top and jeans paired with cranberry colored flats. It was also day #4 at my brand new job. I was busy learning the ins and outs of replevin work and didn’t have the time for inconveniences.

On Tuesday night I felt this excruciating pain rush through my body. I barely made it through the evening rush hour drive. I came home put my purse down, took some Tylenol and crawled into bed. Wednesday morning I was right as rain and went on about my day. On October 22, 2009 I woke up with a mild nagging pain in my chest. I didn’t think anything of it, figured I was coming down with a cold and brushed it off.

My body was screaming for help and I, I just ignored the signs. I had reached the Sun Ray shopping center, the pain was getting a little worse, still I brushed it off. A few miles down the road that nagging pain turned into what felt like a thousand knives cutting me at once. Breathing was proving to be difficult and my arm was going numb. I’d try to breathe deep, my lungs they fought back and I had to make the decision call mom, no not an option she will panic. Pull over, no you are afraid to be stuck on the side of the road. Oh look Lexington parkway, take the exit.
3365
The exit, I took it. To this day I have no idea how I made it to Woodwinds Health Campus in Woodbury MN. The only thing I remember is throwing the Prius into park and collapsing into the security guards arms. Some how by the grace of God I made it to safety. When I came to the ER staff ruled out a heart attack and a panic attack, labs were ordered and I apologized for taking up their time. The doctor thought I had an infection in my lungs and ordered an x-ray and labs. As he left the room he turned on his heel and asked “by chance are you on a birth control?” I quickly said yes and he explained what the d-dimer test.
2nd chance
The d-dimer was ordered, my oxygen level was less than 50%, my heart was in sinus tachycardia and my blood pressure continued to climb. I, I was in rough shape. While on my way to x-ray the doctor shouted “where are you going with her? I canceled the x-ray.” I was feeling relieved and waited for him to tell me I had an infect and he was going to send me home. I didn’t get the news I wanted. With caring eyes he told me “the d-dimer came back glaringly positive we need to get you to CT ASAP. He quickly explained that the contrast die could prove deadly but the benefits out weighed the risk. I signed my name and into the scanner I went. They said it would take about 90 minutes for my results to come back.

I watched the clock and counted down the minutes. I could hear the phone ring, the doctor picked it up and said “shit! You have to be kidding, you are not!” Code blue was sounded and I heard a rush of feet come towards me. Within seconds every available hand was in he ER. He took my hand and said, “I am sorry AmandaJean you have a blood clot in your left lung that is blocking the main valve to your heart and your lung sacs have ruptured. Your body is not getting the oxygen it needs and you dear are going to be staying with us for a while.” My brain couldn’t comprehend how dire the situation was. My blood pressure went above 210, I told the nurse I felt woozy, one said it was just the pain meds, another looked at the monitors and said “the fuck it is, she is having a stroke,” he hit the panic button.

Clot busters were shot into my chest, thrombolytics and other medications were being pumped into both arms. I was alone, alone and fighting for my life. The ER doctor walked next to my bed as they were bringing me to the elevator bay. We stopped, he said AmandaJean do you know what’s down that hall? No I said. The morgue, I should be putting you on a slab instead of in a hospital bed. If you had been five minutes later your story would have been different, never ever forget that.
GoRed 2014
It took a few days for the gravity of what I had survived to sink in. Friends came and visited me, my parents and than husband stood by my side. My life became a series of injections, INR checks, scans, nerotherapy sessions and doctor visits. I was alive and that is what mattered. Almost dying 5 days before your birthday steals your innocence and changes your perspective on life.

I didn’t just survived, I thrived. The ultimate gift was given to me, not many people get a second go around. I treasure every moment of every day, because I know that if I were five minutes late my story would have ended with my ashes in an urn. Survivors rarely talk about the guilt that they feel. I walk this earth with a scarlet letter glued to my head and people tell me that I shouldn’t have a bad day, because I survived the worst day possible.

Yet in the quiet moments I feel guilty that I survived. In the past five years I have said goodbye to more friends than one soul can handle. I survived only to watch my son slip away, I took a seat at Adam’s funeral, wrote a eulogy for Connor, only to follow-up a few years later with a eulogy for Charlie, said a tearful thank you to Dr. Delahaunty, and held my friend Jilliann’s hand as we said goodbye to Trinity. I have been surrounded by so much death and heart ache. I can’t make heads or tails out of who lives and who dies, God definitely has the upper hand on that one.
heart on the hill
Hands I’ve got two and my knees are worn from praying. My scars are healed, my body is somewhat back to normal, yet my emotional scars remain. Emotional wounds are he hardest wounds to heal. They slowly disappear with time. Anger was replaced with hope and that hope gave me the strength to make a difference. The guilt it is a reminder that four people had to die so I could be the one out of five who survived. I live each day of this crazy life for them, its the only thing I can do to honor those who went to soon. I vowed to spend my days advocating for those who no longer can and that they would be more than their deaths. Their stories deserve to be told. In one sheer moment of disaster I found my passion. I found that I had a voice and that I had the strength to stand up for myself. I signed my name on the dotted line and became a plaintiff in a product liability lawsuit against Merck.
go red4

The Nuva Ring took a lot of things away from me and on the same coin it gave me a life that even I couldn’t have imagine for myself. It takes a lot of guts to put yourself out there and share the most vulnerable moments of your life. Sharing my journey allows me to educate the public about the dangerous side affects of hormonal contraceptive. Sharing my story has allowed me to shape the view points of politicians and to propel heart healthy policies forward. I owe a lot to the American Heart Association, they took me under their wings and gave me a platform. That platform has allowed me to grow and come into my own as a survivor. I am not ashamed to say I had a Pulmonary Embolism and Stroke, I am more than those events, I am more than a survivor, I am and will always be a small town girl who set out to change the world.
large group Lobby day
The past five years have been a beautiful disaster and I am proud to claim it as my own. Because of quick action and research my life was saved. Every day the American Heart Association gives funds and encourages researches to tread unknown waters. Without the AHA we would not have CPR or advances in heart surgery, early stroke and heart attack detection. Research is why. Advocacy is why. Life is why. Second Chance is why. Without the AHA there would be no why in this world and we would have no hope for a heart healthy tomorrow.

I am incredibly thankful to my Woodwind’s care team, without them I never would have gotten to experience pregnancy followed by loss, then divorce, a little adventure followed by a whole lot of love and mostly without them I never would have gotten the chance to hold my niece. Without them my story would have ended at 26. Instead I got five beautiful borrowed years on this earth and I plan on borrowing a few more. Because life, its only just begun.common thread

{MN Heart Walk 2014} Why Will YOU Walk?

This Saturday thousands will descend on Target Filed, not for a Twins Game, but to walk for a purpose. To walk in memory of a loved one, in honor of a survivor, for themselves, and to show their support for others. They will walk on behalf of the American Heart Association to raise awareness and funds to stop the number one killer of all Americans. Minnesota is home to the largest Heart Walk in the country and words cannot describe how moving it is to see thousands of people walking for a better day. The MN Heart Walk means I get to put on my survivor shoes and walk for those who have touched my life.

I walk for Emma, she was the first infant in the state of Minnesota to receive a heart transplant. Sadly she died 3 years later due to complications of the common cold. Thou her life was short, she made a huge impact on pediatric cardiology. What they learned in those three short years is helping save thousands of babies each and every day. Emma may be gone from this world, but she will never be forgotten. Since her passing Minnesota has become a leader in pediatric cardiology and we have a tiny little girl to thank for that. I walk because Emma never got to grow up, she never got to graduate from high school, go to college, travel the world, and because her sister Chloe got cheated out of having a best friend.

Ice Cave 16My Father Greg is my best friend, psychologist, sounding board, and my compass. No matter where I go in this world I always manage to find my way back home. I walk because God gave my father a second chance. Twelve years ago I was a freshman in college when I got the call that he was fighting for his life. His body was weak, his heart was sick, yet there was a small ray of hope. Knowing that he was at the Mayo brought us hope, they did not give up and they put this broken man back together again. They fixed his heart and 10 years later he got to say hello to his first granddaughter. Research saved his life and it will continue to save the lives of others. Without research we have no hope.

Hope is what keeps me a float on bad days. October 22, 2009 was one of the worst days of my life. It was the day I became the very survivor I was advocating for. It’s still hard for me to believe that my hormonal contraceptive device almost took my life. I drove myself to the ER with sever chest pain, shortness of breath, and a whole other mess of complications. They quickly ruled out a heart attack, yet they knew something was terribly wrong. The ER Doctor explained it was most likely an infection in my lungs and that I would be out of there in no time. For some reason unbeknownst to me he stopped in the doorway turned around and asked me “by chance are you on a birth control?” I quickly replied yes and he asked the nurse to order a d-dime test. I was being wheeled to x-ray when he stopped the nurse and told her to bring me back. I will never forget the look on his face and the fear in his eyes as he explained that the d-dime test came back positive. I got a CT-Scan and within 30 minutes a code blue was issued.

_MG_2225 I was in serious trouble, a blood clot in my left lung was blocking the main valve to my heart. I was in sinus tachycardia, my oxygen level was falling and my blood pressure was rising. In laymen’s terms “I was fading fast.” Clot busters were administered and my stroke was stopped in its tracks. The highest dose of Heparin was administered and I would be staying a while. The ER Dr. walked with us as they rolled me to the elevator bay. He took one look at me and said “remember for as long as you live, that you should be going down there, that’s the morgue and not upstairs. Very very few people survive this. Remember that!” I walk because I got to blow the candles out on my 27th Halloween themed birthday cake.

Research has allowed me to live a vibrant life and it has given me five borrowed years on this earth. In those five years I said goodbye to my son, stepped out of a loveless marriage, moved to uptown, adopted a muppet like dog, fell in love, became an aunt, found a job that I love, but mostly I shared my story and found myself. None of the fore mentioned would have been possible if it were not for the life saving research that is funded by the American Heart Association. I walk because their research saved me.

{Hearts on 22} Love With All of Your Heart

Sophia and featherChristmas is when I miss Charlie the most. Mostly because he got cheated. Cheated out of meeting Sophia. He was anticipating her arrival and received status updates on the progress of her birth. A trial kept him in New York and he couldn’t wait to hang up his traveling suit and snuggle his niece in his arms. Charlie never got to see her smile, hear her laughter or feel her tiny hand in his. Sophia never got to meet the man who dreamed of taking her to Paris and who would have spoiled her beyond her wildest imagination. Charlie died loving the tiny girl he never got to meet.

As I sit back and reflect I can’t help but to think about all of the people who have never laid eyes on their niece or nephew. Sure deadly drunk driving accidents stick in our minds. After all one drunk driver took Charlie an 4 other people out on a wintry Valentine’s Day. That was one moment in time, yet in that moment hundreds of women lost their lives to heart disease and stroke. Hundreds more died that day from a Pulmonary Embolisms or other hormonal contraceptive related side effect. Those lives never make the news, they just fade quietly into the timelines of history.

If it were not for my care team I would have joined the fading time line. I would have been another casualty not a news worthy story. There isn’t a day that goes by where I do not thank God for keeping me on this earth. For answering my silent prayer and giving me the strength to fight. For giving me the strength to stand up and shout my story from the roof tops. With each word spoken I began to heal my broken heart, I penned my name on a legal services agreement and became a plaintiff in the Multidistrict Litigation against Merck. I put myself out there in hopes that I could save one woman from enduring my hell. I love with all of my heart and in a sheer moment of utter disaster my passion was born.

My purpose is clear “educate those around me about the dangers of hormonal contraceptives, blood clots, stroke and pulmonary embolism warning signs.” I will not rest until the Nuva Ring is pulled from he market and until doctors properly inform their patients of the risk associated with the use of hormonal contraceptives. Charlie was the one who pushed me to share my story with the world. He took up my mission and would stand in the wings watching me with tears in his eyes as I brought tears to the audience. I am alive today because I listed to my heart.

When Charlie died my heart was broken and it healed each time I held our niece in my arms. Each time I heard her laughter, held her tiny hand in mine, and listen to her whisper Auntie” for the first time. To think the Nuva Ring almost robbed me of those moments. My birth control almost cheated me out of being an aunt. The Nuva Ring almost claimed my life and it changed me in more ways than I could ever explain. However it will never ever stop me from loving Sophia with all of my surviving heart. Sophia will grow up with the notion that she is one lucky little girl. Because she could be holding a picture of the woman she calls Auntie. Instead she gets to hold her aunties hand and play. She is lucky because God allowed her Aunt to be the 1 out of 5 who got to walk away from a massive pulmonary embolism on October 22, 2009.

As I watch Sophia unwrap her gifts I will be thinking about all of my sisters who lost the battle. About all of those who would gladly take my seat at the table and those who are fighting with all of their hearts. Families will gather and thousands of children will hear stories about the women they never got to meet. Heart disease, strokes, and pulmonary embolisms are taking to many aunties out of the equation. To many children are walking in memory of the woman they never got to call “Auntie” and never got to love with all of their hearts.