My Why?

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Hi, I’m Andrea.

For over 20 years I’ve worked in healthcare, helping people be healthier, but the truth is that I wasn’t taking care of myself.

Throughout most of my life, I struggled with my weight. And when I wasn't eating too much of the wrong foods, I found joy in travel and running

This began to change when I had surgery for a torn meniscus...a running injury, so I thought.

About a month later, I got the call. My mother had cancer and it was likely incurable. After 9 years in Switzerland, I decided it was finally time to go home.

The decision to quit my job wasn’t easy, but for me, it felt necessary. My mother, who would be horrified if she knew I wrote this, had a mental illness and had always refused treatment because of the stigma too often attached to it.

Growing up with a parent with untreated mental health issues wasn’t easy and It’s one of the reasons I traveled …I couldn’t get far enough away. And yet, when she was diagnosed, I knew I needed to be there for her…and myself

Quitting my job and returning to the US after 9 years overseas was stressful, but I told myself I was resilient, that I could handle it. And, on the outside, it looked like I was, but not on the inside.

 

Shortly after returning to the US, I went to a knee specialist, since both my knees were now hurting. I was shocked and overwhelmed to learn that my knees were fine, but I had almost no cartilage left in my hips.

It turned out I was born with something called hip dysplasia, a term I’d only previously heard used with Labrador Retrievers. The deterioration was rapid. Within a year I went from feeling fine and being very active to not being able to walk a city block without stopping.

Having both hips replaced at such a young age was both physically and emotionally painful. I couldn’t help but wonder what impact the stress, my previous high sugar diet, and obesity played.

After my surgery, I was a star patient and recovered quickly, though with somewhat questionable results. In the meantime, my mother’s cancer became active again and we knew she didn’t have much time.

 

On November 26, 2014, the day before Thanksgiving she passed away alone in the hospital, after unexpectedly being rushed there the day before. A fact that still upsets me.

Thankfully, 2015 was easier than 2014. I was joyfully walking again (you never truly appreciate what you have until you’ve lost it) and back at work. Meanwhile, my brother, sister, and I were trying to care for my father, who was now alone for the first time in 52 years.

 

Loneliness and later isolation, after a bout of congestive heart failure, impacted his health and wellbeing. This once vibrant man, was now depressed and not eating much and became increasingly frail.

 

My relative calm came to an end in 2016. One evening, while crossing the street on my way home, I was hit by a car (you can't make this stuff up). When the hospital released me the next morning with only a few scrapes, I felt invincible. It was a feeling that didn’t last long.

Six weeks, one MRI, two doctors’ opinions, and a CT scan later I was back on an operating table. When I received the diagnosis, I felt overwhelmed and devastated. For the first time that I could remember, I wasn’t sure if I could handle it. 

Then things got worse. Two days before my surgery I went to visit my dad since I wasn’t sure if I would be able to see him during my long recovery and while I was there, he fell. I quickly called 911 and was soon in the back of my second ambulance in weeks transporting him to the ER.

Less than two days later, a team of surgeons inserted 8 screws in my neck (it’s an impressive scar). I stayed with my sister and her family for 7 weeks to make sure I didn’t have a screw loose both literally and/or figuratively. I was able to make it through this time with the help of my family and a pretty potent cocktail of valium and oxytocin cocktail for the extreme pain I was living with (it was easy to see why people get addicted). 

While recovering, I toured assisted living facilities with my sister and brother, wearing a neck brace. Our father could no longer live alone but finding a place that we felt comfortable placing him in, in his budget was difficult.

 

We finally found a place, but only six short months later he passed away on what would’ve been my mother’s 75th birthday.

 

I recovered slowly from my third surgery in five years and now live with very limited mobility in my neck and many stories about of how the healthcare system let me and my family down.

 

My experience made me passionate about the patient and caregiver experience and so, I reinvented myself and started working on these issues to hopefully help others going through similar experiences have better outcomes.

Then, COVID happened. I could see how much my experiences, the challenges I’d faced, struggled with, and overcome were similar to what so many other individuals and families were going through. It felt like it was time to reinvent again to create meaning from my challenges. This is why I started the Wellthy Leader.

Whether at work or in our personal lives, I believe we all have the potential to be leaders in our own lives, which includes how we care for (or don’t) our own wellbeing because as I learned the hard way, it impacts how we're able to show up in all other aspects of our lives.

This is why I work to help individuals and companies, so they can consistently perform and live their best lives.

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