I have enjoyed a wonderful career as a licensed physical therapist specializing in pediatrics for the past 20 years.
I have had the privilege of working with children (and their families) who have congenital anomalies, developmental delays, or acquired disabilities to overcome obstacles, creatively adapt tasks and environments, and achieve their optimal physical functioning.
Ten years ago, and as an extension of my professional services, I segued into Health Coaching, focusing primarily on fitness and nutrition.
Due to my extended family's experiences with Mold Illness, Lyme Disease, complex chronic illness, cognitive decline, autoimmune disease, and delayed healing of injury, I have re-directed my coaching practice towards a deeper and more holistic approach of health and wellness- incorporating body, mind and spirit.
My interest in health care began when I was quite young. Throughout my childhood, my family fostered numerous children from developing countries who were brought to the US for acute medical care and rehabilitation. I remember welcoming them into our home and watching them grow from medical fragility to true vigor, as they became strong enough to return to their countries. It was a beautiful picture of how medical care can change lives, and I knew then that I wanted to be a part of it.
As a teen athlete, I suffered an injury that required physical therapy. Undergoing my own rehab, I became fascinated with the therapeutic gadgets and upbeat atmosphere of the local therapy clinic. I later began volunteering there, in addition to a pediatric rehabilitation center, which further fueled my desire to study health sciences in college.
I earned a degree in Biology at Duke University, which exposed me not only to pre-medicine, but also to the field of environmental science. During my junior year, I was able to spend some time studying wildlife ecology and marine biology off-campus. As my interest in science diversified, I came to appreciate how much crossover there is between human health and environmental health.
It had always been a dream of mine to visit the orphanage from which many of my foster brothers and sisters had come, so after college I partnered with a dear friend and was able to do just this. Casa Guatemala is a Children's Village and School for orphans, in a jungle region along the Rio Dulce. Our hearts were broken open by the huge smiles but great pains these children bore, and it was a life-changing opportunity to get to be their preschool teacher for a season. Later in our Central American travels, we found ourselves on the bay island of Utila, Honduras, where the local medical clinic was in need of rehab volunteers. A local man was recovering from a stroke, so I partnered with an Occupational Therapist from Canada to assist this man and soaked up everything she had to teach me. When it was time for her to head home, I considered my options of ending his care, or continuing to assist him with the therapeutic exercises I was taught. I felt so inadequate, having no idea how to safely progress his care. It was then that I realized that I wanted to return to the states and pursue a degree in Physical Therapy.
I followed through with this dream, and earned a Master's Degree in Physical Therapy in 2000. As noted above, I have enjoyed a career in this field with a focus on developmental pediatrics for many years.
In 2011, my husband and I made a life-altering decision to move with our two young children from Colorado to North Georgia, to pursue what we called "The Grand Experiment." In realizing that our everyday lifestyle had become somewhat incongruent with our deeper values, we set off to build a sustainable, organic homestead and see what it was like to live closer to the land. We deeply enjoyed the satisfying yet physically-demanding lifestyle as organic micro-farmers. The whole thing was a perfect little ecosystem. A small cabin with a pond, rope swing, organic gardens and orchards, honeybees, pastured chickens and goats, tons of cats and dogs, a robust composting system, and wonderful neighbors.
Not long into this new lifestyle, however, my husband got very sick with Lyme Disease. There were ticks everywhere on the farm, but we did not have a full appreciation for how serious their bites could be. The brain fog, memory problems, severe headaches, nausea, fatigue and joint pain were excruciating for him, and for all of us to witness. He received excellent care from a specialist, but after several years his progress had seemingly plateaued. It was then that our ten-year-old son became acutely sick after starting classes at a new school program. He had an odd mixture of symptoms that led his pediatrician to suspect Sick Building Syndrome. With this, our journey down the rabbit hole of environmental illness extended further.
We spent countless hours researching and going to doctor's appointments, and I was completely overwhelmed. Meanwhile, I had a shoulder surgery which failed to fully heal despite my personal knowledge of physical rehabilitation. The stress of it all began to take a toll on me, and I became sick as well. We stumbled across the work of Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker, and made an appointment with him. He helped us see how my husband's prolonged Lyme disease was related to my son's reaction to a water-damaged building. We learned that all four of us carry the "dreaded haplotype," making us particularly susceptible to illness from biotoxins. We eventually decided that the Southeastern, homesteading lifestyle was probably not the best fit for our genetics, and made the very difficult to decision to return to Colorado. The nuances of our decision to leave our extended family, farm, jobs, friends, school,and church involved much grief and loss for all of us.
Upon returning to Colorado, we connected with a wonderful Functional Medicine physician who helped us appreciate and pursue a foundation for healing, in addition to targeted treatment for CIRS. In tending the unique needs of our bodies, minds, and spirits, our wellness eventually returned. Nutrition, rest, stress-management, emotional healing, play, perspective shifts, brain-retraining, and faith/spiritual practices were all a part of our recovery. Even my stubborn shoulder injury spontaneously healed! My husband is now asymptomatic from Lyme, and both of our children are thriving again. While we remain vigilant about limiting our environmental exposures, and committed to a healthy lifestyle, I am beyond grateful to say that we are BACK.
I find it fascinating to see how my life-long interests in environmental health, public health and personal health have all come together as a union we call environmental illness. Thanks to my family's experiences, my passion and career goals have been redirected towards helping others along THEIR journey to optimal wellness, whatever the unique components of their story may be.
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