A huge part of what I’ve shared online has been health-related. My followers have come to learn about my now 6-year medical journey and have supported in a myriad of ways. For that reason, I’m including the information below which describes in great detail the struggles I’ve managed for years and the incredible kindness of strangers.

A fundraiser, titled SkipForGood, began in October 2015. People around the world came together to help and support me. Below is most of the description that read on it’s GoFundMe page, which was updated a bit as time went on.  I invite you to read further if you are interested in learning more about my rare physical condition.  When I have the chance, I will condense this and add more recent information regarding progress!

 

Why SkipForGood? 

Because the original version (skipping/jumping rope) was the perfect activity to feel a bit of what someone’s days have been like for years.  In this case, that someone is Brooke and what she has felt for years can best be described as “constantly out of breath”. Only she was never skipping.

We are raising money and awareness for Brooke who is still recovering from a car accident and work injury that took place over 5 years ago. The car accident involved 4 vehicles piling up on the freeway (Brooke’s was in the middle) and unexpected work activity exacerbated the resulting trauma. Injuring her neck and spine, she has had to learn how to breathe and speak again, getting a second chance at life.  For a long time, she didn’t understand what her symptoms were or how to “cure” them and did her best to be a normal person with normal activities, balancing that with a persistent search to help herself.  As with other invisible conditions that take extended time to diagnose (e.g. lyme’s disease, fibromyalgia, etc.), this too was a mystery to both Brooke and many of those around her, contributing to even more suffering.  The logic in these situations seems to be that if you look okay on the outside, then everything must be okay.  That was definitely not the case, though.  After the first 3 years of a wild goose chase that included regular gasping, constricted (if any) voice, intense pain, limited use of neck/back/arms, fainting, dizziness, hospitalizations, ER visits, multiple surgeries, confused doctors and an increased heart rate out of nowhere on a regular basis, Western medicine seemed to only serve as a band-aid for Brooke’s rare physical reactions to her injured spine.  While Brooke’s health continued to go downhill, she began an alternative protocol with a specialist a year ago who was the only one who could help get to the root of-and begin “fixing”- the problem.  It was the neck and spine all along, though that wasn’t clear cut when the journey began.   Brooke’s case is very rare- for most of the population, only pain would be caused. For Brooke, in addition to the pain, extreme respiratory and autonomic nervous system difficulty were ever-present, making every breath a struggle and eventually losing the ability to speak.

All Brooke and David want is to move forward in life after years of struggling.  With thousands of pages of medical records over the last 5 years from dozens of sources, you can imagine the impact it has had financially.  However these funds will go to what they know works in order to get Brooke mobile and functional again: the required home health care for the remainder of this year and next with the current protocol that has proved it is working.
{Her boyfriend, David, had to quit his job at the time in order to become her full-time caregiver.}  The rest of this journey is detailed below after the activity details.

*It went on to talk about how to participate. The main activity was jumping rope, called “skipping” rope because the 2 main people who created this idea were from Australia where the term skipping is most common.  Hundreds jumped/skipped rope, posted their videos of doing so online, and donated to the cause.*


Who is Brooke? And what is #WeStandWithBrooke?
Brooke was in a car accident, a 4-car pile up, to be exact, in September 2011 on a freeway in LA. The car was totaled and though Brooke walked away, this was the beginning of a long, arduous journey. Each month thereafter, symptoms began to arise and the real trauma of the accident began to unfold.  Unexpected work situations thereafter exacerbated the injury.  As a result, the spinal injury has tremendously affected her breathing and speaking. For most, an injury of this nature would result in only pain, albeit non-stop and excruciating pain, but for Brooke in addition to the pain it has been a rare situation also causing complicated respiratory and autonomic nervous system difficulties. The respiratory issues trumped the pain as she experienced frequent choking episodes and unpredictable heart palpitations daily, with the most critical and scariest problem being that every single breath taken was (and still is, most of the time) a struggle – like a never-ending asthma attack lasting for years with very limited breaks. A consequence of the breathing troubles is that her vocal projection is impacted, limiting her speech capabilities to only a certain volume (i.e., not loud) and amount of time per day before pittering out/losing it completely. She has had multiple ER visits and hospitalizations, 6 neck surgeries, spent well over a year in a hard plastic neckbrace 24/7, and for about 99% of the last year her days have been mostly laying on her back on a table with the doctor making home visits 6 days a week.
In the beginning, she tried to live life normally while following the outlined treatment protocol which included daily visits to the doctor’s office to receive care. Though she made some progress, it was, unfortunately, only incremental. It was later discovered that car rides agitated her neck injury tremendously, and because those visits required riding in a car, a different course of action had to be taken. The only option was to adopt this advanced protocol in late 2014 – remaining homebound and virtually immobile, laying flat to keep the spine and neck stable, and receiving treatment from a specialist who could make daily home visits.
She relies on her boyfriend, David, as her full-time caregiver to do the simplest tasks including spoon-feeding, bathing, and getting dressed (to name a few of the regular tasks that healthy individuals do on their own without a second thought). It was later revealed that shifting to this new protocol was life-saving as she could have been paralyzed (if not worse) due to the critical condition of her nerves and vertebrae. She has since only been in a car a handful of times this past year, she cannot walk more than a block’s distance, and she needs assistance to even open the door to leave her building. For a long time, she has not been able to lift, push, pull, or use her arms hardly at all as those movements require activation of spine and neck, which would almost immediately exacerbate the pain and breathing complications. David has to physically lay her down or lift her up every time she needs to eat, use the bathroom or these days, also to connect with her online community when she feels up for it (though they understand when she needs to remain on her back). He monitors her around the clock.

Though the protocol was necessary to save her life, it has come at a huge price. She has been extremely isolated, understandably experiencing a myriad of emotions including depression due to a life in constant pain and breathing struggle, while also dealing with the stress and strain of financial burdens as they have amassed a great deal of medical expenses. Though there is now improvement with the new protocol (it took an entire year to finally show), there is still a long journey ahead. At least another year of treatment is required to continue healing, which means more expenses and increasing debt. It would be heartbreaking if treatment were to stop at this juncture, yet they cannot move forward without financial assistance. They are proud and private people who managed as best they could alone, but putting Brooke’s health and life above all else, they are now open to asking for and receiving help.
Thankfully, as previously mentioned, Brooke has recently been able to share parts of her story online and inspire others to share theirs, to be grateful for what they have, and encourage them to have faith –the #1 thing that has gotten her through this long and arduous journey. As someone who always enjoyed interviewing and getting to know others, she believes everyone has a story – she just never thought she would become the story. Something she always shares with others is that when you wake up and you are breathing, it is a good day! With this, she does her best to give the gift of perspective and gratitude, and hopes to be able to continue that as she improves physically. By sharing online, a community of truly wonderful people began growing quickly and rallying around her, starting the movement #WeStandWithBrooke. This has been life-changing for both her and David as this new family has provided understanding, human connection, and emotional support, a real lifeline when it seemed hope was fading and there was no light at the end of the tunnel. From that it has grown into #SkipForGood (thanks to Dan, Mitch and Rich!) as a vehicle to raise awareness of what they are going through and providing support via funds for her medical expenses.

How have they gotten by financially for such a long time?
David’s mom, understanding what was going on and wanting to do all she could, stepped in to support the couple and provided financial assistance, depleting her savings.  This still had the couple simply in survival mode but without her, David and Brooke don’t know what would have happened.  She has treated Brooke as though she were her own daughter and they thank God for her everyday.  With their only source evaporated, David was forced to go back to a full-time job in late June of 2015.  Thankfully, he works from home, but he is simultaneously still 24/7 caretaking so the weight is even greater.  His plate is overflowing and they need support now more than ever.

Please spread the word and help Brooke continue to heal.  She is making progress everyday and only wishes for that to continue, and to return to the world in a way where she can contribute to it while living a healthy life. Thank you more than words could ever say.

*And that was SkipForGood/My Health Journey in a nutshell.*

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