I AM THE FACE of Organ Donation
I am sharing my story to tell people how important it is to be an organ donor. And for those who are waiting for organs, do not despair. I realize it's easier said than done, but I swear a positive attitude will go a very long way for you and those around you that are going through this with you. You do not go through this alone, and that is at the forefront of what the I AM THE FACE MOVEMENT is all about. YOU. ARE. NOT. ALONE!
The story starts at my annual physical in 2001. I was only 39 years old. My doctor said my EKG changed. It could be his new machine and most likely nothing to worry about, but should have it checked out by a cardiologist. He gives me a referral and I make the appointment.
The day comes for my appointment. I knew as part of the examination that i would have a stress echo cardiogram. the good doctor started the "echo" part and after a few minutes she put down the "wand" and said, "Get dressed and come into my office, I'm not putting you on the treadmill". With that she turned and walked out of the exam room shutting the door behind her. The silence was deafening.
As I was getting dressed, I knew this wasn't going to be good. I also knew that heart disease ran in the family. My dad had triple by pass surgery in the '70's when The Cleveland Clinic was the only hospital to go to for open heart surgery, he was in his 50's.
I finish dressing and go knock on her office door and hear her say, "come in". On her desk is a large prototype of the human heart, she motions for me to come take a seat. While touching the back of this large heart she say, "your heart is not pumping here". I say, "how can i sit here having this conversation if my heart isn't working"? it was a rhetorical questions, neither of us knew how this was possible... She tells me that I've had a "silent" heart attack or attacks. As the news is going around in my mind I'm thinking, I'm walking back and forth to work, which is about 2 miles round trip. I was going up and down subway stairs, traveling, merrily living my life... no chest pains, no shortness of breath, no physical pain.. now part of my heart is dead.... I was snapped out of my thoughts when the doctor said, "I want you to get angiogram right away". I tell her this didn't compute and I needed some time. Funny, the Rolling Stones tune "Time Is On My Mind" popped into my head as I wrote that.
I change my diet and start exercising more hoping I can make things better. I do this for a whole year! That's right, a whole year goes by and I go to my 2002 physical and I cross my fingers that the EKG will be better, but it didn't improve.. Okay, i get it, i need to come to reality and schedule the angiogram, which I do. During the procedure the doctor discovers just how bad my arteries are. The diagnosis is "accelerated arterial disease" or really, really, REALLY bad, couldn't be worse, clogged arteries. The procedure doesn't go into "angioplasty", that's when they would've put in a stent or use a balloon to open the arteries for more blood flow, it wouldn't help in my case because it was so bad, How bad was it? I would end up having a HEART TRANSPLANT!
I say that with an exclamation because that heart transplant was done on April, 23, 2003...12 years ago and I'M ALIVE! Right here, right now! I don't know why one family grieves over the loss of their loved one while our family celebrated a "text book" heart transplant, the answer to that is bigger than all of us and will forever be a mystery. What I do know is that I'm grateful for every breath, for every minute, for every hour and every day.
People use the word "awesome" to describe, shoes, a party, a or a sale.....Well, I have another person's heart beating in my chest keeping me alive.. Now THAT'S truly awesome!!
I AM THE FACE of Child Sexual Abuse & Assault
From about four years of age until six I was the victim of a man my parents trusted. His wife babysat my brother and I and he himself worked for my mother at one point. I have worked very hard over the years to forget what happened to me so my memory is very vague. I can't remember how it started or when it ended. What I can say is that it happened and I didn't understand it. The thought of even telling my parents didn't cross my mind until a couple years later and by then I was frightened. We live in a society that victim blames so much so that even the victims blame themselves when something like this happens to them. In fact I still blame myself. I have struggled over the years to come to terms with my silence. Why didn't I say anything? Why didn't I just tell my parents? I don't understand it but I'm sure it happens to a lot of people. When it was happening the thought of telling my parents never even crossed my mind. I didn't make a conscience decision to keep it from them. I would definitely remember that. No, I just didn't even think it was something they should know. I was raised being told to listen to my elders and that they could basically do whatever they wanted. This is the only way I can rationalize why I never thought to tell anyone. I guess I just thought things like that happened. As I got older I got more uncomfortable with what was happening and eventually I just avoided the man completely. We never talked about what was happening but I do remember him urging me to come back to him when I wanted to go outside to play with the other kids and I didn't listen. The memories are hard to think about. It's been nearly twenty years and it's still hard to believe that something like that could happen to a small child. Although I was uncomfortable with what was happening to me I didn't understand it until I saw a movie (I couldn't tell you what the movie is called now) where a boy was being molested and the man told him to never tell his mother or he'd kill her. The boy eventually tells someone and he ends up going to court and talking about it. All of that petrified me so I continued to keep my mouth shut. I didn't tell my mom until I was about twelve years old and then I told her because I felt like she didn't understand me. At that age I was tormented by the memories and blamed myself even more so than I do now. Did I encourage him? Was it my fault? Why didn't I tell anyone? It was a year or two later when I told my dad and that was the hardest thing to do. I was a very big daddy's girl and I felt like he would be disappointed in me. I remember him hugging me and crying. It was the kind of cry that leaves your face puffy and your nose running. I never saw my dad cry so I just cried along with him. I know my parents felt like they should have done something. I know they probably wondered how it could happen without them knowing and by a man they trusted. My parents worked a lot when I was a kid so we spent many days and nights with our babysitter and I know they probably still blame themselves for what happened. I don't blame them. They had no way of knowing. I never told them. I never even thought to tell them. I struggle with that every time I think about it. This experience has affected me in more ways than one. I'm uncomfortable in many situations that I should not be but that cannot be helped. I will probably never fully trust anyone with my son and I will always be very straight forward with him in regards to certain aspects of his anatomy. I never want anything like this to happen to him. EVER. So no, I will never make him hug or kiss a relative. I will ask but I will never make him. I hope he will be loving and affectionate but I won't make him feel like he HAS to. I can't imagine ever putting him in daycare even though my husband and I talk about it a lot especially since we would like for me to be able to work but the thought is hard for me. I am sure there are a million wonderful daycares out there but I can only think of my negative experience. No one wants to think about something like this happening to a loved one but it does happen. Every day there is someone who is sexually abused and it could be someone you know. Your relative, your friend, even your neighbor may be experiencing some form of sexual abuse and it's important that we as a society are aware of the possibility. Be open and honest with those you love especially your children. I didn't tell my parents until almost ten years after the fact. I didn't know any better.
I AM THE FACE of Rape
Through her example, my mom taught me it was ok for a man to treat a woman like trash. In my very early teens I "dated" a lot. At such a young age, it's not really dating. I went too far several times when I honestly wasn't ready. Before I knew it, I had a reputation. Ironic that when I made a conscious decision to not move past second base anymore until I was in a serious relationship. Sadly, that was taken from me. My reputation went beyond what I could control. There was a particular night that seemed innocent, I was supposed to be going out on a date with friends. Sadly, they didn't show up and my date took advantage. I will never forget, my mom even encouraged me to go out with this guy. If she only knew that an hour later he would not accept "No" as an answer. I have never felt more ashamed as I did then. Since then, I have chosen to learn how to stand up for myself and to follow my gut. I have let go of that anger and shame. Anger in myself and that guy, but mostly myself. I have learned that I would not be the person I am today if not for that experience, among others.
I AM THE FACE of PTSD
I was the victim of a series of crimes when I was a child. These crimes have molded and shaped my life. One of the hardest parts of it for me, is that those who perpetuated these crimes have absolutely no remorse over what they did. The crimes were committed, I was left to live with the damage done in the wake of these crimes, and it has developed into a level of PTSD that has changed my life forever. The nightly nightmares that still plague me all of these years later as an adult. The self sabotage that goes along with the effects of PTSD. The list goes on and on about the devastating damage that was caused by these crimes. But what HAS made a difference is taking steps to make those accountable answer for their crimes. By truly facing head on the damage that was caused, and working with professionals to find a way to live in a healthy way in spite of what had occurred, I am finding a pathway to healing. I am so honored to be the spokesman for "I Am the Face Films", and for this movement. Over the next weeks, I will share more and more details of my own story in the hopes of helping others, like myself, to find a pathway to healing. And I'm excited about the upcoming films and the future of this website as we encourage all of YOU to bravely stand up with pride and tell the world your story. In sharing our stories, we can change the world, one person at a time. And for this website and this movement, it will be about sharing what it's like living YOUR life from the inside out. Opening the door to profound understanding. And make no mistake, it will take great courage for me to step up in the next few weeks and tell my own story. But I know it's the right thing. And I know it will save lives and help countless people to understand a very difficult subject. Thank you for joining in our movement! #iamtheface #freeyourself
I AM THE FACE of Sexual Violence
When I was 25 years old, I was sexually assaulted in my home. I was sleeping the night the predator entered. It was a very traumatic assault one where I literally left my body to run away from the pain that was inflicted. I honestly at the time feared for my life due to his threats.
There are many other attacks that are way more brutal than mine, so I am grateful that it wasn’t worse. I feel pain every time I hear of another woman or child who is assaulted by the hand of another. I also know that it doesn’t just happen to us, there are boys and men that have been affected by this as well.
As horrifying as the experience was, what was just as horrifying was that I was rejected by the very people who I thought were there to serve and protect me - the police. I was told that I made the story up to get back at my boyfriend at the time, who I had been in an argument with. It took several hours for them to examine me to collect evidence. They even had me take a lie detector test, which they said I failed!!! It was like being violated all over again.
The event has changed my life forever, it has led me become a very different person then I was before it happened. But my message to others out there who have suffered from this type of assault in their lives is to find a way to get through the fear and anger and to also find a way to empower yourself, for me it's self defense. For those who have never experienced such a traumatic experience be proactive and find ways to learn to protect yourself through self defense courses becuase the odds are not in your favor.
I AM THE FACE of Bullying
I remember my childhood being full of fun and excitement. Sports, Boy Scouts, overnights with friends - these things filled me with so much joy. However, when my class reached middle school, something changed (as I'm sure it does with every class every year). The clicks and the "in crowd" groups began. It was a change that certainly at the time was not for the better. I remember myself and my two other guy friends being our own group, but we were the outsiders; we were the ones that would rather hang out with the girls, which of course, resulted in our being referred to as girls. That's when it all began. Luckily for me, the bullying I received in school was never physical in nature. Lord knows that once I moved into an all-male high school, the potential was certainly there. Rather, the bullying I received in middle school as "such a girl" morphed into much worse statements of "gay," "homo," and other gross and derogatory statements, which in effect lessened my self-esteem on my end and ensured that everyone else thought of me as "less than masculine."
At the time, I had no idea about my sexuality, as I never explored it, but the words of hate and ridicule truly fueled me as an individual who didn't feel like enough or someone who wasn't worth much of anything. Why did I need to be heard? No one in my age group particularly liked what I had to say or what I had to offer.
Then an opportunity in community service and outreach presented itself to me. I became a part of a group where I fit in, where I belonged. For the first time in years, I was a part of something bigger where I could make an impact, and, truly, those around me impacted me in much more positive ways.
I was fortunate that I endured the hardship and have made it past. I still combat some of the emotionally and socially scarring effects of the years of bullying to this day, and I am grateful that I now have people in my life who push me to be a better person every day and who love me for who I am.
#IAmTheFace of #Bullying