Who I Am

This little blog has gotten a lot of unexpected attention over the last two weeks and I thought it was time for my new readers to find out who I really am and what I stand for.

The tagline goes that in April 2015 I almost died from sepsis, toxic shock syndrome, and acute respiratory distress syndrome. I’ve said it and heard about it so many times that it’s almost lost its impact. It’s almost become a routine thing to say. Just this little thing that happened. A blip in the radar, really.

Here’s the thing: it’s a very different to say it or read about it than it is to live it. It was horrible and awful and I very much wanted to curl up in the fetal position and stay in bed than do the hard work that the recovery entails. But I didn’t. Instead, I founded the Begin Again Foundation. My family is my heart and this foundation is my passion. I give them both all I have, every single day. So, here’s a little about what we do:

When I was being discharged from the hospital the nurse came to me and told me about the costs of my home health care, IV antibiotics, walker, bedside commode and shower chair. She finished by asking if these costs would be okay. I thought to myself, what if they weren’t? What if we couldn’t afford it? That’s why we offer $1,000 grants to survivors of sepsis, ARDS, and TSS.

A note from a grant recipient:

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Please meet my dear friend and fellow sepsis survivor that we were proud to fly out for a weekend away from her treatments at our first event.

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September was World Sepsis Awareness Month and to support this we had ribbons at the BMW Championship for the players to place on their hats. I believe with every ounce of faith that I have that God chose this week as the one for Marc to win.

BMW Championship - Final Round

 

How I got sick is a little complicated and you can read all about it here. The short story boils down to me using tampons. Did you know feminine hygiene products are one of the biggest needs of the homeless population?  That’s why we are supplying 100% cotton pads to three shelters in the Hampton Roads area.

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Can you imagine having a sick child in the hospital and not being able to afford transportation to visit them? Or worrying about how you will fill their prescription for lifesaving medications? Or how you will pay for rent, groceries, light bill? We don’t want anyone to have to worry about these things and that’s why we are proud to support the Social Department at the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters and the Leila Rose Foundation in Australia.

 

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And sometimes life asks us to step up and step in which is why we felt called to help Hurricane Harvey victims.

But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. 

1 John 3:17-18

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

Winston Churchill

 

This is not the TOUR I know.

NOTE: I have tried to be overwhelmingly positive in the way I share my heart. Today may come across differently, and if you don’t want that, then I suggest you click the X at the top left of your page.

EDIT: Since there are some that respnding to my comment about a wife being heckled for her beauty, I was not talking about myself. Continue the insults, but at least know that. 

“I mean the goal from the minute we got out here was to just crush them as bad as we can and, um, I hope that we close them out today and we go out tomorrow and just beat ’em even worse.” -Daniel Berger

Last week was hard on my heart. That video right there pretty much sums up why. The fans felt the same way. I wonder why when that’s what they witnessed…

I am an American through and through. I love my country with all my heart and know that I am one of the lucky to live here. I am also a child of immigrants. Both of my parents grew up in the Philippines. My paternal grandfather was American and passed along citizenship to my father, and my mother is a naturalized citizen. My father’s 23-year service in the US Navy brought and kept us in the good ole’ USA.  I am an American that was raised with Spanish and Filipino cultures that have shaped my values. I am married to an Australian green card holder. This has brought a beautiful aspect to my life. One that has blessed me with humor, koalas, and vanilla slice. My children have the incredible benefit of being raised in a family of so many cultures. It’s a beautiful thing.

There were many times last week that I thought about what the kids were seeing. The crowds booing for good shots and cheering for missed putts.  The drinking at 7am? Screaming “Big Easy” to Ernie Els and begging for his autograph and then yelling at his players. Heckling a wife for her beauty and then her husband for his play. I was thankful my boys weren’t there to see the way people were treating their daddy. Their hero. My parents could simply turn the television off.

Adam Hadwin teeing off

When I met Marc, I did not know a birdie from a bogey. I didn’t know anything about any sports really. My head has been stuck in a book for much of my life (there is a reason Belle is my favorite Disney princess,) and I’ve been happy that way. If you had asked me to attend the Masters, I would have asked you what that was with all seriousness. But over the years I have truly come to appreciate this game. I enjoy that true golf lovers want to watch good sport, even if it’s not coming from their favorite players. It’s common to find applause for bogey putts at normal events. The players politely put up their hand in acknowledgment no matter how frustrated they are. Of course, there are times when the game gets the better of them, and clubs end up broken or in the water, but that is not the norm. In fact, it is so frowned upon that players will be fined by the PGA TOUR for poor behavior. They hold their players to a high standard. They recognize the role models the players should be to their young fans.

And I love my TOUR family. They have been there for my family during the worst time of our lives. Their support didn’t stop when I got out of the hospital. I found it in little ways for several months after. Someone holding the door open for me when I was probably just a little farther away than they would have been expected to wait. The fact that when people asked me how I was doing, they truly wanted to know the answer. The way they have shared in our joy. How they truly understood the miracle that Eva is and how they have celebrated with us.


Golf is truly a gentleman’s sport. But last week was not the golf I know. During the opening ceremony, I was enjoying the Fanatics singing their songs that most people have come to love when I heard an American scream, “Speak English!”

1.  What an awful and ignorant thing to say.

2. They were speaking English.

3. Half of the International Team is bilingual. How many languages do you speak?

The rest of the week didn’t get much better nor did the insults. Someone yelled “Blooming Onion!” to Marc. Check yourself and your facts because that’s not Australian in the least. Another yelled, “avocado!” at him. I feel sorry for you because if you don’t understand how delicious an avocado is, then you are living a sad, sad life. “You eat cereal with a fork!” Oh friend, maybe that’s actually you who does that, because how would you even think to say that? I understand that this was not every fan. In fact, I believe that most of the people acting that way were not actually golf fans. Unfortunately, that doesn’t change the fact that they were the loudest and that the people around them did not ask them to stop.

By Sunday afternoon when America won, the crowd calmed down some. All of a sudden they liked our guys again. Yelling for autographs and pictures. And what did our guys do? They signed and smiled. When we were waiting on the 14th green for the closing ceremony all of us were distracted and chatting. Captain Price got our attention and asked us to start clapping for the American Team. Because that is what golf is. That is what sportsmanship is. That is why I was so proud to be part of the International Team. You will not find a kinder group of talented men.

I want to be clear about something. I wish for nothing but success for Marc because he works hard for it and it allows us to give back. But whether he wins or loses is of no importance to me. I only care about how he wins and how he loses. I care that he wins with humility and loses with grace. When Marc shot 40 on the back nine to lose the Dell Technologies Championship he did not throw a fit. You could see the disappointment etched on his face as the cameras zoomed in close, but you didn’t see much more than that. Two weeks later he bought beer for the media as thanks to the cameraman who jumped out of the way of his bunker shot. That is what is important to me.


Recently a reporter asked me what motto I live by. My answer:

After the first day, the Internationals were obviously down. I was watching the Golf Channel and heard Brandel Chamblee say, “If you’re Captain Nick Price, what do you do when you’re looking at a massacre?” Well, Mr. Chamblee, after the devastating tragedy in Vegas this week- I want to ask you: Was that kind? Necessary? True? I don’t think it improved upon the silence.

America has had a hard year. Last week was a chance to come together over something so simple, the love of golf. I wish we could have shown our best. With the Statue of Liberty as our backdrop, we certainly should have.

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2.5 years ago I met a serial killer. Instead of using knives or guns it used my very own body to try to end my life and it came very close to succeeding. Its name is sepsis. If sepsis were a person it would be feared. It would be jailed for its crimes. It would be put in solitary confinement so that it could never touch another person. Each year sepsis kills between 6-9 million people around the world. 258,000 Americans a year. One person every 2 minutes. And yet, depending on the country, only 6-55% of people have heard of it. This is a potentially fatal fact for many people. Each hour that sepsis goes untreated increases the mortality rate by 7%. My chance of survival- less than 5%.

September is World Sepsis Awareness Month. There is a group of very passionate and dedicated people who are dedicating their lives to this cause. Most have been directly affected. They are survivors. Or they are grievers. Some are permanently disabled. And some will live with a void in their lives that nothing will ever fill. I’m a lucky one and it is not something I will ever take for granted.

I was sitting on the couch a couple of months ago watching the golf and noticed the ribbons the players were wearing on their hats that week. I called our Executive Director of Begin Again and told her I would love to make that happen for September. We were originally going to put them out the week of the Dell Technologies Championship but postponed it to give proper honor to the victims of Hurricane Harvey. When I showed up to the golf course last Thursday at the BMW Championship I had no idea the emotions that would flood me when I saw them on the player’s hats. I ran into one of my friends in the bathroom and asked her to thank her husband for wearing it. She told me he had actually lost people in his life to sepsis. He understood the significance.  I heard the commentators talking about the ribbons and what they stood for and it really started to sink in that what we were doing was important. And then Marc started playing some amazing golf. Wire to wire he showed the world what kind of player he is. Every birdie made that ribbon visible for millions of people to see.

BMW Championship - Final Round

I never imagined that I would do a live interview on NBC. I would rather follow Marc on the outside of the ropes, my PGA badge tied to my purse instead of around my neck. I don’t want the attention, but I do want sepsis to have it. So I took a lot of deep breaths- so many, in fact, that I got lightheaded. Somehow I got through it and I’m told it was okay. I won’t watch it and I don’t need to. In the sepsis community, one of our slogans is, “Say the word sepsis.” I was able to do that on a national stage and I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to do so.

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Standing on the 18th green with our two boys and our miracle baby girl and watching Marc sink that putt to win by 5 shots was one of the happiest and proudest moments of my life. Every single hard moment that we endured made that one all the sweeter.

BMW Championship - Final Round

2.5 years ago I met a serial killer. Last week we introduced him to the world. I pray that doing so will save lives. Thank you for all of your support. We are ever so grateful.

BE HEATHLY…Period

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Periods. Tampons. Pads. Menstrual cups, Period Panties, Toxic Shock Syndrome. If you had asked me two years ago whether I had given any of this much thought, let alone done interviews and wrote about it extensively I would have laughed. Why in the WORLD would I talk such personal things? And then I got sick. During my recovery, I went on a quest for information. I needed facts. I needed to understand what had happened to me and why. I read my discharge papers the day I came home. I searched and searched for answers. I needed to find meaning. I needed to give my experience a purpose.  Without a purpose, it would have been too easy to fall into a depressing thought process of, “Why me? Why was I so unlucky? What did I do to deserve this?” There was another question that will haunt me for the rest of my life. Why did I survive when others do not?

All my research did it’s job. It gave me my purpose. Education, advocacy, helping survivors. The Begin Again Foundation was born. Our initial goal was clear- provide financial assistance to families facing hardship due to medical crises. This blog served as my platform for education and awareness. I am very proud of the work we have done in the one year we have been serving communities. We have helped 27 sepsis survivors, 1 ARDS survivor, over 500 families at CHKD, and four families facing rare childhood cancers through the Leila Rose Foundation. But something was missing. What were we doing for periods? I can tell women to only use 100% organic tampons, or better yet find other alternatives completely. But what about the women who don’t have these options? I started doing research. Did you know that menstrual products are the number one need of homeless women? And then I thought if they do get their hands on a tampon, how long will they leave it in? When faced with leaving a tampon in too long or rolled up toilet paper or socks what would they do? Actually, I don’t want an answer to that question because none of them seem like options to me. At least not options I can live with. I started doing more research and came across the most amazing program: PERIOD.

Please read this from their founder, Nadya Okamoto (who, by the way, is 19 years old and a Harvard student! #goals) 

When it comes to global development, in working to advance families and break the cycle of poverty, women’s empowerment is the key—and a major obstacle that stands in the way of bringing all women to the forefront is the taboo surrounding the topic of menstruation.

Women’s empowerment and feminism are hot topics right now, especially when it comes to creating more educational equity on a global scale. However, no matter how many opportunities we create, women and girls will not be able to take full advantage of those opportunities if menstrual hygiene is not addressed. Periods are the number one reason why girls miss school in developing countries (Femme International) In Kenya, girls miss an average of 4.9 days of school each month because of a lack of access to adequate menstrual hygiene. In rural Uganda, girls miss up to the 8 days of school each term. That is almost a full week of class. 25% of one’s school month. Think about that…because of periods, girls are missing almost a whole quarter of their classes.

In many countries, periods can be scary for what menstruation symbolizes—the transition from being a child to a woman, ready to be a wife and mother. In some other countries, as I have learned, getting your period can be the signifying event that prompts female genital mutilation, child marriage, and dropping out of school.

Inadequate menstrual hygiene management also has negative mental and physical consequences. In India, 70% of reproductive diseases are caused by poor menstrual hygiene, and the effects can go so far as to affect maternal mortality. Unclean methods of maintaining menstrual hygiene caused by a lack of resources, or lack of education on the usage of products, can lead to infections ranging from skin irritation to the something more fatal, like toxic shock syndrome. Poor menstrual hygiene management may also cause strange bodily odors and bleeding through one’s clothes, which causes women and girls to feel nervous and self-conscious when on their period.

This taboo around menstruation causes people to associate periods with weakness. A week in their month where girls feel emotionally on edge, in pain with cramps, confused about new food cravings, and worried about bleeding through their clothes. I myself, before coming to the realization of how human and real it is as a woman to experience periods, identified my time of the month as a weakness point. 

Women (more so, all humans) deserve to feel confident and ready to reach their full potential, regardless of a natural need. Thus, the stigma surrounding the topic of menstruation is an obstacle standing in the way of that natural right to reach one’s full potential. We all need to become advocates for natural needs. In the US, only about 20% of our government positions are held by women, and if that 80% who are men are afraid to talk about menstruation, women and girls all around the world will continue to feel silenced and less capable on their periods. The menstrual movement is a universal movement, and it starts now, with all of us—boys, girls, men, women—let’s all give power to the period starting right now! 

My passion for menstrual hygiene formed during my family’s experience with homelessness during my freshman to sophomore year of high school (I am now 19-years-old), and through conversations with homeless women I met. In the spring of my sophomore year of high school, when my family saved up enough for us to move back into our two-bedroom apartment in Portland, I founded PERIOD. What started as a personal project to use savings to buy and hand out menstrual hygiene products on my way to school, with the help of an amazing and driven youth team of peers, is now an exponentially growing organization. 

PERIOD is a global youth-run nonprofit that strives to provide and celebrate menstrual hygiene through advocacy, education and service—-through the global distribution of menstrual hygiene products and engagement of youth leadership through a nationwide network of campus chapters. In the last two years, we have addressed over 78,000 periods through 43 nonprofit partners in 27 states and 14 countries, and we have 65 campus chapters and universities and high schools around the United States.

PERIOD helps women to feel dignified and clean during their periods by giving them menstrual hygiene products. We also strive to develop youth engagement through our campus chapters. The women that we serve are low income or homeless, and generally, would not spend the little money they have on menstrual hygiene. Our services thereby give these women the materials to take care of their natural needs which they otherwise would lack easy access to. Psychologically, having control over one’s own body is a step towards self-confidence and feeling in control of one’s life. This ability to care for their natural needs is an early step in helping women get off of the street or bounce back from a difficult situation. Additionally, most reproductive diseases are caused by poor menstrual hygiene. By distributing menstrual hygiene products, we help women stay healthier. We are always striving to find sustainable solutions, trying to secure reusable products like menstrual cups and fabric pads. PERIOD empowers women and youth voices, period.

We are so excited to be working with the Begin Again Foundation to work towards menstrual equity and provide menstrual products to people with periods in need, to individuals in Virginia Beach. 

Do you think that lack of access to menstrual products is a women’s problem? It’s not. I promise you that when I was laying in the hospital my father, brothers, husband and two young sons were not worried about it being a “woman’s problem.” They cared that their daughter, sister, wife and mother was almost dying. They also cared that with the proper knowledge I may never have been in that bed in the first place. I am currently celebrating my two year survival anniversary at the Masters. How lucky am I? How do I honor the ones who weren’t as lucky? The answer will always be this: we give back. The Begin Again Foundation is so excited to start addressing the periods of Virginia Beach homeless women. Our period packs will include 15 100% cotton pads, 5 100% cotton overnight pads, and pantyliners. When we were deciding what products to provide in our packs we decided that quality over quantity was essential. As with all of our programs we hope that providing these products can make their lives just a little easier for at least one week a month. 

$8 per month provides safe feminine hygiene products for one woman experiencing homelessness in Virginia Beach. If you are called to help #onemore woman BE HEATHY, Period, then please donate here!


Love,

Audrey

#PSdontusetampons

A Day to Remember 


What a difference a year makes. I remember arriving at the Arnold Palmer Invitational last year feeling awful. I was on my third round of antibiotics for a case of strep throat that wouldn’t budge. We had plans for Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and Universal Studios. I made it through the first two parks before my body gave up on me. I ended up at the hospital for IV fluids and a round of steroids. The guilt. Oh, the guilt. No Universal for my boys. I hated being a distraction from golf for Marc. I hated not being able to get out of bed. I was nearing my one year anniversary and I was not better. Sure, I wasn’t dying but I wasn’t really living either. Surviving is not quite the same thing.

If you had asked me whether I thought we would have more children you may have seen tears well up as I said, “Hopefully.” Or, “One day, when I’m feeling better.” But in my mind that when was really an if. Just a few weeks later at the tournament in Hilton Head Island, I was sick again. My tonsils were filled with putrid stones. I was coughing up quarter sized globs of the darkest green mucous. I couldn’t get out of bed. A burden. In my mind that’s what I had become. I was starting to lose hope and was becoming resigned to a life exhaustion and illness.

I made a joke to my doctor, “Can’t we just cut out my tonsils?” He said that wasn’t actually a bad idea. I met with an ENT and she cautioned me about how difficult the recovery of a tonsillectomy was for an adult. I told her it couldn’t be much more difficult than what I was already going through. She asked me to wait a little longer. I was sick two more times and I called the surgery scheduler and begged for a date. They scheduled it for May and it went well. The recovery was exactly what you would expect but I don’t remember it being that bad. I knew the pain was finally for a reason. There was a light at the end of the tunnel. I started to get better. In September my infectious disease doctor cleared me with a clean bill of health and told me to have a good life. That was one of the best days I’ve ever had. I had another one of those days two months later when two little pink lines popped up on a pregnancy test. Eight weeks after that the ultrasound technician told us we were having a girl. There were happy tears that day. And then yesterday Harvey, Ollie and I were able to watch Marc win the very event that I was so sick at one year ago. If you had asked me then if I could have ever imagined taking the boys to two theme parks and walking three 9-hole days of golf I probably would have laughed at you. If you had asked me if I thought I could do that 23 weeks pregnant, I may have called you crazy. 


Yesterday a few reporters asked me how it felt to be there to watch him win.  I couldn’t really find the words. I’m not sure that I’ll ever be able to adequately do that…but I’ll put it simply. Yesterday was one of the best days. One that we will never forget. It was a full of love, laughter, support, gratitude, blessings, and the trophy that Harvey has so desperately wanted. 


From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for supporting us. 

Love,

Audrey

#PSdontusetampons

Dear Baby

Today is International Women’s Day my sweet girl.

Some people will make this political but I like to believe that this is just a celebration of the amazing women who have lived and loved and the women who will continue to live and love. I am so lucky to be sitting here and writing this to you. One day I will tell you story of how you almost weren’t here. About how an infection ravaged my body and I almost didn’t make it. I’ll tell you how I had to have a machine breathe for me. About how I don’t remember any of it but later saw notes of questions I asked my doctors. The first one was, “Will I ever be able to have another child?” You see, I wanted you then, even as I was fighting for my very breath.  I will tell you about the moments in the following year that I would break down and cry because I was sick again. Because I was so tired. Because I questioned whether I was a good enough mother to your brothers. Because I questioned whether I even deserved to have another baby.

My sweet girl, you are the definition of a miracle. You are a dream come true. I imagine every day about how you and your brothers will change the world. There will be challenges but the biggest obstacles you will face will be the ones you set for yourself. I’ve been thinking a lot of things I want to pass down to you and I think today is a good day to start.

God has given you two ears and one mouth. I want you to listen more than you speak. I want you to know that sometimes the louder you talk, the less people will hear you. I want you to know that what you do is more important than what you say. And I want those things you do to be good and kind and full of love. I want you to remember that doing those things quietly and without recognition is important. The moment you start looking for a pat on the back for being a good person is the moment you begin to lose yourself. But don’t be mistaken; I do not want you to be silent. Just like a builder measures three times and cuts once, I want you to think three times before you talk. Are you adding something good to this world? Are you spreading love and not hate? Will you be proud of yourself when you reflect back on it? Do your words come from a place of compassion? Are they based in strength?

I want you to learn to shut out the noise. Oh, there is so much noise! And most of it will tell you that you are not good enough. That you have to lose weight,  make straight A’s, get a job, (no!) stay home and raise your own kids, wear the right clothes, contour your face, or fight for women’s rights, or baby’s rights, or shut up and know your place.  All that noise is so confusing, baby. It can be deafening. Paralyzing. When all that noise starts to smother you I want you to close your eyes. Look inside your heart. Take some deep breaths. Feel the ground under your feet, the wind in your hair. Pray. Hit your knees if you must. Talk to your people. I hope that I will always be the person you run to when it gets confusing. Because I will remind you of who you are.

You are light and love. You will make this world a better place, one good and kind thing at a time.

Love,

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Dear Facebook,

And every other form of social media. I have a bone to pick with you. I spend maybe just a tad too much time on social media and I have to say if I didn’t know any better I would think September is just a normal month in social media. I see the same political angst, some meals, snap chat pictures, etc. I love seeing the photos of your babies, but I do wish I was seeing a little bit more this month.

Have you ever loved a child? Then you should care that it’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. You should care that childhood cancer research gets less than 4% of federal funding. You should know that childhood cancer is the leading cause of death by disease in children under the age of 15 in the U.S. And that one in 285 children in the U.S. will be diagnosed with cancer by the time they are 20 years old.


Are you a woman? Have you ever loved a woman? Then you should care that it’s Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. You should know that ovarian cancer is often called the whisper killer and that knowing the symptoms can and will save lives. It is often discovered in late stages because the symptoms can hide in plain site. So please commit these to memory:

• Increased abdominal size / persistent bloating (not bloating that comes and goes)
• Difficulty eating/feeling full quickly
• Abdominal or pelvic pain
• Needing to pass urine more urgently or more frequently


Are you a human being? Have you or someone you loved ever had pneumonia, strep throat, surgery, kidney stones? Then you should care that it is Sepsis Awareness Month. In fact, today is World Sepsis Day. Friends, can you look at the date? It’s September 13th. We are not even halfway through the month and as I type this, 633,885 people have been affected by sepsis worldwide. As I write this, a good friend’s mother is in the hospital fighting this. So please know these facts:

•    Globally, an estimated 20 million to 30 million cases of sepsis occur each year.
•    Sepsis is the primary cause of death from infection.
•    Sepsis causes more deaths than prostate cancer, breast cancer, and HIV/AIDS combined.
•    In the developing world, sepsis accounts for 60 to 80 percent of lost lives per year in childhood.
•    Patients surviving sepsis have twice the risk of death in the subsequent five years compared with hospitalized controls.
•    Rapid intervention for sepsis can halve the risk of dying.
•    Hospitalizations for sepsis have more than doubled over the last 10 years.
•    The incidence of sepsis developing after surgery tripled from 1997 to 2006.
•    In 2008, hospitalizations for sepsis in the United States cost an estimated $14.6 billion.
•    Each year from 1997 through 2008, the inflation-adjusted total costs for treating patients hospitalized for sepsis increased 11.9 percent on average.

And please know these symptoms:

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Will you do me a favor? Will you help me spread awareness? Will you share this? I pray you will.

Love,

Audrey

#PSdontusetampons

#ifyoudomakesuretheyrecotton