20 Facts About Me

20 Facts About Me

Get to know the writer.
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I've been writing for The Odyssey for almost a year now and my readers have gotten to know a lot about me along the way, but I'm always surprising people with my skills, hobbies, and special talents. Some facts about my life are minimal quirky things I do, while others are huge life events that have shaped me into who I am today. For everyone that wants to get to know me a little better, here are 20 facts about myself.

1. I love working out

I'm not a hardcore gym addict, but I love keeping myself active. Some days I go to the gym and do cardio and lift weights, or I'll take a group fitness class, while other days I'll take my bike on the trails for a relaxing ride or I'll take my kayak out on the lake. Whatever kind of activity I do I do it because I enjoy staying active and pushing myself.

2. I have 2 cats

I have two cats named Mitterz and Squeaks. I adopted Mitterz as a kitten about thirteen years ago and I adopted Squeaks, who's about three years old, this past fall. I love them both to death! My favorite thing to do with them is cuddle with them in my bed in the morning.

3. I grew up living in the suburbs and on a farm

Growing up I lived in the suburbs of Chicago with my mom, but I also visited my dad in central Wisconsin on the weekends and on school breaks, so I grew up knowing what it was like to live near a big city and to live out in the middle of nowhere where our neighbor was a dairy farm.

4. I'm a seasoned airplane traveler

Since my dad lived about five hours away, I started taking an airplane instead of driving to see him. Almost every weekend I'd fly out of O'Hare International Airport to the tiny Central Wisconsin Airport. I started flying when I was thirteen, so many people say I'm a well-seasoned traveler.

5. I'm an outdoors enthusiast

My dad started taking me out hunting when I was three, so it's no surprise I love the outdoors. I love everything from hunting, fishing, gardening, hiking, kayaking, and horseback riding. If it's outdoors I'm doing it!

6. I wore a foot brace until I was 11

Growing up I went to physical therapy every week, I got Botox in my leg every several months, and I wore a leg brace a lot. It was all because my right side of my body is a lot weaker than my left side and those were the things I had to do to improve it. When I was ten I also had surgery on my leg that was supposed to help me from walking on my toes. Ten years later I still walk with a limp sometimes, but it doesn't really phase me.

7. I want to become a mental health counselor

I've had personal experience going to therapy and through that, I've learned that the right therapist can make all the difference when it comes to battling mental health problems. This is what inspired me to want to become a counselor. I want to help my future clients as much as my therapist helped me. I'm also really passionate about breaking down the stigma around mental illness.

8. I sleep with a stuffed animal cow

Even at twenty-one years old I still sleep with an old raggedy stuffed animal cow. I've had it for over ten years, but recently I lost it. Instead of not sleeping with a stuffed animal anymore, I decided to replace it with a new one!

9. I have a passion for horses

I've always been interested in horses! I took my first riding lesson at thirteen and I've been hooked ever since. I've learned how to ride Western, where I showed in timed and judged events, trail riding, and how to ride English, where I also learned to show jump. I still don't own a horse of my own, but someday when I have a farm of my own I'd like to get one.

10. I want to own my own farm someday

Like I said in #9, I want to live on a farm someday where I can call it my own. I love waking up to the sound of birds chirping without all the hustle and bustle of city life.

11. I'm an only child

I don't have any siblings and I absolutely love it! The stereotypes of only children are all wrong. Others think we are stuck up and selfish when actually I'm quite the opposite.

12. I enjoy baking and cooking

I absolutely love baking! I learned how to bake at a young age and it's something I'm going to continue to do the rest of my life. The older I get the more I've learned how to cook actual meals and the more comfortable I've gotten with trying new recipes. I wouldn't call myself a master chef, but I definitely like to get my hands dirty in the kitchen.

13. I have a semicolon tattoo

About nine months ago I got a semicolon tattoo on my ankle. The meaning behind it is a semicolon is used when a sentence could've ended, but the author chooses not. The same thing applies to our life. There are times when we feel like giving up, but we have to push through the difficult times.

14. I hate coffee

I hate the taste of coffee. Anything coffee flavored is a no for me.

15. I'm a huge Green Bay Packers fan

I was pretty much born into being a Packer fan. My dad had me in Packer clothes before I could even walk. I love them so much that I actually chose to go to Green Bay for college. I went to my first packer game this past November and it was such a unique experience!

16. I'm currently reading "Whiskey Words & a Shovel"

I don't really have time to read for fun during the school year, but in the summer I like to read. Lately, I've been interested in poetry after reading "Milk and Honey." At the beginning of the summer, I did some research on books similar to Milk and Honey and I came across "Whiskey, Words & a Shovel." There are three books in the series and I'm just finishing up the first one, but the second and third are also on my summer reading list.

17. I love playing with fire

It doesn't matter what kind of fire it is; I love it all. I love making campfires, bonfires, and especially lighting off fireworks.

18. Ice cream is my favorite food

Anyone that knows me knows I love ice cream. It's just so delicious!

19. Country music is my favorite genre

I didn't start listening to country until sophomore or junior year of high school, but ever since then, I've loved it. I like everything from Jake Owen, Sam Hunt, to Zach Brown Band. Last summer I was lucky enough to go to a three-day music festival, where I got to see some of my favorite country artists!

20. My nickname is Toast

My dad's the only person that really calls me Toast, but that's all he calls me. He barely ever calls me by my first name. He used to call me Toaster Roaster and over the years it just turned into Toast.

Maybe you knew these facts already, or maybe you didn't. Either way, I hope you know the person behind the Odyssey articles a little better now!

Cover Image Credit: Elizabeth Altmann

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An Open Letter To The Meadville Medical Center And Its ER Staff

When did kindness become a deserved thing in the healthcare field; and only if you're not on drugs?
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Yes, that cover picture is me, coming off a ventilator...at Magee Women's Hospital in Pittsburgh, a two-hour drive from my house, not at Meadville Medical Center.

This is very difficult to write. We live in a small town, and you are the only hospital for over twenty miles. In fact, I live so close to you, that I can see your rooftop from my back garden. I can walk to you in about ten minutes if it’s not overly humid out. The Life Flights pass over my house as they arrive at and leave your facility, and my young daughter and I pray for every one of them.

My daughter had to call an ambulance on May 30th, as I had a sharp and horrible pain overtake me so suddenly, that I thought my neighbor (who I threatened to report for dealing drugs) had shot me through the dining room window at first. There was no blood to be seen, but the pain was so severe, that combined with the cold sweats and dizziness, I was genuinely afraid I was about to die.

I can’t express in words how proud I was of my girl as she explained to the 911 operator what was the matter and where we lived. She was brave and helpful as they took a blood sample, handled what I later learned was a seizure, and kindly got me into the ambulance from my difficult entryway. She called her Auntie and calmly told her to meet me at the ER. And while memories of the horrible experience I had in your ER twenty years ago still haunted me, the care and attention the ambulance drivers showed me encouraged me that I would be okay.

If only.

There were so many people, and I was half delirious with pain and inexplicable symptoms. Thank God my sister in law, Sheri, was there to help me fight for my life. For the sake of our small town and six degrees of separation, I will call them Nurse A, B, C, and D, and Doctor H. Your staff literally, unapologetically bullied me within an inch of my life.

When I arrived, it was apparently Nurse A who triumphantly announced to everyone involved in my care that I was on drugs, case closed. Despite Sheri and I repeatedly telling them that I hadn’t taken any narcotics, and I won’t take anything stronger than Motrin 800, they persisted in asking what I took. At one point I heard Sheri saying, “She does everything naturally, you're wasting time.” No one cared.

When Nurse A informed me that they needed a urine test, I told her to straight cath me, as I couldn’t stand up. It was Nurse A who told Doctor H that I faked two seizures on the way from my house (I am still amazed by her mystical powers that she could surmise this), and insisted again that I was faking everything. With utter disgust Doctor H said, “She can stand, get her up.” At Sheri’s protest, Nurse A reiterated, “If she can move her legs she can stand.” My legs, which were almost involuntarily moving to find relief from the pain in my abdomen, gave out on me when she insisted I put myself on the bedside commode. I passed out again and urinated on her.

When I woke up to Sheri frantically calling my name, I was greeted by an absolutely disgusted Nurse A, who complained that she needed to go change her clothes, and rolled her eyes at my faking another seizure. She informed everyone who came in next that I was faking these symptoms, and four attempts to straight cath me failed. In that moment, I was sure I was going to die.

Everything after that came in blurry and fragmented vignettes, like an awful out of body experience. There were Nurses B through D or more, all repeatedly asking me what drugs I took. Everyone scowled and frowned, passing on the information that I was faking everything. There were four of these nurses when I woke up on the way to a scan, and all but one asking me what drugs I took, and telling me to stop faking as I hysterically screamed that I could not breathe when I lay flat. I was terrified, confused, out of my mind, and unable to breathe when I lay flat, and they reported that “she hyperventilated herself” in the scan lab.

All the while, Sheri valiantly insisted they would find no drugs in the blood work, and that I probably hadn’t been to a family doctor in years. I lay in your ER cubicle and reconciled myself to God, convinced that I was going to die and be labeled a drug addict.

At some point, something shifted, and suddenly I received the blanket I had asked for hours before. Apparently, my temperature had dropped so low, their fancy thermometers couldn’t read anything. I remember a young man trying to find a vein and saying, “Oh my God, I’ve never seen anything like this. I’m not trying again.” My head was elevated, and the panic of not being able to breathe alleviated somewhat.

Suddenly Doctor H was almost kind, and I heard him telling Sheri something about “a mass” and “blood in her abdomen” and how some other hospital was better equipped to help me. She told me she okay-ed it, and I recall telling her, “I trust you. Just get me out of here.”

In fact, knowing someone else would care for me gave me such peace, that I literally lay completely still as an older man inserted an IV line into my neck with no anesthesia.

We assume the blood work came back and the scan verified what we desperately tried to tell everyone from the beginning; I wasn’t on or seeking drugs. But there was no apology from Nurse A, her fellow nurses, or Doctor H. I may be corrected, but I spent five or six hours in your ER defending myself to the same people who should have been fighting for my life.

As I lay there, talking to Yeshuale, three people in what looked like tactical suits came alongside my bed. The first was a woman who looked like she was speaking into a walkie talkie. Behind her two men. I thought to myself “Oh, state cops. I guess I’m just going to die in prison.” I was so out of it, confused and weary of being asked what drugs I took, I believed your ER staff had called the police and they had come to take me away. All I could think of was what would become of my young daughter.

Thank God, I was mistaken. The blonde woman wasn’t a police officer, but part of the helicopter team, on the phone with Magee in Pittsburgh so she could begin administering blood to me. Blood. Something your staff considered less important than accusing me of using and seeking some weird drugs. Behind her, a tall, blonde man smiled at me and explained that he was taking me in a helicopter and I would be fine. It was like hearing from an angel, and I remember saying, “Todah, Yeshuale!” repeatedly in my head and in a whisper. “Thank You, Jesus!”

Four blocks away, my daughter and the friend she was staying with waved as we flew over my house.

To my surprise, I woke up two days later, attached to a ventilator, one of my sister friends sitting beside my bed. I learned that I’d had two masses in my uterus, which tore itself open and bled into my abdomen. I’d lost four liters of blood and had a transfusion in the Life Flight. When they took the vent out, (my friend took the picture above) I made a joke about being a tough Jersey girl as I signed to the ICU nurse, but inside I was an emotional wreck. Still, as the days went on, I determined to treat everyone with kindness, and was treated the same way at every turn.

Kindness. The one thing I never received from your staff.

What was so special about me that your staff felt interrogating me about my apparent drug use was more important than helping me? My address? Because for some reason all the drug dealers in town seem to want to take over my block? So, we’re all on drugs, then? Do you realize that half my neighbors brag about going to your ER to get pain pills, and how easy it is? I never asked for anything but a Tylenol, and that was on the Life Flight. So, again I ask, what made me so unique?

And, I must say, it’s not even that your staff didn’t believe me. They were mean, hateful even. Rolling their eyes, talking about me like I wasn’t there, saying everything I did was a ruse to get drugs. When did it become okay to treat anyone like that? How was it alright for your nurse to walk in and determine that I was on drugs? How was it alright for her to set the tone of disbelief, unkindness, and abuse? How was it alright for the doctor to allow this and roll with it?

Yes, I said abuse. When someone is screaming that they can’t breathe and you tell them to stop faking, that is abuse. When you berate someone, and accuse them of something to the point where they believe they’re being taken to jail to die, that’s abuse. When you refuse to give someone a blanket, hold them down to the point where they’re bruised, that’s abuse. When you waste time to the point where an ambulance won’t get to the next hospital fast enough… that’s abuse. Your staff verbally, emotionally, and physically abused me.

Not only were they abusive, but they were comfortable with it. Your staff was comfortable with it, and didn’t care what it would cost me or my family. All but one nurse, who Sheri now tells me insisted that there was something wrong with me and took me for the scan. That nurse saved my life. People are comfortable with abuse because they get away with it. Abusers get smug, arrogant and even careless, because those they abuse say nothing. Your staff was smug, rude and uncaring to the point that they displayed a sick sort of disgust for me that was completely obvious. My sister in law later confirmed to me that it wasn’t all in my head.

At what point did this behavior become acceptable? Is it because you’re the only hospital for a 30-minute drive?

And, so what if I had been seeking drugs or high on some unknown concoction? Would that have made it okay for your staff to treat me thusly? Would Nurse A have been justified in declaring my altered state and treating me like garbage? Would Doctor H have been justified in how he treated me? When did nursing and healing give anyone that sort of power? When did people cease to be worthy of kindness, quality health care and gentleness based upon their drug use, or the address they live at?

When did you decide who deserves to be treated with dignity and respect and who does not? When did your medical staff earn that right to decide also?

If we’re completely honest, most of the people I know who abuse pills go to your ER at least once bimonthly to get refills. Your ER physicians pass out opioid scripts like candy and then mistreat the people they’re supplying? Thanks to you, I must hide the pain medication I loathe to take now, because someone will surely break in to my home and steal them if they know I have them. You, and other hospitals like you, are feeding addicts and creating innocent bystander victims like me, but that’s another conversation.

This is difficult to write, because you have your hooks in all over this town. This is difficult to write, because the trauma of that night is still fresh in my mind, and I often cry when I think about it. This is difficult to write, because the reality that I have had to now teach my child to ask any ambulance we ever need to call again to take us to Erie shouldn’t be necessary. This is difficult to write, but it needs to be said, especially since I’ve been finding out that I’m not the only person this has happened to.

You need to address these issues. You need to stop handing out scripts like promotional coupons, and perhaps you won’t have nurses and doctors assuming everyone’s on drugs or seeking them. You need to discourage the abusive and toxic behavior of your staff, and hold them accountable when patients complain. Let me put this into perspective for you: I’m pretty sure Nurse A is the same age as my oldest daughter, and my child would eat mud before she treated anyone like that. Why? Because my kids were never allowed to behave that way in the first place, but to stay on topic, she grew up with consequences, and as an adult still recognizes their severity.

As the events of that night become clearer to me, and I continue my peaceful, miraculous recovery at home, I am determined not to hold on to bitterness about what happened to me at your ER. I am determined to make the most of the second chance at life I’ve been given, and leave your abusive staff in the past. I’ll probably pass some of them in the super market, or sit behind them in church, our town is so small. And while you and your toxic staff will cease to haunt my future, I will surely haunt yours. Nurse A, Doctor H, and Nurses B through whatever… will never forget the night the woman with the blue hair nearly died because they were too busy wrongly judging to actually care.

I am determined to walk out the rest of my life in kindness, the very discussion I had in a blackout with God while your nurse accused me of faking a seizure. I will pray, hoping with all hope that kindness will once again be requisite for employment in your ER and every area of your corporation. Believe me, it’s possible and good for profits. The entire time I spent in Pittsburgh at Magee I never encountered a single unkind staff member from the surgeons to the housekeepers.

I know you can do it.

Cover Image Credit: Heidi Owens

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Netflix's 'Special' Is A Groundbreaking Series About A Gay Man With Cerebral Palsy

Based off his memoir "I'm Special: And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves" Ryan O'Connell reimagines his journey in this witty 15-minute comedy.

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Ryan O'Connell is a gay man with cerebral palsy, and he's here to showcase his story in a must-see eight episode series. O'Connell navigates his world behind sexuality and disability in a coming-of-age twentysomething comedy, that's extremely important in today's society. When it comes to the topic of representation, O'Connell exceeds expectations as he shines a light on internalized ableism, being a fish out of water in his own community, and even the topic of gay sex. This series has a significant amount of charm, it's almost like a rated-R Disney show with its quirky music, fast-paced story and it's a success in making everyone's heart melt.

"Special" is about Ryan Hayes (Ryan O'Connell) a charismatic and shy gay man with mild cerebral palsy who's "28 and hasn't done a goddamn thing." Therefore, he takes the initiative of becoming an unpaid intern at an online magazine titled "Eggwoke" and begins his journey in soul-searching for his identity. His boss Olivia (Marla Mindelle), a chaotic Anna Wintour-type, expresses that most articles going viral right now are confessional ones. This allows Ryan to have his moment, as he writes an anecdote about getting hit by a car and inflates it from a minor injury to a traumatic piece, which allows him to use it as a cover story for his limp and to keep his condition a secret from his peers.

Ryan befriends one of his peers, a South-Asian American woman named Kim (Punam Patel) whose professional niche involves body positivity, the empowerment of being a person of color and a curvy girl. Her constant confidence helps paint her as the motivating friend that helps Ryan get more comfortable with himself. They share a moment at Olivia's pool party in a room when Ryan refuses to take off his clothes and she coerces him into taking off his clothes and appreciating his body. Kim might be a bit of a push towards Ryan, but she's only leading him in the right direction.

"Special" is extremely self-aware, especially within the first scenes of the first episode which explain what mild cerebral palsy is and in response a child screams in fear and runs away, leaving Ryan confused but humored. There even is a complex relationship between Ryan and his mother, Karen (Jessica Hecht). Karen's an overprotective mother who only wants the best for her child, but when she's at that point of finally letting him be free she's put into a place of loneliness. The show tackles a very specific mother/son relationship, as Ryan tries not to rely on his mother for help all the time, Karen does not mind any hassle regarding her son... especially with his condition. The two butt heads at multiple occasions, but their love for one another prevails.

"Special" has eight episodes that you can watch on Netflix right now, it's binge-worthy especially with each episode being around 15 minutes and it's also an eye-opener. This show helps strive for self-revelation and self-evaluation, it's a reflective process on identity and what categories we put ourselves in. Ryan O'Connell has made such a marvelous show, with a charming cast, multiple important messages, and a motive to help normalize disabilities and homosexuality to the public through a unique and specific perspective. It's a personal experience that everyone should watch, learn and love from.

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