Health is a Community Journey

 

By Patrice Lockert Anthony

PatriceLast year I spent about four days in the hospital, unconscious in the ICU, with a tube down my throat and main lines spilling from my body. If that doesn't make a pretty picture for you, it made an even less pretty picture for me. I have a theory or two about the cause. The air pressure changed. I probably wouldn't have felt it if something hadn't already been brewing inside my lower respiratory tract. The air pressure changed, and I could quite literally feel the shift in my lungs. I felt the corresponding pressure in my lungs shift, and I knew what it meant. I began to take corrective measures ... to no avail. I called 911. Within five minutes, I was calling again, because I was fading fast (that's asthma-speak for dying). I remember being hunched over, holding on, and trying to figure out who would call my mother in California, and tell her that her youngest child had died on a city street in Ithaca. That's not high drama; it was that bad. At that moment Fire & Rescue arrived and put oxygen on me. The ambulance was right behind. By the time they got my legs on the gurney, I was unconscious. I was told later they were unable to intubate me, or start an IV. At the hospital, in the ER, it took a few more people trying before someone was finally able to get a tube down my throat. Next crisis please. My blood pressure shot up to obscenely high digits and no meds were working to lower it. According to one of my nurses, it was the considered opinion that I would stroke out if they couldn't find the right medicine. As it turns out, the right medicine was pain medication. Main arterial lines took the place of regular IV's and a few days later I woke up when someone extubated me.

Why am I writing about something so intensely personal and private? Why would I tell this story?

Because it isn't just my story. It's your story, too. This is a story about food, health, and lifestyle. It is a story about choices. My choices, certainly, but also yours.

I am clinically overweight. I have lost some weight since this incident, but you are mistaken if you think even something that serious changes your habits of a lifetime overnight. I have made some changes. I have lost some weight, but this, like everything else in our lives, is a journey. A timely journey, and a journey worth taking my time.

We, in Ithaca, share an embarrassment of riches in resources for learning, knowing, and practicing paradigm shifts in food use, health practices, and lifestyle changes. There is the Food Justice program Whole Community Project at Cornell Cooperative Extension. There is Building Bridges (equity and justice in every area, including food distribution and access) with the Dorothy Cotton Institute (DCI). The Center for Transformative Action (CTA) just wrapped up its first annual Finger Lakes Social Entrepreneurship Institute. Several of the presenters addressed Social Justice issues with regard to food. If you missed it, start gearing up for next year, and in the meantime, gear up for the energy it created among its participants. Change is coming.

In the spirit of transparency, and full disclosure, I am on the board of directors for CTA, and DCI is one of our Project Partners. Now before you start thinking I'm just promoting what I am already a part of -— you're right. I am. This is the work I do. This is the work I believe in, and for which I have an unabiding passion. This is the work that transforms lives, including mine. In sharing that, there is no conflict ... or shame.

In this column, I will be writing about food, health, lifestyle, disease, race, class, gender, politics, faith, education and where they all intersect with not only healthcare as an industry, but taking care of our health as self-practice. Where, you might wonder, does the cooperative food movement fit in? My only possible response to that question is, "You're kidding, right?"

Cooperative food movements, GreenStar, and Ithaca are about community. I, in my "Oprah-esque" way, will read, research, share, and discuss with you, in the hopes that I will/can help not only myself, but a few others along the way. I am not alone on my journey. Neither are you. Please write in, share your stories, comments, and questions. I can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . I welcome the dialogue. Peace.