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How I almost died in South America in 2023 – #mybecoming

This title isn’t actually click-bait! In this episode of Becoming A Real Life Superhero, I’m learning alongside you through my own #becoming–and we back back the story waaay up. I’ll take you from military deployment in Korea, to why I found myself under a knife in South America in July of 2023. Basically? I went to Paraguay to support indigenous people who deal with poverty, suicide, and abuse, and I had the privilege to watch some lovely #becoming journeys unfold. These are the protagonists I’m rooting for.

There’s a full AI-generated transcript below, for those who, like me, often get impatient watching videos and would rather read. Once you’re done with that, you can help Project Paraguay, which is an organization that has teamed up with me to provide a medical fund for my indigenous mobile health project. They’re a religious organization, but they are EXTREMELY CAREFUL to sequester funds carefully, so if you put “medical fund” in the comments of your donation, your money (with a tax deduction!) will go DIRECTLY to the medical fund and only the medical fund. I love that their US branch is all volunteer, so 100 percent of anything donated goes to Paraguayan aid. They’re SO transparent their entire budget is printed for you to see on their web page. IF you’d rather give me money directly (no tax deduction), I’m on Patreon, but the benefit of giving to Project Paraguay is that even if I die your money will be used to support Paraguayan healthcare. You can also lend your signature to help my birds and my husband be allowed to come live with me.

I provide you with these kinds of IRL stories because I want to find the few and the faithful who want to do more than common good–the ones crazy enough to imagine becoming real life superheroes. Not keyboard warriors. Not activists. Not a Twitter mob. And not just nice people. But people who take real action, put themselves on the line, drop the ego, and roll up sleeves to save lives.

If you’re ready to break the mold – to actually start saving people – join the five day free superhero mindset training here. I don’t believe in coincidence: you’re here for a reason. So don’t let this moment slip away and miss the chance to get your head in the game. “What if” isn’t a fun regret to have.

Transcript:

This is a picture of the thing that almost killed me this summer.

Let’s back it way up, before even getting on the plane to go to South America,
and let’s back it up a couple years ago, before the pandemic,
end of 2019, and the end of my military deployment.

Several years before that, I had gone to medical school
started on a rather sad path of becoming a physician. During that time I was
exposed to more deaths, violent and otherwise, than a lot of young physicians
my age because of the kind of patient populations that I served. So because I
was working in social medicine I knew people who had been stabbed to death or
died in the street in Puerto Rico.

Then my extra exposure to OB that I
out, I was exposed to a lot of really tragic infant deaths. I took a lot of
this in stride until I was working as a sexual assault medical forensic examiner
in the military. At this time things had started to build up and a lot of
these unresolved small traumas had begun to kind of pile up in the back
of my mind and body to a point where I was very on edge at any moment like
might die. Then several rather horrible events happened at the end of 2019 that
made it very clear to me that not only were the people, and this is not true,
but this is what I believed because mental illnesses make you believe things,
the belief that I developed was not only are the people around me going to
die, but other people are going to stab my back if I try to help them
because that is what happened. And I began to be watching my back all the
because all of my rape patients male and female have been assaulted by people in
our own military so you start watching your back knowing that the bad guys are
on your own side rather than the people that you’re trying to fight but it
becomes quite it becomes very horrible because you want to protect your
soldiers and you don’t know who the enemy is and it became even worse
because over and over again not a single one of them were able to get
justice because people were so afraid.

Essentially, a culture of fear had been
inculcated in the units that I deployed with. Everyone knew they wouldn’t be believed, even if
they had the forensic exam that I offered. It would become a he said she
said. And so what was a night of fun for one person became a life-ruining
event for other people. I saw people dramatically change from before and
after their event. People I knew were assaulted during that deployment in
Korea.

So, I had a massive, massive breakdown because not only at this time was I dealing
with this backlog of horrible things that I was reliving over and over again, but I also
had a disease, a chronic pain disease called Fagromyalgia. This particular illness is
one where your body’s neurotransmitters and your peripheral nervous system aren’t processed
So your nerves feel pain all the time even when there should be no pain signals and what’s
worse other stimuli can then be interpreted by your body as pain.
For example if I became very sad I would then get to experience physical pain, sometimes
even instead of the emotion actually.

So as this was going on my nights were becoming hell.
Every night while I slept there was like a thing next to my bed.
like some kind of presence. I developed sleep paralysis and in addition to this thing anytime
I tried to go to sleep there was something waiting for me in my sleep so I’d be so tired
and so much pain but I was having constant nightmares and night terrors and a lot of times
I would get maybe two or three hours of sleep the morning would find me on the fetal position
on the floor because I was in a ton of physical pain so I became very very sick and I became
sick both physically and mentally that it became difficult to even leave the
house. In fact I was almost bedbound for a period of about two years. I certainly
didn’t go out to social events and it became almost impossible for me to work.
What does this have to do with what almost killed me in South America? Ever
since I was 12 years old, I have wanted to go back to Paraguay and help
people who don’t have health care. When I was 12 years old, I was
under these beautiful green trees at a site that there’s a church there now but
at that time it was just green trees and there were some very poor children from
the neighborhood who were running around barefoot and they’re running
around through kind of dangerous areas with trash and so forth. Barefoot, this
little girl sat on my lap and she was so skinny I could feel her bones like
stabbing into my leg and at that moment I realized sitting there in a bolt-clown
costume, I realized that I didn’t want to be a veteran anymore. I wanted to be a
doctor because I wanted to make sure that people were okay first. Animals
have always been my special love and I am probably always going to like
animals but it just became so clear to me that there were people in
needed help, and Paraguay isn’t as famous so they don’t get a lot of attention and
support.

To me it seemed like Paraguay, this beautiful country of cultural brilliance, was kind
of suffering like an organ child not being noticed.
So for 20 years I held on to that dream of wanting to go and establish an indigent
clinic in Paraguay.

I saved up for 20 years and eventually was able to use that life savings, my savings
and my husband’s savings, to buy an ultrasound machine this summer.
All of my life savings on my back, that’s pretty terrifying, running across an airport
with all your life savings on your back, or taking all your life savings into a jungle
community anywhere you go with all your life savings you feel your sphincter
clench a little bit took that to Paraguay with me this summer and it was
a very special special summer you can see other videos on the channel about
it but long story short I was surprised number one and how functional I was
and number two I realized why I had had to go through all of those things
the military. I remember a moment when I was standing on a hill overlooking the
city of Pyeongtaek in Korea and I remember looking up and telling God
you’re going to have to be exceptionally Calvinist, I told him, because
I can’t believe in you so you’re going to have to have chosen me to believe
in you because otherwise this isn’t happening. That was it was one of the
lowest points in my whole life, lower than when I had seen my… I have had
multiple little siblings almost die. So again, compiling the medical trauma of
feeling like there’s always someone gonna die and there’s nothing I can do
about it. And I had one little brother die when I was in medical school as
well. So another reason that I think a lot of the betrayals of medicine hit
me so hard was I felt like I gave up the last years of his life to be
to provide patient care. I didn’t see him for the last few years of his life because the military
and medicine did not allow it. And that weighed very heavily on me. I wouldn’t go back and undo
what happened, but there was a period of time where I would have. There was a period of time
when I thought, why have I done this? Why have I gone into medicine if people are going to,
you know, ultimately everyone you take care of is going to die anyway at some point.
Why have I had to go through all these horrible things, and more importantly than what I’ve
had to go through, why have the people around me had to go through these things?

Why isn’t there someone better to help them?

It felt like I was fighting, losing battle.

I got an email a couple months ago, about in March, about a family in an indigenous
community called Yvapovondy, who had lost their 15-year-old sister, daughter.
She had opted to no longer live anymore, and the entire community was reeling.
Around the same time, I was informed in more depth about the deep sexual trauma and abuse
that a lot of indigenous women and children face very regularly.

A couple months before going to
Paraguay. I hit an emotional wall
when I realized my husband wouldn’t be able to come with me–
Because in February the last airline in South America.
Now I had been relying on the fact that I had survived the last year going outside
i didn’t go outside without this little girl. i needed to have an emotional support animal.
it’s actually a lie. people say that emotional support animals don’t have to be registered.
it’s actually highly untrue. in order to use it for a landlord’s permit, for example,
or in a hotel, you have to have a letter from a medical professional, and you have to have
an actual diagnosis, as i do, as i have many. i can’t have a dog or a cat because i’m highly
allergic to them, besides the fact that these guys are actually far more intelligent
and your sponsor has trained appropriately. If not trained appropriately, that is absolutely not the case.
So for the last airline, it doesn’t matter all this facts and information because the last airline
had decided they couldn’t come with me, which meant that I was choosing between being a responsible
steward of the animals in my life or living out my life long dream. I had to leave my husband
so that he could take care of them so that we could be responsible because we
aren’t going to be trash pet owners and just abandon a highly intelligent animal
who I don’t know if you can see from me being away in the summer actually she
had started plucking again they become very anxious when they’re abandoned we
had improved her plucking significantly thank you are we playing we had
improved her plucking and she was quite happy but then over the summer
she started looking again while I’ve been away.

Imagine how much worse it would be
if both me and my husband had been away.
So I was terrified of this plane situation.
I knew I was gonna be in intense physical pain
and I knew I was gonna be by myself
and that my husband couldn’t come with me.
And it kinda seemed like the last straw
after years of getting kicked in the butt
like nothing is ever gonna go right. I just cried the entire day because it was like
such a small thing it’s like just a small thing please just let me have the
comfort of my little birds please just a tiny tiny thing. I wasn’t even allowed to have that.
But when I got this email about this family that had lost their daughter
their sister suddenly everything became so clear and I knew exactly what I
to do and why I did to do it. I’m very happy to report that over the course of
the summer we have been able to change the mother from not sleeping, not
eating, and being in a place where her family was worried about her life, to
now being again the female leader of her tribe, smiling, living her life,
and sleeping and eating. She herself reports that the change has been super dramatic.
And it’s because of everything I went through in the military that I have been able to collect evidence-based materials.
So for that kind of change to happen was kind of astonishing and very special.
All of, a lot of the other members of the family were able to come and get evidence-based
tools that I had been given both as a patient and as a provider because of the terrible
things that I’ve seen over the years, and because I’ve had so much experience helping
people who’ve been through horrible situations, and because I had been helped to crawl out
a horrific situation myself, I was able to come from a place of genuineness.
I started cleaning trash that was lying around the community the first day I got there.
And then the next time, I brought my ultrasound machine and showed a woman her baby.
And then, little by little, I happen to mention my brother’s death to one of the sisters.
I happen to mention my experience with also wanting to unalive myself, and my experience
with my practice attempt as well.

And as I mention those things, little by little, we began to have an opportunity
to dig into these things.

They did the work. They sat down and did the trauma healing together.
But without the evidence based tools, that mother would still think that she is responsible for her child’s death.
Being able to explain, this is a disease. Here are how the neurochemicals work.
Someone had told me, oh, indigenous people aren’t educated. They don’t need to know the names of chemicals and so forth.
but they did want to know. The father asked me the name of the chemicals by shajeraco-químico he
said because they want to know what chemicals are making their lives difficult and what chemicals
killed their daughters. Explaining the biological mechanisms made an enormous difference in them
being able to understand what’s happening to them and because i’ve gone through it
which i wouldn’t have been able to do any of this if i hadn’t gone through this myself.
I was also able to start creating a children’s abuse prevention program in a
different community and to begin identifying at-risk young girls for
mentorship and trying to reach out to their parents about getting them school
opportunities. This started with an exercise class that then turned into
a how-do-you-as-a-child-tell-an-adult-if-something-is-happening-to-you kind of class.
I’ll tell you another story about that later at another junction, but I just wanted to
tell you this story to encourage you that no matter what you may be going through,
even if it’s truly horrible and it’s the kind of thing that no simple plain cliches
can help you with. You never know what is the purpose outside of it. You never know what is
at the end of your story. So don’t end it prematurely because the end of your story may be absolutely
beautiful and you don’t want to waste your suffering. You want all the suffering to add up
to something. So how did I almost die in South America? During one of my visits, a particularly
important visit where we were really getting down to brass tacks
someone offered me the Paraguayan friendship drink day to day and
I
Drank it and it’s a shared drink that you share around and then the next day I started having this tummy pain
Oh, no, I really hope I didn’t catch like a parasite in the indigenous community
I had not caught a parasite in the indigenous community
My pain started really gradually it became much worse
And then I became really confused and uncertain because I often have random times of pain like that
Because of my fibromyalgia, so I thought well, maybe it’s just something related to that
I tried to ultrasound myself that didn’t give me very much information
I was in pain and having a little bit of difficulty even, you know
Being a human that function, right? So
that was uh that was not happening so much so i was taken to an emergency room because i found
myself in my room screaming and i realized this is not particularly normal and i just want this to
end regardless of what this is whether it is my fibromyalgia and god i hope it’s not my
fibromyalgia because i don’t want this to ever happen again and i remember in the hospital the
first doctor who evaluated me of course assumed it was related to the fibromyalgia
because the physical exam was so difficult because it couldn’t even touch
my wrist without me like cringing in pain because everything hurt so he
thought probably have a viral gastroenteritis with fibromyalgia and I
was like well I did come in for your opinion I will say though I’ve never
had a gastroenteritis like this so I stayed there for a little while and my
who was with me was like, it’s good if it’s not something bad. I’m thinking in my head, man, if
it’s not something bad, that’s a little concerning because I don’t want this ever to happen to me
again. That’s incredibly painful. It’s almost a worst if it’s not something bad because that
means it’s likely to happen again. Oh no, I don’t want this ever again. Whereas if it’s
something bad, it’s not so likely to happen again. These were the thoughts that were going
through my head as I was lying there in bed receiving intravenous fluids. Surgeon came in,
checked me and was like, this is appendicitis. I’m about to get appendix surgery y’all.
They operated, it was appendicitis, and my life was therefore saved. However, it ended up being
very expensive because I was in a foreign country, so I had to pay out of pocket,
And I had also overdrawn my bank account twice that summer buying supplies for the Indigenous communities.
It is very expensive when you end up buying clothes, blankets, and food for an entire group of people.
It is also very expensive to be traveling all the time and buying rides everywhere.
It’s expensive to pay teachers to come to the Indigenous community.
Everything is expensive. It’s expensive to pay people’s medical bills.
Everything ended up being much more expensive than I had anticipated.
I am going to try and see if my American insurance will reimburse me for the costs that happened while I’m in Paraguay.
But in the meantime, if you do want to help support any of my work,
you are certainly welcome to do so. Buying my books,
watching my videos all the way through,
all of those things are relatively cheap or even free ways to help out. If you ever see any of the sponsorships or games
that I end up doing,
So I just didn’t want to let you know that if you want to doing me on my adventures
There are many ways to do so that don’t necessarily involve you handing me a check
There are a lot of other ways to help out and if you are praying person, are you complaining? Okay, you’re right
We need to go out. She’s asking me to shut up
You can go out. You want to go out?
If you are a praying person, I would definitely appreciate your prayers.
So on my adventures, the less things trying to kill me, probably the better.
That is how I survived almost dying in South America,
and that is how I hope you will survive your next adventure remembering that
The things that you’re going through have a purpose, you just have to figure out what it is.