In December of 2013, I was diagnosed with Very Severe Aplastic Anemia. I was just 19 years old at the time. What confuses me even to this day is that I had been healthy and active before this diagnosis. As a college student, I was very busy, but I also tried to eat healthily and went to the gym frequently. Subconsciously, I felt invincible.
It happened all at once and out of nowhere. One week I was enjoying my winter break, and the next week I was fighting for my life in the ICU, battling Pneumonia and the swine flu with an almost non-existent immune system.
My life completely flipped. I had never really been sick before – I couldn’t even remember the last time I had the flu. Suddenly, I had a rare illness. I became a patient in a large hospital. My hematologist explained to me that I needed a bone marrow transplant and discussed treatment options like chemotherapy and other medications.
Honestly, it took me a while to understand the severity of my condition. I was oblivious and hopeful. I remember daydreaming in the hospital, fully convinced that I would be all better within a couple of weeks and back to my normal life. But I soon realized that wasn’t the case.
After 1 month in the hospital, I went home to continue my recovery. Every day involved a ridiculous amount of medications. Twice a week, I visited the hospital for check-up appointments, as well as blood transfusions to keep my body going until it could produce enough blood on its own.
One of the hardest parts was abandoning all the things I had done before my diagnosis. I took a medical leave from school, my internship, and pretty much gave up everything else. Going anywhere left me at a high risk of infection because of my weak immune system. I spent most of my time at home or at the hospital. One-hundred percent of my focus went to my health.
I missed my normal life.
It even transformed the lives of the people around me. My mom quit her job so that she could take care of me, and my family did everything they could to make sure I stayed healthy. We were living in a different world.
As my condition slowly improved, I began going to appointments a little less frequently. But my progress became stagnant about 6 months into my treatment. So, the doctor decided that I should undergo a second round of chemotherapy to treat my condition.
Six more months passed. Not much progress. There weren’t really many options left, and I still hadn’t found a match for a bone marrow transplant. Personally, I wanted that to be the last resort. I understood the risk behind receiving a transplant, and I still had hope that my health could improve without it.
I forgot to mention that a few months after I was diagnosed, I began seeing an acupuncturist. He treated me twice a week, but mainly encouraged me to follow a certain diet. I avoided the foods that he told me to avoid while doing my medical treatments.
Anyway, the chemotherapy wasn’t really working. My medications were making me feel worse and worse as time went by. Something needed to change.
About 1.5 – 2 years after my diagnosis, I made a change. Without telling my hematologist, I actually started weaning myself off of my medications (careful to make sure it didn’t negatively affect me). Soon, I was taking almost no medication. I focused on living a healthy lifestyle, following the diet that my acupuncturist recommended, exercising, and praying that it would all work.
And it did.
Check-ups showed that I was improving at a faster rate—this wasn’t long after I had stopped taking my medications. After about 1 year of consistent improvement, I told my doctor that I had stopped taking my medications on my own. Thankfully, she was happy with the progress and told me to keep doing what I was doing.
Now, over 4 and ½ years later, things are looking great. I’ve graduated from university. I work full-time. My last appointment showed that my red blood cell count and white blood cell count are at a normal range, with my platelet count being a little low.
I’m lucky that this all happened while I’m still young. Yes, I know that sounds weird. But the fact that I was young meant my body had more strength to fight and recover. I’m sincerely thankful. No matter how difficult it has been, I live with much more gratefulness and vigor in life, and I feel ready to fight whatever comes ahead.
Meet Mohammad Rimawi, D.P.M.
1. Can you tell me about yourself and your educational background?
- My name is Mohammad Rimawi, and I am a podiatrist practicing in NYC. I earned my doctorate from the New York College of Podiatric Medicine. I was fortunate enough to serve as class president for four years and was also recognized with the Student Service Award. That award goes to the student voted by the graduating class as making the biggest impact on the field of podiatry. I was also inducted into the Pi Delta Honor Society for my achievements in research and studies.
2. Why did you decide to pursue medicine? And why podiatry specifically?
- Growing up I was very active in sports. Unfortunately, this lead to various injuries to my ankle. This then lead me to explore the world of medicine and podiatry as a whole.
3. What are some of your past work experiences that led you into your profession?
- Before podiatry, I worked in a pet shop for over 14 years. Although this has no relation to my current work, I do believe the social encounters from my time there helped me become more engaged and attentive to my patients now.
4. What is your most favorite part of your job?
- Helping people get back on their feet. Whether it be through a routine procedure like removing an ingrown toenail, or performing a reconstructive surgery, my greatest sense of accomplishment is making patients feel better after they have seen me.
5. What is the most fulfilling experience/ interaction you have had with your patients?
- Getting patients back on their feet is always a rewarding experience. From diabetic limb salvage, treating traumatic injuries, or relieving the aches of day to day foot pain, they all provide me with a sense of accomplishment.
6. What are some of your hobbies/activities and how do they tie into your profession?
- I still participate in sports activities, mainly basketball. My profession and experiences have definitely prepared me on how to prevent injuries but also how to respond if such an event were to occur. I enjoy reading nonfiction books in my spare time as well.
7. Has there been a life-changing moment that defines who you are today?
- When I was 15, I went back to Palestine for the first time since a child. The few months there definitely shaped who I am today. I developed a greater sense of appreciation for the opportunities that I was given in the United States and strive to maximize on them daily. This appreciation fuels my work ethic in any endeavor I pursue.
8. What is a primary advice you would give to your patient?
- Prevention is always the best medicine. It’s not enough to follow doctors orders when you’re ill or in need; you must maintain a healthy and well nourished lifestyle constantly. The prevention of a disease will always be better than its cure, and this is the motto we should all abide by.
9. What are your thoughts about health?
- The health field continues to advance which is promising. However, with the rise of social media it is concerning with the amount of false information that is released to the public. I would urge the public to always visit a professional in their time of need. Social media is useful tool for information but should not be your only source.
10. What motto do you live by on a day to day basis?
- “Hard work beats
talent,when talent fails to work hard.” Everything I have accomplished up until this point, I can attribute to a strong work ethic.
Get to Know Dr. Ebonie Vincent, D.P.M. and Her Journey to Podiatry
- Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your educational background?
- I grew up in Temecula CA, and attended Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia and majored in Biology. I knew I wanted to go into the medical field, with an emphasis on sports medicine. I went to do a Master at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine in Philadelphia, PA where I earned a Masters in Biomedical Science. It was here that I discovered the field of podiatry. I spent four years at Des Moines, Iowa and did a three-year intense surgical residency training at Inspira Health Network before going into private practice. I currently work in private practice in Orange County. I see patients during clinic hours, and then perform surgeries in and around clinical hours. I generate consistent patients who may have ongoing foot problems that need care every couple of months as well as patients who have deformities or injuries that require surgical attention.
- What drew you into the field of podiatry?
- I did a lot of shadowing before embarking on the field of podiatry. I knew I wanted a surgical specialty and podiatry fit my career ambitions and lifestyle. I have had personal experience with the field of surgery was when I had two torn Acls, and that was my official introduction to the orthopedic side. Although I found podiatry much later in life, I found this field fit my passion. Podiatrists make people happy, and that reflected my personality and everything I wanted to give back in my career. The surgical aspect was also very appealing.
- Who or what is the greatest influence in your life?
- My family as a whole has been extremely influential. I come from a family of educators that geared me in the right direction. They knew that it was important that my personality fits my career choice. As a result, my drive and passion come from family knowledge and support.
- What is your most favorite part of the job?
- I like making sure I do everything I can to help a patient feel better and progress in their lives.
- What are your additional hobbies?
- I like to exercise and eat healthily; that ties into my passion for preventive healthcare and allows me to set a good example for my patients. Besides that, I love watching Broadway musicals.
- What has been one of the most life-changing moments for you?
- My dad had ruptured his Achilles tendon and had surgery. He flew on a plane just a week or so after to see me graduate from college and developed a blood clot! This was extremely life-threatening, and It is definitely something that has shaped the way I treat my patients. I give my patients as much information as possible and that speaks more so to my philosophy of preventative care. I would rather catch a health problem before operating on a patient because surgeries can be mentally and physically demanding.
- What is some advice you would give to a patient as they embark on their health journey?
- Be mindful of your health and do not mask pain, because pain is a great indicator. Pain is what lets doctors know where they can treat their patients.
- What are your thoughts about healthcare?
- I think that we would spend a lot less money on healthcare if we chose to focus on and emphasize preventive care. Often times preventative measures are difficult to get covered, so I try to embody mindfulness and make lifestyle factors a priority. I also let my patients know what the best treatment options are. This is why it is great to have a patient and doctor relationship. Us physicians need to work to tailor your individual needs.
- What motto do you live by on a day to day basis?
- Just do your best all the time, whether you are a student, patient, doctor or other professional. What matters is that you give everything your 100% effort.
Here is a link to contact Dr. Vincent for any inquiries:
Meet Jody Margolis M.S., R.D.
Jody Margolis is a registered dietician at the University of California, Irvine who is passionate about health, wellness, and food. She has been working in the field of nutrition for over 20 years and strives to educate college students on weight management, wellness, nutrition, and meal prep techniques. Here is the interview that Margolis did with Word of Health in which she discusses her profession, influences, and beliefs about the field of nutrition.
- Can you tell me a little about yourself and why you are interested in the field of nutrition?
- I was a biology major at UC San Diego on the pre-med track. I took a nutrition course in the biology department and fell in love with that subject. I decided to investigate the field of nutrition and shadowed a registered dietician. After UCSD, I went on to get my Master’s Degree in Human Nutrition and Metabolism. Growing up I was a dancer; I was always conscientious of what I put into my body. Healthy eating and general wellness was always important to me, and learning how nutrition impacts so much of our physical and mental health made nutrition a match. I knew I wanted to be a healthcare provider, but nutrition is what really aligned with my passions.
- What are your past work experiences and how did you get into dietetics?
- I went to Boston University to get my graduate degree and did my internship that is required to be a dietician. I then worked on the clinical side in a hospital, and I loved being in that hospital setting. When I moved back to California, I moved to outpatient community setting, and I worked as a specialist in HIV medicine for 8 to 10 years. At the time, the AIDS epidemic was really bad, and doctors had not discovered medications that are as effective as they are today. I worked in side-effect management, as these medications caused a lot of gastrointestinal side effects. A lot of people had wasting syndrome and lost quite a bit of muscle mass and body fat. I helped provide education on basic food safety and the importance of food nutrition throughout the HIV disease process. I then decided to make a change and moved over to treat childhood obesity and received a certificate in Childhood and Adolescent Weight Management. I then transitioned into adult weight management and now I am in collegiate health.
- What is your greatest professional achievement?
- I have received a Prevention Award from the Irvine Prevention Coalition and last year I was interviewed in OC Parents Magazine. The highlight for me was to spread the message of the importance of a healthy, balanced diet to kids and their families. This is the community I live and work in, and to know that I have an impact within that community is rewarding.
- What or who is the greatest influence in your life?
- My parents always taught me the importance of eating together as a family and preparing fresh homemade food. At the same time, however, I saw people in my life who mattered struggle with being overweight and dealing with heart disease. I always wanted to help them and understand why some people struggle with their weight more than others and their relationship with food.
- What is your most and least favorite thing about your job?
- My favorite thing about my job is being able to connect with people and feel like you have helped them to learn about their relationship with food and how they can improve their eating habits to make them feel better. The biggest challenge is that sometimes you can put tools in someone’s toolbox and they are just not quite ready to use them. I can educate and motivate them but sometimes they are just not in a place of readiness to make the change. And sometimes that is okay. In college, students are alone and learning how to be independent. I want to be an ear to listen to them, and help them with adulthood through cooking and meal-prepping skills. I also educate students about stress eating and disordered eating. I also give them a safe space to talk about depression and anxiety and how it may be affecting their diet and refer them to a therapist. Being that listening ear to students is extremely rewarding.
- What is your favorite go-to recipe to share with students?
- I try to teach students how to make different Chipotle-like bowls at home. It can be the Mexican style bowl, but it can also adapt to different cuisines. For example, you could swap out the beans and Mexican vegetables for tomatoes, cucumber, and hummus to make a Mediterranean style bowl. Or you can do an Asian Buddha bowl and add tofu, edamame, and other spices. It is really about finding where students spend a lot of time and money—at Panda Express and Chipotle. You can make that cheaper and healthier at home. You can change the flavor through the seasoning but keep the key elements the same with meat, legume, grain, and vegetable.
- What are your thoughts about health policies regarding nutrition?
- The US lags behind Europe in specific policies, especially through marketing unhealthy food to children in commercials. We think about Happy Meals or things with high sugars in breakfast cereals. Europe has been much stricter in marketing things that are unhealthy. We have a long way to go in constructing policies to prevent the obesity epidemic. It is a free society and people want to have choices, but at the same time, our nation has an obesity epidemic, so we need more public health policies to support nutritional health.
- What are some misconceptions that patients may have about nutrition/diet in general?
- It is so important to know that nutrition is evidence-based. Many people get misinformation from the internet, and getting information from a website that is full of testimonials but not backed by science can be harmful and can lead to following fad diets, disordered eating, etc. I try to teach students where to get the right information. At the same time, I make sure I stay up to date on the latest developments in my field via conferences, webinars, scientific journals, etc.
- Coconut water and gluten-free products are things that I have seen rise in popularity. For the most part, I remind people that food companies are in business to make money and it is important to be an educated consumer. I also worry about fad diets on the internet, which are not scientifically backed.
- What are your thoughts on nutrition and wellness?
- Being a more mindful eater is extremely important in terms of thinking about how sustainable a food product is and how it impacts the environment. We can make changes for ourselves, but that can create a ripple effect when that change is made by others.
- What are some of your additional hobbies and how does that connect to your profession?
- I love to travel, and I have traveled to 5 of the 7 continents. I also love to hike and do yoga. Connecting to nature is how I connect my hobbies to my passion for nutrition, and I think that shows through my cooking, as I try to focus more on plant-based food. With traveling, you learn from new cultures. It exposes you to the differences and similarities in humanity. For so many people, food is a celebration, culture, and traditions. The food might vary, but we all like to honor different moments of our lives in similar ways. It makes you realize that we are not all that different from one another.
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