Former foster youth, Kawanzza Byrd, is gaining culinary skills and tips on healthy eating through a youth program called GROW Oakland. (Ryder Diaz/KQED)
Editor’s Note: Project GROW Oakland trains young people to become chefs — to build job skills and healthy eating habits. Some youth are on probation; while others are — or were — in the foster care system. As part of our ongoing series of first-person health profiles called “What’s Your Story?” 19-year-old Kawanzza Byrd, a former foster youth, says the program has changed the way she eats.
By: Kawanzza Byrd
When you’re in foster care, you really have no control over what you eat. With my partner when she was in foster care, they ate a lot of fast food. Every night. The foster mom, she didn’t cook: She just bought pizza. She bought hot pockets. Continue reading
Kaitlyn Pintor visits with horses at Hoof Beats riding school in Petaluma. For the past decade, a nerve disorder has made it painful for her to experience touch. (Ryder Diaz/KQED)
Editor’s Note: As part of our ongoing series of first-person health profiles called “What’s Your Story?” we hear from Kaitlyn Pintor, whose nerve disorder causes pain so severe that she’s often felt like her body has been set on fire. When the pain started nearly a decade ago, Pintor was a single mother of two. She still found time to organize support groups for people who share her chronic pain disorder. Now, a new medication has made her chronic pain more manageable. Pintor speaks to us from HoofBeats riding school in Sonoma County, where she goes for horse therapy. Reporter: Ryder Diaz.
By Kaitlyn Pintor
In 2004, I was diagnosed with Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy after an ankle sprain. I had burning pain that ended up spreading throughout my body, from head to toe.
It literally feels like you’ve been set on fire and you can’t turn the fire down. Just water brushing over my skin would cause intense flame.
The normal comforts don’t comfort you. You can’t wrap yourself in a blanket. You can’t go soak in the sun. Sounds bother you. Or the laughter of your children may turn your pain up. Continue reading
Juana Gomez (right) is a traditional Mixteca healer from Mexico. She lives with her daughter, Johanna Gomez (left), in Madera, Calif. and provides health care to many farm workers. (Sasha Khokha/KQED)
Editor’s Note: Some recent immigrants avoid visits to western doctors. Instead, they call on traditional healers who speak their language, use familiar medicinal plants, and share their cultures. As part of our ongoing series of first-person health profiles called “What’s Your Story?” we hear from Juana Gomez, a Mixteca traditional healer from Oaxaca, Mexico. Gomez now lives in Madera, in California’s Central Valley, where many of her patients are undocumented farm workers. Her daughter, Johanna Gomez, translates her story. Reporter: Sasha Khokha
By Juana Gomez
We have the purple basil and we have the green basil. The basil is a very, very sacred plant from my ancestors.
It’s very important to know the classification of each plant because even though they are plants and they are natural and they have healing powers, they work just as medicine and you have to be really careful with them.
My mom says that the most she sees here are males that work on the fields. She says that it is very common for them to come because it’s a combination of not being able to have a restroom close enough, it’s a combination of the heat, the long hours that they’re sitting, the vibration of the tractors. So, there are many, many factors.
Most of the people that come do have physical illness, but many times they are not sick with the physical illness. They are more sick of a spiritual need because of the sadness of leaving their people behind. Maybe they left their wife and their kids over in their native countries. Continue reading
Andrew Jolivette wants to start a family but because he is HIV-positive, he is having a hard time finding a place that will help him donate sperm to his friend. (Ryder Diaz/KQED)
Editor’s note: Andrew Jolivette was diagnosed with AIDS eleven years ago. Back then, he didn’t think he could ever have a family, since it was illegal for HIV-positive men to donate sperm. California reversed that law in 2007. Now, Jolivette hopes to start a family with a friend. As part of our ongoing series of first-person health profiles called “What’s Your Story?” Jolivette tells us how some medical facilities still can’t handle this kind of situation.
By Andrew Jolivette
You know, my mother passed away about a year ago and I think that that also, in all honesty, has had some impact on me saying: Well gosh, she was such a great mom and all these things she taught me, I want to be able to share that with someone, too.
Quite frankly, because [my viral load is] undetectable and there are measures they can take like sperm washing and the potential mother, can take anti-retrovirals beforehand to ensure that she nor the child will be infected, then why not? Continue reading
Fred Smith lives in his RV in Palo Alto. (Ryder Diaz/KQED)
Editor’s note: On Sept. 19, Palo Alto joins many other cities in Silicon Valley in preventing people from legally living in their vehicles. As part of our ongoing series of first-person health profiles called “What’s Your Story?” 69-year-old Fred Smith talks about living in his RV after being a software engineer in Silicon Valley for nearly thirty years. Smith gives us a tour of his home.
By Fred Smith
It’s an ’85 Winnebago, Chieftain. And there’s clothes and books, and those are pictures of my wife.
We’re in the bedroom right now and it’s a decent sized queen bed, I guess you’d call it. Actually, it’s a better bed than a lot of people have.
Back in 2003, I was doing well, getting $145,000 a year. Then I got caught in the tail end of the dot-com crash and never recovered from that. Unemployment had ran out and I realized that I couldn’t afford to keep the apartment I had. Actually, I ended up living in my car with my cat for a couple weeks here in the alley behind Happy Donuts. You know, you got these seats that fold down, and you’re half in the trunk and half in the back seat. Continue reading
Editor’s Note: Many Americans seek prescription medication to manage stress, anxiety and depression. But for some, the pills become a problem in their own right. As part of our first-person series “What’s Your Story?” Sabirah Mustafa of Oakland Voices tells how she and her doctor came up with another approach.
By Sabirah Mustafa
When Sabirah Mustafa was suffering from depression, she found that medication wasn’t the best prescription for her. (Shuka Kalantari/KQED)
I used to wish for a magic pill that would enable me to swallow away my problems, so I could successfully navigate my unfulfilled life. But when I found it, it wasn’t in any pharmacy. For many years I suffered from trauma and abuse, but I saw them as symptoms of a soul struggling to find answers in a question complicated life.
I wasn’t necessarily searching for easy solutions, just a way to cope with it all. When my doctor became aware of the overwhelming helplessness and sadness I felt, he prescribed medication he thought would help. But the debilitating side-effects were terrible. My environment appeared apart and distant from me. My mind and body felt out of sync with how I moved and spoke, which made me feel awkward and self-conscious. Joy, anger, sympathy and other emotions non-medicated people experience routinely were lost to me. I began to doubt not just the meds’ function, but also their purpose. When I complained about their side effects, my medications were adjusted, but the adjustments would transform one problem into another.
Roller coaster treatment finally reached a conclusion one day, when I saw my primary physician for chest pain and difficulty breathing. “Let’s talk,” he said.