Volunteers are compelled to make a difference for a variety of reasons. One fairly common reason is an illness or disease that has impacted your life. Sometimes this is because a friend or family member received a diagnosis or maybe even you received a diagnosis for yourself. Today’s volunteer profile is of a woman who is making a difference for others who are impacted by the same diagnosis she received.
In 2007, Kari Ulrich was diagnosed with a disease called Fibromuscular Dysplasia (FMD). At the time there was not a lot of information for patients and she found out very quickly that most doctors had very little knowledge (if any) regarding FMD.
According to ClevelandClinic.org, “FMD is an uncommon disorder characterized by abnormal cellular growth in the walls of medium and large arteries. This abnormal cellular growth may lead to a beaded appearance of the affected artery and narrowing (stenosis) in some cases. Most cases – 60 to 75 percent – occur in the renal artery, the artery leading from the abdominal aorta to the kidneys. Approximately 30 percent of cases involve the carotid arteries, the arteries in the neck that connect the heart and the brain. FMD also can affect the arteries to the legs or, less frequently, arteries in other parts of the body. In many cases, there is FMD found in multiple arteries of the body.”
Since her diagnosis, Ulrich has helped others impacted by this disease. She helped a young girl named Ashleigh Botha from South Africa who had a very progressive form FMD get the help for her disease at Cleveland Clinic. Ashleigh was only 16 at the time. Ulrich states “I found her love of life inspiring.”
Last year Ulrich met Jennifer Moreen, who at 39 had a heart attack from undiagnosed FMD, once again she inspired by her positive attitude with what she had faced at such a young age. Ulrich continues, “Jennifer also lives in Minnesota, so I asked Jennifer if she would like to start a support group with me. She agreed and we both decided along with the support group aspect of the group we wanted an educational component.” So the Midwest Women’s Vascular Advocates (MWVA) began, with their first meeting being held in April 2010.
MWVA gives support to women who have been diagnosed and their families. They offer opportunities to learn how to they can improve their quality of life through peer support and an educational component with qualified speakers from the health care community. They do not provide medical advice or medical information. Ulrich explains, “One of our main goals is to make people feel welcome and safe to share their experiences. Our feedback from our participants has been overwhelmingly positive.”
Ulrich goes on to describe the reason she volunteers, “To give is the greatest gift of all. Volunteering gives you an opportunity to change lives and I have personally found that volunteering has always given back to me double in what I have contributed.”
To learn more about Midwest Women’s Vascular Advocates, visit their website at www.mwva.org or connect with them on Facebook. You can also connect with Kari Ulrich on Twitter. You can also read Ashleigh Botha’s story at ClevelandClinic.org.