Diagnosed with congestive heart failure, 80 year old Millie's health was completely transformed by a whole food plant-based diet...and so a business was born. This is the plant-based transformation story that made co-founders Meg Donahue and Lisa Lorimer start the whole food plant-based meal delivery service.
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“Mom, I’m pregnant.”
That was not what my 80-year-old mother expected to hear from me, her 48-year-old daughter.
After the initial shock she was all-in and incredibly supportive of me. But our shared joy was short lived. A couple of months into my pregnancy mom’s health unexpectedly declined rapidly. She had congestive heart failure with less than 10% heart function and her kidneys were failing.
For the next 3-4 months she was in and out of the hospital and Intensive Care Units.
Too weak for surgeries, there was nothing more the doctors could do to help her. It was only a matter of time before her heart would fail completely.
I was 6-months pregnant and prayed she would stay alive long enough to see and hold her grandchild. It never crossed my mind, that my own health and my baby’s health were also in serious jeopardy.
"She didn’t even wince at my hugely bloated unrecognizable face."
25 weeks into my pregnancy I woke up in the middle of the night with something terribly wrong. My legs had swelled to double their size and I had trouble breathing.
I called my doctor and in minutes I was on my way to the hospital with acute preeclampsia. Edema and extremely high blood pressure are side effects of preeclampsia and I spent the next ten days closely monitored in the hospital, and gained 65 pounds in water weight.
My face was so swollen I could barely see and I was terrified I would lose my baby.
No visitors were allowed, but my mother, convinced that the chances were high that of one of us was going to die soon, said she was coming to see me. She lived two states away and could barely walk much less drive so my sister jumped in to bring her to visit me. I’ll never forget seeing her at my hospital room door.
She got out of her wheelchair and walked over to my bed, energetically like she when she was in her 40’s and firmly held my hand. She didn’t even wince at my now hugely bloated unrecognizable face.
She leaned in and told me, “You are a fighter, you are going to be ok and your baby is going to be ok.” I had no reason to believe her, but, somehow, I did.
My sister helped her back into her wheelchair and they went to the cafeteria to have a cup of tea before heading back to Maine
Shortly afterwards, my blood pressure spiked out of control. My doctor said, we can’t hold out any longer, you’re at too high of a risk and they wheeled me into surgery.
At barely 26 weeks pregnant, I gave birth by cesarean to a perfect, albeit tiny, 1lb. 10 oz. baby girl.
Meanwhile mom, was still at the hospital and in the rush and stress of the emergency birth of Annie and the relief of us both being alive, mom collapsed and was admitted into the hospital herself.
What a trio! We were all a mess, and on three different floors in the hospital.
My daughter was in an isolette in the NICU, me recovering from additional post pregnancy complications and my mom in and out of Cardiac ICU with a worsening heart condition.
For three months when we weren't in the hospital we stayed in a hotel near the hospital, because Annie needed to stay in the NICU.
Eventually, after a roller coaster ride and mountains of procedures and transfusions she was strong enough to come home.
Mom however was clearly too sick to be alone or go back to her home in Maine.
So, while we stayed at the hotel near Dartmouth Hospital, friends helped renovate an apartment in our garage.
Rather than send her back to Maine and hospice care, we brought mom home to live with us, for what we thought were the last months of her life.
Over a short period of time, she wasn’t able to get out of bed, so we did our best to make her comfortable.
The happiest time in my life, the birth of my daughter, now also carried immense grief. My mom, was dying.
It didn’t make sense. She had lived a good life: she ate well, we thought, and had a wonderful marriage to her high school sweetheart (my dad died of Alzheimer's two years prior) and five kids and grandchildren.
I wasn’t ready to give up on her being able to hold and spend time with her new grandchild.
Late one night, probably delirious from lack of sleep, I Googled, how to survive heart failure and came across a book Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn.
He recommended eating a whole food plant-based diet to reverse heart disease.
I had no idea what a whole food plant-based diet meant (I ate a pretty standard, meat, dairy, occasional fast -food and weekly pizza diet!) but we didn’t have any medical options for mom and I was willing to try anything.
My partner and I immersed ourselves in everything plant-based -- recipes, books, documentaries and I started feeding Mom, tiny plant-based smoothies and soups.
Every day for every meal we fed her whole food plant-based foods.
After a couple of months her health improved slightly and she was able to get up and walk around her little apartment, and with help, hold her new granddaughter.
After 6 months, she walked up and down the driveway. After a year, she started driving again, and joined the local pool.
Her heart function improved dramatically. With every visit to her cardiologist, her numbers kept getting better! Something miraculous was happening.
But cooking and chopping and sourcing high quality ingredients every day was time consuming. I loved the health benefits but didn’t love the hours of work.
I searched for a company that made high quality whole food plant-based ready-made meals with a familiar taste profile. I couldn’t find one.
Something unexpected happened as well. At 52-years-old I awakened to the understanding of the massive negative impact the American diet and food supply is having on peoples health,the health of the planet and the well being of animals.
My mind was on fire to find a way to spread the word and get good food to people.
I knew that if people could only experience how amazing it feels to simply regularly eat more plants, they would shift their diet. I was wrong about that...
People love the changes but they are busy, and it’s hard to sift through the mountains of information to know what is actually good food.
Having convenient excellent quality great tasting food readily available is the missing link for many people.
Going with the theory that change is easier when it’s not hard to do, we came up MamaSezz, delivering hearty, ready-made familiar products that taste great, flood your body with nutrients, and packaged them so they are ready to just heat and eat. Easier then popping a pizza in the oven.
I’m 57 now. My kiddos are still young and I wonder what the future holds for them.
I fear sometimes that the damage to our planet and social structures is irreversible, that the tide has turned too far.
But then I hear from our customers everyday how their lives have changed. Regular people, from truck drivers, loggers, nurses to ministers who heard our story and decided maybe eating differently could help them too.
Thanks for reading, and for being a part of the MamaSezz community!
She’s still swimming 3 to 4 times a week, plays cards with her friends, still lives with me, still plant-based and still sees her Granddaughter every day.
Life is good.
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