Why I’m So Vocal-- A View into My Mental Recovery

I had a message come in last week from one of our supporters through social media that made me pause. The question was, “What motivates you to get through the day?” It was a well-intentioned question meant to elicit answers that could be replicated by someone who, like me, had suffered due to gun violence.

I paused. I got out of my head and removed myself from my growing “to-do” list to really process what I had read. Someone somewhere is in pain and through my social media presence, believes I am doing well enough to provide tips on how to get well too.

Wow, I thought. My zeal to save lives has painted an inaccurate picture of my recovery process. And even just the thought of that message causing someone else pain as they compare their journey to mine deeply saddens me.

For those of you that are struggling with trauma, please remember to not compare your journey to others and to treat yourself kindly. We all experienced different traumas. We all process our experiences differently. Our support systems could be very different. Access to therapy and medication, if necessary, may vary greatly amongst us. Daily demands and responsibilities can also vary, having a direct impact on the amount of time for self-care.

I still struggle mentally with what happened to me. Every newly announced mass shooting sends me into a temporary tailspin. I never enter buildings without briefly building a mental map for escaping quickly. I don’t sit with my back to the door. I refuse to walk around while on my phone. School shooting details burrow a hole so deep into my brain that nightmare-free sleep evades me.

It is not easy. It isn’t ideal. Anxiety is something I struggled with prior to the shooting and it has not gotten better since. However, even through all of that, I feel I have taken some steps that are worthy of sharing. Even some of them that can be replicated.

1.    Start talking about what happened to you with those you trust. I remember telling my boss every detail I could remember from the shooting the evening of 9/6. I’m sure he could have gone without the story but it was instinctual to start sharing. Eight months later, I’m still sharing. I’ve had conversations with other gun violence survivors who regret their decision to stay tight-lipped for too long.

2.    Know your triggers and avoid them. The closer a shooting is to me, via proximity or circumstance, reading every article and detail sends me into that tailspin I mentioned earlier. I’ve gotten a bit better about recognizing this behavior and trying to stop it.

3.    Find something that is successful in distracting you. For me, that is Whitney/Strong. If I’m being honest with you, I must admit that working on gun violence prevention is as much selfish as is it is selfless. I don’t want anyone I love to go through this pain. I don’t want those I don’t know to go through this pain. It’s a horrifying thought. And it’s quite logical (to me) that my best offense against that is launching a non-profit to lead the charge. It works really well for me and I wish you luck in finding your own distraction.

4.    Focus on gratitude. Everyone has their own gratitude bucket. Mine is huge! I survived 12 bullets, why shouldn’t it be? I had only one request from that day and it was filled! I got to return home and be a mother and wife. Find something to go back to over and over that reminds you of what is good in this life.

5.    Last and most important, seek out therapy. I see a psychiatrist regularly and she is invaluable to me. Whether it is a psychiatrist or a therapist, find someone to give you professional guidance on how to approach your trauma. And if you don’t like your therapist, find a new one. The process to identify the right therapist can be daunting but it is worth the work. I’ve had several before landing on the right one.

If you need therapy and cannot afford it, there is a sister organization that may be able to help. Moms Demand Action, (or Everytown) with a partnership with GiveanHour.org, offers no fee mental health services to every survivor member. Here is the link to learn more about their network of survivors and how you can join:  https://everytown.org/survivors/.

In addition, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number is 1-800-273-8255.

This Lifeline is a United States-based suicide prevention network of 161 crisis centers that provides a 24/7, toll-free hotline available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.

To conclude, W/S is focused on meeting mental illness with kindness. Mentally ill or not, we need to do everything we can to remove the stigma attached to therapy and find a way for easier access to care.

I hope anyone struggling finds some assistance in what I’ve shared today. I’m here to help in any way that I can.

Sincerely,

Whitney

 

How Extreme Risk Protection Orders Could Save Lives

I’m a big fan of the second amendment. I own firearms and I try to be responsible in my ownership, but at the same time, every right has limits. – Judiciary Committee Chairman, Lindsay Graham

Chairman Graham is correct. Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs) are an extreme solution to extreme times. What is happening in our country is easy to dismiss, especially if you or those you love have not been impacted. Many would lead you to believe that there is only one way to fight this battle – with solutions that put law-abiding firearm owners closer and closer to dissolving their Second Amendment rights.

This is not true. We can save lives and still protect the Second Amendment. Please see my blogpost, Why Should You Support Red Flag Law?, to learn more about this law. And for those of you that have not experienced gun violence first hand, let me share a few stories – stories that could have potentially ended differently with ERPO.

Kirsten Russell is a firearm owner living in Louisville KY. In April of 2018, Kirsten lost her mother, Ruth Perkins, to gun violence. From Kirsten:

Without question, ERPO could have saved my mother’s life. My brother, who had become mentally ill in recent years, took her life in April 2018. Our family had tried countless times to help him, going as far as requesting mental inquests, but judges didn’t believe he met the requirements. On paper he appeared normal but to those of us who knew him best, we were concerned. His erratic behavior, extreme paranoia, and easy access to firearms were a terrifying combination – a combination that led to this horrific tragedy.

My family’s tragedy could have been prevented if we had been able to petition for the removal of his firearms.

Larry Newcomer is a firearm owner living in Mainville, OH. In September of 2018, Larry lost his brother, Richard Newcomer, to gun violence at the hands of an active shooter at the Fifth Third Center in Cincinnati, OH. The shooter’s alleged struggles with mental illness are well documented, citing evidence that his mother and sister requested a mental inquest in 2007 in Broward County, FL. There were signs and, potentially, family or law enforcement could have intervened if ERPOs were available in the state of OH. From Larry:

I firmly believe that ERPO tools enforced in States and incorporated in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) would prevent many future suicides, homicides and mass shootings. Many of the tragedies in our headlines involved individuals with documented evidence and/or very credible witness testimony that the shooters were a danger to themselves, family members, or the public. ERPO has support among government leaders, elected officials, law enforcement, and even the general population as long as such laws allow appropriate due process and protection against frivolous claims. That is very achievable.

This is not about infringing on Second Amendment rights. It’s about protecting our entire population and all our rights to tranquility, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…rights that, without any due process, were taken away from all the victims and their families by the perpetrators of the Cincinnati mass shooting, the Parkland School shooting, the Thousand Oaks mass shooting, and countless others.

Brian Sarver is a firearm owner living in Cincinnati, OH. In September of 2018, Brian was shot by an active shooter at the Fifth Third Center in Cincinnati, OH. As a result, Brian lost his spleen and will continue to feel the effects of the injury for years to come. From Brian:

As an owner of several firearms, I continue to be thankful for my Second Amendment right to bear arms, and appreciate the fact that many other responsible gun owners have that same right. However, as I was recently a victim of a violent shooting by someone who was likely mentally ill, I can support ERPOs. These orders would provide an option for family members or law enforcement to petition the court to remove firearms from mentally ill people before any kind of violent event could occur. To me, the key considerations for success would include due process protections for the respondent balanced with protecting the general public when, in fact, there is clear evidence of extreme risk.

As mental illness continues to be a big part of gun violence in this country, we need to consider new solutions to the problem while ensuring we remain true to the rights of responsible gun owners. I pray these horrific events do not continue, but if we don’t work toward a ‘common ground solution’, I fear we will continue to see these types of shootings more and more often.

My drive to bring ERPO to KY and OH is intense. It comes from deep within me and is part of a promise I made to myself on September 6th. I prayed I would find the strength to use all skills bestowed upon me to approach this issue in the most strategic and effective way, all in an effort to save lives.

I’d like to close this blogpost with transparency. We have a lot of work to do to make ERPO to happen in the states of KY and OH. With assistance from Morgan McGarvey (KY D – State Senator), an ERPO bill was submitted into the KY legislature in February 2018. Unfortunately, the bill did not gain the legislature’s attention until too late in the session to be taken seriously.

So, what comes next? With the help of Kirsten, Larry, Brian, and the full Whitney/Strong team, we will continue to meet with legislators, mayors, governors, and like-minded organizations to assist with our goal. For KY, this is a 2020 goal. For OH, the timeline is still being defined.

If you believe in this as our final solution for Whitney/Strong, please provide financial support by clicking here.  

Enforce the Laws that Exist

When I first began digging into solutions to our country’s challenge with keeping guns away from those who shouldn’t have access to them, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) database and the phrase “prohibited persons” meant absolutely nothing to me. But the more I began to dig, the more I began to realize the deficiencies interwoven within the systems that exist to keep guns away from individuals prohibited from owning firearms. To begin, let’s be sure we are all speaking the same language and using the same terms.

NICS is a national system that is intended to identify people prohibited under federal law from purchasing firearms from a licensed dealer.

There are many categories of prohibited persons. I’ll name a few to give you a sense:

  • A person who has been convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year or any state offense classified as a misdemeanor and punishable by a term of imprisonment of more than two years

  • An unlawful user and/or addict of any controlled substance

  • A person adjudicated mentally defective or involuntarily committed to a mental institution or incompetent to handle his/her own affairs

To keep it simple, this system and the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act that mandated use of the system, was created to keep dangerous people and potentially dangerous people away from guns, i.e. violent criminals, domestic abusers, those who are persistently and severely mentally ill, etc. And while NICS sounds good on paper, it isn’t being enforced across the country.

According to the Miami Herald in 2018, only one of the 67 counties in Florida was complying with the federal law specific to the category for adjudicated mentally defective or involuntary commitment. In a 2016 report to Congress, the FBI said many states remain confused about how to report mental health records. Even Congress understands the enforcement problem, enacting the Fix NICS Act in 2018 that required federal agencies to report correctly and encouraged states to follow suit – work that will take years to complete.

Why do I care about this? I want the system to work. Whether it is to prevent the next mass shooting or suicide, NICS can effectively prevent prohibited persons from purchasing firearms through licensed dealers and ultimately, save lives. In two very memorable examples, the system failed and a number of innocent lives were lost: Sutherland Springs and Charleston.

Now, how does Whitney/Strong participate in solving this problem? To start, we will begin by investigating the September 6th shooting which left innocent people dead and me, severely wounded. Information regarding the shooter’s alleged struggles with severe mental illness is abundant, even one article shared that his mother and sister argued before Palm Beach County judges that he was violent and mentally ill.

If we determine that the shooter was a prohibited person who should not have been able to purchase the 9mm semiautomatic handgun on Aug. 2, 2018, we will use every tool available to us, up to and including litigation, to shine a light on this major breakdown and others like it. While September 6th may not be the perfect example of a NICS breakdown, we will find them and we will bring attention to them in a way no one has done before.

We can do better. We must do better. Our goal is simple – let’s use our platform to remind federal, state and local governments to enforce the laws that exist.

If this solution is important to you, please show support financially by donating here:  https://www.whitneystrong.org/donate

Important sidebar: A 2018 Pew Research Center study revealed that 89% of Republicans and 89% of Democrats agree on preventing people with mental illness from buying guns. It is wonderful that such consensus exists – it’s one of the reasons we landed on this solution. However, please remember that mental illness alone, is not the sole predictor of future violent behavior. In fact, mentally ill individuals are 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than the general population.

We will always encourage our followers to meet mental illness with kindness.

Whitney/Strong Prioritizing a Reduction in Suicide Gun Deaths

Our mission statement is quite simple-- Realize fewer lives lost to gun violence by advocating for and executing responsible gun ownership. If you are serious about reducing gun deaths, you have to get serious about suicide prevention as suicides account for more than half of our country’s gun deaths.

Did you know that firearm suicide rates are at a twenty-year high? From 10.5 deaths per 100,000 in 1994 to 13 per 100,000 in 2014 according to the CDC.

Or that firearms are the most lethal method by which people attempt suicide? 85% of suicide attempts with a firearm end in death. *

Or that suicidal deliberation occurs in 1 hour or less 71% of the time? Suicidal deliberation is the amount of time that passes between the time someone decides to complete suicide and when they actually attempt suicide. *

Or that nine out of ten people who attempt suicide and survive will not go on to die by suicide later?

* https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/means-matter/

All of this is to say that when it comes to suicide reduction- means matters. Harvard Public School of Health studies indicate that when lethal means are made less available or less deadly, suicide by that method declines.

Early on, our team became interested in two suicide prevention programs that originated out of New Hampshire: The Gun Shop Project and Counseling Against Lethal Means (CALM).

The first – Gun Shop Project – has a compelling backstory that is worth sharing.

In 2009, three different people purchased a firearm from Ralph Demicco’s gun shop, Riley’s Sport Shop in New Hampshire, and used them to commit suicide within the same five-day period. In that same year, Demicco partnered with Elaine Frank, co-chair of the New Hampshire Firearm Safety Coalition, to start the Gun Shop Project. Per Frank, the project is a campaign to prevent gun suicides and has two primary goals:

  1. “Engage gun shop owners in adding suicide prevention to the things that they screen for on a regular basis when making a sale – to try and prevent selling a gun to someone who is actively suicidal.”

  2. “Utilize gun shops as a place to educate customers on the tie in between suicide and firearms, and to try and engage them in holding on to guns when someone they are close to is at risk for suicide.”

“The common ground is that everybody – regardless of whether they’re pro-gun – virtually everybody is anti-suicide,” said Elaine Frank

Whitney/Strong will partner with Elaine and gun shop owners throughout KY and OH to promote this important program.

The second program, CALM, also originated out of New Hampshire and was developed by Elaine Frank and Mark Ciocca.

CALM training, available in-person or online, is focused on how to reduce access to the methods people use to kill themselves. It covers how to (1) identify people who could benefit from lethal means counseling, (2) ask about their access to lethal methods, and (3) work with them – and their families – to reduce access.

The training is beneficial to any provider who interacts with individuals at risk for suicide. However, Whitney/Strong will focus on implementation within the medical communities of KY and OH.

If you believe you can assist us with standing up either program, please reach out through whitneystrongorganization@gmail.com. Additionally, please show support financially by donating here: https://www.whitneystrong.org/checkout/donate?donatePageId=5ba826bae4966bf0ebf267de.

It's Finally Happening

After six months of researching, brainstorming, and meetings, we are ready to announce our three strategic priorities for the remainder of 2019 and into 2020! The stats we’ve shared in the last week are not headed in the right direction and it’s time for us to act. Please stay plugged into Whitney/Strong via social media to follow along.

We have been very purposeful in our selections. As a team of volunteers, we forced ourselves to narrow in on three highly impactful solutions that are, of course, supported by the majority.

Now, we won’t get into solutions today, but I would like to touch on our guiding principles. While our priorities and solutions may change from year to year, these five principles will remain our stagnant North Star.

Partnership: Bipartisan action is the only path to real change.

What does this mean to me? We need both sides of the aisle to effect change.

Incremental Wins: With stalemates all too common, we will not let perfect prevent good.

What does this mean to me? No one solution will solve the problem. Let’s chip away at this day-by-day, year-by-year, recognizing the value of small and smart wins.

Equality: All lives lost to gun violence are valuable.

What does this mean to me? We need to care about all communities impacted by gun violence, not just a subset.

Compassion: We will shine a light on the deficiencies of our mental health infrastructure and meet mental illness with kindness.

What does this mean to me? Gun violence is not just a mental health issue. But when mental illness does lead to gun violence, we must seek out solutions to support this community and not stigmatize it.

Information: Data sources from thorough and unbiased research will guide our decisions.

What does this mean to me? I’m a banker. I don’t get behind projects unless the numbers make sense. There is no reason to change my behavior now.

All of this boils down to the Whitney/Strong mission: Realize fewer lives lost to gun violence by advocating for and executing responsible gun ownership.

What does this mean to me? Whitney/Strong doesn’t want guns eradicated from the U.S. However, owners of firearms (many of us on the board included) must be expected to meet certain responsibility thresholds. In the same way we expect our 16 year-olds to reach certain responsibility thresholds prior to driving independently, we must expect the same for firearm owners.

I look forward to sharing more in coming weeks!

Whitney

D.C. and the Whitney/Strong Approach

While I consider myself a true independent politically-speaking, I’ve always had an interest in politics and the way in which our government operates. So as you can imagine, I spent the entire trip walking around on cloud nine. The energy, the gravity... I really feel drawn to that city.

But this visit wasn’t meant to satiate my political appetite, it was 100% focused on establishing partnerships with legislators who hold the power on the issue of gun violence.

I understand that not everyone can throw their political persuasions to the wind and hunker down on just one issue. We live in difficult times and everyone should be politically active on the issues that matter to them most. But for me, it is so much simpler.

I almost died on 9/6. Many others have died before me and since, as a result of gun violence. My life’s mission is to solve this issue and as a mother of young children, this is all I have the energy to tackle.

I continue to be grateful for this bubble period where I can concentrate on healing and deeply immerse myself in the information necessary to succeed with Whitney/Strong. While not all of our solutions involve legislation, it will always be a part of our efforts. And in order to pass legislation, you need votes - at the Federal and State level.

As a Kentucky resident, an Ohio employee, and a U.S. citizen, I am not going to make progress by partnering with Democrats only. This strategy doesn’t work. Gun deaths have been rising for years and the House just had their first hearing on gun violence in over eight years. Sure, individual states with a Democratic majority have made progress but that makeup doesn’t apply to KY or OH. And furthermore, do you really get the best solutions when you surround yourself with like-minded thinkers?

If we are going to tackle gun violence for the long-haul, we need diverse thought and we need Republicans. Whitney/Strong believes the only path to real change is through bipartisan action. This means I may end up in a meeting with your political nemesis. Luckily for you, I’ve spared you the interaction and no political bias will ever supersede my desire to save lives.

So what did we learn? A ton! I truly believe that both parties are authentic when they say, “We want all of this to stop. We just believe in different solutions.”

This is where we come in. We serve as that squeaky wheel to Republican leaders on those solutions that we can get behind... solutions like red flag law, laws that demand prohibited persons don’t gain access to firearms, and laws that help provide support for the mentally ill in our communities.

I do not care who gets credit for these solutions. I just want lives to be saved. It’s really simple for me, but maybe that clarity can only come with a story like mine.

Special thanks to the offices of Representative Yarmuth, Representative Hollingsworth, Representative Crow, Senate Majority Leader McConnell, Senator Cornyn, Senator Graham, and Senator Paul. I’ll never forget this experience and I can’t wait to build upon the partnerships formed.

Whitney

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Why Should You Support Extreme Risk Protection Orders?

To start, know that Red Flag Law is also referred to as gun violence restraining orders or in the case of our bill, SB 244 Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs).

Fourteen states have red flag (each a little different due to each state’s unique needs) and of those 14, a majority passed in 2018 in the wake of Parkland. Because the law is hot, it has become a magnet for media-attention and I’ve seen a multitude of articles and interviews filled with misinformation. Let me try to cut through some of that for you.

But first…

Whitney/Strong will only champion gun violence prevention solutions if they meet two requirements: 1) they are supported by the majority and 2) data exists that proves the solution will be impactful.

Red flag fits both requirements and as such, it is the first solution we are ready to aggressively champion!

  • Majority Supported

1)     In response to Parkland, President Trump called on all states to adopt ERPOs and directed the Department of Justice to provide technical assistance to states that want to implement the orders. The President reiterated this stance on the one-year anniversary of Parkland (February 14, 2019).

2)     On January 3, 2019, U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Jack Reed (D-RI), Angus King (I-ME), and Susan Collins (R-ME) re-introduced the bipartisan ERPO and Violence Prevention Act, which will dedicate Department of Justice funds to incentivize states to give law enforcement the authority to prevent individuals who pose a threat to themselves or others the ability to purchase or possess firearms, while still providing due process protections.

3)     Per a 2018 New England Journal of Medicine article, 78.9% of Americans support ERPOs, with differences between firearm owners and non-owners of just 5.3 percentage points.

4)     The Federal Commission for School Safety Final Report (a group orchestrated by President Trump after Parkland) recommended ERPOs in December 2018. The report cites ERPO as a stop gap for reporting individuals who show warning signs of potential violence. To read the full recommendation, read pages 91-96 here: School Safety Report.

  • Evidence of Impact

1)     Suicide Prevention – Per the School Safety Final Report, a recent study looked at both the Connecticut and Indiana laws. It found that Indiana’s law was associated with a 7.5 percent decrease in firearm suicides during the 10 years following its enactment. Connecticut’s law was associated with a 13.7 percent decrease between 2007 and 2015.

2)     On April 12, 2018 the day after Vermont enacted this lifesaving policy, Vermont law enforcement obtained a gun violence restraining order against an 18-year old who had planned a mass shooting at a high school. The would-be murderer kept a diary called “Journal of an Active Shooter,” in which he detailed his plans to cause more casualties than any previous school shooting.

3)     Per U.S. News and World Report, Montgomery County Sheriff Darren Popkin out of Maryland, said of more than 300 protective orders in the first three months since the law took effect, five of them were school-related threats and four of those were “significant threats.”

Back to the misinformation... let me give you facts to help combat it.

What is the problem?

Whether through acquiring illegally or legally, dangerous individuals gain access to firearms. Furthermore, dangerous individuals use those firearms to commit violent acts on themselves or others. Red flag laws allow family or household members, in addition to law-enforcement officers, to petition the court to keep firearms away from a dangerous person in the throes of a crisis.

How does it work?

While the law varies amongst the 14 states with Red Flag in place, in Kentucky we propose the family or household member (or law enforcement or qualified mental health professional) present evidence to a judge supporting his/her claims regarding the dangerous person. If the evidence is convincing and the risk is great, the firearm(s) must be surrendered temporarily and in a timely manner. The respondent, the individual who has surrendered his/her firearm, is then provided within 14 days due process protections via a hearing with a judge (jury may be requested). The respondent may provide evidence in favor of retaining access to his/her firearm.

The final decision is made by a judge (or jury upon request). If the judge or jury determines the respondent is unable to retain his/her firearm, the firearm is stored securely for a period of time (current KY bill is considering one year).

Due Process Concerns Addressed

1.     Petitioner Scope should be limited. Done – Only law enforcement, qualified medical health professionals, and family or household members can petition a court for removal of a firearm. Those closest to the dangerous individual should only be allowed to petition.

2.     Criminal penalties for those who bring false or frivolous charges. Done – In our proposed bill, this individual is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.

3.     High Burden of Proof. Done – Clear and Convincing Evidence is required at the evidentiary hearing on day 14 to continue to retain the firearm for a period of one year.

4.     A jury would provide the opportunity to eliminate judge bias. Done – a respondent can request a jury for determining the outcome of the evidentiary hearing.

See, it is possible to simultaneously protect citizens from gun violence and respect their second amendment and due process rights.

I’d like to personally thank Morgan McGarvey, my State Senator, for submitting SB 244. Morgan and I have worked closely to gather feedback and tweak this bill to address concerns from both sides of the aisle.

We have an uphill battle with this law and we need your help!

Step One: Please find your Legislators by clicking here.

Step Two: Call your Legislators and say, “I’m with Whitney/Strong and I support SB 244.”

There is no time to wait! Thank you for your caring about gun violence reduction.

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Stop the Bleed and Why It Matters

When Waller and I began discussing what we could do to fight gun violence while in the hospital following the shooting, partnering to host Stop the Bleed sessions wasn’t even on our radar. We were solely focused on preventing more gun deaths.


Fast forward nearly five months, and that goal of reducing gun deaths, still stands paramount. In fact, when we release our strategic priorities in the coming month, our commitment to that goal will be evident. However, the value of this partnership is significant and after learning more about Stop the Bleed, it became an obvious first step for Whitney/Strong.


I was introduced to this program by UC Hospital during my second surgery following the shooting. As Trauma One Centers, both UC and UofL Hospitals are focused on injury prevention programs, one of which is Stop the Bleed. I was surprised to learn that the top three types of trauma in Cincinnati and Louisville are car accidents, gun violence, and falls. With Stop the Bleed, both hospitals provide free and empowering training that teaches laypeople how to stop bleeding caused by trauma and save lives.


I’ve had several “goosebump” moments since my introduction to this program.

  • As soon as I moved from the revolving door to the flagpole on 9/6, a tourniquet was applied to my right arm. Lucky me! Not only did law enforcement pull me out of danger, but they knew the simple life-saving steps taught to them through Stop the Bleed.

  • After participating in a training session last month, I learned you can only stop bleeding that occurs in extremities... think arms and legs. Lucky me! The majority of bullets hit my right arm - perfect for applying a tourniquet!

And one “heart drop” moment.

  • Stop the Bleed originated after the heartbreaking Sandy Hook school shooting. One trauma surgeon found himself distraught learning the loss of life could have been reduced had first responders known the simple life-saving techniques.

Needless to say, this training is important to me. So, we will fight gun violence but first, let’s empower each other to save lives!

For more information and to register for the Louisville and Cincinnati workshops visit https://www.whitneystrong.org/workshops/

If you cannot attend due to schedule conflicts or a session is booked, please follow these instructions to request a free session for your employer, place of warship, school, community group, etc.

Cincinnati: Contact Regina Menninger at regina.menninger@uchealth.com

Louisville: Visit uoflhospital.org/Stop-Bleed 

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Surgery Update

On Dr. Martin Luther King Junior Day I was scheduled for a tendon transfer, essentially moving my index finger tendon to my thumb. This move was necessary to fix my limp left thumb, an injury that wasn’t immediately obvious after the shooting.

One of the bullets entered and exited my left forearm, bruising my bone and leaving little room for my thumb tendon to thrive. Over time it ruptured but luckily for me, the nerve damage I had sustained masked the pain.

That same nerve pain has proved problematic in other ways, with even simple things like my children grabbing my forearm, leading to what feels like an electric current reverberating down my arm. Monday’s surgery ended up addressing both the limp thumb and my nerve damage.

I’ve undergone three surgeries at this point and every time the recovery is different. This time I am in a good amount of pain because of the nerve work. In fact, I will venture to say that nerve work is the most painful recovery yet. Still, I am encouraged to have a wonderful team of medical professionals surrounding me with great ideas and solutions for moving forward.

Once I’m up for it, I’ll get back to physical therapy on my right arm, physical therapy on my left hand, and then a bit of “wait and see” for the nerve pain in my left arm.

I am still filled with gratitude that I am here! While I am not perfect at relishing in my gratitude, I do have plenty of moments where I pinch myself thinking about the blessings of family and living a life of purpose through Whitney/Strong. Thank you to everyone for the support and prayers through this latest surgery.

I look forward to providing you with updates on Whitney/Strong again soon.

Fun fact: When repairing my nerve, the surgeon found a good amount of blue fiber in my arm. It must have come from my clutch that was retained as evidence by law-enforcement. When I received that clutch as a gift from my favorite make-up store in Chicago, Mojo Spa, I never imagined it would enter my body months later. So absurd.

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