Charity Miles Champion: Jennifer Lovallo

Jennifer Lovallo is a nurse practitioner who excels at everything she does. A young women with an extremely accomplished career makes time everyday to advocate for Shot @ Life, a movement to protect children worldwide by providing life-saving vaccines where they are most needed. This is her story. 

I grew up in a small town just north of Detroit, and moved to NYC to go to NYU at 17. Since then, I’ve, well, I guess I’ve done a lot of things. I’m a firm believer in following your heart, no matter where it takes you–especially when it’s a direction you didn’t expect.

 I graduated from Yale with my MSN in Pediatrics in May 2014 and have been working in community health since last fall.

Outside of work, I love being a dog mom to Sylvie, baking, gardening, designing jewelry (I run a nonprofit Etsy store, Pearls Against Polio). All the profits go to the Shot@Life campaign to provide lifesaving pediatric vaccinations where they’re needed most.

What inspires me to stay healthy? Well, first of all, realizing that I’ve largely taken my good health for granted. My life got thrown for a major curveball last summer. I felt myself changing, but I had no idea what was happening, and couldn’t control it, or anything. I was having serious mood swings, extreme irritability, and outbursts. I felt completely helpless. Everyone chalked it up to a lot of stress and life changes. My partner at the time was having some serious health issues as well, and we were both about to transition into new jobs, school schedules, etc. Things were already tense.

A week or two later, this nagging tingling, numbness, and shooting pain down the right side of my body left me pretty immobile. I’d chalked it up to typical running pains. I was in the midst of training for back-to-back marathons, both Marine Corps and the NYC ,and thought I might have badly pinched a nerve or something. One morning, my leg went numb, I fell, and landed myself in the ED. A brain MRI and a couple blood tests later, I found myself becoming BFFs with my neurologist. I had late lyme encephalitis, frontal and temporal lobe edema, and PNS damage.  I needed a month of IV antibiotics and steroids to break the bacterial infection and bring down the swelling in my head. I have just less than 70% nerve functioning on the right side of my body.

The recovery process has been far from fun, but through it, I’ve learned a lot about myself, and developed a new appreciation for so many things in life. Everything’s taken much longer than expected. It took over two months after I finished the antibiotics and steroids for anything in my head to feel like I was back to being my normally calm, collected, happy and driven self. My brain was a short-circuiting, scrambled mess. There’s a lot I can’t remember from those months. In the meantime, my partner left me. I thought we’d be together for life, and I still miss him. Heartbreaks are never easy–but throwing a brutal and unexpected one into the mix didn’t help–at all. I spent weeks destroying Brooklyn’s tissue stock while I adjusted to the neuro meds I now required to tackle the nerve damage. It took awhile to find the right doses and balance everything–my initial dose left me feeling like a space cadet, a cuckoo with my head in the clouds for most of December, all the while still having ridiculous and uncontrollable mood swings.

I had a pretty bad setback over New Year’s that left me nearly completely immobile. I couldn’t bear weight on my leg without wanting to take a chainsaw to it. My parents are both saints for the number of times they’ve bought one-way plane tickets to stay with me, drive me places, help me–and having no idea when they’d be going back home.

It’s almost spring now, and I feel pretty happy to be where I’m at. My mind’s back to normal, and I’m slowly and steadily adjusting to living with the nerve damage. I spend three mornings a week in physical therapy with an amazing guy. He’s an incredible physical therapist that’s somehow found this perfect balance of pushing me to (and past) my limits, both those of my body and mind, being a saint that deals with my frustration and impatience, and to top, has become a great friend.

So, what inspires me to be healthy? Having it nearly all taken away from me, I guess. There was a solid chunk of time there where I wondered if I’d ever walk again without having to consciously think about planting my foot, whether I could feel it or not. It’s been terrifying. I’m only 29.

Overall, going through everything that I have, it’s made me want to live the best life I possibly can, and I’m doing everything I can to make that happen. I started meditating. I eat better, drink nearly never, and flood my body with water. I read more. I try to practice gratitude, always. I feel like I’m more in tune with my body and mind than I’ve ever before been. It’s pretty cool. I recently started working in the Edible Schoolyard garden, and I’ve got a pretty big and exciting career move in the works.

Charity Miles has been one of my greatest inspirations throughout my recovery. It’s a no-brainer, it turns everyday activity into positive change. I couldn’t wait to get back on board, back on my feet, hopefully not fall, and start logging miles for Shot@Life again. I put in my first few over the past week or so, and it feels great–knowing I’m once again turning my everyday activity into something that makes the world a little better. That’s pretty incredible. Right now, I’m dreaming (and determined) to finish the Brooklyn half in under 3 hours…and eventually, to lead a Girls on the Run group. The day that I can do that–that’ll be a really great day.

Good luck Jen on the Brooklyn Half! If you want to hear more stories from this amazing women you can her read her blog, her recent reflection “I’ve got you” is incredibly inspiring.  

Hit the pavement change the world

Charity Miles #everymilematters

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