The only online publication for women in Greater Cincinnati
Health

by -

Learn about a new wellness studio in Loveland that wants to help you climb to new heights of fitness and fun.

At a time when people are encouraged to keep their distance, a local wellness studio is helping people reach new heights of fun and fitness in their own unique way.

“Mosaic Climbing is Ohio’s largest premier rock climbing and fitness facility, comprising of over 20,000 square feet of climbing terrain, 55-foot walls, youth climbing, full-service fitness space, yoga studio and group fitness area,” say Nicole Brown and Chris Shotwell, co-founders of Mosaic Climbing. “We also offer communal and co-working spaces for events, parties and meetings.”

The inspiration behind starting Mosaic Climbing was a desire to see a wide range of people be introduced to the fun of rock climbing. “It’s really easy for people to write the sport off as too hard, too scary or too whatever. We’re here to provide a place where you can let yourself experience a real challenge that works wherever you are in your journey,” say Brown and Shotwell. “We’re also passionate about bringing people together in the community and climbing is a great medium to accomplishing that.” 

The name of the business came from a love of agriculture between Brown and her husband. “We also wanted a name that gave nod to the uniting force of climbing. A mosaic is a whole made up of a variety of parts,” she says. “From our community to the routes we put up on the wall to our staff to the space that contain us, everything is individual until it assembles into a pattern or works together as a unit in a way that creates something special. We strive to incite that affinity towards collaboration.”

There are a variety off different services offered through Mosaic Climbing and they include: indoor rock climbing, rentable rock climbing equipment, multiple classes and workshops at theirfacility, hosts workshops around the community, offer fitness products, including weight and cardio equipment, nutrition coaching and consulting, set up and host parties, events, groups, team buildings and classes tailored to an individual case and offers office space for meeting, co-working  and remote work.”

Mosaic means so much to Brown and Shotwell. “Mosaic is an opportunity to share joy with other people. Climbing is a mirror for life; we struggle, fail, learn and eventually overcome,” they say. “Being there for people during the process and the payoff is awesome!”

The business defines success by seeing their clients’ lives be impacted. “Somewhat of an inside joke within our industry, we certainly don’t operate climbing gyms for the money! The time, resource and capital investment is enormous and the monetary payoff is meager and laborious,” Brown and Shotwell say. “The cheesy truth is that we absolutely do it for the people it impacts. We have had customers completely turn their lives around after finding climbing, citing the supportive community aspect as the primary catalyst during the change.”

The future of Mosaic Climbing depends on their community. “The people who engage with Mosaic are ultimately the people who shape it. We work to create the space for that input and that growth,” they say. “Where things go after there is a strong and inclusive community doesn’t have to be only up to us.”

The mission of Mosaic Climbing is to create a positive environment for their clients. “Our mission is to design climbs, develop a space and foster a community that organically inspires people to collaborate on and share in the climbing experience together,” Brown and Shotwell say.

Mosaic Climbing has a unique ability “to listen, adapt and overcome the traditional challenges that climbing communities face because we’ve participated in so many through the years. It isn’t easy trying to nudge things out of the existing track, but we know where we’re trying to go,” they say. “Climbing really doesn’t have to be a sport that feels like it’s only for elite climbers; anyone can do this, you don’t have to be focused only on getting better and we’re here to show you that how it can be fun no matter what reason you have for doing it.”

The business is located at 9501 Union Cemetery Road, just off the intersection of Fields Ertel Road and Montgomery Road. To keep up with what’s going on with Mosaic Climbing, follow them on Facebook and Instagram. You can also reach them through phone at: 513-718-4083 and email at: info@mosaicclimbing.com.

by -

Transfusions played a critical role in young girl's fight against cancer. Click here to read more about how you can save lives through blood donations.

Melissa Kelly has been a blood donor for years, giving when she could fit it into her busy schedule–“whenever it was convenient,” she says.

But as she sat next to her young daughter Maeryn in the hospital in 2016, waiting for precious blood transfusions that would help Maeryn in her fight against pre-B cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, she vowed to donate whenever she was able and do her part to end blood shortages.

Maeryn was only nine years old when she began to experience pain in her hips, legs and knees. An otherwise healthy girl with a love of drawing, cooking, and crafting, she was diagnosed with “growing pains,” and started physical therapy soon thereafter. But as months went by, Maeryn’s pain increased with no sign of healing.

Maeryn was only nine years old when she began to experience pain in her hips, legs and knees. An otherwise healthy girl with a love of drawing, cooking, and crafting, her mother took her to the doctor where she was diagnosed with “growing pains,” and started physical therapy soon thereafter. But as months went by, Maeryn’s pain increased with no sign of healing.

From there, the news got much worse. “We went back to the doctor where it was confirmed that she had leukemia,” Melissa recalls.

Maeryn went straight to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and Medical Center, where they would work to identify the specific type of leukemia and develop a treatment plan.

It was during this time that blood and platelet transfusions played a critical role in Maeryn’s care. In order to diagnose the specific type of cancer, she would first need a transfusion to replenish her red and white blood cell counts, which had fallen dangerously low.

And it was during this time that Melissa realized the true impact that blood donors have on local patients.

“Due to a shortage of blood at that time, we could not obtain blood for the transfusion for five hours,” Melissa remembers. “During that time, we were left to wait and wonder. And during that time, I vowed that I would donate anytime I was asked or able.”

“I didn’t realize the true impact of donating until I was sitting in the hospital, trying to determine what was going to be our course of treatment for the next 2 and a half years,” she adds. “Now I will go the extra mile. I can appreciate that other families are in that place and treatment can’t begin until a proper diagnosis is made.”

Fortunately, Maeryn received her needed transfusions–and after spending her 10th birthday in the hospital, she is doing well today. She will be in treatment for another year, but she is already back to doing the things she loves: Playing with her friends, going to school, riding her bike, and fixing her hair. She was also named an “Honored Hero” for the Tri-State Southern Ohio Chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS).

Maeryn is well on her way to recovery, but her diagnosis and treatment has left a lasting impression on Melissa.

“There is no love like that for your child,” she says, “And, at that moment, all I wanted to do was make it better; to take away the pain and set her on the right path toward health and happiness, but my hands were tied. That is, until the gift of blood donation helped chart the course for treatment.”

Melissa has become an even more fervent advocate for blood donation in the wake of Maeryn’s illness. Her employer, Veritiv, has held blood drives in Maeryn’s honor, and “in an effort to show my kids that blood donation is easy-breezy, I’ve taken them with me and they’ve seen me donate. They’ve asked questions and talked to the staff at Hoxworth firsthand!” she says.

She is also encouraging others to join her in rolling up a sleeve and making blood shortages a thing of the past.

“For anyone else who is unsure about donating, I would show them my daughter’s face,” she says. “I would show them the picture of her holding the poster for the drive in her honor. I would tell them how it felt to wait, while we were at the mercy of others to get blood products to her.”

Melissa will never forget how it felt to wait for those lifesaving blood products. But she will also never forget the waves of appreciation towards to the donors who helped her daughter.

“It’s hard to find words to express that sort of gratitude.”

November

11/3/20 – West Chester Church of the Nazarene Blood Drive

11/21/20 – Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park Hoxworth Blood Drive

11/24/20 – Rookwood Commons Hoxworth Blood Drive

11/25/20 – Oakley Community Blood Drive

by -

Read on to learn about a popular plant shop expanding soon to the Cincinnati area.

Have a green thumb? Struggle to keep a succulents alive? No matter your plant prowess, Forage has a new store coming to town just for you.

“Forage is an interior houseplant shop with locations in Louisville and Lexington, Kentucky, Denver, Colorado and soon to be Cincinnati, Ohio,” says Jamie Fairman, Owner and Founder of Forage. “Forage is typically used to gather and find. And that is exactly what you can do here.”

It started in Louisville, but has expanded to multiple locations and is soon coming to the Cincinnati area. Currently, there are 14 people working for Forage and the number is growing.

The business started with a passion for plants. “Forage started from a personal love of houseplants and eventually turned into a little brick and mortar, which turned into four,” Fairman says. The name of the business came from “the creation of wanting something that tied the earth and people together,” she explains. 

There are a variety of different services offered through Forage. “We offer a wide offering of houseplants for every level of caretaker, as well as a vast selection of unique ceramics from small makers all around the world,” she says. “We also provide a handful of services to our customers, including potting services (which are complimentary with purchase), plant doctoring service- we will assess, prune, repot and give detailed prescriptions of the diagnosis and after-care of plants and we also offer plant staking services as well.”

There are different ways that Forage define success. One is “through growing an amazing staff of individuals,” Fairmansays “My dream with this business is to grow people just like you would grow plants. I also measure it by the amount of good that we can contribute to our communities. Being involved in the community around us and using our outreach is truly important to us!”

The mission of the business is “to create a space where plants and the people that take care of them can thrive,” she says. 

Forage is unique because of their values. There are four different ones:

• Education: “We have become plant experts so that we can educate and inform our customers,” Fairman says. “We’re always researching, learning and sharing! We want to instill plant confidence in every plant parent.”
• Community: “Forage is welcome to all. There is always room on our in-store couches and in our online communities for plant lovers of all kinds,” she says. “We strive to provide opportunities for our customers to interact with and with each other.”
• Environment: Their goal is “creating a peaceful, beautiful environment where plants flourish and people can enjoy them is incredibly important to us,” Fairman says. 
• Sustainability: “Forage is committed to doing this as sustainably as possible- recycling always, reducing when we can and reusing at every opportunity,” she says.

Community is also important to Forage. “We truly believe in not only being an inclusive environment, but also playing active roles for the betterment of our communities. But we also believe that our communities are just as important to us,” Fairman says. “We have made activism and charity at the forefront of our business by participating in social justice reform, donating to our communities and encouraging others in our communities to partake in charities through our charity weekends.”

Fairman’s favorite part of the job is the people. “The people that work here are amazing and our customers are truly just incredible humans. I feel lucky,” she says.

To learn more about Forage, follow them on Instagram or join their mailing list on their website.

by -

Read an inspiring story about how blood donations helped to save the life of a local baby in need.

At nearly 1 year old, “she loves to wave, smile and dance to nursery rhymes, and she is learning to blow kisses,” according to her mother, Lindsay Schulte. “No one is funnier to her than her older brothers, and she squeals and giggles at them all the time. She loves to be in the ‘action’ and gets mad if she feels like she isn’t included in the room!” 

Seeing Brynn today—full of life, with wide, bright eyes and a sunny smile—you would have never known how gravely ill she was shortly after her birth in July of 2019. 

With the care of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, and the help of blood donors, Brynn is here to celebrate her first birthday.

Lindsay and Mike Schulte, who live in the Pleasant Ridge neighborhood of Cincinnati, were thrilled to welcome a girl to their family of boys. “We have two boys—Luke, who will be 5 in September of 2020, and Nate, turning 3 in August,” says Lindsay. “We LOVE to play outside, go to the zoo, and walk to the local coffee shop. The boys were ELATED to have a baby sister, and we were so excited to have PINK sprinkled throughout our house!” 

Baby Brynn was born healthy on July 24th, 2019 via scheduled induction at Good Samaritan Hospital. However, the excitement of the new addition to the Schulte family was short-lived.

“Unfortunately, Brynn had to be rushed to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital a day after she was born,” Lindsay recalls. “Katie, her nurse in the labor and delivery unit, SAVED her life.  They woke me up in the middle of the night because Brynn was grey and had labored breathing.  It was a whirlwind.  When we arrived at Children’s, more than a dozen health care workers surrounded Brynn, working to stabilize her.”

Through many tests and examinations—and many theories for the cause of Brynn’s condition—Brynn was discovered to have an internal bleed, which took everyone, including the doctors, by surprise. After ruling out the bleed was not the result of a tumor (as it looked like a mass on her liver), doctors identified the mass as a hematoma. The root cause of this remained unclear, but Brynn was cleared to go home with her parents after two weeks at Cincinnati Children’s. 

But again, the relief proved to be fleeting. After just two weeks of being home, Brynn experienced another life-threatening setback.

“I had to rush Brynn to the ER where she was diagnosed with pressure and bleeding in her brain,” Lindsay recalls. “The amazing ER team saved her life once again, and she was in surgery within an hour of arriving. Her neurosurgeon performed a lifesaving procedure, placing a shunt to relieve the pressure in her brain. She fought and handled the surgery with her consistent strength. They also identified a large blood clot on the base of her brain. It was too risky to operate, so they continued to monitor her very closely.”

Throughout all of this, Brynn fought for survival and prevailed, receiving blood transfusions and a startling diagnosis.

“Our sweet and special Brynn has been diagnosed with factor XIII deficiency. It’s a VERY rare blood disorder, 1 in 5 million,” says Lindsay.  “She’s “red carpet” status at Cincinnati Children’s, as it is the first case they have ever seen or treated. The research team at Children’s helped us confirm this recessive gene disorder. While her long care is constant, we are so thankful for her life. We call her our ‘winning lottery ticket’–1 in 5 million.”

In addition to the incredible team at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, blood donors played a critical role in Brynn’s survival.

“Blood donors are our HEROES.  They give Brynn life, and they give our family life,” says Lindsay. “As parents, we are here to protect our children—but we are at the mercy of blood donors, which is a truly humbling feeling.  It has taught Mike and I a lot about the human spirit, selfless compassion, and pure goodness in people.”

“To donors, we say THANK YOU from the bottom of our hearts,” she continues. “We have Brynn because of YOU.  Now she can continue to grow and thrive.  She has so much purpose and because of YOU, a blood donor, she is going to be able to show this world purpose.”

But Lindsay isn’t stopping at just saying “thank you”—she’s taking her gratitude one step further and paying it forward. 

“Mike and I had never given blood before.  We donated for the first time this winter, on a donor bus.  We thought, ‘Wow, that was so easy!’  Then I began to reflect on how we could celebrate Brynn’s first birthday in a unique and meaningful way.  I called Hoxworth and asked to speak to someone who could help me coordinate a drive.”

In honor of Brynn’s incredible journey and to celebrate her first birthday, Lindsay and her family are organizing the ‘Brynn’s Birthday Blood Drive’ to collect lifesaving blood donations and save even more lives in the Cincinnati community.

“We want to ‘pay it forward’ to those that have helped us along our journey,” Lindsay explains. “We want to show our gratitude, by giving back, as well as bringing awareness to how important, and EASY, donating blood can be. People want to ‘help’ or ‘give’ in times of crisis, and this blood drive is a way for people to truly give back.  We are starting a tradition, and it begins this year!”

Reflecting on the past year, Lindsay is certain that Brynn is here to celebrate her first birthday because of the compassionate team at Cincinnati Children’s, and the generosity of blood donors—and when she looks at her “1 in 5 million” daughter, she is reminded how much good there is in the world.

“Mike and I feel so lucky to be Brynn’s parents,” she says. “Brynn has taught us how precious life is. She has taught us how much good exists. She is so special. She has so much purpose. She has such a bright future.” 

A future, she adds, made possible by blood donors.  To the donors who saved her life, Lindsay has one last message of gratitude.

“THANK YOU for all that you do!  What you do matters.  Blood transfusions SAVED Brynn’s life. They save Brynn’s life EACH day.  We have our sweet girl with us EVERY day because of generous and selfless blood donors…and we can’t wait for her to continue to show this world what she’s made of. After all, she is 1 in 5 million.” 

Here is a list of upcoming Hoxworth Blood Drives: 

October

10/26/20 – Jungle Jim’s Fairfield

10/27/20 – Cincinnati Shakespeare Company

November

11/3/20 – West Chester Church of the Nazarene Blood Drive

11/21/20 – Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park Hoxworth Blood Drive

11/24/20 – Rookwood Commons Hoxworth Blood Drive

11/25/20 – Oakley Community Blood Drive

by -

Learn about a local company that grows, sells and delivers a variety of microgreens to the local area through a subscription-based program.

Cliff’s Greens is on a mission to have a positive impact on the community through healthy eating.

“Cliff’s Greens is an urban farm that grows, sells and delivers organic microgreens to the local Cincinnati community,” says Clifford Hammoor, Founder of Cliff’s Greens LLC. What are microgreens? They “are essentially the seedlings of herbs and vegetables,” Hammoor says. “They are super flavorful and grow well in relatively small indoor space, which I am currently limited to.”

There are a variety of products sold through the business. “Cliff’s Greens grows, sells and delivers a variety of microgreens to the local area through a subscription-based program. Customers sign up for a subscription service on the website, cliffsgreens.com, and they receive their favorite microgreens delivered to their door on a regular basis,” he says. “The microgreens I’m currently growing include: arugula, broccoli, radish, salad mix, sunflower shoots and pea shoots. They usually taste similar to the full-grown crop, but with more intensity!”

There are many health benefits with microgreens. “Though there are a lot of factors, most microgreens contain a higher concentration of nutrients than the full-grown crop,” Hammoor says. “Most importantly to me, though, is that it’s super easy to incorporate microgreens into almost any dish-whether cooked, raw, on top or as a side salad- so people can make any meal fresher and more nutritious year-round and without needing much adjustment to their routines.”

Cliff’s Greens is located out of the apartment of Hammoor in the Gaslight District of Cincinnati, where he operates the business by himself. 

The inspiration behind starting the business came from interning at an urban farm in Denver, Colorado. “There, I became more aware of how important easy access to healthy, local food is and the impact it has on the surrounding community and overall food system,” Hammoor says. “After moving back to UC to finish my final semester, I wanted to see how I could participate in the local food system.”

The microgreens come from his own personal grow room. Hammoor defines success with Cliff’s Greens by “having a positive impact on the health of my customers,” he says. Growing his own product allows Hammoor to positively impact the community around him. 

The vision for the business is to “help community members develop a healthy relationship with their food choices and their local food system,” Hammoor says. Cliff’s Greens is a unique business of the Cincinnati area. “What makes Cliff’s Greens special is that fresh greens are handed to the customers by the farmer who grows them,” he says.

Hammoor’s favorite part of the job is spending time in his grow room. “It’s warm, bright and it smells amazing,” he says. “I also love hearing excited customers talk about all the ways they are using the greens!”

To follow what Cliff’s Greens is doing, follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

by -

A cancer diagnosis in the midst of a global pandemic. Read about how blood donations helped treat a local woman battling an aggressive blood cancer.

Beth VanWassenhove never expected her life to turn upside down as quickly as it did. The way she tells it, she had a perfectly happy life, living in the idyllic Cincinnati neighborhood of Pleasant Ridge with her eight-year-old son while working as a professor at a local university. In fact, she had just accomplished a major career milestone and defended her dissertation at Northern Kentucky University in January when she began to feel ill.

“It came absolutely out of the blue,” she recalls. “I had just defended my dissertation with my NKU sisterhood in January and it was flu season. I had the flu the week before, and was still feeling incredibly winded and exhausted. I went to the doctor on a Thursday morning when I wasn’t teaching because I was still feeling pretty bad.”

Her physician ordered blood work, and sent her home with an inhaler and cough medicine to counteract her symptoms. But just a few hours later, she received a call from her doctor’s office, first asking her to come back in for a few more tests.

“But as the scheduler received more information from the doctor, it was clear that I was really sick. I was told to go to the ER immediately,” Beth says.

She ended up at Good Samaritan Hospital later that day, hooked up to a heart monitor and undergoing a battery of tests. “Around 11:30 p.m., I was admitted and taken up to a room on the heart floor,” she recalls. “I was told that I would be having a bone marrow biopsy in the morning and couldn’t eat or drink anything after midnight.”

Beth was no stranger to bone marrow biopsies, but she still didn’t fully grasp the severity of what was happening to her.

“In the back of my mind, I knew what a bone marrow biopsy was. My dad had multiple myeloma for five years before passing away in 2017, but it didn’t totally click in my mind.”

“The next morning, I met my hematologist at Good Samaritan who told me I had cancer and the bone marrow biopsy would confirm the type of cancer I had,” she remembers.  “The initial bone marrow biopsy revealed that my marrow was 100% packed with leukemia cells.”

Beth was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), a type of cancer that begins in the bone marrow. In patients with AML, the myeloid stem cells behave abnormally and do not transform into mature blood cells, or they transform into irregular blood cells that do not function normally. Those abnormal cells build up in the bone marrow and bloodstream, causing fatigue, anemia, shortness of breath, and excessive bleeding.

AML is a disease that moves quickly, so treatment had to begin immediately. What began as a doctor’s visit for lingering flu symptoms ended up being a month-long stay in the hospital, fighting for her life.

“I walked in to Good Sam on February 13 and did not leave the hospital until March 14,” Beth says. “Because AML is relentless, I had to start treatment immediately. I was moved to the cancer floor and met some of the kindest nurses I have ever encountered.”

But before she could begin her chemotherapy, Beth got a little help from local blood donors.

“My platelet count was extremely low, so before I could receive chemo, I received my first transfusion of blood and platelets,” she says. “Receiving a transfusion literally felt like someone plugged me in and recharged my battery. Within hours of the transfusion, I could feel the difference in my body.”

The treatment for AML is grueling—chemotherapy can kill cancer cells, but can also have a devastating impact on the rest of the body and destroy other cells in the blood and vital organs. “During my treatment, I received two different types of chemotherapy—one was high powered for three days, then the other was 24/7 for a whole week,” Beth recalls.  “During the course of my treatment thus far, I have received at least 100 units of blood and platelets.”

It was during this time, receiving dozens of transfusions that renewed her blood cells and gave her the energy to keep fighting, that Beth understood the importance of blood donation.

“Blood donation is critical, and absolutely lifesaving. I am here today because of the generosity of donors,” she says.

One good thing that came out of her diagnosis, she notes, was that her community came out to replenish the blood supply in her honor. “My son’s school community organized a Hoxworth blood drive in my honor, ‘Blood for Beth,’ at Pleasant Ridge Montessori in March, then organized another one with Hoxworth over the summer held at Losantiville Country Club.”

Beth was finally released from Good Sam in mid-March, after more than four weeks of taxing treatment. “After I was released from Good Sam, I transferred my care up to The James Cancer Center through Ohio State University. I received three more rounds of chemo, completing treatment in June.” 

Her recovery wasn’t easy, and was complicated by a number of setbacks, including a global pandemic.

“During that whole time, I wasn’t able to see my son much because my immune system was so fragile, so we went months without physically seeing each other,” she says. “Adding COVID-19 into the mix added another layer of complexity. My body also developed an antibody to general platelets and I now have to have special platelets if I ever need a transfusion.”

Beth’s battle still isn’t over, and she knows she has a long road ahead of her. Her goal, she says, “is to be part of the 25% of people to make it to the five-year survival mark.” But for now, her blood counts are looking good—and she knows she has an army of supporters behind her.

“Cancer isn’t something you ‘beat’—it is something that you live with every day, and your whole world is turned inside out when you receive a diagnosis,” she says. “Blood cancers are scary. They happen to anyone at any age. But thanks to research, medicine, and amazing doctors, nurses, PCAs, and care teams, along with blood centers and blood donors, there is hope.”

Fighting against blood cancer has brought a new sense of clarity to Beth’s life—and she isn’t taking anything for granted.

“I just celebrated my birthday last month, and we also celebrated my son’s birthday. Each day has new meaning to me now. Life literally changes in an instant. I would never have realized how quickly priorities become crystal clear. I have been carried and supported by so many people along the way—family, friends, acquaintances, and strangers.”

Strangers like blood donors, who were critical to her survival. Beth says that she still struggles to find the words that accurately convey her gratitude to the individuals in the community who make the time to donate for a stranger.

“If I could say one thing to donors, it would be thank you,” she says. “There isn’t a word that I have found to express my deep, sincere appreciation for this seemingly ‘simple’ gift. Your donation allows people to celebrate birthdays, to be there for their families, to live their lives. I also know that donation isn’t easy for folks—I had friends try to donate, pass out, or not have enough iron to donate. I know needles are scary. But it truly is lifesaving and life-giving.”

“Obviously, after this diagnosis, I understand how important and self-less blood donors are,” she finishes. “I am here today because of the generosity of donors.”

Here is a list of upcoming Hoxworth Blood Center Blood Drives:

October

10/26/20 – Jungle Jim’s Fairfield

10/27/20 – Cincinnati Shakespeare Company

November

11/3/20 – West Chester Church of the Nazarene Blood Drive

11/21/20 – Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park Hoxworth Blood Drive

11/24/20 – Rookwood Commons Hoxworth Blood Drive

11/25/20 – Oakley Community Blood Drive

by -

See how a social experiment to help people with their plants turned into a blossoming business and growing online community.

Lucrecer Braxton likes growing things. As a marketing manager and creative director by day, she understands how to grow a concept, brand and community around it. Braxton is also a proud plant parent, which led her to start SoulSista Plants a year ago and it’s grown into much more than she ever imagined.

“SoulSista Plants started as a social experiment. I wanted to see if I could grow a community from zero to where it is now based on something I love, which is plants,” says Braxton. “Now, SoulSista Plants is my vision for helping people not kill their houseplants. I also host a weekly show called Hella Plants, where I talk to people who have hellaplants about hella plants and whetever else they want to chat about. The conversations are organic and I love having that hour or so to laugh and have fun.” 

Braxton has been running SoulSista Plants for a year now. The inspiration behind starting the business came from a desire to connect with other women. “I wanted to connect with more Black women and found myself quickly embraced by the plant community within a few months of starting my Instagram account for SoulSista Plants,” she says. “I was inspired to share my love of plants and also connect with people who also had a similar passion.”

The name, SoulSista Plants, came from music she listened to. “I was listening to a playlist and I heard a song by Bilal, Soul Sista,” Braxton says. “I have always loved that song and I didn’t want to overthink the name.”

Braxton’s love for plants started in her home. “I grew up in a home that always had some kind of houseplants. My father also had outdoor gardens and my grandparents did, too,” she says. “I’ve continued to have plants in my home and my collection continues to grow.”

SoulSista Plants provides a variety of services. “I offer plant consultations, as well as styling and plant care for new and seasoned plant parents,” she says. “I do video and written consultations and follow up for my clients. I also host plant classes and conversations.”

The business defines success by not having any dead plants. “Seriously, success is getting up and still loving what I’m doing. It is fans, clients and my community sharing their plant success stories with me because they know I care,” Braxton says. “Success is seeing someone who thinks they have a black thumb, keeping a plant alive and thriving.”

The ultimate goal for SoulSista Plants is a brick-and-mortar store. “Ultimately, I have a vision for a plant shop, but not your typical shop. I also see SoulSista Plants creating opportunities and access to plants for marginalized communities. Since the pandemic hit, the price of plants has skyrocketed and the plant industry has been whitewashed,” she says. “One of my goals is for Black youth to see themselves in me. I want them to see they can find and have success in a non-traditional job and passion. Anything is possible.”

Braxton says running the business by herself is what makes her business so unique. “I am it and it is me. I freely share and engage with my community and I make sure everyone feels like they belong,” she says. “I make it possible by bonding over plants and everything grows from there.”

SouSista Plants is important for the community because it provides education. “Plants and plant knowledge should not only belong to those who can afford it. What I do is important because I have found a way to bring people who would not normally connect with each other together through their love of plants,” Braxton says. “I take the time to teach and educate people about the plants they own or educate people about the plants they own or are interested in. I also do it with humor and make everyone feel like they belong and they matter.”

Her advice for not killing plants is: “Don’t overwater your plants. Invest in a water meter to help with that. Also, mist your plants daily. Most of the plants in your home are tropical and you can create better conditions for them simply by giving them what they need,” Braxton says. “Finally, low-light plants does not mean no light. Plants still need some sort of light, be it natural or grow lights to thrive.”

If you want to know what SoulSista Plants is doing, follow the business on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

by -

A popular plant shop in College Hill grows with new location in Walnut Hills. Read on for all the green thumb details.

A store in College Hill that fosters a love for all things plants is opening a new location. 

“Fern is an interior plant design studio and home goods store,” says Megan Strasser, Owner of Fern. “We offer a carefully edited selection of beautiful and unique objects and a large assortment of houseplants.” 

Fern currently has six staffers and is celebrating seven years in business. Their store is currently “in an old gas station on Hamilton Avenue in College Hill,” Strasser says. “Our second location will open in the Ashby Building on East McMillan in Walnut Hills.”

Strasser’s love for plants started 20 years ago when she started collecting them. “She has always believed that plants are one of the easiest and most inexpensive ways to transform an environment,” Strasser says.

The inspiration behind starting Fern actually came from an architect’s long-lost plans. “I had come across an architect’s original storyboards for a mid-century modern home and noticed that he had included plants in his plans for each room. It struck me that plants could be as thoughtfully considered in the design of a home as the furniture that went into it,” she says. “I wanted to create a store that allowed customers to do the same.”

The decision to open a second location all came down to perfect timing. “The timing aligned with the right space in the right neighborhood,” Strasser says.

There are a variety of products and services offered through Fern, including:

• Houseplants: Tropical plants, succulents, cacti and airplants. They even have their “own plant design creations such as: terrariums, mounted epiphytic plants, succulent gardens, aeriums and kokedama,” Strasser
• “Hancrafted Ceramic Planters in a large size range from over 30 makers and artists,” she says.
• “Small batch apothecary, including our own candle line,” Strasser says.
• Artist-Led Classes: Floral arranging, calligraphy, wreath making and watercolor
• There are also Fern-led plant design workshops such as: terrarium, succulent garden and kokedama making.
• “We host small markets yearly and invite other small businesses to popup in our space regularly,” she says. “For example, we have Proudhound Coffee’s coffee truck every Sunday and Daisy Janes Flower Truck every Wednesdsy at our College Hill store,” Strasser says.

Fern wants to see their community experience security. “Success for Fern is creating a space where our customers and staff feel safe and welcomed and growing the community of plant lovers while supporting makers, artists and the causes we believe in,” Strasser says.  

The mission of Fern is to not only provide great customer service, but also education to the community. They want “to merge plants with design, offering indoor houseplants that are carefully selected and styled with handmade ceramic vessels and to provide straightforward and complete care information,” she says. 

Fern’s approach to their business is unique. “We may sell plants, but our business builds relationships through our strong commitment to being a space of inclusivity, collaboration and community,” Strasser says. “I am proud to exist in two vibrant and diverse residential communities and to be able to offer plants and vessels for every budget, so that anyone who comes in has the opportunity to use plants to help create a feeling of warmth in their own home.”

To keep up with all things Fern, follow them on Facebook and their website.

by -

Much-needed blood and plasma donations continue to help others, but for this COVID-19 patient, it was a life saver. Read on to learn more.

In April of 2020, Hoxworth Blood Center made headlines when it initiated its convalescent plasma program. As cases of the novel coronavirus in the area were spiking, the community was hopeful that plasma collected from individuals who had recovered from COVID-19 would be effective therapy for some of the most critically ill patients in our area.

Deb Cook was one of those patients—and she believes that because of convalescent plasma, she is here today.

Deb, who lives in Fairfield, enjoys reading and hiking at the Cincinnati Nature Center in her spare time. In July, though, she came down with respiratory symptoms that made just breathing a difficult task, let alone hiking.

“I started feeling sick on July 16th,” Deb remembers. “I went to Urgent Care on the 17th, and they said I had pneumonia. They did perform a COVID test, which later came back negative.”

Despite the negative test result, Deb’s symptoms only worsened over the next day. She knew that something wasn’t right, and sought further medical attention.

“I kept getting worse and went to the ER on July 18th, where they took test as well and sent me home. But I when went back to the ER by Life Squad on July 20th, they told me that my test had just came back positive.”

The team at Mercy Fairfield admitted Deb for pneumonia caused by COVID-19. By this point, Deb’s lungs weren’t able to deliver enough oxygen to the rest of her body.

“My oxygen levels were so bad that they had me on this huge oxygen machine along with the regular oxygen,” she recalls.

Just a few days later, Deb’s physicians approached her with information about a new experimental treatment for the virus.

“On July 22nd, an infectious disease doctor called me telling me about the convalescent plasma, wanting to know if I wanted to try it since it was experimental. I had seen research on it already, so I said yes.”

The Mercy Health team ordered the plasma quickly due to Deb’s severe symptoms, and she was transfused shortly thereafter. Even though she was dangerously ill, Deb almost immediately felt a difference as the plasma—and a stranger’s COVID-19 antibodies—coursed through her body.

“I swear, I could feel the difference in my body as soon as the plasma was going into my veins. My strength began to return from that moment on.”

Following the transfusion, Deb began to recover and was removed from the oxygen machines. Eventually, she was released from the hospital to go home. Today, she’s feeling nearly herself again.

“I feel great now,” she says. “Still have to take it easy, but I feel good!”

Having survived the virus that has resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths across the globe with many more still recovering from severe symptoms, Deb feels grateful that she was a survivor. She credits the plasma from a local stranger for allowing her to fight back against COVID-19 and prevail. 

“I feel the plasma saved my life and intend to donate my own plasma as soon as I’m able,” she says. “I would encourage anyone that has the antibodies to donate, because you could save another person like someone saved me. And to the person that donated for me—thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your blood saved my life!

Here is a list of upcoming Hoxworth Blood Center Blood Drives:

October

10/5/20 – Crossroads Church – East Side

10/9/20 – Crossroads Church Mason

109/20 – Crossroads Church – East Side

10/13/20 – Crossroads Church – Florence

10/13/20 – Crossroads Church – West Side

10/16/20 – City of Blue Ash

10/18/20 – Main Street Lebanon

10/26/20 – Jungle Jim’s Fairfield

10/27/20 – Cincinnati Shakespeare Company

November

11/3 /20– West Chester Church of the Nazarene – it’s ELECTION DAY!

11/19/20 – Cincinnati Art Museum

11/21/20 – Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park

11/24/20 – Rookwood

11/25/20 – Oakley Community

 

by -

Read about how Hoxworth Blood Center is helping this Lupus patient with blood transfusions.

There’s no stopping Alle Foster. A Cincinnati native, she is an avid volleyball player and actively pursues her many passions in her job and in her free time—like supporting conservation efforts, teaching children the importance of protecting the natural world, and reducing the stray feline population in her role at the Ohio Alleycat Resource.  

But for Alle, chasing her passions hasn’t always been easy, after she was diagnosed with Lupus in May of 2019. She credits her medical team, and the support of local blood donors, for being alive today.

“I was diagnosed with Lupus on May 10th, 2019. Which is ironic, since May 10th is World Lupus Day!” Alle recalls.  “I’ve been in and out of the hospital five times now in the last year. Each time, I’ve needed to receive at least one blood transfusion.”

Lupus is a chronic, long-term disease that can cause inflammation and pain throughout the body. It’s an autoimmune disease, which means that the body’s immune system — the system that usually fights infections — attacks normal, healthy tissue instead. Symptoms include inflammation, swelling, and damage to the joints, skin, kidneys, blood, heart, and lungs.

In Alle’s case, her lupus flares “usually starts with something like my heart rate or blood pressure skyrocketing, along with feeling extremely weak or unresponsive. My parents are amazing, because they’ll jump to my side in no time at all and make sure I get to where I need to be ASAP. We actually have an emergency method down for any time that I feel sick.”

On July 25th, 2020, Alle was admitted to the hospital for the longest and most serious stay of her diagnosis. In fact, she was still in the hospital receiving treatment during the writing of this story, in August of 2020.

“This hospital stay, my kidneys have been causing issues and I’ve been having dialysis three to four times a week,” Alle says. “I was also in a coma for about five or six days this time. I am still trying to get everything under control and it is tricky. I have no idea when I’ll be able to get out of the hospital and go home.”

Alle is grateful to her team of medical professionals—“My nurses are a godsend!” –but she also knows that donated blood products have made an incredible impact on her life. 

“I believe I’ve received over fifteen bags of blood in the last year, and about ten of those were during this latest hospital stay,” Alle said. “I definitely notice a difference after each transfusion! I feel more warm and cheery, as odd as that sounds. I feel like it gives me my color back as well, and gives me more strength. I wish I had a better way to explain it. It is almost magical how much it helps.”

Hoxworth is the only steward of the blood supply in the Cincinnati area, serving more than 30 hospitals in 18 counties in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana—and since blood products cannot be created in a lab, these lifesaving transfusions have to come from volunteer blood donors. Alle is grateful for those selfless individuals who make the time to give of themselves for patients like herself.

“I would absolutely hug the person or persons who donated the blood I received. I would love to thank them in person and let them know that I am a living, breathing person that they helped with their short donation time,” she declares. “You have no idea how much receiving blood changes your life until you need it and receive it. I am so fortunate to have been able to receive blood from the local supply.”

“So if you are a local donor, (especially O+), there is a chance I received your blood and am alive and feeling so much better with your donation,” she continues. “Thank you, thank you! Please continue to donate! Patients like me need you!”

And if you aren’t yet a donor, Alle wants to encourage you to consider rolling up a sleeve—because she knows firsthand that it’s such an easy thing to do.

“I actually started donating blood myself shortly before becoming ill,” she says, “and I wish I had been able to donate more before all this happened.” 

And now, as a recipient, she’s making it her another one of her passions to promote blood donation in the community.

“I completely understand being nervous to donate blood or platelets, but it goes by so much faster than you’d ever expect! The staff is so friendly and understanding and honestly, you ARE saving lives,” she says encouragingly. “Without donated blood, I could very well not be here. So, if you could do something as simple as sit in a chair for a bit, donate blood and save a life, then please do. Try it just once and see how it goes!”

When you donate with Hoxworth, you are saving lives close to home—just like Alle’s. If you’re ready to schedule your next donation, call us at (513) 451-0910 or visit our Donor Portal. 

Here is a list of upcoming Hoxworth Blood Center Blood Drives:

September

9/28/20 – Kroger Marketplace Lebanon

9/28/20 – Kroger Oakley

9/28/20 – Downtown Mobile at Fountain Square

9/29/20 – Scripps Center

October

10/5/20 – Crossroads Church – East Side

10/9/20 – Crossroads Church Mason

109/20 – Crossroads Church – East Side

10/13/20 – Crossroads Church – Florence

10/13/20 – Crossroads Church – West Side

10/16/20 – City of Blue Ash

10/18/20 – Main Street Lebanon

10/26/20 – Jungle Jim’s Fairfield

10/27/20 – Cincinnati Shakespeare Company

X