Heidi, a Project Angel Heart client, wants you to know something: multiple sclerosis may have changed her life, but it hasn’t changed her spirit. “I still have a super sassy mouth and everything else,” she says, “but some of the pieces of me don’t work like they used to.” By “pieces” she means her legs, which used to propel her through hot yoga, mountain biking and snowboarding, but now rest comfortably in a wheelchair.
What quickly ended Heidi’s outdoor adventures was a hospital visit in 2011 to treat a snowboarding injury. It was then that her doctor confirmed a long-held suspicion—she had MS. “I used to go big,” she reminisces. “You know, that was kind of our motto when we would snowboard. Like go big or go home and if you don’t bleed, you didn’t do it right so [forget] it, do it again.”
According to the Multiple Sclerosis Society, 2.3 million people worldwide currently live with the autoimmune disease, which is often unpredictable, difficult to diagnose and, for reasons unknown, has high rates in Colorado.
Since her diagnosis, Heidi, 46, has also had surgery on her right rotator cuff, further restricting her mobility; yet she refuses to be depressed. “When people are depressed they just eat rubbish,” she says, “and that’s not me.”
To build her inner strength, Heidi, who is of Native-American and Irish descent, relies on meditation techniques she picked up from sweat lodge ceremonies and her days as a hot yoga instructor. To build her outer strength, Heidi relies on Project Angel Heart. “I’m amazingly blessed and enriched having the meals available to me because it helps what I’m trying to do so far as rebuild my temple,” she says, “and you need good strong pieces to make a good foundation.”
Heidi became a client in 2012 after learning about Project Angel Heart from a friend. Each week a volunteer delivers a bag of frozen entrees and soups to her home. The meals, like Heidi’s favorite Puerto Rican-spiced fish, can be modified to meet her dietary needs, are conveniently packaged, and are of no cost. Eligibility for the program is not based on income, though Heidi acknowledges that she does not have the money or mobility to prepare similar cuisine. “Kudos to the chefs and cooks, you do an amazing job,” she says.
Sitting in her chair, Heidi rubs the tension from her arm and talks about her hopes for the future. She’d like to learn more about her Native American heritage and go to school to study nutrition. “I’ve always loved nutrition,” she says, “It fuels our temple.”