From Hospice to Healthy: How a Plant-Based Diet Saved Mom’s Life and Inspired a Business

By Meg Donahue

From Hospice to Healthy: How a Plant-Based Diet Saved Mom’s Life and Inspired a Business

This is a story is about food, science, and love.

“Just make her comfortable.” Nobody wants to hear a doctor say this about a loved one. We all know it’s code for the end is close and there’s nothing else you can do. I know the sinking frustration of these words firsthand. In 2011, at 80 years old, my mother Millie was released from the hospital. Her doctor suggested we get her affairs in order, get help (hospice care), and the dreaded…”make her comfortable.”

She had congestive heart failure with an EF (Ejection Fraction) hovering around 10 percent and dipping. A host of other problems followed – kidney infections, lung problems. She was too weak for surgery and we were running out of hope.

We’re a close family and I just couldn’t reconcile that my mom, a once vibrant woman, avid tennis player, and a bit of a health nut, was now dying. Out of desperation, I Googled, “Surviving late state congestive heart failure.”

I came across the research of Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn and read everything I could about how a whole food, plant-based diet could prevent and possibly reverse heart disease.

It made intuitive sense to me. Eat real food and your body will move toward health. But could it change the course of heart disease in a very sick, old heart?

I brought mom home to live with me in a small, renovated apartment in our garage. We started with smoothies and blended soups because she was too weak to try anything else. We worked our way up from there – replacing the meat, cheese, and dairy in her diet with fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes.

We saw improvement almost immediately, but her health was a delicate ecosystem and it didn’t take much to send her back to the Intensive Care Unit (typically, a bout of dehydration).

We just kept giving her WFPB meals and even with occasional dips in her health, she improved. We first thought she had months to live but within those months of eating a whole food, plant-based diet, the color came back to her face, her appetite increased, she was able to get up and walk from the bed to bathroom without assistance, and best of all, she could hold my newborn daughter.

Each year – yes, each year – she got better still. When we brought her back in to see her cardiologist, the same one who had prepared us for hospice care, we found her heart function (EF) was now at 45 percent.

She’s 86 now, swims four times a week, drives (yikes!), and lives a very full life.

The experience changed all of us. Because I was cooking for my mom, my family also transitioned to a WFPB diet. Within weeks my chronic fatigue and beginnings of macular degeneration cleared up. My partner, Lisa, saw her blood pressure go from its usual 155/110 to 127/80.

I needed to understand what was going on, specifically, WHY do plant-based foods have such profound health benefits? I went back to where it all started for me, and decided to enroll in the T. Colin Campbell Center’s Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate.

I wanted to get a basic foundation in the science and it was during this course where I came to understand that so many of us don’t have to live with illness and pain. My eyes were opened to the critical role diet has in both prevention and reversal of common chronic disease like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

The Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate was a game changer for me. If I could, I’d have everyone I know go through it.

People often call my mother’s recovery a miracle. And while I understand the sentiment, I believe the miraculous thing may be that so much illness could be avoided if people could only move from foods that hurt to foods that heal.

But as they say, it wasn’t all kittens and rainbows. For us, changing our diet did not come without its own difficulties. One of the major problems we found with eating this way is that you need to spend a lot of time in the kitchen preparing and chopping, and the recipes and tastes profiles were unfamiliar.

We wondered if there was an easier way to eat healthy. Was there a company out there that would prepare fresh and hearty plant-based foods for us—then deliver to our door? Our search for one came up empty.

And so a business was born. Lisa was the former owner and longtime CEO of Vermont Bread Company, and so we decided to put our organic food background to use again, this time with a mission to make eating a WFPB diet easy.

In the fall of 2016 we launched MamaSezz.com, a plant-based meal delivery service out of Keene, New Hampshire. Delivering nationwide, we’re a resource for those who want to eat healthy meals but don’t necessarily have the time, energy, or know-how to prepare food on their own. We take the hassle out of eating well by delivering hearty and delicious plant-based meals to your door, already cooked.

For us, it’s about so much more than quick and easy meals. We’re committed to working with medical professionals, scientists, and nutritionists to bring the healing power of food to everyone.

Meg DonahueMeg Donahue earned her Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies. She is the Co-Founder of MamaSezz.com a plant-based meal delivery service for busy folks who want to eat clean, healthy foods. They take the hassle out of eating well by delivering ready-made, satisfying, and delicious plant-based meals to your door. For more information, visit the website or check out MamaSezz on Facebook.