Today we’d like to introduce you to Kym McNicholas.
It’s an honor to speak with you today. Why don’t you give us some details about you and your story. How did you get to where you are today?
I’m an Emmy Award-winning journalist turned Healthcare Activist fighting for life and limb. I started out my career as a journalist covering business and technology as one of the first web-centric video reporters. I then found myself following my passion for sports in becoming the first female combined Sports Director/Anchor in the San Francisco Bay Area. I then spent years in local news as a morning anchor and general assignment reporter. When I landed my dream job as a journalist at Forbes, that’s where I secured my expertise in innovation. I was then recruited as the founding Executive Director of what I helped shape into the world’s largest startup competition, The Extreme Tech Challenge, with Sir Richard Branson as anchor judge. Vetting more than 4,000 startups, I discovered the healthcare innovation boom. So, I launched a radio show about innovation, focusing on healthcare. One interview about the next big breakthrough in vascular medicine, changed my career course. That interview led to an in-depth series covering the FDA clearance process and global commercialization of a medical device used to treat blocked arteries in the legs and heart, with life and limb saving potential. I traveled globally over five years to nearly a dozen countries and more than thirty states observing thousands of hours of procedures. What I learned about the most advanced life and limb saving techniques, I now use to advocate for more than 8,000 patients through my non-profit The Way To My Heart.
I’m sure your success has not come easily. What challenges have you had to overcome along the way?
The biggest challenge with saving life and limb is outreach. It’s getting the word out to the most vulnerable populations and letting them know that leg pain and leg cramps may not be simply old age or purely diabetic neuropathy. It could be narrowed arteries, in mainly the legs, due to plaque build-up, called Peripheral Artery Disease (P.A.D.). P.A.D. is one of the most debilitating diseases most have never heard of, yet impacts one in 20 over age 50, one in three diabetics over age 50. It can indicate risk for heart attack (3-in-5 heart attack sufferers have it), stroke, and amputation. More than 70% of The Way To My Heart patients reported that their onset of symptoms was brushed off or misdiagnosed by their primary care physician. The challenge is not only educating patients, but also primary care physicians to recognize the signs and symptoms sooner and provide appropriate diagnostics to confirm or rule it out. Once diagnosed with P.A.D., it’s getting the word out that patients should not settle for amputation without appropriate vascular assessment by a highly skilled interventional specialist trained to treat complex blockages. A second opinion is critical. Nearly 200,000 needless amputations occur annually due to P.A.D. because patients and even some vascular specialists don’t know there are other options. Patients want to trust their physician, but they need to understand that different doctors with the same title have different tools, techniques, philosophies, training, and standard protocols which dictate how they treat.
Let’s talk about the work you do. What do you specialize in and why should someone work with you over the competition?
I am the founder of The Way to My Heart, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. It’s the only organization that provides high-touch advocacy for patients with P.A.D. The Way To My Heart educates, engages, and empowers patients to take their healthcare into their own hands to get diagnosed and treated soonest in an effort to prevent premature heart attack, stroke, and amputation. We are the only organization that help patients get a second opinion, prepare them for appointments with critical questions to ask their physician, support them during appointments virtually or in-person to help facilitate a productive and satisfying conversation with the physician, and following-up with the patients afterwards to ensure a comprehensive understanding of their diagnostic and treatment options as well as to support them with critical lifestyle modifications through our real-time smoking cessation, diet, and exercise programs. We have the world’s largest community of P.A.D. patients. We have saved the limbs of more than 500 patients told amputation was their only option through our direct efforts; indirectly is countless. One of the most impactful was a 94-year-old woman told she needed to lose her foot due to a non-healing sore on her toe. Her son reached out and we found them a limb saver two hours away. Since treatment, her sore has healed, and she is walking without pain.. In Canada, a patient had a failed bypass and her physician said amputation was the only option. We found a physician who saved her limb.
What’s your best piece of advice for readers who desire to find success in their life?
Don’t let what you don’t know and have never done before get in the way of following your heart and doing something impactful. Life is a journey and you learn along the way. Sir Richard Branson once said during an interview I had with him for a story that sometimes the biggest disruption of industry comes from an outsider with a completely ‘Virgin’ viewpoint. He wasn’t in the airline industry before starting Virgin and had never been an astronaut prior to launching Virgin Galactic. He explained that sometimes what you don’t know about an industry can be your greatest asset to the industry. Why? It’s because you are not limited by what was taught in a textbook or ‘how things have always been done.’ Innovation requires out-of-the-box thinking. Doctors have told me that my ‘fresh set of eyes’ and “journalist experience’ has brought an entirely new perspective on spreading awareness about Peripheral Artery Disease and it’s having a life and limb saving impact on thousands of patients around the world because of it.
Speaking of success, what does the word mean to you?
Success to me is about fulfilling my life’s purpose. Figuring it out was a game-changer for me because everything just seemed to line-up in my life at that point. While I work harder than I ever have before, it doesn’t feel like it. Saving life and limb is my calling and I feel the reward of helping others to live a better quality of life each and every day. Each person has their own calling. To hear that calling, you must block out outside forces that may lead you astray. Others will always try to summon you to follow their calling or influence you into a calling they see fit for you. True success in life which leads to unconditional happiness, is finding and following your true purpose in life.
What’s next for you?
What do you think about preventing all 200,000 P.A.D. related amputations? That’s our goal! Early diagnosis, and appropriate treatment by a highly skilled limb salvage specialist are key. We are committed to helping who we call our ‘P.A.D. Warriors.’ to living a better quality of life.
Finally, how can people connect with you if they want to learn more.
The Way To My Heart has a 24/7 “Leg Saver” hotline to provide real-time support for people who experience leg pain, leg cramps or have been diagnosed with P.A.D. or Diabetic Neuropathy. By calling (415)320-7138, patients will get free support finding a second opinion, preparing for their appointments with critical questions to ask their doctor, and support in complying with critical lifestyle modifications, including smoking cessation, diet, and exercise. Going to www.TheWayToMyHeart.org patients will find more information on our free education and services.