Laura Goodkind – A Journey to the Paralympics

When Laura was born three months premature, she spent the first part of her life in the NICU connected to machines, such as CPAP, heart rate monitors and feeding tubes, struggling to survive. By age one, Laura was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, a neurological condition that affects motor control of her body and learning. As she grew, her difficulties did too. She faced physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and multiple surgeries. Her health worsened as new conditions such as Narcolepsy, a sleep disorder, Dysphagia, a swallowing disorder, and mast cell disease where cells in the body inappropriately release histamine, which resulted in Laura having unpredictable anaphylaxis, began to plague her.

Her lungs progressively worsened as she got older. Laura was diagnosed with varying lung related conditions including exercise induced Asthma. In 2014, Laura’s nutritionist suggested for her to be with more people like her. As someone who likes to be active, she decided to search ‘Paralympic sports clubs’ one day and saw a couple of different sports options and decided to take up rowing. She had always wanted to be an Olympian ever since she was little.

While living in a homeless shelter in 2016, Laura’s lungs began to decline further as she started to produce a lot of think mucus, that worsened her already afflicted lungs. It wasn’t until 2017 that a CT Scan confirmed excess mucus and sputum samples tested positive for a rare mold in her lungs. Laura tried different airway clearance therapies but found they did not work to get the thick mucus out of her lungs. Eventually she was prescribed a high frequency chest wall oscillation vest (HFCWO) for Cerebral Palsy and underlying Bronchiectasis.

Laura was prescribed a traditional compressor HFCWO vest. According to Laura, “The plug-in vest kept me tied down since it always needed to be plugged in and the tubes kept me in one spot.  It was also very noisy. It did a decent job, but it was a huge pain to do.” She was not very compliant to her airway clearance therapy because of these issues.  Her Service Rep mentioned that there was a mobile version of her compression vest called the Monarch® so she decided swap her HFCWO vests since it was from the same manufacturer and it would be easy.

However, once Laura got her new HFCWO vest, she didn’t like it because it was so heavy. While the Monarch was better for her lifestyle, it was heavy and cumbersome which caused compliance issues yet again. She later saw someone with an AffloVest® on YouTube. Laura says,  “I noticed the woman in the video was a lot smaller and more petite than me, so if she was able to comfortably wear it then I should be fine with the weight and fit of the AffloVest too.” After viewing the video, she wanted to switch to an AffloVest. She received it in August of 2019.

Last year, after only seven months of rowing together with her doubles partner, Russell Gernaat, they won the USA trials for the rowing world championships and then made the top eight in the race itself, qualifying the boat for the US spot in the upcoming Paralympics. Now they’re in training for those trials at the Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center in Chula Vista, California and Bair Island Aquatic Center in Redwood City, California. When the team trains at these elite rowing centers, it means a few hours in the car for the two rowers.

When asked what her feedback was on her AffloVest Laura said, “I love the AffloVest especially when I’m traveling. It’s much quieter than the other vests I have used, and it is not a pain to lug around. It has a long charge, which is especially beneficial because I use it on the highest setting and drainage. And I like how easily I can take it to practice or to races.” Her favorite feature other than mobility and its light weight is that she can do her treatment around her friend who has an implantable glucose sensor for her Type I diabetes. “Before with the Monarch, I had to wait until she was a safe distance away to do my treatments. The AffloVest doesn’t elicit high levels of magnetic frequency to interfere with implantable devices so I can hang out with my friend all the time.” AffloVest allows her to be in more situations where she can do treatments without the possibility of harming others.

Even though the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games have been postponed a year, Laura will be actively training for that top spot to proudly represent herself, in all that she has been through, and the USA.