The Sunday Series (88), with Mark Brodinsky

When do you learn what you’re really made of?

Usually it’s when you least expect it. When your back is up against the wall and you must rise to the occasion. It’s not always easy  to see when you are in the midst of something you need to escape from, that you need to make a change.

When the life you no longer want becomes your fight song, the music of your life changes its tune.

Listen to that music and know you have a virtual symphony inside you waiting to be shared, one which could affect the lives of other people.

Everyone has a story.

I am Mark Brodinsky and this is The Sunday Series.

The Sunday Series (88): Her Fight Song

erin pretty picture

Tis the season for gratitude, kindness, giving and family, and one holiday defines it all: Thanksgiving.

But what else do we look forward to on this day?  If we are so fortunate, it is the feast.

But what happens when that feast becomes a famine inside your own mind. When food becomes an obssession, not because you desire it to support your daily existence, but instead because it becomes an enemy, one you fight at every turn, or turn and run from when in its presence.

For Erin Konheim Mandras this was her life. Food as public enemy #1 – an internal threat to her body, a demon on her shoulders every time she stepped onto a scale to weigh herself and an obsession and painful paralysis of her mind. It’s called anorexia nervosa, one of the most prevalent eating disorders in America today, especially among females.

The National Association for Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), defines it this way: Anorexia nervosa is characterized by emaciation, a relentless pursuit  of thinness and unwillingness to maintain a normal or healthy weight, a  distortion of body image and intense fear of gaining weight, a lack of  menstruation among girls and women, and extremely disturbed eating behavior.

For Erin, always small in terms of height but big in heart and mind, her body and body weight were really never an issue. Like any other teenage girl, she thought about it a lot but was far from obsessed: “I was always very petite”, says Erin. “Small in stature but big in competitive drive. I was social, I was athletic, I got good grades and I was offered a full athletic scholarship to Michigan State University to play soccer. Like any teenage girl I wanted to be pretty, popular, thin. You hear so much of what you are supposed to be like, to look like, to try on jeans that make you look like a model. It’s tough for a girl, you spend a lot of time self-doubting, criticizing yourself.

erin very young

Once I went off to college I was exposed to other girls who “enlightened” me, who were showing me about dieting and skipping meals and exercising on my days off. And these are my teammates nonetheless.  I was challenged by some of them and even my coaches to be as fit as I could and play every minute of every soccer game. I went home after my freshman year and felt leaner and people started noticing I had lost weight – losing even 5-pounds on a 5-foot frame is a lot. I started controlling what I ate. There was the pressure of pre-season 2-a-days for soccer practice and so I turned to food – and started eliminating more and more foods out of my diet and declaring more and more foods as unhealthy. I became obsessed with what I weighed. I didn’t want to gain any weight.”

MSU midfielder Erin Konheim works the ball Friday at Old College Field versus Illinois.Mike Itchue/The State News

MSU midfielder Erin Konheim works the ball Friday at Old College Field versus Illinois.Mike Itchue/The State News

Erin says her coaches started noticing what was happening as well as her best friend Nina (Mastracci) Kolbe. “I became stoic and removed”, says Erin. “For a very vibrant, animated person I became very bland and unphased, just very out there in my own world. I was mandated to see the psychiatrist who specialized in athletes with eating disorders. I put up a fight – I came from a family where that didn’t happen, just fight through it and handle the tough times. But I saw the psychiatrist weekly and at the end of the process he was a hero and I loved him more than life itself.”

Erin says the real turning point to get help was fueled by her soccer experience, when she learned she wouldn’t be playing. “What happened was October 10th, 2003, we were playing Purdue University and my coach announced I wouldn’t be starting. It was because of my illness, but he did not tell me that. He said someone beat me out for my position for that game. It was traumatic for me not to start. I was recruited to play every game of every season.” Because her team fell behind, Erin eventually played and got to keep playing that season, though she says it was tough. As it got colder and colder the anorexia made it so she couldn’t train or play very well. Erin later learned she was on the verge of being medically disqualified that season, but somehow she managed to convince her coaches to let her keep playing… and she went for help.

The psychiatrist she was seeing every week finally convinced Erin she was too thin, but she says she still didn’t know how to stop it.

“An anorexic has the mindset that if they eat something bad they will lose control and blow up”, says Erin. “It’s irrational and it’s sick. This voice is telling you how bad this food is and you don’t need that. The therapy is all about countering that voice, but until you learn to fight, that voice overpowers you. It becomes routine and your regimen makes your formula work. You are convinced that what you eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner will affect the number on that scale. Anything that would change your regimen would affect you. When I looked in the mirror I knew I was too thin, but just the fear of getting bigger and losing control and becoming huge trumped my ability to see I was too thin. Someone with an eating disorder like anorexia can’t fathom eating a slice of pizza, they think it will kill them. They can be around it but they won’t touch it.”

Eventually in her junior year, encouraged by her psychiatrist and her parents and the incentive of a Louis Vuitton handbag, she turned things around, she flipped the switch… but in the other direction. Erin says, “I was deprived and I was distant. My whole life was consumed by my weight and food and that bag was my excuse, it drove my recovery and my mind in the other direction. Don’t get me wrong, I hit several obstacles along the way. I started binge eating all the foods which I had deprived myself of, especially pizza, I love pizza, I craved carbohydrates and chips. I became overweight my junior year, but I felt stronger and more confident. With guidance from my psychiatrist I was able to pull out of my binge eating. I had my best year ever as captain of the soccer team. I had been through a mental, physical and psychological roller coaster.”

erin holds award

Erin says talking about it now and launching her own blog she feels like she is coming out of the closet: “Twelve years ago I had an eating disorder, but it was a big secret. Most girls or women don’t want to reveal the truth, especially a scholarship athlete. It was one year of my life and it is a thing of the past, but it identifies who I am. It changed me as a person. It gave me a new perspective on life on my family and the people who stood by me. I will never totally lose it and it will always be a part of me in some shape or form, but it will always be managed properly.”

Erin & husband Jon

Erin & husband Jon

We are only scratching the surface of Erin’s struggles and her story during the time she was immersed in her eating disorder. I urge you to learn more and read some of her fantastic and eye-opening experiences on her blog: (

Erin graduated from Michigan State and an assistant coaching job brought her to Baltimore where she and her family still live. And now Erin is on a mission to share her life-changing message and affect the lives of other people: “We are all women and we strain and desire to have the most perfect body type. But we need to coach and teach these young women so they are not shell-shocked like I was. They need to gain an understanding of what goes on and they can be prepared and continuously reiterate to them not to judge someone based on their appearance but on their inner self. Don’t look in the mirror and judge your body type, but instead what type of person you are and what you’ve been given and that should be your focus. Provide positive awareness and don’t grade yourself based on your size, not the size of your body or your waist but the size of your heart.”

I don’t normally do this but here’s a little inside information about Erin and this week’s post. We did a late night phone interview for this story and when I hung up I sat back and thought, as I do so many times after a Sunday Series interview, here is someone whose courage to share her story is definitely going to inspire, most certainly put a dent in the universe and hopefully save a life, if not many lives. In this case, after talking to Erin I pulled up her favorite song, Rachel Platten’s Fight Song on YouTube and watched the lyric version, (“This is my fight song, take back my life song, prove I’m alright song.”). Let me just say this, if ever there was one, here’s a song that was written for Erin Konhein Mandras and her mission.

As the father of two daughters it is my greatest hope Erin’s story stops someone from doing what she did – no girl, no woman should be judged or feel the pressure to become so obsessed with their body shape, or their weight. Life should not be measured by the appearance of your flesh and bones, but instead by the depth of your heart and soul.

Keep your fight song going Erin — I’m definitely in your corner – go get ’em champ.

erin and family

Until next time, thanks for taking the time.


You can learn more about the warning signs and consequences of anorexia nervosa at several different websites, including ( and ( and once again on Erin’s Blog, (


Mark Brodinsky, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Speaker, SpeechWriter, Emmy Winner, USHEALTH Advisors

Author: The #1 Amazon Best Seller: It Takes 2. Surviving Breast Cancer: A Spouse’s Story

The Podcast: (

Join the Tribe! Enter your name and e-mail address into the blog and get posts from It’s Just About… Life & The Sunday Series sent directly to your e-mail inbox!





Start Before You’re Ready: It’s Just About… Life


It’s the ultimate trap in business and in life – as Ed Nemec, a boss and friend of mine once told me, and it was sage advice, “don’t fall into the trap of getting ready to get ready.” He’s right. It’s nearly impossible to reach any goal, to accomplish what it is you want to accomplish, to make an impact, to see a dream come true if you wait for the perfect moment. If you simply wait to gain all the knowledge you can before you act you’ll be awaiting around your entire life.

Paralysis comes from the seemingly justifiable excuse and thought – “hey I’m not ready yet, I need to study this or learn that”. That’s a recipe for being stuck right where you are and never moving forward. You may never know it all. Learn on the job, go after life in the way you want by living it, not thinking about living it.

Recently I listened to an interview with Maria Forleo, an American life coach, motivational speaker, author and web television host. She’s been featured by Oprah as a thought leader for the next generation and she has some words to live by when it comes to getting you up-and-moving in the direction of your dreams:

Everything can be figured out. If there is something you want to create, if there’s something you want to see come to life in this world – don’t worry if you don’t experience, don’t worry if you don’t have the knowledge – you can absolutely figure it out. Clarity comes from engagement, not thought. The idea we can figure anything out if we are determined, if we have the heart, if we are willing to put in the sweat and just play – just take things apart and put them back together – that is a lesson that should be embedded in your psyche and your soul.”


Maria is right. Thinking about it won’t make it happen, only doing it will. The concept of going after it before you know-it-all, is crucial. You may never know-it-all so dive in and figure things out along the way.

Want proof?  I can use this blog as an example. It is obviously an important part of who I am and who I am becoming. We are marching toward three years of posts for It’s Just About… Life & The Sunday Series.  When I decided to begin I had no idea how to create a blog. I asked a friend, blogger and now author, Rachel Blaufeld, how she started blogging. We had a 10-minute casual conversation and the next day I got to work. That’s the point, I got to work. Now, more than 450 posts later I have shared more information, told more stories and affected more lives than I could ever have imagined. The ripple effect of touching the lives of other people –  that feeling of making an impact – is soulfully-rewarding and life-affirming.

So what do you want to do? Don’t wait, start now.

start a blog

When what you love to do aligns with  your purpose life changes and begins to move in the direction of your dreams – it is beautiful and gratifying in ways that constantly surprise you. Although I had a vision when I began, this blog is developing and deepening relationships and opening doors in profound ways I never saw coming. That is the beauty of life and purpose.

And it’s all because I got going. I didn’t wait until I was sure. I didn’t sit around thinking about it. I jumped in. I got moving. I got messy. I learn every day and every week as I go along. I keep reading. I keep listening. I keep sharing. I keep visualizing and I never stop dreaming – because I am doing.

And it’s all because I started before I was ready.


Until next time, thanks for taking the time


Mark Brodinsky, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Speaker, SpeechWriter, Emmy Winner, USHEALTH Advisors

Author: The #1 Amazon Best Seller: It Takes 2. Surviving Breast Cancer: A Spouse’s Story

The Podcast: (

Join the Tribe! Enter your name and e-mail address into the blog and get posts from It’s Just About… Life & The Sunday Series sent directly to your e-mail inbox!




The Sunday Series (87), with Mark Brodinsky

Frequently life will introduce you to unexpected revelations. Live long enough and you will discover something for which you never gave more than a passing thought. Then circumstances bring it into your sphere of focus and the knowledge becomes an eye-opening experience.

Get to know someone who regularly saves lives and you will learn about triumph in the face of tragedy, about miracles born from desperation and light extracted from darkness.

There is no doubt – everyone has a story.

I am Mark Brodinsky and this is the Sunday Series.

The Sunday Series (87): On a Wing and a Prayer


You don’t really think much about it until it happens, someone is injured far from home, or far from where they need to be to get the best care they possibly can. All of a sudden the questions become obvious in the most critical of situations: how do you get them where they need to go? How can that person get the proper care? How can it be done quickly, efficiently and safely.

In many cases these days you take to the air.

Such was the case when Jennifer Granek suffered a traumatic brain injury while on vacation in Costa Rica. Not only were dollars raised quickly for medical care and transport, but the story gained worldwide attention through the virtual web of social media and a the blog on Huffington Post, (  This is one of the e-mails I received in response to Jen’s story from Dr. Mark Merlin:


“I read your story about Jennifer Granek.  I am the Chief Medical Officer of a large Fixed Wing Medical Flight company that flies people around the world with medical teams.  I have reached out for this family… but I am not sure my messages are getting through to them.  We can fly Jennifer anywhere at anytime on our of our planes with a full medical team if needed.”

Dr. Merlin left his phone number in the e-mail so I called and spoke to him about his service.  The details of what an emergency air transport company could accomplish were fascinating and I sent his information to the Granek family. In the end they were not the company who brought Jen home, but nonetheless, I decided it worthy of gathering more information from Dr. Merlin to share with the world, (after all this is what this blog is all about), to understand how the system works and how other people in similar situations might gain knowledge which could help save a life.


Dr. Merlin says the most important thing he wants people to understand is they, (Jet911,, have the ability to transport the most critical patients, in situations you wouldn’t believe, for example with their chests wide open, to get them to the facility they need to go and get the care they need. “We can fly any patient, anywhere, anytime”, says Mark. The limitations on transport are not a plane, or a pilot… it’s on the other side, the other people providing care.”

Dr. Merlin says the greatest challenge is when doctors in other countries don’t understand, or are unfamiliar with the scope of what an emergency flight team like Jet911 can accomplish in terms of critical-care transport. He says, “we try to emphasize to families that while their loved ones might be getting care right where they are, even good care, you want to be in the United States, because we have the best tertiary care in the world, meaning all these doctors who specialize in different areas. They have been practicing and practicing and practicing, some as long as 20 years or more, to be the best at what they do. Other countries don’t really have that.”

Jet911 uses large fixed wing aircraft to get the job done with the ability to carry the patient, a complete medical team and as many as 15 family members. Because they own and operate their own aircraft they have complete control over the situation and can fly as far as 6,000 miles without stopping, with their largest planes.


But this is not a commercial for Jet911. It’s about understanding how the system works in this world we currently live. What is fascinating and important is this – because if you are ever in a situation where critical air transport is needed – just as in any area of life – applied knowledge is crucial. If you search the internet looking for a flight service to get your loved one to where they need to go, either from inside the United States, or from beyond its borders — you will see some great websites and beautiful pictures of nice planes, good-looking flight attendants and fantastic medical teams.

But as Dr. Merlin explains, welcome to the internet.

“There are lots of brokers, guys who look for these types of cases, (the families of critically ill or injured patients trying to get them home or to the appropriate medical facility), and while their websites look fantastic, they are actually operating out of a small office, or even out of their cars, simply calling around to arrange flights and creating their own margins for profit. Most people don’t know this. Even insurance companies might use these brokers, or simply google and come up with a flight company.” It doesn’t mean these are necessarily bad – but when your family member’s life might hang in the balance, it’s information you might just need to know.

The other lesson Dr. Merlin wants people to know is this: make the call within 24 hours. If someone you love is injured, or sick, if you contact the insurance company immediately you have a much better shot of getting the insurer to pay. If you wait a few days, or even a few weeks, the insurance company can easily make the argument the person is getting the care they need right where they are, so they are not picking up the bill for air transport.

That’s the other challenge, it’s not free. While 20 years ago Jet911 started off doing charity cases – angel flights – like flying kids with cancer and their friends to different parts of the world, they received so many requests for medical flights by people who have the means to pay, they decided to expand their business.


Understand this – and this is an important piece of the puzzle to know – not only is it a business for these flight companies, it can be BIG business for the foreign country where the patient is receiving care. Part of the cost for a medical emergency transport team, especially a fixed-wing flight company like Jet911, is that they have to pay landing fees in foreign countries, or islands, in order to get the patient home.  Dr. Merlin says while some countries charge $2,000 to $3,000 for a plane to land at a private airport, some countries take complete advantage of the system, charging as much as $30,000 to $50,000 to allow a plane to land! Between that fee and jet fuel, you can understand why the costs for air transport can be so significant.

Yet sometimes the care needed is so critical, the line between life and death so fine, that somehow, someway, families need to find a way to get their loved one to the best care they can.


A couple of examples of recent flights for Jet911:

Medical Escort from China to US

52 year old male was in a serious motor vehicle accident in China. Patient sustained a shattered pelvis, amongst other injuries. A decision was made not to do surgery in China and to transfer patient back to the USA for treatment. A medical team was immediately dispatched to China while red tape was navigated . Patient was flown back on commercial airliner via stretcher transport.

Or this one:

Air Ambulance from Ohio to New York with same day surgery

9:00 AM, patient sustains a fractured pelvis while visiting family in Ohio.
10:15 AM- Patient’s family contacts Jet911 requesting an expedited transport to NYC.
11:45 AM- ground ambulance crew picks up patient at hospital and transfers patient to airport.
12:45 PM- patient is flown back via private medical jet to NYC.
3:00 PM- patient is in surgery

The benefit of going from here-to-there by air when someone needs care the most can be significant in saving a life or even in the speed of recovery. And there’s one other piece of advice Dr. Merlin wants to share: “If I could tell people one thing – it is get travelers insurance when you travel. For a few hundred dollars, if that, most companies will pay the entire bill if you get hurt and have to get home from another country.”

Dr. Merlin lives the truth he desires to teach. His resume is detailed and distinguished: Associate Professor, Rutgers School of Public Health/Medical School, Vice-Chair Emergency Medicine and EMS Fellowship Director, Newark Beth Israel Medical Center/Barnabas Health, Chief Medical Officer, MONOC, Chief Medical Officer, Jet911.


One of the men who runs Jet911, Eli Rowe, is a pilot and a philanthropist. He owns the all of the aircraft for Jet911 and Dr. Merlin says Eli’s goal is to have a big impact to give people the best care in the industry.

It’s all about finding a way to get the most critical patients to where they need to go – on a wing and a prayer.

Until next time, thanks for taking the time.


Mark Brodinsky, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Speaker, SpeechWriter, Emmy Winner, USHEALTH Advisors

Author: The #1 Amazon Best Seller: It Takes 2. Surviving Breast Cancer: A Spouse’s Story

The Podcast: (

Join the Tribe! Enter your name and e-mail address into the blog and get posts from It’s Just About… Life & The Sunday Series sent directly to your e-mail inbox!






The Power of Community: It’s Just About… Life

It was Aristotle who first defined the word “community” as a group established by men having shared values.  Merriam-Webster defines it as a group of people with a common characteristic, or interest living together within a larger society.

In this area you can define it with a single name and a unified purpose: Jennifer Granek.

jen hugs brian

For those who don’t know Jennifer suffered a traumatic brain injury while on a special birthday vacation back on October 1st. She spent most of that month in a medically-induced coma in the critical care unit at a hospital in Costa Rica. She was finally transported back to Baltimore and is now at the University of Maryland Shock Trauma, stable, but remains in a coma.

In an outpouring which redefines what it means for individuals to support, show love, offer prayers and give donations for a common cause, the community outreach for the hoped-for recovery for Jennifer Granek is amazing to observe, either up-close or even from afar. The human spirit of giving, empathy, hope and love is alive and well in the Baltimore area and well beyond.

Shortly after the accident, there was a GiveForward fund set up for Jen, to help cover the cost of transporting her home and the expected medical costs associated with her care. In only two days more than $100,000 was donated from people not only in this close-knit Baltimore community but from all around the world. To-date that fund stands at more than $184,000 from nearly 1500 donors.

Just last night, Regi’s American Bistro in Baltimore held a fundraiser giving back 25% of all purchases to help the cause for Jennifer.

folks at regis

There have been concerts for the cause, one at Playoff Sports Bar & Grill in Owings Mills in late October with Tall in the Saddle, and another one coming up next weekend with Uncommitted and Scotty B Entertainment.

scotty b event

There was a special exercise class recently at barre. in Greenspring, as women gathered to “tuck” and “give” in another fundraising effort for Jen.

jen barre class

There are pocketbook and jewelry parties scheduled, (, there was a “Strong” necklace fundraiser and as the Granek family will tell you countless e-mails, social media postings and warm and tender wishes which come in constantly all-day, nearly every minute of every day.

The point is this – we all share in this human experience. When the chips are down, countless people will rise to the occasion. The power of social media connects us virtually, but it is the heart of  human beings that link us as one, and spur us into action to help those who need us the most. Live your life the right way – show care, respect, concern and courage – as the Granek family has done and others will in turn give back to try to turn tragedy into triumph.

You only need read the words from Brian Granek’s recent Caringbridge post to know what the power of community means for him and his family: “Please continue to pray for Jennifer and our family. We continue to be emotionally overwhelmed at the love, prayers and support we have received. This community is truly special.”

Community. At times the world and life can seem overwhelming, chaotic and  scary. But clarity comes with the care and concern we all feel for others which keeps the earth spinning on its axis and in the right direction. It is the power of community. We all hope this community is strong enough through love, prayer and support, to witness a full recovery by a respected woman, wife and mother to three young children. Brian says it best at the end of each of his Caringbridge updates: “Hug your loved ones and kiss them often.”

granek kids

You can see this caring community is special, resilient and remarkable, three traits which describe Jennifer Granek, the woman we all hope will make the comeback of her life, for there is so much to live for.

jen makes muscle

Until next time, thanks for taking the time


Mark Brodinsky, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Speaker, SpeechWriter, Emmy Winner, USHEALTH Advisors

Author: The #1 Amazon Best Seller: It Takes 2. Surviving Breast Cancer: A Spouse’s Story

The Podcast: (

Join the Tribe! Enter your name and e-mail address into the blog and get posts from It’s Just About… Life & The Sunday Series sent directly to your e-mail inbox!