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Few people use their Facebook status message to save someone’s life.

But that was the beginning of the #loveayo movement, started this week by Azania Shaka, for her friend, Ayodele Murphy. Murphy, 31, recently contracted a rare and aggressive strain of malaria, likely during a trip to Sierra Leone in April. While participating in an intensive yoga training in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, Murphy fell ill on May 10.

During her trip, Murphy was in constant contact with Shaka. The two have been best friends for six years and talk multiple times a day. In their conversations from Mexico, Shaka could hear her friend getting sick, and then sicker.

“She sounded awful, she sounded like she couldn’t breathe,” Shaka recalled Tuesday in an interview from Atlanta.

Within a few days, Murphy checked into a hospital and the friends spoke again.

Ayodele Murphy, left,  and Azania Shaka have been best friends for six years and talk multiple times a day.  (Photos courtesy of the Murphy family)

Ayodele Murphy, left, and Azania Shaka have been best friends for six years and talk multiple times a day. (Photos courtesy of the Murphy family)

“She said, ‘I’m really scared,’” Shaka said. “She doesn’t get scared easily, so for me it was like, ‘OK, this is real.’”

Without insurance, Murphy did not immediately receive the proper diagnosis or treatment. As her condition worsened, Murphy’s medical bill skyrocketed to nearly $30,000.

Thousands of miles away, Shaka took to Facebook on Sunday, asking followers to pitch in with prayers and financial donations.

“That’s my sister,” Shaka said, choking back tears. “Blood couldn’t make us any closer. I started writing. … People started cheering. It was like magic. Friends of friends of friends were sharing it and telling other people.”

Within hours, friends and strangers had pledged more than $7,000 and were re-posting the news of Murphy’s situation using the hashtag #loveayo. Their pleas also appeared to be working. Later Sunday evening, Murphy had received a blood transfusion. Shaka reached out to the American consulate in Mexico through social media channels for help with transporting Murphy out of the country and back to the United States.

 

Known to her friends simply as “Ayo,” the New Orleans native is seen in photos  — posted on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram by her supporters — smiling, glowing and full of life. On the website dedicated to raising awareness about her situation, http://www.loveAyo.com, she is described as “an avid traveler, generous friend, loving sister and precious daughter.”

Ayodele Murpwhy, who has taught at the Be Hot Yoga Studio in Atlanta since 2008, competes nationally and internationally in yoga. (Photo courtesy of the Murphy family)

Ayodele Murpwhy, who has taught at the Be Hot Yoga Studio in Atlanta since 2008, competes nationally and internationally in yoga. (Photo courtesy of the Murphy family)

A yoga class she took in 2005 hooked Murphy on the practice. Since 2008, she has taught yoga at Be Hot Yoga Studio in Atlanta, and she has competed nationally and internationally in yoga.

Help has come from many corners. In addition to her sister circle in Atlanta, Ayo has gotten the attention of the local yoga community and from fellow alumnae at Bennett College in North Carolina. Even those who do not know Ayo personally have been touched by her story through social media.

On Tuesday, artist Erykah Badu posted: “This sister means a lot to the community. Sending light and love.” The Facebook message has prompted more than 379 “shares” and more than 3,949 “likes.”

In just two days, the Ayodele Medical Relief Fund raised $29,000 to help bring Ayo back to the United States and cover her medical expenses. Because she lacked insurance, it was difficult to get her out of Mexico for her continued treatment and recovery, and her critical condition meant she could not leave on a commercial flight. But on Wednesday, she was airlifted out of the country and flown into Atlanta, where she is being treated at a local hospital.

Out of respect for the family’s privacy, details of her transport and the whereabouts of her recovery are limited.

Efforts to help have been large and small; one donor gave $10,000, and another asked people to pack their lunches and donate what they would’ve spent on a meal to the cause. On Tuesday, a friend hosted a yoga class in Atlanta and plans to donate the proceeds to Ayo.

Shaka has kept Murphy informed about the campaign to help her and get her back to Atlanta.

“I remember the first 22 hours (into the campaign) I was able to speak to her,” Shaka said. “I was able to tell her so far we’ve raised $10,000. She cried so hard. She doesn’t understand the effect she has on people. It just made me want to push harder.”

Though Murphy has been brought back to the United States, her fight and the campaign to help will continue. She will still need medical care, and the expenses continue to mount.

Shaka is encouraged by the tremendous interest in Murphy’s story and looks forward to sharing with Murphy the examples of generosity on her behalf.

“She’s not well enough to know right now, but I’m excited for when she will be,” Shaka said.

The name Ayodele means “joy has come home” in Yoruba.

To donate to the effort to help Ayodele Murphy, please visit http://www.loveayo.com.

Errin Haines Whack is a reporter who writes often on culture. She is based in Washington, D.C.

 

3 Reasons You Need Travel Insurance

Check your medical policy to determine if you need travel insurance before you take off on your trip. (Creative Commons)

Check your medical policy to determine if you need travel insurance before you take off on your trip. (Creative Commons)

Many people think travel insurance is just a way for a company to make money, but it has tremendous value if something goes wrong whether you’re on a domestic or international trip.

In addition to help with trip interruptions, lost luggage, missing documents or stolen cash, travel insurance provides assistance if you become sick or injured while on vacation.

Here are three reasons to consider purchasing a policy before you pack your bags:

1. U.S. medical insurance typically does not travel out of the country. Double-check coverage limitations on your health insurance, homeowner’s policy or credit cards. Your policy might not pay a foreign hospital directly, or it might not cover medical evacuations.

2. In an emergency, travel insurance can help with medical treatment and transportation, dental work, replacement of lost prescriptions and shipment of medical records.

3. With advance purchase and under certain conditions, some travel policies cover trip interruptions caused by pre-existing health conditions.

For example, a 36-year-old woman who spent $2,000 for a four-night trip from South Carolina to Aruba might pay about $60 for basic travel insurance. Her plan might offer $10,000 in medically necessary coverage with a deductible of $50 and up to $100,000 for emergency evacuation to a U.S. hospital. She could purchase upgrades to boost her coverage, add dental benefits, choose a specific hospital and lose the deductible.

Benefits can vary by state or by cost, so be sure to read the fine print, especially for pregnancy complications. — FFBW staff