No one would blame Ira Revels for feeling sorry for herself and deciding to step back from full engagement in life. In the last year she has lost several family members, including her birth mother and a beloved uncle, and had a stroke. She also has multiple sclerosis. 

But Revels decided to take a different approach. The 50-year-old West Hartford resident is starting a non-profit designed specifically to help people, especially marginalized people, better navigate the healthcare system. 

Revels is inspired to take this action in large part as a result of her personal experience with healthcare during her stroke. Short story? It was abysmal, including but not limited to, spending nine hours in one emergency room with no food, water or medication after arriving with the entire side of her body completely numb and her blood pressure in triple digits. Frustrated, she left to try a different emergency room where she was told it would be another 6 and a half hour wait. At that point, she gave up, went home and called the EMTs the following morning to bring her in for care in an ambulance.

“The fact that I made it out of there means to me I’m still supposed to be here,” she says. “I’m inspired by my stroke and my experience with the healthcare system [to start this nonprofit to help others].” The mission statement of the company, which is called, And Wellness, Inc. is “evolving wellness for marginalized communities.” 

Revels has already raised nearly $100,000 in seed money to develop the nonprofit’s website and programs. In addition to wellness programs, she says the nonprofit will follow developing health technology and evolving programs for all kinds of physical and mental health and partner with others doing this work. “We want to give resources and do advocacy,” Revels says. “We want to potentially partner with others to elevate our stories and connect individuals to organizations like Mental Health Connecticut.”

The nonprofit also hopes to help improve patient/doctor conversations and how the appropriate use of artificial intelligence (AI) can improve those conversations. “Healthcare is moving toward preventative care and that’s a huge area the health industry wants to tackle and solve for,” she says. “A lot of the tools out there are not standardized. I want to help create something that helps people navigate that, particularly marginalized people.”

It’s not surprising Revels is expanding her digital footprint with this new venture. She is already co-owner of Black Tech Futures Media, a digital media company devoted to educating people about the next iteration of the web. The company helps educate businesses about AI and other developments online.

Revels is also a digital artist. Her work, which she describes as futuristic, is being featured in the 6th Dimension Festival. That traveling show was in New London and will be in New Haven in the fall. 

Revels hopes sharing her story will help others understand the role the mind can play in healing. “I hope people will understand that part of our healing is the mind and how we are able to overcome that is by being positive,” she says. “I want people to be inspired by my story and be willing to focus on improving their own mental health so they can improve their health in general.