As Senior Local Editor for AOL’s, I launched a community website focused on providing daily local news for Port Washington, WI, and Saukville, WI. I worked at AOL from fall 2010 until fall 2013. As editor of the website, my responsibilities included deciding and producing the daily content for the website, managing a team of freelance writers and blog contributors as well as marketing the website to build audience growth.

An extensive selection of my work can be found on this blog. Through website redesigns, much of the original content posted to was lost. Below is also a sample of  a feature story I wrote for the website.

‘Don’t Let Me Die’: Port Woman Battles Kidney Failure

After having fought several diseases for the past seven years, Tammy Brumm was also diagnosed with kidney failure. Now, she faces regular dialysis treatments while she works to be added to the list of more than 90,000 nationwide awaiting a transplant.

Tammy Brumm suffers from kidney failure.

For the past seven years, Port Washington resident Tammy Brumm has struggled with a number of diseases, life-threatening and otherwise.

She had 14 hospital stays last year — not including emergency room visits — and now spends three days a week receiving dialysis treatments after “waking up” with end-stage renal disease about one year ago. ESRD is “when the kidneys are no longer able to work at a level needed for day-to-day life,” according to the National Library of Medicine.

Kidney failure, at age 36.

“I was lying in my bed dying, and I didn’t even realize it,” Brumm said. “Instantly, the first thing I thought of were my kids — I have to be here for my kids. I looked at Rob (my husband) and said, ‘Don’t let me die.’”

Tammy has also been suffering from “psoriatic arthritis, fibromyalgia, celiac disease, pustular psoriasis, hypertension, pancreatitus, and diverticulosis for the past few years and most of these conditions are slowly getting worse,” according to the website, where a fundraiser called Tammy’s Broken Beans has started. “Over the past year she’s also battled several serious infections and blood clots.”

The combination of issues has also led to problems with her eyes, she said.

Tammy, now 37, is working her way through the final steps of being added to the list of 92,832 patients awaiting a kidney transplant; of that list, 1,622 patients are from Wisconsin, according to United Network for Organ Sharing Spokesperson Ann Paschke. UNOS coordinates the national database for organ transplants.

The average waiting period for a transplant is 3-1/2 years, Paschke said. That number was calculated using donors who joined the list in 2006.

Until she receives a transplant, Tammy will continue to receive dialysis treatments several times weekly at a cost of $11,000 to $17,000 a session, Rob said.

“It’s just crazy how much it costs to stay alive,” Tammy said.

Kidney transplants: A waiting list

Most organ transplant matches consider how sick a person is — and therefore how necessary the transplant is for survival. But kidney transplant matches do not take “health urgency” into consideration, Paschke said.

The criteria, therefore, is time spent on the waiting list. The only exception: patients under 35 receive a higher priority.

“There’s preference given for children — they don’t develop correctly if they are waiting for a kidney,” Paschke said.

The process starts with a patient undergoing a health and psychological evaluation, Paschke said. Approved patients are then added to the UNOS computer database. When a donor kidney becomes available, information about that person is added to the database, and the computer works in a process of elimination to find a match.
Tammy said she has a final appointment in a few weeks, and she is hoping to be approved at that time. Complications from her other diseases need to be considered in her approval.

There is no history of the diseases that Tammy suffers from on her mother’s side of the family, Tammy said, but she has no information about her biological father — so there’s really no way to tell if her complications are genetic.

Living donor concept

In 2011, there were 16,815 kidney transplants completed nationwide, with 410 taking place in Wisconsin, Paschke said. About 35 percent of the kidney transplants are ones that actually came from what is referred to as a “living donor.”

“In response to the shortage of organs for transplantation, relatives, loved ones, friends, and even individuals who wish to remain anonymous may serve as living donors for the more than 100,000 people on the national organ transplant waiting list,” a brochure on said. Organ transplants that can be provided by living donors include: kidney, liver, lung, intestine and pancreas.Rob Brumm, Tammy’s husband, is hoping that he will be a match for Tammy’s kidney transplant. As soon as Tammy is approved to the list, Rob will also undergo an evaluation process to become a living donor.”It’s such a sacrifice,” Tammy said, “but I don’t want to pray for someone to die for me to live.”

“The big thing is finding out if he is healthy enough to be a donor,” Paschke said. Even if Rob’s blood type and other factors don’t make him a match, he still has the option to partake in a paired kidney-donation program — meaning if he anonymously donates to a match on the list, Tammy’s name will be given a higher priority for available organs.

Paschke said she also strongly encourages everyone to sign up for the Wisconsin Donor Registry, because every individual added can save a lot of lives.

“It’s huge,” she said.

Taking its toll

While Tammy considers herself lucky this year — she hasn’t been hospitalized since December — her health complications have had an impact on other aspects of her life.

Her children, boys ages 17 and 14, are often worried about her — and have more than once called 911 because Tammy fainted and Rob was away. The boys have told her they want to be her kidney donor, and they look forward to the transplant being completed so they don’t have to “worry about mom” anymore, Tammy said.

That’s the hardest part, she said, is knowing that her kids are scared.

“It’s really, really hard when your child asks you if you’re going to die. … It got to a point where I stopped praying and started begging, ‘God, don’t let me die.’”

The regular dialysis treatments cause Tammy to feel as if she’s been “hit by a truck,” and she battles extreme thirst because of all her medications, while having to limit her fluid intake because of health-related diet restrictions.

Plus, when Tammy got sick, she had to stop working.

“Losing her income has been a hard hit,” Rob said.

Though Tammy’s medical care is covered by insurance, there are still plenty of out-of-pocket costs, and Tammy said the financial burden caused by those expenses leave her feeling guilty.

The couple nearly lost their home because of medical bills, she said. At one point, Tammy said she would skip medications every other day in an attempt to save a little bit on the cost of co-pays for all of her meds. When Rob found out, she stopped.

“It’s hard not to feel guilty about (the money),” she said.

Despite all their tribulations, Tammy said she “feels lucky” that the tragedy has sparked optimism among the pair, helping to build a stronger relationship.

“From the instant that the doctor came in and it totally changed our lives … it made us stronger,” she said, of her relationship with her husband. “I’ve never felt alone.”

The fundraiser set up to help with their bills has raised $5,886 towards a goal of $15,000. Donate by visiting

Florida Today


As a freelance writer for Florida Today, a Gannett Company publication, I wrote many community news stories about the Brevard County area while living in Indialantic, FL. This feature story appeared on and in the print edition. 

View PDF of original article.

Elks supply Creel with dictionaries

MELBOURNE — More than 100 third-grade students now have an abundance of words at their hands with the help of their very own Webster dictionaries and the Melbourne Elks Lodge that donated the books.

It’s a national initiative called The Dictionary Project and aims to give dictionaries to as many third graders as possible.

Charlie Greene of the Melbourne Elks Lodge learned of The Dictionary Project while attending a national Elks convention in California over the summer and decided to bring it to the area

On Nov. 13, the Melbourne Elks Lodge presented Dr. W. F. Creel Elementary School with dictionaries — the first school to receive these donations from the group.

“We certainly appreciate it and certainly the students will appreciate it for a long time,” said Tim Heenan, a third-grade teacher at the school.

One hundred and fifteen students received dictionaries, a donation that costs about $250, Greene said.

Several members of the Elks Lodge hope the donations won’t stop there.

Nancy Miller of the Melbourne Elks Lodge, and the person heading the project’s efforts, said her hope is to present one school a month with dictionaries through donations; later this school year they will be choosing a school in Palm Bay.

Greene and Miller agree The Dictionary Project has a different appeal, giving people a special incentive to help out.

“They know that you’ve done something for youngsters,” Greene said. “Here you see (the donation) from beginning to end. I think that’s what enthuses people, is to see the product.”

Dr. W. F. Creel Elementary School Principal Kathryn Eward said it’s an important donation because while funds exist for purchasing updated textbooks, the same idea doesn’t apply to dictionaries.

“Nowhere is there a process to buy and supply dictionaries,” Edward said, adding that by the third grade, children are expected to spell correctly and expand their vocabulary.

Ed Lietz, a third-grade teacher, said the dictionaries create another platform for teaching reading skills.

“This is phenomenal — it’ll just be another way to strengthen their vocab,” Leitz said. “This needs a lot of notoriety because the kids will just chew this up.”

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel


A Beer a Day is a blog for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. I wrote original posts on craft beer and home brewing while interning for the publication during summer 2008. After a redesign of the website,, the blog is no longer hosted on the site. Below is an example blog post.


View PDF of original post: Page 1 | Page 2

Thirsty … Why wait?

As promised, I hit up the Lakefront Brewery tour yesterday afternoon (along with the other online intern, Beth). Of my experiences at other brew tours (I’ve been on the Leinenkugels tour in Chippewa Falls, the Miller tour and the Sprecher tour), I can definitely say that this one has its unique aspects that would bring me back again … as do all the others.

But, the first thing that stands out about Lakefront, and something that they boast about both on their Web site (scroll down to “tour”) and during the tour, is that you can sample the beer before, during and after the tour. “This is a thirsty tour,” the guide says. It’s a nice anecdote, and definitely a good idea. What else is there to do while waiting for the tour to start, anyway?

The cost of the tour ($6) gives you four tokens, each worth an 8-oz sample, a coupon for a free beer at one of the restaurants listed, and either $2 off in the store or a pint glass. I started out the tour with the Bridge Burner Ale. With 9% alcohol content, the name is fitting. The flavor tastes heavy, but feels very light -an interesting concept, and a phenomenon I’m blaming on the high percentage.

The odd thing, though, is that I couldn’t find any further information about this beer posted on their Web site. Google searches produced reviews by plenty of John and Jane Does. It also seems as if this beer is relatively new to the brewery, but that detail wasn’t mentioned on the tour. Hopefully they’ll get information posted about the beer soon.

The tour guide gave us a sort of “last call,” before the tour was to begin, so I decided to fill ‘er up with something a lot lighter after such a strong beer. The Cattail Ale was a perfect follow up. It had an extremely light body, and was much more enjoyable than most light beers (which usually don’t taste much different than a glass of water). In my book, this Ale was a winner.

Then the tour began. Since it was a Monday, they were actually brewing beer at the time of our visit. This is something I’d never seen before because, well, even beer brewers take the weekend off. The tour guide used a lot of detail describing the process of actually making the beer, throwing in references that home brewers may be able to relate to, and thus bringing the tour to a new level of interesting. This is an advantage to being a microbrewery of their size, I suppose, because the brewery doesn’t have a huge production process in terms of bottling and packaging. Their focus is on the stuff inside the bottle, and the tour shows it.

We were also able to watch one employee as he filled a keg of beer, and then plugged the ‘bunghole,’ with a bunghole plug. Yes, this is what they call it. Take the tour if you don’t believe me. The tour guide then proceeded to ask who had a birthday closest to that day. Mine is coming up in about two weeks, as well as one gentlemen’s, and a woman in the audience had recently had her birthday. All three of us got to go home with our very own bunghole plug.

After the tour, I decided to try out the Riverwest Stein beer, an all malt amber lager. Although it was a little heavy, I really, really liked this one. It had a rich, smooth flavor and I would definitely drink it again.

Lastly, I decided to go with the White beer, which happened to be my beer of the week last week. I wanted to try it on tap to see the flavor difference. Also, the bartender told us this batch turned out with more citrus flavor than normal. Well, in my opinion, they should aim for that more often because this beer was really good. Yes, it was a whole lot of citrus, but that is what I had expected to taste when I bought the six-pack a week ago.

Speaking of my beer of the week, unlike I promised, I did not make it over to the liquor store to find a new, interesting brew. Don’t worry though, that is still high up on my to-do list, and I should have a review of the store coming soon. Instead, I stopped over at Water Street Brewery for some delicious dessert and a thirst-quenching drink.

Lyssa’s Beer of the Week: Beth and I both decided to try out the Raspberry Weiss at Water Street Brewery. If what you wanted to drink was beer, I’m not sure that this is the choice for you. The Web site says they add 200 pounds of fresh raspberries to the brew to get the flavor, and you could tell – but in a really good way. If you’ve ever tried Leinenkugel’s Berry Weiss, this is nothing like that. To me, Berry Weiss has two very distinct flavors: fruit and beer, and they don’t blend together well at all. But, Water Street’s fruity brew was very smooth and very blended, and a perfect compliment to my chocolate pie.

Worth-A-Try scale: (10 – way worth it. 1 – um, don’t bother.) I give it an 8, as long as you’re in the mood for the fruity flavor, and not a strong brew.