'My heart rate was so low, I couldn't wake up... Two years later, I ran seven marathons in seven days' - Founder of iamYiam brings AI health platform to Ireland
There are few people you will encounter in your life that make you feel completely inadequate, both professionally and physically. Founder and CEO of personalised health care platform iamYiam ticks that box.
Romanian-born, to a quantum physicist father and an entrepreneurial mother, Lorena Puica was always going to be a high achiever. Leaving home at the age of 17 following the death of her father, she had five degrees and a published book under her belt by the time she turned 24.
Lorena jumped from banking, where she became an expert in micro finance, into investment management after the 2008 financial crash. It was while leading a successful career here, working at director level for Morningstar and Octopus Investments, that she realised her health was suffering.
"That journey of education and working professionally lasted almost a decade, successful beyond my imagination, living and working in Germany and the UK. But in both roles, I was travelling like crazy, away 3 weeks a month every month. In our 20s we have this slightly distorted view of reality that we'll never get sick," she told Independent.ie.
But 27-year-old Lorena did get sick. She went to sleep one Friday evening and woke up on Sunday afternoon. Not understanding how she could have missed an entire day, she went to her GP for a blood test.
"My thyroid levels were eight times higher than they should be. My metabolism wasn't really doing anything, I could have slept forever. Compounded by arrhythmia, my heart rate was so low and my doctor was worried I might not wake up if I fell back asleep."
Lorena started hormonal therapy, taking medicine for five years which she said had only a negative impact on her weight, her energy levels, and her mental wellbeing.
After repeated visits to doctors in the UK and Germany, she went to a specialist in New York who found that her body had created an antibody against the hormonal shot she had been receiving.
When surgery was suggested to remove her thyroid, Lorena refused the operation and "started a journey with natural health", with the same fervour she had applied to her studies and career.
She started researching what the most effective courses of action for here condition were, and spent almost two years engaging with everything from yoga, meditation, acupuncture, massage, Ayurvedic treatments, retreats across India and Morocco.
But it was a challenge her friend suggested as part of a charity drive that "really proved to myself that I was healthy again".
"I really needed to rebuild the belief that I was healthy so I agreed to take part in the 777 Challenge, seven marathons in seven different countries over seven days.
"It was utterly crazy and utterly boring but never in my life did I just have me time, it gave me a lot of time to think. I started asking myself what I was really passionate about and how I can leverage my skills and background to address an area that impacts a lot of people."
And so the iamYiam platform was born. With the help of personal AI partner Syd, it leverages preventive health and molecular research, reinforcement learning and digital technologies to allow the user to personally take charge of their health.
"Imagine it as a marked partner with you every day for the whole of your life life. Health is an ongoing thing, not a three month diet, it's a continuous journey.
"For us, the first step is to understand your physical, social and wellbeing perspective; we also do a genetic test for analysis for a more personalised performance, for a clearer plan for you."