By: Paula Whitfield, Owner, Fastest Labs of Central Houston, M/WBE
Paula H. Whitfield is a woman of faith, wife, mother, business consultant, and most recently a franchisee. She is a graduate of Howard University’s School of Business. She has a passion for leading growing teams, helping organizations solve their most innovative growth questions and bringing new business models to market. Whitfield, with her husband, Robert, are raising two young children and recently purchased a drug testing franchise in downtown Houston where she is the operator.
Whitfield’s desire to start a franchise stemmed from wanting a blueprint, support from a team of experts, and a community of owners to share challenges and experiences. Her interest was also to develop a business for her family in addition to her consulting practice that was potentially recession proof, not knowing this concept would be put to the test within months of signing the franchise agreement with Fastest Labs for the Central Houston location. Whitfield started her franchise journey in August 2019. By late November of the same year, she was in a franchise contract and within a few months would be ready to open.
During the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak she was in the buildout stage for their location with a plan to open on March 4, 2020. Her anxiety was running at an all time high juggling the store and the learning needs of her two young children suddenly finishing school online at home. Even with the most supportive spouse, things were stressful. The learning curve from starting a new business in this new climate and adapting to the protocols of her new endeavor were exhausting. Whitfield began to experience a certain level of depression as she navigated how to open a business safely during a global pandemic, health issues with potential employees and unrelenting news cycles of case spikes, death totals, rising unemployment and business closures. Her faith and sense of optimism about her new project were being tested.
Whitfield endured. She successfully completed training with the franchisor the last week in April. A family friend who was a college graduate and restaurant manager recently furloughed from her job, joined Whitfield’s team. The business launched on May 4, 2020. It was a slow and steady start-up with more paperwork than expected, but in general all was well.
Then May 22nd happened. Whitfield was working alone at the clinic. All of a sudden she experienced the worst headache of her life. She called her husband and kept him on the phone to let him know this was different and she felt awful. Whitfield immediately called 9-1-1. First responders arrived immediately and helped to calm her as she did not know what was happening. Her husband and sons arrived at the clinic to find her disoriented and rapidly declining as she was receiving emergency care from the EMS team.
Fate led her to CHI St. Luke’s Medical Center Emergency Room in the Texas Medical Center where she was diagnosed with a ruptured brain aneurysm. Because of COVID-19 precautions, her family could not accompany her in the ER. It was determined that Whitfield needed emergency surgery to stop the brain bleed. Time was of the essence. Whitfield’s husband had to consent to the surgery by phone and say a final word of love and prayer to his wife, before she was fully sedated and taken into surgery. Whitfield’s surgery was successful in stopping the bleed and saving her from paralysis or death. She recovered in the hospital’s ICU for two weeks before being discharged to her home. She recognized that many prayer warriors interceded on her behalf and she is grateful for each and every one of them. She is also grateful to the EMS that arrived right away after her 9-1-1 call and the care team CHI St. Lukes, who are renowned for excellence in stroke care.
After coming through that harrowing and nearly tragic health event, Whitfield’s perspective on faith and being challenged are stronger than ever. What she knows for sure is that God will provide and make a way out of no way at all. What some people see as a tragedy, Whitfield sees as a blessing and a testimony to the goodness, grace and mercy of God. She is alive and doing well, and able to be with her family. Her new business, Fastest Labs of Central Houston, is continuing its slow and steady trajectory now that she is back in the clinic full-time.
Whitfield is grateful to her family, friends, and her team for all their love and support. She needed her village and they were there to answer the call. While it is not known what causes brain aneurysm as she does not smoke or have high blood pressure. Due to the stressful climate and pressures of business ownership it was a sign to trust God and always remain faithful in God’s plan.
Fastest Labs of Central Houston
Office/Fax: (713) 425-0410
2117 Chenevert St., Suite F | Houston, TX 77003