Actress, Songwriter, Health Advocate
Lexie Stevenson, 22, has always been a driven person, whether the issue at hand is her career, the health of women, or the health of a family member. An actress best known for her role as Mattie Ashby on The Young and the Restless, Lexie is also an outspoken advocate for the Endometriosis Foundation of America. And when her own father was a struggling COVID-19 patient in a southern Maine hospital, she became an outspoken advocate for him, as well.
Lexie lives in Los Angles with Kris Wilkes, former shooting guard for the UCLA Bruins. She was born in Brunswick, grew up summering in Vinalhaven, and lived in Bath during the school year.
Lexie was only 5 when she told her parents, Richard and Catherine Stevenson, that she wanted to be an actress and singer. They arranged voice and acting lessons, and at 12, Lexie began working with international vocal coach and performer Mary Setrakian. This coach had also worked with Nicole Kidman, Forest Whitaker, and Kate Winslet.
In high school, Lexie played Pepper in Annie at the Maine State Music Theatre. She earned an invitation to become a member of the Actors’ Equity Association, and she landed small parts in The Vampire Diaries, Alvin and the Chipmunks 4: Road Chip; and Martin Scorsese’s Vinyl.
Lexie deferred attendance at Purchase College, State University of New York, to pursue her acting dreams in California. After seven months, she was about to give up when she got her role as Mattie Ashby on The Young and the Restless.
“My [former] agent had submitted me for the role, so I had gone in, but when I signed the check-in sheet, I had to flip through 10 pages of other girls’ names,” she recalled. “I was thinking, ‘Whatever. I am not going to get this.’”
Lexie played Mattie for two-and-a-half years. These days, she is “dabbling in singing and songwriting a little bit more.” She counts herself lucky, in the time of COVID, to be averaging three auditions per week.
Advocating for women everywhere
Pursuing her acting and singing career occurs parallel with Lexie’s work in support of the Endometriosis Foundation of America. Researchers believe that about 6.5 million women in the United States have endometriosis, a condition in which tissue similar to the inner lining of the uterus takes hold in other parts of the body, causing inflammation and pain. The condition is not always easy to diagnose, which can prolong its debilitating effects, sometimes for years.
That was the case for Lexie, who suffered for years, from middle school onward, with severe abdominal pain. There were multiple trips to the emergency room before her diagnosis.
“I started doing a lot of interviews about endometriosis because I wanted to share that information,” she said. Lexie is gratified when other young women tell her that the information about the condition has helped with their own diagnosis and treatment plans. “If I helped one girl, I’m happy with that,” she said.
“I didn’t know what was going on Kris and I had gone out for a walk with our puppy. When we came home, Mom said, ‘Something scary has happened.'”
Lexie serves on the advisory board of the Endometriosis Foundation of America. “I told them, ‘I don’t know what I can do, but I want to get involved.’ So now I’m just helping in any way I can. I continue to try to help people understand how much of a lack of knowledge there still is about it,” she said. “There isn’t a cure for it. People say to get your tubes tied, but in many cases, that isn’t the best route. Until we find that cure, or something that will not be harmful, my goal is telling people my self-care plan for those days when I’m down for the count, what makes me feel better.” At times, Lexie must turn to prescription pain relievers, though the stronger ones make her feel woozy and ill. She feels that cutting down on gluten helped. “I wouldn’t say I’m cured, but it’s a lot less frequent. And on those days, I get a warm cup of tea, put a heating pad on, and sit there and pray for the best!”
Going to bat for her Dad, and informing people about COVID
In another health area, Lexie has been equally proactive. Her father, Richard Stevenson, experienced a COVID ordeal that was not typical, but that all can learn from. He first fell ill in December, before doctors in the United States had COVID much on their radar. Months later, he became extremely ill again, and spent 18 days on a ventilator at Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick.
“When my Dad had gotten it the first time, he went to the hospital on Christmas night,” Lexie recalled. “Of course, no one knew about COVID or had tests for it.”
Richard may have been exposed during a flight from LA to Boston. He, Catherine, and Lexie’s grandmother had been out visiting, but Richard flew back to Maine on business. A fellow passenger was sick and coughing. Soon, Richard was experiencing chills, fever, diarrhea. He was so ill he quarantined himself at his Vinalhaven home.
With Christmas coming, he flew back to LA to be with the family. Unable to breath on Christmas Day, Richard ended up at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. He remained hospitalized for several days, but eventually was sent home with no diagnosis and a warning that it would be a long while before he fully recovered.
By March, Richard hoped he’d turned the corner. In late March, he, Catherine, and her mother returned to Vinalhaven to ride out the pandemic. Lexie and Kris soon followed. But in April, Richard’s fever and other symptoms returned with a vengeance. Catherine was monitoring his blood oxygen level at home, which was dropping, first to the low 90s and then into the high 80s.
“Anything below 90, you should go to the hospital,” Lexi said. “My mom brought him to the hospital, but she couldn’t go in.” Richard’s blood oxygen continued to dip, down to dangerously low levels, she said.
“You have no choice but to put somebody on a ventilator at that point,” said Lexi. “I didn’t know what was going on. Kris and I had gone out for a walk with our puppy. When we came home, Mom said, ‘Something scary has happened.’ At this point they were pretty sure my dad was not going to make it. Mom said, ‘We need to have a Facetime call later, and you need to say goodbye to Dad.’ I don’t think I have ever heard anything more scary in my life.”
Lexie doesn’t remember that moment, but family members have told her that she screamed.
“I don’t think anybody is equipped to deal with something like this, no matter their age,” Lexie said. “I am really close to my dad. So, when we called my dad that night, instead of goodbye, I told him, ‘Listen, dude, if you give up, I will be really disappointed in you and really angry . . . You need to pull through!’ I was not ready to see him like that,” she said. “It was very scary, and I got angry, not at him, but at the virus, at the world.”
These were early days in the pandemic, with very few treatments available.
“I’ve had friends in high school who have passed away, and even though it wasn’t my fault or anything, I always wondered, ‘Is there anything I could have done?’” Lexie said. “I think that’s what happened to my mom and me. She had seen information about [convalescent] plasma transfusion, and we thought, ‘okay, we have to get this.’ Kris and I have these big social media platforms, so we said, ‘Let’s really push this and see if we can get somebody who’s a match.’ I think at that point, his condition was so critical that we were willing to do anything!”
The family heard from the American Red Cross, which agreed to ship plasma to Maine for Richard. “When it arrived, the bag was broken,” Lexie said. “I was so angry! At that point, you don’t even know who to yell at.”
Lexie credits one nurse at Mid Coast, Morgan, in particular with saving her father’s life. “Morgan started reaching out to as many people as she could, and we found somebody in Delaware or Maryland. This time, instead of having it transported, [extended family members] drove down and got it back in the same day. After that, my dad took a huge turn for the better.”
Richard came off the ventilator a little over a week after receiving his transfusion. Nearly nine months later, “he’s recovered,” Lexie said. “But the damage that COVID does to the lungs can be substantial, so he’s still working on that. It’s like being really, really out of shape. He’s going on walks and building up his lung capacity so he will be able to breathe as well as he could before.”
The donor chose to remain anonymous. “If that donor is out there and reading this, thank you for saving my dad’s life and making sure that, a 21-year old, at that time, didn’t have to know what life was like without her dad,” Lexie said.