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(My) Patient Leadership in Health Care

They say my grandmother used wait on the stoop of the family’s crackerbox house in Southside Chicago and watch as my father walked to school to see if he would get in a fight before he got to the end of the block. The eldest son of a Polish steel mill worker who dropped out of high school, my father was on the wrestling team and cleaned the inside of tanker trains. But he was smart. He liked science and math, went to college on a scholarship, majored in economics, and went on to Cornell Law School.

As a lawyer, he represented the incarcerated’s rights at the state department of corrections, practiced defense in the state supreme court, and became chief legal counsel at one of the state’s 16 public universities. He helped build houses with Habitat for Humanity, served midnight breakfast to college students during exam week, and tutored his daughter who did not inherit his aptitude for science and math. He taught constitutional law and never once found himself on the wrong side of the …
Recent posts

Everything Is What You Make It

Lead. Be kind. Help others.

Help one another. Help someone you know. Help someone you don't know. Help someone in a small way. Help someone in a big way. Help a person, help a place, help a thing.

And then celebrate it and share it.

We need some good news. We need to set the tone for 2017. And we have power to control it. We have the power to be better than decent and spread it around. As we do so, we demonstrate to others how we want to be treated.

Perhaps my request is simplistic and hokey. Or perhaps believing it to be so is indicative of the current state of things — that somehow we've come to see being kind as a silly waste of time. There's a culture of "I'm going to get what's mine" that has pervaded our lives. It comes from competition. It comes from struggling to achieve in an environment that champions acquirement more than generosity. We do not need all the things. We are not lesser people because we do not have all the things. And having all th…

Running The Boston Marathon — Together

Running for Rare pairs up runners and rare disease community members to raise rare disease awareness and raise funds for the theNational Organization for Rare Disorders, Inc. (NORD)andNational Institutes of Health (NIH)Undiagnosed Diseases Program.  As a fibromuscular dysplasia patient, I have been fortunate to be a patient partner for two years now — first with Jessi Colund in 2015 and now with Martha Staples. I am humbled to be a source of inspiration for these women who have put in mile after mile and will be at the starting line for the 120th Boston Marathon bright and early on April 18, 2016.   I am not a runner. I never have been, and I don't anticipate I ever will be. A physiatrist friend of mine is recommending I start a program of "vigorous walking" for five minutes a day for four to seven days and then doubling that to 10 minutes a day. He wants my heart rate up. I told him that unloading my groceries gets my heart rate up. It's a matter of stubborn chicken a…

Owning Up — Or — I Know How Nicholas Sparks Feels

Speeches, soundbites, video clips, indelible images — memories mapped to become mementos in and of themselves. What if we don’t want to remember? What if we need no reminder to be unable to forget?

Two and a half years ago, I stood on a public stage and put my marriage on a pedestal, a shining example of how patients and caregivers should be together. Every word was true. For all intents and purposes and for what it was worth, our relationship was far from the worst, which makes it harder to pinpoint exactly how, when and why it failed.

Neither points fingers or at least we know the adage — “point one finger at me and three more point back at you.” We did pretty damn well. We could have done things better. We made assumptions. We didn’t allow for change. And now we no longer live together.

It’s been five months since the separation, and it will be another seven months before a judge will grant a divorce. (The South likes to make such things more difficult than they already are.) We…

Hurt Society: Planes, Trains & Automobiles — ePatient Travel Edition

My relationship with planes has changed over the years. I remember being little enough to curl up like a cat in my single seat and eventually having to stretch out to put my head in my mother's lap.

Trains have been much more of a novelty. As industry routes and freight trains once loaded with logs and coal have given way to cute touristy things and railway beds reclaimed as greenways, we have lost much of our connection to this great American mechanization.

As an only child, I always had the backseat to myself whenever we took family road trips, which may well be what lead to my penchant for naps, as a set of headphones and a pillow did much to block out the crackling AM sports radio to which my father always listened.

Regardless of the method, it's always held that so long as I have a window and music, I can travel for hours.

When I began flying on a regular basis for my advocacy work, I made one other small investment — ear plugs. I had no idea the difference they would mak…

Hurt Society Blog Carnival Call: ePatient Travel Edition

Fellow advocate HurtBlogger and I have been traveling a lot lately — cross country flights, multiple hotel room nights, long drives, public transportation, business and pleasure. All the travel takes its toll. We aren't always as rested as we should be, perhaps have always eaten the best, have logged too many steps, or carried too many things. But our advocacy work is important enough that we are willing to make certain sacrifices in order to represent.

This week she and I have met in San Francisco for a rare day of rest and relaxation prior to a Medicine X planning session. Although she lives in Southern California and I in Western North Carolina, our meeting comes on the heels of trip to Boston and Philly — her for the American College of Rheumatology and me for the American Society of Nephrology. Catching up this morning over breakfast, we discussed our travels. We didn't focus on sights we'd seen or foods we'd eaten. Frankly those kinds of things are rather low on …

And In The Wilderness A Clearing Emerged

In addition to my work as an advocate, my actual "job" has been as a reporter and editor. I've been in the field professionally since I was 17 (though one could count running the school yearbook and starting a literary magazine as my initial forays). My first employment outside a horse stable was in an university's public relations office. I worked four summers there moving up from the mail room and putting together basic press releases to writing full articles and contracting for assignment work while at college. I earned a degree in journalism with an outside concentration in political science at UNC-Chapel Hill. While there I worked as a writer, desk editor and managing editor of The Daily Tar Heel; wrote for and edited a literary magazine; volunteered for Journalists United to Maximize Potential, a student-run organization that taught middle school students how to produce a newspaper; interned in public relations for the Morehead Planetarium; and interned in publ…