Archive - Oct 2012


October 30th

Reba and Alice

Last Friday, I attended the funeral for Lillian Reba Moses. I believe I had only met her once, at the Community Health Center’s 40th anniversary earlier this year. She was one of the founders of CHC, and if it weren’t for her work, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I listened to stories of her dedication and commitment to the community, and I couldn’t help but think of a world where there were people like “Mother Moses” looking after the people of the community with a stern but compassionate watchful eye.

The loss of these archetypal maternal figures has almost become a cliché about what is wrong with society today. Too often we fail to look out for one another the way Reba did during her life.

Amidst all of the strife, Reba clung to her beliefs, and the hymn that echoed through the service was “It Is Well with My Soul”.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

On Saturday evening, I attended a music event at my local high school. Tying together the great performance was creativity and compassion, the twenty-first century skills that are also as ageless as caring for the community. I had thought of writing a blog post about Mother Moses, Music in Motion and the coming of Hurricane Sandy. We are at our best when we come together as a community, either the way Mother Moses brought people together, or the way music teachers at Amity High School brought people together.

Today, that community is gathering around my family and me. Last night, my mother died in a Hurricane Sandy related automobile accident. She was a few years younger than Mother Moses, but they share a birthday.

My sorrows are rolling like sea billows, and the sea has been particularly roiled these past few days. Yet at the same time, peace like a river is attending my way and I can say that it is well with my soul, having known people like Mother Moses and my own mother who have cared so much for their communities.

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Back in 1999, I took a wonderful online class on grief counseling. I learned about different ways different cultures deal with grief and about complications surrounding grief. The thing I remember most is the importance of being with people who are grieving so they can work through their grief in ways that fit their situation. One line sticks with me, many years afterwards, “Bring donuts”. It is a simple way of saying, I care, I’m here to help in whatever way you need.

Today, the Dunkin Donuts in Middletown does not have any donuts. Staff didn’t make it in on time to make donuts, so my co-workers brought me muffins instead.

I arrived at work early today, so I could help with the emergency communications following Hurricane Sandy. The power was out at our house and many of the roads in Woodbridge were blocked by downed trees so I took a circuitous route.

At work, I spoke with other members of the technology and communications teams about which sites would be opening when and how best to get the message out. Then, I got a message from my sister via Facebook. She knows that Facebook is normally one of the quickest and easiest ways to get in touch with me. She asked me to call immediately.

From her, I learned that my mother died last night in a car accident. My sister was very shaken. For me, the initial shock moved to numbness. I told my coworkers and started contacting friends and family.

Perhaps some of the way I process grief is by staying calm and doing the tasks at hand. I’ve stayed at work, hoping that power will get restored soon, and doing what I can from here. I’ve spoken with many friends who are being very supportive, and I greatly appreciate it. We all have different ways of dealing with grief and my calm quietness is part of how I am dealing with grief right now.

Another part of how I deal with grief is to write. I love to write and it helps me deal with these deep feelings. Do not be surprised if I write several blog posts along these lines. Later, when I’m ready, I hope to write memories of my mother.

Over the coming days, I will do what I can for my job, for my campaign, for my family, and for myself. Thank you to everyone who has expressed condolences.

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October 20th

Halley's Comet

It is a beautiful autumnal evening and a great night to watch for shooting stars. The annual Orionid meteor show peaks this evening. I love meteor showers and often stay up to watch them. I've thought about what to wish on a shooting star this evening, perhaps something about the election, but then, I thought back to the story of the Orionid meteor showers.

They are formed from the dust that Halley's Comet left in its wake the last time it passed by in 1986. This summer, at Falcon Ridge, I heard a great band called Gathering time. Their song, Halley's Comet, was one of my favorites.

It was 1985, when Halley's comet came in view
and if I didn't see it then, it'd be a long, long wait I knew,
I lived in a college town where street lights made stars hard to see
To see it well, I'd have to walk
Unto the school observatory
Though it was often on my mind,
I somehow never found the time
and it had all but vanished when
I knew I'd missed my chances then…

The song goes on to talk about living in Brooklyn, and missing chances to visit the World Trade Center or reconnect with a friend who died on 9/11.

It is a beautiful song about missed opportunities, and a reminder to seize the day.

Halley's comet won't be back until I am over 100, but every year, we get the opportunity to catch glimpses of its remnant streaking across the sky in the Orionid Meteor Showers.

Will I see shooting stars tonight? if so, will my wishes on shooting stars come to pass? I'll need to seize the day, and try to make my dreams come true.

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October 17th

Addressing Underserved E-Patients

There is a quote, I'm trying to find, something about all the undiscovered Einstein's, people with the intellectual capabilities of Einstein, living lives as sharecroppers; their mental prowess undiscovered. It came to me over the past couple days at the Health Care Social Media Summit.

I have met some incredible people at the summit, both this year and last. I think of e-Patient Dave and Liver Lindsey, people who have been able to use their skills to live empowered lives in the face of cancer. The e-Patient movement is bringing important changes to health care, as patients take a more engaged role in their own health. They speak well to the folks from the hospitals and health systems that send staff to conferences like this.

I come from a different sort of health care system. I work for a Federally Qualified Health Center. Most of our patients are uninsured or are on Medicaid. They live their lives below 200% of the Federal Poverty level. Their struggles are not overcoming some rare disease, but simply living day to day, being able to get healthy food, exercise, and the health care they need. They don't have computers at home or the skills and reading ability to be the sort of e-Patients we hear about at conferences like this.

Our health center talks a lot about health care being a right, not a privilege, but it seems like the e-Patient movement is for those with decent educations and good access to the Internet. What about our patient population? Will they be left behind? Will the e-Patient movement increase the health disparities in our country? What can we do to prevent a widening health care rift and bring the e-Patient movement to all Americans?

On Tuesday, I met a doctor giving voice to this concern at this conference. Dr. Ivor Horn spoke about how many underserved patients are on social media. They have different usage patterns. They're on Twitter using smartphones and we need to find ways to serve them. There are probably other usage patterns we need to understand as well.

I suspect that e-Patient Dave or Liver Lindsey would be just as compelling and compassionate to the underprivileged as they have shown themselves to be to attendees of this conference, so I have my fantasy panel: e-Patient Dave, Liver Lindsey, Dr. Ivor Horn, and Junaid's Mom talking about helping underserved e-patients. For those who aren't regular readers of my blog, Junaid died this summer of Neuroblastoma. His mother, brought up in poverty, a former drug addict who has been clean for several years now, and the victim of domestic violence, is a powerful woman, an e-Patient amongst the underserved.

How do we address the needs of underserved potential e-patients? It's a discussion that it is time to have.

Postscript: After writing this, I noticed that it is Alejandra Ospina's birthday. Alejandra is the Community Liaison at GimpGirl Community and a powerful spokesperson for people with disabilities. She would be another great member of my fantasy panel.

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October 16th

What is Leadership?

Last Weekend, I attended the Connecticut Health Foundations, Health Leadership Fellows Program Fall Retreat. I have been chosen to be a member of the class of 2013. One of the speakers started off by talking about a dinner she had with a former presidential candidate from Lebanon. He had suggested that leadership isn't important.

It made me think of the old saying, "Are you a leader? Are you a follower? Are those the only two choices?" My leadership in health issues was recognized by my selection into the program, but I tend not to think a lot about leadership. I'm just doing my job.

I'm also running for State Representative. Last week, my opponent ran an ad that starts, "Common Sense Leadership". Her current role in the legislature includes the title Deputy Republican Leader.

What is leadership? Is it a title or campaign slogan? Is it something we are born with? Is it a skill we need to develop? Does it even matter at all?

The retreat focused on building leadership skills, and perhaps that is what matters most. Do you have the skills necessary to get a group of people to work together to improve a community? Are you using these skills? How are you honing these skills in yourself?

For the next several months, this is what I'll be working on as part of the Connecticut Health Foundations, Health Leadership Fellows Class of 2013. I hope the coming events are as thought provoking as the fall retreat has been.

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