It was a month ago now,(I know, I know, I’m sorry) but there we are, only a few minutes before taking the “stage”. The Schwartz Center Rounds at Women & Infants Hospital. After my 20 minute speech, Karin, Liam and I would move to the big comfy chairs for a half hour of the Oprah treatment with a moderator and then open the floor to more questions and some discussion from the audience.
The event was marketed in flyers and emails around the hospital as
Liam the Lion: Quality and Innovation in Nursing Care, One Hospital Family’s Story and even went on to promise actual “Learning Objectives” such as
- Discuss the challenges faced by caregivers when colleagues become patients.
- Identify strategies to protect and preserve the confidentiality of a hospital employee or family member who is a patient.
- Identify the aspects of care that are most effective in helping families cope with a difficult diagnosis and lengthy hospitalization.
And if you think that isn’t intimidating enough, imagine how I felt when we arrived and I found that there was an evaluation sheet for each attendee to fill out in order to receive their continuing education credit.
“Better bring your A game Bubba.” I turned and said to Liam when we saw them. “Looks like we’re being graded.”
As it turned out, I had nothing to worry about. Once I got started and was a slide or two into my presentation I started feeling very comfortable despite a packed room that even included a few people standing since we had run out of chairs (which I know the room started with 75). I don’t have much public speaking experience but on that Tuesday afternoon I felt like it may just be something I could get pretty good at with a little more practice. I think it was the first laugh from the audience, at a time where I had hoped they would laugh, and the nervousness of inexperience started fading away.
The only fear left to overcome was my own feelings of illegitimacy. What business did I have to be speaking in front of such a large crowd of Doctors, Nurses, and Hospital Administrators with any kind of authority? All I had to do to get over that silliness was take a quick look to my right at the real star of the show.
Liam was incredible. He stayed awake and alert throughout the presentation and seated between his mother and I he really did steal the show which I’m sure will surprise none of you. Karin was equally impressive and gave thoughtful and insightful answers to difficult questions about so many of the layers of complexity to our family’s relationship to that hospital.
Liam’s story has value. Our family’s story has value. I’ve learned this through the outpouring of support and friendship from people, literally, all over the world that have reached out to me because of this blog. This blog and all of your support is what gave me the crazy idea that I could even do that speech. It’s what gave me the confidence to throw my name into the ring when the hospital Patient and Family Centered Care Advisory Council put out a call for new applicants. It’s what has opened my eyes to the possibility of using our experiences in the health care industry, in the special needs community, and our new journey into special education to share, to advocate, and to speak out for the countless other families like ours who don’t have a voice, or the energy, or the confidence, or the time to do it.
It may sound like I’ve gotten a little full of myself here, and I suppose I have. I have to, because if I really am going to make things like patient advocacy a bigger part of my life (and someday hopefully turn this passion for the subject into a future career) than I need to go into it knowing and believing that I can. To give myself legitimacy in my own head before I can expect it from others. Until the reaction I got from that presentation (including more than one request for a repeat performance) I wasn’t sure in my own head that it would be possible.
But, now? Well, a few weeks after the presentation the Schwartz Center emailed me the results of those evaluation cards. Turns out Karin, Liam & I got all A’s!