Small Moments. Big Stories – a documentary about digital storytelling and forensic nurses

Published on Nov 29, 2012

This documentary was made by Sue Hagedorn from Seedworks Films  about a workshop facilitated by the Center for Digital Storytelling. CDS gathered forensic nurses involved with the International Association of Forensic Nurses  from around the US to listen deeply, tell stories, and make short videos about those stories. Sue Hagedorn from Seedworks Films, already a nurse and a digital storytelling advocate, produced the documentary to capture CDS’ digital storytelling process and show the impact that the group facilitated methodology had on a specific populations of participants – forensic nurses, many of whom told stories reflecting deeply on issues such as secondary trauma within the field. The resulting documentary is the first documentary ever made about CDS’ approach in action.

Health Mentor – Season One – Episode 1 – Chrystal

By: Chrystal Gomes

I was nervous.  This was the first time I was to be a Health Mentor.  Although I had shared “my story” time and time again, this was going to be different.  This time, it could, and hopefully would, make a real difference within the context of a future medical community.

My biggest dilemma:   How much do I share?   Do I share the good, the bad, AND the ugly?

I was so nervous, I arrived at the building downtown one hour early.   I stopped in at the coffee shop across the street for a comforting French Vanilla Cappuccino.  I reviewed the paperwork regarding the Health Mentor Program.  I glanced over the sample questions and the answers I had pencilled in.

Still nervous, I made my way across the street and up to the second floor about 20 minutes early. The five students – all young women – were already there.  I was more nervous and I knew they could sense this.  Even if they couldn’t, I recall this being one of my first confessions to the group – that I was nervous.

I needn’t have been nervous.  They were a delightful group of students who were genuinely interested in hearing my patient voice.  [...] continue the story

When you look right through me

What evil disease is this, that would

steal the recognition of a loving daughter from her darling mother’s mind?

With love so strong and infinite, how could

a devoted mother suddenly go so far beyond, leaving a part of her heart behind?


So often you look right through me

as though I’m not here.

And as I wonder when you will again see me,

I become paralyzed with fear.


Each time you look right through me,

a jagged knife plunges into my already shattered heart

because although we’re together, we

couldn’t be further apart.


Although you look right through me

not knowing who I am, I will never forget you

or all that you have done for me.

And I will do everything I can to help you.


Whenever you look right through me,

please know that right here I plan to remain.

Forever by your side I promise I will be,

trying desperately to reunite us once again.


But the truth is – every time you look right through me,

another huge part of me dies.

Forever lost in eternity.

Unseen, like my unheard cries.


© Chrystal Gomes   2012


More from Chrystal Gomes

TVO Interviews Chrystal Gomes

Uploaded on May 16, 2008

TVO’s Person 2 Person Interview, Paula Todd with Stand-Up Comedienne Chrystal Gomes about living with Multiple Sclerosis.

Check out Chrystal’s web site at


More from Chrystal Gomes

A New Chapter

No spoken promises now. No

written guarantees

that what once was, will again be so…

and I get down on my knees.


I cling to my memories of yesterday,

dreading the day when uncertain tomorrow comes.

As always, weariness has a say…

and I fall asleep to the sound of fading drums.


I dream such hearty, rose-coloured happiness

that in reality is so hard to feel…

for in this world rules weepy sadness,

diagnosed truth, that makes fear so real.


Fate has no conscience, and it always gets its way.

But when I shut my eyes,

I see only what I want to see. In the grey

abyss between life and death, my spirit lies…


in waiting. A new chapter

of a carefully woven destiny

gently unfolds in silken scenes filled with laughter…

and my soul rejoices, a wronged prisoner finally set free.


By Chrystal Gomes


More from Chrystal Gomes

Finding an MS Voice for Patient Centred Education

By Chrystal Gomes

As an introverted and painfully shy person until my late 20’s – I often couldn’t find my voice. I spent my late teens and 20’s working, traveling and speaking just a little more often, while still unsure of serious future goals. At the age of 28, I finally realized I wanted to pursue a career in hotel and convention management, and my life was now filled with hope and excitement.

I had completed my first year of the three-year hospitality program, when I suddenly became seriously ill. Following a horrible headache that had me praying for death because nothing would relieve the pain, I developed double vision, my speech became slurred and completely garbled. I lost all hand coordination, and I couldn’t walk without help… to name a few of my many symptoms.

My parents naturally first thought…that I had started drinking. I sought medical help, and was subsequently diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. I shared this news with my parents and…we all started drinking.

I was diagnosed by a specialist who told me I had Multiple Sclerosis, then promptly left my hospital room without another word. This was the first time that the absence of adequate communication left me gutted. [...] continue the story

Health Mentor – Season One – Episode 1 – Annette

By: Annette McKinnon

It is interesting to be a Health Mentor and talk to students in various disciplines who will ultimately have to work together for the good of the whole patient. You have some great ideas Zal, for engagement. I told my group that there was a “Patient Commando” out there and I have no doubt you are much discussed, even as we speak.

I think that in the past when I participated I talked too much – I am learning to shut up and answer the questions so that things can proceed better. The students were very interested and we covered all of the areas in good time. I was delighted when one of them gave me some quick advice about two exercises that she thought would benefit me. All of their areas of study were areas that I have used in my long career as a patient which has lasted much too long. Being a patient is something I would like to retire from.

I have a friend in advertising who says the same thing as you do Zal – telling a story is the best way to get an idea across and so this is a brilliant program to [...] continue the story

Health Mentor – Season One – Episode 1 – Zal

By: Zal Press

I came out of the subway into air that was just cool enough to keep me focussed on my thoughts rather than the weather. Throughout the subway ride I was riddled with anxiety about my new Health Mentor group I was about to meet.

This is my second year in the program. As a so-called veteran I knew what to expect, but I felt that this was going to be different. The students were going to be different. And so was I because I also knew that I was going to be writing this blog about the experience and I was feeling some self-generated pressure to produce a kick-ass piece.

Would that prejudice or bias my session? I was worried I might manipulate the session just to satisfy my selfish need for literary recognition. “These students deserve to get the best I have to offer in terms of insights from a chronic illness patient”, I kept telling myself. As I jumped up the stairs at 500 University through the front doors and up the elevator to meet the group, I focused on being authentic, real and honest and pledged that my literary ambitions wouldn’t get in the way.

The minute I [...] continue the story

To live at all costs

October 2nd, 2012

My mom died almost three decades ago. She’d made it super clear to my sibs and I that her wish was to live at all costs. The thing is, none of us realized what those (human) ‘costs’ would be. And we’d never thought to explore what ‘quality’ meant to her life. A bit about my mom: She was a constant learner. Nothing made her happier than being immersed in a new subject. After my father died suddenly of a heart attack, she became associate producer for my documentary-producer brother. Their topics ranged from women with breast cancer (my mom was a survivor) to rapists and murderers. By the light of her eyes, and her proud demonstration of new jargon, you could practically see my mother’ s brain expanding. At age 65, mysterious ailments began to plague her body (she’d often lament: it ‘s such a shame that my body is deteriorating while my brain is becoming more honed)

The ailments were eventually linked to the real problem: a brain tumor. Suddenly, an inability to say the right words to make herself understood was put into a new and horrific light. Options were surgery and – if unsuccessful – radiation. [...] continue the story

Thinking of Losing Weight?

Back in 1980 my weight was about 250 lbs. Over the last 32 years I’ve suffered from a variety of illnesses and I now weigh anywhere from 150 to 155 lbs.

Bowel infarction – January 1980 Felt severe stomach ache. Called my GP who made a house call and diagnosed it as a virus. Told me to get rest, but after several hours and more pain every minute, he instructed me to go to Emerg and Dr. gave me pain killers, but they were ineffective. Sent me home. Still tons of severe pain so went back to hospital. This time was admitted. Had Surgeon take a look at me. Had my stomach pumped. Finally was able to have a was black. Showed Nurse..she flushed it and made no notes.  Surgeon said he would open me up to see what he could find, but was thinking perhaps it was a leaky appendix. Opened me up and found my large and small bowel were gangrenous. Had to remove 75% combined, but did not have to go into a bag. By the way, before the operation, I was over 250 lbs. previous to this problem, I complained on many occasions to my GP that I was having dizzy spells,and having times where I felt spaced out. [...] continue the story