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.  They wanted to know my experiences within the medical community, particularly with medical personnel in the areas they would one day soon be working in, but also in general.  They had chosen to be part of this Health Mentor Program.  It wasn’t a requisite, but actually something they already believed was a necessary component in their learning experience.

I’ve had more than one health issue over the years, but rather than overwhelm the students with experiences from each of these issues, I focused on Multiple Sclerosis, the one I’ve lived with the longest.

I shared the good and the bad.  And yes, I did also share “the ugly”.  How could I not?  What was the point of being a Health Mentor if the whole truth wasn’t shared?   And how can we improve on a system if we don’t acknowledge the problems that have existed in the first place?   I tried to temper “the ugly” by acknowledging that specialists are human too, and certainly not infallible.  But I gently pointed out to the students, that when ill – patients are at their most vulnerable, and this is when “the good” can make a hugely positive difference, while “the bad” and “the ugly” can have an absolutely detrimental effect on patients.

“The ugly” soon turned beautiful as these remarkable students and I discussed what could have been said or done by the medical professionals at the time, in order to have made the experience positive.

By the time our first session concluded, I was relaxed, excited, and hopeful about a new-and-improved medical system that can and will be.

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