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.
- More Health Mentor Stories
By: Zal Press The word "stigma" makes my blood boil. The session started out with questions about my hospital discharge experiences. For the first 6-8 years of my illness I was in and out of hospital like a revolving door. On discharge I would be visited by a dietician who would give me a standard "low residue" list of foods. Basically stuff to stay away from that would get stuck in my gut and give me an obstruction. The amusing part of this list is that it was the same one year after year and became increasingly blurry as a Read More…
By: Annette McKinnon I arrived for the final session and had no trouble finding the students. Because of bad weather and flu 2 were missing so the remaining three started with the questions. This module was about Patient and Client Safety, so in a way, with no hospital stays and discharges I have had it easier than some. We got into a discussion of how the ordinary preventative medicine can be overlooked in a patient with chronic illness when the focus is always on the main problem. Referrals are not always made to associated disciplines either when all of the Read More…
By: Jennifer Ladrillo For years following my diagnosis, I believed that the only way I could find a job and truly be able to build a genuine, solid foundation for my career, was if I kept my “disability” a secret. I thought that in doing so, I would be protected from people judging me as “un-fit”, and from pitying me in any way. Now though, 14 years later, I am not only happy, but eager to tell my story to people (strangers at that!), openly and honestly - no holds barred! How had I come to be here? A girlfriend Read More…
By: Annette McKinnon Just as happened at the last session all 5 of the participants are here for today's meeting. The major topic is Ethical and Professional issues this week, but as usual we go where the conversation takes us. Unlike Zal, I really like to sit at the head of the table because of the limitations in the movement of my neck. If I twist it one way for too long I get spasms and pain so it's the best way for me to see everyone. When it comes to the impact of the health care system on me Read More…
By: Zal Press I’m looking at 4 vibrant young faces as we gather around a rectangular formation of tables in a small, bland meeting room that I found uncomfortable and opposed to my nature. I’ve made a habit of never sitting at the proverbial “head” of the table. Not at home or away. The implication of authority contradicts my principle of equity. I didn’t change my habit for this meeting either and found the “square” didn’t work. I much prefer a circle. Easier to see faces. In education, though, there’s always an authority. There’s judgement and punishment and there’s always Read More…
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. Read More…
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 Read More…
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 Read More…