Health Mentor – Season One – Episode 3 – Zal

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 result of generations of copied copies. I saw this same sheet for almost 20 years.

At some point in the conversation we started on the subject of access and equity of treatment. My medication costs $33,000 a year and I constantly worry about continuing availability of coverage and access to treatment. What will happen to me when I turn 65 in 3.5 years and the Ontario Drug Benefit Plan takes over my medication coverage? Will a debt laden government refuse coverage? Will a bureaucrat decide that it would be cheaper for the system to do surgery than medicate? I worry about those suffering [...] continue the story

Health Mentor – Season One – Episode 3 – Annette

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 time is taken up with questions and concerns

In the past I have been one of the patients with a long list of prioritized immediate concerns that I knew there was no chance of getting through.

When we got to a discussion about pain my feeling was that many patients want to hear the health care professional acknowledge that their pain is real. Next they want to have it treated, often with an effective prescription. After that there are other ways to deal with pain that can include a pain clinic, a self management program and educating themselves about their disease. Of course the [...] continue the story

Health Mentor – Season One – Episode 1 – Jennifer

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 and past co-worker of mine told me she was inspired to take the Health Mentorship course because of me; as she had seen the obstacles I faced balancing my health, work, social life, and everything in between. After taking the course she approached me, asking whether or not I would be interested in taking part as a mentor – the timing could not have been more perfect. I had made great strides from grieving the loss of my old self, and not only accepting, but actually embracing the life I now had. The challenges I had faced and always struggled not to be [...] continue the story

Health Mentor – Season One – Episode 2 – Annette

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 I would say that it has improved greatly as I have become more knowledgeable. Almost like in raising children “it takes a village” in chronic disease. You need a captain for your team of health care providers. It used to go without saying that the leader would be the doctor – now the patient is taking on a much less passive role and calling in other health care providers as required.

The two biggest problems in not having enough information about healthcare issues is that decisions are often slowed down while you collect the info you need to make the decision, and (if [...] continue the story

Health Mentor – Season One – Episode 2 – Zal

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 some arbitrary rule whether fair or not. Education isn’t a democracy. Nowhere is that more true than in medical education. Its culture is hierarchical, severe, strict, and breeds conformity. With the exception, of course, of this Health Mentor program which is at the leading edge of change in the approach to life science education.

These inquisitive young faces peppered me with questions about my relationship with health providers. I emphasized that the most important thing that happened over a period of 32 years was the transfer and realignment of the power balance in the relationship. It wasn’t an easy transition at times, for [...] continue the story