ImproveCareNow Jennie_david


Together

I met with up an old friend for tea. As we were standing in line, she asked about my college friends and how they were doing. I started talking about one, and she interrupted, asking, "Is that the girl with Crohn's?" "No," I said, and named another disease. My friend smirked, and said, "Do you have any healthy friends?"

It's an ongoing joke amongst my family and closest friends that, in order for me to know someone, they have to have a chronic illness. To an outsider examining those I have chosen to be 'my people,' it would indeed seem that having an illness is some form of a requirement - the vast majority of my close friends have chronic illnesses. The natural thought is that we're friends because of being young with chronic illnesses, but that is not completely true.

They did not choose me because of my illness, or in spite of my illness, but rather they chose me with my illness. Living with a pediatric chronic illness has been, in my experience, a simultaneous growing up and growing down: the growing up is bumpy and circuitous, while the growing down is shirking off the medical maturity and fumbling to fit in and understand peers without disease. I have several wonderful, empathetic, incredible friends who - surprise, surprise - do not have chronic illnesses, and these people have been unimaginably understanding, supportive, and encouraging. But, in light of a variety of challenges my friends with chronic illnesses have been facing, I wanted to write this post in explaining the beauty of a friendship steeped in chronic illness.

To my friends with chronic illnesses:

Thank you -

For understanding that when I say I'm having a 'bad day,' I'm really not feeling well but trying to be brave. For sending me funny pictures and sweet cards in the mail. For never replacing true empathy with an easy platitude.

Thank you for seeing the strength in my struggles, the determination in my pain, the resilience in my scars. For knowing that I am not my disease, but like a tree with a missing limb, I am whole even if my body is not.

I am better for being your friend - better for sharing my story with you and better for listening patiently to yours. I am so full of everything good because of your willingness to hear me when I'm terrified and upset, to celebrate my triumphs when I push on, to let me have a moment of fear before you tell me I can do anything.

We are not friends because we are sick - it may be how we found each other, but we are friends because we are puzzle pieces that click together, choruses to the same song, hands that were meant to hold the other. I look at you and see you, not your disease, not your pills, not your doctors, not your prognosis. We see one another when sometimes everyone else can only see the mask.

I hurt when you hurt, but I will always be there for you, just as you are there for me.

This is a thank you, a celebration, a marking of how much your friendship means to me. Words will never do this justice, but I wanted to try.

For now and for always, thank you.

Jennie


Words Into Action

It was a Monday and I had a migraine.

The hospital room was grey and muted.  I was on my side with my eyes closed, trying to wish away the headache. A suave, slicked-hair doctor – the new GI for the week – strode into the room, the curtains whooshing slightly with his arrival, followed by his resident, and my mother stood up from her chair. They all stood at the foot on my bed, a semi-circle, as I pulled my legs closer to me and rolled onto my back.

Within minutes, I went from sleepy and calm to sobbing and furious. I could hear myself talk, I could hear the escalation of my voice and the rising tremor as I began to cry, but no one was listening. Everything I said was countered – I said, “I want to go home,” and the doctor would say, “Yes, but…” and I would say again, demanding this time, “I want to go home,” and the doctor would repeat, “Yes, but…” Finally I broke eye contact with him, my voice boiling higher and higher, and instructed him just to tell me what he wanted since I clearly was not making my point. “Do whatever you want,” I said, “You just make a decision for me and stop pretending like I have a say, because clearly I don’t. Just tell me what you want me to do.”

I am someone who believes in the patient voice, in working with doctors, in pushing for what you think is right, in being persistent. What had happened to that girl and who was this person, someone who just threw her hands up and willingly handed over her decision-making rights to a doctor she’d never met?

It is very easy to talk about change and use wonderful terms like “patient-centered care” and “shared decision-making.” It is easy, and often it is done with the best of intentions. It is much more difficult, however, to put these things into practice alongside busy lives and complicated patients. How do you achieve patient-centered care and shared decision-making with a patient such as myself, one with refractory disease who has ‘failed’ every traditional medication, has already undergone aggressive surgery, and who sits in front of you on her hospital bed, legs folded, eyes blurry with tears, asking you for the rest of her life, and all you can offer is another fluid bolus. What happens then?

In some ways, it was easier as a pediatric patient when I was not responsible for my care in full. And even though now I have legal rights as an adult patient, to decide what I think is best, in upsetting and frustrating situations I do notice myself defaulting to needing my parents. I find often my doctors are talking directly to my parents and forgetting that I am there. And, like that Monday, sometimes I feel like I have no power or ability to direct my care.

For me, there is an incredible and palpable dissonance between sentiments expressed about chronic illness care at ImproveCareNow Learning Sessions and in my own adult medical experiences. The system at play in many adult hospitals is, in various ways, broken and offbeat with patients – nevertheless, it functions ‘well enough’ that it’s left untouched, unchanged, unaffected by the gleaming and exciting collaborative thinkers just an arm’s length away. As someone who has been steeped in medical decision-making literature for the past several years, it feels appalling and shameful to admit that I hand over my care with such frustration and carelessness as I did that Monday. And yet, I’d also like to think that it exemplifies the sheer monstrosity of the challenges and barriers for patients who aspire to be involved in their care. Is that truly such a futuristic ideal? Is there really not room for me in my own care? As a young person with a chronic illness, I have found these types of encounters to be ineffably defeating and disenfranchising – to have to defend yourself, your beliefs, your values, and your preferences to every person in a white coat is offensive. It is as if the doctors claim ownership of your body, as if they can scrape your soul clean, fix your body, and then hand it back to you, as if a disease is your life versus a disease happening in the context of your life.

So what then am I saying about the young child in clinic, who will sit on your exam table, crinkling the thin paper as they climb up? What does all of this have to do with them? Firstly, it is your job – moreover, your responsibility – as clinicians and parents to empower that child in her medical care, to cheer her on, to apply an unwavering commitment and determination in helping her achieve her goals and ambitions. Even though a child does not have the legal ability to choose, there can always be small decisions for them to make (e.g., “Do you want the needle in your left arm or right arm?” or “Which bandage do you want?”). Secondly – and I wish I could say this to every person face-to-face who is reading to convey the seriousness and weight in this – young patients will grow up and will one day be adult patients. Two of the best strengths you can foster in these children are a conviction for medical advocacy and an unbreakable spirit to defend what they believe in. It may sound insignificant or small, but by always instilling a belief of ownership, we are opening the door to true participation in health care.

Because if we don’t tell them, who will?

Jennie

 


Three Stages of an Awesomely Gutsy Learning Session

Patient Advisory Council Members at the Fall 2012 Learning SessionAs Sami and I get super-duper-gutsy-psyched for the ImproveCareNow Fall Learning Session, we thought we’d put together quick snapshots of what an #ICNLS is like from our perspective. And voila, here they are, broken down into ‘Before,’ ‘During,’ and ‘After!

Before:


Sami: The excitement of planning and watching others plan. The Learning Session is a labor of love and - true to ICN's motto of "share seamlessly, steal shamelessly" - so much collaboration goes on behind the scenes in the weeks leading up to the LS. Despite the occasional stress, it's a blessing to be a part of such well-coordinated collaboration. My contributions to the LS are never just 'mine' - they've been shaped by a countless number of collaborators.

Jennie: Out of the mountains of emails and over-excited texts between Sami and I, everything was becoming real as plane tickets were booked and bags were packed. It’s kind of like coordinating a flash mob: dozens and dozens of people, all with the same passion for patient-centered care, group together from all corners of the country, lots of people doing one big dance. A lot of excitement, a smidge of nerves, and so very much gutsiness.

During:


Sami: Connecting with individuals representing all centers and roles within ICN. The PAC reps love meeting you - we want to know how we can best partner with you to meet your needs! I learn as much from casual hallway conversations and introductions at the LS as from the formal plenary and breakout sessions. One year ago, I didn't know my present PAC co-chair until I got off the plane in Chicago - so much can change in one year.
Tweeting, blogging, and sharing what I learn with you!! p.s. anyone can join the LS conversation real-time on Twitter using the hashtag #ICNLS.

Jennie: I remember my very first LS. It was as if I’d known everyone there forever – everyone was incredibly sweet and lovely and thrilled to have myself, Sami, and Jill (our amazing former PAC chair) there. I’ll never forget during the opening reception I was introduced to a few people, first names only, and it wasn’t until my head stopped spinning and I put two and two together that I realized I’d just met the biggest movers and groovers in ICN and the C3N Project. What struck me then was that they were just ordinary people who could hold conversations with me and I wasn’t stuck in some small ‘patient only’ box. The LS truly is an environment filled with excitement, respect, brilliance, compassion, and the unwavering attitude that we can all learn from one another (purposely ignoring the standard hierarchy of doctors versus patients/parents, it is doctors and patients/parents).

After:


Sami: Reconnecting and making plans for collaboration with those I've met over the weekend. The LS is "the charger" of ICN - it propels us through the next six months.
Working through the pages and pages of notes I'll leave the LS with - despite the work involved, the LS is magical because it allows you to come with scraps of ideas and gain the inspiration you need to transform those ideas into reality. Sleeping a little - and dreaming about the next Learning Session!

Jennie: There’s always too much excitement, too many possibilities, and so many new connections leaving the LS to get any sleep on the plane home! And that’s what’s so incredible and indescribable about the LS: we pass around and borrow ideas and fire from one another and there’s always so much to start doing! And importantly for patients and parents, we don’t become forgotten in the months between (we’re not simply a perfunctory part of the LS and then we’re dropped), if anything I’ve seen the commitment to meaningful patient engagement grow each time!



We can’t wait to update you after the LS!  But why wait? Learning Sessions have their own hashtag on Twitter so you can keep up with what's happening. Be sure to follow #ICNLS  – and we’ll be sure to tweet as often as we can!

J + S


Blast from the Past

After a morning GI appointment, my mom wanted to get a coffee before she took me to work. We drove to a local coffee shop and I decided to go in with her to grab a tea. We placed our orders, paid, and as we were leaving, I caught a glimpse of a customer sitting at a table and suddenly recognized him.

 

He was a clinician from my pediatric hospital – someone I had always thought of as particularly kindly, someone who had incredible bedside manner and a great comfort in speaking to me, and someone who I hadn’t seen since high school. Since I knew I would regret it if I didn't, I walked over and said hi. He promptly hopped up from his chair, reaching out his arms for a hug, and asked how I’d been.

 

Blast from the pastIt was this funny moment in which I was no longer a child or a patient but just someone else in a coffee shop - grown, with a hospital ID badge slung around my neck. He couldn’t believe how old I was – “How is it possible you’re done college?” – and grinned at me as I caught him up on my life. I had sent him pictures after I hiked Machu Picchu. He said he’d been to Peru since and thought about me, trying to notice any similarities between my pictures and the Peruvian surroundings. When I told him about graduating with double honors and wanting to pursue a PhD in clinical psychology, he looked at me, smirked, and said, “That does not surprise me one bit.”

 

He said he was going to a meeting with some of my other former clinicians, and asked if he could pass along the full update on me. Of course I said yes, feeling a little like a movie-star that people cared what I was up to. He will always be one of my favorite clinicians. He made me feel as a kid – and in our short coffee shop interaction – like a whole person with more to offer the world than an over-sized medical chart. I believed in myself not only because my parents were supportive, but because at my sickest I had clinicians like him who saw beyond the medicine to the person.

 

Monday was my first day back to work after a two-week hospital stay. I walked into my office, collected hugs from my lovely co-workers, and set about logging onto the computer and catching up on emails. The fabulous boost of seeing that clinician in the coffee shop stayed with me. At one point during the day, I saw a patient for one of our studies. He was a gentleman in his 70’s and was in the surgical clinic with his wife. Before I stepped into the room, I made sure to look through his chart and get a sense of who he was – not just what surgery he was having – so I could be engaging and receptive to him as a person and not solely as a patient. I had the loveliest conversation with him and his wife, going out of my way to be open, respectful, personable, and accessible. For example, in going over the study questionnaires, I wanted to be transparent and would turn the page around to show him and his wife what the pages looked liked, explaining what I was asking and writing down so that it didn’t seem secretive or hidden. He would laugh and noticeably relax, and as they saw me throughout the day, our relationship continued to grow so that when I see him after his surgery, I will be a familiar face.

 

This perhaps seems silly to write a post about. But this is what I hope you've read between the lines – the person inside the patient matters. You never know who’s sitting in front of you, because it’s never just a person of a certain age with a certain disease. Especially in pediatrics, your patients are like caterpillars waiting to become butterflies – you have future doctors and advocates and economists and dancers and athletes and poets in front of you. You have children who are blossoming into themselves, with diverse talents and abilities. As clinicians for children, you have a unique opportunity to build and strengthen relationships with them as they grow emotionally and physically. Your patients will never forget you – good or bad – but why not make the memories they carry with them about how much you supported them?

 

Because who knows, you just might run into them in a coffee shop one day.

 

Jennie


A Gutsy Welcome to our New Patient Scholars!

A hugely gutsy drum roll for an exciting announcement! The Patient Advisory Council (PAC) has two new patient scholars! The Patient Scholars program was pioneered as an initiative to elevate the voices of selected members of the PAC for one full academic year.  Read more >>

 

We are thrilled by their outstanding applications, determined spirits, and amazing accomplishments - we cannot wait to continue to work with them to build the PAC and ImproveCareNow stronger day by day!



Without further delay, let me introduce our wonderful new Patient Scholars - Katherine & Tyler!!

 

Katherine: Hi everyone! My name is Katherine and I am incredibly honored and excited to have the opportunity to work with the C3N and ImproveCareNow communities as a patient scholar. I recently graduated from John Carroll University as a marketing and human resource management double major. I have a huge passion for the IBD community and extending networks of care, awareness and support in any way that I can. While I am technically not a "pediatric" patient anymore, I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease as a young teen and have had to navigate some challenging transitions in life while living with this illness. My involvement began about ten years ago around my time of diagnosis. Starting as a youth ambassador for CCFA in my hometown of Columbus, OH to becoming the Co-Chair for CCFA's National Council of College Leaders (NCCL) during college, I have truly found my passion for empowering fellow patients by sharing my own experiences and contributing to education and awareness initiatives. I hope to bring some new ideas and fresh perspective to this group and I'm excited to attend the fall learning session to not only see all of these creative minds and networks at work, but also to learn as much as I can as well as share my experiences with others.

 

Tyler: My name is Tyler and I’m a high school senior from Westerville, Ohio. I am very involved in my school; being a peer minister, student ambassador, and member of the ski club, math club, and Italian club. I play tennis year-round and for my school as well. I’m a little bit unique in that my family has moved around multiple times. As a result I was diagnosed at Riley Hospital for Children, was a patient at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), and am currently a patient at Nationwide. I have had Crohn’s disease for 8 years now, being diagnosed when I was only nine years old. My disease has had a big impact on my life and has driven me to be active and make a difference in the IBD community. I have become very involved with ImproveCareNow (ICN), CCFA, and even started my own IBD fundraiser. The IBD community has a special place in my heart because I know firsthand the impact the disease has.   I am very passionate about making a difference and being a voice for patients. I have been a part of ICN for over 2 years now and am very excited to further my involvement as a patient scholar. It is such an honor to be a patient scholar and I am most excited to be attending the fall learning session.  I’m very excited to further my involvement this year as one of the patient scholars!

 

Welcome to Katherine and Tyler!!!!!!

 

J + S


Need to Know

 4.png

 “Actually,” I asked. “Do you have a smaller tegaderm to put over my port?”

The nurse, who’d already begun to open the larger salty green colored package stopped, looking up at me, and asked another nurse in the room to grab a smaller dressing.


The Kindness Project

Throughout college, I worked in a research lab studying coping strategies of women who are HIV+, and one thing that we looked for in each participant was ‘mindfulness.’ To be mindful is just what you might think: being conscious of what’s going on, what you need, and what others need around you. Mindfulness is being in the moment, although not so much being spontaneous as being considerate to yourself and to others. If you ask me, mindfulness is one of the hardest skills to train yourself on and put into action.


Staff Only

If ERs gave out awards to their most loyal customers, I’d be a no-brainer for the #1 Customer award. But, since I live in reality, I collect medical bracelets in lieu of my big award.

An ER triage room loaded with medical suppliesEnding up in the ER on a Wednesday around midnight was an unexpected way to spend the night. When my Dad and I started walking toward the way-too-familiar ER entrance, I turned to him and said, “This is how I spend a night out on the town.”

Jennie: 0, Body: 1

Ironically, my ER-dash had nothing to do with my Crohn’s, but rather a separate condition that leaves me prone to blood clots. I’d developed some chest pain earlier in the evening and given my odd combination of past history with clots and the fact that I'm now working in cardiac surgery (and being all too conscious of heart problems), my parents and I figured safe was better than sorry, even if it did mean adding another metaphorical stamp to my ER frequent flyer card.

FYI: Chest pain is like the golden ticket in the ER – you whiz right in and before you know it you’re strapped to an EKG and instructed to stay still (warning: not an encouragement to report chest pain to triage unless you have it!). For an ER that I’ve spent way too much time in, this was by far the quickest trip to a room yet, and as I was being taken to the room, I noticed a sign that bugs me every time.

STAFF ONLY

Capital letters, bolded, just in case you couldn’t read it on the first go-round. I remember the first time I saw such a sign, in my elementary school, walking by the staff room and feeling indignant. Staff only? I thought to my self. If staff are people who work somewhere, then I’m staff too because I work at school. Why are students not considered staff? Yes, I’ll admit that staff has a more nuanced meaning than simply ‘working’ at a place, but even so it bothered me then and it bothers me now. Especially given that I actually am a hospital employee now, albeit not in the ER, do I dare cross the threshold of the STAFF ONLY areas?

Spoiler alert: I did not stomp through the STAFF ONLY hallways proclaiming that I too was staff, but I did something better. The ER resident assigned to my case was a young, dry-humored doctor who seemed patient and kind even if it was the wee hours of the morning. When he asked for my past medical history, I squinted at him and told him I wasn’t really sure where to begin. I began listing my medical conditions and issues as he busily scribbled it all down, asking some questions and prompting me to recall other relevant medical history. Every addition to the list made him raise his eyebrows and I couldn’t help but laugh as I continued to rattle off problems – truly, it would have been kind of funny if it wasn’t so ridiculous. I intentionally used all of my medical jargon to show him that I knew what I was talking about. He smirked at me and said, “When are you going to med school?”

At one point, he looked up from his paper and said, “You know, I thought I’d come into the room and meet this 21 year old girl with multiple problems and risk factors and she’d be all whatever, but instead I come in here and you’re all bright and happy, I’m just like, I don’t know.”

“Well,” I told him. “You know the body, even when it’s crappy, is incredibly resilient and you can still do everything and do what you want.” I proceeded to tell him about graduating on time from college with double honors, and he held up his hand for a high-five. It’s official folks: high-fiving a doctor has been crossed off my bucket list. And to be clear, it is not that I think I’m extraordinary, but I do think I am normal and I think that is exactly what struck him.

I hope that he remembers me - and the notion that living with a chronic illness is still living - years from now when he’s a little older, a little greyer, and has his own patients without an attending around to keep tabs on him. I hope I taught him something that he couldn’t learn in a textbook. I hope I earned my honorary medical degree by showing him that doctors can and need to learn from patients just as much as they need to work with patients. There may be hallways marked off with STAFF ONLY, but that at the end of the day, it’s not about labels or the costumes of lab coats or Johnny shirts, but rather about the collaborative relationship, the give and take, the listening and the caring between doctors and patients.

Because we’ll get a lot farther if we work together versus working alone.

Jennie


27D

As the countdown to the ICN Strategic Planning Meeting dwindled, I began to pack my bag for my 30-hour trip to Washington DC. While I was truly excited to see my ICN family and my better half (cough cough, Sami), the summer heat pricked at my cheeks and I could already tell that I was worn out from working and my flare before my trip even began. But anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m incredibly (and sometimes stupidly) stubborn, and so I set my sights on Washington and boarded the plane.

 

Reuniting with Sami was wonderful! It did involve giving her the wrong directions to where I was standing at first – but we finally found one another in the airport and eventually made our way to the hotel. As an early birthday present, Sami had packed a ‘Twizzlers Party’ (note: my current flare leaves my diet restricted to only a few things, most notably Twizzlers and an assortment of candy). We dutifully ate the candy and caught up on life and all things gutsy - as good gutsy girls do.

 

Jennie with her bag of Twizzlers at the ImproveCareNow Strategic Planning Meeting Thursday morning found us up early, as the alarm went off playing a Taylor Swift melody (of course). We got ready and headed down to the beginning of the meeting, where a one pound bag of Twizzlers was waiting for us for a flare-friendly lunch (you know you’re loved when!). As always, Sami and I continued to be overcome with delight and excitement at how sincerely patients are considered and integrated into the strategic planning for the network. ICN truly wants to improve care this very moment for children and their families, but they know they need everyone’s input to do it. I think it’s fair to say that we’re all pretty thrilled with the exciting things that will continue to develop in the years to come.

 

But this post isn’t really about Washington DC or the ICN Strategic Planning meeting. It’s about being nearly 22, fresh out of college and into a ‘real person’ job, and very sick. It’s about my body not working the way I want it too and being simultaneously frustrated and determined. By the time I was ready to head back home, a mere 24ish hours after arriving, my body was throbbing with pain and the dryness of my mouth and quickened pace of my heartbeat informed me that I was quite dehydrated. The thought of the two plane rides home – getting into the airport at midnight and then having to get up early the next day for a doctor’s appointment and work – made me make my ‘this is ridiculous’ face. I just wanted to be home. Well, moreover, I just wanted to feel better.

 

On the flight from Toronto to Halifax, I found my aisle seat, 27D, where the window passenger was sitting with her multitude of bags. “Do you think there’s someone sitting in between us?” She asked, fumbling with her purse. I shrugged and offered a diplomatic response of uncertainty, suggesting she use an overhead bin to store some of her things. The pilot came over the PA to announce that the flight was totally full, every seat was taken, and to use space as wisely as possible. So much for some elbow room, I thought.

 

I sat and waited for the middle seat person to claim his or her seat. By this time the plane was largely full, and I was ready for every passing person to point to the seat and slither past me. And then she walked up to the row – she being Ellie Black, a Canadian Olympic gymnast who’s from Halifax. I sat up in my seat, suddenly my heart pounding not because of dehydration but because of my girl crush on this incredible athlete. She pointed to the seat and I jumped out of mine to let her in.

 

“I’m sorry,” I said. “But you are Ellie Black?” She nodded with a big smile. Of all of the Olympic athletes, I would recognize so few, but the fact that one sat next to me made me momentarily forget about my poorly working body and focus on her. She was kind and lovely and very sweet, happily chatting with me despite her 27+ hour plane journey home from Russia (where she’d been in a competition and taken home two medals). I sat there amazed, 1) that she was talking to me and 2) how incredibly resilient the body can be. It might not seem like it, given that I have no medals or Olympic memories of my own to share, but our bodies had something in common – they are super duper resilient. Hers might be able to do flips and turns while mine struggles with functioning, but ultimately both of our bodies can be pushed to do things most people don’t think is possible.Ellie Black the Olympic gymnast signed an autograph for Jennie David on her flight home to Halifax

 

When the plane finally touched down in Halifax, it was midnight and Ellie and I both blinked awake, having falling asleep mid-flight. I pulled out my agenda book and sheepishly asked her to autograph it, which she agreed to without hesitation, addressing it personally to me. In her script writing, she scrawled, ‘Dream Big’, and handed it back to me, smiling. I thanked her profusely and safely tucked the autograph back in my bag.

 

Maybe the airplane-gods thought I needed a little pick-me-up, or maybe it was just plain ol’ luck, but whatever it was, it reminded me that even if my body doesn’t work perfectly, I am still a champion, a fighter, and a resilient person. And now compliments of the heart-warming and inspirational words residing in the back of my planner, I can carry that message with me wherever I go.

 

Jennie


App-Solutely

girl texting friends on her smartphonePicture this: you’re waiting for class to begin, or an elevator to open, or for a cashier to call you to the counter. Sound familiar? Welcome to my life. With a fair amount of time spent waiting, I often (along with the vast majority of my contemporaries) pull out my smart phone and start sifting through text messages and checking (and re-checking) my email. It kills a few minutes, and before you know it, class is starting or the elevator comes or the cashier calls out, “Next in line!”

 

Three summers ago after I returned home energized from my freshman year of college, I began a summer job as a babysitter to three one-year-olds. I love kids and these little ones – a pair of identical twin boys and a little girl – were as precious as they come (besides nap time when the boys would cry until their faces were red). I so enjoyed watching them discover the world and interact with myself and each other. I had just started a new biologic medicine before leaving school for summer break – it was going to be ‘the one’ (sadly, ‘the one’ in the chronic illness world rarely refers to a significant other, but instead the lofty potential of a medication to bring on the sought-after remission).

 

Spoiler alert: it was not ‘the one’ and one evening I found myself at the mouth of a toilet throwing up. I banged on the ceramic tile floor of the upstairs bathroom to get my parents’ attention downstairs in the kitchen, and after they ran up the stairs to see what the matter was, they found me in tears pleading to them that something just wasn’t right. A scope and lots of sedation later, the answer: severe inflammation throughout my colon. There’s a lot of ways to say it, but it came down to one thing – farewell colon.

 

There was a park a little ways away from the kids’ house and we would often walk there to play (note: a triple stroller with three kids is super heavy!). I recall walking home from the park one day and needing to go to the bathroom, immediately.   I considered going to a random house and demanding to use the bathroom but decided against it. I made it back to the kids’ house and soon found myself housebound there with my three charges, herding them in the bathroom so I could watch them every time I needed to go (which was quite often). Between bathroom breaks I can remember standing in the kitchen with an Oreo on my tongue, trying to find the energy to play with the kids.

 

The question soon became how did I get so sick so quickly? The answer was complicated – first and foremost, I had never really been well. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, I had become so accustomed to feeling ill and dealing with symptoms that the feelings of wellness, health, and energy were merely distant memories. I could talk about them, but could not really physiologically remember what it was like to be well. Going to the bathroom existed solely as a horrifying painful experience, but it was my daily reality. And somewhere along the way, my disease had made the transition from uncomfortable and unpleasant to unbearable and unrealistic.

 

Having Crohn’s isn’t my fault – but it is my responsibility to do my best to take care of myself. After some initial denial, I was a conscientious patient who asked a lot of questions and adhered to my medications and spoke honestly with my doctors.  But I said farewell to my colon anyway.  What had I done wrong? How could I have better predicted the steep descent of the flare that eventually took my colon? Another spoiler alert: it all ended up just fine, as I was able to squeeze in my ostomy surgery a month before my sophomore year; I returned to college that semester and I love my bag. But the whole experience made me think, there must be a better way to track my symptoms so that I can catch myself when I’m starting to slip down the mountain; so I can alert my doctors and put up the CAUTION signs and figure out a strategy to rescue me from a debilitating flare.  You know, even without a colon, I still get flares.Screenshot Ginger.io app

 

Now picture this: you’re waiting for class, the elevator, or the cashier. You reach for your phone, but instead of texting a friend, or checking the weather, what if you took two minutes to track your symptoms? Well, luckily for us, there’s no ‘what if’ because it is real. It being Ginger.io, a smart phone app and ICN innovation that does a few super cool things. In honor of Ginger.io, I’ve made a list.



Ginger.io is Super-Cool Because…

 

1) It looks cool – it’s a sleek app that’s easy to use (in research geek-speak: it has a great deal of clinical utility because it’s feasible for participants to navigate).

 

2) It sends you push notifications when the surveys (which take an average of 2 minutes) are ready to complete, so you’ll never miss a beat.

 

3) It leverages your smartphone’s location services with the idea that when you’re feeling well, you’re moving all over, and when you’re feeling icky, you’re staying in bed with some Netflix (okay, so maybe the latter is just me….). The app literally tells you how much you travel so you can have a clue as to whether or not your ‘moving and grooving’ habits have changed (but don’t worry, it doesn’t creepily stalk you!).

 

Screenshot Ginger.io app4) Daily surveys capture the details of whether your pain is getting worse or better, whether you’re going to the bathroom more or less – in other words, it helps you become more conscious of your disease and any changes in your symptoms (i.e., giving you and your medical team the power to stop a flare in its tracks).

 

5) You get your info – you have a chance to receive a monthly graphic report of your answers to bring to your next doctor’s appointment.

 

6) It pays! A little moula never hurt anyone! Since you’re helping with research, there’s a financial incentive for every survey completed – and no, it’s not monopoly money!

 

Would my disease and surgical history have been any different if Ginger.io had been around 3 years ago? Maybe. But my point isn’t about rewriting my history; it’s about my ability to get engaged by tracking my symptoms and about being involved in health care innovation research in a way that is directly beneficial to me (and hopefully many others who live with chronic illness every day). In a busy world, Ginger.io is an efficient use of my time.  I don’t mind spending a few spare minutes here and there to catch up on my health and assess how I’m doing.

 

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, sign up for Ginger.io.  Take a few minutes to dedicate to your health on a daily basis (and hey, it will come in handy when you’re bored and staring at your phone), it’s an app-solutely great idea!

 

Jennie


← Previous  1  2  3  4  5  Next →

Built by Veracity Media on NationBuilder