Being a self-reflective person, it’s been jarring lately to look back at my life and see how my wants and priorities have changed as I’ve gotten older. Things that seemed extraordinarily important ten or even five years ago barely even register on my radar anymore.
A few weeks ago, I received a panicked phone call from my mom that my dad had a major heart attack while shovelling the snow. Luckily, he had managed to call 911 on his cell before he hit the ground. All the moving parts in my mind suddenly stalled. It was as though a blanket of silence had enveloped my brain, and I had to try extremely hard to focus on the current tasks at hand – get into the car, and drive to the hospital in Newmarket.
For that long, drawn out ride, I couldn’t stop fixating on the image of him lying on our driveway alone. It would be days before I could move past the idea of his death and accept the fact that he survived. He was a fighter and it was going to be okay. But in my mind, I couldn’t shake off the idea that it was so easy to die – what if he had forgotten his cell phone, or the ambulance was a minute too late? In that moment, his life depended on so many variables that were completely out of his control. Completely out of my control.
As my parents age, it’s becoming glaringly clear to me that healthcare is going to be a bigger part of our lives. A funny thing happens when my dad, my hero, suddenly becomes dependent on me. When my parents start looking to me for answers. I’ve become more appreciative of our system, and the care we’re provided. My mom still beams when she talks about the heart surgeon who saved my dad’s life.
Being in the media world, I was lucky enough to start the Citizens of Healthcare project at my work, which totally supported this initiative. The goal of this project is to help people get a glimpse from the other side, and let people like you and I nominate our friends, and for healthcare workers to nominate their peers.
Having recently entered the healthcare space, there are so many stories I hear every day from people who are doing amazing things, that makes my life seem pretty useless by comparison. From a friend’s mom who is a first responder holding the hand of a woman who has just lost a child, to the heart surgeon who has served in the army for thirty years, and the nurse who has dedicated her life to caring for the LGBTQ community and lower income patients – there was an outlet missing for these individuals to share their personal stories and perspectives from inside the healthcare space.
I started by interviewing my friend Sarah, who is a social worker and counsellor and has always been an inspiration to me. Having worked with some of the most marginalized populations, she has developed programs for men at high risk for (or recently diagnosed with) HIV, worked at a hospital helping cancer patients and their families cope, and counselling sexual assault victims at a women’s health center.
For someone who has been in media all their life, it has always been a personal life goal of mine to use this medium to share meaningful perspectives. Not just to help people understand difference, but to be more empathetic toward other people’s lives and experiences. Citizens of Healthcare hopes to inspire empathy for the complex and often misunderstood world of healthcare, which has or will affect us all at one time or another.
Visit www.citizensofhealthcare.com to read about Sarah, or to nominate someone you know.