A Patient's Story

 "If I have learned anything, it is that we never know when, how, or whom a serious illness will strike. If and when it does, each one of us wants not simply the best possible care for our body but for our whole being.’’  ~ Kenneth B. Schwartz

Seventeen years ago a seminal piece was published by the Boston Globe.  It was entitled: A Patient's Story, written by Boston healthcare attorney Ken Schwartz.  Ken had been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer and was now facing the end of his life in 1995.  Through his eloquent prose, Ken taught us all that often it is the compassion of the health care provider, the humanness of the experience, that is as important as the medication and high-tech treatments that we offer our patients. The Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare was founded after Ken's death and has been doing wonderful work on ever since. Little did I know when I read A Patient's Story in 1995 that it would reflect and inform my own experiences as a mother of a terminally ill adolescent and ultimately would redirect my professional life as a passionate advocate of the integration of compassion and empathy into health care environments, for both the patient and the caregiver.

Today, the Boston Globe reflects on the past seventeen years since the publication of A Patient's Story, and of The Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare's work on supporting and improving compassionate caregiving. Click here to read the article: Finding Healing for the Healers by Helen Shen.

I would love to hear your stories about compassionate caregiving or perhaps opportunities that were lost. How can we work together to ensure compassionate and empathic healthcare?  Please feel free to post your thoughts and comments on my blog.

Unlocking Memories

Anyone who has had a family member stricken by Alzheimer's disease knows the feeling of helplessness and hopelessness that arise both within the loved one with Alzeheimer's and those family members watching the person they once knew slowly disappear. As we continue to find ways of extending life, we often neglect extending quality of living in our effort to support the medical treatments. A non-profit organization, ARTZ, has directed its energies toward the goal of extending quality of living by engaging patients with dementia and their family members in activly connecting in the arts, through music, visual arts, and cinema. Unlike short-term memory, often the long-term memories of a painting, an old movie, or a song remain intact and can be source of interaction and connection for a person with Alzheimer's disease and their loved ones. A recent article in the Boston Globe, Memories Unlocked, highlights the local initiatives of ARTZ. I am pleased to support initiatives that recognize supporting and increasing quality of life is as important as supporting and increasing quantity of life.

I welcome your thoughts and comments about this topic.

The Many Faces of Reslience

We often think of resilience when we are faced with a diagnosis of a life threatening disease, or perhaps when a natural disaster shakes us to our very core. This is when we hear the term "resilience" used most often by ourselves and the news media. But what about the faces of resilience during these bleak economic times -- the faces of your neighbors and friends who are not facing a devastating diagnosis or an instantaneous natural disaster, but the bleak economic outlook, family stresses or just surviving in tough times? Do you see resilience? That is why I found the article in the Boston Globe entitled: Resilience in Bleak Times so compelling. Look into the eyes of a resilient person and you will find someone who finds and maintains connection to self and to the outside world and finds meaning in giving back while moving forward. What does resilience mean to you?

Catching Tadpoles

"Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems."
Rainer Maria Rilke quotes (1875-1926)

As I gaze out onto my office parking lot in Concord, Massachusetts, I see an amazing sight...a young boy and girl crouching low to the ground on the edge of the sidewalk that leads into my office building.

On closer observation, I see a net attached to a long pole in the young boy's outstretched hands. They are fishing for tadpoles in the flooded parking lot! With the historic level of flooding the Northeast has withstood over the past weeks, the ensuing hassles with closed roads, canceled train service between Boston and New York, rivers overflowing, dams breaking, pumping out of basements, loss of property and water damage to valuables; this sight in the parking lot...two small figures patiently fishing, eagerly anticipating their catch, made me stop and smile.

Time after time, I am reminded of the choices we make in viewing the world. Do we see a flooded parking lot with no where to park, or do we see an opportunity to fish for tadpoles in the sunshine? One situation, two very different experiences.

May you catch many tadpoles this month,

Musical House Calls

The Longwood Symphony, an orchestra made up of physicians, medical researchers and health care providers, broke with their tradition of playing a large concert and instead took their music to their audience -- their patients. Dr. Lisa Wong, pediatrician and president of the Longwood Symphony Orchestra stated,“To launch this year, instead of having a concert in Jordan Hall, where we usually play for 800 to 1,000 audience members, we thought we’d bring it to the patients". This year the healer musicians were broken into several groups that spread out over Boston, visiting health centers, hospitals and elder care centers in an initiative called LSO on Call: Health and Harmony in the City. They reached a similar number of audience members yesterday, playing for a total of about 800 in nearly two dozen small concerts.
To read more about this great group of healing musicians, click here for the Boston Globe article.

Perfectly Happy?

Cognitive scientists who have conducted research on happiness have found that we are not very good at predicting what will make us happy. Ironically, chronic pain, constant noise can decrease our happiness dramatically and winning the lottery or achieving a life long wish often do not substantially increase our overall happiness. A recent Boston Globe article, Perfectly Happy, explores "happiness research" and its role in guiding priorities for social and health policy.

What do you think?