Friday, January 11, 2008

Miracles and other choices

Last night I went to visit my mother. As I walked along the corridor to my mother's ward, I passed a small seating area where four people were sitting chatting quite loudly about the trouble with health care.

I think it is a miracle that so many people want to work in health care. They are short-staffed, under-budgeted, under-resourced and under constant criticism from 'all of us'. In spite of that, they remain committed to delivering superior service to every person who walks through the door.

I haven't experienced the negative side of health care. My mother is receiving excellent care. The nurses are supportive. They're helpful and they continually go out of their way to ensure every patient feels comfortable, cared for and part of the going's on in the unit. It can't be easy. It's a lock down geriatric ward. Patients cannot leave without permission or someone in attendance. Some, as my mother says it, 'are out of their minds'.

And yet, the staff remain professional, courteous and committed at all times.

Wednesday, I had a meeting with the Executive Director of the shelter where I work and an advertising agency, to discuss strategies for increasing our 'brand awareness'. Later this month, a group of 20 business executives will be presenting the first draft of their Ten Year Plan to reveal how they believe they can end homelessness forever in our city. In reviewing the work to date, it is evident that this group does not see what we do as having had an impact on ending homelessness. In some instances, shelters such as the one I work in, are considered a significant contributor to the problem.

At the meeting, as we talked about messages. I listened to the conversation and said, "Since the shelter began operation 46 years ago, we have been committed to ending homelessness, one person at a time. It's what we do every day and yet, it's the story we seldom tell."

In health care, we seldom talk about the stories of lives saved. We seldom hear about families who have remained intact because of the miraculous work of the individuals who have the knowledge, and the tools, to heal someone's life.

When my eldest daughter's friend was critically injured by a car on New Year's Day, the prognosis was not good. Today, he's out of ICU and is awaiting a bed outside the Trauma Unit where he has spent the past few days. He's walking on crutches, and as his girlfriend told my daughter yesterday, "T's back. I've been waiting to see 'T' appear every time I've walked into the hospital. Yesterday, he was back. Funny. Quick witted. Positive. He's going to be okay." He has youth on his side to help in his healing journey. He also has superb care, from the EMS team at the scene of the accident and the police sergeant who arrived within moments of the 9-1-1 call being placed, to the Emergency Room staff who fought so hard to save him and the ICU team who wouldn't give up. The care he received saved his life.

At the shelter, we seldom talk about the lives of those who have been touched by what we do. When you're in the business of saving lives, there is no time to spare counting accolades. There's also the issue of privacy. Sometimes, the people don't want to reveal that their lives have been in such disarray. Sometimes, in their desire to leave the past behind, they don't give a forwarding address. And, sometimes, like the health care system saving lives, it's simply that what we do is part of the job, part of our work.

In our work, miracles happen every day that no one sees but us. I received an email this morning from a girlfriend about a young girl who sets out to buy a miracle for her brother who is sick. It's a powerful story with a powerful message about love, faith and life's miracles. "A miracle, " it says, "is not the suspension of natural law, but the operation of a higher law."

In health care, in the care of homelessness, in the police service and public service sectors all over, miracles happen every day. Not because we suspend our disbelief that we can't make a difference, but because we are committed to making a difference in other people's lives. We are committed to working to a higher law, a greater purpose that serves others.

Every day, someone walks away from homelessness into a situation that will pave the way to their living a self-sufficient and productive life again. Every day, someone gets into rehab. Someone gets the mental health care they need. And every day, thousands of lives are saved because shelters like ours are there to provide them a safe place to catch their breath, find their balance and reclaim their sense of direction.

Every day, more people walk into hospitals and are healed than those who cannot be healed. More people find the right treatment, the right help, the right support they need to cure whatever ails them.

And every day, people chat, like the group I over heard in the lobby, about what's not going right, about all that's wrong. They sit on their chairs and complain, and never get down to the business of making a difference.

It's not a miracle so many people care so much they can complain about all that's wrong. The miracle is people continue to make a difference in spite of their complaints. It's not a miracle the health care system works. It's not a miracle public service works. It's hard work, commitment and a dedication to helping those in need by a group of people convinced they can make a difference if they just stay focused on their purpose, and don't get caught up in the rhetoric that would paint them with the brush of failure.

Life is a miracle. What I do with it is up to me. How I respond. How I react to circumstances, to other people, to trials and tribulations -- that's all my doing. When I look at my life as a miracle, I see miracles reflected all around me. So, for today, I shall walk through each moment celebrating the miracle of life in everyone I see, including me. For today, I shall walk through each moment knowing what I do with my life is up to me to celebrate, or complain. The choice is mine.

The quesiton is: Can you see the miracle of you reflected back in the eyes of everyone you meet? Do you see rainbows dancing in the wake of your passing through each moment or do you focus your attention on finding the faultlines that will trip you up today? What choices will you make in your journey today?

1 comment:

CZBZ said...

About two weeks ago, my daughter had surgery. When the doctor entered the waiting room to speak with our little troop of family members, we thanked him for being there. We told him how much we appreciated his dedication to schooling that had saved my daughter's life. That without people like himself, she would not be with us today.

Can you already predict his reaction?

Yes. He was stunned. Stunned that we would be able to SEE HIM as a human being who was dedicated to saving lives along with daring take responsibility for stepping up to the plate and 'doing something' with his intention to help other people.

Thanks for a great read this morning, Louise.