Health Care Policy Change for Opioid Addiction

My dad overdosed and was brought to the hospital 6 times before his fatal visit. I must’ve spent over 30 hrs in total on the phone with nurses, doctors, but primarily case workers. The calls with doctors and nurses were often cut short. Because of policies put into place to protect peoples privacy, anything I wanted to find out about my dad was denied. Me providing information on my dads history with addiction, suicide attempts, and my dads severe depression were not acknowledged well. It wasn’t the nurses fault and I knew they could hear the frustration in my voice, but they knew they had to follow policy. It made it very clear that policy changes were needed and quickly.

One of the last times my dad was in the hospital, he didn’t wake for 2 weeks. When he finally awoke I called and begged to talk to him. Because of his embarrassment of what had happened, he denied my calls and told the nurses not to release any information. Even after explaining that he was at high risk for suicide, I was told that I had two choices. Call and get him sectioned or let him make his own choices. He was finally in the place where he could get the help he needed, but there wasn’t a system in place for him to get that proper, specific care.

I’m sure that my dads case isn’t the only one either.

I was visiting a friend at the restaurant I used to work at and there was a couple sitting at the bar. They were visiting from Indiana for their anniversary and looked so in love. I began chatting with them and I discovered they were in the business of saving peoples lives. She was a nurse and he was an EMT. I went to High School and prom with the EMT that saved my dad’s life on multiple of his overdoses and his wife is also a nurse. I knew that both jobs were extremely difficult. I thanked the couple at the bar, mentioning the couple from High School that I admire, and our conversation got deeper. I told them about my dad. The woman said something very true to me. She said, “As a nurse, we get a lot of people who come in from overdoses. It’s really hard for some of the nurses to feel obligated to help them. A lot of them think, ‘if they don’t want to help themselves why should I want to help them?’, or ‘they’ll just be back again.’ They don’t get the same care as other patients do and it’s true a lot of them are back sometimes even in the same day. But what I like to think anytime I see someone who is struggling with addiction is what kind of pain this person must’ve gone through to be where they are right now. I think about how broken and hurt they must be and that every single person has a story. It makes me try harder to be a better nurse and I know these people are really strong for what they must’ve gone through.”

She was an amazing human and an incredible nurse, but what about the people who don’t have that experience or outlook like her?¬† What if a nurse really doesn’t connect to someone struggling with addiction? It doesn’t mean they’re not as good of a nurse or as good of a human. It really just takes proper training and a bit of understanding. Even after talking to nurses who were tired from my taking care of my dad, (trust me he is a handful!) once I explained a little more about our situation and explained how good of a dad he really was they were always a little bit more patient and responsive.

Being a nurse is the most honorable job I’ve ever seen. Over the summer I lived with a roommate who was a nurse. She always had a smile on her face and no matter what she was always in a great mood and asked me about my day. She probably had 100 things going on at work and in her own life, but she cared about people more than herself. I think that’s a quality of nurses that make them superheroes. So to ask of a nurse to give another 100% to people that try to refuse the help or on the other hand demand medication, it’s really hard. But with the proper training and policy changes, I have no doubt these compassionate, super-human healers would absolutely be wonderful at helping improve conditions of the epidemic and help in the fight to end the stigma.

My dad was really open about his recovery, despite his privacy in the hospital. When he was sober he told me about a specific doctor that he loved seeing. He said to me, “I just love that she doesn’t look at me different. I just feel like I can be honest and open with her and she won’t talk to me like I’m any less of a human. It gives me hope.” I love that Doctor for the work that she is doing and I wish I knew her name. Doctors are brilliant humans as well. It’s hard for anyone to have an open and nonjudgemental conversation when it’s not something they’re comfortable talking about.

Once doctors, nurses, and policy makers understand why they should care and what impact it’ll have on the epidemic and quite frankly the nation, I think we’ll be in a much better place. We all want to be better humans and better at our jobs, and sometimes we just need someone to show us why.

I’m happy to see so much progress by nonprofits like Shatterproof making change to the health care policies. After the Shatterproof 5k in Boston, I was inspired by¬†Michael Botticelli, Executive Director of The Boston Medical Center‚Äôs Grayken Center for Addiction and Darshak Sanghavi, CMO of Optum Labs for their commitment to change. I am especially proud of Shatterproof CEO, Mendell, for nationally advocating for this change and partnering with such people who walk the walk.

If you have a story about healthcare and addiction and you’d like to share please do so in the comments below or email me privately at leanna@risinghope.co. I’m always here to talk.

Collateral Beauty | The Void

When visiting my dad at the cemetery, I got lost. I had been there for 20 minutes, trecking through the snow in sneakers, frantically searching for my dad. It felt horrible. A parallel for the past two years.

I asked someone who was going for a run. After giving instructions, I began sobbing out of nowhere. The kind man asked who I was visiting. I explained it was my dads birthday. He pointed to the top of the hill and said, my daughter was only 32, she is buried over there. He said it fleetingly. As he tried to walk away, I took out my dads book.

Eager to share, I showed him how much I loved my dad. He looked at me, “I want to give you the best advice anyone has ever given me. When someone you love leaves this earth,” He began to cry. “It creates a huge hole inside of us. The key is not to fill the void. The key is to find your¬†way around it.” He held his head high and I could see the straining in his neck to stop himself from sobbing.

It seemed to be the first time he had cried in a long time about his daughter. He lost her at such a young age. Before I could react, he wished me luck and continued his run. I wanted to talk more. He was hurting and so was I. I’m grateful for his advice.

Nothing will take the place of a loved one. Isn’t it amazing how different we all are? Our quirks, our voices, our reactions, our expressions. How I’ll always miss the way my dad would snarl in the cutest way when I said something crazy, “ohhh….¬†Ohhh..¬†Liiiinky!” How he would¬†get excited and there’d be a chuckle, kind of like Goofy, in his voice. Especially if it was about something positive for my future. How he always made dirty jokes very loudly, and how he repeated himself in a high pitch voice insistently in stores.

Of course, I’ll never fill that void. What I’d like to explain to my friend at the cemetery, is, that hole that is there within us is room for vulnerability. It’s the space that makes collateral beauty. For the moments like we had. Where out of nowhere¬†I¬† felt the urge to take out my dads letters, even if I was told he didn’t care.

 

 

 

Collateral Beauty | California Friend

 

I called a Lyft to pick me up at my apartment on March 23rd. We started chatting and he told me that he was here from California. As any New Englander would do, we joked about why anyone would move here from California with¬†this kind of weather (even though we all know why… we’re the best.) My Lyft driver said quietly, “My sister has cancer.”

Suddenly my vulnerable heart and his connected in silence.

We talked about his fears for his sister, how the two of them were adopted by Jewish parents, and how tough of a year it’s been.

It felt like fate that of all days and all the Lyft drivers I could’ve gotten I was in the car with someone who needed to be open as intensely as I did.

Finally, I explained, I’m going to celebrate my dads birthday for the first time at a cemetery¬†today.

Again the beautiful silence.

Then he says, “I lost my mom in October too. Cancer. She didn’t want treatment.”

The pain my new friend was going through but the strength he showed, it was admirable. It made me feel like everything was okay, and I think it made him feel the same.

I learned a lot from my friend. His sister is extremely strong and optimistic. He is here in Massachusetts, just the two of them, supporting one another. His mom was amazing. Very strong but also very stubborn.

I showed my¬†friend the book that I am writing for my dad. As tears welled and my throat clenched, he suddenly said, “I feel stupid. I didn’t save or record any of the memories I had with my mom.”

Wiping tears from his eyes, I explained, “the best thing you can do is to keep her spirit alive because that is what’ll always carry on. Opening up to me and allowing me to open up, too, is what makes your mom look down on you and smile with pride.”

It’s hard to open up to strangers, especially about losing a loved one, but when you do, sometimes, beautiful things can happen. Strangers have parallels in their lives that you wouldn’t believe. When two people who are going through struggle¬†connect, they become connected.

My friend made my¬†visit to my dad a lot easier. When I sat down with my dad I had a full heart. Inspired, and happy that we could be vulnerable and open. People who are struggling don’t want sympathy or advice. They want to feel a human connection, hope, and understanding.

Sharing your story will be inspiring. Feel great about sharing memories of someone who is no longer with you. It may be tough, but do it for their soul. Do it for the person who’s listening who might be losing their loved one.

 

No Drugs: School Zone

Mon, 26 Feb 2007 

I haven’t stopped crying for 5 hours… this isn’t healthy I just want him back in my life and he doesn’t want to and I have to realise it:/ nothing is going to be the same again. I don’t even want to live anymore.

Continue reading No Drugs: School Zone

Grace of New Beginnings

¬† ¬†Tonight I recieved a phone call from my dad at around 1030pm. It was surprising because in the past five years he would usually only call me before 6pm. I was excited anyway because I had just walked in the door from work and any earlier, I wouldnt have been able to answer. His voice comforts my soul, “Hi Baby-so!” he says. We know our time on the phone is limited so we instantly begin talking about everything important. First off my grandpas health, my health, his health, and about the other people we care most about. Then we talked about new movies my dad has seen which is funny because recently he has seen more movies than I have.
    We talked about my graduation and how proud of me he is and we talked about how proud my grandpa is of me. A couple weeks ago my grandfather compared me to the pope. My dad explained to me that in translation from English to Russian, being compared to the pope is a very big compliment. He explained to me how much my grandpa loves me and how we are all facing reality of his old age and his strength for staying well.
¬† ¬† ¬†I told him that I wanted to raise money for kids that have parents addicted to drugs. He told me a story about a family he once helped. He knew a woman with two kids who barely had clothes on their back. He had recently bought me a playstation 2 so he decided to give the kids the playstation 1 that I had now retired for the newest edition. “I have never been so hurt. When I went back to ask the kids how they liked it, the mother had already sold the playstation for drugs.” He told me what I was doing was very special and how important it is for these kids to look forward to something.
    Our conversation suddenly reached a topic I try to avoid. The reality of what is to happen when my father will be released from prison. It has been five long years and of course I am more than estatic to have my dad back in my life but I have become so comfortable with my way of living that it will be a hard adjustment for me to try to understand what he is going through in his head.
¬† ¬† “I want to make money,” he said. I told my dad that the most important thing for him to do is maintain his health and let me worry about the money and that I can help us both. Money comes and goes, and opportunity to make money will always be there, but our health is going to be especially important.
¬† ¬† ¬†“I cant believe I have missed out on 5 years of your life,” he said. I told him that he has been my motivation these past five years and that he cannot let his past dictate his future especially since it has felt he has been with me the whole time, in my heart.
¬† ¬† “I don’t want to start smoking again,” he said. This is where I began to feel a drop in my stomach and a knot in my heart. This is a thought my father was having and if this were a thought in his head, I knew that heroin was also.It isn’t to say that I did not know it was something he probably thought of every day. Subconciously we like to put the things that we know we cant change, and want to, in the back of our heads, and that is one thought I¬†always try to bury far down.
¬† ¬† “I just remember when my mom was sick the last time and ….” He didn’t finish his sentence. His mother, my grandmother, was my dads best friend and her diagnosis of cancer was the beginning of my fathers relapse. She passed a week after being released from prison 9 years ago.¬†I like to think he stopped himself because he knows this time will be different.
¬† ¬† “One minute remaining on call”. The prison calls always seem too short for what I must pay. We said our goodbyes and now I will have to wait to hear from him again.
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