Monday, November 17, 2008

What's Up Doc?

So, what have I been up to since I last wrote?

Well, I've hired 2 new employees who are fantastic! Amy and Laura, welcome! I promise to be a good and fair boss.

For Halloween, I dressed up as a Canadian tourist in England. I wore the goofy looking tourist hat that Rob bought me for my 50th birthday while we were in London. And, I wore my "Good Girls go to Heaven and Bad Girls go London" t-shirt and the gold mini skirt that Sarah bought me. Oh yeah, and I had the necklace that I got from the Brighton boardwalk on and the large blue pendant from the London Eye. Perhaps I didn't look scary, but, at least I was original

Work-wise, I've been, as usual, busy, busy, busy! St. Lawrence Market has been much more busy, I've received several commissions for paintings. I'm having an art show/Xmas party on Nov 28th, and I'm trying to get ready for my Pawsway gig on the weekend of Dec 6th-7th.

As if my life wasn't hectic enough, I agreed to be a co-presenter today and talk to a group of medical people from the Ontario Hospital Association.

The topic was on how to improve communication between medical professionals and patients with communication disabilities (e.g., CP, MS, ALS, and people who have had a stroke or brain injury.)

It was explained to the medical professionals that using an alternative method of communication (e.g., low-tech alphabet/word board or high-tech computerized voice-output devices) were vastly different, and the way in which people used these devices were also vastly different. Thinking up simple mode of communication for all patients with communication disabilities would simply be impossible!

My colleague was overly enthusiastic and barely allowed me to say anything at all! However, I did get a couple of important things out there: 1) whether a patient uses a high-tech or device, they usually also use eye gaze, body language, or facial expression. And, 2) It is very important that you, first, discover how that particular person communicates and what their preferences are - like where to put their device so that they can access it easily.

My colleague told the medical professionals a horror story about a guy she knows. He had CP and, like me, communicated with a low-tech alphabet/word board. When he went into the hospital, they immediately took his board away and put in a drawer for "safe keeping". Worse still, they gave him food every mealtime but never inquired if he needed any assistance to eat. He almost died from starvation!

When I returned to the table to finish my lunch after the presentation, I told my own horror story. It was about my friend Cookie who went into the hospital for a simple procedure and the hospital tried to persuade her to get a G-tube, saying it was because they didn't have the time to help her eat. When she refused, they tried to "go over her head" and asked her attendant for permission to insert a G-tube. Fortunately, Cookie had a decent attendant who supported Cookie's refusal.

I then told the people at my table about a good experience I had the last time I was at a hospital to get a piece of meat dislodged from my throat. It was at Mount Sinai Hospital, and they had no trouble whatsoever catching onto the way I communicated. They signed me in, got me a cubicle in Emergency, and told me I could stay in my wheelchair for as long as possible if it was more comfortable for me. And, when it came to the time of the procedure, they understood it was difficult for me to sign the consent form while I was lying down, so they let me do a verbal contract.

The people at our table were really nice and seemed to respect what Lenny and I had to say. I told them that a lot of times it just takes common sense to communicate with people with communication disabilities, and Lenny said that it also took human decency and a willingness not to be anti-ableiistic.

How true, how true.....

(More on this topic later.)