I met Michele Behme because of HIT. She was the newest employee of Clinovations and wanted to be part of the Walking Gallery on June 7th, but I did not finish her jacket before the show. So the jacket sat within my closet until today. Over the weekend a fellow patient advocate named Jeni Dingman asked me to paint a jacket in honor of Patient Safety Day 2011. I thought Michelle’s jacket could tell the tale.
This is Patient Safety Day: Michele Behme’s Jacket.
There are only two things within this painting: a candle and smoke.
The candle shines as a solitary light representing what we have lost. The candle stands apart like a letter “I” asking each one of us a question. “What do we intend to do to make this system better?
Then there is the smoke. Simple smoke rings blend and morph into four children within this piece. We see Justin, Josie, Taylor and Michael. They are only children and their prior experience with smoke consisted of seeing its tendril remains waft from their birthday candles. In the case of Josie and Taylor they would only ever have one birthday candle. Michael would get to have two and he probably ate cake as well. And Justin would be blessed to see 11 birthdays.
So smoke was the memory of a day of cake, ice cream and presents to these gentle souls. Four beautiful children and now they are only smoke. Every one of them died due to a medical error.
So we light candles and we remember. And we stare at smoke.
If you look closely at this piece you will see a figure embracing these children. She is made of smoke and letters. She is EHR, EMR, HIT: all the things that Michelle works with to help us receive better care. And she also MRSA, HAI, and C-DIFF, she represents the kind of infections that can strike us down. It is hard to tell the intent of this creature. Does she hug the children close in loving comfort? Or is she stealing them from us?
Today is Patient Safety Day. But yesterday was Church, and as I sat upon my pew I watched the acolytes light the candles. Unbidden to my mind a vision came. I thought of my wedding ring and Fred’s wedding ring. Why think of that within the pew? These past two years those rings have sat within a cabinet.
And then the children scampered to the front for children’s sermon and Pastor began to speak of Wedding Rings. I gasped quietly and listened to Pastor talk of rings and weddings.
And then a child spoke up and said, “There are funerals too.”