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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Minutes of Sunshine

Do you remember the little red wagon of your youth?  I remember mine.

I remember the rusty grit of the metal and the embossed grove design on the bottom of the carriage.  I remember the wagon was an excellent tool to load piles of fall leaves or dozens of Oklahoma’s native pecans.   If my sister Esther and I sat cross-legged we both fit within the wagon as our brother pulled us down the sidewalk.  But oh, I would squeal for joy when I would lay down alone in the bed of the wagon and my brother would pull me along.  The clouds would race in the sky above me and my hair would rip across my face as we careened down the sidewalk.  It would never last long.  My brother was only a child himself and could only pull at racing speed for minutes, but how I cherished those minutes of sunshine.

When my husband Fred was sick he was not pulled in a red wagon.  He was lifted onto a gurney and strapped in place 46 times for transport.  He was rolled out of hospital doors and into transport ambulances where EMS teams would transport him for radiation or other treatment.  I did the math once and realized that Fred experienced an accumulated three hours of sunshine and fresh air during his eleven weeks of hospitalization due to transport.. 

He loved his minutes of sunshine.

Fred was sick during the spring of 2009 inWashington, DC.  If you have ever been to the DC area in the spring, you know our fair city is bedecked with flowers.  I remember transport after transport where the blossoms would gently fall upon the gurney as the EMT would push through the doors of the radiation facility.  Then the EMT team would leave us in the hall.  Gurney after gurney would line the hallway like cattle in their stalls.  I would stand by Fred and hold his hand as strangers and technicians would brush by us headed to the waiting room or the chemotherapy suite.

Fred would close his eyes and avoid the stares of strangers and the fluorescent glare of the blinking lights of above.  He would wait and suffer until it was time for transport again; until it was time for falling blossoms and minutes of sunshine.

All of these thoughts and memories flew through my mind as I spoke to David Collins.

David Collins is the senior director of Healthcare Information Systems at HIMSS, the largest U.S. cause-based, not-for-profit healthcare association focused on the use of IT and management systems for better healthcare.  I saw David in person at the mHealth Summit in Washington, DC.  He wanted to talk to me about potentialy speaking at a HIMSS event.  I wanted to talk to him about joining The Walking Gallery.

Then David did something very few Gallery members have done.  He took the jacket off his back and joined the Gallery.  He stood in a busy hallway in his dress shirt and poured out his heart and told me why he works on HIT (Health Information Technology).

Davis was once EMS.  He provided traditional emergency transport, worked private EMT transport and worked within the hospital itself.  He helped patient after patient.  He saw cancer patients lining corridors like cattle in stalls.  He saw patient information lost between facilities and saw how patients suffered when their treatment was delayed by lost data and poor communication.    

He saw so much that he went back to school to study HIT.

This is David’s Jacket: “Minutes of Sunshine.”

Minutes of Sunshine

This is what I saw when I stared into eyes haunted with the pain of many yesterdays.  But I am so glad that David did not give up. I am glad that David decided to dive into a field that he thought could create the greatest positive change.

The EMS job

In this painting only the center is serene.  This is the stillness of a moment.  In this moment a younger David pulls the gurney with the help of another EMT.  The patient looks above to a beautiful blue sky filled with cotton candy clouds.  I wonder if this patient feels as I did in my little rusty wagon.  Does he rejoice that he is still alive when death looms so very near?  David looks upon the viewer as he transitions from the stillness of the past into the speeding present.  Time is a smear of paint upon a jacket.  Now time is speeding up.  Now Meaningful Use is marching through its measures, EHR venders pop up like mushrooms after rain and David looks upon it all to judge safety and quality of systems.

As David left the Mobile Health Summit with his Jacket on his back, I saw him from a distance.  From a distance the patient head looked less like a head resting on a pillow and more like an eye staring back at me.  Yes, there is an eye in HIT.  It is the Patient view. Thank God, David has that view firmly in mind.

David's choice


  1. Thank you so much for bringing such heart and spirit to Health IT. You have a gift for conveying the compassionate potential of numbers and data. The EHR movement is blessed to have your artistic and articulate contributions!

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