Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Media Matters: Carolyn's Jacket

Carolyn's Jacket: Media Matters

This jacket belongs to Carolyn Capern.  Carolyn was one of Fred’s students at American University in the fall of 2008.  I heard about her talent and ability from my husband long before I ever met her.  In the spring of 2009, Carolyn became one of my Facebook friends.   She followed the odyssey of Fred’s often botched and fractured care in real time. She wrote about our story and advocacy in Carolyn's Thoughts: Health and the Hollidays on August 14, 2009.  
Regina Chats With Fred's Students
She was there the night we dedicated the mural and sang songs from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.   She presented at the Social Justice Camp DC event in January 2011 and spoke about social justice at AU using multiple images from the media.

When I began design Carolyn’s jacket, I was very inspired by the lessons Fred taught us both: Media Matters.  Media can provide the bridging conversation that can create great sense empathy among all participants in the conversation.  Media can give you chance to communicate your ideas to a larger world.  Media access can help alleviate pain even if you are Watching THE DAILY SHOW while Dying.

While I was painting, I thought of a specific conversation I had with the IHI fellows. On March 10, 2011, I was in Green Bay Wisconsin learning about the amazing patient care activities at Bellin Health. I spent the day being shuttled from one care venue to the next.  That evening I had the pleasure of going to dinner with several folks from Bellin and the IHI fellows. I was so happy to speak with them. I met John Kruger, MD, employed by the Native American Medical System in the Southwest.  I also met Malcolm Daniel, IHI Fellow and Patient Safety Advocate from Scotland, and Lesley Anne Smith, the Head of Clinical Governance and Risk Management at NHS Highland, UK. 

And partially due to my presence at the table, we talked about 1970’s family television programs in the US and how they relate to medicine.   You see many years ago, my husband Fred taught me a very valuable lesson in dinner conversation.  You can always lead a conversation in a new direction if you begin talking about television or movies.  Fred did this all the time, as he was very interested in media and how it affected our world.   It was really fun to talk of shared experiences through the episodes of years gone by and how each narrative arch captured the zeitgeist of the times.  He also did this while teaching class, which made some students consider him “prone to go off topic” and cause other students to love him.
The Incredible Hulk
That night, I spoke about The Incredible Hulk TV series as it depicted the depths of sorrow and grief upon losing a spouse, as well as depicting concerns about accidental overdosing in radiation.  I bemoaned the quality of current "children's programs."  They seem to expect too little of children.  I started watching The Incredible Hulk at the age of five.  I loved the show.  It conquered topic after harsh topic.  I was only 7 years old when the episode "Metamorphosis" aired. In less than one hour, the show addressed anger issues, classism, drug abuse and passive suicide.  It promoted altruism and the concept of embracing your calling in life, regardless of whether it is as economically advantageous.
 Mary Ingalls

The topic then moved to Little House on the Prairie, and we spoke of the episode where Caroline has an infected cut that she must clean before it is too late.  I also brought up my own personal experience of being empowered by Mary Ingalls portrayal of a child needing glasses.  So empowered, that I managed to convince my mother of my need for an eye exam.  And I rejoiced in the improved vision with my New Eyes.   I went on to mention the episode where Mary loses her baby due to a fire.  Mary then goes through a period of deep denial and before collapsing into a catatonic type of grief.
Grandma Walton, Hawkeye Pierce, Quincy
We talked about the important role Jack Klugman, star of Quincy, ME, played in television and in Congress.  He and his show, with its depiction of patients who have rare diseases but could not access needed medication in the United States, helped to pass the Orphan Drug Act. 

We touched briefly on Fred’s favorite character: Hawkeye Pierce on M.A.S.H.  That show’s brave decision to dedicate the majority of its final episode “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen.” to Hawkeye’s nervous breakdown and hospitalization for mental treatment, helped promote a greater awareness of the effects mental illness and depression and showcased a potential road to recovery.   This episode aired in 1983 and was the most watched television broadcast in the history of American television until 2010.  I was only 11 years old at the time that it aired, but I vividly remember sometimes a "chicken" is not a chicken.  Sometimes the choices we make in life lead to someone else’s death.

Finally, we discussed the character of Grandma Walton from The Waltons. To me Grandma Walton is the face of a stroke.  I was only six years old when Grandma Walton came back on the show after Ellen Corby, the actress playing the role, suffered her stroke in 1977.   I remember the shock of seeing her face and words twisted, but I also remember how glad I was to see her back.  This was 1978 years before ADA legislation; it was not common to see people with disability or illness on TV.  I was only six, but I was proud of Grandma Walton.  I was proud of what she stood for.  I took her bravery in appearing very personally.  You see my mother had an episode of Bell’s palsy during that past year.  My mother no longer smiled.  Half of her face was slack and she wore bandage over one eye to keep it moist.   But each day she would go out and live her life just like Grandma Walton.
Media Matters
It was a winding conversation that night, but it came down to the power of the media to tell the story of Medicine.  And the televised story of a stroke brought us back to Bellin Health and Betty Bundy and The Power of Naming Names.   Which brings us back to another thing Fred liked to say, “It’s about the story stupid.”  Why does Dennis Quaid have the power to help change the way we identify medicine?  How has Michael J. Fox and his foundation raised so much money in so little time to fund Parkinson’s research?   We fell in love with their characters.  We let the fictional realities they depicted be projected onto the flickering screen within our heart.  So when tragedy struck, we took it personally.  When we watch the shows that define our lives, they teach us lessons.  They give us parables.  They show us when to pull a “Shirley Maclaine” and when it is time for The Last Puppet Show.
Fred Holliday II PhD
In close, thank you, Carolyn, for wearing this jacket.   Fred would be so proud.  Each day you walk the earth and spread his message about the importance of media, you create a living tribute to his memory and inform others about the power of the story.  That is exactly why we walk within The Walking Gallery. 

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