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Monday, January 23, 2012

The Waiting Place

Oh, the Places You’ll Go, Dr. Seuss

“You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. But mostly they’re darked.
A place you could sprain your elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?

Kym Martin

Sonnet 116, William Shakespeare

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! It is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
   If this be error and upon me proved,
   I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

Ross Martin

A few months ago I spoke to Ross Martin at an ONC event. Ross has a background in medicine and was an OBGYN before devoting himself to healthcare policy.  He sat a conference table with a pile of paperwork before him.  Although his shirtsleeves were rolled up, he still looked professional in his dress shirt with matching tie. 

We were both very tired from a long day.  I had painted two jackets and delivered a keynote.  He had been there as a representative of Deloitte and just finished his final meeting of the day. I knew of Ross, although I did not know him personally. I had seen his HITECH: An Interoperetta in Three Acts and The Meaningful Yoose Rap. I was so excited to see another artist address the intricacies of Health Information Technology within their chosen medium. I asked him that day if he would write a song for our upcoming healthcare data-sharing puppet show at Health 2.0: “The Rainbow Button Initiative.” He said he would. I also asked him to join The Walking Gallery.  He said he would do that as well.

Then he began to tell me the story of how he met his wife Kym. In 1999, Ross was attending his first Ballroom dance competition. He did very well. Then he met this lovely woman with a long and gracious neck, a dancer’s neck. He wanted to dance with her that night. He taught her quite a few of the slower dances and they talked till 2:00 am. Kym told Ross so many things that night. She told him of her challenging childhood and of her diagnosis of a type of cancer called Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at the age of 17. Kym explained that due to the impact of her cancer treatment, there was no way to know if she was rendered sterile and that if she did conceive, she faced a higher potential risk of developing melanoma. She told him everything and stripped all the protections away from her soul letting Ross see her in all her tragic beauty.

After the “Ball,” Ross began to court Kym. Both had been in prior failed marriages. At first they were timid in their love; as a heart is want to do once it suffers a burn. But after several dates and six weeks of courtship, Ross asked Kym to marry him. She said yes. They did not set a date, instead deciding to enjoy a long engagement.  

Then the tempest struck and they were sent spiraling. A routine test led to a diagnosis of a return of Kym’s cancer. Ross and Kym began the process of additional tests and went to see several specialists. Ross had many contacts in the medical community and they went to the best doctors in the field. It was 1999 and the internet was only taking its first steps toward medical transparency. But even then, one could find out that a reoccurrence of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma was dire news.  

After two weeks of appointments, additional tests costing over $10,000 and spending those timeless days in the waiting place, Ross and Kym were told that most likely the cancer had not returned. The doctor told them an image had been overzealously read.  It was scar tissue, not cancer. The facility had no access to Kym’s older films from years before. If a HIE (Health Information Exchange) had been in place and such files had been stored and transmitted, Ross and Kym would not have spent two weeks in torment in the waiting place wondering if a death sentence loomed above them.

With this reprieve fresh in their minds, Ross and Kym decided the time for waiting was over. Two months later they married on the beach in Hawaii. It was beautiful and magical, and was soon followed by more joyful news. Kym and Ross realized that Kym had conceived a child on their wedding night. Nine months later their son Taylor was born.

So I painted this jacket for Ross “Love is an ever-fixed mark.” 

Love is an ever fixed mark. - Ross Martin's Jacket

I was inspired by Ross’s story and Shakespeare’s sonnet. I saw their love as a lighthouse on the beach, and ever-fixed mark. They are a fixed a moment in time, a moment of love eternal.  Hodgkin’s Lymphoma cells float across the sky, as they dance.

But a marriage of two minds should have two jackets, so I also painted a jacket for Kym: ”Knowing the Score.”

Knowing the Score ~Kym Martin's Jacket

In this jacket a lovely Kym looks upon the viewer. Her long neck is beautifully displayed and if you are familiar with the disastrous effects of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma you know what can happen to such beautiful necks. This is a disease of the lymphatic system.  The lymphatic system is a network of conduits that spread throughout the entire body ending in nodes. Nodes are found in many places but are very prominent in the neck.  Painless swelling of lymph nodes is a very important symptom in this type of cancer. If left unchecked, this disease spreads throughout the body and leaves a disfigured mound of flesh in place of a graceful neck. I also chose to depict the lymphatic system as a networked series of circuits. That network spreads throughout Kym’s body and connects with the code behind her.

Kym Martin

Ross is playing on his guitar and as his fingers strum the chords a stream of code descends. Ross is doing everything, and I do mean everything, he can to promote positive change in the world of healthcare. He will wear a suit and head to meeting after meeting to promote a better understanding of HITECH, EMR’s and data sharing. In his free time, he will write about it, sing about it and create videos to elucidate the topic.

Knowing the score

Behind them both is a Dr. Seuss sky.  “Oh the Places You’ll Go!” is a favorite book of Kym’s.  I thought that telling.  It is book that warns us that many people get stuck in the waiting place of indecision. It is a book given at graduations, but it is also a book about confronting death.  You see Ross and Kym made a choice.  They decided to stop waiting.  They decided to live and love and do everything in their power to help others do the same. 


  1. Reggie, thank you SO MUCH for this amazing gift that you have shared with us and the rest of the world. You've inspired us to go farther and deeper as a couple and for that we are ever grateful. You also inspired me to fill in some of the details of our story on my own blog, starting with Thank you!