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Saturday, February 14, 2015

Sending the Card

Today is Valentine’s Day. 

As a child, I rather dreaded this day as would have to laboriously write 30 names of my fellow students on their cards.  I did however cherish the cards I received in return and still have some from 1983 in my memory box.   Cards can make you feel so very wanted and loved.

As I worked this year with my son Isaac on his Valentine’s cards for his third grade classmates, we discussed the many ways he could show his friends that he cared for them.  We also began a rather deep conversation about subtext.  We talked about the facing message that is obvious in a card but there is often a deeper subtle message underneath.

In February of 2013, I began a campaign on and on Twitter to encourage Hallmark to have a line of hospice cards.  The idea came out of a tweet chat that TedMed hosted that year.   Major media sites reported the campaign that spring.  Hallmark did consider my proposal and made their search engine a bit more user friendly for families looking for cards appropriate for hospice, but they did not create a hospice card.  A competitor, Greeting Card Universe, ended up making 24 different types of hospice cards in the spring of 2013.

When I attended HIMSS in Louisiana in March 2013, I brought materials to begin creating a large hospice card prototype for Hallmark.  So many people who attended the Patient Engagement Track signed the inset that would accompany the card. 

When The Walking Gallery gathered on June 2, 2013 in Washington, DC attendees from all over the nation signed the card insert we planed to give to Hallmark.

When I spoke at KUMC in Kansas City, Kansas in September 2013, I brought the card elements with me.  With help from the amazing folks at KUMC we assembled the card right there in Kansas only miles away from Hallmark Headquarters. 

My dear friend Jari Holland Buck, Walking Gallery Member and patient advocate took the over-sized card to the Hallmark Headquarters in September 2014.  We had tried to arrange an official hand-off in 2013 but were unsuccessful.

 At approximately 11:30 am Central time, September 5, 2014, Jari delivered the hospice card we assembled at KU Medical Center. Jari did try to find the “right” person to accept delivery of the card to no avail.  She hoped a spontaneous visit would net results.

Prior to arriving, Jari verified that they still lacked an identified presence in the hospice cards. Their website stated the following, "These cards are available within several different lines in any store that carries Hallmark products.  But because they haven't typically been displayed together, and because not every store offering Hallmark products carries every card we produce, these cards can be difficult to find. Late last year we began offering new displays to group these cards in a "tough times" zone with signs to help shoppers find them.  These new sections will be appearing in many Hallmark Gold Crown stores throughout 2013."

The front desk security guard asked Jari to leave the card as she was making an “unscheduled delivery.” Jari refused, saying that there was too much pain and too many people behind this gesture to simply pass this work to Hallmark anonymously.

 Jari suggested several possible recipients to the security guard. The security guard responded that she didn’t have the names or roles of department employees. Jari suggested that Media Relations might be a good direction.

Linda Odell, (whom responded to my initial request via several reporters in 2013) Manager of Media Relations, personally accepted delivery of the card.

This is what Jari told Ms. Odell:

“My name is Jari Holland Buck. I am a Patient Advocate and member of Regina Holliday’s Walking Gallery. I am here today on behalf of all hospice patients, past, present and future, as well as the family members who care about and the caregivers who care for them. Facing death is one of the most difficult challenges any of us will face, whether it is ours or that of someone else.

Hallmark has helped us with our inability to express the right message and continues to do so by offering cards that are “appropriate” for those in hospice. When I walk into a Hallmark store to purchase a hospice card, this is not a fun trip. I do not wish to search through the racks or be escorted by an employee who may or may not know where to source the appropriate card on the racks. This is hard enough for me to acknowledge and I just want to get in and get out.  Hallmark has neither clustered these cards in a meaningful way in the stores nor offered a line specifically dedicated to this painful experience.

On behalf of Regina Holliday, members of the Patient Advocacy Walking Gallery, our local community and caregivers throughout the US, please accept “our” card asking you to dedicate your time and attention to this issue.”

Ms. Odell responded that she was working on correspondence with for a co-branded line of cards.  She was working on this at the very moment she was contacted by the security guard and thought the timing was fortuitous. Jari asked if Ms. Odell if she was aware of my petition and she said, “Yes. Regina was the one who initiated the petition for hospice cards.”

Ms. Odell stated that hospice cards were still not grouped within Hallmark stores and was aware that there had been “issues” with shelf talkers / inserts that identified their presence within the racks.

Jari told Ms. Odell that she was serving as an advocate for a hospice patient. Jari knew, from personal experience, what it was like to visit a Hallmark store seeking these cards. Jari explained how awkward many of her client’s friends and family members felt expressing themselves to the dying patient.

Ms. Odell acknowledged that the point “This is not a happy trip to the card store and I am not here to shop or laugh,” was a valid one and one not previously considered to her knowledge.

She also said she knew 15 people who needed to see the card. They were spread widely throughout the organization. Ms. Odell then asked for a copy of Jari’s explanation of the card, which Jari willingly provided.

Today is Valentine’s Day and Jari sent me a card.  I don’t get many cards on Valentines day and I thank Jari for being such a great friend.  Her card encouraged me to write this post today and report on the Hospice Card saga of the past 2 years.

Which encouraged me to think about subtext.

I realized that I began demanding cards for our loved ones who are dying in February the month of Valentine’s Day.

I am a Widow. This is a hard month for me.  My thoughts turn to love and loss.  My request to Hallmark is that same as it was two years ago.  Help make a time that is so very sad be filled with love.  I don’t want a memory box just filled with Valentines.  I want to see some hospice cards.

So I write this post today and will tag it with #HealthPolicyValentines.  

Be the change you wish to see.  Never forget you can change health policy with a simple greeting card. 

Saturday, February 7, 2015


This is February.  In a few days from now thousands of people will flock to New York for Toy Fair 2015.  These are the people who spend their year focused on the wants and needs of children.  There will be the store buyers who will look for new the toys that will make a child squeal with glee.  The manufacturers and the designers will listen closely to the buyers and think of the ways they will redesign in 2016.  Marketers will spend countless hours focused on informing Mommy bloggers about all the wonderful items that will educate and inspire the future generation.  In the bright and whirling cacophony of commerce, design and creation everyone will focus on the child.

While all of this transpires, I will take off my artist smock and for day go back to Barstons Child’s Play, the store I have worked in for over 16 years.  I will be a clerk again.  I will focus on children and joy.  I will help parents make the best choices for their little ones.  I will fly away from the sickness and sorrow that informs so much of my work, and I will be the one who helps a child.

Then March will come.  Thousands of people will flock to Austin, Texas for SXSW2015 (South by Southwest).  These are the people that spend their year focused on film, music and cutting edge technology.  There will be the storeowners looking for an edgy sound or the newest digital design.  There will be the venture capitalists and angel investors looking for the hot new medical device or mobile tech concept.  There will be marketers and entertainment bloggers looking for the hottest new act.  In this pulsing musical clamor of the arts and tech combined, very few people will focus on the child.

Within the sprawling venue there are three tracks: Film, Music and Interactive.  Within the Interactive track is an expo focused on health and innovation.  Within the expo there is a microcosm called Impact Pediatric:  HealthPitch Competition.

Here they will focus on the child and for them I created the painting “Flying”

I took their logo, a spiraling series of foreshortened dots and turned them into shields.  Behind the shields pediatric patients are flying like superheroes.

In the far distance three children fly with symbols of a teardrop for mental anguish, a question for innovation and gears for power of industry.

Closer in a child flies with an exclamation point shield representing patient safety, another child has the symbol of a die for gamification and closer yet a child flies with the symbol of a ribbon that represents all disease.

Along the top of the spiral a girl holds a shield with the medical cross representing institutional medicine.  To her right a toddler boy holds a shield emblazoned with the universal symbol for the infant and it represents prematurity.  To his right a girl proudly bears a shield with a double helix for the potential of applied genomics.

At the bottom of the spiral and closet to the viewer are the last two children.  A boy holds a shield with the pound symbol, the hashtag, representing all things social media. To his left a determined girl flies toward the viewer and upon her shield is the wifi symbol representing the power of interactive tech to spread a culture of health.

On Monday March 16, the finalists will present their interactive concepts that could help pediatric populations.  I hope this painting will inspire them.  I am glad that Brian Lang from Impact Pediatric asked for my help on this project. I am so very happy to return to my first passion and once again help a child.