By swilson | October 10, 2013
This remarkable health journey that my husband, Allyen, our kids and I embarked on earlier this year together has taught me some important lessons already. One is that just like home remodeling snowballs into something bigger (e.g., repair the toilet becomes take-the-bathroom-down-to-the-studs), health crises happen the same way just faster.
This is what happened to Allyen. Without warning, a blood clot formed in his leg, broke off, traveled up to and through the heart, coming to rest at the juncture that feeds the lungs. He couldn’t breath, but what happened next was actually far more dangerous. Without the breath and therefore the oxygen, his heart stopped.
When your heart stops, and during the necessary CPR, the brain is deprived of the important oxygen it needs to survive. It doesn’t take long for damage to occur. It was a cascade of physical crisis.
Ensuing problems such as kidney failure, lung problems, etc., can often be addressed and resolved over time. But what happens to the brain becomes the long-term issue for recovery. It’s called an anoxic brain injury.
I read a medical study from April 2011 that indicated that just 3% – 7% of those suffering brain injury after resuscitation from cardiac arrest return to their previous level of functioning.
The initial physical cascade happens without you really being aware. Then, there is the physical cascade in the early days following: kidneys get unhappy; new medications are introduced; lungs struggle to repair. You start looking at every little number on the monitors and in the labs. It is a cascade of information and, for someone not medically trained, its tough to know what is important.
The communication cascade also begins immediately with friends and family. Calls generate more calls. Facebook frankly saved me on this one. Sorry to those not connected I reserve my Facebook for family and close friends but it was the easiest way for me to work through this part of the cascade. My messengers kept my wider network and Allyen’s network apprised.
So, where did we land in the neurological part of the physical cascade? We sort of lucked out. Allyen’s memory is sound and cognitively he lost remarkable little function. He’s performing below the amazingly high level he was before, but still so high the docs have had difficulty measuring him. He’ll always be above average!
What is still fighting him is his body; but even this constantly improves. He’s even doing ballroom dancing lessons!
Lessons for the communicator
Now that I’m back to work, and really digging into a new client’s intranet, I’m seeing a cascade of information in a whole different context. In my user research with them, there is a constant expression of exasperation with email use. It’s used to secure approvals, changes to documents, major decisions, and idea generation. Round and round they go with the emails, many with attached documents. Errors are made, people are missed, changes and decisions not captured.
One executive told me he handles as many as 600 new emails every day. How can he possibly be expected to deliver quality leadership, strategy, attention and decision making?
If you aren’t already on a crusade to limit this ineffective information cascade, you should be. I know I am!
By swilson | October 8, 2013
I’ve started writing some again and I’m happy to say that the Intranet Benchmarking Forum published an article of mine recently about creating better intranet news.
This is based on recent client work and my collaboration with Coldwater Software.
Rather than reiterate here, you can read the post for yourself.
By swilson | May 16, 2013
Those who know me well know I’m independent; I dislike leaning on others or owing anyone. I prefer to be the payer, the one making the introductions and the one creating opportunities. Whether it’s a job connection, teaching a new communication approach, making a meal for a friend, or counseling a friend on a job situation. These types of situations bring me satisfaction.
When Allyen got sick, I realized quickly I would need to do a lot of leaning. With my husband still in the hospital all these weeks later, I have found myself running two businesses (mine and his), caring for our two children, coordinating his care and managing our household (including coordinating completion of tax returns).
The avalanche of giving and support
My best friend and my sister-in-law both came to us the day Allyen collapsed. They literally dropped everything and traveled many miles. They looked after our children, took care of our dogs and house, and spent countless hours at the hospital listening, asking questions and integrating into the care team. We were the three amigos, the three musketeers, sisters in crisis. I learned a lot about them and about myself in the process. We made a great team.
There were family members and friends who came and remained day after day in the first few weeks. One couple stayed with me in the waiting room for many hours. Another couple took their morning coffee with Allyen in the hospital for many weeks, until hemoved into rehab and could no longer meet with them in the mornings.
Three friends have consistently brought us meals throughout the experience. Amazing help to know I can knock out a meal quickly without thinking — gives me strength. Never dismiss the power of a great meal.
My hair stylist came into the hospital and cut Allyen’s hair, trimmed his beard, cut his nose and ear hair. It was hard for her to see him in the condition he was in at the time, but we were grateful for her giving spirit. She made him feel more alive.
Neighbors shoveled countless feet of snow off our drive and walk. Coming home from long hours at the hospital and seeing an empty drive is a thrill.
Sometimes it’s the smallest things
The box of tissues one friend brought to the hospital the first day was one of the very best things anyone brought me in those first few days. The tissue in the hospital is brutal on the nose.
Sometimes, an offer to shuttle my son or daughter to a practice is the very best thing I could possibly imagine at that moment. One couple in particular continues to step up in such an amazing way, taking our son to almost every sports practice and game. I literally would have had a breakdown if they hadn’t been there for us.
When Allyen was still in dire straights – but able to communicate — friends asked if they could bring him anything. He wanted a Butterfinger Blizzard from Dairy Queen. They not only brought it, but fed it to him because he was unable to feed himself.
What sustains me
“I feel like I’m a flower trying to bloom in snow,” Vienna Teng. Throughout this experience, we’ve had big snow after big snow. Trying to keep my own spirits up when faced with daunting challenges has been difficult. Everyone keeps telling me, “take care of yourself.” Some have asked how I am doing it. Here’s how:
Early on I created my own circuit around the hospital grounds. I ran the stairs to the staff parking lot. I did dips and pushups on rocks and stairs around the facility. I credit my time in the Red Rocks Fitness Challenge for teaching me that the world is my gym. I can workout anywhere.
Breaking away with my daughter for her first ever pedicure at Tall Grass was a very special experience. Sitting at my son’s ballgames has been wonderful relaxation.
Laughing over champagne at Flights of Wine in Morrison with a friend was great therapy. She knows how hard it is to run a successful consultancy even when everything is going smoothly.
I can’t say enough about my IABC family. It is family to me. They have been there in the background, listening, supporting, waiting patiently for me to return. I started to pay it back this week, speaking at the Tulsa chapter. What a great group of people!
Work and colleagues:
The outreached has been phenomenal. Positive thoughts, prayers, vibes and perspective people send every week. Getting back to work has allowed me to focus my energy and re-engage my intellect on something other than the crisis at hand. I welcome the work and am feeling more creative and focused than ever.
I’ve already written about the music. It continues to give me energy, strength and comfort. The music points the way to our future. Some have asked who I’m listening to, so here’s a list of some favorites (no particular order and keeping in mind we tend to be heavy on upcoming Telluride Bluegrass acts):
He comes home Friday. After three months. A whole new chapter. I know we’ll be sustained through that one to. Thank you to you all.
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