Friday, January 11, 2008

It’s a Miracle

Last night I went to visit my mother in the hospital where she’s been since a fall on New Year’s Eve brought her down. As I walked along the corridor towards my mother's ward, I passed a small seating area where four people were sitting chatting, quite loudly, about the trouble with health care.

I haven't experienced the negative side of health care. My mother is receiving excellent care. The nurses are supportive. They're helpful and they continually go out of their way to ensure every patient feels comfortable, cared for and part of the going's on in the unit. It can't be easy. It's a lock down geriatric ward. Patients cannot leave without permission or someone in attendance. Some, as my mother says, 'are out of their minds' and difficult to work with. And yet, the staff remain professional, courteous and committed at all times.

I think it is a miracle that so many people want to work in health care. They are short-staffed, under-budgeted, under-resourced and under constant criticism from 'all of us'. In spite of that, they remain committed to delivering superior service to every person who walks through the door.

The same can be true of most aspects of any service provider in the public sector, such as the Calgary Drop-In & Rehab Centre. We continually struggle to manage increased demand with declining resources under the scrutiny of many who believe we are a contributor to the problem, not a solution. Yet, a review of our forty-seven year history demonstrates we have successfully helped thousands of individuals end homelessness, one person at a time.

Since our inception in 1961, we have operated under a mandate of continuous innovation to ensure the services we deliver meet the needs of our clients while addressing the many systemic issues that drive individuals into homelessness. Where once we offered only a bowl of soup and a meal, we evolved our services to include night shelter and then 24 hour service. We were the first agency in the city to incorporate transitional housing into its programs and with Bridgeland Manor, we offer the only community-based supported living facility in Canada for homeless seniors.

At the Drop-In, we recognize that homelessness is not just a physical condition. To ensure we help our clients find constructive solutions to the issues that need to be addressed for homelessness to end in their lives, we provide counseling, job-readiness training programs, legal assistance, and health care services in-house. Recently, in recognition of our constant priority of helping clients address their health, we hired a doctor to assist our in-house nurse with client care.

In discussing health care, we seldom talk about the stories of lives saved. We seldom hear about families who have remained intact because of the miraculous work of the individuals providing them service through whose knowledge, skill, and access to the right resources, have played an instrumental role in healing someone's life.

On New Year’s Day, when my eldest daughter's friend was critically injured by a car, the prognosis was not good. Today, he's out of ICU and is awaiting a bed outside the Trauma Unit where he has spent the past few days. He's walking on crutches, and as his girlfriend told my daughter yesterday, "He's going to be okay."

He has youth on his side to help his healing. He also has superb care, from the EMS team at the scene of the accident and the police sergeant who arrived within moments of the 9-1-1 call being placed, to the Emergency Room staff who fought so hard to save him and the ICU team who wouldn't give up. The care he received saved his life. The care he is receiving today will ensure he will continue to prosper in his life moving forward.

At the Drop-In, we seldom talk about the lives of those who have been helped by what we do. When you're in the business of saving lives, there is no time to spare counting accolades. There's also the issue of privacy. Sometimes, people don't want to reveal that their lives have been in such disarray. Sometimes, in their desire to leave the past behind, they don't give a forwarding address. And, sometimes, just as the health care system saves lives, what we do is simply our work.

In our work, miracles happen every day that only we see. "A miracle, " I recently read in a letter from a friend, "is not the suspension of natural law, but the operation of a higher law."In health care, in the care of homelessness, in the police service and public service sectors all over, miracles happen every day because we are committed to making a difference in other people's lives. We are committed to working to a higher law, a greater purpose that serves others.

Every day, someone walks away from homelessness into a situation that will pave the way to their living a self-sufficient and productive life again. Every day, someone gets into rehab. Someone gets the mental health care they need. And every day, thousands of lives are saved because shelters like ours are there to provide them a safe place to catch their breath, find their balance and reclaim their sense of direction.Every day, in hospitals throughout the city, more people are healed than those who cannot be healed. Most find the treatment, help and support they need to cure whatever ails them.

And every day, people chat, like the group I overheard in the hospital lobby, about what's not going right, about all that's wrong. They sit on their chairs and complain, and never get down to the business of making a difference. They miss the miracles and get lost in their criticisms.

The miracle is people continue to make a difference in spite of the complaints. It's not a miracle the health care system works. It's not a miracle public service works. It's hard work, commitment and a dedication to helping those in need by people convinced they will make a difference by staying focused on their purpose. They leave the rhetoric to those who would paint them with the brush of failure. They don’t have time for failure, they’re too busy getting the job done.

Life is a miracle. What I do with it is up to me. How I respond. How I react to circumstances, to other people, to trials and tribulations -- that's all my doing. When I look at my life as a miracle, I see miracles reflected all around me. So, for today, I shall walk through each moment celebrating the miracle of life around me. For today, I shall remember, I have a choice, to complain about life, or celebrate it. I can look for rainbows dancing in my wake or fault-lines waiting to trip me up.

Will you sit on your chair and complain, or will you get up and make a difference?


Leah said...

It is enough Heather and sometimes its all they have. Its moments such as these that we realize what they have given to us. It sometimes hurts though, that gift of caring.

Anonymous said...

Amen, half the battle is in keeping our thoughts positive, and whatever the hurt or circumstance, if we stay positive and look at the rainbow, God will bless us and keep us going forward