Monday, September 12, 2011

"Schwartz Center Rounds Annual Dinner"

I'm happy to announce that fifteen of my paintings are going to be on display (October 3, 2011) at Overlook Medical Center, as part of their "Schwartz Center RoundsAnnual Dinner." The event facilitator, Jeanne is a friend of mine. She and I met online about six months (through my many searches about palliative care and hospice). She is the "Ethics & Palliative Care Program Coordinator" at Overlook Hospital (here in NJ). I had contacted her, asking about patient's rights and shared a brief history about my accident, and my struggles. It turned out that she and I shared a mutual acquaintance (from Kessler). We shared email correspondences over a period of several months, and she was very moved by my blogs and artwork. Before long we became friends. She has been very supportive, and caring.

She came to visit me a couple of months ago, and we discussed the possibility of displaying some of my artwork at the hospital. She explained that she worked very closely with doctors, nurses and other medical professionals and thought that the medical community at her hospital could benefit from seeing my paintings and reading my writing. She said that part of her job entailed helping new doctors and nurses learn to be more compassionate and empathetic to patient's needs. I agreed, and was happy for the opportunity. I have often felt frustrated by the lack of help that medical science has been able to offer me, and upset by the treatments and lifestyle that I'm forced to endure because of my injury. I do believe my artwork could potentially help medical professionals better understand what it is like to live paralysis, and to suffer with chronic pain and illness. It has always been my hope, that by sharing my writing and my artwork that I would educate others and open people's hearts and minds.

I truly believe in order for a cure to paralysis being found, more people must understand how horribly and profoundly it can change a person's life and how difficult it can be to live with it, everyday. I have also come to believe strongly in patient's having the right to advocate for themselves and to have the right to die with dignity (when medical science can not offer a cure or relief to severely debilitating or incurable illness/conditions). I think it is important for medical professionals to do everything within their means to give patients the highest quality of life they possibly can, to listen to what their patients are saying and to alleviate suffering whenever possible.

I think it is crucial for the medical community and society at large, to recognize that some conditions are worse than death, and when/if a patient is mentally competent to asses his/her own situation, that he/she alone should be able to determine what lengths he/she is willing to go through to preserve his/her own life and those wishes should be respected. In many ways, I feel our society is more "humane" to our pets than we are to millions of people that are essentially forced into suffering, because there is no cure, or treatment available to alleviate their pain. Not everyone with an incurable, terminal, debilitating disease or injury would choose death, over life. However, I believe there ought to be a quick, peaceful alternative available to those who want it. I hope my artwork and my writing will inspire change.

I think this dinner at Overlook hospital is another small step in my journey to open hearts and minds towards suffering, quality of life and death. I really hope my works hits a soft spot and sinks in, for all the medical professionals that attend. I hope it makes an impact.The dinner itself is an annual event, and has an interesting history. I feel honored to be included in the tradition. I asked Jeanne to tell me a little bit about the purpose of the dinners and about their collective history. This is what she sent me:

"Schwartz Center Rounds were started by Kenneth B. Schwartz, a health care attorney from Boston, who died from lung cancer at a young age. He wanted to leave a legacy of support for professional healthcare workers to enhance and replenish their abilities to provide compassionate care for patients and families. He recognized that some of the most important work of healthcare professionals is to deliver compassion to their patients (hand holding, listening, laughing, combing hair, etc.).

The purpose of the monthly Rounds are to provide a forum and “level playing field” where caregivers from diverse disciplines (doctors, nurses, social workers, chaplains, dietary workers, etc.) discuss difficult emotional and social issues that arise in caring for patients. It is a forum to explore the human and emotional side of clinical medicine ---but with the focus on the patient-caregiver relationship rather than solely on the patient’s medical situation. Even though doctors and nurses cannot cure many conditions/diseases, they can still relate to one another and to patients and families in a way that provides hope, support and sustenance to the healing process.

We have these Rounds monthly and usually present a case that was difficult or emotional in some way. We often shed tears. Once a year, we hold a special “Rounds” where we invite a patient or family member to share their views about the experience they had. As you can see, your artwork and story will be a very powerful topic for discussion and expression of feelings from all.

Your paintings and your voice will carry your story to the hearts of each of those who come and will strengthen their ability to reflect on the suffering of all patients."

Good stuff :) I'm excited to hear the feedback!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


  1. It is good to read a new post from you. I was wondering if you were having even more health issues. But no! What a wonderful opportunity you have on Oct. 3! How exciting. I think you have no idea what an impact you may have on many people. Your life and trials are surely not in vain. Bless you and keep up the good work!

  2. I am glad to learn of your painting exhibition and the opportunity for health professionals to learn from your struggles and suffering resulting from paralysis. Instead of directing efforts towards euthanasia rights I sincerely hope that palliative care professionals would spend greater effort to find solutions to symptom management. Research has been effective for many conditions - both for cures and for comfort. I would hope that motivation would stay strong in the medical community to help people with paralysis manage the daunting spectrum of problems skin, bowels, bladder, infections, the frustrations of dependence -- all those things about which your writing has been so articulate in raising awareness. I can't help thinking that "palliative care" has let you down. I respect your view and understand where you are coming from, but every day I pray that God will give you better relief from your symptoms, some type of improved function to give you hope, and healing in every way possible. With love from your Aunt Mary Ellen