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A Year of Yes: A near-death experience this week changed my life

I’m posting these embarrassing selfies for your benefit:

I got off a plane from vacation in Vancouver. It was a fantastic trip—more on that later. This post is about you. Well, it’s about you via a story about me. I’ll be brief. My eye started to hurt on the plane. Nothing big; just noticeable. I got home, picked up my dog from boarding, and decided to take a nap. I woke up with my eye crusted shut. My doctor, via video call, thought it was a case of pink eye and prescribed antibiotics. 24 hours later, the swelling, redness, and oozing got much worse, and then spread to my second eye. I got on a video call with my doctor again, and she was alarmed to see how much my condition had deteriorated. She sent me to the emergency room.

I didn’t have pink eye. I had a condition known as periorbital cellulitis. It’s an extremely dangerous infection if left untreated, and can be lethal by causing sepsis or meningitis. It’s usually caused by an insect bite or another similar kind of trauma. I’m immensely lucky that I have access to great, timely medical care. Again, my gut instinct to get help saved me, and I’m incredibly grateful for that.

Now the bit about you:

1.) If you’re sick, please, please, please get medical help quickly. Don’t worry that you’re being a hypochondriac. If you think something is wrong, it’s much better to get it checked.

2.) Do what you love. Please. What you’re passionate about, what lights you up, what makes you curious to learn more and more. Create beautiful art. Write. See your friends. Help people. Share what you have. Fall in love. Adopt a dog. Live. If you’re in a job or a relationship you don’t love, go. Quickly. Don’t waste your time. You never know how much of it you have. Your life can turn on a dime, from something as insignificant as an insect bite. So wear bug repellent and sunscreen because you might as well give yourself your best shot at your best life.

A Year of Yes: Mark A. Smith’s story of surviving and thriving

Mark A. Smith posted this story on LinkedIn this week. It was so powerful for me that I have to share it with all of you. My favorite of his learnings detailed here: “No one learns in the middle of a crisis. Survive. Breathe. Reflect.” If this doesn’t personify the power of yes, then I don’t know what does. Thank you, Mark, for you bravery and tenacity. I’m so glad you’re still with us.

“23 years ago today my parents and doctor walked into my ICU room, held my hands, and told me I had only a few months to live. I had a rare disease called Wegener’s Granulomatosis and had 18 tumors throughout my lungs, kidneys, and airway.

16 years of chemotherapy, 200,000+ pills, 34 surgeries, and a million prayers later and I’m still around to annoy everyone on LinkedIn. Here is some of what I’ve learned — I’ll hope you find some value:

– We have the capacity to find joy in all things. A negative attitude is worse than a tumor. The best of life can come from the worst of life.

– Everyone has a difficult trial. Everyone. Be compassionate.

– When your looks get taken away, you better have a solid character or you’re screwed. – Priorities are revealed when abilities are stripped. Put them in order before life forces it upon you.

– No one learns in the middle of a crisis. Survive. Breathe. Reflect.

– Life is too short to take offense. Assume the best and move on. One day our children will struggle. We must endure our own trials so that, when needed, we can look in their eyes with perfect credibility and say, “I’ve been through the same struggle. I know your pain. You can do this.”

Happy New Year, my friends. Thank you for all you add to my life.”

See Mark’s post here.

In the pause: Prayers of healing for Phineas

Phineas had surgery to remove a small mass on his gum and several teeth along with it. It turned out to be a bigger mass than the veterinarian thought it was during the exam. Whether it grew in size between the exam and the surgery or if they underestimated it, I don’t know. I had a hard time holding it together at work. On my way to pick him up I had myself a good, long cry on the metro. He’s in a lot of pain and on heavy medication during this two-week healing process. The lab will biopsy the mass and let me know if it is benign or malignant, and then we will go from there. Obviously, I hope it’s benign. If it is malignant, then he will get the very best care that money can buy so long as he can have a high quality of life. Again, I’m immensely grateful that I got him pet insurance when I adopted him.

I get choked up when I think about it; I know someday I will have to let go of Phineas. I made that deal with the devil, and I accept it. I’m just not ready yet. Not now while it seems that the country (and maybe the world) is falling apart and my future feels so much in flux. I understand that there is no good time to lose an animal you love, and especially not one as dear as Phineas is to me and so many others who know him. But Universe, really, now is not a good time. And it won’t be a good time for a good long while. So if by chance you could help this little guy maintain his unsinkable nature for a while longer (maybe 20 years or so, just until I get my general sense of anxiety under control) then I would really appreciate it. Thanks for your consideration.

Wonder: Once an entrepreneur…

As much as the security of a full-time job is comforting and the angst of being an entrepreneur is anything but, I’ve begun to think about striking out on my own again. This next leap is likely at least a year away as I start small, test ideas, ask for feedback, and develop a solid plan. I just know in my gut that I’m meant to do my own thing, to use opportunity to its full advantage where and when and how I see it, not how it’s defined by others. I’m only at the very, very early stages of this process and the lessons (tough and otherwise) of my last independent venture are looming large in my mind, and I plan to take all that wisdom and reinvest it in this new venture.

Last week I went to the U.S. News & World Report Healthcare of Tomorrow conference here in D.C. and I left every panel inspired, energized, and hopeful. There is such an immense amount of innovation happening and we are just beginning a new era of medicine in which we’re literally outpacing science fiction. From genomic and precision medicine, to transplants and prosthetics, to life-saving nanotechnologies and artificial intelligence paired with human creativity, there is so much possibility. I want to do my part to usher that possibility into reality.

I’m just now floating early ideas by some trusted people who aren’t shy with their critique and also unfailingly supportive of my dreams. It is a fine line to walk and they do that with grace and intelligence. I can see the future now, out there on the horizon, and I’m taking steps toward it every day. Like all things, it’s a journey and just knowing where I’m going has given me a lot of peace in the pursuit of the next adventure.

Wonder: Excited for today’s U.S. News & Word Report Healthcare of Tomorrow Conference in D.C.

Today I’m going to the U.S. News & World Report’s Healthcare of Tomorrow conference here in D.C. I’m looking forward to hearing from the many inspiring speakers about the incredible work they’re doing. I’m especially keen to hear about the collaborations that are helping to improve patients’ lives and increase access to top quality care. If you’re around, please make sure to find me. I’d love to say hello and hear about your work!

Wonder: And today, a new career chapter begins

I got up this morning and pinched myself. Today, I’m starting my new job as a Director of Product Development in the healthcare technology space. In many ways, this job is bringing my life full-circle and uniting so many disparate points of life together to build something meaningful with a team as passionate about healthy living as I am. I’ve been immersing myself in the design and business of artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and virtual reality as applied to the physical world.

When I was in high school, I thought about becoming a doctor. In college at Penn, I thought about going into the healthcare field as a psychiatrist or an administrator. After I left Broadway theater, I explored the idea of becoming a physical therapist. When I was at American Express, I looked into technology product development applied to areas such as prosthetics and the artificial heart. My yoga and meditation teaching was largely an outgrowth of my passion for health and helping people feel better. I now write for The Washington Post, and most of my stories are about healthcare, medicine, stories of survival from disease, and the technologies and innovations that make that survival possible.

Now I’m pulling together my experience in and passion for product development, business, health, writing, and improving the human condition into one full-time job, in a city I love, with people who are going to be such incredible role models and mentors to me. My whole life has been preparing me for this, and I am excited to begin.

Wonder: Finding inspiration in healthcare technology

“Medicine is a science of uncertainty and an art of probability.” ~Sir William Osler

I spent a good part of the weekend delving into the most recent healthcare technology innovations. A number of publications released their lists of promising new possibilities, and I was astounded by what’s on the horizon.

In a time when there is so much negativity and heartbreak around the world, this reading lifted me up. Nanobots in the blood to fight disease, mind transfer, smart hospitals (akin to smart homes), simulators for surgical training, the simulation of disease outcomes, DNA transfer, the increased appreciation and value of mindfulness, and augmenting human capabilities with sensing prosthetics. The list goes on, and it sent my mind spiraling upward.

It was also a reminder that no matter how bleak the world may seem, the desire for all of us to live healthier, happier lives drives an incredible amount of creativity. The power of creativity and the role of imagination in building a better world is always something we can count on.

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