February 2019
The Response I Never Saw Coming
Marcus Engel
Okay, friends, we are all still coming down off the high that was the first ever I'm Here Movement Conference. What an incredible event! And, of course, I've got stories from it. First, a little background.
The I'm Here Movement Conference was held alongside the 19th Annual Healthcare Service Excellence Conference put on by Custom Learning Systems. I chose to do our first conference with CLS because it is primarily attended by rural, critical access hospitals. I have such a heart for these facilities because, well, I grew up in the American countryside. Many of my family members still have to drive for half an hour to reach the closest emergency room. And, some of these hospitals serve huge, huge areas. Think western Wyoming. Naturally, these conference attendees and I are cut from the same cloth.
For the first time, Barb and Jenny, both of "I'm Here" fame shared the stage for a joint panel discussion, facilitated by The Hotness who got to fulfill a lifelong dream of playing Oprah! Jenny, the tech who held my hand that first terrible night in the ER, is now a chief nursing officer of a large hospital in Nashville. Barb, my favorite nurse from that lengthy recovery, is still at the bedside on the same floor at the same hospital... after 42 years. She is a bedside nurse to her core.
Know what's better than nurses? More nurses!
Jenny's husband, Drew, is also a nurse. He also happens to be a Lt. Col. in the United States Air Force and has a Master's in mass casualty response. His keynote shared how he personalizes compassionate care to injured soldiers. Drew and his flight crew would transport the wounded in cargo jets, trays of men stacked up both walls, to the best secure military hospital in Afghanistan.
For this to work (and work it does, the survival rate is upwards of 95%), systems and protocols have to be in place. The work of healthcare becomes an assembly line process. How does Drew keep the systems running while also showing compassion to dozens of young men who are now missing limbs? His answers are brilliant... but I'm gonna share those later. Maybe in a new book. Here's the REAL story that I've been trying to get to.
When Q&A time came, a healthcare leader of a critical access hospital raised her hand and stunned everyone. While I could not read her facial expression, her voice, not just her words, echoed loss.        
"Thank you, Drew. You transported my son in 2005... you saved his life. Thank you."
Not. A. Dry. Eye.In.The.Room
Before she finished her second thank you, Drew's response came quickly and emphatically: " How's he doing now?"  
     This mom's answer was given in the solemnity of that moment. I don't want to dishonor that sacred moment by disclosing specifics about her son. Rather, let's unpack Drew's response a little bit.
When someone says thank you, we often jump. quickly to the stock response of, "You're welcome" or "No Problem or "It's Nothing." Drew did not. Instead, he turned back to her son and honored their suffering. "How is he now?"  
Friends... this is compassion. It is the recognition of another's pain, being moved by it and having the desire to ease that pain. It is witnessing. It is awareness. It is presence. It's that same presence Drew's wife, Jennifer, gave me the night my battered body was rolled into the emergency room. It's the sentiment, if not the actual words, "I'm here." 
It's the everyday actions of humans, from frontline heroes to bedside nurses, to middle school teachers and retirees. It's moms and dads and aunts and uncles and grandparents. It is simply the act of being with another - something we all have opportunity to do every single day. It's such an honor to share in your stories, and spread this message. This is the I'm Here Movement.

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