Facing a Brick Wall
If you read my memoir, A Long Awakening to Grace, you know that I hit many brick walls in my quest to find out what was going on with my children and get help. Many of us in the past few weeks faced brick walls in our attempts to secure an appointment for a COVID vaccine. I am no exception.
Not only did I face the challenge for myself, I faced it for my 49-year-old disabled daughter. We were both eligible during the same week. I was desperate because the week before, she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. A February 4 surgeon’s appointment loomed.
A MyChart exchange with her muscular dystrophy doctor at OSU indicated she needed the vaccine asap. A phone call to the surgeon’s office revealed a policy that the vaccine be given at least 72 hours prior to surgery. Two injections would be needed. Time was of the essence.
I felt confident navigating the system for myself, but wasn’t so sure about for Nicole. One website named the Montgomery County Board of Developmental Disabilities as the gatekeeper. When I read that, my heart sank.
The brick wall I hit with that agency several years ago still stung. That day I faced a hard reality.
Because my children were not diagnosed until they were 28 and 31, they would not be eligible for any disability services. The cut off is 22. I remind you, my quest began when my children were 6 and 9.
What was worse, the person answering the phone those many years ago, with an irritated tone in her voice, ended the conversation as fast as possible. She left the impression that I had no right to even ask.
I hated the thought of contacting them again. But I had no choice. I called and left a message. I backed that up with messages and emails to state organizations that I hoped would have some clout.
The next day, an idea popped into my head. How about a human-interest story on the local news about people who fall through the cracks of eligibility for the vaccine? My daughter couldn’t be the only one in this situation. Almost finished with an email to Molly Koweek, a local journalist recounting my daughter’s dilemma, the phone rang.
Compassion and Kindness Make All the Difference
The contact from the Board of Developmental Disabilities returned my call. I held my breath as I said, “My daughter is not eligible for services through your agency because she wasn’t diagnosed until she was 28, but …”
Janice interrupted. “Oh, I hate that law. I wish they would change it.”
In the face of her kind understanding, I relaxed a bit. I went on, relaying our situation and the urgency to get scheduled.
She then shared a personal story about how she could relate to our story. I had reached an empathetic person with compassion.
Janice said she would need to talk with her supervisor to get special permission. She told me not to get my hopes up too high because they were swamped with hundreds of calls.
I finished my email to the journalist, adding the information about the call.
Before long, Janice called back. Her supervisor approved. She gave me instructions about informing the scheduler and receiving confirmation.
It seemed as though a miracle was in the works, but I tried not to get my hopes up too high.
The next evening the scheduler called. She questioned me, wanting to know who I talked with. She would need to talk with Janice and her supervisor. She would put Nicole on the schedule tentatively and would call me the next day.
On Wednesday, I drove to the location where Nicole might receive the vaccine on Friday at 11:30. I wasn’t familiar with that part of town and knew about a bridge over the river being out and other road construction making a trek there challenging. I wanted to make sure we didn’t screw things up because we couldn’t find the place.
By late afternoon, we hadn’t heard from the scheduler. I called Janice. Janice checked and Nicole was on the schedule. All we needed now was the consent form and directions.
The next day, we had not received them. And so I emailed Janice. “I don’t want to be a pest but ….”
Janice apologized and said they were swamped. She went out of her way to send us what we needed.
Later that day, the scheduler followed through.
The Miracle Unfolds
On Friday, the sun shone brightly as Nicole and I made our way to the appointment. I hoped that bode well for our mission. I wouldn’t relax until the shot was in her arm. I feared something could still go wrong. Memories of all those years searching and advocating and hitting brick walls weighed me down.
We arrived 15 minutes ahead of schedule. A kind police officer directed us to a parking spot and gave directions to the clinic. He said people were going in early so we could, too.
I was nervous about that … not wanting to give them any reason to refuse us … but I motioned for Nicole to take my arm and we strolled several feet to the entrance.
A man wearing a cape opened the door and ushered us toward the registration table. Behind his mask, I could see a huge smile. The same for the people at the table. They took our information, made sure we had the necessary forms, confirmed the appointment for her second shot, and pointed us to an adjacent room with tables and chairs positioned for physical distancing.
Before moving in that direction, I entered the date and time for the second shot in my iPhone calendar.
Another man wearing a cape escorted us to an empty table. Then a woman approached saying, “I’m Janice…”
I cut her off, exclaiming, “Are you the Janice I talked with on the phone?”
“Are you Linda? It’s so nice to meet you.”
Turning to my daughter, she said, “Nicole, we are so grateful to be able to help you.”
Can’t you just see the kindness radiating from Janice’s eyes!
We were asked if we were willing to have our pictures taken … pictures that would be used in their advertisements and/or in any number of ways. If we were willing, we’d need to sign papers giving permission. Nicole asked if she should agree. I told her, “They’ve been so kind to us, if this helps them, I think we should do it.” She signed.
Other people circulated and came to our table greeting us warmly and just extending friendly conversation.
And then a woman dressed as Wonder Woman appeared. Within seconds, the shot was in Nicole’s arm.
Tears of relief filled my eyes. The “Mama Bear” tension I carried in my body dissipated. If I wasn’t wearing a mask, making nose wiping difficult, I would have sobbed. I steel myself for brick walls. I only cry when kindness and compassion win the day.
As we waited the 15 obligatory minutes to make sure Nicole didn’t have a reaction to the shot, Janice came by our table again. I asked her permission to take her picture and write this story for my blog. She seemed pleased and said she would check out my blog.
We can never underestimate this truth: No matter who you are, the biggest thing you do in any day is most often going to be a small act of kindness, decency, or love. ~ Cory Booker
The only exception I take to Cory Booker’s quote is … this was no small act of kindness. For me, this was HUGE … and sadly, rare … especially when dealing with the healthcare system or social service agencies dealing with disabilities.
From the moment Janice returned my call until we walked out the door of the clinic, we were treated with overwhelming kindness, compassion, and empathy. We were treated as human beings who matter. There was no need for “Mama Bear” to spring into action.
Tears fill my eyes as I write these words. My soul rejoices. Saying I am filled with gratitude does not adequately express my experience.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart.