An Open Letter to Our Ambulance District Board of Directors
Dear Board Members,
I attended your ambulance district board meeting last night. I have visited other local government meetings, but always to help a son with a Boy Scout achievement. Last night was the first time that I participated in something of this nature due to personal interest. On a Tuesday in April, I loaded Nathaniel and his equipment into the van and took him with me to vote. It was a lot of work. But many of our district's paramedics urged local registered voters to show up at the polls. They made recommendations on the election options. I went to your meeting last night to see the outcome of my vote in practice.
It was clear, even to a casual observer like myself, that your board and management of the district is in transition. There seems to be an old way of doing things. "Why the need for all this change?" "The way we've done things has worked fine for years." "Are other ambulance and fire districts doing this?" These are some of the comments I heard and in many ways I can deeply relate. I, too, hate change. I want things to stay the same. Always. I thrive on consistency and routine. Dinner at five. Everyone home and in bed by ten. No new medical tests or diagnoses, please. I have written publicly very little this month because everything I write is filled with sentimentality. Historically, May is a month of repeated change for our family. Our children graduate high school and often leave on a first summer away from home in May. I sent one off last week; missing him at my table is fresh. If there is ever a month that I want to be like some of you, throwing my hands in the air and declaring loudly, "Stop asking that we do things differently!" it is in May. I understand, dear friends on the ambulance board and in management who want things to stay the same, I really do. Years ago, I suspect I would have been firmly planted at your end of the table. But I walked away from your board meeting cheering for someone else this time - for the board members wanting to introduce new ideas and innovative approaches and who have a desire to gather all the information afresh, reexamine options, and think outside the box.
This tug of war between the risk takers and the please, no changers is not new or isolated to ambulance districts boards. I have seen same line in the sand in churches. I have seen it in academic institutions. I see it in extended families and in my marriage. It was in a quiet bedroom that my husband and I wrestled through one of the biggest risk taking vs keeping life the same decisions of our lives: adopting Nathaniel. I invite you to go back and read that story. Read as much of Nathaniel's story as you can. Because raising Nathaniel has challenged my desire for a "no changes, please" sort of life and reading it might help you let go of that stubborn mentality as well. Nathaniel is alive and thriving today because people in decision making positions took risks.
The doctor who decided to give him a tracheostomy hours at birth.
The foster family who took a gravely ill child and all his medical supplies and machines into their home.
The gastrointestinal team who changed his formula when there was no clear explanation of the need.
The speech therapists who supported a communication system way beyond Nathaniel's ability at the time.
Nathaniel's life might be different if these decisions had been made more conservatively or truer to tradition. The oxygen deprivation and brain bleed at birth might have had more devastating effects. He might have spent months or years in an institution. He might still be vomiting and never gained weight. He might have more behavior struggles due to an inability to communicate his needs. And the consequences of those consequences are even more startling. Institutional living for the first year of life increases attachment difficulties. Low weight gain disqualifies a candidate from airway surgery.
The Nathaniels of the world need risk takers.
Nowhere has this been proved more true than with the Special Needs Tracking and Awareness Response System. The STARS program works because it matches the risk taking nature of first responders to those in the community who demand it. You should be extremely proud of this program. It was born here in your district and it is spreading across Missouri and Illinois. The growth is not because people resist and plead, "Do we have to change?" The growth is because the question changed. "What can we do to better serve the children in our community?" And because the question is changing, outcomes are changing. Don't believe me? Read this post about your staff saving my son's life last May.
In closing, I have a request for you, other governing boards of fire and ambulance districts and hospitals: allow the risk takers to change the questions. Then do all your board kind of stuff. Make the motions, offer the seconds, have the discussions, take the votes. And next month? Come back and listen to the risk takers' new questions.
Because my kid needs the risk takers.