A different perspective
Meg Comeau looks back on 10 years as an employee and mother
Seventeen years ago, my husband and I were preparing to take our daughter Sarah home from Children's Hospital Boston for the first time since her birth. Needless to say, we were both excited and a bit apprehensive about this momentous transition. The mood of the inpatient unit we were on felt a bit similar, as the staff prepared for the big move to the 'new' Main building.
I was reminded of those feelings on Friday, June 17, my last day as a Children's employee. It struck me that once again as I was getting ready to leave for a new adventure and the hospital was gearing up for another move, this time to Main South. I couldn't help but think back over the years and see how much things have changed, both for the hospital and for myself. When Sarah was diagnosed at 13 months with Prader-Willi Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder characterized by mental retardation, decreased muscle tone, short stature, problem behaviors and an insatiable appetite that can lead to life-threatening obesity, my husband and I were devastated. We didn't know we were being given a gift, as well as a diagnosis.
Individuals with the syndrome weren't usually diagnosed until they were already in medical crisis, and it was too late to help most of them. Sarah's early diagnosis gave us a head-start on interventions that have not only kept her medically stable, but have improved the quality of her life tremendously. We are forever grateful to Children's for this gift.
I'm also grateful to Children's for the opportunity to give back. I was Sarah's primary caregiver for 10 years, until we found a supportive school placement and her health stabilized. When I was ready to return to work, Children's offered me a job as the first coordinator of the Family-to-Family program, and I was honored to receive the first David S. Weiner Award for that work. Later, my role expanded to include Family Initiatives, which involved bringing family input into hospital policy and programming design. It has been a real privilege to work for and with other families, and to learn from them.
Over the past seven years, I have also had the opportunity to learn a great deal about the challenges and rewards Children's staff and employees experience. During this time, it seems there was no greater challenge than the one we all faced in the aftermath of a series of miscommunications that resulted in the tragic death of a patient. As a parent and employee, I was shaken to the core by this horrible event, but I found the public and internal response to be honest, compassionate and self-reflective. One can learn a lot from how individuals and an organization respond to a crisis, and I was never more proud to be part of the Children's family.
The last seven years were an amazing and unique experience. As I take on a new adventure, directing the Catalyst Center on Improving Health Care Financing for Children with Special Needs at the Boston University School of Public Health, I will carry with me the gifts I've been given by other families, patients and my colleagues at Children's. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you all.