April 5, 2015 Greg would have been 34. He likely would have celebrated his birthday enjoying his family and friend’s company. He would have talked to each of us, showing genuine interest in our lives and our pursuits and always would have been a positive influence for us. He would have made a special effort to play with his nephews and nieces and his cousin’s children interacting and encouraging them at their level. He would have taken pleasure in seeing them grow and learn about their world and ours. Today, while with his friends including those co-workers that he may have seen, he would have insured that they would have had fun and felt special about their place in his world.
We miss Greg every day. We miss the conversations, his questions and the long discussions about what it would take to make the world a better place.
In the first year after Greg’s premature death, our family struggled with the huge hole we felt in our hearts and with the vortex in our core that seemed to suck energy right out of us.
While these remain, we have tried to replace what we were missing with the effort to emulate the tenacity and the commitment to make things better that we know that Greg would have shown in our place.
There is much to be done. We have learned that many people and families have very tough experiences with Alberta’s health system. We have met other families who have to deal with pain, suffering and losses too. We also have found tremendous people inside and outside the health system, all trying to make things better. Some used to be part of the system but now feel they will be more successful in generating positive change from the outside.
We all believe that meaningful and positive change will only come with much stronger involvement of the public. This needs to include all the people who are like we used to be, assuming that things are ok in the Alberta health system when clearly they are not.
Today’s health system is managed in a way that is closed and defensive. It withholds information and avoids accountability. This is all part of its political master’s code. While some of the players work very hard to provide “care”, others are driven to manage or handle individual steps of treatment as they generate income. This clearly is a wrong-headed system of compensation fostered by our government. Of course it serves to reinforce their control.
As a family we have encountered great people that are working very hard to make positive change. Sometimes these people while doing this take chances with their own future and their careers in the system. These efforts are not appreciated and sometimes not tolerated by some of their superiors.
We also have met some that are working to manage us, to pat us on the head and to express sympathy, but redirect us away and not take up their time. To them, Greg’s death was simply more collateral damage as the system, and some of the professions involved, protect themselves. Some of these people also remind us that there are no certainties in life and that Greg may have died anyway, even if things were done better at many different points along his tragic journey.
We know that there are few certainties in life but we also know that refusal to learn from past and tragic experiences will not reduce the chances of it happening again. True health “care” can only be a team effort built on the strengths that everyone must commit to bring to the effort. Safe, Continuous, Patient Centred Health Care will happen when Alberta’s citizens make it an undeniable political priority for Alberta’s government leaders and their bureaucracy. These are today’s masters of Alberta’s “system”.
We miss Greg. We want to honour who he was, his character and his integrity. We hope to do this through the pursuit of the fundamental cultural changes so necessary to Alberta’s health system. We appreciate the tremendous efforts to generate positive change that were being made by many committed people in the past and we appreciate the opportunity to try to help in this ourselves. We hope that more and more people will join in this effort and play a part in creating a new, genuinely “patient and family centred health care system” for Albertans.
Everyone can help by looking closely enough at the issues to be able to tell the difference between politically opportunistic lip service to change, and the real commitment necessary to accomplish it. Support genuine positive, fundamental change, whenever and where ever you can. This is very important in two areas. First, at the individual care provider level where there are great people doing their best to provide individual care to vulnerable patients and their families. Secondly, and especially at this time, support good choices being made at any leadership level, to move forward rather than protect the status quo.