Wednesday, August 31, 2011

You Say Goodbye; I Say Hello

When I started Advocacy for Patients in March 2005, I was deathly ill, in the midst of a life-threatening bout of Crohn's disease coupled with horrendously ignorant doctors. By that time, I had found the wonderful Dr. Ellen Scherl at Weill-Cornell/NY Presbyterian, and she saved my life, got me on track, got me to surgeon supreme Dr. Jeffrey Milsom, and I was on the right track. I had finished up the last of my big litigation files, and I was ready to turn to this new work full-time.

For the first 18 months, I didn't draw a salary, so I was still doing some paying legal work. Eighteen months after that, I hired Celeste, our first Administrative Assistant. She was wonderful to me, even after she had her gorgeous daughter Amieta. We set up a nursery downstairs and Celeste worked when Amieta slept.

But once Amieta got old enough to want to be out playing and exploring, it was time to change guards. Celeste's job went to her sister, Echo, who's done a great job of taking things to the next level.

Last March -- almost exactly six years after I started the organization -- we hired Nicole Netkin-Collins, our first full-time staff attorney. Nicole is great at writing insurance appeals, and she's learning more every day. She's going to be a great lawyer. She already has the passion and the smarts for it; experience will make her even better.

With Nicole here, though, plus law student interns, we simply outgrew my house. We'd taken up my home office, what used to be a guest bedroom, my den, and my dining room. All that was left was my bedroom and my livingroom. And with the volume of calls growing all the time, I had no home left; nowhere to hide. I haven't taken a vacation in more than 6 years. Even when I've tried to take a day off, there have been people here, phones ringing, craziness all around.

My stress level went through the roof and I was deeply depressed, feeling trapped, with nowhere to hide. It was then that my wonderful therapist Ellen Thomas told me that I had to make a major change in my life. I had to move the office out of my house.

This is scarier than it sounds. Our furniture in my house is built in -- it looks nice, but it can't be moved. Our computers are 5 years old, so no point starting at a new office with them. In short, moving meant starting from scratch. New furniture, new phones, new computers, a copy machine, file cabinets -- on and on. Not only is that alot to figure out, but it's very expensive. I have saved up some money over the years for this eventuality, but actually writing the checks is a whole different story.

But now, it's almost all finished. We are packed and ready to move tomorrow. The new furniture and phones are in and looking spiffy. The copy machine is in. The conference table and computers are installed tomorrow -- imagine, we'll have a conference table!

I've moved a lot of times in my life, from New York to D.C. to Vermont to Florida to Kentucky to Connecticut to D.C. and back to Connecticut. I've owned three homes. I'm not a novice to this. But nothing I have ever done in my life has prepared me for this move. Not only was it really hard to choose computers and phones and so on, but it also wasn't my money.

But most of all, this is the last step to creating Advocacy for Patients. It now will have a home independent of me. It can survive without me. And somehow, that makes me a whole lot calmer about things.

And I get my house back!

So it's an ending, but it's also a beginning. and I'm excited as can be.

If you're ever in the area, I hope you'll come visit and see what we've created. It's pretty darn exciting, if you ask me. Jennifer

1 comment:

  1. 2005 was a big year for me too. I didn't realize that was when you started full time. In Sept 2005 I was in the hospital (Crohn's too) for my longest stay yet, over 3 weeks straight. At one point I was told I had only 1 hour to live (they were wrong). I always remember that, though, and I feel like it has made me appreciate being alive more than I would otherwise.

    Congratulations on the big move. I hope it works out best for everyone and allows you the space to continue to grow and help even more people!