“It Turned Everything Upside Down”

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For those of you who’ve followed my blog throughout the past eight months, if you’ve read with any regularity you have no doubt encountered my discussions about the Family Centered Experience (FCE) program at the University of Michigan Medical School. My most recent FCE blog entries are April 3 ("A Year of Helping Medical Students") and April 10 ("Breaking Bad News"), but I also wrote about this great program back in December ("Before They Are Doctors").

So, do you want more? I hope so, because you’re going to get more.

This week, I’m compelled to write about one of the Family Centered Experience Interpretive Projects put together by two of the medical students in the program. On Monday I was made aware that this incredibly moving little video had been posted online, and after watching it and sharing the poem with family and friends, I decided I’d share it with you, too. I hope you find it at least half as good as I did.

I am not going to overexplain it by way of introduction. Here’s the short version:

During the Interpretive Projects presentation three weeks ago, a pair of students, Nicholas Dewyer and Jane Lee, presented “It Turned Everything Upside Down.” This was chosen as one of only a handful of projects that we—the volunteer families and the medical students—would see that night. I suggest watching the video now before finishing out your reading of this post.

As it says on the Family Centered Experience Web site, “students use a variety of media to capture the lived experience of illness from the family’s perspective.” This poem does just that.

In their description of the project, Jane and Nicholas wrote:

Our project is a poem that reads in two directions, taking on one meaning when read from top to bottom and an entirely different meaning from bottom to top. The format of our piece allows the audience to experience the opposing attitudes and emotions that often accompany illnesses, which can vary dramatically depending on how they read their situation. Given the same illness or even the same words to describe it, two different patients also view their illnesses through their individual lenses since the day of diagnosis onward. These views may change constantly with time. Using a single poem to convey both devastation and hope, we hoped to reflect the spectrum of attitudes that our patients shared with us. Both our patients were diagnosed with Type I diabetes and have shared a range of experiences from fear of amputation and death to gratitude for the career changes made due to their illnesses. We hope our poem can capture the complexities behind a patient’s perspective toward their illness.

I’d like to hear what you guys think about this. Just a word or two—or more—if this touched you in any way. The FCE program, and what it’s doing to create doctors who are compassionate and understanding of what the patient experiences of illness, is commendable.

Oh, by the way, if you want to follow the link to the FCE home page in the first paragraph—if you haven’t done so already—and if you’re not averse to two videos from one blog post, you may just want to click on the “Volunteers & Families” video on the right hand side of the page. Yes, that’s right, it’s Kathryn and me talking about the program.

Video featured courtesy of Nicholas Dewyer and Jane Lee.

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