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Posts Tagged ‘house fire’

Squeaky wheels get the grease. I’ve effectively used the same advocacy steps in tough medical, educational, and insurance challenges.

My challenges?

  1. Medical – because of a rare blood incompatibility (PLA1-), I destroy baby platelets. My son’s pregnancy included 4 PUBS, 5 weeks of high dose IvIgg treatments, and a month-long hospital stay.
  2. Educational – 1 of my children needed intensive early intervention.
  3. Insurance – 10 years ago, our home burned, and we had to rebuild.

I used the same steps to get my son medical treatment he needed, obtained needed speech therapy, and rebuild our home.

  1. Assess. Determine the issues, the players, and your resources.
  2. Organize. I use binders with dividers and prep like I’m an attorney getting ready for trial. During my son’s pregnancy, I kept a file of all diagnoses, lab results, and insurance correpondence. We took it to each appointment and procedure. With our IEP meetings, I kept a binder with diagnoses, insurance correspondence, school correspondence, along with applicable state and federal laws. For our fire recovery, I compiled a file bucket for claim information, orders, and contractor estimates.
  3. Plan for meetings. Before tough meetings, write your talking points. Simplify them to 3-4 points and 1 to 2 goals. Keep those in front of you to stay focused. Just before a tough meeting, I pray, asking God to help me do what’s needed.
  4. Delegate. Evaluate your talent pool and delegate. Delegate roles during meetings – who argues, who takes note, and who’s the good cop.
  5. Find experts. During my son’s pregnancy, I found the world’s leading expert in New York, spoke with him, and convinced insurance to cover his consultation. With our speech therapy issue, I found the world’s leading expert (at Vanderbilt in Nashville, TN) in his problem, took my son to meet him and be diagnosed, and asked him to help us advocate for services in our local school system. When we disagreed with our fire reconstruction contractor on replacement of a bedroom ceiling, I brought in an engineer friend who backed up my concerns; after it was demolished, they found mold growing in it post fire.
  6. Use the Internet. Tweet, email, and blog to find other resources.

Sometimes, with those you love, your job is to be the squeaky wheel. Your agenda is their health and well-being – not policy, protocol, or bottom lines. Squeak loud, early, and often till you get the needed grease.

This is a chess game – with lifechanging stakes. Sometimes, the survival of a crisis depends on who’s the best advocate.

Advocate. Protect Your Own.

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On August 11, 2001, our home and business burned. A month later, September 11 attacks changed our world.  We returned to our rebuilt home just before Thanksgiving and continued to rebuild our lives that Christmas season. 

I wanted somehow to show our kids, ages 5 and 7, that in times of great loss, we celebrate new beginnings and hope for the future  – and to inspire and encourage neighbors on our quiet, urban street. Thus began Operation Christmas Lights.

That December, a friend and I collected milk jugs and asked our friends to help.  We collected over 50 jugs, made Chinese lanterns of them with votive candles and kitty litter, and attached a Christmas card to each milk jug handle.  It  took us days to complete.

On the afternoon of Christmas Eve, our families worked up two city blocks, placing a lantern in front of each home.  I was nervous placing candles in front of some of our neighbors’ homes; sometimes inner city neighbors are volatile.  It was growing dark, the wind began to whip, and we hurried to light the candles before our family went to Christmas Eve services.  I couldn’t be late because the kids were singing before the service, and I was “volunteered” to direct them!

A light dusting of snow began to fall while we were in the service.  When we returned home, the white snow dusted the street and sidewalks and reflected off the dark night sky.   There was a unique calm and silence on our street.  In front of each house, reflecting against the snow, were our recycled milk jug Christmas lights.  They lit the path to our newly rebuilt home. 

The neighbor I most paused at leaving a light in front of had rearranged the milk jugs so there were three lights in front of her home.  Even they caught the Christmas spirit that evening.

My prayer now, as my kids are teens, is that they remember to share the light they have with others, especially in bad times. And they know no matter how bad things are, there will always be a path of lights leading them home for Christmas.

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