1. Powell, Suzanne K. MBA, RN, CCM, CPHQ

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Somewhere along the timeline, I got smart about "new year's resolutions." I learned that I rarely keep them-and it is better just to change habits on the actual road of life than to commit to changing my "wicked ways" once a year. I'll tell you one of my favorites, not because it is so profound, but because it is so important. It's about connecting with people.


"Invisible People" are everywhere. They can be bank tellers or waiters; they can be you or they can be me; they are sometimes (too often) healthcare patients. Have you ever ordered a meal "on remote" and never looked at the waitress? Have you ever seen a team of doctors and residents enter a patient room and talk among themselves, leaving the patient out of the loop? It happens-and Medicare Beneficiaries call the Medicare HOT LINE and complain ... often ... too often.


It is our case management responsibility and our human responsibility to ensure this connection is made. So my resolution is this: Help Stamp Out Invisible People-One Person at a Time.


This message was brought home to me by a column I read by Patricia Crisafulli (n.d.) on her Web site ( about an unexpected opportunity to connect to another human. Had she not closed her laptop, she would have missed the opening life was extending to her. Someone once wrote, "Life is drawing without an eraser." We get only one chance per encounter to make a difference.


"Plugged Into Love" by Patricia Crisafulli

The gate at LaGuardia Airport was about a third full as I scouted the corners, looking for a power outlet for my laptop before boarding. Unable to find one, I claimed my spot in a corner where the seats formed an L and spread out across two spaces as I worked. About 15 min later, a woman settled into a seat near me, her laptop at the ready. I corralled my carryon and briefcase so as not to crowd her. That sparked an initial conversation, one that began innocuously with "Let me make some room for you" and ended with the reason for her travel.


Her mother was dying. She was not expected to live the day, and this woman, who introduced herself as Andrea, was hoping to arrive in time. I did not latch onto her emotionally the minute she told me why she was traveling, but her comment hit the bull's eye of my brain. I lost my mother 23 years ago, and the need to remember and reflect on this primary relationship resulted in my first book.


I cannot recall exactly how the conversation unfolded. Suffice it to say that as she told me more and began to cry, I closed the document on my screen and put away my laptop. I knew then that Andrea was the real reason I had settled into this corner of the gate: not in hopes of finding a power outlet or to be undisturbed. I had sat there so that she could join me.


Before the flight to Chicago boarded, we talked for quite a while, about mothers and daughters and the connection that I believe remains after a parent dies. I told her how I believe my mother has never truly left me, even though she died in 1986. I shared from my own experience and from the research I did for my book with women of all ages and faiths. These were words of comfort that I was uniquely positioned to deliver to her. When Andrea said she hoped her mother was aware that she was coming, I assured her that her mother knew. Whether her mother was in a coma or suspended between this world and the next, she knew. That was my belief.


A man sat near us along the other leg of that L-shaped seating, listening intently. When he spoke up, I expected him to share a similar story of having an aging or a deceased parent. Nothing prepared me for what he had to say. He had just come back from a specialist in another part of the country. His cancer-Ewing's sarcoma-was back 11 months after his first round of treatment. The specialists had advised him to go home and "get his affairs in order." Listening to Andrea and me talk about the bond between the parent who dies and the children who remain, our seatmate said he was thinking about his three teenaged daughters.


In LaGuardia Airport, as the boarding began for our flight to Chicago, Andrea got up first to hug our fellow traveler who was waiting for a different plane, headed to another location. I was too stunned to move, but then got out of my seat to put my arms around this stranger.


What are the chances? How could three such people end up in the same section of an airport gate at 9:30 on a Wednesday morning? My only answer is grace.


From the moment Andrea sat down, I knew I was supposed to be there to talk with her and help her navigate her way onto the plane and then to ground transportation at O'Hare Airport. As for our seatmate-we never did learn his name-our conversation comforted him. I wish he had spoken up earlier so that we could give him more of our attention. Maybe it worked out the way it was supposed to. None of us were in charge of that moment, which felt God-directed.


I was honored and privileged to be in that gate, the recipient of grace in order to be part of a conversation to which I could contribute my own life experience. I received far more than whatever I gave. When I look back on this chance meeting, it is not with pride for being a good person, it is with awe for these two brave people who risked telling a private story to a stranger. They honored me with their trust.


No, I didn't find the power outlet to juice up the laptop. Instead, I plugged into another power that left me humbled and grateful to have been a small part of a bigger scene unfolding. What I experienced and tried to share as best as I could was love of the unexpected variety, as strangers come together with open hearts and a need to talk and listen and share.




Crisafulli, P. (n.d.). Plugged into love. Retrieved September 12, 2009, from[Context Link]