Marina To The Rescue: An Open Letter Of Appreciation
Submitted by Brian Dema, SanFrancisco, CA
From the Editor: This blog is an actual letter written by an appreciative client about a very deserving advocate, GNA legacy member, Marina Emery. GNA is publishing this letter in its entirety because it's the sort of thing that keeps us going. The letter reaffirms that independent patient advocacy enhances care, improves communication, and changes lives.
Six years ago, I nearly died. An otherwise healthy 33-year old, a burst appendix suddenly put me in the hospital for 10 days. I told myself it would be fine and downplayed the situation — I didn’t even have my parents fly out to see me for worry that I would inconvenience them. It was a scary and confusing time, even after it seemed that I was out of immediate danger. I never understood what the doctors were telling me — that is, when I could actually get their attention for more than a few minutes once a day. I felt powerless. I felt alone.
I never understood what the doctors were telling me — that is, when I could actually get their attention for more than a few minutes once a day. I felt powerless. I felt alone....Marina spoke with my doctors and told me what was really going on in plain english.
Marina Emery came to my rescue. Marina is a pioneer in the new field of “health advocates” — experienced medical professionals (in Marina’s case, a Nurse Practitioner in cancer and former ICU nurse) that act as a conduit to the medical establishment and a support system for patients and their families. I finally had someone knowledgeable at my side. Marina spoke with my doctors and told me what was really going on in plain english. She worked with my nursing team to make sure that my needs were met. In times like that, something as simple as a pillow can mean a lot. A nurse friend of hers walked me back and forth down the halls to help me regain strength. It seems silly now, but I remember being thankful to just find an outside window where I could breath normal air, even for a minute or two.
Marina is a pioneer in the new field of “health advocacy" or «patient advocacy»-- experienced medical professionals that act as a conduit to the medical establishment and a support system for patients and their families.
More than anything, she helped me get answers to my questions and relieved the unnecessary mystery around the whole experience. Doctors interacted with her in a very different way than they did with me — they spoke freely in their medical jargon without having to dumb things down for common folk like me. In a word, they respected her. I had felt anything but respected or listened to — and I’m a well-educated adult with good insurance. I can only imagine how this experience can be for others, especially seniors, non-English speakers or people from marginalized communities.
Doctors interacted with her in a very different way than they did with me — they spoke freely in their medical jargon without having to dumb things down for common folk like me. In a word, they respected her.
Fast forward to last summer, and Marina was still at my side. This time, it was to help my parents move from Chicago to Sonoma. My 84-year old father had recently gone through major surgery and chemotherapy to recover from stage 4 bladder and prostate cancer. It was time to have them close. But I could have never imagined the difficulties involved in moving medical records across the country and getting my parents set up with a whole new cadre of doctors. Marina took care of everything, finding my dad the specialists that he needed. Not only that, she magically made appointment windows go from several months in the future to only days away. She knows who to talk to and what to say. This was critically important — while my mother might be able to wait 6 weeks for an appointment with a new GP, my father could not.
Marina was someone that we could rely on in an area of life that we weren’t trained for and didn’t understand. For my parents, it was one less thing to worry about during a time of great change and upheaval.
For me, a huge weight was lifted from my shoulders, especially during an already tense time when I was taking on new responsibilities for our family. Marina was someone that we could rely on in an area of life that we weren’t trained for and didn’t understand. For my parents, it was one less thing to worry about during a time of great change and upheaval. They had an ally, someone that they could trust and go to with questions large or small — questions for which I certainly didn’t have the answers.
I found myself going to Marina with all types of questions too — she alleviated a lot of my stress around how best to take care of my parents. She was as big a help to me mentally as she was for my parents physically. It meant that I could actually spend quality time with my parents when I saw them — eating my mother’s cooking and talking business with my dad — rather than worrying about what medications they were taking or doctor appointments they might miss. I could rest easy because I knew that they were already in good hands. This was invaluable.
It all came to a head early a couple of months ago when my dad caught a surprise infection which put him in the emergency room. He crashed quickly and even became hard to understand. The doctors told us that if my mom hadn’t brought him in when she did, he wouldn’t have made it. Do you know what that feels like to hear? And this is during Covid, when the idea of my elderly parents even going near a hospital was terrifying. I drove up right after my mother took him in, and I had to wait in the parking lot; I wasn’t allowed in the building given Covid safety regulations. My dad’s room didn’t even have a window so that I could wave to him.
But Marina was there, immediately on the line with my mother. In fact, I think that my mom called her first! Marina worked with our family through all hours of the night like she was on call. She explained what tests my dad was getting done and why, and what drugs they were giving him. Marina attended Zoom meetings with my parents and my Dad’s physicians, and they patched her in on speaker phone during consultations. At one point, my father was nearly evacuated to a larger hospital in San Francisco where they could better treat him. Marina had already been preparing for his possible stay there.
We all need help these days, a true partner that can help us navigate the frightening medical situations that we’ll all have to face at some point. Find yourself an advocate — both for you and for your family.
My dad pulled through. He was out of the hospital a few days later, and soon back to himself. Marina arranged follow-up appointments to check out some concerning readings about his kidneys, which thankfully proved to be nothing serious. She even helped him get physical therapy for an unrelated issue with his leg, and he’s walking stronger than he has in years. I now have my dad back. We just celebrated his 85th birthday, and he’s already planning the next business that he wants to start. I hope that I’m half the man that he is.
I can’t recommend Marina enough, nor the immense relief that comes with having a health advocate. We all need help these days, a true partner that can help us navigate the frightening medical situations that we’ll all have to face at some point. Find yourself an advocate — both for you and for your family. Better yet, just give Marina Emery a call. I know that I will.