I’m still in the process of organizing all of my thoughts after attending the Children’s Healthcare Canada Conference in Ottawa earlier this week, but I wanted to begin to share what I have been thinking about.
A few weeks ago, I was invited to attend this conference by the Stollery Children’s Hospital Family Centred Care Network. Undoubtedly, my most important role within the hospital world is as the parent of a medical kid and I will always be a strong advocate for Kane. But my background is also as an educator, a storytelling photographer and a family volunteer on the Stollery’s Cardiac Family Advisory Care Team. Even though we have moved away from Edmonton, I still consider myself to be a peer mentor. This is something that is very close to my heart and I believe my passion for supporting other medical families is also apparent when I photograph them, both in and out of hospital.
So I went into this conference wearing a number of hats, but as you probably guessed I made sure my voice was heard in regards to families seeing themselves in photographs. On Monday, morning there was a panel set up to discuss topics related to “Getting Kids Back on the Radar” with regards to policy and within health research. There was a lot of talk about the importance of “lived experience” and family stories, which I absolutely agree with, but what I had trouble with was the fact that the imagery being used was not truly representative of hospital families. A colleague reminded me I needed to wait to talk until they opened up the mike to questions! And I said it.
Families need to see themselves in the images being used to tell stories.
Now, I recognize that this is not important to everyone. And I know that there are many families who do not want photographs of their hospital experience, but there are just as many families who do. This is our real life. Hospital life and medical appointments and being a caregiver is a part of our story and our identity. This part of our life doesn’t turn off when the work day is done. It doesn’t turn off when our long awaited appointment with a sub-specialty is over. In many cases, parents (and patients as they transition out of pediatric services) are the ones coordinating care.
What I saw at this conference was a sample of just how many healthcare practitioners are working to streamline services, support families and stand with caregivers to make their voices heard. I was lucky enough to meet volunteers, families, frontline healthcare staff, hospital administrators and not-for-profit leaders. To say I was with my people would be an understatement. I met people from organizations who weren’t even in my wheelhouse and I connected with families who have been speaking their truth for years.
I am so grateful I was able to attend. I was inspired by the changes people are fighting for in healthcare. There are amazing things happening. Family and patient voices are being heard. There is still a lot of work to be done. I am here to help. I am here to add my voice. To share my story and visual stories of other families.
If documenting and normalizing medical life through photography and storytelling is important to you please join our Facebook Group, You’re Here for a Reason. This is something I recently started up because I have not been able to find a community where photographers (amateur or professional) and families who are documenting their lives and the lives of others are able to connect. Just make sure you answer the questions when requesting access because I’m a hardass about providing a safe space!