It Takes Courage to Speak the Truth

September 29, 2014

Evelyn McKnight and Lauren Lollini

Lauren is the survivor of the 2009 Hepatitis C Outbreak in Colorado who chose to take a first step to passing legislation to make patients safer.

Lauren is the survivor of the 2009 Hepatitis C Outbreak in Colorado who chose to take a first step to passing legislation to make patients safer.

As a therapist, I often find myself congratulating clients for taking the first step as that is usually the most difficult. That first step might be making a phone call and asking about what resources are available for help or quite literally taking that first step into my office. So, too, do I congratulate the past contributors to our blog who have gone above and beyond to take that first step to share their stories. By speaking their truth, they have risked much, but were still undeterred.

You simply need to scroll back through the last few months and you will find many heroes who could no longer stay silent. Most recently, Anita Betrand shared her journey from addiction as a CRNA to that of an advocate speaking out so others can learn from her. Her struggle in and of itself was an arduous one, yet Anita chose to take that one next step to help educate so other healthcare workers finding themselves in a similar circumstance know there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

In St Louis, a nurse noticed unsafe procedures happening at a health fair and decided to speak out and demand a full investigation take place. Her words are strong and articulate as she speaks for thousands of healthcare workers who only want to do what is best for their patients. And once again, telling the story was not enough. She has chosen to fight on and try to pass legislation to more fully regulate health fairs in an effort to keep patients safe.

Still another courageous family comes to mind from the late Spring of this past year. Tam and Jan were not going to sit idly by and just accept the diagnosis of Hepatitis C their father had received. Not only were they going to seek treatment and help him any way they could physically, they also chose to speak out and tell their story; the story of family thrown into an uncontrollable situation, facing life or death decisions because of a broken healthcare system. Both Tam and Jan could have focused only on their dad and his recovery, but they chose to push for a cause and then take their story public.

Now due to their efforts, the more than 40 victims from this Hepatitis C outbreak at a long term care facility in Minot, ND are not only one step closer to some answers, but also many steps closer to changing the system. There are rumblings about legislation, more oversight and stricter measures for long term healthcare facilities in North Dakota, just one more step, but a big one, indeed.

Even if you look back at the very beginning of HONOReform, you will hear Evelyn McKnight’s courageous story. How her Hepatitis C diagnosis was not going to hold her back. She was going to tell her story and that of 98 others in Fremont, NE who had been infected at an oncology clinic due to unsafe practices. Evelyn could have sat back and just worried about her own health, fighting cancer and suddenly also fighting Hepatitis C, but she, too, took that next step. And all these years later, she has offered a platform, advice, encouragement and guidance to thousands of others struggling as she had. Evelyn chose to speak out, advocate, change legislation, and continues to always look forward to what else she can do to make a difference.

I am in awe simply to be able to share their stories once again and am reminded of their courage, their struggle and their undying devotion to helping others. The Chinese philosopher, Lao-tzu said it best, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” So here is to the many first steps ahead and all of the next steps in the fight to keep patients safe.

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