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FROM THE EDITOR'S PEN  / The Wedding Present /   Editorial List

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The Wedding Present

This weekend, I honestly thought my learning lens was turned off as I donned my celebration cap. I was at a beautiful event, the wedding of good friends Bob and Leslie Klein’s daughter in Melbourne, Florida. The setting was picture perfect—a park adjacent to a lake with the sun setting over the water. Jenny, the bride, would have been radiant even without the picture perfect day; and Mike, the groom, was truly dashing. The parents were beaming, and the flower girl and four -year-old ring bearer were both as cute as could be.

We adjourned to the reception held in a hall on the far side of the lake and I turned my thoughts to eating wedding cake and possibly imbibing a bit of bubbly. As I was ready to take my seat, I was introduced to a young cousin of the bride from Atlanta. The first thing I noticed about Joanna was her effervescence, and it took some time before I noticed the stitches across one side of her head. I learned that Joanna had started a foundation to foster patient advocacy amongst those who are dealing with diseases and illnesses. She has been literally fighting for her own life over the past ten years and dealing with multiple surgeries to treat her extremely rare healthcare challenges. Joanna realized as a patient that she needed to be her own advocate and to be (if I might be so bold as to say) fearless. As it says on her foundation’s website:

JoannaCare’s vision is to ensure the following: Anyone diagnosed with a medical condition should feel comfortable and safe to ask any and every question about their body and care. A family will not have to be concerned about losing their home because of the expense of their loved one’s care. An individual who is sick will only have to focus on getting well , not managing multiple specialists, finances, treatments, insurance agencies, employers. Immediately following a diagnosis, one will feel that they have a support network. Individuals and their families will be empowered to advocate for themselves and be partners in their paths to wellness.

As a guest, I certainly didn’t expect any wedding present at all, let alone such an important one. Thanks to Joanna, a memorable event was made even more significant and helped prove to me that you should never turn off your learning lens. As in all caregiving, if you pay attention, the most important lessons come when you least expect them.

Gary Barg

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