If you’ve ever worked in health care I’m sure you can agree, it’s easy to become focused on the problems and the numbers rather than the person. That’s something, at Haelo, we try to overcome through our use of film to tell patient stories.
Recently, myself and our filmmaker, Stephen were fortunate to meet with Liz and Mike – who are already well known on the health care speakers circuit, where they share their story of overcoming complex health care problems and how they use their voices to make a positive change.
Mike was diagnosed with vascular dementia and, along with his wife Liz, has been tackling challenging and often confusing health care systems ever since.
When I met with Liz and Mike the first thing that hit me was how well Mike was – I’ll admit, when I was told Mike had vascular dementia, I was expecting to meet with a frail old man, possibly confused, living out his days.
“Vascular dementia develops when brain cells are deprived of oxygen and die. This happens either because of diseases of the very small blood vessels deep in the brain (known as subcortical vascular dementia), or after a major stroke or a series of smaller strokes (both known as stroke-related dementia)” – Alzheimer’s Society
It was refreshing to hear Liz and Mike talk about wanting to live their lives to the fullest. This wasn’t because I assume people with long term conditions don’t want to live their lives as they did before but it’s just not those stories we hear.
Listening to their story made me think – where would Mike be without Liz? There is no doubt that Mike is an independent man capable, in some situations, of vocalising his own needs. But his wife Liz is clearly a force to be reckoned with and with her previous career in healthcare, she’s experienced than most to navigate our systems, but what about those people that don’t have a ‘Liz’. How do they cope? How do they manage a variety of challenges?
“You can’t just sit back, you can live this life, and should do” – Liz
When you watch the film you’ll see that Liz and Mike almost feel as though they’d been written off and, as health care professionals, I’m sure this is something we never want our patients to feel. The film shows us the impact Mike’s vascular dementia diagnosis has had on the couple, it showcases the connection and humour this husband and wife share but most importantly it connects us to Liz and Mike, it makes us understand them and it makes us laugh.