Not the ‘Last Chance Texaco’

Photo Courtesy of Robbie Cantrell

Photo Courtesy of Robbie Cantrell

There are instances in life where we are either voluntarily, or involuntarily brought to a juncture where we pause, take a breath and look back. Our jobs and home lives can be overwhelming at the best of times, so taking the required time to blow off the dust and mentally reconstruct these many years can be dicey – yet alone suspect. Especially for anyone that survived the 70’s as a young adult where the abuse of grey cells was sport.

Now that my tenure working for Canadian Blood Services (CBS) has come to an end, there have been many signposts and road-stops marking this journey. Working for an institution that believed in my vision to help build both an international blood stem cell network and a national public cord blood bank, was both empowering and humbling. I can confidently say that these past five years telling both these business stories, represent key milestones on my communications pilgrimage.  Diversity stakeholder work being a premium asset coming from this good work. But in order to bring it all home it is imperative to tell a small story about one patient years ago. After all it is all about the patients when you work in healthcare.

Picture a budding Communications Specialist in the late 1990’s (no grey hair or glasses please). One of my first duties was to arrange a photo opportunity with the Toronto Blue Jays Baseball Club Alumni, Sick Kids Hospital and CBS. Slam dunk as any communications professional will know once you involve a sports franchise, ‘If you promote it, they will come.’

Everything went swimmingly and as I was cleaning up a 16-year old leukemia patient came to me thanking me for being able to meet the likes of Alumni Kelly Gruber, Mark Eichhorn and starter Kelvim Escobar. He was a huge Jays fan and revelled in owning signed baseballs from his idols to cherish on his own. I wished him a quick recovery and shook his hand and his parents and continued to pack up. I quickly went back to the office and hammered out an Adobe Illustrator card wishing him well with pictures of his idols too boot. I immediately mailed it to his parents.

About 10 months later I received a call from his mother saying their son had passed away from the disease but wanted me to know how important the media event was to him on that day months ago. Through a quivering voice she also said, ‘But it was the card you took time to make that lifted his spirits and will always be on our mantle as a reminder.’

And yes, this was the first patient I worked with that died.

On Monday as I choose life’s new passage, I can honestly and unequivocally say this one road-stop CBS made me the not just the professional communicator I am today, but the kind of person that understands clearly; what we do in our lives is also marked by the persons we ask to join us.