Meetings at Meetings

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I hate meetings. Everyone hates meetings. But I show up whenever I can. Here’s why:

There are other people at the meetings who also show up even though they’d rather be doing something else more “productive.” They show up because they care.  They are the people who inspire me, who want to help, who go to boring meetings because they want to make life better for their community and the families in it.

I love these people.

When I imagine the Medicaid chief of staff, for example, I imagine an aloof, distracted guy with dark suit and sunglasses who is not aware of  the challenges people face in filling out Medicaid applications. He is probably not aware that those applications are often lost. Again and again and again.

When I actually meet the Medicaid Chief of Staff (at a meeting), I am face to face with a fellow parent who gives me his cell phone number and his “go-to problem solver’s” back line phone number. I discover he cares deeply about children, especially those with special needs, and in speaking with him face to face, I begin to understand the challenges of running a life-saving organization on the shoestring budget we provide for him in SC (though he does not make excuses or complain). He encourages me to call him or email anytime, and he will try to help.

When I think of a DHEC medical director, I think of an austere, box-checking person who dreams of rules and regulations in her sleep.

When I actually meet the DHEC medical director, I meet a joyful newlywed woman who could be making much more money in a private practice somewhere, but who cares deeply about public health and doing the right thing for SC.  We arrange a lunch meeting in my town, and I take her on a little tour of our practice and our community. She is excited about working with members of the South Carolina American Academy of Pediatrics to try to increase immunization rates in our state.

When I think of administrators at our local hospital, I imagine a grumpy man who is all about the bottom line and profit.

When I actually meet one of the administrators of our local hospital, I meet a compassionate, hilarious mother of two young boys who recently completed her MBA in between going to ball games and scouting events and working full time, but who still makes time to serve on boards (aka go to meetings) and to reach back when someone reaches out to her for help.

Last night I got an email from a fellow save-the-world friend of mine, a fellow meeting-go-er. She was forwarding an email from a save-the-world friend of hers about a client at a local soup kitchen who had been hospitalized for weeks in our local hospital. Prior to that, the patient had been living independently. She had recently been deemed ready for discharge, but it was clear she really couldn’t care for herself and had no friends or family to step in and help. Her Medicaid was not yet active. Her Social Security was not in gear.

Did I know of anyone who might know how to get her social security benefits in order so that she could have some source of income to help her move forward (and out of the hospital)?

Did I know of anyone at our local hospital who could help with case management issues while she waited for Medicaid benefits to kick in and help with longer term placement?

I did.

I emailed my Medicaid friend. I emailed my hospital administrator friend.

I emailed them both around midnight on Saturday night.

By 7:00 am on Sunday morning, they had both responded with a plan.

The hospital administrator was checking with contacts who might be able to help with Medicaid approval. She provided a contact in the social security office, and offered to contact a legislator to help–people she had met in meetings.

The Medicaid Chief of Staff promised to have his member services team “dig into” the case first thing Monday morning.

Last week, I looked at my schedule for this week and was feeling a little overwhelmed when I saw the meetings on my agenda. Today, I am grateful for meetings, the people who organize them and attend them. I am grateful for the people who show up, who go above and beyond when it is not always fun or easy. I am grateful for these people who care about the most vulnerable members of our community, who reach out and reach back and make things better for all of us.