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My Story program a valuable tool for Lee Health staff

By Staff | Oct 18, 2017

Something as simple as a marker and a sheet of paper is giving families peace of mind.

Within the last year, the intensive care unit at Lee Health’s Gulf Coast Medical Center developed a communication tool called “My Story,” which literally uses paper and pen to introduce a patient to the care team. A large sheet of paper is hung in the patient’s room for family to write on with markers.

“It’s so simple in concept, but it’s so powerful,” Kali Lynch, with Lee Health, said.

Loved ones are encouraged to share as much or as little as they want about the patient. They can highlight their likes and dislikes, accomplishments, hobbies, personality traits and more. The goal is to share information about their loved one to help staff better know and understand each individual.

“Lee Health caregivers are always looking for creative ways to connect with patients,” she said. “Many times, patients share their stories – their personal interests, ambitions, achievements – with their caregivers.”

Sometimes, however, patients may not be awake or able to communicate.

“They wanted to be able to connect to patients who couldn’t speak themselves,” Lynch said.

Since its development, Cape Coral Hospital’s ICU and others have implemented it.

“Though it is simple in process, the impact of My Story has been powerful,” Lynch said.

For one local mother, the tool was a sanity saver.

Near the end of July, Cape resident Bonnie Walker noticed a change in her daughter’s usual behavior. Terra Trapp, 41, a deaf and nonverbal individual with special needs, was refusing to eat her meals.

When her daughter finally attempted to eat, Trapp would gag.

“I thought she was just getting the flu or a stomach virus,” Walker said.

She tried to set up an appointment with Trapp’s doctor, who instructed her to take her daughter to the hospital instead. The morning of July 28, Walker and Trapp arrived at the ER at the Cape hospital.

Only hours later, she was being asked to consent to emergency surgery for her daughter.

Walker explained that Trapp has a condition called aerophagia, where excessive air is swallowed that goes to the stomach and results in bloating. She had missed how bad Trapp’s stomach had become.

“Her stomach was so extended,” Walker said. “She looked like that Octomom.”

Due to the overextension, Trapp’s organs become twisted. It was now a life or death situation.

“It caused several blockages,” she said. “She needed to have surgery.”

Walker was completely unprepared – and still in shock – as her daughter was rushed into surgery. Trapp underwent two major surgeries at once, with inches taken off her colon and small intestine.

Hooked up to a respirator, she was set up in the ICU that night.

The first time Walker visited her daughter’s room, staff directed her to one of the walls.

“They had this pad of paper on the wall with My Story written on it,” she said.

Walker was instructed to write down any information about Trapp that she thought was important.

“I wanted them to know everything about her,” she said.

Until that point, Trapp had always been with her mother or another relative, except for school.

“I don’t leave her with anybody,” Walker said. “I’ve left her in very few hands all her life.”

Described as “sheltered,” Trapp had never had an extended stay at a hospital.

“So it’s very hard to give her up,” she said.

Trapp spent five days in the ICU, followed by several more days in a recovery room. While Trapp was in the ICU, there were non-visiting hours every day that forced Walker to leave her daughter’s side.

The My Story tool made it easier for Walker to do so.

“It gave me security and comfort,” she said, adding that every staff member who entered the room stopped to read Trapp’s story. “I loved it because it was there and everybody paid attention to it.”

“It just helped me,” Walker said. “It was important for me.”

She ended up keeping and framing the sheet of paper.

“Because it was about her,” Walker said.