Every year on June 6th I celebrate “What Matters to You?” day with people from around the world. It’s not that we don’t ask, listen and act every day, but the coming together of our commitment to flip from caring for to caring with really matters to me. And on this day, we celebrate the daily changes, large and small, that are making a cultural difference in health care.
I’m the oldest of nine children, a big loving Irish family. My brother, Johnny was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease in his late teens and his health failed over the next years. I remember the day that what mattered to him changed our lives. He was hospitalized, and the physicians came in to make rounds. They spoke of new tests, more chemo, a longer stay and more.
After the physicians left, one doctor came back into Johnny’s room, and he asked my brother “Johnny, what do you want?” My brother said, “I want to go home.” The physician took my jacket off me and put it over Johnny’s frail 85-pound shoulders and he picked him up and carried him to my car, breaking every rule to do what mattered most. I had learned the power of asking what matters in this poignant moment, and when we got home, I asked Johnny “what do you want?” He said, “I want to be 21.”
The next few weeks at home were magic. Johnny turned 21 on November 25th and he died on December 1st, but those weeks will be treasured always. His friends came to share memories and we all let Johnny know what he meant to us. We laughed and cried with him, and he was so grateful to be at home with us. The physician who came back and asked the question is my hero. He gave my brother a good death and he gave the time to love Johnny as we wanted to. He changed my thinking and my career.