Gifts From A Stroke: Gerrit’s Story

Gifts From A Stroke: A Hard Look At America’s Health Care is not just my story. It is podium for others to share their stories.  I will publish more stories as I finish my book. Here is Gerrit’s Story.  Please feel free to share: 


My stroke experience began in August 2003 with what felt like a sudden crick in my neck.  The pain started interfering with my sleep and for some reason I would begin to black out if I held my head a certain way.  I went to see a chiropractor, but his neck manipulations did not help the pain.  He didn’t realize that he was actually aggravating a tear which had formed inside my vertebral artery, the real cause of my pain.  After three days of treatment I quit, but a clot began to form at the tear.

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Washington State Health Exchange Exceeds 2018 Projections

The Bi-Partisan Alliance for Health Reform in Washington DC features Washington State’s Health Exchange.  Washington State’s enrollment to date exceeded its 2018 projections.  See:  (September 2014)

Coming Soon:

Individual Stories: Gifts From A Stroke: A Hard Look At America’s Health Care. And excerpts of future chapters.
Questions You Should Ask:  whether a stroke or something as serious

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Health Care Technology, Innovation and Costs: Who Decides??

In June 2013, we raised the question about who decides coverage for health care technology, medications and devices. We even looked at the role of venture capital firms in health care treatments and their costs.

If there were a question in all aspects of health care it would be: Who Decides? The answer always seems to be: It Depends, It Depends, It Depends.

But now it is not just us. The big guns are asking the same question and have some answers. Here’s what RAND has to say:

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Gifts From A Stroke: A Hard Look At America’s Health Care–Chapter One

This begins my story and my hard look at America’s health care.  Why I write this is in the preface and at the end of this chapter.  It is not just my story.  There are other voices that will be heard. We can do policy paper after policy paper as we have since at least 1929-1932.  Without our voices nothing will happen. We need to be heard, not silenced by the system’s constraints or the rules of the game. After all, it is our lives and the lives of those we love.

Chapters will be published episodically.  Please read on to follow the journey.

Chapter One:  I Have No Business Being Alive–My Stroke

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Gifts From A Stroke: A Hard Look At America’s Health Care–What’s Ahead

Six months have passed since my stroke.  I have successfully graduated from all my therapies. For 30 years I have been a professional health care consumer advocate.  As such my passion has been to give people a voice in our often acrimonious health care world.   Often left in the lurch is the patient.  I knew that intellectually.  Then I became a patient—suddenly and unexpectedly.  That experience put personal flesh on the bone of my advocacy.

My advocacy was fueled by the death of my son who died in a car accident three days before Christmas 1991.  I did not want to be pitied so I focused my professional life as a patient consumer advocate.  I remember very specifically deciding: “When the worst thing that can happen to you has happened, it changes how you calculate risk.” 

And I inherited resilient family genes that fuel mine.

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It’s 1965: Contraceptives Now Legal for Married Couples

Contraceptives were not universally legal for married couples until a 1965  US Supreme Court Decision.   The Court gave a constitutional right to married couples to use contraceptives in Griswold vs. Connecticut:

In 1999 I was engaged in a cost/benefit analysis of contraceptive coverage and maternity costs for employers. The data is old the but the study raises some important economic questions and  considerations.  The costs need to be updated, but I am sure the economic impacts are similar:

Coming next–more in our health care accountability series.

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What Hospital Executives Earn: 2013 Update

Last year we examined Hospital CEO salaries in Washington State. Data from Washington State Department of Health. 

Here are the top earners for 2013 compared to 2012:

Gary Kaplan, MD, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle        $, 1,961, 263  <$1,776,415>

John Evans is no longer head of Central WA Med. Center         $   298,965    (other compensation)

Peter Rutherford, Administrator new Central WA Health         $    612, 703

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I Have No Business Being Alive, But I Am and I’m Back: Accountability

Today marks either the day I had my stroke or the day I fell  unconscious on the floor for  nearly three days before being rushed to Harborview.  EMT’s, Harborview and friends  saved my life.

I am writing a book now that takes a hard look at our health care system. It stems from being an outside observer/reporter to being a patient.  My question is: what happens to people who don’t have the coverage, options or networks I have?   And who benefits in such as system?  Stay tuned.  Details to come.

I remain passionate about accountability.   Here is a link to an earlier O’ConnorReport on this issue:

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CEO Compensation Revisited

A recent New York Times article focused on the real cost in health care–Administrator and Executive Salaries.  We looked at that in 2013 and wondered about accountability?  The issue still remains.  Who holds the boards that set the salaries accountable for costs and community benefit?  Here is the recent article and what we found last year:

Here’s what we found last year.

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My Recovery and the Road Ahead

Hello, I just learned this week that my outlook is exceptionally good.  My neurologist said I should have nearly a 100% recovery.  That said, I have to pace myself and not rush headlong into life, as I am prone to do.

There are not enough words in any language to say ‘thank you’ to a remarkable woman:  Marsha who was my health care COO; ran interference for me when I could not; was my voice when I was voiceless.  Nor are there enough words of thanks to so many other friends—Sandy, an MD who started early e-mail updates; Gene and Liz  who were thrown suddenly into the mess of my life and helped in immeasurable ways.  And especially my friend Karen who literally saved my life by calling a friend who called the manager who found me. I am still trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together of what happened. I may never know. I do know I would be dead if I were not social and engaged in the community.

A stroke changes your life. I won’t go back to the health care policy arena fight.  I am not one to fiddle with policy minutiae—it upsets me, which is not good for a healing brain.  I am going back, however, to my real passion—the consumer, the patient.

I have been given many gifts I would never have suspected. I want to return those gifts with a new book. It will be called: Gifts From A Stroke: Finding the Nub of Life©.  I can be an interpreter and voice for patients and share lessons I would never have learned otherwise.

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