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Informing Policy. Advancing Health.

On The Road and Thinking About Life

Creative Services Manager Brian Clark is on the road capturing images of health care in Colorado for a special upcoming CHI project. He is filing occasional dispatches from the road to highlight some of the people and places he encounters.

I've been thinking a lot about life during this most recent leg of my trip. Not because I had some deep realization during a four-hour drive from Craig to Montrose but because of the two events that bookended the drive.

On Tuesday, I had the chance to meet Victoria, a 31-year-old mother who has mesothelioma, a rare cancer that develops in the protective lining of many vital organs. I met Victoria at her home in Craig during a visit by two palliative care nurses from the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association.

CHI is working on several projects around palliative care in Colorado, but for a quick definition, it is a multidisciplinary form of patient care aimed at relieving pain and preventing suffering in all areas of a patient’s life, from medical to spiritual. The goal is to improve quality of life for both the patient and the patient’s family.

Victoria is undergoing chemotherapy and trying not to let the cancer stop her from being a mom, but in reality it is a disease that will eventually take her life. The palliative care team is there to help her make the most of her remaining time.

I left Craig at 5:30 a.m. Wednesday to drive to Montrose, where nurse midwife Shauna Jones was waiting to help deliver two babies. The first was born while I was en route, but the second was kind enough to wait until after I got there. Actually, well after I got there.

After many hours of his parents,Joel and Johanna, doing all they could to get their labor going, Xavier John Clayton Waller entered the world at 2:40 a.m. on Thursday.

Being in the delivery room brought back memories of the births of my own kids. Hour after hour of deep focus followed by a burst of excitement and then suddenly there’s a new energy in the room that wasn’t there moments before. It still brings a tear to my eye to witness childbirth firsthand, but this time it was wonderful to witness it as a third-party observer.

I was able to focus on the outstanding work of the entire medical staff as they helped bring a delicate new life into the world. One of my favorite observations happened right after the birth. With most of the medical staff and family focusing on Xavier, I looked over and saw nurse midwife Jones comforting and congratulating Johanna.

It’s funny how that happens. Everyone is hyper-focused on the mom during labor and delivery and then the second the baby enters the room, most attention turns away from the mom to the baby. It was so wonderful to see Xavier’s mom being cared for during such an emotional and exhausting moment.

Life is an amazing thing, and I’ll have more time to think about that on the way to the next town. But first . . . sleep.