Our What vs. Our Why

This past week has been especially tough. As I write this, we currently have two patients in the Pediatric ICU who may never completely recover from their abuse.  It has brought me cause to consider both the “what” and the “why” in my life. Both children have received the best of care (i.e. the “what” in my life), and now because of the “why” in my life, we are helping these children and their families to have the best future possible, despite the trauma they have suffered.  My “what” has always been centered around medicine and the ability to recognize trauma, illness, neglect.  The “why,” or the force behind coming to work every day is never accepting mediocrity or, for that matter, never taking “no” for the final answer when it comes to building a safety-net of caring for the children and families that we see every day.

While in the ICU, I noticed a family gathered at the bedside of an 18-year-old boy; family members coming and going, tears being shed and many questions being asked about this boy’s future. A product of the foster care system and abandoned by his family at an early age, this young pre-med student is now a quadriplegic after a tragic automobile accident. His family resources are minimal, but his sister has reunited with him and is by his side daily; his foster mom comes to visit frequently, and his biological father is driving from Modesto every weekend to reconnect with this is only son. Despite the fact that he is not my patient, he is one of the many children who have passed through our clinic’s doors over the past 30 years.  For this 18-year-old, the “why” of VIP is me asking him “How can I help you?” and ensuring that his family has the support they need as they begin to move forward. We now have an expert clinician going to see this young man every day and we are providing Dad with transportation assistance and food support so that he can continue to see his son in the hospital.

The emotional weight our clinicians endure caring for the children, women, and families impacted by violence, can be overwhelming. The “why” has continued to push me forward. The “why” in my life is based on making every interaction and intervention personal; it is asking families how we can help you, and then finding a way to answer and provide a solution. The “why” is the passion for change; change here at VIP and our Children’s Medical Village at the LAC+USC Medical Center, and change in the lives of families who have so little but need so much.

For VIP, the “what” of our work remains possible because of your commitment to why VIP exists, why it grows, and ultimately to the goal of creating a stronger system of care where children, women and families are able to achieve health, safety and security.