This is my son on Keppra.
Dear Mr. Bill Leaver,
I am writing to you in regards to Blank Children's Hospital and my non-stop fight for the right to have access to medicine to help and not further harm my soon-to-be-three year old child. Your current Brand Campaign is "The point of Unity is you.” A touching slogan but not exactly true in its entirety based on my most recent experience with Unity Point Health and Blank Children's Hospital in Des Moines, Iowa.
My son has a host of medical issues including Generalized Seizures, a Genetic Brain Disorder, a Cystic Pineal Tumor (a growing mass in the middle of his brain that requires MRIs every 6-12 months that require full sedation/anesthesia on my tiny child - which in themselves are dangerous and life-threatening), Hypotonia, a Rare Chromosome Disorder called 7q31.31 that has deleted the KCND2 gene that pre-disposes my son to Epilepsy and he has a host of other issues including global delays, being non-verbal, having an Intellectual Disability and more.
We have had to fight tooth and nail since the day he was born to get proper care for him and due to hospital negligence from the moment he arrived on this Earth (not related to Unity Point) he has suffered endlessly. Some of which could have been prevented with proper medical care and attention.
I read an interview that you did with The Advisory Board Company last May and you seem like such a kind, caring and compassionate man. I too grew up in a middle-class household in small town Iowa. I was the only-child to a single-mom who taught early education for over 30 years and my father was a Federal Employee for the entirety of his career with the Corps of Engineers and my Grandparents were farmers and business owners. Making a difference in other people's lives was something that my family prided themselves on and instilled in me at an early age. I grew up knowing that family came first but that you should also help take care of other people as you also mentioned in your interview last May.
My son by definition of the Iowa Law has intractable Epilepsy. We have been seeing our Pediatric Neurologist since before my son's First Birthday. Literally, on the day of his First Birthday Party we were consulting with a world-renowned Brain surgeon in California about the possibility of needing brain surgery to remove my son's cystic pineal tumor. On New Years Eve came the news of the rare Chromosome Disorder that even your Hospital Staff admittedly know nothing about and can be of no assistance with, due to the fact that it is indeed so rare.
By his Second Birthday he was labeled as having an Intellectual Disability, was unable to walk and it became clear he was globally delayed and non-verbal. The seizures had been intermittent up until then but this past fall diagnosed us with a Generalized Seizure Disorder and we have since tried and failed two Epileptic Medicines. The anti-convulsant my son was on turned him into a completely different little boy. He is currently still on Clonazepam (a benzodiazepine) which does nothing for the abnormal brain disorder he has. Even on the Benzo his brain still fires all the time - throughout the day and night in generalized spikes and slow wave complexes. I know that many families have tried 10 times that many medications and more and their children suffered greatly for it. I for one do not want my son to be a pharmaceutical lab rat. The side effects are scary and after seeing him on Keppra I am terrified of what may happen to him.
In your interview with The Advisory Board Company, you stated that you "really encourage people to get out of their comfort zone and be willing to try and fail". I understand that is in reference to your employees and your branding but it should also apply unfalteringly to your patients as well. We have been through the ringer and back with specialists and sub-specialists and had even been told that our son may never walk - to him needing a jaw-distraction surgery - to needing a life-threatening and dangerous brain surgery - to a host of other issues and ailments that most parents have never heard of and that most parents should never have to see their child endure. However, we do this and continue to play this never ending game of doctors and specialists without ever getting any real answers, hope or help but no matter what happens we keep trying - even if it is endlessly out of our comfort zone.
My son's Neurologist, your employee, is an amazing and kind-hearted person. They have gone above and beyond helping us when we really needed it. They have been humble enough to admit defeat when they didn't know the answer and instead of telling us that they can help us they have told us that they don't know how to help us on a number of occasions.Shortly after my son's most recent MRI he began to collapse. We were admitted to the ER and were told the next day that they (Our Neurologist) didn't know how to help us and that we needed to transfer elsewhere. We went on to the MN Epilepsy Group at the Children's Hospital in St. Paul several weeks later for yet another VEEG. However, that morning at UnityPoint/Blank Children's Hospital, we were actually having to share a room that night because your hospital floor was so full. After we got that news, our roommate asked for us to be in a private room because she felt that something like that was not meant to be overheard by a stranger and that we deserved to have a private room to mourn the fact that no one knew what to do for our child.
Before, during and after that time CBD had been mentioned in regards to other patients having good experience and having visible and shockingly great improvements after using it. Our Neurologist was always very careful in saying that they were not "endorsing nor condoning" but mentioned on more than one occasion that we should go to Colorado to get help. However, Iowa Law has passed a Bill that enables our Neurologist to sign a Registration Application to make it legal for the parents to give this medicine to our children. I researched what I felt would be a good fit and finally approached them with a request to help us obtain the legal backing from the state by filling out what is actually a tiny portion of an application for us to have a license to carry/have on our persons the CBD. The law does not in fact hold the Neurologist accountable for what happens after. It just asks whether they have seen our child and treated them for intractable epilepsy for six months.
Due to the fact that our Neurologist themselves had brought the CBD up to us , we were not prepared to hear that in response to our request to help us *not* go to jail for giving our son an organic medication that has the possibility of not only staving off his seizures but also shrinking that horrible lesion in his brain, we would get a very generic and non-personal response that said:
"We, the neurologists at Blank, are not signing any authorization cards for CBD use. We went over the law with everyone here and we are not obligated to sign or prescribe. We feel that at this time CBD should be given in the context of the FDA approved trials only and there are other centers which are conducting those trials."
Needless to say, this was not only a shock but also a blatant slap in the face for a parent who had gotten their hopes up. I had spent HOURS researching CBD oils and what would be the best strain to help reduce seizures and shrink my son's cystic lesion. I took a great deal of time writing the perfect letter to our Neurologist about why I feel that CBD is the best choice for my son as I am taking a great deal of time to write to you. Having a chronically ill child is TIME CONSUMING and to fight and fight and fight only to be shoved into the mud and be refused help is ghastly. Horrific. Soul-crushing. Cruel. And also, downright inhumane. We are talking about a soon-to-be three-year-old boy who has never had the chance to live a life without pain, without having to FIGHT or without his own brain betraying him with seizures and taking away his words.
In your interview, you were asked, "What is "most right" about UnityPointHealth?" and you stated"What is "most right" is the culture and focus of our organization, from our board to our executive teams, to our physicians to our employees. They get what we are trying to do. We changed our vision statement four or five years ago, to "best outcome, every patient, every time." And people believe that is what they do, every day. What is right, whether we're talking about care coordination or how we integrate systems, the focus is [always] on the patient here. And I will tell you, moving away from hospital-centric—and that's what we were, four or five years ago—that vision statement was a powerful declaration to our physicians. That now the focus is not on margins, but best clinical outcome. And you're going to do that every time. Well what did people get into medicine for? To help people. And do you want to help them 90% of the time, 80% of the time? No, you want to help them all the time."
If you truly believe in "what is right", I implore you to take a look at your business model again. You can say "The Point of Unity is You" but it's just a hollow promise if you aren't willing to take a risk (risks which you claim are important to take). If UnityPoint as an Entity is not willing to let their Physicians take a chance and do what is right for each individual patient you aren't doing anything right at all.
If Iowa LAW feels that we have the right to have access to these medicines, it doesn't seem right that your entire Pediatric Neurology Clinic (which by the way was the *only* option we had in Des Moines when we started our journey) are not signing any authorization cards when they themselves were the ones that brought it up to us as something that could potentially help and change our children's lives.
If your focus is truly on the best clinical outcome it seems to me that Blank Children's entire Pediatric Neurology Department is not only going against what you say is so "right" about UnityPointHealth but the very Hippocratic Oaths they swore to follow when becoming Physicians. If you truly want your Hospital to "help people all the time" you need to allow your Physicians to decide what is best for THEIR patients - even if that means taking a risk.
UnityPointHealth should be about more than just a brand. You yourself even stated, "a leader always has to step up and do the right thing". Hospitals can indeed gain credibility or lose credibility. You even stated in your interview "A great depleter of credibility is when you don't address people problems. I say to our managers, when you have a people problem—fix it."
There is a revolution in medicine coming. Instead of sending your patients to other cities and other states to get the care that they need - take care of them instead. Allow and encourage your Neurologists at Blank Children's Hospital to sign the Registration Cards for Canibidiol so we as parents can help our children the best. Help get the laws changed so you don't have to take the risk at all. Please, just do something.
I think you said it best:
"...When you don't address a people problem, everybody else in that work unit, in that department, that division, knows you have that problem. And when you don't address it, there are two conclusions that they reach. Either you're not smart enough to see that you have that problem, or you won't deal with that problem. That just depletes your credibility. You didn't do the right thing. They can't trust you now to do the right thing. That's why a leader always has to step up and do the right thing."
Please sir, I implore you to step up and do the right thing. You already have a people problem and its only going to get worse. When it comes down to it, UnityPoint is a business and you are losing business. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are going to other hospitals in other cities and other states as they are wiling to stand up and take the risks that you as CEO claim are important to make. Just as I - as a parent - am willing to stand up and take the risk in saying that I want to be able to CHOOSE to give my child a medicine that came from a plant instead of a lab and all that is standing between me and helping my child is your employees signature in a box. An employee who has said that this medicine may be able to help our child. It's that simple.That's it.
Please, step up and do the right thing. Help parents such as myself gain access to CBD without having to risk everything to do it. I don't want to have my son be a medical refugee in another city or in another state simply due to UnityPointHealth being unwilling to stand up and fight for what is right for parents and children who are suffering endlessly with debilitating diseases.
A worried Mama
Hi! I'm Erin. I'm Abe's mama, a tireless advocate for UBE2a Deficiency Syndrome and a fierce proponent for medical cannabis.
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