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fostering the humanistic practice of medicine publishing personal accounts of illness and healing encouraging health care advocacy

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Straight Enough

fence 2

About the Artwork

Kevin Olney / Scott Newport

About the contributor: 

Scott Newport, a volunteer with the Patient and Family Centered Care advisory council of C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, in Ann Arbor, serves both in his state and nationally as an advocate for families with sick children. “My biggest passion is family mentoring, and I have a special interest in supporting dads. I always know I’ve made a connection when I get an email that reads, ‘Hey Scott, are you going to be up at the hospital this weekend?’ I believe that until we make a personal connection with a family, it’s almost impossible to have those important and often difficult discussions. Sometimes, though, it’s just talking about building fences.”

About the artwork:

“One Sunday last year I sat in a hospital room with a young guy named Kevin Olney as he struggled to deal with his daughter’s serious illness. A cowboy, he had traveled from out west to bring his daughter to the hospital. He told me how much he loves setting fence posts out on the prairie. He showed me a picture on his phone: the wandering fence posts seemed to stretch out forever into the distance as they rose and fell over the undulations. ‘What do you use to keep the line so straight?’ I asked. ‘Yeah, Scott, they seem to be in a perfect line,’ he answered. ‘I guess I just have an eye for it.’ As we talked about the fence posts, he told me how beautiful they appear when they are snow-covered. He talked about the uncertainty of his daughter’s health, and how he hates it when the staff use the phrase ‘quality of life.’ We talked some more, and when I got home I wrote a poem for him (below). Kevin’s daughter passed away last month.”

Straight Enough [excerpt]

A cowboy from the west
a man of simple thoughts and seasoned hands of sweat
never lost on those long nights of tending
the wavering winds and teetering fence posts mute under the lonely stars
Now a thousand miles from home
in the big city and an even bigger hospital
his golden-haired daughter now at rest
his chair pulled tight to her bed, the oxygen tubing and IV line coil like a perfectly set lariat…
From the nearby window seat
I just listen and then hear them both take simultaneous breaths
he whispers,
“Yeah, I guess just being here is enough.”


10 thoughts on “Straight Enough”

  1. This is really beautiful. Thanks for sharing your compassion and committment to families that experience difficult choices.

  2. Scott, you provide great strength to those who need extra support during very difficult times. I am continuously impressed by your commitment to helping others on their journey.

  3. How fortunate we all are to be able to feel the strength and compassion in your words! Thanks, Scott, for all you give and share.

  4. Dr. Sylvie Naar

    Beautiful. The value of art and connection to manage overwhelming feelings and impossible situations cannot be overestimated.

  5. Rebecca Miller

    all those hours and days I sat alone with my sick little girl before she died, usually only anger or despondency on my mind.
    I would have loved a mentor like Scott.
    No, apparently I didn’t need anyone, after all: I was only a “foster parent”. I meant nothing legally to the troops of doctors coming and going so why not just ignore my questions, tell me I’m not needed at meetings and walk away when I’m seen crying over my baby girls crib (even though I was the only mother she ever knew).

    Thank you Scott for leaving a legacy for this family.
    It only took takes one word, touch, presence to change everything.

  6. My son has been a patient at Mott for years. We received devastating news yesterday about his health. I decided to read Pulse as it helps me feel more connected with the human side of medicine. Thank you for this poem and picture. It reminds me that there are people who really care and that also we are never alone as we take these difficult journeys. Thank you for caring.

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