Advocacy and patient empowerment moments on the plane?

It is funny how patient advocacy can just come up in the most unlikely places. It can seem like there is suddenly an opportunity to be a patient advocate, engage in an awesome chat about clinical trials, the role of patients and the important of collaborative approaches. This happened to me just recently.

On my way to a business meeting, my flight was delayed. I am was already on the last flight of the night so there wasn’t much margin for error. It really is just a commuter flight, I was hoping it would be uneventful. It was the usual airport delay story…. Hearing that your plane needs a part is always slightly alarming. I had a really long work day, was exhausted, my lungs were feeling a bit iffy. I desperately wanted to be in my PJs, like the kids that were waiting to board their flight to Orlando. Instead, I was trying to stay awake, by consuming chocolate and waiting in the lounge for my flight that was just announced as “delayed”. I was avoiding having a caffeinated product as I had had high hopes of sleeping during it, even if it was just for fifty minutes.

This plan was thwarted when I got into my seat, there was a flurry of activity trying to get people seated on my flight, the earlier flight had been canceled and it looked like a couple of people had been assigned the same seats. My seat included. I wasn’t sure if I was going to have to get up and move. I am not a particularly chatty person on a plane, however, with the flight attendants in a flurry trying to sort out the seating situation. I ended striking up a conversation with the person in the seat next to mine.It turns out, I had happened to be sitting beside a woman that works in clinical research! What a coincidence! I was on my way to a conference that included work in patient advocacy. You may already know that I am a clinical research enthusiast. She shared with me a lot of the perspectives from the pharmaceutical or regulatory side and why there is so much red tape in research. She also shared her experience on how important patients are, the importance of patient advocacy and working together to move this forward. She was sharing all this while having her own distresses as she indicated that she was unsure if she should be going to her own meetings. We had similar issues, I had to be in my meetings the next day and she needed to be presenting and chairing hers. Her father had a fall at his evening hockey game and needed to have hip surgery. He was elderly and she felt like she needed to be there for her parents. As a patient and a caregiver, I could definitely understand the decision she was wrestling with.

Our flight ended being delayed some more and we struck up a conversation about caregiving and taking care and patients and the support that are required. It was the ultimate discussion and in a very unexpected way set me up for two days of awesome meetings.

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