Any beginner science lesson about electricity will undoubtedly contain a discussion of open and closed circuits. A circuit is all about the way power moves.
An open circuit is an incomplete circuit that doesn’t allow electricity to flow. In a closed circuit, however, the power can flow from its source to the object needing power, like the wires in our walls and ceilings that power our light fixtures. Any break in those wires opens the circuit, and the light will not come on, but when each piece of the circuit touches another, they can conduct power to the light bulb and fulfill the purpose of lighting the room.
As the parent of a medically complex child, taking care of myself has included the need to power up in regular intervals. Richie’s first year of life was marked with hospitalizations, tests, and the slow achievement of milestones. For me, there was a lot of love and joy, accompanied by exhaustion. My energy was zapped from just trying to stay ahead of it all. At one point, Richie had upwards of 20 specialist and therapist appointments every month. I kept it all organized and never missed an appointment, but all that diligence drained by inner battery. I was on about ten percent all the time, and I desperately needed a power surge.
My first experience with closing the circuit came when Richie was less than a year old. I decided to take him to playgroups facilitated by Early Intervention. While it was difficult to load Richie and his ventilator, suction machine, pulse monitor, oxygen tank, and feeding supplies into the car for these weekly sessions, I found that meeting and talking to other parents was often the touch I needed to give me a power boost. One of the parents I met, an awesome mom of four boys, introduced me to the Family Advisory Council at ProMedica Toledo Children’s Hospital. At the time, I had no idea that Family Advisory Council would be the key to closing my circuit and finding a steady power source.
When I first came to Family Advisory Council, I didn’t know whether I really fit in. My son was just one year old at the time, and many of the parents in the council had older or adult children with medical or developmental challenges. They all seemed to know the language, and they seemed so self-possessed, like they had a mission and knew how to achieve it.
Their stories, while different from my own, felt connected to mine, and the circuit began to close. I admired their commitment to their childrens’ care and well being as well as their collective goal to make sure that other parents and their children also had positive experiences at ProMedica Toledo Children’s Hospital.
The mission of Family Advisory Council, and the positivity of the parents and staff members who served on the council, turned on a light in my life and helped me to recharge, renewed by a sense of purpose and direction. My involvement in Family Advisory Council has helped me learn to use my unique voice in a way that empowers others. The closed circuit of loved ones, friends and cheerleaders keeps my power flowing.
When parenting a child with special needs, it is essential to find ways to close the circuit and keep power moving from its source to its proper destination. Organizations and support groups related to specific conditions, as well as playgroups, hospital advisory councils and other parent groups, can form a wonderful power source to give us a boost during the hard times. They can also give us opportunities to feel purposeful in helping others as we learn and grow.
Like the movement of electricity that powers the lights in our homes, we close the circuit by reaching out to others. This action allows us to harness our power to create a brighter world.
Nikki (Charisse) Montgomery has served on the ProMedica Toledo Children’s Hospital Family Advisory Council since 2013. In addition to being a professional writer and editor, she is pursuing a graduate certificate in patient advocacy. She is a hospital volunteer and a parent mentor, and she volunteers with Muscular Dystrophy Association. Nikki and Richie are subjects in ProMedica Toledo Children’s Hospital’s Beyond the Frame photo exhibit, on permanent display inside the hospital’s main entrance hallway. Nikki is a regular ProMedica HealthConnect blogger who hopes to inspire and connect with others through the Teachable Moments series. You can follow her on social media @madvocator.