I want to operate in sheer honesty as CEXO (Chief Experience Officer) of the Be The Change campaign. For that reason, I want to disclose my love-hate relationship with the University of Minnesota (U of M) Hospital and Clinics. My individual relationship with the U of M has two sides, both humanly connected but medically far apart, creating a complicated and emotional dynamic housed internally by me.

One side of me loves the fact I’m a Minnesota patient and family member that lives less than sixty minutes (based on unpredictable traffic) from a cutting edge healthcare campus. That includes a highly regarded learning environment, which one day, may educate the medical student who will find the cure to cancer or a rare disease like SIOD.

On the flip side, I hate the fact my son Michael and others like him suffer horrible diseases there. Among hope and possibility abundant throughout the U of M campus, looms the opposite in despair and calculated fear. To this day, when I enter the East Bank, I need to pause, take a deep breath and alert my commitment in the fight ahead, warring against the dark memories about to torment me.

Faithfully, I’m reminded of the change maker waiting in the shadows of that concrete jungle, my angel Michael. His legacies lead me back to the U of M with a different three ring binder these days labeled Be The Change. Back to where it was whispered to us years ago. Steps that are taken as testimony to Michael’s courage, I walk back into the pain and press past the fear, towards the change waiting on the other side of all that fear.

Last spring, in a changed capacity, I returned to the University of Minnesota, sharing our story with a group of nursing students and graduating nurse practitioners. I spoke about the little boy with a big disease who changed me, our family, and possibly a few healthcare providers at the U of M. I cited specific examples how medical and human experiences impacted Michael and our family not just in his life as a patient but in his whole life outside of the disease, beyond the concrete jungles.

I shared my vision for the Be The Change campaign stating, Be The Change isn’t just me or Michael. It’s us together. It’s the patient, family and provider together sharing healthcare responsibility in an enhanced relationship as partners, inside and outside the medical arena. A partnership where each of our perspectives is valued, and each of our experiences provides an expertise that’s utilized to its full potential.

A new relationship was created for me at the U of M Center for Children with Special Health Care Needs, in honor of Michael’s Be the Change legacy. It’s a healthcare team demonstrating patient family centered care beyond words. Ways WE can all Be The Change. Click here to view the Be The Change presentation at the University of Minnesota.

Now I’m familiar with another outstanding team of healthcare providers and educators at the University of Minnesota Hospital and Clinics. It was well worth the deep breathes I had to take to get there. I can honestly say, the love side of my relationship with the U of M has increased and will continue to Be The Change.

Theresa Zimanske, Founder & CEO, Be The Change