How Social Media Helped Me Heal

Thank You Wordle
Tethered to a lumbar drain and equipment that monitored my pulse, breathing, and heart rate, I could partially turn over if I was careful. However, if I wanted to raise or lower my head, I needed to summon a nurse to clamp the drain first, then re-level it for my new position, so that the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) would continue to drain at precisely 10cc an hour, no more, no less.

No Phones or TVs in NOA
It was Christmas week, and I had undergone successful neurosurgery at the Civic Campus of the Ottawa Hospital. As a higher risk patient, I required the drain to keep inter-cranial pressure down. I spent a week in the neurosurgery observation (NOA) unit before being discharged. There are no in-room phones or tvs available in NOA; this is a place for people who need constant care. With my nose packed and on medication for swelling and pain, I was in no shape for talking. I kept trying to sleep (!) so the lights were frequently as low as I could negotiate.

Social Media Connected Me With My Support Groups
Even surrounded by superb care and visited twice a day by our nearest and dearest – as I was – recovering can be lonely. However, I was not lonely. The evening of Day 2, Henry (my spouse) brought me my purse with my fully-charged Blackberry, and that changed everything. We could message each other and coordinate through the chat function. I could read the emails of encouragement and join with the prayers of thanksgiving from the friends and supporters (of varied faiths, persuasions, nationalities, and degrees of affinity) I had involved in my journey. I could communicate in the dark, without changing position, for four or five minutes at a time, and then rest again. I cried a bit. I smiled a lot.

Facebook was a huge encouragement. I would post some small progress and 27 friends over five days would “Like” it. I traded encouraging stories with a friend who had her operation just days before me. Louder than words, the day I left hospital, I posted a picture of my right arm with the bracelets cut off.

Social media is neutral. How it is used determines whether it is a good or a bad thing. Social media doesn’t make friends for us, but it can draw like-minded people together, and help us cement friendships and maintain bonds. I am thankful for countless people whose creativity and foresight – from Vannebar Bush to Marshall McLuhan, to Steve Jobs and his contemporaries – for their role in seeding a technology and culture that have helped me heal.

Illustration created using Wordle ( by Jonathan Feinberg. The names represent some of the many people who helped me before, during and after my stay at the Civic hospital.

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3 Responses to How Social Media Helped Me Heal

  1. Jennifer says:

    Thank you for the encouragement, Bill. I must also thank Jan Yuill, who encouraged me to find a way to write about my experience. Delighted you have the MacBook Air.
    Don’t we live in an exciting world!

  2. Bill LeGray says:

    Innovations are sometime miraculous, and miracles are often necessary when one strives to survive and heal (as you have and are doing). I’m so glad you shared this experience within the social media Jennifer. Many more persons can benefit from your reported experience. Note: I received a new MacBook Air computer for Christmas, and am usually taking it with me where ever I go- to interact more inspirationally. 🙂

  3. Jan Yuill says:

    Amen, sista! I think this could revolutionize patient care!

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