Westminster Professor Shares Battle to Keep Son Alive in New BookTweet
Joint memoir by mother and son explores the role of health care advocacy
SALT LAKE CITY - Vicki Whiting knew that her son Kevin’s pain was real. For more than a year, she watched her teenager wither away while doctors and specialists struggled to unlock the mystery of his illness. In their first book, In Pain We Trust: A Conversation Between Mother and Son on the Journey from Sickness to Health, Whiting and her son chronicle their journey from fighting the challenges of the American health care system, to finding answers.
Whiting, a business professor at Westminster, hopes their memoir will empower and guide others who are dealing with similar health situations. Her son, Kevin, hopes that health care providers will read the book and learn how to provide better care to patients. The book is scheduled to be released November 22, and has already been adopted by Westminster’s School of Nursing and Health Sciences. Intermountain Healthcare and the Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) have selected the book for sponsored symposiums dedicated to patient-centered care.
In 2007, the battle for Kevin’s health began. His pain was so intense that he couldn’t function, go to school or even eat. His weight plummeted to a mere 63 pounds–off the charts for an average 13 year old. Doctors ignored his pleas and told him he was depressed and anorexic, throwing prescription after prescription at him–to the point which the medicines actually made him suicidal.
“For more than a year I told doctors over and over again that the pain in my stomach was real – and not just everyday paper-cut pain,” explained Kevin. “I’m talking extreme, intense pain, and instead of listening to me, the doctors completely ignored me.”
The book retells their roller coaster ride of navigating through the health care system as they desperately sought doctors who would listen to them and find a cure. Nearly a year and a half later, a specialist diagnosed Kevin with Wilkes Syndrome and surgery was performed to finally alleviate his problem
“Luckily I had a few good listeners on my side along the way, including my mom, my family and friends and our family doctors,” added Kevin. “My mom listened and wasn’t afraid to speak up for me when doctors ignored what I had to say. My family and friends were listeners. They heard my pain and gave me hope when times got really tough.”
Along with lessons learned from the journey from sickness to health, Whiting explores the role of advocacy in medical healing and the current state of the health care system from a personal perspective.
“My goal for this book is to create better patient outcomes through listening,” explained Whiting. “Listening is such a powerful tool. It is critical that hospitals and health care providers learn from our experiences.”
As a way to create some type of positive outcome after such a long, painful journey, Kevin and Whiting decided to write the book together.
“It was very difficult to relive everything we went through,” added Whiting. “But in the end, perhaps there is an opportunity to change health care outcomes for others by sharing our story.”
The Whiting’s book originally had several publishing offers, including one from McGraw-Hill, who envisioned their story as a textbook case study.
“Kevin expressed that he wanted our story to reach a broader audience, not just an academic one, so we went with Blooming Twig Books,” she said. “Our book seems to have struck a nerve. It has been adopted for training purposes by Westminster, Intermountain Healthcare and Hospital Corporation of America (HCA). We’ve also been asked to speak at the American Hospital Association’s Society for Consumer Healthcare Advocacy convention.”
Julie Balk, an associate professor in Westminster’s School of Nursing and Health Science was one of several faculty members who adopted the book into her curriculum.
“The book had a big impact on me as I read it both as a health care practitioner, as well as a mother,” Balk added. “I hope this will help my students understand that not all diagnoses will be easy, and that they need to continue to listen to patients as well as caregivers to help provide the best care possible. The book also helps reinforce our college-wide learning goals of critical, analytical and integrative thinking, as you should not care for the physical aspect of a human without incorporating the psychosocial impact as well.”
The Whitings will continue to share their story during upcoming book signings and conferences. For upcoming events, visit http://vickiwhiting.com/.