As an award winning public relations professional and successful small business development consultant, Nancy Michaels’ life was perfect on the outside and crumbling on the inside. With a marriage on the rocks and an ongoing illness that had progressed for eight months, Nancy was hit by a health tsunami. A virus caught during surgery entered her bloodstream and caused her liver to fail. Suddenly on a donor list and put into an induced coma, she received the liver, but died twice during the surgery. The doctor told her the second time she was dead for more than two minutes, which meant she would never be the same. There was also brain surgery to relieve pressure on her brain, an extended period of being unable to speak because of a tracheotomy, organ rejection issues, long therapy episodes—putting her in and out of the hospital for a year. After relearning to walk and talk, she has transformed her experience into a purpose to inspire others to face their own health issues and health care professionals and others to stay in the moment with their patients and their families to deliver what they need to get well.
Nancy’s story is full of moments spent with health care providers where they unthinkingly talked about things in their own lives that were so unattainable for her they made her very sad. Yet there were other moments of kindness and care that made her so grateful, they had a healing effect. The message she shares for health care professionals is to be careful not to become desensitized. Be mindful of who you are and that your patient is your client, an individual human being with thoughts and feelings.
Message of Compassionate Care
Having spent so much time in the hospital, Nancy admits that now she is not a good patient. She reminds the nurses that her pain medication is two hours late and nudges them toward other duties they have yet to act on. Like every profession, healthcare professionals enter their chosen field to help other people. With time and the fatigue of being over-worked and dealing with very sick people on a daily basis, they become fatigued and battle their own burnout. Her purpose to help healthcare providers understand how their actions actually affect patients moves her to be the squeaky wheel, whether she is a patient or delivering a keynote address. Steering them toward best practices, which can be applied in any profession, creates a better environment for successful outcomes both for the provider and for the patient. If she can help one nurse or doctor improve their delivery of care, she has made a difference in thousands of patients’ lives.
Message of Hope
Although Nancy admits that she didn’t hear many of the helpful messages people tried to deliver during her illness, she thinks she would have been more hopeful if she would have heard stories of survival. By being a living miracle, her story of thriving after death should be enough to inspire hope in others. However, she goes beyond that to describe her life before her illness and other ways she has changed the way she deals with life’s challenges to maintain a healthy perspective going forward.
To get more messages, check out Nancy’s website and sign up for her “Motivational Monthly.” She has also written three books, including the one that details her story of survival, Stripped: Seven Lessons Learned from Dying. Listen to this conversation to hear Nancy tell her story and learn how she came back to reclaim her life with a special focus on creating new memories and not losing sight of what matters.