The Hummingbird Fund is gaining notice which makes me really happy. Our mission is clear, and dare I say boldly stated:
Ending ALS. Starting with all of us.
The Hummingbird Fund stands on three pillars: access, innovation, and advocacy. We are on a mission to end care gaps for Virginians living with ALS, accelerate innovation to improve quality of life, and advocate for legislative action and research to end ALS. Through agile grantmaking, we work to help ALS patients and their families live full lives. Join us to help end ALS in this decade.
Hummingbird offers me the opportunity to use the experience I have accumulated from decades of work with families facing the enormous challenge of caring for a child with significant medical complexity and disability. Moreover, I am lovingly joined by my family and hundreds of others whom I am calling the Hummingbird Champions.
When invitations from the press started to roll in, you might imagine I would be delighted to share my passion for the vision of the Fund.
My immediate thought was that this kind of carpe diem would be best delegated to my highly photogenic, uniquely poised, well-spoken family.
They declined, saying I was the man for the task.
So, I keep saying yes. And you know, with preparation and some practice it gets easier. I now see the media as a chance to share the ALS story, which has been side-lined for almost 100 years.
Recently, Will Selden, a podcaster at the Virginia Health and Hospital Association, began his interview, asking, “So tell us, how are you doing these days.”
The question caught me off guard with its humanity. I thanked him for the question and its kindness, and then I answered as I almost always do, saying, “Oh, I’m fine.” In this instance I elaborated with mention of the abundant love surrounding me.
I mean, no one wants to hear about me struggling to learn how to butter toast with my right hand, or the disappointment and fear associated with the gait-related side effects of edaravone, a medication I’ve been waiting to try for months, and one that required no less thank 20 hours of my time in the way of prior-auth’s and payment schemes.
With the media I stay close to my talking points, allowing the daily realities to swirl like an imaginary cloud bubble above my head.
Some questions are fun. Here’s one that Will Selden used to close out our interview. Feel free to try this at home and let me know your answers.
If you were stranded on a desert island, all alone, what one book (aside from the holy text of your choice), movie, and recording would you want to have along?
Ok, so here goes. I will mention that I decided to go for diversity:
BOOK: Mirabai Starr’s recent translation of Julian of Norwich’s The Showings
FILM: Notting Hill
MUSIC: Nina Simone “Pastel Blues”
Will Selden had one more question before signing off. He asked for a bit of advice I had received that was worth passing along. My answer came immediately to mind, but I decided to place it in the context of a brief story.
When I was first diagnosed with ALS, I was at sea with knowing how to integrate ALS into my psyche, into my soul, really. I revealed this awkwardly to a friend, who took a moment, then looked me straight in the eye, and with a gentle smile, said, “Just be yourself, Jim. All you have to do is be yourself, and the rest will follow.”