4 posts tagged “a”

Data donations make wishes come true

Posted September 10th, 2015 by

Back in December 2014, the PatientsLikeMe community donated 450,000 health data points during the 24 Days of Giving campaign, and a special thanks to everyone who participated and have continued to donate their data for good. Every donation made wishes come true for children with life-threatening medical conditions, and on behalf of the community, PatientsLikeMe made a $20,000 donation to Make-A-Wish® Massachusetts and Rhode Island, which helped Keith and Scarlett take a break from aggressive and uncomfortable treatments and doctors’ visits to go on faraway adventures with their families. Read about their stories below:

Keith
When 17-year-old Keith was diagnosed with lymphoma, his life was forever changed. Instead of fishing and playing sports, like he used to before he got sick, he now spends time in hospitals, enduring uncomfortable treatments. Keith longed to take a break from doctor’s visits and have a carefree vacation with his family; he wished to tour the Hawaiian Islands with his family on a Norwegian Cruise.

The PatientsLikeMe community made this happen! Once aboard the cruise ship, the crystal clear waters mesmerized Keith, as they took him to the Hawaiian islands of Kahului, Hilo, Kona, and Nawiliwili. Each new island provided a new world to explore. Keith and his family enjoyed pristine beaches, volcano views, whale watching and deep sea fishing.

Keith’s trip renewed his strength and hope for the future. He told Make-A-Wish Massachusetts and Rhode Island, “if you think about all the people who are emotionally going through so much because of what you’re going through, you become stronger than you can ever imagine. It shows your loved ones that there’s nothing to worry about.”

Thank you for donating your data and helping to give Keith and his family a vacation of a lifetime.

Scarlett
Though diagnosed with a brain tumor, three-year-old Scarlett wished to visit the TradeWinds Island Resort in Florida to explore the sea and the surf like her cartoon friends in her favorite movie, “Finding Nemo.” Scarlett and her family began their trip with a limousine ride to the airport. Upon arriving in sunny Florida, Scarlett tossed off her shoes to wiggle her toes around in the sand. She swam or built sandcastles on every beach – there was plenty for her to discover both in and out of the water. She even got to ride a giant waterslide and tried eating alligator meat at dinner.

Scarlett smiled all week long and her family savored quality time together. She had a week of carefree childhood. Scarlett’s mom and dad really enjoyed reminders of their daughter’s adventurous spirit.

Scarlett’s mom, Michelle, wanted to share with the caregiving community a few tips on coping with a young child who has a serious illness. Here’s what she shared:

When we were going through Scarlett’s treatment, people said to us ‘I don’t think I could do it’ and I always said to them ‘When you have to do something, you find a way.’ What were we going to do? Lay in bed and pull the covers over our heads? I would say:

  1. Don’t be afraid to accept any help that is offered (or ask for help) and don’t think people can read your mind. If someone asked, “What can I do?” I asked for specific things like “come keep us company during infusion weekends in the hospital” or asked for clothes when I was so stressed out that I lost weight and clothes for Scarlett after her surgery when she couldn’t pull a shirt on over her head.
  2. For couples – let one person be the emotional support and the other be the physical support. My husband is a nurse so he took care of making sure she drank plenty of water and ate plenty of fiber. I made sure that we still went to the park and birthday parties and lived life as normally as possible.
  3. My husband’s advice – drink prune juice and lots of water. Believe it or not, we probably saved her kidneys by giving her syringes filled with water all day when she didn’t want to drink. We kept her regular by giving her prune juice every day. Simple but very important.

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A day in the life of Software Engineer Jacinda Zhong

Posted March 6th, 2015 by

In the last “A day in the life” post, Jonathan shared his story about his son Nolan’s hand injury. In case you aren’t familiar with the series, here’s the scoop. At PatientsLikeMe, we believe in the power of openness, and members frequently share about their health journeys and experiences with different conditions. And since they go above and beyond, the staff at PatientsLikeMe likes to share their own stories to help everyone get to know us, too.

In this edition, Jacinda, a software engineer on the PatientsLikeMe team, introduced herself and spoke about her role, her thoughts on health tech and her passions outside of work. Read her interview below, and don’t forget to check out other posts in the “A day in the life” series.

When did you first hear about PatientsLikeMe? What drew you to join the organization?

I heard about PatientsLikeMe through the Vice President of Engineering, Marcia Nizzari. She is a board member at the arts nonprofit Cantata Singers, which is where I used to work. After I heard about PatientsLikeMe and did some research, I was really drawn to the idea of an application that helps people, instead of technology for technology’s sake. I was also very moved by the founders’ story, and believe that if the leadership has a strong personal connection to the mission, the company becomes more mission-driven, versus financially-driven, which is unfortunately the case with so many technology companies.

Tell us a little about your role as a software engineer. What are some things you’re working on?

I have been working on many different parts of the website, such as quick start and the condition reports. I’ve really enjoyed being able to work in all levels of the stack – from database queries to JavaScript on the client side. I think that is something really great about the PatientsLikeMe engineering team, where the majority of the engineers work on the front and back end. This allows engineers to develop a wide skill set and to contribute to all parts of the site.

You’re one of PatientsLikeMe’s newest employees – in your first few months, what has really stood out to you about PatientsLikeMe?

Similar to what I said above, I really like that PatientsLikeMe is so mission-driven, and wants to change medicine. We are empowering the masses to communicate to each other, and come to conclusions that would not otherwise be reached in the traditional healthcare system. Technology has enabled us to create a platform to facilitate discussion and data-sharing that provides value where the market/patients do not realize they wanted it. It’s almost like we are Apple in some ways, where we are providing a service that the market didn’t know it needed, and only after we show the market what we have to offer, does it realize that it is desired.

We hear you speak French – c’est génial! What else do you do for fun outside of the office?

I am mostly coding in the evenings, but I also salsa dance, and do spin in the winter, and run in the summer. I did competitive ballroom dancing in college, which opened up my world to partner dancing. I started learning salsa in senior year of college, and continued after graduation. Next up is learning some more swing/lindy hop and west coast swing (though as you might have guessed, California is better for west coast swing than in New England).

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A day in the life of Software Engineer Jonathan Slate

Posted April 25th, 2014 by

Our members share a lot about their unique health journeys and experiences here on the blog. Just recently, Kim spoke about her shock with MS, Betty talked about her frustration finding the right diagnosis, and Lori’s been sharing about life on the lung transplant list. And as part of our ongoing “A day in the life” series, PatientsLikeMe Software Engineer Jonathan Slate shared about his own recent journey after his son Nolan’s hand injury. He walked through the whole experience, from Nolan’s initial accident to how a simple CD with some x-rays on it sparked an ‘ah ha!’ moment for him.

 

You started working at PatientsLikeMe about 6 months ago – tell us a little bit about what you do.

I work as a Software Engineer, developing new site features, fixing issues and working with other engineers to come up with creative solutions to the technical challenges of building and maintaining the PatientsLikeMe site. I’ve also done some work on the PatientsLikeMe Open Research Exchange project.

You’ve said you experienced two “eureka” moments at PatientsLikeMe – what happened, exactly?

Well, the first was on the PatientsLikeMe forums, where I found out, first hand, just how comforting it can be to share a difficult story with patients like me who can truly empathize with my own personal struggles. But it is the second eureka moment that I want to tell you about.

When I started working at PatientsLikeMe six months ago, I thought I basically got it. As a software engineer, there were a lot of opportunities available to me, but I chose to work at PatientsLikeMe because I could see they were an innovative company with a positive mission, passionate leaders, and energetic, thoughtful, and enthusiastic employees.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, my 12 year-old son Nolan was playing “crab soccer” in gym class. Crab soccer is like soccer, but played on all fours, with belly buttons pointing towards the caged lights in the gymnasium ceiling. Kids scuttle around trying to kick a giant ball without losing their balance. At some point during the game, Nolan bent his left hand back too far and heard a popping sound (ouch!). He went to the school nurse, and there was some swelling, so she gave him some ice and sent him back to class. Then came the sage advice of his fellow fifth graders, “It will feel better in one hour,” and “If you can move it at all, it’s not broken.” Wrong on both counts, as it turns out.

By the next morning it didn’t feel any better, and Nolan’s hand had swollen considerably. So we took him to the pediatrician. The doctor thought it was probably just sprained, but she ordered an x-ray just in case. When we met up with the pediatrician again, she showed us the images, and even to my untrained eye, there was a clear break. So they wrapped him up in a splint and gave us the contact info for a hand specialist. We left the office carrying a CD with the x-rays to bring to the specialist. Of course, being an engineer, I couldn’t help but think this system was a bit antiquated. Hand delivering a CD, I mean, really!?

But when we got home, my first thought was to pop the CD into the computer and get another look at the x-rays. I thought my wife might like to see them, as well. But when I put the CD into our home computer, there were just a bunch of weird files, no images as far as I could tell. After an hour or so of jumping through a number of technical hoops, I managed to get an application installed that could read the files on the disk. What came up wasn’t just some image files, but a medical record of sorts, with the images and a bunch of metadata. I showed the clearest x-ray to my wife. “Wow, that’s a pretty good break,” she said. “Can you send me that so I can put it on Facebook?” So I emailed it to her and I also printed out a couple of copies for Nolan to take to school and show to his friends.

The eureka moment didn’t come until I was on my way into work the next morning. Nolan and I had left the pediatrician with a CD full of useful medical data related to his condition, but the only reason we had it was so that we could deliver it to the next doctor. There was no expectation that we would actually want to look at the x-rays ourselves, and in fact doing so required technical skills beyond that of the average person. And if it had not been for the “antiquated” system in which CDs are delivered by patients, by hand, we never would have had the data in our possession at all.

How has Nolan’s experience changed your perspective on the relationship between healthcare, technology and data donation?

I know that a broken hand is small potatoes compared to what many PatientsLikeMe users have to deal with every day. But I still think there’s something to learn from this experience. Dealing with a broken hand is a pain. Nolan’s saxophone and drums are on hold. He can’t participate in all the outdoor activities he would like. But having those x-rays helps to make the experience a bit more tolerable. Having these images puts my wife, Nolan and I more in control. We have a better understanding of what is happening, and we can choose to share the information we have – how we see fit. And that is what PatientsLikeMe is all about: putting patients in control of their own health and data.

Finally, how is Nolan doing? Is he back playing drums and soccer yet?

Nolan is doing pretty well. His hand is in a splint, not a cast, which does make some things easier. And he got his friends to sign the velcro straps, so he didn’t miss out on the “fun” part of breaking a bone. But he can’t wait to get it off. Today I had to tell him he couldn’t go out and play baseball with his friends. But he can play soccer, as long as he doesn’t try to do any throw-ins. Drums and sax are still out, but he will be playing xylophone, one handed, in an upcoming school concert!

We’ll be continuing with more “Day in the life” portraits featuring PatientsLikeMe employees from different departments, so stay tuned for more! You can also check out some of our previous entries by clicking here.


Interested in joining our engineering team and making a difference in patients’ lives? Check out our Careers page to see our current job openings.


A day in the life of Social Media Specialist Jesse Smith

Posted November 25th, 2013 by

jsmithOur members give us a glimpse of their personal lives every single day when they share through their PatientsLikeMe profiles, and as the days tick down until Thanksgiving and Christmas, we’re getting into the holiday spirit by sharing a little about ourselves with you.

Jesse Smith is the Social Media Specialist on the marketing team at PatientsLikeMe, and the Boston college alum/avid chef recently sat down and answered a few questions about her PatientsLikeMe experience.

How did you first learn about PatientsLikeMe? What led you to join the marketing team?

I first learned about PatientsLikeMe when I was looking for positions in health marketing. I saw their posting for a Social Media Specialist, so I looked into the company. I was immediately impressed and excited, and started reading and watching everything I could about the company. It turned out that a fellow Boston College alum, Lori Scanlon, was the VP of Marketing and Communications, so I sent over my application to her right away. I was thrilled when I was offered the position, and couldn’t wait to get started!

Tell us a little bit about you. Rumor has it that you’re quite the cook.

I’m no Julia Child, but I certainly love to cook. Once a week, three of my friends and I get together to cook new recipes. It certainly makes things easier to have 8 hands working in the kitchen! I also love to play tennis whenever I get the chance. I need to practice as much as possible so that I can soon beat my boss, Brian Burns, who sadly took me in a 6-3, 6-2 game earlier this summer. I’m also a big BC Hockey fan, cat-lover and singer.

How do you see social media contributing to the future of medical research and PatientsLikeMe’s vision of changing healthcare, for good?

Social media is a valuable tool for moving the vision of PatientsLikeMe forward. PatientsLikeMe is committed to openness, and social media helps enhance our ability to be true to our core value of transparency and add to the collective knowledge of our social community. On Facebook, we’re able to connect with members and build a relationship that compliments the conversations happening on our site. The fast-paced world of Twitter allows us to enter into conversations with non-members, members, and industry leaders all together in real-time to get them the information they need in an easily digestible and shareable form. For example, we recently participated in a live tweet event around a Google hangout on the topic of sleep, which let all our followers and non-followers see the exciting new findings from PatientsLikeMe on stress and insomnia. That type of message would have been a lot more difficult to get across to multiple populations in the same way with more traditional marketing techniques. Social media is fun, fast and easy to use – so it’s the perfect way to connect people to each other, to us and to our mission.

What’s your favorite part about working at PatientsLikeMe?

Call it a cop-out if you will, but I can’t pick just one! I love the freedom I have in my position to be creative, the opportunity the company provides to learn anything I’d like and the ability to work with patients to advance healthcare on a daily basis. I truly appreciate that the people who work here are smart, dedicated and value a work-hard, play-hard culture. All the snacks in the kitchen and awesome places to walk to for lunch don’t hurt either!

We’ll be continuing with more “Day in the life” portraits featuring PatientsLikeMe employees from different departments, so stay tuned for more! You can also check out some of our previous entries by clicking here.


Interested in joining our engineering team and making a difference in patients’ lives? Check out our Careers page to see our current job openings.