Editor's Note: This is an entry in our Scholarship Contest for Patients and Caregivers to attend the Mayo Clinic Social Media Summit Oct. 17-21 in Rochester, Minn. See this post
for more details on the contest, and please cast your votes by liking or commenting on the candidates you think would be best.
Here is Martha Garrett’s Essay:
Online social media has been my connection to people since being diagnosed with primary progressive multiple sclerosis and trigeminal neuralgia in 2003. Because of research and online discussion groups I was able to find out about microvascular decompression surgery for my trigeminal neuralgia and had successful surgery that stopped the pain in 2006.
I have been amazed how many people are house bound or feeling alone and can reach out via the internet for knowledge and friendship. Being involved online via Twitter, Facebook and now Google+; plus blogging and posting videos has given me the ability to reach out from my sofa on the bad days and feel a purpose in my life even from home.
Because of being home most of the time after working two jobs for decades I got involved with the tech community and podcasts. In 2009 I was invited to fly out to Dallas and be filmed for an episode of GeekBrief.TV (posting links at the bottom of my essay). I was also on the same trip invited to film a segment of CookingWithKat.TV. Because of the internet exposure I got from being on these video podcasts my followers on twitter increased. Which gives me more of a platform to reach out to people via social media.
These connections are divine. As I'm a people person who would be terribly depressed without engaging with others on a daily basis. As far as living with chronic illness goes, I would be without the knowledge I get from sharing with others who are dealing with similar circumstances. Trigeminal Neuralgia is also known as the suicide disease. My heart goes out to those who suffer with this most horrible of conditions. Again it is via connecting online that I am able to encourage people who are suffering or their caretakers.
Most recently we've received the devastating news that our youngest son who is 33years old has early onset Parkinson's disease. Now I'm beginning again via social media to reach out for help and understanding. I'm so excited to hear about the Social Media Summit. There is no way that I could even consider attending due to my limited financial assets. Yet with the possibility of a scholarship this is within my reach. Again due to the enormous connections available because of the internet and social media.
I would use my experiences of reaching out to others who suffer with chronic health conditions and/ or rare diagnosis via the internet. I would share how to best utilize social media as not only a platform for sharing but as an unlimited resource for information.
There are so many things I would look forward to learning from the experts who gather together at this conference. Such as how to find the best sources of medical information online, where to find discussion boards that are moderated and give the most valuable information. I would also be thrilled to connect with others who find social media as powerful as I do.