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 Reka Anna Lassu’s Essay:
Hello! I had the privilege of meeting e-Patient Dave this year in Lucerne, Switzerland where he inspired me to write my Master Thesis on Patient Empowerment and how Social Media plays a role in it. Currently, I am doing original research on how the Italian-speaking population of Switzerland uses Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter for health.
However, my personal story as a patient & caregiver is from when I spent a semester abroad in Budapest, Hungary during my Bachelor studies, in a time when “Tweets” and “Likes” were not yet so popular. This wasn’t the typical experience, since I lived with my grandmother whose mind and body, but not youthful spirit, were under the grasp of Depression, Alzheimer’s, and several other medical conditions.
I am from California, but I was born in Hungary and lived in the countryside for my first few years. As a little girl, my favorite day was Wonderful Wednesday when my grandma would come and spend the whole day with me. Later, when my family moved to the US, Wednesdays became just like every other day.
Nevertheless, as my grandparents still lived in Hungary, and were getting older, I came there for my semester abroad to rediscover the wonderfulness of Wednesdays again with my “Nagyi”. Unfortunately, along with wonderful Wednesdays came not-so-wonderful Mondays, Tuesdays and all other days when Nagyi mixed up her medication. Back then, I didn’t understand her conditions or the severity of them. She was the nicest person I knew, but sometimes this would instantly change when I wanted to leave the house for class, and she’d tell me that I don’t care about her and that I should “just go back to the US”. I didn’t understand what was going on and spent many long nights crying, but nothing seemed to alleviate the pain I felt.
It was during these 6 months, that I realized that our roles had changed. I became a caregiver to her, but at the same time a “patient in need of patience” and social support. Due to the 9-hour time difference with the US, I couldn’t just call my friends and it would have been nice to have an online social support group or some encouraging posts to read on Facebook! However, I am grateful for even these difficult times because they were accompanied by many good and irreplaceable days as well.
It was 2 years later that I realized how thankful I was for having had the chance to spend time with my grandparents. Furthermore, I discovered how important new technologies are. I was able to say “see you later” to my Grandpa via Skype right before he passed away. Although it’s a terrible example, it felt like the Mastercard advertisement: Skype credit $20.00, opportunity to kiss your Grandpa goodbye...Priceless!
For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to make a difference in the world through health and the experience with my Grandparents just solidified that. In pursuit of my dream, I am finishing a Master in Communication, Management, and Health in Lugano, Switzerland, as one of the 9 first graduates of such a Master in all of Switzerland
I am passionate about health communication and co-founded Health Communication Lugano (www.healthcomlugano.ch), a student group spreading the word about health communication as well as connecting with professionals and students. Also, I had an opportunity to design, implement, and evaluate an original evidence-based social marketing campaign for improving oral hygiene and encouraging behavior change.
At the conference, I would love to learn about others’ stories as well as contribute my international experience, original research, bubbly personality and positive attitude.
I really believe that the future of healthcare lies in education, the empowerment of patients, and in a people-centered health system. I owe my opportunity to study to my amazing family and the state of California who gave me a loan, which I must repay. As I am still a student, I could not otherwise afford to attend, and this scholarship would be my Wonderful Wednesday, or in this case, Wonderful Days of October 19th-21st; I would be honored to be able to participate in this event.