Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Volunteering With Chronic Illness

Many people diagnosed with a chronic disease become very knowledgeable about their health problems.  Some like Kelly Young turn their expertise and skills into a world-wide platform.  I read that 10% of people with Rheumatoid Arthritis Disease in the US are members of  RA Warrior    We all appreciate her advocacy and her awareness efforts with doctors and with government.

                                                                             Kelly Young

Another example of people with RA helping others is the project initiated with RA Guy's call for pictures of hands that resulted in the Show Us Your Hands project, which turned into an international movement to raise awareness of inflammatory arthritis.  The team that worked on this went on to produce a poster and a book for sale as a fundraiser.  What a successful project that is!!

Show Us Your Hands

Many others contribute through blogging and by providing on line support for their peers on Twitter, Facebook and online groups. Of course those in clinical trials also make a very concrete difference. There is a real spirit of teamwork in the chronic illness community.


Aside from the online opportunities there are some programs that it's possible to participate in in real life if you are lucky enough to be close to a center that supports them. 

There's a very colourful patient I recently met who is most enthusiastic about the Health Mentor Program which I also take part in.  Health Mentors are defined as people living with chronic health challenges.  They meet and interact with groups of students in various health disciplines such as nursing,occupational therapy, MD, social work, physiotherapy and pharmacy.

In the groups the students explore the impact of a health challenge, collaborative assessments,ethics and professionalism, and patient and client safety.  I can't speak from a student point of view but as the person with chronic illness I find it very interesting to meet students who are on their way to achieving a goal that takes a lot of work and dedication.

The program is run by Sylvia Langlois who is Assistant Professor, Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy at the University of Toronto

The member I mentioned has asked patient participants to blog on his website.  He calls himself and his site Patient Commando so I expected to meet a man wearing camo and boots.  But no, he's one of us - a person living with chronic illness who is trying to do something about it and who has encouraged like minded people along the way.

                                   Zal Press Patient Commando
You've got to agree that this is a man who gets noticed.  Patient Commando creates social impact by providing platforms that amplify the patient voice.  Here's a  link to their site with 3 patient stories about the Health Mentor Program.

And here's a bonus link to a quiz that can help you to determine what kind of a volunteer you are:   from The Arthritis Society


  1. Annete, it was a pleasure speaking with you today.

    What a good list of resources, from the quiet to the loud. :)

    Everyone can play a role in their own way. And, if they don't know what "that way" is, you've provided us with a link for that. :)

  2. Thanks Marianna

    Volunteering has been really rewarding. One of the things I enjoy the most is demonstrating all of the OT things that I use to people who might find them useful. My physio has sometimes invited me to do that for a course she runs.

    I plan to add more in the future.