“It is always darkest before the dawn.” Attributed to Thomas Fuller, an English theologian and historian, this is a quote I have heard as long as I can remember. Scientifically, the darkest part of the night is actually at midnight, when the surface of the earth has rotated 180 degrees away from the sun. Nevertheless, the sentiment of “darkest before dawn” resonates with many people, because the words are understood as encouragement during difficult times, giving hope and inspiration to take the next step until a better day or time arrives.
I have thought often about this quote in the context of what I now jokingly call my “year of the knee”. I have written in past Friday Flash entries about the knee surgery I had in March, and then my fall in June when I broke my leg, and after that, the rehabilitation I have experienced on my journey to be able to walk normally and without pain again. All throughout last week and this past weekend, I wondered if I would ever be able to enjoy walking on the beach, traveling to see new places, or sitting on the floor with my grandchildren again.
Despite the exercises and rehabilitation sessions, my progress seemed to be at a standstill. This past Saturday, the day after my Friday physical therapy session, I woke up in even more pain, rather than less. I was starting to finally feel a little discouraged. However, I powered through my exercises, and on Monday when I work up, the pain had subsided and my function was better than it had been any time since June.
So far this week, I have been walking better and without much discomfort. I am beginning to see the dawn! Although I would prefer to never go through this experience again, it has had its bright points. I am appreciative of so many things I can now do that just three months ago were not possible. I have had time to catch up with family and friends, because I have been restricted from doing the usual activities that often filled my time on nights and weekends. I reflect somewhat sheepishly that it took this injury and my limited mobility to make me appreciate so many things I had taken for granted before.
In many ways, my experience is symbolic of the environment in which we work today. Just like our peer organizations, UTMB is undergoing a tremendous amount of change—there is little doubt about it! Many of our initiatives have resulted from external forces over which we have little control, like multiple pay-for-performance programs or the implementation of the ICD-10 classification system. While these activities have often been a lot of work, sometimes adding stress to our day, and they haven’t always come at times when we felt like we were ready to address their intricacy, they are designed to improve quality of care and we must participate in them.
Meanwhile, there are initiatives that we have intentionally chosen to carry out at UTMB, because we understand that in order to be well positioned for the future, we must be proactive and strategic. We have had to learn a lot in a short amount of time to accomplish many of the challenging goals we set. In taking on new responsibilities and raising the bar in many ways, we have had to start doing many things differently, like working across teams and creating new partnerships. In the past year alone, we’ve opened new clinic locations, consolidated service locations, and partnered with additional community practices to better coordinate care. We successfully closed fiscal year 2015 with a positive margin, while our inpatient discharges increased by 11 percent and our outpatient encounters have grown by 16 percent. In just a matter of months, we will begin activation of the new Jennie Sealy Hospital and open the League City Hospital. We are doing exceptionally well compared to many other academic medical centers in the country!
There are days that are tough, but building our future on a strong foundation is crucial, and knowing success is just around the bend is what helps us push through. Soon, we will see the daybreak—we will make the quantum leap in quality and safety that we are working toward, we will begin caring for our patients and their families in our beautiful new hospitals, and we will continue forging new partnerships to better coordinate care in the communities we serve.
When we approach changes and challenges confidently and with a determined spirit—even though it means sometimes stepping outside of our comfort zone, we grow. Through the new knowledge we gain, we are able to make valuable contributions wherever our paths lead.
Thank you to everyone in every role at UTMB Health for the work you do each day to make our organization an excellent place for patients to receive care!