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The wakeup call behind the ransomware story

Last week a story I wrote, A Ransomware Wakeup Call, was published by For the Record Magazine, a publication focused on health information management and technology. It's interesting if you're in that field, but that's not the point of this blog.

On February 14, 2018 I interviewed the subject of my story, Dr. Glenn Chapman, medical director of Surfside Non-Surgical Orthopedics in Boynton Beach, FL. His practice had been shut down for more than a week by the ransomware attack that struck his electronic health record vendor.

He was stressed. It was easy enough to hear in his voice. He wavered between anger and outright fear; plenty of what he said couldn't be quoted in the story. He had been backed into a corner by fallible technology on which his entire career depended and he was going to battle against a billion-dollar corporation. He had just instigated a class-action lawsuit against Allscripts. At the same time he was jumping through the hoops of the American health care system and trying to sustain a lifestyle we, in this country, have come to call normal.

After the formal interview, our conversation veered to a subject I had become increasing interested in: the suicide rate among physicians. It's really high. He had plenty to say about that, too, but that's also not the point of this blog.

I was conducting the interview on my cell phone, sitting in my car in the parking lot of a Panera Bread. I had been in Nashville for a few days for a conference and had stopped somewhere along my drive home. I was nearing the one-year mark as director of marketing operations for a company within the broader health care space. I picked up the gig to write the story because I had already given my notice at work and was rekindling my former freelance connections.

My own stress level was through the roof. I had recently started having panic attacks, and my hour-long daily commute and workdays were punctuated by a tightening in my throat and chest. It was difficult to talk myself out of the belief that I was having a heart attack...every day. I spent more and more mental energy fearing/believing that I was going to die early. Over the course of the year I had also developed a debilitating fear of flying. I flew often which exacerbated the panic attacks.

At the same time, I was making a very comfortable salary and began setting my life up around that salary. In the back of my head, I knew it wasn't sustainable. I wasn't much fun to be around when I actually was around. I wasn't the parent I wanted to be. I certainly wasn't the spouse I wanted to be. I wasn't doing joyful work in the world. And, to top it off, I knew the level of cortisol coursing through my body was truly going to kill me. We would later just call it cancer or heart failure.

Back to February 14th. Dr. Chapman was at the end of his rope. I was at the end of my rope. But, we could still speak intellectually about the suicide rate among physicians as a thing out there that wasn't ours to own.

Then, I hung up the phone, and turned on NPR for the drive home. In the course of my 45-minute conversation, 17 people had been gunned down at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, coincidentally 30 minutes away from Dr. Chapman's practice.

Apparently a young man just down the road had also been at the end of his rope. Another thing out there that isn't ours to own but that we have a lot of intellectual words for.

I am, after all, a little unclear on the point of this blog. Hopefully the unraveling of the American myth that we're all watching in technicolor right now will lead to a healthier alignment for all of us.

If you're looking for me, I'm at home writing and trying to build something sustainable.

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