Friday, July 30, 2010

Bringing Sanity to Mass Communication

Back in January, as I was beginning my journey with breast cancer, I quickly discovered that, one of the biggest challenges of getting sick, is that
my friends all wanted to know how I was doing, and more importantly....how they could help me. I found myself fielding lots phone calls at all times of the day and night, and I felt like I was always repeating myself...."haven't we already talked about this?"  I didn't know who I'd spoken to, couldn't remember what I'd said or who I'd spoken to, and frankly, it was tiring for me.  But I clearly understood the love and concern of my friends, and their need to know what was going on, so that I didn't feel alone.  

In frustration one day, as I chatted with my friend Patti, I remember saying that "I just needed an easy way to communicate with my friends and family, you know, post it once and let them log in to see what was going on."  I've been around technology long enough that I was sure there was a solution, I just didn't know about it.  Her answer,"why don't you just set up a CaringBridge site?"  My startled response, "I've never heard of CaringBridge."  Turns out this is the best kept secret on the internet!! 


It was easy to get started.  You can do this as a patient, or someone on your caregiving team can work the magic!  Once the basics were in place I could start typing my thoughts into the journal section.  I can share thoughts, test results, updates and more, once.  Then friends and family can log into the site with a web browser and get the exact same information, when it's convenient for them.  Did I mention that the best part is I only have to post it once!?  My CaringBridge journal has significantly cut down on the number of phone calls, which allowed me to get the rest I needed and heal.

I still get lots of calls, but now it's to offer good wishes, fill in some of the details on what I posted and catch up on their lives...it's the best!  Since I started using Dragon Naturally Speaking, I just speak my thoughts into their journal site and it's even quicker!  The guestbook section allows anyone to leave encouraging messages, which has proved invaluable over the past few months, helping to keep my attitude positive and strong.

CaringBridge is easy to setup, easy to maintain and more importantly it easy to share the login credentials.  This was a huge help when I was in the hospital, when everyone was the most worried!   No one had the burden of answering a million phone calls to find out how I was doing!

The most time consuming part of getting started was collecting all of the e-mail addresses of friends and family and sending the URL once I had the site set up.   This part requires a bit of advance work, but it's worth the extra effort.  To the Dev team at CaringBridge, if you're listening...it would be awesome if there was a built-in tool to import an address book!! 

I use Outlook.  I used the export feature and created a master list of friends and their phone #/e-mail addresses.  From there, I created about 10 logical categories, based on a common thread (e.g. church, relatives, colleagues, belly dance, etc) and asked one friend in each group to be the point person.  I gave each point person a list of close friends associated to that group and then gave the master list to my friend Cindy.  Several friends sent out an advance notice, pointing their list members to the site early!

The best part of all this, in my opinion, happened on surgery day.  Cindy made about 15 calls and one posting to the site to start the communication tree; notifying about 450 of my friends and family members, scattered across the world, that I had made it through surgery with flying colors. It was awesome!

To get started, go to www.caringbridge.org.  Have fun, pass the word about this cool resource, and let me know how it's going!

3 comments:

Don Henry said...

Kathie,

Saw your picture on linkedin and felt something had changed, so I thought I would drop you a line on your site. Can't beleive it's been 5 years since Bill passed. Didn't know you were on your own path to recovery. The site you mentioned was used by a friend and it was very successful in keeping all informed as to their activities. I hope and pray everything is going well. Drop me a line if you get a chance.

Best of everything,
Don Henry

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