By Mark Olson
I was born with transposition of the arteries in my heart and had surgery to repair them when I was four days old. In fifth grade, I had another surgery to repair a narrowing of my aorta. And in November 2010, I got a pacemaker. It’s possible I’ll have another surgery in a few years to make my aortic valve stronger because it’s expanding and beginning to tear.
I’m only 18.
Given the number of medical issues I’ve faced during my short life and still face, I’ve learned how important it is to advocate for yourself in the hospital. It’s important for a few reasons. First, your doctors and nurses then know what’s going on with you and can help you. Second, you can help the hospital itself improve.
One of the ways I advocate is by participating in the Youth Advisory Council (YAC) at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. I’ve served on YAC for three years. I love Children’s, but I joined YAC because I thought I could make the hospital even better.
I believe I’ve made a difference in the lives of patients at Children’s. One way I’ve done that is by helping with the creation of the new teen lounge on the Minneapolis campus.
At meetings, I’m not one to be shy. I’m always asking questions. When I know a friend is going to the hospital, I ask him or her to give me feedback. How was the visit? Could Children’s have given better care? How? I bring the answers back to YAC.
Someday, I see myself advocating for others. And it’ll be at the bedside. I’m interested in going to medical school and specializing in cardiology. After my years of experience being a patient and a YAC member, I think I’d bring a unique perspective to the medical field.
I often tell people, “If you want something done, the only way people can know you want something done is to tell them. You’re the only person stopping something from happening.”
Mark Olson, 18, is a Youth Advisory Council Member at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota and a patient.