Mere weeks ago at the Symposium on Advanced Wound Care (SAWC) in Dallas, TX, 27-year old Charles (Chuck) Rakis received a standing ovation from more than 2,000 clinicians and other healthcare professionals. He spoke about his 10-year experience as a T-10 paraplegic and the wound care his condition has necessitated for last 8 years. His situation was the result of reckless driving (attempting to win a car race with his friends) — the audience shared his pain as he explained how until the day of his accident, he had always felt ahead of the race. The paralysis, along with a wound that developed 8 years ago, had left him with little more than an uphill and seemingly endless climb to simply experience some semblance of what it meant to be “normal” again.
“I know I can’t be a great football player in the NFL,” Chuck said with regard to one of his childhood dreams. “I just want to be like everyone else. I want to be like you. I just want to be normal.” He described what his wound care means to him as the basis for his lecture. He had prepared pages of handwritten descriptions; 3 minutes before his talk, he threw his written speech away. In only a few heartfelt words, he made it very clear to the audience what wound care meant to his life. “Wound care,” he said, stopping to compose himself, “is my life.”
Although the ballroom was silent, there was a resounding echo in that silence that was very clear at that moment: “This could be me. This could be any one of us, sitting in his spot up on stage, making a plea for someone to listen.” Chuck wasn’t asking for much. He wasn’t even asking for something for himself. He was asking for help on behalf of everyone who has walked (and now might not) in his shoes. He reminded his audience that no life is so precious that it can’t be changed in an instant — that no matter how many times any of us think, “That would never be me,” we could be wrong.
Chuck is one of millions who suffer with wounds, one of millions who need a voice. His courage to be the initial speaker to head off the AAWC’s initiative for a “500 Patient Campaign” was a life-altering event for him.
“Through this conference, I’ve finally forgiven that 18-year old kid,” he said after his presentation. “This conference has changed my life. Suddenly, I have a purpose beyond this (wheel)chair. If I can help even one person through sharing what I’ve learned — through sharing my mistakes as well as my successes over the last 10 years – then I believe my continuous struggle has been and will continue to be worth it.”
William J. Ennis, DO, MBA, President of the AAWC, who moderated the session at the SAWC, followed Chuck’s touching lecture with a plea to the audience to support the AAWC’s newest initiative, the “500 Patient Campaign.” With a modest $30 tax-deductible donation to the AAWC in the form of membership dues, everyone has the opportunity to sponsor an AAWC Patient Member. The result of such efforts will be the creation of a true patient advocacy group, a large body within the AAWC that seeks to spread awareness of wound care patient and caregiver needs. All patient or caregiver members will receive the same benefits as any clinician. In time, the AAWC will, through input from our Patient Members, develop specific benefits for this growing membership segment. The patient group will be led by Laurie Rappl, a physical therapist, certified wound specialist, patient advocate, and past AAWC Board Member, who is a T-12 paraplegic.
Please become a part of the AAWC’s “500 Patient Campaign.” Tell a patient that you would like to sponsor him or her and sign up him or her online at www.aawconline.org  by selecting join/renew from the Membership drop down menu found at the top right side of the AAWC’s home page.
If you have no specific patient to sponsor, send a letter or call the AAWC to be added to a list of individuals who will, over time, be connected to a patient in need. You may even specify whether you would like to sponsor a man or woman, as well as a specific location in the United States or abroad.
For more information, call the AAWC’s Membership Liaison at:
(800) 237-7285, ext. 233 or (610) 560-0500, ext. 233, or, mail your request to:
83 General Warren Blvd.
Malvern, PA 19355.
This article was not subject to the Ostomy Wound Management peer-review process.