Person of the Week
Founder and CEO Practice Without Pressure an organization to help disabled people receive care with dignity
I see the faces of the families that I have helped. Parents have cried in my arms and said, “Thank God we found you.” Those are the times that I remember and I say, “Well, we just have to keep moving forward.”
1. What led you to the mission of being the founder and CEO of Practice Without Pressure – an organization to help disabled people receive care with dignity?
The mission of Practice Without Pressure is to help people — especially those with disabilities — receive quality medical, dental, and personal care with dignity and respect and without trauma, restraint, and sedation. It is a new industry that I have created. It doesn’t exist anywhere else. We also work with family members, caregivers, and clinicians – everyone in the circle.
What led me to being the founder of Practice Without Pressure is my son Mark who is sitting next to me right now, “Right buddy? I’m going to tell your story. Is that OK?” (He is giving me a grin!)
Mark has Down’s Syndrome. He also has heart issues and other medical issues that we have had to deal with. He got so frightened with anything in his personal space that you couldn’t come near him for anything – haircuts, cutting his nails, blood draws – anything like that. He was just scared to death.
I couldn’t stand it any more. When he was eleven, he was screaming and crying so loud about an allergy test, blood vessels were bursting in his little face. That was awful. It was awful! It was awful! I believed that I was meant to do something about this. I stopped the process at that moment and said, “We can’t do this any more.”
I devised what we now use as a practice model to help people through blood draws. Then we tried it on dental and haircuts. Then we found it worked on orthodontist consults. So I knew he was doing so well with the technique, that I thought it would benefit other people and they could do as well as he was doing.
That was the start of it. We have since grown to include training for family members, caregivers, and clinicians. It is just really pretty cool! We have a center in Newark, Delaware. Procedures are done such as dental work, phlebotomy, women’s health exams, haircuts and nails – a lot of work for folks who before were never able to get work done without sedation or papoose boards.
2. What does this mission mean to you?
This work means the world to me. Sometimes the work is really hard, but I look at my son and I get very emotional about this. How could I have done anything different? To give up on Practice Without Pressure would be to give up on him and all the folks that have to try so much harder just to live and try to have a good life.
3. What was your best day as a founder and CEO of Practice Without Pressure?
There are many very best days! My very best days are when I have seen someone who has so much pain and so much fear – and then they see that they can do a procedure without trauma! They can do the procedure and say, “I did it!” Or you see someone who doesn’t speak and their eyes get bright and you can see they are doing well! They see that they can do it. You also see the dentist who says, “Oh wow! They really can do this.” I also see a family member cry because they never ever thought they would see their kid get through a haircut. Those are my best days.
4. What was your worst day as a founder and CEO of Practice Without Pressure?
My absolute darkest day was when a little boy was treated like “dirt” at a haircut place. I knew that I had to do something about it. That is what led to the founding of my center.
There are a lot of dark times making a nonprofit organization from the ground up. This is an industry that has never been created before. The darkest days are when the answers seem so hard that I want to give up. But I just can’t!
5. How did you survive your worst day?
How do I survive? God. I have a deep faith. I am deeply spiritual. I know that I just can’t give up. That’s what gets me through it. I look at my son or walk through my center and I see people that have not been given a chance — no one has given them a chance.
We have a gentleman coming in who is so involved and affected by his disability that he has blinded himself and scrapes his skin. He has pulled his ears almost off. Nobody in his forty plus years has ever given him a chance. But at Practice Without Pressure things are different for him. He comes in and he knows everybody cares about him. We give him dental work with no sedation. He just opens his mouth like a trooper.
Knowing that I’m the one who started this, makes me realize I just can’t let it go. I look at those faces. I see those people. I just couldn’t send them back to the torture that they have gone through before.
The work is fun. We talk a lot about the joy of doing this work. We laugh a lot. (We really do!) I see people come in and they’ll have a little kid running around with them. We begin working with this kid and we laugh. It is fun. People with disabilities are just like everybody else. They like to laugh. I will insert humor into a situation and all of a sudden all the anxiety vanishes and we move forward.
I see the need that clinicians have to treat people with disabilities. For the most part, many clinicians really want to treat folks, but they have never been taught how to do work in a way that doesn’t cause trauma. I’ve seen their faces and frustration.
But then I see the faces of the families that I have helped. Fathers have cried in my arms and said, “Thank God we found you.” Those are the times that I remember and I say, “Well, we just have to keep moving forward.”