How a poster can truly save a life

By Allison Johnson

Over this mild Labor Day weekend, I had the great pleasure of hosting my boyfriend’s parents. An inevitable event, one that I had been counting down for quite some time. It wasn’t dread, as much as anxiety that I had slowly become inundated with. As the weekend neared and our plans became more and more sound, I realized that I would not have much time to manage my studies as I’d preferred. Unfortunately, I tend to run my academic timeframes right to the edge and this weekend seemed to just be another example of my ability to misuse and mismanagement time. However, During a more rigorous walk around Eden park than I’d like to admit I stumbled upon the perfect thing to discuss.

I remember hearing faintly about Jack’s (my boyfriend’s father) heart surgery. Jacques and I had been dating only a few months and he seemed unfazed by the news that his father would need surgery, however it seemed like his entire family was under reacting. I have now learned however, they are a very stoic people and keep most everything close to their chests. I didn’t want to pry so I didn’t ask many questions at the time.

After taking a break from our walk, one that I was sadly quite winded from, I asked Jacques’ mother Esther about a scar just under her chin that she had been subconsciously rubbing. I asked her if it was new and what had happened. I think this is to date one of the most miraculous storied I have ever heard:

She described to me how she received the scar and the events to follow. It had happened one evening in mid-December while her and Jack were watching their Friday night movie on the couch. As Esther returned to the living room from the kitchen she accidently tripped over the cord to the lap and hit her chin on the hardwood floor. Instantly, her chin began to profusely bleed.

Jack rushed Esther to the emergency room, where he waited patiently in the seating area reviewing magazines, wall posters and all the other cliché waiting room decals. Esther received a suitable amount of stiches and was sent on her merry way. Beyond the traumatic interruption, to what would have been a mundane Friday night, nothing seemed overly significant.

Jack insisted on accompanying Esther to her check up to have her stiches removed. A gesture that was not like him to make. Then after she received a clean bill of health, Jack told the Doctor he would like to speak with them. He blatantly stated that he thinks he might have a heart attack and would like to order tests. Both the Doctor and Esther were quite surprise by this request. Jack had never mentioned any previous concerns and was very calm and matter of fact about it all.

Apparently, while Jack had been perusing the countless posters in the waiting area at the emergency room he had come across one for the early symptoms of a heart attack. A similar poster is represented below. One symptom had continued to catch his eye, “shortness of breath”. He was reminded of how easily winded he’d become mowing the lawn and doing household repairs and over the week between hospital visits he’s suspicious had continued to rise.

Upon examination it turned out that Jack had two heavily clogged arteries. The type of blockage he had is most commonly referred to as the “widow maker”. That next Wednesday, on New Year’s Eve of 2015, Jack had open heart surgery and got his first two of the four stints he now has on and next to his heart.

This story moved me, I was so enchanted by the notion that the stars must have aligned to have something so traumatic happen to Esther to get Jack t the emergency room where he luckily was called to action by the information that he obtained from a poster to get checked out before it was too late. It was extremely fortunate that the events that occurred happened and Jack was aware enough to seek further examination.

I cannot stop thinking however, about the poster. I have sat in countless waiting rooms and passively glazed over medical magazines, pamphlets and posters. I am impressed with this ­­beautiful story where the informative poster saved the day, but I can’t stop wondering about how that poster came to be. What the brainstorming behind it must have looked like, who and how they narrowed down the information provided to both catch the reader’s eye, provided vital information and encouraged action.



One thought on “How a poster can truly save a life

  1. I really enjoyed how you conveyed this message through a story. As we discussed in class it really helped draw the connections between health and how we communicate not only our experiences but how we learn about symptoms. It’s really interesting that a poster, which most people usually ignore actually had such a profound effect on your boyfriends family. Thank you for sharing!

    Victoria Obermeyer


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