Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Coventry Health Care Inc of Bethesda MD Suspicions

“Justice and power must be brought together, so that whatever is just may be powerful, and whatever is powerful may be just.”    ~ Blaise Pascal

Tuesday's Tirade
David v. Goliath, My Third Stone
The Women’s Retreat Conference of the catholic Diocese of Wheeling Charleston sponsors two weekend retreats for women every year. Here I met strong people of faith who encouraged and greatly strengthened me to pursue justice. One holy man is Fr. Mike.

In April 2004, I met Fr. Michael Greb, O.F.M., a hermit with the Capuchin order of friars in the Catholic Church. As a Capuchin hermit, Father Mike offers half of each day to prayer and the other half to service. He was my spiritual director beginning in 2004 through December 2006.

Fr. Mike is a lovable bear whose warmth and hospitality is present in every gesture. He is also a modern day prophet. In the guidance, unconditional love, and compassion he gave me, he has sustained me as I advocate for the mentally ill.

In my September 2004 journal, I recorded:

“Father Mike desires that I write my story, focusing on the very human struggle to survive over great obstacles as one walks in Faith. He blessed me by saying that my gifts – intellect and ability to communicate well - must not be lost because of others’ misunderstanding of my mental illness and its symptoms. He expressed his sincere belief that I would do great things.”

I last spoke with Fr. Mike Greb in December 2006. My husband Tom and I were asked to address local diocesan priests about the need for support for  the mentally ill in our parishes. At the end of the meeting Fr. Mike and I said our goodbyes.

Suddenly Fr, Mike reappeared briefly. He looked directly at me and said, “Do not be afraid!”

I smiled and replied, “Those are Pope John Paul II’s words. (Pope John Paul II began every one of his audiences with this admonition).

“No, it was Jesus Christ who called us forth.!”

Tuesday’s Tale
And So I Blog…

I am an unlikely hero: a senior citizen, a woman, living on disability with little exposable income, two social security checks for my husband and myself. But I do believe in the richness of possibilities. I believe that David did conquer Goliath so, for this and many other good reasons, I have devoted over five years of my life to issues of justice in health care for the mentally ill.

My father’s heroic spirit inspired me to set my sights high. To persevere and be bold.

Who I am is important to this story. I was born into a family of litigators, prominent in Wheeling, West Virginia – the O’Briens of Country Cork Ireland. My great grandfather Col Thomas O’Brien immigrated to the United States in 1830. With his wife Katherine Gilespie, and the O’Briens rose in stature in the community and in the state with the Colonel becoming the first Secretary of State in West Virginia.

The following extract is from an editorial appearing in the Wheeling Register on the day following the death of Colonel O'Brien:

Colonel O'Brien was a man of exceptionally strong personality and sterling integrity. Mistakes he made, as we all do, but they were always of the head and not the heart. Probably at no time in his long and busy career did he espouse a cause until he had first satisfied himself that it was just and worthy, and the movement which enlisted him in its support always had a vigorous and influential advocate and defender. He never lacked the courage of his convictions. His interest in public affairs was broad, and he was a militant factor in many campaigns for civic betterment and for the moral improvement of the community.

Colonel O'Brien was called to many positions of responsibility and trust, and he invariably laid them down honorably. He was conscientious and painstaking in his public service; conservative and safe in his financial and business activities. He was devoted to his church and its interests without being narrow and intolerant in his religious views, and during a half century of unusual activity in this community his character was never assailed. His usefulness may not be measured so much by constructive enterprises and business movements in which he was a factor, as by his influence upon the moral and material welfare of the community, and the splendid example to young men which his career affords.

The O’Brien character traits have been passed down from generation to generation. There are over 600 O’Brien’s in the Colonel’s extensive family. Uppermost to many has been the practice of the Catholic faith and virtues including integrity, honesty, community service, and humility.

Not as highly prized to many in my family, Colonel O’Brien passed on the bipolar gene to family members. While the gene does not manifest itself in the majority of the O’Brien family, many have lived and suffered with this debilitating mental illness. I am one of these O'Brien as was my late  father, Richard J O'Brien, Jr..

It is likely that my first bipolar symptom occurred following my father’s tragic death in 1965. At that time, there was little knowledge of bipolar illness, known then as manic depression. Oftentimes it remained undiagnosed for years. It was not shocking that it took doctors until 1991 to diagnose my illness.

By 1996, with proper treatment and a healthy understanding of the life changes I needed to make, I began to smile, to celebrate life again, and share my successes with others. Hope replaced fear and I became an advocate for the mentally ill. I speak for those who are still very frightened and confused. I offer them unconditional acceptance and love.

I could not ask for a more fulfilling way to spend my days. The mentally ill have become my treasure.

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