Journaling. It's a foreign concept to some.
When Jason Pablo's social worker at Stanford Hospital urged him to record his heart transplant journey, he had no idea where to start.
Meanwhile, his wife, Aliw, was overwhelmed by repeatedly responding to questions about Jason's health. "It started getting depressing," Aliw said. "I told people he was okay so that I didn't have to cover the details."
CaringBridge was a godsend for both of them.
Easy to Use
Creating and updating a site was easy for the Pablos as Stanford has free Wi-Fi and Jason had his laptop there. Aliw forwarded a link to Jason's site to family, friends and work colleagues, and soon people from Europe, the Philippines, Hawaii and across the continental U.S. were following the "soap opera" of the 35-year-old's transplant.
Long Health Journey
Jason's health journey started in 2000, when he was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, a disease that affects the heart's ability to pump blood through the body. Progressively, his stamina and ability to do the activities he loved - basketball, tennis and playing with his two young children - diminished. He was in and out of the hospital many times during the next eight years. Finally in August 2008, he went into the hospital, not to be released until after his long recovery from his September 5, 2008, heart transplant surgery.
Jason's CaringBridge site was the only means for people to receive updates on his wait for a heart and the results of surgery. Aliw and Jason updated the journal frequently through his recovery and complications, including a scary bout with pneumonia late in 2008.
"I used to think I didn't want to remember the hard stuff, the trying times," Aliw said. "Journaling was very therapeutic though."
The Party Guy
Jason said, "At first, I didn't know how I felt about CaringBridge. Then I read the guestbook entries. The support was a tremendous lift to my whole entire spirit. I didn't realize we knew that many people." The nurses on his floor did though. They dubbed him "the party guy" because of his generally jovial personality and throngs of visitors.
"So many people were pulling and praying for my family and me," Jason said. "It gave me strength for my recovery. I felt like I had to do my best to recover for them."
The guestbook entries continue to encourage Jason today. "When I get down now, I go back and read the site and realize it was worse before and I got through it. It's great medicine to see the support and see how I dealt with and survived the condition."
Because of journal posts on CaringBridge, the Pablo's also received help with the kids during their summer break and care packages to help ease their burdens.
Jason's health has now stabilized and he's slowly returning to the activities he loves. Happily, Jason's CaringBridge story will soon conclude with the creation of a CaringBook, a customized keepsake book of his journal, photos and guestbook messages that he and his family can use to remember the activity and emotion surrounding the experience.