Sunday, April 10, 2011

The trouble with publicity stunts - very one-sided and all about the theatrics

Oh. My. God.

I'm a nurse. A modern-day Florence Nightingale, an 'angel of mercy', out to meet and slay the ills of humanity at every turn.

So, why does this story make me spurt milk out my nose in disbelief?

Damn, people, where do I begin? There are so many things wrong here. Where do I begin?

OK, a brief synopsis in case the link goes inactive someday...

The 18-year old sister of former Paradise mayoral candidate Kurtis Coombs is in a car accident 2 years ago, and suffers some kind of back and leg injuries, leaving her in chronic pain. She was provided with an ergonomic chair to allow her to continue her studies at MUN, which, it seems, was not effective, and she eventually dropped out and stayed immobile, at home.

She was sent to Halifax where she received treatment, and upon returning to Newfoundland a month ago, her chronic pain returned. The family have been waging a war with Eastern Health and the provincial government ever since.

This is what I could establish from the article I read on CBC, which is linked above, as well as this one from The Telegram website. (The Telegram, in their leap backwards into the 18th century, indicates that there will be more details in their print edition of the paper. How very cavemannish of them. If they do decide to share any further details online, I will post the updates here.)

Apparently, according to a slip of confidentiality last week by Vicki Kaminski on Open Line, there is no hydrotherapy available in Newfoundland to accommodate a woman of Ms. Coombs generous proportions. That breach of privacy was very unfortunate, but does give some insight into a saga whose publicity is, by the family's design, decidedly one-sided.

No one in the general public knew anything about this tale of woe, until the Coombs family decided on Thursday to get an ambulance to bring this girl, on a stretcher, to the House of Assembly, where her shrieking in pain was so disruptive that the Legislature had to be put into recess for the day.

Their publicity stunt worked. And this is where my 'angel of mercy'-ness goes into hiding. If this young woman is in that much pain, did they really think a jaunt to the Confederation Building was going to be good for her?

Premier Kathy Dunderdale left the Legislature and went to speak with the family and the girl, and was, according to the video, unable to get a word in edgewise.

I can't post the video directly here. You'll have to go into the article, the first link above, to see it. Be sure to see the press conference by Kathy Dunderdale and Jerome Kennedy, too.

So, here's where I get all unsympathetic about their cause...

They stage this publicity stunt for the news cameras and newspaper, but muzzle everyone who can give any insight to the public on the other side of this issue. All they want is for us to know they're angry, not the responses they were given. IF those responses from Eastern Health and the provincial government were so outrageous, it would be to their benefit for the public to know them. BUT, if those responses would not support their freak show antics, then it would be best to keep everyone muzzled, wouldn't it. Yes, it would.

The fact that they, up to now, will not allow the Premier, Minister of Health or the CEO of Eastern Health to respond to their charges publically makes me believe that something in their story is not going to make the family look good in the court of public opinion.

Mrs. Dunderdale made it quite clear in the news conference - Eastern Health has been instructed to provide whatever care is "medically appropriate". She also stated that neither she nor Minister Jerome Kennedy are medical professionals, and are not going to be involved with the minutiae of medical decisions. What more can she do or say?

Why am I thinking that the family want's their home renovated on the government's dime to accommodate an 8-person Jacuzzi, and they're not getting what they want? If not this, then it is something equally outrageous that they don't want the public to know. They're happy flapping their own "how can you be a mother" gums, but not willing to let that person defend herself, or explain what steps have been taken to address the 30+ letters the government has received. 

Bringing that young woman to the House of Assembly on a stretcher, crying out in pain, was absolutely unnecessary and completely tacky and heartless.

They could have invited the media into their home, where they would have been interviewed and able to air their grievances. The media, though, might have insisted on being able to question the Premier and the Health Minister to get the other side of the issue, so scratch that idea. Any reporter, even the worst of them, would have asked questions that I believe the Coombs family could not answer in any way that would have garnered public support for their case. By showing up in this dramatic fashion at the House of Assembly, they got their publicity, without the necessity of being asked questions, or allowing for the airing of the other side of the story. THIS is the only scenario that was a win-win for them.

Notice that behind the yelling mother is Kurtis Coombs, mumbling something about 'freedom of speech'. How ironic that he's only interested in his own freedom of speech, while at the same time preventing anyone with any knowledge of the case to express their views. 

As one commenter at the bottom of The Telegram's story wrote:
"what's that?....i think I just heard collective sigh of relief from the entire community of Paradise for Coombs not getting voted in as mayor."
Ain't that the truth?!?!

All I know is this... if the government's / Eastern Health's responses to their demands were so outrageous, we would know about them. The government has asked for permission from the family to speak publically, but they're denying that permission. That says it all to me.

I wish this girl well, I really do. I think the biggest obstacle to her recovery is not the government or Eastern Health, but her family, who seem more intent on making a sideshow spectacle out of her dilemma.

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