Mary Chamberlain goes to the Grand Canyon: “I have limitations, but I’m not a victim.”
Mary Chamberlain has traveled to a lot of different places in her life. She’s seen the Eiffel Tower, gazed up at the massive stone bend of the Arc de Triomphe, and stood along the banks of the River Seine in Paris. She’s trekked across Europe, soaking up history and immersing herself in the various cultures along the way.
But over the years of raising her children and working as an elementary school teacher, there was one place Chamberlain always dreamed of visiting but had yet to see: “The Grand Canyon was always No. 1 on the list,” she said. “The first thing I ever wanted as a child was to go to the Grand Canyon.”
When a pair of close friends suggested last fall that she join them for a trip, the 77-year-old from Bangor, Maine, jumped at the chance to finally make her girlhood dream come true. She just wasn’t sure her body would cooperate.
With arthritis in her hips and shoulders that makes it painful to walk, and asthma and AFib disease that can leave her short of breath, Chamberlain worried she might be more of hindrance to her friends than help. “The Grand Canyon is not a cruise,” she said. “They said don’t come if you think we’ll be spending time with you in the emergency room.”
Chamberlain turned to Ibis Health for help. A first-of-its-kind virtual chronic care management program that combines round-the-clock AI-powered monitoring with on-call clinical team support, Senscio Systems’ Ibis Health works to empower retirees like Chamberlain to live well on their own terms.
Ibis Health members receive a continuously connected tablet that helps them to track weight, medications, diet, exercise and other health indicators, flagging risks for decline before it happens. Member advocates work one-on-one to help personalize the program to users’ individual needs. Ibis Health members have reported a 37 percent decline in hospitalizations.
Chamberlain first joined the Ibis Health program two years ago because she thought it might help her keep track of her medications. “It sort of sits on my shoulder like a gentle reminder, to record when I eat, when I take my medications, and especially to take my blood pressure, my oxygen levels and my heart rate,” she said. “Those things are really important for my health and for my doctor’s ability to help me. It’s really sort of an anchor.”
Now Ibis Health was going to help her get to the Grand Canyon.
With the help and encouragement of her Ibis Health member advocate, Chamberlain set some goals: She scheduled an MRI to better assess the arthritis in her shoulder and neck and figure out ways to mitigate it. She made an appointment with her pulmonologist to determine the best way to manage her shortness of breath. And she met with a pain management team to develop strategies to address the arthritis in her hip.
“What I figured out right away was that I needed a team, and on that team were Ibis and my doctors,” Chamberlain said. “I knew I had to do some work to make it a good trip.”
Everyone was excited for her to be able to go, and the enthusiasm, especially from her Ibis Health member advocate, Lynn McNamee, was contagious, Chamberlain said.
“I’m not sure I could have gotten as clear a sense of preparing for this trip without my conversations with her,” Chamberlain said. “Just having a focus, it really perked me up. It’s so easy to become a semi-victim … especially when you live alone and you have a dog and you don’t have to go to work and you can stay in your jammies…
“I have limitations, but I’m not a victim.”
For one glorious week in January, Chamberlain finally realized her dream of seeing the Grand Canyon. She stayed at the lodge on the rim, she ate steak, and she even got stuck in a snowbank. She helped her friend memorialize her sister, who died last year. “We had so much fun,” Chamberlain said. “We laughed our heads off, I felt 12 years old. … We had a lot of girl time and that was really the best.”
While it wasn’t always easy — there was still pain to manage and she had to use a wheelchair at times — Chamberlain said it was worth it.
“The trip was really like an Olympic event for me … but I really felt proud of myself for that push,” Chamberlain said. It also helped her realize she could take control of her own health and quality of life. “I’m not going for the gold. I don’t even need the bronze. I’m just trying to walk my dog. … [But] I can do something about it. I can just sit here and stop moving. But the ball is rolling, and I’m not going to.”
And the Grand Canyon? “There aren’t any words,” Chamberlain said. “I had a wonderful awakening to what it’s like to be at something so beautiful.”
Chamberlain continues to be grateful for the Ibis Health program and especially her member advocate, McNamee. She’s setting new health goals for herself: Soon, she will have a complete spine MRI to hopefully gain a better understanding of the arthritis causing pain in her hip and shoulder.
“Right now, I’d say Ibis is my best team member. [McNamee] helps me pull it all together. … I’m really lucky that people are checking in with me once a month, that I have a resource of people to call if I need to,” Chamberlain said. “It just kind of feels like I have a lot of friends and an army of supporters.”
Another great thing about Ibis? “You guys aren’t old!” Chamberlain said. “You’ll talk to us. Young people are talking to us, woohoo!”