Finding an audience, a focus and a voice involves place, time and circumstances.
So, I knew what I’d talk about when I arrived at Hackensack University Medical Center the first week of July to see Matthew C. Sheehan, my best friend from growing up in northwest New Jersey who had long been looking for something meaningful to write about and had just been diagnosed with a rare blood disease.
Let’s get you to write about enduring the often-maligned U.S. healthcare industry at a time of great national interest. Of course, Matt, who graduated in May 2008 from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst with dual biology and journalism degrees, already had it in mind.
With graciously offered hosting space from my Philadelphia partner in media obsession Sean Blanda, a WordPress template and a few hours of my tinkering and Matt’s first couple weeks writing, I present MyPICCLine.com, his personal journey through the healthcare industry.
He’s tried before. My blogroll is stuffed with aborted attempts by Matt to be passionate about something. The kid can write, but writing about media or his native and beloved New Jersey or coupling such Garden State thinking with his freelance writing, never seemed to excite him enough to keep him motivated.
Thus far, he curates healthcare news, updates followers on his personal whereabouts (in of hospital, out of hospital, at the clinic, holed up in his parents’ Sussex County abode or his Weehawken walkup) and, most passionately, will share the mental state of a 23 year old who just this month was diagnosed with aplastic anemia, a blood disease that less than a 1,000 Americans are afflicted with annually.
His traffic, which in just the first week without promotion and fanfare has fanned around 200-250 hits a day, blew higher, and he saw an outpouring of comments and e-mails after he wrote just such a post last week.
Just last night, right before bed my mother filed my toe nails. Nurses my age walk by, I just smile and nod as mother rounds off the edges.
“Much better,” she adds, gently wipings my feet down with alcohol, we have to be cautious, I can’t afford any infections.
“Thanks mom,” I return in a tone she hardly deserves.
I’m a 23-year-old, who was working full-time less than three weeks ago, living in my own apartment, filing my own nails. [Read the rest here]
In fact, even earlier than I wanted, our hometown newspaper the N.J. Herald reached out and ran a big, front-page story on Matt and his condition. It was before Matt found his voice on My PICC Line and too early on in the process for the promotion, frankly, but there’s no turning down some good press. I hope very much to help him get larger publications to cover the site, too, and otherwise build his traffic.
Matt is passionate about writing consistently and meaningfully, developing a larger audience with whom he can share the story he and so many others have to tell and, more specifically, of trying to increase bone marrow and even blood donations — two things that will, yes, ultimately save his life.
There is a great emotional value to writing. This we’ve known for generations. The worst result of doing this, I told Matt, would be that no one reads it and in the coming years he’ll be able to look back and see his state of mind (and of blogging) at the beginning.
The best result, and something I think is entirely possible, is that he’ll develop a real readership, increase bone marrow donors (even by a very small number) find his own writing voice and niche and, really, keep him active and with purpose.
It’s too compelling a story to not follow and enjoy — whether you know him, or perhaps even more so — if you don’t.