On Borrowed Time
David Robinson is a Senior Trainer of Development. In his role, he trains fellow Magellan Health employees on how to interact with members in times of need. David works remotely from Albany, New York where he lives with his wife and two sons.
The birth of their first son, Miles, changed the Robinson family’s life forever. For David in particular, it changed his view of the work he does at Magellan, his experience with empathy, and the importance of work-life flow.
Miles was born with Microlissencephaly, a rare condition that causes the brain to develop atypically, resulting in severe developmental delays, seizures, and intellectual disabilities. Miles’ life expectancy was two years; by miracle, he’s already two years beyond that. For people who share Miles’ diagnosis, “There's really no adults, there’s no teenagers, so you get this sense that we’re on borrowed time,” David explained.
Before Miles was born, David’s healthcare experience had been a provider at Magellan Health—training pharmacists, doctors, and customer service representatives. “I’ve never broken a bone, I’ve never had a surgery, I hadn’t seen my doctor in ten years,” David recalls. Prior to the birth of his son, David was always the one who “taught others how to give the answers;” he wasn’t the one getting them.
This all changed when David became a Dad. “Now I’m on the other side of the counter, and it’s a drastically different experience,” David explains. “When I'm standing at the pharmacy and the pharmacist is telling me ‘it’s too soon to get your prescription,’ I don't know why it's too soon. All I know is Miles can't eat without it. He's fed through a tube, we give him his medication through a little syringe. Maybe we dropped a little, maybe we measured it wrong. All I know is I can't go home without it. I know how it feels to be scared until they finally say ‘hey, we’re going to fill it.’”
Experiences like this lend perspective. When David is waiting for his son’s medication, he isn’t thinking about the sensible reasons why there may be a delay; he isn’t thinking about the necessary protocols that must be followed. All he’s worried about in that moment is getting Miles what he needs.
David admits he never fully appreciated being on the receiving end of empathy before Miles. This all changed with one phone call. “About two months before Miles was due, I had to fly St. Louis and my wife had just taken an MRI, but we didn't know the diagnosis when I left. We went from everything's fine to something doesn’t look right. My wife called me crying because nobody was responding to her questions about the test results.”
“So I called and spoke to the office manager with all the pain and frustration that you can imagine a prospective father in that situation might have. She would have been completely within her right to hang up the phone, but she didn’t. You see, it still affects me today,” David explained. “She stopped. And she said, ‘I'm sorry you have to go through this.”
David’s experience with the office manager who had to deliver the hardest news possible, who could have hung up but didn’t, and who could have been dismissive but wasn’t, changed him. “She felt my pain as one human being to another human being and it stopped me in my tracks.”
Four years later, David recalls this as the defining moment that changed how he views his role at Magellan. “The most important thing I can teach people is empathy. I train my team to understand we can't always give the member the drug that they might want. We can't always say yes, but we can always be understanding human beings.”
David brings this important perspective to his team while working from his home office, which enables him to be there for Miles and Magellan. Recently, Miles was unexpectedly admitted to the hospital for seizures. David was able to be there with him—guilt free. “I conducted a virtual training session from the ICU. The advanced technology Magellan offers to enable remote collaboration made it possible for me to be in two places at once. I can’t describe how important that is to me.”
“You see, I rarely have to miss time. I'm able to design my work schedule to fit the way our lives are set up. Considering the nature of the issues I'm dealing with at home, that is huge. It’s a testament to how well Magellan is set up to enable remote collaboration.”
“If you would have asked me four years ago where I’d be today, there is absolutely no chance I would have said, ‘working from home and savoring the precious time I have with my son.’ Looking back, the flexibility I received at work afforded me this opportunity. What would I have done otherwise?"