WOMEN'S HEALTH BLOG October 2023
Finding Purpose in Pain
Written by Mollie Tinnin
FEMA Disability Integration Specialist (Louisiana) and
Greensburg, Louisiana, Police Department Reserve Officer
Like many kids, I started planning my life from a young age, playing house with Barbies, teaching a classroom of stuffed animals, and training my pets to be police dogs. What I didn’t plan for was chasing after my dreams and hitting multiple obstacles along the way.
When I was 30, I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, and it altered my life’s path. I felt I was back to square one– learning about my diagnosis and treatments, relearning and modifying my daily life, managing the financial burden, and navigating relationships as I settled into my new normal.
At the time of my diagnosis, I was a rural mining company safety coordinator in Missouri and struggling to adjust after gastrointestinal surgery— living with a medical port and finding the energy to return to a demanding job. Thankfully, I was living close to my parents, and they helped with all aspects of my illness, care, and costs. At that time, I had no concept of healthcare barriers experienced by so many patients.
Soon, I changed careers, joined the American Red Cross, and worked in biomedical safety. I wasn’t interested in disaster response then, but when the pandemic hit, there was a shortage of volunteers. As a certified Emergency Medical Technician, I decided to use those skills to serve in Disaster Health Services after Hurricanes Laura and Delta.
On day one, I was approached about the need for a volunteer to work with medically complex shelter residents to manage care, referrals, and returning home. I happily volunteered thinking that I would be a perfect fit since I am considered medically complex. When I met my first client, I understood the physical and mental aspects of living with a chronic illness, but not health benefits, self-advocacy, cost of medical care, and lack of access. It was an eye-opening experience.
During my deployment, I soaked up knowledge. I wanted to serve Louisiana residents, and I wanted to be proactive in managing my own condition. I learned so much from the community partners, but it was the resilience and perseverance of clients that impacted me the most. I couldn’t comprehend the losses they faced while also facing the sometimes overwhelming challenges that come with living with a disability. I knew that I wanted to fight my own health challenges with the faith and tenacity these clients had exhibited.
Today, I am a proud Louisianan and a FEMA Disability Integration Specialist, collaborating with the Governor’s Office of Disability Affairs and the Emergency Management Disability and Aging Coalition (EMDAC). We support people with access and functional needs before, during and after disasters. I am also a Greensburg Police Department Reserve Officer working to connect people with resources to overcome barriers and thrive in their community.
My life experience and my daily work have fueled my passion for speaking up. I want to be part of the solution for program modifications and changes across the state to ensure resources are readily identified and accessible for those with access and functional needs.
For more information about EMDAC, including how you can support its mission to advocate for and support emergency management efforts that serve all people in Louisiana, particularly people with disabilities and those who are aging, go to EMDAC Information & Resources.