The first Walking Gallery member to fall: Regina Holliday on Jess Jacobs

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Walking Gallery artist and patient advocate Regina Holliday

On August 10, I was so excited to share that we had reached another milestone in the Walking Gallery. Five years into our patient rights movement we had reached 400 members!  I even shared the post that lists where everyone lives. I loved the picture blogger chose for the post. It was me and Jess assembling the Walking Gallery in its lego form.

A lot of people read that post and reminded me they had moved to a new state or country. I dutifully changed the post for each request.

Today I added a new country to the post. I called it Heaven. I placed Jess Jacobs there and cried.

Isaac saw me crying and asked me why. I told him Jess Jacobs died. Our friend from D.C. we played legos with and visited in the hospital.
 

Jess had been fighting for her life for years. You would have never known that from looking at her. She was a statuesque beauty who understood health policy. She was gracious and kind and great at Twitter. 
 

 
Jess Joined the Walking Gallery in 2012 and her jacket is number 211. "Is she okay?" Her patient story told about her POTS condition.  
 
 
When I painted her jacket, I depicted one of the times she fell faint to the pavement. She woke to find strangers looking down upon her. She would laugh off such medical adventures and do her job and help her friends. She helped build the lego Walking Gallery and helped prepare for the 2012 gathering in D.C.  

 

 

 
In the summer of 2013, I moved to Grantsville and did not get to see Jess as much in person. She began to have more problems with her care and we created a secret group on facebook to help Jess. I recruited lovely friends who live in DC and who had never met Jess before but would come over to check on her and make sure she was okay. Jess reached out to many other close friends and added them to the group so she could have advocates and people to help.  
 

 

 
For the past two years I have had to watch from afar as this wonderful woman grew sicker. I watched her fight to keep working, fight to be admitted to hospitals, and fight to be believed.  
 
I watched as so many people fell away from her life as it became clear that she was not getting better.  
I asked her to join us at Cinderblocks 2 in May. She said she would love to go but she thought she was probably too sick. 
 
This is the way I would like to remember Jess. I see her at my dining room table building lego mini figures with Isaac. 
 
But I will always see another Jess, as I advocate for better healthcare around the world. I will see her as a patient that the system failed to care for. I will see her struggle and I will fight for change.
 
I will never forget she was the first to fall. We will miss her always. 
 
This post originally appeared on Regina Holliday's Medical Advocacy blog.

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