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I Was There Too: Ali Martens

I Was There Too is a series of conversations I am having with other medical moms and photographers who are telling stories of life for families with medical complexities.

Meet Ali Martens.

A mother works on a puzzle while her son enjoys the sunshine at Rotary Flames House.
A little down time in the sunroom at the Rotary Flames House.

I first met Ali in real life at the Children’s Healthcare Canada Conference last December. Ali is one tough medical mama and I was lucky enough to get to spend a morning with her and Jacob at Rotary Flames House in Calgary later that month.

A parent advocate speaks at the Children's Health Canada Conference.
Ali speaking up at the Children’s Health Canada Conference.

Photography was something Ali and I had discussed during the conference and thanks to Kristy Dickinson and her team at Chronically Simple, Ali was gifted a photo session. It’s not always easy finding a photographer that is comfortable photographing medically fragile kids and not having to worry about the cost of photos removes another barrier.

Watch our conversation to learn more about Ali’s journey as a medical mom and see just what makes her an amazing advocate for Jacob.

The following are a few excerpts from our conversation that stuck out for me. They are time stamped for your convenience in case you want to skip ahead to a particular topic of conversation.

Team Manager

1:20 “Becoming a mom for me meant becoming a manager of a team of caregivers. It’s been quite a journey for us. Jacob had had close to 800 in patient days in his life, We’ve had over 50 surgical interventions. Jacob has a lot of diagnosis. He was born at 24 weeks which pre-disposed him to having significant complications very early in life.” 

Being Seen

4:05 “There’s not very many people on this planet that meet my kiddo and see him. I would count you among them. If you understand that I don’t need to explain it and if you don’t understand it, I can’t explain it. When you have a child like mine not everybody can see them. What a pleasure to be seen.”

11:07 “What was really exciting was that somebody was willing to come and see us [at Rotary Flames House]. And I don’t mean visit. I mean witness.”

A family has breakfast while staying at Rotary Flames House in Calgary.
Breakfast with Ali’s people

Finding Your People

11:40 “My bestie, Mitch, was there with us. She’s in a few of our photos. That captures more than I know how to talk about without getting emotional. Because I’m still processing it. When I still have big feelings, I have emotions about them. When I’m done processing, it’s easier to talk about that stuff. I’ve had my son for 12 years and the number of people that are willing to come to us where we are in our life receiving the level of care we require. To have someone bear witness to our life and just hold space and sit there, in it…You can’t fix it. You can’t make it better. You don’t want to make it worse. Just to be there. We captured so much for me in those pictures.”

Details Tell the Story

17:52 One of my favourite images is Jacob’s feet on his monkey pillow. Not everybody walking into a room would know it’s story. It’s proof that the monkey pillow mattered!

A child sitting in his wheelchair rests his feet on a monkey pillow.
Proof the monkey pillow mattered!

Advocate Like a Medical Mama

22:09 “A lot of our care at this stage of Jake’s life is maintenance and comfort of care goals. His breathing machine talks to a computer in Edmonton on a daily basis and it used to drive me wild that I would have to go to a clinic at the Stollery for somebody to go “Yeah I read the report that got emailed to me. You’re all good to go.” All of a sudden the world that I’ve asked for for years is there and all of our clinics are willing to work online with us.”

24:10 “I have this permission slip above my desk that I wrote to myself. And it says Permission to be totally bad ass and go against the grain and advocate. Fight for what’s right and not what’s easy.” Signed Dr Martens

Below is the slideshow from Ali and Jacob’s photography session gifted by Kristy Dickinson and the team at Chronically Simple.

Ali is totally a bad ass and she does fight for what is right. She is an inspiration to so many medical families. I’m really looking forward to the day I get to head up to Grand Prairie to photograph Ali and Jacob in their space and with their people.

Interested in sharing your own story through photography?

Well you’re in luck, I wrote a book about exactly that!

Tell Your Story Through Photography by Kristy Wolfe

We all need to see ourselves in our story – our strength, our resilience, our struggle and our hope.
I want you to tell your story because

Published by Kristy Wolfe Stories

Kristy is an engaging, open, and honest Common Language DST trained digital storytelling facilitator. She has been speaking and teaching workshops on both photography & digital storytelling for 5 years. With a background in the education, healthcare, and non-profit sectors, she works with diverse audiences, prioritizing ethics in storytelling and storyteller wellbeing.

6 thoughts on “I Was There Too: Ali Martens

  1. Kristy, this is so beautiful! I adore Ali and Jacob and am so glad she was able to receive this session.

    Your photos are amazing as always!

    Lots of love and hugs to the family!
    Sarah Topilko

  2. I love Ali and Jake so much… I am glad that they are getting witnessed, the love and the strength that Ali have is such an inspiration for me and my family.💞

  3. This is so special! Thanks to all three of you for providing this window and letting me ‘be there’ with you in some small way. I LOVE the description of Ali as the manager of a team of caregivers.. it rings so true to me.

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