Sitting at work one day, I received the phone call that everyone dreads. Though my day had started normally and was progressing just the same, all it took was this one call for everything to shift on its axis. Suddenly, I was being told that my mom, Seema Amin, was in the ER. Suddenly, my mind was flooded with images of a similar instance that had happened fifteen years back.
Let’s go back for a minute. When I was 16 years old, I received a frantic call from my mom telling me my dad was in the ER. Little did I know, he was on life support with a swollen face that I couldn’t recognize because a man had decided to use his fists to kill him. My life changed forever when he was murdered that day. The trauma of it all is something I still carry with me. So, when I got that call about my mom, I dropped everything and rushed to the hospital. I had no clue what had happened, but with flashbacks of my dad’s face suddenly gripping me, part of me expected the worst. I was terrified. I was ready for someone to tell me I lost my mother.
Thank God that it was nothing to that extent – but that didn’t mean there wasn’t cause for concern.
When I arrived at the hospital, I was told my mom’s blood pressure had skyrocketed (hypertension) and she personally thought she needed to seek help as she felt really weak. She had nowhere to go besides the ER.
This, for a few reasons, angered me.
First – where did this come from? How does something like this randomly happen? Because when I last saw her a day ago she was just fine. Were there no apparent signs? Did I miss something? Did she just wake up one day with her blood pressure this high? How did we not notice this decline in her health?
Second – this was entirely preventable. With some diet modifications, moderate exercise, and appropriate adherence to her medication, it wouldn’t have gotten to this point. I don’t have to be a medical expert to understand that. Why wasn’t she taking care of herself? Was I not taking care of her? Was this my fault?
Then, I had a revelation. I realized that my mom didn’t have the knowledge, the self-discipline, or the right help to proactively monitor and treat her blood pressure levels. What felt worse was that her son didn’t, either. Nor did he have the time. And this made him feel like the worst son in the world.
Even though her children were with her at at all the doctor’s appointments, always nagging her about exercising and watching her diet, it just wasn’t enough.
But as the good Pakistani kids that I thought me and my sister were, we were trying our best to take care of our mom. We were always present for my mom’s doctor appointments – as translators, as decision makers, as advocates. And here, fulfilling all these roles that we were frankly highly unqualified for, is when I realised that sometimes, a person’s best might not be what is suitable for the situation. It definitely wasn’t for this situation, where my mother’s health was at risk. No matter how much we tried to manage her health, it was out of our league; we had no formal training or education in medicine. If we kept things going like this, my mom would live a short, unhappy, and unhealthy life. That’s when I realized we have to replace ourselves.
Having immigrated to the US at five years old, I’ve noticed a few things about our healthcare system and its accessibility. Here, you’re healthier than most if you’re blessed with 3 things: money, the ability to speak and understand English, and enough internal motivation to take care of your physical and mental health. If any one of these 3 pillars is missing, your health is probably suffering in some capacity. Just look at the facts: over 38% of adults in the US suffer from high cholesterol. Nearly half of all adults in America have hypertension (high blood pressure). That means that someone (or some people) in your family are most likely affected by these health issues. These numbers are frankly absurd because many of these issues can be preventable. However, simply “deciding to be healthy” isn’t always an easy decision or option – there’s nuance. The medical world can be nothing short of daunting with all its uncertainties and the fact that healthcare has its own language. Considering this, it’s safe to say that someone who speaks limited English, like my mom, won’t exactly feel welcome or safe or even capable of sharing all their worries.
In many immigrant households, this is where we, the English-speaking members, come in. The responsibility is a great one – the unwritten agreement in our culture, and many cultures, is that our parents took care of us when we were young so in return we have to take care of them when they’re old. Truth be told, agreement or not, we all want to make sure our parents and loved ones are being taken care of properly, that they are understood, that they have someone to advocate for them. But at the same time, you can’t help but to think… Why is the medical world so inaccessible? Why, today, with all the other progressions that we’ve seen, do our parents still have to worry about these things? Why do I have to worry this way, or sit at every appointment as a middleman when everything else in my life is piling up? Is there no other way to take this burden off my shoulders – and replace it with one that is efficient, logical, and affordable? For anyone who knows me, you know this last question is a trick question. Finding another way is what I do – and that’s exactly what I did. I created MySeema.
Of course, telemedicine isn’t anything new. It’s been done – we know that. But MySeema extends further than just telemedicine – we are truly in our own class when it comes to the care and services we offer. With MySeema there is less reactivity and much more proactivity. What this means is, rather than waiting for the shoe to drop, the MySeema team is present – before the doctor’s appointment, at the doctor’s appointment, and well after the doctor’s appointment. Each member of MySeema is assigned a concierge and nurse that truly cares about them. We are frequently checking in with your loved ones in a language that they understand, becoming experts on their medical history, and helping them to advocate for themselves, all the while holding them accountable.
What’s more, MySeema believes in holistic health – and yes, this includes the taboo-in-immigrant-households topic of mental health – think talk therapy without the barrier of language they would otherwise experience. This means they’ll have someone checking in with them frequently to see how their day went, someone with whom they can build a deeper bond. It goes beyond the ideas of healthcare as simply the sterile and impersonal clinics, the appointments that come with time constraints; instead, it encompasses all the different components of health and wellbeing to allow your loved ones to experience improvement in their overall quality of life. And while Vick’s and haldi may still be a staple in the house, your loved one will be educated and equipped on how to care for themselves before major concerns take root. MySeema is your parent’s best friend and the healthcare sidekick that you, the guardian, have always needed to help manage their health and wellbeing.
In just a couple of months in our beta program, my mom and other MySeema members have seen phenomenal improvements: 100% of our diabetic members now have controlled blood sugar levels. With a 50% increase in physical activity, their weights have also dropped. They are stretching, eating healthier, learning (actually processing) the jargon on the back of nutrition labels, and even learning English. Not only that, but they’re addressing their feelings and talking about what’s on their minds, so much so that 93% of our members have reported experiencing less anxiety. It’s been both rewarding to have contributed to and a privilege to have witnessed. The data and results speak for themselves. MySeema works and it’s affordable.
As I write this, all I can say is that I am just really blessed to have the team, tools, resources, and determination to attempt to “fix” healthcare in America – not just for my mom, but hopefully your mom, dad, grandparents, and all your loved ones. Holistic health can be accessible, and MySeema is well on its way to making it a reality.
Stay tuned for more updates for all Emagineer brands. If you want to follow my journey, I’m very open and honest about it on my Instagram where I document our progress. I love to build in public. We are constantly building better products and services that are more accessible and affordable.