“I really just want the audience to see the people I see – how they live, what challenges they face in terms of health, economics, addiction, lack of education. I just want people to know that these invisible patients are here, among us – they’re in our communities, and we need to do more to take care of them.”
Jessica Macleod, Nurse Practitioner, THE INVISIBLE PATIENTS
I’ve known Jessica MacLeod since she was a nursing student at Fairfield University more than 20 years ago. She graduated with honors, married a good friend of mine, and then began a career in healthcare. Jessica has seen a lot – she’s worked on the renal medicine and telemetry floor at Yale-New Haven Hospital, she’s cared for elderly dementia patients in a small English village and students at a university health center. She earned her PhD and then spent the next ten years as a nurse practitioner in a family medicine practice in Evansville, Indiana.
In 2013, she began working for an in-home healthcare company of doctors and nurse practitioners who provide primary care services in the home. Researchers estimate that there are approximately five million adults in the US who are homebound or home-limited due to chronic illness or functional limitations.
One night over dinner, Jess told incredible stories about her new patients, how sick they were, how they struggled to get the care they needed, how desperate and shocking their living conditions were. In her telling, she described a hidden group of people who were neglected, isolated and often struggling to get by – she called them “invisible patients,” living at the very edges of our healthcare system. I saw how excited she was about her new job, but I could also feel a sense of despair – these people needed so much from her that she was already overwhelmed.
“We should make a film about your work,” I said. Jess said she had been thinking the exact same thing.
“When you go to someone’s house to see them, you’re telling them, ‘I value you enough as a person to come see you where you are.’ Nobody talks about it, but I think these people feel like ‘at least someone cares.’”
With her laptop satchel and stethoscope, Jessica makes old-fashioned house calls throughout her workday, typically seeing 8-10 patients, driving on average 60 miles. Her work shines a light on some of the most difficult healthcare issues facing our country, from the living conditions of the elderly poor and end of life care, to the soaring costs of hospitalization, complexity of insurance and over-prescription of opiates. Her patients’ stories reveal the emotional as well as the financial burdens created by our current system, and cry out for solutions. It’s clear to me that nurse practitioners like Jessica represent one answer.
Over the course of 10 months, I followed Jess and four of her patients, shooting roughly 50 hours of footage. When you watch Jessica interact with her patients in the film, you’ll see what I see in Jess – a talented caregiver, thoughtful and caring. She is also honest, unflinching, and straightforward. She’s fearless enough to tell a patient what the patient needs to know, even if it means she has to tell him he will die soon.
The film follows Jessica’s care of four patients: Wink and Patty, an elderly couple dealing with a host of chronic conditions who had been black-balled by their physician for failing a drug screening; Roger, a 30 year old man with Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy; and Ron, a wheelchair-bound man with functional limitations caused by injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident.
THE INVISIBLE PATIENTS pulls back the curtain on a hidden population, whose circumstances ask us to wrestle not just with healthcare policy, but as importantly, today’s fraying social fabric.
Special thanks to Kartemquin Films and their Lab Screening program for invaluable feedback during the editing process.
Patrick O’Connor – Producer / Director
Patrick O’Connor is a writer, producer and director who primarily works in marketing for healthcare systems, as well as numerous non-profit organizations, through his company o’connor/creative. His feature film writing credits include Ricochet River, produced by Gigi Pritzker and starring Kate Hudson, and the independent feature Sacred Hearts, which he also directed. Sacred Hearts premiered at the Boston Film Festival and subsequently played at the Fort Lauderdale Film Festival (awarded Best First Feature) and the Lincoln Center in New York. His screenplay, ZOO, was purchased by Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment.
Pat is married to the author Margaret McMullan and they have son, James. The Invisible Patients is his first documentary.
Jordan Barclay – Videographer
Jordan studied multimedia design and fine art with an emphasis in digital filmmaking at the University of Southern Indiana. After college he landed a job at a local video production company as a production assistant and graphic designer until he was able to transition into a full time freelancer. He has a strong passion in photojournalism and documentary filmmaking and has been honing his craft for the past 15 years. Jordan keeps busy as a commercial photographer during the week and shooting a select number of weddings in the Midwest region. He enjoys spending time with his family, being active in the local art community, composing music, gardening and home brewing in his spare time.
Ben Woehler – Editor
Ben Woehler is currently Senior Producer at MadStache Productions in Evansville, Indiana, where he shoots and edits the national TV show, My Classic Car, for Velocity Channel (Discovery Communications). MadStache’s corportate clients include BMW Motorrad USA, Ford Motor Company, CBS Sports and NFL Films. Ben recently produced, shot and edited the independent documentary Shoeless Blues – The Journey of Boscoe France about blues guitarist Boscoe France, who won Guitar Center’s nation-wide “Battle of the Blues” guitar competition. The film has aired on numerous PBS affiliates and recently won the audience choice award at the Alhambra Film Festival.
Jordan Hancock – Composer
Jordan Hancock picked up his first acoustic guitar at the age of 5, instantly falling in love with making music. As he grew older, he would steal his older brother’s Yamaha PSR-410 keyboard and attempt to write ‘songs’ with it. A lifelong student & lover of music, he now writes and produces original music for ad agencies, filmmakers, and other artists. Jordan has been on a lifelong journey to write the perfect melody & he enjoys collaborating with directors and producers in the creative process to help tell meaningful visual stories with his music. As an artist, he strives to blend the classic & contemporary in what he hopes goes beyond just making background sounds for scenes. While delving into creative, unique and even simple branding for clients, as well as writing original themes for stories & characters, Jordan desires to maintain a true artistic integrity. With a strong passion for composing music for film and television, Jordan has garnered regional Emmy® nominations along with winning multiple ADDY awards & a Telly award for music composition. He works and lives in western Kentucky with his wife Shayla & their three children, Emsley, River, & Ivy.