Tuesday, May 17, 2011
A Whirlwind Tour
Last month, while the ridiculous movie above was taking place (sorry, that's the last time I'm going to mention it, I promise), I flew to Pennsylvania to speak to several different groups. The travel was exhausting but speaking to the different groups was well worth the effort. My first stop was York Hospital, in York, PA, where I spoke to two different groups. In order to get to York I had to fly from Indy to Dulles Airport in Washington DC, where I then had to cross from one end of the airport to the other (no easy feat even if you don't have a disability) in a very short amount of time to catch my connection to Harrisburg, PA. Luckily the organization that originally approached me to do this series of speeches decided to send along a travel companion. I don't think I would have made it to my connection without her. (Dulles airport didn't provide the requested wheelchair assistance.) As we flew into Harrisburg I looked out my window and suddenly realized that we were flying right over Three Mile Island. before we even got to baggage claim we were met by a staff member from the Gift Of Life organization who then drove us to York, which was about 45 minutes to an hour away from Harrisburg.
At York hospital I spent about 45 minutes speaking to a group of Pathologists and Morgue technicians who have a role in the Organ and Tissue donation process. You see, the whole purpose of this trip was to give people from York Hospital and Gift of Life the opportunity to meet someone who has been affected by the type of work they do. It was actually quite educational for me too! After speaking to the first group I then spoke with the advocates from Gift of Life who work at the hospital and meet with families of deceased organ and tissue donors to begin the donation process. After we were done, it was back to the car to begin the long (roughly two hours) drive to Philadelphia.
As we pulled in to Philadelphia, Marianne (our coordinator and driver) called in an order for a couple of Philly Cheesesteak sandwiches, which she picked up for us on our way to the hotel. The sandwich was great but, as always, I had a horrible time sleeping in the hotel. (I think I spent most of the night staring at a beautifully lit bridge outside my window.) The next morning I met Amy, my travel companion, for breakfast before we started the second half of our trip. After breakfast, Marianne met us in the lobby and drove us over to the Gift of Life headquarters.
At the Gift of Life headquarters I first spoke to the staff in the call center, who would not be able to step away from their phones to join the larger group for my main presentation. As I walked into the call center all of the phones stopped ringing. This gave me the opportunity to tell them the 5 minute version of my story and how the type of work they do helped preserve my life. We all found it a little eerie that the phones stopped ringing when I entered the call center, stayed silent long enough for me to tell my tale, and immediately began ringing again as soon as I finished speaking.
After the call center I then spoke to a group of staff who were in a training session. As they had a full day of training I only took about 20 minutes with them, and then moved on to the next group, which would be the main presentation. the last group, of about 60 staff members, gathered together in their cafeteria, which was actually provided a great area for an "intimate conversation" with such a large group. I spoke to them for about 45 minutes to an hour; covering more details about the accident, my skin grafts, how important the donor skin I received was to my survival, and what I am doing now. They were a great audience, and the entire staff made me feel like both a celebrity and a member of their family. I can see why Philadelphia is called "the City of Brotherly Love."
After we wrapped things up at Gift of Life, it was back into the car and off to the airport. Just like that, my first trip to Philadelphia was over with a whirlwind tour through the state: a birds eye view of the nuclear power plant at Three Mile Island, a beautiful drive through the country side, a great authentic Philly Cheesesteak, and a nice view of one of Philadelphia's bridges (I'm not sure which one) from my hotel room window. As exhausting as it was, and as difficult as travel is with a disability, I'd be happy to do it again!