Mile Marker 1612:
There's a certain sweetness in telling my story.
For weeks beforehand, I line up the events like ingredients on a shopping list. From photos, I mix together a PowerPoint. I decide what to include and what to leave out. Dice or chop? Stir or blend? It's a constantly changing recipe, and only in the tasting, can I tell if I got it right.
|The key ingredient... chocolate?|
An hour later, at Mile Marker 1612, I stand in an auditorium filled with doctors, nurses, and hospital staff. Above me, on a screen the shape of a giant Hershey Bar, is my first slide: A Thousand Miles: Trauma from a Patient and Family Perspective.
This is Surgery Grand Rounds.
Kinda rolls off your tongue, doesn't it?
I'm impressed with many things here (including that cool title!). I'm impressed with the story behind the town, the vision and teamwork that impacted the lives of so many people. I'm impressed with the hospital, a sprawling and busy Pediatric and Adult Trauma Center. But what impresses me most are the medical professionals who've taken an hour of their valuable time to come and hear me.
I throw in the scary times, but I sprinkle in the sweet stuff too. Like Australia and A Bump in the Road. All the human and healing moments. Three years later, those tiny details are the tastes I like best.
Halfway through the presentation, beepers go off like a barrage of oven timers. Not one, not two, but a whole auditorium full! I stop talking, but no one makes a move. "That sounds like an emergency," I suggest. "Maybe you guys should go." A laugh echoes back. So I pick up where I left off. But then, 5 minutes later, they all beep again. "It's ok if you need to leave," I say. "Really, I've been there!"
I remember the stark white lights of the trauma bay. The doctors' wide eyes hovering above my gurney. I have been there. I've been the patient in need when the beepers go off.
But I guess this time it's not a true emergency after all.
At the end of the program, we open it up to questions. The first one is from Dr. Peter Dillon, Chair and Professor of Surgery. "What was the most important aspect of your relationship with your team?" he asks. "What did you need the most?"
I've been telling my story in one form or another for the last 3 years. Yet this question takes me somewhere new. Instinctively, I lean into the microphone and tell him the most important aspect was TRUST. After 1,612 miles, I discover the secret ingredient that has flavored every interaction with my team.
Other questions and comments come from the audience. This one gets a laugh: "Do your parents feel like putting you in a padded room so they can go on vacation?"
Ha ha. In the last 45 minutes, I've shown photos of biking and skating and rock climbing. So it's a logical conclusion. And reasonable too. Like I said, my mom feels the anxiety in a hospital that's not even mine!
When a trauma occurs, it leaves vast and deep scars. You lose your health, your independence, your confidence, and even your hope. It's TRUST that gets you through.
The story starts out bitter. But if you're very, very lucky (like I was), you find some sweet places along the way.
A heartfelt THANK YOU to the Trauma Team at Hershey Medical Center for the opportunity to share my story. And for the skill, courage, compassion, and TRUST you share with your patients every day.