Awhile ago, Steven from Special Olympics Manitoba asked if I wanted to guest post on my thoughts going into my first season coaching with Special Olympics! Of course, I jumped on the opportunity. If you’re interested, check out my post . . .
Last weekend, I hung out with a really special group of people. My friend Mike, blogging at My Diabetic Heart, asked me to guest blog awhile back, and we pinpointed that my MDH guest post would be an awesome place to write about some of my thoughts about hanging with a few of the amazing people of the Diabetes Online Community, or DOC.
Head on over to check out my guest post – Feeling the Love of the DOC.
That is one fiiiine looking crew!
Photo credit: Christina
Outside of the physical room of Medicine-X, the biggest part of the story can be found on Twitter, where for two or three straight days, the #medx hashtag was exploding into use capturing quotes, stories and feelings in the moments surrounding Medicine-X. The best way to recount my experiences is probably through Twitter, with some commentary thrown in for a little bit more context [context ended up being a bit of a buzzword at Medicine-X.
For this purpose, head over to the Storify page for my time at Medicine-X, to walk through the moments in somewhat real time–including many of my new [or simply new-in-real-life!] friends, some photo-shooting in the back of a boring session, a football announcer, lots of snacks . . . and an introduction to “Club Med-X”!
Disclosure: I was fortunate to receive an ePatient scholarship from Stanford University with partnership with Alliance Health Networks and the Kadry Foundation to enable me to attend Medicine-X, including conference registration, some meals and snacks, hotel and $300 towards my airfare to California. I was not required to blog about the experience at Stanford [but I’m sure they could feel pretty darn safe I would].
After two full-body scans at my home airport [I forgot to take my Fitbit off my shorts. Fitness self-trackers are suspicious items.], a flight full of coughing to Vancouver, a hectic connection that could have been much less hectic due to an hour-and-a-half fog-induced delay that I filled with Darwin, Cinnabon and frustrated e-mails to Steve while in Vancouver, and a handful of Lifesavers, I touched down at San Franscisco International Airport on Thursday at 1:30 PM.
Steve met me at the airport, and after four minutes or so of wandering in the huge Arrivals Lobby being unable to find him, I finally made the Canadian BlackBerry start a relationship with AT&T and called him, at which point I camped out by the International Terminal A escalator to wait–within about a minute he popped up beside me open arms–best welcome to California that I could have ever had! From there, we spent a few hours adventuring around San Francisco [not nearly enough time!], and then he dropped me off at the Westin in Palo Alto. I checked into the hotel, left a key at the desk for Kim, and got lost for about ten minutes trying to find our hotel room [Kim eventually devised the “Turn left at the vase” system]. The Westin was beautiful [to quote Kim “Way to go, Stanford!”] and after finding the room I promptly ended up spreading my stuff all over the place.
Steve picked me up a phone to use in California, thus due to lack of free hotel WiFi, I basically paced around the room waiting for a text from Kim–eventually she was on the shuttle and headed from SFO to Palo Alto. The Medicine-X team at Stanford had arranged for a special ePatient orientation dinner [read: meet and greet] at Buca di Beppo, an Italian restaurant not too far away from the conference hotels. Eventually, Kim told me she thought she was close, so I headed down to the lobby to meet her. The whole experience in California was definitely the ultimate in internet-meetups, and it was super cool. People kept saying to me: “You know, you have an internet stranger picking you up at the airport and you are staying with an internet stranger and . . .” and really, I didn’t THINK of all of these people as internet strangers. At that point on Thursday I was just thinking of them as “Oh my GOD, it’s Kim! And Steve! And Carly!” Internet strangers, assuming they are not the sketchy type, are the best types of strangers because I really felt like I knew them already, that it wasn’t weird at all to say hi while going straight in for a hug.
After some Apple mapping on Kim’s iPhone, Kim and I found our way to the restaurant with the help of some friendly locals who instructed us how to get through the scary tunnels and across the train tracks while we soaked in the gorgeousness of Palo Alto. When we got to the restaurant, we thought we were going in the wrong door when we had to walk through the kitchen, but that’s beside the point. At dinner, we met a handful of other ePatients and one by one, stories started to unfold [we also had some oh my God it’s _____! They’re basically famous! moments at the dinner]. I have never been at an event like the ePatient dinner, so I was really not sure what to expect. I found it hard to interact in the space until closer to the end when people started heading out [leaving the rest of us to gorge on chocolate cake and tiramisu and have conversation in a slightly calmer environment before heading back to the hotel [this time, with Kyla from Stanford in the lead and a handful of other ePaitents around us while walking through the sort-of sketchy tunnels]. Oh, also the food just kind of kept flowing out onto the tables for the length of dinner and we had no idea what was coming next–it was crazy!
I really feel the need to capture as many of these moments as possible, but aside from some exclaiming about ALL THE CARBS!! [ALL THE CARBS!! went on the hotel room desk, and they included animal cookies, Jelly Bellies and Lifesavers] and the GIGANTICNESS of our bathroom, we essentially went back to the hotel and packed it in because it was pretty late by the time we got back . . . and the fun of Medicine-X began bright and early on Friday morning!
I’m currently at 39,854 feet elevation, flying above the most Northern part of California at 504 miles per hour. It will take a series of blog posts to get down my full thoughts on the experience of this weekend in Palo Alto, California for the Medicine-X conference at Stanford University. There are so many stories, experiences and connections to touch on, and while they have all been amazing, the first thing I need to do is introduce my friend Steve, aka a million different nicknames but mostly the (famous :]) Breathin’ Stephen.
Steve and I have been friends through the world of blogging since pretty early on in my asthma journey. He hates when I say it [but I’ll say it anyway :)], but he’s one of my biggest inspirations, and quite honestly, my hero. He often describes us as “The Ultimate Odd Couple”, which could not be closer to the truth; however, there is this ridiculous bond that somehow ended up forming between us in the last three years–Ultimate Odd Couple or not, we totally click, and that just solidified in California.
Much to my own surprise, I didn’t get all teary on him at the airport on Thursday like I thought I would when we finally found each other in the International Arrivals area [I was only there like four minutes, Steve, I swear. Calling you was easier than being confused–your airport is confusing :).] From the airport, Steve took me on a whirlwind tour of San Francisco [my flight was delayed an hour and a half from Vancouver because of the fog in SF, so we didn’t get to see as much as we had hoped to].
First stop was Twin Peaks.
I need to come back to SF when there is less fog, but the view was still amazing. [And no, we did not plan to coordinate our shorts, we just kind of matched because we are amazing.]
Check out this view:
[Photo Credit to Steve]
This one’s my favourite:
[Photo Credit to Steve. Or the garbage can or whatever we used to balance the camera on ;). He’s the one who set up this shot though.]
Giant Pride flag! LOVE.
I swear we’re on the Golden Gate Bridge, even though I didn’t even really actually see it. That fog is intense.
[Photo credit to Steve]
Look at that fog!
Having a native San Franciscian as your tour guide means you get to become aware of things like the Yellow Submarine House.
It’s by Ocean Beach :].
[Photo Credit to Steve]
Steve gets a true Kerri Pose on the beach!
After the beach [where Steve made fun of me for running away from the water, I might add. Dude. I didn’t want to get my awesome shoes wet!)], we grabbed some pizza in Steve’s old neigbourhood [the dudes in there know him, it is unreal and the pizza was awesome :)] and made the journey to my hotel in Palo Alto. [Oh, and he brought me the GOOD KIND of animal cookies!! 🙂 They are awesome!] Unlike what we expected though, the story didn’t end there.
Sidebar explanation. Because, it makes the story make more sense but needs to be a sidebar so as not to detract form all the goodness above.
The unfortunate part is that I got kind of sick in California. I had a bit of a rough time breathing on my first flight on Thursday, but nothing I couldn’t deal with [utilizing entirely too many puffs of the inhaler, but, you do what you have to when you’re at 38,000 feet]. I was good on the second flight and thought it was just some weird short-lived, perfume and/or stress induced thing. First solo trip = stressful, yo. By “kind of sick“, however, I mean that whether whatever it was that triggered the flight mini-flare persisted or something else triggered me in Palo Alto or prior to getting there, I’ll never know, but I essentially ended up having the worst asthma exacerbation I’ve had in the last two and a half years while in California. Cruddy timing, lungs. With a little help from my friends, I am usually pretty good at staying on top of things and getting back to baseline pretty quickly [and, being away from home made me deal with it more quickly]. If I’m going to, for whatever reason, get sick in a state I’ve never been to before, California was an okay place to have it happen. Steve is a Respiratory Therapist [and, though I was able to dissuade him, was more than willing to make the trek back to Palo Alto to bring me anything I needed (for instance, like the freaking nebulizer power cord I forgot at home) and has stupid crazy severe asthma (is that a good medical descriptor? Badassmatic, yo). He actually brought me nebulizer meds at the airport because I wasn’t sure if mine would be apprehended at security for being not labeled (they weren’t)]. I always carry prednisone with me when I travel and I’ve never needed to break into it before, but I was extremely thankful to have the steroids with me.
Anyways, Steve was all over taking care of me from two hours away, checking in by phone several times and just generally being awesome–my personal Respiratory Therapist! For those wanting the details on the whole asthma situation, I managed to turn the worst of it around with a fair amount of Ventolin/Atrovent [both in the inhalers and in the nebs Steve gave me] and by starting prednisone. With the prednisone, since I hadn’t been on it in 2.5 years [go me!] I really had absolutely no idea how it was going to affect my body. Which, happened to be completely different than it has the last two times. Because I was concerned about flying home with my lungs all tight and uncomfortable, after some discussion, I threw back 50 mg splitting the dose in two on Friday, 40 mg Saturday, 35 mg Sunday, and so on. Whether it was starting 10 mg higher than I did last time or just the fact that I haven’t been on it in forever, while it turned my breathing around rapidly within about 24 hours [aka no longer coughing awkwardly through the Asthmapolis discussion], I ended up getting the stupid emotional side-effects of the medication and honestly just kept tearing up/fighting back tears at the most random intervals. [Honestly, somebody said something nice or unexpected or whatever to me, I was in tears, it was ridiculous. It also made me super hungry–Medicine X was a good place to be on prednisone because there are healthy snacks every hour and a half and thus, unlike the last time I was on prednisone, I had no “I just drank a slurpee and ate a Reese’s chocolate bar and that does not mix well with pred tummy” feelings ;)]. Between some sleeplessness, whether breathing or steroid-induced, the prednisone-induced thirst and the needing-to-eat-all-the-effing-time thing, yeah, the pred sucks, but the effect it had on my breathing was so worth it. As I was writing this on Sunday, I’m not perfect yet, but so much better than I was, was correct, but yesterday’s flight adventure gave me a little backslide [regardless: so much better than I would have been had I not taken the prednisone]. I am freaking tired between the busy schedule, the craziness of the trip and the screwing up of my sleep pattern induced by the steroids [and now, after seeing the doctor, I am off school/work until Thursday and doing some gradual prednisone taper crap. Not what I expected to say the least.]
///End non-Steve related digression :].///
This [Sunday] morning was the ultimate in seeing Steve’s compassion in action, though. We’ve covered I’m not good with prednisone [I don’t think anybody really is], but I’m also not good with not having concrete plans–the combination of them was not good. This morning, the intent was my friend Katie was going to pick me up from the hotel and take me to the airport via Rancho San Antonio for a walk [walk would have been no bueno anyways]. Long story short, miscommunications happened due to some unforeseen circumstances, and I basically freaked out when I couldn’t get a hold of her this morning [see also: um, going to blame the prednisone]. My friend Christina had also offered to drive me to the airport, but apparently prednisone + miscommunication = hysterics. I was so stressed out this morning which prompted me to send Steve a message in some fashion I can’t remember. After some back-and-forth for about an hour where I hadn’t resolved anything with either of my rides, and without any hesitation, Steve got in the car and came back to Palo Alto to take me to the airport [Read: bestest friend ever]. In this time, Katie got a hold of me, and we just ended up meeting at the hotel for a bit which Steve joined us for. Long story short, I am extremely appreciative and thankful for Steve’s willingness to be there for me when I am in stress/prednisone-induced tears on the phone freaking out at 6:30 AM. I honestly cannot say thank you enough. [In all his humility, he is probably going to tell me to take all these nice things down–not a chance, buddy, you are awesome.] Really, these stories only scratch the surface of his awesomeness.
He and I made the drive to the airport, where we hung out and had coffee [read: Steve had coffee. I had Vitamin Water. Prednisone tummy is evil and while I feel hungry, sometimes it’s like a few bites/sips into something and I am just done with it. Fortunately and unfortunately, Steve is all-too-familiar with the prednisone shit, so if I am going to be a bit of a steroid-induced mess around anybody, he’s my guy and put up with me well] for a bit before he sent me off through security to my flight.
I like Steve’s expression in this one, the picture makes me laugh. PhotoBooth caught him off-guard, apparently. Hmm, apparently that was the theme of the weekend ;). See how blue his eyes are?
Yeah, I have the cool friends who will do ridiculous airport photoshoots with me. Actually, I think it was his idea to take more pictures.
Anyways, Steve . . . you are everything awesome I expected you to be and more. I’ve said it about four hundred times, but I really cannot thank you enough for your friendship, for putting up with me and my crazy messages super early in the morning interrupting your bass practicing [and checking in on me and my goofy lungs over the weekend], and your willingness to go out of your way to help me–not just today but countless times in the last three years. Today was just the ultimate show of that, and while you probably just want me to shut up now, I’ll just say it one more time: I can’t even express how much I am thankful and how much I appreciate your friendship because words can’t do it justice. I’m so excited that I finally got to meet you and see your beautiful state! :] Oh, and I promise next time I’m in California I will 1) be able to spend more time with you and 2) hopefully not be sick.
For the rest of you . . . the above [and more] are why I call him Epic Steve.