Tour de Good Things: People. | #medx 2014

The Tour de Good Things was a way i could summate the crazy journey I took to culminate August and begin September—both on an extremely high note. It has been nearly impossible to come down from the high that begun prior to Medicine X 2014 at Stanford University [disclosure], especially since the journey encompassed 7,227 kilometres (or about that). The last Thursday in August, I got into a car with a 60L hiking backpack of necessities and a drawstring backpack of medications, my only “prepared” travel document being my passport, and left home for 12 days. I arrived back into Winnipeg by plane last Monday after a red eye flight via Minneapolis—my initial destination.

There are many posts in here waiting to be written, and a video to come. But as many, many others have summated, the power, the magic, the amazing of Medicine X is in the people: This is a theme that would cover the entirety of the Tour de Good Things.

Minneapolis.

This kid (my cousin, Dean) headed down to University of Minnesota to start becoming an engineer of the probably civil variety, not the train variety [though, train engineers are probably also very civil]. So thanks to him I got a really long ride to the airport.

I also had grilled cheese and an awesome conversation on the parallels of asthma and T1 diabetes with these lovelies, Scott and Heather.

SFO. All over the East Bay. Santa Cruz. Davis.

My awesome aunt, Linda, and my grandma dropped me off at MSP after a 4.5 day drive to the airport […okay, the airport truly is only 8 hours from home. Not that that’s close.] and a four hour flight, I hit ground at SFO and was swept up into my “Cali-bestie” Steve’s truck, where (after picking up pizza), I FINALLY got to meet his long time partner and now husband, Doug (finally. On my third visit to the Bay Area—third time’s the charm, right? Doug is, of course, to a tee of how Steve describes him, and a total sweetheart just like Steve). We headed to Santa Cruz the next day, and San Jose where I finally got to meet his mom, Claire, his sister Sheree, and Sheree’s husband, Dan, who had us over for lunch on Monday.

The next day we headed over to Davis to get Steve’s new bass set up by a cool dude named Harrison.

San Francisco.

Steve drove me out to SF on Wednesday [because he is the best] to ensure I made my connection with my friend Carly (whom I met at MedX in 2012!) at the Twitter building. Carly’s friend Samantha was [at the time] working for Twitter, and had invited Carly for lunch—and opened up the invitation to any of Carly’s friends who wanted to come, too, which was beyond awesome :). (Samantha on the left, Carly—our link!—in the middle :].) Thanks, ladies!

Carly and I made a brief stop in Japantown after lunch and our tour around Twitter with Samantha, and then headed for Palo Alto. Not long after arriving, we had a spontaneous MedX ePatient gathering by the pool—meeting, and reuniting, with a lot of kickass ePatients—friends.

Carly and I (left, of course), [fellow Canadian!] Annette, Liza, Meredith, Dee, Marie (from Ireland!) and Michael (from England!) at the Sheraton. (Thanks to the Sheraton team member who ran out to take this shot for us!)

The next day, the fun really got started when Dr. Larry Chu [the beyond awesome MedX Conference Director!] introduced us to the Selfie Stick [here’s a professional picture (source) of Leslie, Emily, Karen, Rachel [TEAM CANADA!], myself, and Nikki selfie-ing with a selfie-stick on pre-conference workshop day!]

Of course, Ryan had to give it a go once we hit MedX full-stride—he had to make himself short for me so that a) I could adequately put my arm around his shoulders, and b) because he is too tall and was blocking the world medicine :).

No selfie stick for Brett and I, though (…everybody is SO TALL). He yelled “Oh hey, it’s Kerri!” in the corner right by the selfie station, and then we hugged, and I was like “okay we need to selfie so we don’t forget!” :]

We don’t always selfie in front of the selfie wall—sometimes we selfie in front of the gold badge door. Not only was Devon, below, a hit among the crowd at MedX, I was super excited to find another lunger on the scene [I mean, asthmatics DO hide everywhere, but… they hide].

Devon spoke on a panel about “the non-smartphone patient”, and has COPD. And, though he seemed adamantly against it before I showed him everybody tweeting his quotes, I did get him signed up on Twitter!

My super sweet roomie, Karen, and behind us, her poster presentation on the metaphorical dance that is chronic illness. Karen is a sport psychologist from Mexico and is generally amazing, so we never had a shortage of fun things to talk about :).

And on the subject of roommates, my 2012 roomie, Kim, and I—clearly in the club, and not at a medical conference. #ClubMedX

And, Miss Zoe Chu. While puppy, and not people, she lovingly made MedX granola for me and we had selfie times, so she clearly belongs on this list :].

Joe from Eli Lilly’s Team of Good People and Awesomeness (aka Lilly Clinical Open Innovation) and I—we look less like a painting in person. Probably. 🙂

And, Jerry from Eli Lilly, who was in the elevator on Thursday morning before Partnering for Health when a bunch of ePatients yelled my name and hugged me as I got on the elevator. Except we didn’t know we were supposed to know each other yet, and then he sat down beside me at Partnering for Health and identified us as the people from the elevator and said he was wondering if we were Medicine X people. Because I am all class, I was like “Yeah, we were the people yelling and hugging in the elevator—did you feel left out?! Do you need a hug!?”—he accepted this crazy Canadian’s hug, so we are clearly meant to be friends. Also, he’s awesome. And broke into a presentation during Partnering for Health when all the patients were very confused on Twitter.

Alan, Britt, Leslie, myself and Julie (Photo grabbed from Britt via Facebook!)

Sarah—one of the awesome ePatient advisors—with her CANADIAN SCARF, Rachel and I, after the closing ceremony of Medicine X.

And below, Britt (on the ePatient advisory team), Marvin—who is super sweet and I didn’t get to connect with nearly enough! :)—Rachel and I. 

And, my own ePatient advisor and friend from 2012, Chris (he’s laughing about attempting to hug me with the giant hiking backpack on)—just before Joe (below!), Marie and I headed to the airport (where I almost lost my phone and Joe totally provided an amazing Joe-hug to alleviate my stress, and told me how I could get the Delta people to bring it to me to avoid having to go back through security, since I’d left it at the check-in kiosk). 

These people—and ALL the people I met and interacted with at MedX

(I can’t even source those photos anymore :])

—are not the entirety of the story of Medicine X: but they are the part that matters most. As are the people that preceded my arrival for Medicine X to my own part of the journey, and the people who engaged in #MedX via Twitter: WE belong here.

(Photo of photo cred to Joe Riffe)

And here isn’t always a place: often, it’s a state.

And I love each and every one of you, and I hope our stories continue to connect in a way that makes a difference: Remember to not lose sight of where you were—where we were—hold on to that feeling.

We’ll change the world together.

stanford #medx: from your couch!

Stanford Medicine X is “a medical conference for everyone”.

Everyone includes a lot of patients—including myself, and people like my friends Kim and Carly [and many others!] who also attended #medx in 2012 and will be back this year.

Cherise, Kim, Chris and I in 2012!

More importantly right now… everyone includes YOU—or, anybody who is chilling at home on their couch, or at their kitchen table, or anywhere there is internet, thanks to the Medicine-X Global Access Program! Through the Global Access Program you can join the main stage fun of Medicine X, check out how technology is evolving and changing healthcare, and how that is becoming more and more accessible to both patients and care providers*. Med-X is taking place from September 5th through 7th [with workshops happening before as well].  And, it’s free! [I know right?! Free is my favourite price, too]  If you’ve never attended a conference virtually before, Carly is a master: she has even written an amazing virtual conference attendance how-to guide to help make the most of your experience.

Remember: Medicine-X… is for everyone. Everyone who participates in Medicine X — whether in person or online — is there for similar reasons: We believe our stories can make a difference; we recognize the potential technology has to improve healthcare—to improve patient outcomes; to change the way we think of–and manage–our own stories that involve chronic disease or another circumstance that has caused us to more deeply invest in healthcare; in changing our own outcomes and interactions within our care. And we all believe that we can be part of a bigger story, where the patient truly becomes the centre of care—not the system.

I guarantee Twitter will be on fire, so if you’re watching from home [or work… Not that I’m encouraging that :].], ensure you jump on that before the conference if you’re unfamiliar. [My soon-to-be-roommate, Karen, even tweeted last year in both Spanish and English—clearly she is magic. She’s also a sport psychologist and also has asthma, so we were totally meant to be roommates and I’m beyond excited to meet her.] And, while I could tell you what I’m excited for on the main stage, we might be here all day: so check out the program here and get stoked yourself!

Curious? Check it out. Register. [Remember, it’s free.]

And if you have questions, ask away below, or on twitter at #medx—we’ll help you out.

 

*Access to technology among providers in the Western world probably varies much on your geography/medical system. Just because it’s available, doesn’t mean that—for example—iPads are popping up in Canadian hospitals. Here in Winnipeg, electronic charting is sometimes either a) a new thing, or b) not even happening yet.  Which is among reasons why having international input and attendance at these conferences is so important: we can’t improve care through technology we don’t have access to—and, beyond financial constraints, knowledge of value in application is the other huge barrier to integrating technology to improve patient care, or improve the lives of all people. Knowing what I know, I shouldn’t have been shocked when my new-ish gynaecologist, Alaa, pulled up my pathology report on his computer at my first appointment. And I should probably stop being so shocked when I find someone I know wearing a Fitbit or using MyFitnessPal. And, for those of you Canadians who are in this boat with me, don’t worry: there are a handful of Canadians in the crowd, and we’ll do our best to get our voices out there, too.

stories from california: guest post – feeling the love of the diabetes online community!

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.

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That is one fiiiine looking crew!

Back row left to right: Kim, Dana, Chris and Sarah

Front row: Liz, me, Cherise, Debra and Christina

Photo credit: Christina

stories from california: epic steve!

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.

DSCF1263

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:

twin peaks

[Photo Credit to Steve]

This one’s my favourite:

Twin Peaks with Steve

[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.]

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Giant Pride flag! LOVE.

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I swear we’re on the Golden Gate Bridge, even though I didn’t even really actually see it. That fog is intense.

golden gate

[Photo credit to Steve]

Look at that fog!

yellow submarine house

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 :].

ocean beach 1

Kerri Pose on the beach

[Photo Credit to Steve]

Steve gets a true Kerri Pose on the beach!

Steve and Kerri 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.

driving through northern california

Driving through northern california

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.

Airport with SteveSteve's blue eyes!

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?

Airport with Steve

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.

Airport with Steve :]

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.