Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Just a few of the million reasons I love St. Jude........

This past weekend was my annual trip to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Words cannot express how much I love this place. As in, I wouldn't be surprised if, at some point in my life, I'm actually working for them in some capacity.

I look forward to this trip all year long, so when I woke up last Saturday with a feeling in my throat, I became nervous. See, I knew what that "feeling" is........ it's a precursor to nastiness. Had I been able to get a good night's sleep and rest, I probably would have been fine. However, I had an event that required me to be out most of the night. When I woke up Sunday, my voice was gone......... once again, a precursor to more nastiness. When I woke up Monday, I was in full-blown cold mode.

Panic followed - I slept, I Vitamin Ced, I drugged myself up, I used Vicks, I even went to the Dr. I prayed.

Thankfully, my "Get Better Boot Camp" worked and by the time I woke up at 3:30am on Thursday, I was well enough to get on a plane. More importantly, I was well enough to enter the hospital. See, you have to be fever-free, nausea-free, green snot-free, sore throat-free to enter the hospital because those poor babies have such compromised immune systems. My precautions left me free of all of that for at least 24 hours and I'd been on antibiotics for 36, so I was cleared to go into the hospital.

Thursday, we hopped on a plane and got to Memphis at about 11:30am. Once we got to The Peabody, we registered for the seminar and were pleasantly surprised to find out that we were staying in The Peabody!!! Usually, we're in The Doubletree, next door, so this was a fun cherry on top. Besides the hospital tour, all of the events at the seminar are held at TP, so it was super convenient to be there. Plus, it's a historic 5-Star hotel.......... score!

Our rooms were ready, right away. We got settled, grabbed some food, and explored our territory a little. At 3:45, we were to be on the bus to go over to the hospital!

It was cold, but not snowing. However, there was still some snow on the ground from their storm earlier in the week. Right in front of the hospital was this little snowman.......... too cute....

When you enter the hospital, this is what you see....... this cheerful mural. Every year, I love it, but never take a picture......

If you'd like to see more pictures of the hospital, I've posted pictures in other recaps. This time, I tried to focus my picture-taking on things I hadn't focused on before.

One of my favorite parts of the hospital is the 'ABC's of Cancer' wall. They take the children's artwork and post it. Some of the letters never change (like 'V is for Vomet'), but others rotate.

A new stop on the tour for us was the Patient Art Gallery. Like with the ABC wall, the patients are encouraged to get their thoughts and emotions out through art. They have a gallery dedicated to the artwork and some of it is simply amazing.

After the tour, we headed back to the hotel and chilled, for a while. Then, we met everyone downstairs, for dinner. Our region was eating at BB Kings, this year. The food was soooooo yummy..... the best I've had at a Thursday dinner. The atmosphere was great, too!!

The house band........

The one and only time I hit Beale, this weekend. Even though I was feeling better, my energy level just wasn't up to Beale standards, this year. I called it a early night, each night.

Despite my early night on Thursday, I still found time to document the commitment to ducks that The Peabody shows.

The mat for the bathroom floor..........

They tie their toilet paper with ribbon..........

They wrap their washcloths up.........

They carve their soap into ducks and put pictures of ducks on their shampoo and conditioner......

Also, I just have to tell you that their service was top-notch. When I called down to schedule a wake-up call, the lady answered the phone with, "Good evening, Miss _________, how may I help you?"

Unfortunately, I didn't need a wake-up call. At 5:30am, my next door neighbor woke me out of a dead sleep, SCREAMING on her cell phone. Then, she put it on speaker phone, so that I could hear both sides of the conversation. Eventually, they stopped their arguement, so I could grab a couple more hours of sleep.

Friday was a learning day. While everyone else was touring the hospital, us Early Birds stayed at the hotel for sessions. We met patient Caitlyn and the team that cared for her. Then, we met with Dr. Steve who is a researcher at the hospital. Dr. Steve was so interesting to listen to......... and, we learned a lot of important things about St Jude that I wasn't previously aware of.........

  • St. Jude is working on a cure/preventative for Swine Flu. While there is a vaccine out now, it's not like a TB, etc vaccine. They are working on trying to create that.
  • St. Jude has certain treatments that unfortunately show hearing loss in patients, as a side effect. They are doing studies and tests to try to reverse that hearing loss. The Department of Defense is interested in their findings and are keeping an eye out. As we all know, many of our soldiers are coming home from war with hearing loss, so the DoD is hoping to be able to benefit from St Jude's research.
  • A tour guide/St Jude rep has a father who has Parkinson's. The father was telling his docter that his son worked for St. Jude and the Dr commented that the treatment they were giving him actually came from St. Jude.
  • St. Jude has a 24 hour a day referral line. Physicians from all over the country and the world can contact St Jude at any time for consults. They also have a website, where they publish all their seminars, lectures, and findings. All of their research is available..... they do not hide anything.
We ate lunch and met Eliza. Eliza is currently 18 and a college freshman. She was diagnosed with cancer when she was 2 1/2 and has been in remission since she was 5! Her treatment unfortunately left her with a severe case of scoliosis and when she was 14, she needed a special steel rod to attach to her spine and meet her rib cage. Insurance wouldn't cover the surgery because "it wasn't medically necessary." Her parents contacted St Jude and they did the surgery for her, for free.
After a day full of sessions, we had a bit of a break. There was an artist taping thrown in there. I went to get some liners, but honestly just wanted to chat with some of our record reps. We never use the liners...... the sound isn't the best in there and can usually get the liners through the label.

Another break followed and it was time to get ready for Casino Night. Right before Casino Night, I met with C down in the lobby to say good-bye. He had to leave early and wouldn't be there. C is the older brother I wish I had.

To be perfectly honest............ there are a lot of sucky people in this business. There are some great people, there are a ton of fun and interesting people.......... but, there are a lot of SUCKY people. C is one of the good guys and I always look forward to seeing him.

Casino Night started. We won nothing, but had some fun. And, D got hit on by a roulette dealer. A male roulette dealer. It was pretty funny, actually, lol.

D and R, being all manly and trying not to give any dealers the wrong impression.

R and I

D and I........ I adore him

At the end of the night, I grabbed three of the bottles of water they were giving away. Why, you ask? Because, to buy water in your room/on your floor, it was $3.50. Yes, $3.50.

If it's free, it's for me, so I stocked up!

Sunday morning was breakfast and then Radiothon sessions. We get tips, etc on different things we can do before, during, and after our Radiothons. Then, it was lunch.

So, R is a bit anal retentive. As in, lunch started at 12:15 and he wanted to be down in the line at 11:50. Jess doesn't play that when we're staying in the hotel. So, R drug D to lunch and Jess texted them to just save her a seat. At 12:15, I was standing in line when I get a text from R...... they were stuck at a table and couldn't get back in line. I got my food, found the table, and let them up to get their food. As I was giggling about the fact that I got my food before them, I heard their story................ they were the first in line when a worker suggested they go ahead and get their table. "The line will move faster."

R and D did as they were told. As they sat down, it hit them............ they just got out of line. Of course the line will move faster. They just freed up two spots.

After lunch, we had a speaker. Dr. Lori is at the top of her field, but still managed to talk so that we could understand her. Her main point was that she, unlike many doctors, doesn't have to deal with a lot of the bureaucracy that prohibits her from giving her patients the best care. Many times, doctors cannot do a procedure or prescribe a medicine because insurance won't cover it. Or, because the medicine isn't profitable enough for a pharmaseutical company to produce. Not at St. Jude....... Dr. Lori is able to give her patients the care they need. If the medicine isn't produced massively, they have a GMC and Pharmaseutical building that will produce it. Through our donations, insurance doesn't matter.

It was then time for our surprise guest speaker. One year, it was Ronnie Milsap. Another year, it was Patient #17. Last year, it was Tom Shadyac. When the hostess started introducing this year's speaker, gasps were going out before she was finished with the first sentence. I was lost. The crowd was whispering excitedly to themselves. I had no clue who was coming out. Everyone was on their feet before she got out his name. I was befuddled as to who Joe Theisman was and why everyone was so excited.

After a quick Facebook post, I found out that Joe was the guy that broke his leg at the beginning of the movie The Blind Side. My brother knows how to speak my language, lol. Despite the fact that I wouldn't know who he was if it weren't for Sandra Bullock, Joe Theismann was super inspirational, entertaining, and funny.

He let a guy try on his Super Bowl ring. Despite my sports ignorance, I thought that was pretty cool!

After Joe Theissman, it was time for our last and my favorite session, "Meet the Patients." It's super cute, every year. Yes, the parents get emotional, but the kids usually cut up and make it fun.

The story that stuck out to me was Cassidy, age 7. She was diagnosed with ALL when she was 2 1/2........ 2 weeks after her mother passed away from cancer. She has relapsed FOUR times. They were at another hospital, but came to St. Jude a little over 2 years ago when she relapsed for the 2nd time (and with an additional form of cancer, AML). The hospital she was at said there was nothing they could do for her. Her PCP asked her father for permission to contact St. Jude.  They were honest that chances were slim, but they did have a protocol they wanted to try. When Cassidy, her father, and her step-mother (her dad got remarried......... he proposed and then Cassidy's first relapse occurred 4 days later. He told the woman that if she didn't want this life that she had an out and he would completely understand because it's a difficult life to lead. She married their family 12 days later) walked into St. Jude, Cassidy was 5 and uninsurable.

5 and not able to get insurance. At all.

They asked her father if Cassidy had insurance. When he started to explain, they stopped him and said, "No problem. We'll take care of it." They haven't received the first bill. :)

Cassidy has since relapsed an additional 2 times since coming to St. Jude. Three months ago, she relapsed for the 4th time and underwent a procedure that didn't exist the 6 months prior. Cassidy's scans are showing that she is now cancer FREE!!!!!!!

Sadly, the end of the weekend was upon us and it was time for the Songwriter's Dinner.........

Ashley (our St Jude Rep) and I

R and I

Trumaine (another rep) and I

The food was yummy and so pretty.............

Once dinner was over, the concert started. The songwriters weren't Keith Urban, unfortunately.

Rivers Rutherford, Aimee Mayo, Roger Murrah, and Sonny Curtis joined Randy Owen on stage to sing the hits they penned. As much as I enjoyed listening to Who You'd Be Today (Aimee Mayo/sung by Kenny Chesney), the theme to Mary Tyler Moore Show (Curtis), Ain't Nothin Bout You (Rutherford/sung by B&D), When I Get Where I'm Going (Rutherford/sung by Brad Paisley and Dolly Parton), and Don't Rock the Jukebox (Murrah/sung by Alan Jackson), I cut out about halfway through the concert. I was tired, still had to pack, and had an early flight to catch.

Rivers Rutherford and Aimee Mayo

The next morning, we got to the airport 2 hours early (thanks, R) and got home around 1pm. It was an awesome weekend and I'm literally counting the days until my next trip (359, lol).

If you made it this far........ Thanks!! I know it was super long, but that place is so important to me. I didn't want to forget the things that stuck out to me.

1 comment:

Brittany Ann said...

So glad you got to go and are feeling better! No cold relapses, I hope?