Taste of Dunwoody at the W Atlanta Perimeter TONIGHT, benefitting Childrens Healthcare of Atlanta.
Tickets are completely SOLD OUT. So if you have tickets, please come say hello! If you didn't get tickets before now, the Aha! Connection has a website post where you can connect with others looking for tickets, or looking to sell. Post here to sell tickets or announce that you're looking for them.
It looks like the weather is not going to slow this event down. My other half and I will be there even if we have to slosh in our rain boots!
This cause is near and dear to my heart, and not just because I'm a parent. Years and years before I started developing small-business and not-for-profit websites, my career was in medical research at the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX. My first position was in a translational research lab in the Pediatrics Division (Today it's called the Childrens Cancer Hospital at M. D. Anderson) Our lab's key project was to develop a way of diagnosing leukemia relapse before the symptoms recurred using custom-made DNA probes, designed to match each patient's unique genetic signature.
It took a lot of cooperation. The patients, their parents, the clinic nursing staff, the medical staff (including my boss) and a slew of other "lab rats" like myself all had a different task. My task was to take biopsies of bone marrow and grow them in a culture bottle. Then I handed them off to my partner so that she could analyze the DNA and design the diagnostic probes.
This process was exta work for everyone. The patients were already getting their bone marrow analyzed as part of their treatment and maintenance. That didn't make the procedure less painful. I made the process easier by being the extra pair of hands everyone seemed to need. If it didn't require an MD or RN, I was there. I found prep trays, wiped anesthetic bottles with alcohol, and made sure drapes were at the ready. If the Lab Medicine department got slammed and wasn't able to come down to the clinic, I made the histology slides that the technicians would read to determine if the cancer was in remission or recurring. There were lots of trips to the clinical lab!
I held lots of things. Usually hands and ankles. I helped hold the patient still and talked them through the sampling. Having bone marrow aspirated is like having your soul pulled out through a little hole in your iliac crest, so say the patients I worked with. Holding still makes the difference between getting it over with quickly and getting injured. The only people more worried about bone marrow testing than the patients, were their parents. If a parent is going to be an a procedure with their child they have to be able to emotionally hold themselves together. Otherwise the child is even more frightened and chaos ensues. Most times, the parent couldn't bear to be in the room; a few got sick and spit up. I held their hands - and sometimes their heads.
But it wasn't always a bad experience working with patients in the clinic. I saw many of my teenaged patients at summer camp where I volunteered as a counselor. I saw first loves, "summer prom", and even busted a few making out behind a cabin. We saw high school and college graduation photos, and wedding photos. Some have even returned as volunteers, or gone on to medical school.
I have three children of my own today, so I can't imagine returning to this kind of job. A lot of life-long lessons came from it. First, it is critical to have a child-centered health facility. Caring for children is different than for adults, from the size of the equipment to the dosing of various medicines, to managing their emotional state with the decor in the room.
Second, communication is an art form. Very complex information about the child's disease and how to treat it has to be delivered and perceived at the level the patient and their family members can understand. On top of that they have to understand all of this complexity during the worst stress of their lives. This lesson is one I use every day in writing text copy for a website. It's a unique art to make information that readily accessible that quickly. I mastered the art of communication talking to patients and families.
Finally you can't have a childrens' health facility without the support of the community. Fundraisers are not a hobby, they are critical to supporting the patients and their families that often roll into town on their last tank of gas to save their child's life. But then they need to purchase incidentals to survive in the mean time. I'm proud to support Dunwoody Friends of CHOA, and I am equally proud to join my Phi Mu sisters in the Star94 Radiothon for Childrens' Miracle Network in November.
That's the story behind the story of SDOC's support of Childrens Healthcare of Atlanta. I'll be glad to tell you more about our support of local charitable causes and other work - both websites and other - at tonight's gala. I'll be there with rainboots on!