Thursday, May 23, 2013

Travels with Carl...#1

Tracy, Shelle, Carl, Wayne, Trudy, Joy, (in front)
Traci, Shelle, Carl, Wayne, Trudy, Joy (in front)
Since December, Carl Hicks has taken on a new responsibility for PHA - building our important new Chapter structure.  As he takes on considerable travel for this job, Carl has been taking that as an opportunity to connect with PHers around the country.  This is the first in an occasional series of guest blogs from Carl...

Starting a new practice of calling every special events organizer a few days before as well as after their event in order to be certain we’ve done our best to support them, I called Trudy Seidel. Trudy, one of our PAH patients had organized “Pray Phor a Cure,” a large, community-supported “garage sale” to be conducted in Vinton, Iowa, on May 4th. This was to be Trudy’s first event but instead of trepidation, (what I had with my first event), Trudy sounded ecstatic!

“We are doing so much more than a community garage sale,” she gushed, “we are having a silent auction as well as a live auction, and it has grown so large that we had to add another large building at the fairgrounds for the venue!” Continuing she said excitedly, “We have people coming from all over including from out-of-state, and I am so, so pumped!” I asked her if she minded if I dropped in, for after-all, I was in the neighborhood. Kinda, that is.  I was in Chicago for our Midwest Chapter’s first event that was scheduled for the very next day on Sunday, which put me a scant 275 miles away. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday so, up at 4:00 AM, I launched across the prairies of Illinois for the farmland of north central Iowa in my little rental car.

Little zebras!
The GPS took me right to the Vinton Country Fairgrounds located in Vinton, a farm town of about 5,300 fine Americans. As I entered the door, it was readily apparent that most had donated something to Trudy’s cause, (your PHA), and most were there to provide the single mother of four all of their support. It also became once again apparent to me that our PH family extended to every corner of America as patients and caregivers I’d met during years of travel across the country began to exclaim, “There’s Carl! Carl is here!”

As my eyes became adjusted, coming in from the bright sunlight, I spotted Vern and Joy Gore, who’d flown in from Arizona the day previous to assist Trudy in her first event. All as Joy, a PH patient, battled PH AND cancer! There was Wayne Wilson (PH patient), and his wife, and Ginger Kahler, another patient who like Wayne was now confined to a scooter. Her big blue eyes welcoming, I’d collected my first of scores of hugs, less than 45 seconds into the door.

Zebras wherever we go...Sometimes it is PH
Next I encountered the “hostess of honor” herself, Trudy. She was effusive with happiness that I would drive out there to participate in her event, and so was I. The large room was abuzz with activity and everywhere I looked was evidence that a herd of zebras had thundered in off the savannah. Black and white stripes were in abundance whether it would be children exiting the face-painting activity to home- made posters that clearly depicted the importance of looking beyond the hoof beats.  It was so, so exciting and making it even more so was running into Shelle Goodwin, no-longer a PH patient, now in her fifth successful year past her double-lung transplant. That good news was dampened by seeing Merlin Krantz, a farmer in his seventies who’d recently lost his wife to PH. His comment to me was, “…she’s better off, I’m not.”

Tables were piled high with donated goods ranging from paintings to children’s clothing, tools, and fresh baked goods, lovingly prepared in our nation’s breadbasket. I decided to walk next door into the next building to see what items they had for sale in the live auction scheduled for noon. Smack in the middle of the doorway I literally ran into our own Traci Stewart, board member and Chair of PHA’s Pulmonary Hypertension Professional Network (PHPN). Wow, what a great surprise and an even greater hug!

Neatly arrayed next door awaiting the anxious bidders/ buyers were the items to be sold at live auction. At least eighty folding chairs were lined up in front of the auctioneer’s podium, which was to be ably manned by LeRoy Deutsch, a real auctioneer and Trudy’s father. Much to my surprise, every single one was filled and the walls were lined by those who’d come out to share in the struggle against PH. I thought how nice it was to see that outpouring of support and love for their neighbors and it reminded me of how rural Americans were once known to come far and wide to perform a barn-raising, banding together to make it happen. In the larger picture, that is what we are all doing in our PH PHamily across the country whether we are in bib-overalls and John Deere caps, pin-stripe suits or scrubs.

My biggest take-away from the weekend, in which Trudy raised more than $12,000 in her first event came from a discussion I overheard while there. One of the farmers in attendance sidled over to Trudy and asked, “What are you going to do with all this money, use it for your medical bills?” “No, Trudy replied, I’m going to give it to PHA. They can find the cure for it, and I can’t.”

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