So, I will do two recaps on our trip. This is a more grown up version with a bit more incite as it is my personal blog. On Willow's Wishes, I will do a 'Willow version' of how the trip went. Maybe even do a Q&A interview.
I will spare you the boring details of the drive (13 hours down, 14 back home), as well as any and all fights between children that I am sure, could have been prevented if only they were to follow directions. I will say travel bags with new books (coloring, puzzle, reading) are a great thing to have, while magnetic hangman not so much (not sure we found all the pieces after the 3-year-old got to the game).
Thursday was the meet and greet dinner. A night for all of the families to meet other families traveling the same journey of hydrocephalus, (who are we kidding, no one's journey is the same - it's the conditions name that is shared, but there is also a great understanding that goes along with that), and share stories. It gives our kiddos a chance to meet others who have laid in the hospital bed long hours as they have thought no one gets it - but they do. Willow and Evan also got to sign books that night which she thought was not so great (she signed about 30 copies that night!) and so had a sore wrist. LOL
Friday was the meeting day, we met with three offices in DC, Rep. Amash from West Michigan, Sen. Stabenow, and Sen. Peters. For the first time in all my years of going to these meetings, I actually felt that Amash's office received us and Willow's story well. They made it clear he will not sign on to the Caucus to help raise awareness in Congress - but they now have a health aide on his staff, which is new. I like to call that a very small baby step, but at least a step in the right direction. The other two offices have always been quite supportive which is great, but this year almost felt above what has been said in the past. They both loved that there are events happening in MI to help raise awareness and have said that they will love to hear more about them in hopes to come to our walks or help raise awareness in September when it is National Hydrocephalus Month. Those are great things to hear at this point. So, now we will wait and see what happens as more events and awareness is raised.
Saturday our family took a trip to Salisbury, MD and then on to Ocean City. Our stop in Salisbury was not very long at all, it was a moment to pay respects and get a photo with Jon's dad who passed away before I met him. So, none of our kids had the chance to know that grandpa; but I felt it was a great piece of family history for them to know. Maybe because Jonathan runs off to college next year, maybe because we picked Orion's middle name after grandpa's middle name... Maybe because we were close enough to see it, and that was all the reason needed. Either way, Willow was very excited to stop and 'see' grandpa. We then drove on to Ocean City so the kids could go jump some ocean waves and taste the salty ocean (more to come on that in Willow's version). Then homeward bound on Sunday, all in all, a great trip.
Yet, so much more came out of this trip. I go on these trips and bring our family to raise awareness in Congress. I need them to see how hydrocephalus has affected our children - not just Willow. Something that I was reminded of on this trip, is that I have no memory of Jonathan's 6th-grade year at Blandford, that was the year Willow received 12 surgeries in a short 12 months. The memories I have of that year, are of Jonathan asking not to go on overnight trips away from home because what if Willow ends up in the hospital? What if Willow doesn't make it out? What if....
Or how about the comments made to me about how amazing I am as a mom because I am there?! I am there speaking out for my daughter, I allowed her to have a voice in a book, and share her story with others. I am THERE every day she is in the hospital.... I get it; some parents can't be there in the hospital, bedside for every minute. I do not judge... but to have a few teenage girls thanking me for being there, just being THERE... hits you in the heart.
What about the time the research doctor who is there, set to speak the next day at our conference also thanks you for allowing your child to write a book so that they can hear from a different perspective and remind them of WHY they are in the lab day in and day out? It puts a heart to the reason they do their job, and she had tears in her eyes.
You see, this year there was a lot of awareness raised, I am certain of that. It may not have been the awareness I left my house for, but it was awareness none the less. It put a new fire in me, reminding me why I joined the PHF, why I decided to get involved and be the voice for those that don't want to or can't speak. Why I will, every day, take it personally when something I plan as a way to raise awareness or funds doesn't go well, and it will make me try harder next time and not give up.
There have been a lot of chance meetings in the last month, that lead me to believe that this is where I am supposed to be, this is where I am supposed to grow. I personally have tried to steer my life in many other directions (still do on a daily basis), but I keep being shown (though I don't always listen, darn stubborn, red head) and after this trip to DC... I hear now loud and clear.
I want to thank EVERYONE who helped our family all summer long raise funds to get to DC this year, this by far was the most rewarding trip we have been on. Thank you, just doesn't even seem like enough, but yet is all I have.
|Hydro Hero's 2017|
|VP Michael Illions with Willow|