Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Inspiration in Unlikely Places

A couple weeks ago Holly and I attended the ASHA (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association) convention in San Diego. This annual conference is the largest speech and language convention in the country.

While Holly was attending conference sessions I walked the exhibit floor. I had certain goals in mind, but found myself striking out by the end of the day. The massive convention floor took me an entire day to work through. By the end of the day my feet were killing me and I just wanted to call it a day.

Special Forces Medic, Staff Sgt. Marc Small
As I walked down the last isle a picture caught my attention. It wasn't the typical picture you'd expect to see in front of someone's booth; it was a picture of a soldier. Behind the picture was a woman with an inviting smile. So I moseyed over to her and asked what they do. She introduced herself as Mary and explained that her organization, Small Steps in Speech, is a non-profit foundation to help fund speech and language services for children who may not have the funds to pay for services themselves. I was astounded to hear this because I had never heard of an organization that helps fund speech therapy.

Mary went on to say that the foundation was created in the name of this soldier, Marc Small. She told me that Marc was engaged to the founder, Amanda Charney, and they had plans to open a speech and language private practice upon his return from Operation Enduring Freedom. Sadly, Marc was killed in 2009 after his third week of deployment in Afghanistan.

I was very taken by Mary's story. I told her I thought it was a wonderful foundation and I could see us working with them in the future. I also, loosely mentioned my wife and I had thought about establishing a similar foundation one day too. This perked her interest and she asked me more about what we were thinking. I wouldn't normally talk to a stranger about Grace in the middle of a convention hall but I did. I told her that we lost our daughter about a year ago and that we had thought about establishing a foundation in her name one day too. Her eyes immediately swelled with tears and she said that Marc was her son. I could feel the lump in my throat grow and tears fill in my eyes. We both share the common bond of losing a child and no matter how old they were when they died the pain is still the same.

We exchanged contact information and have been in touch a couple times since the convention. I remember texting Holly after leaving that day "I met a very special woman today. I can't wait to tell you about her." Holly's reply, "Great..."

Later that night I told Holly about my meeting with Mary. She too was very touched and made plans to go by her booth the next day. I wasn't there, but from what I heard they had a great meeting as well.

We hope we'll be able to work with them in the future. We're not sure to what extend or in what capacity. All we do know, is like Mary and Amanda, we want to turn our heart-ache into good and try to help others in Grace's name.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Zoo's are for Children ...and the Elderly

A few days ago Holly and I went to the San Diego Zoo. It was one of many attractions we planned to visit on our trip to San Diego.

I had a feeling it could stir emotions seeing so many kids. It's hard not to see kids a year or two old and not think about Grace. I tend to not dwell on my heartbreak but rather embrace the happiness of so many young families and kids having fun. Hearing children laugh and run around is so natural and inspirational. But even so, we can't help but imagine how much we would have enjoyed showing Grace all the animals and having that same fun. I guess we'll probably experience similar situations for the rest of our lives.

As we wandered about we found ourselves going into different gift shops looking for souvenirs. Not so much for ourselves, but for Grace's gravesite. We can't share any other life experiences with her. So all we can do is hope to find a meaningful trinket to leave at her gravesite to share our trip with her. I know that may sound irrational, but that's all we have.

Before leaving the park we visited the largest gift shop. After mulling around for a few minutes I went to sit down on a bench while Holly continued to shop. After about 10-minutes I saw Holly walk briskly past me leaving the store like I wasn't there. I immediately went outside to her and could see tears running down her face. I think the emotions of the day and our desire to find the perfect souvenir for Grace was just too much.

We both realize our actions are irrational but we're torn between our hearts and wanting to give something to her. I don't know what's going to happen. Maybe one day we'll come to terms with our loss and not do these types of things. But for now it's all we have and that false sense of sharing a token from our travels will bring a little happiness to us.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

DNA in the Bank

Several months ago I mentioned we were looking to bank Grace's remaining DNA. We were a little skeptical of what we'd be able to bank since most of the tests had used everything available...or so we thought.

I wanted to wait until we were moved into our new house before starting the process. With the help of Grace's geneticist we were able to locate every sample that Kaiser had sent out. Once I had the list of labs it was a matter of calling them to find how much was remaining. It took me about two weeks to call them all and have them report back to what they had. Most of the labs had no more then a few micrograms of DNA or the residue in the test tube. But two labs had a significant quantity, 75 microliters and 300 microliters. I'm unable to give a comparison of what a microliter is other then to say it was definitely enough to bank.

So last week both samples were sent to Oregon Health and Sciences University for long term DNA storage. The remaining samples will stay at their respective labs for the foreseeable future. What I've learned throughout this process is most labs will save the DNA for an "unspecified" amount of time. Whereas a DNA bank guarantees safe storage for decades.

The reason we wanted to store Grace's DNA is for any future tests or research studies in which her samples could be of use. Maybe one day it could offer answers to us and others through additional testing and/or research. For Holly and I, the piece of mind knowing everything is safely stored is well worth it.