Sunday, May 3, 2009

NAED The Denise Amber Lee Foundation in Vegas

what a week!

The night before

It started out on Sunday with Nathan feeling ill. We thought it might be stress. We spent the day in and out of the doctor's office. Thank goodness, his doctor will see him on a Sunday. It turned out he was admitted into the hospital in the wee morning hours Monday (the morning we were flying to Vegas) with appendicitis. He's okay now. He's still weak. It wasn't an auspicious way to start the week. I was an emotional wreck starting out.

The plane

On the plane I sat next to an Iraqi war veteran who had lost his leg in a roadside bombing. He was very instrumental in making me feel better. He was just a young man. I think he said he was 26. His name was Pete. We talked at length (it's a five hour flight) about Post Traumatic Stress. His experiences mirror ours in many ways even though they are different in many ways. We talked of nightmares, flashbacks and anger.

But, you know, what a remarkable young man he was. Here I was trying to give him comfort by allowing him to talk because he says he never talks about it but felt he could talk to me, when he really surprised me. He said "hey, I lost a leg. And, yeah, the worst and scariest was losing my sight even temporarily. But, your son........ Your son lost his wife in the most tragic of ways. And losing a leg pales in comparison".

How remarkable is that? He said he'd pray for Nathan and our family even though it's difficult for him to pray. I told him I'd pray for him even though it was difficult for me to pray. And he said "no. Concentrate on your family". What a gift. I'm crying now thinking of it.

Arriving in Vegas

Well, we finally arrived and I felt..... I don't know how I felt but I felt soothed and better. I was so worried about Nathan. He was being operated on at the time we were arriving in Las Vegas. I can't express how much my maternal instincts were in overdrive. I couldn't stop thinking of losing Denise and having the fear of losing Nathan too. And all it was, was his appendix. I knew I was over reacting but the maternal drive just wouldn't slow down. It's weird to explain.

Well, there we were in Vegas and both Mark and I were wrecks with worry and lack of sleep. Thank goodness for Mike Rossi one of our foundation members that accompanied us. He just took over. We were pretty much penniless going out there because Nathan had the bank roll and of course he wasn't there. Mike just went into overdrive and took over. He was taking care of cabs and taking us to Kinko's and arranging meetings and checking us in and he pretty much was leading us through Monday and Tuesday morning. He took care of all the logistics because we were just wiped out emotionally and physically. I don't think he would have treated his own parents better. I'll never forget all he did for us.

The meeting

Things got better after our meeting with the 9-1-1 industry leaders Tuesday afternoon. What wonderful men. Brilliant men. You could see their brains working on what to do to help prevent what happened from happening again. They listened patiently to our story. They expressed compassion. But mostly (at least for me) they gave us hope. Hope that things will change. They were very sincere. All there had different ideas on how to accomplish this but all agreed that we need to continue to speak up and things need to change.

At the meeting were many fascinating people. The most fascinating, of course, was Dr. Jeff Clawson. No. You've never heard of him but you should! He's the man that started back in 1979 to write all the 9-1-1 protocols we use today. He, along with others, continue to improve them as technology and cultural situations evolve. He was very moved and perhaps a bit appalled by our story. You could see his brain working on better protocols as we were speaking. It was an honor just to be in the same room with him! not to mention being able to share our story. See pic of me with Dr. Clawson.

Scott Freitag, Eric Parry and Alan Fletcher from NAED (National Academies of Emergency Dispatch) were all there offering hope and suggestions of where the 9-1-1 industry is to go with correcting and helping minimize tragedies like ours. Scott Freitag was also moved by our story. He, too, has experienced tragedy in his young life. He has a beautiful family and seemed genuine in his offer to help us. Eric Parry has such a dynamic personality it's hard to pin down where to start. He took us by the hand (almost literally) and guided us through who to meet, what classes to attend, what to listen for...... He also invited us to speak in a couple of sessions.

What truly awesome individuals these men are. See pic of Mark and I with Scott Freitag.

Also in the meeting was the out going president of NENA (National Emergency Number Association) Ron Bonneau and the in coming president Craig Whittington. What can I say about them other than these men are dedicated professionals whose mission in life seems to be continually improve our 9-1-1 industry. This is what they do! How honorable is that?

I was humbled. I had no idea so many people cared so much and so many people are truly dedicated in making our lives so much safer.

I am immersed in this 9-1-1 thing as you all realize by now. This is all I talk about other than my grandbabies who I get to see today:o) I live, eat, drink, breathe this 9-1-1 stuff. To be able to talk to people who are just as immersed in it as I am was truly a gift that I'll forever treasure. Denise, sweetheart, people are listening!

We take 9-1-1 so for granted. We as civilians truly do. We have no clue as to all that goes into making a 9-1-1 call successful. We have no clue of how all the links in the chain need to work together. We have no clue that men and women are continually working behind the scenes (and have been for decades) just so we can be and feel safe.

What I gleaned in this meeting (and remember I was emotional so I could be off) was the medical and fire protocols for 9-1-1 would receive superior grades if you graded them. But the police protocols still need a lot of work. That the police are the most resistant to change and loss of control. The police say it's because the dynamics are so varied. But every man in that room that day agreed that the police could do better. Or that the 9-1-1 industry needs to do better where police are concerned.

After that meeting I felt confident, strong, safe (which I hadn't felt in a long time), and secure in the knowledge that what we're doing as a foundation is right and necessary. I knew we were right in our cause but these men gave me a validation I needed. They gave me hope that our story wasn't falling on deaf ears.

Needless to say they gave me strength and it was a strength that would last me the rest of the week. I had to tell our story at least a couple hundred times. A couple of those times were in front of classes. It was cathartic but it was difficult. It was the men in that room that gave me the strength to do it.

I can't write anymore now. I'm in tears with gratitude and an overwhelming sense of pride in our mission.

But there is more to the story. I have to tell you about the dispatchers we met. And the call center supervisors. And the classes we attended. Peter Bellmio with the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children. The Medicine Hat contingent.... About Nicole and Heidi from the San Diego Sheriff's Department...... God bless those two girls for helping me in the booth for they too gave me strength. And Kevin Willett. Geesh. Without him........... I would never have made it out there.

But I'll have to save all that because I'm emotionally spent.

Much love and peace,