30 01 2011

A year ago I had an overwhelming and frightening pull at my soul to go to Haiti. There were calls going out across the world for volunteers, supplies and help. I felt that I had something of value to give and I could actually provide something worthwhile. They need Physical Therapists. I thought, I can do this… I can help.

And I talked about it. And thought about it. And I researched some organizations with various opportunities available. One of the orthopedic surgery groups in town has several surgeons who volunteer their services in trips to Haiti throughout the year, so I got my name on their email list. I scoured the American Physical Therapy Association website for information about organized missions. Friends passed along Facebook pages and blogs (The Greene Team in Haiti, etc) chronicalling groups of medical professionals making their way to make a difference in Haiti. I was excited and ready and I really wanted to go too.

Then… well, I don’t even really know what happened… it just sort of faded away.

Until now.

My friend, a fellow PT, shared a link that had been posted on Facebook (what a remarkable social media outlet!) with another call for PTs to come to Haiti. I can do this… I can help. This plea comes from an organization called Physicians for Peace in collaboration with their Walking Free program on a new campaign in Haiti. The Walking Free program donates prostheses and adaptive equipment as well as provides rehabilitation and training by a volunteer medical staff including prosthetists and PTs.

I’m starting to feel that pull again. I spent the better part of last night poring over the Walking Free blog posts from PTs and other volunteers, absorbing every word and every emotional tale. It wasn’t enough. I can’t even begin to fathom the logistics of a trip like this. But there’s a 10-day trip at the beginning of April. I’m excited and ready and I really want to go too.

Obviously there is a lot more to this than just booking a plane ticket. I have a full-time job here, and a very limited amount of time-off available to me. Is there a little-known benefit for a humanitarian sabbatical? Will they drain my banked PTO hours, in effect ruining the rest of my meticulously planned year? Will they let me take a week off without pay? Can I afford to take a week off without pay? (What a bittersweet dilemma of luxury!) Would they even consider me “qualified” with the little experience I have with prosthetics and amputees? Is my desire to help great enough to overcome my inexperience?

Time to make a list…

1) Contact the volunteer coordinator at Physicians for Peace to express my interest and determine my eligibility and qualification to make this trip.

2) Contact HR at Piedmont for answers to questions regarding use of PTO, leave of absence, employee assistance for humanitarian missions, etc.

3) Contact my former boss. I had spoken to her candidly last year about my desire to go to Haiti, and would value her insight as to the steps to take as well as advice and recommendations for contacts in the organization who may help me to facilitate my plans.

4) Contact my supervisor and manager. I want to have as much information and as many answers in my hands as possible before approaching them. Past experiences here have taught me that I will get a “no” unless I already have a “yes” from someone higher up the ladder. So that “yes” is absolutely vital to my cause.

I know there are at least 47 more steps in this process… but these four are the beginning of something just incredible. And in this, The Year of Kristen, I don’t want to pass on this amazing opportunity a second time.


My Sweet Carolina

23 01 2011

I am so lucky.

Not only do I have the best nuclear and extended family, but I have had the great fortune to have become part of several other families throughout the course of my life. The initial connections were made over classes and cadavers and grew into holidays and my own room in their homes. Now I simply just belong.

I just got back from another wonderfully fun and far too short weekend with two of my other families in Morganton/Shelby, NC, and despite the 4-hour drive, I am still feeling happy and loved and almost overwhelmed by the words that Laura’s mom said when she hugged me goodbye… “You are the sister that Laura never had until now.” There was plenty of “sister” conversations in the past two days as Lily is getting a baby sister in June, but I will never forget those words.

The other role I get to play, and one that I so adore, is Aunt Kristen. Though to Lily, I’m still just “Aunt K.” My friends’ kids are hilarious and so smart and cuddly and loving. And though I’m not able to be around them (or their parents!) as much as I would like, somehow the closeness of our relationship has not been affected by distance or infrequency of our visits. It’s very special.

I am so lucky!


16 01 2011

Today’s victory is to embark on my first ever computer file back-up plan.* I bought an external hard drive (it is so tiny, it’s obviously magic that allows it to hold a kajillion bytes-of-some-unrecognizable-denomination) and am currently in the “Initial Backup” phase, which is likely to take the better part of the rest of my weekend.

*Thanks to my sister Jill for her strong encouragement toward this project!

In addition to being an intelligent grown-up decision (baby steps!), this backup device will also help to ease my anxiety regarding my laptop and the current economic state in which people are brazenly and assily (word of my own creation) helping themselves to the personal contents of my neighbors’ homes. I have unfortunately been sensing a slow decline in my laptop’s function and performance over the past 6-12 months. It started with a sudden and seemingly random loss of speaker output. They worked one morning, and did not work that afternoon. And they have not worked since. So I got some external speakers, significantly decreasing the portability factor of the laptop! But at least I have sound. Likely a related issue, the microphone feature has also been rendered defunct. This came to my attention as I was attempting a Skype call with my friend Paula in Portland. I could hear her (through the external speakers only, obviously!) but she couldn’t hear me. Nor could she see me, but that’s understandable as this ANCIENT laptop (circa 2005!) does not have a webcam. Solution: break out the old hands-full microphone! Portability factor now even lower.

Next break-down was the Power button. Does not work. At. All. Push it, and nothing happens. Really jam it down in there (probably a really bad idea actually), and nothing happens. Luckily this machine has a “media quick start” feature in which a swipe of the touch pad at the top of the keyboard will directly open the media menu. I simply close that menu to access my desktop. Roundabout means of access, but effective. Of course, I recently made the “mistake” of shutting down my computer one morning instead of closing it up to put it to “sleep,” and the damn thing ran the “Shutting down” screen for more than 15 hours. It would probably still be running if I hadn’t disconnected the battery to force it. I realize this is not likely the finest technological solution.

I also have a very finicky CD-ROM drive. As in, it may or may not register to the computer that there is a disk with a program to run or a song list to play/input. This is increasingly frustrating since I just bought TurboTax 2010 and can’t get it to install or open. Somehow I intend to win this particular battle. Hopefully with a simple tactic such as restarting the computer.


A Macbook is looking more and more enticing. If only they didn’t cost DOUBLE what a PC laptop does! Of course, if I would stop buying cross-country plane tickets every few months, I’m sure I’d be amazed at the balance of my checking and savings accounts, and the prospect of paying double wouldn’t be so daunting!

For now, I’m making do. And the file backup is a good start on the road to protecting information, past projects, future endeavors, and some really great music.