Philly Trip: Day Two, conference day one

In the morning of Day 2, mom and i went for a little walk with cedric to find a grocery store to buy milk for Ozzie… and our Room service tray from the night before was STILL outside our room… hm… we got directions to Whole Foods and ventured outside – and it was already hot… 

we made our way back and then got ready to go to registration.  We got signed in and got our schedule for the weekend.  Cedric was excited to go up to the roof level for the conference daycare.  I was nervous, to say the least.  On the weeks leading up to our trip, i tried to remind Ceddy that when we go to Philadelphia, there will be lots of people who maybe won’t look like him, but that’s okay.  So, before he went up to the daycare, i took him aside again and reminded him; “there might be some boys and girls at the daycare who look different from you – but that’s OKAY because everyone wants to be friends and everyone wants to play and have fun.”

then mom took him upstairs and hung out with Ozzie in the hotel room while he napped – and Brad and i went down to the Keynote speaker, who was Dr. Francis Collins, director or the National Institutes of Health. As he began his talk, i was pleasantly surprised to see that i was able to follow MOST of what he was talking about – it felt like a more entertaining version of Grade 10 Biology.  We learned about dominant and recessive genes then he started talking about DNA and how absolutely mind boggling human DNA actually is.

He’s kind of a big deal

Then he started talking about this project that he founded called the Human Genome Project and Brad and i looked at each other… i mean, i’m not big on science, but even I’ve heard of the Human Genome project… the more he spoke the more we realized that we were listening to one of the BIG GUNS of science!!

Some of the things that i took away from his talk were that there are no “perfect” genetic specimens, that all of us carry an estimated 80-100 significant genetic flaws!  So, where this comes into play, i guess, is that while they are doing genetic testing and research into Moebius Syndrome, there are also all the permutations of genetic flaws to contend with.  Thus far, there is no ONE THING that people with Moebius have that other samples don’t.  There’s no “Moebius Gene” i guess.  and after all of the talk about genetic code and samples and whatnot – he said that even with this research, there’s no way of saying that there isn’t also an environmental component.

then, to top it all off, he pulled out a guitar with an inlaid mother of pearl Double Helix and sang a song that he wrote…

after this great talk, we signed up for the genetic testing consult.

Mom and Ozzie came down from napping and while i was signing up for the consult, Brad and Ozzie made a new friend, Vicky McCarrell – the President and founder of the foundation!

Vicky founded the Foundation after her son was born in 1990 and she was told he had Moebius.  Through her work – and also thanks to facebook, the conference we attended (the 10th biannual) was the biggest one yet with over 430 people in attendance; 131 of which have Moebius Syndrome!  and of the 430 people, 25% of those people were first time attendees like us!!  that is incredible.

she was so gracious and friendly, we chatted right through the first seminar of the day – and had to run to our genetic consult, so as to not be late.

In the consult we gave in depth family histories, and DNA samples (Blood from Brad, Mom and I – Saliva from Ozzie) and then Ozzie had his eyes examined, because of his strabismus.  The team was really great and friendly – and when they asked if Ozzie’s eye doctor was planning on corrective surgery, i told him that Yes, it’s part of the plan, but our ophthalmologist wanted to wait until we got back from the conference in case we learned anything or met any specialists.  Then, the Doc running the team Dr. David Hunter (Opthalmologist-in-Chief and Richard M. Robb Chair, Children’s Hospital Boston, Professor and Vice Chair of Opthalmology, Harvard Medical School) hands me his card and says: “have your surgeon call me, and we can talk about a surgical plan for Ozzie”

SQUEEEE!!

Also, as a cool side note, while they were doing the eye exam, they asked us where we were from – and we said: “Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.” and they all started laughing and were like, “What?”  I mean, we’re pretty used to people laughing when they hear where we’re from, but then they said, pointing to one of the other research team members: “ask HIM where HE’s from!”  uhm… okay, “Where are you from?”

He smiled at us and said: “Melville”WHAAAT???  LOL, it was awesome.  like, suddenly he was family – and we called him Saskatchewan when we saw him around the conference.  Nice guy, too.

By the time the genetic consult was done, we had missed the ONE workshop i really wanted to attend, “Moebius for Moms Birth to 5” and “Moebius for Dads Birth to 5” – it would have been great to see all the moms who are at the same stage all at once.  ah well.

It was time to go get Cedric from Daycare, and he had a BLAST up there.  He was playing and running and just being 4 and wild and free.  We came back to our hotel room  (Room service tray… STILL THERE!! Brad called and complained and they said: We’ll send someone up right away) as we were getting ready to go down for supper, and i asked Cedric, just to start a dialogue: “So, Ceddy, did you see anyone at daycare who maybe looked different from you?” and he looked at me and said; “No.”

i could have cried and hugged him and sung and danced.  wow.  I was so proud of him.  No one in the daycare looked different to a four year old, and i was up there – there was a lot of kids who had facial differences, but to the eyes of my son, everyone was the same.  it was very humbling.

This is one of the only family pics that has Grandma in it, and one of the very few family shots at all.   But here we are ^ at supper – we sat with a family from Phoenix, who’s little girl Chloe (with Moeibus) was just so cute and she and Cedric became instant best friends.

in fact, each time we’d come down to the ballroom for a meal, the first thing Cedric would say when we sat down was: “Where’s my friend, Chloe?”

That’s her in the pink, i tried to get pics of these kids running around, but this is the best i can do, they were fast!

one of the things that Brad and i found to be really inspiring was to see all the kids, running around – screaming, playing, laughing – being regular kids.  And to see how the older kids/teens had already formed their little groups of friends they remembered from other conferences.  It was pretty much then that we decided that we will have to come every year, it’s like summer camp for Ozzie – except summer camp full of kids JUST LIKE HIM, who look like him and have the same issues as him, but they don’t have to talk about it – it just is, and they can just relax and have fun being with their friends.

Cedric became quite the popular kid, too – screaming at the top of his lungs over and over again: “EVERYBODY DANCE NOW!” even the catering staff were getting into it, singing along with him…. funny.  Two things people said to him over the course of the weekend – 1.) i like your hat

2.) I like your mohawk (mohawk not shown)

back up to our room and the room service tray was STILL outside our room!! this was almost 24 hours now. Gross.  Brad called down again, and someone said – again… “Yes, we’ll send someone right up” – sigh.  We got the boys settled down and into bed, then for the millionth time commented on how lucky we were to have Grandma there, because of her Brad and I were able to go down to the bar and have drinks with Kevin Smant and his wife Lisa and Tim Smith and his girlfriend Cassandra.  I’d been reading Kevin’s blog Moebius Musings since Ozzie was diagnosed, so it was nice to put a face to the words! in fact, the first thing i said to Kevin when i met him that afternoon was: “Are you Kevin? I read your blog!”  Kevin and his wife both have Moebius Syndrome, and they have two beautiful kids (who don’t).  Tim Smith runs the Many Faces of Moebius Syndrome website and facebook page, as well as heads the Moebius Syndrome Awareness Day initiative. *Which is January 24th! Wear your Purple!*

I know that it’s probably like, stupid for me to say this, but drinking with them helped me really REALLY bring it all home that they’re just regular people.  Ugh, i feel awful saying that, but truly – having drinks with those folks that night was probably one of the best things for me as far as imagining my son as an adult.  Just regular people, in regular relationships, with jobs, and interests, and it was encouraging to hear them talk about just STUFF! like, stuff you would talk about over drinks.  Thanks Tim for inviting us to join you for drinks!

Finally, it was time to go back up to bed, it was close to midnight – and when we got upstairs – they had finally taken the room service cart away…

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