Monday, August 18, 2008

Sleeping In A Pink Tent

I don't even know where to start.

This past weekend was the Breast Cancer 3 Day. There were over 2000 (that is not a typo) people - both women and men - making this incredible journey. They walked a total of 60 miles over 3 days, and they raised over $5,000,000.00 for the cause.

My wife walked. She did extremely well - nearly made the whole 60 miles, but her left ankle quit on her at about mile 52. She got put on medical hold and had to be seen at the emergency room at the Quincy Hospital. The good news was that she was seen at fast track and got out of there in plenty of time to make the closing ceremony. And she was there to be a part of it.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. I should probably start more from the beginning. And I should explain the title of this post.

As I said, there were over 2000 participants for this walk. That doesn't include the 300 or so people that volunteered to support the walkers, and those of us include all of the base camp operations like dealing with gear and tents, logistics, and food services, all of those that worked at the pit stops providing hydration and food, communications and transportation, and the medical team, where I was. All of us that were there slept in these two-person pink tents. Not a lot of room in the tent, but enough that you had some privacy and you could stay sheltered and keep your personal gear with you. In principle. The biggest problem was that on the first day out there the weather turned really nasty and we got an immense amount of rain which flooded out the fields where the tents were all set up. Also flooded out the medical tent and caused everyone to be evacuated to the school buildings near where we were set up. Everyone ended up either spending the night in the school or they made arrangements to go to hotels in the area. I think most everyone stayed at the schools, though.

Once the weather dried up - the next two days were nearly perfect - everyone's spirits improved. And medical got busy.

A little about the medical crew. We had, I think, about 50 people who worked everywhere: all of the pit stops, the lunch stop, and the base camp. Our number included a considerable number of nurses, 3 medical doctors, a chiropractor, a handful of athletic trainers and physical therapists, 12 (I think?) emergency medical technicians, and 4 paramedics. The types of medical care that we provided included the PTs and athletic trainers working on muscle injuries and stretching help, nursing care for blisters and various other foot injuries, and intervention for acute medical emergencies like dehydration, heat injuries, and the like.

All I can say about the people that I worked with is this: they are some of the most incredibly skilled and talented professionals that I have had the honor of being associated with and learning from. Especially learning from them - if I take nothing else away from the weekend, that is one thing that I can say that I truly treasure. I would work with any of them again anywhere on any day.

As for the walkers that I saw and treated, every one that I met - without exception - was incredible. Some of the nicest people I got the opportunity to meet, not to mention courageous and tough. Many of them would rather have not come to see us, but they did because they wanted to continue walking, and it was our job to help them. Plain and simple.

Much of what I did consisted of helping walkers deal with blisters or tissue problems, like capillary spillage or cuts and scrapes. I popped a lot of blisters and did a lot of dressing and bandaging. But I did get to help intervene with some pretty sick people. I also was tapped to be a part of the emergency response team during the closing ceremony, and we got put into use with a spectator who went into heat stroke. That person was in pretty serious trouble, and we didn't waste any time handling the situation. I thought it was amazing; with something like this the 5 of us on the team all acted quickly and professionally to get treatment initiated and to get our patient out of there. And that was at the very end of everything.....

One thing that this weekend did for me was that it restored some of what I'd been having trouble with, in terms of my occasional attitude towards work. I was really, truly humbled, and it re-focused me on what is really important: the patient. And, frankly, I needed to be kicked like that. I'm glad I was.

I also wanted to share something else that I thought, in an odd way, was an appropriate way to honor the walkers and the survivors. It's not a song about walking, per se. On the surface, it's about soccer, but indirectly it's about life. And it's really about all of those people who walked, and those who helped.

I was born in a country where people admire
Their great sporting heroes and how they aspire
To stand upon mountains and always be winners
And never give less than their all

I once met an old man who told me great stories
Of legends of old who played hard for the glory
Of lifting the cup in that moment of triumph
His memory's kept me enthralled

On the fields, the fields of glory
On the fields where boys become men
On the fields, the fields of glory
May the best team win, win in the end

Supporting their team with a true sense of place
Are the handfuls of people with pride on their faces
They come from the townlands, the parish, the village
Their banners they proudly unfurl

An anthem of hope is the song they are singing
There's a whistle, it sounds and the game, it begins
And the roar of the crowd echoes up to the heavens
It sends out a clarion call

I'm dreaming of Ireland in fine summer weather
A crowd of young lads playing football together
All hoping that someday the call they will answer
To play for the place they were born

On the fields, the fields of glory
On the fields where boys become men
On the fields, the fields of glory
May the best team win, win in the end

I'm dreaming of Ireland in fine summer weather
A crowd of young lads playing football together
The roar of the crowd echoes up to the heavens
It sends out a clarion call....


Anonymous said...

Walt, thank you so much for all of your help this weekend and capturing the other side of the 3-Day. Having crewed and walked, I truly believe I return every year because of the 3-Day spirit, dedication, and compassion by all who participate, every walker, crew, volunteer, 3-Day staff, and spectator.

Katie Orlando said...

Thank you for helping out this weekend--I hope Martha is doing better!

(Granite Angel)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sending the blog. The three day is a great experience and I hope to see you next year! Medical pulled together as an incredible team ! Thanks again for your contribution
Cathy Loiselle
2008 Medical Captain Boston 3-Day