As you all know (if you've been following my blog), that I was born with congenital heart disease, and in a matter of a few weeks will be undergoing my third (and hopefully last) open heart surgery to repair the remainder of my defect. You may also know that I am a cardiac sonographer - I know I posted a time or two about my pediatric echocardiography boards last year. So, yes, I am a Cardiac Sonographer, registered in both pediatric and adult echo. Having been born with my congenital heart defect, I had yearly echoes growing up, and they sparked an interest and I went with it. I honestly love what I do, and in a way it's been useful in knowing what's going on with myself. I understand the echoes, I know how to read them, and I get what the Cardiologists and Surgeons are saying to me when we discuss everything. But enough about that, let's rewind...
Back in January, I received an email from the Cardiac track coordinator at the school I graduated from with my Diagnostic Medical Sonography degree, asking if I would be interested in presenting at the Sonographer Symposium they hold each spring. She mentioned that she saw I had passed my Pediatric Echocardiography boards, and was hoping I could give a talk on Congenital Heart Disease. I, of course, was honored that they had thought of me, and I gladly accepted. At the time, I had no idea when my surgery was going to be, and honestly, timing could not have been better.
I worked on my presentation a little each night for months, and ended up working on it at work in the evenings because my computer kept crashing, and I was terrified I was going to lose everything I had worked so hard on. I started out by brain dumping all of the information I wanted to get across on slides, and then fine tuning and eliminating slides from there, until I was happy with it. By the time I was ready to leave for the Symposium last Thursday, I had 88 slides and about 10 congenital defects to discuss. On top of that I had video clips of the defects to supplement the slides.
Friday came, and I went into the school to make sure my presentation was going to work. As it turned out, I was unable to leave my presentation to get to the clips to show. At that point, I had to embed the clips into my presentation. No problem, but it did take a little time. I did a few there to make sure they would work, and then borrowed one of the DMS Faculty members laptops to finish it up. I'm so thankful I went in to check because had I not, Saturday would have been a TRAIN WRECK. After I finished, I had to head to a get together for the DMS Faculty and presenters, at which point I returned the laptop I borrowed. It was nice to get out that evening and get my mind off of the symposium because by that point I was TERRIFIED. I can honestly tell you though, I was not myself. The evening flew by, and before I knew it I was on my way back to get to bed.
Saturday morning came quickly, even though I didn't sleep well. I got up and got ready, and headed towards the school. My coworkers had made the trip down for the conference, and I had been in contact with them all morning. I had to stop and get gas in my car, and then I wanted to grab a coffee and a breakfast sandwich. By the time I left Sheetz it was already 7:30, and I was feeling the pressure of being late. I rushed to the school and walked in with minutes to spare (If you know me, then you know this is not like me at all). I am typically always early for everything - and even Angie and Laurie mentioned it was not like me to be late.
I met up with my coworkers who so kindly saved me a seat, and took my breakfast sandwich out, but by that point, I had lost my appetite, and my nerves were taking over. The first presenter was wonderful, and opened my eyes to what is available to sonographers, we just need to think outside the box. After that lecture we had a technical showcase which allowed us to travel around the school and see shortened lectures and presentations on machines, contrast, and other sonography related tools.
Once the technical showcases were done I was up. Yikes! I was the first to present for the cardiac track. I began to get set up as people started to trickle into the room.
(Yeah, that's me hiding behind the podium)
Before I knew it, Beth was introducing me and I was off. I was EXTREMELY nervous, and I know it showed. I stumbled over a few things, and got ahead of myself at a few points, but over all the presentation went well. Unfortunately, when I got to my first set of echo clips to show, they did not work as they did the day before! Beth came up to help me, but we could not get them to work as they once did. So instead, I was stuck clicking the clip to replay each time to point out different structures and defects. Oh well, it could have been worse.
Before I knew it Beth was heading up toward the front of the room. I paused to ask her how we were doing on time, and she then told me I was 10 minutes over. Oops! I had just been so into the presentation I hadn't even taken into account how long I had actually be talking for. Beth had told me before in the e-mails we exchanged that I had an hour time slot, but to plan on speaking for 45-50 minutes and leave some time for questions. Unfortunately, there was no time for that. Not to mention, I was the last presenter before lunch, so I'm sure everyone was annoyed that I kept them there late when they were probably starving!
I cleaned up my materials as the room cleared for lunch. As I was cleaning, I was introduced to one of the current Cardiac students and her clinical instructor. She was interested in a job that was posted within the medical center that I work for, so I chatted with her about the job, what the area was like, and then promised I would get her in contract with someone from the practice she was interested in. I finally made my way downstairs. I grabbed a sandwich and a bag of chip and sat down with friends to chat with them as I hadn't had much time to see them that morning. I still didn't have an appetite, and I was still trying to process everything.
At least I could finally breathe a sigh of relief. My presentation was now over and I could relax and enjoy the rest of the days lectures. I really enjoyed the rest of the lectures, and before I knew it the day was over. After the symposium, South Hills held a DMS Alumni Reunion for classmates to mingle and catch up over drinks and appetizers. It was really nice to sit back and unwind, catch up with the faculty and my friends, and I even won some South Hills swag!
After the reunion, my coworkers and I had a few drinks then headed to dinner at one of my favorite restaurants in State College, the Ale House. Well, since I had hardly eaten anything in nearly 48 hours, I went a little crazy. I ordered a Bison burger (which came with fries) AND a side of mac and cheese. It was delicious.
Sunday morning is when the entire weekend slowly started to sink in. I met up with my coworkers one more time to introduce them to all the glory that is The Original Waffle Shop. On my way to meet them I could not help but break down in (happy) tears at the thought of all I've accomplished at this point in my career. I had just given my first professional presentation, I have a great job, I own my own home, and I can afford to enjoy doing the things I love. I may not be exactly where I want to be, but I'm still truly blessed to be where I'm at. Not only that, the presentation had been such a wonderful distraction that I didn't really have time to think about my surgery. I'm now just days away from my surgery, and I can't believe how fast time flew by.
Earlier this week I had exchanged a few emails with Beth regarding a variety of things, including the symposium. She said she would get back to me with feedback from the evaluation forms. She did include in one of the emails a kind comment that another alum had made about me. They mentioned how impressed they were with my congenital and pediatric knowledge after only having been out in the field for 4 years. It was very heartwarming to hear something so kind from someone who does not know me. I really look forward to hearing what other feedback I may receive. It will only help me to improve. I have already learned so much just by doing this one presentation, things I would do differently, etc. I did tell my coworkers, if given the chance, I would definitely do it again. It was nerve-racking for sure, but the only way to grow is to step outside of your comfort zone.
QOTD: Have you ever stepped outside of your comfort zone to do something you never imagined?