EES/OAC NYC Trip Wrapup – Looking back

On April 25, 2011, in Uncategorized, by Andrea

 

The Obesity Online Blogger Group

 

I’m back.

Sorta.

Well. I’ve been back from NYC for a full week now, but have been deep in a hole, mostly offline, trying to finish the manuscript of the 2nd edition Labtracker that I’ve not had time to blog, breathe, sleep.. well, much of anything except subsist off coffee and Diet Mountain Dew (Voltage, for those of you taking notes). I’m not quite done, but enough so that I can see light and I am finally convinced that it is the end of the tunnel and not a train about to smack me into oblivion.

So here I am with my wrap-up of the trip to NYC that I took.

Key note here — and please forgive me for not getting the exact text right but I really am tired — My trip was paid almost completely in full by the kind folks at Ethicon Endo-Surgery (EES) and arranged by the great ladies (and guys? were there guys?) at Porter Novelli, to meet with the EES folks and the Obesity Action Coalition (OAC) — a cause that is near and dear to my heart. Hotel for one night (the BBG gals covered one night on our own to see the town — first time in NY, had to see it!), airfare, car service, and a few meals were covered in full. So a huge thanks goes to these guys for this much needed vacat… err.. retre… err.. conference. Yeah. I think that’s the official word we’re using. We copacetic here? Got it? Good.

So yeah, I’m probably the last person to put my thoughts down. And some of that was because I was somewhat incoherent at times (I was speaking in citations at one point.. I have the emails to prove it). Some of it was due to simply to stress for the book. Some of it was unsure where, exactly, Andrea stood on a few things and needed some time to put words to thought. And, well, some of it was sheer jaw-dropping “what the holy hell are y’all doing?

This is going to be long. It will include my overall trip-thoughts, ideas along the way, photos, etc. Think of it as a virtual journal (which, really, is what blogs were, originally, rather than places to get vitamin information from) as I meander through my memories of the trip, throw along some photos, pop up some thoughts and questions along the way, then really get into some discussion.

Get your Click out, folks.

So let me simply start with it as we go along.

Leaving the book behind for a weekend was both liberating and stressful at the same time. I did pack some work with me just in case. (Despite being admonished greatly by Other Kaitlin.) And I’m glad I did, too.

Because I missed my flight. By 10 minutes.

Here’s a quick note, kids. Raleigh-Durham airport is wicked strict with “be at the gate early.” Even if they are nowhere near ready to actually load the plane? You’d better be at your gate no earlier than 30-45 minutes before load time. Period. End of story. Even if you aren’t checking bags. Because – no.

So I got to sit in an airport for 3 hours. Which was fine – because 3 quiet hours to work. Do you realize how rare 3 hours of quiet are in a house with toddler vikings? Seriously? Godsend.

Here is minor gripe #1 with Porter Novelli – I called my contacts to move my car service? And didn’t get an answer. Left voicemail. And while I would have been in the air on the flight I missed, I got the confirmation that my car was on time and would meet me at the airport. The car company was NOT thrilled that they were not contacted. Oops? But it was taken care of, and once the woman calmed down, we handled it.

So sitting at RDU and figure out my flight has now been delayed 30 minutes. No way to call the car company. Oops? Driver was a bit irate when I got in. But at least I didn’t have to wait for baggage.

So we get into NYC – and it’s nice. I’ve never been before and I pull out my camera just in time to catch a glimpse of Lady Liberty -


It’s probably old hat to locals, but to me? Very cool.

Now, I’ve been to big cities.. Stockholm isn’t exactly TINY. But this is different somehow being NYC. Maybe a bit silly.

(BTW – thanks SO very much for the car service… I think I’d die if I had to try and drive here.. My driver was INSANE, as was everyone else!)

We come up to the street our hotel was on and there are no signs, no indications, nothing. My driver says “Well, it should be on that side of the street (pointing) and it should be over there somewhere.” He left before I could tip him, which was well enough since I’m not certain “over there somewhere” was worth much.

 

The entrance from above

 

 

The hotel had this glass covered canopy, which was filled with ivy. I walked into it and was told this was, in fact, the Mondrian by the most gorgeous doorman.. I swear, everyone that worked at this hotel was European (which made me feel at home, actually) and extraordinarily gorgeous (which made me feel less so). Took my bag and (NSV) we took the marble staircase to the front desk.

This hotel? GORGEOUS. Whites, blues, and silvers. If you’ve never met me in person? These are my favorite colors. I wear them often, typically on my nails, and even to the jeers of my peers. So I was looking around, quite in awe, at my surroundings. I’m sure the staff are quite used to this and get a chuckle out of us “small-towners” coming in.

Small gripe #2 – We weren’t told about the $150 incidental fee to stay in the hotel. It was a surprise. Manageable, but still, oops?

Go up to my room (1210, if it means anything.. I’m not hip enough to know what it would mean, and honestly? I really don’t care) and immediately open the windows. The view? Spectacular!

 

If I lived in NY, I would want one of these.

 

And while my views outside my room were spectacular, the room itself was beautiful as well -


Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better. – Samuel Beckett

 


About this time, Beth and a WHOLE BUNCH OF PEOPLE show up at the room.

Now, it doesn’t show, but these rooms are TINY. I’ve been told that this is normal for NYC, but I have nothing to compare with. However, cramming Beth, Michelle, Rachel (and others.. sorry, I’m fuzzy.. want a citation about liver function tests?!) into this tiny room, plus luggage was near impossible.

I need to state here that I love Beth Sheldon-Badore a whole lot.

She was the first person to officially give me a congrats gift for the book (if we aren’t calling the Gigi’s cupcake I coerced the husband into bringing home the day of signing..). A plaque (which, I unfortunately do not have a picture of) that says:

Overcome the notion that you must be regular. It robs you of the chance to be extraordinary. – Uta Hagen

I needed to get some head shots for my upcoming book (and I still cannot believe I’m typing those words..) and the group decided to go ahead and get ready for the evening event EES and OAC were hosting for us — a cocktail reception in one of the hotel’s bars, so we split up.

There’s a reason I wanted Beth to do my photos:

2 things: 1) I told you I liked blue nail polish; 2) She and Kaitlin make me LOL.

But seriously -

Andrea - the sorta professional. Shh, we're trying to fool people.

So, got these photos and off we found a dim sum place.

The great thing about eating with post-ops? 3 post-op dinners at the dim sum place ran us $16. It was great! And a quick trip to a cupcakery Kaitlin had heard of, and back to the hotel for the evening event.

Now is when I’m going to move from the “light-hearted post” to nitty-gritty “why I went to NY.”

The reception was a way for us to get to know the EES and OAC folks, as well as the other attendees. I did find it somewhat amusing when someone asked me (and I don’t remember who it was) “Do you know anyone here?” and I had to keep from bursting out in laughter as I knew about 75% of the folks in the room, if not personally, by online persona.

Speaking of, the attendees, from Beth’s list:

 

(My apologies to Cari – your link is struck out and I can’t fix it. WordPress is not behaving. It is not on purpose! Honest! I am going to try and fix it, but until then, please know that this is a “WordPress is being a bitch and not wanting to behave” moment.)

Now, perhaps one of my biggest takeaways of the speech Joe Naglowski gave was basically “We did our research. We know many of you don’t like each other. We hope you can come together, work together for the common goal of obesity, and put aside all differences for the conference.”

To Porter Novelli, EES, and OAC: I have to ask – how much discord were you planning? Was a master plan in place to help drive discussion? Or do I need to apologize for adding to mix now?

To a few of my fellow attendees: Were you not fucking listening? What the hell is wrong with you people?!?

Now, to be fair, most of the conference was cordial, if not cold, distant, aloof. Some of us were simply ignored as if we did not exist. There was an incident where someone refused to ride on an elevator with a group of us for some unknown reason. More about this later.

Moving on to the next day, there was a whole day’s worth of stuff planned. There was food – I can’t go into it because I simply did not care enough to gush about enough. I know Cari has detailed descriptions on her blog about the food for the breakfast — if you’re interested in it, feel free to meander over there. I’m a post-op – food is food. Unless it’s one of my “treats” or it’s for a picture, I rarely care. It’s food apathy.

One thing I wondered about going in, being the skeptic that I am, is simply WHY? Normally we bloggers have to pay tons of cash to go to events like this. We don’t get courted. We don’t get asked to go to events. We don’t get airfare. We don’t get put up in a really fancy hotel with staff that looked like they should have been in Hollywood. We don’t get this sort of treatment for free. We have to pay. I know. Would you like to pay my bill to go to ASMBS this year? How about FitBloggin’11? So with this question in mind, I was truly curious what EES hoped to gain with the money they were spending on us.

Amazingly, EES, who makes the Realize AGB, didn’t spend a whole lot of time talking about bands. Very little propaganda. I was puzzled. EES does, of course, do other things. We only see them for the bands, but they have other products in the surgical field, so it isn’t as if their entire field is based on the metabolic/bariatric fields.

Basically, I felt as if we were being courted to help OAC, with funding by EES, to help in the future, but not in the now. Except, perhaps, in regards to building OAC membership. (Which, you have joined, right? It’s $20. C’mon. I get nothing from this. Join.) But other than that, there wasn’t a push to “sell” the band, nor EES in general. It was pretty low-key, actually, which really surprised me.

We heard from Dr. Robin Blackstone, which is where Andrea’s hackles got raised. Within her presentation, she happened to mention (rather off-handedly, actually) that there’s no such thing as food addiction and that the duodenal bypass in the RNY is not enough to cause nutritional deficiencies, and nutritional deficiencies were the cause of non-compliance of the patients.

Well. You know that the entire room simply turned around and looked at me on that one, right? And Kaitlin, sitting beside me taking perfect notes, kinda stopped typing for a few minutes while she gained composure. I truly wonder what those who know me only from online dealings thought I would do.

I behaved. Because I do have self-control.

Until the Q&A period.

The whole food addiction question is being hashed out on other blogs. And I’ll get to that in a bit. I don’t know enough about psychology to speak ABOUT food addiction. I can say that there are physical studies that show a euphoric and opiate affect when carbohydrates are eaten, and that there is a reason we call them “comfort foods.”

And then.. the mic came to me. And you know what my question was.

To reaffirm, Dr. Blackstone said she believed nutritional deficiency was, in fact, due to patient non-compliance of vitamin supplements. When I brought up my own personal struggles (and I think people would agree that I, of all people, am fairly compliant, yes?) with iron (taking 600mgs of carbonyl and not touching my ferritin) and vitamin K at years 5 and 6 she said I might be a “special case.”

My reaction to "Nutritional deficiencies are only due to patient non-compliance."

Later, Dr. Blackstone and I spoke and I explained some of the work I do, many of the labs I see, etc. She told me “not to give up, just because she disagrees” so I’m hopeful that Dr. Blackstone can be an important ally for us patient advocates on the front-lines as she is willing to at least listen to arguments that might disagree with her stance on things.

At this point, we listened to a social media expert, who had some good hints. But honestly, some of the things she advocates really does not fit well with my blog, my readership, and feels too forced. I simply cannot think like that and post some of the posts that she has on her twitter feed as I’m not that commercial. Hell, I just got my first ad, and it’s not even based on clicks! Let’s face it – Andrea will never be a social media mogul. (She also said an ideal blog post was 750-1000 words – I’m at 2446 so far… oops?)

And that was the conference.

Spent the next day with my friends in NYC walking the Brooklyn Bridge in the FREEZING COLD, then getting stranded in the Newark airport due to a horrible weather system, spending a night in the airport (that wasn’t so much fun for a first time, if you know what I mean), then arriving home to find out that my city had been partially demolished by a tornado, about 2 miles from my house (close call that).

I wish the conference could have ended there, the aloofness, the ignoring of one another? All could have stayed in NYC. We could have ignored each other on our blogs. I would have been fine with that. Not a perfect world, but fine.

Unfortunately, it did not.

Over the past week, while trying to concentrate on getting the book done and to the editor (which I still have one more day to go, so leave me alone tomorrow, kay?) I’ve gotten link after link after link to post, IM’s, emails — all filled with catty, childish, middle school drama.

So again I have to ask  a few of my fellow attendees -

Were you not fucking listening on the first night? What the hell is wrong with you people?!?

Now granted, there have been some great blogs out there about the event. Michelle, Kaitlin, and Rachel all did posts about walking across the Brooklyn Bridge. I’m sure there are others, I’m just naming a few. Beth did a super wrap-up post.

But then? It went to hell.

 

Where we’ve been? Where do we go?
We had no answers to these questions, you know.
Where do we stand? When do we fall?
We’ve no direction or conviction at all.

Now the more we want to blame leaves us more to fix.
So hey, hey baby, do we dig on that? Or hey, hey baby, do we dig on this?

Who do we call? When do we scream?
We’re all contagious by these breaths that we breathe
Where do we steal? When do we pay?
The winds of truth, they ain’t blowing our way, yeah.

Now the more we want to change leaves us more to miss.
So hey, hey baby, do we dig on that?
Or hey, hey baby, do we dig on this?

And the more we want to blame leaves us more to fix
So hey, hey baby, do we dig on that?
Or hey, hey baby, do we dig on this?

Dig – Ed Roland, Collective Soul

 

Taunia posted a blog which included an opinion which some did not find popular. And because of it, she learned exactly how mean-spirited and back-stabbing some of our community really can be. Rather than call these people out, she did take the high road, and I’m proud of her for that. I’m sorry she had to be initiated into our little “club” – but she’s well come. I do not know if I would have had the restraint she had. So cheers to her.

Then Beth finds out that someone has contacted a sponsor about a photo in which her middle finger comes up. Um. Hello. 1) Beth ALWAYS has her middle finger up; 2) Why on EARTH would anyone care enough about a blogger to try and ruin their livlihood over a photograph? Seriously, do you people have nothing else to do with your lives?

And then the digs in blogs start popping up -

There are those who create levels of original content as a vehicle for influence, others create their impact by reviewing people, products, and words, and there are those who garner spotlight through creating discord. We’re definitely not competing for the same crown. There is no right or wrong – just different ways of obtaining an audience. Water finds its own level and people gravitate towards those whose words speak to them. It’s all good and I do believe we all have the intent of helping people who have had or will be having a surgical weight loss procedure… bla, bla, bla.

How is this positive? How is this coming together for the greater good?

And many, many, many facebook postings that I just simply cannot go into because, well, people are yelling at me that 3000 words is way too long as it is..

But it brings up a few points for me.

Why does this have to be? Why is it that this community cannot seem to be civil? I simply cannot understand this at all. It is unfathomable to me.

Yes, there are people I do not care for in the bariatric community. One of whom I had a long conversation with on Saturday afternoon in the lobby of our hotel. It was civil, it was pleasant, and prior to the entire airport shutting down and my hometown having a tornado hitting it? The world did not end. (Okay, so maybe it did a tiny bit, but lightning did not strike!) It proves that there are ways to be civil and professional without necessarily being friends.

I don’t think these women necessarily mean to be cruel. Or hateful. Or anything else. Most of the time. There are a few actions that some have done (and yes, I do know about many of them.. just because I don’t talk about them? doesn’t mean I don’t know about them.. I can keep secrets pretty well..) that make me think people just suck in general and have a general hatred for the human race. But overall, I don’t think these people believe they are doing anything wrong by their own actions — even if it’s something completely underhanded and wrong.

For example, trying to keep someone from attending an event in Vegas by rigging the contest. One may say it was done in the best intentions to keep a “toxic” element from “ruining” an event. Others may say it was an underhanded way of manipulative backstabbing childish antics at work. Po-tato, potah-to.

I’m not the best person in the world. I never will claim to be. I just know that I’m getting damned tired of the daggers, the hidden innuendos, and games that we played when we were in school. These are the sorts of things that keep us from moving forward as a community, from being recognized as a true force to be had. Not being able to stand someone in the same city as you? Or in the same elevator for 2 minutes? Give. Me. A. Fucking. Break.

It’s time to grow-up and be adults.

Like I said – I’m not perfect. I never claim to be. But if we truly want to be seen as a force worth advocating for? This childish bullshit must end, and we must ALL take a stand. It’s time for the duplicity to end, the talking out of both sides of our mouths, etc.

I promise that if you want to know how I feel about you? All you have to do is ask. And it has always been that way. I will never say something about you online that I will never say to you to your face.

Can anyone else say the same?

WILL anyone else say the same? And live that truth?

 

 

Well I took a little ride in through the pouring rain to think about the casualties of your extremes
Cause what you said, ain’t what you do, you know you live by the words you choose.
Was it him? Was it me? Were his lies easier than my truth to believe

Well I took a little walk through the driving rain to catch my breath from your self-inflicted change
Cause what you said, ain’t what you do. I feel the storm will soon blanket you.
Was it him? Was it me? Were his lies easier than my truth to believe?

And the rain calms, just like a bed of nails.
And the rain calms, just like a summer in hell.
Was it him? Was it me? Were his lies easier than my truth to believe?

Ed Roland, Collective Soul

 

 

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16 Responses to “EES/OAC NYC Trip Wrapup – Looking back”

  1. Cdn Gastric Chicky says:

    Bravo!

    Well worth the wait -I really hope that in Vegas everyone can be at least civil- ride in the same elevator if needed and for gods sake stop acting like junior high! You dont need to love everyone but if you want to be a professional blogger than have some decorum and personal pride and leave the hating at home-!!!

    Andrea Congratulations on your book – very very happy for your hard earned success!

    hugs,
    deb

  2. liese says:

    Brava!
    what an extremely thought provoking post! So much here, that I must re-read it on the ‘morrow.

    Well done, Andrea. Well done!

    I love those color’s too.. in fact i took pics of the lobby to give me inspiration in the future.

  3. mm says:

    Well hellfire, save matches, fuck a duck, and see what hatches.

  4. Amber L says:

    “There are those who create levels of original content as a vehicle for influence, others create their impact by reviewing people, products, and words, and there are those who garner spotlight through creating discord. We’re definitely not competing for the same crown. There is no right or wrong”

    I had to read this twice in the original post because I was confused. It sounds like someone is being called pretty damn wrong to me. The whole thing is just silly. It’s one thing to dislike and even bicker. It’s another to mess with someone’s life. Just stay positive and keep doing what you’re doing.

    Vi ses! -Amber

  5. Andrea says:

    @Amber – I agree. The whole messing with someone’s life just completely gets me confused.

  6. Lori says:

    I read the whole thing! And you did not waste a word. I am removed from the drama for the most part, not being part of the WLS blogging community, but as an outsider, the whole thing seems like a Mean Girls reality show. It is seriously making me rethink my product choices.

    I had WLS to improve my quality of life. I sought out other WLS folks as a means of support and advice. I left high school behind much too long ago to return to it now. Absolutely ridiculous. .,I,,

  7. Adele says:

    Fantastic post, full of thought & wisdom. Brava!

  8. Rachel says:

    Great Job Andrea! I doubt there will be a day when we ALL get along… but hey we can hope…

  9. JaimeK says:

    Your blog is so enjoyable (despite the seriousness of the issues at times) that I could read another 3,000 words. Call me a kiss ass, but it is the truth.

    When there are people in our world that are determined that they cannot say a nice thing about another human or keep their mouths shut (i.e. fingers on their keyboards) there will always be consistant strife. I often shake my head, as I see you do in your blog, about the infantile behavior. It makes no sense. You don’t particularly care for someone or their ideas? Okay, fine. But to do the opposite of what organizers have asked you to do or even to not use your common sense is tragic. If one of the people that you quoted was the paragon of health and ideal weight it might not be so annoying. The real bummer after reading all of this? I see no resolution.

    I will however, continue to read the blogs I enjoy and that educate me and brighten my day. Peace.

  10. Tonia says:

    Well said Andrea! And by the way, you look very professional in the pics! (Not that I think you don’t anyways)

  11. Heather says:

    As a nurse, I have seen how women can be backstabbing bitches and I don’t understand why someone would threaten someones lively hood over trivial things, but I have seen nurses do this to each other. I think its generally miserable people that do things like that, people unhappy with themselves and their life. Seeing other peoples happiness or success causes them anguish and they need to put a stop to it.

    Therapy should be there friend.

    Anyway, great blog, BEST of luck with the book!

  12. Penney says:

    The picture of your expression at the “non compliance” remark is freaking priceless! There’s your book photo :) Excellent post, worth every word. Thanks to you and Beth and everyone else that is targeted by the mean girls. Mean girls suck. Or maybe they bite. Shit, did I say that out loud?
    Very proud of you :)

  13. Annie says:

    OMG, Andrea you are my hero. I love this post of yours, and who cares if it is long, it is YOUR blog.

  14. Lorine says:

    So Awesome….. What an accomplishment!!!

  15. mm says:

    Thanks, Penney.

  16. Mary Allbright says:

    I loved the honesty and the excitement in your post about seeing NYC for the first time. Not too long and very true to you and your heart. Keep up the great work and congrats on the book.

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