PXE 2010 Conference - Building Memories

by Kim Douglas

Hello to Sharon Terry and all of the PXE team, including, but not limited to, Dr. Lionel B, Mary P, Christine V, Elizabeth T, Terry M, and the many others not named.

Kim Douglas and Sharon Terry

I would very much like to thank everyone for giving and being part of an experience I was involved in, which was so wonderful, informative, memorable, enlightening, spirited, friendly, happy, joyful and so much more. Of course I am speaking of participating in my very first (but not my last!) PXE International Conference. When I arrived at the hotel, I marveled at how big and beautiful it was. After registering with the hotel, I followed the PXE signs and went to register for the conference before even going to my room. I was very warmly greeted. After registering I proceeded to my room where once again I was in awe of the beauty of the room. I thought all the other hotels I had stayed in were pretty nice, but you know you´ve gone big time when you are used to finding wrapped plastic cups in the bathroom. But not here. These bathrooms contained wrapped glass.

Once I finished exploring, I started getting ready for that night´s Gala. I so looked forward to finally, for the first time, meeting others who were dealing with the same thing as I, although in different stages. The Gala was held in a big grand ballroom with many tables set up in a half moon around the stage and dance floor. Against the back wall were the many raffle and silent auction items for which we could purchase tickets with the winners being called at Sunday´s closing.

To have been able to meet so many people who are dealing with the very same thing as I was truly an uplifting experience and is a gift I will always treasure. To have our PXE Chat email list has been and is invaluable, but to actually have been able to meet others in person made it so very much more real.

At the Gala I exchanged my first personal information with someone within the first 45 minutes. We were seated at round tables of ten. In my excitement with being there I immediately pulled out a piece of paper, drew a large circle, and with help wrote down everyone's name (I have a bad memory for names). We ate and talked, and talked some more, exchanging our many different stories. Then it was time to dance. We were treated to the delightful music of The Rockbrokers, a large band of 12 people, including the singers who kept things going until 11 p.m. Some people called it a night, but those of us that stayed rocked until 11 p.m. and then turned in as breakfast was at 7:30 a.m. and the workshops started at 10:30 a.m.

There were so many very good and informative workshops to choose from and it was a guarantee that you would learn something that you might not have known, no matter how minor you thought it was, that would turn out to be very major. And once again, at each workshop you went to you were bound to meet someone else with whom you could talk and maybe even exchange personal information, so you could keep in touch.

After attending the workshop of our choice on Saturday morning, we were treated to a very nice lunch. By 1:30 it was time once again to go to the workshop of our choosing. We then had about a half hour before the next workshop. There was a low vision vendor there the whole weekend. For months I have been searching for a magnifier on a necklace, I now have one!

We then went to our final workshop of the day after which was free time for dinner. We had a choice of going to see The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King outdoors, which included an orchestra, soloists, and a meal for a small fee. Or we could stay at the hotel and attend an informal group session called The Lighter Side of Low Vision. I chose this one and I am so glad I did. There was so much laughter, which we need sometimes. We heard so many funny stories of things we have done having low vision: from eating daddy long legs spiders thinking it was pasta, to seeing a glass of ice that even hours later hadn´t melted, only to realize that it was a glass that a napkin had fallen into, to literally coming face to face with a mouse. Toward the end of the session we had a chance to win a grab prize. I had to read a saying, which I think was so appropriate as our weekend was coming to a close:

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched; they must be felt within the heart.” -- Helen Keller

On Sunday, we were treated to a very nice breakfast before going to our final workshop of the weekend. After that were closing words and the winners of the raffle and silent auction were called. I won a beautiful bowl and table runner from South Africa. It was very sad to say goodbye to everyone, yet I was leaving having met many new friends and having exchanged many email addresses and other information. As I have told many people, this trip was like winning the lottery. It was an experience that I shall carry for the rest of my life.