This year’s Debra Care Conference in Grapevine, Texas (just outside of Dallas) held July 24-27 offered many of the same valuable experiences as past events but it definitely felt like a new and different event. I wanted to share some observations and thoughts about the conference, including some changes or additions. The first noticeable change on the surface is the name, of course, taking on the organization’s identity as part of the conference title. This was a really good opportunity for families in attendance to connect with various individuals associated with the organization and specific resources available through the organization.
Each conference leaves its own distinct impression and carries a unique flavor from its predecessors in part because it is hosted by a new city and state when it is held every two years. This was the sixth event I have been a part of but I will admit that my own experiences are shaded differently than other attendees as I am on the Board for debra of America, I do work for a wound care company and was an EB parent, so I bring a unique balance of a variety of emotions to this event each time I attend.
I especially love seeing what the planners will offer children attending in the way of activities at that year’s venue. This year, the play area was in the same room as exhibitions and included everything from superheroes and cheerleaders to storytellers, musicians and even a monkey! Everywhere I looked, children were having a blast. One amusing aside: there was a sheriff’s convention being held there on the property at the same time as the DCC. The kids really made quite an impression on the officers in attendance, because they made a point of returning to the kids’ room to talk with them. These tough, no-nonsense authority figures suddenly became like big teddy bears as they interacted with the children. It was beautiful to see.
If you asked me what my favorite presentation was, I would not be able to single out any one person. I am always in awe of the extremely intelligent and genuinely caring health care professionals who work so hard to help EB families and take part in this event to meet them and answer questions. I enjoyed listening to all of this year’s presentations.
I did spend much of my time talking with attendees in the exhibition hall located just outside the presentation room. Another favorite part of the event for me is getting to visit with the families, some whom I have known for the past 12 years and other new families that I get to meet for the first time at the conference.
As always, I was very impressed with the Gaylord Hotels staff. This was the third conference in a row hosted by a Gaylord hotel, this time at the Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center, and I am constantly amazed at how well they accommodate such a large group of people. The unique way they can bring the outdoors inside and provide a setting that is safe, warm and uplifting to truly welcome our EB families is outstanding.
One of the changes made to this year’s schedule was that debra began many of the presentations later in the morning which was helpful to those families who needed the extra time for bandage changes in the morning or who wanted free time to explore the beautiful hotel. In general, there were more opportunities for free time this year which is a wonderful thing when families are getting the unique chance to meet up and visit with each other, and let their kids play together in a fun, safe environment.
A final side note: This year’s conference fell on my daughter’s birthday (she would have been 13 this year). It made being at this particular conference a little harder knowing that she could have been one of the kids hanging out in the teen room. But that is not the path I was given. I would not be working for a wound care manufacturer if it wasn’t for the experience she gave me. She has helped me help others and that is what was meant to be.
I hope everyone who got a chance to attend this year’s event took away valuable information and many happy memories. I look forward to the 2018 event already.