Reflecting on San Francisco and the Epilepsy Pipeline Conference 2014
The trip to San Francisco didn’t unfold quite the way we had imagined when we first started planning. After organizing and packing the Epilepsy Awareness Squad supplies for the conference and having a photo shoot with their new EAS shirts on, the unthinkable happened. Dan became ill! By Wednesday (the day before we were set to leave) it was clear that something was very wrong and by that night he was rushed into emergency surgery for appendicitis. The trip would carry on with Caitie and myself but Dan wouldn’t be coming with us.
For Caitie it was hard to go to San Francisco without Dan. They had planned every detail of the trip together and Dan is one of the biggest support people in her life. Attending one of the largest epilepsy conferences in North America without her co-founder was not what she had planned. On top of that, she didn’t really want to leave Summerland when Dan was in the hospital. She even suggested that she go visit him before we caught our flight! But Dan saved the day again by messaging her first thing in the morning and telling her to have fun and basically talking her down from an anxiety attack while he lay in his hospital bed a few hours after surgery. We are so blessed to have him in our lives!
So the trip started off with the excitement levels a little muted. Caitie was even more nervous than she normally is flying because the plans had changed so radically. The flight from Kelowna was delayed by 15 minutes and our connection was tight so she was worried about that. And I had made the mistake of moving our seats to the front of the plane. Caitie sat in the window seat (as she always does) and thought it was cool because she could see the propeller from the plane. But after about five minutes, it became clear that the seat choice wasn’t the best. The propeller motion started to make Caitie feel like she was going to have a seizure. She closed her eyes and tried to relax but the flight was ruined for her.
We did make our connector in Vancouver but just barely. A mad dash to the gate meant Cait’s sugars were low and we had to be creative with finding food she could eat on the plane.
The ride from SFO to the hotel was surprisingly fast and easy. Caitie was thrilled to see a bit of the city on the drive. The Fisherman’s Wharf hotel was a good choice, although upon arriving in our room we discovered that facing the wharf wasn’t exactly quiet!
The first night we had no idea where to go and Cait was exhausted from the emotional upset of the last few days and the long trip so we randomly choice a restaurant not far from our hotel and settled in for a bowl of cioppino. After dinner we did the very excited thing of walking back to the hotel and going to bed.
Friday the kids had decided we would go to Alcatraz. A few things you should know about Alcatraz: 1) the tickets sell out quickly (we pre-booked weeks in advance, which was a good idea), 2) there is no food on Alcatraz (you can eat on the dock but nowhere else). We had to be at the ferry for the 9:30 sailing so we were up early looking for food for Cait (with the Keto diet we are always looking for food for Cait. The restaurants in San Francisco, however, were amazingly accommodating for her food requirements).
Alcatraz was not what we had expected. We opted to do the audio tour of the cellblock, which was a good choice because it gave us the history of the place. But after just short of two hours there, Caitie wanted to go back. The whole prison is a very depressing scene. She sat at the end of the tour and just looked around sadly.
It was clear that food was needed (again) for Miss Cait. There is no food sold on Alcatraz and you’re only allowed to eat on the dock, so we had to refuel the Keto girl before we could do anything else.
Luckily Fisherman’s Wharf has an abundance of amazing restaurants and fish is on the Keto diet! After lunch Cait was thrilled to find a fudge store that had sugar free handmade chocolates and then … she got to go SHOPPING!
After shopping we needed a break, so we went back to the hotel. Caitie really wanted to try the pool although she wasn’t looking forward to swimming by herself. But she said Dan would not be happy if she missed out on what he was looking forward to, so she suited up and I followed her down to the pool. The wind was crazy but Cait swam for half an hour and then talked about the next thing that had been on their original agenda: going to the Aquarium.
Aquariums are tough with Caitie but it doesn’t have anything to do with her epilepsy. She’s been to some of the best ones in North America and her expectations are high for care of the animals and rehabilitation. The tiny aquarium on Fisherman’s Wharf doesn’t really measure up to the Maui Ocean Center but Caitie was thrilled with the petting pools they had for baby rays and one baby shark. She was able to interact with both animals and left the aquarium talking once again about getting her diving license if she stays seizure free.
We chose to go to bed early on Friday night because we knew we were to be at the conference by 7 am and we had to feed Keto-Caitie first thing. So we planned to arrive at the conference hotel just after 6 and get her some breakfast. This proved to be a good plan because the conference food was not at all keto friendly (despite the fact that they had the leading keto experts presenting at the conference).
Caitie was especially nervous about the conference. She was a touch grumpy all morning and, to be honest, a bit scared of being the only representative of the EAS. But after she set up her table, the Epilepsy Foundation organizers swooped down on her and took her under their wing to introduce her to delegates and speakers. She came back to the table about 30 minutes later beaming.
The day was a long one though. As with any conference, the exhibitor booths are very quiet while the sessions are happening. We had looked over the conference program and felt that the late afternoon sessions on the Keto diet were probably the ones that we would go to. So that left Caitie manning a table for seven hours!
During the breaks in sessions Caitie was very busy talking to people and handing out her EAS supplies but in between there was a lot of sitting. During that time she met fellow exhibitors, who were amazed with the EAS work.
By the end of the day, Caitie had a pile of business cards from people who wanted to keep in touch with her, a new Ketonix (a machine that measures the ketones in one’s breath) and university advice and contact information from an Australian biochemist she had been sitting beside for the afternoon and getting great advice on future career options.
The only negative about the day (besides the fact that Dan wasn’t with her) was the fact that there was no food available for people on the Keto diet. Cait could only eat the small salad part of her lunch, none of the breakfast and none of the “ice cream” social at the end of the day. She was starving by the time we left the conference. Luckily she’d been sitting beside a Keto diet expert for the whole afternoon and was given a constant supply of nuts and Keto snacks.
Today is our last day in San Francisco. We are going to have a bit of fun until we have to leave at 2:45 this afternoon. It’s been an interesting trip but a good one for Caitie. She’s had to adjust to unavoidable last minute changes to plans, she’s had to go outside her comfort zone to interact with a variety of people at her first epilepsy conference and she’s seen a bit of the world she hadn’t seen before. Overall a good learning experience!