I am sitting here at the Fairmont Orchid hotel overlooking the Pacific Ocean, reflecting on the week that I had. How did I get to Kona, Hawaii? In 2013, I was chosen as a Bakken Invitation honoree for the work that I am doing in the Parkinson’s community… yeah that’s right, I am pretty much a big deal. Now, for the 5th anniversary of the program, I was invited back to engage in peer learning and share with the new honorees how I use my blog to extend my reach globally.
My trip, with my mom in the role of caregiver, started appropriately with a lei and a smile. We were attending workshops and lectures from people who have had success in creating change in their communities. The days were long, but fruitful.
Then came my time to share how I have use my blog to inspire, engage, connect and motivate people challenged by Parkinson’s, with my secret weapon… humor. The visual recorder, Cynthia kept details notes on what was discussed during the conference… I never even knew that visual recording was a thing… I was impressed, I can barely remember what I said 5 minutes ago, let alone draw it out in such an elegant manner.
It was around 8 o’clock on a beautiful Saturday morning in Kona. I had just finished my standard Hawaiian breakfast… which included a macadamia nut sticky bun… which I see why they’re called that because they “stick to your buns”. I also had to top that off with pineapple and pills. Breakfast of champions. I was heading downstairs to join the group for a meeting with the bigwigs of Medtronic. I was excited about the chance to share my thoughts on how we can expand healthcare to those lacking resources throughout the world. The elevator doors open and I step in with another couple enjoying their vacation. The sounds of their chatting were disrupted by a loud alarm coming from our cell phones. As the couple reads aloud the message on her phone, “EMERGENCY ALERT: BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL”. We all looked at each other and I say, “Maybe it’s just a bad joke”.
When you feel that your life is in danger, there comes a moment of clarity. Materialistic things don’t matter; petty arguments that you had with loved ones fade away. I remember being very angry. The Hawaiian people believe in acceptance, love, kindness, one-with–nature, respect, community and most importantly Ohana… family. To think about someone sending a missile to destroy a place that was so beautiful and magical was infuriating to me. Here I was participating in an event where people from all over the world were coming together to create a positive change and someone was attempting to destroy that effort.
The elevator doors open up to the first floor and we are met by a group of people staring at each other with looks of confusion and fear. A hotel staff member was talking to someone on the phone. They direct us to go to the Ballroom to wait for further instructions. But I had to get to my mom who was on the 6th floor in our room. I jump back in to the elevator and hit the button… it was the longest elevator ride of my life. I get to my room expecting to find my mom freaking out, but no… I find her playing a game on her phone, completely oblivious to the madness going on around her… typical mom.
In a not so coherent voice, I try to explain what was evolving. I tell her to grab her stuff and we go downstairs. On our way to the ballroom, we encounter people running back to their rooms. The explained that they were told to go to their rooms and close their windows and doors and wait for instructions. Now the confusion really set in and my Parkinson’s goes off the charts. Adrenaline isn’t a Parkie’s friend. I had my mom with me as we walked through the lobby; people were staring at their phones but not really saying anything.
The words bomb and tsunami were used as we tried to make sense of what was happening. It was a very surreal moment. It felt like my life had become one of those videos you see of people’s confusion prior to some horrific tragedy. Everybody wants answers but no one knows the facts. It was 38 minutes of this before we got another alert on our phones stating that it was a false alarm. Then the energy around us began to calm down, but there was no way that I could just sit back down in the conference room and go on like nothing had happened. We went back up to our room and called my Dad to find out the latest news. I should have known on all the days that I could have shoved an extra macadamia nut stick to your buns treat into my pockets for later, I didn’t.
Now, I really didn’t want this event to dominate my blog post. I was avoiding having the missile alert be the most memorable part of the trip, but it was such an upsetting event that I couldn’t gloss over it. So that is why I will save the rest of time in Kona for next week’s blog. Till next time, Aloha.