Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Falling for Switzerland

I still have to pinch myself when I think about having international colleagues and friends because of my Daddy's work!  The fact that the medical research of a son of the Mississippi Delta, born in Louise, MS in 1929, is being continued by a team of researchers all over the world, still excites me! Ever since first learning about this research on Upshaw Schulman Syndrome (read more here) and my first visit to Switzerland in 2014 (read more here) I have stayed in touch with the team of researchers.

The Bern team: Johanna, Magdelena, Monica, Irmela, Isabella
I always thought that my 2014 trip to Switzerland was a "once in a lifetime" trip. But, low and behold, I was wrong! Thanks to Johanna I had my second trip of a lifetime to Switzerland in February to attend the 61st Annual Meeting of the Society of Thrombosis and Hemostasis Society. Johanna served as President of the congress (as they call the meeting) which was taking place 20 years after the ADAMTS13 and TTP ADAMTS13 deficiency, both related to Upshaw Schulman Syndrome! And this time I, literally, fell for Switzerland and all the researchers not only focused on Upshaw Schulman Syndrome, but other blood disorders as well.

Just so you know, I had some official duties at the congress; photographer and celebrity (LOL).
Celebrity shot with Reinhard (Germany) and Gyorgy (Hungary)
It was surprising to me how many people wanted their picture taken with the daughter of Jefferson Davis Upshaw, MD! That took me by surprise, but I was especially glad that so many of them were young researchers. Daddy's work is being continued by a special group of people and I am blessed to have met them.

Here are some pictures from my time at the meeting and then the trip Johanna and I took to the Netherlands after the congress. Oh, and by the way, I did literally fall while at the Basel Munster. Broke my wrist; experienced the Swiss health care system; continued on to the Netherlands; came back to Memphis and had surgery with a plate and screws. But, that all pales in comparison to my trip and I am so glad I stayed and had the "second trip of a lifetime".

I spent my first night in a small hotel not far from the Limmat River in Zurich, Switzerland
Padlock bridges are numerous in Europe, including the Muhlesteg Bridge over the Limmat River in Zurich. Lovers secure a padlock engraved with their initials, names, or wedding date. Tradition has it that they then throw the key into the river symbolizing that their love is forever and can never be unlocked.
Lunch on the Rhine in Basel, Switzerland

The Rhine at Basel, Switzerland
Wooden ferry pulled across the Rhine by the current. Runs to the Basel Munster

Approach to the Basel Munster, Basel, Switzerland
The Basel Munster, Basel, Switzerland

Basel Munster window that distracted me enough to fall and, well, the rest is history

Headed to Amsterdam, with a little extra padding to protect my arm
We took a boat tour on the canals upon arriving in Amsterdam

Johanna and I stayed on a houseboat on the Waalseilands canal in Amsterdam

View looking out the living room window on the houseboat
Beautiful, old shopping arcades line the canals. And yes, we traveled through the red-light district and
noticed wafts of marijuana as we walked through the streets of Amsterdam

Sheep dot the Dutch countryside, especially on our ride to windmill country

Headed to windmill country on a misty Dutch morning

Kinderdijk, Holland

Kinderdijk, Holland

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Celebrating Birthdays

This was a pivotal birthday year for me so please forgive the personal nature of this post.

Although I am sure this will surprise many of you (LOL), I turned 60 in August. And, believe it or not, it was not the birthday that has bothered me the most.

That birthday was when I turned 40! Now, to defend my self, my 40th year was a HUGE year in my life. Consider this:

  • I had just become a Mother 5 years before and that changed everything for me. All of sudden it would matter to someone, so small and helpless, that I was alive and there for them for the next 20+ years!
    Lee Hall Travis (and Minnie)
  • We had decided to move back home to Memphis leaving our best friends of 10 years behind. We had all had our babies together and now they would have lives together that didn't include us and we would be so far away. 
  • I had taken a new job where I would be the one "in charge". It was about time, but I had no idea what I was really doing! I learned it quickly. My experience working with mentors, including Carol Moore, taught me what to do. But it was stressful and I knew that I had a lot to do and a lot to learn!
So much change in one year and add to that that turning 40 means you are not just over the hill (which happens at 30) you are way over the hill but not old enough to be revered and respected for the fact that you are still holding it together. You are just expected to be getting it done and, well, that is what I did.

Lee Hall Travis, the proud BSC graduate, 2012
Turning 50 was, on the other hand, a celebration. I had found my stride at work and at home. 10 years on the job and I had figured it out that I had to keep us fresh, relevant, and moving the market forward.

I had also figured out that I needed to let go a little. I realized I couldn't really micro-manage my son's life and that letting go meant I was giving him a chance to become who he needed to be. Sounds so obvious, but trust me, it took many mistakes to help me understand that truth and then to live by it! I am so proud of the young man he has become; graduating in 4 years; getting a job within a month of graduation; and living on his own. So many blessings.

Now, 10 years later at 60 I am celebrating even more. My Mother once told me that as we age, we distill.  I can definitely see that in myself. I always loved certain aspects of life including family, nature, activity, volunteering.

And all of these are even more important to me now than when I was younger. In the last (or best) 10 years of my life I have:
  • Reconnected with the Mississippi part of my life. I now have a place of my own in Rolling Fork, a mere 20 minutes from our land in Louise. I have not only reconnected with family and friends in Louise, MS, my father's birthplace, but I have made a home for myself in Rolling Fork, MS, loving my "Bottle Tree Bungalow" and all the friends that came with it! And, I have started showing off this special place to friends from MN, WI, Switzerland and more. 
    My Bottle Tree Bungalow, Rolling Fork, MS
  • A hobby - photography. I had dabbled with it before, but the advent of good digital cameras and easy software that allows creative post-photo editing made it a natural for me. I can do this on my own, which gives me a chance to be spontaneous and just head out with my camera when I want to go! And, of course, my favorite subject is the Mississippi Delta which never ceases to offer me new opportunities to capture its majesty.
  • Ventured out to new places. It is an understatement to say that my trip to Switzerland was the highlight, but I took side trips to Sedona, Gettysburg, Baltimore, Middleburg, Shiloh and more to be sure I didn't miss all those special places that were around me while I attended meetings or was passing through. I love going to Ladies' Weekend (which has become a week for me now) at Carolyn's cabin on Round Lake in Hayward, WI. After going for 5 years now, I am thinking about buying a cabin myself up there to be near Carolyn and Kris!
    Carolyn's lake toys at Round Lake, Hayward, WI
  • Become a grandmother and a great-aunt! What joy to see our daughter Keelin become a wonderful mother to Andrew and Charlotte and to see my oldest niece and nephew become parents themselves. It is as great as they say re: having all the fun and then passing them back to their parents! And, I am proud of Keelin and Doug, Jennifer and Will, and Jeff and Amanda for being such loving parents. I can't wait to see how these kids grow up!
    Our 2013 Christmas Card taken when we
     celebrated Pat's 70th Birthday!

  • Connected professionally with super, committed people. I won't go into detail, but I love it that my job requires me to work with people that are so committed to patient safety, quality health care services, equity for all, and understand how the health of a population impacts a community's economic vitality. I have learned so much from these professionals and count many of them as friends as well as colleagues. 
A 60th birthday celebration can't just happen once, it must take time and there must be many celebrations! One celebration was with my classmates from Hutchison. Twenty-two of us gathered at the Shack-Up Inn in Clarksdale, MS to renew friendships, celebrate the lives we had together back in the 1960's, and appreciate the people we had become. Most of all, we celebrated all turning 60 in 2014 (well, there were two who beat us to it in 2013) and committed to keeping in touch and getting together again before we all need wheelchairs or canes!

The RF gang gave me a Kay Shropshire Heller original!

I also celebrated my birthday with family and my friends from Rolling Fork. It was a special evening that ended up with an after party at my house. Finally they could see me in my element here in Memphis and that was fun for me.

I am so glad to be 60 and to be alive and to having a life full of work, fun, family and friends. Who could ask for more?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Looking Past the Vistas

Don't get me wrong, I love the beautiful, vast vistas of the Mississippi Delta. The swamps filled with majestic cypress that are called home by egrets, eagles, alligators, and turtles (on logs of course!). The farm fields that stretch from one horizon to the other, broken up only by the winding creeks or tree lines that mark their boundaries and provide protection from the southwesterly winds. The glorious sunsets that not only rival, but remind us, of sunsets over the ocean because there is nothing that stands between you and the setting sun except the flat lands of the alluvial plain known as The Delta.

Yes, I love those vistas. But those are the ones you see most often. Those are the ones that just naturally catch your eye. Those are the ones that, left to their own devices, will dominate your senses and absorb all of your attention, leaving nothing left to take in the subtleties of the Delta.

Over the past couple of years, as I head down Highway 61 South from Memphis and as I return home by Highway 49, I have spotted, out of the corner of my eye, the flash of yellow, purple, pink, or blue wildflowers that line the road and border the fields.

Exploring the creek banks on days where there are no Big Blue Herons taking off or wood ducks swimming by, I notice the lavender wisteria, the butterflies that can't resist the pale pink flowers, and flowering vines, resembling necklaces, that link the ever-present telephone poles that dot the landscape. And the layers of color as crops fade into yellow wildflowers that fade into the vines along the creek.

Ditches are filled with black-eyed susans and an occasional iris marks where a home once was years ago.

And, although they are usually grown as a crop or in gardens, the Delta's sunflowers bring a smile as we pass by.

The next time you are in the Delta, slow down and look past the vistas that usually absorb your attention. Look for the details, the smaller pieces of the Delta that add a richness to your experience, even if they are not your usual focus.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Cristie Goes to Bern

There is a great back story to my trip to Bern, Switzerland this last August.

In reality, I invited myself, but it was in a joking manner. Never did I really think that they would invite me and I would actually go!

My blog post from 2012 tells the beginning of the back story (read it here). The back story ends when Johanna Anna Kremer Hovinga Strebel stopped off in Memphis in June 2014 on her way to a meeting (a congress as she calls it) in Milwaukee.

Me and Johanna at the
Tunica River Museum, Tunica, MS
Pat and I took her to dinner where she invited me to come to Switzerland for the 2nd Steering Committee meeting of the TTP Registry focused on Upshaw-Schulman Syndrome housed at the University of Bern. While taking Johanna on a whirlwind tour of the Top of the Delta (aka, Tunica) the next day, I accepted her gracious invitation in spite of my fear of heights, traveling to Europe, and being alone in an unfamiliar place. I knew this would be the trip of a lifetime and it was!

The highlight of my trip was having the opportunity to spend a few minutes on the first day of the meeting talking about Daddy.

Members of the Upshaw-Schulman TTP Registry Steering Committee are
from Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Norway, Japan, Czech Republic,
United Kingdom, and USA
I am sure my personal reflections were not that interesting, but I wanted them to know more about him as a person, not just a physician. They indulged me and seemed happy with the gifts I brought:

A copy of my "Natural Beauty" photo taken in my favorite swamp near Tunica in the Mississippi Delta. My father was born and raised in the Delta and I now have a weekend home there myself. My two brothers and I still own the family farm near the small town where Daddy was born. So, it is a special place for us.

Reinhard Schneppennheim, Hamburg, Germany,
arrived late so sent a picture from home in his Bama
hat with his 16 year-old son
An Alabama cap. Daddy went to the University of Alabama to college and later to Johns Hopkins University for medical school. He was a passionate Alabama football fan. All of my brothers, as well as myself, my nephew, my mother, and my grandfather also went to Alabama. Everyone put the cap on at the meeting in Bern to remember Daddy.

Yoshi Fujimura, retired original member of the
steering committee, donned his Bama hat
 his colleagues gave him
And, of course, something "Elvis" (a mug from Graceland). Elvis is synonymous with Memphis which is where Daddy practiced medicine for 45 years and where I live now. 

The remainder of my trip was spent touring Switzerland, some days with Johanna and her husband Niklaus, and all days with my newfound friends from Oklahoma, Sara Vesely (one of the TTP Registry advisors from Oklahoma City) and her mother Marianna Vesely. They were so kind to let me tag along and I loved being with them and sharing our adventures together. 

I will not be so bold to invite myself to Bern again, but I do hope to stay in touch with Johanna about the progress of the registry and with the others as they continue to identify the best treatments for patients with Upshaw-Schulman Syndrome.

Here are some photos I took on my once in a lifetime trip to Switzerland!

Castle Chillon on Lake Geneva
Murren in the Swiss Alps

Murren in the Swiss Alps

Murren in the Swiss Alps

Bern with the Alps in the background above the clouds

Old City of Bern


Bern with the green Aare River


Ballenberg open air museum


Chapel Bridge in Lucerne


Lake Geneva village

Lake Thun