A Blizzard of Opportunity

What a blizzard!  Naturally, after writing about an idea snowballing into something big and inspiring two weeks ago, we were hit with none other than a full-blown blizzard spanning three days!  

Taken on the Sunday morning following the storm

Taken on the Sunday morning following the storm

Now, I honestly can’t explain everything that I got to be a part of during my stay at Sibley while the blizzard raged on in a single blog post, because what I saw—the acts of will, the moments of need, the miracles of chance—deserve more time than I can give here.  In that light, I want the first and most important message of this post to be an expression of admiration, appreciation, and respect for those who gave every ounce of themselves during the blizzard.  Thank you to my “roommates” from nutrition who also slept in the Hub for three nights, to those who slept in patient rooms all over the hospital, to those who kept their units and departments going each day and night, and to everyone who made it possible for some 200 plus staff members to become weekend residents of Sibley (I am looking your way EVS, Nutrition, and Security!)

As I said, that weekend was too much to describe all at once, so I will choose to relay two different messages—one a lighthearted retelling of a snowball fight and the other a reflection on some of the madness that was.   

I will begin by sharing the more light-hearted story—the epic (not actually that epic) snowball fight at 4pm on January 23rd, 2016.  Tempers were flaring, we had been cooped up for too long and we couldn’t take it anymore.   Alliances were fragile.  L and D allied with the ED, while Plant Ops stormed to the battlefront ready for a fight.  Rehab leadership emerged and opted to take the high road of supervising the fight for safety measures.  The wind swirled, the snow fell, and the tension couldn’t have been cut with one of those bone saws used in the OR.  Even with the snow carnage that ensued, I was able to obtain the following footage off of the body of a fallen warrior (warning-there is sound).

To quickly analyze what ensued after this video, the victors of the battle were those who quickly figured out that the snow was dry and making snowballs was near impossible.  Thus, the method of choice ended up being slinging snow with the shovels that were nearby.  Piles of snow flew through the air and landed on unsuspecting victims.  The shrill shrieks of surprise filled the silent, snowy air.

Back to a more serious note, I would like to talk about the main part of the weekend.  Something about it really resonated with my experiences in the gym.  At the gym I go to, there are many younger athletes I spend time with who are just beginning their relationship with weight-lifting related workouts.  Something wonderful about the younger athletes is how quickly they progress since they have not yet found their own limits.  In contrast, a more experienced lifter has found those upper bounds, has pushed them, and has been defeated by them.  I remember one of the first times that I pushed against my physical limits while lifting—it was back in high school and I was attempting one rep of a heavy weighted squat and, when I got to the bottom, I just couldn’t get back up.  My coach was quick to help me up, and it was over.  Finding that limit can be scary.  You push and push, you focus your mind and body completely on one seemingly simple task, yet (in lifting at least) you feel the unwavering and uncaring weight crushing you, and you feel your body give in to the losing battle. 

Taken on Saturday by the entrance to the Renaissance 

Taken on Saturday by the entrance to the Renaissance 

What I love about finding and pushing these limits is the learning opportunity.  The attempt provides clear feedback about current performance and potential.  As such, it is a challenge to improve by trying some new things—changing a routine, reanalyzing past experiences, or improving upon techniques.  Reaching a limit gives you a chance to look back and appreciate the effort, energy, and support needed to reach that point, and it forces you to look forward at how to be better the next time around. 

From staying and working all weekend, I gained a whole new appreciation for what it takes for Sibley to function on a daily basis, an understanding of the strong influence that individuals can have, and a feel for how far I can push myself.  I learned that the most fulfilling moment of my weekend was Monday morning when I drove out to Germantown and Gaithersburg at 5am to pick up staff members, that coordinating staffing is extremely challenging, and that living in the hospital for three plus days is quite the adventure (to say the least). 

The map of staff that we coordinated rides for.  People were really all over the DMV!

The map of staff that we coordinated rides for.  People were really all over the DMV!

For those of us who were here during the blizzard, I feel like many of us pushed up against our individual limits.  I feel like Sibley itself tested it limits in certain ways. For a moment, I think it is very important to appreciate the efforts, the crazy things that happened (like the linen driver heroically arriving on Saturday after a 4.5 hour drive from Baltimore), and the emotions that passed through both individuals and the whole hospital.  For the following moment, let us think about how we can learn from this maximum effort to try to improve for next time—let us ask those questions, because it is an opportunity that is too good to pass up.  

I did not know what that weekend would be like, and I never expected it to teach me as much as it did.  I met dozens of new people, I helped coordinate Monday's rides, I drove around to get staff, I kept the Hub up and running as a space for people to spend their downtime, and I felt a whole new level of inclusion in the Sibley community.  Just like one of the younger athletes at the gym, I just sprinted straight ahead for as long as possible with the guidance of those with more experience.  However, like a more seasoned athlete, I know that the toughest challenge is not necessarily standing strong while under duress but actually is having the unending desire to learn from every moment and experience.    

As such, the Hub has been openly collecting ideas and reflections, so please click here to add your own thoughts to the pile!  Also, feel free to come to the Hub and find me or email SibleyHub@jhmi.edu if you have any other thoughts or feedback about anything else.

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Andrew Yin

Thanks again for everyone's commitment and hard work.  It was a weekend that I will never forget.