The First Kangaroo Care Congress, Baltimore
The following is the rather surprising and extremely flattering result of the Diary of Pam the Pinky. The photographs are in no particular order and many do not relate immediately to the text I've set them into. They were taken during the course of the speech and Conference. This is the story of how I found myself addressing a Conference in Baltimore....... a very long way from home.
One morning in April 1998 I received a very surprising and exciting email from Professor Susie Ludington at the University of Maryland. She had read Pam's Diary and she invited me to be the After Dinner Speaker at the First Kangaroo Care Congress in Baltimore which was to be held in October 1998. I was quite puzzled because I wasn't aware that kangaroo joeys were cared for in Baltimore.
As it turned out Kangaroo Care referred to applying the principles of marsupial pouch care to premature babies. Professor Ludington was amazed at the similarity between caring for premature babies and caring for kangaroo joeys and she asked me to make an after dinner speech about my experiences as a carer of the "real thing" i.e. kangaroo joeys. Naturally I accepted! Who wouldn't! Susie told me that there would be speakers from South Africa, Germany and South America. I began to get nervous!
As the time grew closer I realised that I had NEVER made a speech in my life and I would be talking to a gathering of over 100 doctors, nurses and researchers. This naturally brought on the worst case of stage fright imaginable. I wrote my speech, submitted my itinerary and before I knew it the day of departure dawned. I was so frightened of making the speech that I was seriously looking for someone to take my place.....anyone!! That morning I was quite willing to hand over my ticket to any stranger who was willing to go to Baltimore and speak in my place. Common sense prevailed and, armed with the speech, a "pinky clone", 20 slides for demonstration purposes and plenty of nicotine patches to keep me sane during the long journey from Canberra to Baltimore (YES..... I am a smoker), I reluctantly boarded the Qantas flight from Canberra for the first leg of my marathon journey.
Twenty seven hours later I landed in Baltimore, and was taken to the Marriott on the Harbour. I have absolutely no recollection of the next 36 hours. I assume I ate at some stage and I KNOW I went for a walk because I have some photographs of Baltimore Harbour to prove it.
The day before I was due to speak I met quite a few people who were attending the Congress, including Susie, and found myself very much at ease with them. Everyone made me feel very welcome and they were very sweet and understanding of my nerves.
All too soon it was Saturday night and surprisingly, after Susie had introduced me, I positively bounded up to that podium and was away. One minute into the speech I remember thinking "I'm really enjoying this!". They had created a monster! Not only that, but everyone really seemed to enjoy listening to my experiences as a carer of baby kangaroos.
After the speech I was kept busy answering questions and demonstrating how we "wore" our baby kangaroos.
I learned a lot from everyone, especially from Susie (University fo Maryland), Nils (South Africa), Dieter (Germany) and Humberto (Columbia). They are absolutely dedicated to the principles of kangaroo care for premature infants and after listening to the results of their research, I am a total convert.
I was also asked to speak to two classes of nursing students about my experiences. To my surprise one of the students asked me if I lived near Yass! (Yass is a small town not too far from Canberra and not too many Americans have ever heard of it.) It turned out that his mother now lives in Yass and is extremely interested in rehabilitating Australian native wildlife. Small world! A month or two after I returned home to Australia I received a parcel in the mail. The Class of 2000 nursing students had donated two badly needed stethoscopes to Wildcare. To the students - a huge thank you from myself and the members of Wildcare. These stethoscopes are being put to very good use.
Meeting and speaking to the participants of the First Kangaroo Care Congress was a truly wonderful experience, and one that I shall treasure for the rest of my life.
Being an enterprising Aussie I extended this visit to the USA to include New York City, Chicago, Indianapolis and San Diego so that I could catch up with Internet friends and some of my relatives. The photographs on the following pages are just a sample of the many photographs I took during of my four week odyssey.