Recently I had the pleasure of attending the Georgia Hospital Association’s annual conference at the Grand Hyatt in Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood. Typically I don’t attend every session, but I always enjoy the keynote address.
From my seat – far left and second row from the stage – I noticed something a bit different about the room that I had not seen in previous years. There was a long ramp from the front of the stage to the center of the conference room. It was used by a number of hospital representatives as they received their honors. However, it was obviously placed there for wheelchair access.
AS THE PRESENTATIONS concluded, Kurt Stuenkel, immediate past chairman of the GHA’s Executive Committee, began to introduce the keynote speakers – a daughter and her father – and their remarkable journey.
Many Augustans likely are familiar with the story of Aimee Copeland. She is the young lady from the State University of West Georgia who contracted necrotizing fasciitis after a freak accident when she fell from a homemade zip-line. The bacterial infection attacked her flesh, and she lost one leg and both hands. Augusta was the location of much of her treatment and recuperation
Aimee’s father, Andy, kicked-off the presentation sharing the episode. He talked about the fall, their local experiences and the family’s relocation of Aimee from one hospital in another part of the state over to Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Augusta’s Doctors Hospital. As the speech unfolded, Andy began to rave about Augusta, the doctors who cared for Aimee and the faith they kept in God that their daughter would one day be healed.
HE SHARED HIS spiritual voyage, and referenced outcomes about two groups in an independent study – one group of patients who received prayer, and one group who did not. He revealed the results and how the patients who received prayer did better than those who did not – even if the patients being prayed for had no idea! He discussed the community’s impact on their family through blood drives. By the time he finished and introduced Aimee, there was not a dry eye in the room.
Entering from the rear of the room and to a thunderous ovation came Aimee, wheeling up the ramp. Wow. She was beaming with joy. Like her father, Aimee oozed with love for Augusta. She spoke of two nurses in particular, Jacqueline and Julie, who genuinely cherished and aided Aimee so much that Aimee attributed some portion of her current existence to their care. Aimee told story after story of the clear exceptionalism exuded by Augusta people and the community.
IF YOU DIDN’T know better, you might even conclude that your kindness, prayer and love contributed to the fact that this girl lives – even though, clinically, she died twice.
By the end of the meeting, I was so moved I went up and shared with them that I grew up in Augusta. I told Andy that we’d be glad to have them over to watch the Masters Tournament, and gave him my card. I’m not sure if he will call, but if he does, please keep an eye out for them on the course.
This family has an unparalleled appreciation for Augusta. If you want to get some real context and perspective about Augusta, I suggest you hear a speech from Aimee. You should be proud of your heritage, medical community and your connection to her.
(The writer, an Augusta native, is a senior
account manager in the health-care industry. He lives in Atlanta.)