Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Important Work

Hey there. I know people start to worry when posting is infrequent and I say cryptic things about what's going on with me. I'm here, I'm fine. I've been doing some pretty weighty emotional work lately. I will share some of it with you now. The only thing is that once you click on the video links, you have to watch a 15-second public service announcement about heart disease. It gets old quickly with its catchy "Go Red!" jingle, but once it's over, there's the story.

First up is the story about the twins, one of whom is brain-damaged from bacterial meningitis when she was a newborn. You can see the video here. The family was a little shy about doing the article, because they don't want to be seen as asking for charity. Their families have planned an upcoming benefit, and the story is an advance for the fundraising event.

The truth is, though, as Emma gets older, her needs become more complex. Insurance isn't covering the cost of a wheelchair she needs that will enable her to be wheeled into the family's grassy backyard. It costs $4,000. She's getting heavier as she grows up; she needs a bedroom and bathroom on the first floor of their home. I really wanted to show Emma as a real person, not just a quick portrait of a brain-damaged six-year-old girl being bottle fed.

This story was both uplifting and heartbreaking. There's been a real outpouring of love and generosity toward them in the past 48 hours, including a plumber who contacted the paper a few minutes ago. He wants to do all the work to create a handicapped accessible bathroom for Emma on the first floor of their home for free.

I spent time with them beginning at 7 a.m. Monday to document their morning routine.

Exactly twelve hours later, my adrenaline was pumping at a championship hockey game.

I got great jubo- the elusive, chaotic and over-so-fast celebration shots- in both video and stills.

I've never done that before, gotten the really good stuff simultaneously in two formats.

The video is here. (I'm tired.)

Then yesterday I spent the afternoon with a 21-year-old man who has made a miracle recovery from a motorcycle accident back in September. I'm trying to get permission from the rehab center to shoot there. He's undergoing some seriously intensive cognitive therapy to rewire his brain, basically.

At this point, if I met him on the street, I wouldn't have known he'd ever experienced four bleeds in his brain. His story is also uplifting. His recovery has been and continues to be remarkable. I got chills as he was telling about being in a coma and having a dream/experience where he encountered his best friend, a young man who died two years ago from cancer, telling him it wasn't his time to die yet.

I know how that sounds, like schlocky Chicken Soup for the Comatose Soul stuff, and the young man who experienced it thinks it sounds cheesy and unbelievable, too. The thing is... We covered a lot of the cancer benefits and then memorials for his friend two years ago, in human interest stories just like the ones I've been tackling all week. Don't laugh- to tell you the truth, I'm kind of blown away that he had this spiritual encounter with a kid I photographed and didn't want to die.

Finally, I just got word that a local soldier who served in Iraq lost a battle with PTSD. He took his own life about the same time I was running across the ice to interview the kid who scored in the last 15 seconds of the hockey game on Monday night. His family feels very strongly that this story needs to be told, and at 4:30 today, I will be there with a reporter, two cameras, a tripod, and a body mic.

These are the days that I try to approach my work with the same demeanor I would have if I were chaplain with a camera. Maybe chaplain isn't the right word, because I don't really practice traditional prayer, but please, please... Let me do a good job for this family. Let this story reach people who need it. Let the act of telling us their story bring them comfort, if it can, and let me do this well. Fair. Compassionate. Informative. Please.

More soon...


gwen said...

Wow. Nice work. Pretty amazing to see the two of those kids next to each other... whew.

Michelle said...

I'm sure that you do every job well, Angie. But this in particular - soldiers suffering from PTSD and then committing suicide - certainly needs to be told to whoever is left in the public that thinks we should ever go to war. Give peace a chance, folks.

shannon said...

Love you. Sometimes doing our job as journlists is really hard.
But always worth it. And you do a good job, lady.