I attended the IDN Summit and Reverse Expo in Phoenix a few days ago, held at the legendary Biltmore Hotel.
For many years, whenever any healthcare meeting is held in the Phoenix area, it seems like it is held at the Biltmore. Nearly 1,000 people attended the summit, and the vendors and supply chain executives were upbeat and enthusiastic about what was happening in the industry.
In my next column I will talk more about some of what I learned at the summit, but I wanted to share with you one story that wasn’t really about the IDN Summit per se, but was nevertheless heartwarming and inspiring.
As I was arriving at the Biltmore for the event, I was greeted by a young man in a wheelchair. He welcomed me as a guest, and I could see by the badge on his jacket that he was a hotel employee. I was intrigued by the man’s obvious enthusiasm and goodwill, but with the hurry of checking in and scheduled appointments, I really didn't get a chance to talk to him right then. And yet, he kept coming to mind during the conference, so early the next day I went up to him and asked him how he had ended up in a wheelchair greeting guests.
“I had a boat accident a few years ago and broke my neck,” he said.
I told him how sorry I was that he had been so severely injured. I asked him if we could meet later and talk more, and we did. This young man, Joe Delagrave, turns out to be a member of the USA Wheelchair Rugby Team. About a year ago I watched a documentary about that team, and I was amazed by the aggressiveness and contact these disabled athletes engaged in. Joe has been named to the 2012 team that will play in the world championships in London. To say I was impressed would be the understatement of the year. This young man has the poise and sense of purpose that made it an honor to sit and talk with him.
Joe, 26, made the national team this year after several tries, having been cut from the squad in 2009 and 2010. He learned about the team a few years ago on the Internet, and from that moment on he knew that he wanted to join. Prior to his injury, he had played a season of college football at Winona State University in Minnesota, after which came his accident. He told me that playing on the rugby team has helped him immensely. “We learn so much from each other on how to not only play rugby but deal with living life.”
Joe is married to his high school sweetheart. “She has stayed with me all the way,” he said. “When I was in the hospital for three months, she never left my side.” In three months the couple’s baby is due, and the smile on his face said it all.
What a great story and what a great young man! I asked him near the end of our conversation what has he learned about himself and what is important to him. He said that the biggest thing is that his family is, and will always be, his highest priority.
And the reason that Joe was greeting guests at the Biltmore? It’s owned by the Hilton Hotel chain, which is sponsoring the 2012 national wheelchair rugby team.
Isn’t this a great country?