The work that my group does at InvoTek is weird. We do all the normal, geeky engineering stuff but then we also spend time with people who have severe disabilities. As we work together, it is not unusual for friendships to grow. Over the years, I have become good friends with two people who had degenerative diseases (and several others without degenerative diseases). Both have passed away. Both taught me a lot. They taught me about engineering and the importance of knowing your customer. They taught me about the impact well designed technology can have on quality of life. But they also taught me about sacrifice, and love, and living. This is what I love about my job. One minute I am frantic about lost electrons in one of our research projects, and the next minute I am sitting with a friend who whispers quietly and works hard to form words because he is losing the ability to speak. Putting the two together really challenges me.
It would be easy for me to avoid spending time with these challenging friends. There is always “work” to be done. I always have a good excuse why I can’t visit -- it certainly isn't efficient. I wish I visited more. It is a critical part of my job. Many of the people we work with are so open and generous with their lives that I get a real sense of what life is like when a person has very limited skills. It is not a bad life – it is different. But each time I visit, I leave wishing I could do more. The people we work with ask for so little. They want to pick the TV channel. They want to go to school. They want to read the paper. I have the skills to help them do these things. But the process isn’t fast, and there isn’t enough money, and sometimes I lose electrons, and all of this takes time. And I wish I was better at it.
I lost my friend George a couple of weeks ago (9/1/2010). I lost him before I was able to get our laser technology finished so that he could have the control all men desire – control over the TV! All the stupid little things got in the way. But I was able to be his friend. And I think that mattered more than what I wasn’t able to accomplish.
George’s wife recently asked me if I knew that George loved to dance before he got sick. I didn’t know that, but I should have. George was very social. He always asked about my problems, my adventures, my life. The man knew how to dance, without being able to move. Chalk up one more thing that I learned from George.
If you want to get to know a little about George and Corkie, see our video by clicking on the video below.