Today's post comes courtesy of guest-blogger Casey Accardi, the daughter of Ankota CTO and co-founder Ken Accardi. We're proud of Ken's educational and career bio and how it makes him so well suited to help us advance the causes of health care delivery and home care technology, but Casey's post uncovers a part of the story we haven't told before and where Ken gets his passion for healthcare.
Tracing his Steps
by Casey Accardi
When I decided to write a memoir for this project, my first impulse was to call my father's mother, Grandma Joan. To say that Joan loves genealogy would be an understatement. She's traced our family tree back to 1640, and would gladly look into yours too if you asked. In fact, she'd probably look into yours even if you didn't ask... she has a tendency to go on "genealogy-sprees" where she finds out everything she can about whichever family strikes her interest at the time, just for fun. I'm not kidding - Joan really loves genealogy. Naturally, I figured she would be my go-to-gal for a project of this nature. However, after a delightfully long half hour on the phone with her where I tried my very best to take notes and stay on task, I realized that Joan wasn't as good of a go-to-gal as I'd expected. While she does seem to know of every last person I'm related to that's lived in the past 400 years, she doesn't really have much to offer in terms of actual stories about these people. Nothing of real substance, nothing I can genuinely relate to. So I could spend the next few pages telling you about every single Accardi who has ever lived in Sicily (let me tell you, there have been quite a few) but I figure if it doesn't resonate with me, it won't resonate with you.
Instead, I'd like to talk about my dad. I guess you could say that my dad is a success story of sorts. But, being the modest, affable, team-player kind of guy that he is, he would never be the one to tell you that. Back in my athletic days (which are long gone), my Dad and I would often spend Sunday afternoons kicking the soccer ball around the back yard; he would encourage me as I struggled with foot-eye coordination. He always wore a small brace around his knee, which I never really thought to question. My understanding at the time was that as a kid, he had a problem with his knee, and the doctors fixed it but it was still safest for him to wear a brace sometimes. I was easily satisfied; my elementary-school-self didn't seek more of an explanation.
On a rainy Saturday afternoon in March of my 7th grade year, my dad told me he was going shoe shopping and asked if I wanted to come. I may not be the girliest girl in the bunch, but I wasn't about to turn down a shopping offer. So off we headed to Nordstrom; Dad settled in the men's department while I checked out every pair of shiny flats on the ladies side. After making my selections, I joined my dad in his department. As I approached I heard him say to the quintessentially gracious sales associate, "Could you please bring out this pair in an eight and a ten?" She promptly returned with the two pairs of shoes... my dad tried the eight on his left foot and the ten on his right foot. After gaining my approval on his new pair of surprisingly fashionable loafers, we proceeded to the counter where my dad purchased one size eight shoe and one size ten shoe (for the price of one pair of shoes - thanks Nordstrom!) and then headed for the car.
I've never really been the type of person to initiate conversation about potentially awkward topics, but my dad's shoe size selection at Nordstrom left me too curious to resist. How had I never noticed that he wears two different shoe sizes? After contemplating the best way to bring it up, I just went with, "So Dad, why exactly do you wear two different sized shoes?" My dad has always been great at explaining - both my parents are engineers and when I was in kindergarten and all curious, I would occupy my time on long car rides by asking them how things work. He could always manage to explain the science behind complicated things (space ships, submarines, the solar system) in a way that even itty-bitty could understand. This time was no different. With his usual warm yet matter-of-fact tone, my dad explained that when he was born, the bones in his lower left leg weren't solid -- they were about as strong as cartilage and never hardened. Starting at 18 months, he had over a dozen operations trying to correct this, all of which failed. He had to wear a heavy-duty brace and even with it on, couldn't walk very well. Shortly after his 12th birthday, my dad's doctor ran out of ideas and said the only option was amputation (this is where Grandma Joan reenters the plot!). Joan wouldn't take no for an answer; she kept searching and found a world renowned orthopedic surgeon at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital who was willing to take my dad's case. This doctor agreed to try an experimental procedure that involved replacing dad's faulty bones with bones from a cow. The operation proved successful - after nearly 13 years dad could finally play sports and walk around the neighborhood like all the other kids.
All of this information was a lot for me to digest at once. It was hard to understand that when he was the very same age I was at the time, he would most often be found confined to a hospital bed. While I whined about wanting new clothes or not getting the solo I'd wanted, he had probably whined about being in severe pain. All of a sudden, my selfish concerns seemed like nothing compared to his childhood. It made me realize that when my dad tries to encourage me to get out there and try new things, he's not doing it to annoy me -- he's trying to give me the opportunities he never had. It dawned on me how much I admire my dad. In his first 13 years of life, he endured more than most people endure in a lifetime, and still managed to have lots of friends in high school, become an excellent trumpet player and jazz musician, graduate with honors from college, and start his own business.
I also realized how appreciative I should be of my Grandma Joan. Yes, she has a tendency to ramble and can be pretty darn wacky, but without her persistence in advocating for my dad I don't know if I'd be here today. Maybe it has to do with the fact that he is her only son - I'm sure she'd hate for there to be no Accardis of the future to trace their genealogy back to her.
Casey Accardi is a junior in Wellesley High School. She is an avid singer and co-president of the Boston Children's Chorus and writes their blog at http://www.bostonchildrenschorus.blogspot.com/. She also writes for http://www.teenlifeboston.com/. Casey will be featured with Opera Boston in their world premier of the opera Madame White Snake opening February 26th at the Cutler Majestic Theater in Boston. More information is available at www.operaboston.org/operas_mws.php
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