My First National Broadcast:
Saralee Perel and Gracie,
By Saralee Perel
Last month I received a horrifying e-mail from our beloved Reeve Foundation psychologist, Dr. Dan Gottlieb. He hosts his own weekly show on National Public Radio called Voices in the Family.
His e-mail read: "We are doing a show on therapy dogs and your story could be part of the show." He was referring to my caregiver dog who helped me re-learn to walk after my spinal cord injury.
He added, "Could you e-mail my producer whatever information is relevant? Thanks so much."
Now, you might be saying, "What's so horrifying about that?"
A nervous wreck
And I'd answer, "WHAT?! I'll be so nervous that I'll go blank after everything Dr. Gottlieb asks me. Listeners will think there's a mime on the air!"
A week prior to the show, the producer, Jennifer, called me. She said that the broadcast wouldn't be taped. It would be live. I begged, "Oh please, can we tape it? I'll give you all my pets if you agree we can tape it."
"It's much better live."
So I laughed knowingly and tried saying, "Of course it is," which came out, "Yep, I know that. I mean I knew that. I mean, oh heck, know or knew, tomato, tom-ah-to -- "
Before I could complete my inane sentence, Jennifer, probably thinking, I can't believe Dan wants this bonehead on his show, said, "Let's have a mock interview ahead of time." So we set a date for that.
Support from my husband
My husband, Bob, heard my part of the mock interview. And actually, it went surprisingly well. So Bob helped boost my self-confidence. (Please note I’m being sarcastic.) He said, "You sounded amazing. You were so calm and composed and articulate that I couldn't believe it was you!"
Jennifer told me that Gottlieb would be interviewing me via our landline telephone. My part of the hour-long show would take place at precisely one half hour into the program. At that time, my phone would ring and I'd be right on the air. I was not to say hello. What I'd hear was Dr. Gottlieb welcoming me.
I had rehearsed -- oh I'd say about 4,500 times, the words, "Thank you for having me here."
On the day of the broadcast, 15 minutes before airtime, Jennifer called to make sure I was OK. What was I supposed to say to that? "Oh sure, Jenny. I'm about as OK as a woman swimming off the Florida coast who, upon seeing a huge fin speeding toward her, gets excited about appearing in a remake of Jaws and then realizes there's no film crew."
Instead I said I was just ducky.
The moment of truth
When the show came on the air, Bob and I listened to the first half hour on our cell phones. When it was a few seconds before my airtime, I heard, "And now, we have Saralee Perel, who is a nationally syndicated award-winning columnist whose dog, amazing Gracie, became her 24/7 caregiver after she suffered an inexplicable spinal cord injury 8 years ago."
As expected, my landline rang. I picked up and heard Dr. Gottlieb say, "Saralee, welcome to the show."
"Thank you for having me here," I said, which came out perfectly, thank God.
There was silence. Then he said, "Do we have you?"
I said, "Yes! I'm here." But nobody could hear me.
I heard him say, "We must have a line that's down."
Don't you find it unbelievable that there was a malfunction at that very second in the universe, and instead of my planned "thank you" statement, my national debut on NPR consisted of nothing but dead air?
Bob took the phone and hung up quickly, assuming they'd call right back. During this time, I was banging my forehead against my wooden desk and saying, "Bob, Bob, Bob. Why do these things always happen to me?"
"What a way to start!" I said, now on the air.
Amazingly enough, I was able to respond pretty well to all of his questions about Gracie, and how blessed I was, and I think she was too, that she found her purpose in life, which was to selflessly take care of me. You might wonder why I agreed to be on the show.
I wanted to be on the show so that Gracie's courage would be remembered. She always thought of me as her hero. But she will always been mine. She put herself in harm's way by protecting me from traffic, from joggers, bikers and aggressive dogs. She would have given up her life for me. She has been my biggest fan and my greatest supporter, my lifeguard and guardian. Gracie was my champion, who would never, ever let fear stand in her way.
And so I've learned from her, neither will I.
Her novel Raw Nerves is now available as an e-book. To take a look at it on Amazon, please click here.
Arkansas Spinal Cord CommissionThe mission of the Arkansas Spinal Cord Commission is to administer a statewide program to identify and meet the unique and lifelong needs of people with spinal cord disabilities in the state.
CareCure CommunityCareCure Community features a SpinalNurse bulletin board with informed comments on matters of the bowel, and all issues of paralysis.
Canadian & American Spinal Research OrganizationPromotes and supports funding research to ultimately find a cure for paralysis. Also publishes journal of latest research they fund. Call (800) 361-4004 or use the link above.
Canadian Paraplegic AssociationAssists people with spinal cord injuries and other disabilities to achieve individuality, self-reliance and full community participation. Call (613) 723-1033 or use the link above.
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