Meeting the man behind the books... Lyle Brooks
We exited the metro station at City Hall as instructed and looked around for the building I'd been sent a picture of the night before. It was easy to spot, the impressive court rooms, not because they are imposing, (they'd struggle to be imposing in New York City) but they are old for this part of the city, majestic, grand and a little intimidating because of their purpose... Law.
Why was I meeting a man, known in my world as a hyperemesis hero, outside a law court? Well, because Lyle Brook is a lawyer with an impressive career of practice and teaching and he now works here as a senior court attorney. But that wasn't why I was meeting him.
I was meeting Lyle as a colleague, friend and comrade in the battle of Hyperemesis Gravidarum. Clearly as a man Lyle has not suffered hyperemesis himself, and unusually nor has his wife. But Lyle is close friends with Ashli Foshee McCall, author of Beyond Morning Sickness and Chronicles of Nausea. In addition to his demanding law career he has dedicated vast amounts of time, money, love and passion into getting copies of Ashli's book as far and wide as possible to any and every woman that needs it. Then he sets them up with local volunteers who have been through it themselves to support and advocate for her. He does this almost single handed on an International scale and at his own expense. That's why I was meeting him.
It's natural to be a little nervous meeting someone you've only had internet contact with and that's escalated when you're far from home and have your whole family in tow. But on meeting Lyle for the first time face to face we were instantly relieved. A classic New Yorker, Lyle doesn't look like a lawyer, he is quirky and the details draw me, such as the vase thick glasses held together with sticky-tape on both sides, I'm intrigued. And as you speak to him he doesn't sound like one either. His life has been a hotch potch of weird and wonderful stories of quirky and famous family members, too many cats and a history of unusual interests and blogs... the tales are enticing.
After a whirl wind tour of the Court Rooms with it's incredible dome ceiling and disorientating circular corridors we headed out into the crisp New York air for a walk over to China Town for some food. We swap stories over chi and chopsticks about cases we've come across and the struggles we've faced in our mutual missions to help every HG sufferer we can. Lyle and Ashli have been going far longer than I and have achieved far more that I probably ever will but the inspiration they provide is so valuable to me and my UK colleagues. It is thanks to Ashli's book that I had the courage to go through pregnancy again rather than opting for adoption. And yet despite having helped literally thousands of women over the years and maintaining hundreds of volunteers across the world, Lyle seems to remember every one of them and all of their stories.
After our lunch we head out for a personal tour of Downtown Manhattan to see the Statue of Liberty, Ground Zero and Wall Street. Lyle carries my son Alfie, with his soggy jeans and wet boots, on his shoulders for a fair old way along the snowy streets and over the deep sloshy puddles at every road crossing. Pretending to bump his head on the traffic lights and scaffolding then transforming into a horse with a cowboy in control. It's a magical afternoon.
But the wonder of wandering New York with this interesting, funny and frankly charming character isn't the only magical element of the day. It's the vision of the future that is created. The increasing ability for international co-operation and collaboration to ultimately help more women and make more changes for care and treatment of hyperemesis around the world. Ashli's book has been a major inspiration for mine and Amanda's book which is nearly finished now and I sincerely hope we can make her and Lyle proud with our work.