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An Eventful Christmas Trip Home From London!  
User currently offlineSmithAir747 From Canada, joined Jan 2004, 1622 posts, RR: 28
Posted (7 years 6 months 3 weeks 3 days 7 hours ago) and read 4453 times:

Thanks to the generosity of some very special friends of mine here in London (where I live and study craniofacial medicine), I was able to make a trip home for the Christmas holidays with my family--whom I totally surprised! The trip home on December 16 was quite eventful--in that I got stuck at ORD due to fog cancelling my connection to FWA!

I left London on Dec. 16th and arrived back in London this morning (Jan. 6), which gave me 3 weeks to spend with my large family and catch up with old friends at home in the USA. I went home for the holidays, my sister's graduation from Purdue University (which I just missed due to being stuck at ORD), and my mother's surgery.

My plan was, upon arrival at FWA (my home airport) the night of the 16th of December, to pick up a rental car right from there and drive through the night down to West Lafayette, IN, for my younger sister's graduation from Purdue University the next morning (Dec. 17) and totally surprise my family by showing up there! This was to be my surprise for my family. But this plan (Operation Grinch, as I called it) was screwed up by my being stuck in ORD overnight!

Bags:[/]
(1) Hardside Samsonite suitcase (checked)
(1) American Tourister rollaboard containing my CPAP machine (carryon)
(1) Green violin in case (carryon)

[b]Sat. Dec. 16-Sun. Dec. 17: LHR-ORD-FWA (UA)


LHR-ORD: UA 959 (B777-200 N784UA)

After a busy morning finishing up packing and saving my craniofacial research proposal and PhD application materials on a USB flash drive, I headed out from my residence hall near Russell Square in London to LHR via the Piccadilly tube line. I checked in at the United counter in LHR terminal 3 and informed the agent of my CPAP machine in my American Tourister rollaboard carryon and my violin. I joined a long queue upstairs, snaking out from the security area into the nonsterile departures area. A jovial security agent inspected the queue before security for oversized luggage and banned liquid items. He let me proceed through with my rollaboard (with my machine in it) and my violin case. I made it easily through security and passed through the duty-free area, and picked up a package of After-Eight Chocolate Mints for my family at home in the USA, along with a small teddy bear from Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children. At the Borders bookstore, I picked up Michael Crichton's new novel, Next, a genetic thriller (because I work with DNA in the craniofacial department at Guy's Hospital). I boarded my United 777 (N784UA) on time, and was seated in Economy Plus seat 22B. A late teen/early-20s young man in baseball cap and with laptop had the window seat and spent the whole flight engrossed in his laptop and the IFE screen in front of him. The flight was full. My IFE screen did not work, and I cannot use headphones anyway (having no ears, what good do earphones do me?). I spent most of the flight reading my new book from Borders (the new Crichton novel); it was so engrossing (as I work with genes anyway). It was an unremarkable flight, and the food I ate was a normal pasta entree with salad, roll, ginger ale, and chocolate fudge. We departed LHR runway 27R on time (departure at 3:25pm, almost dark by then in London) on this clear, cold afternoon. The flight was around 8 hours long. We flew a great circle routing from London, over northern England, Ireland, Greenland, the north Atlantic, down through Quebec and Ontario in Canada, Michigan, and finally landed in Chicago (ORD) at around 6:30pm local time. It was pitch-dark in Chicago.
Upon landing at ORD, we disembarked at gate M7 in terminal 5 and I made it through immigration, baggage reclaim, and US Customs. I declared my chocolate mints, my gooseberry/elderflower jam, and Harrod's Christmas Teddy Bear. The US Customs officer told me there was no problem bringing in the gooseberry jam and chocolate mints I had with me, so I breezed through Customs easily. I rechecked my bag through to FWA, my home airport.

ORD-FWA, United Express, cancelled Dec. 16 by fog at ORD; arrival at FWA on Dec. 17

I transferred from ORD terminal 5 to terminal 2 for my United Express connection to FWA, only to find out that that flight was cancelled due to the fog at ORD! It was scheduled for 9:10pm and was to arrive at FWA at 11:09pm FWA time. I was supposed to pick up a rental car at FWA so I could drive down to West Lafayette, IN that night so I could be at my younger sister's graduation from Purdue the next morning, as a total surprise for her and my family (who were also there). Upon learning that my flight to FWA that night was cancelled by fog, I was quite alarmed as my plans would be ruined (my rental car, etc). So I paced the ORD terminal 1 floor near baggage claim, wondering what to do next! Would I try to get a rental car right there at ORD and drive through Chicago in the middle of the night and try to make it to West Lafayette, IN, early in the morning for the graduation, or would I take the airline's offer to put me up in the ORD Hilton and rebook me for the next morning's first flight out to FWA? To top it off, I could not get my Samsonite checked bag back from the airline, because the airline had already checked it through to FWA for the next morning. So I was stuck without my clothes for the night! I actually went out to the off-airport Enterprise car place, but could not get a car for a one-way rental to Indiana (the car had to be returned to ORD). So I went back to ORD and took up the United offer for a free hotel room and was rebooked on a standby ticket for the next morning's 9:00am flight out to FWA. I was put up in the ORD Hilton and given meal vouchers for dinner and breakfast. In the hotel, I found a pay email kiosk and emailed my sister that I was stuck in Chicago for the night and could not make it to West Lafayette for her graduation the next morning. Unbeknownst to me, my sister would not get the email until late the next afternoon!

After a fitful night's sleep in my luxurious O'Hare Hilton room, I checked in at 8:00am Sunday Dec. 17 for my standby 9:00am flight to FWA, and was lucky to get on that flight! Otherwise I would have had to wait 12 more hours for the next one to FWA! I finally arrived at FWA at about 11:00am FWA time, and made several calls trying to get in contact with family members (who were still in Lafayette, IN, at my sister's Purdue graduation). An hour or so later, the PA system in the FWA terminal called out my name. At the information desk I was given the phone; my sister had finally called the airport.
My mom and sister, on the phone, told me they were just leaving Lafayette and would be getting into Fort Wayne by 5:30pm to pick me up at FWA. My sister had not gotten the email the previous night until this afternoon, or she would have actually driven up to ORD to pick me up, she said. So I spent another 6 hours at FWA waiting for my family to come pick me up. But the lovely old lady volunteers at FWA kept me company and fed me lots of those cookies they always give to arriving passengers at FWA!

It was a day late, but I finally made it home to my family, who were quite surprised to have me home! I spent a full 3 weeks with my family and friends, and did a lot of catching up with them. I caught them up with my experiences in London, my studies at King's College London, and my research in craniofacial development there. My speech therapist, from my toddler days, even came over to my home for a visit, and we caught each other up. I even went to my old alma mater, the Purdue campus in Fort Wayne, IN, and visited my old professors and friends there. My former biology professors want to see my first scientific paper, which has just been accepted for publication! Although I missed my sister's Purdue graduation, I was able to be home for my mother's surgery a few days before Christmas and to enjoy a wonderful holiday visit with my family and friends.

FWA-ORD-LHR, United Airlines, Jan. 5-6, 2007

FWA-ORD, United Express, Jan. 5

All too soon, after 3 weeks of a wonderful Christmas break with my family in the USA, it was time to go back to London to resume my studies at KCL and my craniofacial deformities research. To make my 6:58pm flight from FWA-ORD, my family and I scarfed down split pea soup and salad and drove through driving rain through Fort Wayne, IN, to FWA. My younger sister (the Purdue grad) drove us out to FWA in her pickup truck with a box for her wheelchair on top). The driving rain and heavy rush-hour Fort Wayne traffic made for slow going, but we made it out to FWA with just enough time for me to rush into the FWA terminal and check in my bag, go to the restroom, give my last hugs to my family, and go right through security to my gate. Surprisingly, with my violin and CPAP machine, I was still able to get quickly through security (unlike the last time I flew out of FWA, in Sept. 2006). My lightly-loaded United Express CRJ, with only 10 passengers aboard, left FWA on time, departing from runway 32. After a half-hour flight through rain and clouds and spending some time circling over Chicago, my CRJ landed at ORD and I went for a little walk-around of the ORD terminals before going to my connecting gate, C18 in terminal 1, for my ORD-LHR flight. By the way, I picked up the official MENSA Sudoku book from a Hudson's bookshop in ORD terminal 3. (I belong to MENSA and enjoy Sudoku, too).

ORD-LHR, United 938, B777-200, seat 33G, Jan. 5-6

At gate C18a, I boarded my United 777 for the 9:14pm flight to LHR. I was seated in 33G. Initially I put my CPAP-laden carryon and violin in the wrong overhead bin (the one over 33H-J), but then I realised that 33G was on the inside aisle, so I switched my carryons over to the right bin. This flight was fully loaded. We departed ORD on time and headed northeast on our great circle route to LHR. Dinner was cheese tortellini, salad with vinaigrette dressing, roll and butter, and chocolate fudge and ginger ale. Breakfast was a small bowl of melon chunks and grapes, a hot roll with butter and grape jam, and orange juice. The movies on the IFE screen in the seatback were a choice of The Queen, Invincible, and others, and TV shows including the doctor show, House. But I did not watch much. Instead, I read the Hemispheres inflight magazine and the first few chapters of a novel my Purdue-grad sister gave me, Tyrannosaur Canyon. Surprisingly, I did get a bit of sleep (usually I get no sleep on overnight transatlantic flights), by contorting myself into a compact shape in my seat (so compact that my seatmates in the middle could get out right past me). In the middle of the flight, I heard the flight attendants using the PA system to ask if there was a doctor or medically-trained person on board; there was apparently someone in a back row who needed medical attention. I am not quite a doctor yet, and anyway, I am studying to be a research doctor in craniofacial deformities, so I did not respond. We arrived in a dreary, rainy London, and landed on LHR runway 27L, kicking up steam behind us. We arrived about 30 minutes early (10:30am instead of 11:00am). An ambulance caught up with our 777 as it was parking at LHR terminal 3, and soon, a crew of paramedics came aboard and went to the rearmost rows of the plane for the apparent sick passenger. We disembarked right after the paramedics came aboard. I walked quickly to UK immigration, reclaimed my blue Samsonite, breezed through HM Customs, and went straight to the LHR Underground station for my Picadilly Line trip back into London.

So, I just made it back to London this morning after a wonderful holiday visit to my family at home in America, despite being stuck at ORD on the way there!

SmithAir747


I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made... (Psalm 139:14)
22 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineGo3Team From United States of America, joined Mar 2004, 3267 posts, RR: 16
Reply 1, posted (7 years 6 months 3 weeks 3 days 6 hours ago) and read 4409 times:

It's too bad you missed your sisters graduation.

How comfortable was E+ on the 777? I'm still deciding which carrier and plane I want to take to LON this April.



Yay Pudding!
User currently offlineSmithAir747 From Canada, joined Jan 2004, 1622 posts, RR: 28
Reply 2, posted (7 years 6 months 3 weeks 3 days 6 hours ago) and read 4386 times:

Quoting Go3Team (Reply 1):
How comfortable was E+ on the 777?

United's Economy Plus, on the 777s, is a section of economy that features a larger pitch between rows of seats. It's simply bigger legroom. As I am skeletally thin and slight of build, it feels very roomy to me.

Quoting Go3Team (Reply 1):
It's too bad you missed your sisters graduation.

My sister told me she really appreciated my efforts to make it home for her graduation. She told me that if she had had her computer with her that night and seen the email then, she would actually have driven up to Chicago from West Lafayette, IN, and picked me up at ORD that night. (I would have called her cell phone, but I did not have her number on me). She also told me that she will get a DVD of her graduation, so I can see it next time I come home from London.

SmithAir747



I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made... (Psalm 139:14)
User currently offline9V From China, joined Aug 2008, 0 posts, RR: 0
Reply 3, posted (7 years 6 months 3 weeks 3 days 3 hours ago) and read 4209 times:

Quoting SmithAir747 (Thread starter):
having no ears, what good do earphones do me?

What do you have then, is there a hole there? Excuse my ignorance, I'm just interested. Don't they make false one's now to look like real one's? Do you wear a hat to cover them up?


User currently offlineSmithAir747 From Canada, joined Jan 2004, 1622 posts, RR: 28
Reply 4, posted (7 years 6 months 3 weeks 3 days 1 hour ago) and read 4076 times:

Quoting 9V (Reply 3):
What do you have then, is there a hole there? Excuse my ignorance, I'm just interested. Don't they make false one's now to look like real one's? Do you wear a hat to cover them up?

I'm glad you asked! I have no ears, because my ear canals never formed, and neither did my middle ear cavities. These are totally filled with solid bone, so there are no ear canals or middle ear cavities. The outer ears never formed either, so surgeons had to build outer earlobes from ribs and skin grafts. These merely look like ears.

To hear, I use the BAHA (Bone Anchored Hearing Aid), a compact implantable hearing aid for people like me with no ear canals. It works by vibrating the temporal bone so the inner ear nerves can pick up the vibration as sound. I used to wear large, bulky hearing aids consisting of a headband-mounted vibrator attached to a large battery pack worn on the body. The BAHA works much better, and is not so awkward. My (antique) hearing aids are still in my archives!

These ear deformities are part of Treacher Collins syndrome, a rare genetic craniofacial syndrome I have, where my facial bones did not develop during my embryonic development. My experiences with craniofacial deformities (and my 20+ reconstructive surgeries) have actually inspired me to study here in London and pursue a career as a research doctor in craniofacial deformities.

Thanks for asking!

SmithAir747



I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made... (Psalm 139:14)
User currently offline9V From China, joined Aug 2008, 0 posts, RR: 0
Reply 5, posted (7 years 6 months 3 weeks 3 days ago) and read 4039 times:

Quoting SmithAir747 (Reply 4):
20+ reconstructive surgeries

For that alone you have my upmost respect.  Smile

Quoting SmithAir747 (Reply 4):
craniofacial deformities

I saw a programme about it recently on BBC1. Those doctors that do that are brilliant.

Quoting SmithAir747 (Reply 4):
To hear, I use the BAHA (Bone Anchored Hearing Aid)

How does that differ from being deaf? Obviously it's not the same as someone who can hear but what impact does it have on your everyday life like watching tv and stuff? Do you use sign language or lip reading or can you make out what people are saying with the BAHA?


User currently offlineSmithAir747 From Canada, joined Jan 2004, 1622 posts, RR: 28
Reply 6, posted (7 years 6 months 3 weeks 3 days ago) and read 4018 times:

Quoting 9V (Reply 5):
How does that differ from being deaf? Obviously it's not the same as someone who can hear but what impact does it have on your everyday life like watching tv and stuff? Do you use sign language or lip reading or can you make out what people are saying with the BAHA?

Without my BAHA or other bone-conduction hearing aids, I am almost completely deaf, because solid bone seals off my inner ears from the outside where there should be ear canals and middle ears. These devices "bypass" the solid bony obstruction by vibrating the temporal bone, so the inner ear nerves (in the cochlea) can pick up the vibration and transduce it as "hearing" signals to the brain. Normally, the human ear uses the eardrum connected to the ossicles (malleus, incus, stapes) as a resonator system. My ears don't have these, so the hearing aids vibrate the skull to create hearing.

Thus I can "hear" about like normal people with my special hearing aids. So I can watch TV, etc. I use no sign language or lip-reading. With my bone-conductive hearing aids (especially the BAHA), I have adapted very well to the hearing world. Before I got any hearing aids, I was in a prison of silence and had severe autistic tendencies.

However I still cannot use earphones or earbuds, because these are designed for people with open ear canals and do not have the strength to vibrate my skull like my BAHA does.

By the way, I am a musician--I play piano (over 23+ years now), guitar (6 years) and have even taught myself violin! This is almost a miracle, considering my bone-conductive deafness. I have always had a sense of music and rhythm, despite my hearing impairment.

SmithAir747



I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made... (Psalm 139:14)
User currently offlineDALelite From Switzerland, joined Jun 2000, 1770 posts, RR: 25
Reply 7, posted (7 years 6 months 3 weeks 2 days 22 hours ago) and read 3947 times:

I would love to see a picture of yours. The man with no ears....
To bad you have missed your sister's Graduation.

But thanks for sharing your experience.

cheers : DALelite



They loved to fly and it showed..
User currently offlineJAGflyer From Canada, joined Aug 2004, 3496 posts, RR: 4
Reply 8, posted (7 years 6 months 3 weeks 2 days 19 hours ago) and read 3833 times:

Nice report. Its great how you talk about Treacher Collins Syndrome in all your posts as it relates so much to your life. Do your grafted ears look like natural ears? Other than that is your face fully repaired now?


Support the beer and soda can industry, recycle old airplanes!
User currently offlineSmithAir747 From Canada, joined Jan 2004, 1622 posts, RR: 28
Reply 9, posted (7 years 6 months 3 weeks 2 days 12 hours ago) and read 3698 times:

Quoting DALelite (Reply 7):
I would love to see a picture of yours. The man with no ears....

You have asked...so shall ye receive! As soon as I can, I will post my photo on here (and possibly on my A.net profile).

Quoting JAGflyer (Reply 8):
Do your grafted ears look like natural ears? Other than that is your face fully repaired now?

My ears were grafted over several stages during my childhood. The doctors at St. Louis Children's Hospital built my ears as accurately as they could, yet they remain quite unique. They used pieces of rib or cartilage and then put pelvic skin grafts over them. So they look quite unique compared to natural human ears. And, they have no openings (as I lack ear canals). This is a lot better than what I originally had--nothing but tiny skin tags and no holes!

The rest of my face is as complete and as normal as 20+ surgeries could make it. My surgeries are complete as far as I know.

SmithAir747



I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made... (Psalm 139:14)
User currently offlineB707Stu From United States of America, joined Feb 2005, 918 posts, RR: 4
Reply 10, posted (7 years 6 months 3 weeks 2 days 10 hours ago) and read 3603 times:

You're great! I loved the trip report. Good luck with receiving your PhD. I'm sure you're going to make a big difference in the world!

User currently offlineSmithAir747 From Canada, joined Jan 2004, 1622 posts, RR: 28
Reply 11, posted (7 years 6 months 3 weeks 1 day 4 hours ago) and read 3330 times:

Quoting DALelite (Reply 7):
I would love to see a picture of yours. The man with no ears....

You have asked---and here are 2 photos: one at age 3 (before any surgery) and one from this year (age 31). Compare the two, and see how I've changed over 20+ surgeries!


Big version: Width: 1290 Height: 1014 File size: 441kb


Age 3 (1978): Before any surgery; note the silver tracheostomy tube just under my chin.


Big version: Width: 352 Height: 425 File size: 89kb


Now, at age 31 (2006): After 20+ surgeries. Taken in London, UK.

SmithAir747



I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made... (Psalm 139:14)
User currently offlineDALelite From Switzerland, joined Jun 2000, 1770 posts, RR: 25
Reply 12, posted (7 years 6 months 3 weeks 1 day 3 hours ago) and read 3276 times:

Quoting DALelite (Reply 7):
I would love to see a picture of yours. The man with no ears....

I do want to apologize for my insensitive comment.
I never wanted to be dis respective in any way. I have sent you a private message.

regards: DALelite



They loved to fly and it showed..
User currently offlineSmithAir747 From Canada, joined Jan 2004, 1622 posts, RR: 28
Reply 13, posted (7 years 6 months 3 weeks 1 day 1 hour ago) and read 3204 times:

Quoting DALelite (Reply 12):
I do want to apologize for my insensitive comment.
I never wanted to be dis respective in any way. I have sent you a private message.

I just sent you an IM in reply. No offense taken! In fact, I appreciate your curiosity, and I appreciate every opportunity to share my life (and yes, my face, too) with everyone else in this world. My photos just show what great things plastic surgeons can do with a face.

Now you have seen the real SmithAir747!  Wink

SmithAir747



I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made... (Psalm 139:14)
User currently offlineDALelite From Switzerland, joined Jun 2000, 1770 posts, RR: 25
Reply 14, posted (7 years 6 months 3 weeks 22 hours ago) and read 3118 times:

Quoting SmithAir747 (Reply 13):
and I appreciate every opportunity to share my life (and yes, my face, too) with everyone else in this world. My photos just show what great things plastic surgeons can do with a face.

keep on doing so and you are and will be the winner...

in thoughts: DALelite



They loved to fly and it showed..
User currently offlineLuv2fly From United States of America, joined May 2003, 12090 posts, RR: 49
Reply 15, posted (7 years 6 months 3 weeks 20 hours ago) and read 3051 times:

Yours are always great trip reports to read and your life and what you have made of it, is an inspiration for everyone.

Thank you.



You can cut the irony with a knife
User currently offlineSiouxATC From United States of America, joined Nov 2006, 385 posts, RR: 1
Reply 16, posted (7 years 6 months 3 weeks 20 hours ago) and read 3036 times:

Kudos, I have much respect for you. I will be heading to London in March from LAX on the 777. Is econ+ worth the price that is asked at check-in?? A great report and thanks for sharing, sorry to hear about the mishap at ORD, it doesnt sound like it was to shabby tho. The hotel that you stayed at is very nice. Just a shame about the graduation tho. Keep up the good work.

User currently offlineLeezyjet From United Kingdom, joined Oct 2001, 4041 posts, RR: 53
Reply 17, posted (7 years 6 months 3 weeks 20 hours ago) and read 3033 times:

Quoting SmithAir747 (Thread starter):
I boarded my United 777 for the 9:14pm flight to LHR

Those obsure flight times you have in the US always make me chuckle. Does 1 minute really make a whole lot of difference. Why not just make it a 2115 departure ??.

Good report BTW. Glad you had a good xmas and NY.

 Smile



"She Rolls, 45 knots, 90, 135, nose comes up to 20 degrees, she's airborne - She flies, Concorde Flies"
User currently offline767Lover From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 18, posted (7 years 6 months 2 weeks 6 days 19 hours ago) and read 2825 times:

Well, I know you would rather not have this condition, but I must say that your appearance, in my opinion, is much better than you what you had built it up to be. From your previous descriptions I expected your condition to be much more pronounced and obvious. You have a very pleasant appearance and a nice smile, although I wish you didn't have to go through all the difficulties.

And hey, you have a good head of hair for a man you're age!  smile 

Best of luck to you in your studies. I'm sure you will be an inspiration to your patients.


User currently offlineSmithAir747 From Canada, joined Jan 2004, 1622 posts, RR: 28
Reply 19, posted (7 years 6 months 2 weeks 5 days 1 hour ago) and read 2580 times:

Quoting 767Lover (Reply 18):

Thanks, 767Lover!

My surgeons have really done a great job (over the course of 20 surgeries) of totally rebuilding my face. (Compare my 3-year-old baby picture to my most recent photo, in reply 11.)

I was describing mainly what I went through, and all the medical complications that have bedeviled me, not just how my face "looks".

Thanks anyway for your compliments (esp. my hair!)  Wink

SmithAir747



I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made... (Psalm 139:14)
User currently offline9V From China, joined Aug 2008, 0 posts, RR: 0
Reply 20, posted (7 years 6 months 2 weeks 5 days 1 hour ago) and read 2575 times:

SmithAir747,

I just wanted to ask you...

Is it the same surgeons that have have done all those proceedures to date over the years? I guess you must be on first name terms with some of them.


User currently offlineSmithAir747 From Canada, joined Jan 2004, 1622 posts, RR: 28
Reply 21, posted (7 years 6 months 2 weeks 5 days ago) and read 2564 times:

Quoting 9V (Reply 20):
Is it the same surgeons that have have done all those proceedures to date over the years? I guess you must be on first name terms with some of them.

Yes, the same two groups of surgeons have done all this work on me:

James Whitcomb Riley Hospital for Children (Indiana Univ. Medical Center, Indianapolis, IN): plastic surgeons & craniofacial surgery team (1975-1982; 1991-1996)

St. Louis Children's Hospital (Washington Univ. Medical Center, St. Louis, MO): Craniofacial Deformities Institute (1982-1991)

Yes, I am still on first-name terms with all of them!

SmithAir747



I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made... (Psalm 139:14)
User currently offlineBNE From Australia, joined Mar 2000, 3173 posts, RR: 12
Reply 22, posted (7 years 6 months 2 weeks 4 days 10 hours ago) and read 2473 times:

Thanks for posting the trip report but all of the other interesting background.

I guess the idea of the surgeons is to allow you to blend in with the surroundings.



Why fly non stop when you can connect
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