I’m writing this having just returned from the International Certified Flooring Installers Association’s 25th anniversary convention in Orlando. The show felt like a homecoming, not just because the veteran members of the association were brimming with nostalgia, but for personal reasons as well.

As frequent readers of this column may know, I suffered a catastrophic medical emergency last September that put me out of commission until January of this year. To keep this from becoming the length of a medical textbook, I will simply state that I was born with a medical condition called Marfan Syndrome, which among other things causes issues with my connective tissue. One well-known side effect of this disorder is the weakening of the aorta, which can eventually lead to the vessel itself dissecting.

Even though I’ve known for years that an aortic dissection is a likely possibility with my condition, I was still in denial when it happened to me. (In denial about a medical emergency—does that sound familiar, installers?) Suffice to say, what I first thought was just an incredibly sudden and persistent “backache” turned into a trip to the ER, a bevy of medical tests, and an emergency helicopter flight to the closest hospital that knew how to deal with my complications. I was hospitalized for several weeks, underwent multiple procedures to keep my vital signs in a healthy range and ultimately underwent emergency surgery to repair the dissection.

Over the next several months and into this year, I worked at building up my stamina with the help of a physical therapist. As with any recovery, it took a lot longer to get back on my feet than I initially thought it would. And that brings us back to the CFI convention. It seems fitting that while they were celebrating their milestone, I was celebrating one of my own—it marks the first time I’ve attended an industry event in a year.

Everyone was incredibly sweet when they saw me walking the show floor like I always used to. Lots of handshakes, hugs, smiles, claps on the back and proclamations of “Welcome back!” and “We’ve missed you!”

This industry really is a family, and that was something the CFI event went out of its way to prove. Not just to me, either. Ralph Richins, who has been part of CFI since its inception, came to this year’s event after retiring from Roberts/QEP. “This is my last hurrah with the industry,” he said. “I wanted to be here for the 25th anniversary, to see a lot of friends and say goodbye to a lot of friends.”

I hope you also see this industry as a family. These people are here to offer their expertise and support year in and year out. Get involved, and you’ll see what I mean.