Tag Archives: Medical research

Happy #GivingTuesday

45088058_s editedThanksgiving offers us a chance to give thanks for the treasures we enjoy – our families, friends, callings, the bounties decorating our lives. Most appropriately, Thanksgiving is followed by Giving Tuesday, a day bestowing the opportunity to actively express our thanks for all we have by giving to the causes in need of our support.

For me, this Giving Tuesday is particularly poignant as I celebrate The Martin & Roberta Sloate Dystonia Research Fund and the hope it embodies as we look forward to a better tomorrow. I’m forever grateful for my parents’ wide-reaching contributions to the Dystonia community in a heartfelt effort to make my world a better place and catalyze critical support for all families impacted by Dystonia.

I invite everyone to join with me in sending out a message of hope today on the occasion of Giving Tuesday. You can donate to the fund established in my parents’ honor at the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation, a place they called home, using the following link: The Martin & Roberta Sloate Dystonia Research Fund.

xxx

Pamela

My Father, My Hero

9043868_sWe all need role models who fuel our desire to make the world a better place. Mine is my dad, who’s passing this week has left a huge gap in my immediate family and also in my extended family: the Dystonia community.

Back in the 1970s, when my strange movements began, Dystonia posed a mystery scarcely understood by medical professionals. In the absence of specialized foundations, patients and their families had nowhere to turn. The movement disorder neurologist who diagnosed me could only offer utter lack of hope but that didn’t reside within my parents’ vocabulary and they determined to find a brighter tomorrow. If there was no way forward, it was time to construct a road.

With iron resolve and a heart full of love, my father scoured a barren landscape for information about my little-known disease. From his research at the local library, he located a rising neurologist – Dr. Stan Fahn – to help him forge the way, beginning with a much-needed medical conference opening a gateway to scientific discussion. My father’s fundraising gave birth to the first International Dystonia Symposium. It was a crucial step forward but the work had just begun.

Intent on his mission to secure me the very best care, my father helped build a thriving community that supports patients and their families while propelling forward medical advancements. The Dystonia Medical Research Foundation owes its strength to the steadfast determination of families like mine, the Belzbergs, the Kesslers and countless others.

Serving as the initial Treasurer, my dad worked tirelessly on behalf of the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation, earning a lifetime position on the Board. He never sought accolades, just a better life for me, in the process touching the lives of hundreds of thousands. He’s truly one of the unsung heroes of the Dystonia community and he’s my hero. My dystonia blog is a continuation of my dad’s vibrant spirit and can-do attitude. I’m eternally grateful for the life he made possible and the hopeful future he paved.

In loving memory of my father, Martin Sloate.

-Pam-

Donate to the Martin & Roberta Sloate Dystonia Research Fund here:  Dystonia Research Fund.

Communities In Action Achieve Results

Every Spring, individuals with Dystonia from throughout this vast country lend their enthusiasm, personal struggles and impassioned advocacy to advance mission critical policies aimed at eradicating Dystonia and improving patient care. The power of advocacy is nothing more – and nothing less – than the power of people banding together in pursuit of a common cause. The collective wealth of the experiences we recount illustrates the importance of the policies we promote. Our participation reminds those inhabiting halls of power in Washington that Dystonia is on the map…to stay…until we find the means to whip this debilitating condition.

Edited 2709338_sOn the flip side, we gain tremendous gratification from the knowledge we’re actively pursuing a cure, not merely awaiting one. One of the most difficult aspects of living with chronic illness is the degree of helplessness we exercise over the villain holding our bodies hostage. Participating in research studies, raising needed funds and advocating for important policies are direct and meaningful contributions that imbue us with a sense of purpose. Remember, no one chef bakes this cake. The search for a cure is a team effort reliant upon medical and research professionals, healthcare partners, patients, fundraisers, advocates, and all who support us. The accumulation of efforts we undertake propels us forward.

Those who can’t make Advocacy Day should take heart. Flocking to DC for a day of oral combat is by no means the only way to muster our numbers. The strength of our platform is fueled by the collective resonance of our individual appeals, assembled piece by piece. We needn’t travel great distances or endure a whirlwind of meetings jam-packed with issues. Advocacy can be as simple as a call or email to your local politicians introducing your health challenges and policy agenda. Time-sensitive “action alerts” requesting specific communications offer additional opportunities for participation “from a distance.” Sweeping displays of strength are composed of thousands of “tiny” efforts. We need every available voice raising our concerns as it’s impossible to know who or how many will tip the balance.

By no means are we building castles in the air. Health activism conducts serious business.  Washington is steeped in special interests strong-arming policy and politicos jostling for position. Everyone with an interest in tangible outcomes bears responsibility for expressing an opinion about the actions – and inactions – of our government and reminding elected representatives why we entrusted them with their authority in the first place. Only by telling our stories and asserting our legislative programs can we be heard. Dystonia’s continued eligibility for DOD research funding is one potent example of the tangible outcomes our sojourns to Capitol Hill produce. I urge patents, friends and families to heed an imperative for action that yields concrete results. Armed with determination and an email program, you can even make a difference from the comfort of your home.

Dystonia Advocacy Day, April 9, 2014
Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.
Dystonia Advocacy Network Legislative Agenda, FY15

  • National Institutes of Health (NIH) appropriation of $32 billion to allow continued funding of important research programs.
  • Active support for the Dystonia research portfolio at NIH including the Dystonia Coalition.
  • Inclusion of Dystonia as a condition eligible for study in the Dept. of Defense (DOD) Peer-Reviewed Medical Research Program.
  • Long-term solution to the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula that adequately reimburses physicians and ensures patient access to quality care.

The Dystonia Advocacy Network’s legislative agenda is found here: http://dystonia-advocacy.org/agenda/

Those with Parkinson’s can join forces with the Parkinson’s Action Network: http://www.parkinsonsaction.org

Whodunit: The Misadventures Of My Mutant Ninja Protein

Too often, I find myself apologetic over hurdles that come with Dystonia: I’m sorry it’s difficult to understand me…I can’t walk across the park…I need more time to finish this form. Worse are the silent apologies I make to myself. Why do I perpetually raise excuses for my condition as if responsibility for this annoying hoopla falls squarely on my shoulders? I possess greater control over my runaway temper than my speech or my stride. Dystonia arrived as an intruder on my doorstep, robbing me of some of my dearest possessions: clear speech, even gait, smooth handwriting, contraction-free enjoyment of life.

16542915_sThe perpetrators of this medical crime lurk deep inside my brain committing all kinds of chemical mischief. I’ve participated in a bunch of “line-ups” – ironically, I’m the one who’s scrutinized – but while a culprit surfaces in a blood test, the actus reus can’t be captured in a pretty picture and my “head shots” are dead-end streets. We know Mr. DYT1, my uninvited houseguest, orchestrates a mutant ninja protein – Torsin A – who’s ostensibly a key player in a conspiracy of neurological proportion involving a perplexing hoist of my brain with a modus operandi stumping even the most seasoned investigators. To complicate matters, a host of suspect genes orchestrating their own villainous behaviors are implicated in different forms of Dystonia.

On the bright side, I function as my own “neighborhood patrol,” doing my best to combat an ongoing bodily offense. I undertake every effort to keep the crime labs busy, proffering skin and blood samples, funky PET scans, functional MRIs…accompanied by eyewitness accounts of the damage inflicted on my landscape. Meanwhile, I remain a walking crime scene apologizing for acts I can’t explain. Perhaps my amends are best bestowed on the objects of my temper…

Showing Up For The Party!

6792724_sWhen I was a little girl, my mom taught me the importance of showing up for the party. Boy, was she right!

As I muse over my experience at Dystonia Advocacy Day, I ponder the significance of our actions. While we volleyed many an impassioned speech, I can’t help but wander to the conclusion it all comes down to showing up. Implanted with medicine pumps and medical devices, toting our loathsome pills, a few sporting motorized scooters or walking sticks, Dystonia hailed to D.C. armed with an arsenal of war stories to announce our presence.

Tasked with a day of legislative sorties on Capitol Hill, putting ourselves out there is no small matter. Showing up means summoning the courage to relive our most traumatic moments with a series of strangers, some paying only polite attention to our deepest frustrations. Showing up means risking an emotional bottleneck that messes with the best-rehearsed oration. It entails listening to nasty words like “sequestration” and watching life issues we battle every day transformed into talking points in a gridlocked budget process. Showing up denotes enduring a hectic, stressful schedule that wrecks havoc with our Dystonia for the same cause. It makes a simple but profound statement how we need help from our government to enjoy our freedom to move. Showing up is worth 1,000 pictures times 1,000 words…I can only hope mine were fully understood but I know my attendance was duly noted.

I must give mention to Team NY, which certainly “showed up” for business. After lending 2 of our crew to switch-hit for NJ, we comprised 3 Dystonia ladies, 1 husband and 1 father determined to wield our expertise. After all, Congress has much to learn about Dystonia. We opened our hearts, laughed our way through our emotions, swooped in to support one another, even caught a ride on the exclusive underground train. Talk about tired; by the end of the day, we could barely remember our personal details!

Here’s to fellow troopers Allison London, Ron Hersh, Denise Gaskell, Greg Gaskell, and members in absentia, Rachelle Robert and Christina Pepi, who were with us in spirit. Traipsing through the Halls of Power with the top soldiers in the state made my day!

If you plan to change the world – or even one small corner – start by showing up for the party!

Dystonia Advocacy Day, May 1, 2013
Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.
  • National Institutes of Health (NIH) appropriation of $32 billion, a necessary increase to allow continued funding of important research programs.
  • Active support for the Dystonia research portfolio at NIH including the Dystonia Coalition and participation of Dystonia researchers in the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative.
  • Inclusion of Dystonia as a condition eligible for study in the Dept. of Defense (DOD) Peer-Reviewed Medical Research Program.
  • Long-term solution to the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula that adequately reimburses physicians and ensures patient access to quality care.

Reflections Of A Dystonia Advocate: The Power Of Unity

18210466_sAs I embark upon my second trip to Capitol Hill as a Dystonia Advocate, I reflect upon what this journey means to me and from whence we came. Of course, it’s an honor to speak for Dystonia and interject our issues into the legislative process but there’s even more beneath the surface. Dystonia Advocacy Day is an awesome display of the power of unity, which goes to the heart of our community and is precisely what we need to fuel our hope for a cure. Though Dystonia often feels like an amalgamation of different conditions, we stand strongest together. We share an imperative of unity of spirit, purpose and action.

Not so long ago, as recently as the early 1970s, there were no foundations fighting for us let alone a group of advocates advancing our cause in D.C. The organized cause of Dystonia is a story of the tenacity and determination of parents – including mine – who insisted on combatting a mysterious medical disorder and harboring hope for a better life for their children…also of patients who dared to dream of a world without Dystonia.

The Dystonia Medical Research Foundation (DMRF) tells a tale of how adversity connects strangers and extends families. When they founded DMRF in 1976, Samuel and Frances Belzberg planted seeds of promise in a destitute garden, carrying on their backs the hope of their daughter, Cheri, and Dystonia patients across North America. Banishing “surrender” from their vocabulary, the Belzbergs determined to slay the beast and support others facing the same foe.

This Vancouver family wasn’t alone. My parents stood tall when research was scarce and every foot forward measured a mile, including their part in the 1st International Dystonia Symposium in NY. I like to think fate brought my father to the Belzbergs but this is best attributed to his resolve to move mountains…or at least cross a continent! In 1981, Dennis and Barbara Kessler made their way to DMRF after their son, Arthur, was diagnosed, donating their hearts and souls. Families such as these – holding little in common beyond a rare movement condition – are bound by unity of spirit and purpose, coming together to light the path towards a brighter future.

Once the snowball gets rolling, it achieves its own momentum. In the early 1990s, Bonnie Strauss, a proactive Dystonia patient in New York, whose mother and grandmother were afflicted with Parkinson’s, teamed with her father, Louis Bachmann, and translated her aspirations into an annual golf tournament that burgeoned into the Bachmann-Strauss Dystonia & Parkinson Foundation. Bonnie enlisted family and friends to join her battle and once again the power of unity spoke loudly. Conviction, dedication, fortitude, perseverance – these are sacred words.

I feel honored to enjoy special bonds with both foundations: my father, the DMRF’s first Treasurer, played a key role propelling DMRF and Bachmann-Strauss is my “home away from home” in New York City. However, most vigorous is my connection with the Dystonia community, encompassing patients, families, caregivers, clinicians, and devoted organizations reflecting the diversity of Dystonia. Led and staffed by remarkable individuals, these organizations raise their voices and help man the front lines in a war that holds promise but has yet to be won. In a world riddled with selfishness, neglect, violence, even insane acts of terror, we all need friends and I’m grateful to everyone who works tirelessly to advance our hope.

I can’t help but marvel at the spirit of cooperation showcased during Advocacy Day, when individuals from throughout the country representing the full spectrum of Dystonia gather as one big family in pursuit of our common objectives. Join the fight – advocate, spread the word, share your story, volunteer, blog, fundraise – the particular action is less important than making that critical step to become involved. We need rise proud as a community, making a difference with a resounding symphony of concerted action. It’s my privilege to participate in the unity of Dystonia and our combined human potential to shape opinions and events. Take that leap of faith, never say “never” and never give up!

Check Out Some Community Friends:
Dystonia Medical Research Foundation