Monday, 12 September 2011

A Big Thank You!

We need to say a huge big THANK YOU to Diageo for matching the sponsor monies raised by Mary Colgan during the West Whizzyland Way Walk.

Mary raised a staggering £1000 and Diageo have matched this and donated  £1000 directly to the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign.

Thank you Diageo for supporting such a worthwhile charity from all at Whizzy Wheel Central!

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

A is for August & Awareness

two candles by h0pefulmummy

August is gone now and the days take on an autumnal feel. August was Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) awareness month in the States.

On Saturday 13th August people all over the States lit candles as the sun set to remember those lost to SMA and to give hope to those still living with the disease. I lit two candles that night - one for Eilidh and one for all the other children who have lived or who are living with this genetic disease.

1 in 40 of us are carriers.

As a doctor my first experience of SMA was in a neonatal unit; the baby boy had SMA 1. My next experience was sitting in a neurology clinic with my daughter, "She probably has a myopathy or a muscular dystrophy. It could be Spinal Muscular Atrophy." SMA doesn't happen very often in the lifetime of a doctor. In my lifetime, however, I see it every day.

Approximately 100 new cases are diagnosed each year.

Why don't we know more about SMA in the UK? To be honest, I'm not very sure. SMA is one of the most common life-threatening inherited diseases, second only to Cystic Fibrosis (CF) and yet we are very much more aware of CF as a disease and the affect it has on those who have it. 1 in 25 of us carry the cystic fibrosis gene; 1 in 40 the SMA gene. Approximately 260 babies are born each year with CF; 100 babies per year are born with SMA. In CF, as in SMA, in any pregnancy where both parents are carriers there is a 25% chance that the baby will have CF. Only half of those living with CF are likely to live past their late thirties: SMA affects individuals differently with SMA 1 children maybe living until they are 2 and SMA 2 children will perhaps live until adulthood.

So, knowing that Cystic Fibrosis and Spinal Muscular atrophy have similar genetics and that they are both life-threatening, I'll ask the question again, why are we not more aware of SMA in the UK?

It's a question I have asked myself frequently since Eilidh was diagnosed with SMA. There seems to be so little awareness of SMA within the general public but also, more worryingly within medical professionals and allied staff. What can we do to increase awareness, promote and fund research and raise money to support those living with SMA? I'm not sure; I need to consider this seriously and take action - small steps towards making a difference. Do you have any suggestions? Did you know anything about SMA before reading this blog? What do you know of CF? Are you surprised that so many similarities exist between SMA and CF? I certainly was when I read up on the hard facts. Now that I know though, how can I change our, the public's, way of thinking towards SMA? Let me think it over...

"As one person I cannot change the world, but I can change the world for one person."
Paul Spear

"'Twas the Month..."

As I was writing the previous post I stumbled across this poem at Families of SMA. It's more about SMA 1 but the feelings expressed are those felt by any parent coming to terms with life with SMA.

Twas The Month of SMA Awareness

‘Twas the month of SMA awareness, and all over the world
Against all new mothers, sweet babies are curled.
Their newborn clothes hung in the closet with care,
In hopes that they soon will be big enough to wear.

These babies are nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of birthday parties dance in their parents' heads.
First bike rides, first dances, a high school graduation -
Perhaps even sending out their wedding invitations.

When at the doctor's office, there will arise such a clatter,
Specialists will be called, to see what's the matter.
Away for tests, these babies are whisked like a flash,
For it's something far worse than a cough or a rash.

Blood draws, MRIs, and so much more to go,
You shake your head, cry, scream out the word "NO!"
Something that's worse than any of your fears -
Your child's life may be over in less than two years.

"SMA" the doctors say, and you stumble on the words,
This isn't a name that you've ever heard.
Why weren't you tested, before your baby came?
Spinal Muscular Atrophy, you shudder at the name.

Now pulse ox, now cough assist, now bipap and g-tube.
They can't cough, they can't breathe, they'll choke on their own food.
To the therapist's office! Break down insurance's wall!
Respiratory treatments, surgery, surgery for all!

As you learn your child, your worries will fly,
When you meet with an obstacle, you will fight - sometimes cry.
So up against the world, to the naysayers, say "Shoo!"
You and your child have lots of living to do.

And then, in a twinkling, your child will grow,
When all those doctors told you to prepare for them to go.
You realize that your child is the one making the rules,
And it's leaving these doctors stumbling like fools.

Though your child may never put weight on a foot,
They are stronger than most - you can tell with a look.
They are always moving forward, no time to look back,
So inspiring, they leave no time for you to slack.

Their eyes - how they twinkle! Their faces - so sweet!
Their skin is so soft, minds as sharp as any you'll meet.
Mouths that may never utter a word,
These children don't need voices to be heard.

They have parents - our children are blessings bestowed.
To enrich our lives, to help us be bold.
To teach us that what we feel in our heart,
Is more than enough to give us a start.

To find them a cure, to show them we care,
To tell them no matter what, we'll always be there.
Fighting with doctors, with insurance, with school.
To give them the chance, to provide them the tools.

And to spread on the message, to get out the word -
Because we're their voices, we need to be heard.
Not just this month, though it's a good place to start.
Determination must be in EVERY heart.

So we'll fundraise, we'll write, we'll blog and we'll sell,
We'll bake, we'll sew, and always we'll tell
All about this disease. Until SMA is out of sight.
And we can say - without a bipap, without a feeding pump, without a pulse ox -
"My child, sleep tight."

Barb Zahn