By Heather McCarthy
I’m sitting in a conference room listening to researchers, doctors, and dietitians challenge each other. They’re questioning each other’s studies, pressing to gain more information, debating on best practices. This would normally sound like a nightmare, but I’m in heaven.
As a mom to two children with propionic acidemia, it’s music to my ears to sit in a room full of specialists wanting to find the best treatment, solutions, and care for my children and our rare community.
I had the privilege of attending the Propionic Acidemia Foundation’s Warrior Wisdom Conference. When you’re part of a rare community, you don’t always have the opportunity to meet likeminded people. Today I sit with 15 different affected families from 17 states and Canada. The room is full of doctors, dietitians, nurses, nurse practitioners, researchers, school support, and genetic counselors from 10 leading institutions.
From this conference, I learned that we may be small, but we are mighty. It’s understandable that researchers want to find a cure for the most common diseases. If you cure something that affects many, your cure has a greater impact. So to find so many people listening, challenging, and debating, I could not be happier. Research shows only one in 100,000 people in the U.S. are affected by propionic acidemia. While that puts us in a rare category, it also helps us to become even mightier. Every time we can get doctors and researchers to communicate, connect, and debate with each other, we become stronger. Every time we can bring families together to talk to each other, share stories, and help each other, we become mightier. Every time we can challenge nutritional guidelines, therapies, and funding, we become more powerful.
From this conference, I learned that we are important. Moms and dads, siblings, and other family members in the rare community always find each other important. This conference showed we are important to the researchers. We are important to the doctors. We are important to the nutritionists, to the genetic counselors, the nurses, to the undiagnosed, to the future medical field, and to the children who may be born with propionic acidemia.
Finally, I learned there is hope. I learned that together we can expand newborn screening processes, work to get coverage for medical formulas and foods, and begin drug trials and new studies. We can expand patient registries and open additional grants for new studies and research projects.
If you belong to a rare community, you are not alone. You can be rare and mighty at the same time. You are unique and you are important. Have hope!
The Propionic Acidemia Foundation is dedicated to finding improved treatments and a cure for propionic acidemia by funding research and providing information and support to families and medical professionals. To find out more, visit http://www.pafoundation.com/.