Right now I am desperately attempting to understand a lecture about Peripheral T Cell Tolerance. Each of those words I can define individually. Peripheral — along the edge; T — the 20th letter of the alphabet and possibly my personal favorite of the 26; Cell — one of those tiny little guys that has a nucleus and is pretty much the superstar of this conference; and Tolerance — a principle that I try to instill in my students, but I have little of when they make that squeaking sound with their tennis shoes in the boys’ bathroom. But somehow when all of those words come together to form a scientific concept, I AM LOST and Wikipedia has been of no help.
So I’d like to take this opportunity to talk about my counterpart during this blogging venture, Vance Taylor, who addressed the conference’s esteemed crowd this morning with immeasurable poise, humor and impact. Actually, I secretly hate him, but only because I have to speak tomorrow morning and now face the impossible challenge of recreating the same emotionally charged and motivational presentation that my dear friend gave today. With my disdain placed to the side, I’ll let you in on the many reasons why I adore Vance and feel that he embodies what it means to make lemonade out of life’s lemons.
To begin with, he picked a perfect wife (that’s kind of funny that the first thing I choose to mention really has nothing to do with him at all …). Casey is a loving and nurturing woman who is crazy about her husband! Vance is a wonderful father. Following his journey in fatherhood on his blog has shown me that it doesn’t take strong arms and legs to be a great parent. Instead it takes strong love and dedication — his girls adore their Daddy and will grow to be better women because of the example their father sets for them on a daily basis. And of course I must make reference to what a career-driven and focused individual he is, always having recognized that his education would be the key to his independence. Vance has a picture-perfect life and I am blessed to have worked alongside him this week and I will face life’s challenges from this day forward by channeling my inner-Vance!
|Me and Dr. Appel|
While I was busy typing the admiration I have for my peer, Dr. Stan Appel made his way to the stage to begin his presentation entitled “Immunology in NMD: Pathogenic Mechanisms and Implications for Treatment.” Again, I’m not really following … but remember I told you, that’s not why they brought me here. I’m here to put a human spin on all of this science stuff … oops, I mean incredible medical breakthroughs and advances. So I will start by telling you that Dr. Appel is a coveted researcher and medical scientist who is known by a worldwide audience for his work with ALS. He also happens to be the grandfather of one of my closest friends in Houston. Kristin speaks of him with the same love and admiration that the entire MDA community does.
I’ve never had much interaction with this great man other than a few star-struck introductions when I mumble a tongue-tied greeting of how wonderful I think he is and how much I love his granddaughter. Ugh!!! I’m such a moron in front of celebrities. With that being said, I feel as though I know something very important about Dr. Appel after hearing him speak this morning that I must share with each of you and that is — Dr. Appel is a kind and humble man. This blog-worthy statement is vital for the MDA community to know because oftentimes doctors are held up on unreachable pedestals (let’s face it, a pedestal is completely unnecessary considering my range of motion is about an inch away from my body … OK, half an inch). But we often just see them as great scientific minds who make our lives better and will hopefully someday cure our conditions.
A wave of emotion washed over me when Dr. Appel said something particularly poignant. He began talking about one of his patients who had passed away and he said, “He was one of the nicest people I have ever worked with. In fact my colleagues and I refer to ALS as ‘The Nice Guy Disease.’ All of my patients are exceptionally nice people and we are honored to work with them.”
Wow. You know what that told me? That when I go to an MDA Clinic — when YOU go to an MDA Clinic — we are not “just another patient with MD.” We are important and cared about. These great doctors are just as human as we are and they spend countless and often thankless hours working for US. Dr. Appel, in all of his greatness, is a kind and humble man who is working for all of us just like his peers in this room and across the country. I am indebted forever.