Rare Diseases

Keith & Sarah’s personal journey with rare lung disease. Part III, “Bonus round”

Over the last few months, Keith and Sarah have been sharing their journey with us. In this final interview of our three-part series, they talk about how he got on a transplant list and their “phones at the dinner table” policy. If you missed our first two interviews with Keith and Sarah, you can find them here. What did you have to do to get on a transplant list? Did you have to meet certain criteria? [Keith] The transplant assessment process is an intense and very time-consuming one. When you are contacted about being assessed for transplant, you are sent a large envelope listing out a weeks worth of testing, doctors visits, and appointments in Toronto at Toronto General Hospital. The hospital evaluates you on many things, and ultimately if you are deemed “healthy” enough (because you can actually be too sick, or too healthy) as a result of this testing, you are placed on the list. There were psychological assessments, nuclear cardiac testing, liver testing, kidney testing, pulmonary function testing, physical testing, blood tests (LOTS of blood tests) to name a few. Can you talk about your “phones at the dinner table” policy and how it changed? [Sarah] Phones …

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Keith & Sarah’s personal journey with rare lung disease. Part II, “Lungies”

In this second interview of our three-part series, Keith and Sarah talk about how their daily lives changed and the importance of connecting with others. If you missed our first interview with Keith and Sarah, you can find it here. What were the most noticeable changes you had to make in your daily life? [Keith] My ability to enjoy time with family was impaired because I could no longer be active with my children or my wife. I could not work because when I tried to do the simplest task, I became out of breath. I could no longer carry a toolbox, go up a set of stairs, or do everyday tasks at home without becoming winded and requiring rest. I wanted to rest all the time and was never comfortable. As a caregiver, what things could you do to help Keith the most? [Sarah] Keith eventually got to the point where he needed me for many personal tasks as well as taking care of all of the home tasks. I showered him, and took over our business, and we hired a cleaning service every two weeks to try to keep the house in order. Keith really needed to know that I was there for …

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“Make memories starting now!” An interview about idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis with Kim Durand

Many of you have seen our “Spotlighted Blogger” series, where we talk with people who are sharing their personal health experiences to help raise awareness of disease and change healthcare for good. Well for the first time on our blog, we’re talking with a “Facebooker.” Kim started her Facebook page, Pulmonary Fibrosis Awareness, after her father passed away from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). She recently took some time to talk with us about her experiences with the disease and the benefits of online patient communities. Can you tell us a little about yourself and your experience with IPF? My father was diagnosed with IPF in July of 2006. He always had a chronic cough and never got it checked out until one day it got really bad and my step mom made him go get checked out. He had a chest X-ray and the doctor gave him the tentative diagnosis of IPF. Surely, the only true way to know if a person has IPF is through a lung biopsy so that’s what he had done, I believe in September of 2006. There was a complication during the biopsy. His lung collapsed and he was in the hospital for about 6 weeks. The …

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Keith & Sarah’s personal journey with rare lung disease. Part I, “Fine”

As part of our “Spotlighted Blogger” series, we’re talking with people who are sharing their personal health experiences to help raise awareness of disease and change healthcare for good. For our latest interview, we’re talking with Sarah and Keith. Sarah started writing about her fiancé Keith’s journey with a rare lung disease back in July of 2012 on her blog Taking a Deep Breath. In this first part of our three-part series, Keith and Sarah talk about why they started blogging, and the difficulties of finding the right diagnosis. What prompted you to start blogging about Keith’s journey and what’s the reaction been?  [Sarah] When Keith’s health took a turn for the worse in the winter of 2011, I asked him repeatedly if he would allow me to share his story, knowing that we were likely going down a very difficult road, and selfishly wanting lots of support while we (I) went down that road. He wasn’t comfortable sharing until the day we drove away from his respirologist’s office, after an appointment where the doctor said that Keith was “fine,” wasn’t a candidate for transplant, and didn’t need to be on oxygen. We knew different. I blogged, we got a second opinion, and …

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PatientsLikeMe in the News

It’s been a busy couple of weeks at PatientsLikeMe.  Here are a few media highlights showcasing all the exciting things that are going on, from new partnerships with Aetna and Boehringer to the major grant we were awarded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to TED2013 Fellow Paul Wicks’ presentation at TED2013 last week. PatientsLikeMe Is Building a Self-Learning Healthcare System (Forbes) Social Network Could Revolutionize Disease Treatment (Wired) PatientsLikeMe Leads Crowdsourcing for Patient Outcomes (Fierce Biotech IT) What the NHS Can Learn from Innovative Health Practices Abroad (The Guardian) Boehringer Partners with PatientsLikeMe on Rare Disease Community (PMLive) Networking Medicine: Patients Take a More Active Role in Science (The Scientist) PatientsLikeMe:  Crowdsourcing Healthcare (AllVoices) For more PatientsLikeMe media coverage, visit our Press page.

Living with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis

What is idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF)? How many people does it affect? Do we know what the cause is? Can it be treated? If you don’t know the answers, you’re not alone. IPF is considered a rare disease by the National Institutes of Health and much of the research surrounding it is not definitive. So what do we know? IPF is a degenerative condition with no known cause that gradually scars a person’s lung tissue. As more and more tissue scars, the lungs slowly lose their ability to transfer oxygen to vital organs. This can lead to shortness of breath and dry coughing. As the condition progresses, everyday activities become exhausting – just climbing a flight of stairs can be a challenge. It usually affects people between the ages of 50 and 70 years old. More than 100,000 people in the US are diagnosed every year and nearly 40,000 will pass away. The only known cure is a lung transplant. If you’re living with IPF, find others just like you in our growing community of more than 900 IPF patients. Learn what they’re doing to manage their condition with symptom and treatment reports, and share your own experience with a personal …

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Raise Your Hands for Rare Disease Day

Today, February 28th, is Rare Disease Day, a worldwide event showing solidarity with rare disease patients and their families around the globe.  The theme for this year is “Raise and Join Your Hands,” and everyone is being asked to participate, whether you’re an individual, an office with 10 people or a public gathering with 1,000 people. Here at PatientsLikeMe, we are taking part by raising our hands and sharing our group photo in solidarity with the campaign as well as all of our members living with rare diseases, which affect 1 in 10 people worldwide.  You are encouraged to submit your own photo here. Rare diseases are a special passion for PatientsLikeMe, as our company was started due to our founders’ experience with a rare disease called ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease).  Since then, we’ve partnered with the Global Genes Project to form the RARE Open Registry Project to connect patients fighting rare diseases and help them share and learn. “It’s terrifying to think you’re alone and manage your rare illness with a doctor who might not have ever seen another patient like you,” says PatientsLikeMe Co-Founder Jamie Heywood. “We will change that.”  Most recently, we launched the world’s first open registry …

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Coping with Changes in Physical Appearance

When you are diagnosed with a life-changing illness, your doctor may prepare you for how the disease will affect your physical functions.  But as our members point out, patients also need to be prepared for the changes in physical appearance they may experience.  For example, how do you deal with hair loss, facial swelling, weight gain, blotchy skin or other unexpected changes?  Or get comfortable with the use of new equipment such as leg braces, walkers or wheelchairs that may attract attention?  Most importantly, what can you do to still feel beautiful? Here are some suggestions from members of our PatientsLikeMe Forum, where patients with different conditions come together to discuss universal issues: Using attractive scarves or hats to cover thinning hair or bald spots Experimenting with different cosmetics to see what works best Treating yourself to a spa manicure and pedicure as a pick-me-up Trying out different explanations for your new brace/walker/wheelchair when asked to see what feels right and what produces the most acceptable responses Soaking in a scented Epsom salt bath to ease pain and relax Consulting with a hair stylist about better styles for thinning hair Using gentle, non-drying facial cleansers and lotions Switching to an …

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A Brief History of AKU, the First Genetic Disease Discovered

Last week, we announced that we are creating the first open, global registry for alkaptonuria (AKU), in collaboration with the AKU Society.  You may not have heard of this extremely rare disease – which causes a severe, early-onset form of osteoarthritis – but it plays an important role in the history of genetic diseases.  In fact, AKU, which is estimated to affect 1 in 250,000 to 500,000 people, was the very first genetic disease identified in the scientific record.  Strangely, though, the scientific community failed to recognize this landmark discovery until much later. In 1902, Sir Archibald Garrod, a British physician interested in childhood diseases, published a paper describing the hereditary nature of AKU in The Lancet.  After observing the frequent occurrence of AKU in siblings, Garrod came to believe that the condition was congenital and possibly hereditary.  Using chemical studies, he set out to disprove the existing theory that AKU was infectious – and succeeded. By 1908-1909, he’d expanded his radical notion of lifelong hereditary disease to other rare disorders: albinism, cystinuria and pentosuria.   In lectures and publications at the time, he became the first person to describe a human condition that followed Mendelian inheritance patterns, the first to …

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PatientsLikeMe and AKU Society to Develop World’s First Open Registry for Alkaptonuria Patients

Online Patient Network to Connect Patients With Rare Disease, Create Valuable Data for Research CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — January 9, 2013 — PatientsLikeMe and the AKU Society are working together to create the first open, global registry for patients with alkaptonuria (AKU), one of the world’s rarest diseases and the first genetic disease discovered. Nicknamed “black bone disease,” AKU leads to a condition that causes the bones and cartilage to become black and brittle. Through PatientsLikeMe.com, patients with AKU can now track their disease progression, connect with others who have the disease, and contribute health data to the registry’s real-time research platform. AKU Society Chairman Nick Sireau says rare diseases affect millions of people worldwide, but questions about them are so costly for nonprofits to investigate that they remain largely unanswered. “More than 100 years after its discovery, we still don’t know exactly how many people have AKU, or what they are doing and experiencing. We’re excited to partner with PatientsLikeMe to help patients connect with each other and help researchers answer some of the most fundamental questions about rare diseases.” PatientsLikeMe works with nonprofits to establish open registries for both rare and common diseases. With the AKU Society, the company …

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