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It's all been said before, I know.  The arguments about the 'right to life' of a cluster of cells versus 'the right to life' of a complete human being.  

Well, I'm going to say it again anyway, and then ask you all to do something very simple.  Reading some other recent diaries has compelled me -- inspired me -- to write yet another one.

Since it's all been said before, I'm not providing links.  This is just an anecdotal, emotional plea.

Note:  Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Story #1:  A family destroyed

I have a friend, Louisa, who raised four children during the seventies.  Everything in their life was typical -- a normal family.  In the mid 80's, her son, Victor, joined the navy.  He was young, kind, gorgeous, and full of patriotism.  I remember looking at him in his uniform and thinking, "He's going to break a lot of hearts."

However, the hearts that he breaks are no longer those of young lovers desiring to be swept away by his charm.  They are instead the hearts of every person who watches him lie in a bed with his limbs swinging uncontrollably.  Victor has Huntington's Disease.  He can no longer talk or make his needs known; he is completely at the mercy of his caregivers "guessing" what he needs.

An example:  One day, Victor's caregiver left him on a chair for a few moments while he went to fetch something.  When the caregiver came back, he noticed that a very sensitive part of Victor's body was being pinched by a part of the chair.  During that few moments, Victor had most probably been in excrutiating pain -- and yet he was unable to move his body or to yell out for help.

Back to the beginning:  When Victor was discharged from the Navy, no one knew what was causing his irrational behavior or the lack of body control.  Louisa spent a few years getting a diagnosis and some help for Victor.  

When the doctors found the Huntington's Disease gene, the family was no longer faced with just helping Victor through this -- the whole family was decimated.  Through some research into Victor's paternal grandmother's medical history, they found that she had died of the disease without a diagnosis at the time.  For her, the onset was late in life and dismissed as some kind of old age thing.

Suddenly it explained the symptoms that Victor's father was beginning to show in his 40's.  Now his father had to focus on his own needs while tending to those of his son.

Then came the question of Victor's sisters.  Did they also have the potential of developing the disease?  Sadly, yes.  

Hannah, already had children.  She had to look at their exuberant lives and wonder how long she would be around to help them -- and how much longer they could experience the world this way before the disease took them as well.

His sister, Polly, is now in the same home as Victor.  She watches her body deteriorate day by day.  She sits among the old people with dementia and they watch 'The Price is Right' together.

I don't know how Louisa goes forward.  She got a nursing degree to spend her life caring for people -- and to help her understand the disease that was destroying her family.  She turned to God for answers and found some hope in the religious community.

Louisa's children were all in their twenties when HD came in and delivered a blow of unendurable proportions. Yet they endure.

Story #2:  Saying goodbye to children

Another friend of mine, Meg, had a sister, Jo, with cancer in her spine.  Jo tried everything to hang onto life so that she could finish raising her three children.  She was willing to have a huge chunk of her hips and spine cut out in order to live.  

The doctors had been reluctant to operate in the early stages because of paralysis. So they waited. By the time the Mayo Clinic was prepared to go ahead with the operation, the cancer had moved into the lungs and they could not save her.

Jo's faith in a higher power and angels sustained her through the two years it took her to die.

Jo said goodbye to her children and left them with Meg.

These two stories are about stem cells

Stem cells may one day stop HD in it's tracks -- families such as Louisa's could possibly live normal lives again.  The research could also lead to help for paralysis -- maybe doctors would have been faster to cut out the cancer if stem cells could have given Jo back mobility.

Both of these strong mothers found strength in God.  And both of them prayed for cures through the hope of stem cells.  For them, the 'life' of a cluster of cells versus the 'life' of their families is a 'no brainer'.

Call for Action

No, I'm not going to ask you to call a politician.  

Instead, I'm asking that you look around you at the people in your life who may be impacted by diseases that may be fixed by stem cell research.  And then call them.  

Call your friends, your relatives, your neighbors -- anyone who could possibly benefit from stem cell research.  Tell them that this election could be the hope for these diseases.  Don't argue with them.  Don't ask them how they are going to vote.  Just plant a seed.  Kindly, gently nudge them to 'consider' the possibilities of cures.  Remind them that the Republicans have stood in the way of this research and that it is time to reverse the power structure in Washington.  

Just because someone is 'religious' doesn't mean that his/her concept of 'right to life' is the same concept as the pope's 'right to life'. This election could be God answering their prayers.

Remember to be kind.  The families who live with these diseases have enough strife -- don't add to it. Just remind them that there is hope.

Note:  If anyone here has a list of the diseases that stem cell research can potentially help, please post a link.  I couldn't find a comprehensive list and that is one link that should be here.

Originally posted to Cato come back on Sun Oct 29, 2006 at 01:31 PM PST.

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