Friday, January 06, 2006

The Irony of a Hero

This is Dr. Richard Olney a professor of Neurology at the University of California San Francisco. I met this man 16 years ago as a 29 year old single mother of two young girls. He was a gentle, compassionate man who had the horrible task of diagnosing me with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig's disease. This man was the founding director of one of the 1st ALS clinics on the west coast. He spent the last 29yrs focusing on a cure. I signed up for one of his two year drug trials. It was a blind study where no one knows who is getting the real medicine, you are monitored monthly and had injections twice a day. I really got to know this man and knew someday he would find a cure. You don't sign up to be in a drug trial for ALS to be cured, you do it to help future patients. ALS has a 3-5 yr. mortality rate.

The irony is Dr. Olney was diagnosed with ALS in 2004 and is in his last few month's of life at age 57.

"That's the internal horror for all of us working in ALS and who know Rick, " said Jeffrey Rothstein, a Johns Hopkins University ALS researcher who spoke at a December symposium held in Olney's honor. "ALS and pancreatic cancer are probably the two worst diseases you can have."

He is currently signed up in a drug trial he formulated, it is too late to help him but not future patients.
The bittersweet irony of this disease and this doctor haunts his wife of 30 years. "He's famous for dying from a disease rather than finding a cure for it, " says Paula Olney.

Before the ALS would steal his speech, the doctor made sure his wife would always know how he felt, programming the computer to say, "I love you, Paula."
It's the legacy of a good doctor, who is still making a difference.

I sent Dr. Olney pictures from my recent wedding in Kauai hoping he would be so proud of my health and happiness, back in February 2004. He was thrilled and full of hope for me. He had just found out he had ALS, but never said a word.


You were a doctor yet so much more
you grieved with the families and
held your patient's hands

You have seen this insepid disease
steal the lives of people you cared for
and fought everyday to save us all

You are my hero and I will never forget
the dedication to the fate you have met
you have done your job now you can rest

God is with you and oh so proud
your work will live on and save many
I will miss you and you will not be forgotten


TJ said...

I am tearful..Peace.
I have Chrones and somehow I feel a sence of appreciation knowing just how worse things are and can be as we all strive to survive evolution. I am so sorry for your loss. Good Dr's are hard to find. Tammy and you are such a powerful women and I suspect he was a pillar of strength for you.
Bright Blessings to you and yours.

Cynthia said...

What an impressive man, truly giving his all to his research. May God bless him and the people whose lives he touched.

betty said...

That was a touching tribute to your friend and doctor, Tammy.

There was a GI doctor here where I lived that died of rectal cancer. Its weird, isn't it, how what they know so much about, they end up getting.


Chris said...

When you find a good doctor, it makes all the difference in the world, wether or not he can cure you. I just loved my brother's oncologist. Everytime my brother would ask him how long he had, he always said, "That's not up to me to say. We'll just take it one day at a time". I truly think that made all the difference in the world to my brother. He never made any promises. My brother loved that about him. So did I. Great tribute Tammy.

emmapeelDallas said...

What a great tribute to a great hero, and he is a true hero. Thanks for sharing this.


Gabreael said...

What a lovely tribute.


Ayn said...

Tammy, I'm sorry for the passing of such a great and faithful person within your life. He sounds like one hell of a doctor. The loss feels profound. Your tribute beautiful. My heart is heavy for you. My faith strong. As Chris says … one day at a time. All of us have that time to live to our fullest. I have no doubt you've learned to make the most of every moment as did your doctor friend.

Love you to pieces,

Anonymous said...

This is such a lovely tribute, Tammy. Really lovely.

I've been noticing that you and I are always commenting on the same blogs so decided I better start following yours--I've got you bookmarked. Please come visit me too when you've a mind...


Bedazzzled1 said...

That just ripped me up. Too sad. I cannot think of anything else worthy of saying. You said it all so beautifully.

V said...

Two wonderful tales of courage, interwoven. I love your tribute poem. Have you thought of sending this post, especially the poem, to Dr. Olney`s wife?

Geez, this is beautiful.

V said...

Hugs from the male moose; oops, Muse!

tara dawn said...

What beautiful words you have used to describe the beauty of this man's humanity and gift to others. Just as he obviously touched the lives and hearts of many others, know that your own words touch many as well. You have touched my life, and my heart, Tammy. Thank you!

Bon & Mal Mott said...

A most marvelous and heartfelt tribute to someone who meant so very much to you, and to so many others. Perhaps, because of people like him, diseases will be eradicated.
Bon & Mal

Sassy said...

Tammy, You have one of my all time fav songs playing. Beautiful tribute. God Bless you & keep you strong for 2006~Deb (aka. Sassy)

Darla said...

What a beautiful tribute to such a special man, Tammy! He is a hero in every sense of the word! I'll say extra prayers for him and his family.


Gail in MN said...

You brought me to tears with this tribute to your doctor.