Rare Disease Day, a chance to talk about Prader-Willi Syndrome

It’s here! Rare Disease Day. 10 facts you might not know about PWS:

random facts in no particular order gathered and shared by meImage

10. Prevalence: 1:15,000. [Anne’s note: we are some of the lucky ones who got a very early diagnosis. PWS was suspected for Katie at 4 days old]
9. The constant hunger of PWS is thought to be due to dysfunction of the hypothalamus and/or (not sure) disregulation of hormones of the gut. [Anne’s note: some describe it as “decreased satiation rather than increased hunger”…I never realized there was a difference…doesn’t not feeling satisfied mean feeling hungry? I don’t get it.]
8. The most common genetic cause of life-threatening childhood obesity is PWS.[Anne’s note: the good thing about the current, national hysteria over obesity is that PWS is getting some attention and being used as a “control” group in some hunger-related studies.]
7. Individuals with PWS typically have intellectual disabilities and exhibit more behavior issues compared to individuals with similar intellectual disability. [Anne’s note: I, too, have behavior issues whenever I am hungry.]
6.The constant need for behavioral management and food restrictions may cause stress for the family members. [Anne’s note: the use of the word “may” in this sentence cracked me up.]
5. PWS is a two stage syndrome. Stage one involves low muscle tone,feeding problems and poor weight gain in infancy. [Anne’s note: feeding “problems” become the main focus from the start. A cruel sense of humor has parents doing everything they can to get nourishment into their baby, only to have to restrict it in the next stage.]
4. Of people with PWS, 1 in 35 die from gastric rupture after eating too much in a short period of time. [Anne’s note: clearly the reason for vigilant supervision]
3. Speech, Occupational and Physical therapies are all beneficial for people with PWS. [Anne’s note: and if you are lucky enough to have a Lisa Nordstrom in your school district, a PH itinerant teacher is fantastic!]
2. Growth Hormone Therapy for PWS not only increases final height, but increases bone density, muscle mass,& stamina. [Anne’s note: thanks to Katie, who was a test subject for the research project discovering this]
1. More important than any of the facts you have just learned is this: There is LOVE! [Anne’s note: yes, there is love.]

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If She Can Do It, So Can You!

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In our society you do not need a calendar to know what season it is. If you listen to the conversations around you it will be evident. During the summer the talk is of  bikini-ready bodies, flip-flops and suntan lotion. September brings freshly sharpened Ticonderogas, football games and Homecomings. Food, food and more food starting at Halloween and gracing every table, desk and counter-top through New Year’s at which time, for the next three months or for as long as their resolutions last, you cannot be near more than two people without one of them mentioning new exercise routines, diet recipes and how on earth they will ever survive their new weight loss regime.

Each of these seasons presents challenges to everyone, especially those living with Prader-Willi Syndrome. For anyone  who is not familiar, I will hop on my soapbox for a moment and explain a few of the PWS basics that affect Katie. One:  uncontrollable appetite due to non-stop hunger; an ever-present feeling of insatiability, yeah, you only think you have that. Now, pause for a moment and delve into your memory to the last time you felt real, physical hunger and imagine that as a constant during wakefulness and sleep. Two: low metabolism causing the utilization of fewer calories. By fewer, I will tell you the results of a metabolic test that she had done once showed us that her body needs only 880 calories a day to maintain. Three: Decreased muscle tone, this is what I fault for her lack of balance and coordination although that might simply be because she is the daughter of the clutziest woman on earth. Four: Back pain due to scoliosis. Now that you have had a crash course on a few of the reasons weight loss and dieting can prove to be problematic for Katie you will better understand how awesome she is.

Katie and I have joined a local Biggest Loser Contest, we are a part of 50 contestants. Although we are competing against each other every week for 3 months, I wanted to write that we are a part of a 50 member team. Through the encouragement of Josh, our “head coach” everyone is supportive of one another, we are all in this together with a common goal. I would be happy to not win any of the $50 entry fee if I could just drop some of this weight. I listen to the struggles and the plans and the confidence, or some days lack of confidence of the others and I think it is amazing to see their dedication and their strength. I know that we all come into this with our own baggage, both physical and mental baggage, but then I think of Katie, who has these extra challenges that are innate. I have the privilege of watching; her concentration as she (oh, I forgot to mention the need for insulin four times a day due to a secondary diagnosis of diabetes) calculates her carbohydrates, her calories and her insulin, her determination as she vigorously works out during a water exercise class, her perseverance as she starts her third quarter of a mile during lap swimming, her exuberance during a rockin’ Wii Just Dance session, her stupendous awesomeness while participating in and completing two 5K s. I have included photos of those incredible days. The first year that she was in a 5K was a bitter cold day, after the start off, she was alone behind the rest of the participants and from the sidelines I tried to encourage her to cut through a parking lot thereby eliminating the one and only hill portion of the race, she vehemently refused and said that she had to stay on course because she had a chip in her shoe! You will find her name next to the entry of the word integrity in the dictionary. She plodded along, down hill and up, in one of the pictures in the attached link, you will see a woman wearing the number 41. She is a total stranger who after finishing the race, ran back to the half way point to walk alongside Katie during the rest of the race. Please take special note of the time clocks in the photos, you will see that in her second race, the one with much nicer weather, she got a new PR beating her time from the previous year.

If you are one of our Biggest Loser competitors, anytime that you get discouraged or think that it is too difficult or you are faltering I want you to think of my remarkable daughter who is in this with you. If she can do it, so can you!…. So can I!

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