BENEFITING: JOHN RITTER FOUNDATION FOR AORTIC HEALTH
ORGANIZER: JOHN RITTER FOUNDATION FOR AORTIC HEALTH
What if your knowledge could save someone’s life?
Did you know, aortic aneurysms are the 13th leading cause of death in the US- accounting for approximately 15,000 – 20,000 deaths per year? Did you also know, aneurysms typically have no physical symptoms until they are large enough to be deadly? Or that genetic factors influence your risk of developing an aortic aneurysm (turns out- knowing your family’s medical history could save your life- it saved my dad’s)? Did you also know, your death rate increases 1% every hour that the correct diagnosis and surgical repair of a thoracic aortic dissection is delayed (typically, they mimic symptoms of a heart attack, which means the odds of misdiagnosis are unfortunately very high)? Something else you may not know—only 3 types of imaging studies (CT, MRI and transesophageal echocardiogram) can identify an aortic aneurysm—a chest x-ray or EKG cannot.
My mom (for the fourth time) and I (for the first time) are honored to be chosen as representatives of Team Ritter 2017! As members of Team Ritter, we are excited to use our love and passion for running to raise money for a cause dear to our hearts. We would love nothing more than to raise further awareness about aortic health. Why? Because we would have lost my dad twice without the lifesaving knowledge we had because of the death of my grandma due to an aortic aneurysm. Not all people are as fortunate to have family history which ultimately saved my dad's life.
In 2005, after being teased for being the only man at his high school reunion without a grey hair and a beer belly, my dad had a seizure like attack. After spending days in the hospital and undergoing multiple tests my dad was sent home- doctors unsure of what really happened.
We thank God for multiple things that happened. First- that we had the knowledge of my grandmother’s death from an aneurysm in her fifties. Although I never got to meet her- her death helped saved my dad’s life. Also, the knowledge that all of my grandmother’s siblings have suffered from aneurysms. We are also very grateful that one person at the hospital happened to mention how my dad fit the mold of Marfan Syndrome- something my parents had never heard of.
With this knowledge in hand my parents brought my dad’s test results to a specialist in Chicago. It was there we learned that my dad needed immediate surgery to repair an aneurysm in his ascending aorta. As a man in his forties with otherwise impeccable health- we thank God every day that we had the knowledge we had to advocate for my dad and push for more answers. Unfortunately, not everyone is as lucky as we were.
After a successful surgery, my dad continued to see a specialist who further studied our family history. His 6 month checkups became routine and genetic testing determined he has Familial TAAD. Throughout my dad’s journey our eyes have been constantly opened to how little people know about aortic health! In sharing my dad’s story we are always sharing new information with people. We have also learned that many people (even in the medical field) have no idea about the nature of aneurysms or how to treat people who are predisposed to have an aneurysm. If my dad was sent home from the hospital with an aneurysm that needed immediate surgery- how many other people face that risk?
Fast forward to the fall of 2011 - our little world turned upside down in October when my dad’s 6-month checkup revealed he had another aneurysm that needed immediate surgery! It was very easy to be mad- why again? Why now? But, we were again reminded how blessed we were to have the knowledge of my dad’s family history and genetic disorder. We were lucky.
Every day we thank God for how the events played out for our family. After two successful open heart surgeries, we are constantly thankful for the knowledge of our family medical history. We are thankful that we quickly learned we needed to be my dad’s biggest advocates and make sure to share our story with everyone we can.
Since 2013, my mom and sister, Aubrey, have been honored to be a part of Team Ritter. I personally have not been physically capable to join the team and participate in the NYC marathon due to my own personal health issues. Three years ago, I underwent major hip surgery to repair a tear which revealed multiple other issues due to weak connective tissue. This surgery consisted of a very long and vigorous recovery, keeping me out of running from 2013-2014, [but not from supporting my mom, sister, and Team Ritter.] Post-op I was restricted to swimming and biking as activities as a part of my recovery. After making a full recovery, these two activities guided me to my love of triathlons. Fast forward to 2016 - I joined the women’s collegiate triathlon team at Concordia University. Towards the very end of a successful season, issues began to arise. Daily I was experiencing excruciating back and leg pain that later became leg numbness. After multiple trips to doctor’s and specialist’s office, an MRI revealed a herniated disc. Sadly, my season was cut short and another season began for me – [one that I knew all too well], physical therapy. After weeks [and months] of physical therapy treatments, I was finally able to return to the sport that I loved. But wait, it wasn’t long before the back pain returned. This time it was a spinal instability problem. After weeks of receiving treatments 3-4times a week, things began to look [and feel] much better. Finally, after many conversations with doctors, [all of who were supportive] I am excited to start my Team Ritter & NYC marathon journey. I am looking forward to being able to cross the finish line together with my mom [and biggest supporter!]
Please help us to spread the word. Together, we can help raise awareness and save more lives like my dad's! Knowledge is power, and it can save somebody’s life!
JOHN RITTER FOUNDATION FOR AORTIC HEALTH wrote -
The John Ritter Foundation for Aortic Health (JRF) is proud to be an official charity of the TCS NYC Marathon to take place on Sunday, November 5, 2017. This is an amazing opportunity to increase awareness of thoracic aortic disease, as well as raise funds to support education and research. We are so honored to have been chosen.
Funds from the marathon will benefit the John Ritter Research Program in Aortic and Vascular Diseases (JRRP) at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) to support research to identify genetic risks for aortic dissections.
“The funds raised by Team Ritter will allow us to continue our genetic research to identify genes or altered DNA that increases an individual’s risk for an acute aortic dissection. By identifying who is at risk, we can prevent the premature deaths due to aortic dissections,” said Dianna Milewicz, M.D., Ph.D., director of UTHealth’s John Ritter Research Program. “It will also help us spread information to both physicians and the public about symptoms and genetic risk factors for aortic dissections, including the fact that this condition can run in families.” Milewicz is also professor and George H. W. Bush Chair in Cardiovascular Research in the Division of Medical Genetics at the UTHealth Medical School.
Individuals interested in joining Team Ritter to run the marathon, help us increase awareness of aortic disease, and fundraise are encouraged to submit an application here.
Questions? Please send an email to info@JohnRitterFoundation.org.