This year, I am - perhaps foolishly - going to once again pound the pavement, and attempt to run the 26.2 miles of the Boston Marathon on Monday,
April 18, 2005.
Having completed the Marathon previously, I know it's no easy undertaking, and looking to do it again is actually quite daunting. This year's harsh winter of bitter colds and record snowfalls hasn't exactly made for ideal training conditions, either. But thanks to the support of other friends who are also running this year's Marathon as well as my family, I have persevered.
Additionally, though, there's an extra incentive behind my training this year - I'm running for a cause, one which I would like to tell you about, as I hope to educate folks in the process.
On October 27th, 2003, my brother, Gerald F. Cook of Shirley, died suddenly and without warning, at the age of 48. He had admitted himself to a local hospital early on a Saturday morning, with stomach pain. My family and I visited with him throughout Saturday and Sunday. Early Monday afternoon, he began experiencing severe stomach pain, and was rushed into surgery, where he remained for most of the afternoon. During the surgery, my family and I were informed that Gerald's lower intestine was gangrenous and was going to have to be removed. There was no apparent reason for the gangrene. Soon, doctors informed us that Gerald had severe clotting issues throughout the surgery, and that his condition was grave. By 8 p.m. that night, he had passed away, never regaining consciousness after his surgery.
Months after his death, we learned from the doctor who conducted an autopsy that my brother had a blood disorder, known as Factor V Leiden (LAY-DEN). The doctor explained that the disorder was a common, hereditary coagulation disorder, something Gerald had his entire life. Never having heard of the disorder before, I began doing some research about it on the internet, and learned that about 5% of the Caucasian population and 1.2% of the Afro-American population in the United States has the disorder, and that most were unaware they even had it.
Factor V Leiden substantially increases the risk of clotting in the veins. One of the causes of death listed for my brother was mesenteric arteriol thrombosis, a clot in the artery supplying blood to his intestines.
Other common complications that can arise from the disorder are pulmonary embolisms, miscarriages for pregnant females, and other pregnancy difficulties. People who have Factor V Leiden can suffer strokes and transient isechemic attacks (TIAs), and sometimes gall bladder problems.
There's not much that can be done to treat the disorder, though some patients who have advanced clotting issues can take the blood thinner, coumadin. Long-term use of that drug, though, can cause other complications. Simply knowing you have the disorder, however, is huge, as the foreknowledge provides valuable information to your doctors should you ever require surgery or have any clotting issues. Knowing you have the disorder also allows you to factor it into any long-term travel plans, either in a car or on a plane, as you should regularly stretch your legs to maintain good circulation.
One of the best treatments for the disorder is a solid regimen of exercise, such as running, to help maintain good circulation, especially in the legs, where clotting can most easily occur. There are many websites out there that provide lots of information about Factor V Leiden. It was through one of the websites that I learned about one specific cause.
The Thrombophilia Awareness Project (TAP) is a group of patients nationwide who have various clotting disorders and work to provide others with support. According to the project's website, many thrombophilia (clotting) patients are on anti-coagulant therapy, which is used to help prevent repeated clotting. Several home testing devices make it possible for patients to not to have travel to facilities to get their blood drawn, and helps prevent damage to patients' veins. Many insurance companies, however, do not cover the cost of the machines, so the TAP is looking to supply them to Factor V Leiden carriers.
To learn more information, both about Factor V Leiden and the Thrombophilia Awareness Project, please visit www.fvleiden.org.
In the meantime, I have opened an account in Gerald's name at MASSBANK, 50 Central St., Lowell, 01852, and am seeking donations to "sponsor" my Boston Marathon run this year. The account is called the Gerald F. Cook Memorial Fund. Checks should be made out to that account name. If mailed to the bank, please label the account name on the outside of the envelope. Donations can either be mailed to MASSBANK, or you can forward them to me and I will see that they get deposited. Any donation whatsoever is appreciated. My goal is to raise funds to make a donation to the TAP in Gerald's name, and to help families who already know they suffer from the disorder. Potentially, though I also hope in some way, through this year's run, to raise awareness about the disorder and help those who don't know yet that they carry it.
By the way, it's not as if I needed it, but I have even extra incentive to run for this particular cause this year. Thanks to Gerald, I got tested for Factor V Leiden and learned I, too, have the disorder, so I guess you can say I can use the exercise.
Thanks in advance for any assistance you can provide,
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