October 15, 2003
October is breast cancer awareness month; many people are aware of this fact. Most people know someone who has had breast cancer, and know quite a few basic facts about breast cancer off the top of their heads. The recent statistics that I found, approximately 40,000 people will die from breast cancer this year.
To be sure, breast cancer is something that deserves to be highlighted. Since breast cancer has received more recognition, women have learned more about such things as early detection, self-exams, mammograms, ultrasounds, support groups, better health, and preventive care. The progress that has been made has been remarkable.
Think of the progress that that has been made since you heard the words acute respiratory distress syndrome … what? Seems that there has not been all that much progress? Well, behind the scenes, for those doing research, perhaps… But not the real, tangible, larger than life, AM morning show, PM news magazine, public awareness spotlight progress that true awareness would provide.
Let’s face it, every day this month; viewers around the country will meet a breast cancer survivor or a family who lost their loved one to breast cancer, famous, or not so famous. And believe me, I certainly do not begrudge those in the breast cancer community as they have been able to put a face on breast cancer, they have connected with the public, they are taking action!
But what are we in the ARDS community doing about our insidious syndrome to put a face on our syndrome, to take action? It is a question with which I challenge each and everyone one of you.
If you were to add up the sheer numbers that ARDS strikes, over the last ten years, you might be shocked to know that over 1.5 million people have been affected by ARDS, and half of those people have died. And this is just in the United States.
ARDS victims have faces. And these faces have remarkable stories. And each person who is touched by ARDS, touches another and another and the ripple effect continues through the hospital to the medical staff. Read the stories, they are compelling life and deaths stories, and remember that a patient cannot live with ARDS: one must live through ARDS, or die.
If you are someone affected by ARDS, a survivor or family member who lost a loved one to ARDS now is the time to add your face to the ARDS story.
If you are in the medical profession and ARDS have touched you profoundly, now is the time to add your face to the ARDS story as well.
If you are a reporter or producer, now is the time to investigate this syndrome which takes more lives in this country than both breast cancer and AIDS, and then follow through by reporting, writing and/or producing a segment about ARDS.
The time for action is now. While ARDS has no month of recognition, every day, dedicated medical professionals in hospitals around the world face the challenges of yet another patient diagnosed with this devastating syndrome. Every day, yet another family somewhere is preparing to bury another loved one who died from ARDS and ask themselves, “Why?”
The faces are real.
The struggles are intense.
If I were to dream, I might find myself thinking, if ARDS had the recognition that other medical conditions had, the ARDS community might be able to obtain the benefits seen by those afflicted with other ailments and someday we might see early detection, more research dollars allocated towards ARDS, more volunteers available for families with loved ones in crisis, better post ARDS medical care, more support groups for ARDS survivors and those who lost loved ones, maybe even viable medical options to reduce mortality.
Deep in my heart, I do not believe that this only has to be a dream…