Category Archives: Glenda

Rare Disease Day 2019

When we started this blog, we believed that today, February 28, 2019, would not come for Katherine.

We’d lost our first child from an early miscarriage. Then, we found ourselves shocked and shattered as we looked into the tear-filled eyes of neurologists telling us to, “Go home and love our daughter.” Our precious Rainbow Baby was slowly dying before our eyes.

As we pushed for answers to the cause of her neurodegenerative disease, we were utterly lost and terrified. Terrified of what they would find, terrified of the pain she might feel, terrified of watching her take her last breath and losing her forever. Amidst our fears, we had to find the strength to face these fears – strength I didn’t believe I had inside of me.

I remember sitting inside a pediatric surgery center and looking around the room into the eyes of a couple dozen frightened parents awaiting news. The look in their eyes still haunts me. I didn’t need a mirror to show me that I had the same terrified look in my eyes. I couldn’t breathe. I felt like I had nowhere to run to make it all go away. I wanted to wake up from this nightmare and go on with my life. All at once I was angry, confused, scared, and sad. I desperately wanted to believe it wasn’t true, but it was really happening. It was real and I could not stop it. Please, I pleaded with the universe, please make this stop. Why, I questioned? Why is life so unfair? My sweet, innocent daughter did not deserve this. It was an incredibly helpless feeling.

I had fallen into utter despair with no light to see me through it. In my very worst moment, I closed my eyes, quieted my thoughts, and had the most incredible vision:

Dave and I were walking on an empty beach. It was a beautiful beach with white sand, blue water, a gentle warm breeze was blowing in our hair and on our faces. We were smiling and content. Peace surrounded us. Ahead, Katherine wore a yellow swimsuit and played in the sand with her back to us. She was looking toward the water, but in my heart I knew she was happy and having fun. We were all together on that beach and we were happy. As we walked in the sand toward Katherine, it felt as though we were walking in paradise.

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This vision and feeling has and continues to sustain me through my darkest hours. I found my strength in my lowest place.

Thank you for reading our words and loving our daughter. Just a few short years ago we had little reason to hope that Katherine would live to see February 28, 2019. Yet today, Rare Disease Day 2019, was an average, normal day for us. Katherine got up, ate breakfast, and walked into school with the assistance of her walker and her aide. She asked me if I would paint her nails glittery pink before her tutoring session tonight. As she walked away, I looked back and smiled.

An average day is the most beautiful thing in the world. May you all find the joy in every glorious, average day of your life.

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NUBPL: Novel Disease Discovery to Community

Here’s a brief timeline from 2010-Present of NUBPL as a novel disease discovery to a growing community:

2010: Australian researchers reported “a strategy of focused candidate gene prediction, high-throughput sequencing, and experimental validation to uncover the molecular basis of mitochondrial complex I (CI) disorders.” They created five pools of DNA from a cohort of 103 patients and then performed deep sequencing of 103 candidate genes to spotlight 151 rare variants predicted to impact protein function.

Two novel genes were discovered in this study – one of them was NUBPL. To read more: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2977978/

In 2017, I was able to find the boy in this study, Patient 1. He is 18 years old and living in New Zealand with him mom.

2012: Dutch researchers set out to identify the mutated gene in a group of patients with an unclassified white matter disorder that shared the same distinct MRI pattern. They used MRI pattern recognition analysis to select a group of patients with a similar characteristic MRI pattern and then performed whole exome sequencing to identify the mutated gene. They then examined the patients’ fibroblasts for biochemical consequences of the mutant protein. Results: This study identified 6 NUBPL patients from 5 unrelated families with a similar MRI pattern. Two sisters from Canada were diagnosed with NUBPL from this study. We are now in contact. We can tell from this research that Patient 5 has exact same mutations as our daughter, but we are not in contact with them at this time. To read more: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3662327/

2013: Ambry Genetics was one of the 1st genetic testing laboratories to offer whole exome sequencing diagnostic services for clinicians, including medical interpretation. At the time a family in California has two daughters undiagnosed, ages 13 and 3, with an unknown white matter disorder. Their doctor recommends whole exome sequencing through Ambry and both girls are diagnosed with NUBPL. A few months after Katherine was diagnosed in 2015, I saw their documentary “The Life We Live: The Spooner Story” on the Global Genes Facebook page. Watch the documentary here.

*That same year (August 2013), at the age of two, our daughter has an MRI after a developmental plateau. Based on her MRI alone, top neurologists thought she had a disease called Infantile Neuroaxonal Dystrophy (INAD). Katherine’s MRI was similar to the patients in the 2012 NUBPL Dutch study, but her grey matter is affected. Doctors never suspected or mentioned NUBPL. Whole exome sequencing confirmed NUBPL in February 2015.

2015: Katherine is diagnosed with NUBPL through whole exome sequencing.

2016: We started a non-profit, NUBPL Foundation, to grow the NUBPL patient community, raise awareness, and fund research into the NUBPL gene.

2016-2019: Whole exome sequencing is becoming more common and affordable; however, there are still barriers. To date, all NUBPL patients have ONLY been diagnosed through whole exome sequencing. As far as the research goes to help clinicians diagnose  patients, the 2012 Dutch study, “NUBPL mutations in patients with complex I deficiency and a distinct MRI pattern” is it. We know that Katherine has NUBPL and does not have this “distinct” MRI pattern. As more patients find us from around the world, we believe there may be some other differences that could help clinicians better diagnosis or at least “think” NUBPL as a possibility.

It takes time, awareness, and a larger patient population to see patterns or outliers. The more we talk about it, make noise, and raise awareness as a community (strength and volume in numbers), the better known it becomes to clinicians and researchers around the world.

Personally, I worry about the child getting an MRI today that’s similar to Katherine’s. It’s highly likely the neurologist does not even know about NUBPL because it’s so rare. Depending on the MRI results, there’s a chance they will find that 2012 Dutch research paper, but if the MRI is like Katherine’s, they are likely to keep searching for more common diseases. They may be facing exhaustive testing over the next year or so before whole exome sequencing will give them a definitive diagnosis. There’s also the NUBPL patient with a mild MRI pattern and/or slight developmental delays. These children may also be misdiagnosed.

In the rare disease world, it is our job to make the doctors aware of the disease. As hard as that is believe, that’s the way it flows. The responsibility falls on the parents to find the patients, grow the community, and push for new research (and fund it). It’s hard for a doctor to take on this responsibility unless they make it their sole focus. Realistically, it isn’t feasible for them if they also have a clinical practice. And as a researcher, it doesn’t make much sense to focus all their time on a disease that affects so few patients. If this disease affects a LARGE population? Yes!

For new clinical research to carry weight, you have to have patients, which is one of the biggest challenges with rare diseases. Slowly but surely, patients are getting diagnosed through whole exome sequencing and finding us. If they do not find us, then it’s hard to fit all of these “puzzle pieces” together to see the larger picture. Something most people don’t understand is there’s not a “central” database for doctors to access to find these patients. They really depend on “published” scientific research, and again, it’s our job to find the patients and push this research. Patient registries are helpful. We are getting close to having enough patients for new clinical research and a natural history study of the disease, which is so important for multiple reasons. Again, we have to fund it through our non-profit or find someone who is wants to fund it.

Our job is to be a lighthouse for other NUBPL families. The light has to reach them so everyone can come together on shore, and that light needs to shine bright enough to reach every corner of the world. Some people don’t know to look for a light; others don’t know they are in the NUBPL boat. Some don’t know why it matters or see the benefit of joining a community. As more families join our community, the brighter our light shines around the world. And the brighter we all shine and grow this community, the brighter the light we shine on understanding this disease and helping future patients.  As you may have recognized, the silhouette of the girl in the logo is pointing to something. She is pointing ahead to the light and flying toward it. She is hopeful and optimistic as she flies alone to join her community. Together, they will push the needle of science forward.

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Fate’s Waiting Room

Inside the sterile expanse
Where nameless faces wait,
Sharing a moment in time,
Trapped together for eternity.

The place where agony-filled air
Suffocates their dreams,
As the icy hands of fate
Slowly strangle life to death.

Anxious eyes scan the room
For a savior in white.
Rhythmic moans and stifled cries
Sing the melody of despair.

Squeaky wheels roll forward
With delicacies on a silver tray.
A token consolation prize
For inconsolable souls.

David Faughn 2019 Eagle Rare Life Award Nominee

David Faughn is honored to be nominated for the 2019 Eagle Rare Life Award. As a nominee, he is in the running to win $50,000 for the NUBPL Foundation to help fund a potentially life-saving treatment breakthrough for patients battling mitochondrial complex 1 deficiency disorder, NUBPL gene. To help him win, David needs your vote – just a simple click of a button with no sign-in or information required. One click; that’s it!

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Read David’s full nomination written and submitted by Regan Blevins:

What began as a father’s desperate pursuit of a diagnosis for his daughter’s mysterious disease has evolved into David Faughn’s life-long commitment to pioneering medical research and promoting legislation to ensure medical coverage for affected patients.

David Faughn embodies character. Of the many characteristics encapsulated in the Eagle Rare Life Award, character stands out as all- encompassing. And Dave is truly a living example of each. His relentless devotion to finding a diagnosis and cure for his daughter’s rare genetic disease, NUBPL, named for the mutated gene causing her cerebellar atrophy, is testament to his immeasurable dedication. Indeed, his devotion inspired him to found the nonprofit, NUBPL Foundation, to raise awareness, network with families with similar diagnoses, and fund research. Dave exudes courage in coping with his only child’s diagnosed rare genetic disease of unknown prognosis. While many would resign to grieve this powerlessness, Dave has risen above his own circumstances, battling endless roadblocks by insurance companies and state legislation alike for the sake of his precious Katherine. His fight gave way to lobbying and co-authoring legislation mandating insurance coverage of a particular therapy, “mito cocktail”, rendering his home state of Kentucky the first in the U.S to do so, benefiting hundreds of families affected by some of the hundreds of known mitochondrial mutations effecting disease. Dave is undeniably both leader and hero to families in Kentucky and beyond who are touched by mitochondrial disease. Survival is a word all too close to Dave’s family’s heart. His tireless advocacy will no doubt one day ensure the survival of many.

Dave’s main mission is to save his daughter’s life. When top neurologists were stumped by his little girl Katherine Belle’s unusual brain MRI, Dave asked, “Is there any hope?” Facing the gravest of answers from a baffled medical community, he resolved to fight. He founded NUBPL Foundation, the namesake nonprofit of the mutated gene it supports. Dave’s personal mission has evolved from one with the singular goal of saving his child, to the global mission of his nonprofit: to raise awareness and fund research toward the development of life-saving, life-enhancing treatments and a cure for NUBPL, mitochondrial complex 1 deficiency disorder.

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Dave’s advocacy extends well beyond his own family. He helped hundreds of children in Kentucky suffering from mitochondrial diseases acquire coverage for the only medication known to mitigate their progressive and life-altering symptoms. Children from families forced each month to choose between spending hundreds for their survival or covering rent. When insurance denied coverage for treatment, Dave, a civil litigator, took his fight to the Kentucky General Assembly. In 2016, Kentucky became the first and only state in the union to legislatively require health insurers to cover mito cocktails. Understanding the need for greater awareness, research funding, and patient community support, he and wife co-founded the NUBPL Foundation. Under David’s leadership and devotion to helping families on a similar path, newly diagnosed NUBPL patients, clinicians, and geneticists are finding them and joining a growing global community. David’s efforts ignite hope in NUBPL families around the world.

For all Dave’s admirable qualities, his greatest is undeniably the wonderful father he is. His love for his child transcends to his every action. Perhaps no better illustrated than in his own words:

“Laughter and joy are Katherine’s currency. She spends them freely. I am more alive than I have ever been. I feel more deeply than I’ve ever felt. I see genuine goodness in people around me, in friends, family and complete strangers. People who reach out to lift our spirits and to help us practically and emotionally. I see my daughter in all children and love them for it.”

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In 2017, the NUBPL Foundation partnered with the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) for their first precision medicine drug discovery and repurposing project with the purpose and hope of delivering a treatment breakthrough for patients. CHOP is a world-renowned leader in groundbreaking pediatric medicine. Douglas Wallace, director of the Center for Mitochondrial and Epigenomic Medicine at CHOP, discovered the first disease-causing mitochondrial gene mutation in a human. Today, an estimated 80,000 Americans are afflicted with mitochondrial disease. While many nuclear genes have been identified to effect mitochondrial disease, the NUBPL gene was recently pinpointed as a critical player in the metastasis of the world’s second-leading cancer killer, colorectal cancer. NUBPL’s role in Parkinson’s disease is yet another identified initiative to better understand the gene. While Katherine’s particular disease is rare, CHOP’s research project undoubtedly has the potential to trigger a far-reaching ripple effect in medical discovery. But medical research is costly. NUBPL Foundation is well over the halfway point in raising the $179,000 needed for this project. $50,000 would nearly get them the funding they need for this critical research.

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Mitochondrial Disease Awareness Week 2017

Every single day is mitochondrial disease awareness day for our family, but it just so happens that global mitochondrial disease awareness is celebrated annually during the third week of September. This year, Mitochondrial Disease Awareness Week is September 17-23.

Every year for the last four, we’ve tried to do something a little more to help spread awareness throughout our community and beyond by requesting Kentucky’s Governor to issue a Mitochondrial Disease Awareness Week proclamation, writing this article for The Mighty Publication, What is Mitochondrial Disease? An Explanation for Non-Scientists, selling t-shirts with our recognizable #Hope4KB hashtag, and sharing #Hope4KB photos people send us from around the globe.

Screen Shot 2017-09-01 at 10.22.43 AMThis year, Dave has been invited by the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation (UMDF) to lead a webinar called “Advocating In Your State,” during which he’ll provide helpful insight into how we passed the Kentucky ‘Mito Cocktail’ law as well as ways to help others try the same in their own state. This webinar is scheduled for September 20, 2017, during Mitochondrial Disease Awareness Week. Interested participants can register with the UMDF here.

Some of you may have noticed that Katherine’s therapy trike riding video is becoming a big hit on the Internet. Please send us any links or videos of it being shared. Every time it’s shared and the words ‘mitochondrial disease’ are mentioned, she is spreading more awareness.

Here are a few links we’ve seen so far:

Right This Minute (Viral video show)

Nieuwsblad (Belgian newspaper)

We will be sharing more awareness resources over on our Facebook page Hope for Katherine Belle this month, so look for our posts to read and share.

Ways To Help Us Raise Awareness

1. Share Katherine’s Facebook page, Hope for Katherine Belle.

2. Share the link to our non-profit (NUBPL Foundation) Facebook page, NUBPL.org.

3. Send us your #Hope4KB photos by posting them to Katherine’s Facebook page. We really want to see YOU and love adding these photos to our ever growing album. Green is the color for the mitochondrial disease awareness ribbon. This is a FREE and fun way to bring awareness to mitochondrial disease and #Hope4KB, so make a sign, snap a photo, and share it with us. And ask friends to consider doing the same. We spread awareness by talking about it with others – tell people about Katherine and her story so you can help put a real face to this horrible disease.

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Arabella, Making Memories for Arabella
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Alex and Blue, Alex and Blue Fighting Mito Together

4. Add a Mitochondrial Disease Awareness photo frame to your Facebook profile picture to let everyone know about it being awareness week. Here’s an example of one we used, which you can get by clicking here:

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5. Make a tax-deductible donation to support mitochondrial disease research and fund treatments/cures (there are currently ZERO FDA approved treatments for Mitochondrial Disease): Katherine Belle Mitochondrial Disease Research Fund at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

6. Katherine has made it on the EllenNation website (The Ellen Degeneres Show). Register, vote, comment, and share (NOTE: You can only vote once overall – voting more than once will result in a negative vote). Click here to vote for Katherine Belle and raise awareness for mitochondrial disease.

7. Share this blog post with your friends and family.

Katherine Belle Walking, Age 6

Here’s a short video of Katherine’s walking progress since March 2017. We will keep you updated with any future progress. As for a medical update, she started the extension phase of the EPI-743 clinical trial in February 2017. She’s scheduled for another MRI in October to find out if the atrophy of her cerebellum continues to worsen. Your prayers are appreciated.

 

 

2017 Bi-Annual Report

For the past few years we have given an annual update in December, but so much has happened in the last few months that we want to share with you today.

Many of you have been on this journey with us since the very beginning when we started this blog in January 2014 after learning that Katherine had a rare disease that affected her cerebellum. In those early days, this blog was an outlet for our immense grief after being told by two doctors that our daughter had a quickly fatal disease.

It is soul-crushing.

Slowly, we made our way to research, awareness, advocacy, and thankfully, in February 2015, an accurate diagnosis of Mitochondrial Complex 1 Deficiency (NUBPL gene).

The only word we’ve found that best describes the last four years is journey. On this journey, we have learned that adaptability to change is key to moving forward. I am proud of what we’ve learned and accomplished amidst very difficult circumstances. I am also thankful for each of you who’ve followed along and continue to cheer for our daughter while lifting us up on our darkest days. You are an integral part of our story.

From the beginning, we knew that we needed to be Katherine’s voice in order to give her hope for the future. Isn’t that what we all want for our children? Sometimes that means something more or different depending on the circumstances. In our case, the task at hand – our greatest hope of all – is to give our child a treatment and cure for a disease that threatens to take her life sooner than any parent should have to imagine.

If someone is threatening to kill your child, most parents wouldn’t ignore the threat. I believe that most would try to prevent it – to go above and beyond to protect the life and well-being of their child. Mitochondrial Disease is threatening our daughter’s life and we have to stop it. We are on a mission to find a treatment and cure.

2017 Bi-Annual Report

1. Founded the NUBPL Foundation, Inc. to raise awareness and funding for Mitochondrial Complex 1 Deficiency (NUBPL gene).
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2) In February we had our first fundraiser, Rare Bourbon for Rare Disease. The event grossed $32,000. There is a nice write-up about the event here: The Spirit of Giving, Paducah Life Magazine
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3) Traveled to California to meet another NUBPL family (The Spooner Family) at UC-Irvine – first time two NUBPL families have ever met. We met with Dr. Virginia Kimonos and other mitochondrial disease researchers at UC-Irvine and toured their lab.
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4) I continue to write advocacy articles for The Mighty Publication and we hope to participate in a legislative advocacy webinar in the coming months to help others advocate for Mitochondrial Disease legislation. My latest article for The Mighty is here.

5) We are growing our NUBPL community and are now in contact with another family in Canada and will meet another one in two weeks – the first non-sibling match to our daughter in the world. The more families we can connect with, the more we can learn from one another and fundraise for treatments together.
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6) In April we participated in 2017 Kentucky Gives Day and received the second highest donations in the state, netting $10,565 (and receiving $1,000 for second place).
KY-gives-day-logo7) Katherine entered the extension phase of the EPI-743 trial and continues on the drug today. We made several trips to the NIH and presented our journey to attending NIH physicians.
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8) In June we with researchers at the Mitochondrial-Genetic Disease Clinic at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and toured their laboratory.
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At this point on our journey, we are tackling the daunting challenge of major fundraising. Ideally, we would like to fund all NUBPL research, but at this point we feel the best approach is to research the natural history of NUBPL and to do so as quickly as possible so that a therapy can be determined to help Katherine.

In addition to our NUBPL Foundation GiveGab fundraising platform, we have established the Hope for Katherine Belle Mitochondrial Disease Research Fund at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) to immediately begin researching the natural history of the disease through various animal models.

Every donation matters and is greatly appreciated. Every donation is tax-deductible. Every donation advances critical mitochondrial disease research that will help not just Katherine but countless others. The approach being used will test many strategies that are hoped to be used for other mitochondrial diseases. The natural history studies are necessary to set a baseline against which they can measure the efficacy of the therapies, which show promise across mitochondrial diseases.

We whole-heartedly believe in this research and will keep moving forward to give Katherine and others affected by this disease the best chance at life. We hope you will continue to walk with us as we venture into this critical aspect of our journey. We’ve come so far in four short years;  I truly believe that, together, we can fund a treatment.

Please consider making a tax-deductible donation today to the Hope for Katherine Belle Mitochondrial Disease Research Fund.

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