Hands down, 2016 has been our best year since our family was thrust into the world of rare disease.
Unlike previous years, we entered 2016 with an accurate diagnosis, enrollment in a clinical trial, therapies tailored for Katherine’s specific needs, and a new home with a layout better suited for Katherine’s physical challenges.
After enduring several years of emotional setbacks, uncertainty, and seemingly endless financial strain, 2016 brought much needed stability and a renewed sense of hope and vision for the future.
- She finished her first year of school (pre-K) at Model Laboratory School in Richmond and is currently in Kindergarten, where she has made many friends and loves her teachers and therapists. She says she wants to be a teacher, a doctor, a mommy, and an ice cream maker. Her favorite activities are P.E. and Library. She has an IEP, is fully integrated, and, with assistance, does EVERYTHING the same as her peers. They are her biggest cheerleaders. Katherine turned five in July. She is able to write her name with little or no assistance.
- Therapies: Aqua, Hippo (Equine), Geo (walking machine), Occupational & Physical, Speech, and Vision. Additionally, Katherine completed swim lessons this summer and is currently enrolled in an adaptive dance class. She has at least one form of therapy every single day.
- She completed the EPI-743 clinical trial for Metabolism or Mitochondrial Disorders. As a part of the trial, Katherine was monitored very closely – monthly blood work at home and/or at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) – to look for changes in her body while she was on EPI-743/placebo.
What is EPI-743?
EPI-743 is a small molecule drug that is currently in clinical trials in the United States and Europe. EPI-743 was recently granted orphan drug designation by the FDA to treat patients who are seriously ill and have inherited mitochondrial respiratory chain disorders. EPI-743 works by improving the regulation of cellular energy metabolism by targeting an enzyme NADPH quinone oxidoreductase 1 (NQO1). In a nutshell, EPI-743 is the closest thing to hope available (through clinical trial) in treatment form. Mitochondrial dysfunction is linked to many neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, ALS, and other diseases like diabetes and some cancers, so this research is important for so many.
- Katherine participated in a second NIH study about immunizations for patients with metabolic disorders.
- She also is on a compounded medication commonly called a “mitochondrial cocktail” that supplements one of the chemical products of Complex I, being a substance called Ubiquinol, a form of CoQ10.
Dave and I grew increasingly frustrated that while Kentucky law mandated coverage for the “Mitochondrial cocktail,” private insurers continued to deny coverage month after month.
In April 2016, we decided it was time to advocate on behalf of all Kentucky Mitochondrial disease patients by working with Representative Rita Smart and Senator Ralph Alvarado to include a floor amendment in Senate Bill 18 to specify that Mitochondrial disease is an inborn error of metabolism or genetics to be treated by products defined as “therapeutic food, formulas, and supplements” and that health benefit plans that provide prescription drug coverage shall include in that coverage therapeutic food, formulas, supplements, and low-protein modified food products for the treatment of mitochondrial disease.
Kentucky is the first state in the nation to mandate that private insurance companies cover the vitamins and supplements prescribed by a physician for a “Mito Cocktail.” The new law goes into effect on January 1, 2017.
In March 2016, I became a contributing writer for The Mighty to increase my rare disease awareness reach. Below are links to my published articles:
Mitochondrial Disease Explained for Non-Scientists
How To Become A Legislative Advocate For Your Child
10 Practical Tips for Parents Feeling the Shock of a Rare Disease Diagnosis
Three Things I Want To Tell The Mom Receiving a Rare Diagnosis
Learning To Live In The Present With My Daughter With a Rare Disease
In November 2016, we founded the NUBPL Foundation with the mission to fund NUBPL research, awareness, and support.
We are honored to be selected as 1 of 50 non-profits to receive a very rare bottle of O.F.C. Vintages (1982) bourbon from Buffalo Trace for our very first fundraiser (February 2017). We are finalizing all the details and will post event information at the beginning of 2017. We are thrilled to marry our passions to raise awareness and funding for NUBPL through our Rare Bourbon for Rare Disease fundraising events. All donations are tax-deductible and 100% of proceeds go directly to research and support.
We are on a mission to assemble a team of the world’s best researchers dedicated to finding a treatment/cure for NUBPL.
Just last week we had the honor of being invited to the White House by Matt and Cristina Might to celebrate their son Bertrand’s 9th birthday and meet their NGLY1 team for a discussion of Precision Medicine and NGLY1. We are so grateful for their love and guidance on this journey. (I am working on an in-depth article about their family, organization, and guidance…stay tuned.)
We are grateful for each of you and look forward to our work in 2017. Thank you for being a part of our journey.
Glenda, Dave & Katherine Belle