Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Selflessness and a Marathon

I was hanging out with a good friend of mine last evening.  Jason is a pretty typical, cool, marathon-runner, guy-friend who's started something not so typical.  After running the NYC marathon last year, he decided to something more than just run with his love for athletics.  Two years ago his grandfather was diagnosed with PPA (Primary Progessive Aphasia), which is a little known progressive form of dementia that causes the victim to lose the ability to communicate and comprehend language ... at present there is no treatment, and no cure.  (For those of you that are regular readers of my blog, I know I don't generally write about anything other than my own random opinions and mental tangents, but this really touched me, so I encourage you to continue reading!)

"Papa", Jason's grandfather, had lived his whole life doing for others.  Even in his 70's and 80's he would essentially donate his time outside of his pediatric practice to go to the homes of those who couldn't afford a doctor and treat them for simply whatever they could afford pay him.  When he began to lose his communication abilities, he immediately retired for the good of his patients until he figured out how to rectify and control the issue.  Sadly, the temporary retirement was to become permanent with his diagnosis.  The most horrible part of this disease is that Papa's mind is clear, & physically he's strong, he simply is less and less able to vocalize and comprehend language in the way the rest of us do. 

Seeing the growing frustration of his grandfather, a man whom had been a pediatrician for over 50 years and had always cared for everyone, now having to rely on others to care for him, caused Jason to want to truly make a difference in awareness of, and research on behalf of, this disease.  He decided that the best way to do that was to put himself through a marathon more gruelling and challenging than any other so that physically he would be forced to deal with a small level of the mental challenges his grandfather has to overcome on a daily basis.  He's not even going to allow himself music while running so that his entire being is completely challenged without a way to alleviate the mental and physical stress of running. 
Here's the kicker, Jason has chosen to achieve this goal by running the Great Wall of China marathon ... this May.  He's footing the bill for all of his expenses associated with travel and the marathon itself so that every dime of the money he raises can go to research toward treatment and a cure.  He's also been able to partner up with Northwestern University's Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer's Disease Center, which is the #1 PPA research facility in the United States, so that any money donated on the website he created goes directly to the CNADC for that purpose.  What started a year ago with a goal of $20,000 has now grown to a goal of $50,000 as small donations that keep adding up from people worldwide keep coming in.  He says that he's looking forward to running the Great Wall marathon as he'll be "running with the support of all those battling and affected by PPA."  If his grandfather can push through every day, he should be able to push himself through the one day of this race.  He's not superhuman, people, he's just fire-at-the-core-of-his-being Determined.  Personally, I'm impressed.  I think everyone else should be too.

~ The Girl In The Little Black Dress

For more information on PPA or to check out Jason's website (or to donate!), check out the links below:
www.giving.northwestern.edu/nu/CNADC (PPA Research and Education Fund - Run4Papa)

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