On Saturday I drove down to Rhode Island to visit my friend Rich Pezzillo. Rich is a 24-year-old with hemophilia and inhibitors. One of the toughest cases I have ever seen. He’s had quite a year this past one. I wrote about him in my blog December 2006, when I visited him in the hospital. He was in excruciating pain then. It was very hard to be with him for three hours, because he was in constant, deep pain, apparently from his sciatic nerve. He is only a bit older than my son, so it was hard as a mother to see someone so sweet hurting and not be able to help. And Rich really is sweet, a great guy.
And so is his dad, Richard. I spent four hours interviewing Rich Jr. for my book on inhibitors and came away for a whole new appreciation of parents. Richard is a mechanic and small business owner, and father of three wonderful sons. Two have hemophilia, Anthony and Rich. But only Rich has inhibitors. What they’ve been through could fill a book. But I marveled at the father, and how devoted he is to his sons. Rich told me of the time when he was hospitalized in Vermont while at college, and his dad drove up from Rhode Island every other day to visit him. That’s a long ride, and a huge commitment when you own a business.
And when the doctors in Rhode Island informed Richard that his son would never walk, he refused to accept it. He was told the inhibitor bleeds had done too much damage to Rich’s nerves. Rich would always be wheelchair-bound. Through sheer desperation, Richard found a way, oddly enough, through karate. Anthony, despite having hemophilia, is a karate master. When he injured his shoulder, he was told by his fellow karate teammates to try a renowned acupuncturist in Haverhill, Massachusetts, about 15 minutes from where I live. When the visit cured Anthony’s injured shoulder, Richard convinced Rich, who put up a fight, to see him. They have gone weekly over the past year.
Now, I’ve seen Rich many times, at NHF meetings and at advisory board meetings we are both on: he is always in pain, and almost always in a wheelchair. On Saturday I had a shock. When I saw him, he was standing completely erect, relaxed, with no wheelchair in sight! I first thought “He’s so tall! When did he grow?” I never saw him at his full height! I was delighted. We chatted for four hours, with no interruptions of pain, as in the past. Richard is convinced it was the acupuncturist, who told him that all the wheelchair time had compressed a nerve. The nerve, overstimulated, didn’t know how to stop sending pain signals. With treatment, the nerve stopped, and Rich is much better.
It’s an amazing testament to the power of alternative medicines. I think I am going to check out this guy for my right shoulder. Too much scratch-pad movements while writing this book. And look for Rich at more hemophilia events. If he had high attendance while in dire pain, you can imagine how much he’ll get around now! Indeed, he said aloud how he couldn’t wait to go to Istanbul for the WFH meeting in May, after which we heard a shriek from his mother in the kitchen. Apparently he hadn’t told her!