It is with great sadness that we’ve learned of the passing of its greatest advocate on von Willebrand Disease. Renee Paper died November 7, at age 49, after an eight week hospital stay following a fall. Renee had been on disability for the past three years, and yet received an achievement award just last Saturday at NHF’s 59th Annual Meeting, in recognition of her outstanding life’s achievement in helping others with bleeding disorders. People around the world knew Renee, as she traveled and lectured frequently, before her disability. As many of you already know, she had had gastric bypass surgery, loss a tremendous amount of weight in a short period of time, seemed to recover and was doing well, but then, health issues compounded. She had VWD herself, and also battled hepatitis C, and various other problems. Many of her friends tried to stay in touch by phone or by visiting her in Las Vegas over the past several years.
Renee was a personal friend, and also my co-author on the book “A Guide to Living With von Willebrand Disease.” She had traveled with me and my family to Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic on business together, and she and I presented in places as close as Connecticut and far away as Australia. She was brilliant; she was fun-loving. She was could be irreverent yet compassionate. She loved animals, and one of her favorite gifts to her friends was to send a photo of herself each New Year’s with a different animal from different parts of the world: kissing a dolphin in the Caribbean; draping a boa constrictor around her neck in Mexico; nuzzling an alligator in New Orleans; atop a camel in the Canary Islands. Renee knew how to grab life by the horns and tame it, and she wanted others to do that, too, regardless if they had a disorder or disability.
Messages have been pouring in to me from around the world. Helen Campbell, UK, wrote: “Renee has been a great inspiration to me personally (and to other women) in raising awareness and promoting advocacy within, and outside of, the bleeding disorders community regarding the issues surrounding women and their bleeding disorders. Her work has touched the lives of many both directly and indirectly. It is a great loss for the Haemophilia communities and yet must be a greater loss for her family. Thank you, Renee. You made such a difference. From your acorns you saw great oaks grow, now the branches are reaching far and wide.”
Parimal Debnath from the Haemophilia Society of Bangladesh wrote, “It’s really sad news. My condolences for her family. May God rest her soul in eternal peace.”
Dr. Carol Kasper, renowned hematologist, Emerita Professor of Medicine, University of Southern California, Orthopaedic Hospital and colleague and friend of Renee’s, perhaps summed up Renee’s legacy and memory best:
“Renee Paper had a vision for Nevada, its own hemophilia foundation, its own hemophilia treatment center, and she made them happen. It wasn’t easy. Renee was blessed with energy, enthusiasm and perseverance. She had a great ability to organize and to inspire.
“She also knew how to have fun. She was the life of the party! I remember driving with her down a country road in Ireland, in sheep country. Sheep strayed across the road. Renee stopped and shooed them off, and you have no idea how hard it is to shoo a sheep. We cleared a bit of road, drove on around a curve, and, more sheep! We wound up in gales of laughter as we continued to shoo the sheep, and shoo and shoo.
“I am grateful to Dr. Jonathan Bernstein and nurse Becki Berkowitz, also Dr. Heather Allen, all of Las Vegas, who watched over Renee in her last illnesses, whenever Renee’s spirit of independence would allow it.
“I shall remember her achievements, but the images of her exuberance and hilarity are foremost in my mind at this time. Her name will be remembered.”
Good-bye to a tremendous leader, warm and loving human being, educator, visionary, and friend. There was ever only one Renee, and we will miss her. Please post your thoughts, stories and tributes to Renee here.