This has been a week of leadership reflection regardless of who you voted for. I read from one news source that Biden made this a campaign about character; and many friends on Facebook stand by Trump for his policies. These traits, and so many others, are what make up leadership. While it has been a rocky week, and an exhausting, challenging year, it is all about leadership.
I reflected on leadership this week coincidentally, while remembering one of the greatest and most unique leaders we ever had in the bleeding disorder community—Renée Paper. She passed away November 7, 2007, at age 49. If you ever got to meet her and hear her speak, you probably never forgot it. I always say she was a great lady, in size, intellect and passion. The most intelligent woman I ever met. She had a photographic memory, razor sharp tongue, ribald sense of humor, love of animals and fiery passion to help people. She was an emergency room nurse who had von Willebrand disease (VWD), and truly became our foremost spokesperson and advocate for women with VWD. After hearing her speak (like a cannon going off) at various events five times, I was so excited myself (why wasn’t anyone doing anything to help those with VWD?), that I talked her into co-authoring a book with me, which became the world’s first book on VWD, published in 2004.
I could not imagine that I’d lose this amazing person, who lectured like an old time preacher, who could draw audiences from young women to seasoned hematologists, who pounded the podium in her quest to get the NHF, the country, doctors, patients and even the government to take women with bleeding disorders seriously. Who can forget her favorite line? “Know why doctors don’t take us seriously when we tell them we bleed too much and too often? Because men don’t have uteri!” And she would smile to see the audience either squirm (the men) or roar with laughter and approval (the women).
She and I traveled together, presented together, wrote together. She loved coming to visit my zany household (“You let your kids roller skate in the house?” she asked incredulously) And then proceeded to reprimand me for not giving my elderly dog pain killers.
I loved Renée and sadly witnessed her demise; years of health issues took their toll. She died far too young. She had character and was a character. She also possessed those vital traits of great leaders: compassion, boundless energy, drive, passion, and vision. She didn’t live long enough to see her vision come true. We do have much better care for those with VWD now. But I often wonder hw much further we could have gone, had this amazing leader stayed with us a bit longer.
A new edition of A Guide to Living with von Willebrand Disease will be available in 2021.