You could say England is lucky: they have the best hemophilia publicity in the world. Their longest reigning monarch, Queen Victoria, had a son with hemophilia and so gave hemophilia a place in royal history, hence the “royal disease” nomenclature. And she exported hemophilia. Germany, Spain? Hemophilia went straight to the royal families. Russia? The Crown Prince had hemophilia and while his life was cut short, he went down in history, as did hemophilia.
We’re not so lucky. The US has a publicity problem with hemophilia, not counting the Dark Ages when hemophilia was so closely linked to HIV. As it’s president’s day, it got me thinking: have any presidents known about hemophilia or known someone with hemophilia?
Prior to Ronald Regan, we don’t know. Regan seems to be the first to take notice of hemophilia, despite dire warnings from CDC in the early 1980s, when HIV was showing up in those with hemophilia. It took Regan’s Hollywood buddy Rock Hudson, who contracted HIV and stepped forward into the limelight in 1985, for Regan to finally take action on the nation’s blood supply and help stem the contamination.
Thanks to our great community activists, we wanted to keep hemophilia in the presidential eye, but it took a back seat once the HIV problem was controlled and recombinant products available.
Then came insurance problems. Big time. While campaigning, Obama, looking to connect on the insurance issue, was introduced personally to hemophilia through a Denver Town Meeting, where he made Nathan Wilkes–not just met him, Nathan introduced Obama to the televised Town Meeting! Nathan and Sonji Wilkes’ son Thomas has a high inhibitor and their medical bills were catastrophic. I know the Wilkes personally, and their story is incredible.
Apparently, Obama thought so too. He referred to the Wilkes family several times in the campaign. Obama is getting to know hemophilia. Just last summer, Obama had a photo op with HFA president Paul Brayshaw (hey, I know him too), in Paul’s back yard. Paul has fun telling about the secret service arrangements in preparing his humble abode for the arrival of the leader of the most powerful country on earth. Paul has hemophilia and Obama showed again support for our community.
Which presidential contender knows hemophilia? So we have Obama. Newt Gingrich actually does know hemophilia. He took up hemophilia as a study back in 2003-4, before the insurance crisis. Why? My good friend Dave Madeirios, founder of Factor Foundation of America, hired Newt to examine hemophilia as a case study in chronic disease management and why the American system has it all wrong. And I got to spend a day with Dave and Newt, discussing issues regarding reimbursement. Newt was knowledgeable about hemophilia, reimbursement and had ideas on how to fix it.
It’s not looking too hopeful for Newt at this point, but should he get elected, he would be the first president to have in-depth knowledge of the hemophilia community. Mitt Romney, our former Massachusetts governor? I don’t know. He wasn’t in our state too often as governor! But as he launched the first mandated health insurance plan in the US in our state, something tells me he’d make a quick study of it all.
Happy president’s day!