Teen cycles the states to raise awareness of rare diseases

Teen cycles the states to raise awareness of rare diseases

Crossing the United States by car constitutes a major undertaking. Trans-American motorists can expect to encounter inclement weather, bumpy roads, and heavy traffic on their multi-day journey from the Pacific to the Atlantic. Many cross-county travelers therefore opt to make the trip by air, rather than by road.

Not Gabriel Low. This month, the seventeen-year-old triathlete from Hawaii started a 3,000-mile road trip across the United States–on his bicycle.

Pedaling up to 90 miles a day, Low hopes to complete his ride in two months. What motivated the teen to embark on his cross-country trek? “The real inspiration, I have to say, came from my mother,” Low told KATU news.

Low’s mom suffers from Primary Periodic Paralysis, a rare disorder which causes her to occasionally lose motor function. Because the disease is genetic, Low suffers from bouts of paralysis, too. Unlike his mother, however, the teen received a diagnosis and proper treatment early in life.

“For the first 30 years [my mom] went undiagnosed,” Low explained. “All her efforts to help me grow up with the disease and not have to face the same challenges she did, that’s what I want to dedicate this ride to.”

Low hopes his ride will raise awareness not only about his own disorder, but about a host of other little-known diseases as well. According to Low, one in ten people suffer from a rare condition. Roughly 7,000 such disorders exist, and each of them “is so rare that doctors don’t learn about them a lot in med school, and they’re just not really acknowledged well,” Low said.

The teen’s cross-country cycling odyssey serves another purpose, too: transportation to the 2018 national triathlon championships in Cleveland, Ohio. That competition holds special meaning for Low. During an earlier qualifying event, an abrupt episode of paralysis tested his physical abilities to the limit.

“It was towards the second half of the triathlon, I realized that I’d forgotten to take my medication that morning,” Low explained. “As I was going, I started to feel my legs were harder to lift, and when I crossed the finish line, I collapsed.”

Low’s perseverance, however, paid off: the effort earned him a spot at the national championships in Cleveland. Thus, competing at nationals represents not only a significant athletic achievement for Low, but also a victory over his disorder.

Ultimately, Low hopes to compete in the world triathlon championships. En route to his goal, however, the teen desires to prioritize his campaign to raise awareness for rare diseases. He hopes his ride will “start a conversation and create a movement.”

Strongbridge Biopharma, a pharmaceutical firm which specializes in developing treatments for rare disorders, is sponsoring Low’s cross-country trip. “Strongbridge has given me a van and hotel rooms every night, and it’s insane what has happened,” Low said.

The teen feels grateful for the support he has received thus far, and invites fellow cyclists to join him on portions of his ride. See his Facebook page and website for updates on his journey. Additionally, well-wishers can show their support by contributing to Low’s GoFundMe account. Donations will cover Low’s trip expenses, and any leftover funds will support the Periodic Paralysis Association.

Hospice center grants ailing veteran’s final wish

Hospice center grants ailing veteran’s final wish

When doctors told Joseph Beaupre he had only a few months to live, the army veteran knew exactly how he wanted to spend his remaining moments.

Beaupre told his care providers that he wanted to celebrate his son Tracey’s graduation next year by wearing a new suit to the commencement ceremony. However, Beaupre’s doctors didn’t believe he would live to see that day. That’s when Season’s Hospice stepped in to grant Beaupre’s wish.

The organization, which provides care for the terminally ill, sometimes fulfills wishes for its patients. “He expressed . . . that he would love a new suit, he loves to get dressed up,” said hospice nurse Andrea Zimmerman. So, Season’s Hospice partnered with Joseph A. Banks store in Portland and a local tailor to gift Beaupre a new, custom-fitted suit.

Courtesy of other community donors, Beaupre then enjoyed a limousine ride to Ringside Steakhouse, where he celebrated his son Tracey’s academic achievement with a gourmet meal. The restaurant provided Beaupre’s dinner free of charge.

“He is an ‘A’ student, he’s been waiting 10 years to graduate,” Beaupre said of Tracey. Thanks to Season’s Hospice, Beaupre was able to honor his son’s hard work in style.

 

Portland army veteran offers helping hand to homeless vets

Portland army veteran offers helping hand to homeless vets

Retired teacher and former Army serviceman Ken Walker has a passion for helping fellow veterans in need. The Portland native spends his time serving homeless servicemen and women who require transportation to the doctor’s office or grocery store.

Bob Reese is one of many veterans who have gratefully received Walker’s help. “Give him a call, say you gotta do this or that, and he’ll come with his car, take you where you gotta go, do what you gotta do,” Reese told KATU news.

Reese lost access to permanent housing last year, but anticipates moving into a private apartment in June. Walker wants to ensure that veterans like Reese make the transition back to permanent housing successfully.

“To me, this is vets helping vets and keeping vets in housing,” Walker explained. “You know, formerly homeless vets but now they’re in housing, and I want to keep them there.”

To help needy veterans ease the burden of food insecurity, Walker also runs a food pantry and household items distribution center at his church. “A lot of guys when they become homeless they lose everything,” Walker said. “They’re starting from scratch.”

Walker provides more than material goods to the destitute, however. For many veterans, he also offers friendship, empathy, and a listening ear. “We hang out and get a burger and we talk,” said veteran Scott Ramsden. “He’s the only person I can talk to about my problems, that I know he’s listening and really cares. He’s my best friend.”

Walker encourages the public to recognize both the vulnerability and dignity of homeless individuals. “If you see homeless people, treat them with respect,” he explained. “You know, look at them, talk to them, you know they are people too.”

In Walker’s experience, grateful hearts amply reward his efforts to treat the homeless with compassion.

 

Portland Woman Helps Fellow Wheelchair Users Hit the Trail

Portland Woman Helps Fellow Wheelchair Users Hit the Trail

Georgena Moran hasn’t let a crippling health condition keep her indoors. Instead, the Portland, Oregon native has continued to explore local trails and parks despite her limited mobility and is helping other individuals with disabilities to enjoy the outdoors.

In 1998, doctors diagnosed Moran with multiple sclerosis. By 2002, the disease had confined her to a wheelchair. As a lifelong outdoor enthusiast, Moran wanted to continue connecting with nature but struggled to find wheelchair-accessible trails in her area.

“There was a lack of information online as well as in books,” Moran told KATU news. While many resources provided beautiful pictures of trails, they lacked specific information about trail surfaces, she explained. So, Moran created her own database, Access Trails, to inform fellow hikers in the Portland area about trail conditions and ease of use for individuals with disabilities.

“These trails vary from ones where you can reach the water to other ones that are like a picnic area,” Moran said. She particularly enjoys trails with natural surfaces: “I prefer to go out there and feel like I’m part of a natural environment.”

Moran is equally at home in the woods and on the water. Before her diagnosis, she loved boating—so with the help of friends, she designed two motorized vessels which accommodate her disability. “You figure out a way and technology helps along the way,” Moran explained. “You learn different ways to be able to make your dreams come true.”

Thanks to Moran’s efforts, other wheelchair users can make their outdoor dreams come true, too.

Oregon Provides Support to Those Struggling with Mental Health Illnesses

Oregon Provides Support to Those Struggling with Mental Health Illnesses

This past Sunday, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) took to walking with members and supporters through the Tom McCall Waterfront Park in downtown Portland in the hopes of raising $225,000 for mental health services.

Many walking had a special connection to the cause, and in an interview with KATU2, one young woman involved with NAMI explained her reason for walking. Having to resort to a hospital stay for emotional distress, Trillian Stanton realized the importance of support in recovering from mental illness. This realization is what inspired her to create Project Self-Care.

The project creates self-care boxes with various comforting items, such as fun snacks, journals, coloring books, a fidget toy. Each box also includes a handwritten note letting the recipient know that he or she is in someone’s thoughts. She states in her explanation of the project that “the idea behind project self care is to remind people that they are worth loving, we give them the materials to then use to help nurture themselves when they are in times of crisis.”

In the interview, Stanton stated, “When you’re in the middle of the night, and you want to not be here anymore, and you open this kit and you’re trying to take care of yourself, and you’ll think, ‘look at how much the community wanted to take care of me.'” She hopes this feeling of community will help those struggling with mental illness.

In the past three months, she has already given out 30 kits and is currently fundraising for $1,200 to help her project.

Stanton is not the only one however attempting to help those with mental illnesses in Oregon.

In a statewide study released earlier this year, Oregon was found to have a higher than average number of teens struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts. 1 in 5 people will experience a mental health issue in a year, but in Oregon, the average was actually 1 out of 3 students.

Multnomah County is currently taking measures to counteract this statistic by providing services in the schools, including providing specific people to talk to or a place to get more professional, serious help. The County health offices now also provide resources on their website as well as a through a phone line 24/7.

David Hidalgo, Director for Multnomah County Mental Health and Addiction Services, stated in an interview with KATU2, “For students, being able to have a healthy mind is critical to being successful in school.”

The supervisor for School Based Mental Health in Multnomah County, Stephen Dunlevy, also stated in the interview the importance of teen’s mental health and the need to reduce the stigma. “It’s important that we reduce stigma so that getting access to mental health services is just like going to your doctor.

 

 

 

Several Trails Open After Columbia Gorge Wildfire

Several Trails Open After Columbia Gorge Wildfire

All Oregonians will remember the tragic wildfire that ran through the Columbia River Gorge, destroying many of the state’s most beautiful hikes and views. The fire burned a total of 48,000 acres of land.

Ever so slowly, several trails are opening up to the public once again, specifically Starvation Ridge, Mount Defiance, and Warren Lake. Favorite spots that include Oneonta Gorge, Angel’s Rest, and Larch Mountain are still closed to the public.

In February, the teen who started the fire by throwing fireworks into brush pleaded guilty, and he was just charged by the Hood River County Circuit Court with paying around $36.6 million in restitution for the damage caused by the fire. The Hood River Juvenile Department will help him to establish a payment schedule. The judge stated in a memorandum on the case that “In short, I’m satisfied that the restitution ordered in this case bears a sufficient relationship to the gravity of the offenses for which the youth was adjudicated.”