A traditional funeral Mass was held for a mother who raised seven children while surviving traumas that included burying another child in infancy and then her husband in his mid-40s. Her oldest child delivered the eulogy, recounting a full life and a legacy of family ties.
The only time she paused to contain her emotions was when detailing her mother’s final stage: “Alzheimer’s is not a merciful disease.” Just saying the words was almost too much to bear.
A few years later, another unmerciful disease visited the family. COVID-19 had demanded a third visit to the hospital, this time for intubation. Once again, a single line summed up the overwhelming feeling of helplessness: “This virus just won’t let him go.” Another funeral would follow.
Every family history includes chapters of illness taking loved ones away before anyone was prepared to see them leave. A grandfather whose heart gave out while walking through a country field. An uncle who succumbed to an antibiotic-resistant infection. A preschooler surrounded by a network of support who still lost a two-year battle with leukemia.
The survivors are left to contemplate what could have been done to give everyone more years together. This is where innovation in health care and bioscience responds to our losses and delivers hope that today’s terminal diagnosis will be tomorrow’s treatable illness. This edition of Helix delves into the boundaries being pushed by the RFU community, including the research and charitable funding aimed at chronic conditions like cystic fibrosis and Parkinson’s disease. We illustrate the straight lines that can be drawn from equity and food access to community wellness and avoiding chronic illness. The pages of Spring Helix 2022 demonstrate how contemporary dilemmas are approached with future outcomes in mind.
Along with their sorrows, many families can also find comfort in success stories — like a patriarch being granted another quarter-century of life through a coronary bypass procedure that was unheard of at the time of his birth. That’s how innovation — with time and tenacity — proceeds to a more optimistic reality.
Dan Moran is the communications director with RFU’s Division of Marketing and Brand Management.