Friday, August 27, 2010


Sometimes life can be serendipitous. Case in point - MPS VI is so rare that only 4 or 5 known cases exist in all of Canada, a country of 35 million people. This week, I received an email from Justin Van Herrewegen, pictured above with Isaac at the Tim Horton's this evening, a 29 year old MPS VI sufferer who lives only an hour away from us.

Justin was first diagnosed with MPS VI when he was two years old - a time when there was little or no research being done on rare diseases and the outlook didn't look promising for those affected with this disorder. And while Justin was told he had a "mild" form of the disease (Isaac, apparently, has an advanced form), his experiences with MPS have been anything but.

Since age two, Justin has had numerous surgeries that stem from the effects that MPS has had on his body, including double hip replacements, heart surgery, and spinal cord surgery. He has lost hearing in one ear and, most recently, has had a tracheotomy that has resulted in him losing his ability to speak.

Justin contacted us this week because he was recently turned down for funding of the life sustaining treatment (Enzyme Replacement Therapy) that he requires by the Province of Ontario, and he didn't know where to turn for help. We went through the same battle for Isaac 4 years ago, and we are happy to help Justin fight today.

The government's rationale for turning Justin down for treatment is presented in a flawed argument - an argument that should be looked at closer and reversed in order to provide Justin with the Health Care he desperately needs in order to stave off, or at least slow down, the progression of his disease. The province contends, wrongly, that they refused funding for Justin based on "the very minimal available data on the natural history of MPS VI upon which to model potential treatment benefits." In addition, Justin's very impersonal letter of rejection from the Province continues that "there is currently a lack of data to clinical benefit to slowing and/or stopping disease progression with Naglazyme treatment of MPS VI at this time."

Clearly the Government of Ontario didn't take the time to note that MPS is a rare disease and, as such, minimal available data is all that exisits now, or will ever exist in the future. Data is hard to come by, considering there are only 4 other people in the country affected by the disease. However, this hasn't stopped Ontario from funding Isaac's treatment, and it hasn't stopped the BC government from funding treatment for one of their children. In addition, it hasn't stopped the Quebec government from providing the necessary and life sustaining treatment to their two affected treatment. In fact, it hasn't stopped numerous countries around the world from providing the necessary health care to their citizens affected with this disease, regardless of how minimal the "available data" is.

The fact of the matter is plain and simple - strong evidence exists within this province (through Isaac's experiences) and throughout the world, to show that the treatment being rejected by the government DOES slow the progression of the disease in most individuals. In addition, by slowing the ravages of the disease, ERT enhances the quality of life experienced by sufferers.

Enzyme Replacement Therapy isn't a cure - it's a lifeboat - but it's a lifeboat that Justin deserves to be on, just like the rest of us that are waiting until the day we're rescued from this incredible journey. Treatment has saved Isaac's life - it's increased his quality of life, and we're forever indebted to the Ontario government for providing funding for our son. We now call on the province to do the same for Justin.

Truth be told, seeing Justin today reminded me that we are still in the war of our lives, and while we seem to be winning the battle, we still have a long way to go. And it scared me a bit too, which, I guess, is why I'm up in the middle of the night updating our blog.

We'll keep you posted on our progress. If you can, please help by reblogging and commenting on this post because, in politics, there is always strength in numbers.

Thanks again...with Love,


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The beautiful smile on Isaac and Justin's faces is a reminder to be happy TODAY.I hope your actions to help Justin do result in him getting the funding he needs.The passion for the research and the love for your family just shines out in your writing. Blessings to you, your family and to you Justin.Continued courage.