Jean Wittie shared her story with us back in November of 2012 for our special edition of Community magazine, In Their Words. Her story detailed how Huntington’s Disease has affected her family. Below is her story.
My husband Frank and I have been married for over 30 years. We have a blended family of seven children, six grand children and five great grandchildren. The two oldest boys are my boys from my first marriage, and they are the ones who have been diagnosed.
Todd is the younger one, he’s 43. He began having some problems – facial twitching and jerking – in 2009. He’d always had problems with his thyroid, and his doctor at the time thought all of Todd’s problems were related to that. The doctor kept raising and raising the medication, until he took Todd completely off it. Nothing worked.
I finally took him to my doctor, who thought he had MS. We went to see a neurologist who ordered an MRI and genetic tests. When the diagnosis came back, it blindsided us. We had no idea that there was anything like this anywhere.
After Todd was diagnosed, his doctor ordered testing for Todd’s older brother, Dale. Dale had some symptoms, but they weren’t very pronounced, so he thought he was home free. But just before Christmas 2010, his diagnosis came back as positive for HD.
So I set out to learn as much as I could about Huntington’s. I found the UC San Diego Autism Center of Excellence and they were so encouraging. They invited Todd and myself to their research symposium, where we met researchers, officials with the Huntington’s Disease Society of America, and families with HD. It was all very encouraging.
As a result of that symposium, we were finally able to get both Todd and Dale on a medication that helped restore their quality of life.
Dale lives in his own home with his adult son, daughter and her family. Dale’s daughter and her family moved back to Oregon to be closer to Dale and help out.
Unfortunately, Dale’s daughter was diagnosed positive in March. Dale’s son, and Todd’s two daughters have not yet been tested. Todd’s two girls live in Alaska and want to be tested but they are working their way through the state’s medical system now. Dale’s son is practicing avoidance behavior – he’ll get to it, but for right now, he does not want to be tested.
My husband Frank has always been supportive of the boys and of me. He’s the one that keeps reminding me to be patient when I need to be.
I still work and I go to school, so Todd is at home alone during the day. I make meals that will be easy for him to eat, he takes care of the yard, feeds the dogs… both my husband and I want Todd to have as normal a life while he still can.
Our extended family is huge, and Todd and Dale have all of the love and support our family can offer. Various family members have attended the conferences, support groups, walks – everyone in the family is there for Todd and Dale.
I truly feel that if I stay positive and persevere, then there will be a cure. We all have to have the courage and the hope to keep going. You have to keep fighting.
So that’s my story.Diseases, Featured, How We Help | Tagged disease, Huntington's, Huntington's Disease | Leave a comment May 1, 2013
A question CVC’s legal department is often asked is whether or not patients need a Power of Attorney (POA). But before I can answer that, I’d like you to understand what a POA is and whether one is appropriate for you.
What is a Power of Attorney?
A Power of Attorney is an agreement between two people: a principal and an agent. The principal, or almost always the patient, grants powers to the agent, or the caregiver, to make certain decisions on the patient’s behalf. These decisions can be based upon a range of issues, but they are typically financial or medical decisions. A POA steps in when the patient is no longer able to make decisions on his or her own behalf, and it allows the caregiver to designate who will make those decisions. Without a POA, a court or state may be able to designate someone to make decisions on the patient’s behalf. The person appointed might not be the person the patient would choose to make his decisions.
As an example, married couple John and Peggy choose to draft durable Powers of Attorney granting one another the authority to make financial and health care decisions on one another’s behalf. John discovers that he is diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease and eventually loses capacity to make decisions on his own. Because of the POA, Peggy can make decisions for John. Without that POA, their home state of Idaho could determine that Peggy is not the best person to make those decisions and instead designate John’s cousin, Nell, to make those decisions.
Do I need a Power of Attorney?
Probably. Most people who own property or have any money will need to make financial decisions, or difficult health care decisions later in life. If this is the case for you, you may want to consider having a POA in place.
When you draft a Power of Attorney, you must have the capacity to do so. Capacity is essentially the ability to make or enter into a legal relationship the same way someone with a sound mind would. Everyone is assumed to have a sound mind and be of normal intelligence. Someone can try to prove that you no longer have capacity. However, to do that, they must have specific and realistic proof.
So, if your illness is expected to progress in a way that may cause you to lose capacity, it is better to draft a POA sooner rather than later. You can speak to an attorney about tactics like videotaping the signing, getting one or many doctors’ statements of your competence, and/or having multiple witnesses at the signing of your POA to further support your capacity.
A POA must be durable to last after a patient loses his capacity. A durable POA will remain intact after the patient is no longer able to enter into legal relationships. A POA will terminate at death, even if it is durable.
The laws that govern Powers of Attorney vary state by state. Many people will need separate POAs for health and financial issues. Consult an attorney in your state to answer any specific questions you have and to draft a POA for you. If this is not financially possible for you, many state Departments of Health have free Medical Powers of Attorney or Health Care Proxies available through their offices. Contact your local Department of Health to request a copy of their form and for any specific instructions to complete.
If your family does draft a Power of Attorney, please send a copy to CVC. We can keep it on file in case the caregiver must sign on behalf of the patient when completing a new Terms and Conditions form or the incredibly important Renewal to receive a grant in
the new year.
The information presented in our website’s “Legal Corner” section is intended to provide information of general interest to the public and should not be relied upon as legal advice or counsel. This information should not serve as the basis for any legal decision by you. The information offered is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship, and your visit to our “Legal Corner” shall not be deemed to create such a relationship. Information posted in our “Legal Corner” may not reflect recent legal developments or decisions and therefore website visitors should consult an attorney if you have legal issues requiring attention.
CVC Health Care Attorney Kristin Lough uses her background in finance and the law to help CVC patients. As part of the Appeals and Disability team, Kristin helps assist patients with insurance appeals and with applying for Social Security Disability.Posted in Caregivers, Diseases, Featured, How We Help | Tagged Appeals, Disability, law, legal, Lough, POA, Power or Attorney | Leave a comment March 1, 2013
Twin boys Easton and Owen Jouppi were diagnosed with CGD a week before their first birthday. Here, the boys’ parents, Nicole and Mike Jouppi, discuss what it means to care for two children living with this chronic illness.
Their story, in their own words.
We had Owen and Easton on May 21, 2010 and on April 14, 2011 just a month before their first birthday, they were both diagnosed with CGD.
They weren’t meeting milestones that typical infants should meet. They weren’t gaining weight or eating food. There was a very clear failure to thrive.
Owen developed perirectal abscesses, and that’s something that males with CGD will get. Sometimes they will have cysts on their legs and arms, or have reoccurring pneumonia. About a month later, Easton began getting the abscesses too. Owen would lose weight as quickly as he gained it. Our pediatrician referred us to a gastrointestinal doctor who monitored Owen for a couple of months and after trying a few medications, the doctor ordered the CGD test.
They ordered the test on Easton as well because the two are identical, and the thought was if one of them has it, they both might. And they both did.
A few months later, the boys had eye surgery and the gastro doctor ordered an endoscopy and a colonoscopy. After that, we found out they not only had CGD, but chronic colitis as well.
If males get chronic colitis in addition to CGD, they don’t typically get it until later in life. Owen and Easton were 13 months old.
In CGD, the white blood cells don’t work properly. A white blood cell encases an infection and breaks it down, their white blood cells encase the infection, but do nothing with it. So infections get bigger and bigger. Basically, their bodies can’t fight off bacteria or fungal infections, so they can’t be in sandy environments, dirty areas, things like that. They don’t have to live in a bubble, but they need to be very careful.
Males have an XY chromosome and females have an XX chromosome. Females don’t get CGD often because they can cancel out the bad X, but because males have the XY chromosome, they are more at risk. After the boys were diagnosed, we learned that Nicole had been the carrier of the CGD, and she had gotten it from her mother. CGD is typically inherited through the mother, so it made sense.
The way we understand it, if a female has CGD, then her mom and dad both were carriers of it, but for males, only the mother has to be a carrier.
One of the things is that if you and I get sick, we show it on the outside. But if they’re sick, they look healthy as can be. Completely normal on the outside, but very sick internally.
Because the boys aren’t old enough to fully understand the disease, they have to be monitored constantly, which can make day care and play dates difficult. If a two and a half year old sees a kid playing in the sand, then they want to go play in the sand with them. Owen and Easton can’t do that.
Nicole actually ended up quitting her job so she could stay home with the boys full time. We realized it was going to be too difficult to put them in day care. There are the many safety precautions, but also several steps for the medication as well. It’s a very strict regimen.
We still hold out hope that they will be cured, but the only cure is a bone marrow transplant or stem cell, which is not highly recommended unless you become seriously ill. But we remain hopeful for the future.
But after all of this – the medications and safety concerns and so on – Owen and Easton are just two boys. Two boys who like to chase each other around, play with toy cars. They love going to the playground, but just have to be a little more careful than some of the other kids. It’s great to finally see them healthy and just acting like little boys. For such a long time it was such an uphill battle and struggle for them. And although we’re still learning about what they can and can’t do, it’s nice to see boys being boys.Diseases, Featured, How We Help | Tagged CGD, Chronic Granulomatous Disease | 2 Comments February 28, 2013
A primary goal of CVC is that, simply put, we are here to help. We understand what it means to live and cope with a chronic illness. Our patients often experience fear, confusion, frustration, anger – any number of emotions that prevent them from making the best decisions for their physical well-being. Our Patient Education program identifies public and private services to benefit our patients’ physical and emotional comfort. We connect patients and their loved ones with services that make life easier.Posted in How We Help | Leave a comment February 28, 2013
Our SSDI/SSI programs are supported by several staff attorneys who assist patients with various stages of the application process. Our attorneys request patient medical records, assess eligibility to apply for disability benefits, review and analyze complex medical documentation, draft arguments to support the disability claim – anything to further facilitate and mediate communication between our patients and various government and health care entities.Posted in How We Help | Leave a comment ← Previous post