Recently, I attended a hugely successful Legends Gala dinner in Wrentham, Massachusetts-sponsored by the Hockomock Area YMCA and supported by the New England Patriots-to help support programs for special needs and handicapped children. I had the opportunity to talk to several present and past Patriots players. I was impressed in the amount of time the players gave to the children and their families at the event. One player spoke about the importance of prayer and family in the life of a professional football player-not a side of the players we read much about, unfortunately. I also spoke to a few parents of special needs children about the type of medical care their children were receiving. To say that there was a lack of confidence in the medical progress their children were receiving would be an understatement. Well-intentioned doctors no doubt, but inadequate funding for medical research limits much progress. Sadly, several well-respected Boston doctors have said the exact same thing to me. It's mostly big pharmaceutical companies today that do the research, they claimed.
I met with Massachusetts Lt. Governor Karyn Polito the very next day to discuss this lack of research problem, which is of great concern to families struggling to find help for their kids. As I expressed to the Lt. Governor, limited medical research for people who have struggled for years with Alzheimer's, Autism, Parkinson's, ALS, SPTAN 1 and other neurological diseases has not found many solutions to help people. Medical research has been able to make significant progress over the years in helping many people with sicknesses like polio and tuberculosis, but unfortunately, not too much with neurological diseases. That's why research today is critical. The Governor Charles Baker Administration in Massachusetts is totally committed to making his state a research center, as is U.S. Senator Ed Markey, but we need to elect a President who supports this long overdue research. So far, no such champion has emerged. I recall my father and other dock workers contracting tuberculosis while unloading big unhealthy foreign freight ships and getting seriously sick and ending up in a sanatorium for several years. I also remember as a young boy several of my friends were afflicted with polio, but thanks to medical research, great progress was made and they were able to go on and lead healthy and productive lives.
When we were first told that my grandson Braeden was born with a rare, undiagnosed neurological disease, which would affect his walking, speech and balance, we were devastated but determined. We took him everywhere for medical help, but tragically, we learned that there was no cure for his condition. And his condition was not even diagnosed. We took him to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland where he went through a week of exhaustive tests and physical examinations. We returned to the NIH a second time. Finally, after a few years, Braeden was diagnosed with SPTAN 1, but unfortunately, there is no cure. The medical doctors at the NIH said that Braeden is one of six people in the world to be diagnosed with this rare disease and one in two people in the United States.
During Braeden's parents outreach to find medical help for him, we met many other concerned parents who also haven't been able to find much help. Our efforts even resulted in receiving an invitation from Pope Benedict XVI to attend the First World Conference on Adult Stem Cells, where I met and spent an entire week listening to and asking questions with many of the world's leading medical doctors and scientists at the Vatican. One renowned scientist I met was Christian Drapeau of Stemtech International. He spent countless days and weeks explaining to me the myriad complexities of the brain, as well as the science of adult stem cell nutrition. I have not stopped studying and searching for help for people who have neurological problems. I have met some of the finest and caring medical people and scientists you could ever find in the world, especially Dr. Paul Lee at the NIH. I was even invited to join the Board of Directors of the renowned Pope John II Medical Research Institute in Iowa, who is working hard to advance the medical research and hope of Adult Stem Cell technology and nutrition. Alan Moy, MD is the director of this outstanding institution.
Braeden and I recently met with the renowned Neuroscientist Dr. Dennis Steindler of the Tufts - New England Medical Center. He also stressed the need for additional medical research. But as I told a group of special needs families recently, our government is not offering much hope for our children. Advocates for these children need to get politically involved. We need to start exercising political strength, especially in the critical upcoming presidential election. I have been following the presidential debates closely, and unfortunately, neither the press nor the candidates-Republican or Democrat-have talked much about making medical and scientific research a priority in our country.
Americans must begin today to make medical research a priority. We all need to contact each of the candidates and press and let them know how strongly we feel. We should ask the national media, who is conducting the TV debates, to give parents an opportunity to tell their story. Parents should ask the candidates if they will support critical federal funding to the NIH for medical research to help find solutions for so many deserving children and adults with serious health problems with no solutions. Doctors have told me that a medical breakthrough is possible, but what is needed today is the political commitment of our next President for critical medical research.