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Posts from the ‘Ichthyosis Support’ Category

Life After the FIRST National Family Conference…

 

Meet FIRST Member, Anke Fronz

It’s been nearly 5 months since the family conference! But by all accounts, the special connections and life transformations are still going strong.   Recently we caught up with Anke Fronz,  and she was delighted to share how she has discovered a more confident, “fearless” self, since meeting others, for the very first time, with ichthyosis.

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My name is Anke and I have ARCI Congenital Ichthyosiform Erythroderma (CIE). After several years, I finally took Dr. Amy Paller’s advice and signed up for the FIRST conference this past June. It was a tricky decision but deep inside, I knew this would be life changing.

I remember Peanut (my wonderful dog) and I driving to the conference. It was an interesting drive with lots of rain and some sun – not to mention, my accompanying bundle of nerves, and all of the self-talk! Recently, I was asked to write about my experience at the conference, but truth be told, I do not even now where to start. I went in as an insecure person-nervous and lacking in self-confidence, yet, somehow, still ready to go. I set the intention that I would meet people, not hang out in my room, smile a lot and, of course, deepen my knowledge about dealing with ichthyosis.

Once we arrived, Peanut, my faithful travel companion, was more than happy to go for walks and meet everyone he saw at the hotel. Deep inside, I feel he made it his goal to get me out of my shyness and have fun.

Well, it worked! I  felt quite differently on the days leading up to our arrival at the conference, than when I left. I met so many wonderful people and made some very good connections. I know that I will keep them from here on out and I cherish all the hugs, smiles and conversations over that weekend. It was so nice to meet people that were like me, and we had so many things in common. Plus, I met a lot of people that lived nearby and that was really nice to know.

For 42 years, I had a feeling that people with ichthyosis were out there, but I always felt alone. I guess because I never really met anyone with ichthyosis. Now, I am not afraid and I know that even though I may not see the friends I made or the people I met on a daily basis, there is this special wonderful group that I am part of and it makes me feel stronger. And, of course, thanks to Peanut, I met more people that I ever thought I would have on our first night at the hotel. It was wonderful and every part of me, inside and out, was smiling and beaming with happiness. Peanut was looking out after his mom for sure.

It was not only amazing to meet new people, but it was wonderful learning about how they handle their skin, and life in general.   When I was talking or listening to conversations about family support, or at what age they started putting lotion on themselves etc., it was at those moments, I thought about my family, especially my mom. She passed away in 2004 and she was my biggest supporter. She never made me feel different or let me get down on myself. Although, she never met Dr. Paller, or heard of FIRST, I know she would have loved the conference, and I know that she probably played a part in me attending this one. There are plenty of questions that I have about my childhood that I will never know or understand and it’s okay. You can not live in the past, the most important thing is to be in the present, in the now, as they say.

Anke & Peanut

Anke & Peanut

So, for the now, I am a lot stronger and more fearless than I was back in June. I take more pride and ownership of my ARCI CIE, it makes me “me” and I am very happy and blessed to have been given this life. I also do not feel the need to hide as much, stay under make up all the time. And on those days that it is so humid, and everyone is complaining, I walk with my head held high. I also can laugh inside when people are wearing shorts and I am freezing and in a sweater and pants. I am so very grateful to Dr. Paller, my dad and FIRST for everything and helping me out. I know that there is nothing that I   can not do, a person that I can not go up and talk to, because I am Anke, who loves to laugh, do new things and is not defined by just my skin. I look forward to future conferences, my work with FIRST, and growing the relationships I’ve created.

 - Anke Fronz


How Can I Prepare for My Visit with an Ichthyosis Medical Expert?

So, you’ve finally scheduled an appointment with an ichthyosis medical specialist, but have no idea as to how to prepare – no worries, our physicians will guide you step-by-step on how to have most effective visit possible.
At the FIRST National Family Conference in Indianapolis this past June, we sat down with Drs. Keith Choate and Philip Fleckman and asked them that very same question. Here’s a video clip of our interview, followed by a checklist of the critical steps necessary to prepare when meeting with an ichthyosis specialist.

• Educate yourself as much as possible, beforehand. The FIRST website is a wonderful resource with abundant information on the both the clinical and emotional aspects of many types of ichthyosis and related skin types.
• Bring the affected person to the visit only and leave the rest of the family at home, if possible. This will help with concentration, focus, and ensure that you cover all your areas of concern. The more relaxed you can remain, the more effective the visit will be.
• Discuss the situation with your spouse, or family members, that will not be at the doctor visit. Write a list of their questions and your questions, so you don’t forget anything, and bring it with you.
• Write a summary, journaling what your experience has been since you or your child was diagnosed. Reach out to the doctor before the first visit, by either mailing, emailing, or discussing it with them over the phone. Let them know the exact genetic diagnosis if you have that information, symptoms, concerns, and specifically how ichthyosis is affecting your lifestyle. Writing it down may also take some of the emotion out of the story, so you can remain focused, and also help the doctor to better prepare for the visit.
• Bring all blood test results, physician reports, photographs, etc. – anything that has been medically recorded.
• Always remember there is a difference in what you read on the internet, and what the average experience might be. Many times the internet is filled with “worst case scenario” stories. At your visit, discuss the things that scare you with your doctor. He or she will be able to discern medical fact from hype and sensationalism, and provide more supportive stories, people and resources.

Don’t hold back on discussing anything that comes to mind, particularly issues that have made you uncomfortable. This visit is an opportunity to educate yourself and to give yourself peace of mind.

“Why is my skin red? ‘Cause blue is taken!” …Teen Panel a Smashing Success at FIRSTNFC!

photo(17)Two open and candid teen panel discussions, moderated by Program Director Moureen Wenik, took place on the final day of the National Family Conference. Nearly every seat full, it took only a minute for parents, siblings, and other affected members to enthusiastically ask questions, jot notes, and ultimately discover that this was as rare and unique an opportunity as any – getting inside the minds of teens! From how to keep their cool when strangers stare, to the pros and cons of parents’ ”picking at their skin,” these teens opened up and let the audience explore their situation, from their eyes; in their shoes; in their skin. Additionally, not only did the panel consist of those teens affected, but also included teen siblings of those affected for an even broader family member perspective on life with ichthyosis.

Some key takeaways from the discussion included:

Silence Isn’t Always a Bad Thing: The teens seemed to agree that sometimes they are “quiet” about their situation because they are coming to terms with it themselves. “We don’t always want to talk about what’s happening every day. Trust that if it’s serious enough, we will come to you,” said one teen girl.

Conf2014-MW (13)-1Listening is Key: Many teens encouraged parents to listen as carefully as possible. One teen remarked, “If you put a cream on me and I say it hurts, please listen to me and don’t force the issue. Even if you’ve heard it works for lots of other people, it may not work for me.”

Follow Our Lead: One teen remarked, “If I don’t want my skin showing, I don’t want it showing. If I want to wear leggings, I should be able to do so.” Ultimately she encouraged parents not to worry, and to follow the emotional lead of their children. “If I’m happy and comfortable with how I look, or what I’m wearing, my parents should be happy too.”

Public Grooming/Dusting: Parents were curious as to how the teens felt about them constantly picking at them or “dusting them off.” Most teens agreed that they were in fact used to it, and that the constant fussing did not greatly upset them. However, they also encouraged parents, that if it was not too much skin, perhaps they could wait until they got home. Another teen remarked that ultimately, “parents should teach kids to check themselves, and make it a lifelong habit.”

Leaving Home: Teens that are preparing to leave for college shared some concerns that they are currently addressing, including air conditioning, securing a private shower, and informing others of their conditions (more on preparing for college). One teen leaving for college this fall remarked, “I worried about what my roommate would think, because I can’t change my skin. But then I explained everything to her, and she said – no big deal. I have ADHD, does that matter to you?!” Another young adult from the audience offered advice based on her own college experience. “Talk to them, be honest and upfront with your roommates. It will also help by letting them know, so that they can support you, in case there is a medical issue – someone around you should know about your condition, particularly if you do not have family close by.”

Overprotective Siblings: From the sibling perspective, it seemed that most of them had more of a difficult time dealing with the skin condition than the affected individuals. A few of them commented that they feel very overly protective of their sibling, and when people make comments or stare, they “lose their cool,” and tend to want to react in an angry and aggressive manner. “I think it’s normal to get upset for your sibling. However resorting to violent comments and behavior is never a good thing. Just try to explain the situation to them, and also, if it’s a younger sibling, you don’t want them to see you getting angry. It’s not a good example,” said one teen sibling.

Transitioning from a Small to Large School, or Starting School in General: The consensus was that having the parents, along with the affected child, go into classroom and inform people about their skin condition was a positive experience. However, one teen strongly suggested, “Make sure that the affected person is prepared to answer the questions themselves, even beyond when the parent is there. Make sure they really know their condition, and how it affects them, so they don’t feel badly for not knowing what to say.”

Speak for Yourself:  For younger children, one teen suggested that maybe it’s not one hundred percent necessary for them to always use the medical terms to discuss their condition. Perhaps if they use their own words to describe their skin, like severely dry, rather than a medical term, it would make the situation more relatable.

Using Your Sixth Sense: Humor – Sometimes turning an uncomfortable question or conversation on its head with a little wit, may be a great way to show peers there is more to you than your skin. One teen commented that whenever he is asked why skin is red, he replies, “’Cause blue was taken!” Although this is not a solution in its entirety, it can really break the ice and lead to a more informative conversation.

We are enormously grateful to our two amazing teen panels for their courage and willingness to share an inside perspective on life as a teen with ichthyosis, and we wish them all the best of luck in all they do!

Not able to make the FIRST National Family Conference? Stay tuned with #FIRSTNFC

 


062212-5436(1)If you are unable to attend the FIRST Family Conference, not to worry. We’ll
be sharing the “Indy 2014″ experience with you, as much as possible, on
Facebook and Twitter throughout the conference. You can look forward to
interviews with attendees and same-day photos of all the families, friends,
and activities!

Be sure and stay in touch with all the excitement by using #FIRSTNFC, the
official conference hashtag! Plus, after the conference we’ll be sharing a
post conference summary, including video clips of presentations along with
news articles, blog posts, and e-mails derived from the very latest
research, treatments and tips for living with ichthyosis, as discussed a2014 Conference Logo-WEBt
the conference.

The FIRST National Family Conference kicks-off on Friday morning, June 20 at 7:00am EDT, and will continue until Sunday, June 22 at 1:30pm. Stay tuned!

 
 

Conference Update: When it comes to Ichthyosis, Do Women Have Different Concerns than Men? Yes.

2014 Conference Logo-WEBAt this year’s National Family Conference in Indiana, Bethanee Schlosser, MD, PhD will  lead a new breakout session, “Unique Considerations for Women with Ichthyosis.” During this session, Dr. Schlosser will identify and address the unmet needs of women with ichthyosis as it relates to their overall skin health, sexual functioning, and quality of life.  This is a unique learning opportunity for women, including a rare chance for women to voice personal experiences and concerns, in a safe and comfortable environment, and to ask those “taboo questions” often left unspoken. The session will include:

  • Effect of ichthyosis on specific functions (breast sensation, lactation, sexual function, etc.) as well as quality of life.
  • Women’s skin health as it relates to vulvar mucosal dermatology.
  • Patient-to-patient resources; group discussion; Q & A …and more!

This is a session for female attendees in any stage life. And, for those of you who may not be able to attend the conference, as with many of the conference breakout sessions, we will provide a recap article, featuring highlights from the session, in our online post-conference summary.

About our Worshope Leader:

Bethanee Schlosser is a Dermatologist and Assistant Professor at Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation.

Should Grandparents & Extended Family Attend the FIRST National Family Conference?

 

 

At some point in their journey with ichthyosis, individuals and parents with affected children will need assistance, both physically and emotionally, from someone other than their medical practitioner. In difficult times, a reprieve from the day-to-day, a shoulder to lean on, or simply a trustworthy listener, can truly be a life-saver. More often than not, this type of support comes from extended family.  And although it can be stressful, turning to family in these types of situations may not only be therapeutic, but can create unbreakable bonds for parents, grandparents, and siblings.

Perhaps you are the grandparent, aunt, uncle, or sibling of an individual affected with ichthyosis, and are contemplating whether or not to attend the upcoming FIRST National Family Conference?  Over the years we have met countless individuals who were contemplating this very same decision, many of whom ultimately decided it was best to attend the conference, not knowing really what to expect, or if they would gain any benefit at all. Cina,Sean-Portia-Jolie-Mary-Dave2

Mary and David Cina, grandparents of  Myles and Portia Cina, affected with ichthyosis en confetti said, “We attended and will continue to attend FIRST conferences to support our son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren.  We have learned a lot and enjoyed meeting other families, learning their challenges, and how they have dealt with them.  The doctors provide a wealth of knowledge and are very approachable, willing to help and teach all attendees.” (The Cina Family pictured left)

 

Chrissy See, a sibling of member Rachel See, also affected with en confetti ichthyosis, is not only attending the conference in Indiana this year, but has played a pivotal role in helping to gather items for the conference fundraising raffle. “My family has always been a huge inspiration, and recently my friends, respected colleagues, and even “strangers” have become my new source of inspiration for my involvement with FIRST. In fact sharing on our company community webpage to 200 work friends created generous donations and support. I am looking forward to attending the FIRST National Conference because it will also be a special opportunity for me to learn and grow from others. Awareness is the first step to curing ichthyosis and I am inspired by others to take that next step for my family.” (Chrissy See pictured right).

And Kellie Wilson, sister of Shannon Hamill, and aunt of Lauren Hamill affected with harlequin ichthyosis, has been by her family’s side siKellie Wilson, Shannon Hamill, Kelly Klafternce day one. “ My niece Lauren was born with harlequin ichthyosis. Two words no one in my family had ever heard before. Now the word ichthyosis has become familiar to me and my family and it is not as scary anymore, thanks to the FIRST Family Conferences.  It was comforting knowing that they were not alone and that there was a whole community out there for them to learn from and to share their stories with. The first time in Chicago I was there as more of a supportive role. I wanted my sister and her husband to attend as many discussions as possible without having to worry about Lauren. However, this will be my third conference and I am looking forward to seeing everyone again. ”

 Although there are numerous opportunities for networking and education at the family conference, in the end, it seems that sometimes simply “being there” for a family member may just be the most meaningful kind of support you can give. (Kellie Wilson, Shannon Hamill, Kelly Klafter pictured left).

 

 More Conference Information.

 

 

 

 

Dermatologist Discusses Integrative Approaches to Skin Care, at the National Family Conference.

 

Some of the most popular “eastern” wellness practices have made a permanent impression on the western physical fitness scene, including the practices of Meditation, Yoga, and a nutrient-dense, Plant-Based Diet.

shutterstock_137890049Meditation has been associated with increased focus, and tension relief, while Yoga is widely recognized as a practice for building muscle, increased joint flexibility, and a way to relax the overactive mind.  (Read how one FIRST member, uses Yoga to improve core strength and flexibility, reduce body aches and pains, and lower mental stress).  An exciting, energized and in-depth look at the benefits of these “integrative medicine” practices will be presented at the National Family Conference during the breakout session: Stressed Out? Natural approach for wellness, balance, and healthy living.  This session will be led by Vindhya Lakshmi, Dermatology Resident at Indiana University. Vindhya will discuss how making a few small lifestyle choices, can produce BIG results. Her session will include:

  • Intro to Yoga: How yoga can help reenergize and strengthen your mind, body and spirit
  • Meditation 101: Learn quick and easy breathing techniques to re-center and recharge
  • Fruits, Veggies, and Smoothies OH MY -Yes you can make healthy changes today! 
  • How to Break the Routine and create healthy, long-lasting habits.

 About Our Workshop Leader:
Vindhya is a driven, energetic & proactive Dermatology Resident at Indiana University with a strong and continually expanding passion for overall integrative & holistic wellness. Her future practice will focus around integrative approaches to improve skin care, utilizing both eastern and western techniques. She also advocates a plant-based lifestyle, and is dedicated to empower others to live more fulfilling, proactive lives.

 

 

 

HOW RUDE!

 

National Family Conference Tackles Rudeness Head On

 How Rude, Can You Believe They Said That?”- This breakout session at The National Family Conference will offer all the tips and tactics you’ll need for dealing with unwanted stares, comments, or flat out rude behavior. The session will be led by Eric Scott, a pediatric psychologist from the Riley Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Clinic at Indiana University. Eric has extensive experience working with individuals and their families in adjusting to and coping with chronic medical illness. His work frequently encompasses repairing the effects of bullying and teasing that those with chronic illness face. The session will cover specific ways to respond to instigators; how to emotionally cope with being teased and how to build resiliency in the face of distress and adversity.

 Why Talk About Rudeness?

Over the years countless members have expressed feelings of frustration and isolation, brought about by the emotional roller coaster of dealing with rude comments, bullying, and offensive behavior. And although it is natural to take a defensive posture, and for upsetting emotions to arise, there are also many productive steps that can be taken toward a peaceful resolution. Some of the most widely used practices include:

 Educate Them – Sometimes explaining you or your child’s skin condition is the best way to handle all the questions, stares, and negativity. FIRST can provide you with convenient awareness cards briefly explaining the genetic condition of ichthyosis and that it is not contagious.  These cards can be very useful for public activities, such as dining out or traveling. You can also distribute to someone who has made an offensive or rude comment or simply give to friends, family, or your community.

 Build Your Inner Confidence – Participating in activities that make you, or your child, feel confident and accepted will build resilience toward rudeness. Turning to games, physical activities, hobbies, personal interests – anything you enjoy – is not only enjoyable but can support an emotionally strong outlook in tough situations. Knowing that you have unique skills, strengths, and interests, and sharing those interests with others, will ensure that you are perceived as the multi-dimensional person that you are, and not solely defined by your skin disorder. There will always be people who try and put others down. Self–esteem is the best defense.

 Patience is KeyAs difficult as it may be to accept, sometimes people are just afraid of the unknown. It may take a little while for the whole community to become informed of the disorder, and the special circumstances it may present. Once they have a chance to get to know you or your child – beneath the surface – you will feel more and more comfortable just being yourself, and less concerned with what others may do or say.

We’ll take an even deeper look at this issue during the conference, and provide ample opportunity for members  to ask questions, make suggestions, share stories, and walk away well-equipped for dealing with rude behavior. You will also find our newly expanded Bullying and Rude Behavior Resource Sheet on our website, chock full of ways for you or your child to resolve the uncomfortable situation of “dealing with rude behavior,” as well as suggested reading and links to related resources.

Full Conference Program

 

Living the life you are meant to live…

We are delighted to share a guest post from FIRST member, blogger, portrait photographer and author, Courtney Westlake.

 

Courtney, as many of you know, is the mother of four-year-old Connor, and two-year-old, Brenna Westlake, who is affected with Harlequin ichthyosis. Her blog, Blessed by Brenna, invites readers into the Westlake’s lives and home, taking them along on a weekly journey of medical challenges, extraordinary courage, and the most unexpected life lessons of all. Her posts are a unique blend of topics including personal insight, clinical explanations of ichthyosis, and heartwarming updates on Brenna’s amazing progress.  It is not only a cultural commentary on living with a rare genetic skin disorder but an authentic, inspirational and truly unforgettable journey of love, hope and family.  Her blog this week expresses a moment of  transformation and the deep realization of “accepting the life you were meant to live.” 

 

My survival mode and the loss of the life I had planned

by Courtney Westlake

We are now entering the third year of Brenna’s life, and it seems very surreal to me. Every memory of the years since she arrived are some of my most vivid but yet almost part of a blur too – a blur of emotions, adjustments and just trying to find my way. And relying heavily on God and others.

Even though I’ve been a huge fan of Crystal from Money Saving Mom for a long time, I think I was most looking forward to reading her newly released book because I could relate so much. When I first saw the title, Say Goodbye to Survival Mode, I knew I would be able to both relate to the book and take away so much from it.

Because I was in the trenches of survival mode for a long time. The kind of survival living where life continues around you at lightning speed, but all that you are focused on is whether your child will live. The first year of Brenna’s life, I often felt like I was being smothered. Smothered in grief, frustration, stress. I did my absolute best to focus on the positive.

Courtney Holding Brenna

I said no and stepped away from just about everything I had been involved with. I cut my photography studio work way, way back – after having just completed a beautiful renovation to my studio space the year before. I stepped away from volunteer roles with community organizations. I quit most of my freelance writing jobs.

And instead, I lived one day at a time that year, maybe one week at a time during the better times.

In 2012, there was a NICU stay, eye surgery, 4 additional hospitalizations, surgery for g-tube placement, and multiple skin infections. That was what consumed me that year, and I don’t remember much else. I was surviving, and that was the only option at the time.

I forced myself to get dressed in the morning, to try to find a schedule, to become educated on Brenna’s skin care, to continue to do activities and read with Connor as usual. I forced myself to concentrate on the good instead of the bad. Many times, I forced myself to smile.

(And I accepted help. Because I knew that I needed it. I relied so heavily on everyone in my life for help. Lots of help. We have had so much help I can’t even name it all. And I know without that help, I would likely still be in survival mode. And I just want to take this time to say thank you to all of you for all you did for us during that time. I remember every single act of kindness, every card, every message, every gift card and meal. And I still think about your incredible generosity and thoughtfulness all the time.)

And I would say with complete certainty that every morning I got dressed, every time I focused on what we could do instead of what we couldn’t do, every time I made myself smile instead of cry, it was worth it.cIMG_0145

Because eventually time wore on…and we began to adjust. To life with two children, to life caring for a rare disease. And I realized that I had the chance to take this opportunity to rise up from living in the day-to-day to living both in the present and for the future. I realized that even though you may not be living the life you had planned, that shouldn’t stop you from living the life you were meant to.

Don’t let the loss of the life you had planned stand in the way of the life you were meant to live.

I felt like I was no longer giving things up, like I did that first year, but instead that I was being pulled in new directions, better directions. And I could follow those new paths by choosing the best attitude every day, by choosing to life with intention, by goal-setting again, by using my time wisely.

And I felt like I was almost getting a chance to start over. I could pursue my “best things,” as Crystal calls them in her book – the things I was most passionate about and most set me toward my goals and most fulfilled me.

As Brenna’s health care became less stressful, I did sit down and evaluate exactly what was most important to me and what I wanted to be involved in and what I actually felt like I had time to pursue again. Over the last two years, I’ve stepped back into some of my former roles, and I’ve chosen new ones, like becoming involved in FIRST.

I also have done a lot of praying. I have tried to really open my heart and listen to where God seems to be telling me to invest my time and my energy. To where I should be using my gifts and talents. And how to best care for and provide for my family right now.

CourtneyWestlake-2036In the first year, this blog (referring to blessedbybrenna.com) was very concentrated on one thing, the thing that was the focus of our lives at the time – Brenna. I was even encouraged by a lot of people to share more about other things in our lives, including about myself, but I just couldn’t. There wasn’t much to write about, because my life seemed to revolve around Brenna’s health.

But, gratefully, even though Brenna’s health is obviously a top priority for our family, our lives are now becoming much fuller with other passions and priorities that we have. I am no longer simply surviving, but I am living with intention and purpose again…and much more so than before Brenna’s birth. Though certain times still call for survival mode, I now know how to rise up again from surviving to thriving so that I am not continuing to live in the day-to-day.

And because of this, my writing and my blog have also evolved. I am pursuing more of “my best” and, as you probably have noticed, I am writing more about those things as they all relate to motherhood and the kind of person that I am striving to be…things like my personal goals, freezer cooking (a growing passion of mine and something that saves my sanity!), the books that I’m reading, the books the kids and I are reading, my emotions and feelings as a mother, some of my various writing projects, and my family.

All of these things – not just Brenna alone – influence my life and my role as a mother and wife…and these things are part of the new world of beauty and appreciation for difference that I have discovered because of Brenna’s arrival into our family.
My survival mode was a dark time….a time with a lot of tears and stress and mustering up all the energy that I possibly could just to parent Connor and Brenna every day.

I am proud to say that I now feel like I am living with purpose and intention just about every day. There are many areas I need vast improvement in, and purposeful living is always an exercise in discipline – it is something I work at every day.

But I’ve found that once you get into the habit of smiling, of choosing to see the good over the bad, it comes more easily in all areas of life. And it greatly impacts all other areas of life.

My life today looks much differently than when I envisioned marriage, children and my career as I was growing up. My planned life was much, much different than my real life is. But today, I’m realizing that this is the life that God had planned for me. When I was clinging to the things I felt like I was having to give up, God was leading me toward a different path, a path where I would be able to use the gifts and talents he gave me in a different way, as part of his plan. In each new season, I am striving to open my heart to where I believe God wants me to be and to go.

Now that I have stopped mourning the loss of the life I had planned,

I am discovering every day that the life I am meant to live is so much better.

bookcoverCourtney has recently released her beautiful and inspirational book, That’s How You Know, available at www.blessedbybrenna.com.  Like a warm hug from a very best friend, its uplifting messages and soft illustrations offer hope and inspiration on every page.

 


Building Your Case for Social Security Disability Benefits (SSD)

 

margot 2830.FURYAlthough during his “working years” FIRST member, Steve Flury, had contemplated applying for Social Security Disability (SSD), a nudge from a recent life transition would encourage him to take a serious step toward the process. 

“Once the three kids came along, our budget got really tight, and there was no room for me to miss work because of my condition,” he said.   

His first “real” step toward seeking SSD benefits was actually taken at a FIRST Patient Support Forum, two years ago in Chicago.  “I asked Moureen Wenik (Program Director at FIRST) if I should apply for Social Security Disability benefits and if she thought I’d have a chance,” Steve said.  “Mo’s response was very encouraging. In fact, she said ‘absolutely!’  She gave me some information about the SSD and then…I got to work.”

After consulting with a few Social Security Disability (SSD) attorneys, it was clear that Steve would need to collect all of his medical records including, but not limited to, lab results, photos, biopsies and hospitalization records, from dermatologists, general practitioners, and any other specialists he had ever gone to for medical attention.   Additionally he would need to collect letters from as many doctors as possible, stating that he was in a compromised situation for most work environments. The doctor’s letters would also need to explain the possible health complications associated with lamellar ichthyosis, like overheating and being prone to infections. Plus the letter would need to state that his condition would be long-term, lasting at least one year or longer. 

 “In other words, I was told to go in armed and build as strong a case for myself as possible. So that’s what I did.”

Steve immediately rolled up his sleeves and for the next several weeks, began the journey of contacting all the doctors he had seen for the past twenty years.  His additional due diligence included searching the SSD website for various “disability codes” he would need for his application. “I knew the more prepared I was, the more painless the process,” he mentioned regarding his desire for as “hassle-free” an experience as possible.

 “I have a few other issues like severe eczema, food and environmental allergies and asthma, but I believe the deal sealer was that I had genetic testing done…because you can’t argue with that – and it leaves no room for doubt.”  His genetic testing, showing a positive result for lamellar ichthyosis, added even more credibility to his medical documentation.

“Step one was to submit everything online. Then I was assigned to an agent that I needed to meet with in-person to substantiate the case.”  Due to the detail and thoroughness of his application, Steve was almost immediately approved. “In fact,” he mentioned, “she asked why I hadn’t applied sooner.”  Steve has now been receiving Social Security Disability benefits for nearly a year and a half.

In summary, although there is no  guarantee of approval for any social security disability claim, preparing the application to the best of your ability should include the following:

1) If possible, consult with a SSD attorney to be sure you are following the correct steps, and preparing as thoroughly as possible. Finances should not be a concern because attorneys representing individuals seeking SSD benefits cannot charge for consultations. They are only paid if a person is awarded benefits and the attorney’s fee is approved by either SSA or a Social Security Administrative Law Judge.

2) Contact any doctor, of whom you were once a patient, or currently a patient, and obtain complete medical records, dated as far back as possible.

3) Obtain as many doctor’s letters as possible, outlining specific details about the potential dangerous side effects of the condition of ichthyosis, and that you are in a compromised situation for most work environments. Letters must state that you will have this condition for a least one year or longer.

4) Obtain genetic test results.

Find out more about applying for SSD benefits.