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GRIN2B and Gratitude

By Liz Marfia-Ash, Parent and Founder of GRIN2B Foundation

Recently, about twenty people from our GRIN2B parent community participated in a webinar hosted by Simon’s VIP Connect (a research initiative studying many different genetic changes associated with developmental delay and Autism). During this webinar, we listened as a doctor from Simon’s VIP presented a summary of the data on the families who have signed up for their GRIN2B registry. For me, this experience was simultaneously HEARTWARMING, ENCOURAGING, FRUSTRATING and MIRACULOUS.

HEARTWARMING to hear each parent introduce themselves. We have bonded pretty intensely in our private Facebook group by sharing all the highs and lows of dealing with this mysterious rare condition, and we have become a little family; a family that is spread all over the world. To finally hear the voices of other parents on this same journey and to participate in this group event was surreal.

ENCOURAGING because this is just the beginning. We will have more webinars. Our numbers will increase. More research will be done. But we, the parents, have to push for this. We have to be proactive and drive the research. Though only about twenty families have completed the registration process through Simon’s VIP, I, along with the rest of the GRIN2B Foundation board members, will continue to encourage more families to register. Is the registration process time-consuming? Yes. But it’s so important. The data collected in our GRIN2B registry will be available to any interested researcher. And you receive Amazon gift cards for completing the registration process. My kid is getting an extra sweet Christmas present this year thanks to these gift cards.

FRUSTRATING because I know we want answers, we want treatments, we want to understand how our kids’ brains work and what interventions we can use to best help them. I can’t speak for every parent, but I know I am hungry for information on how to best help my daughter. Unfortunately, there is not enough data available to provide us with concrete answers right now. With this being our first webinar, the data presented was pretty basic for those that are not new to this diagnosis. You guys, I get it, this SUCKS. I have had days (a lot lately) where I can’t decide if I’d rather put my fist through a wall, drink several glasses of wine or stay up all night researching GRIN2B and how we can best move forward. I have this weird dual personality where, on the one hand, I hate that every doctor appointment I go to feels somewhat pointless. All anyone can do is guess as to what is going on, and I leave each appointment with half a dozen things to research. But on the other hand, I get it. Doctors and researchers aren’t magical, all-knowing miracle workers. GRIN2B is in its infancy of being studied, diagnosed and understood. I do believe that most of our doctors are doing their best to help us, but, in the end, it’s not their kid, and they don’t have the sense of urgency we have. It’s hard and unbelievably unfair.

  MIRACULOUS because we have come SO FAR, YOU GUYS. Seriously. Fellow GRIN2B parents, do not lose hope. Well, actually, I take that back. It’s okay. Lose hope, but just do it for a day or a week. And then keep going. Three years ago, on the day after Thanksgiving, my husband and I sat in our Geneticist’s office and received the news of the GRIN2B diagnosis. We were told there were only about ten others with this mutation. There was no support group, no Foundation, no website, no blog posts, not even a lousy pamphlet to read. I knew nothing back then about just how rare a disorder could actually be and that day changed everything.

Look at where we are. Look at where we started. – Hamilton

As one of the Admins of our Private Parent Group on Facebook, I can tell you that more families are joining every week, which means more individuals are being diagnosed. Our numbers are growing. I totally respect that not everyone is comfortable with participating in Research. BUT BUT BUT we cannot expect or hope for change or answers by doing nothing and waiting. It was pointed out during the webinar that the gene that causes Cystic Fibrosis was first discovered in 1989. The first FDA approved treatment, addressing the underlying cause of CF, was not until 2012. Let’s do the math. That’s after 23 years of research. Science is definitely moving faster than it was in 1989, but, we cannot sit on our butts and do NOTHING. I’m saying (well, really writing) all of this in my most stern, but affectionate “Mom” voice. We have a LOT of work to do.

I know this is not easy, and the road ahead can seem bleak at times. I KNOW you’re all exhausted and worried because I am too. I have never been one of those happy-go-lucky people who looks on the bright side. I’m a worrier at heart, and I have had to re-train my brain to focus on the positives since the diagnosis.

As we’re wrapping up Thanksgiving weekend here in America, let’s reflect on what we have to be thankful for:

  • A growing community of GRIN2B families from all over the world, committed to supporting each other. Just three days after receiving my daughter’s diagnosis in 2014, I found my first fellow GRIN2B mom, Donna Dunn, through another special needs Facebook group, and I was the first person to join her in the private GRIN2B parent group she had created. Now, three years later, we have over 100 families in our group.
  • We will soon be raising $$$ for GRIN2B research, support and education for families. We are still waiting to receive our official 501c3 non-profit status, but look for ways to donate/get involved in 2018.
  • We are tentatively planning a GRIN2B family conference (with medical speakers) for Fall 2018. We’ll share more details early next year.
  • Our first GRIN2B Awareness month in March!

As our Board of Directors and our community of GRIN2B families looks to the future, we need to remain patient and organized. It’s easy for me to sit here and type these nice, inspiring words, but I totally get that in our day-to-day lives, it is hard to remain patient. On those days my daughter is struggling, and I am spinning around in circles trying to find solutions, I admit I sometimes want to quit. I pull my hair out and curse GRIN2B and all these damn unknowns. But then I keep going, because really, what is the alternative? Our Foundation is getting off to an admittedly slow start, but that’s life. If you have any suggestions for ways to improve the website, the organization of our group or have any leads on fundraising or research, we welcome your ideas. Feel free to email myself or any board member at info@grin2b.com or message me through Facebook.

To my fellow GRIN2B parents, I have not been very active lately within our Parent Support group due to my even-more-crazier-than-usual life, but please know that I am grateful for each and every one of you. Now, enjoy what’s left of your holiday weekend, get some rest, eat all of the leftovers and get ready to kick some GRIN2B butt in the years to come.


P.S.

  1. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE join our GRIN2B registry at Simon’s VIP Connect. It’s so important that we get more data for our registry to share with Researchers. If you’re still not sure what the heck Simon’s VIP Connect is and how it relates to GRIN2B, click here.
  2. Did you miss the webinar? Like our Facebook page and keep watching for updates. As soon as the recording is available, we will share it there.
  3. Sorry for so much all caps in this post! I generally do not approve of excessive use of capitalization, but man oh man, this post really called for it.