Tuesday, November 3, 2009

“Iron Lady” Gail Rennetty

Self belief, Confidence, Fighting spirit… which makes her still live in this world!

I recently read an article about one Ms. Gail Rennetty of U.S.A, who was a victim of brittle bone disease and how she fought it. The article is quiet interesting and will definitely boost everyone’s self belief.

When Gail Rennetty was a baby, she cried every time her mother touched her. Gail was suffering from “Osteogenesis Imperfecta” commonly known as “Brittle Bone Disease” because bones break easily, often for little or no apparent reason. Besides brittle bones, the disorder also causes loose joints, respiratory problems and easy bruising. The disorder ranges from mild to severe. Rennetty's is severe.

She had so many broken bones by the time she was 2 months old, police were convinced her mother was a child abuser. Her doctor knew it was a medical problem, not abuse, but still recommended that Rennetty be placed in an institution. He said she would die before she was 30 and never amount to anything. Now at 53, Rennetty is part of the first generation of people with a rare genetic bone disorder.

Rennetty’s father left the family before she was born. Her mother Betty Hancock Rennetty raised Gail and three other daughters "with no help from her father," Gail Rennetty said. The family had to go on welfare, and the Crippled Children's Society paid Rennetty's medical bills.

Just as frustrating are the interruptions the disease causes in her life. After she broke both legs in the third grade, when a student backed into her and knocked one of her crutches out from under her, she wasn't allowed to attend school and was home-schooled until her family moved to East San Jose. She enrolled at Andrew Hill High School, where she graduated with honors. After graduating from San Jose State University, she found work as a rehabilitation counselor and then worked at a phone company - Pacific Telephone/Pacific Bell - from 1981 to 1992.

Despite suffering 100 broken bones in her life, Rennetty graduated summa cum laude from San Jose State University in 1977 and worked full time until 1992, when her body "started giving out." "Not bad for someone who is on crutches or in a wheelchair, is only 3-foot-9 inches - and shrinking - still lives independently and was supposed to have died 30 years ago," Rennetty said with one of her hearty laughs. "Did I mention that I also took care of my blind mother, who had Alzheimer's disease until she broke her hip and had to go into a nursing home in 2004?"

Rennetty still drives, owns a townhouse, does her own cooking, most of her own yard work and cleaning, and is especially proud of her two dogs - Dexter, age 7, a miniature poodle, and Chelsea, age 9, a feisty teacup toy poodle. "I may not be a nice-looking person, but God gave me a brain," said Rennetty, who describes herself as a middle-aged geek who loves exploring the world on her computer.

"This is how I spent most of my toddlerhood," she said, pointing out childhood photos where she was in traction. "San Jose Hospital is pretty much where I grew up." She would break a bone, be placed in traction and then in body casts. In 1960, when she was 6 years old, doctors developed a surgical procedure called rodding, in which metal rods are inserted into bones to keep them straight and reduce the chance of fractures. Rennetty credits that with allowing her to live to middle age. "That's why I didn't die in my 20s," she said. "Before, you'd be breaking all of these bones, and couldn't get up, and die of pneumonia."

Her favorite accomplishment happened in childhood, when skateboarding was really in style. A friend of her mother's built a side-skateboard with a seat for Rennetty. "I sat on it and had sponges I grabbed and would push forward. A friend was doing something and made me laugh, and I crashed into a wall and broke my ankle." When she went to the doctor, he asked, "How did that happen?" Rennetty yelled: "Skateboarding!" Just like everyone else.

While she is still able to live independently, she has orthopedic problems that people in their 80s would have. She developed osteoporosis in her late 40s and her back started curving even more. In recent years, the number of fractures has increased."If you saw an X-ray of my spine, it would look like a letter S that somebody sat on," she said. "I sit on the side of my pelvis. I would be a foot taller if my back were straighter."

"I have been called feisty, I have been called strong-willed, and one of my co-workers called me an instigator," she said. Rennetty calls herself a survivor. She loves sharing her townhouse with her dogs, Chelsea and Dexter. She also loves music and reading - the Bible and 19th-century literature. Her favorite TV show is "Jeopardy," and when she was able to afford cable, she loved watching the Animal Planet channel.

Rennetty says "I just keep on going, like a Timex. Self pity is a waste of time."

Reference :

Tamil Magazine “Puthia Thalaimurai” issue dated 29th October 2009.