Strolling for a cure for Rett Syndrome
SALEM – Petrina Pate has a case of “cautious optimism.” In February, she found out something that gave her joyous chills. Rett Syndrome had successfully been reversed during research on a laboratory mouse. Additionally, the first phase of human testing began and is currently showing promise. For Petrina and her husband, Rick, the news was extra special.
“You get silent tears. You almost don’t want to get excited because you don’t want to get your hopes up,” she said.
The couple’s daughter Isabella, who is now 9, was diagnosed with Rett Syndrome when she was 27 months old. Her mother first noticed something was wrong when, at 17 months, Isabella was quickly losing the vocabulary she had learned.
According to the International Rett Syndrome Foundation, “Rett syndrome has most often been misdiagnosed as autism, cerebral palsy, or non-specific developmental delay.” There are believed to be about 75 cases in Virginia.
Today, Isabella can no longer talk. She has little use of her upper extremities. Her walking is limited and she has to ambulate with assistance while wearing leg braces. However, she enjoys life much like other children. She’s a daddy’s girl who is crazy about her big brother, Cole, 11, a seventh-grader who is a home-schooled.
Her family says Isabella loves the “Veggie Tales” video series, swinging and attention. She also loves school. Each school morning Petrina Pate drives her daughter to Mount Pleasant Elementary near Vinton, where she a 3rd-grade student in a Life Skills class for children with special needs. Her teacher is Tara Davidson, Roanoke County’s Teacher of the Year.
Isabella’s mom has been the chairperson of the Roanoke Valley Strollathan for Rett Syndrome Research for the last six years. The news of laboratory progress that could one day change her daughter’s life and that of other people with Rett Syndrome motivates her to spread the word about the upcoming Roanoke Strollathon for Rett Syndrome Research on Saturday, Sept. 10.
“I’m especially grateful to our friends and committee members, Kristen McNamara, Sunni Malek and Wendy Eubank, for their love of Isabella, and grateful for all the supporters and donators who have participated in past Strollathan events or have given in other ways,” she said.
This year the Roanoke Strollathan’s goal is to raise $40,000. Now in its 7th year, the strollathon averages 300 people showing up to take part in the event. All donations go directly to research towards a cure.
The Strollathon will be in Wasena Park in Roanoke, with registration at 10 a.m. and the actual stroll starting at 11 a.m.
There is no registration fee. People are encouraged to sign up in advance to walk for pledges made by family and friends. Anyone who wants to walk the day of the event can do so, Pate said. On-line donations can be also be made at First Giving: http://www.firstgiving.com/rettsyndrome/roanokestrollathon. For more information about the strollathon go to: www.roanokestrollathon.com.
– Angie Tabor