More than 160 families of patients living with a rare form of hemophilia are coming together at educational summits sponsored this fall by the National Hemophilia Foundation (NHF) and the Center for Biomedical Continuing Education (CBCE). For the fifth year, the Inhibitor Education Summits will connect patients and their families with expert healthcare professionals and fellow patients to address pertinent topics such as effective pain management, exercise and nutrition, financial security, and psychological wellbeing. The summits are supported by an educational grant from Novo Nordisk.
Hemophilia is a chronic, inherited bleeding disorder that occurs because certain blood clotting factors are missing or do not work properly. Spontaneous internal bleeding can occur, especially in the joints and muscles.
The 2009 summits will take place in Hollywood, C.A., August 27-30 and in Washington, D.C., September 17-20. These summits are the first and only events of their kind that focus specifically on patients with inhibitors. Inhibitors are rare, affecting approximately 800 to 900 Americans. Inhibitors are a serious complication that can develop after treatment in as many as 30 percent of people with hemophilia, most commonly in young children. These patients develop antibodies (or inhibitors) that circulate in the blood stream and actually neutralize, or attack clotting replacements, resulting in an increased risk of bleeding, arthropathy (or joint disease), physical disability and death.
People living with this disease often navigate tremendous challenges, both physically and emotionally. Sid Ramirez, age 21, has lived with hemophilia his entire life. He developed inhibitors at the age of three. His condition led to significant problems with his knee joints, leaving Sid wheelchair bound by age 11. He underwent lateral knee replacement surgery as a teenager, which enabled him to walk again.
"The summits allow others living with inhibitors and their families to learn from each other's experiences and from experts. No one can understand what you go through as well as those who have experienced it themselves and their families," said Sid. "Hemophilia has significance in the decisions I make, but I will not let it be the deciding factor." Currently enrolled in culinary school to pursue his lifelong passion for cooking, Sid is excited about the future ahead.
NHF Chief Executive Officer Val Bias has a special reason for participating in the summits. He's also a person with hemophilia.
"Education has been a cornerstone of the NHF, and the Inhibitor Education Summit is a prime example of that," said Bias, who will also speak at both summits. "We believe it is critical to be able to provide these kinds of programs that help patients and their families achieve greater success in managing inhibitors."
In addition to education for patients and caregivers, there is a comprehensive Youth Camp for children with inhibitors and their siblings. Children attending the Youth Camp will have the opportunity to show their parents all that they have learned during their time at "camp." There is also ample time for networking with other families and "ask the experts" sessions to interact with physicians and other key opinion leaders in the field. Since the Inhibitor Education Summits began in 2005, hundreds of families have benefited from this unique opportunity to learn and connect with others who share their experience.
"Comprehensive management of hemophilia with inhibitors is vital for maximizing the quality of daily life for patients with this difficult condition," said Dr. Guy Young, Director, Hemostasis and Thrombosis Center, Childrens Hospital Los Angeles and co-chair of the summits. "The 2009 Inhibitor Education Summits provide patients and their families with the opportunity to learn effective management strategies, connect with expert medical professionals, and share experiences with other families." Dr. Leonard Valentino, Director, RUSH Hemophilia and Thrombophilia Center, RUSH University Medical Center, is also co-chair of the summits.