Michael Ehrlich, MD, chairman of the Academy's Committee on Research, made a plea before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education on April 15 for continued and expanded funding for research at the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS). The subcommittee was urged to provide $280 million in fiscal year 1998.
Dr. Ehrlich's testimony focused on the devastating impact of childhood musculoskeletal diseases. He was accompanied by his patient, 11-year-old Taylor Breedlove, and her parents of Tulsa, Okla. He shared with the subcommittee the benefits of musculoskeletal research and how the federal investment at the NIAMS has given Taylor and others hope for the future. Taylor's father, Roy Breedlove, explained their odyssey for help; and Taylor concluded with the opportunities that medical research has provided.
Taylor, the only child of Judge Dana Rasure and Breedlove, an attorney, was born with spina bifida, hydrocephalus, scoliosis, sacral agenesis, kyphosis and paralysis of her lower extremities. By the time she was 1 year old, Taylor and her family had visited numerous physicians in the United States. They were advised that the best medical treatment would not even allow Taylor to sit in a wheelchair without her chest collapsing. Taylor's hips also were dislocated early in life because of her abnormal muscles. The problems Taylor's family faced and still face are monumental.
However, there was hope for Taylor. When she was 5 years old, the family was referred to Dr. Ehrlich, an orthopaedic surgeon located in Providence, R.I., who because of numerous discoveries in the area of musculoskeletal research, was able to put Taylor's hips into the socket. Ten years ago, Taylor would not have been operated on because there would have been too much pressure on the hips if they were placed back into the sockets, Dr. Ehrlich said. "Modern research taught us about the circulation to the hip and how the hip could be preserved." Discoveries such as these are the result of basic and clinical research.
Taylor's surgery was successful and before long, she was upright for the first time and bearing weight. She quickly progressed to using a walker and to everyone's amazement, she is able to use forearm crutches.
Taylor has a bright future before her. She tells it best in her testimony before the subcommittee. Her statement follows:
"My name is Taylor Breedlove. I am 11 years old. I am in the 5th grade at Holland Hall Middle School in Tulsa, Okla. I hope that you will agree with me that medical research has been very helpful in my life.
Dr. Ehrlich, my orthopaedic surgeon, performed surgery on my hips seven years ago. As a result of that surgery, I am able to stand while wearing braces and walk. At school, I walk from class to class. Driller, my service dog, carries my books and picks up my pencils and helps me with my crutches. Even though Driller was trained to pull my wheelchair, I don't need his help.
I am living an exciting life. Last year, I was one of 10 finalists in a national essay contest and received a trip to Washington, D.C. with my family. This year, I placed third in our school spelling bee. I particularly enjoy science and have been conducting an independent study in chemistry.
I think orthopaedic research is important because it has allowed me to do many things I would not have otherwise been able to even try. I appreciate the opportunity to ask you to fully fund orthopaedic research."
Reported by Joyce Briscoe, legislative and government relations specialist, Washington office of the Academy.
Taylor Breedlove, center, tells the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education that advances in orthopaedic research enabled Michael Ehrlich, MD, right, to make it possible for her walk again. Roy Breedlove, Taylor's father, left, also told how medical research had improved his daughter's life.