Mitochondrial Disease Hits Home

When we started HerKentucky, it seemed like a fabulous way to share snippets of Kentucky life. I didn't realize that the writers would come to feel like family. I've been so proud to hear of their new blogs and publishing contracts and professional opportunities, even if it sometimes meant a shift in our editorial schedule. The HerKentucky girls are my clan. Then, something happened that I never expected.

One of our writers -- and, by extension, the HerKentucky clan -- has received some heartbreaking news. Glenda McCoy's amazing daughter Katherine is currently undergoing testing for a possible Mitochondrial Disease.

Now I have to say that I didn't know much about this condition until quite recently. But, I'd never underestimate the power of a Kentucky woman, especially one of our writers. Glenda is on a mission to inform us all about this awful category of diseases, which affects somewhere between 1,000 and 4,000 children every year, severely compromising their everyday lives.

Mitochondrial diseases result from failures of the mitochondria, specialized compartments present in every cell of the body except red blood cells. Mitochondria are responsible for creating more than 90% of the energy needed by the body to sustain life and support growth. When they fail, less and less energy is generated within the cell. Cell injury and even cell death follow. If this process is repeated throughout the body, whole systems begin to fail, and the life of the person in whom this is happening is severely compromised. The disease primarily affects children, but adult onset is becoming more and more common.
Diseases of the mitochondria appear to cause the most damage to cells of the brain, heart, liver, skeletal muscles, kidney and the endocrine and respiratory systems.
Depending on which cells are affected, symptoms may include loss of motor control, muscle weakness and pain, gastro-intestinal disorders and swallowing difficulties, poor growth, cardiac disease, liver disease, diabetes, respiratory complications, seizures, visual/hearing problems, lactic acidosis, developmental delays and susceptibility to infection.

Governor and First Lady Beshear recently undertook efforts to educate all Kentuckians about Mitochondrial Disease. The Governor declared last week Kentucky Mitochodrial Disease Awareness Week, and First Lady Beshear has used her official social media platforms to raise Mitochondrial Disease awareness. Here at HerKentucky, we hope to use our blog and social media as a source of ongoing information about Mitochondrial Disease treatments and resources.

Glenda asked me to let the HerKentucky readers know that she will be taking a step back from the blog as she and her husband await Katherine's diagnosis and plan her medical treatments. I know that all of our blog readers and social media followers will miss the amazing photographs and lovely posts that Glenda has added to HerKentucky this year. We already know that Glenda is an amazing mother to Katherine Belle, but I have been truly amazed by the grace and strength with which she has handled such a terrifying situation.

I ask that all of you -- HerKentucky's family of writers, readers, and fans -- please keep Glenda, Katherine, and David in your thoughts and prayers. Please, take a moment to educate yourself today about Mitochondrial Disease. If you so choose, donations may be made to the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation.

(all photos courtesy Glenda McCoy.)