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Researcher, subject meet for the first time

Researcher, subject meet for the first time

For the past 15 years, Dr. Virginia Rider has known the subject only as “B.H.” As she worked in her lab to help unlock some of the mysteries of Lupus, Rider soon came to prize the blood samples she received from “B.H.” for her research.

“We used to fight over her blood,” Rider joked.

Rider, a professor in the PSU Department of Biology and a passionate researcher, finally met “B.H.” last week when Brenda Hedrick, of Newton, Kan., her mother, Carol Swint, and a brother, Kevin Swint, arrived on campus with a donation to help support Rider’s research.

“My father passed away a month ago today,” Hedrick said as she and Rider visited outside of the Biology Department offices on April 17. “The memorials were made out for Lupus research. That’s why we came down today. It was important for me to do this.”

“Imagine how important it was for her father to have done this,” Rider said of Brenda’s father, Ronnie K. Swint, of Emporia, Kan.

In the brief time they had together, Rider and Hedrick got to know each other on a personal level and Hedrick, who was diagnosed with Lupus at the age of 16, shared details of her 30-year struggle with the disease.

Initially, the diagnosis was difficult, Hedrick said, noting that three decades ago, much less was known about the disease. Later, when she would experience a flare-up, local doctors often seemed perplexed about what to do. Hedrick and her family found themselves making frequent trips to Kansas City, where Dr. Nabih Abdou of the Center for Rheumatic Disease and the Center For Allergy-Immunology managed her care.

Today, Hedrick is one of more than 1.5 millions Americans, overwhelmingly women, who live with the disease.

Rider, who began working with Dr. Abdou 15 years ago, said meeting Hedrick was inspirational and it is strong motivation for her research.

“I have met other Lupus patients,” Rider said. “In fact, a couple have come here for blood draws. Every time I meet one, it just reaffirms that this is absolutely the right thing to be doing.”

And Rider had hopeful news for Hedrick.

“There are many more people engaged in the research,” Rider said. “For the first time in probably 50 years, a new drug has come on the market to treat Lupus.”

Rider thinks that researchers are getting close to unlocking some of the mysteries of this very complex disease.

“We have worked so many years,” Rider said. “We did this, we did this, and (for) everything we did, the (answer was) ‘no, no, no.’ And now, I think finally we’ve got something that might be “yes,” at least partly, “yes.” So I’m really excited. Having a “yes,” after so many years of “no, no, no.”

About Lupus: Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease that occurs when a body's immune system attacks its own tissues and organs. Inflammation caused by lupus can affect many different body systems, including joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, brain, heart and lungs. For more visit www.lupus.org.