Nov 28, 2014

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Clinical Research Saved My Father’s Life

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Clinical Trial saved my father's life

It was fall 2002, my first semester at Fordham University and I was so excited. My initial week was filled with nerves, rushing back and forth from Washington Heights to the Lincoln center campus, and one life changing phone call from my mom. I was expecting to hear, “Why haven’t you called me, how’s school going?”  Instead, my mom’s started with, “Cathy, your father is in the hospital. You need to come home.”

My father immigrated to the United States from the Dominican Republic in the late 1970’s and quickly found a passion for cooking.  He worked in delis and restaurants until he decided to move our family to the sunny skies of Orlando, Florida.  He became an executive chef at an Italian restaurant where he immersed himself in his work and savored every dish he made.

In his early thirties, he was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes and was immediately prescribed oral medications in combination with Insulin therapy.  I remember my sister and I waking up and finding my father in the middle of his 3-step morning routine. Step 1) finger glucose check Step 2) dose of insulin and oral medications Step 3) “un buen desayuno” (a hearty breakfast) and off to work.

My father followed this routine for over 20 years, always with a positive outlook and a smile on his face.  Then in October 2002, while at work, he developed back pain, felt sick and drove himself to the ER.  The emergency room doctors determined kidney failure and he was immediately started on dialysis.  He was also found to have clogged arteries and underwent emergency triple bypass surgery.  Our lives were now filled with medical appointments, specialist visits and hemodialysis treatments. In the midst of all of this, I had so many questions “What was Dialysis? What are the long term effects and what clinical data was available?”

I left New York and returned to Orlando within a couple of weeks after my mother’s phone call.  After working for several years as a clinician and polysomnographer (sleep technologist), I was hired as a clinical research coordinator in April 2006.  As a coordinator, I experienced firsthand how and what it actually takes for medications, devices and therapies to become readily available and accessible. The first dialyzer (artificial kidney) was constructed in 1943 and the world’s first outpatient dialysis facility was established in 1962. Our bodies naturally remove waste and water through the kidneys, but for those who have failed or damaged kidneys, dialysis is needed in order to carry out this function. According to the American Kidney Fund, Latinos are more at risk for kidney failure as compared to other races. 1 in 8 Kidney failure patients living in the United States are Latino, amounting to almost 60,000. Volunteers, including Latinos, participate in clinical trials to help the advancement of kidney medicine and health care.

The more I informed myself, the greater my passion grew for my father’s well-being, his treatment and the future of his chronic illness.  I knew that I had to find a better way of informing Latinos and other minorities about the importance of clinical trials and how their outcomes affect our communities. In 2010, I founded Novel Research of New York (www.nrofny.com), a clinical research in the Bronx. The purpose of clinical research is to better understand medical interventions and to help find safer and more effective treatments for patients all over the world.

My father’s quality of life and all of the memories we have shared as a family since are possible because of this medical innovation. It has been 11 years since he started dialysis, and he remains as resilient as ever, referring to his treatments as “mis vacaciones” ( my vacation) and it puts a smile on my face every time.

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Catherine Lajara

Catherine Lajara

Catherine Lajara is the Founder & CEO of Novel Research of New York, a clinical research center in the Bronx. Her mission is to eliminate health disparities by implementing community based initiates to provide education on prevention, early detection and treatment. Ms. Lajara is passionate about educating Latinos, African-Americans and other minorities on the importance of clinical trials and how their outcomes affect our communities. Ms. Lajara has worked as a clinician and patient advocate for over 10 years and a clinical research coordinator for over 7 years. Ms. Lajara currently lives in New York City.

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Comments

  1. What a great article! I loved it and can relate……Thanks. Xiomara

  2. Wow…Awesome article! Everything mentioned regarding the Medical Research being done is a fact and we as a people need to do so much more! We could definitely use more research in every aspect of our health, it is essential that we use the technology we have at hand. Best luck to Catherine Lajara and her family…..God Bless!

  3. This an amazing article. I am a friend of Cat and I never knewc this side of her.
    Thank you Cat for who you are, you are obedient to your gift.
    Proud to be your friend

  4. Winnie Burch says:

    This is an amazing article !!

  5. Charisse Louallen says:

    Very touching,…you are making a difference Catherine. Thank you! :))

  6. Mr. Frio Frio says:

    It is great to read such an honest (and educational) take on what goes into many of the things that can help save lives. You have an amazing voice, I encourage you to keep using it to educate and advocate for this very important step in treating and preventing the things that claim lives in our community.

    Your newest fan!

  7. Emily Balcacer says:

    Great Article!! It is very inspiring how you can turn adversity into something positive. It motivates me to do the same!!!

  8. stacey lajara says:

    Amazing article. The story was really touching. I can relate since mom is going through the samething as her father. Hopefully with Medical research this can save mother life as well. Keep doing a great job Kathy. May God bless you always.

    Stacey

  9. Chanelth Alvarado says:

    This was beautiful story. All you sacrifices for your father, and all the wonderful work you do to help and inform the Hispanic community is truly inspirational.

  10. Maria Santiago says:

    Great article! I fully support clinical trials and research. People need to educate themselves on how to look for early signs and when to seek medical treatment for different types of diseases. My father was diagnosed with diabetes in his mid adulhood. He been on dialysis for 8 years. My mother has end- staged Alzheimer’s. Education as well as clinical trials and research are important for these and other diseases. Cathy, keep on with your clinical trials. It is very important and you are helping our communities. Congratulations!

  11. Mary Seay says:

    This is an amazing piece and, based on these comments, clearly has touched so many. You’re opening minds and doors to better health for so many people who need it, teaching them and providing the tools for them to be proactive and feel empowered. You’re changing lives for your closest loved ones and thousands of other families. How awesome is that? Keep striving, Cathy!

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