Staff News

Dads can be heroes for many reasons

June 19, 2015 by Cindy O'Dell
A new Brandman graduate (left) earns his daughter's admiration. That's me with my Dad on the right.

A new Brandman graduate (left) earns his daughter’s admiration. That’s me with my Dad on the right.

They were standing on the steps of the Sacramento’s Memorial Auditorium – a dad and his preteen daughter. He was decked out in a graduation robe. His daughter and the rest of his family were wearing T-shirts that said “Superman.”

But it was the look of admiration in the daughter’s eyes that caught my attention. It reminded me of me. My dad earned his master’s degree when I was about 12. It’s one of many reasons, like that young girl and her family, that I once named him as “my hero” in a school essay.

We honor all fathers this weekend with barbecues and cards and “superhero” status, for at least a day.  My dad earned his status a thousand ways. Long before fathers were expected to shoulder their share of parenting duties, my dad was happy to spend time with my sisters and me. Family legend has it that he gave up his regular baseball games and took up golf and late tennis because “girls can play golf.” My sisters both still golf and I hate to miss a Saturday morning tennis match.

Education, an active life, a desire to compete – I can trace all of those to my dad.

He’s still my hero but for yet another reason.

In addition to honoring dads and new graduates in June, it is also Myasthenia Gravis (MG) Awareness Month.

How do I know? A Brandman employee asked me if I could write something about it. She didn’t want to tell her own story but when I mentioned that my dad also has the disorder, she urged to me to write about him.

MGMyasthenia Gravis comes from the Greek and Latin words meaning grave muscular weakness. It’s a chronic autoimmune neuromuscular disorder characterized by fluctuating weakness in voluntary muscle groups. For some reason, it seems to affect younger women in their 20s and 30s and older men. My father was diagnosed when he was in his 80s.

The disorder isn’t thought to be either inherited or contagious. It does make life difficult, especially for a man who was used to a lot of activity. Symptoms can include blurred vision, which is what my father noticed first along with unusual fatigue. Other symptoms, which vary from person to person, include difficulty chewing and swallowing, weakness in the arms and legs and sensitivity to heat.

Treatment can curb many of the symptoms, but the unpredictability of flare ups make it challenging. It affects about 20 out of 100,000 people in the U.S., although the prevalence may be higher because of under-diagnosis.

Despite his fluctuating symptoms, my dad rare complains except to say when he’s tired. But he’s not shy about letting people know he has MG or informing them about it. That, too, makes him a hero.

So Happy Father’s Day to all the Brandman dads and don’t forget to be a hero to your kids, too.

About the author

Cindy O’Dell has been communications manager at Brandman University since December, following a long career in journalism.

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