Benaroya Research Institute

Near the end of her second pregnancy, Katie Cleary noticed pink dots all over her legs. Her doctor said they would go away, but when they became worse after her baby was born, she went to a dermatologist. She was diagnosed with pleva, a skin disease characterized by a recurrent red rash. Around the same time, Katie was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune disease causing inflammation of the thyroid gland and then reactive hyperglycemia. She notes there is a genetic connection with others in her family who have autoimmune diseases, mainly type 1 diabetes.

As she grappled with her diseases and extreme fatigue while trying to be a good mom, she turned to the internet for more information. “I couldn’t find the information I wanted online and thought that other people must have the same problem,” Katie says. Since she and her husband have website expertise, Katie had the idea to publish the website along with a Facebook page of the same name.

Benaroya Research Institute

“Our goal is to provide part information and part community support for moms and others that are struggling with autoimmune diseases,” she explains. “While there are websites providing information and support for one autoimmune disease, we discuss having several autoimmune diseases at the same time and also talk about rare autoimmune diseases.” People are grateful for the communication with the site, which has thousands of visits each week.

When Katie learned about Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason (BRI) and its approach to studying the commonalities between autoimmune diseases to find causes and cures for all of them, she was excited. “I wanted to increase awareness of Autoimmune Mom and let people know about the good work BRI is doing.”

To get the word out, the Autoimmune Mom Facebook site donated $2,500 to BRI for “likes” received during a certain time period.

“We so much appreciate the efforts of Autoimmune Mom to support awareness of autoimmune diseases and our research,” says BRI Director Gerald Nepom, MD, PhD. “It is so difficult to be a mom with autoimmune diseases and we applaud these women for sharing their stories and support. We are all committed to work together to eliminate these diseases.”

“I hope that BRI can eventually make their research broadly available so people can be diagnosed quickly and diseases can even be prevented,” says Katie. “It’s important to fund autoimmunity research as an umbrella for treatments for all autoimmune diseases. I don’t want my children to suffer from them.”

Learn more about supporting BRI.

Originally Published in BRING IT ON Newslettter - Fall 2014

Community Stories

November 1, 2014

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