John Hamlet was visiting with family in August 2005 when he experienced some mysterious symptoms: a metallic taste in his mouth and, within a short period, he lost all taste in the right half of his mouth. Over the next day or two, the vision in his right eye was cloudy and quickly worsening.
Within five days, John saw six different doctors and had CAT and MRI scans to try and figure out what was happening. One doctor thought it might be a tumor, others had no idea what it could be. While traveling for business the next week, he received an early morning call from his primary doctor with a diagnosis: multiple sclerosis.
John was shocked. Fresh on his mind was the memory of his uncle who died only a year earlier after a long battle with MS: At the end of his life he was completely immobile. He couldn’t speak or feed himself or perform basic functions.
Learn why John Hamlet participates in clinical trials to help advance treatments for multiple sclerosis in his video below.
When John received the call, his wife was seven months pregnant with their first daughter. He says all he could think was, “Would I be able to walk my daughter down the aisle?” He wondered about the ability to take family vacations, as he and his wife had always loved travel. He was also fearful for his brothers and sisters (there are six siblings) and his cousins who had lost their father. Would they also discover they had MS? It was a scary time.
Within two weeks, John went to a neurologist who confirmed the diagnosis and spent a lot of time with the couple to help them understand the illness. When the doctor learned John worked for PPD in the neuroscience area, he spent extra time educating John and his wife on the illness. In the following years, because of John’s work, he would run into the doctor at conferences. Their shared passion for research became a great foundation and a positive aspect of their doctor-patient relationship. The doctor could educate John and use his story to educate others.
Soon after the diagnosis, John signed up for an annual walk to raise money for MS. He decided to open the walk to the whole PPD office and invite people to join the team or donate to support the cause. John says that while the participation and the fundraising has been wonderful, what is even more impactful with this event is the opportunity to help others. Each year John hears from a couple of coworkers who have been diagnosed or know somebody diagnosed with MS. Like him, they are afraid of what this diagnosis means for them and their families, for their careers, for their future.
A diagnosis of MS usually comes in the prime of one’s early adult life, at a time of starting families and careers, at a time of dreaming of the future possibilities, and this diagnosis shakes all those dreams to the core. John speaks with them and helps them understand the diagnosis of MS, and their treatment options. He can help them to see that the future of MS is not as bleak as the past, thanks in a large part to the research being done for new and better treatments. Each year, John shares his story with a handful of people who were recently diagnosed, and he gives them hope.
Research has changed the face of MS, and PPD is an industry leader in clinical research for MS. “When my uncle was diagnosed in the mid-1980s, there was no approved treatment for MS,” John says. “In the late 1990s, when I started in clinical research, there were three approved drugs for MS. In the last 15 years, there has been an explosion of approved drugs, bringing the total to more than 10 treatments. When I received my diagnosis, a huge amount of research had yet to be done. The treatments included frequent injections, often with difficult side effects. Now I take a single pill a day. Currently, I have a light burden of disease, and contrary to my initial fears, I have a very active life; I travel regularly with my family, I am very involved in my kids’ school and activities, and I have continued to grow in my career, and am now a senior director of project management for PPD.”
PPD has helped conduct some of the research that has helped our clients bring these medications to patients. “I have benefited directly from the research PPD has done,” says John. “Clinical research certainly needs to continue to make progress and lessen the MS disease burden on others, and, I’m hopeful, discover a cure.”