Monday, July 25, 2016

National Hemophilia Foundation's 68th Annual Meeting (NHF 2016)

The entrance the annual NHF conference at Gaylord Palms.
The NHF annual conference is designed to connect both patient and caregivers to the industry leaders among the pharmaceutical companies and the physicians who treat hemophilia. This year's annual conference was held at the 'Gaylord Palms Hotel & Resort' in Orlando, Florida, and kicked off a three day event on Thursday July 21st-23rd, 2016. For the first time, the NHF conference lead into the World Federation of Hemophilia (WFH 2016) conference, which is a global initiative to see seek "Treatment for All." WFH unites global hemophilia chapters, bringing together scientists, physicians, patients and caregivers from across the globe with a 4 day conference.

Joseph & Alexandra Burke with Jeanne White-Ginder, Ryan White's mother.
This year, was very emotional and there was a sense of spiritual connectivity among fellow hemophiliac survivors. A fresh sense of rebirth is awakening among the bleeding disorder community, as new treatments not only for bleeding disorders are on the horizon, but breakthroughs in HIV and Hepatitis C therapies have given the community a 'Burst of Life.' More and more hemophiliacs who were affected by the pharmaceutical tragedies of the 1980's are being cured of HCV, and thus the mortality rates among the bleeding disorder community among that generation of bleeders have significantly been reduced. I had the honor to hear Ryan White's beloved mother, Jeanne White-Ginder speak at the conference on the realities behind the scenes during Ryan's media bombardment of the late 80's and early 90's. She recalled fond memories of Grammy winning musician Elton John staying by Jeanne's side during Ryan's final hours, to a heartfelt phone call from the 'King of Pop,' Michael Jackson. What a strong and humble woman Jeanne is, a true beacon of hope and light among the bleeding disorder community. For me personally, this journey has in many ways come full circle, as I now realize my role and plan of action in my own steps toward hemophilia, HIV and HCV advocacy.

Joseph & Alexandra Burke with Clifford & Louise Ray.
I also had the distinct honor of meeting another ambassador of the hemophilia community, Louise Ray. Mother of Ricky, Bobby and Randy Ray, many can remember the horrific news media coverage of their home being burned in Arcadia, FL because of the AIDS scare in the 1980's. They've endured so much, and today only Randy Ray survives, carrying the torch for his two brothers. The bond between the Rays and Whites is strong, and their story echoes the senseless tragedies and dark ages of the pharmaceutical industry among the bleeding disorder communities. It was very emotional for me as a patient and now advocate to hear their stories of enduring, which ignites my own passion and fire to educate the world that, "We've Come So Far, But Not Far Enough."

Alexandra looks at artwork in the Blood Works Gallery
from her husband Joseph Burke.
A special blessing was having several of my paintings featured for the second year in a row at the gallery of "Blood Works."The gallery is composed from submissions only from the bleeding disorders community, and highlights the artistic creativity that thrives among those living with hemophilia or Von-Willebrands disease. I even had three songs on the "Blood Vibrations: 5 (Blood Work Mixtape)."I want to give a huge shout out to Justin Levesque from Maine, who organized and coordinated the Blood Work gallery exhibit during NHF's 68th Annual meeting. Justin is from FOLX, which "aims to support positive physical & mental health outcomes for people in the bleeding disorders community from diverse backgrounds."Again, great job Justin!

Joseph & Alexandra's Artwork Piece during "Couples Art Therapy."
One of the sessions on the final day of NHF was "Couples Art Therapy." The session allowed couples to dive inside the dark portions of living with hemophilia, yet focusing on the hope of a brighter future. The class was open for interpretation, and allowed couples to create works of art that depicted their dreams and ambitions together. My wife Alexandra and I had so much fun putting together this piece that overlapped our hands, while putting our faith in God at the center of our lives. We got several really heartfelt comments from participants and officiants of the session on our idea. It is our hope for me to be cured of HIV, and remain thriving for God and each other. A testament to enduring the hardships of life, and achieving favor in the eyes of your spouse. This session was very unique, and in-depth, and allowed couples to artistically reveal what their hearts and minds are truly saying about living with a bleeding disorder, or caring for someone with the disease.

For more pictures from NHF 2016, please see the official album below from my I Strive 2 Thrive Facebook Page.

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