Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Goodbye Dr. Frank

Last week I lost a dearly loved friend and mentor, Dr. Professor Frank Lehmann-Horn of Ulm University, Ulm Germany. Frank was that rare species of physician, for whom every patient became a friend, but as head of the non-profit organization Periodic Paralysis International I worked with him more closely than most patients, including collaborating on a paper published in a neurological journal, a 10 month-long process start-to-finish. 

Frank was everything most neurologists aren’t, kind, gentle, a patient teacher and listener, and for that Linda Feld and Misty Smith of the Periodic Paralysis Association, and I nominated him for “The Art of Listening Award” from the Genetic Alliance. He flew from Germany to Washington, DC to accept it and said of all the awards he won, and there were many, it was the one he treasured most, because it was from the patients he loved. You can see him accepting the award here. 

His research, both in the complex structure of the muscle and in the genetics of neuromuscular disease were seminal. He offered genetic testing for patients, identifying the genetic mutation in many families. He was the author or co-author of 73 papers in neurology journals, developed new techniques for MRI testing and introduced the use of new treatments for periodic paralysis. 

There is really no way to describe how much he will be missed by each of us who has some form of periodic paralysis.

May his family be comforted by the knowledge of how deeply Dr. Frank Lehmann-Horn is loved and appreciated by all whose lives were touched by his.

To his wife, children and grandchildren we extend our deepest sympathies and heartfelt condolences. I hope knowing how many patients truly loved Frank is of some comfort. His memory will outlive us, as generations not yet born are told how their family’s mutation was identified, and by whom. 

And to that I add this lovely poem by Mary Oliver, because Frank didn’t just “visit” this world. He made an impact on thousands of lives.  

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse
to buy me, and snaps his purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox;
when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,
I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering;
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?
And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,
and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,
and each name a comfortable music in the mouth
tending as all music does, toward silence,
and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.
When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was a bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened
or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.


Arkansas Patti said...

You were lucky to have such a special man in your life and how nice that you were able to show your appreciation with that award.

Deb said...

Yes, Patti, he was a blessing to many. He once told me he received over 300 emails *a day* from patients, all seeking his advice, his wisdom, or just a few words of comfort on a particularly rough day. And he answered them all, plus put in a full day in the lab.
I wish that everyone has such a beautiful person in their life.

SMM said...

If only all professionals had that touch.
I am glad you had the experience of such support.

Deb said...

Oh SMM, if only... (sniff)