Dr. Marlena Fejzo, HER Research Director since 2001 and Board of Directors, made the front page of The New York Times print version: “Her Doctor Said Her Illness Was All in Her Head. This Scientist Was Determined to Find the Truth” written by Alice Callahan.
Her doctor said Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) was all in her head. Dr. Fejzo was determined to find the truth. And she did: HG’s most likely genetic cause is GDF15.
Suffering, Starvation, and Loss from Hyperemesis Gravidarum
“Every living moment was torture,” Dr. Fejzo said….“I was starving, and the doctor just kept trying higher doses of drugs and different drugs, and nothing helped” (Callahan).
HG was 10 unbearable weeks of constant suffering, horrifying for Dr. Fejzo, horrifying for her family, and deadly for her innocent, unborn child. When she recovered, she was shocked to learn that there was so little scientific research on HG, and there and then, decided to devote her life to studying HG.
It’s time to take Hyperemesis Gravidarum seriously.
When she returned to her lab at U.C.L.A. after her miscarriage, she told her boss, the chair of the genetics department, that she wanted to find the cause of hyperemesis. “She just laughed at me,” Dr. Fejzo said, “like it was a joke.”
Dr. Fejzo met Kimber Wakefield MacGibbon, RN, online in 1999 when Kimber responded to Dr. Fejzo’s research survey. In 2005, Ann Marie King, Kimber MacGibbon, and Marlena Fejzo met with T. Murphy Goodwin to establish the HER Foundation’s research collaboration with the University of Southern California. Since 1999, the team has published over 40 papers breaking the silence and stigma of HG and bringing answers such as the genetic causes to the forefront of HG literature.
“Over the last century, physicians have claimed, without evidence, that hyperemesis is a subconscious attempt at “oral abortion,” as if trying to throw up a pregnancy; a rejection of femininity; a product of sexual frigidity; a strategy for taking a “time out” from stressful household responsibilities; or a bid for attention, as Dr. Fejzo’s doctor had told her” (Callahan).
Giving up tenure track positions and personal income, and with support from coathors at HER as well as Patrick Mullin, MD, FACOG, HER Board of Directors, Dr. Fejzo spent a decade of Fridays researching the genetics of HG until discovering that GDF15 is the most likely genetic cause. More than a dozen publications and presentations have followed.
It is HER’s goal to increase awareness of available medical care and the potentially devastating consequences if untreated.
You can support Dr. Fejzo’s research and education at the HER Foundation.
Response on Social Media to Dr. Fejzo’s Article
The response to The New York Times article about Dr. Fejzo’s scientific discovery garners a lot of discussions, sharing, reposts, and awareness. HG survivors Maria Shriver and Amy Schumer, HER Board member, have reposted the article along with 23andMe and scientist and editor Eric Topol. Over 1 million views on Twitter.
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