BY SCARLETT SALEM — Most people are fortunate enough to break only a bone or two in their lifetime, but those afflicted with Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI) can expect to break hundreds.
While the Osteogenesis Imperfecta Foundation estimates the “brittle bone disease” affects 20,000 to 50,000 Americans, Brentwood resident Amanda Gahlot is quite familiar with the condition. Her sister, Beth Graham, has had the genetic disorder her whole life.
[It’s] a very physical condition, but there are no cognitive impairments,” Gahlot said. “[People with OI] are so fragile, but they are so strong. They just grin and bear it, through hundreds of broken bones … I recently broke my finger and have been traumatized beyond belief,” Gahlot joked. “It puts things into perspective.”
Graham’s latest injury, which required surgery, inspired Amanda to go the extra mile in support of her sister … literally. Gahlot has organized a 5k run in Magruder Park on Sunday, June 7 on her sister’s behalf.
“She is awesome…she is a really cool person. I don’t think I have the grit to do everything she has done. She has helped me a lot. I have a career because of her. And she inspires a lot of people,” Gahlot said.
The 5k participants will run, walk, or bike a path through the park. Registration starts at 10 a.m. and the race begins at 10:30 a.m. Attendees can expect to see inspirational signs, sidewalk chalk, a photographer, games, popsicles, and plenty of food at the picnic following the run. The sisters’ family is flying in from Pittsburgh to help out.
“A lot of people are pitching in so all money raised goes to Beth, so there is no overhead,” Gahlot said.
Tickets are available for those planning to run as well as anyone who wants to come out to show support.
While Graham has suffered numerous breaks throughout her lifetime, only a few have required surgery.
Unfortunately, in March of 2014, Graham suffered a break that required surgery, which she wasn’t able to have until March 2015.
“This is the worst I have been in past 20 years,” Graham said. “When I was a kid, you knew which hospital to go to or which doctor.” Now that she lives in Sacramento, “… basically I have been navigating everything from scratch and even though I have the support of family, I had to do everything on my own. As a child your parents take care of all of it.”
Graham has a graduate degree in counseling and works as a school counselor with at-risk youth at a tuition-free charter school. She is currently on medical leave and will return to work in August when school year resumes.
“[It’s] mentally difficult, but physically helpful,” she said. She loves her work: “I work at a public charter school that caters to students in grades 7-12 who have not succeeded in a traditional school for various reasons: they are in gangs, are pregnant or parenting teenagers, are in broken families, or are simply missing the fundamental knowledge needed to succeed in upper level classes for a variety of reasons,” Graham said. “I could probably talk all day about my students and school.”
Short term disability has also been financially taxing. “[Right now] I do not have a full normal paycheck,” she said. A lot of care-giving expenses have had to be paid out of pocket. “Financially, it’s been interesting.”
While one of the goals is to raise funds “to offer a bridge for her until she can get back on her feet again,” Gahlot said hopes the race will provide her sister with non-financial support as well. “I wanted to give her a bit of strength. … I want to show her that people are willing to help her out and are there for her.”
“I hope people do take the time to come out and participate in this 5k, not just for me, but for anybody who is dealing with OI and for anybody with a disability who just needs that extra push. Seeing a community and a family come together really helps with the spirit of the person who is dealing with this and gives that person a lot of hope and strength,” Graham said.
To register for the race or purchase a picnic ticket, and for more information, visit the Unbreakable Beth website at www.eventbrite.com.