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Friday, March 2, 2007

Seinfeld Star’s Advice to Families on Chronic Illness: Patient education

Karen Greenspan is the half-sister of Jason Alexander (George on Seinfeld). Fifteen years ago she was diagnosed with scleroderma, in which the person’s own immune system malfunctions and attacks the person’s body. He has helped her over the years in many ways.

What I was doing initially was educating myself at the same time that I was inviting other people to get educated, and I was taking an organization that was having trouble being seen (the Scleroderma Foundation) and just throwing a little media attention on it.

One way to help loved ones with a chronic disease is to be as educated as you can…I think the hardest thing for people with chronic illness is this sense that they are somehow separated from everybody else that’s healthy—either by the fact that they can’t do stuff, or they just don’t feel well, or they think, ‘I’m sick; they’re healthy,’ or ‘Maybe I’m going to have a shortened life, and the quality of my life isn’t as good’—whatever it may be. I think the thing that you do is include them as honestly and realistically in life as you can.

Karen and I don’t pull punches. We say, ‘You’re a sick girl; you’ve got problems, and so let’s not beat around the bush with it. What’s going on? Where are you at any given time? What can you do? What can’t you do? What’s realistic? What isn’t?’

The trick is to be keep finding stuff to be happy about and laugh about and something you want to do and push forward.”

Read the source article in the Fall 2005 issue of My Family Doctor: The Magazine That Makes Housecalls, where it's available for purchase.

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