Sam and Helen Dodge: Feeling Hope in the Wake of a Vasculitis Diagnosis

December 31, 2019
Over the past six months
, many of you met Sam and Helen Dodge as they shared their journey since his diagnosis of MPA in October 2018. You may have read his story in the November-December VF newsletter and/or watched their video on the VF website. Sadly, Sam passed away on Saturday, December 28, surrounded by his family, after an ongoing battle with complications from vasculitis.

Sam and Helen attended the 2019 International Vasculitis Symposium and quickly captured our hearts with their positive attitude toward life and living. Sam joined our Facebook forum and jumped in to ask questions, offer support and encouragement to other patients battling vasculitis. We have all been touched by their kindness and concern for others in the vasculitis community. Sam marveled at the tenacity of everyone dealing with vasculitis.

We are all saddened by his death and offer our heartfelt condolences to Helen and their sons and family.

In September, Sam and Helen volunteered to be a part of our Join Our Journey Campaign and we are grateful for all their support. Below is their story.  Sincerely, Joyce A. Kullman, executive director of the VF

By Nina Silberstein

Sam Dodge spent much of his working life as an ad cameraman, and he collects antique motion-picture cameras, so it’s not surprising that he thinks in terms of film metaphors.

Sam was diagnosed last year with microscopic polyangiitis (MPA), and he describes the experience like this: “Sometimes I feel as if we are all living a slow-motion British murder mystery and we patients are the potential victims,” Sam said. “The good news is that the researchers, clinics and the doctors are the detectives. They are so good at what they do, and they give all of us great hope.”

In April of 2018, Sam and his wife, Helen, set out to live on a barge and cruise the canals of England for six months. Life had different plans for them. “My first heavy, crippling symptoms showed up on Day 1 in England,” Sam explained. “It was soul-crushing fatigue and edema (swelling) in both my feet.”

After their trip, the Dodges went home to Washington state. Sam, then 74, saw his regular doctor, but despite extensive testing, the medical team was stumped. He was referred to a rheumatologist and was diagnosed with MPA within four months of returning home.

“I’m just really lucky that he was the first (rheumatologist) and he hit it right on,” Sam said. He was prescribed prednisone, a drug called mycophenolate, and Rituxan®, a biologic drug given by infusion. He gets fatigued but is managing his treatment well.

After 33 years of marriage and raising two sons together, Helen acknowledges her husband’s diagnosis has changed the dynamics of their relationship. “I’ve had to develop a lot of patience,” Helen said. “But I am so blessed with good health, I feel like I can pick up the slack, no problem.”

Sam Dodge was diagnosed with vasculitis in October 2018 and he shares what he has learned about the disease in that time. His wife, Helen, also offers her perspective as a caregiver who has also learned to adjust to a new normal. The conversation is led by Beth Westbrook, Director of Development for the Vasculitis Foundation.

Join Our Journey: Support Our Campaign for Better Treatments

Vasculitis researchers around the world are working to find better, smarter treatments. You can help fund vasculitis research by supporting our Annual Appeal. This year’s appeal is focused on Better Treaments, which is the second pillar of our three-year Join Our Journey campaign.

Please support our Annual Appeal by making a donation or setting up an online fundraising page through MobileCause or Facebook. Your support can make a difference for people like Sam.