Okay, so I haven't been out much in the past ten years.
I've gone to two autism events during that time, one in San Francisco and one in Chicago. But when I heard that Generation Rescue and the Ryder Foundation were putting on a night of comedy at the Palace of Fine Arts Theater, near where I used to live in the Marina district of San Francisco I knew I had to go. This would be my third event.
For those of you unfamiliar with San Francisco, the Palace of Fine Arts Theater is a beautiful relic of the 1916 Pan Pacific Exposition designed to celebrate the opening of the Panama Canal. The theater probably seats somewhere under a thousand people and it shares the space with the Exploratorium, one of the country's most unique science musuems. I take my science students there every year on a field trip. It's a hands-on museum at which students can make their hair stand up straight by putting their hand on a Van de Graaf generator, or watch in fascinated horror as one of the volunteers dissect a cow's eye or sheep brain every half hour. It's the highlight of my school year.
I bought one of the expensive tickets which got me into the gourmet food and wine reception before the event and the dessert reception afterwards. As I walked from the car to the theater I saw a big, black stretch limousine (Jenny's?) and at the entrance there were a few photographers, men entering in suits, and tall, leggy women in six inch heels towering over me. I have to admit I felt a little out of place, almost like Frodo amongst a gathering of Men and Elves. (Yes, some of the women were so tall, slender, and endowed with such unearthly beautiful I'm convinced they represent a slightly more evolved race than our own!) But then again, San Francisco always has been a little different than the rest of the world.
Hanging around the entrance to the reception was a regular reader of Age of Autism who describes himself as my number one fan. I've now run into him at all three events I've attended. We greeted each other warmly and he told me I need to stop stalking him. He's a brilliant, unconventional thinker and I always look forward to our discussions. He's usually ahead of the curve in his areas of scientific interest and is one of the many people who make me appear smarter than I actually am.
I also met up with my brother-from-another-mother, J.B. Handley, only the second time we've seen each other in person. However, we e-mail a few times a week and talk regularly on the phone. Usually the conversation goes something like this, "Yes, Kent, that's a good idea but it would cost a lot of money and I'm not sure how much it will advance the cause." Then he reminds me how Generation Rescue is funding a vaccinated/unvaccinated study, paying for kids whose parents can't afford treatment, all while Jenny is trying to put together a television show to try to become the next Oprah Winfrey. We then swap stories about intriguing rumors of a retroviral connection to autism which might also explain some of the health problems of the mothers of many of the children.
I was a little taken aback when my brother-from-another-mother said he thought I was one of the most optimistic people in autism. It's curious because I don't consider myself an optimist. I just think that given enough time, resources, and thought human beings will find answers to even the most difficult questions. Yes, I expect there to be a lot of dead-ends, but there will eventually be solutions. Our children aren't suffering because of evil spirits or the wrath of God. Something isn't working properly in their bodies and we need to determine exactly what it is and fix it. Is that optimism or simply the way the world works?
I spent some time with one of the doctors who's worked with my daughter in the past and found she's also heard rumors about a retroviral connection to autism. Adding to the rumor mill she told me she thinks the scientists doing the research have a good idea of how to go after the virus, although that information hasn't yet been shared. She's not convinced the retroviral connection will be the entire story with autism and is waiting until there's good data on the treatments before suggesting them to her patients. Despite what's usually presented in the mainstream press regarding doctors who work with bio-medical treatments I rarely find them to be the wild-eyed radicals so often portrayed. They're generally serious, sober professionals and want to find the answers as much as any of us.
I was interviewed by a reporter for Natural News who's familiar with my work and I tell her the story of how I feel I've had the quickest autism recovery story with my son, Ben, and the longest and still unsuccessful recovery with my daughter, Jacqueline. I tell her I don't know if the problem was caused by a toxin, a bacterial or fungal infection, or a virus, but I know the chain of events started with a vaccination. When she asked whether I'm still hopeful for my daughter I said yes, because I'm not sure we've found what's wrong with her. If we can find and treat it I expect she'll get better, even though she's twelve years old. I recall how there were so many AIDS patients who were literally weeks away from death before they got their treatments and they're now living full, productive lives. Why should I expect our children to be any different?
The lights went down and we all moved to the auditorium for the show. Jenny came on the stage looking dazzling and let loose with a few zingers which let the audience know they're now among the warriors. The comedians, Whitney Cummings, Heather McDonald, Gary Valentine, and Josh Wolf were all hilarious and the local radio DJ, Sterling James did a great job as co-host of the event.
In the middle of the show there was a request for donations for families who can't afford treatment and of course I donated more than I thought was wise given my financial situation. But I didn't really care. As powerful as the forces of pharma and the medical establishment arrayed against us are I couldn't help but be inspired by the people around me. They are my heroes and we are bound together in a fellowship. I want to support them as much as I can.
As often as we rail against the bad guys, I think it's just as important to thank the good guys. Whether that's simply sending an e-mail to Generation Rescue expressing your appreciation for their efforts, or donating more money that you think is wise I strongly recommend it. We will all benefit from such help.
Generation Rescue can be reached HERE.
Kent Heckenlively is a Contributing Editor to Age of Autism