Michael Rothman

Patient / Michael Rothman

This spring, the first Run or Walk With Mike 5K raised more than $30,000 to support neuropathy research at Columbia University Medical Center. Organized by CUMC patient Michael Rothman and his sisters, Rachel and Hilary, the event helped to raise awareness of chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP), a rare neurological condition that can cause progressive weakness, numbness, and loss of balance.

In 2010, 16-year-old Michael Rothman began to limp and had trouble performing simple tasks like opening a bottle. He was soon diagnosed with CIDP, which involves nerve swelling and irritation and can lead to permanent nerve function loss, leading some to become dependent on wheelchairs.

“All of a sudden I had to worry about a disease that I didn’t fully understand,” says Rothman. Before the onset of his illness, he was a typical teenager whose “main concerns were getting my driver’s license and making it to as many Yankee games as I could before the school year started.” Rothman, however, was fortunate to seek help early. Many people with CIDP are not diagnosed until they lose the ability to walk.

The idea for the 5K began a year ago, when his sister Rachel started running. She noticed many of her fellow runners were participating on behalf of a cause and wanted to use her new hobby to help her brother and other patients with CIDP. 

“I’m going to run all of 2012 in honor of Michael,” she told friends and family. Picking up sponsors along the way, Rachel was soon joined by several friends in an effort called Team Mike. Funds raised by the Team Mike runners support the Michael D. Rothman CIDP Research Fund at Columbia, which Michael and his parents established to show their appreciation to the physicians at CUMC, where Michael remains a patient.

The Rothmans soon decided to establish the Run or Walk With Mike 5K to further heighten neuropathy awareness. The inaugural event was held on May 20 in Stamford, CT, and attracted a crowd of hundreds, including Columbia Neuropathy Research Center directors Thomas Brannagan, M.D., and Louis Weimer, M.D., and their families. Michael crossed the finish line with the runners, and there were balloons, t-shirts, music, food and drink, and massage chairs for tired and sore muscles.

The Rothmans plan to hold the event again in 2013. In the meantime, Michael’s treatment has gone so well, virtually all of his symptoms are gone. He begins his senior year of high school this fall. Rachel and Team Mike recently completed a half marathon, and will continue running to raise awareness of neuropathy and support for the Columbia Neuropathy Research Center’s efforts to understand and find effective treatments for neuropathies of all types.

To learn more about how you can help advance neuropathy research and join Team Mike, visit the Team Mike website.

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