Talk of the Times with JoAnn Spalnick

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Talk of the Times with JoAnn Spalnick

Staff writer Mauri Rapp talks with JoAnn Spalnick, organizer of the Third Annual Walk 2 Miles in My Shoes for RSD, which will take place Oct. 8 at McDade Park.

Age: 59

Residence: Jermyn

Family: Married to Michael Spalnick. The couple has one son, Steven, and a grandson, Tyler. A daughter of the late William and Elizabeth Sica, she has four siblings.

Background: Helped establish Coal Cracker Cruisers with her husband in 1999. Was employed as a quality control inspector at the former RCA plant in Dunmore when she was struck by a car in 1980. After several years of chronic pain, she was diagnosed with Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD), a neurological malfunction that causes the nervous system to send pain signals to the brain. She began the Walk 2 Miles in My Shoes event in 2003 to raise money for the research and treatment of RSD.

Q: How did you get the idea for Walk 2 Miles in My Shoes?

A: After the accident, I wanted to get awareness out about RSD. It affects over six million Americans, yet so many people still don’t know about it. The walk brings awareness not only to the people of Northeastern Pennsylvania, but also to doctors and nurses from the area that are still learning about the disease.

Q: Has it been difficult organizing the event?

A: I do what I can when I can do it, and I have had a lot of help. My family helps with refreshments, and local businesses also donate food.

Q: How many people will participate in the walk?

A: Last year, we had about 400 walkers, and we expect to have at least that many this year. We will also have a car cruise during the walk, and more than 72 cars will be on display. Administrators and nurses of Dr. Schwartzman, chairman of neurology at Drexel University College of Medicine, will be attending because all proceeds will go toward Dr. Schwartzman’s research for RSD.

Q: What would you like readers to know about the walk and about RSD?

A: The walk will be a great opportunity for us to raise money for awareness and research for RSD. Experts are unsure why certain people are more susceptible to RSD. The illness is caused by trauma to the nervous system, but it can be caused by something as minor as a sprain. Unfortunately, the symptoms can be similar to those of multiple sclerosis or lupus, so research is crucial to finding out why RSD occurs, and how to treat it.

Q: What do you like best about the event?

A: The event is exciting because I get to meet other people with RSD, trade stories with them about the illness and discuss treatments. The walk lets fellow RSD sufferers know that there is help out there and it helps more people find out about the illness.

Q: What else would you like readers to know about the Walk 2 Miles in My Shoes?

A: I want readers to know that we have a fun day planned. People bring their kids and dogs, and refreshments will be available. I also want fellow RSD patients to know that they must persevere with every breath and that word is getting out there about RSD.

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