What is MDS?

Well, if you’re like me, you’ve probably never heard of it before. Unfortunately, In the past few months I’ve learned a lot about it, it stands for Myelodysplastic syndrome, that’s a long, complicated way of saying someone is not producing enough red blood cells to maintain good health.

Here’s what it says on Wikipedia:

The myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS, formerly known as preleukemia) are a diverse collection of hematological (blood-related) medical conditions that involve ineffective production (or dysplasia) of the myeloid class of blood cells. Patients with MDS often develop severe anemia and require frequent blood transfusions. In most cases, the disease worsens and the patient develops cytopenias (low blood counts) due to progressive bone marrow failure. In about one third of patients with MDS, the disease transforms into acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), usually within months to a few years.[1] The myelodysplastic syndromes are all disorders of the stem cell in the bone marrow. In MDS, hematopoiesis (blood production) is disorderly and ineffective. The number and quality of blood-forming cells decline irreversibly, further impairing blood production.

I know all this now because my dad, Ralph Manheim, had it. He was chugging away into his old age, very healthy, very vital, no health problems (other than some hearing loss and GERD). He was going along strong until May 21, 2012 when he was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia and seriously low hemaglobin. Who knew that eight weeks later he’d leave us and go home to heaven?

Why am I telling you this? As it works out, there are many different types of leukemias. (Yes, there are different types!) MDS is one for which little research has been done because it mostly affects senior citizens, and when it comes to research dollars, most of them go towards understanding and curing leukemias that affect young people. That’s completely understandable, but let’s also invest in understanding what makes MDS occur in a completely healthy senior, and discover better ways to treat it. Please consider a donation to: http://www.mds-foundation.org in memory of Ralph Manheim, my father.


The birthday boys! Dad and his twin enjoying their 81st birthday together.


Here he is! Age 82 having a grand time at Niagara Falls.


Age 83. Dad loved all our Italian relatives (even though he couldn’t speak Italian!) Here he is hosting Sunday dinner for our cousin Sabrina’s first trip to America.


Age 84. Here he is dancing with my nephew’s new wife, Diana, and cutting a rug with my other nephew, Chris.


Age 85 (in a couple of months).  A  good athlete in his youth, he couldn’t resist playing Whiffle Ball with us, and showing pretty good form! No reason to think he wouldn’t continue to enjoy a long, healthy life.


4th of July, almost 86, we had a pleasant day together. We never would have thought he would go to heaven twelve days later, that seems so unfair.

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