Couple Makes Extraordinary Commitment
For more than a decade, Liz Ellrodt has fought the pain, stiffness and exhaustion that come with rheumatoid arthritis. Still, she says she is lucky because she was referred early on to a fantastic rheumatologist, William J. Arnold, MD, of the Illinois Bone and Joint Institute. Not long after that, she and her husband, Scott Schweighauser, decided to take an active role in the efforts to find a cure for RA.
When Liz was first diagnosed, she was a healthy, active mom of two young boys. She didn’t understand how she could have a “grandmother’s disease”. Then, Liz began her education about rheumatoid arthritis and was shocked by the misperceptions and lack of understanding. “I realized quickly that I was living with a silent disease,” she says. “I didn’t look or act sick, so even my closest friends couldn’t fathom that I was struggling to pull myself out of bed every morning or accomplish simple tasks without pain and exhaustion.”
With the help of Dr. Arnold, Liz learned more about her disease and how to keep it under control. Having previously been treated for infertility and spending time with children in neonatal units, Liz says she and her husband knew it was critical to find the best specialist, ask questions, do their homework and engage where possible to help others. So, when Dr. Arnold told them about the Rheumatology Research Foundation, they jumped at the opportunity to make a difference. “When we learned how underfunded rheumatology was from a research standpoint relative to other diseases and how challenging it was to encourage current medical students to enter the field, we were moved to get involved with the Foundation,” Liz says.
Liz and Scott have been leaders in supporting the Foundation, making a $1.25 million commitment. “It takes significant commitments like ours to make significant progress,” says Liz. She adds they know their donation will go directly toward research that will help rheumatologists better understand and manage the disease, leading to better treatments and possibly even a cure. Liz adds that research grants supported by their donation will also encourage more doctors to choose rheumatology as a specialty. “Our hope is that our support might someday spare others from developing the disease and ensure that those who do always have access to superb rheumatologists.”