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On Jan. 11, my 27-year-old husband, Rick, a marathon runner, died suddenly and, to my mind, inexplicably. One week later I met with the attending physician to discuss the autopsy report. It read in part, "probable Marfan syndrome." However, the physician never answered my question: What is this syndrome? Thank you for a well-written and very informative article (Marfan Syndrome: A Silent Killer, Feb. 17). I learned more from Richard Demak than I did from the six physicians who were in the emergency room at the time my husband died.
Fort Wayne, Ind.

My wife, Joyce, suffers from Marfan syndrome and has undergone the surgical procedure that you described. For her, the problem was discovered perhaps only days before it would have become fatal. Because of a prompt and accurate diagnosis, followed by some very skillful surgery, she has been able to resume a productive, if somewhat sedentary, life-style.

Coincidentally, your magazine arrived on the day of our fifth wedding anniversary. It underscored how fortunate we have been to be able to continue enjoying not only life's everyday pleasures but also its once-in-a-life-time thrills—like seeing Flo Hyman perform in her sport. Our prayers and condolences go to her family.
Staten Island, N.Y.

I just had to write and thank you for Richard Demak's article on Marfan syndrome. It very well may have saved our son's life. Marc read the story and then told me, "Mom, I think you had better read this. It sounds a lot like me."

After reading the piece, I took him to the doctor, who carefully listened to us tell about what we had learned. He also thought there was a chance we were right, so he ordered an ultrasound examination of Marc's heart. Last Friday we learned the results: Marc does indeed have Marian's.

Marc is 16 and an avid sports fan. He plays basketball and tennis at North Side High. We don't know what this will mean to his future, but thanks to stories like the one in your magazine, he has a future.
Fort Wayne, Ind.

There is another victim of Marian's, at Colorado State University. He is Justin Shurtleff, a 7-foot sophomore from Springville, Utah, who was diagnosed and treated before he was able to compete at the college level. Thanks to the surgical technique described in the story, Justin is able to lead a normal college life at Colorado State. Basketball coach Tony McAndrews has kept Justin on scholarship, which shows that there are college coaches who put their players' welfare before their own win-loss records.
Fort Collins, Colo.

Your article on Marfan syndrome interested me because of the reference to President Abraham Lincoln as perhaps having the disorder.

On the night that he was assassinated, the contents of Lincoln's pockets, including two pairs of reading glasses, were given to his widow. They were later handed down within the family until they were donated to the Library of Congress in 1937. The box containing his personal effects was left unopened until the anniversary of his birth in 1976.

I had the privilege of being there when the Librarian of Congress opened the box, and I inspected the President's eyeglasses. I found them to be ordinary reading glasses of powers appropriate to a man of his age, thus ruling out the President's having severe myopia, one sign of Marian's. However, another common finding of Marfan syndrome is dislocated lenses—usually upward displacement of the lens in one or both eyes—that may be evident only upon close examination. If only one lens is dislocated, double vision and misaligned eyes may result. Lincoln did report an incidence of double vision, which may have been caused by a dislocated lens. Pictures of him, however, show he had aligned eyes, so it is difficult to tell for sure if he had Marfan syndrome.

The point to be made is that a simple eye examination can reveal these symptoms of Marfan's, and every athlete should have such an exam.

I am enclosing a photo of Lincoln's glasses and glass cases, along with other optical items of the day. The round clamshell-like object was used to clean lenses, while the brass optometer, supplied by Franklin & Co. of Washington, maker of one pair of Lincoln's glasses, is the kind probably used to measure the President's eyes for proper lenses.
Director, Optometry Service
Department of Medicine and Surgery
Veterans Administration
Washington, D.C.



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