Headache on the Hill - Wednesday
Good evening, everyone! We've probably all seen countless photos of the dome of the U.S. Capitol, but I have to tell you that there's something very exciting about actually being there and seeing it for yourself. I started today's visit to Capitol Hill sitting and mentally preparing myself for my meetings -- and looking at the view you see here. I thought about everyone who goes into that building to speak for their constituents and realized that, in a way, I was doing the same thing. I was there to speak not just for myself, but for all of you and our children and grandchildren. That realization sent the butterflies in my stomach scurrying away. I wasn't nervous any longer. All I had to do was go to my appointments, present the facts I had outlined, and speak for all of us. You were there with me, and your story, our story, was heard.
My first two appointments were in the Hart Senate Office Building. There's an absoutely fascinating sculpture, literally stories high, that sits in the middle of the building. Here's a look at it for you.
First stop - the office of Senator Robert C. Byrd. Senator Byrd will mark 50 years in the Senate next year; he's the longest serving Senator in history. Walking into his office really was like walking into a little piece of my home state of West Virginia.
In Senatory Byrd's office, I met with Legislative Assistant Chris Gould. (It's actually a good thing to meet with a legislative assistant. They have areas of interest (health, in this case) assigned to them, and they report to the senators and bring issues to their attention. LA's have more time to talk with us and are easier to reach than the senators.) Talking with Chris was fun. We're both familiar with the West Virginia cities where the other grew up. He was surprised by the statistics on headache and Migraine prevalence, but he mentioned Migraines with out headache before I'd said much. Impressive. That made talking with him easier. I found myself sitting on the edge of my chair as I told him just how severely debilitating headache and Migraine can be and how desperately we need the kind of reserach the NIH funds. Good meeting.
Then it was up two floors to the office of Senator Jay Rockefeller (John D. Rockefeller, IV). Today was not a convenient day for my visit for his staff. They were hard at work preparing for the Senate vote on the State Children's Health Insurance Programme (S-Chip). This is key legislation, and if the program is not continued by the passing of the bill, many children are going to be left without healthcare. President Bush has said he'l veto this bill, which passed in the House on Tuesday, and the Senate is expected to pass it tomorrow.
I had been scheduled to meet with Legislative Assistant Jocelyn Moore, but with the S-Chip work underway, met with Legislative Correspondent Heidi Schmieder instead. Senator Rockefeller is highly interested in health issues, and Heidi kindly gave me her time and attention so she could brief the Senator.
As I left Heidi, it was time to hurry to the Rayburn House Office Building to meet with Legislative Assistant Sean Maroney in Congressman Alan B. Mollohan's office. When I arrived, Congressman Mollohan was headed to the floor for a vote, but stopped to speak for a moment. Legislative Assistant Sean Maroney and I discussed the statistics as well as the human side and the potentialy debilitating impact of headache and Migraine and what Congressman Mollohan can do to help us. Jill, the Congressman's scheduler had heard part of our conversation, and I stayed a bit to talk with her about the "headaches" she gets from barometric pressure changes.
Overall, I think it was a productive day. Are we going to see immediate changes in NIH funding for headache and Migraine research? No, we're not. Appropriations for 2008 have been in the works for some time now and are probably pretty well set. We're asking that some changes begin with 2009 appropriations. I haven't had a chance to see how others did in their meetings today, but feel positive about mine. I think we have a foot in the door, and if I need or want to go back and talk about this next year, I've now made contact.
Tomorrow, I'm going to the HealthCentral offices for the day. I'll finally get to meet Dan, our site producer, and the other people there with whom I've been working all these months but have never met in person. About time! I'll fill you in tomorrow evening.
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