Robin M. Schrader
I’m the Vice President at the National MALS Foundation. As far back as I can remember, growing up in the beautiful state of Maryland, I always had issues with eating and had pain in my side and a feeling of lightheadedness when running or doing intense exercise. I just figured this was normal. After high school, I joined the U.S. Army, after which I earned my Bachelor of Science in Social Work in Tennessee and my Masters of Social Work in Illinois. I then moved to the Florida Keys where my journey to a MALS diagnosis began. My symptoms worsened and I sought treatment. Doctors told me I might have multiple sclerosis, but no one seemed to know what was really wrong--they just ran expensive tests that were always “normal.” So, I stopped looking and kept living. Years went by and all I knew was that I was young, thin, athletic, in shape, and appeared to be healthy...yet, I had pain when eating, chest pressure like an elephant was sitting on me, blood pressure that was out of control, constant nausea, and significant gastrointestinal issues. I felt like I was dying. When I passed out at work I went to the closest walk-in clinic. The on-call doctor changed the course of my life by ordering an MRA of my abdomen and pelvis, and finally, I had a correct diagnosis of MALS! I had successful open surgery with Dr. Kenneth Cherry at UVA and then four years later, after my artery recompressed due to scar tissue and a weakened artery, I had my second open surgery with the same surgeon. He and his team performed the world’s first omentum fat wrap around the celiac artery. Three years after that, I recompressed again, and this time my surgeon contacted Dr. Ziv Haskal, an Interventional Radiologist at UVA who placed two stents from my abdominal aorta into the celiac artery and from the celiac artery into the splenic artery. My journey has been a particularly long one, but I am grateful to have a medical team that will always work to find the right solutions for me. I’ve spent my career as a clinical social worker advocating and helping others. I’m excited to be a part of this organization to help advocate for MALS awareness, diagnostic protocols, and appropriate treatment options for fellow MALS patients.