Once a man, always the man – Martine Rothblatt
It is strange that with all of the technological advancements in communication, truly inspirational people seem hard to come by. I have felt that my generation lacked a strong, ethical, inspiration person to act as a social and professional mentor. I think my wait is over.
Martine Rothblatt is awesome. Truly.
Upon graduating college in 1981 (summa cum laude in communication studies) she was off to the races inventing and developing all sorts of satellite technology including GeoStar, Worldspace, and finally Sirius Satellite Radio. This pursuit was driven by a childhood dream where she envisioned little, mini satellite dishes inside cars around the world. With her skills in technology and law firmly in hand, she was able to navigate the complicated international legal and contractual jungles that would have impeded the creation of what I enjoy listening to every morning and afternoon, every day. (Bababooey Bababooey)
During this amazing set of accomplishments she got married and had four kids. At this point in life most people say, “Ok, I’m awesome and I am going to coast out from here”. Four kids with nothing else going on is enough to send most adults clean off a bridge. Not Martine.
For the first four decades of her life she was a man, Martin Rothblatt, who had earned law and business degrees, helped found three satellite companies, started a family and had four kids. In 1992 he underwent a sex-change operation to become Martine. Yo go girl.
This transition can often be character-defining. I found it interesting that in all the articles I read that were written about her, this portion of her life is but a minor blip on the screen. As it should be. I’ll move on.
In 1993 her 10 year old daughter, Jenesis, found herself gasping for air when barely exerting herself. Activities like walking to the bus would drain her so intensely that her lips would turn blue and she would pass out. The diagnosis was a rare condition called pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), a rare and fatal disease that is caused when the artery between the heart and lungs is damaged. Her doctors gave her 30 months to live. Ho-ly shit. I can not imagine the stress, fear, anger and deep sadness that Martine and her wife, Bina, must have felt. I really can not imagine it.
Most of us live life in the direction that the current takes us. Some may be better swimmers, some may swim in unique ways, some need a little help swimming, but almost all of us are flowing in the direction that the current pulls us. For Martine and her family, it seemed that the current of life was pulling young Jenesis to a very dark and dire place. What does a parent do when they see their daughter slowly slipping through their fingers? Well, if you are Martine Rothblatt you sell all your satellite stock, quick get a PhD and start a brand new company that specializes in treating a curing rare diseases, specifically pulmonary arterial hypertension… and you do it damn quick.
Like all things in a capitalist, consumer society, medicine is business. Treating rare diseases equates to small opportunities. If there isn’t a fat margin in it for the Pharma Industry then you are screwed and you can go find your own cure. Well, ok then. I will!
Martine was off to the races, starting a foundation and later creating a biotech firm that would pool resources and gather the talent that would search for a cure. Leveraging her skills and intellect, she was able to find a way to develop and manufacture treatments that would not only be effective, but would also turn a profit and attract investors and talent. Her company, United Therapeutics, has since developed a drug called Remodulin which is a synthetic version of natural chemicals that allow blood vessels to open up. Within a year of the drugs approval in 2002, annual sales were $50 million, rising to $300 million last year. Shares of United Therapeutics are up 800% since the company went public in 1999 and have doubled in the past year because of hopes for a new inhaled version of Remodulin. In short, she is kicking ass, taking names and providing treatments to those that would have had no option 10 years ago.
Jenesis is now 26 years old, healthy and the whole damn story is just awesome. She now works with United Therapeutics managing online meetings that take place in the online world of Second Life. Apparently all 400 employees are accessible to each other and often meet up in virtual town hall meetings.
Any parent would do whatever they could for their child in need. Most of us are a prisoner to our perceived limitations. Martine Rothblatt sees no limitations and is therefore not bound by any. Yo go girl.
No related posts found