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Grandma in the Lion’s Den

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Written by Dr. Martin C. Wesley

I am currently reading a book by renowned author and Harvard psychology professor, Dr. Stephen Pinker entitled Enlightenment Now: A Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress. This book is a follow-up to his groundbreaking The Better Angels of our Nature, where he shows that our assumptions of the world is falling apart or going to “hell in a handbasket” are all wrong. Instead he shows that we are truly living is the best of times and that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge and happiness are all on the rise.

We all have a tendency of viewing our present circumstances, the current politics, cultural values and more as devolving instead of taking us to better times, to peace and toward values where all people are loved and valued. We look at the future with fear and anxiety and long for the good ole days, which often were not so good.

This reminds me of my grandmother. Her name was Doreen and her maiden name was Martin. I was named after her family. When I was growing up in Arizona, my grandparents would often come to visit. They would bring their camper which was so large, I wondered how their truck didn’t tip over with any gust of wind. When I was about eight or nine years old, they took me and my brother to the Phoenix Zoo. I believe my mom was there with us and my baby sister who was in her stroller. We walked through half of the park and came to the lion and tiger exhibits. Most of the time these zoo animals rarely give you a good show. Often, animals are hiding or sleeping but not today. Today the large male lion was making some noise and roaring at the crowd. My grandma pulled out her Kodak instamatic camera and with limited vision, started moving closer to the lion exhibit. What she didn’t see was that she was walking toward a sloped flower and shrubbery bed that was faced with raised railroad ties. Grandma tripped on these ties and fell straight down into this lowered shrubbery bed beside the lion’s area. Grandma was now head first, wearing a dress and her legs lifted in the air. All the while, the lion becomes louder and louder with his roars and grandma is screaming, thinking she just fell in the lion’s den and she is now on the menu. My grandpa was trying to help my grandma up, but also trying to keep her dress closed as that was probably worse for grandma that being eaten alive by the lion.

Soon, with the help of some other zoo patrons, my grandmother was lifted out of the bed. She was disoriented and scratched up from the shrubs but soon saw that her fear of being a lion burger was unfounded. Later, she could see the humor in the confrontation with the lion and would laugh at the incident. I should also mention that grandma got a great picture of the lion before she went down!

We all have a tendency to believe that we are falling into the lion’s den. Often, we are also in the midst of true oppression or distress, experiencing the loss of a loved one or have been experiencing failing health. Yet, there is hope and often opportunities exist to overcome and become stronger. I became a licensed professional counselor and a professor because I love lifting people up and guiding them out of their own lion’s den. I love helping people out of addiction, family dysfunction or out of feelings of depression because they see no hope for the future. If you are like me and want to help people out of their own lion’s den, please reach out to me or others at Argosy University who can help you in your next adventure.


Dr. Martin C. Wesley is a Licensed Professional Counselor and the Associate Chair of the College of Counseling, Psychology and Social Sciences in Florida at Argosy University, Sarasota and Argosy University, Tampa. Feel free to reach out to Dr. Wesley at mcwesley@argosy.edu. ###

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Rare Disease Awareness

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She was a beautiful child. She was so good-looking that her cuteness was almost a caricature. Her blonde hair fell straight onto her shoulders, with bangs that were cut to reveal her forehead, accentuating her big blue eyes. Her nose was small and turned up ever so slightly. She was petite, even for a seven-year-old. She looked me straight in the eye nearly continuously and was almost always smiling. Her mood was one of happiness and she was a joy to be around. If a cartoonist had set out to convey his conception of a living doll, this might have been the result. There were a lot of toys available in the room, but her attention was exclusively directed toward me. She seemed to be oblivious to the presence of her mother or the female doctoral student also in the room with us.

The child’s mother reported that her daughter loved music. With very little instruction the girl seemed to just intuitively know how to play the piano, her mother noted with some pride. The child had been a colicky infant, but she developed language remarkably well, and perhaps a little early, and she was now quite verbal. Despite some fine motor problems, the child was quite social in school, although mostly oriented toward the adults.

She continued to ignore the room full of toys and started climbing onto my lap. I have performed a great number of psychological assessments, but this is the only time that this happened. I must have looked startled.

“This is what happens,” her mother said. “She is overly friendly with strangers. She took a strange man’s hand in the mall and asked if she could go with him. Fortunately, I was right there.”

My student and I asked a few diagnostically important questions to evaluate some important hypotheses. There did not appear to be a history of abuse or exploitation, although the child was clearly at great risk. We could identify no other relevant psychological factors to explain the child’s profound impairment of social boundaries. We had no solution to this puzzle.

The mother revealed that she has been distressed by the child’s behavior for several years. The pediatrician thought that the child was mildly uncoordinated, but otherwise physically healthy. This family’s experience in the ambiguous world of rare disease had begun.

I had been involved in the broader issue of rare disease for many years through my association with the communities affected by Gaucher Disease and other lysosomal disorders. However, those experiences did not help me to understand this child. My rare disease experiences did tell me, though, that well-defined, enduring observations that appear to have little relationship with each other, may have a common cause.

Science, I learned many years ago, attempts to describe, explain, predict, modify, and control observed phenomena. And a good theory will explain the observations in the simplest manner. “A good theory is parsimonious,” I can still hear my professor saying. The answers are here, if we can only ask the right questions. And then we must separate the signal from the noise.


The Gaucher Disease experience, to use the example of the most common lysosomal disorder, required scientists to explain how a large spleen may be related to a painful leg, or how a nosebleed may be related to a flask-shaped long bone. All of those observations are united by a single explanatory theory: A diagnosis of Gaucher Disease. And in retrospect, when a diagnosis is confirmed, it is easy to wonder how it had ever been missed.

But the reality is that rare disorders are, well, really rare. The constellation of indicators is present, and evident to multiple observers. But the explanation is not handed to us. In a movie, the sets, costumes, props, dialogue, effects, and even the music are integrated to tell us a story. A scientist has a collection of observations, but no narrator to tell him where to look.

My young patient did not come to the clinic with a book about her life. Could there be a single theory to describe and explain my observations? I could not flip ahead to see how it all turns out. I would be helping to write her life’s story, and I am not ashamed to say that I too was distressed by the ambiguity. Families affected by rare disorders commonly wait almost five years until someone puts the pieces together. And a delay of decades is not uncommon.

Psychologists have some very good science-based methods of assessment, at least with regard to the most common issues affecting children and adolescents. Yet there was no single test or algorithm to put the observations together for us with this child. We still had observations that represented ill-fitted puzzle pieces. What does it mean for a good looking and happy child with a history of colic to have a friendly personality, exceptional musical ability, some impaired coordination, and an extraordinary absence of apprehension around strangers?

I derive a very special type of joy from seeing a student do our work better than me. And my almost-a-psychologist student developed the explanation that we call a theory or, as in this case, a diagnosis. As my student discovered, hidden within the pages of references on behavioral genetics, fewer than 1 in 10,000 people will have a certain deletion on chromosome 7. And such people are sometimes described as elfin, musical, and socially uninhibited.

There is a certain satisfaction, but also some distress in learning that the symptoms fit a known pattern. At a follow-up meeting, the mother cried when we told her that the constellation of her daughter’s characteristics matched Williams Syndrome, one of the rare genetic disorders.

According to the National Organization for Rare Disorders,

People with rare diseases have tremendous unmet needs, including misdiagnosis, a long time to finally receive a correct diagnosis, and when they do, 95% have no treatment with ZERO CURES (http://rarediseaseday.us/).

Research will help us to find the answers. And we have a lot of work yet to do.


Author Bio

Dr. Wayne Rosenfield worked for many years in Connecticut to develop and implement inpatient treatment programs for persons with chronic and debilitating mental disorders. His interest in addressing the most intense problems led him to disaster mental health deployments with the Red Cross following the 2001 terrorist attacks, and then to crisis work in hospital emergency departments. He was again with the Red Cross in Newtown the day after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Engaged with Connecticut’s response to Sandy Hook he was part of a statewide initiative to treat trauma in children. Having relocated to Florida, he is part of a research team examining a novel treatment for combat PTSD, and he performs psychological assessments for a group practice. He is a frequent speaker in the US and internationally on the subject of rare diseases. He is an adjunct instructor at Argosy University Sarasota , who teaches School Psychology in the College of Education . His highly rated book, Great Necessities, is available on Amazon.com.

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Fuchs North America Announces New Additions to Management Team with Argosy University Alumnus

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Fuchs North America, a leading maker of seasonings, flavor systems and taste solutions for the food manufacturing, retail and food service industries, announces the appointment of Marty Lev as the company’s new director of supply chain. Martin graduated from Argosy University, Sarasota in 2015. He earned his Doctor of Business Administration with a concentration in Management. See the full story here ...

http://www.prweb.com/releases/2018/01/prweb15065222.htm

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