It was a different kind of gift.
For years, members of the Body Imaging team in Radiology and Radiological
Sciences exchanged small presents at holiday time.
Last year they decided to do something different after learning that Mark
Arildsen, the 15-year-old son of the chief of Body Imaging, Ron Arildsen, M.D., had been
diagnosed with cystic fibrosis in Sept. 2009.
Ricardo Fonseca, M.D., assistant professor of Radiology and Radiological
Sciences, pitched the idea for the team to collect the money they would usually
spend on gifts for each other and donate to the Pediatrics Cystic Fibrosis Fund
through the Partners in Health campaign. Partners in Health allows staff and
faculty members to donate to areas of interest throughout the Medical Center.
“It made sense to me, instead of us exchanging small gifts why don’t we pool our money and give it to a cause more meaningful to us,” Fonseca said.
“Everyone agreed and said, ‘I don’t need another box of chocolate at the end of the year or a book that I may or
may not read.’ Everyone kept saying it is so much more meaningful to give to a cause that is
really personal to one of us.”
The diagnosis of cystic fibrosis caught the Arildsen family by surprise. Most
cases of the genetic disease affecting the lungs are diagnosed much earlier in
Ron Arildsen and his wife, Mary Ann Thompson Arildsen, M.D., Ph.D., assistant
professor of Pathology and medical director of the Hematology Laboratory,
noticed Mark having a chronic cough that was getting worse, but several
pediatricians attributed his symptoms to allergies.
While on a Boy Scout trip in the mountains of New Hampshire, Mark fell and broke
his forearm. When he returned to Nashville, his parents took him to a pediatric orthopaedists
“We brought him down to Vanderbilt and when the orthopaedic surgeon was putting
him in the cast, he said that his fingernails were clubbed, and this is
something you find with someone who has chronic lung disease,” Ron said.
After going through various tests Mark was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis and
Arildsen said that Mark’s pulmonary doctor, Elizabeth Perkett, M.D., and the whole cystic fibrosis team
took “really good care of us.” So when he heard that his co-workers had donated to the cystic fibrosis fund he “thought it was an awesome idea.”
“I think encouraging people [to donate] is a great way to say you care.”
The treatments that followed the diagnosis have already made a difference in
Mark’s life. The continual clearing out of mucous has subsided his cough and improved his
“I remember when I was in medical school the prognosis for children with cystic
fibrosis was worse,” Ron said. “You can’t make the disease go away, but it sure made us feel better about it knowing
that treatment has improved greatly and that research is moving forward.”
Fonseca and the Body Imaging team plan to keep giving to the cystic fibrosis
fund every year. “I intend to ask my colleagues to donate a little more every year,” he said.