Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Betty Mekdeci - Birth Defects Registry for Children
By Jim Belshaw
If there is a moment that represents the long battle Betty Mekdeci fought to shine a light on the origins of birth defects, it might be when a court’s representative wrote to her about an Agent Orange project she proposed. She was told it was far beyond her ability. It was simply too big. “Awesome,” the letter said. She could not possibly do it.
“That made me so angry,” she said. “You just didn’t tell me that I couldn’t do something. It made me really mad.”
She had been engaged in the fight for birth defect information for some years. She was the co-founder and executive director of Birth Defect Research for Children, Inc. She had been in courtrooms, going up against high-powered opposing attorneys and, in some cases, even her own attorneys. She didn’t do well in those court cases. Then someone told her she wouldn’t do well on her own, either.
“I had been thinking a lot about birth defect research globally, why we couldn’t learn anything, why typical studies didn’t work, and how the major causes of birth defects had been discovered. They had all been discovered by cluster identification or what we call an Alert Practitioner, who is someone who starts seeing a number of unusual birth defects. Then they look into the background of these cases and find a common factor.”
She set out to create her own Alert Practitioner, one involving thousands of people, people who were desperate to learn about birth defects.
Birth Defect Research for Children is a non-profit organization providing parents with information about birth defects and support services for children. The BDRC sponsors the National Birth Defect Registry, a research project that studies the links between birth defects and a number of causes, among them exposure to Agent Orange, an issue of particular note to Vietnam veterans.
Her interest in birth defects began in 1975, when her son was born with birth defects. Eventually, she would link those defects to a drug she had been prescribed (along with many other women) – Bendectin. Her efforts would lead to the removal of Bendectin from the world market. The initial search for information began with Betty and her mother.
In 1982, she and her husband, Mike, founded the Association of Birth Defect Children, now called Birth Defect Research for Children.
Read more at: http://vva.org/Faces_Of_AO/Mekdeci031610.pdf
Significant numbers of Vietnam veterans have children and grandchildren with birth defects related to exposure to Agent Orange. To alert legislators and the media to this ongoing legacy of the war, we are seeking real stories about real people. If you wish to share your family’s health struggles that you believe are due to Agent Orange/dioxin, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 301-585-4000, Ext. 146.