First and foremost, Inevitable Collision would not have been possible without the support of my family, friends, colleagues, and mentors mentioned throughout this story.
I want to thank my mother and father who helped bring this book to you by encouraging me to write it. I am grateful to the two of them for their constant and unconditional love for as long as I can remember, and for all that they have taught me about empathy, the art of working around obstacles, and the importance of just getting the job done. I am grateful to them both for being wonderful role models to me, my siblings, and now, to their twelve grandchildren.
There will always be a special place in my heart for my sister Tera, and my brother Brandon, who are my inspirations, and whose love and support sustained me throughout.
As for my husband Ron, I find it difficult to express my appreciation because it is so boundless. He is my most enthusiastic cheerleader; he is my best friend; and he is an amazing husband and father to our seven children. He came into my life through the eye of the storm and calmed it to a beautiful sunset sky. With his gentle nudge and guidance, he taught me to stand up for myself, and to never let anyone take advantage of my humility. Without his love and support, I would be lost.
And of course, my precious children which includes four biological children and three stepchildren. It’s hard to imagine this book being a reality without them. In fact, it is their bright smiles that put it all into perspective for me: Putting pen to paper to document this story and educate their generation on stem cell research is an important step in the right direction. But it’s still not enough. To save this generation of children, we must build a stronger commitment from each arm of our state and federal government, that will ensure safe and effective therapies reach our young and old without delay. My children remind me daily of all that is yet to be. Beyond this, I thank them for being so loving and patient during the months and years of research, writing and editing, and for being such bundles of joy and laughter throughout the entire process.
A grateful heart to the best — and most patient — baby-sitter my children could have ever hoped for, McKinley Perry. We are so proud of McKinley and her many accomplishments and wish her all the best in pharmacy school and beyond.
I have been blessed to be surrounded by a loving and supportive extended family. A special thank-you to the Armstrong, Overstreet, and Williams family members who never wavered from their endless love and support before, during, and afterward.
From my years at Clarke-Washington EMC and time spent with fellow communication specialists across the state, I want to thank manager Stan Wilson for having faith in me as a writer and for giving me the opportunity to share with our readers the amazing stories of folks living in southwest Alabama. Chellie Phillips, Michael Cornelison, Suzanne Harrell and Junior Carpenter just about had me convinced that I needed to stay at CWEMC forever.
And many thanks to Jason Boothe at the Washington County News and Jessica Ross of the Washington County Library who never once told me No if I asked for help with an article deadline, photo courtesy rights, or just to bounce around ideas — these two made the work-week a lot of fun.
I also owe a deep thank-you to Sandra Laton for encouraging me to pursue this project in the first place. Dana Massey, Tarah Olewski, and Dawn Hentz who have been incredible friends to me over the years. Their moral support has made all the difference. Mrs. Lou Schell of Chatom, author extraordinaire at the age of eighty-two, who inspired me to see this story through to publication no matter what obstacle may come my way.
Writing this book has also been a time of fantastic intellectual growth, fostered by a mix of wonderful learning environments from coast to coast beginning down south at the Shepherd Center, to Orange County, California’s UC-Irvine, all the way up the east coast to the big apple.
At Shepherd, the first person that I owe gratitude is Medical Director Dr. Donald Peck Leslie. There were numerous occasions when I felt disheartened and stumped about the direction of my research, but inevitably, a meeting with Dr. Leslie would reinvigorate my enthusiasm and raise my spirits immeasurably. He and his staff made my numerous visits to the Center productive and meaningful experiences for this story.
There would be no clinical trial or a potential treatment for spinal cord injury had it not been for the hard work and tenacious spirit of Dr. Hans Keirstead at UC-Irvine. Hans has been a source of inspiration to me and many others through his research career, and mentored thousands across the globe on the power and promise of stem cells. I still remember my first conversation with Hans where he explained his ideology for research. “Tory,” he said, “Always let the science lead.” And this has been his mantra ever since. A special thanks to Hans for reviewing the early drafts of the science chapters and making excellent suggestions that transformed these hard-to-read pages very understandable for the non-PhD’s like me.
I want to thank Dr. Paul Knoepfler at UC-Davis and Dr. Edward Wirth and Dr. Jane Lebkowski from Asterias Biotherapeutics, Inc. whose dedication to the research field is incredible. No acknowledgement can truly express how grateful Roman and I are to have gained their friendship and advice over the years.
Two other researchers who have had an important influence on me are UAB’s Dr. Timothy Wick and Dr. Joanne Murphy-Ullrich. They have both been wonderful collaborators and generous friends to our non-profit program AIM. I have learned a lot about clinical research through my involvement and friendship with them.
On the East Coast, I want to thank Brooke Ellison for being a hero to me and millions more. Brooke, a champion advocate for stem cell research, was among the first to offer support of our efforts in the deep south. And many thanks to the brilliant producer Todd Leatherman for sharing his passion for life and bringing awareness to all that our world encompasses. To David McKeon of the New York Stem Cell Foundation, I wish to say thank-you for your generosity during my visit to the NYSCF, and for the kind email sent to Bernie Siegel following our meeting.
An endless thanks to Susan Leon, a twenty-five year experienced editor and manuscript evaluator, for believing in me and reaffirming that I had an important story to share with the public. You enabled me to muster enough courage to translate my thoughts and ideas that formed this book, and I will forever be grateful for your hard work, patience, and editorial advice on this project.
A big thank-you to Jayne Woolf, Jennifer Quigley, Larry Bernstein, and the entire Mary Ann Liebert Publishing Team. I couldn’t have done this without you. And many thanks to our wonderful PR team, Melanie Scharler and Mara Wedeck, also know as the dynamic duo M&M.
To Vivo Biosciences, Inc. for providing the financial sponsorship for this book. Your support made everything possible. I have been touched and honored to work with the VBI team in this partnership for cures.
Thanks to AIM’s Board of Directors, Darlene Brandenburg, Jason Cosgrove, and Melissa King who have given a tremendous amount of time and energy to advance stem cell research in Alabama. Your wisdom, leadership, and commitment to AIM inspires us all.And last, but definitely first, I want to thank my mentor and great friend Roman Reed not just because he has given up so much to make medical care and cures a priority in our lives, but because he has seen me through the ups and downs of the entire advocacy and writing process. Tomorrow, on the official book launch day, Roman celebrates his 20th anniversary since being injured in a football game that resulted in paralysis. Roman has shared this amazing journey with me, so it only seems right that I dedicate this book to him.
Onwards and Upwards, always.
God bless! ~ Tory