One of our original RSDS Advocates, Mary LaBree, passed away on October 15, 2015 due to complications from Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD). Mary exemplified commitment to the RSD community for over 3 decades. As the Director of the New England RSDS Coalition since 1990, Mary sought to educate and bring awareness to the public and private sectors for the disease that was virtually unheard of back then. Originally from Leicester, Massachusetts, she was formally educated at Worcester State University in Worcester, Massachusetts.
Mary secured the JULY Proclamation for RSDS To urge all of the citizens of the Commonwealth to take cognizance of this event and participate fittingly in its observance. Given at the Executive Chamber in Boston, the twenty-fourth of June in the year two thousand and eleven, and of the Independence of the United States of America, the two hundred and thirty forth.” Massachusetts Bill # 5938
She worked both locally in Massachusetts and Nationally.
Mary formed and lead seminars, attended others, developed awareness events, distributed information and educational materials. She spoke with patients, caregivers, physicians, hospitals, insurance companies, fellow educators, universities, other peer groups, and those with an interest to learn about Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy. She was involved with grants, research and fundraising.
When Mary LaBree began advocating for RSD in the 1980’s the term Complex Regional Pain Syndrome hadn’t been created. While other names had been used previously to describe Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (Syndrome) it was most often referred to as RSDS.
In 2012, she reached out to me and a friendship formed. We shared phone calls, messages and correspondence by snail mail. Mary sent me a copy of the photo of she and other’s of the original signing of her proclamation and a copy of the verbiage used to secure her proclamations. I’m privileged to know what Mary looks like. For now, I’ll not share those, nor have I ever. She shared with me 30+ years of everything. How she started, how she educated, how other RSD organizations began, her children, grandchildren, colleagues, the strength it takes to endure; not just in living with pain, but being a part of it.
If you pray, why worry… If you worry, why pray?
I had plans to meet her in person twice. The first time she had to return home early. I was supposed to meet her again toward the end of October or into mid-November. I had just spoken to her less than a week before her passing.
- October 8
I was in the hospital yesterday, I had an accident with my wheelchair when I tried to back it up ( standing in front of it. ) (Stupid me )when I pushed the button to back it up.. I pushed it the wrong way..And ran over my LEDs from the ankles to the knees. I was really blessed when the ER Dr. Asked what other problems did I have, & when I explained CRPS He said oh Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome , I said yes. He treated me with kindness & care. I’m going to send him a thank you card. He was really kind. You don’t always find a kind caring Dr..pls pray for me to recover. I have a lot of CRPS work to do. I will be leaving for CA in a few weeks. Ty.M
- October 9
You’re always in my thoughts and prayers for your health, and your work, Mary. I do hope to meet you in November. xx
- October 10
Hi, Yes I’m looking forward to meeting you as well. I leave Oct 23 on. Friday. A lil less then 2 wks.I will call u sometime on the weekend after I arrive, hugs & lots of love.M
- October 12
I’m sorry I had a mistake that I didn’t want to have a group pls forgive me, as I pressed the wrong thing, & didn’t realize it until someone told me.
The next message on Oct 12, I missed due to being away and my IM being flooded and then she was gone. I was on the road to and from the Stanford Transplant Clinic for our daughter on the 15th and in the Emergency Department on the 16th due to my cervical spine. Trying to save the puppies life all in between.
The last message was in reference to an accidental group IM.
I had been wondering if she would want to make the plans to meet at the NERVEmber, West Coast Pain Forum for Power of Pain Foundation on November 14th. All I knew for certain is she planned to be here in Northern California on the 23rd of October and would call me.
I wish she would have received more nominations, but mine was the only one for her. She was most deserving.
We never know for certain where our conversations go even when we chit-chat on the phone or when we think they are in confidence. I don’t know what Mary ever spoke of me to others, but I know that she must have believed in me enough with what she did share with me to know I would keep it to me and if she didn’t know for sure when she told me she knew as time went on because I’ve never told it.
She asked me sometime in 2013 to consider being trained by her for her Coalition and new endeavors. While I was most honored, I respectfully declined as I was already committed to Power of Pain.
Our conversations also consisted of but weren’t limited to life, color, ethnicity, race, the olden days, differences, equality, change and today. She shared with me uncertainties about people, places and things, and I eased her in certain fear and prejudices. Please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not at all implying Mary was prejudice, in fact, she’s not, though conversations were simply sometimes deep. Mary listened and she learned. She watched, listened to gossip, dismissed it, listened more, read, picked it apart, put it together, and ultimately decided for herself. She wasn’t afraid to speak her mind or share a maybe, what if, what do you think or did you know.
I’m humbled to have been accepted, acknowledged, taught and even loved by her.
Mary was so proud of the New England RSDS Coalition, she was thrilled that the healthcare community was finally beginning to know what RSD (CRPS) is. She was pleased that patients had informational materials to seek out and be provided. She was happy that educational events were provided free to the public.
She told me the story behind July and why her proclamations are for the month of independence and not November. As I stated Mary began educating RSD over 30 years ago. July was chosen for freedom, freedom from pain. It wasn’t until many years later that a national color evolved, and then our month of recognition. Mary was grateful for her closest friends. I know she loved her beautiful friend, advocate and poet, Jane (Gonzales).
I prayed for her health and I prayed for her to achieve her life’s work, her mission to create awareness and educate on RSD, her purpose to continue doing so, and her hope for our future.
You did Mary! You really did! You achieved them all to the last breath.
And I thank you!
With gratitude, hugs and lots of love,
Miss you, won’t forget you,
Mary’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/messages/mlabree1
Lets not forget the ones who started the path that gave way for us to do what we do. ~Twinkle V.
On behalf of all of us this one’s for you!
(Originally written at the end of October and updated today)
Reference to Mary’s favorite quote shared above. The above is shared the way she said it.
“If You Pray Don’t Worry… If You Worry Why Pray” sermon by Levi Wright
Thank you so much for sharing Twinkle. Mary was a strong, brave, leader for RSD’ers. May she rest in peace knowing that her efforts will keep going forward.
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Thank you also, Barby. And for locating the submission in it’s original form and sending. Had we not lost her, I wouldn’t have ever made such a thing public, nor made mention. I never even told her. I do try to do good things for others they never know are being done.
She’ll be most happy to know all her efforts will continue through all of us. xx
Thank you, Twinkle, for this loving tribute. Mary was indeed an original advocate and a true innovator. You meant so much to her and she would be blessed by what you wrote. She did so much for RSD. I’m glad it is being acknowledged.
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Jane, Mary loved you dearly. She thought so highly of you in all you accomplish incapacitated. She adored your poetry and your friendship. You’re strong in the faith like she. Keep doing what you’re doing in advocacy and words (poetry). Family isn’t always blood. You were her family. Stay sister’s always.
We think we have all this time on our hands, there’s nothing but time, yet at the same time, there’s not enough time at all. How easy it is on the internet, to not even be able to always keep in touch on a daily or weekly basis even though the world wide web is at our finger tips (or by use of speech software). It can sometimes be more difficult than in person visiting. At least in person, we’ve planned, online there’s so many there’s too many to keep able for. We don’t end up with 20 to 1000 people in our living room at once, online we do.
Thank you for your kind words, I hope people continue to speak of her.
If there’s anything I can ever share or re share for you in tribute to Mary or even something else, please don’t hesitate to be in touch.
Sending a hug and some love for you.
What a beautiful sweet recount of your friendship with Mary. What an incredible woman and activist! If not for her and others like her, people like me would still be in the dark. I’m so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing her awesome legacy.
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Thank you Mary
She really was! I’m so glad I have so many warm memories of her. Even the few stubborn ones. 🙂
When I first wrote this it was intended to go up October 23rd. I removed a couple paragraphs from the original. After I posted it and went back to re read it, I realized in some sentences I referred to her in the present tense.
I suppose it will take a bit of time yet for the past tense to sink in and that physically she’s no longer with us.
Or I suppose it’s all good, she’s just away and she’ll check in as able.
Thank you so very much again.
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