You may have seen the billboard on I-85 North in Charlotte, between Graham Street and Sugar Creek Road.
It announces the Energy for Life Walkathon on Oct. 15 at Freedom Park in Charlotte.
The billboard is owned by David and Bellita Jacobson, who donated the space to promote the walkathon in memory of their niece, Rachael Albertson. She's the daughter of Josh and Shari Albertson of Concord. (David Jacobson and Josh Albertson own Austin Canvas and Awning in Charlotte, and Bellita Jacobson is Josh Albertson's aunt.)
Rachael died Dec. 16, 2008, of mitochondrial disease when she was only 10. She had attended Carolina International School in Harrisburg and R. Brown McAllister Elementary in Concord.
Mitochondrial disease occurs when the mitochondria, the cells' power producers, become unable to convert food into energy. For many, it's an inherited condition. For some, it is triggered by damage to the mitochondria.
Rachael's illness developed after surgery to remove her tonsils and adenoids. Her parents trace her mitochondrial damage to an anesthetic, called Propofol, that she received during the surgery when she was 6.
So little is known about mitochondrial disease that Rachael went undiagnosed for more than three years, Shari Albertson says. Sudden hearing loss was the first sign that something was wrong. But the hearing loss was misdiagnosed, and other organ failure went undetected until it was too late. Rachael's parents believe her death was hastened because she didn't receive appropriate care.
The Albertsons' started a foundation, "Rachael's Gift," to raise money that they hope to use to "educate the doctors and bring awareness to the medical community," Shari Albertson said.
The walkathon starts at 10:00 a.m. Oct. 15, with registration at 8:30 a.m. The Post-Walk Program is from 11 to 11:30.
The walk is organized by the Carolina Foothills Chapter of the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation. For details: www.energyforlifewalk.org/carolinafoothills, www.umdf.org or www.rachaelsgift.org.
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