Most people have heard of cystic fibrosis and Lou Gehrig's disease, but they're only two of nearly 7,000 rare diseases that have been identified.
February 28 is International Rare Disease Day, a time to raise awareness of medical issues that affect 250 million people around the world, 30 million right here in the United States.
One of them was the father of former Home Improvement star Patricia Richardson, who recently spoke to WTAJ News via satellite. She said her father died in 2005 of a disease with symptoms similar to those of Parkinson's disease. Richardson said it took about 5 years for doctors to diagnose her dad.
She remembered, "doctors said we don't what it is, what causes it , we don't have a treatment for it. It's fatal, goodbye. Then, you watch your most loved person become immobile, unable to talk or communicate. I used to say dad was sort of mummified in his body and it's just devastating."
Richardson said she's telling her story to raise awareness of rare diseases and to let people know there's support available. You can log onto the web site of the National Organization for Rare Diseases (NORD) for more information on Rare Diseases and where to turn to for help.