Patrise Holden, a language teacher who wheels around an oxygen tank because she suffers from a potent form of sick le cell disease, has received a flurry of responses from readers who saw an April 12 article about her in The Washington Post. More than 75 e-mailed her business, The Language Key.
Fellow entrepreneurs told her that they'd stop complaining about their own hurdles. A District job agency donated office space for 12 months. Russian TV contacted her. So did former senator Bill Bradley, interviewing Holden for an upcoming episode of his "American Voices" show on Sirius satellite radio.
Her breathing device makes an aspirating, "clicking sound," she informed the producer before the show began.
With that, Holden, 35, moved on, as she tries to do daily, talking about the business she has been growing for several years. She teaches English and Spanish, often by providing house calls to local businesses while zipping around Washington in her small sport-utility vehicle.
She expects a busy summer. She recently hired 10 of the 20 contract-based Spanish teachers she'll need to run a six-week language-immersion camp at Immaculate Conception, a school in the District. Holden expects to retain at least three of the teachers full time, because of a recent spike in clients, and become more of an administrator.
Holden was born with sickle cell disease and spent much of her childhood in hospitals. In 1998, doctors diagnosed dual-lung failure and gave her only a few months to live. She has been breathing ever since with the help of the tank, which is connected to her nose through rubber tubes. It struck a chord with Highland Smith, 35, of Alexandria.
"I often complain about my conditions and reason why my side business (real estate) is not moving forward," he wrote to her. "I have no reason to complain when there are folks who are in a hotter pot than I."
On April 23 and 24, Holden was hospitalized with severe pain in her back and legs.
On Monday, she is scheduled to undergo four hours of evaluation at the National Institutes of Health, where doctors are using new techniques to treat sickle cell patients with pulmonary hypertension, which Holden may have as well.
"As of late, the breathing and the tiredness are probably the two largest issues that I have surrounding my illness," she e-mailed the NIH doctors recently. "In the event that you all are able to help, I am sure that the results would be life-changing."
-- Dan Morse