Today we heard the tragic news that Dr. Neil Spector had passed away. I saw the news on Facebook and my heart sank. Tears started to flow down my cheeks. He was a beacon of Hope for so many and now he is gone. I started thinking, given his passion, dedication and determination to make things better for Lyme disease sufferers - what would he want us to do?
I'll never forget the day that I had an opportunity to talk with Neil. I was introduced to him by my friend Dana Parish at a lovely dinner hosted by the Cohen Foundation in New York City in October 2019. There he was, sitting with me at dinner and we started to chat. He was so engaged, genuine, caring and thoughtful, he made me laugh, he had a twinkle in his eyes and a warm smile. I knew I was sitting next to a pioneering world changer, a physician-scientist who was drawing on his personal experience with Lyme and using it as a stepping stone to act and engage within his sphere of influence and utilize his research expertise to make things better for Lyme sufferers.
The next day Neil was one of the featured plenary speakers at the Cohen Foundation sponsored LymeMIND 2019 conference - a video by the Cohen Foundation features Dr. Spector here: https://vimeo.com/389039645. His full 2019 LymeMIND presentation above. He opened his talk by sharing it was around his 10 year anniversary since his heart transplant after a severe case of Lyme carditis. He thanked his donor for giving him a second chance of life. The title of his talk was 'The State of the Art' - a detailed overview of his research and focus on developing new treatment for Lyme disease. The entire audience was abuzz after his presentation! More detail of his research and work can be found here: https://medschool.duke.edu/about-us/news-and-communications/med-school-blog/lyme-study-uses-drug-discovery-methods-have-fueled-cancer-breakthroughs
After hearing the news of his sudden passing, a picture came to my mind of him running a relay race, I remembered he was a marathon runner, he spoke of how he loved to run, he had shared in his talk that he was still running but transitioned to half-marathons. The picture I had of him was in the middle of the relay race, he is running hard with beads of sweat on his brow - he runs up to each of us and he flashes a smile as he passes over a baton, he also raises a hand for a 'keep-it-going' high-five. He says 'you've got this, the race isn't over yet, don't give up, we're closer to the finish line than ever before.' Each of us has been given the baton of Hope - we all have a part, a role in speaking out and taking meaningful action within our unique circle and sphere of influence, to be instruments for change. So we keep running the race which is set before us, for those of us who aren't seasoned runners, it's ok to slow down the pace, to rest when needed and keep going as we are able..as long as we move forward. Neil Spector ran an incredible race on earth, he was a special light and now he counts on each of us to collectively keep going with determination and courage - one step closer to the finish line. With tears and thankfulness for Dr. Neil Spector, we say goodbye. Our deepest condolences to his family. By Sue Faber, LymeHope