Regina Hall discusses scleroderma
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Regina Hall discusses scleroderma
Though best known for her roles in the hit Scary Movie series and on television’s Ally McBeal, some of Regina Hall’s proudest work takes place well away from the glare of Hollywood. An avid volunteer for the care of senior citizens and an advocate for more public awareness of scleroderma, Hall, along with her mother Ruby, sat down with ABILITY’s Chet Cooper to discuss the rare skin condition and how it has hit her family close to home.

Chet Cooper: Regina, when we were talking earlier, you’d mentioned that your mom had been diagnosed with scleroderma. Can you tell me a little bit about that experience for the two of you?

Regina Hall: My mom was diagnosed with scleroderma about six years ago. It’s a condition that affects the skin and some other organs, and can take several forms. The type my mom has is called CREST.

Cooper: You do both have great smiles.

Ruby Hall: (laughs) Each letter stands for something. Let’s see if I can remember all of them. C-calcinosis, R-Raynaud’s, E-esophageal dysfunction, S-sclerodactyly and T-telangectasias.

Regina: Fortunately my mother has an amazing doctor at Johns Hopkins. I’ve been learning a lot about the condition, and I know that it predominantly affects women. There’s not a lot of funding for research and treatment of scleroderma, unfortunately.

Cooper: It’s fairly rare, isn’t it?

Regina: It is. But you know, it’s still more common than people think. In the early stages of the condition, it looks like lupus. It can cause a hardness of the skin, blotching, development of red spots. In the most severe cases, you develop acid reflux because your esophagus begins to harden and swell, so breathing eventually becomes difficult. Fortunately, my mother’s case isn’t that intense, so that’s a blessing. But she does have Raynaud’s, so when she’s cold, she loses circulation in her hands and feet. They turn white. So she doesn’t really do grocery stores for long periods of time anymore.

Cooper: Because it’s difficult to stand or walk for long periods of time?

Regina: No, because she’s affected by the colder temperatures at the grocery store. It’s really important for her to keep her hands and feet warm. Even when she’s just out driving, she wears warm mittens or driving gloves. She lives in Washington, DC, but tries not to spend too much time outside when it’s cold because of her condition.

Cooper: Ruby, I know you’re technically retired, but also that you still do some substitute teaching out in DC. How is that experience? There are some tough neighborhoods out there.

Ruby: Yeah, but I was born in one of the tough neighborhoods. So when I was teaching, I came into my elementary schools as if they were any other elementary school. I knew all the kids and they loved me, I loved them. All my kids finished high school. Nobody got killed or anything like that.

Cooper: How is your health otherwise? The two of you had mentioned something about a stroke earlier.

Regina: Yes. My father died in 1994 of a massive stroke. My mother had a mild stroke in February, but she’s been doing wonderfully. She does rehab three days a week and it’s really been great, too, helping her strengthen her left side. She’s been stair-climbing, she’s been walking. So it’s been good.

Ruby: Yeah, I feel fine. But when I first had my stroke, it was the night of a big blizzard in Washington. It was so bad, the medics couldn’t even drive up to the house. They had to walk up. The nurse told me my pressure was 120 over 150 and that I didn’t have to go to the hospital. So I didn’t go, but that Thursday morning I woke up and I was feeling so bad. By Friday morning, I couldn’t hardly make it to the kitchen to get any food. So I decided maybe I should go to the hospital.

Regina: I read an amazing book for anyone whose family member has suffered a stroke. It’s called My Stroke of Insight, and is about a woman, a brain scientist, who had a stroke on her left side, leaving her right side undamaged. It’s a really great book for understanding strokes and what happens.

Cooper: I read that book and I’ve talked to her.

Regina: Wow! So you know, she wrote that she was extremely cognizant of the whole experience, even though her language center wasn’t able to recall language. She still knew what was going on. And the fact that she was using herself as a case study is the best part. Pretty amazing.

Cooper: Yes. Kirk Douglas wrote a book, called My Stroke of Luck, about how he looked at life and therapy after his stroke. He said that at age 83, he finally realized life was about helping others, about giving back.

Regina: That’s the way to be. Just last year, I started volunteering at a convalescent home in Sherman Oaks, twice a week. A lot of those patients, the seniors, had had strokes. I guess I had just assumed that these people wouldn’t or couldn’t understand me. But I would go through trivia and current events with them. Some of the people would answer my questions even when I wasn’t sure they’d be able to talk at all. And I’d realize, “ Oh, my gosh, they hear! They’re totally cognizant.” It’s amazing how the brain works to survive and recreate.

Ruby: My therapy and my diet have really been helping, in my case. My daughter has me on a very strict diet. Today was the first day I had coffee. She’s got me on a lot of carrot juice. It doesn’t have the best taste, but I swallow it.

Regina: When my mom was diagnosed, I didn’t know much about the condition. But Dana Delaney, who is an actress and now a friend of mine, put me in touch with Bob Saget. Bob had made a television movie about scleroderma years ago because his sister had died from it. That was back when they didn’t even know what it was. Anyway, Bob had a group called the Scleroderma Research Foundation, so I donated to that and my mother even went to the doctor Bob had suggested, who happened to be over at Johns Hopkins. He’s been great.

Cooper: How long have you been connected with Bob?

Regina: Oh, I met Bob about six years ago. He actually called me once I’d spoken to Dana. He called me about my mother, and ever since then he’s kept me abreast of everything going on with the Scleroderma Research Foundation.

Cooper: Do you do any work with them?

Regina: Sure. Every year, they have a big fundraiser, and the biggest thing for them is raising awareness of the disease. A lot of people have still not heard of scleroderma. So it’s really all about raising.... continued in ABILITY Magazine

death at a funeral
Chris Rock, Regina Hall and Martin Lawrence starring in Death at a Funeral

ABILITY Magazine
Articles in the Regina Hall Issue; Humor — Time’s A-Wastin’; Harkin — The Benefits of Health Care; Ashley’s Column — From Italy, With Love; NBC Diversity Showcase — The Peacock’s True Colors; Chris Waddell — Pretty Tough Guy; Beyond the Chair — Hangin’ with Drew’s Crew; ABILITY House — New Place Like Home; Winter Paralympics — A Snowy Sports Report; Children’s Mental Health — The Doctor Is In; Amy Roloff — Cruising for a Cause; Sarah Reinertsen — Excerpt from In a Single Bound; Regina Hall — Acting, Altruism and a Death at a Funeral; ABILITY Awards — We Like You, We Really Like You; Andrea Friedman — Sarah Palin and the Family Guy Feud; EEOC Bad Boys — Schooling the Employers; ABILITY's Crossword Puzzle; Events and Conferences... subscribe

April/May 2010

Excerpts from the Regina Hall Issue:

Regina Hall — Interview

Amy Roloff — Cruising for a Cause

Best Practices Award -- P&G and Microsoft

Andrea Friedman — Sarah Palin and the Family Guy Feud

Children ’s Mental Health — The Doctor Is In

Harkin — The Benefits of Health Care

ABILITY House — New Place Like Home

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