“There’s no reason to become alarmed, and we hope you’ll enjoy the rest of your flight. By the way, is there anyone on board who knows how to fly a plane?” – “Airplane,” 1980
As one of the writers/directors of some of the funniest spoof movies of the 1980’s and 90’s, most notably the “Airplane” and “Naked Gun” series and “Ruthless People,” director and producer Jim Abrahams, has built a career on lampooning modern culture with parody and lowbrow laughs. But it was Jim’s 1998 television drama “First Do No Harm” that tells a story close to his heart.
The movie dramatized the plight of a boy who suffers from a form of epilepsy that cannot be cured by medical treatment. In desperation, his parents embark on research that lead them to discover a specialized diet — long ignored by the medical establishment — that was the answer to their prayers. The Ketogenic Diet completely relieved their son of his symptoms. The movie is an indictment of rigid arrogance in the medical establishment. It also mirrors the story of Jim’s own son, Charlie, who, prior to being placed on the diet, suffered from debilitating epilepsy for the first years of his life.
Jim’s experience with his son taught him that when it comes to our own health, we cannot simply sit back like passengers on an airplane and rest assured there is a competent pilot in the cockpit. So when Jim was diagnosed with acute myelogenic leukemia in 2002, he knew to do his homework.
“Though my diagnosis was shocking, I had time to find information, interview oncologists and even visit hospitals before setting sail,” says Jim. His research pointed to City of Hope and Stephen J. Forman, M.D. “Mercifully, I found a doctor who is bright, compassionate and believes in informed joint decision making.”
In 2003, Jim underwent a bone marrow transplant, with his sister as his marrow donor. Today Jim, is back to running on the beach, spending time with family and making movies, although he does say he finds himself shopping a little more since he got his sister’s blood. He also remains a passionate representative for The Charlie Foundation To Help Cure Pediatric Epilepsy, an organization he founded in 1994 to facilitate education and research on the Ketogenic Diet and pediatric epilepsy.