We’re Taking the First Steps Toward a Cure for Narcolepsy
I met Dement, now 89, to find out what he remembers about those early years. He retired several years ago, but still lives in a leafy neighbourhood on the edge of the Stanford campus. His office is a large, shed-like structure attached to the main house and not unlike a Scout hut.
The walls are wood-clad and covered with framed posters, photographs, and miscellaneous memorabilia from an illustrious career in sleep medicine. Dement’s desk is a picture of organized chaos. Among all this is a water pistol. I ask him why. “It’s for when students fall asleep in class,” he explains, referring to an incredibly popular lecture series on sleep and dreams he instigated in the early 1970s.
In 1973, Dement approached Western Airlines to see if they could fly Monique down from Saskatchewan to San Francisco. They had a strict ‘no sick dogs’ policy. “It’s not a sick dog. It’s a dog with a brain abnormality,” he told them. “It’s an animal model of an important illness.” Eventually, with some political lobbying, Dement succeeded in persuading the airline to help. Once in San Francisco, Monique quickly became something of a celebrity.
“Monique is very likely to collapse when she’s eating something she especially likes, or when she smells a new flower outside, or romps around,” Dement’s colleague Merrill Mitler told the Associated Press for a story that ran in dozens of newspapers across the USA. “We hope to discover exactly where in the brain the dysfunction occurs that causes narcolepsy,” Mitler had told the newspapers soon after Monique’s arrival at Stanford. “This could be the first step towards developing a cure.”
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