Mourning the loss of a great vestibular advocate
It is with great sorrow that I share the passing of a friend of the vestibular community, and someone I’m proud to call my friend, Susan Papa.
One of the many joys of my position as VeDA’s Executive Director is that I get to know many of our generous donors, like Susan, to learn about their vestibular journey, and often to exchange personal stories as we discover mutual passions. Such was the case with Susan.
Susan struggled with the daily challenges of Meniere’s disease. VeDA was instrumental in Susan’s recovery, and she wanted to make sure that others also have access to VeDA’s resources to help them find trusted information, qualified healthcare specialists, and compassionate peer support. A genuine care for the welfare of others fueled Susan’s philanthropy, and her generosity knew no bounds.
One of the first projects Susan and I worked on together was a case study to show how vestibular rehabilitation therapy helped her in the early stages of her disease, which was published in VeDA’s “On the Level” newsletter. In fact, Susan frequently consulted with her physical therapist, Dr. Kathleen Stross, and they became friends as well. That was the kind of person Susan was, friendly, welcoming, and interested in others.
Susan and I bonded over our mutual love of animals. Susan had a special place in her heart for her two collies and was known to take her goat, Silver, on walks. Her other pets included a pair of mini-horses and Ragdoll kitties. Susan honored the wild mustang with her photographic art, another mutual interest, and found great solace on her ranch in Wyoming.
During one of our many long phone conversations, Susan told me about a great horned owl she photographed as it visited her yard. She had a love for all the wildland creatures of her native Texas – deer, possum, skunk, and raccoon, and was a conservator of butterflies; she had a butterfly garden, which was one of the outdoor places where she found great peace.
Susan loved VeDA’s newsletter, and would often save them so she could read them over and over. She said that the patient stories inspired her, which motivated her to sponsor VeDA’s Life Rebalanced Chronicles docuseries. Like many people who live with a chronic vestibular impairment, Susan knew the value of storytelling to banish the loneliness of these isolating conditions.
My heart is heavy as I settle into the reality of a world without Susan’s light. May her memory live on through the legacy of her many philanthropic endeavors, leaving this world a better place. Thank you, dear Susan. Rest in peace.
By Cynthia Ryan, Executive Director