August 19, 2013

Finding a Silver Lining

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Share Your Story, Airstream, Live RivetedFor Patti Klein and her husband Marty Shenkman, an Airstream isn’t just a vacation – it’s liberty. Seven years ago Patti was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and as the illness has progressed, it’s made things harder for the couple. They traveled for business and vacation like most folks– until MS started to make it unpleasantly difficult. Planes were really tough, and after trying a few car trips, it became clear those were also not a great option either.

“On the way back [from one trip], I just thought, ‘why not get an RV?’” Marty said. And so the couple’s journey with Airstream began. The trailer gave Patti the freedom to travel while providing the environment she needed to be able to live life comfortably and securely, and to care for herself the way she was comfortable, even on the road. “If she needs rest, she can take it. If she needs a certain diet, I can make it for her,” Marty said. “When you have an Airstream, you can do what you want, anywhere, and in comfort!”

As the illness set in for Patti, it became clear that travel isn’t the only area where people with chronic illness are largely ignored and underserved. Marty works in estate planning, and the changes that need to be made to account for illnesses like multiple sclerosis are not common knowledge among lawyers, accountants and financial planners. “There was nothing that addressed planning for someone with a chronic disease,” Marty said. “What do I do differently to protect us? I was surprised. I started thinking about what I could do to fix this.”

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What he did was to begin writing and lecturing specifically on what can be done by legal professionals for those with chronic illness, as he and Patti traveled the country. He’s spoken to disability rights organizations, CPA and financial planning societies, and bar associations, both raising awareness of chronic illness and what can be done to plan for people dealing with these illnesses. And as time has passed, this has taken over more and more of Marty and Patti’s lives. “When this started we just sort of took a trip and did some speeches, but it’s really grown,” Marty said. “It’s been a total adventure.”

It’s grown because there’s an audience for the help Marty can provide. “They wouldn’t be in the legal, accounting or financial planning profession if they didn’t want to help people,” he said. And with some guidance, they don’t have to spend 50 hours or more researching – he helps them find the few changes that need to be made, the things they need to focus on. For Patti and for Marty, the life of travel and work is perfect.

“We have a blast, we help lots of people – we really make a difference, and we do it in our Airstream! What more could you ask for?”

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