Nature Saved Arden O'Connor's Life

Nature's Success Stories

Arden was stretching her athletic capacity to the max by training for her first sprint triathlon.

And then she got sick.

After finishing her triathlon by walking and almost falling off of an elliptical machine the following week, Arden was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia, a form of cancer that starts inside bone marrow. The cells grow very quickly, and replace healthy blood cells. She had to begin chemotherapy immediately.

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"I never questioned anything about the meds," Arden said. "My doctor joked that if they had told me to eat glass to cure me I would have done it. And that was very true. Whatever they gave me I had to assume it was the best we've got."

And it was the best drugs they had. As part of her treatment, Arden received ARA-C, a drug that is derived from Caribbean sea sponges. In fact, components found in coral reefs are essential sources of medicine for everything from diabetes to heart disease to Alzheimer's disease.

"We're learning more and more every day about what healing compounds we're finding in coral reefs," says Conservancy marine scientist Steph Wear. "Coral reefs are the most diverse habitat in the ocean and we are just beginning to scratch the surface in discovering what is there."

Protecting Coral Reefs, Protecting Lives

Coral reefs are also one of the most threatened marine systems. Scientists estimate that unless we take immediate action, we could lose up to 70 percent of coral reefs by 2050. That's why the Conservancy's work protecting coral reefs around the world is so essential — not just for ocean habitat, but for human health as well.

Watch SlideshowThese days, Arden has more stamina than ever. After finishing Harvard Business School in 2008, she started a new company, enjoys sitting on non-profit boards and became an advanced scuba diver because of her love of the ocean. This year, she went diving in Anguilla to visit the coral reefs that had been part of her journey back to health.

"Knowing that coral reefs can help people in this way, it does reframe the way the way I think about the environment and how we should be protecting our oceans," Arden said.

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Please donate today and you can help save the natural resources that could become tomorrow's cures.
[Top Image: Arden O'Connor. Photo © Lajla LeBlanc | Slideshow Image: Coral reef and starfish in the Pacific region of Wakatobi Photo © Daniel & Robbie Wisdom]


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