Braving B12

Local nurse’s battle to raise awareness for a vitamin deficiency hits the big screen


Published:

Some real-life stories have all the makings for the silver screen: a juicy conflict, a likeable underdog, and of course, a little romance. Such is the case with the story of Sally Pacholok.

A graduate from Wayne State’s nursing program and longtime ER nurse in southeast Michigan, Pacholok has spent the past 15 years raising awareness for the dangers of vitamin B12 deficiency — a disorder that can lead to dementia, fall-related trauma, and, in some cases, premature death in older adults. In children, the disorder can cause developmental disabilities or autistic-like symptoms.

Though the effects of B12 deficiency have been understood since the 1930s, routine screenings and proper education surrounding it have largely disappeared from the medical community, Pacholok says, which is something she noticed when she began researching the disorder in the ’80s.

“While I was in nursing school, I had symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency,” Pacholok says. “I had enlarged red blood cells, which is one sign [of a deficiency]. Long story short, I diagnosed myself.”

This was in 1987, when Pacholok was just beginning her nursing career. In the late ’90s, Pacholok pushed the hospital administration to screen for B12 deficiency in symptomatic and at-risk patients, but was met with strong resistance.

“They didn’t want to hear about it,” Pacholok says. “They kind of tried to shut me down and actually gave me a gag order stating that I couldn’t talk about B12 to patients, to family, and to stop soliciting physicians from testing patients or I would be terminated.”

Fast forward to 2009. Pacholok’s story found its way to director/producer Elissa Leonard, who produced a documentary based on Pacholok’s book Could It Be B12?: An Epidemic of Misdiagnoses

Fast forward again to 2014, and Leonard completed a second film — an Erin Brockovich-style whistleblower/romance based on Pacholok’s struggles to raise awareness for B12 deficiency at her hospital, all while falling in love with her husband, an ER physician she met at the same hospital when he was an intern.

The film, titled Sally Pacholok, won Best Feature at the D.C. Independent Film Festival in February, and as it continues to make the festival rounds, Pacholok is confident the film’s message will make a crucial impact in her advocacy.

“It’s a very ignored, misunderstood, and costly epidemic,” Pacholok says. “But the ball is now rolling and the film is going to finally end, I feel, patients being injured from B12 deficiency.”


For more information visit b12awareness.org or facebook.com/SallyPacholoktheMovie.

Edit Module
Edit Module

Hour Detroit Magazine

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »Related Content

Meal Prep Services: What to Know Before Committing to the Trend

Plus, tips from a metro Detroit-based dietitian on getting the most out of your meals

This New Technology May Allow Researchers to 'Edit' Our Genes

CRISPR could prune some inherited diseases from the family tree

Power to the Patient

A U-M doc is giving cancer survivors the tools to finally feel healthy again

100,000 Points of Data

Precision Medicine helps find valuable needles amidst haystacks of information

The Common Cure

Cats and dogs get many of the same cancers we do. Could they be the key to unlocking new treatments that help us — and our pets — beat the disease?
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. Why Abdul El-Sayed's Run for Governor Is for Real
    Can a political rookie from Michigan become America's first Muslim governor?
  2. Female Entrepreneurs Are Staking Their Claim in Detroit
    These three women-owned businesses are unstacking the deck
  3. Michigan’s Craft Distilleries Are Setting Their Sights on Bourbon
    Proof that the best things require patience
  4. Inside the Resurrected Takoi
    The restaurant has survived arson and controversy to claim a top spot in Detroit's culinary scene
  5. The Era of Autonomous Vehicles May Be Here Sooner than Expected
    What does that mean for Detroit's legacy automakers?
  6. Introducing the Nordin Brothers: The Duo Behind the Detroit Design Center
    You may not know their names, but chances are, you've seen their art
  7. The Faces of Michigan Wine: Josh Morgan
    To say that 2017 was a pivotal year for Josh Morgan would be putting it mildly.
  8. Meet the Makers: Pingree Detroit
    The brand is employing veterans to craft upcycled leather totes and journals
  9. It's Game On for Detroit's 'Bar Arcade' Scene
    M-Brew, Pop + Offworld, and Ready Player One pair microbrews with retro video games
  10. What You Need to Know About Oil and Gas Drilling in the Suburbs
    Energy companies are staking out new territory in metro Detroit