— Every Thanksgiving weekend since 2000, Oceanside musician Semisi Ma'u has hosted a free music festival in Leucadia to raise money for local causes.
In the early years, proceeds from the FulaBula Festival went toward buying musical instruments for school bands. In recent years, donations went to youth sports programs and the families of two North County musicians who died of cancer.
This year's FulaBula beneficiary is Julie Keith, a 25-year-old Carlsbad woman with a progressive nerve disease. Ma'u is the leader of the Oceanside band Semisi & FulaBula, and he met the Keith family last year though one of his longtime band members.
The annual FulaBula Festival, which runs 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 29-30, at Le Papagayo Restaurant, 1002 N. Coast Highway, will feature more than a dozen musical acts playing 40-minute sets of steel drum, classic rock, jazz, Latin and other styles of music. Cash and checks for Keith will be accepted at the door and La Papagayo will donate 30 percent of all weekend sales to the cause. There will also be a silent auction featuring a donated painting by artist Patrick Carney.
Ma'u said the festival raises about $2,000 each year, which Keith said she hopes to use for therapy to treat reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), a neurological chronic pain syndrome she has suffered from since childhood. She would also like to buy a wet suit and new surfboard, because when she's in the ocean she can forget about the illness that causes fiery pain and swelling in her skin, muscles and joints.
RSD is a form of complex regional pain syndrome (CRPD) that affect from 5 to 15 out of 100,000 people in the U.S, said Dr. Timothy Furnish at UCSD's Center for Pain Medicine in La Jolla. Furnish, who is Keith's doctor, said CRPD is fairly uncommon. He and his colleagues at the center each treat about 5 CRPD patients among their several hundred patients.
Furnish said the illness was first described medically by Civil War surgeon Silas Weir Mitchell, who coined the name 'causalgia' to describe the burning pain and swelling in the limbs of the soldiers he treated. Furnish said the illness usually begins after a fracture, sprain or surgery. Some cases can be cured with aggressive treatment, while others can cause lifelong debilitating pain. Treatments include physical therapy, the use of anesthetic injections around the affected area and spinal implants.
When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Where: Le Papagayo Restaurant, 1002 N. Coast Highway, Leucadia
Admission: Free (donations accepted)
Phone: (760) 331-3671
Julie's mother Pamela Keith, 54, said RSD has robbed her daughter of a normal life and devastated their family finances. They share a one-bedroom apartment in Carlsbad, where Pamela serves as her daughter's full-time caregiver. She also has been teacher to her daughter, whose illness required that she be home-schooled through much of her middle and high school years.
'To watch somebody in such severe pain their entire life, disintegrating in front of you, causes you to question everything you believe in,' Pamela said. 'It's an unrelenting, demoralizing, progressive, unpredictable illness.'
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