Wall of Hope

Biotech mural in Philadelphia includes a patient’s reflection on her illness.

Fear doesn't define me anymore. Hope does.

Philadelphia’s new mural about the promise of biotech speaks less in words and more in images: a student studying her science textbook; long-ago surgeons building a foundation; modern researchers charting a course to stunning future innovations. 

But view the five-story-high mural at ground level and you’ll find some words that are hard to forget:

“Fear doesn’t define me anymore. Hope does.”

The quote is from Melaine Zeigler, a patient who struggled until age 32 to find a diagnosis. One year, she had pneumonia seven times. As a young mom, she was so inexplicably ill that she didn’t know if she’d see her sons go to kindergarten. Learning she had chronic variable immunodeficiency (CVID) brought challenges of its own, but it also changed everything.

CVID is among more than 350 rare, chronic disorders that are considered primary immunodeficiency diseases, or PIs. When someone has a PI, their immune system is flawed and cannot adequately fight infections.

Fast forward 20 years, Zeigler now considers her journey as a success story. Her sons are grown and one is pursuing a doctorate in immunology. She travels frequently to share her story and was delighted to learn her words have a lasting place at the new mural, unveiled in June at 11th and Sansom streets.

“It has inspired me to keep this quote as my motto in the forefront of my mind each day,” Zeigler said. “Out of some extremely difficult years fighting one serious illness after another there seemed to be no purpose. But now, I am blessed in more ways than I ever thought possible.”

The mural joins thousands of public murals in Philadelphia, known as the “mural capital of the world.” Biotechnology leader CSL Behring sponsored the work of public art, by muralist Eric Okdeh, in partnership with Mural Arts Philadelphia. Watch this video to learn more about the “Promise of Biotech” mural project.

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