The Mighty: These Rare Diseases Will Never Get My Sons’ Hearts

April 25, 2015

by Carlos Labrada


Dear Infamous Pelizaeus-Merzbacher Disease and Fibrous Dysplasia,

I need to get it out of my system. I detest you. Yes, both of you.

I came to know you two years ago, and since then, you have made my life, and that of my family, a nightmare. I know I cannot wish you away, and the more I know you, the more I realize you are here to stay. Nonetheless, expect me to fight you with all my strength for every smile you steal away from my children, every moment of happiness you ransack from their hearts, and every second you force us to spend in hospitals, doctor appointments, and therapies rather than enjoying the thrill of a bicycle ride, a walk on the pier, or a vacation on a sandy beach.

The fact that you went after two of my children makes me abhor you even more. Both of you appeared one after the other as if you were invited to a party. Well, you have pooped all over my children’s party. I would have preferred you had surfaced only on me.

Fibrous Dysplasia, you have already caused a limp on my 6-year-old, a broken femur, a surgery to install an intramedullary rod (a surgery that repeats every few years until he finishes growing up)…

All the while, you have been eating away his other femur, and he is in need of another surgery in the next few months. This will continue all his life. You must feel proud of yourself.

You are in most of his legs and arms, and I am left wondering for his future. Lately, he has been waking up not wanting to go to school because his legs hurt. Though he soon realizes the fun he has at school and makes the effort to go. I carry him through the corridors to minimize his walking, and he appreciates it with an “I love you, Dad.”

He wants to be a scientist and an American Ninja Warrior. I will not crush his dream, hence I will encourage swimming to keep him active. You have rendered me incompetent to help him get rid of you, so we will work around you.

I had put a formal request to the doctors to take away my bones and give them to my child… sadly, that is not even an option. You are as much part of him as my own DNA.  In the spirit ofChristina Schulz’s letter to her rare bone disease, “You may take his legs, but you will never get his heart.”

Pelizaeus-Merzbacher Disease, you have come after my newborn. You showed up with your symptomatic friends: auditory neuropathy, nystagmus, and hypotonia, just to keep me on my toes researching like mad.

My son has been prickled and poked so many times I lost count. You have hid away through generations, but I finally brought you out into the open. My son will be your last stop in this family.

I found you through the Mary Poppins’ bag of rare diseases. You are a leukodystrophy that affects his central nervous system. You do not let his myelin generate properly. Yes, I know who you are. You will not allow him to sit, crawl, walk, or talk. You will make him struggle to eat and breathe. You are despicable.

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