Muscular Dystrophy Breakthroughs

October 7, 2009 7:29:32 PM PDT
One in every 3,000 boys is diagnosed with the most common form of muscular dystrophy. The muscle-wasting disease claims most patients by their 20s. Now, doctors are focusing on patients' hearts to give them a chance at a longer life.This was the moment Cameron Draper waited for all of his life: graduating college with honors -- a remarkable feat since muscular dystrophy robbed him of his ability to move his arms and legs.

"Once I got out of college, I was unable to write for myself," Cameron told Ivanhoe.

His mother took notes and helped him earn a double major in political science and history.

"He was never late turning in anything," Cameron's mom, Teresa Draper, told Ivanhoe.

Many didn't think Cameron would live to see this day.

"The majority of children will die as a result of respiratory complications, because it affects the muscles that help the child breathe, or they will die as a result of a failure of the heart muscle to perform adequately," Linda Cripe, M.D., a pediatric cardiologist at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, told Ivanhoe.

Dr. Cripe is now using cardiac MRI to detect heart damage sooner.

"We're able to see the development of the scar tissue forming in the heart muscle, and as a result of that, we can institute traditional heart failure treatments earlier," Dr. Cripe said.

To keep Cameron alive, doctors are also using unique heart therapies."

"We have him on medicine used for people with end-stage heart failure, typically in the intensive care unit," Dr. Cripe said. "We have a small pump attached to his wheelchair."

Dr. Cripe believes medicine is not the only answer.

"When you're facing an obstacle as large as Duchenne muscular dystrophy, the only weapon you have is a positive attitude," she said.

Cameron lives his life this way -- and is looking forward to applying to law school later this year. He plans to work for disabled people around the world.

"Only two nations have a disability act of any type," Cameron said.

"If he goes to law school, I'll probably be going with him," his mom added.

They're a mother-son team determined to beat the odds.

Muscular dystrophy is not one disease, but a term that describes many diseases that affect muscles. Children are usually diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy -- the most common form -- as toddlers when parents notice weakened muscles and excessive stumbling.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:
Dr. Linda Cripe
Linda.cripe@cchmc.org

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