A Rare Collection – Beep, Beep, Beep
ONCE UPON A GENE – EPISODE 161
A Rare Collection – Beep Beep Beep
There’s power in storytelling- for the listener and the storyteller. A Rare Collection is a monthly series featuring people from the rare disease community, sharing a story with a common theme.
Emergency vehicles headed towards us and the sound of the vehicles coming to save my child’s life played on repeat. The tears were different this time. They were tears of joy, gratitude and hope. Nash was born with an ultra-rare genetic condition called SMARD1. He was 11 months old when he was diagnosed, with a life expectancy of only 13 months and there were no treatments. No option was not an option. We started a non-profit called SmashSMARD and we focused on developing a treatment for SMARD1. We celebrated Nash’s third birthday in a major way. The same emergency responders who have saved his life on multiple occasions joined the birthday parade celebrating a milestone we never imagined we’d reach.
In elementary school, the nurse conducted hearing tests in class. Each student took a turn wearing the headphones while the nurse turned several knobs, and each would raise a hand a dozen or so times to acknowledge they heard the beeps. When it was my turn, she only played a few beeps, or so I thought. Later in high school, I applied to the United States Military Academy. During the physical, the doctor played the familiar tones, scribbled some notes in my file and said the Army would be sending me a letter to explain what I needed to know. When the letter arrived, I learned that I failed my physical due to substandard auditory acuity and I wasn’t qualified to serve in the Army. A few years into college, I could no longer hear well enough to use the phone. When I saw an audiologist, I was referred to a neurologist and MRI results revealed I had bilateral acoustic neuromas on my hearing nerves. I was diagnosed with Neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2), a rare neurological disorder.
Beep, beep, beep sounds the familiar driver of the garbage truck right outside my son’s room. She looks for him in the window, but he’s not there to wave and cheer as she picks up the bins. I know how much my son adores the garbage truck driver and it’s clear she adores him too. She doesn’t know he lives with a rare, catastrophic epilepsy called Dravet Syndrome. I’ve never shared my son’s story with the driver. Perhaps I want to spare her the worry and grief that comes with caring for someone with Dravet Syndrome.
Amanda Griffith Atkins
When you were three years old, your backpack was bigger than you as you went up the steep stairs of the big yellow bus, off to your first day at preschool. Your school was equipped to care for kids with disabilities and you were safe with teachers that understood your disability. There was a lot to celebrate, but I lost something that day realizing our safe and quiet days at home were over. I waited eagerly at the end of the school day, listening for the beep-beep of the bus, and I ran out to take you into my arms. Can you believe it was ten years ago when you first stepped onto the bus? A lot has changed since then and you’re nearly as tall as me now. Although your disability will never allow you to live on your own, the bus represents freedom and independence, taking you to your own world of friends, teachers and staff who love and celebrate you.
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