#GAGivesDay 9: Drew Norton, One of the MANY Faces of Mitochondrial Disease
Drew, One of the Many Faces of Mitochondrial Disease
After a normal pregnancy and routine birth, Christy and Jason Norton welcomed their son Drew into the world. The new parents were not seriously alarmed when Drew didn’t nurse well, however by his second week, Drew experienced terrible reflux and was diagnosed with GERD. After not achieving pivotal developmental milestones by the age of 15 months, Drew and his parents began a complex healthcare odyssey that lasted nearly two years, including multiple visits to healthcare specialists and countless diagnostic tests all that concluded with Drew’s diagnosis of mitochondrial disorder just days before his 2nd birthday.
Despite experiencing global gross and fine motor delays that have affected his mobility and speech development, Drew is gradually showing physical progress through multiple weekly physical and occupational therapy sessions and his parents’ devoted attention to making play time therapeutic at home. His cognitive and language skills are also improving daily. Drew loves to attend a 9-week camp offered each semester by the UGA Department of Kinesiology, where two students provide Drew with therapeutic play opportunities.
Today Drew is a happy 5-year-old boy with a determined and lively spirit who loves playing with his trains, going to the park, playing on his “jumpy house,” and keeping up with his family and friends at home and at school.
What is Mitochondrial Disease:
Mitochondrial disease or dysfunction is an energy production problem. Almost all cells in the body have mitochondria, which are tiny “power plants” that produce a body’s essential energy.
Mitochondrial disease means the power plants in cells don’t function properly. When that happens, some functions in the body don’t work normally. It’s as if the body has a power failure: there is a gradation of effects, like a ‘brown out’ or a ‘black out’.
Scientifically, it is actually a category or group of diseases. That’s why mitochondrial disease takes many different forms and no two people may look alike.
It can look like any number of better known diseases: Autism, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Lou Gehrig’s disease, muscular dystrophy and, chronic fatigue. Staying with the power plant analogy, power plants provide energy to a large community with each part of the community requiring varying degrees of power; in the same way, mitochondria provide energy to various organs of the body. So, when there is a mitochondrial dysfunction, a “black out” looks like Leigh’s Disease, severe and fatal, while a “brown out” might be severe, but not lethal.
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