Fighting Muscular Dystrophy for Cullen

EGANVILLE – As soon as a child is born the tape measure comes out. The child’s height and head circumference are carefully measured and recorded, and the nurses and doctors start using the word ‘percentile.’ I’ve had kids in the 90th percentile, kids in the 50th, and so on.

For Steve and Rachael Prendergast, these measurements of development were their first tip-off that something was a little different with their young son, Cullen. Now it is all-too clear to them why a boy who Cullen plays with who happened to be born just a day before him towers over their boy – it’s called Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) – a rare form of Muscular Dystrophy. Just one in 5,000 are diagnosed with it, almost all of them boys. There are different kinds of MD, Steve tells The Valley Gazette. Cullen’s form targets the 63rd gene, which regulates protein production.

The condition does not bring along with it a very happy prognosis. Old age for someone with DMD is mid-20s. Yes, it used to be even earlier. In fact, the Prendergasts know someone in the Pembroke area with DMD who just turned 30.

They have a lot of hope that medical research will expand this even more, and – ultimately – find a cure for it. And that is what they are all about now: caring for Cullen, and raising money for this little understood genetic disease.

Genetic replacement therapy, says Steve, is the route that appears to medical researchers as the way to go. Science is making great strides in the area now. “We can have a cure for it if we raise enough money for research,” he says.

Prendergast is a father with a lot of passion. After his own storied life, he has poured himself into helping others with addictions, has acquired his addictions counseling accreditation, and has moved to our area to set up a centre to help men with drug and alcohol addiction. That work was a fulltime calling that demanded everything of him. Now, with Cullen, he has another giant one thrown on top.

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