Several weeks ago, nine-year-old Airdronian Jayse Petten's life was changed forever after he and his family travelled thousands of kilometres to Mexico for medical treatment.
Jayse, who was diagnosed with a rare form of Muscular Dystrophy, known as Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) as a toddler, would undergo stem cell treatment in Mexico. His father, Lyndon Petten said the entire trip was quite surreal.
"It was one of those things that hit home and then there's such anticipation for us - for this trip for Jayse; just to see what and if this was going to do for his little body," Petten said.
Three days after the family arrived in Mexico, Jayse would undergo the first in a series of stem cell treatments. His father said 24 hours later, the change in his son was immediate.
"On the 16th of April, he woke up with such energy; his appetite was so much better. His fatigue was a whole lot less. We were there for almost two weeks and we've been home now for almost a month and it is incredible," he said. "It is an absolute blessing to just see how God upstairs and medical science are working together to just change this little kid's life and give them a shot at being a kid again."
One of the most emotional moments for Jayse's parents was to see their son walk down a flight of stairs by himself. Petten admitted he did shed tears of joy at seeing his son be able to conquer the things that were once made impossible to fathom by way of the disease. But it's not just the emotional reaction of Jayse's loved ones that is a heartwarming sight - it is Jayse himself who is becoming more confident with each day.
"There are so many things that he comes across in the run of the day where he'll do it and then all of a sudden, his eyes become like saucers because he just can't believe it," Petten added. "Even some of the little sidewalk steps that he couldn't step up or step off of before and now he does it with a smile on his face and then he'll go and do it again."
Prior to the family leaving for Mexico, Petten had set up a Gofundme campaign with the aim of raising $30,000 in order to help cover the expenses of the trip for the family, since the stem-cell therapy was out-of-country at a private clinic, no insurance would cover the costs. The campaign exceeded its goal before the family left for Mexico, which Petten thought wouldn't be possible.
"I cannot say enough thank you[s] enough to the community members; to friends and family. We had people sending money from Ireland and from Africa," he said. "I think people were just so excited to know that there was an opportunity somewhere in the world that would help kids who battle with situations like our son does."
Petten said that doctors did explain to the family that stem-cell treatment success varies from patient to patient. Jayse is being closely monitored and the family has check-ins with the clinic in Mexico to chart his progress. While his father hopes that this will be the only procedure little Jayse will need, he is aware that in several years there may be more to be done. Regardless, the young boy was perhaps the most brave during the procedures themselves.
"He sat there and took it like a trooper. There's little to no pain just for him as it is a little intravenous needle that they put in. He just literally got to sit back in a big recliner chair, and just accept this, what he calls his 'super juice.'"
For the time being, the family is celebrating the progress their son has made, progress that his father calls a modern-day miracle.
According to the Muscular Dystrophy Association, Duchenne affects approximately 1 in 5,000 live male births. It is estimated that about 20,000 children are diagnosed with Duchenne globally each year.
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