Hope with Huntington’s disease

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By Andrea Cordle
Westside Editor

Photo courtesy of Melissa Pennington Melissa Pennington of Galloway is trying to raise funds for stem cell treatment for her son, Daylan Gibson, who has Huntington’s disease.
Photo courtesy of Melissa Pennington
Melissa Pennington of Galloway is trying to raise funds for stem cell treatment for her son, Daylan Gibson, who has Huntington’s disease.

While growing up, Daylan Gibson, 20, of Galloway helped to care for his father, Buddy, who suffered from Huntington’s disease. When Gibson was 18, Buddy died from the condition. The next year, Gibson was diagnosed with the disease.

In an effort to give her son a fighting chance, Gibson’s mother, Melissa Pennington, has launched a campaign to raise $16,000 for stem cell treatment.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders, Huntington’s disease results from genetically programmed degeneration of brain cells. This degeneration causes uncontrollable body movements, cognitive decline and emotional disturbances.

As the disease progresses, movements become more rigid and eventually the individual loses the ability to walk, talk or even eat on their own. Cognitive functions decrease resulting in loss of memory and eventually dementia.

Huntington’s disease typically occurs in mid-adult life. Buddy was diagnosed in his late 20s and died when he was 41. Gibson has the juvenile version of the disease, so his gene mutation is stronger. Gibson is expected to live for 10 to 15 years after his diagnosis.

There is no cure for Huntington’s disease. However, Pennington said recent cases of stem cell treatment have been shown to slow down the disease’s progression and restore cells. She believes that if her son receives the treatment, he may be able to live long enough for someone to find a cure.

“I feel like I have to do something to give him a chance,” said Pennington.

There is a problem though. Insurance companies do not cover stem cell treatments because it has yet to be approved by the Federal Drug Administration. Gibson will have to travel out of the country for the procedure. Pennington said there have been clinical trials in the United States, but it could be 10 to 20 years before it is approved.

“I know the alternative,” said Pennington. “We have to go out of the country for this treatment now.”

Once she raises the funds, Pennington plans to take Gibson to Cancun, Mexico. She said a friend with Huntington’s disease had the treatment in Cancun and has since shown promising results.
Gibson is a 2012 graduate of Hilliard Bradley High School. He used to enjoy the outdoors, playing basketball and riding on his skateboard.

Pennington said now she tries to keep her son active and on track until he receives the stem cell treatment.

“I make sure he keeps going,” said Pennington.

To help combat the disease, Gibson spends several days a week at the Hilliard branch YMCA for exercise. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders, it is extremely important for those with Huntington’s disease to maintain physical fitness as much as possible. Those who exercise and stay active tend to do better than those who do not.

Pennington even makes it to the gym with her son several times a week, despite her busy schedule of working two jobs and caring for her 7-year-old daughter.

Now, the busy mother is taking on the role of fundraiser.

Pennington has organized a Zumba-thon at noon April 12 at the Harmony Artistic Center, 3979 Parkway Lane in Hilliard. The cost to participate is $10 and all proceeds will help send Daylan Gibson to Cancun for treatment.

The Cypress Wesleyan Church in Galloway plans to host a Hope for Daylan fundraiser on May 21 from 6-10 p.m.

Pennington is trying to organize a 5K run, but has had trouble finding a location.

She has also created a special web page to raise funds. The page has been up for less than a month and already it has raised $1,600. For those interested in learning about Gibson’s story and donating on his web page, visit www.gofundme.com/74egjo.

For additional information on the other fundraising efforts, contact Pennington via email at mspennington1993@yahoo.com.

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