There's nothing as exciting as watching your child work hard to fulfill a dream.
And nothing is as frightening as finding out your child is ill with a little known disease.
When my son David became the fourth member of our family to enter The United States Military Academy at West Point in the fall of 2003, he was living his dream of serving our nation. Just two years later, David was diagnosed with myasthenia gravis and it looked like his dream might be cut short.
Myasthenia gravis (MG) is a chronic neuromuscular autoimmune disease, in which antibodies mistakenly attack and destroy neuromuscular connections, causing weakness in muscles that control such basic movements as walking, swallowing, blinking, breathing and smiling.
For David, an ardent athlete, training to be an Army parachutist, the diagnosis was devastating. Myasthenia gravis impacted David's ability to meet his demanding academic and physical fitness training requirements. David had to withdraw from West Point and his future seemed uncertain.
The MGFA website – myasthenia.org -- was a lifeline for David and our family, an invaluable source of information and inspiration that gave us hope when we learned that MG was treatable, even if it was not yet curable. We found the information we needed—and physicians who knew what to do.
Fortunately, David's physicians recommended a surgical option — thymectomy — along with the proper medications that worked. The surgery went flawlessly and David recuperated at home. Eventually David regained his strength, returned to West Point and graduated in May 2008 — just one year later than his original graduation — with a degree in engineering management.
Over the next year, David completed his airborne training, became an Army parachutist and graduated from the most difficult and physically demanding Army training at Ranger School. Today, David is an armor (tank) officer in Iraq where he leads his platoon on combat patrols.
Lt. Col. (Retired) Edwin L. Kennedy, Jr.
Living Healthy and Active Lives: The Patient Perspective
Myasthenia Gravis and Pregrnancy
A discussion about therapies for MG
Top 5 lists of what a patient needs to know about living with MG
Prescription drugs and MG
Overview of MG: Part I
Overview of MG: Part II
Influenza vaccine for patients with MG