Kentucky, USA – Ryan Dant, 29, graduated from his dream school, the University of Louisville. But behind this is a success story of survival and hope.
Ryan was never supposed to graduate from college, nor was he supposed to live past the age of 10 due to a rare disease that had no cure. But his parents, Mark and Jeanne, refused to give up even when they heard there was no chance, and their incredible journey to find a treatment led to his graduation.
Dant was just 3 years old when he was diagnosed with Mucopolysaccharidosis 1. Basically, his body doesn’t produce an essential enzyme that breaks down certain proteins; causing a buildup that affects multiple systems. Symptoms include stiffening of limbs, organ damage, stunted growth, trouble breathing, and deterioration of a person’s mental abilities. Pain gradually increases as condition worsens.
There wasn’t much research on the disease when Ryan as diagnosed in 1991, because so few people had it.
But he came across a nurse named Sarah McNeil who was working with Dr. Elizabeth Maher, a neurologist with the O’Donnell Brain Institute at UT Southwestern Medical Center, who treated brain tumors through spinal taps.
Dr. Maher hoped that repeated injections into his spinal fluid would eventually break through the buildup.
She was right. Shortly after the injections, which began in 2012, Ryan began regaining memorization skills, reading, and his cognitive scores improved. He was able to finish his associate’s degree at Brookhaven Community College in Texas in December of 2013, according to MSN.
“For many, many years, I wouldn’t allow myself to visualize Ryan in a cap and gown and enjoying what it might feel like to be a college graduate, because it wasn’t going to happen,” Mark Dant told CNN. “But Ryan, and so many others, made it possible by not giving up.”