This is my son Matthew Denger and his close friend Beth. I chose this photo because it accurately captures my son the way he lived. Matthew was attending university, studying Political Science and always with friends. My son passed away in February 2013, yet his spirit lives in those who knew him well.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy is a cruel disorder robbing a person of physical ability and independence. My son stopped walking at age 8, needed surgeries by age 13 to correct the deformities in his feet and back stemming from muscle weakness and slept with mechanical breathing support starting at age 16. Like many of his affected peers, Matthew didn’t allow Duchenne muscular dystrophy to end his goals and dreams. In spite of his physical condition, he attended college full time and was an Orientation Leader and part of the team that welcomed and helped new students at the university. Matthew volunteered in the local office of our US Senator, sang in a community chorus and enjoyed being with his friends.
My family misses Matthew dearly and always think of him with fondness. We sometimes wonder what he would have been like if he didn’t have muscular dystrophy and realize he probably wouldn’t have been different than he was. He lived a life of no regrets and always looked to the future.
On World Duchenne muscular dystrophy Awareness Day I share a bit of his story to encourage those who live with this disorder to set high goals and to pursue their dreams. I also write hoping others will learn about the condition and consider getting involved by helping to fund research to improve survival and the quality of life for those living with Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
Today and every day I remember Matthew. On this day I share his story to help others know him and help those like him.