Jeremy and Justin
Louisa | Services: Therapy
Medical Diagnosis Brings Brothers Closer
When Gail and Jimmy Gammon brought their oldest son to Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU (CHoR) in January 2009, they had no idea how his recurring stomach problems would impact their lives. Tests revealed then 13-year-old Justin had elevated liver and muscle enzymes, which can be a symptom of Becker muscular dystrophy, a degenerative neuro-muscular disease that affects the voluntary muscles and is usually diagnosed in late childhood or adolescence. Because Becker muscular dystrophy is a genetic condition, the Gammon’s other son, then 8-year-old Jeremy, was also tested and eventually diagnosed with the disease.
The Gammons began making the 50-minute one-way trip from their Louisa County home to CHoR’s Brook Road Campus for bi-annual visits to CHoR’s Muscular Dystrophy (MD) clinic, one of the hospital’s multi-specialty clinics designed for patients to see multiple physicians, therapists and service providers during one appointment. Although the Gammons often spend two to three hours each visit, they are able to meet with physical medicine and rehabilitation doctors, a neurologist, pulmonologist, cardiologist, physical therapist, education specialist, and equipment vendor during that time.
“It’s helpful to see all the specialists at once,” said Gail, who along with Jimmy takes the day off of work for the clinics. “The doctors call you by first name, and the nurses are always available for questions.”
One of the multi-specialty nurses with whom Gail has developed a strong friendship is Nicki Foster, RN. In addition to seeing the boys during clinic visits, Nicki volunteers at muscular dystrophy camp each summer and spends a week watching Justin and Jeremy enjoy camp activities including fishing, swimming and canoeing.
“Justin and Jeremy have parents who are completely committed to giving the boys the best they can,” said Nicki. “The MD clinic allows us to follow them and offer services to help the boys remain as active as possible.”
The muscle deterioration caused by Becker muscular dystrophy is slower and less predictable than other forms of muscular dystrophy. It can cause coordination issues by impacting muscles in the hips, thighs and shoulders and can weaken the muscles around the heart and lungs. Some children with Becker muscular dystrophy, including Justin and Jeremy, also have scoliosis, an abnormal curvature of the spine.
Although the boys are easily fatigued, they played soccer for years and continue to stay active by fishing, camping and going to the beach. Justin, who recently graduated from high school and plans to study engineering at a community college this fall, also plays guitar. Jeremy, a rising high school freshman, enjoys playing the snare drums and studying science. Both boys are avid Washington Redskins and NASCAR fans and participated in NASCAR’s “Racing for a Miracle” event for Children’s Hospital Foundation in April, something Gail called “a dream come true for the boys.” Justin even hopes to become an engineer with a NASCAR race team.
“The boys are almost five years apart but have similar interests,” Gail said. “Being diagnosed together and experiencing the same things has made them closer.”
For Gail and Jimmy, the support from CHoR has been instrumental in helping the family adjust to the boys’ diagnoses.
“The physicians and staff never hesitate to respond to our questions,” said Jimmy. “They always call you back and are very accessible.”