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Wednesday, 09 February 2011 01:13

Brittany Wilkinson Featured

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A beautiful teenage girl flips her long, chestnut, ringlet-curled ponytail as she lies her head back on fushia-colored pillows propped up on a hospital bed in her living room. Though young in years, her piercing blue eyes reveal an old soul. She begins to tell her story, with the hope of making even one more person aware, but soon dozes off. The five-hour daily Carnitine drip has begun.

Britttany Wilkinson, a freshman at Clovis East High School, has seen and lived through more than most adults in her 14 years of life. She lives every day with a life-threatening illness called mitochondrial disease.

Mitochondria are responsible for producing energy in almost every cell in our bodies. If the mitochodria are defective, the body will not function properly. More than one in 4,000 children in the U.S. will be diagnosed with mitochondrial disease by age 10 annually, and the mortality rate can be up to 50 percent each year.

Symptoms of the mitochondrial disease include, but are not limited to: loss of motor control, muscle weakness and pain, cardiac and liver disease, diabetes, breathing problems, seizures, visual/hearing problems, and developmental delays.

Though she has had medical problems her entire life due to the illness, Brittany was finally diagnosed at age seven with mitochondrial disease.

Because mitochondrial disease is genetic and passed solely through the maternal side, her mother, brother and sister had their DNA tested as well. A shock radiated through the family when they all tested positive. Brittany’s mother, Linda, had no idea she was a carrier.

The pieces of the puzzle meshed, and the family finally had a name to explain all the aches and pains they had felt for years. Among other indicators, they all get easily winded and have joint pain. Her sister, Ashley, recently started on a bi-weekly Carnitine drip. Brittany has a mutation in her DNA, which manifests itself in ways more complicated and severe.

Last modified on Thursday, 21 July 2011 07:07

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