Most parents marvel at their child and giggle words of joy and encouragement when their child takes their first steps, usually within the first 12 months or so of his or her life. For parents Joshua and Sierra Buffum of Jackson, MI, they weren’t able to experience this moment for 4 1/2 years. In fact, they didn’t think it was something they’d ever be able to experience with their son Carter.
“It’s been really uplifting for us and our family to watch Carter do stuff like this that the doctors said he might never do,” Joshua Buffum said. “It
Carter has mitochondrial disease, which means he suffers from a loss of motor control, cognitive impairment and cerebral palsy. His parents have been told by doctors that he would never walk, however, Carter is proving them wrong and has started pulling himself up on furniture and window sills and taking some steps.
“Mitochondria are contained in all cells except red blood cells and are responsible for creating the energy necessary to support life and sustain growth. In Carter’s case, diseased mitochondria have resulted in a loss of motor control and resulted in cognitive impairment, cerebral palsy, seizures and gastro-intestinal disorders.Making people aware of Carter’s situation and raising money for research into a cure for their son’s disease are top priorities for the Buffums, who have established the Carter Buffum Fund to benefit mitochondrial disease research at Ann Arbor’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.?
A public party that took place on Carter’s fourth birthday on Jan. 20 raised about $2,500, Sierra Buffum said. A fundraising walk-a-thon is being planned for next spring, she said.
Children diagnosed with mitochondrial disease before age 5 usually do not live into their 20s, Sierra Buffum said. There also is no treatment and no cure, she said, so every accomplishment and achievement from Carter as a blessing.
“We are definitely more hopeful,” Sierra Buffum said. “We hope we keep seeing this kind of progress.”
“His balance isn’t quite there yet, but we’re hoping that will progress,” Sierra Buffum said. “He’s sleeping better because he’s wearing himself out more. And because he’s more active, he has his first boo-boos in four-and-a-half years.”
Carter attends the Jackson County Intermediate School District’s Lyle A. Torrant Center. Sarah Taylor, his teacher, said she also has seen gains in Carter’s abilities.“Besides gains in his motor ability, Carter is showing more interest in toys and using his hands more in reaching for things,” she said. “His eating also has really improved.”Determination, Taylor said, is one of Carter’s biggest assets.“He’s so determined to do what he wants to do and that helps his progress,” she said. “That kind of determination is something you can’t teach. He’s an awesome little boy.”
“It was pretty much a miracle that he could stand up,” she said. “We hope that Carter’s successes will motivate other families who have children with this disease to stay hopeful.”