Tuesday, April 26, 2011

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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Measuring Up As a Father

Pop culture has done the male psyche a great disservice.  If you watch a modern sitcom, the dads are almost always portrayed as bumbling idiots.  Nice guys, but somewhat inept at the same time.  Think of Ray Romano or George Lopez or any other father on one of these shows - they are all love-able

But that is not the man I want to be.  And certainly, there are real men out there.  Men whose devotion to their families is utterly inspirational.  Dads that didn't listen when they were told to accept an disastrous fate.  Thank God for stubborn people.  Without them, those the question assumptions, challenge "authority", nothing would be different.  I would put these guys in my Dad Hall of Fame. 

The first guy is Mark Dant.  Mark's story to me is amazing because his effort has changed the life of generations of MPS kids.  He didn't except his son's "fate" when he was told his son had MPS I.  Specifically, that he should go home and expect him to die by mid teens.  Mark's son Ryan was three at diagnosis and he is now twenty two.  I won't rehash the whole story, it has been written several times.  I like this version.  Bottom line, Ryan is a grown healthy man and many kids today are better off because of what the Dants accomplished. 

I was lucky enough to have lunch with Mark on Wednesday and he is an awesome guy.  He is so humble and down to Earth.  Mark is actually a chief of police in Carrollton - a town close to me.  It would probably put a lot of pressure on him to hear this but he is a hero to me.  I certainly don't get the feeling from Mark that he wants to be anyone's "hero". 

When Ryan was diagnosed, Mark said he wanted to start a foundation.  He was told "don't bother, save your money for your medical bills - you will need it."  He didn't listen.  He funded the early research on enzyme replacement for MPS I. Because of Mark and Dr. Emil Kakkis enzyme replacement exists as a viable therapy for MPS and related disorders.   Mark is too modest to every say anything like that.  Dr. Joseph Muenzer explained that to me.

Then there is the story of Dick and Rick Hoyt (aka Team Hoyt).  The son was rendered a quadriplegic through brain damage that occurred during birth.    He was told to institutionalize his son because he would forever be a vegetable.  He didn't listen.  He and his wife watched their son's eyes and realized that he was intelligent.  They built a computer for him to communicate and he lived a full life, even graduated high school and college.   Want to know what is even more amazing?  His dad completed an Ironman Triathalon with his son.  WOW!  That is (swim 2.5 miles + bike 100 miles + run a marathon).  I can't even run two miles - and that is without towing a grown man.  That is unbelievable.  Through his undying devotion, his amazing love he gave his son something special: the feeling of belonging and of accomplishment.

First off, and on the lighter side, is this guy tough or what??  This dude looks like he eats nails for breakfast!  He's no spring chicken here either!  Wow.  Just amazing.

You can always look back at these stories and ask, "Do I measure up?" and you know what?  It is a completely unfair question.  First, these stories only share the triumph, they don't (and can't) convey they heartache that these families went through.  Nevertheless, one day I hope that I can leave a legacy like these men - in some way.