MDA: Optimism is the best medicine for one young man

10:13 PM, Sep 2, 2010   |    comments
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By Mike Bush

St. Louis, MO (KSDK) -- Hope can be harmony for the soul and the Weil house is filled with it.

"I just have hope everyday," says Josephine Weil.

When he's not playing the video game "Rock Band" with his siblings, by all accounts Gabe Weil is the type of person who looks forward to facing each new day despite facing many challenges.

"I have never ever heard him complain," says Josephine, Gabe's mom.

He was born in Honduras and adopted by St. Louisans Richard and Josephine Weil. Josephine held him just hours after he came into the world.

"Her first words were, 'he's beautiful,'" says Gabe's father, Richard Weil.

But shortly after his first birthday, they realized something may be wrong.

"He could sit fine. He could stand fine but he couldn't change from those positions," says Josephine.

After nearly a year of testing and suspicions, doctors delivered devastating news. Gabe was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.

"40 volts of electricity went through my body," says Richard.

Duchenne is the most common and severe form of MD. Instead of getting stronger, muscles get weaker and at the time of Gabe's diagnosis children were not expected to live past their teens.

"Yeah it was pretty scary. It was the life expectancy that we were worried about," says Richard.

But instead of concentrating on his disability, the Weils decided to concentrate on Gabe's abilities.

"Life can be lived in many different ways. There is no one way," says Josephine.

Among the many highlights of his childhood was attending the summer camp put on by the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

"Gabe loved the camp," she says. "The biggest disappointment was turning 17 when he could no longer go."

These days, Gabe is a bit of a gourmet.

"I think we know every good restaurant in St. Louis and every chef," says Josephine.

But his favorite just may be his mom. When asked to pick her best dish, Gabe said, "Everything is great!"

Gabe also has a creative eye. Instead of hiring an interior decorator, Gabe was put in charge of planning and decorating his new room; from the colors to the gadgets.

"One thing about me is that I'm always cold," says Gabe. "So we thought getting an electric fireplace in here would be a good idea."

Make no mistake, there have been several health scares through the years. For someone with MD, a common cold can lead to weeks in the hospital. But in this house, the worst four letter word is quit.

"He wakes up every morning wanting to accomplish something that day," says Richard.

At the time doctors told the family Gabe wouldn't live past his teens, they didn't know how far MDA would come in treating patients and they didn't know about Gabe's spirit. This year he will celebrate his 23rd birthday as a Psychology major at Washington University.

"He'd be a doctor if he could. If he could take the labs," says Josephine.

The Weil's believe that with MDA research, a cure is just around the corner. Until then, there may be no better medicine than optimism.

"I just have faith," says Josephine. "And Gabe is having a wonderful life."



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