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Terminal at 4 Years Old - Triumphant at 22

  • Published: 2010-10-30 : Author: Kakkis EveryLife Foundation
  • Synopsis: In 1992 when Dant was 4-years-old he got to meet his hero Nolan Ryan and exchanged autographs.

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Terminal at 4-years-old, Triumphant at 22, Ryan Dant to Watch His Hero Nolan Ryan and His Beloved Rangers Take on Giants in Game 3.

Ryan Dant wasn't supposed to be a 22-year-old. Or an 18-year-old. Or even a 12-year-old.

At three-and-a-half, the little boy who loved baseball and Nolan Ryan and his Texas Rangers in particular was told, along with his parents Mark and Jeanne, that he wouldn't make it past 10 and that his brief life likely would be filled with physical pain and emotional trauma. Mucopolysaccharidosis (MPS 1), a rare genetic disorder that affects only 1,000 people globally would ravage his body, his doctors said.

But that was before Ryan, Mark and Jeanne crossed paths with two very important men, both superstars in their field. Nolan Ryan, the future Hall of Fame Rangers' pitcher and Dr. Emil Kakkis, a physician who would surely find himself in the Medical Research Hall of Fame, if there was such as thing.

The pitcher nourished the young boy's soul. The doctor nourished his body.

In 1992, when Dant was 4-years-old, he got to meet his hero, Nolan Ryan. He exchanged autographs with Dant.

"After Nolan gave him an autographed ball, he noticed another ball in Ryan's hands," Mark recalled. "Nolan said, 'can I have your autograph'"

Ryan Dant then scribbled on the ball and handed it over to his hero, now the president of the Rangers. "He was four and his writing skills weren't all that good," Mark said, clearly cherishing the memory. "But Nolan received it with a big smile."

Saturday Dant, now 22-years-old and living life to its fullest will, along with his father, be sitting in section 15, row 5, seats 3 and 4 at the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington to watch Nolan Ryan's team take the field in Game 3 of the World Series. Many die-hard Rangers fans thought they'd never live to see this day. No one thought Dant would live to see this day either, or any of the others during the past dozen-or-so years. No one, that is, except Dant, his father, mother and his doctor, Emil Kakkis, M.D.

After their son's diagnosis, Mark and Jeanne Dant created the Ryan Foundation for MPS Children to raise awareness and funding for research.

"We had a bake sale and raised $342," Mark said, recalling their first fund raising effort. Since then their foundation has raised $3 million.

The result of all that funding has been the development of the drug Aldurazyme. It's the difference between life and death for Ryan and many other children.

At 10, very near his life expectancy according to the original MPS 1 diagnosis, Ryan received his first treatment of Aldurazyme from Dr. Kakkis. Soon Ryan was tossing a baseball with his Dad again.

"The word miracle gets tossed around pretty freely these days," Mark said. "But this is a miracle. Ryan isn't supposed to be here."

But he is here. And he'll be at the ballpark Saturday night. Just check out section 15.

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