By Starrla Cray
LESTER PRAIRIE, MN With eyes like dark chocolate and a smile that’s always on the verge of a giggle, 3-year-old Camila Montano has a refreshing innocence that’s hard to ignore.
Unfortunately, it’s also hard to forget the fact that Camila has muscular dystrophy, a genetic disorder that weakens the muscles.
Because of this progressive illness, Camila is unable to walk and has trouble eating.
“She’s had the condition her whole life,” her father, Arturo, explained. “She’s not strong. She can’t walk around.”
Camila and her family live in a modest mobile home in Lester Prairie. Arturo immigrated to America from Mexico 11 years ago, and her mother, Sandra, joined him about seven years ago.
Camila also has a 5-year-old sister, Sarai, who is a kindergartener at Lester Prairie Elementary School.
Sarai and Camila love to play together, and it’s common to see them hugging and laughing cheerfully.
When Camila was born, her parents assumed she would be healthy, just like her sister. However, when she was about 6 months old, Arturo and Sandra noticed that something wasn’t right.
“She wasn’t moving around like a normal baby,” Arturo said.
Camila underwent a series of tests, and she was diagnosed with congenital muscular dystrophy (CMD), which is a class of muscular dystrophies evident at or near birth.
According to the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) website, it isn’t known why CMD causes muscle weakness earlier than other types of muscular dystrophy.
The site also noted that just because the muscle weakness in CMD starts earlier, it doesn’t automatically make it more severe than other forms of muscular dystrophy.
In Camila’s case, her parents said that doctors aren’t sure how fast her muscle weakness will progress.
The degree and rate of progression varies with different forms of CMD and from one child to the next.
Despite physical limitations, Camila is mentally alert and has the intelligence of a healthy 3-year-old.
“She understands everything,” Arturo said. “It’s only physical.”
About a month ago, she started going to school in Silver Lake a couple of days a week.
“She also goes to speech therapy once a week and physical therapy twice a week, in Glencoe and Hutchinson,” Arturo added.
Camila’s physical therapist encouraged the Montano family to apply for assistance through the Tim Orth Memorial Foundation.
This is the first foundation Arturo and Sandra have worked with, but they have also been seeking help through Gillette Children’s Hospital in the Twin Cities.
“We applied for a wheelchair for her,” Sandra said.
There are currently no cures for muscular dystrophy, but there has been a considerable effort to gain more understanding of the disorder in order to develop treatment options.
According to a Feb. 4 article in Quest (MDA’s research and health magazine), the Muscular Dystrophy Association recently awarded 44 grants totaling $13.5 million to support research efforts aimed at muscular dystrophy and other diseases.
For more information about muscular dystrophy, go to www.mda.org.