When Jadie Galusha lines up with other racers during the Firefighter MDA 5K this morning, it will be a first. But that's nothing new.
Galusha's life has been filled with firsts. After she was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy after she born, doctors told Galusha's mother not to expect her to walk, talk or be taken off a ventilator.
"For the first two months, they didn't know what was wrong," said Tina Wisener, Galusha's mother. "It was like she was comatose. She wouldn't cry, she wouldn't laugh, she wouldn't move."
Now, Galusha is a happy, energetic 6-year-old who recently completed the first grade at Gentian Elementary School.
"She's already done a lot of things they said she wouldn't do," Wisener said. "They said she wouldn't walk, she wouldn't talk. She walks and talks all the time. Right now, she's happy, it's whatever to her. She's a regular 6-year-old she just happens to have that."
Galusha is one of several people in Columbus living with muscular dystrophy. The disease often affects several people within a family; Wisener, her sister, and her mother all were diagnosed in adulthood. Because she was born with
the disease, however, the effects on Galusha might be pronounced as she continues to grow.
Michael Flynn is still learning about muscular dystrophy through Galusha. A brother-in-law to Wisener, he took custody of Galusha to help Wisener secure much needed and often elusive doctors.
"We went through multiple doctors to try and find her a pediatrician," Flynn said. "We would have to call five, six, seven, eight doctors before we would get an appointment. We got to the point where we wouldn't tell them she had muscular dystrophy before we made the appointment. We would just show up and they would say 'What's going on with her?' 'Oh, she's got muscular dystrophy.'"
When Flynn heard about the Firefighter's MDA 5K, he signed Galusha up, hoping to meet other families and demonstrate local need. The family plans to attend with friends. Since Galusha is unable to walk the full race, the family plans to make their own finish line for the 6-year-old using a streamer.
The MDA 5K, which is in its second year, raises money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association that is then distributed back to locals who suffer from the disease.
The money funds such things as camps for children with muscular dystrophy, physical or speech therapy and repairs of medical equipment. The race, along with the MDA, has become an outlet for families and friends dealing with the disease.
For Malinda Ball, raising awareness and money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association has been not only an outlet, but a passion. She and her daughter, Jade Bush, have been active spokeswomen for the organization since Bush was diagnosed three years ago. Although the disease runs in Ball's family, it was a shock to her when Bush was diagnosed.
"My dad was diagnosed when he was in his 40s with muscular dystrophy. After he was diagnosed, his brother was also diagnosed with having it," Ball said. "My uncle has two children and they both have MD. My mom came to me and said 'I think I see some of the same symptoms that your dad had.' Basically I went to prove that my mother was not right. She was."
Jade Bush was 13 years old when she found out she had muscular dystrophy. Since then, Ball and Bush have participated in races, telethons and other local fundraisers. Each dollar raised is another step closer to a medical breakthrough for Ball, and another step away from the helplessness she felt on learning her child received the diagnosis.
"It was a defeating type of feeling," Ball said. "I have this wonderful child and she has this disease and there's nothing I can do to fix. You can be there, you can be supportive, you can love, you can do all these things but you can't fix it."
The news was devastating for Ball, but Bush kept an upbeat spirit even after the diagnosis."Jade's a very happy child. I don't know if she fully understands what could happen or when it will happen but she takes it all in stride," Bush said. "I wasn't sure how to tell my mother, but Jade walks in and she's like 'MawMaw, I got that disease.' And she still takes that attitude."
Bush won't race on Saturday, but she will accompany WRBL's Bob Jeswald on a stage near the race to interview participants and talk to local families about their experiences with muscular dystrophy.
Last year, The Firefighter's MDA 5K raised between $5,000 and $6,000. This year, both families hope more participants will come to support area families who struggle with the disease. Flynn said he hopes locals will see, through Galusha, some of the area children who the community can help support.
"We live in a town of 100,000 people, and they raised $5,000 or $6,000," Flynn said. "Columbus can do better than that."