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“‘This is a familial disease, it’s genetic, you have it in your family.’ I said, ‘I don’t.’ “ (She learned later that she was among the one-third of cases in which the mutation appears spontaneously.) The doctor insisted, “You could have prevented the second pregnancy, or you could have aborted the second pregnancy.’ “ Patrick, then four, was sitting on Furlong’s lap.“Before that day, I was relatively mild-mannered,” Furlong says.She remembers grabbing the doctor’s tie and pulling him up to her nose.“I said, ‘If somebody should have been aborted today, you’re the one.’ “ Furlong was determined to fight the disease, but Tom, as a physician, tended to accept the prevailing medical view that nothing could be done.Tom dismissed her fears, saying that the other kids were simply unruly.As a nurse, Furlong had spent years examining illness.
She was told that there was nothing wrong with them.
The doctor saw Chris’s calves and his distinctive gait—he lifted his shoulders and pushed his pelvis forward, to help swing his weakened legs—and knew immediately that the boy had Duchenne.
“He didn’t even have to do any tests,” Furlong says. ’ And I said, ‘Well, he’s the same.’ “ Furlong was referred to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, where the boys underwent three days of testing.
She grew up in Cincinnati, the youngest child of first-generation German-American parents, and in 1969 she earned a nursing degree from Mount St. “I’m fascinated by medicine—what we can do and can’t do,” she told me.
In graduate school, at Ohio State, she ran the intensive-care unit at the campus hospital.“He was riding his Big Wheel tricycle,” Furlong told me. His calf muscle started to really swell.” Enlarged calves are a leading diagnostic indicator of Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a rapid, fatal muscle-wasting disease that affects males almost exclusively.