Rare disorder ties Landons together

April 17, 2009 10:58:40 AM PDT
Mitochondrial disorder is a condition not many people know about. But it's more common than you think, and it can wreak havoc on a family. There's a young boy in Houston in the midst of an epic struggle with the condition. Landon Webber, 3, has been in the hospital since July.

"It's yucky," he said.

Landon's mother Jennifer Webber said, "It was really hard. He's been sick from the day he was born."

Landon has mitochondrial disorder -- a genetic condition where kids can't process food.

"(They can't) turn it into chemical energy that they can use to do the things that the rest of us do all the time, like move our muscles and have our heart beat and have our lungs function," explained UT Houston Pediatric Neurologist Dr. Mary Kay Koenig.

"We were told so many times that there were no answers for us and it was time to just give up and let him go and I couldn't do that," Jennifer recalled.

So she moved to Houston to be closer to the doctors at the UT Houston medical school who are working to give Landon a more normal life.

"I think he has the potential to grow up to be a healthy young man," Dr. Koenig said. "We just need to keep him functioning as well as we can and allow him time to develop."

He can look to another Landon for inspiration. Landon Schaeffer, 20, also has mitochondrial disorder.

"I was on death's door many times," Schaeffer recalled.

The Texas A&M junior spent years in the hospital, and still has complications. But he's one of the few who has survived to adulthood. And he has advice for the family.

Schaeffer explained, "It can be tough to go through sometimes, but once you get through it... I mean he's got to keep on trucking, you know?"

With the help of his Houston doctors, that's what they're doing.

Jennifer said, "Now he's back to where he was and getting stronger and playing and just living life to its fullest right now."

Experts say many with this disorder never reach their teens. As for young Landon, he's going to Disney World this week -- with his family and his doctor.

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Christi Myers is ABC13's Healthcheck reporter

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