Boy With Pelizaeus-Merzbacher Disease Swims With Dolphins

Doctors told Shawn Rogers, who they had diagnosed with Pelizaeus-Merzbacher disease, that he might only have days to live. However, today he is swimming with dolphins, a dream that he has longed for his entire life. Read the original article in the Croydon Advertiser.
Rogers first learned about his illness in 2012, just days before his thirteenth birthday. The disease alters the nervous system and brain, eventually causing impairments and language and memory. In most cases, the illness is discovered in infancy. The condition causes harm by inhibiting the growth of the myelin sheath, an insulating, fatty layer that coats the nerve fibers in the central nervous system. In the more severe forms, patients do not survive to adulthood. You can learn more about this condition here.

This was also the expectation in Rogers’ case, but he has managed to defy predictions and has just turned nineteen this past October. Rogers swam with the dolphins as a way to celebrate both his birthday and his continued survival. It was clear upon arriving at Tenerife that Shawn had no fear of the dolphins. Although confined to a wheelchair, dolphin instructors lifted Shawn out the chair and into the water. They allowed him to touch and kiss the animals.

Since his life could be cut short at any moment due to his condition, The Rogers family always makes sure to celebrate Shawn’s birthday in style. A party was organized for his eighteenth at the Croydon Park Hotel, with all of his family and friends in attendance.

His father John, who tragically passed away from liver failure past February prearranged to have a cake delivered that year.

But this year seemed to have topped the charts for Shawn. The opportunity was arranged by his step brother Kenny Rosenthal. His mother Natasha believes that it was an incomparable experience for her son.

The challenges presented by rare and often terminal conditions such as the Pelizaeus-Merzbacher disease are huge, but they often bring people and families closer together. Precious moments such as Shawn’s encounter with the dolphins foster a deeper meaning for those involved when it is unclear how much time someone has left. Others can learn from people like Shawn to live as presently and as fully in the moment as possible.

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