Debbie Elena Welhouse is a fighter. She has been poked and tested more than most of us. Many days, you can see a beautiful spirit within her, just trying to get out. In spite of all the life-sustaining seizure drugs, she still has her personality, but, sadly, she can’t express it the way that you and I can. Elena suffers from intractable seizures and has been diagnosed with Mitochondrial Cytopathy. Unlike other children her age, she doesn’t giggle or laugh big belly laughs. Most days you can see the sparkle in her eyes and the smile on her mouth, but her body refuses to perform the simplest of tasks. She has a hard time moving her arms and legs where she might want them to go, and is unable to eat on her own. She also struggles with seizures on a daily basis. Mito has stolen a lot from Elena, but it has not stolen hope.
To honor Elena and her continuing battle, the Welhouse family of Kimberly, WI, established the Elena’s Hope Research Fund. Through the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation (UMDF), money donated to this fund goes to research in Elena’s name.
The UMDF was formed by families affected by mitochondrial disease. Like the Welhouse family, the UMDF founders wanted to help others affected by the disorder. The Foundation provides support to families and funds medical research for mitochondrial disease.
Mitochondria produce more than 90 percent of the body’s energy. When these tiny parts of the cell can’t do their job, the body doesn’t get the energy it needs, resulting in a wide range of debilitating and sometimes fatal symptoms. Each year, up to one in 2,000 children will develop a mitochondrial disease by age 10. Most of these affected children will not survive beyond their teenage years.
Through research, the medical world will one day have the resources to help children like Elena win the battle against mitochondrial disease. Until then, please help the Welhouse family and the UMDF “redefine hope” for everyone affected by mitochondrial disease through a donation to the Elena’s Hope Research Fund.