James Frey opens up to Oprah about the loss of his son

James Frey opens up to Oprah about the loss of his son

MedPageToday.com | May 19, 2011 | By Michelle R. Berman, MD

Earlier this week, Oprah aired the second part of her interview with author James Frey. As some may recall, Frey came to his celebrity when he published a best-selling book, A Million Little Pieces, which was presented as a memoir of his experiences during his treatment for alcohol and drug addiction at a rehabilitation center in Minnesota. The book came to the attention of Oprah Winfrey, who was so impressed by it that she made it one of her Oprah Book Club selections, causing sales to skyrocket even further. However, it was later revealed that Frey fabricated large parts of his memoirs, including details about his criminal record. Oprah invited Frey back on her show for what turned out to be a confrontation about his deceptions. As part of her final season, Oprah once again sat down with Frey to discuss the whole controversy and how they have finally made peace with each other.

One of the most poignant parts of the two-day series was when Frey opened up to Oprah about the death of his son, Leo, at eleven days of age. Leo died of a neuromuscular disease called Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). SMA is a disease where the nerve cells that control motor neurons are damaged. SMA belongs to a group of genetic diseases that cause weakness and wasting of the voluntary muscles in the arms and legs of infants and children. The disorders are caused by an abnormal or missing gene known as the survival motor neuron gene (SMN1), found on chromosome 5, which is responsible for the production of a protein (called SMN protein) essential to motor neurons. Without this protein, lower motor neurons in the spinal cord degenerate and die.

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