Matt Arnold, an ‘inspiration’ for people with disabilities, passes away

August 24, 2011

Matt Arnold, an ‘inspiration’ for people with disabilities, passes away

Bay City Times | August 23, 2011 | By Zachary Reichard

BAY CITY — After a battle with liver failure and pneumonia, disability advocate and member of New Dimensions staff Matt Arnold has passed away at 52.

Arnold, a Bay City native, suffered from Spinal Muscular Atrophy, a form of Muscular Dystrophy, which confined him to a wheelchair at a young age.

“He was absolutely wonderful,” New Dimensions’ executive director Patsy Powell said. “He was an inspiration to everyone who worked here.”

Arnold, who was featured in a Bay City Times story in 2008, never let the challenges he faced bring him down, his mother Patricia said.

“His handicap never held him back at all, he would just go go go all the time,” Patricia said. “Nothing stopped him, he fought everyday.”

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How Calvin College engineering students’ invention helps boy who can only move a few fingers

June 12, 2011

How Calvin College engineering students’ invention helps boy who can only move a few fingers

The Grand Rapids Press | June 8, 2011 | By Aaron Albanese

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BYRON TOWNSHIP — Isaac Postma directed his new motorized stroller across the Byron Center Christian School gymnasium floor, navigating his way with a rear-view camera, a couple of buttons and one finger.

The new means of mobility for Isaac, 10, who has spinal muscular atrophy and is limited to the use of just a few fingers, means he can more easily travel the halls of Byron Christian School where he is in fourth grade, join peers on the playground and roll around on the trails outside his grandparents’ cottage.

“Up north,” Isaac said when asked where he most looks forward to using the stroller designed by four Calvin College students. Electrical engineering students Matt Rozema and Rob VanderVennen and mechanical engineering students Matt Last and Dan Evans designed the cart from scratch. They spent more than 1,800 hours of their senior year building it before their graduation in May.

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Sydney Potjer, 6, touched many lives during her short, but joyful life

May 12, 2011

Sydney Potjer, 6, touched many lives during her short, but joyful life

The Grand Rapids Press | May 11, 2011 | By Brittany Shammas

BYRON TOWNSHIP — Sydney Potjer believed she could do anything anybody else did.

Although a degenerative condition kept her in a wheelchair, the 6-year-old would see a person with a flat tire and want to help them. She saw someone snowboarding on TV and wanted to try it.

“If you asked her, she was the fastest kid in the class,” said her father, Tim Potjer. “She’d be in her power chair and they’d be chasing her around and she’d say, ‘Dad, I’m the fastest.’”

Sydney died Sunday after going into cardiac arrest, likely a complication of Type 1 spinal muscular atrophy.

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University of Michigan creates nation’s first embryonic stem cell lines to study blood clotting, neurological disorders

April 4, 2011

University of Michigan creates nation’s first embryonic stem cell lines to study blood clotting, neurological disorders

The Detroit Free Press | April 4, 2011 | By Patricia Anstett

In a development that aims to provide better answers for the treatment of disabling, inherited conditions, the University of Michigan announced today it has created some of the nation’s first embryonic stem cell lines that carry genes responsible for specific diseases.The discovery leapfrogs U-M to a top tier of research institutions. Of nearly 100 embryonic stem cell lines in a national registry, only Harvard and Stanford universities have developed reproducible lines to study specific diseases.

U-M’s research involved the creation of two cell lines for hemophilia B, a clotting disorder, and Charcot-Marie Tooth disease, a neurological disorder that causes weakness in the legs, hands and feet.

“This will fuel the fire of discovery” in how the earliest embryonic cells develop markers of a specific disease, said Gary Smith, Ph.D., co-director of U-M’s Consortium for Stem Cell Therapies and leader of the cell-derivation project there.

U-M expects to develop other cell lines to study other disorders, including Huntington’s disease, myotonic dystrophy, Rett syndrome, spinal muscular atrophy and Tay-Sachs disease.

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Michigan State Police sergeant raising money for spinal muscular atrophy in honor of daughter

February 17, 2011

Michigan State Police sergeant raising money for spinal muscular atrophy in honor of daughter

Jackson Citizen Patriot | February 17, 2011 | By

Michael Church and his wife, Jacqueline, knew their baby, Maria, had a developmental delay.

They just did not know how severe it was.

At 6 months, Maria was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy, a group of inherited diseases that cause progressive muscle degeneration and weakness, eventually leading to death, according to the National Institutes of Health.

A neurologist told the Jackson couple there was a slim chance Maria would live to be 2 years old.

“At that point, you’re just in total shock,” said Church, 41. “We just sat there and cried.”

Now, Maria is 3 years old, and Church is working to support other families who have children with the degenerative disease.

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