Jazmyne Harris doesn’t look sick. She doesn’t act sick, either.
Walking through the halls of Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis, the 15-year-old doesn’t appear as to be suffering from a mysterious and incurable disease. In fact, the only thing you’re likely to notice about Jazmyne is her contagious laugh that echoes throughout the room.
Yet, Jazmyne is one of around 20,000 victims worldwide that suffers from Friedreich’s ataxia – a severely debilitating, life-shortening, degenerative neuro-muscular disorder which is inherited at birth. This rare, untreatable and incurable disease affects an estimated one in 5,000-6,000 people in the United States.
She started showing signs of Friedreich’s ataxia at age 11 when her clumsiness became more than just a staple of youthful awkwardness; it was becoming a serious problem.
As a typical teenage girl, Jazmyne was constantly on the move. Spending time with friends and family, horseback riding, playing piano and spiking volleyballs, occupied regular time slots on her busy schedule.
But in January 2010, the course of her life changed drastically when she collapsed while playing in one of her eighth grade volleyball games. After seeking medical advice from several physicians practicing in different fields, Jazmyne saw a nerve specialist at the Indiana University Hospital. On April 9, 2010 doctors diagnosed her with Friedreich’s ataxia.
In spite of all preventive care, Jazmyne’s condition will continue deteriorate. She refuses to be defined by her disease or succumb to the challenges of her condition, despite her illness sometimes forcing her to the sidelines.
The weakness of her bones makes it impossible for Jazmyne to participate in sports, yet she remains active and involved as a trainer for her high school football team. Her school days can be more challenging due to her condition, but she remains focused on earning high grades so that she can attend college and go to law school.
Jazmyne and her family are painfully aware of the lack of funding for Fridreich’s ataxia research. As a result, they are passionately fighting to secure any donation to help the tens of thousands of people in the United States suffering from the disease.