Jazmyne Harris 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.
Jazmyne 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. In January 2010, the course of Jazmynes 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.
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. She didn’t look sick. She didn’t act sick, either. Walking through the halls of Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis, the then 15-year-old didn’t appear to be suffering from a mysterious and incurable disease. In fact, the only thing you were likely to notice about Jazmyne was her contagious laugh that echoed throughout the room, which still holds true today. The weakness of her bones made it impossible for Jazmyne to participate in sports, yet she remained active and involved as a trainer for her high school football team. Her school days became more challenging due to her condition, but she remained focused on earning high grades so that she could attend college and go to law school.
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.
Jumpin’ for Jazz has a two-fold mission: to find the cure for Friedreich’s Ataxia and its devastating complications through the support and advancement of research; and to actively serve the 5,000-6,000 young people in the United States affected by Friedreich’s Ataxia — a rare, untreatable and incurable disease inherited at birth.
Even with intensive care, Friedreich’s Ataxia becomes a deadly disorder that destroys nerves, impairs motor skills (including the ability to walk), leads to heart complications, and loss of speech. Most Friedreich’s Ataxia victims do not live past their 35th birthday.