After being in and around the attractions industry for 25 years, one thing I am always amazed by is how we all come together in times of need. The pandemic has shown us that when times are tough, we can rally to help each other out and get through a difficult situation. Today I’m asking the industry and fans to help out an attractions designer and friend to #SaveDamian.
Regular readers of Theme Park University may remember Brittany Markham. After giving birth to her son Damian, she made two videos on YouTube about the attractions industry. The first showcased “How To Be An Imagineer” and Brittany broke down not only the different disciplines within attraction design but steps you can take to break into the industry. Here is that entertaining and informative video if you’ve never seen it.
After graduating from CalArts, Brittany has helped work on attractions for Cirque du Soleil as well as Warner Brothers. Her husband Brock has been a stunt performer at Universal Studios Hollywood, Pirates Dinner Adventure in Anaheim and has made several television appearances in addition to working at Disneyland. In 2019 they gave birth to Damian, their first child together.
Recently Brittany and Brock have been dealt a devastating diagnosis for their son Damian. Most likely you’ve never heard of this disease as it is extremely rare in children. Niemann-Pick Disease Type A, also known as Acid Sphingomyelinase Deficiency (ASMD) means that Damian is deficient in an enzyme that is supposed to break down a lipid called sphingomyelin. A deficiency of that enzyme causes a build-up of sphingomyelin in the spleen, liver, lungs, bone marrow, and brain, causing (among other issues) progressive neurological damage to the body. In other words, the baby’s body deteriorates while they suffer from essentially Alzheimer’s. Most who are symptomatic at birth die by age 2 or 3.
Damian has a mild case of ASMD, meaning doctors think he could live to see his fifth birthday. Many others in his case have a more severe case of ASMD and don’t make it until their third birthday. The good news is, there may be a possible treatment for this disease. Since pharmaceutical companies don’t like to spend money testing medication for a small segment of the population, funding for the testing of these medications often comes from the private sector. That’s where you can help #SaveDamian.
If you visit Brittany’s website, it covers the various ways doctors are trying to fight ASMD. However, it’s a slow roll considering how rare the disease is. However, there are plans to start clinical trials to start the testing for gene therapy in the next several years. This would be too late for Damian. Thus, there is a GoFundMe page to try to raise enough money to speed up clinical trials for gene therapy.
Here’s my ask on behalf of the Markham family. More than anything, if you have the time to spread this article or the GoFundMe page to anyone you know, please do so. The only way this will get funded is for hundreds of people to rally together to chip in whatever they can to achieve the funding goal. Secondly, if you can spare a few dollars, literally anything helps. NOTE: If you work for a company that matches donations to charity, contact a human resources representative and see if they will match your donation. Oftentimes, corporations have money set aside to match charitable contributions of their employees and this could be a huge boost to help #SaveDamian. Thanks for your time and help to this worthy cause.