Rolesville, N.C. — The story of a Rolesville boy afflicted with a rare disease that causes temporary paralysis has helped secure hundreds of thousands of dollars to research the cause and possible cures for his condition.
Matthew Wuchich, 3, suffers from AHC, or alternating hemiplegia of childhood. The disease causes sudden bouts of paralysis that can last for minutes, hours or even days.
With only 650 known cases in the world, AHC is not a high priority for researchers.
"You just don't know where to turn," Matthew's mother, Renee Wuchich, said. "There's no medication that's effective and approved in the U.S., so just getting the medication is so difficult and then trying to figure out what his life is going to be like."
Matthew's father is president of the the Alternating Hemiplegia of Childhood Foundation and campaigned to get a Pepsi Refresh grant.
"We had gotten knocked out to third place (Tuesday) afternoon, and we did a massive campaign" to get out the vote, Matthew's father, Jeff Wuchich, said Wednesday.
On Wednesday morning, the Wuchich family got good news: Online voters placed their cause second in the competition – enough for $250,000.
Jeff Wuchich said he had "tears of joy" and was "ecstatic."
"I couldn't stop laughing for about 10 minutes. I had to pinch myself to make sure it was real," he said.
He said the money will go to researchers examining the DNA of children with AHC. That research "then would lead to treatments and a cure at a much more accelerated pace," he said.
The campaign for a Pepsi Refresh grant also raised awareness about AHC and helped identify a few previously unknown cases of the disease.
Jeff Wuchich had a message for everyone who took a moment to cast a vote that might help families find some answers.
"Because of you, my son and his friends might have a shot at a normal life," he said.