Yudel Perez Hernandez was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy when he was 5. It is a progressive, inherited, neuro-muscular disorder that affects boys -- robbing them of the ability to walk.
“It's sort of a cumulative effect that ultimately leads to respiratory failure, and that's typically the cause of death in these boys,” said Dr. Edward Smith, a pediatric neurologist at Duke.
Smith and his colleagues could provide therapies that can extend Yudel’s life and equipment that can make it easier – things he could not get in Cuba.
Yudel and his mother, Mahelia Hernandez, came to Duke from Ciego De Avila with help from a Sharon Baptist Church of Smithfield. During their stay at Durham's Ronald McDonald House, they'll visit Duke specialists for pulmonary and heart care along with physical, occupational and speech therapies.
“The care that we've received and the friendliness that we've received has been really wonderful,” Hernandez said.
Yudel will also get special medical equipment to help him gain more independence, like a motorized wheelchair.
Everything is free of charge to his family.
“He's not here for a cure,” Smith said. “But our hope is that we'll send him home with some ideas and some equipment to help improve his quality of life.”
Before that return trip, Yudel and his mother will attend a Durham Bulls game, a motorcross event and pay a visit to the White House.