The following essay was written by Elan Geffen's brother, Ari, for a college class and submitted for this issue of the Newsletter by the boys' mother, Adrienne. What a wonderful tribute to a brother. Elan was born on May 21, 1984 and diagnosed with variant MSUD when he was 20 months old. He has done well.
As a result of attending Symposium '98, Elan was inspired to take his formula by himself. Adrienne adds, "We will make every effort to never miss another Symposium! It was a wonderful experience for Elan to meet and enjoy other kids with the disorder. Besides all the information we received from the professionals, the interaction and sharing with other parents are irreplaceable! My favorite aspect was seeing and hearing the young adults on the panel - VERY INSPIRING."
The person who has influenced me most in my life is a unique individual. He is not a superstar athlete, a revered celebrity, or even a wise elder. He is my younger brother, Elan. Elan is unique because he was born with a genetic metabolic disorder called Maple Syrup Urine Disease. He is one of approximately two hundred* people in the United States with this disease.
My brother has taught me that although life may present many challenges, maintaining a positive attitude can help me ascend the highest peak. Despite the fact that Elan is learning disabled, with mild neurological deficiencies, he maintains many friendships, engages in a variety of athletic and social activities, and volunteers for numerous charitable organizations. Elan's enjoyment and enthusiasm in all of his endeavors are highly contagious, infecting all who participate with him. At baseball, although he does not possess the skills of even a good player, his joy of the game is greater than that of the best players. Every time he gets up to the plate, he comes prepared with his bat and a big smile.
Elan started volunteering at a local geriatric home almost five years ago. He quickly developed friendships with many of the residents, who greet him with kisses, hugs, and handshakes upon his frequent visits. Elan shares his love, and in return they share the knowledge accumulated through their many years.
Elan's life has been challenging. He has had to struggle to compensate for his disabilities. His positive approach has enabled him to achieve substantially more than many have expected. From observing his experiences, I have learned that I can overcome even the most daunting challenge when I arm myself with Elan's contagious smile. Even though Elan may never understand the profound influence he has had upon me, he continues to affect me daily.
*The exact number of persons with MSUD in the United States is not known, however, based on the membership in the MSUD Family Support Group, the number is more than three hundred.