The following essay was written by David Fischler, a high school senior in Marietta, Georgia, as part of his college application.

To survive is to carry on despite hardships or trauma. It is an act which is second nature to humanity, but for the past eighteen years not only have I survived but I have prevailed over my hardships, my greatest personal accomplishment. At the age of sixteen days old I was diagnosed with a rare metabolic disorder known as Maple Syrup Urine Disease (MSUD), which affects the liver. Growing up in an age where little was known about this disease I managed to not only survive but to continue to surpass all expectations that were placed upon me. Over the past eighteen years, I have grown and continue to live a fulfilling life under many dietary restrictions and medications. These dietary and medical needs sometimes seem overwhelming. Also, people ask "What is that stuff you take?" or "Why can’t you eat pizza?", but I have always and continue to fight through. With the support of my family, friends, and the Department of Genetics at Emory University, I have been privileged to live a life that only twenty years ago seemed unimaginable for anyone with Maple Syrup Urine Disease. Due to this disorder it has been hard to participate in sports and many other outdoor activities. I dehydrate much faster with more severe consequences than everyone else. Furthermore, I can not get hydrated with water alone and I must drink sugar water, like Gatorade. However, I have been able to participate in activities which others take for granted, like soccer and most recently marching band. Through my protein restrictive diet and many medications, I am proud that I was able to play the sport of soccer for nearly fifteen years on a championship caliber team with my peers, and I continue to be a referee in the sport that I love. Also, I am glad that last year was the first year my doctors would allow me to join my high school’s marching band. I worked hard and felt a sense of achievement when the band won third place at the Band of America Super Regional in Atlanta. This year, I am once again in the band, as I try to continue having as normal a life as possible.

Over the past several years, I have grown to understand my medical condition, studied it, and met others with it. Through these interactions I have learned that I am one of the lucky ones. I could have very easily been mentally retarded by this disorder or worse, but I am not. I have survived. I have survived to live, what so far has been, a happy and fulfilling life surrounded by people who care about me. To live and grow up as well as I have and to not only survive, but prevail over this illness, is by far my greatest personal achievement.


The MSUD Family Support Group is currently funding several research projects and we are proactively looking for researchers interested in developing new treatments or finding a cure for MSUD. Significant funding is necessary if we are to accomplish this goal.
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