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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, May 5, 2011

Anthony Rodino diagnosed with Huntington’s disease

By Anne Hayden

GUILDERLAND — The Rodino family — parents Lori and Rick, and their children Anthony, Gianna, and Rachel — were dealt a double blow nearly four years ago, when Rachel and Rick were diagnosed with Huntington’s disease.

Rachel died last year, and Rick continues to struggle with the degenerative neurological disease. The family was dealt another blow recently when 19-year-old Anthony was diagnosed with the genetic disorder.

The disease, a genetic mutation of the fourth chromosome, targets select groups of nerve cells, and causes them to die off, according to Donald Higgins, a Huntington’s disease expert. The symptoms, which can include involuntary movement, loss of coordination, slurred speech, anger, irritability, and dementia, typically manifest in middle age, said Dr. Higgins. However, children with an affected father are more likely to develop the juvenile form of the disorder.

Family friend Jennifer Cornell told The Enterprise this week that it is still being determined whether Anthony is dealing with the more aggressive juvenile form, which killed his sister, Rachel, or the adult form, which progresses more slowly, and which his father has.

“Anthony is still getting used to the news,” Mrs. Rodino told The Enterprise through an e-mail correspondence, “and I am trying to keep him positive.”

Mrs. Rodino quit her job to take care of her husband and younger daughter, and Mr. Rodino has not been able to work because of the disease, so the family is struggling financially, even more so now that Anthony has been diagnosed.

According to Cornell, Mrs. Rodino has decided to take a paper route for extra income.

“The woman is getting up at 4 a.m. to work for two or three hours, and then driving Anthony to Hudson Valley three or four mornings a week,” said Cornell. Anthony, a Guilderland High School graduate, goes to Hudson Valley Community College. Mrs. Rodino then goes home to care for her husband.

“I’ve been living next door to her for six years, and she’s starting to show her wear and tear, but she is so strong, and she’ll never give up,” Cornell said of Mrs. Rodino.

Cornell helped organize fund-raisers for the Rodinos in the past, when they were facing foreclosure on their home, and she plans to hold more fund-raisers soon to collect money to help with medical bills. Cornell is working with the Guilderland Chamber of Commerce to organize fund-raisers with the local McDonald’s and Five Guys Burgers and Fries, and with another friend and the Guilderland High School to put on smaller fund-raisers, like bake sales.

The family has an account at Key Bank in the Star Plaza on Route 20, called the Rodino Family Fund, and anyone can deposit money directly to the account. The chamber will also accept gift cards for food, and Cornell said gas cards would be a helpful donation.

“Right now it’s up all in the air, and the family is dealing with anxieties,” said Cornell, noting that community support would help boost the family’s morale.

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