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Genetic Linkage

A Genetic Disease With a Domino Effect: Multiple Sulfatase Deficiency

Willow Cannan
Willow is a beautiful name. Meaning slender and graceful, like the tree, it evokes images of a little girl running through the woods with streams of hair behind her. But Willow Cannan, who lives in Mississippi with her parents and two older sisters, can’t run or do very much on her own.

A MASTER MOLECULE MISSING

Willow was born on August 21, 2013. At first she seemed fine, except for difficulty nursing.

“Nothing in itself was significant, but a combination of things over time got worse. She crawled a little late. She did walk, but late, at 18 months. She had frequent ear infections, and dry skin that was very bad on her back and her scalp. And she never talked. No words, not even dada. She just made a few sounds,” recalled her mother, Amber Olsen.

The clues started to accrue between 18 and 24 months, when speech therapy didn’t help. Was the problem fluid in her ears, or enlarged adenoids? Willow had her adenoids out the day after she turned 2.

Amber and her husband Tom Cannan probably didn’t know it at the time, but they were about to start the diagnostic odyssey that millions of rare disease families share. It starts with convincing a pediatrician to look beyond the “horses” that are the common childhood conditions to recognize that a child is a zebra or unicorn, with a collection of rare peculiarities that might actually be trumpeting an underlying genetic glitch. Read More 
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