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December 5, 2013

Inspirational Sycamore man with rare disorder earns college degree

SYCAMORE —

A Sycamore man with a very rare disorder and who has become an inspiration to those who know him has earned a college degree from DeVry University at the age of 63.



Wayne Harrell cannot move his body at all without someone moving him. He only has full use of his hands. The first signs of his disorder, fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP), began to develop at about age nine or 10 when he broke his left elbow after falling out of a tree while playing. Although his arm healed, after the cast came off, it was frozen in the shape that it was in the cast. During this time, doctors didn’t know the exact cause or name of his condition, says Harrell’s mother, Galia Harrell, 84, who helps take care of him. She said they didn’t get a name until he was in ninth grade. She mentioned that at this age, Harrell’s jaw locked up, which is a common occurrence with FOP.

According to the International FOP Association website, FOP is one of the rarest, most disabling genetic conditions known to medicine. It causes bone to form in muscles, tendons, ligaments and other connective tissues. Bridges of extra bone develop across joints, progressively restricting movement and forming a second skeleton that imprisons the body in bone. There are no other known examples in medicine of one normal organ system turning into another.

Here are a few facts about FOP from the website:

- Genetic disease affecting 1 in 2 million people

- No ethnic, racial or gender patterns

- 700 confirmed cases across the globe

- 185 known cases in the United States

- Characteristic malformations of the great toe

- Flare-ups occur spontaneously or following bodily trauma such as childhood immunizations, falls while playing, viral illnesses

- Misdiagnosed in a majority of cases as cancer

- Surgery makes the condition worse

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Local News
  • public safety awards.tif

    Pictured are the honorees of Thursday night's annual Public Safety Officer Appreciation and Awards Banquet by the Tifton Elks Lodge. Shown, from left, are Louise Spradley, who organized the banquet, Eddie Brown with the Tift County Emergency Medical Services, Sgt. Debbie Pyles with the Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College Police Department, Sgt. Bart Walker with the Omega Police Department, Officer of the Year honoree Thomas Catanzarita with the Tift County Sheriff's Office Jail Division, Deputy Jonathan Toledo with the TCSO, Brandi Conway with the Tifton-Tift County Animal Shelter, Georgia State Patrol Trooper Ben Taylor, Officer Brian Shockley with the Tifton Police Department and volunteer Firefighter Brian Fincher with the Chula Fire Department.

    LEOs and first responders honored at banquet

    A room full of local law enforcement and first responders were honored Thursday night by the Tifton Elks Lodge at their annual Public Safety Officer Appreciation and Awards Banquet for their service in the community.
    Prior to the awards being given out, Louise Spradley, who organized the banquet, welcomed everyone, and the invocation and pledge were led by the Tift County Sheriff's Office Honor Guard.

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