By Mandi Cardosi
Parkersburg News and Sentinel
PARKERSBURG -- A courageous girl with a huge heart willing to fight for something she believes in is one way Anna Gordon's mother describes her daughter, a sophomore at Parkersburg South High School.
Parkersburg resident Melissa Gordon said her daughter, 15-year-old Anna, discovered she had a rare disease known as Friedreich's ataxia (FA) when she was a freshman in high school. Only one in 50,000 people in the United States has the disease.
"She started falling and losing her balance a lot," Melissa Gordon said of her daughter's early symptoms. "That's when we first started looking into it."
Anna's parents, Melissa and Scott, had no idea they were carriers of the disease, although some parents have multiple children affected by it. They have two other children who haven't showed any signs, said Melissa Gordon.
Anna's sister Ali Gordon is a senior at PSHS and her brother, Chase Gordon, is in sixth grade at Blennerhassett Middle School.
Anna loves cheerleading, marching band and children. She is passionate about becoming a teacher, her mother said.
"It started around her freshman year," she said. "We took her to the doctor between junior high and high school."
Melissa said after a year of seeing doctors the family turned to a geneticist from West Virginia University. She said the only way to know someone has the disease is through DNA testing.
"I got out to my car, did a Google search. I thought my world collapsed; it was devastating," the mother said of finding out what her child would have to encounter with the disease.
A person can be diagnosed with FA as early as 5 years old and as late as 15, Melissa Gordon said.