October 9, 2008

Root for Rocco!


Contact: Cliff Gorski of the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation, +1-412-793-8077, [email protected]

Tampa Bay Rays' Baldelli's Miraculous Comeback an Inspiration To Those Suffering from Mitochondrial Disease

PITTSBURGH, Oct. 9 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation (UMDF) is urging baseball fans everywhere to Root for Rocco, Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Rocco Baldelli, as Baldelli and the Rays get ready to face off against the Boston Red Sox in the American League Championship Series. Baldelli made a remarkable return to the Rays late this season after being diagnosed with a form of mitochondrial disease, which sometimes left his muscles so weak he couldn't even walk.

"The Rays have gone from last to first place in the American League East and Rocco personally has made one of the greatest comebacks in baseball history," said UMDF CEO and Executive Director Chuck Mohan. "Rocco's miraculous comeback from the devastating effects of mitochondrial disease is an inspiration to all those suffering from this heartbreaking and often debilitating illness."

After an incredible first season in 2003, during which he vied for the "Rookie of the Year" title, Baldelli was plagued by injuries including muscle strains and torn ligaments. In 2007, he missed most of the season after being sidelined with a torn hamstring and unexplained muscle weakness. It wasn't until earlier this year that Baldelli was finally diagnosed with mitochondrial myopathy, a disease caused by malfunctioning mitochondria in the cells, which starve muscles of the energy needed to function.

Every 30 minutes a child is born with a mitochondrial disease. Many do not survive beyond their teenage years. Because mitochondrial diseases can affect any organ or body system at any age, they are often misdiagnosed. Symptoms can include blindness, deafness, strokes, seizures, cardiac disease, liver disease, diabetes, the inability to digest food and susceptibility to infection.

Researchers have linked mitochondrial dysfunction to a range of other well-known diseases, including autism, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and even cancer.

"Rocco's is a great story of perseverance; however, he really is one of the lucky ones. There are many families, who are dealing with much, much worse situations, including having their children die before their eyes without ever understanding why," said Mohan. "We desperately need more money for research to find a cure for this horrifying illness."

"We root for Rocco for the incredible heart and determination that he has shown in the face of this terrible disease; but also so that others might learn from his struggle."

About Mitochondrial Disease


Mitochondria are present in every single cell in our bodies - except for red blood cells - and are responsible for producing more than 90 percent of the energy needed by the body to sustain life and support growth. Mitochondrial diseases result from the failure of these tiny "powerhouses." When the mitochondria fail, less and less energy is generated within our cells. Cell injury and even cell death follow. As this process repeats itself throughout the body, whole systems begin to fail and the life of the person in whom this is happening is severely compromised and can ultimately lead to death. The mortality rate among children varies from 10 to 50 percent per year, with many children not surviving beyond their teen years.

Mitochondrial disease affects about one in 4,000 children, although the actual number of children born with the disease is thought to be much higher due to its complexity and the delay and difficulty in diagnosis. In fact, recent research indicates that one in 200 people harbor a genetic mutation that can lead to mitochondrial disease in them or their offspring. Most patients suffer symptoms for years before they are accurately diagnosed with a mitochondrial disease. While the disease affects primarily children, adult onset is becoming more and more common.

To learn more, visit the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation at: www.umdf.org.

SOURCE United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation

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