There has been less than 200 people diagnosed with the genetic disorder MNGIE. Unfortunately for West Vigo athletic trainer, Bobby Vallandingham, he was one of those affected by this disorder.
For much of 28 years, Bobby Vallandingham, an athletic trainer for West Vigo schools, lived a normal life. His father says this began to change after Bobby starting feeling numbness in his extremities and had contuining problems with his digestive system.
“He started a year and a half ago having symptoms with his feet tingling and going numb. He’s had digestive issues his entire life and they went down the rabbithole of, you know, allergies,” said Jay Vallandingham, Bobby’s father.
What Jay and Bobby later found out was that it was not allergies affecting bobby, but the genetic disorder MNGIE, which attacks the nervous system. It has left Bobby unable to walk but his father says the family does have a plan to see if treatment is possible.
“Primary treatment is a stem cell replacement. Which, you know, in the medical world, that’s pretty out there on the cutting edge stuff. We have an appointment at the end of april with the doctor who i guess named the disease, if you will,” Jay Vallandingham said.
To help Bobby with his medical costs in his battle against the disorder, Sunday, the West Vigo community hosted a spaghetti dinner fundraiser. Melanie Beaver, a teacher at West Vigo Middle School and one of the organizers of the fundraiser, says she felt it was necessary to help a person who has meant so much to their schools and community.
“Students said ‘We miss Bobby, what’s going on with Bobby, is Bobby okay?’ and I thought what better way to help our students understand Bobby’s absence than have a community event like this, that ends up helping Bobby in his journey to go to a specialist,” Beaver said.
With dozens of community members attending Sunday’s event and helping Bobby with his journey, he and his father say they are overwhelmed with the support.
“I didn’t even know I knew this many people. To see this many people here supporting me and supporting to help raise awareness for MNGIE, I think that’s the most important part,” Bobby Vallandingham said.
“To us he’s our son and our kid, and it’s just overwhleming that he’s touched so many people to point where they’re compelled to come out with this level of support for him. It’s just amazing,” Jay Vallandingham said.
Bobby says he has stayed optimistic through this disorder because he always pushes his athletes and patients to do the same.
Bobby has not yet found a match for a stem cell replacement but at Saturday’s event people were allowed to sign up for the donor database.
Around $9,00 were raised on Saturday. Bobby will go to New York on April 22nd to meet with a MNGIE specialist.