Margaret Mortimore has been a physical therapist for 26 years, many of those spent working with children. Each child she helps holds a special place in her heart, but John Taylor Williams IV, lovingly known as Rocket, made a particularly strong impression.
Rocket suffered from a congenital disorder of glycosylation (CDG), which impaired his muscle development and motor skills. “CDG affects nearly all of the body’s functions,” says Dr. Hudson Freeze, a pioneer in CDG research. “It prevents cells from attaching sugars to proteins, a biochemical process that has serious consequences when it does not function properly.”
When Margaret was asked to provide physical therapy for Rocket, she almost refused because her caseload was too large. She did agree to provide a consultation. “As soon as I walked in the door, I knew there was no way I wasn’t going to treat this little guy,” she says.
Margaret provided therapy in the family’s home, becoming close to Rocket’s mother, Mia. “Mia is the best mom ever, ever, ever,” Margaret says, describing a parent fully dedicated to meeting the challenges of a developmentally delayed child. When Margaret first met Rocket, at 5-months old, he had the physical abilities of a 1-month-old. Margaret moved his limbs, placing him into various positions to improve his muscle tone, and taught Mia to do the same. “You almost become part of the family,” Margaret says of her work. “I fell in love with Rocket.” Over time, thanks to Margaret’s skill and Mia’s commitment, Rocket showed significant improvement, even sitting up and standing.
Sadly, Rocket contracted an infection and passed away in 2008, two months after his second birthday. “It was almost as if I was losing my own child,” Margaret recalls. But the most heartbreaking experiences can inspire hope for the future. Margaret contributes to Sanford-Burnham in the belief that other children will benefit. “If there was going to be research on CDG, I definitely wanted to help,” she says “If I could, I would give more.”
Dr. Freeze has worked closely with Rocket’s parents to help them understand the disease, and they continue to support Dr. Freeze’s work, as does Margaret. She has been donating to the Rocket Fund at Sanford-Burnham every month for two years.
“All of us in the lab appreciate Margaret’s support,” says Dr. Freeze. “Like Rocket, she has inspired us.”
Sanford-Burnham’s research community is grateful for contributions at any level. People of all means support medical research, for many reasons. If you would like to make a contribution in Rocket’s memory, or in memory of another special individual, please visit our giving page.