By Georgie Greasby

AN 18-YEAR-OLD has a rare condition which makes him look and act like a child

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Videographer / director: Adam Gray
Producer: Sophia Rahman, Ruby Coote
Editor: Sonia Estal

Christopher Rea suffers from an extremely rare form of dwarfism called Mucopolysaccharidosis Type 4, otherwise known as Morquio, which affects only 1 in 250,000 births worldwide.

Morquio syndrome is a lysosomal storage disease, which means Christopher is missing an enzyme that is required for the breakdown of sugar molecules. Symptoms include skeletal deformities, dwarfism, narrow airways, spinal instability and enlarged organs.

The teenager from Newark, Delaware, told Barcroft TV: “People think I’m younger than I am.”

His mother, Carrie, explained: “When Christopher was born, he looked like a perfectly healthy baby. He was 8 pounds five ounces.

“It wasn’t until he was 18 months old that doctors started to notice skeletal deformities, knock knees, his feet turning out and a sunken chest."

Christopher has all the symptoms of Morquio syndrome, which - along with other complications - means that he lost the ability to walk at around seven-years-old due to his skeletal abnormalities.

Carrie said: “He stopped walking when he was about six or seven. That was really difficult.

“It was hard for him, he had a hard time making friends because he was already shy, and then he couldn’t run and play with the other kids.”

Christopher admits that being smaller has affected his confidence throughout his life.

Carrie said: “He did have to deal with bullying, and he was pretty miserable there [school], so we withdrew him and we homeschooled him. He did so much better.

“Christopher is hilarious, he is very funny. He’s into wrestling and video games and he is an all around happy kid. He doesn’t seem to miss going out and mingling with other people."

But it wasn't just Christopher who was born with the same form of dwarfism, his two younger sisters Ember and Ashlyn were also born with Morquio.

Carried said: “To have one child with Morquio is extremely rare. Morquio syndrome only occurs in one in 300,000 births in the United States and once you have one with Morquio you have a one in four chance - and we have three.

“I think it has been easier for the girls then it was for Christopher because they don’t have some of the issues that he’s had, like the enlarged organs and they’re both extremely happy children.”

Christopher, his sisters and their older brother, all look out for each other, but there is a special bond between Christopher and his younger sisters.

Carrie added: “Their oldest brother, DJ is huge, and at first the girls would be scared of him because he is just a really big guy.
“Christopher they loved from day one because he is small and on their level.”
All three children have had to have numerous surgeries due to their condition. They also take a multitude of medicine every week to help alleviate the symptoms.

Carrie said: “The biggest challenge of having three children with Morquio syndrome is all of the hospital visits.”

But despite their difficulties, Carrie’s children life a happy and fulfilled life.

She said: “I do believe the children have very big characters, they are their own people.

“Christopher is a character all by himself, he really is.
“He is very funny and very stubborn, very demanding, and you would think that with an attitude like that he’d be a lot bigger,” she laughed.

For more information on Morquio Syndrome or other MPS diseases, please visit www.mpssociety.org