When Darlington’s Will Isgett was a youngster he always felt there was a little something different when it came to participating in physical education class or field day events at school. He would always come in last place in any running event and felt a little more tired than most of the other kids. He went to several doctors and even had to wear special shoes to walk in, but the doctors could never put their finger on the problem.
Throughout his junior high and high school years, things were also different. “I had the biggest calf muscles and people always asked me if I worked out a lot,” Isgett said. “I did stay active playing basketball with neighborhood friends and was always on the go, so I thought that may have contributed to it.” Isgett also had some trouble climbing steps in high school, but nothing that he felt he couldn’t overcome. Some 15 years later he learned that the symptoms he had were connected to his diagnosis of Muscular Dystrophy. “I knew that something wasn’t right, but just didn’t want to go in and face reality and find out what it was,” Isgett said. “When I graduated from college and began full time work I had always said I was gonna go in and find out what it was. But I still put it off.”
Isgett worked as a journalist for 14 years, and one morning awoke to find himself in the emergency room at Carolina Pines, where he had suffered a seizure. “Once the seizure happened I realized that it was time to go and see what was going on,” Isgett said. “I stayed in the hospital for a week and met a neurologist Dr. Pan who I began seeing regularly.” He had many local tests done and eventually was encouraged by Pan to go to the Medical University of South Carolina and have a muscle biopsy done.
After getting results back from genetic testing and the muscle biopsy he was diagnosed with Becker Muscular Dystrophy. “The genetic testing revealed that I had gotten the disease from a mutated gene from my mother,” Isgett said. “It was weird because no male in my family had ever had the disease.” Although his mother was a carrier of the disease she never showed signs of it since it’s more predominant in males. “Once I found out what it was I felt so relieved, but knew that it was something that I’d have to live with and adjust to for the rest of my life,” Isgett said. “Thankfully Becker MD is one of the slower progressing kinds and I’ve still been able to do lots of things without the use of a wheelchair.
I have trouble climbing stars and getting up from a seated position, but I’ve managed to adjust to it.” Will was told he’d be in a wheelchair by his mid-40’s but that’s something he’s been fighting hard against, but knows it’s coming soon. “I can tell it’s getting worse,” Isgett said. “That’s why I try to do everything that I can, because in 10 years I may not be able to. I still try to stay involved with as much as I can in the community and I am going to untill I can’t anymore,” Isgett eventually had to retire from his work in journalism and he became permanently disabled five years ago. Once Will became disabled, he was led to become a member of the Muscular Dystrophy Association by a friend he met while working in Hartsville.
The gentleman had the same type of MD that he had and the two had several conversationsabout how things would be in the future. “Donnie was a great friend, who passed away a couple of years ago, but he was certainly an inspiration for me,” Isgett said. “He looked at me one day and said your walk is exactly like mine was 10 years ago. That really got to me.” Isgett has been a member of the Muscular Dystrophy Association for four years now and said they provide many services to him, including equipment if needed and funds towards purchasing a wheelchair. “I know that in a year or two I’ll be in a wheelchair, but it’s life.” he said.
Last year Will formed a team for the Muscular Dystrophy Association Walk which is held in Columbia every year. Six of his friends and family members joined him for the Walk at the Columbia Speedway. “We ended up raising close to $500 so I was very pleased,” Isgett said. “Unfortunately this year I wasn’t able to do it due to a prior engagement, but I’m still working to raise money for my team, Will’s Walkers.” One of Will’s longtime friends Mary Gale has decided to put on a fund-raiser pageant to help Isgett raise funds for MDA. The Global Essence Pageant will be held on April 6 at the Center Theater in Hartsville with three crowns per age group and prizes for everyone. Babies through adults can compete and Will promises it will be lots of fun. For more information on entering the pageant, contact Gale at 843-206-1563.