“Life According to Sam” is about one family’s courageous fight to save their only son from a rare and fatal disease, Progeria.
When I sat down to watch “Life According to Sam”, I had absolutely no idea what Progeria was. It’s an extremely rare genetic disease wherein symptoms resembling aspects of aging are manifested at a very early age. I had seen children with Progeria and the effects it had on them but I knew absolutely nothing about the disease itself. This show is about one family’s courageous fight to save their only son from this rare and fatal disease. There is no treatment and no cure but Dr. Leslie Gordon and Dr. Scott Berns are set on changing this. When their son Sam was diagnosed with Progeria at age two, doctors told Leslie and Scott to enjoy Sam while they could. They refused to believe this was the answer. In less than a decade, their advances have led to identifying the gene at fault, creating the first drug trials for treatment, and revealing the amazing discovery that Progeria is linked to the aging process in all of us.
The one thing that struck me as I watched “Life According to Sam”, was how determined Sam’s parents were. Doctors themselves, Sam’s dad expresses extreme frustration in knowing that he’s a doctor, that usually when a child comes to him with an ailment, an ear infection, a cut, a fever, he can usually diagnose it pretty quickly and set the child on the road to recovery. But, with his own son Sam, there is absolutely nothing he or his wife Leslie can do about it. The most uplifting aspect of the show, is how optimistic young Sam is himself. He knows about Progeria, ask him anything about it and he’ll tell you but even knowing these things and that the average age of death is only 13 years old, Sam still manages to be enthusiastic and energetic. When he grows up he wants to study at MIT and become a geneticist so he can help other people. As the show advances, we watch his parents and their team administer an experimental drug on their son and other children with the disease and Linda’s subsequent attempts to publish her results (a necessary prerequisite to getting FDA approval for the new drug).
However, they encounter major resistance and there’s obvious frustration on her part, as she wants things to move as quickly as possible for her son and all the other afflicted kids. We see Sam in school and he excels in all of his studies. When he graduates and starts in high school, getting on the marching band is his biggest dream but because of his slight and delicate frame, he may not be able to fulfill that objective but he continues to be buoyant and upbeat. I’m not a parent myself but in watching this show, I could literally feel the heartbreak of the parents with children in the medical trials but also their elation when they received good news. “Life According to Sam” is an affecting and educational documentary but also a heart-tugging reminder of how hardship can be morphed into a blessing. In the beginning, Sam tells us, “I didn’t put myself in front of you so you could feel bad for me; I put myself in front of you to let you know you don’t have to feel bad for me.” Feel bad for him? After watching this show, it made me realize that whatever problems I thought I had, were trivial compared to his. And for that Sam, I thank you.
In stores April 1st
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