INTRODUCTIONS: Meet Grayson Cronin

LOCAL BOY IN BRAVE FIGHT AGAINST A RARE BRAIN DISEASE

Born and raised in Savannah, Grayson Cronin is a bright, fun-loving seven-year-old boy who is loved and cherished by his family, especially by his grandmother Leigh Griner.

“Grayson is super, super smart. He could read at the age of three and do mathematical calculations, so he’s amazingly brilliant. But he’s also really humble. He’s a humble, quiet spirit,” said Griner when asked to describe her grandson. 

Like most youth, Grayson loves the simple joys of childhood, things like playing video games, going swimming and having fun with his family and friends. He enjoys spending summers at lake houses with his extended family where they enjoy water activities, games and old-fashioned fun like three-legged races together. Those summers at the lake are some of Griner’s favorite memories with Grayson.

“Last summer, we had a giant inflatable water slide that we took with us, and Grayson just couldn’t wait until I went down that water slide with him. . . Also, when we first got an inner tube to pull behind the boat for the little kids, he wanted to ride with me. . . Within no time at all, he was doing little flips and tricks back there, standing on his head and all kinds of silly things. . . It’s a real special family time. . . I think our vacations at the lake are some of our best times together,” she reminisced. 

Unfortunately, this year Grayson has had to miss out on much of the fun typical of his summer vacations. 

In March, Grayson was diagnosed with cerebral adrenoleukodystrophy, abbreviated as ALD, which is the most devastating form of the disease. Childhood cerebral ALD primarily affects boys between the ages of four and ten, and it’s characterized by rapid deterioration of the brain which can lead to a vegetative state or death if not treated early. 

Grayson received the diagnosis after his nine-year-old brother Nathan fell ill. Nathan was hospitalized at Memorial Health Dwaine & Cynthia Willett Children’s Hospital of Savannah earlier this year because he was very sick with what initially seemed to be a stomach virus. 

“Nathan had to be hospitalized because he became sick and dehydrated. While he was in the hospital, he was tested for a variety of things because he just seemed sicker than an ordinary stomach virus would present. During that time, as they began to discover the diagnosis for Nathan, they also evaluated Grayson. Between March and April, both boys had the confirmed diagnosis of ALD,” Griner recalled.

Nathan’s form of ALD is a milder form that is not as critical or damaging as Grayson’s form. In a way, Grayson’s family says they are glad that Nathan’s hospitalization shed light on Grayson’s previously unknown health crisis.

“In our family, we like to think that Nathan kind of saved Grayson’s life. . . If Nathan had not gone into the hospital and had not received that diagnosis, Grayson probably would not qualify for any treatment,” Griner explained. 

“The only treatment for ALD can be done if it’s diagnosed early. And with the boys not even having any symptoms or any reason to check if Nathan hadn’t gotten sick, Grayson probably would not have gotten this diagnosis in time. So Nathan is happy that in some small way, he’s helped his brother. Grayson has a fighting chance now. And without that early diagnosis, that wouldn’t have been the case,” she continued. 

Upon discovering the severity of Grayson’s situation, the family began researching to find the best treatment for him. They determined that the best place for him was at the University of Minnesota Medical Center in Minneapolis. 

While the family is glad that Grayson is receiving the critical intervention he needs, they are aware of what he’s missing out on. 

“Grayson’s whole world was turned upside down because he didn’t get to do the rest of the summer with the fun things he wanted to do. He was not able to start school with his second grade class at Hesse Elementary. He’s not able to go and do fun things with his friends that he used to do; riding go-carts, playing video games, jumping at trampoline parks and things. . . Since his diagnosis, he’s missing out on everything that he would normally be doing, and that he would really rather be doing,” she explained. 

The diagnosis has impacted not only Grayson, of course, but his entire family. The family had to come together to pool resources to ensure that Grayson could get the treatment that he needs. Grayson’s father lost his job after Grayson’s diagnosis. So he’s been relying on support from loved ones and the community during this difficult time. 

The family has to pay out-of-pocket for a lot of expenses related to Grayson’s treatment that insurance doesn’t cover. That includes things like living expenses for two households, one in Minnesota and the other here in Savannah, travel expenses, experimental drugs and supplements and other costs. To help Grayson’s family cover these costs, Griner started a Go Fund Me for Grayson at the request of friends and family. So far, the money they’ve raised has allowed Grayson’s father to keep up with various expenses.

“He has living expenses in the apartment for Grayson and him that has to be near the hospital. So it’s allowed him to pay for his living expenses in Minnesota as well as continuing their home in Savannah. It’s also allowed freedom of travel for Grayson and his dad to go get this treatment. It’s also going to allow Nathan to be able to go visit Grayson as soon as the doctor approves that,” said Griner. 

Grayson’s family is very appreciative of the generosity they’ve received thus far. 

“No amount is too small, and our family feels loved and valued when someone cares enough to do something, no matter how small it is. . . It means the world to our family,” Griner expressed. 

The family is also grateful for all the kind words, encouragement, love, support and prayers made for Grayson. Griner asks that the community continues to uplift Grayson in their thoughts and prayers: 

“Grayson is a very kind, humble little kid who thinks of others before himself. He’s sincere. Grayson filled out his own prayer card at church, so he understands that he needs help, and he understands that he needs the prayers of his faith family. So I think the most important thing is that we would like the public on Grayson’s behalf to continue to pray for him.”

The title of Grayson’s Go Fund Me account is called ‘Help Grayson’s Fight Against ALD. To donate, visit gofundme.com and search for the account. 



About The Author

Chantel Britton

Chantel Britton is a compelling storyteller with an ever-growing curiosity. She's built a rewarding writing career for herself in addition to serving five years as a Public Affairs Officer in the U.S. Army Reserve. She's an NPR nerd with a deep passion for all things travel, sustainable living and adventure. She...
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