Take a moment to consider your favorite meal.
Try to recreate in your mind all of the sensations surrounding it, the tastes and textures and smells. Maybe you’ll recall a sizzling steak fresh from the grill or the aroma of teriyaki-glazed salmon or perhaps the savory tang of homemade hummus served with oven-warm flatbread.
Okay, my stomach’s starting to growl now. But you get the point: Food is a prime pleasure in most of our lives.
For one young boy, though, solid food is something he never — and I mean never — gets to enjoy. Thirteen-year-old Matthew Cech hasn’t enjoyed a proper meal for a decade.
According to People, Matthew started life healthy enough, but his mother soon noticed that his stomach would swell terribly. Still, it wasn’t until he was 3 years old that physicians finally figured out the problem.
Matthew didn’t have irritable bowel syndrome or Crohn’s disease. Instead, doctor’s discovered that he suffered from mitochondrial disease.
Appropriately enough, mitochondrial disease attacks cells’ mitochondria, a structure found in every cell that generates virtually all of the energy used by the body. The disease, which is considered fatal, can strike anywhere in the human frame, causing organ failure.
It hit Matthew’s stomach. So for the past 10 years, he has lived with a 24/7 feeding tube through which he receives all of his nutrition.
The lack of solid food has taken its toll on the young man. Though a teenager, he still weighs a mere 51 pounds.
He has also faced numerous hospital stays. The Press-Republican reported that he spent almost an entire month in Massachusetts General Hospital in 2016.
But despite his physical troubles, he hasn’t been without emotional support. As far back as 2013, the Essex County Sheriff’s Office had Matthew help officers round up a lollipop bandit.
His reward for rounding up the “bad guys” was a thousand lollipops of his own. At age 11, the Department even made him an honorary sheriff.
Matthew has also managed to give back to others with similar illnesses. The Muscular Dystrophy Association sells paper shamrocks annually as a fundraising effort, an effort that the Cech family supported.
Eventually, Matthew started hawking his own shamrocks and donating the proceeds he received. “We’ve always been supportive and willing to help out the different organizations and businesses that have helped us out,” his father, Terry, said.
Terry knows that the prognosis for his son looks dire. “We were told that 80 percent of children diagnosed under the age of 5 won’t live until they’re 20,” he stated.
“But we don’t focus on the bad because if you focus on the bad, bad things will happen. He is not going to be the 80 percent that die.”
“No matter how bad of a day it is, there is always something good in it. You can always find some little bit of hope,” Lisa said.
Matthew himself has also tried to focus on the upside. “It will get better eventually,” the boy said.
“You just have to be positive. Hope will always come through for you.”
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