Meet Matt Horick
Matt Horick is a happy, athletic 7-year-old who loves playing outside near his home in rural Point Reyes, California. That spring, Matt is playing football with some friends when he bends over and discovers that he can't return to a standing position. He's stuck in an L-shape. After being rushed to the ER, Matt is diagnosed with hip dysplasia.
Living With a Limp
Doctors tell the Horicks that Matt will need hip surgery as soon as his bones are mature enough. Matt suffers with hip pain and a bad limp for the next few years. It's an extremely emotional time for him. Not only is he forced to give up sports, but his parents divorce when he's 12. As he enters his teens, his limp causes stares & gossip at school. In 1997, Matt finally has hip surgery and is eventually able to return to the physical activities he loves. He and his dad love to go camping and boating, and Matt excels at the sport of wakeboarding.
A Nasty Tumble
But then, at age 16, Matt takes a bad fall while wakeboarding with his dad. Slamming into the water face first at high speed, Matt suffers a shock to his spine. He is unable to walk for a few hours but gradually recovers.
A Strange Lump
Matt's body aches for days afterward. Then he's completely taken aback when, one week later, he discovers a huge, hard lump on his back, stretching from shoulder to shoulder. The lump was not there before his accident.
Matt begins a round of medical tests. Doctors fear cancer, but chemotherapy does nothing for his condition, and no one can explain what's happening.
A Second Skeleton
Finally, a CT scan reveals an astounding metamorphosis of Matt's muscles, and doctors are able to give Matt the horrifying diagnosis - his body is actually growing a second skeleton. Doctors only need to check one thing to confirm Matt's diagnosis.
Right at His Feet
Matt's strangely shaped toes give the final clue to his unique diagnosis of Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva, a genetic disorder in which the body's muscles gradually convert into bony tissue. The disease is often triggered by a trauma such as the one Matt suffered in his wakeboarding accident. . Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva, or FOP, is one of the most debilitating genetic disorders. There is no cure. Surgery to remove the bone growths leads to even more bone growths. Eventually the bodies of sufferers become totally ossified ??? except ironically, the heart, lungs, diaphragm, lips and tongue.
A Tough Road
The first year after the diagnosis is extremely difficult. Matt's FOP flares up and the muscles in his back continue to ossify, causing the 6'2", 170-pound teen to shrink to 5'8" and 120 pounds. After coming to terms with his condition, Matt has decided to help others and is currently enrolled in college and majoring in psychology.