Smith’s mom suffers from Huntington’s Disease, which is hereditary. That means Smith has a 50 percent chance of having the disease, which usually begins manifesting itself between the ages of 30 and 50. If he does have it, he’ll pass on those same odds to any children.
Per the Post:
The 34-year-old hurler is now watching his mother, Lee, battle Huntington’s disease, a complicated neurodegenerative disorder that affects patients’ movements, cognitive abilities and psychiatric state. It has sometimes been described as a mix of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, and more than 30,000 people in the United States suffer from it. His maternal grandmother passed away from the disease in 2006.
Lee was diagnosed in 2012, and, two years ago, at age 59, she moved to a nursing home, where she needs help with daily tasks like tying her shoes and getting dressed.
“My mom can walk, but cognitively, it’s tough,” Smith explains. “They’re thinking my dad is going to retire and they’re going to see the grandkids or travel around and watch me play baseball, but it just doesn’t happen because it’s crippling [her]. I don’t even know how to explain it.”
One of the intriguing aspects of Huntington’s is people at-risk can undergo “predictive testing.” However, Smith and his sister have passed on this.
“I’ve talked to people [who have tested positive,] and they’ve fallen into depression for months. I just don’t know how it would affect me mentally,” Smith told the Post. “If I drop something, it’s like, “What the heck? I used to catch that. Is it natural or Huntington’s disease?’ ”
However, the sports power couple isn’t gambling with the next generation.
Instead of conceiving naturally, they’re using in vitro fertilization in combination with genetic testing, allowing them to implant only healthy embryos without Huntington’s, a process they began in January. This will basically guarantee an HD-free child — thus eradicating the mutation for good in their future generations.
Together, he and his wife of four years have brought in more than a million dollars for their foundation, HelpCureHD. They’re now using the money to help families defray the costs of PGD-IVF.