Leonardo Velez and Dr. Lee Waldman go way back. In fact, Leonardo can’t imagine life without Dr. Waldman, the Medical Director of Pediatric Care at NYC Health + Hospitals/Kings County. They met when he was three years old and Leonardo was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, a disease that causes progressive weakness and loss of muscle mass. Dr. Waldman has been Leonardo’s doctor for the last 17 years.
“Leonardo has taken life by the handle and is experiencing everything that he can. He is amazing. Because muscular dystrophy affects all of the muscles we had to put together a team of physicians including a pediatrician, pulmonologist, cardiologist and neurologist to meet all of his needs,” said Dr. Waldman.
One of the worst times that Leonardo remembers was when he was 16. “The doctors discovered that my heart was getting weaker. It was the most difficult time in my life and I was really depressed. Dr. Waldman talked to me and helped me to accept my disability and to continue to follow my dreams.”
Leonardo, now 20, has pursued his dreams. He graduated from high school early and is now attending Borough of Manhattan Community College and has plans to go to a four-year college.
“I want to major in human services. I want to find a field where I can help people,” he said. “Dr. Waldman helped me to understand my disability and now I want the next generation of kids who have muscular dystrophy to realize that there’s a lot of help out there. Not to feel sad but listen to their doctor and try their hardest to be healthy,” says Leonardo.
People diagnosed with the disease often grow progressively weaker, lose the ability to walk, and have to live in a wheelchair from an early age. But due to Leonardo’s perseverance and his team of doctors Leonardo is walking across campus and living a full, active life.