Rare Disease Report

11-Year Old Huntington's Disease Patient All Shook Up After Meeting Elvis Impersonator

JULY 26, 2017
Mathew Shanley
Jailhouse Rock turned into Hospital Rock this week after 11-year old Huntington’s disease (HD) patient Aidan Smith met Elvis Presley impersonator Bill Chrastil.
Smith, whose father and half-sister both died as Huntington’s disease patients, has grown into an Elvis fanatic thanks to a little influence from his mother and maternal grandmother.
"My mom is a big Elvis fan so I like Elvis as well," said Aidan's mother, Denise Hudgell, to KETV in Omaha, Nebraska. "We both listen to Elvis, so Aiden does."
HD is both a genetic and neurodegenerative condition, and has devastating physical, psychological and cognitive effects on patients. Chorea, or an abnormal involuntary movement disorder is the primary physical symptom, and Smith's has progressed rapidly in the past year.
In February, he became bedridden and is currently working on becoming adaptable to a wheelchair.
A brief meeting with Elvis, though, was enough to lift the boy’s spirits. Even Chrastil, who volunteers regularly at the at the Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital’s Lincoln campus, was shaking in his blue suede shoes over the encounter.
"He just had that smile that lit that room up and it was just incredible," said Chrastil. "I’ll tell you what – I probably got more out of this than Aidan did. It just touched my heart so much.”
Together, the duo sang Presley’s 1957 hit All Shook Up and created a memory that will last a lifetime for the preteen. Moments like these aren’t few and far between for Smith, as Denise knows that time is precious and makes a point of doing things that make her son happy.
“You know he goes outside and he sees it and he's just so happy to be outside," she said.
Last Fall, Smith got to stand on the sidelines for a game hosted by his favorite college football team, the Iowa University Hawkeyes after meeting Head Coach Kirk Ferentz. When his treatment in Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital is up, the mother and son hope to visit the zoo – a trip they haven’t been able to take in 3 years.
As Chrastil and Smith said goodbye, the HD patient blew the impersonator a kiss and mustered up the energy to say, “I love you, Elvis.”
That moment was enough to leave everybody in the room all shook up.
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