3-year-old continues battle with ‘baby Alzheimer’s’

Damian Markham, 2, sits with mother, Brittany and father Brock as one of Damian's favorite books is read for the group gathered for a special Sidewalk Storytime at the Old Town Newhall Library on Wednesday, 063021. Dan Watson/The Signal

While 3-year-old Damian Markham continues his battle against a fatal disease he’s had since birth, his mother says the community has continued to rally around him and his parents.  

Brittany Markham said Friday that for this week alone there have been three different events or campaigns set up for her son, who was diagnosed with Niemann Pick Disease — a degenerative brain disease that causes continued neurological damage — in order to help fund research and treatments he may need.  

Childrens Librarian Aley Ungerman reads one of Damian Markham’s favorite books for the group gathered for a special Sidewalk Storytime at the Old Town Newhall Library on Wednesday. Dan Watson/The Signal

On Sunday, actor-influencer Eric Artell in kicked off the ASMD Baby Food Challenge, a social media challenge created to raise awareness for the Newhall toddler and the Wylder Nation Foundation.  

In front of a group of young people at Markham’s church, the Church of Latter-Day Saints, attendees cheered in the background as Eric guzzled a jar of turkey baby food for his 4 million TikTok followers, before taking the challenge themselves. 

“It’s amazing, the power of positivity. And you can have that power on social media,” Artell said to the youth in a press release sent to The Signal. “You can be powerful in what you do, one little piece of content at a time … You can spread joy, and you can spread goodness.” 

The challenge — to eat a jar of baby food in under 5 seconds — is modeled after the Ice Bucket Challenge, which generated 24 million videos and raised more than $220 million to fight ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, in 2014. Teens donated baby food prior to the event and cheered on those who took on the challenge. 

“It’s a big push to just spread awareness and hopefully people who are curious will go to either SaveDamian.org or to WylderNation.org, and learn more about how we’re trying to do this,” said Markham. “It’s mostly for awareness … although we have already seen a little bit of a boost in our campaign because people were curious enough to go check it out.” 

Senior Children’s Librarian Liza Purdy plays children’s songs on guitar for the group gathered for a special Sidewalk Storytime at the Old Town Newhall Library on Wednesday, 063021. Dan Watson/The Signal

According to Markham, Neimann Pick, also known as acid sphingomyelinase deficiency, is an early-onset disease categorized into three types: Type A, B and C, with Type A being the most severe of the three. The Type A form of the disease contributes to a child suffering from an enlarged liver and spleen, loss of muscle tone, failure to thrive and rapid neurodegeneration that typically leads to death by age 3.    

If a cure of more effective treatment is not found, the continued neurological damage to Damian could likely result in his death before the age of 5. And while progress continues to be made on getting Markham certain treatments or prescriptions, his mother says that her 3-year-old has — since last speaking with The Signal earlier this year — lost his ability to sit up. 

“He can only sit up for so long before it hurts him or he throws up, because his muscle tone is just getting weaker,” said Markham. “Just his core is just so weak so anytime he sits up for an extended period of time…” 

“But he is still just as positive as ever and has the sweetest smile and loves to laugh,” said Markham. “We have a lot of hope.”  

The Markhams will also see a handful of fundraisers occur this weekend in support of Damian as well. On Saturday, Fit4Mom Santa Clarita will be hosting a Halloween-themed “Kids K and Party” where kids can sign up to run a mini race in their costumes (with their parents) for $20. They will earn a participation medal and trick-or-treating bag, and 50% of proceeds will go to a fund called “Save Damian.” 

The event is set to begin at 10:30 a.m. and take place at Duane Harte Park.  

Then on Sunday, a community Halloween bake sale is set to take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 28341 Rodgers Drive in Saugus. Proceeds from the bake sale will be given to Damian’s ASMD treatment, according to event organizers. Those wishing to donate baked goods or volunteer can find more information at https://www.instagram.com/p/CVVqfNyL0qZ/

To donate directly to the “Save Damian” campaign, visit https://bit.ly/2XFygZu.  

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