5-year-old Rochester boy fights genetic disorder like a superher - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

5-year-old Rochester boy fights genetic disorder like a superhero

Gus with mom Becky and dad Gregg Gus with mom Becky and dad Gregg
Gus' was named 2017 NF Champion by the Neurofibromatosis Network Gus' was named 2017 NF Champion by the Neurofibromatosis Network
Gus after getting brain surgery Gus after getting brain surgery

He wears a mask and a cape for a reason. A Rochester boy is fighting his genetic disorder like a superhero, and he has received a national award for his bravery.

Gus Erickson, 5, was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) when he was just 9 months old. 

"We were shocked. He was born a healthy, happy baby," said his mom, Becky Erickson.

NF1 causes tumors to grow throughout a person's body.

"They can be seen on the skin, under the skin, or basically anywhere where nerves are. And they are benign tumors, but they grow over time. And sometimes, they can produce significant discomfort and pain, neurological deficits. And in about 10 percent of time, we would see that these tumors can transform into malignant tumors," explained Dr. Dusica Babovic-Vuksanovic, who heads Mayo Clinic’s Neurofibromatosis Clinic, which is providing care for Gus.

In Gus' case, a racquetball-sized tumor grew in his brain. Doctors discovered it when he was just 3 years old.

"We were terrified and everything happened really fast," said mom Becky.

So Gus underwent surgery at Mayo Clinic.

"The difficulty level in terms of the type of surgery he had was a nine out of 10... and it was successful and so we were just -- a huge gasp of relief," Becky said.

"Yeah, we're definitely thankful that we have the Mayo Clinic here in our backyard," added Gus' dad, Gregg.

But just days after his surgery, there was a swelling in Gus' head. So he had to undergo another risky procedure -- a spinal tap to drain the fluid.

"We woke up on Father's Day and the swelling was completely gone. And it was truly the best Father's Day gift I could have ever received," Gregg said.

Through it all, Gus remained courageous and optimistic, prompting the Neurofibromatosis Network to name him the national 2017 NF Champion. Gus received a medal with his name and silhouette on it. Replicas of that medal will be given out to people who take part in NF events.

But even before that award, Gus' parents already knew he was their little superhero.

"And what do we always say?," Gus' dad asked him.

"Ericksons never give up," Gus replied.

The family's organization, NF North Central (part of the Neurofibromatosis Network), will host a fundraiser to fight NF at the Rochester Civic Theatre. It will take place on Saturday, Nov. 11 beginning at 5 p.m. The money raised will go toward NF research.

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