Photograph inspires inner strength for Durant kindergartner battling terminal disease

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DURANT, Okla. (KXII) -- At only 5-years-old, a Durant elementary student is battling a terminal disease and will undergo a complicated surgery, far from home, in six months. How one local artist hopes to help encourage the little boy with a special photograph.

Five-year-old Kase is a typical kindergartner.

"He plays and runs and goes to the park," said Kase's mom Melanie Smarr.

But moving and playing is not as easy for Kase, he was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a terminal disease. It's a progressive illness that causes his muscles to severely weaken. Doctors said the disease could end his life before his 15th birthday.

"He actually has a translocation instead of a mutation," said Smarr. "So he's the only documented case of it in like the whole world."

Although this disease is incurable, his family hopes an upcoming surgery with UCLA researchers will help slow down the disease.

"They actually take out part of his DNA and fuse his DNA together to help make it communicate better," Smarr said. "With muscular dystrophy generally their body doesn't make dystrophin, but with Kase it does. However, his X-chromosome is blocking his body from absorbing it."

Hearing Kase's story, one photographer wanted to help.

"I wanted to help him feel strong and inspired and powerful so he can be more motivated to get through the issues he has," photographer Shanna Johnson said.

Johnson dressed Kase up as a superhero, hoping to help him find his inner strength.

"It was awesome," Smarr said. "I didn't see it until today."

"It's just really empowering to have them see themselves and see that other side of how strong they can be," Johnson said.

Although Kase was dressed up as a superhero, his family said he wants to be a real life hero.

" A police officer," said Kase.

"It sounds cliché but God has a plan and he has timing," Smarr said. "So we're just one step at a time until we get there."

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