Day 343: Extraordinary Measures

Extraordinary Measures poster

I called a movie night for this evening, after a long day followed an extremely short night. It was all for goodness sake, the loss of sleep. However, with weariness bearing down on me, a quick meal, hot shower and a short movie sounded like the perfect end to the day. I browsed through my sister Linda’s dvd collection, in hopes of finding a movie there that I had not seen before. Doing so would save me a drive to the rental store so that I could get this movie night underway more quickly! I found a film I’d not seen before. Being in Linda’s collection, the movie of course starred Harrison Ford. That’s okay. I’m a Harrison fan myself.

Extraordinary Measures stars Harrison Ford, Brendan Fraser, Keri Russell, Meredith Droeger and Diego Valezquez. It was directed by Tom Vaughn and is based on the book by Geeta Anand, “The Cure: How a Father Raised $100 Million – And Bucked the Medical Establishment – in a Quest to Save His Children”, which in turn is based on the real life events of the Crowley Family. This drama is rated PG, for mild language, and has a run time of 1 hour and 41 minutes.

I seem to have been drawn frequently this year to movies based on true stories. This movie was no exception. John Crowley (Fraser), a successful advertising executive, has a beautiful wife (Russell), and three young children. Theirs seems to be an average family, with school and birthday parties, doting parents and siblings who tease each other. Average, until one notices that two of the three children are in wheelchairs and on ventilators, victims of a muscle wasting disease called Pompe. This genetic disorder, which is similar to muscular dystrophy, has no cure and most of the children afflicted die before their 10th birthdays.

Megan (Droeger) and Patrick (Valezquez) are growing progressively weaker, risking organ failure. The parents refuse to watch helplessly while their children die. John reaches out to an eccentric but brilliant scientist, Dr. Robert Stonehill (Ford), who is working on an enzyme treatment for children with Pompe. His promising research appears to offer the only hope for the Crowley children. Although Dr. Stonehill lacks the funding to bring his research to clinical trials, and has “interpersonal relationship” issues, John pursues a working relationship with the prickly man by personally raising money for critical lab work. Leaving his job, he takes on the full time task of acquiring funds, working with venture capitalists and then selling the growing research company to scientific rivals, all with one goal in mind: create a treatment that will save his children, before time runs out for them. With a ruthlessness that slices through most of his relationships, business and personal, John doggedly pursues a future for his kids. Extraordinary measures, indeed.

As I always do, after watching a “based on a true story” movie, I googled afterward to check the story for accuracy. John’s children were much younger than their film counterparts as they struggled for life. And the Dr. Stonehill character is based on a composite of scientists and researchers, primarily Dr. William Canfield. Otherwise, this is an accurate portrayal of the lengths, and depths, parents will go to for the well being of their children. The Crowleys exhibited a “never give up” attitude and a fierce love for their kids. Their battle wasn’t just against time…it was against drug companies and the FDA, big corporations and profit making. When John found himself against a seemingly impassable wall, he either created a door and moved quickly through, or went around it, often encouraged by the untraditional Dr. Stonehill.

As a parent, and Yaya, I was moved by the great love and determination that the parents had for their children . As a parent, and Yaya, I’d do anything to further the well being of my kids and grandkids, loving them fiercely, wanting the very best possible future for each of them. I could feel empathy for the Crowleys as they fought for the lives of their kids. There were tearful moments during the film. I was especially captured by the scene with young Megan, after a near death experience, staring intently into the eyes of her father as he bowed his head over her. No words were spoken. They didn’t need to be. Here was a daughter, her gaze full of calmness and quiet hope, trusting her daddy to be there….no matter what happened. And a father who promised, with his eyes, that he would always be there….no matter what happened. I was humbled, and undone, watching that tender moment.

I am happy to say that the Crowley children are still living, the created treatment successful in easing their symptoms and prolonging their life while also enhancing the quality of it. This movie was an uplifting experience for this evening, refreshing to my mind and spirit. My tired body, on the other hand, is ready for an early bedtime and a deep restorative sleep. I’ll take the warmth of this movie with me as I turn in.

Extraordinary Measures scene