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Detroit Lakes family hopes stem cell treatment leads to normal life for 11-year-old child

Dylan Peterson (center) and his brother Anthony, (left) give the thumbs up to a new stem cell treatment that may help Dylan walk and talk. His mom, Tara Peterson (second from left) and grandma, Corinne Fingalson (right) are set on giving Dylan his chance to have a normal life. (Pippi Mayfield/DL Newspapers)

Dylan Peterson loves to give a thumbs up and never seems to be without a smile. Not only is that a feat for any 11-year-old, it's especially impressive considering what he's been through in life thus far.

When Dylan was about 6 months old, he "didn't react like a normal baby," his mom Tara Peterson said. That was when she learned Dylan had muscular dystrophy.

Then, at age 3, Dylan was involved in a severe car accident and broke the femur bones in his legs and, after being in a coma for nine days and being in the hospital for a month, he suffered brain damage as well.

For six months, he was in a full body cast, which in return, caused him to lose much of the muscle he had.

"We had to start all over and build from the ground up," his grandma, Corrine Fingalson, said of working and teaching Dylan.

As a baby, Dylan would scoot around the floor, and do things the doctors said he never would. Doctors told the family that Dylan wouldn't live past 5 years old. He's 11.

That fight and determination is why Dylan's family is headed toward what they hope will be a cure for him -- stem cell treatment.

"I've dug and dug and dug for years to find something for Dylan," Fingalson said.

After finding out about how stem cells, which come from the umbilical cord of a newborn, cure many, many things, including brain damage and MD, Fingalson is banking on this being the cure for her grandson -- Dilly Dill as she refers to him.

Once inside his body, the stem cells know where to latch onto his body and possibly cure whatever and wherever the damage is.

Dylan will have to make two trips for the process, which includes the transfusion and a check-up, and he could be walking and talking, leading a normal life, within a year.

"That would be great," Tara said.

"I think he will," Fingalson said. "We had him doing a lot of things doctors said he never would."

To add to his list of doctor visits, on Sept. 30, 2008, Dylan went to the hospital for respiratory relapse when both of his lungs collapsed. He now has a trachea in place as a safety precaution to help with his breathing.

He had neck surgery earlier this spring because his head tilted back so far it could nearly touch his back. He has also had hip extensions so he could lay flat because he was beginning to curl up.

"He's had a rough, rough life, but he still smiles," Fingalson said.

Dylan attends Rossman Elementary School in Detroit Lakes, and loves music and physical education classes. He has his own sign language and can talk when his trach is covered.

The stem cell treatment is costing the family about $10,000, and a benefit is taking place on Saturday to help with that cost.

From 3 p.m. until closing in the Sandbar II, there will be a live auction, turkey dinner and music by the band Last Call.

Some of the items on the auction include a gun, muzzle loader starter kit, fishing items, laser camera for in the woods, a folding room divider, area rug, quilt, several packages and more.

An account has also been set up at Wells Fargo under Dylan J. Peterson for those wishing to make donations.