By Mike Bush
Ballwin, MO (KSDK) - In the Vehige house, family isn't just an important thing. It's everything.
They've had to rally around 3-year-old Nathan ever since he was born three months premature.
"He has cerebral palsy," explained his mom, Nicole. " He also has a bi-lateral hearing loss and then he has a cortical visual impairment."
No one so small should have to deal with so much but always watching out for him is his big brother Andrew.
"You can just see it when his eyes light up when he talks about Nathan," said dad Steve Vehige. "And how he's going to help him and protect him."
His parents like to say that Andrew is four going on 24.
Both smart and caring, he'll happily talk your head off while showing off his toys. Yes, Nathan has his challenges but Andrew has been a dream child. Then the dream turned into a nightmare.
"I'll never forget my mom and I were walking in West County mall with both boys and Andrew just started dragging his right leg," recalled Nicole.
After months of tests, The Vehige's finally got the diagnosis. Ryan has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.
"He's our first born, we had so many hopes and dreams," said Nicole through tears.
"My heart was broken," said Steve.
Duchenne is the most common and severe form of MD, affecting boys almost exclusively. Instead of getting stronger, muscles get weaker and patients are usually wheelchair dependent by age 12.
"You know it's a terminal disease, I know what's going to happen," said Nicole. "My biggest fear is that he will go before I do."
When adversity found the Vehiges, they found strength from family, friends and even co-workers.
Steve works for Boeing and last spring in honor of Andrew, dozens of Boeing workers participated in the MDA Muscle Walk, raising $23,000.
"'Im extremely lucky to have the friends and family and support that I do," said Steve.
There is no cure for Duchenne Dystrophy but researchers with the Muscular Dystrophy Association are working toward that goal every day.
"I'm just praying that the doctors and therapists that's something just clicks," Nicole said.
Like their sons Andrew and Nathan, the Vehige's will never give up. And hope is the biggest muscle of all.
"He's one determined little boy," said Steve. "So if anyone is going to fight through this, I know it's going to be him."