They were words no parent ever wants to hear.
In “Extraordinary Measures,” a CBS film which opened in theaters Jan. 22 and is based on a true story, John and Aileen Crowley (played by Brendan Fraser and Keri Russell) were at the hospital where their 8-year-old daughter, Megan (Meredith Droeger) lay close to death in the intensive care unit.
The doctor pulled the parents aside and told them the bone-chilling news about her condition.
“Megan is not responding well, there is nothing more we can do and she is already well past her life expectancy,” he said. “Maybe consider it a blessing that Megan’s suffering will be over soon.”
Yet Crowley was later able to tell the doctor, “I guess we dodged that blessing.”
His daughter, suffering from Pompe disease, a rare and often fatal disease related to muscular dystrophy, proved to be a fighter.
Seeing his daughter battle through from the brink of death inspired Crowley to step up his fight against the disease that afflicted not only his daughter, Megan, but also his 6-year-old son, John Jr. (Sam M. Hall).
Crowley, a successful pharmaceuticals executive, gave up a lucrative and stable career to search for a way to prolong his children’s lives. His battle takes him from his home in Oklahoma City to Nebraska where he meets the eccentric, but highly intelligent university scientist Robert Stonehill, played by Harrison Ford.
While Stonehill is on the cutting edge of research into Pompe disease, he is also severely underfunded and has a volatile temper to boot. The two join forces, however, to take on the disease, combining Crowley’s business expertise and Stonehill’s scientific knowledge. Their journey is filled with humor and heartache, struggles and achievements. “Extraordinary Measures,” is based on the book, “The Cure: How a Father Raised $100 Million – and Bucked the Medical Establishment – in a Quest to Save His Children,” by Geeta Anand.
The characters, even the odd scientist, Stonehill, who works in his laboratory while blasting tunes by the Grateful Dead, are likable. Megan is particularly captivating as she doesn’t let the fact that she’s in a wheelchair slow her down. Knowing what an optimistic fighter she is makes the audience pull harder for a successful outcome. Yet the odds are against them all, as the life expectancy for children afflicted with the disease is age 9 and both the Crowley children are showing severe signs of the disease. Maybe Stonehill’s cure will be successful, but will it come in time for the Crowley children?
In real-life, Crowley is a devout Catholic who leaned on his faith heavily during his ordeal. The movie doesn’t offer any hint of his religiosity, but does show his commitment to his wife and children and the fact that his career takes a back seat to the love he has for his family. While tackling a heavy subject, “Extraordinary Measures” tells its story with humor, love and compassion.