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Zeeland teen living with Spinal Muscular Atrophy shares her back-to-school routine

Ericka_Hunderman.jpg
Ericka Hunderman

Ericka Hunderman has a few more back-to-school tasks than others. The 14-year-old has Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), a rare, genetic disease that causes difficulty with basic life functions like breathing, swallowing and walking.

As students check off their back-to-school lists, one West Michigan teen is highlighting what her return to the classroom looks like with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA).

Ericka Hunderman is going into her freshman year at Zeeland West High School. She’s got new outfits picked out and like many is excited to try new classes.

“Art class. I really love art, and I really wanted to do this art class for a while,” she told WGVU.

Hunderman has a few more back-to-school tasks than others. The 14-year-old has Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), a rare, genetic disease that causes difficulty with basic life functions like breathing, swallowing and walking. Hunderman is one of only an estimated 300 people in Michigan with SMA.

“My backpack I need a backpack that’s able to be held by my wheelchair like different clips and hanging devices,” she explained.

When looking for school supplies Hunderman said she needs lightweight options that she can carry all day. She told WGVU it’s a lot of working ahead, like planning where she’ll sit in a classroom and ensuring her medical items are in the school ahead of time.

Despite being diagnosed with SMA as an infant and using her wheelchair since the age of three, Hunderman’s diagnosis was not simple. Before joining her adoptive family, they say signs of her disease were missed by caretakers in the foster care system. She recently started taking the first and only at-home treatment for SMA, Evrysdi – which has allowed her more mobility. Now in August, Hunderman is using her voice during SMA Awareness Month to highlight Spinal Muscular Atrophy and help other students and families who may be on similar journeys.

“This does change. It changes how you live a lot, but you can work with it your whole life, because I did. You just have to do trial and error. It gets better the more you know,” Hunderman said.

There are an estimated 201,547 carriers in the state, and 9 new babies with SMA born annually. You can find more stats about MI SMA rates here.

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