LOOK: Man with rare illness graduates cum laude from UP Los Banos

By Thea Alberto-Masakayan, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Jul 06 2015 05:19 PM | Updated as of Jul 09 2015 10:40 AM

For a determined man, a degenerative muscular disease is no hindrance to attaining a University degree.

This is the story of Carl Adrian P. Castueras, who, since he was 8 years old, has been tied to a wheelchair due to Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), a genetic disorder that weakens muscles.

On Saturday, after years of hard work, sheer determination, and laudable support from his family, Castueras graduated cum laude, with a degree of BS Computer Science from the University of the Philippines Los Banos.

When Castueras was diagnosed with DMD at age 8, his mom Marietta Castueras dropped her career as a marketing executive.

She accompanied Carl to school, patiently pushing her son’s wheelchair every single day. This went on until Carl studied at UP Los Banos.

Support from super mom

“He cannot propel the wheelchair on his own. It was very hard but it’s a family decision to help him,” Marietta told ABS-CBNNews in an interview.

Marietta said her husband, an engineer, continued working for the family.

Marietta stood by her son all the way, even attending classes with him.

Castueras recalled that the hardest part was to go to classrooms located at the upper floors of university buildings.

Marietta sometimes tapped the assistance of a helper to carry Castueras.

On graduation day, it was also Marietta pushing the wheelchair, proudly marching with her son.

Smiling while in his wheelchair, Castueras described his college life as “fun but challenging.”

“I guess the hardest was my first year, adjusting to the culture. This was a huge environment but I’m happy I managed,” Castueras said.

He said he can write but could not lift his arms due to his condition.

In his Facebook post, he also thanked the Institute of Computer Science for the “hospitality and support you have given me most especially during the toughest parts of my college life.”

“A big thank you as well to all the 'kuyas' who helped me reach my classrooms on the second and third floors. Without you, I would not have made it this far,” he added.

Castueras plans to work after graduation.

“I can still do it even if I am in a wheelchair,” he said.

Rare disease

DMD has no known treatment yet but a physical therapy session every week helped keep Castueras’ muscles intact, said Marietta.

According to the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA), DMD is caused by an absence of dystrophin, a protein responsible for keeping muscles together.

“Symptom onset is in early childhood, usually between ages 3 and 5. The disease primarily affects boys, but in rare cases it can affect girls,” MDA said in its website.