A child in New Mexico named Janae Jasmine Gallegos complained of the headache so her parents gave her some Tylenol thinking she would be ok. However, the next morning she was unresponsive and her parents new there was something badly wrong. Janae was dead, sadly. She died from a blood clot in her brain stem. She was only 9 years old.
A blood clot in the brain stem is the end result of a rare gene disease that most Hispanics in New Mexico and Eastern Arizona share. It’s called the “Common Hispanic Mutation” or “Cerebral Cavernous Malformation (CCM1). What the disease does is affects the way your body forms blood vessels in your brain and spinal cord. For most people the disease lays dormant and never manifests but for others it does and it is fatal. Sadly, it is also often misdiagnosed by health care professionals.
The University of New Mexico has a special clinic for this disease called the Cavernous Malformation Clinic. Dr Leslie Morrison is the director of that clinic. Dr Morrison thinks there are way to many brain tumors in the family histories of patients and also notices that some people end up in wheelchairs without any apparent cause. The disease was first recognized back in the 1960s by researchers at UNM. Those researchers at the time found a family link primarily among Hispanics in New Mexico. That connection has since been documented by the New England Journal of Medicine and the American Journal of Neuroradiology. Researchers now believe that more than 95% of the clinics patients who have the disease have a single gene mutation identical to the common Hispanic mutation.
Many of New Mexico’s Hispanic blood lines are traced to Mexico and Spain through early settlers in the American Southwest including the Conquistadors and Hispanic pioneers. It is suspectd that there are thousands of people in New Mexico and Eastern Arizona who have this disease and don’t even know it. The Southwest has the only large cluster of the disease in the country by the way. So what’s the reason for that? The likely reason is that the disease originated with one Hispanic couple who came into the Southwest and whom many Hispanics in NM and AZ can trace their ancestry back to.
Those common ancestors from which the disease may be traced were Juan Perez de Bustillo and his wife Maria de la Cruz. Bustillo was born in about 1559 in Mexico and Maria in about 1560. Many Hispanics in NM and AZ can trace their ancestry back to this couple or to their daughters Anna Perez de Bustillo and Beatrice Perez de Bustillo. It’s unclear which parent may have been carrying the gene mutation but researchers are almost certain that one of them did and extensive genealogies have been done to come to this conclusion.
Researchers have begun trials using cholesterol drugs in an effort to block the effects of the mutation in the gene. New Mexico’s Congressional Delegation is asking for federal money to research the disease further, educate people, and try to find a cure for it.
This came as a shocker to me personally as Juan Perez de Bustillo and Maria de la Cruz were my 13th great grandparents. Because of that this story has a personal meaning for me and for my health with no thanks to those grandparents. Right now the UNM is testing for free but that testing is due to end in the next 3 or 4 months.
For more on this story:
For more on his FATAL DISEASE see: