ASU fraternity supports brother facing degenerative brain disease

Brandon Londer was just another ASU student: a biomedical engineering senior, a brother of Sigma Alpha Mu volunteering to help people with disabilities. His whole life changed this past October, however, when he was diagnosed with Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease.

Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease is a degenerative brain disease similar to Alzheimer's. According to the Alzheimer's Association's website, it causes a type of dementia that develops unusually fast, much faster than Alzheimer's or other degenerative diseases.

While Alzheimer's typically takes 20 to 30 years to fully develop, Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease only takes a matter of months, and there is no known cure.

"The best way to describe it is like Alzheimer's on steroids," Brittany Londer, Brandon's sister, said.

About 300 people are diagnosed with Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease each year, and patients are typically aged 60 or older.

Brandon is 22.

Supply chain management sophomore Stephan Plofsky, Brandon's friend and co-Philanthropy Fundraiser Chairman of Sigma Alpha Mu, said he was surprised by how fast his condition has developed.

"I visited him in the hospital in November and he was up walking around, joking with all of us," Plofsky said. "But when I went back in March, just a few months later, he was practically unresponsive."

Brandon's family has come to Arizona to help him as his condition worsens — he no longer speaks, rarely moves from the couch and has no recollection of his friends.

Tourism development and management senior Matt Metviner, Brandon's best friend, said Brandon was always involved in helping others.

"He was a biomedical engineering major so he didn't have much free time, but he spent the time he did have helping autistic children or helping design prosthetic limbs for war veterans," Metviner said. "Brandon was always the first to help others, so it would be great to see people put him first now."

The 30 active brothers of Sigma Alpha Mu are working to raise money for Brandon as well.

The fraternity has started a GoFundMe page and is hosting a softball tournament on April 17, and an on-campus bake sale and raffle on April 10. They are also hosting a "Percentage Week" at California Pizza Kitchen, where a portion of all profits will be donated to Brandon's family and to the Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease Foundation.

The GoFundMe page has earned $1,704 of its $7,000 goal so far, with just 54 contributions.

Plofsky said many people know about dementia-causing diseases like Alzheimer's, but very few know about Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Because of this, little money is put into research for the disease. Sigma Alpha Mu's goal is not only to raise money for Brandon specifically, but to raise awareness about the disease in general. 

"Any donation, even a penny, counts," Metviner said.

All of the money that is raised from the fraternity's events and the GoFundMe page will be given either to the disease's foundation or to Brandon's family.

"I just wish people understood how much of a nightmare this is for his family," Metviner said. 


Reach the reporter at aegeland@asu.edu or follow @alexisegeland on Twitter.

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