TAMPA, Fla. -- Christian Maugee studies cellular and molecular biology at University of South Florida, hoping one day to find a cure for Friedreich's Ataxia, an illness he was diagnosed with at just nine years old.
"Basically, our nerves are slowly deteriorating and we are under-supplying energy. So we are always very fatigued and tired," the 20-year-old student explained.
Christian's muscles don't properly communicate with his brain, despite years of undergoing tests.
"It gets worse over time. And you slowly lose abilities that have become known to you. And that's very hard for you because you learn how to do something like ride a bike. But then your body just forgets or can't," Christian said, through tears streaming down his face.
Christian lives on his own but his twin sister Isabel, who also has Friedreich's Ataxia and is now dependent on others.
"She still lives with my parents in the same house and she uses a wheelchair. And she just needs help in almost every aspect of life," he said.
And Christian doesn't like to think about his own body continuing to deteriorate.
"This will eventually happen to me. Hopefully not but currently, it will. And it's kind of scary," he said reluctantly.
Christian is thankful for FARA, Friedreich's Ataxia Research Alliance, a nonprofit group that helps all FA patients and raises money for research .
"And that's just huge because sure you can help me when I fall, you can pick me up. You can lend me a helping hand. But if you can find a cure or even a treatment, that's unthinkable, it's beyond words," he said.
Christian prays for a cure as tried to explain with tears in his eyes.
"Not just for myself, but other people with my disease," he said.
ABC Action News anchor Wendy Ryan will emcee the FARA Energy Ball on Saturday, September 28.