Basketball team helping coach's son battling rare, paralyzing illness

The Pine-Richland Rams are rallying around their coach's 6-year-old son who was recently diagnosed with acute flaccid myelitis.

He is one of several children diagnosed with the mysterious polio-like disease that mainly affects children and can cause paralysis.

Bryson Ackermann is the son of the head boy's basketball coach and many of the players refer to him as a brother.

The community is also coming together and has raised more than $40,000 on a fundraising website.

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"Bryson is like a part of the team for us, he's like our little brother," said Dan Petcash, varsity captain. "He comes to the practices, he comes to all the games, he gets water for us."

"I just think everyone should know about this because it's a very rare disease and there should be a cure for it," said Joey Iagnese, the team manager.

He's using social media to spread awareness and it's working. The team also created the hashtag, #brystonstrong.

The assistant basketball coach, Bob Petcash, has also been instrumental in supporting the Ackermann family and has been visiting the hospital regularly.

"He's family to everybody. You see a little kid that's six years old that is this sick, it puts life in perspective," Petcash said. "Bryson is a really strong kid and he will fight through it."

As of right now, there are six cases of AFM being treated at UPMC Children's Hospital: three are confirmed and three are suspected.

Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control reports 62 cases across 22 states.