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Feb 2, 2021

Kim Shields is 38 years old and just finished her masters in social work program. She was diagnosed with FOP at age 15, but it has mildly affected her throughout her life. She is a wheelchair user, but she doesn’t let that slow her down. She is working on a plan to open a nonprofit in the future to help with access issues for those with disabilities, specifically wheelchair access, but will fight to help anyone with a disability get access to housing, employment, and transportation that meets their individual needs to be as independent as possible.

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Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP) is a very rare inherited connective tissue disorder characterized by the abnormal development of bone in areas of the body where bone is not normally present (heterotopic ossification), such as the ligaments, tendons, and skeletal muscles. Specifically, this disorder causes the body's skeletal muscles and soft connective tissues to undergo a metamorphosis, essentially a transformation into bone, progressively locking joints in place and making movement difficult or impossible. Patients with FOP have malformed big toes that are present at birth (congenital). Other skeletal malformations may occur. The abnormal episodic development of bone at multiple soft tissue sites frequently leads to stiffness in affected areas, limited movement, and eventual ankylosis (fusion) of affected joints (neck, back, shoulders, elbows, hips knees, wrists, ankles, jaw - often in that order).

Episodic flare-ups (inflammatory soft tissue swellings) of FOP usually begin during early childhood and progress throughout life. Most cases of FOP occur as the result of a sporadic new mutation and the genetic mutation that results in this disorder has been identified. FOP is caused by the mutation of a gene (ACVR1) in the bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) pathway, which is important during the formation of the skeleton in the embryo and the repair of the skeleton following birth.