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Young man living with Duchenne muscular dystrophy Teams with creator of world-renowned ‘CSI’ franchise to share story of courage, strength & perseverance
Suneel Ram, a 26-year-old Western New York resident who lives with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD,) has released an inspirational book he co-wrote with Anthony E. Zuiker, the famed creator of the “CSI” television series. The book strives to help educate young people and build awareness of the genetic disease, and how it drastically impacts the lives of those living with the condition.
Ram’s debut book, “Soaring, A Story of Courage,” is a heartfelt story of courage, strength, pain, and the social isolation he has dealt with his entire life. It is part of a series of books Zuiker has co-written with young authors to create awareness of critical issues facing youth today. These graphic novels tell stories that deal with major challenges facing today’s youth, including suicide, body image and bullying.
As a graphic novel, “Soaring” speaks directly to young audiences. It is perfectly suited to the honest and inspiring story written by Ram. Readers will come away with an understanding of this disease, and a deeper understanding of how people facing long-term illness live their lives with grace and hope.
“Soaring” was based on months of personal interviews between Zuiker, Ram and his family. This beautifully illustrated graphic novel details Ram’s pain, heroics, hope and happiness to encourage others to overcome their barriers. Ram shares how living with this debilitating disease was nothing compared to the unbearable pain of loneliness and being seen as different by others.
Ram describes his challenges, from not being able to play like other children, to teenage years marred by broken bones and extreme muscle weakness. He leads the reader through a life of struggles, each met with determination and courage.
When Ram is denied treatment in a trial that could prolong his life, he doesn’t give up; when a professor gave an inept description of DMD, Suneel addressed the class to give them the true facts. The book celebrates Ram’s greatest achievements despite so many hurdles, such as graduating from high school and attending college.
Suneel Ram (Submitted photo)
“Writing this book and putting the depth of my experiences on paper was challenging, but I hope my journey inspires others to rely on spirituality, friends and family when faced with chronic illness,” he said. “I believe we all serve a special purpose to help each other grow and be there for one another, and I hope that this book will help able-bodied teens gain more empathy for their peers who are growing up with a disability. This book is a testament to my family and friends who have helped me to keep pursuing my dreams. This book is also dedicated to my deepest wish that one day researchers will find a cure for Duchenne muscular dystrophy.”
The book includes a parent resource page that provides information on DMD to discuss with children by Dr. Neera Gulati, Ram’s mother and family medicine physician. She is the founder of Suneel’s Light Foundation, has traveled the world to advance medical research for DMD, and has lobbied policy makers and health care providers on the importance of medical research and funding for DMD. The foundation has provided funding to leading genetic researchers.
"Suneel is an extraordinary young man with an inspiring life story. He puts the capitol 'C' in courage and the capitol 'S' in soaring,” Zuiker said. “He's changed my life by seeing the world through his humbled lens. Our hope is his graphic novel does the same for every reader on the planet."
Zuiker is best known as an award-winning television writer, television producer, and author. He is the creator of the world famous “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” series. He has produced all five editions of the “CSI” franchise: “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” “CSI: Miami,” “CSI: NY,” “CSI: Cyber” and “CSI: Vegas.” He also created the murder mystery show “Whodunnit?” and the web series “Cybergeddon,” for which he was awarded the Pioneer Award from the International Digital Emmy Awards. He also featured a thrilling series on BlackBoxTV for YouTube. In addition, he is an acclaimed author of several books, including “Mr. CSI: How A Vegas Dreamer Made A Killing In Hollywood” and “One Body At A Time,” his personal memoir.
Zuiker is the co-founder, publisher and creative director of Zuiker Press, which published “Soaring.” Zuiker Press was founded by Michelle and Anthony Zuiker to champion the voices of young authors.
The idea to launch an “issue-based” literary house came out of Michelle’s 17 years in elementary school education, and from the challenges that the couple saw their own children and their friends’ children facing every day. It works with and publishes young authors that have elected to tell their personal stories and be ambassadors of their cause.
The mission of each book released is that readers will learn from the pain and heroics of our authors and find hope, change and happiness in their own lives. Additional resources and advice for parents are included in the back of each book and on its website. The 10 graphic novels in the stand-alone series that have been published to date deal with difficult issues impacting young lives, such as autism, activism, suicide, school shootings, bullying, divorce, racism and body image through experience of the partnering author. They are designed to help students deal with difficult circumstances, and to encourage public conversation on the topics in a positive and educational resource.
Zuiker Press graphic novels are in over 200 schools nationwide, including the Los Angeles Unified School District, which is the second-largest school district in the world.
“Soaring” features 87 pages of bright and engaging animation, which was designed by Fantoons Animation Studios. The book is being distributed by Simon and Schuster and available at Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, Books-A-Million, Bookshop, IndieBound, Indigo and a few local bookstores to be announced soon. It retails for $12 to $15, depending on hard or softback, and it’s available as an eBook.
DMD is the most lethal genetic childhood disease, which targets predominantly young boys, without regard to ethnicity, and leads to death from respiratory or heart failure by their mid-20s. In addition to the physical challenges surrounding this disease, those with DMD suffer from learning disabilities, social isolation and behavioral issues. Symptoms usually appear in male children before age 6 and may be visible in early infancy. Eventually, this weakness spreads to the arms, neck and other areas. Later symptoms may include abnormal bone development that leads to skeletal deformities, including curvature of the spine. Due to progressive deterioration of muscle, loss of movement occurs eventually leading to paralysis.
“Soaring, A Story of Courage” (Submitted photo)
“Soaring” was made possible by a financial support of Suneel’s Light, a local foundation that supports critical research for treatment of DMD, and to increase public awareness of the genetic disease, which is named after Ram. Both the foundation and Zuiker are working to raise additional funding from other foundations, medical institutions, individual philanthropists, and corporations to be able to publish more copies of the book, so it can be donated to school districts and nonprofits in both Western New York and across the county. Those interested in supporting the initiative can contact Zuiker Press at zuikerpress.com.
About Suneel’s Light
Suneel’s Light Foundation was established in 2002 to fund critical research for medical treatments and a cure for Duchenne. The volunteer board is made up of leading local professionals in the medical, legal, business, academia and communications. At present, more than 20,000 children in the United States suffer from this fatal disease, and more than 100,000 worldwide, with a statistically higher number of identified cases in Western New York than the national average. For more information about Suneel’s Light or DMD, visit www.suneelslight.org or www.Facebook.com/suneelslight.
About Zuiker Press
Founded by CSI franchise creator Anthony Zuiker and his wife Michelle, Zuiker Press is a publishing company dedicated to championing the voices of young authors. Its mission is to address subjects that affect all children directly or indirectly, and to empower all children everywhere with the knowledge that they are not alone. For more information on Zuiker Press and its series of inspirational books, visit zuikerpress.com.