She was sworn in as an honorary officer Wednesday.
Allysson Nead was given just six months to live when she was first diagnosed with Niemann-Pick Type C, a rare and fatal illness for which there is no cure.
“I didn’t want to Google [it] and scare myself about the disease,” said her father David. “I just wanted to enjoy the time I had.”
But Allysson has since beaten those odds. At 2 years old, she no longer needed a feeding tube. She turned 5 in March and is now starting kindergarten this week in Shelby, David said.
At school, Allysson told teachers she “wanted to be a cop,” he said. Her father David studied criminal justice and trained to be a police officer, and she’s seen pictures from his graduation. Shelby police’s Sgt. Tim Scott would regularly visit with the family to make her day, David said.
“She always says, ‘I want to help people,'” he said. “She definitely has it instilled in her head as a little girl that she wanted to be a cop and help protect and help people.
“I just smile and think in my head, ‘If you make it that long, baby girl, you do those dreams.'”
When she learned she’d become an official member of the force, she “smiled ear to ear,” David said.
“You can call me officer Nead,” Allysson told them.
She got her own Shelby police escort to the station, her own uniform and a badge-pinning ceremony — she was given badge No. 300. Mansfield police had a “jam-packed training regimen” planned, and set her on her first case: Busting a crook that stole the candy jar.
Nead made the rounds at police headquarters, interviewing witnesses and checking for fingerprints in the forensics lab. In classic fashion, the culprit was the person you’d least expect: Chief Keith Porch, who begged for clemency.
“I’m gonna give you one more chance,” Nead told him.
Niemann-Pick is an inherited, degenerative disease that causes fatty materials called lipids to accumulate in the body’s organs, leading to loss of muscle control, brain degeneration and slurred speech, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
It has three types, the most severe being Type A, which typically causes children to die in infancy. Allysson has Type C, which can be somewhat managed and carries a longer life expectancy, David said.
But that’s little comfort for the Nead family, who now have to “watch her go backwards,” he said.
“She’s super-smart. … It’s crazy how she’ll remember stuff. She’s super-brilliant for a 5-year-old battling a disease,” David said.
The family knew something was wrong when Allysson couldn’t keep her food down. Doctors found her spleen was enlarged and her liver was working at half-strength, leading to jaundice when she was young — some of the first symptoms of Niemann-Pick. The disease can be confirmed through genetic testing, David said.
“It’s important to take your kids to doctor appointments,” he said. “If we wouldn’t have followed up on everything … we wouldn’t have known.”
Allysson is in therapy to help with balance issues that are now developing. But since the disease is a neurological one, there’s little the family can do to make it easier, David said.
Since her diagnosis, the Nead family’s gotten in touch with other Ohio families also battling the same disease, he said.
There’s a medication that can delay the disease’s progression — but getting a prescription can be difficult, David said. It also comes with “heavy” side effects affecting vision and hearing.
“All the parents fighting with Niemann-Pick — it’s all about getting the medicine approved,” he said.
For David, talking about Allysson’s struggles helps him cope, he said. He told FOX 8 that he now sees an opportunity to spread awareness about Niemann-Pick.
“I don’t want people to take their kids for granted,” he said. “Don’t be too busy for your kids.”