A subplot on this past Tuesday's episode of NCIS dealt with neurofibromatosis -- specifically, a child with neurofibromatosis whose helicopter-pilot father was mysteriously missing and then more mysteriously dead. The inclusion of NF in the plot, particularly the little bit of exposition about the condition given by the child's mother, made it seem as though perhaps someone involved in the show wanted to spread some NF awareness. And indeed, according to a Facebook post by Washington State Neurofibromatosis Families, Chris Waild, who wrote the episode and is an NCIS co-producer, "is a friend and supporter of Leah Manth, a 12 year old from the Buffalo, NY area with NF2. In an effort to raise awareness, he has written an episode that includes a sub-plot about a child with NF2." The touching story told by the mother in the episode, about surgery for tumor removal robbing the little boy of his smile, comes directly from Leah's own experience, as told by her father in a video from Neurofibromatis Inc. Northeast. (Leah's obviously a fan of the show, judging from her Abby-themed Halloween costume last year.)
It's great to see such a popular show work in information on a disability that doesn't have a high media profile. From a more general special-needs perspective, though, I cheered at the way the show refuted the idea that a man whose son has a serious medical condition could naturally be expected to kill himself -- first by his wife insisting that "you don't give up on a kid like this" and later by the investigators figuring out why he was murdered. The mom was depicted as strong and determined in what could have been a depressing "how will I ever handle this horrible double tragedy" situation. Kudos to Waild, the actors, and the show for playing some different notes. Did you catch the episode? What did you think? If you missed it, the episode, entitled "Lost at Sea," is currently up for watching on the CBS site. You can share your feelings about it on that video page, on Waild's blog page, on NCIS's Facebook page, or right here in the comments.