Thirteen years ago, a local man died after living 25 years with
severe birth defects. A couple of months ago, a little girl who'd have
been his niece passed away after two strokes. His mother, her
grandmother blames Agent Orange, a pesticide used during the Vietnam
War."He lived to be 25, but he was a baby his whole life," says
Cindy Castillo from Altoona. She spent much of her life caring for her
son Jeffrey Franks. Jeffrey was born after his father Tom had served
two tours in Vietnam. Cindy's other sons, didn't have birth defects.
Tom died at 66 of heart problem recognized by the Veterans Administration, as a possible consequence of Agent Orange exposure. Cindy keeps his obituary with that of her son Jeffrey and grandaughter Amanda,
remembers, "Amanda was dead at birth but as soon as I saw her,
everything, the face, the facial features was everything like Jeffy's.
It was reliving that all over again."
And her five-year-old grandaughter, Meadow Lane, who died in September also had major birth defects.
was able to do more than Jeffy, " Cindy says, "although she was like a
baby, she was sitting up at age 5." She had teeth, but she needed a
feeding tube .
Cindy sons have three healthy children after
several miscarriages in their families, losses she also blames on Agent
Orange. "There's no disorders in Tom's or my side of the family, and the
only link we have is that," she says.
Spina bifida is the only birth defect recognized as possibly linked to Agent Orange
in the descendants of male Vietnam Vets. About 15 are acknowledged as
being more likely to occur in female vets. Cindy wants to see those
conditions also acknowledged in the descendants of male veterans.
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