Photo Credit: Darius Goes West via Facebook
Darius Weems—the subject of the award-winning documentary Darius Goes West—died today at the age of 27.
Weems died of complications from Duchenne Musculary Dystrophy, the disease that confined him to a wheelchair.
Logan Smalley, then a University of Georgia student, organized a trip to California for Weems in 2004, fulfilling the teenager's lifelong dream of traveling across the country, and documented it for the film, which has raised more than $1 million for DMD research. At the time, he had never left home, and he was not expected to live more than a couple of years.
The Darius Goes West Facebook page posted the following tribute:
Please mourn with us DGW Fans. Our beloved Darius Weems, age 27, passed away due to DMD-related cardiopulmonary failure. Concerned with a persistent cough, Darius’s sister, Maroneisha Robinson, helped him check into Athens Regional Medical Center on Friday morning. While visiting with a physician his symptoms progressed rapidly, and he was transferred, unconscious, to the hospital’s intensive care unit. Surrounded by family members, local DGW crew members, and a dedicated team of doctors, Darius passed peacefully and painlessly at 1:30pm today.
Shock. Grief. Helplessness. Those are the emotions we’re feeling — emotions that all members of the DMD community feel too often and know too well.
Joy. Comradery. Love. Those are the emotions he would want us to feel–emotions that he embodied in his lifelong fight against DMD, and that he spread through countless individuals across the hundreds of thousands of miles of road that he traveled.
And it worked! One month ago, which was two weeks before his 27th birthday celebration, Darius learned that his efforts (alongside the efforts of so many others) helped affect the first ever FDA approved treatment for DMD. It was an historic day, a day that joy, comradery, and love prevailed.
So, friends, as you join us in mourning, we ask you to reflect on what Darius told us all to do in this profoundly tragic moment.
These are his words, as recorded in his award-winning documentary, Darius Goes West, and you’ll recall that he rapped them over the moment that his foot touched the Pacific Ocean.
“I was smiling that day and I’m gonna be smiling when I leave. ‘Cause when I die, folks ain’t gonna say ‘Darius gone’… they gonna say ‘Darius gone West’.”