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7-year-old musician battling illness

Posted at 9:15 PM, Dec 24, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-24 22:15:31-05

While most toddlers were learning to walk and play nicely on the playground, one little boy in North Carolina was learning to play the violin. 

Cesar Santos's natural talent was soon apparent, but now health problems may derail the child prodigy.

The 7-year-old has been gifted in math and music from an early age. 

"At four years old, he already knew multiplication," says the boy's father, Lucas Santos.

His path to success was once steady and strong. Now, Caesar has trouble navigating the tiniest obstacles. He suffers from major complication of sickle cell disease. 

"His last stroke was very severe," says Dr. Daniel McMahon.

Caesar has had three strokes, all related to the disease. He must undergo blood transfusions every three weeks to help prevent a fourth stroke. 

Sickle cell disease is an inherited blood disorder. Both Caesar and his younger sister have been diagnosed with the illness. 

Red blood cells in people with the disease are shaped like a crescent moon and clog blood vessels. It can be extremely painful and cause organ damage and stroke, as in Caesar's case.

Dr. McMahon says, " what we ultimately would like to do is do a stem cell transplant which is a curative form of treatment for sickle cell disease."

The procedure is complex and risky, but provides a potential cure. 

The strokes have left Caesar struggling sometimes to find the right note, but he still plays beautifully thanks to months of rehabilitation.

His father credits the violin for saving Caesar's life. 

"The more you exercise your fingers, the more you strength the brain connection," says Santos.

His family hopes the combination of music and medicine will lead to Caesar's best performance yet. 

If you would like to donate to help Caesar's family pay for treatment, click here.