Nathaniel was born in 2004. At a regular 20-week check-up and ultrasound, Andrea, Nathaniel’s mom, knew something was off. Nathaniel was her third child and she could tell that things were taking longer than normal. That day she heard heart-breaking news: there was something wrong with Nathaniel’s brain. Doctors told her they believed he had hydrocephalus, fluid build-up in the brain, and would need brain surgery if he survived the birth.
A young 24-year-old mother with two kids and a husband in the army, Andrea was in disbelief.
“Our world was just completely shaken up. We were so scared.”
Andrea describes how she spent the next 20 weeks reading and researching, crying and praying. The day Nathaniel was born, everyone in the delivery room was in tears. Though doctors initially recommended surgery, they discovered that Nathaniel actually has agenesis of the corpus callosum (ACC), a rare birth defect where a portion of the brain is missing. Doctors recommend genetic testing. It was during his first week of life that they found out Nathaniel had a chromosomal disorder, Trisomy 8, which led to the ACC. They were told their son might never walk, talk, or even smile.
“I really didn’t think I could do it. We’re a military family, we didn’t have great salaries, and this was our third child. We were facing the cost of delivery, a week in the NICU, and neurological testing. When they told me I needed a therapist weekly, I thought ‘How are we going to pay for that?’ It was a paralyzing fear.”
After spending a week in the NICU, a pediatrician referred Nathaniel to Any Baby Can for what she believed was not only one of the best options for at-home therapy, but also the most economical.
“When I think about the first day I enrolled, I remember that mountain that I never thought I’d get my child over. I remember that first appointment vividly. There was a room full of people. We talked about my son and made a plan.”
Any Baby Can’s Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) program sent physical therapists and occupational therapists to visit Nathaniel and Andrea in their home once or twice a week. They worked with Nathaniel on developmental milestones, checked on his progress, and gave him the best chance at a strong start.
“It was a sense of relief every time the therapist came to our home. It brought me so much comfort that someone was helping him. Helping me.”
Nathaniel was in the program for 10 months, during which Any Baby Can was able to provide the services he needed solely on what insurance covered, at no expense to the client. Andrea credits the organization’s make-it-work attitude, expertise in child development, and services that -are delivered in the home for bringing stability into her family.
“When my ex-husband got deployed for 18 months, we had two young kids in school and a newborn with special needs that needed constant monitoring. I never would have been able to keep up with Nathaniel’s services.”
Nathaniel is now a thriving teenager. He has a comprehension delay but he’s in a regular class with some additional resources. He’s a typical teen boy – he loves his dog and plays video games. He’s quiet and shy, “quirky” Andrea says. If you meet him, you’d never know about his past and all the obstacles he’s overcome.
“I have really big goals for Nathaniel. You forget what ‘could have been.’ This is just my son, and this our life. But the condition can be lethal. Many pregnancies don’t go past the first trimester.”
Every year for the last 13 years, Andrea has donated to Any Baby Can. She says Any Baby Can gave her a sense hope and confidence that she cannot put into words or repay, but believes an annual donation is one way to say ‘thank you.’
“On behalf of my walking, talking, smiling miracle, thank you Any Baby Can.”